The Ancient Library

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On this page: Dictymna – Dictys – Didascalia – Dido – Didrachma – Didymus



men who had held the office of consul. No plebeian was elected before 356 b.c. He was always nominated for a particular or specified purpose, on the fulfilment of which he laid down his office. He combined the supreme judicial with the supreme mili­tary power, and there was, originally, no appeal against his proceedings, even the veto of the tribunes being powerless against him. He was entirely irresponsible for his acta, and could therefore not be called to account on the expiration of his term of office. His insignia were the sella cui~tUis, tdga prostexta, and 24 lictors, who repre­sented the lictors of two consuls, and who even in the city bore axes in their bundle of rods, as a sign of the unlimited power of life and death. His assistant was the magister eqi&tum (master of the horse), who was bound absolutely to obey his com­mands, and whom he had to nominate immediately after his own election. The original function of the dictator was mili­tary ; but after 363 B.C. a dictator was occa­sionally chosen, in the absence of the consuls, for other purposes than dealing with external danger or internal troubles; especially to hold the games or religious festivities. The office gradually passed out of use, though not legally abolished. The last military dictator was appointed in 206 b.c., the last absolutely in 202 b.c. The dictatorships of Sulla and Caesar, who was named perpetual dictator not long before his death, were anti-republi­can and unconstitutional. After Caesar was murdered in 44 B.C., the office was abolished for ever by a law of Marcus Antonius.

Dictymna. A goddess of the sea, wor­shipped in Crete. (See britomartis.)

Dictys. (1) A poor fisherman on the island of Seriphus, who gave welcome to Danae and her son Perseus.

(2) Dictys of Gnossds in Crete. Alleged to have been the companion of Idomeneus in the Trojan war, and author of a diary recording his experiences therein. The diary, written in Phosnician on palm leaves, was said to have been found in a leaden box in his grave in the time of Nero, and to have been translated into Greek at that emperor's command. The existence of this Greek ver­sion was doubted, but a certain Lucius Sep-timius, of the 4th century a.d., gave out his Dictys Cretensis Ephemfrls De Bella as a translation of it. This book, and the equally absurd one of Dares (see dares), were the chief authorities followed by the mediaeval poets who handled the story of Troy.

DIdascalla (DidaskcUla). A Greek word meaning (1) The performance of a drama. (2) The pieces brought forward for per­formance at a dramatic entertainment. (3) A board hung up in the theatre, with short notices as to the time and place of the con­test, the competing poets, their plays and other successes, perhaps also the ChSregl, and the most celebrated actors. These documents, so important for the history of the drama, were first collected and arranged by Aristotle, whose example was followed by the Alexandrian scholars Calllmachus, Arist5ph&nes of Byzantium, and others. From these writings, also called didas-calice, but now unfortunately lost, come the scanty notices preserved by gram­marians and scholiasts upon the particular tragedies and comedies. Following the example of the Greeks the Romans pro­vided the dramas of their own poets with didancalice, as for instance those attached to the comedies of Terence and the Stichus of Plautus.

Dido. Properly a surname of the-Phoenician goddess of the moon, the wan­dering Astarte, who was also the goddess of the citadel of Carthage. The name of this goddess and some traits of her story-were transferred to Elissa, daughter of the Tyrian king Mutton (the Belus or Agenor of the Greeks). Elissa came from Tyre to Africa, where she founded Carthage. She-was flying from her brother Pygmalion, the murderer of her husband and paternal uncle Sicharbaal or Sicharbas (called in Greek Acerbas and in Latin Sychaeus). To escape wedding the barbarian king larbas-she erected a funeral pyre and stabbed her­self upon it. According to the later story,, followed or invented by Vergil, the tragedy was due to her despair at her desertion by jEneas.

Didrachma. See coinage.

Dldymus. One of the most celebrated Greek scholars of antiquity. He was born at Alexandria in 63 b.c., but lived and taught in Rome. He was one of the chief representatives of the school of Aristarchus. He is said to have been the author of more than 3,500 works, and from his own in­dustry and gigantic power of work was called ChalkentlrSs (the man with bowels of brass). Homer was the chief subject of his researches. His greatest work was a treatise of extraordinary care upon Aris­tarchus' edition of Homer, extracts from which are preserved in the Venetian Scholia to Homer. He wrote commentaries, not

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