Callimăchus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

A Greek scholar and poet, the chief representative of the Alexandrian School. He was the son of Battus, and thus sprung from the noble family of the Battiadae. He at first gave his lectures in a suburb of Alexandria; but was afterwards summoned by Ptolemy Philadelphus to the Museum there, and in about B.C. 260 was made curator of the library. He held this office till his death, which took place about B.C. 240. He did a great service to literature by sifting and cataloguing the numerous books collected at Alexandria. The results of his labours were published in his great work, called Πίνακες, or "Tablets." This contained 120 books, and was a catalogue, arranged in chronological order, of the works contained in the library, with observations on their genuineness, an indication of the first and last word in each book, and a note of its bulk. This work laid the foundation of a critical study of Greek literature. Eight hundred works, partly in prose and partly in verse, were attributed altogether to Callimachus; but it is to be observed that he avoided, on principle, the composition of long poems, so as to be able to give more thought to the artistic elaboration of details. The essence of Callimachus's verse is art and learning, not poetic genius in the real sense. Indeed, some of his compositions had a directly learned object-the Αἴτια, or "Causes," for instance. This was a collection of elegiac poems in four books, treating, with great erudition, of the foundation of cities, the origin of religious ceremonies, and the like. Through his writings, as well as through his oral instruction, Callimachus exercised an immense influence, not only on the course of learning, but on the poetical tendencies of the Alexandrian School (q.v.). Among his pupils were the most celebrated savants of the time, Eratosthenes, Aristophanes of Byzantium, Apollonius of Rhodes, and others. Of his writings only a very few have survived in a complete state. These are: six hymns, five of which are in epic and one in elegiac form, and sixty-four epigrams. The hymns, both in their language and their matter, attest the learned taste of their author. His elegy, entitled the Coma Berenices, or "Lock of Berenice," is imitated by Catullus in one of his remaining pieces. Ovid, in the twentieth of his Heroides, as well as in his Ibis, took poems of Callimachus for his models. Indeed, the Romans generally set a very high value on his elegies, and liked to imitate them. Of his other works in prose and poetry-among the latter may be mentioned a very popular epic called Hecaté-only fragments have survived. A good edition of the remains is that of Schneider, 2 vols. (1870-73); and of the Hymns and Epigrams those of Meineke (1861) and Wilamowitz (1882). See Couat, La Poésie Alexandrine (Paris, 1882).

Read More about Callimăchus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities