The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

OPPIANUS.

writer had found any trace of more than one poet of the name of Oppian. But the weight of this antecedent difficulty is probably more than counter­balanced by the internal evidence in favour of Schneider's hypothesis ; and with respect to the ancient testimonies to be adduced on either side, it will be seen that he pays at least as much deference to them as do those who embrace the opposite opinion. The chief reason in favour of his opinion is the fact that the author of the " Halieutica " was not born at the same place as the author of the " Cynegetica," an argument which some persons have vainly attempted to overthrow by altering the text of the latter poem. The other, which is scarcely less convincing, though not so evident to everybody's compre­hension, arises from the difference of style and language observable in the two poems, which is so great as to render it morally impossible that they could have been written by the same person : for, though it may be said that this" difference only shows that the author improved in writing by practice, this answer will not bear examination, as in the first place the inferior poem (viz. the u Cynegetica ") was written after, not before, the other ; and secondly, the author is commonly said to have died at the early age of thirty, which scarcely affords sufficient time for so great an alteration and improvement to have taken place. The points relating to each poem separately will therefore be first mentioned, and afterwards some historical facts commonly related concerning one of the authors, though it is difficult to determine which. I. The writer of the " Halieutica," 'ATueimKa, is said by (probably) all authorities to have been born in Cilicia, though they are not so well agreed as to the name of his native city. The author of an anonymous Greek Life of Oppian says it was either Corycus or Anazarba, Suidas says Corycus, and this is probably confirmed by Oppian himself, in the following passage : —

8e

Cftf]v ^jtierepr/s epiKvSeos cvrvvovrai ewaerrjpes virep 'Sapir'rjfiovos

affrv

Kwpviaov, vaiovffi Kal a

(iii. 205, &c.)

This passage, however, can hardly be fairly said to determine the point, for (as if to show the uncer­tainty of almost everything relating to Oppian) while Schneider considers that it proves that the poet was born at Corycus, Fabricius and others have adduced it as evidence to show that he was not. Respecting his date there has been equal difference of opinion. Athenaeus says (i. p. 13) he lived shortly before his own time, and Athe­naeus flourished, according to Mr. Clinton (Fasti Rom. a. d. 194), about the end of the second century. This testimony may be considered as almost conclusive with respect to Oppian's date, though it has been attempted to evade it, either by placing Athenaeus more than thirty years later*, or by considering the passage in question

* Fabricius, Schweighaeuser, and others, have first confounded the author of the " Halieutica J' with the author of the " Cynegetica," and have then made use of the date of the second Oppian in order to determine the date of Athe-naeus. [athenaeus].

OPPIANUS. 35

to be a spurious interpolation. It is also confirmed by Eusebius (Chron. ap. S. Hieron. vol. viii. p. 722, ed. Veron. 1736) and Syncellus (Chronogr. pp. 352, 353, ed. Paris. 1652), who place Oppian in the year 171 (or 173), and by Suidas, who says he lived in the reign of "Marcus Antoninus," i. e. not Caracalla, as Kuster and others suppose, but M. Aurelius Antoninus, a. d. 161—180. If the date here assigned to Oppian be correct, the emperor to whom the " Halieutica " are dedicated, and who is called (i. 3) yairjs virarov Kpdros, 'Avrwwe, will be M. Aurelius ; the allusions to his son (i. 66, 78, ii. 683, iv. 5, v. 45) will refer to Commodus ; and the poem may be supposed to have been written after a. d. 177, which is the year when the latter was admitted to a participation of the imperial dignity. If the writer of the " Halieu­tica " be supposed to have lived under Caracalla, the name " Antoninus •' will certainly suit that emperor perfectly well, as the appellation " Au­relius Antoninus " was conferred upon him when he was appointed Caesar by his father, a. d. 196. (Clinton's Fasti Rom.) But if we examine the other passages above referred to, the difficulty of applying them to Caracalla will be at once ap­parent, as that emperor (as far as we learn from history) had no son, — though some persons have even gone so far as to conjecture that he must have had one, because Oppian alludes to him ! (Schneider's first ed. p. 346.)

The " Halieutica " consist of about 3500 hex­ameter lines, divided into five books, of which the first two treat of the natural history of fishes, and the other three of the art of fishing. The author displays in parts considerable zoological know­ledge, but inserts also several fables and absur­dities, — and that not merely as so much poetical ornament,, but as grave matter of fact. In this respect, however, he was not more credulous than most of his contemporaries, and many of his stories are copied by Aelian and later writers.

The following zoological points in the poem are perhaps the most worthy of notice. He mentions (i. 217, &c.) the story of the remora, or sucker (eX^ri's) being able to stop a ship when under full sail by sticking to the keel, and reproves the incredulity of those who doubt its truth (cf. Plut. Sympos. ii. 7) ; he was aware of the peculiarity of the cancellus, or hermit-crab (/cap/ci^as), which is provided with no shell of its own, but seizes upon the first empty one that it can find (i. 320, &c.) ; he gives a beautiful and correct description of the nautilus (i. 338, &c.) ; he says that the murena, or lamprey, copulates with land-serpents, which, for the time, lay aside their venom (i. 554, &c.) ; he notices (ii. 56, &c. and iii. 149, &c.) the numb­ness caused by the touch of the torpedo (mpKr}) ; and the black fluid emitted by the sepia, or cuttle­fish, by means of which it escapes its pursuers (iii. 156, &c.) ; he says that a fish called "sargus" copulates with goats, and that it is caught by the fisherman's dressing himself up in a goat's skin, and so enticing it on shore (iv. 308, &c.) ; he several times mentions the dolphin, calls it, for its swift­ness and beauty, the king among fishes, as the eagle among birds, the lion among beasts, and the serpent among reptiles (ii. 533, &c.), and relates (v. 448, &c.) an anecdote, somewhat similar to those mentioned by Pliny (H. N. ix. 8), and which he says happened about his own time, of a dolphin that was so fond of a little boy that it

d 2

Pages
About | First

33

34

35
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.