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Cyclic Poets

(Cyclĭ Poētae). A name given by the ancient grammarians to a class of minor poets, who selected, for the subjects of their productions, events occurring as well during the Trojan War as before and after, and who, in treating of these subjects, confined themselves within a certain round or cycle (κύκλος, circulus) of fable. In order to understand the subject more fully, we must observe that there was both a Mythic and a Trojan cycle. The former of these embraced the whole series of fable, from the genealogies of the gods down to the time of the Trojan War; the latter comprised the fables that had reference to, or were in any way connected with, the Trojan War. Of the first class were Theogonies, Cosmogonies, Titanomachies, and the like; of the second, the poems of Arctinus, Lesches, Agias, Eugammon, Stasinus, and others. (See Homeric Question.) At a later period the term cyclic was applied, as a mark of contempt, to two species of poems—one, where the poet confined himself to a trite and hackneyed round (κύκλος) of particulars (cf. Horace, Ars Poet. 132); the other, where, from an ignorance of the true nature of epic poetry, he indulged in an inordinate and tiresome amount of detail, going back to the remotest beginnings of a subject. The most celebrated of the Cyclic poems were the Cypria (q. v.), the Aethiopis (q. v.) of Arctinus, the Little Iliad (Ἰλιὰς Μικρά) of Pausanias, the Nostoi (q. v.) of Agias, the Telegonia of Eugammon, the Batrachomyomachia (q. v.), and the Margites (q. v.) of Pigres. See Homerus.

All that remains of the Cyclic poets is some sixty lines, which can be found in the appendix to Welcker's Epischer Cyclus (Bonn, 1835), and Düntzer, Frag. d. Ep. Poësie (Cologne, 1840). The chief ancient authority is the Chrestomatheia of Proclus (q.v.). See Mahaffy, Hist. of Class. Gk. Lit. vol. i. ch. vi. (1880), and the article Epos in this Dictionary. On the meaning of the word κυκλικός, see D. B. Munro in the Journal of Hellenic Studies for 1883.

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