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1003

DICTYS CRETENSIS.

had committed to writing, in prose and verse, re­cords of the principal events, and that Homer had derived from these sources the materials for his poem. In this number was included Dictys of Crete, a follower of Idomeneus, and his name is attached to a narrative in Latin prose, divided in­to six books, entitled " Dictys Cretensis de Bello Trojano," or perhaps more accurately, " Ephemeris Belli Trojani," professing to be a journal of the leading events of the contest. To this is prefixed an introduction or prologue containing an account of the preservation and discovery of the work. We are here told that it was composed by Dictys of Gnossus at the joint request of Iclomeneus and Meriones, and was inscribed in Phoenician charac­ters on tablets of lime wood or paper made from the bark. The author having returned to Crete in his old age, gave orders with his dying breath that his book should be buried in the same grave with himself, and accordingly the MS. was enclos­ed in a chest of tin, and deposited in his tomb. There it remained undisturbed for ages, when in the thirteenth year of Nero's reign, the sepulchre was burst open by a terrible earthquake, the coffer was exposed to view, and observed by some shep­herds, who, having ascertained that it did not, as they had at first hoped, contain a treasure, con­veyed it to their master Eupraxis (or Eupraxides), who in his turn presented it to Rutilius Rtifus, the Roman governor of the province, by whom both Eupraxis and the casket were despatched to the emperor. Nero, upon learning that the letters were Phoenician, summoned to his presence men skilled in that language, by whom the contents were explained. The whole having been trans­lated into Greek, was deposited in one of the pub­lic libraries, and Eupraxis was dismissed loaded with rewards.

This introduction is followed by a letter ad­dressed by a Q. Septimius Romanus to a Q. Arca-dius Rufus, in which the writer, after giving the substance of the above tale, with a few variations, informs his friend, that the volume having fallen into his hands, he had been induced, for his own amusement and the instruction of others, to con­vert the whole, with some condensations, into the Latin tongue. It is worth remarking, that the author of the introduction supposes the original MS. of Dictys to have been written in the Phoe­nician language, while Septimius expressly asserts, that the characters alone were Phoenician and the language Greek. We may add to this account, that the writers of the Byzantine period, such as Joannes Malelas, Constantinus Porphyrogenitus, Georgius Cedrenus, Constantinus Manasses, Jo­annes and Isaacus Tzetzes, with others, quote largely from this Dictys as an author of the highest and most unquestionable authority, and he cer­tainly was known as early as the age of Aelian.

The piece itself contains a history of the Trojan war from the birth of Paris, down to the death of Ulysses. The compiler not unfrequently differs widely from Homer, adding many particulars, and recording many events of which we find no trace elsewhere. Most of these, although old traditions and legends are obviously mingled with fictions of a later date, were probably derived from the bards of the epic cycle; but the whole narrative is care­fully pragmatised, that is, all miraculous events and supernatural agency are entirely excluded. In style Septimius evidently strives hard to imi-

DICTYS CRETENSIS.

tate the ancient models, especially Sallust, and occasionally not without success, although both in tone and phraseology we detect a close resemblance to the style of Appuleius and Aulus Gellius.

In the absence of all positive evidence, a wide field is thrown open for conjecture with regard to the real author of this work, the period at which it was actually composed, and the circumstances under which it was given to the world. Setting aside its alleged origin and discovery as quite un­worthy of credit,, many questions present them­selves. Have we any proof that there ever was a Greek original at all ? If there was a Greek com­pilation on the same subject, are there sufficient grounds for believing that what we now possess was derived from it ? Is it not more probable that the Latin chronicle was the archetype, or, at all events, independent, and that the introduction and prefatory epistle were deliberate forgeries, devised for the purpose of attracting attention and securing respect in days of ignorance and credu­lity? Again, if we admit that this is really a translation from a Greek original, at what epoch and in what manner did that original first appear ? Is the story of the presentation to Nero a pure fabrication ? Are Septimius and Arcadius real personages ? If they are, to what era do they belong ? To these inquiries, which have been an­swered by different critics in most contradictory terms, we reply: 1. It is certain that a Greek history of the Trojan war bearing the name of Dict}rs was in circulation among the Byzantines named above, by some of whom, who had no knowledge of Latin, the ipsissima verba are cited.

2. It is impossible to read the Latin Dictys with­out feeling convinced that it is a translation. The Graecisms are numerous and palpable, so that no one who examines the examples adduced by Peri-zonius can entertain any doubt upon this head.

3. It is a translation, fairly executed, of the narra­tive used by the Byzantines. This is proved by its close correspondence with the fragments found in Malelas and others, while the want of absolute identity in particular passages is fully explained by the assumption that it was not a full and literal but a compressed and modified version. 4. These facts being established, we have no reasonable grounds for rejecting the epistle of Septimius to Arcadius as spurious; but so common were these names under the empire, that it is impossible to fix with any degree of certainty upon the indivi­duals indicated. Hence, while the date of the letter is placed by some as early as the middle of the second century, Perizonius refers it to the time of Diocletian, while others bring it down as low as Constantine, or even a century later. 5. Lastly, among the multitude of hypotheses proposed with reference to the origin of the work, one is so inge­nious, that it deserves to be rescued from oblivion. It is a matter of history that Nero made his mad progress through Achaia in the thirteenth year of his reign, and that Crete was actually ravaged by an earthquake at that very period. Hence Peri­zonius supposes that Eupraxis, a wily islander,, well aware of the passion displayed by the emperor for everything Greek, and more especially of his love for the tale of Troy, forged this production under the name of his countryman, Dictys, with regard to whom traditions may have been current, caused it to be transcribed into Phoenician charac­ters, as bearing the closest resemblance to the

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