Overview

Aristophanes


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

Of Byzantium (probably c.257–180bc) succeeded Eratosthenes as head of the Alexandrian Library (c.194 bc). He was a scholar of wide learning, famous for his linguistic, literary, textual, and scientific researches, and he is credited with the innovation of writing Greek accents.

His edition of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey made a distinct advance on the work of Zenodotus and Rhianus. Despite some capriciousness and boldness of treatment, due to a subjective method of criticism, his work showed much critical acumen; e.g. he was the first to put the end of the Odyssey at 23. 296. In his textual criticism he used symbols to show his doubts of the genuineness or satisfactoriness of verses.

Besides editions of Hesiod's Theogony, Alcaeus, and Alcman, he produced the first properly ordered edition of Pindar, in seventeen books; in his texts of the lyric poets Aristophanes used signs to mark the ends of metrical cola; but PLille 76a and 73 of Stesichorus prove that his predecessors had recognized the importance of cola. Scholia (ancient notes and commentaries) and papyri attest his work on Sophocles and Euripides; he also compiled the first critical edition of the comedies of Aristophanes (1); but to a later date belong the metrical hypotheseis (scholarly introductions prefixed to the texts of Greek dramas), traditionally ascribed to him, on seven of these comedies. He may have proposed a somewhat unsatisfactory grouping of fifteen dialogues of Plato in trilogies.

His select lists of the best Classical poets seem, along with those of Aristarchus (2), to have provided the basis for the classification of writers in the Alexandrian canon. He corrected and supplemented the biographical and literary information contained in the Pinakes of Callimachus. Introductions (attributed to Aristophanes) to some plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, based on the Didascaliae (lists of dramatic productions) of Aristotle and on Peripatetic research, are extant in an abbreviated form. In the Peri prosōpōn he treated the character-types in Greek Comedy. His interest in Menander led him to compile the treatise Parallēloi Menandrou te kai aph' hōn eklepsen eklogai (‘Parallels between Menander and the people he stole from’), possibly the first treatise on plagiarism.

Of his lexicographical works the most important was the Lexeis (or Glōssai), which perhaps consisted of a series of special studies classified according to dialect or to subject and dealt with prose as well as verse. He produced two books of proverbs in verse (schol. Soph. Aj. 746) and four in prose (schol. Ar. Av. 1292).

The work Peri zōōn appears to have been based on the (‘on animals’) studies of Aristotle, Theophrastus, and the Paradoxographers (collectors of marvels). Excerpts survive in Byzantine miscellanies. There is no good reason to attribute to him a grammatical treatise Peri analogias (‘on analogy’).

John Francis Lockwood; Nigel Guy Wilson

Subjects: Classical Studies.


Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.