3. Choerilus of Samos, the author of an epic poem on the wars of the Greeks with Xerxes and Dareius. Suidas (s. v.
) says, that he was a contemporary of Panyasis and a young man (νεανίσκον
) at the time of the Persian war, in the 75th Olympiad.
But this is next to impossible, for Plutarch (Plut. Lys. 18
) tells us that, when Lysander was at Sainos (B. C. 404), Choerilus was residing there, and was highly honoured by Lysander, who hoped that the poet would celebrate his exploits.
This was 75 years later than the 75th Olympiad : and therefore, if this date has anythlig to do with Choerilus, it must be the date of his birth (B. C. 479); and this agrees with another statement of Suidas, which implies that Choerilus was younger than Herodotus (οὕτινος αὐτὸν καί παριδικὰ ψεψο νέναι φασιν
). We have here perhaps the explanation of the error of Suidas, who, from the connexion of both Panyasis and Choerilus with Herodotus, and from the fact that both were epic poets, may have confounded them, and have said of Choerilus that which can very well be true of Panyasis. Perhaps Choerilus was even younger. Näke places his birth about B. C. 470. Suidas also says, that Choerilus was a slave at Samos, and was distingaished for his beauty; that he ran away and resided with Herodotus, from whom he acquired a taste for literature; and that he turned his attention to poetry : afterwards he went to the court of Archelaus, king of Macedonia, where he died. His death must therefore have been not later than B. C. 399, which was the last year of Archelaus. Athenaeus (viii. p. 345e.) states, that Choerilus received from Archelaus four minae a-day, and spent it all upon good living (ὀψοφαγίαν
There are other statements of Suidas, which evidently refer to the later poet, who was contemporary with Alexander
. (See below.)
There is some doubt whether the accounts which made him a native either of Iasos or of Halicarnassus belong to this class. Either of them is perfectly consistent with the statement that he was a slave at Samos. (Conpare Steph. Byz. s. v. Ἰασσός;
Hesych. Miles. p. 40, ed. Meurs.; Phot. Lex. s. v. Σαμιακὸν τροπόν
His great work was on the Persian wars, but its exact title is not known: it may have been Περσικά
It is remarkable as the earliest attempt to celebrate in epic poetry events which were nearly contemporary with the poet's life. Of its character we may form some conjecture from the connexion between the poet and Herodotus.
There are also fragments preserved by Aristotle from the Prooemium (Rhet.
3.14, and Schol.); by Ephorus from the description of Dareius's bridge of boats, in which the Scythians are mentioned (Strab. vii. p.303
); by Josephus from the catalogue of the nations in the army of Xerxes, among whom were the Jews (c. Apion.
1.22. vol. ii. p. 454, ed. Havercamp, iii. p. 1183, ed. Oberthür; compare Euseb. Praup. Evang.
9.9); and other fragments, the place of which is uncertain. (See Näke.)
The chief action of the poem appears to have been the battle of Salamis.
The high estimation in which Choerilus was held is proved by his reception into the epic canon (Suid. s. v.
), from which, however, he was again expelled by the Alexandrian grammarians, and Antimachus was substituted in his place, on account of a statement, which was made on the authority of Heracleides Ponticus, that Plato very much preferred Antimachus to Choerilus. (Proclus, Comm. in Plat. Tim.
p. 28; see also an epigram of Crates in the Greek Anthology, ii. p. 3, eds. Brunck and Jac., with Jacobs's note, Animadr.
ii. l. pp. 7-9.)
The great inferiority of Choerilus to Ilomer in his similes is noticed by Aristotle. (Topic.