The Ancient Library
 

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54 GREEK LITERATURE.

opposed with all his might, but which, nevertheless, outlived the sound critical study of Homer among the Greeks, and has thriven luxuriantly even down to the present day.

IV. A more scientific study was bestowed on Homer by the sophists of Pericles's age, Prodicus, Protagoras, Hippias, and others. There are even traces which seem to indicate that the aTropiai and Auo-ew, such favor­ite themes with the Alexandrine critics, originated with these sophists. Thus the study of Homer increased, and the copies of his works must naturally have been more and more multiplied. We may suppose that not a few of the literary men of that age carefully compared the best MSS. within their reach, and, choosing what they thought best, made new edi­tions (8iop6<fxreisl). The task of these first editors was not an easy one. It may be concluded from the nature of the case, and it is known by vari­ous testimonies, that the text of those days offered enormous discrepan­cies, not paralleled in the text of any other classical writer. There were passages left out, transposed, added, or so altered as not easily to be rec­ognized ; nothing, in short, like a smooth vulgate existed before the time of the Alexandrine critics.

V. This state of the text must have presented immense difficulties to the first editors in the infancy of criticism. Yet these early editions were valuable to the Alexandreans, as being derived from good and ancient sources. Two only are known to us through the scholia, one of the poet Antimachus, and the famous one of Aristotle (?? ex rov vdpOTjKos), which Alexander the Great used to carry about with him in a splendid case (j/c£p0??£) on all his expeditions. Besides these editions, called in the scho­lia at /car Mpa, there were several other old Stopdcixreis at Alexandrea, under the name of at Kara Tr^Aeis, or at e/c TrJAewy, or at vo\iTiKcii. We know six of them, those of Massilia, Chios, Argos, Sinope, Cyprus, and Crete. It is hardly likely that they were made by public authority in the different states whose names they bear; on the contrary, as the persons who had made them were unknown, they were called, just as manuscripts are now, from the places where they had been found.

VI. All these editions, however, were only preparatory to the estab­lishment of a regular and systematic criticism and interpretation of Ho­mer, which began with Zenodotus at Alexandrea. For such a task the times after Alexander were quite fit. Life had fled from the literature of the Greeks; it was become a dead body, and was very properly car­ried into Egypt, there to be embalmed, and safely preserved for many en­suing centuries. It was the task of men, who, like Aristarchus, could judge of poetry without being able to write any themselves, to preserve carefully that which was extant, to clear it from all stains and corrup­tions, and to explain what was no longer rooted in and connected with the institutions of a free political life, and therefore was become unintel­ligible to all but the learned.

VII. Three men, who stand in the relation of masters and pupils, were at the head of a numerous host of scholars, who directed their attention either occasionally or exclusively to the study and criticism of the Ho-

1 Compare Wolf, Prolegom., p. 174.

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