Thursday, February 23, 2012

Case Study No. 0256: Callimachus

Epigram on the tomb of Callimachus of Cyrene
http://melidonismata 2011/10/ on-tomb-of- callimachus.html
Tags: Callimachus Cyrene Libya ?????????? ?????? Poetae Novi
Added: 3 months ago
From: MelidonisM
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This tomb you pass by
belongs to Callimachus from Libya
He knew to sing well
as long as red wine was inside the cups
on the rhythm, with the companions
He laughed

Epigram on the tomb of Callimachus, Hellenistic poet from Cyrene, who worked at the Library of Alexandria, Egypt. 10/305-240 BC

Music/Translations, Michalis Melidonis

Image crediting at melidonismata 2011_10_01_archive.html



CALLIMACHUS (c.305-c.240 B.C.)

Ancient Greek poet, librarian, and scholar, famous representative of the sophisticated Alexandrian school of poetry. Callimachus' most famous prose work is the Pinakes (Lists), a bibliographical survey of authors of the works held in the Library of Alexandria. It is said to have comprised 120 books.

Little is known of Callimachus' life and only fragments of his writings have survived. He was born in Cyrene, North Africa, into a prominent family. Callimachus called himself Battiades, "son of Battos," who was the mythical founder of Cyrene. "You're walking by the tomb of Battiades, / Who knew well how to write poetry, and enjoy / Laughter at the right moment, over the wine." ('On Himself', in The Greek Anthology, 1973, trans. by Peter Jay) Callimachus also tells, that his grandfather was a general.

After possibly being educated in Athens, he migrated to Alexandria. A number of sources say that he taught at an elementary school in Eleusis, a village outside the town, but according to Alan Cameron, this is not likely: to call somebody an elementary teacher was actually an insult in both Roman and Greek times. (Callimachus and His Critics, 1995) A member of an influential Cyrenean family, Callimachus was presented to King Ptolemy II Philadelphus (282-246 B.C. ). He become a "court youth" and later joined the Museum. It was a kind of institution of arts and sciences, founded by Ptolemy I (305-282 B.C. ), called the Soter, "the Saviour". Ptolemy was a friend of Alexander the Great, and a historian. He wrote an account of Alexander's campaign of conquest.

The Library of Alexandria was the most important in the whole Hellenistic culture and contained the greatest collection of texts. It is believed that the library held hundreds of thousands of scrolls at one time. Its first director, Zenodotos, began an inventory of the scrolls acquired by the Ptolemies for the Museum. They had sent agents to different parts of the Greek world to buy books - everything was good enough for the collections, even a book called Everything Thucydides Left Unsaid, written by the scholar Cratippus. Whenever a ship unloaded at Alexandria, it books were copied, and the originals went to the library (or sometimes back to the owner). Among its treasures was Aristotle's collection of books. The library consisted of two separate sections. The greater, part of the royal palace, was said to house nearly half a million scrolls. The lesser, attached to the Temple of Serapis, stored about forty thousand. The dimensions of a scroll were small, Homer alone took up at least 24 scrolls for the Iliad and the Odyssey. Callimachus separated the longer works by having them copied into several shorter sections. It has been suggested that Callimachus was in charge of the library after Zenodotus, although Eratosthenes (234-195 B.C. ) is more often mentioned as his successor - Eratosthenes measured the north-south circumference of the Earth with great accuracy.

There, at the Museum, Callimachus' major achievement was Pinakes ton en pase paideia dialampsanton kai hon synegrapsan (List of those who distinguished themselves in all branches of learning, and their writings). Pinakes is catalogue of Greek authors and their works, along with biographical and literary information. It has not been preserved and most likely Callimachus did not complete his gigantic work - cataloging, once it started in the ancient times, has never ended in libraries. The first biobibliography to appear in print dates much later - it was Johannes Trithemius's Liber de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis (1494).



Following Alexander's death in 323 B.C., his conquered lands were divided among five Macedonian generals, one of whom, Ptolemy Soter (Ptolemy I), was given Egypt. Ptolemy had great respect for learning and he encouraged scholars to immigrate to Alexandria, which became a center of culture and learning. Ptolemy and his son Ptolemy Philadelphus (Ptolemy II), with the help and encouragement of Demetrios of Phaleron, founded the Alexandrian Museum and Library. The mission of the library was ambitious - to collect the entirety of Greek literature. To accomplish this, the founders went to great and sometimes questionable lengths. The Alexandrian, like the library of Ashurbanipal before it, aggressively collected materials throughout the known world. In addition, Ptolemy frequently confiscated cargoes of books in ships that came to Alexandria. Copies were made of the originals and the copies were returned to the ships.

The collected items were subsequently organized and edited, and many were translated into Greek. The collection was stored in two buildings: a major structure called the Brucheion, which was used for research, and a smaller library called the Serapeum, which might have provided some service to students and the public. The Brucheion was divided into ten great halls, each hall representing a separate area of learning. There were also some smaller rooms for individuals involed in special studies.

The Alexandrian was also notable for its librarians, many of whom achieved great personal fame, such as the scholar Callimachus. According to some historians, under Callimachus's guidance, the library exceeded more than a half-million items, although the actual size of the collection relies on various accounts of questionable authenticity. Callimachus is especially known for his subject catalog of the library holdings, called the Pinakes, which contained 120 scrolls arranged into ten subject classes. Within each class, there were subdivisions listing authors alphabetically with titles. Because some entries included historical or critical remarks, some historians regard the Pinakes as more than a catalog, suggesting that it might have also served as a history of Greek literature.

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