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Quintus Smyrnaeus

Κόϊντος Σμυρναῖος), commonly called QUINTUS CALABER, from the circumstance that the first copy through which his poem became known was found in a convent at Otranto in Calabria, was the author of a poem in 14 books, entitled τὰ μεθ᾽ Ὅμηρον, or παραλειπόμενα Ὁμήρῳ.

Scarcely any thing is known of his personal history; but from the metrical and poetic characteristics of his poem, as compared with the school of Nonnus, it appears most probable that he lived towards the end of the fourth century after Christ. From a passage in his poem (12.308-313), it would seem that even in early youth he made trial of his poetic powers, while engaged in tending sheep near a temple of Artemis in the territory of Smyrna.


τὰ μεθ᾽ Ὅμηρον (
After Homer

The matters treated of in his poem are the events of the Trojan war from the death of Hector to the return of the Greeks. It begins rather abruptly with a description of the grief and consternation at the death of Hector which reigned among the Trojans, and then introduces Penthesileia, queen of the Amazons, who comes to their aid.

In the second book we have the arrival, exploits, and death of Memnon ; in the third, the death of Achilles.

The fourth and fifth books describe the funeral games in honour of Achilles, the contest about his arms, and the death of Ajax.

In the sixth book, Neoptolemus is sent for by the Greeks, and Eurypylus comes to the help of the Trojans.

The seventh and eighth books describe the arrival and exploits of Neoptolemus.

The ninth contains the exploits of Deiphobus, and the sending for Philoctetes by the Greeks.

The tenth, the death of Paris and the suicide of Oenone, who had refused to heal him.

The eleventh book narrates the last unsuccessful attempt of the Greeks to carry Ilium by storm.

the twelfth and thirteenth describe the capture of the city by means of the wooden horse.

the fourteenth, the rejoicing of the Greeks,--the reconciliation of Menelaus and Helena,--the sacrifice of Polyxena at the tomb of Achilles, -- the embarkation of the Greeks,-- the scattering of their ships, and the death of Ajax.

In phraseology, similes, and other technicalities, Quintus closely copied Homer. The materials for his poem he found in the works of the earlier poets of the epic cycle. But not a single poetical idea of his own seems ever to have inspired him. He was incapable of understanding or appropriating any thing except the majestic flow of the language of the ancient epos. His gods and heroes are alike devoid of all character: every thing like pathos or moral interest was quite beyond his powers. Of similes (not very original in their character) he makes copious use. With respect to chronology his poem is as punctual as a diary. But his style is clear, and marked on the whole by purity and good taste, without any bombast or exaggeration. There can be little doubt that the work of Quintus Smyrnaeus is nothing more than an amplification or remodelling of the poems of Arctinus and Lesches. It is clear that he had access to the same sources as Virgil, though there is nothing from which it would appear that he had the Roman poet before his eyes. He appears, however, to have made diligent use of Apollonius.


The first edition of Quintus was published by Aldus Manutius in 1504 or 1505, from a very faulty MS. Laur. Rhodomannus, who spent thirty years upon the correction and explanation of the text of Quintus, published an improved edition in 1604. But the standard edition, founded on a collation of all the extant manuscripts, is that of Tychsen, Strasburg, 1807. It is also printed along with Hesiod, Apollonius, &c., in Didot's edition. Paris, 1840.

On the Twelve Labors of Hercules

A smaller poem on the Twelve Labours of Hercules, ascribed to Quintus Smyrnaeus, is extant in MS.

Further Information

Bernhardy, Grundriss der Griech. Litteratur, vol. ii. p. 246, &c.; Tychsen, Comment. de Quinti Smyrnaei Paralip., Göttingen, 1783 ; the materials of which are also contained in his edition.


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