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Canon Alexandrīnus

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: Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Ion, Achaeus, Agathon. Second Class, or Tragic Pleiades: Alexander the Aetolian, Philiscus of Corcyra, Sositheus, Homer the younger, Aeantides, Sosiphanes or Sosicles, Lycophron.


Comic Poets. Old Comedy: Epicharmus, Cratinus, Eupolis, Aristophanes, Pherecrates, Plato. Middle Comedy: Antiphanes, Alexis. New 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, Theophrastus.


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, 1882); Susemihl, Geschichte d. griech. Litteratur in der Alexand. Zeit, 2 vols. (1892); and the article Alexandrian School.

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