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Apollonius RHODIUS

23. RHODIUS, was, according to Suidas and his Greek anonymous biographers, the son of Silleus or Illeus and Rhode, and born at Alexandria (comp. Strab. xiv. p.655) in the phyle Ptolemais, whereas Athenaeus (vii. p. 283) and Aelian (Ael. NA 15.23) describe him as a native or, at least, as a citizen of Naucratis. He appears to have been born in the first half of the reign of Ptolemy Euergetes, that is, about B. C. 235, and his most active period falls in the reign of Ptolemy Philopator (B. C. 221-204) and of Ptolemy Epiphanes. (B. C. 204-181.) In his youth he was instructed by Callimachus, but afterwards we find a bitter enmity existing between them. The cause of this hatred has been explained by various suppositions; the most probable of which seems to be, that Apollonius, in his love of the simplicity of the ancient poets of Greece and in his endeavour to imitate them, offended Callimachus, or perhaps even expressed contempt for his poetry. The love of Apollonius for the ancient epic poetry was indeed so great, and had such fascinations for him, that even when a youth (ἔφηβος) he began himself an epic poem on the expedition of the Argonauts. When at last the work was completed, he read it in public at Alexandria, but it did not meet with the approbation of the audience. The cause of this may in part have been the imperfect character of the poem itself, which was only a youthful attempt; but it was more especially owing to the intrigues of the other Alexandrine poets, and above all of Callimachus, for Apollonius was in some degree opposed to the taste which then prevailed at Alexandria in regard to poetry. Apollonius was deeply hurt at this failure, and it is not improbable that the bitter epigram on Callimachus which is still extant (Anthol. Graec. 11.275) was written at that time. Callimachus in return wrote an invective-poem called " Ibis," against Apollonius, of the nature of which we may form some idea from Ovid's imitation of it in a poem of the same name. Callimachus, moreover, expressed his enmity in other poems also, and in his hymn to Apollo there occur several hostile allusions to Apollonius, especially in 5.105. Disheartened by these circumstances Apollonius left Alexandria and went to Rhodes, which was then one of the great seats of Greek literature and learning. Here he revised his poem, and read it to the Rhodians, who received it with great approbation. At the same time he delivered lectures on rhetoric, and his reputation soon rose to such a height, that the Rhodians honoured him with their franchise and other distinctions. Apollomius now regarded himself as a Rhodian, and the surname Rhodius has at all times been the name by which he has been distinguished from other persons of the same name. Notwithstanding these distinctions, however, he afterwards returned to Alexandria, but it is unknown whether he did so of his own accord, or in consequence of an invitation. He is said to have now read his revised poem to the Alexandrines, who were so delighted with it, that he at once rose to the highest degree of fame and popularity. According to Suidas, Apollonius succeeded Eratosthenes as chief librarian of the museum at Alexandria, in the reign of Ptolemy Epiphanes, about B. C. 194. Further particulars about his life are not mentioned, but it is probable that he held his office in the museum until his death, and one of his biographers states, that he was buried in the same tomb with Callimachus.


As regards the poem on the expedition of the Argonauts (Argonautica), which consists of four books and is still extant, Apollonius collected his materials from the rich libraries of Alexandria, and his scholiasts are always anxious to point out the sources from which he derived this or that account. The poem gives a straightforward and simple description of the adventure, and in a tone which is equal throughout. The episodes, which are not numerous and contain particular mythuses or descriptions of countries, are sometimes very beautiful, and give life and colour to the whole poem. The character of Jason, although he is the hero of the poem, is not sufficiently developed to win the interest of the reader. The character of Medeia, on the other hand, is beautifully drawn, and the gradual growth of her love is described with a truly artistic moderation. The language is an imitation of that of Homer, but it is more brief and concise, and has all the symptoms of something which is studied and not natural to the poet. The Argonautica, in short, is a work of art and labour, and thus forms, notwithstanding its many resemblances, a contrast with the natural and easy flow of the Homeric poems. On its appearance the work seems to have made a great sensation, for even contemporaries, such as Charon, wrote commentaries upon it.

Scholia on Apollonius

Our present Scholia are abridgements of the commentaries of Lucillus of Tarrha, Sophocles, and Theon. all of whom seem to have lived before the Christian era. One Eirenaeus is also mentioned as having written a critical and exegetical commentary on the Argonautica. (Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. 1.1299, 2.127, 1015.) The common Scholia on Apollonius are called the Florentine Scholia, because they were first published at Florence, and to distinguish them from the Paris Scholia, which were first published in Schaefer's edition of the Argonautica, and consist chiefly of verbal explanations and criticisms.


Among the Romans the Argonautica was much read, and P. Terentius Varro Atacinus acquired great reputation by his translation of it. (Quintil 10.1.87.) The Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus is a free imitation of the poem of Apollonius. In the reign of Anastasius 1. one Marianus made a Greek paraphrase of Apollonius' poem in 5608 iambics.

Editions of the

The first edition of the Argonautica is that of Florence, 1496, 4to., by J. Lasearis, which contains the Scholia. The next is the Aldine (Venice, 1581. 8vo.), which is little more than a reprint of the Florentine edition. The first really eritical edition is that of Brunck. (Argentorat. 1780, in 4to. and 8vo.) The edition of Beck (Leipzig, 1797, 8vo.) is incomplete, and the only volume which appeared of it contains the text, with a Latin translation and a few critical notes. G. Schaefer published an edition (Leipz. 1810-13, 2 vols. 8vo.), which is an improvement upon that of Brunck, and is the first in which the Paris Scholia are printed. The best edition is that of Wellauer, Leipzig, 1828, 2 vols. 8vo., which contains the various readings of 13 MSS., the Scholia, and short notes.

Lost works

Besides the Argonautica and epigrams (Antonin. Lib. 23), of which we possess only the one on Callimachus, Apollonius wrote several other works which are now lost. Two of them, Περὶ Ἀρχιλόχου (Athen. 10.451) and πρὸς Ζηνόδοτον (Schol. Venet. ad Hom. Il. 13.657), were probably grammatical works, and the latter may have had reference to the recension of the Homeric poems by Zenodotus, for the Scholia on Homer occasionally refer to Apollonius. A third class of Apollonius' writings were his κτίσεις, that is, poems on the origin or foundation of several towns. These poems were of an historico-epical character, and most of them seem to have been written in hexameter verse. The following are known:


Compare E. Gerhard, Lectiones Apollonianae, Leipzig, 1816, 8vo.; Weichert, Ueber das Leben und Gedicht des Apollonius von Rhodus, Meissen, 1821, 8vo.)

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    • Aelian, De Natura Animalium, 15.23
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