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Ῥιανός), of Crete, was a distinguished Alexandrian poet and grammarian, in the latter part of the third century B. C. According to Suidas (s. v.), he was a native of Bene, or, as some said, of Ceraea, two obscure cities in Crete, while others made him a native of Ithome in Messenia, a statement easily explained by the supposition that Rhianus spent some time at Ithome, while collecting materials for his poem on the Messenian Wars. He was at first, as Suidas further tells us, a slave and keeper of the palaestra ; but afterwards, having been instructed, he became a grammarian. The statement of Suidas, that he was contemporary with Eratosthenes, not only indicates the time at which he lived, but suggests the probability that he lived at Alexandria in personal and literary connection with Eratosthenes. On the ground of this statement, Clinton fixes the age of Rhianus at B. C. 222.


Epic Poems

He wrote, according to the common text of Suidas, ἔμμετρα ποιήματα, Ἡρακλειάδα ἐν βιβλίοις δ#, where there can be little doubt that we should read ἑξάμετρα ποιήματα, since the epic poems of Rhianus were certainly those of his works to which he chiefly owed his fame. Thus Athenaeus expressly designates him ἐποποιός (xi. p. 499 d.). His poems are mentioned by Suetonius (Suet. Tib. 70), as among those productions of the Alexandrian school, which the emperor Tiberius admired and imitated.

The subject of the epic poems of Rhianus were taken either from the old mythology, or from the annals of particular states and countries. Of the former class were his Ἡράκλεια (not Ἠρακλείας, as Suidas has it), and of the latter his Ἀχαϊκά, Ἠλιακά, Θεσσαλικά, and Μεσσηνιακά. It is quite uncertain what was the subject of his poem entitled Φήμη, which is only known to us by a single line quoted by Stephanus of Byzantium (s. v. Ἀράκυνθος).


For a full account of the extant fragments of these poems, and for a discussion of their subjects, the reader is referred to Meineke's essay on Rhianus, in his Analecta Alexandrina. (See also Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. i. pp. 734, 735 ; Clinton, F. H. vol iii. pp. 512, 513.)


Like most of the Alexandrian poets, Rhianus was also a writer of epigrams. Ten of his epigrams are preserved in the Palatine Anthology, and one by Athenaeus. They treat of amatory subjects with much freedom; but they all excel in elegance of language, cleverness of invention, and simplicity of expression. He had a place in the Garland of Meleager. (Brunck, Anal. vol. i. p. 479, ii. p. 526 ; Jacob's Anth. Graec. vol. i. p. 229, vol. xiii. pp. 945-947 ; Meineke, pp. 206-212.)

Grammatical Works

Respecting the grammatical works of Rhianus, we only know that he is frequently quoted in the Scholia on Homer, as one of the commentators on the poet.


The fragments of Rhianus have been printed in most of the old collections of the Greek poets (see Hoffmann, Lex. Bibl. Script. Graec. s. vv. Poetae, Rhianus, and in Gaisford's Poetae Minores Graeci; and separately edited by Nic. Saal, in an excellent monograph, Bonn, 1831, 8vo. (comp. Schneidewin's Review in Jahn's Jah's Jahrbücher for 1833, vol. ix. pp. 129, §c.), and, as already mentioned, in Meineke's Analecta Alexandrina, Berol. 1843, 8vo.

Further Information

There are also Essays on Rhianus by Jacobs (Ephem. litt. Scol. Univ. 1833, Sect. ii. pp. 109, &c.), Meineke (Abhandl. d. Berlin. Acad. 1834), and Siebelis, in a monograph, Budissae, 1829, 4to.


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