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On this page: Aristarchus


Suidas ascribes to him more than 800 commentaries (viro^vri^ara^ while from an expres­sion of a Scholiast on Horace (JEpist. ii. 1. 257) some writers have inferred, that Aristarchus did not write anything at all. Besides these vtto^v^-/ttara, we find mention of a very important work, irepl dvaXoyias, of which unfortunately a very few fragments only are extant. It was attacked by Crates in a work irQpl a^w/xaAtay. (Gellius, ii. 25.) All the works of Aristarchus are lost, and all that we have of his consists of short fragments, which are scattered through the Scholia on the above-mentioned poets.. These fragments, however, would be utterly insufficient to give us any idea of the immense activity, the extensive knowledge, and above all, of the uniform strictness of his critical principles, were it not that Eustathius, and still more the Venetian Scholia on Homer (first published by Villoison, Venice, 1788, fol.), had preserved such extracts from his works on Homer, as, notwithstanding their fragmentary nature, shew us the critic in his whole greatness. As far as the Homeric poems are concerned, he above all things endeavoured to restore their genuine text, and carefully to clear it of all later interpolations and corruptions. He marked those verses which he thought spurious with an obelos, and those which he considered as particularly beautiful with an asterisk. It is now no longer a matter of doubt that, generally speaking, the text of the Homeric poems, such as it has come down to us, and the division of each poem into twenty-four raphsodies, are the work of Aristarchus ; that is to say, the edition which Aristarchus prepared of the Homeric poems became the basis of all subsequent editions. To restore this recension of Aristarchus has been more or less the great object with nearly all the editors of Homer, since the days of F. A. Wolf, a critic of a kindred genius, who first shewed the great importance to be attached to the edition of Aristarchus. Its general appreciation in antiquity is attested by the fact, that so many other gram­marians, as Callistratus, Aristonicus, Didymus, and Ptolemaeus of Ascalon, wrote separate works upon it. In explaining and interpreting the Homeric poems, for which nothing had been done before his time, his merits were as great as those he acquired by his critical labours. His explanations as well is his criticisms were not confined to the mere letail of words and phrases, but he entered also ipon investigations of a higher order, concerning nythology, geography, and on the artistic composi-ion and structure of the Homeric poems. He was l decided opponent of the allegorical interpretation if the poet which was then beginning, which some enturies later became very general, and was per-aps never carried to such extreme absurdities as a our own days by the author of " Homerus." Ahe antiquity of the Homeric poems, however, as rell as the historical character of their author, 3em never to have been doubted by Aristarchus. Fe bestowed great care upon the metrical correct-

•ess of the text, and is said to have provided the

•orks of Homer and some other poets with ac-;nts, the invention of which is ascribed to Aristo-lanes of Byzantium. It cannot be surprising lat a man who worked with that independent itical spirit, had his enemies and detractors; but ich isolated statements as that of Athenaeus (v. 177), in which Athenocles of Cyzicus is pre-rred to Aristarchus, are more than counter-


balanced by others. A Scholiast on Homer (IL iv. 235) declares, that Aristarchus must be followed in preference to other critics, even if they should be right; and Panaetius (Athen. xiv. p. 634) called Aristarchus a juavTts, to express the skill and felicity with which he always hit the truth in his criticisms and explanations. (For further in­ formation see Matthesius, Dissertatio de Aristarcho Grammatico, Jena, 1725, 4to.; Villoison, Proleg, ad Apotton. Lex Horn. p. xv., &c., Proleg, ad Horn, Iliad, p. xxvi., &c.; and more especially F. A. Wolf, Prolegom. in Horn. p. ccxvi., &c., and Lehrs, De AristarcU Studiis Homericis Regiment. Pruss. 1833, 8vo.) [L. S.]

ARISTARCHUS ('Apicrrapxos). 1. A Greek physician, of whom no particulars are known, ex­cept that he was attached to the court of Berenice, the wife of Antiochus Theos, king of Syria, b. c. 261—246 (Polyaen. Strateg. viii. 50), and per­suaded her to trust herself in the hands of her treacherous enemies.

2. Some medical prescriptions belonging to an­ other physician of this name are quoted by Galen and Ae'tius, who appears to have been a native of Tarsus in Cilicia. (Gal. De Compos. Medicam. ee. log. v. 11, vol. xiii. p. 824.) [W. A. G.]

ARISTARCHUS ('AptcrTap%bs), of samos, one of the earliest astronomers of the Alexandrian school. We know little of his history, except that he was living between b. c. 280 and 264. The first of these dates is inferred from a passage in the (j.eyd\7} crtWa£ts of Ptolemy (iii. 2, vol. i. p. 163, ed. Halma), in which Hipparchus is said to have referred, in his treatise on the length of the year, to an observation of the summer solstice made by Aristarchus in the 50th year of the 1st Calippic period: the second from, the mention of him in Plutarch (de facie in Orle Lunae], which makes him contemporary with Cleanthes the Stoic, the successor of Zeno.

It seems that he employed himself in the deter­mination of some of the most important elements of astronomy; but none of his works remain, ex­cept a treatise on the magnitudes and distances of the sun and moon (Trepi [AeyeQwv Kal aTroffrvj/ndTuv •fi\iov ko\ treATjvTjs). We do not know whether the method employed in this work was invented by Aristarchus (Suidas, s. v. fyiXoffofyos^ mentions a treatise on the same subject by a disciple of Plato); it is, however, very ingenious, and correct in principle. It is founded on the consideration that at the instant when the enlightened part of the moon is apparently bounded by a straight line, the plane of the circle which separates the dark and light portions passes through the eye of the spectator, and is also perpendicular to the line join­ing the centres of the sun and moon; so that the dis­tances of the sun and moon from the eye are at that instant respectively the hypothenuse and side of a right-angled triangle. The angle at the eye (which is the angular distance between the sun and moon) can be observed, and then it is an easy problem to find the ratio between the sides con­taining it. But this process could not, unless by accident, lead to a true result; for it would be im­possible, even with a telescope, to determine with much accuracy the instant at which the phaenome-non in question takes place ; and in the time of Aristarchus there were no means of measuring angular distances with sufficient exactness. In fact, he takes the angle at the eye to be 83 degrees


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