The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

1032

THEOCRITUS.

prefixed to the ancient collection of the bucolic poets. (Brunck, Anal. vol. i. p. 263; Jacobs, Anih. Gra?.c. vol. i. p. 194, vol. vi. p. 490.) The follow­ing is the epigram : —

AAAo? 6 X?

Efs cbrb t&v iroXXwv elf.il Tibs Tlpafcayopao TrepifcAeiTTjs re 3>t\ivvris' 8*

outtot'

(Fabric. jBz'W. Graec. vol. iii. p. 775; Vossius, //•/stf. Graec. p. 68, ed. Westermann; Menagius, JDz'o.gr. Lailrt. v. 11 ; Clinton, jP. £f. vol. iii. p. 477 ; Muller, Frag. Hist. Graec. vol. ii. pp. 86, 87, in Didot's Bibliotkeca Scriptorum Graecorum). . 2. Tlie celebrated poet, was, according to the epigram just quoted, a native of Syracuse, and the son of Praxagoras and Philinna. This is also the statement of Suidas (s. v.)9 who adds, however, that others made him the son of Simichus, or Simichidas, and also that, by some accounts, he was a native of Cos, and only a jUeVoiKos at Syra­cuse. The origin of the former variation will be understood by a reference to the brief account of him prefixed to his poems, under the title of ©eoKpirou 7eVos, and to the Scholia on Idyl. vii. 21, from which it appears that Simichidas, the person into whose mouth that Idyl is put, was naturally identified by the ancients with the poet himself, whom, therefore, they made a son of Simichus or Simichidas (Schol. /. c., et ad v. 41). Theocritus again speaks in the name of Simichidas in the 12th line of his Syrinx; but, as the full name there used is Tldpts 2«/u(%^as, it would evidentlv be unsafe to understand the latter word

V ___

literally as a patronymic. The idea is much more probable, and more in harmony with the spirit of poetry, that Simichidas is an assumed name, like Tityrus in Virgil ; and this is the explanation given by some of the ancient grammarians, who couple it, however, with an etymology which is not at all probable. (Schol. I. c. ; &sok. 7eVov.) The other statement, that Theocritus was a native of Cos, has probably arisen out of his connection with Philetas. In the ©eoKptrov ycvos we are told that " he was the disciple of Philetas (of Cos) and Asclepiades (of Samos), whom he mentions," namely, in Id. vii. 40 : —

the first words of which the ancient commentators are probably right in referring to Asclepiades (tiehol.adloc.) Another reference to his connection with Philetas has been discovered by Bekker in a corrupted passage of Choeroboscus. (Bekker,.4?mo£. in Etym. p. 705 ; <iuAi7r7ras [i. e. QiXrfras] 5i5a-(T/caAos ©eoKpirou). He appears also to have been intimate with the poet Aratus, to whom he ad­dresses his sixth Idyl (v. 2), and whom he mentions three times in the seventh (vv. 98, 102, 122) ; at least, it was the belief of the ancient commentators that the Aratus mentioned in these passages was the author of the Phaenomena. (Schol. ad II. cci) Now, it may safely be assumed that Theocritus became acquainted with these poets at Alexandria, which had already become, under the first and second Ptolemy, a place of resort for the literary men of Greece, and which it is certain that Theocritus visited at least once in his life. The 14th, 15th, and 17th Idyls bear every mark of having been written at Alexandria, and at all

THEOCRITUS.

events they prove that the poet had lived there, and enjoyed the patronage of Ptolemy Philadelphus. The 16th, in praise of Hiero, the son of Hierocles, was evidently written at Syracuse, and its date cannot be earlier than b. c. 270, when Hiero was made king. To these indications of the date and residences of Theocritus, must be added the testi­mony of the author of the &€OKpirov yevus, that Theocritus flourished under Ptolemy the son of Lagus ; that of the Greek argument to the first Idyl, namely, that he was contemporary with Aratus and Callimachus and Nicander, and that he flourished in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus ; and also the important statement, in the argument to the fourth Idyl, that he flourished about 01. 124, b. c. 284—280. (There can be little doubt the pitS' is the true reading.) The writer of the argument to the 17th Idyl mentions the statement of Munatus, that Theocritus flourished under Pto­lemy Philopator, but only in order to refute it.

In interpreting these testimonies, our chief diffi­culty arises from a two-fold uncertainty respecting Philetas ; first, as to the precise period down to which he lived ; and, secondly, whether the ac­counts of his being the teacher of Theocritus refer to personal intercourse and instruction, or only to the influence of the works of Philetas upon the mind of Theocritus. Without attempting to decide these questions, we would hazard the conjecture, that the date above mentioned, of 01. 124, b. c. 284—280, marks the period, either when Theo­critus first went to Alexandria, or when, after spending some time there in receiving the instruc­tion, or studying the works, of Philetas and Asclepiades, he began to distinguish himself as a poet ; that his first efforts obtained for him the patronage of Ptolemy Philadelphus, who was asso­ciated in the kingdom with his father, Ptolemy the son of Lagus, in b. c. 285, and in whose praise, therefore, the poet wrote the Idyls above referred to, which bear every mark of having been composed in the early part of Ptolemy's sole reign (from b.c. 283), and of being productions of the poet's younger days. The manner in which Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, is alluded to, in Id. xvii. ] 4, confirms the supposition that Theocritus had lived under that king. From the 16th Idyl it is evident that Theocritus returned to Syracuse, and lived there under Hiero II., but the contents of the poem are not definite enough to determine the precise period of Hiero's reign at which it was composed : from the 76th and 77th lines it may perhaps be inferred that it was written during the first Punic War, after the alliance of Hiero with the Romans in b.c. 263. Be this as it may, the whole tone of the poem indicates that Theocritus was dissatisfied, both with the want of liberality on the part of Hiero in rewarding him for his poems, and with the political state of his native country. It may, therefore, be supposed that he devoted the latter part of his life almost entirely to the contemplation of those scenes of nature and of country life, on his representations of which his fame chieity rests.

These views are, of course, to some extent, affected by the question respecting the genuineness of some of the Idyls ; but the only one of those which furnish our chief evidence, that is generally regarded as spurious, is the 17th. We possess no further information respecting the poet's life, except that another of his intimate friends was the phy­sician Nicias, whom he addresses in terms of the

Pages
About | First

1030

1031

1032
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.