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1. Of Mytilene in the island of Lesbos, the most eminent among the Greek logographers. He was the son, according to some, of Andromenes or Aristomenes, and, according to others, of Scamon (Scammon), though this latter may be merely a mistake of Suidas (s. v. Ἑλλάνικος). According to the confused account of Suidas, Hellanicus and Herodotus lived together at the court of Amyntas (B. C. 553-504), and Hellanicus was still alive in the reign of Perdiccas, who succeeded to the throne in B. C. 461. This account, however, is irreconcilable with the further statement of Suidas, that Hellanicus was a contemporary of Sophocles and Euripides. Lucian (Macrob. 22) states that Hellanicus died at the age of eighty-five, and the learned authoress Pamphila (apud Gellium, 15.23), who likewise makes him a contemporary of Herodotus, says that at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war (B. C. 431), Hellanicus was about sixty-five years old, so that he would have been born about B. C. 496, and died in B. C. 411. This account, which in itself is very probable, seems to be contradicted by a statement of a scholiast (ad Aristoph. Ran. 706), from which it would appear that after the battle of Arginusae, in B. C. 406, Hellanicus was still engaged in writing; but the vague and indefinite expression of that scholiast does not warrant such an inference, and it is moreover clear from Thucydides (1.97), that in B. C. 404 or 403 Hellanicus was no longer alive. Another authority, an anonymous biographer of Euripides (p. 134 in Westermann's Vitarum Scriptores Graeci minores, Brunswick, 1845), states that Hellanicus was born on the day of the battle of Salamis, that is, on the 20th of Boedromion B. C. 481, and that he received his name from the victory of Ἑλλάς over the barbarians; but this account is too much like an invention of some grammarian to account for the name Hellanicus, and deserves no credit; and among the various contradictory statements we are inclined to adopt that of Pamphila. Respecting the life of Hellanicus we are altogether in the dark, and we only learn from Suidas that he died at Perperene, a town on the coast of Asia Minor opposite to Lesbos ; we may, however, presume that he visited at least some of the countries of whose history he treated.


Hellanicus was a very prolific writer, and if we were to look upon all the titles that have come down to us as titles of genuine productions and distinct works, their number would amount to nearly thirty; but the recent investigations of Preller (De Hellanico Lesbio Historico, Dorpat, 1840, 4to.) have shown that several works bearing his name are spurious and of later date, and that many others which are referred to as separate works, are only chapters or sections of other works. We adopt Preller's arrangement, and first mention those works which were spurious.

Spurious Works

1. Αἰγυπτίακα

The late origin of this production is obvious from the fragment quoted by Arrian (Dissert. Epictet. 2.19) and Gellius (1.2; comp. Athen. 11.470, xv. pp. 679, 680.)

2. Εἰς Ἄμμωνος ἀνάβασις

This is mentioned by Athenaeus (xiv. p. 652), who, however, doubts its genuineness.

3. Βαρβαρικὰ νόμιμα

This, even according to the opinions of the ancients, was a compilation made from the works of Herodotus and Damastes. (Euseb. Praep. Evang. ix. p. 466; comp. Suid. s.v. Ζάμολξις; Etymol. Mag. p. 407. 48.)

4. Ἐθνῶν ὀνομασίαι

This seems to have been a similar compilation. (Athen. 11.462; comp. Hdt. 4.190.) It may have been the same work as the one which we find referred to under the name of Περὶ ἐθνῶν (Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod, 4.322), Κτίσεις ἐθνῶν καὶ πόλεων, or simply κτίσεις. (Steph. Byz. s. v. Χαριμᾶται; Athen. 10.447.)

Other Works

Stephanus of Byzantium refers to some other works under the name of Hellanicus, such as Κυπριακά, τὰ περὶ Λυδίαν, and Σκυθικά, of which we cannot say whether they were parts of another work, perhaps the Περσικά (of which we shall speak presently).

The Φοινικικά mentioned by Cedrenus (Synops. p. 11), and the ἱστορίαι (Athen. 9.411, where ἱερείαις must probably be read for ἱστορίαις; Theodoret, de Aff. p. 1022), probably never existed at all, and are wrong titles. There is one work referred to by Fulgentius (Myth. 1.2), called Διὸς πολυτυχία, the very title of which is a mystery, and is otherwise unknown.

1. Genealogical works.

Setting aside these works, which were spurious, or at least of very doubtful character, we proceed to enumerate the genuine productions of Hellanicus, according to the three divisions under which they are arranged by Preller, viz. genealogical, chorographical, and chronological works.

It is a very probable opinion of Preller, that Apollodorus, in writing his Bibliotheca, followed principally the genealogical works of Hellanicus, and he accordingly arranges the latter in the following order, agreeing with that in which Apollodorus treats of his subjects.

1. Δευκαλιωνεία

Δευκαλιωνεία, in two books, containing the Thessalian traditions about the origin of man, and about Deucalion and his descendants down to the time of the Argonauts. (Clem. Al. Strom. vi. p. 629.) The Φετταλικά referred to by Harpoeration (s. v. τετραρχία) were either the same work or a portion of it.

2. Φορωνίς

Φορωνίς, in two books, contained the Pelasgian and Argive traditions from the time of Phoroneus and Ogyges down to Heracles, perhaps even down to the return of the Heracleidae. (Dionys. A. R. 1.28.) The works Περὶ Ἀρκαδίας (Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. 1.162), Ἀργολικά (Schol. ad Hom. Il. 3.75), and Βοιωτικά (ibid. 3.494) were either the same work as the Phoronis or portions of it.

3. Ἀτλαντιάς

Ἀτλαντιάς, in two books, containing the stories about Atlas and his descendants. (Harpocrat. s. v. Ὁμηριδαι; Schol. ad Hom. Il. 18.486.) 4. Τρωικά, in two books, beginning with the time of Dardanus. (Harpocrat. s. v. Κριθωτή; Schol. ad Hom. Il. φ. 242.) The Ἀδωπίς was only a portion of the Troica. (Marcellin. Vit. Thue. § 4.)

II. Chorographical works.

1. Ἀτθίς

Ἀτθίς, or a history of Attica, consisting of at least four books. The first contained the history of the mythical period ; the second was principally occupied with the history and antiquities of the Attic demi; the contents of the third and fourth are little known, but we know that Hellanicus treated of the Attic colonies established in Ionia, and of the subsequent events down to his own time. (Preller, l.c. p. 22, &c.; comp. Thuc. 1.97.)

2. Αἰολικά

Αἰολικά, or the history of the Aeolians in Asia Minor and the islands of the Aegean. The Lesbiaca and Περὶ Χίου κτίσεως seem to have formed sections of the Aeolica. (Tzetz. ad Lyeoph. 1374; Schol. ad Pind. Nem. 11.43, ad Hom. Od. 8.294.)

3. Περσικά

Περσικά, in two books, contained the history of Persia, Media, and Assyria from the time of Ninus to that of Hellanicus himself, as we may gather from the fragments still extant, and as is expressly stated by Cephalion in Syncellus (p. 315, ed. Dindorf).

III. Chronological works.


Ἱέρειαι τῆς Ἥρας in three books, contained a chronological list of the priestesses of Hera at Argos. There existed undonbtedly at Argos in the temple of Hera records in the form of annals, which ascended to the earliest times for which they were made up from oral traditions. Hellanicus made use of these records, but his work was not a mere meagre list, but he incorporated in it a variety of traditions and historical events, for which there was no room in any of his other works, and he thus produced a sort of chronicle. It was one of the earliest attempts to regulate chronology, and was afterwards made use of by Thucydides (2.2, 4.1, 33), Timaeus (Plb. 12.12), and others. (Comp. Plut. De Mus. p. 1181; Preller, l.c. p. 34, &c.)

2. Καρνεονῖκαι

Καρνεονῖκαι, or a chronological list of the victors in the musical and poetical contests at the festival of the Carneia. This work may be regarded as the first attempt towards a history of literature in Greece. A part of this work, or perhaps an early edition of it, is said to have been in verse. (Athen. 14.635.) Suidas states that Hellanicus wrote many works both in prose and in verse; but of the latter kind nothing is known.


All the productions of Hellanicus are lost, with the exception of a considerable number of fragments. Although he belongs, strictly speaking, to the logographers (Dionys. Jud. de Thuc. 5; Diod. 1.37), still he holds a much higher place among the early Greek historians than any of those who are designated by the name of logographers. He forms the transition from that class of writers to the real historians; for he not only treated of the mythical ages, but, in several instances, he carried history down to his own times. But, as far as the form of history is concerned, he had not emancipated himself from the custom and practice of other logographers, for, like them, he. treated history from local points of view, and divided it into such portions as might be related in the form of genealogies. Hence he wrote local histories and traditions. This circumstance, and the many differences in his accounts from those of Herodotus, renders it highly probable that these two writers worked quite independently of each other, and that the one was unknown to the other. It cannot be matter of surprise that, in regard to early traditions, he was deficient in historical criticism, and we may believe Thucydides (1.97), who says that Hellanicus wrote the history of later times briefly, and that he was not accurate in his chronology. In his geographical views, too, he seems to have been greatly dependent upon his predecessors, and gave, for the most part, what he found in them; whence Agathemerus (1.1), who calls him an ἀνὴρ πολυίστωρ, remarks that he ἀπλάστως παρέδωκε τήν ἱστορίαν; but the censure for falsehood and the like bestowed on him by such writers as Ctesias (apud Phot. Bibl. Cod. 72), Theopompus (apud Strab. i. p. 43), Ephorus (up. Joseph. c. Apion, 1.3; comp. Strab. viii. p.366), and Strabo (x. p.451, xi. p. 508, xiii. p. 602), is evidently one-sided, and should not bias us in forming our judgment of his merits or demerits as a writer; for there can be no doubt that he was a learned and diligent compiler, and that so far as his sources went, he was a trustworthy one.


His fragments are collected in Sturz, Hellanici Lesbii Fragmenta, Lips. 1796, 8vo., 2d edition 1826; in the Museum Criticum,vol.ii. p. 90-107, Camb. 1826; and in C. and Th. Müller, Fragmenta Histor. Graec. p. 45-96. (Dahlmann, Herodot. p 122, Müller, Hist. of Greek Lit. p. 264, and especially the work of Preller above referred to.)

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  • Cross-references from this page (8):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.190
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.1
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.97
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.33
    • Polybius, Histories, 12.12
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.2
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 1.2
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 1.37
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