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*Ni/kandros), literary.

1. The author of two Greek poems that are still extant, and of several others that have been lost. His father's name was Damnaeus (Eudoc. Viol. ap. Villoison's Anecd. Gr. vol. i. p. 308, and an anonymous Greek life of Nicander), though Suidas (probably by some oversight) calls him Xenophanes (s. v. Νίκανδρος), and he was one of the hereditary priests of Apollo Clarius [CLARIUS], to which dignity Nicander himself succeeded (comp. Nicand. Allexiph. 5.11). He was born at the small town of Claros, near Colophon in Ionia, as he intimates himself Therer. in fine), whence he is frequently called Colophonius (Cic. de Orat. 1.16; Suid. &c.), and there is a Greek epigram (Anthol. Gr. 9.213) complimenting Colophon on being the birth-place of Homer and Nicander. He was said by some ancient authors to have been born in Aetolia, but this probably arose from his having passed some time in that country, and written a work on its natural and political history. He has been supposed to have been a contemporary of Aratus and Callimachus in the third century B. C., but it is more probable that he lived nearly a century later, in the reign of Ptolemy V. (or Epiphanes), who died B. C. 181, and that the Attalus to whom he dedicated one of his lost poems was the last king of Pergamus of that name, who began to reign B. C. 138 (Anon. Gr. Life of Nicander, and Anon. Gr. Life of Aratus). If these two dates are correct, Nicander may be supposed to have been in reputation for about fifty years cir. B. C. 185-135 (see Clinton's Fasti Hell. vol. iii.). He was a physician and grammarian. as well as a poet, and his writings seem to have been rather numerous and on various subjects.



The longest of his poems that remains is named Θηριακά, and consists of nearly a thousand hexameter lines. It is dedicated to a person named Hermesianax, who must not be confounded with the poet of that name. It treats (as the name implies) of venomous animals and the wounds inflicted by them, and contains some curious and interesting zoological passages, together with numerous absurd fables, which do not require to be particularly specified here. Haller calls it " longa, incondita, et nullius fidei farrago" (Biblioth. Botan.).


Nicander's Ἀλεξιφάρμακα consists of more than six hundred lines, written in the same metre, is dedicated to a person named Protagoras, and treats of poisons and their antidotes : of this work also Haller remarks, "descriptio vix ulla, symptomata fuse recensentur, et magna farrago et incondita plantarium potissimum alexipharmacarum subjicitur." A full analysis of the medical portions of both these works may be found in Mr. Adams's Commentary on the fifth book of Paulus Aegineta. Among the ancients his authority in all matters relating to toxicology seems to have been considered high. His works are frequently quoted by Pliny Plin. Nat. 20.13, 96, 22.15, 32, 26.66, 30.25, 32.22, 36.25, 37.11, 28), Galen de Hippocr. et Plat. Decr. 2.8, vol. v. p. 275, de Locis Affect. 2.5, vol. viii. p. 133, de Simpl. Aledicam. Temper. ac Facult. 9.2.10, 10.2.16, vol. xii. pp. 204, 289, de Ther. ad Pis. cc. 9, 13, vol. xiv. pp. 239, 265, Comment. in Hippocr. " De Artic." 3.38, vol. xviii. pt. i. p. 537), Athenaeus (pp. 66, 312, 366, 649, &c.), and other ancient writers ; and Dioscorides, Aetius, and other medical authors have made frequent use of his works. Plutarch, Diphilus and others wrote commentaries on his "Theriaca" [DIPHILUS], Marianus paraphrased it in iambic verse [MARIANUS], and Entecnius wrote a paraphrase in prose of his two principal poems, which is still extant. On the subject of his poetical merits the ancient writers were not well agreed; for though (as we have seen) a writer in the Greek Anthology compliments Colophon for being the birth-place of Homer and Nicander, and Cicero praises (de Orat. 1.16) the poetical manner in which in his " Georgics" he treated a subject of which he was wholly ignorant, Plutarch on the other hand (de Aud. Poet. 100.2, vol. i. p. 36, ed. Tauchn.) says that the " Theriaca," like the poems of Empedocles, Parmenides, and Theognis, have nothing in them of poetry but the metre. Modern critics have differed equally on this point; but practically the judgment of posterity has been pronounced with sufficient clearness, and his works are now scarcely ever read aspoems, but merely constilted by those who are interested in points of zoological and medical antiquities: --how opposite a fate to that which has befallen Virgil's Georgics ! In reference to his style and language Bentley calls him, with great truth, "antiquarium, obsoleta et casca verba studiose venantem, et vel sui saecnli lectoribus difficilem et obscurum." Cambridge Museum Criticumn, vol. i. p. 371.)

Lost works

The following are the titles of Nicander's lost works, as collected by Fabricius Bibl. Gr. vol. iv. p. 348, Harles) :

1. Αἰτωλικά

Αἰτωλικά, a prose work, consisting of at least three books; quoted by Athenaeus (pp. 296, 477), Macrobius Saturn. 5.21), Harpocration (Lex. s. v. Θύστιον), and other writers. 1

2. Γεωργικά

Γεωργικά, a poem in hexameter verse, consisting of at least two books, of which some long fragments remain; mentioned by Cicero Cic. de Orat. 1.16), Suidas, and others, and frequently quoted by Athenaeus, (pp. 52, 133, 371, &c.).

3. Γλῶσσαι

Γλῶσσαι, a work in at least three books ; quoted by Athenaeus (p. 288) and other writers.

4. Ἑτεροιούμενα

Ἑτεροιούμενα, a poem in hexameter verse, in five books, mentioned by Suidas, and quoted by Athenaeus (pp. 82, 305), Antoninus Liberalis Metamorph. cc. 12, 35), and other writers. It was perhaps in reference to this work that Didymus applied to Nicander the epithet " fabulosus" (Macrob. Saturn. 5.22.).

5. Εὐμωπία

Εὐμωπία, or Περι Εὐρώπης, in at least five books, quoted by Athenaeus (p. 296), Stephanus Byzantinus (s. v. Ἅθως), and others.

6. Ἡμίαμβοι

Ἡμίαμβοι, mentioned by the scholiast on the Theriaca.

7. Θηβαϊκά

Θηβαϊκά, in at least three books, mentioned by the scholiast on the Theriaca, and probably alluded to by Plutarch de Herod. Malign. 100.33, vol. v. p. 210, ed. Tauchn.).

8. Ἰάσεων Ζυναψωψή

Ἰάσεων Ζυναψωψή, mentioned by Suidas.

9. Κολοφωνιακα

Κολοφωνιακα, of which work the same passage is quoted both by Athenaeus (p. 569) and Harpocration Lex. s. v. Πάμφιλος Ἀφροδίτη), though the former writer says it came from the third book, and the latter from the sixth.

10. Μελισσονρικά

Μελισσονρικά (Athen. p. 68).

11. Νύμφιοι

Νύμφιοι (Schol. Nicand. Ther.).

12. Οἰταϊκά

Οἰταϊκά, a poem in hexameter verse, in at least two books, quoted by Athenaeus ( pp. 282, 329, 411).

13. Ὀφιακόν

Ὀφιακόν (Schol. Nicand. Ther. ; comp. Suid. s. v. Πάμφιλος).

14. The sixth book Περιπετειῶν

The sixth book Περιπετειῶν (Athen. p. 606). 2

15. Περι Ποιητῶν

Περι Ποιητῶν (Parthen. Erot. 100.4), perhaps the same work as that quoted by the scholiast on the "Theriaca," with the title Περι τῶν ἐν Κολοφῶνι Ποιητῶν; and probably the work in which Nicander tried to prove that Homer was a native of Colophon (Cramer's Anecd. Gr. Paris. iii. p. 98).

16. Προγνωστικά

The Προγνωστικά of Hippocrates paraphrased in hexameter verse (Suid.).

17. Ζικελιά

Ζικελιά, of which the tenth book is quoted by Stephanus Byzantinus (s. v. Ζάψκλη).

18. Ὑάκινθος

Ὑάκινθος (Schol. Nicand. Ther.).

19. Ὕπνος

Ὕπνος (ibid.).

20. Θεοὶ Χρηστηριων πάντων

Θεοὶ Χρηστηριων πάντων, in three books. (Suid.)


Nicander's poems have generally been published together, but sometimes separately. They were first published in Greek at the end of Dioscorides, Venet. 1499, fol. ap. Aldum Manutium; and in a separate form, Venet. 1523, 4to. in aedib. Aldi. Both poems were translated into Latin verse by Jo. Gorraeus, and by Euricius Cordus, and the "Theriaca" also by P. J. Steveitis. The Greek paraphrase of both poems by Eutecnius first appeared in Bandini's edition, Florent. 1764, 8vo. The most complete and valuable edition that has hitherto appeared is J. G. Schneider's, who published the Alexipharmaca in 1792, Halae, 8vo., and the Theriaca in 1816, Lips. 8vo.; containing a Latin translation, the scholia, the paraphrase by Eutecnius, the editor's annotations, and the fragments of Nicander's lost works. The last edition is that published by Didot, together with Oppian and Marcellus Sidetes, in his collection of Greek classical authors, Paris, large 8vo. 1846, edited by F. S. Lehrs, and at present (it is believed) unfinished. The " Theriaca" were published in the Cambridge "Museum Criticum " (vol. i. p. 370, &c.), with Bentley's emendations, copied from the margin of a copy of Gorraeus's edition, which once (apparently) belonged to Dr. Mead, and is now preserved in the British Museum.

Further Information

Fabric. Bibl. Gr. vol. iv. p. 345, &c. ed. Harles; Haller, Biblioth, Botan. and Biblioth. Medic. Pract. ; Sprengel, Hist. de la Méd.; Choulant, Handb. der Bücherkunde für die Aeltere Medicin.

1 * Fabricius and Schweighaeuser (Athen. p. 329, and " Ind. Auctor.") reckon among Nicander's works a poem called Βοιωτιακός, but this is wrong. See Dindorf's Athen. I. c. and " Ind. Scriptor."

2 * This work, however, is attributed to one of the other writers of this name, by both Schweighaeuser and Dindorf, in their " Ind. Auctor." to Athenaeus.

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  • Cross-references from this page (11):
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 1.16
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 20.13
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 20.96
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 22.15
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 26.66
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 32.22
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 22.32
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 30.25
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 36.25
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 37.11
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 37.28
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