Of Samothrace, the celebrated grammarian, flourished B.C. 156. He was a pupil of Aristophanes, and founded at Alexandria a grammatical and critical school. At an advanced age he went to Cyprus, where he died at the age of seventy-two, of voluntary starvation, because he was suffering from incurable dropsy. Aristarchus was the greatest critic of antiquity. His labours were chiefly devoted to the Homeric poems, of which he published an edition which has been the basis of the text from his time to the present day. He divided the Iliad and Odyssey into twenty-four books each. His text of the Homeric poems is substantially the groundwork of our present recensions. It had marginal notes indicating the verses which Aristarchus regarded as spurious or doubtful, and pointing out anything worthy of remark. The meaning of the notes, and the reasons for appending them, were explained in separate commentaries and excursuses, founded on a marvellously minute acquaintance with the language and contents of the Homeric poems and the whole of Greek literature. He was the head of the school of Aristarcheans, who continued working on classical texts in his spirit till after the beginning of the Empire. Of his numerous grammatical and exegetical works only fragments remain. An idea of his Homeric studies, and of their character, can best be gathered from the Venetian scholia to the Iliad, which are largely founded on extracts from the Aristarcheans Didymus and Aristonicus. See Homerus.
Aristarchus of Samothrace (Ἀρίσταρχος, 220?–143 BC?) was a grammarian noted as the most influential of all scholars of Homeric poetry. He was the librarian of the library of Alexandria and seems to have succeeded his teacher Aristophanes of Byzantium in that role.
He established the most historically important critical edition of the Homeric poems, and he is said to have applied his teacher's accent system to it, pointing the texts with a careful eye for metrical correctness. It is likely that he, or more probably, another predecessor at Alexandria, Zenodotus, was responsible for the division of the Iliad and Odyssey into twenty-four books each. According to the Suda, Aristarchus wrote 800 treatises (ὑπομνήματα) on various topics, all lost but for fragments preserved in the various scholia.
Accounts of his death vary, though they agree that it was during the persecutions of Ptolemy VIII of Egypt. One account has him, having contracted an incurable dropsy, starving himself to death while in exile on Cyprus.
The historical connection of his name to literary criticism has created the term aristarch for someone who is a judgmental critic.