The so-called Alexandrian Canon, arranged by Aristophanes of Byzantium
(q.v.) and his disciple Aristarchus
(q.v.). The daily increasing multitude of books of every kind had become
so great that there was no expression, however faulty, for which precedent might not be found;
and as there were far more bad than good writers, the authority and weight of numbers were
likely to prevail, and the language, consequently, to grow more and more corrupt. It was
thought necessary, therefore, to draw a line between those classic writers to whose authority
an appeal in matter of language might be made and the common herd of inferior authors. In the
most cultivated modern tongues it seems to have been found expedient to erect some such
barrier against the inroads of corruption; and to this preservative caution we are indebted
for the vocabulary of the Academicians della Crusca, and the list of authors therein cited as
affording testi di lingua.
To this, also, we owe the great dictionaries
of the Academies of France and Spain of their respective languages. But as for the example
first set in this matter by the Alexandrian critics, its effects upon their own literature
have been of a doubtful nature. In so far as the Canon has contributed to preserve to us some
of the best authors included in it, we can not but rejoice. On the other hand, there is reason
to believe that the comparative neglect into which those not received into it were sure to
fall has been the occasion of the loss of a vast number of writers who would have been, if not
for their language, yet for their matter, very precious; and who, perhaps, in many cases, were
not easily to be distinguished, even on the score of style, from those that were preferred.
The details of the Canon are as follows:
Epic Poets. Homer, Hesiod, Pisander, Panyasis, Antimachus.
Iambic Poets. Archilochus, Simonides, Hipponax.
Lyric Poets. Alcman, Alcaeus, Sappho, Stesichorus, Pindar,
Bacchylides, Ibycus, Anacreon, Simonides.
Elegiac Poets. Callinus, Mimnermus, Philetas, Callimachus.
Tragic Poets. First Class:
Euripides, Ion, Achaeus, Agathon. Second Class
, or Tragic
Alexander the Aetolian, Philiscus of Corcyra, Sositheus, Homer the younger,
Aeantides, Sosiphanes or Sosicles, Lycophron.
Comic Poets. Old Comedy:
Eupolis, Aristophanes, Pherecrates, Plato. Middle Comedy:
Menander, Philippides, Diphilus, Philemon, Apollodorus.
Historians. Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Theopompus, Ephorus,
Philistus, Anaximenes, Callisthenes.
Orators. The ten Attic orators: Antiphon, Andocides, Lysias,
Isocrates, Isaeus , Aeschines, Lycurgus, Demosthenes, Hyperides, Dinarchus.
Philosophers. Plato, Xenophon, Aeschines, Aristotle,
The Poetic Pleiades. Seven poets of the same epoch with one
another: Apollonius the Rhodian, Aratus, Philiscus, Homer the younger, Lycophron, Nicander,
Theocritus. See Couat, La Poésie Alexandrine (Paris,
; Susemihl, Geschichte d. griech. Litteratur in der Alexand. Zeit
2 vols. (1892)
; and the article Alexandrian School