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1. Of EPHESUS, a celebrated grammarian, was the first superintendent of the great library at Alexandria, in which office he was succeeded by Callimachus. He lived during the reigns of the first and second Ptolemies, the son of Lagus and Philadelphus, but as he was probably not appointed librarian till the reign of Philadelphus, he may be said to have flourished about B. C. 280. Suidas places him under the first Ptolemy, and says that he educated the children of Ptolemy; but it is more probable that these were the children of Philadelphus than of the first Ptolemy. Zenodotus was a pupil of the grammarian Philetas, who was probably also the instructor of Philadelphus.


Editions of Greek Poets

Zenodotus was employed by Philadelphus together with his two great contemporaries. Alexander the Aetolian and Lycophron the Chalcidian, to collect and revise all the Greek poets. Alexander, we are told. undertook the task of collecting the tragedies, Lycophron the comedies, and Zenodotus the poems of Homer, and of the other illustrious poets (Homeri poemata et reliquorum inlustrium poetarum). This important statement, preserved by the Scholiast on Plautus, from the commentary of Tzetzes on the Plutus of Aristophanes, has given rise to much discussion. By " the other illustrious poets," Welcker supposed that the epic poets, and Müller that the lyric poets were intended; but as it was evidently the intention of Philadelphus to make a complete collection of the Greek poets, there is no reason why we should not take the words of the Scholiast in their plain obvious meaning, and believe that Zenodotus made a collection of all the other illustrious poets both epic and lyric.

It has been shown satisfactorily by more than one modern writer that Zenodotus made a collection of all the poems belonging to the epic cycle. and that his labours were not confined to the Iliad and Odyssey. It was, however, to the latter poems that he devoted his chief attention. Hence he is called the first Διορθωτής of Homer, and his recension (Διόρθωσις) of the Iliad and Odyssey obtained the greatest celebrity.

It is frequently quoted by Eustathius, the Venetian Scholia, and other grammarians under various titles, such as, Ζηνοδότειος, Ζηνοδότου, Ζηνοδότου διόρθωσις, αἱ Ζηνοδότου, αἱ Ζηνοδότου διορθώσεις, τὰ Ζηνοδότου, τὰ Ζηνοδότεια, &c.

The corrections which Zenodotus applied to the text of Homer were of three kinds.

  • 1. He expunged verses.
  • 2. He marked them as spurious, but left them in his copy.
  • 3. He introduced new readings or transposed or altered verses. Examples of these corrections are given by Clinton. (Fasti Hell. vol. iii. p. 491, foll.)

The great attention which Zenodotus paid to the language of Homer caused a new epoch in the grammatical study of the Greek language. The results of his investigations respecting the meaning and the use of words were contained in two works which he published under the title of a Glossary (Γλῶσσαι, Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod. 2.1005; Schol. ad Theocr. 5.2) and a Dictionary of barbarous or foreign phrases (Λέξεις ἐθνικαὶ, Galen, Gloss, Hippocr. s. vv. πέζαι and πέλλα). It was probably from his glossary, as Wolf has remarked, that the grammarians took the few explanations of the passages of Homer, which they cite under the name of Zenodotus, since it is very doubtful whether he wrote Commentaries (ὑπομνήματα) on Homer.

Ἐπιτομαὶ and Ἱστορικὰ ὑπομνήματα

Athenaeus likewise quotes two other works by Zenodotus, one called Ἐπιτομαὶ (x. p. 412a), and the other Ἱστορικὰ ὑπομνήματα (iii. p. 96. f), but it is doubtful whether they were written by this Zenodotus, or by Zenodotus the Alexandrine mentioned below.

Further Information

Wolf, Prolegom. ad Hom. ; Heffter, De Zenodoto ejusque studiis Homericis, Brandenburg, 1839; Düntzer, De Zenodoti Studiis Homericis, Göttingen, 1848; Gräfenhan, Geschichte der Klassichen Philologie, vol. i. pp. 379, 430, 534, 542, vol. ii. p. 32.

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280 BC (1)
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