Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology
J. W. Mackail

Part 1 out of 6

[We have both a 7 bit version and an 8 bit version. The 7 bit
version does not contain accents, the 8 [binary] bit version does]

This is the 8 bit version.

By J. W. Mackail

First Published 1890 by Longmans, Green, and Co.

Etext prepared by John Bickers,
and Dagny,




Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford.


This book was published in 1890 by Longmans, Green, and Co.,
London; and New York: 15 East 16th Street.

The epigrams in the book are given both in Greek and in English.
This text includes only the English. Where Greek is present in
short citations, it has been given here in transliterated form and
marked with brackets. A chapter of Notes on the translations has
also been omitted.

{eti pou proima leuxoia}
Meleager in /Anth. Pal./ iv. 1.

Dim now and soil'd,
Like the soil'd tissue of white violets
Left, freshly gather'd, on their native bank.
M. Arnold, /Sohrab and Rustum/.


The purpose of this book is to present a complete collection, subject
to certain definitions and exceptions which will be mentioned later,
of all the best extant Greek Epigrams. Although many epigrams not
given here have in different ways a special interest of their own,
none, it is hoped, have been excluded which are of the first
excellence in any style. But, while it would be easy to agree on
three-fourths of the matter to be included in such a scope, perhaps
hardly any two persons would be in exact accordance with regard to the
rest; with many pieces which lie on the border line of excellence, the
decision must be made on a balance of very slight considerations, and
becomes in the end one rather of personal taste than of any fixed

For the Greek Anthology proper, use has chiefly been made of the two
great works of Jacobs, which have not yet been superseded by any more
definitive edition: /Anthologia Graeca sive Poetarum Graecorum lusus
ex recensione Brunckii; indices et commentarium adiecit Friedericus
Iacobs/ (Leipzig, 1794-1814: four volumes of text and nine of indices,
prolegomena, commentary, and appendices), and /Anthologia Graeca ad
fidem codicis olim Palatini nunc Parisini ex apographo Gothano edita;
curavit epigrammata in Codice Palatino desiderata et annotationem
criticam adiecit Fridericus Jacobs/ (Leipzig, 1813-1817: two volumes
of text and two of critical notes). An appendix to the latter contains
Paulssen's fresh collation of the Palatine MS. The small Tauchnitz
text is a very careless and inaccurate reprint of this edition. The
most convenient edition of the Anthology for ordinary reference is
that of F. DŘbner in Didot's /BibliothŔque Grecque/ (Paris, 1864), in
two volumes, with a revised text, a Latin translation, and additional
notes by various hands. The epigrams recovered from inscriptions have
been collected and edited by G. Kaibel in his /Epigrammata Graeca ex
labidibus conlecta/ (Berlin, 1878). As this book was going through the
press, a third volume of the Didot Anthology has appeared, edited by
M. Ed. Cougny, under the title of /Appendix nova epigrammatum veterum
ex libris at marmoribus ductorum/, containing what purports to be a
complete collection, now made for the first time, of all extant
epigrams not in the Anthology.

In the notes, I have not thought it necessary to acknowledge, except
here once for all, my continual obligations to that superb monument of
scholarship, the commentary of Jacobs; but where a note or a reading
is borrowed from a later critic, his name is mentioned. All important
deviations from the received text of the Anthology are noted, and
referred to their author in each case; but, as this is not a critical
edition, the received text, when retained, is as a rule printed
without comment where it differs from that of the MSS. or other

The references in the notes to Bergk's /Lyrici Graeci/ give the pages
of the fourth edition. Epigrams from the Anthology are quoted by the
sections of the Palatine collection (/Anth. Pal./) and the appendices
to it (sections xiii-xv). After these appendices follows in modern
editions a collection (/App. Plan./) of all the epigrams in the
Planudean Anthology which are not found in the Palatine MS.

I have to thank Mr. P. E. Matheson, Fellow of New College, for his
kindness in looking over the proofsheets of this book.



The Greek word "epigram" in its original meaning is precisely
equivalent to the Latin word "inscription"; and it probably came into
use in this sense at a very early period of Greek history, anterior
even to the invention of prose. Inscriptions at that time, if they
went beyond a mere name or set of names, or perhaps the bare statement
of a single fact, were necessarily in verse, then the single vehicle
of organised expression. Even after prose was in use, an obvious
propriety remained in the metrical form as being at once more striking
and more easily retained in the memory; while in the case of epitaphs
and dedications--for the earlier epigram falls almost entirely under
these two heads--religious feeling and a sense of what was due to
ancient custom aided the continuance of the old tradition. Herodotus
in the course of his History quotes epigrams of both kinds; and with
him the word {epigramma} is just on the point of acquiring its
literary sense, though this is not yet fixed definitely. In his
account of the three ancient tripods dedicated in the temple of Apollo
at Thebes,[1] he says of one of them, {o men de eis ton tripodon
epigramma ekhei}, and then quotes the single hexameter line engraved
upon it. Of the other two he says simply, "they say in hexameter,"
{legei en exametro tono}. Again, where he describes the funeral
monuments at Thermopylae,[2] he uses the words {gramma} and
{epigramma} almost in the sense of sepulchural epigrams; {epigegrammai
grammata legonta tade}, and a little further on, {epixosmesantes
epigrammasi xai stelesi}, "epitaphs and monuments". Among these
epitaphs is the celebrated couplet of Simonides[3] which has found a
place in all subsequent Anthologies.

In the Anthology itself the word does not however in fact occur till a
late period. The proem of Meleager to his collection uses the words
{soide}, {umnos}, {melisma}, {elegos}, all vaguely, but has no term
which corresponds in any degree to our epigram. That of Philippus has
one word which describes the epigram by a single quality; he calls his
work an {oligostikhia} or collection of poems not exceeding a few
lines in length. In an epitaph by Diodorus, a poet of the Augustan
age, occurs the phrase {gramma legei},[4] in imitation of the phrase
of Herodotus just quoted. This is, no doubt, an intentional archaism;
but the word {epigramma} itself does not occur in the collection until
the Roman period. Two epigrams on the epigram,[5] one Roman, the other
Roman or Byzantine, are preserved, both dealing with the question of
the proper length. The former, by Parmenio, merely says that an
epigram of many lines is bad--{phemi polustikhien epigrammatos ou xata
Mousas einai}. The other is more definite, but unfortunately ambiguous
in expression. It runs thus:

{Pagxalon eot epigramma to distikhon en de parelthes
tous treis rapsodeis xoux epigramma legeis}

The meaning of the first part is plain; an epigram may be complete
within the limits of a single couplet. But do "the three" mean three
lines or three couplets? "Exceeding three" would, in the one case,
mean an epigram of four lines, in the other of eight. As there cannot
properly be an epigram of three lines, it would seem rather to mean
the latter. Even so the statement is an exaggeration; many of the best
epigrams are in six and eight lines. But it is true that the epigram
may "have its nature", in the phrase of Aristotle,[6] in a single
couplet; and we shall generally find that in those of eight lines, as
always without exception in those of more than eight, there is either
some repetition of idea not necessary to the full expression of the
thought, or some redundance of epithet or detail too florid for the
best taste, or, as in most of the Byzantine epigrams, a natural
verbosity which affects the style throughout and weakens the force and
directness of the epigram.

The notorious difficulty of giving any satisfactory definition of
poetry is almost equalled by the difficulty of defining with precision
any one of its kinds; and the epigram in Greek, while it always
remained conditioned by being in its essence and origin an
inscriptional poem, took in the later periods so wide a range of
subject and treatment that it can perhaps only be limited by certain
abstract conventions of length and metre. Sometimes it becomes in all
but metrical form a lyric; sometimes it hardly rises beyond the
versified statement of a fact or an idea; sometimes it is barely
distinguishable from a snatch of pastoral. The shorter pieces of the
elegiac poets might very often well be classed as epigrams but for the
uncertainty, due to the form in which their text has come down to us,
whether they are not in all cases, as they undoubtedly are in some,
portions of longer poems. Many couplets and quatrains of Theognis fall
under this head; and an excellent instance on a larger scale is the
fragment of fourteen lines by Simonides of Amorgos,[7] which is the
exact type on which many of the later epigrams of life are moulded. In
such cases /respice auctoris animum/ is a safe rule; what was not
written as an epigram is not an epigram. Yet it has seemed worth while
to illustrate this rule by its exceptions; and there will be found in
this collection fragments of Mimnermus and Theognis[8] which in
everything but the actual circumstance of their origin satisfy any
requirement which can be made. In the Palatine Anthology itself,
indeed, there are a few instances[9] where this very thing is done. As
a rule, however, these short passages belong to the class of {gromai}
or moral sentences, which, even when expressed in elegiac verse, is
sufficiently distinct from the true epigram. One instance will
suffice. In the Anthology there occurs this couplet:[10]

{Pan to peritton axaipon epei logos esti palaios
os xai tou melitos to pleon esti khole}

This is a sentence merely; an abstract moral idea, with an
illustration attached to it. Compare with it another couplet[11] in
the Anthology:

{Aion panta pserei dolikhos khronos oioen ameibein
ounoma xai morpsen xai psuain ede tukhen}

Here too there is a moral idea; but in the expression, abstract as it
is, there is just that high note, that imaginative touch, which gives
it at once the gravity of an inscription and the quality of a poem.

Again, many of the so-called epideictic epigrams are little more than
stories told shortly in elegiac verse, much like the stories in Ovid's
Fasti. Here the inscriptional quality is the surest test. It is this
quality, perhaps in many instances due to the verses having been
actually written for paintings or sculptures, that just makes an
epigram of the sea-story told by Antipater of Thessalonica, and of the
legend of Eunomus the harp-player[12]; while other stories, such as
those told of Pittacus, of Euctemon, of Serapis and the murderer,[13]
both tend to exceed the reasonable limit of length, and have in no
degree either the lapidary precision of the half lyrical passion which
would be necessary to make them more than tales in verse. Once more,
the fragments of idyllic poetry which by chance have come down to us
incorporated in the Anthology,[14] beautiful as they are, are in no
sense epigrams any more than the lyrics ascribed to Anacreon which
form an appendix to the Palatine collection, or the quotations from
the dramatists, Euripides, Menander, or Diphilus,[15] which have also
at one time or another become incorporated with it.

In brief then, the epigram in its first intention may be described as
a very short poem summing up as though in a memorial inscription what
it is desired to make permanently memorable in any action or
situation. It must have the compression and conciseness of a real
inscription, and in proportion to the smallness of its bulk must be
highly finished, evenly balanced, simple, and lucid. In literature it
holds something of the same place as is held in art by an engraved
gem. But if the definition of the epigram is only fixed thus, it is
difficult to exclude almost any very short poem that conforms
externally to this standard; while on the other hand the chance of
language has restricted the word in its modern use to a sense which it
never bore in Greek at all, defined in the line of Boileau, /un bon
mot de deux rimes ornÚ/. This sense was made current more especially
by the epigrams of Martial, which as a rule lead up to a pointed end,
sometimes a witticism, sometimes a verbal fancy, and are quite apart
from the higher imaginative qualities. From looking too exclusively at
the Latin epigrammatists, who all belonged to a debased period in
literature, some persons have been led to speak of the Latin as
distinct from the Greek sense of the word "epigram". But in the Greek
Anthology the epigrams of contemporary writers have the same quality.
The fault was that of the age, not of the language. No good epigram
sacrifices its finer poetical qualities to the desire of making a
point; and none of the best depend on having a point at all.

[1] Hdt. v. 59.

[2] Hdt. vii. 228.

[3] III. 4 in this collection.

[4] Anth. Pal. vi. 348.

[5] Ibid. ix. 342, 369.

[6] Poet. 1449 a. 14.

[7] Simon. fr. 85 Bergk.

[8] Infra, XII. 6, 17, 37.

[9] App. Plan. 16.

[10] Anth. Pal. ix. 50, 118, x. 113.

[11] Anth. Pal. ix. 51.

[12] Infra, IX. 14, II. 14.

[13] Anth. Pal. vii. 89, ix. 367, 378.

[14] Anth. Pal. ix. 136, 362, 363.

[15] Ibid. x. 107, xi. 438, 439.


While the epigram is thus somewhat incapable of strict formal
definition, for all practical purposes it may be confined in Greek
poetry to pieces written in a single metre, the elegiac couplet, the
metre appropriated to inscriptions from the earliest recorded
period.[1] Traditionally ascribed to the invention of Archilochus or
Callinus, this form of verse, like the epic hexameter itself, first
meets us full grown.[2] The date of Archilochus of Paros may be fixed
pretty nearly at 700 B.C. That of Callinus of Ephesus is perhaps
earlier. It may be assumed with probability that elegy was an
invention of the same early civilisation among the Greek colonists of
the eastern coast of the Aegean in which the Homeric poems flowered
out into their splendid perfection. From the first the elegiac metre
was instinctively recognised as one of the best suited for
inscriptional poems. Originally indeed it had a much wider area, as it
afterwards had again with the Alexandrian poets; it seems to have been
the common metre for every kind of poetry which was neither purely
lyrical on the one hand, nor on the other included in the definite
scope of the heroic hexameter. The name {elegos}, "wailing", is
probably as late as Simonides, when from the frequency of its use for
funeral inscriptions the metre had acquired a mournful connotation,
and become the /tristis elege´a/ of the Latin poets. But the war-
chants of Callinus and Tyrtaeus, and the political poems of the
latter, are at least fifty years earlier in date than the elegies of
Mimnermus, the first of which we have certain knowledge: and in
Theognis, a hundred years later than Mimnermus, elegiac verse becomes
a vehicle for the utmost diversity of subject, and a vehicle so facile
and flexible that it never seems unsuitable or inadequate. For at
least eighteen hundred years it remained a living metre, through all
that time never undergoing any serious modification.[3] Almost up to
the end of the Greek Empire of the East it continued to be written, in
imitation it is true of the old poets, but still with the freedom of a
language in common and uninterrupted use. As in the heroic hexameter
the Asiatic colonies of Greece invented the most fluent, stately, and
harmonious metre for continuous narrative poetry which has yet been
invented by man, so in the elegiac couplet they solved the problem,
hardly a less difficult one, of a metre which would refuse nothing,
which could rise to the occasion and sink with it, and be equally
suited to the epitaph of a hero or the verses accompanying a birthday
present, a light jest or a great moral idea, the sigh of a lover or
the lament over a perished Empire.[4]

The Palatine Anthology as it has come down to us includes a small
proportion, less than one in ten, of poems in other metres than the
elegiac. Some do not properly belong to the collection, as for
instance the three lines of iambics heading the Erotic section and the
two hendecasyllabics at the end of it, or the two hexameters at the
beginning of the Dedicatory section. These are hardly so much
insertions as accretions. Apart from them there are only four non-
elegiac pieces among the three hundred and eight amatory epigrams. The
three hundred and fifty-eight dedicatory epigrams include sixteen in
hexameter and iambic, and one in hendecasyllabic; and among the seven
hundred and fifty sepulchral epigrams are forty-two in hexameter,
iambic, and other mixed metres. The Epideictic section, as one would
expect from the more miscellaneous nature of its contents, has a
larger proportion of non-elegiac pieces. Of the eight hundred and
twenty-seven epigrams no less than a hundred and twenty-nine are in
hexameter (they include a large number of single lines), twenty-seven
in iambic, and six others in various unusual metres, besides one (No.
703) which comes in strangely enough: it is in prose: and is the
inscription in commendation of the water of the Thracian river Tearos,
engraved on a pillar by Darius, transcribed from Herodotus, iv. 91.
The odd thing is that the collector of the Anthology appears to have
thought it was in verse. The Hortatory section includes a score of
hexameter and iambic fragments, some of them proverbial lines, others
extracts from the tragedians. The Convivial section has five-and-
twenty in hexameter, iambic, and hemiambic, out of four hundred and
forty-two. The Musa Stratonis, in which the hand of the Byzantine
editor has had a less free play, is entirely in elegiac. But the short
appendix next following it in the Palatine MS. consists entirely of
epigrams in various metres, chiefly composite. Of the two thousand
eight hundred and thirteen epigrams which constitute the Palatine
Anthology proper, (sections V., VI., VII., IX., X., and XI.), there
are in all a hundred and seventy-five in hexameter, seventy-seven in
iambic, and twenty-two in various other metres. In practise, when one
comes to make a selection, the exclusion of all non-elegiac pieces
leads to no difficulty.

Nothing illustrates more vividly the essential unity and continuous
life of Greek literature than this line of poetry, reaching from the
period of the earliest certain historical records down to a time when
modern poetry in the West of Europe had already established itself;
nothing could supply a better and simpler corrective to the fallacy,
still too common, that Greek history ends with the conquests of
Alexander. It is on some such golden bridge that we must cross the
profound gulf which separates, to the popular view, the sunset of the
Western Empire of Rome from the dawn of the Italian republics and the
kingdoms of France and England. That gulf to most persons seems
impassable, and it is another world which lies across it. But here one
sees how that distant and strange world stretches out its hands to
touch our own. The great burst of epigrammatic poetry under Justinian
took place when the Consulate of Rome, after more than a thousand
years' currency, at last ceased to mark the Western year. While
Constantinus Cephalas was compiling his Anthology, adding to the
treasures of past times much recent and even contemporary work,
Athelstan of England inflicted the great defeat on the Danes at
Brunanburh, the song of which is one of the noblest records of our own
early literature; and before Planudes made the last additions the
Divine Comedy was written, and our English poetry had broken out into
the full sweetness of its flower:

Bytuene Mershe ant Averil
When spray beginneth to springe,
The lutel foul hath hire wyl
On hyre lud to synge.[5]

It is startling to think that so far as the date goes this might have
been included in the Planudean Anthology.

Yet this must not be pressed too far. Greek literature at the later
Byzantine Court, like the polity and religion of the Empire, was a
matter of rigid formalism; and so an epigram by Cometas Chartularius
differs no more in style and spirit from an epigram by Agathias than
two mosaics of the same dates. The later is a copy of the earlier,
executed in a somewhat inferior manner. Even in the revival of poetry
under Justinian it is difficult to be sure how far the poetry was in
any real sense original, and how far it is parallel to the Latin
verses of Renaissance scholars. The vocabulary of these poets is
practically the same as that of Callimachus; but the vocabulary of
Callimachus too is practically the same as that of Simonides.

[1] The first inscriptions of all were probably in hexameter: cf. Hdt.
v. 59.

[2] Horace, A. P., ll. 75-8, leaves the origin of elegiac verse in
obscurity. When he says it was first used for laments, he probably
follows the Alexandrian derivation of the word {elegos} from {e
legein}. The /voti sententia compos/ to which he says it became
extended is interpreted by the commentators as meaning amatory
poetry. If this was Horace's meaning he chose a most singular way
of expressing it.

[3] Mr. F. D. Allen's treatise /On Greek Versification in
Inscriptions/ (Boston, 1888) gives an account of the slight
changes in structure (caesura, etc.) between earlier and later

[4] Cf. infra, III. 2, VII., 4, X. 45, XII. 18, I. 30, IX. 23.

[5] From the Leominster MS. circ. A.D. 1307 (Percy Society, 1842).


The material out of which this selection has been made is principally
that immense mass of epigrams known as the Greek Anthology. An account
of this celebrated collection and the way in which it was formed will
be given presently; here it will be sufficient to say that, in
addition to about four hundred Christian epigrams of the Byzantine
period, it contains some three thousand seven hundred epigrams of all
dates from 700 B.C. to 1000 or even 1200 A.D., preserved in two
Byzantine collections, the one probably of the tenth, the other of the
fourteenth century, named respectively the Palatine and Planudean
Anthologies. The great mass of the contents of both is the same; but
the former contains a large amount of material not found in the
latter, and the latter a small amount not found in the former.

For much the greatest number of these epigrams the Anthology is the
only source. But many are also found cited by various authors or
contained among their other works. It is not necessary to pursue this
subject into detail. A few typical instances are the citations of the
epitaph by Simonides on the three hundred Spartans who fell at
Thermopylae, not only by Herodotus[1] but by Diodorus Siculus and
Strabo, the former in a historical, the latter in a geographical,
work: of the epigram by Plato on the Eretrian exiles[2] by
Philostratus in his Life of Apollonius: of many epigrams purporting to
be written by philosophers, or actually written upon them and their
works, by Diogenes LaŰrtius in his Lives of the Philosophers. Plutarch
among the vast mass of his historical and ethical writings quotes
incidentally a considerable number of epigrams. A very large number
are quoted by Athenaeus in that treasury of odds and ends, the
Deipnosophistae. A great many too are cited in the lexicon which goes
under the name of Suidas, and which, beginning at an unknown date,
continued to receive additional entries certainly up to the eleventh

These same sources supply us with a considerable gleaning of epigrams
which either were omitted by the collectors of the Anthology or have
disappeared from our copies. The present selection for example
includes epigrams found in an anonymous Life of Aeschylus: in the
Onamasticon of Julius Pollux, a grammarian of the early part of the
third century, who cites from many lost writings for peculiar words or
constructions: and from the works of Athenaeus , Diogenes LaŰrtius,
Plutarch, and Suidas mentioned above. The more famous the author of an
epigram was, the more likely does it become that his work should be
preserved in more than one way. Thus, of the thirty-one epigrams
ascribed to Plato, while all but one are found in the Anthology, only
seventeen are found in the Anthology alone. Eleven are quoted by
Diogenes LaŰrtius; and thirteen wholly or partially by Athenaeus,
Suidas, Apuleius, Philostratus, Gellius, Macrobius, Olympiodorus,
Apostolius, and Thomas Magister. On the other hand the one hundred and
thirty-four epigrams of Meleager, representing a peculiar side of
Greek poetry in a perfection not elsewhere attainable, exist in the
Anthology alone.

Beyond these sources, which may be called literary, there is another
class of great importance: the monumental. An epigram purports to be
an inscription actually carved or written upon some monument or
memorial. Since archaeology became systematically studied, original
inscriptions, chiefly on marble, are from time to time brought to
light, many of which are in elegiac verse. The admirable work of
Kaibel[3] has made it superfluous to traverse the vast folios of the
Corpus Inscriptionum in search of what may still be hidden there. It
supplies us with several epigrams of real literary value; while the
best of those discovered before this century are included in
appendices to the great works of Brunck and Jacobs. Most of these
monumental inscriptions are naturally sepulchral. They are of all ages
and countries within the compass of Graeco-Roman civilisation, from
the epitaph, magnificent in its simplicity, sculptured on the grave of
Cleoetes the Athenian when Athens was still a small and insignificant
town, to the last outpourings of the ancient spirit on the tombs
reared, among strange gods and barbarous faces, over Paulina of
Ravenna or Vibius Licinianus of Nţmes.[4]

It has already been pointed out by how slight a boundary the epigram
is kept distinct from other forms of poetry, and how in extreme cases
its essence may remain undefinable. The two fragments of Theognis and
one of Mimnermus included here[5] illustrate this. They are examples
of a large number like them, which are not, strictly speaking,
epigrams; being probably passages from continuous poems, selected, at
least in the case of Theognis, for an Anthology of his works.

The epigrams extant in literature which are not in the Anthology are,
with a few exceptions, collected in the appendix to the edition of
Jacobs, and are reprinted from it in modern texts. They are about four
hundred in number, and raise the total number of epigrams in the
Anthology to about four thousand five hundred; to these must be added
at least a thousand inscriptional epigrams, which increase year by
year as new explorations are carried on. It is, of course, but seldom
that these last have distinct value as poetry. Those of the best
period, indeed, and here the best period is the sixth century B.C.,
have always a certain accent, even when simplest and most matter of
fact, which reminds us of the palace whence they came. Their
simplicity is more thrilling than any eloquence. From the exotic and
elaborate word-embroidery of the poets of the decadence, we turn with
relief and delight to work like this, by a father over his son:

{Sema pater Kleoboulos apepsthimeno Xenopsanto
thexe tod ant aretes ede saopsrosunes}[6]

(This monument to dead Xenophantus his father Cleobulus set up, for
his valour and wisdom);

or this, on an unmarried girl:

{Sema PHrasixleias xoure xexlesomai aiei
anti gamou para theon touto lakhous onoma}[7]

(The monument of Phrasicleia; I shall for ever be called maiden,
having got this name from the gods instead of marriage.)

So touching in their stately reserve, so piercing in their delicate
austerity, these epitaphs are in a sense the perfection of literature,
and yet in another sense almost lie outside its limits. For the
workmanship here, we feel, is unconscious; and without conscious
workmanship there is not art. In Homer, in Sophocles, in all the best
Greek work, there is this divine simplicity; but beyond it, or rather
beneath it and sustaining it, there is purpose.

[1] Anth. Pal. vii. 249; Hdt. vii. 228.

[2] Ibid. vii. 256.

[3] Epigrammata Graeca ex lapidibus conlecta. Berlin, 1878.

[4] Infra, III. 35, 47; XI. 48.

[5] Infra, XII. 6, 17, 37.

[6] Corp. Inscr. Att. 477 B.

[7] Ibid. 469.


From the invention of writing onwards, the inscriptions on monuments
and dedicated offerings supplied one of the chief materials of
historical record. Their testimony was used by the earliest historians
to supplement and reinforce the oral traditions which they embodied in
their works. Herodotus and Thucydides quote early epigrams as
authority for the history of past times;[1] and when in the latter
part of the fourth century B.C. history became a serious study
throughout Greece, collections of inscribed records, whether in prose
or verse, began to be formed as historical material. The earliest
collection of which anything is certainly known was a work by
Philochorus,[2] a distinguished Athenian antiquary who flourished
about 300 B.C., entitled Epigramma Attica. It appears to have been a
transcript of all the ancient Attic inscriptions dealing with Athenian
history, and would include the verses engraved on the tombs of
celebrated citizens, or on objects dedicated in the temples on public
occasions. A century later, we hear of a work by Polemo, called
Periegetes, or the "Guidebook-maker," entitled {peri ton xata poleis
epigrammaton}.[3] This was an attempt to make a similar collection of
inscriptions throughout the cities of Greece. Athenaeus also speaks of
authors otherwise unknown, Alcetas and Menetor,[4] as having written
treatises {peri anathematon}, which would be collections of the same
nature confined to dedicatory inscriptions; and, these being as a rule
in verse, the books in question were perhaps the earliest collections
of monumental poetry. Even less is known with regard to a book "on
epigrams" by Neoptolemus of Paris.[5] The history of Anthologies
proper begins for us with Meleager of Gadara.

The collection called the Garland of Meleager, which is the basis of
the Greek Anthology as we possess it, was formed by him in the early
part of the first century B.C. The scholiast on the Palatine MS. says
that Meleager flourished in the reign of the last Seleucus ({ekhmasen
epi Seleukou tou eskhatou}). This is Seleucus VI. Epiphanes, the last
king of the name, who reigned B.C. 95-93; for it is not probable that
the reference is to the last Seleucid, Antiochus XIII., who acceded
B.C. 69, and was deposed by Pompey when he made Syria a Roman province
in B.C. 65. The date thus fixed is confirmed by the fact that the
collection included an epigram on the tomb of Antipater of Sidon,[6]
who, from the terms in which Cicero alludes to him, must have lived
till 110 or even 100 B.C., and that it did not include any of the
epigrams of Meleager's townsman Philodemus of Gadara, the friend of L.
Calpurnius Piso, consul in B.C. 58.

This Garland or Anthology has only come down to us as forming the
basis of later collections. But the prefatory poem which Meleager
wrote for it has fortunately been preserved, and gives us valuable
information as to the contents of the Garland. This poem,[7] in which
he dedicates his work to his friend or patron Diocles, gives the names
of forty-seven poets included by him besides many others of recent
times whom he does not specifically enumerate. It runs as follows:

"Dear Muse, for whom bringest thou this gardenful of song, or who is
he that fashioned the garland of poets? Meleager made it, and wrought
out this gift as a remembrance for noble Diocles, inweaving many
lilies of Anyte, and many martagons of Moero, and of Sappho little,
but all roses, and the narcissus of Melanippides budding into clear
hymns, and the fresh shoot of the vine-blossom of Simonides; twining
to mingle therewith the spice-scented flowering iris of Nossis, on
whose tablets love melted the wax, and with her, margerain from sweet-
breathed Rhianus, and the delicious maiden-fleshed crocus of Erinna,
and the hyacinth of Alcaeus, vocal among the poets, and the dark-
leaved laurel-spray of Samius, and withal the rich ivy-clusters of
Leonidas, and the tresses of Mnasalcas' sharp pine; and he plucked the
spreading plane of the song of Pamphilus, woven together with the
walnut shoots of Pancrates and the fair-foliaged white poplar of
Tymnes, and the green mint of Nicias, and the horn-poppy of Euphemus
growing on these sands; and with these Damagetas, a dark violet, and
the sweet myrtle-berry of Callimachus, ever full of pungent honey, and
the rose-campion of Euphorion, and the cyclamen of the Muses, him who
had his surname from the Dioscori. And with him he inwove Hegesippus,
a riotous grape-cluster, and mowed down the scented rush of Perses;
and withal the quince from the branches of Diotimus, and the first
pomegranate flowers of Menecrates, and the myrrh-twigs of Nicaenetus,
and the terebinth of Phaennus, and the tall wild pear of Simmias, and
among them also a few flowers of Parthenis, plucked from the blameless
parsley-meadow, and fruitful remnants from the honey-dropping Muses,
yellow ears from the corn-blade of Bacchylides; and withal Anacreon,
both that sweet song of his and his nectarous elegies, unsown honey-
suckle; and withal the thorn-blossom of Archilochus from a tangled
brake, little drops from the ocean; and with them the young olive-
shoots of Alexander, and the dark-blue cornflower of Polycleitus; and
among them he laid amaracus, Polystratus the flower of songs, and the
young Phoenician cypress of Antipater, and also set therein spiked
Syrian nard, the poet who sang of himself as Hermes' gift; and withal
Posidippus and Hedylus together, wild blossoms of the country, and the
blowing windflowers of the son of Sicelides; yea, and set therein the
golden bough of the ever divine Plato, shining everywhere in
excellence, and beside him Aratus the knower of the stars, cutting the
first-born spires of that heaven-high palm, and the fair-tressed lotus
of Chaeremon mixed with the gilliflower of Phaedimus, and the round
ox-eye of Antagoras, and the wine-loving fresh-blown wild thyme of
Theodorides, and the bean-blossoms of Phanias, and many newly-
scriptured shoots of others; and with them also even from his own Muse
some early white violets. But to my friends I give thanks; and the
sweet-languaged garland of the Muses is common to all initiate."

In this list three poets are not spoken of directly by name, but, from
metrical or other reasons, are alluded to paraphrastically. "He who
had his surname from the Dioscori" is Dioscorides; "the poet who sang
of himself as Hermes' gifts" is Hermodorus; and "the son of Sicelides"
is Asclepiades, referred to under the same name by his great pupil
Theocritus. The names of these forty-eight poets (including Meleager
himself) show that the collection embraced epigrams of all periods
from the earliest times up to his own day. Six belong to the early
period of the lyric poets, ending with the Persian wars; Archilochus,
who flourished about 700 B.C., Sappho and Erinna a century afterwards,
Simonides and Anacreon about 500 B.C., and a little later,
Bacchylides. Five more belong to the fourth century B.C., the period
which begins with the destruction of the Athenian empire and ends with
the establishment of the Macedonian kingdoms of the Diadochi. Of
these, Plato is still within the Athenian period; Hegesippus, Simmias,
Anyte, and Phaedimus, all towards the end of the century, mark the
beginning of the Alexandrian period. Four have completely disappeared
out of the Anthology as we possess it; Melanippides, a celebrated
writer of dithyrambic poetry in the latter half of the fifth century
B.C., of which a few fragments survive, and Euphemus, Parthenis, and
Polycleitus, of whom nothing whatever is known. The remaining thirty-
three poets in Meleager's list all belong to the Alexandrian period,
and bring the series down continuously to Meleager himself.

One of the epigrams in the Anthology of Strato[8] professes to be the
colophon {xoronis} to Meleager's collection; but it is a stupid and
clumsy forgery of an obviously later date, probably by Strato himself,
or some contemporary, and is not worth quoting. The proem to the
Garland is a work of great ingenuity, and contains in single words and
phrases many exquisite criticisms. The phrase used of Sappho has
become proverbial; hardly less true and pointed are those on Erinna,
Callimachus, and Plato. All the flowers are carefully and
appropriately chosen with reference to their poets, and the whole is
done with the light and sure touch of a critic who is also a poet

A scholiast on the Palatine MS. says that Meleager's Anthology was
arranged in alphabetical order {xata stoikheion}. This seems to mean
alphabetical order of epigrams, not of authors; and the statement is
borne out by some parts of the Palatine and even of the Planudean
Anthologies, where, in spite of the rearrangement under subjects,
traces of alphabetical arrangement among the older epigrams are still
visible. The words of the scholiast imply that there was no further
arrangement by subject. It seems most reasonable to suppose that the
epigrams of each author were placed together; but of this there is no
direct evidence, nor can any such arrangement be certainly inferred
from the state of the existing Anthologies.

The Scholiast, in this same passage, speaks of Meleager's collection
as an {epigrammaton stephanos}, and obviously it consisted in the main
of epigrams according to the ordinary definition. But it is curious
that Meleager himself nowhere uses the word; and from some phrases in
the proem it is difficult to avoid the inference that he included
other kinds of minor poetry as well. Too much stress need not be laid
on the words {umnos} and {aoide}, which in one form or another are
repeatedly used by him; though it is difficult to suppose that "the
hymns of Melanippides", who is known to have been a dithyrambic poet,
can mean not hymns but epigrams.[9] But where Anacreon is mentioned,
his {melisma} and his elegiac pieces are unmistakably distinguished
from each other, and are said to be both included; and this {melisma}
must mean lyric poetry of some kind, probably the very hemiambics
under the name of Anacreon which are extant as an appendix to the
Palatine MS. Meleager's Anthology also pretty certainly included his
own Song of Spring,[10] which is a hexameter poem, though but for the
form of verse it might just come within a loose definition of an
epigram. Whether it included idyllic poems like the Amor Fugitivus of
Moschus[11] it is not possible to determine.

Besides his great Anthology, another, of the same class of contents as
that subsequently made by Strato, is often ascribed to Meleager, an
epigram in Strato's Anthology[12] being regarded as the proem to this
supposed collection. But there is no external authority whatever for
this hypothesis; nor is it necessary to regard this epigram as
anything more than a poem commemorating the boys mentioned in it.
Eros, not Meleager, is in this case the weaver of the garland.

The next compiler of an Anthology, more than a century after Meleager,
was Philippus of Thessalonica. Of this also the proem is
preserved.[13] It purports to be a collection of the epigrammatists
since Meleager, and is dedicated to the Roman patron of the author,
one Camillus. The proem runs thus:

"Having plucked for thee Heliconian flowers, and cut the first-blown
blossoms of famous-forested Pieria, and reaped the ears from modern
pages, I wove a rival garland, to be like those of Meleager; but do
thou, noble Cantillus, who knowest the fame of the older poets, know
likewise the short pieces of the younger. Antipater's corn-ear shall
grace our garland, and Crinagoras like an ivy-cluster; Antiphilus
shall glow like a grape-bunch, Tullius like melilote, Philodemus like
marjoram: and Parmenio myrtle-berries: Antiphanes as a rose: Automedon
ivy, Zonas lilies, Bianor oak, Antigonus olive, and Diodorus violet.
Liken thou Euenus to laurel, and the multitude woven in with these to
what fresh-blown flowers thou wilt."

One sees here the decline of the art from its first exquisiteness.
There is no selection or appropriateness in the names of the flowers
chosen, and the verse is managed baldly and clumsily. Philippus' own
epigrams, of which over seventy are extant, are generally rather dull,
chiefly school exercises, and, in the phrase of Jacobs, /imitatione
magis quam inventione conspicua/. But we owe to him the preservation
of a large mass of work belonging to the Roman period. The date of
Philippus cannot be fixed very precisely. His own epigrams contain no
certain allusion to any date other than the reign of Augustus. Of the
poets named in his proem, Antiphanes, Euenus, Parmenio, and Tullius
have no date determinable from internal evidence. Antigonus has been
sometimes identified with Antigonus of Carystus, the author of the
{Paradokon Sunagoge}, who lived in the third century B.C. under
Ptolemy Philadelphus or Ptolemy Euergetes; but as this Anthology
distinctly professes to be of poets since Meleager, he must be another
author of the same name. Antipater of Thessalonica, Bianor, and
Diodorus are of the Augustan period; Philodemus, Zonas, and probably
Automedon, of the period immediately preceding it. The latest certain
allusion in the poems of Antiphilus is to the enfranchisement of
Rhodes by Nero in A.D. 53.[14] One of the epigrams under the name of
Automedon in the Anthology[15] is on the rhetorician Nicetas, the
teacher of the younger Pliny. But there are at least two poets of the
name, Automedon of Aetolia and Automedon of Cyzicus, and the former,
who is pre-Roman, may be the one included by Philippus. If so, we need
not, with Jacobs, date this collection in the reign of Trajan, at the
beginning of the second century, but may place it with greater
probability half a century earlier, under Nero.

In the reign of Hadrian the grammarian Diogenianus of Heraclea edited
an Anthology of epigrams,[16] but nothing is known of it beyond the
name. The Anthology contains a good deal of work which may be referred
to this period.

The first of the appendices to the Palatine Anthology is the {Paidike
Mousa} of Strato of Sardis. The compiler apologises in a prefatory
note for including it, excusing himself with the line of
Euripides,[17] {e ge sopsron ou diapstharesetai}. It was a new
Anthology of epigrams dealing with this special subject from the
earliest period downwards. As we possess it, Strato's collection
includes thirteen of the poets named in the Garland of Meleager
(including Meleager himself), two of those named in the Garland of
Philippus, and ten other poets, none of them of much mark, and most of
unknown date; the most interesting being Alpheus of Mitylene, who from
the style and contents of his epigrams seems to have lived about the
time of Hadrian, but may possibly be an Augustan poet. Strato is
mentioned by Diogenes LaŰrtius,[18] who wrote at the beginning of the
third century; and his own epigram on the physician Artemidorus
Capito,[19] who was a contemporary of Hadrian, fixes his approximate

How far we possess Strato's collection in its original form it is
impossible to decide. Jacobs says he cannot attempt to determine
whether Cephalas took it in a lump or made a selection from it, or
whether he kept the order of the epigrams. As they stand they have no
ascertainable principle of arrangement, alphabetical or of author or
of subject. The collection consists of two hundred and fifty-nine
epigrams, of which ninety-four are by Strato himself and sixty by
Meleager. It has either been carelessly formed, or suffered from
interpolation afterwards. Some of the epigrams are foreign to the
subject of the collection. Six are on women;[20] and four of these are
on women whose names end in the diminutive form, Phanion, Callistion,
etc., which suggests the inference that they were inserted at a late
date and by an ignorant transcriber who confused these with masculine
forms. For all the epigrams of Strato's collection the Anthology is
the only source.

In the three hundred years between Strato and Agathias no new
Anthology is known to have been made.

The celebrated Byzantine poet and historian Agathias, son of Mamnonius
of Myrina, came to Constantinople as a young man to study law in the
year 554. In the preface to his History he tells us that he formed a
new collection of recent and contemporary epigrams previously
unpublished,[21] in seven books, entitled {Kuklos}. His proem to the
Cyclus is extant.[22] It consists of forty-six iambics followed by
eighty-seven hexameters, and describes the collection under the
symbolism no longer of a flower-garden, but of a feast to which
different persons bring contributions ({ou stepsanos alla sunagoge}),
a metaphor which is followed out with unrelenting tediousness. The
piece is not worth transcription here. He says he includes his own
epigrams. After a panegyric on the greatness of the empire of
Justinian, and the foreign and domestic peace of his reign, he ends by
describing the contents of the collection. Book I. contains
dedications in the ancient manner, {os proterois makaressin aneimena}:
for Agathias was himself a Christian, and indeed the old religion had
completely died out even before Justinian closed the schools of
Athens. Book II. contains epigrams on statues, pictures, and other
works of art; Book III., sepulchral epigrams; Book IV., epigrams "on
the manifold paths of life, and the unstable scales of fortune,"
corresponding to the section of {Protreptika} in the Palatine
Anthology; Book V., irrisory epigrams; Book VI. amatory epigrams; and
Book VII., convivial epigrams. Agathias, so far as we know, was the
first who made this sort of arrangement under subjects, which, with
modifications, has generally been followed afterwards. His Anthology
is lost; and probably perished soon after that of Cephalas was made.

Constantinus Cephalas, a grammarian unknown except from the Palatine
MS., began again from the beginning. The scholiast to the Garland of
Meleager in that MS., after saying that Meleager's Anthology was
arranged in alphabetical order, goes on as follows:--"but
Constantinus, called Cephalas, broke it up, and distributed it under
different heads, viz., the love-poems separately, and the dedications
and epitaphs, and epideictic pieces, as they are now arranged below in
this book."[23] We must assume that with this rearranged Anthology he
incorporated those of Philippus and Agathias, unless, which is not
probable, we suppose that the Palatine Anthology is one enlarged from
that of Cephalas by some one else completely unknown.

As to the date of Cephalas there is no certain indication. Suidas
apparently quotes from his Anthology; but even were we certain that
these quotations are not made from original sources, his lexicon
contains entries made at different times over a space of several
centuries. A scholium to one of the epigrams[24] of Alcaeus of Messene
speaks of a discussion on it by Cephalas which took place in the
School of the New Church at Constantinople. This New Church was built
by the Emperor Basil I. (reigned 867-876). Probably Cephalas lived in
the reign of Constantine VII. Porphyrogenitus (911-959), who had a
passion for art and literature, and is known to have ordered the
compilation of books of excerpts. Gibbon gives an account of the
revival of learning which took place under his influence, and of the
relations of his Court with that of the Western Empire of Otto the

The arrangement in the Anthology of Cephalas is founded on that of
Agathias. But alongside of the arrangement under subjects we
frequently find strings of epigrams by the same author with no
particular connection in subject, which are obviously transcribed
directly from a collected edition of his poems.

Maximus Planudes, theologian, grammarian, and rhetorician, lived in
the early part of the fourteenth century; in 1327 he was appointed
ambassador to the Venetian Republic by Andronicus II. Among his works
were translations into Greek of Augustine's City of God and Caesar's
Gallic War. The restored Greek Empire of the Palaeologi was then fast
dropping to pieces. The Genoese colony of Pera usurped the trade of
Constantinople and acted as an independent state; and it brings us
very near the modern world to remember that while Planudes was the
contemporary of Petrarch and Doria, Andronicus III., the grandson and
successor of Andronicus II., was married, as a suitable match, to
Agnes of Brunswick, and again after her death to Anne of Savoy.

Planudes made a new Anthology in seven books, founded on that of
Cephalas, but with many alterations and omissions. Each book is
divided into chapters which are arranged alphabetically by subject,
with the exception of the seventh book, consisting of amatory
epigrams, which is not subdivided. In a prefatory note to this book he
says he has omitted all indecent or unseemly epigrams, {polla en to
antigrapso onta}. This {antograpso} was the Anthology of Cephalas. The
contents of the different books are as follows:

Book I.--{Epideiktika}, in ninety-one chapters; from the {Epideiktika}
of Cephalas, with additions from his {Anathematika} and {Protreptika},
and twelve new epigrams on statues.

Book II.--{Skoptika}, in fifty-three chapters; from the {Sumpotika kai
Skoptika} and the {Mousa Stratonos} of Cephalas, with six new

Book III.--{Epitumbia}, in thirty-two chapters; from the {Epitumbia}
of Cephalas, which are often transcribed in the original order, with
thirteen new epigrams.

Book IV.--Epigrams on monuments, statues, animals, and places, in
thirty-three chapters; some from the {Epideiktika} of Cephalas, but
for the greater part new.

Book V.--Christodorus' description of the statues in the gymnasium
called Zeuxippus, and a collection of epigrams in the Hippodrome at
Constantinople; from appendices to the Anthology of Cephalas.

Book VI.--{Anathematika}, in twenty-seven chapters; from the
{Anathematika} of Cephalas, with four new epigrams.

Book VII.--{Erotika}; from the {Erotika} of Cephalas, with twenty-six
new epigrams.

Obviously then the Anthology of Planudes was almost wholly taken from
that of Cephalas, with the exception of epigrams on works of art,
which are conspicuously absent from the earlier collection as we
possess it. As to these there is only one conclusion. It is impossible
to account for Cephalas having deliberately omitted this class of
epigrams; it is impossible to account for their re-appearance in
Planudes, except on the supposition that we have lost a section of the
earlier Anthology which included them. The Planudean Anthology
contains in all three hundred and ninety-seven epigrams, which are not
in the Palatine MS. of Cephalas. It is in these that its principal
value lies. The vitiated taste of the period selected later and worse
in preference to earlier and better epigrams; the compilation was made
carelessly and, it would seem, hurriedly, the earlier part of the
sections of Cephalas being largely transcribed and the latter part
much less fully, as though the editor had been pressed for time or
lost interest in the work as he went on. Not only so, but he mutilated
the text freely, and made sweeping conjectural restorations where it
was imperfect. The discrepancies too in the authorship assigned to
epigrams are so frequent and so striking that they can only be
explained by great carelessness in transcription; especially as
internal evidence where it can be applied almost uniformly supports
the headings of the Palatine Anthology.

Such as it was, however, the Anthology of Planudes displaced that of
Cephalas almost at once, and remained the only MS. source of the
anthology until the seventeenth century. The other entirely
disappeared, unless a copy of it was the manuscript belonging to
Angelo Colloti, seen and mentioned by the Roman scholar and
antiquarian Fulvio Orsini (b. 1529, d. 1600) about the middle of the
sixteenth century, and then again lost to view. The Planudean
Anthology was first printed at Florence in 1484 by the Greek scholar,
Janus Lascaris, from a good MS. It continued to be reprinted from time
to time, the last edition being the five sumptuous quarto volumes
issued from the press of Wild and Altheer at Utrecht, 1795-1822.

In the winter of 1606-7, Salmasius, then a boy of eighteen but already
an accomplished scholar, discovered a manuscript of the Anthology of
Cephalas in the library of the Counts Palatine at Heidelberg. He
copied from it the epigrams hitherto unknown, and these began to be
circulated in manuscript under the name of the Anthologia Inedita. The
intention he repeatedly expressed of editing the whole work was never
carried into effect. In 1623, on the capture of Heidelberg by the
Archduke Maximilian of Bavaria in the Thirty Years' War, this with
many other MSS. and books was sent by him to Rome as a present to Pope
Gregory XV., and was placed in the Vatican Library. It remained there
till it was taken to Paris by order of the French Directory in 1797,
and was restored to the Palatine Library after the end of the war.

The description of this celebrated manuscript, the Codex Palatinus or
Vaticanus, as it has been named from the different places of its
abode, is as follows: it is a long quarto, on parchment, of 710 pages,
together with a page of contents and three other pages glued on at the
beginning. There are three hands in it. The table of contents and
pages 1-452 and 645-704 in the body of the MS. are in a hand of the
eleventh century; the middle of the MS., pages 453-644, is in a later
hand; and a third, later than both, has written the last six pages and
the three odd pages at the beginning, has added a few epigrams in
blank spaces, and has made corrections throughout the MS.

The index, which is of great importance towards the history not only
of the MS. but of the Anthology generally, runs as follows:--

{Tade enestin en tede te biblo ton epigrammaton

A. Nonnou poirtou Panopolitou ekphrasis tou kata Ioannen agiou
B. Paulou poirtou selantiariou (sic) uiou Kurou ekphrasis eis ten
megalen ekklesian ete ten agian Sophian.
G. Sullogai epigrammaton Khristianikon eis te naous kai eikonas kai
eis diaphora anathemata.
D. Khristodorou poietou Thebaiou ekphrasis ton agalmaton ton eis to
demosion gumnasion tou epikaloumenou Zeuxippou.
E. Meleagou poietou Palaistinou stephanos diaphoron epigrammaton.
S. Philippou poietou Thessalonikeos stephanos omoios diaphoron
Z. Agathiou skholastikou Asianou Murenaiou sulloge neon epigrammaton
ektethenton en Konstantinoupolei pros Theodoron Dekouriona. esti
de e taxis ton epigrammaton egoun diairesis outos.
a. prote men e ton Khristianon.
b. deutera de e ta Khristodorou periekhousa tou Thebaiou.
g. trete (sic) de arkhen men ekhousa ten ton erotikon epigrammaton
d. e ton anathematikon.
e. pempte e ton epitumbion.
s. e ton epideiktikon.
z. ebdome e ton pretreptikon.
e. e ton skoptikon.
th. ebdome e ton protreptikon.
i. diaphoron metron diaphora epigrammata.
ia. arithmetika kai grepha summikta.
ib. Ioannou grammatikou Gazes ekphrasis tou kosmikou pinakos tou en
kheimerio loutro.
ig. Surigx Theokritou kai pteruges Simmiou Dosiada bomos Besantinou
oon kai pelekus.
id. Anakreontos Teiou Sumposiaka emiambia kai Anakreontia kai
ie. Tou agiou Gregoriou tou theologou ek ton epon eklogai diaphorai
en ois kai ta Arethou kai Anastasiou kai Ignatiou kai
Konstantinou kai Theophanous keintai epigrammata.}

This index must have been transcribed from the index of an earlier MS.
It differs from the actual contents of the MS. in the following

The hexameter paraphrase of S. John's Gospel by Nonnus is not in the
MS., having perhaps been torn off from the beginning of it.

After the description of S. Sophia by Paulus Silentiarius, follow in
the MS. select poems of S. Gregorius.

After the description by Christodorus of the statues in the gymnasium
of Zeuxippus follows a collection of nineteen epigrams inscribed below
carved reliefs in the temple of Apollonis, mother of Attalus and
Eumenes kings of Pergamus, at Cyzicus.

After the proem to the Anthology of Agathias follows another epigram
of his, apparently the colophon to his collection.

The book of Christian epigrams and that of poems by Christodorus of
Thebes are wanting in the MS.

Between the /Sepulcralia/ and /Epideictica/ is inserted a collection
of 254 epigrams by S. Gregorius.

John of Gaza's description of the Mappa Mundi in the winter baths is
wanting in the MS.

After the miscellaneous Byzantine epigrams, which form the last entry
in the index, is a collection of epigrams in the Hippodrome at

The Palatine MS. then is a copy from another lost MS. And the lost MS.
itself was not the archetype of Cephalas. From a prefatory note to the
/Dedicatoria/, taken in connection with the three iambic lines
prefixed to the /Amatoria/, it is obvious that the /Amatoria/ formed
the first section of the Anthology of Cephalas, preceded, no doubt, by
the three proems of Meleager, Philippus, and Agathias as prefatory
matter. The first four headings in the index, therefore, represent
matter subsequently added. Whether all the small appendices at the end
of the MS. were added to the Anthology by Cephalas or by a later hand
it is not possible to determine. With or without these appendices, the
work of Cephalas consisted of six sections of {Erotika},
{Anathematika}, {Epitumbia}, {Epideiktica}, {Protreptika} and
{Eumpotika kai Skoptika}, with the {Mousa Stratonos}, and probably, as
we have already seen, a lost section containing epigrams on works of
art. At the beginning of the sepulchral epigrams there is a marginal
note in the MS., in the corrector's hand, speaking of Cephalas as then
dead.[25] Another note, added by the same hand on the margin of vii.
432, says that our MS. had been collated with another belonging to one
Michael Magister, which was copied by him with his own hand from the
book of Cephalas.

The extracts made by Salmasius remained for long the only source
accessible to scholars for the contents of the Palatine Anthology.
Jacobs, when re-editing Brunck's /Analecta/, obtained a copy of the
MS., then in the Vatican library, from Uhden, the Prussian ambassador
at Rome; and from another copy, afterwards made at his instance by
Spaletti, he at last edited the Anthology in its complete form.

[1] Cf. especially Hdt. v. 59, 60, 77; Thuc. i. 132, vi. 54, 59.

[2] Suid. s.v. {PHilokhoros}.

[3] Athen. x. 436 D., 442 E.

[4] Athen. xiii. 591 C, 594 D.

[5] Ibid. x. 454 F. The date of Neoptolemus is uncertain; he probably
lived in the second century B.C.

[6] Anth. Pol. vii. 428; Cic. Or. iii. 194, Pis. 68-70.

[7] Ibid. iv. 1.

[8] Anth. Pal. xii. 257.

[9] Melanippides, however, also wrote epigrams according to Suidas,
s.v., and the phrase of Meleager may mean "the epigrams of this
poet who was celebrated as a hymn-writer".

[10] Anth. Pal. ix. 363.

[11] Ibid. ix. 440.

[12] Ibid. xii. 256.

[13] Anth. Pal. iv. 2.

[14] Anth. Pal. ix. 178.

[15] Ibid. x. 23.

[16] Suidas s.v. {Diogenianos}.

[17] Bacch. 318.

[18] v. 61.

[19] Anth. Pal. xi. 117.

[20] Anth. Pal. xvi. 53, 82, 114, 131, 147, 173.

[21] Agathias, Hist. i. 1: {ton epigrammaton ta artigene kai neotera
oialanthanonti eti kai khuden outosi par eniois
upophithurizomena}. Cf. also Suidas, s.v. {Agathias}.

[22] Anth. Pal. iv. 3.

[23] Schol. on Anth. Pal. iv. 1.

[24] Anth. Pal. vii. 429.

[25] {Konstantinos o Kephalas o makarios kai aeimnestos kai
tripothetos anthrepos}.


When any selection of minor poetry is made, the principle of
arrangement is one of the first difficulties. In dealing with the
Greek epigram, the matter before us, as has been said already,
consists of between five and six thousand pieces, all in the same
metre, and varying in length from two to twenty-eight lines,[1] but
rarely exceeding twelve. No principle of arrangement can therefore be
based on the form of the poems. There are three other plans possible;
a simply arbitrary order, an arrangement by authorship, or an
arrangement by subject. The first, if we believe the note in the
Palatine MS. already quoted, was adopted by Meleager in the
alphabetical arrangement of his Garland; but beyond the uncommon
variety it must give to the reader, it seems to have little to
recommend it. The Anthologies of Cephalas and Planudes are both
arranged by subject, but with considerable differences. The former, if
we omit the unimportant sections and the Christian epigrams, consists
of seven large sections in the following order:

(1) {Erotika}, amatory pieces. This heading requires no comment.

(2) {Anathematika}, dedicatory pieces, consisting of votive prayers
and dedications proper.

(3) {Epitumbia}, sepulchral pieces: consisting partly of epitaphs real
or imaginary, partly of epigrams on death or on dead persons in a
larger scope. Thus it includes the epigram on the Lacedaemonian mother
who killed her son for returning alive from an unsuccessful battle;[2]
that celebrating the magnificence of the tomb of Semiramis;[3] that
questioning the story as to the leap of Empedocles into Etna;[4] and a
large number which might equally well come under the next head, being
eulogies on celebrated authors and artists.

(4) {Epideiktika}, epigrams written as {epideixeis}, poetical
exercises or show-pieces. This section is naturally the longest and
much the most miscellaneous. There is indeed hardly any epigram which
could not be included in it. Remarkable objects in nature or art,
striking events, actual or imaginary, of present and past times, moral
sentences, and criticisms on particular persons and things or on life
generally; descriptive pieces; stories told in verse; imaginary
speeches of celebrated persons on different occasions, with such
titles as "what Philomela would say to Procne," "what Ulysses would
say when he landed in Ithaca"; inscriptions for houses, baths,
gardens, temples, pictures, statues, gems, clocks, cups: such are
among the contents, though not exhausting them.

(5) {Protreptika}, hortatory pieces; the "criticism of life" in the
direct sense.

(6) {Sumpotika kai Skoptika}, convivial and humorous epigrams.

(7) The {Mousa paidike Stratonos} already spoken of. Along with these,
as we have seen, there was in all probability an eighth section now
lost, containing epigrams on works of art.

Within each of these sections, the principle of arrangement, where it
exists at all, is very loose; and either the compilation was
carelessly made at first, or it has been considerably disordered in
transcription. Sometimes a number of epigrams by the same author
succeed one another, as though copied directly from a collection where
each author's work was placed separately; sometimes, on the other
hand, a number on the same subject by authors of different periods
come together.[5] Epigrams occasionally are put under wrong headings.
For example, a dedication by Leonidas of Alexandria is followed in the
/Dedicatoria/ by another epigram of his on Oedipus;[6] an imaginary
epitaph on Hesiod in the /Sepulcralia/ by one on the legendary contest
between Hesiod and Homer;[7] and the lovely fragment of pastoral on
Love keeping Thyrsis' sheep[8] comes oddly in among epitaphs. The
epideictic section contains a number of epigrams which would be more
properly placed in one or another of all the rest of the sections; and
the /Musa Stratonis/ has several which happily in no way belong to it.
There is no doubt a certain charm to the very confusion of the order,
which gives great variety and unexpectedness; but for practical
purposes a more accurate classification is desirable.

The Anthology of Planudes attempts, in a somewhat crude form, to
supply this. Each of the six books, with the exception of the
{Erotika}, which remain as is in the Palatine Anthology, is subdivided
into chapters according to subject, the chapters being arranged
alphabetically by headings. Thus the list of chapters in Book I.
begins, {eis agonas}, {eis ampelon}, {eis anathemata}, {eis
anaperous}, and ends {eis phronesin}, {eis phrontidas}, {eis khronon},
{eis oras}.

On the other hand, Brunck, in his /Analecta/, the arrangement of which
is followed by Jacobs in the earlier of his two great works, recast
the whole scheme, placing all epigrams by the same author together,
with those of unknown authorship at the end. This method presents
definite advantages when the matter in hand is a complete collection
of the works of the epigrammatists. With these smaller, as with the
more important works of literature, it is still true that a poet is
his own best commentator, and that by a complete single view of all
his pieces we are able to understand each one of them better. A
counter-argument is the large mass of {adespota} thus left in a heap
at the end. In Jacobs there are upwards of 750 of these, most of them
not assignable to any certain date; and they have to be arranged
roughly by subject. Another is the fact that a difficulty still
remains as to the arrangement of the authors. Of many of the minor
epigrammatists we know absolutely nothing from external sources; and
it is often impossible to determine from internal evidence the period,
even within several centuries, at which an epigram was written, so
little did the style and diction alter between the early Alexandrian
and the late Byzantine period. Still the advantages are too great to
be outweighed by these considerations.

But in a selection, an Anthology of the Anthology, the reasons for
such an arrangement no longer exist, and some sort of arrangement by
subject is plainly demanded. It would be possible to follow the old
divisions of the Palatine Anthology with little change but for the
epideictic section. This is not a natural division, and is not
satisfactory in its results. It did not therefore seem worthwhile to
adhere in other respects to the old classification except where it was
convenient; and by a new and somewhat more detailed division, it has
been attempted to give a closer unity to each section, and to make the
whole of them illustrate progressively the aspect of the ancient
world. Sections I., II., and VI. of the Palatine arrangement just
given are retained, under the headings of Love, Prayers and
Dedications, and the Human Comedy. It proved convenient to break up
Section III., that of sepulchral epigrams, which would otherwise have
been much the largest of the divisions, into two sections, one of
epitaphs proper, the other dealing with death more generally. A
limited selection from Section VII. has been retained under a separate
heading, Beauty. Section V., with additions from many other sources,
was the basis of a division dealing with the Criticism of Life; while
Section IV., together with what was not already classed, fell
conveniently under five heads: Nature, and in antithesis to it, Art
and Literature; Family Life; and the ethical view of things under the
double aspect of Religion on the one hand, and on the other, the blind
and vast forces of Fate and Change.

[1] Single lines are excluded by the definition; Anth. Pal. ix. 482
appears to be the longest piece in the Anthology which can
properly be called an epigram.

[2] Anth. Pal. vii. 433.

[3] Ibid. vii. 748.

[4] Ibid. vii. 124.

[5] Cf. especially Anth. Pal. vi. 179-187; ix. 713-742.

[6] Anth. Pal. vi. 322, 323.

[7] Ibid. vii. 52, 53.

[8] Ibid. vii. 703.


The literary treatment of the passion of love is one of the matters in
which the ancient stands furthest apart from the modern world. Perhaps
the result of love in human lives differs but little from one age to
another; but the form in which it is expressed (which is all that
literature has to do with) was altered in Western Europe in the middle
ages, and ever since then we have spoken a different language. And the
subject is one in which the feeling is so inextricably mixed up with
the expression that a new language practically means a new actual
world of things. Of nothing is it so true that emotion is created by
expression. The enormous volume of expression developed in modern
times by a few great poets and a countless number of prose writers has
reacted upon men and women; so certain is it that thought follows
language, and life copies art. And so here more than elsewhere, though
the rule applies to the whole sphere of human thought and action, we
have to expect in Greek literature to find much latent and implicit
which since then has become patent and prominent; much intricate
psychology not yet evolved; much--as is the truth of everything Greek
--stated so simply and directly, that we, accustomed as we are to more
complex and highly organised methods of expression, cannot without
some difficulty connect it with actual life, or see its permanent
truth. Yet to do so is just the value of studying Greek; for the more
simple the forms or ideas of life are, the better are we able to put
them in relation with one another, and so to unify life. And this
unity is the end which all human thought pursues.

Greek literature itself however may in this matter be historically
subdivided. In its course we can fix landmarks, and trace the entrance
and working of one and another fresh element. The Homeric world, the
noblest and the simplest ever conceived on earth; the period of the
great lyric poets; that of the dramatists, philosophers and
historians, which may be called the Athenian period; the hardly less
extraordinary ages that followed, when Greek life and language
overspread and absorbed the whole Mediterranean world, mingling with
East and West alike, making a common meeting-place for the Jew and the
Celt, the Arab and the Roman; these four periods, though they have a
unity in the fact that they are all Greek, are yet separated in other
ways by intervals as great as those which divide Virgil from Dante, or
Chaucer from Milton.

In the Iliad and Odyssey little is said about love directly; and yet
it is not to be forgotten that the moving force of the Trojan war was
the beauty of Helen, and the central interest of the return of
Odysseus is the passionate fidelity of Penelope.[1] Yet more than
this; when the poet has to speak of the matter, he never fails to rise
to the occasion in a way that even now we can see to be unsurpassable.
The Achilles of the Iliad may speak scornfully of Brise´s, as
insufficient cause to quarrel on;[2] the silver-footed goddess, set
above all human longings, regards the love of men and women from her
icy heights with a light passionless contempt.[3] But in the very
culminating point of the death-struggle between Achilles and Hector,
it is from the whispered talk of lovers that the poet fetches the
utmost touch of beauty and terror;[4] and it is in speaking to the
sweetest and noblest of all the women of poetry that Odysseus says the
final word that has yet been said of married happiness.[5]

In this heroic period love is only spoken of incidentally and
allusively. The direct poetry of passion belongs to the next period,
only known to us now by scanty fragments, "the spring-time of
song,"[6] the period of the great lyric poets of the sixth and seventh
centuries B.C. There human passion and emotion had direct expression,
and that, we can judge from what is left to us, the fullest and most
delicate possible. Greek life then must have been more beautiful than
at any other time; and the Greek language, much as it afterwards
gained in depth and capacity of expressing abstract thought, has never
again the same freshness, as though steeped in dew and morning
sunlight. Sappho alone, that unique instance of literature where from
a few hundred fragmentary lines we know certainly that we are in face
of one of the great poets of the world, expressed the passion of love
in a way which makes the language of all other poets grow pallid: /ad
quod cum iungerent purpuras suas, cineris specie decolorari videbantur
ceterae divini comparatione fulgoris/.[7]

{eraman men ego sethen, Atthi, palai pota--}[8]

such simple words that have all sadness in their lingering cadences;

{Oion to glukumalon ereuthetai--
Er eti parthenias epiballomai;
Ou gar en atera pais, o gambre, toiauta--}[9]

the poetry of pure passion has never reached further than this.

But with the vast development of Greek thought and art in the fifth
century B.C., there seems to have come somehow a stiffening of Greek
life; the one overwhelming interest of the City absorbing individual
passion and emotion, as the interest of logic and metaphysics absorbed
history and poetry. The age of Thucydides and Antipho is not one in
which the emotions have a change; and at Athens especially--of other
cities we can only speak from exceedingly imperfect knowledge, but
just at this period Athens means Greece--the relations between men and
women are even under Pericles beginning to be vulgarised. In the great
dramatic poets love enters either as a subsidiary motive somewhat
severely and conventionally treated, as in the Antigone of Sophocles,
or, as in the Phaedra and Medea of Euripides, as part of a general
study of psychology. It would be foolish to attempt to defend the
address of the chorus in the Antigone to Eros,[10] if regarded as the
language of passion; and even if regarded as the language of
criticism, it is undeniably frigid. Contrasted with the great chorus
in the same play,[11] where Sophocles is dealing with a subject that
he really cares about, it sounds almost artificial. And in Euripides,
psychology occupies the whole of the interest that is not already
preoccupied by logic and rhetoric; these were the arts of life, and
with these serious writing dealt; with the heroism of Macaria, even
with the devotion of Alcestis, personal passion has but little to do.

With the immense expansion of the Greek world that followed the
political extinction of Greece Proper, there came a relaxation of this
tension. Feeling grew humaner; social and family life reassumed their
real importance; and gradually there grew up a thing till then unknown
in the world, and one the history of which yet remains to be written,
the romantic spirit. Pastoral poetry, with its passionate sense of
beauty in nature, reacted on the sense of beauty in simple human life.
The Idyls of Theocritus are full of a new freshness of feeling: {epei
k esores tas parthenos oia gelanti}[12]--this is as alien from the
Athenian spirit as it approaches the feeling of a medieval romance-
writer: and in the Pharmaceutriae pure passion, but passion softened
into exquisite forms, is once more predominant.[13] It is in this age
then that we naturally find the most perfect examples of the epigram
of love. In the lyric period the epigram was still mainly confined to
its stricter sphere, that of inscriptions for tombs and dedicated
offerings: in the great Athenian age the direct treatment of love was
almost in abeyance. Just on the edge of this last period, as is usual
in a time of transition, there are exquisite premonitions of the new
art. The lovely hexameter fragment[14] preserved in the Anthology
under the name of Plato, and not unworthy of so great a parentage,
anticipates the manner and the cadences of Theocritus; and one or two
of the amatory epigrams that are probably Plato's might be Meleager's,
but for the severe perfection of language that died with Greek
freedom. But it is in the Alexandrian period that the epigram of love
flowers out; and it is at the end of that period, where the Greek
spirit was touched by Oriental passion, that it culminates in

We possess about a hundred amatory epigrams by this poet. Inferior
perhaps in clearness of outline and depth of insight to those of the
Alexandrian poet Asclepiades, they are unequalled in the width of
range, the profusion of imagination, the subtlety of emotion with
which they sound the whole lyre of passion. Meleager was born in a
Syrian town and educated at Tyre in the last age of the Seleucid
empire; and though he writes Greek with perfect mastery, it becomes in
his hands almost a new language, full of dreams, at once more languid
and more passionate. It was the fashion among Alexandrian poets to
experiment in language; and Callimachus had in this way brought the
epigram to the most elaborate jewel-finish; but in the work of
Callimachus and his contemporaries the pure Greek tradition still
survives. In Meleager, the touch of Asiatic blood creates a new type,
delicate, exotic, fantastic. Art is no longer restrained and severe.
The exquisite austerity of Greek poetry did not outlive the greatness
of Athens; its perfect clearness of outline still survived in
Theocritus; here both are gone. The atmosphere is loaded with a steam
of perfumes, and with still unimpaired ease and perfection of hand
there has come in a strain of the quality which of all qualities is
the most remote from the Greek spirit, mysticism. Some of Meleager's
epigrams are direct and simple, even to coarseness; but in all the
best and most characteristic there is this vital difference from
purely Greek art, that love has become a religion; the spirit of the
East has touched them. It is this that makes Meleager so curiously
akin to the medieval poets. Many of his turns of thought, many even of
his actual expressions, have the closest parallel in poets of the
fourteenth century who had never read a line of his work nor heard of
his name. As in them, the religion of love is reduced to a theology;
no subtlety, no fluctuation of fancy or passion is left unregistered,
alike in their lighter and their graver moods. Sometimes the feeling
is buried in masses of conceits, sometimes it is eagerly passionate,
but even then always with an imaginative and florid passion, never
directly as Sappho or Catullus is direct. Love appears in a hundred
shapes amidst a shower of fantastic titles and attributes. Out of all
the epithets that Meleager coins for him, one, set in a line of
hauntingly liquid and languid rhythm, "delicate-sandalled,"[15] gives
the key-note to the rest. Or again, he often calls him {glukupikros},
"bittersweet";[16] at first he is like wine mingled with honey for
sweetness, but as he grows and becomes more tyrannous, his honey
scorches and stings; and the lover, "set on fire and drenched to
swooning with his ointments," drinks from a deeper cup and mingles his
wine with burning tears.[17] Love the Reveller goes masking with the
lover through stormy winter nights;[18] Love the Ball-player tosses
hearts for balls in his hands;[19] Love the Runaway lies hidden in a
lady's eyes;[20] Love the Healer soothes with a touch the wound that
his own dart has made;[21] Love the Artist sets his signature beneath
the soul which he has created;[22] Love the Helmsman steers the soul,
like a winged boat, over the perilous seas of desire;[23] Love the
Child, playing idly with his dice at sundawn, throws lightly for human
lives.[24] Now he is a winged boy with childish bow and quiver, swift
of laughter and speech and tears;[25] now a fierce god with flaming
arrows, before whom life wastes away like wax in the fire, Love the
terrible, Love the slayer of men.[26] The air all round him is heavy
with the scent of flowers and ointments; violets and myrtle, narcissus
and lilies, are woven into his garlands, and the rose, "lover-loving"
as Meleager repeatedly calls it in one of his curious new compound
epithets,[27] is perpetually about him, and rains its petals over the
banqueting-table and the myrrh-drenched doorway.[28] For a moment
Meleager can be piercingly simple; and then the fantastic mood comes
over him again, and emotion dissolves in a mist of metaphors. But even
when he is most fantastic the unfailing beauty of his rhythms and
grace of his language remind us that we are still in the presence of a
real art.

The pattern set by Meleager was followed by later poets; and little
more would remain to say were it not necessary to notice the brief
renascence of amatory poetry in the sixth century. The poets of that
period take a high place in the second rank; and one, Paulus
Silentiarius, has a special interest among them as being at once the
most antique in his workmanship and the most modern in his sentiment.
One of his epigrams is like an early poem of Shakespeare's;[29]
another has in a singular degree the manner and movement of a sonnet
by Rossetti.[30] This group of epigrammatists brought back a phantom
of freshness into the old forms; once more the epigram becomes full of
pretty rhythms and fancies, but they are now more artificial; set
beside work of the best period they come out clumsy and heavy.
Language is no longer vivid and natural; the colour is a little
dimmed, the tone a little forced. As the painter's art had disappeared
into that of the worker in mosaic, so the language of poetry was no
longer a living stream, but a treasury of glittering words. Verse-
writers studied it carefully and used it cleverly, but never could
make up for the want of free movement of hand by any laborious
minuteness of tessellation. Yet if removed from the side of their
great models they are graceful enough, with a prettiness that recalls
and probably in many cases is copied from the novelists of the fourth
century; and sometimes it is only a touch of the diffuseness
inseparable from all Byzantine writing that separates their work in
quality from that of an earlier period.

After Justinian the art practically died out. The pedantic rigour of
Byzantine scholarship was little favourable to the poetry of emotion,
and the spoken language had now fallen so far apart from the literary
idiom that only scholars were capable of writing in the old classical
forms. The popular love-poetry, if it existed, has perished and left
no traces; henceforth, for the five centuries that elapsed till the
birth of Provenšal and Italian poetry, love lay voiceless, as though
entranced and entombed.

[1] Cf. Il. iii. 156; Anth. Pal. ix. 166.

[2] Il. i. 298.

[3] Il. xxiv. 130.

[4] Il. xxii. 126-8.

[5] Od. vi. 185.

[6] {ear umnon}, Anth. Pal. vii. 12.

[7] Vopisc. Aurel. c. 29.

[8] Frag. 33 Bergk.

[9] Fragg. 93, 102, 106 Bergk.

[10] ll. 781, foll.

[11] ll. 332, foll.

[12] Theocr. i. 85.

[13] ll. 105-110 of this poem set beside Sappho, Fr. ii. ll. 9-16,
Bergk, are a perfect example of the pastoral in contrast with the
lyrical treatment.

[14] App. Plan. 210.

[15] Anth. Pal. xii. 158, {soi me, Theokleis, abropedilos Eros gumnon

[16] Ibid. xii. 109; cf. v. 163, 172; xii. 154.

[17] Ibid. xii. 132, 164.

[18] Ibid. xii. 167.

[19] Ibid. v. 214.

[20] Ibid. v. 177.

[21] Ibid. v. 225.

[22] Ibid. v. 155.

[23] Ibid. xii. 157.

[24] Anth. Pal. xii. 47.

[25] Ibid. v. 177.

[26] Ibid. v. 176, 180; xii. 72.

[27] Ibid. v. 136, 147.

[28] Ibid. v. 147, 198.

[29] Ibid. v. 241; cf. Passionate Pilgrim, xiv., xv.

[30] App. Plan. 278.


Closely connected with the passion of love as conceived by Greek
writers is a subject which continually meets us in Greek literature,
and which fills so large a part of the Anthology that it can hardly be
passed over without notice. The few epigrams selected from the
Anthology of Strato and included in this collection under the heading
of Beauty are not of course a representative selection. Of the great
mass of those epigrams no selection is possible or desirable. They
belong to that side of Greek life which is akin to the Oriental world,
and remote and even revolting to the western mind. And on this subject
the common moral sense of civilised mankind has pronounced a judgment
which requires no justification as it allows of no appeal.

But indeed the whole conception of Eros the boy, familiar as it sounds
to us from the long continued convention of literature, is, if we
think of its origin or meaning, quite alien from our own habit of life
and thought. Even in the middle ages it cohered but ill with the
literary view of the relations between men and women in poetry and
romance; hardly, except where it is raised into a higher sphere by the
associations of religion, as in the friezes of Donatello, is it quite
natural, and now, apart from what remains of these same associations,
the natural basis of the conception is wholly obsolete. Since the
fashion of squires and pages, inherited from the feudal system, ceased
with the decay of the Renaissance, there has been nothing in modern
life which even remotely suggests it. We still--such is the strength
of tradition in art--speak of Love under the old types, and represent
him under the image of a winged boy; but the whole condition of
society in which this type grew up has disappeared and left the
symbolism all but meaningless to the ordinary mind. In Greece it was
otherwise. Side by side with the unchanging passions and affections of
all mankind there was then a feeling, half conventional, and yet none
the less of vital importance to thought and conduct, which elevated
the mere physical charm of human youth into an object of almost divine
worship. Beauty was the special gift of the gods, perhaps their
choicest one; and not only so, but it was a passport to their favour.
Common life in the open air, and above all the importance of the
gymnasia, developed great perfection of bodily form and kept it
constantly before all men's eyes. Art lavished all it knew on the
reproduction of the forms of youthful beauty. Apart from the real
feeling, the worship of this beauty became an overpowering fashion. To
all this there must be added a fact of no less importance in
historical Greece, the seclusion of women. Not that this ever existed
in the Oriental sense; but, with much freedom and simplicity of
relations inside the family, the share which women had in the public
and external life of the city, at a time when the city meant so much,
was comparatively slight. The greater freedom of women in Homer makes
the world of the Iliad and Odyssey really more modern, more akin to
our own, than that of the later poets. The girl in Theocritus, "with
spring in her eyes,"[1] comes upon us as we read the Idyls almost like
a modernism. It is in the fair shepherd boy, Daphnis or Thyrsis, that
Greek pastoral finds its most obvious, one might almost say its most
natural inspiration.

Much of what is most perplexing in the difference in this respect
between Greek and western art has light thrown on it, if we think of
the importance which angels have in medieval painting. Their
invention, if one may call it so, was one of the very highest moment
in art. Those lovely creations, so precisely drawn up to a certain
point, so elusive beyond it, raised the feeling for pure beauty into a
wholly ideal plane. The deepest longings of men were satisfied by the
contemplation of a paradise in which we should be even as they. In
that mystical portraiture of the invisible world an answer--perhaps
the only answer--was found to the demand for an ideal of beauty. That
remarkable saying preserved by S. Clement, of a kingdom in which "the
two shall be one, and the male with the female neither male nor
female,"[2] might form the text for a chapter of no small importance
in human history. The Greek lucidity, which made all mysticism
impossible in their art as it was alien from their life, did not do
away with this imperious demand; and their cult of beauty was the
issue of their attempt, imperfect indeed at best and at worst
disastrous, to reunite the fragments of the human ideal.[3]

In much of this poetry too we are in the conventional world of
pastoral; and pastoral, it must be repeated, does not concern itself
with real life. The amount of latitude in literary expression varies
no doubt with the prevalent popular morality of the period. But it
would lead to infinite confusion to think of the poetry as a
translation of conduct. A truer picture of Greek life is happily given
us in those epigrams which deal with the material that history passes
over and ideal poetry, at least in Greek literature, barely touches
upon, the life of simple human relations from day to day within the
circle of the family.

[1] {ear oroosa Nukheia}, Theocr. xiii. 42.

[2] Clem. Rom. II. 12: {eperotetheis autos o Kurios upo tinos pote
exei autou e basileia, eipen, otan estai ta duo en kai to exo os
to eso kai to arsen meta tes theleias oute arsen oute thelu}. It
is also quoted in almost the same words by Clem. Alex., Strom.
xiii. 92, as from "the Gospel according to the Egyptians."

[3] Cf. Plato, Sympos. 191, 192.


Scattered over the sections of the Anthology are a number of epigrams
touching on this life, which are the more valuable to us, because it
is just this side of the ancient world of which the mass of Greek
literature affords a very imperfect view. In Homer indeed this is not
the case; but in the Athenian period the dramatists and historians
give little information, if we accept the highly idealised burlesque
of the Aristophanic Comedy. Of the New Comedy too little is preserved
to be of much use, and even in it the whole atmosphere was very
conventional. The Greek novel did not come into existence till too
late; and, when it came, it took the form of romance, concerning
itself more with the elaboration of sentiment and the excitement of
adventure than with the portraiture of real manners and actual
surroundings. For any detailed picture of common life, like that which
would be given of our own day to future periods by the domestic novel,
we look to ancient literature in vain. Thus, when we are admitted by a
fortunate chance into the intimacy of private life, as we are by some
of the works of Xenophon and Plutarch or by the letters of the younger
Pliny, the charm of the picture is all the greater: and so it is with
the epigrams that record birthdays and bridals, the toys of children,
the concord of quiet homes. We see the house of the good man,[1] an
abiding rest from the labours of a busy life, bountiful to all,
masters and servants, who dwell under its shelter, and extending a
large hospitality to the friend and the stranger. One generation after
another grows up in it under all good and gracious influences; a
special providence, under the symbolic forms of Cypris Urania or
Artemis the Giver of Light, holds the house in keeping, and each new
year brings increased blessing from the gods of the household in
recompense of piety and duty.[2] Many dedications bring vividly before
us the humbler life of the country cottager, no man's servant or
master, happy in the daily labour over his little plot of land, his
corn-field and vineyard and coppice; of the fowler with his boys in
the woods, the forester and the beekeeper, and the fisherman in his
thatched hut on the beach.[3] And in these contrasted pictures the
"wealth that makes men kind" seems not to jar with the "poverty that
lives with freedom."[4] Modern poetry dwells with more elaboration,
but not with the truer or more delicate feeling than those ancient
epigrams, on the pretty ways of children, the freshness of school-
days, the infinite beauty of the girl as she passes into the woman; or
even such slight things as the school-prize for the best copy-book,
and the child's doll in the well.[5] A shadow passes over the picture
in the complaint of a girl sitting indoors, full of dim thoughts,
while the boys go out to their games and enjoy unhindered the colour
and movement of the streets.[6] But this is the melancholy of youth,
the shadow of the brightness that passes before the maiden's eyes as
she sits, sunk in day-dreams, over her loom;[7] it passes away again
in the portrait of the girl growing up with the sweet eyes of her
mother, the budding rose that will soon unfold its heart of flame;[8]
and once more the bride renders thanks for perfect felicity to the
gods who have given her "a stainless youth and the lover whom she
desired."[9] Many of the most beautiful of the dedicatory epigrams are
thanksgivings after the birth of children; in one a wife says that she
is satisfied with the harmonious life that she and her husband live
together, and asks no further good.[10] Even death coming at the end
of such a life is disarmed of terror. In one of the most graceful
epitaphs of the Roman period[11] the dead man sums up the happiness of
his long life by saying that he never had to weep for any of his
children, and that their tears over him had no bitterness. The
inscription placed by Androtion over the yet empty tomb, which he has
built for himself and his wife and children, expresses that placid
acceptance which finds no cause of complaint with life.[12] Family
affection in an unbroken home; long and happy life of the individual,
and still longer, that of the race which remains; the calm
acquiescence in the law of life which is also the law of death, and
the desire that life and death alike may have their ordinary place and
period, not breaking use and wont; all this is implied here rather
than expressed, in words so simple and straightforward that they seem
to have fallen by accident, as it were, into verse. Thus too in
another epigram the dying wife's last words are praise to the gods of
marriage that she has had even such a husband, and to the gods of
death that he and their children survive her.[13] Or again, where
there is a cry of pain over severance, it is the sweetness of the past
life that makes parting so bitter; "what is there but sorrow," says
Marathonis over the tomb of Nicopolis,[14] "for a man alone upon earth
when his wife is gone?"

[1] Anth. Pal. ix. 649.

[2] Ibid. vi. 267, 280, 340.

[3] Ibid. vi. 226, vii. 156.

[4] {Dunatai to ploutein kai philanthropous poiein}, Menand., {Alieis}
fr. 7; Anth. Pal. ix. 172.

[5] Anth. Pal. vi. 308, ix. 326.

[6] Ibid. v. 297.

[7] Ibid. vi. 266.

[8] Ibid. vi. 353, v. 124.

[9] Ibid. vi. 59.

[10] Ibid. vi. 209.

[11] Ibid. vii. 260.

[12] Ibid. vii. 228.

[13] Anth. Pal. vii. 555.

[14] Ibid. vii. 340.


"Even this stranger, I suppose, prays to the immortals," says Nestor
in the Odyssey,[1] "since all men have need of gods." When the Homeric
poems were written the Greek temper had already formed and ripened;
and so long as it survived, this recognition of religious duty
remained part of it. The deeper and more violent forms of religious
feeling were indeed always alien, and even to a certain degree
repugnant, to the Greek peoples. Mysticism, as has already been
observed, had no place with them; demons and monsters were rejected
from their humane and rationalised mythology, and no superstitious
terrors forced them into elaboration of ritual. There was no priestly
caste; each city and each citizen approached the gods directly at any
time and place. The religious life, as a life distinct from that of an
ordinary citizen, was unknown in Greece. Even at Rome the perpetual
maidenhood of the Vestals was a unique observance; and they were the
keepers of the hearth-fire of the city, not the intermediaries between
it and its gods. But the Vestals have no parallel in Greek life.
Asiatic rites and devotions, it is true, from an early period obtained
a foothold among the populace; but they were either discountenanced,
or by being made part of the civic ritual were disarmed of their
mystic or monastic elements. An epitaph in the Anthology commemorates
two aged priestesses as having been happy in their love for their
husbands and children;[2] nothing could be further from the Eastern or
the medieval sentiment of a consecrated life. Thus, if Greek religion
did not strike deep, it spread wide; and any one, as he thought fit,
might treat his whole life, or any part of it, as a religious act. And
there was a strong feeling that the observance of such duties in a
reasonable manner was proper in itself, besides being probably useful
in its results; no gentleman, if we may so translate the idea into
modern terms, would fail in due courtesy to the gods. That piety
sometimes met with strange returns was an undoubted fact, but that it
should be so inexplicable and indeed shocking even to the least
superstitious and most dispassionate minds.[3]

With the diffusion of a popularised philosophy religious feeling
became fainter among the educated classes, and correspondingly more
uncontrolled in the lower orders. The immense mass of dedicatory
epigrams written in the Alexandrian and Roman periods are in the main
literary exercises, though they were also the supply of a real and
living demand. The fashion outlived the belief; even after the
suppression of pagan worship scholars continued to turn out imitations
of the old models. One book of the Anthology of Agathias[4] consisted
entirely of contemporary epigrams of this sort, "as though dedicated
to former gods." But of epigrams dealing with religion in its more
intimate sense there are, as one would expect, very few in the
Anthology until we come to collections of Christian poetry. This light
form of verse was not suited to the treatment of the deepest subjects.
For the religious poetry of Greece one must go to Pindar and

But the small selection given here throws some interesting light on
Greek thought with regard to sacred matters. Each business of life,
each change of circumstance, calls for worship and offering. The
sailor, putting to sea with spring, is to pay his sacrifice to the
harbour-god, a simple offering of cakes or fish.[5] The seafarer
should not pass near a great shine without turning aside to pay it
reverence.[6] The traveller, as he crosses a hill-pass or rests by the
wayside fountain, is to give the accustomed honour to the god of the
ground, Pan or Hermes, or whoever holds the spot in special
protection.[7] Each shaded well in the forest, each jut of cliff on
the shore, has its tutelar deity, if only under the form of the
rudely-carved stake set in a garden or on a lonely beach where the
sea-gulls hover; and with their more sumptuous worship the houses of
great gods, all marble and gold, stand overlooking the broad valley or
the shining spaces of sea.[8] Even the wild thicket has its rustic
Pan, to whom the hunter and fowler pray for success in their day's
work, and the image of Demeter stands by the farmer's threshing-
floor.[9] And yet close as the gods come in their daily dealings with
men, scorning no offering, however small, that is made with clean
hands, finding no occasion too trifling for their aid, there is a yet
more homely worship of "little gods"[10] who take the most
insignificant matters in their charge. These are not mere
abstractions, like the lesser deities of the Latin religion, Bonus
Eventus, Tutilina, Iterduca and Domiduca, but they occupy much the
same place in worship. By their side are the heroes, the saints of the
ancient world, who from their graves have some power of hearing and
answering. Like the saints, they belong to all times, from the most
remote to the most recent. The mythical Philopregmon, a shadowy being
dating back to times of primitive worship, gives luck from his
monument on the roadside by the gate of Potidaea.[11] But the
traveller who had prayed to him in the morning as he left the town
might pay the same duty next evening by the tomb of Brasidas in the
market-place of Amphipolis.[12]

But alongside of the traditional worship of these multitudinous and
multiform deities, a grave and deep religious sense laid stress on the
single quality of goodness as being essentially akin to divinity, and
spoke with aversion of complicated ritual and extravagant sacrifice. A
little water purifies the good man; the whole ocean is not sufficient
to wash away the guilt of the sinner.[13] "Holiness is a pure mind,"
said the inscription over the doorway of a great Greek temple.[14] The
sanctions of religion were not indeed independent of rewards and
punishments, in this or in a future state. But the highest Greek
teachings never laid great stress on these; and even where they are
adduced as a motive for good living, they are always made secondary to
the excellence of piety here and in itself. Through the whole course
of Greek thought the belief in a future state runs in an undercurrent.
A striking fragment of Sophocles[15] speaks of the initiated alone as
being happy, since their state after death is secure. Plato, while he
reprobates the teaching which would make men good in view of the other
world, and insists on the natural excellence of goodness for its own
sake, himself falls back on the life after death, as affected for good
or evil by our acts here, in the visions, "no fairy-tales,"[16] which
seem to collect and reinforce the arguments of the /Phaedo/ and the
/Republic/. But the ordinary thought and practice ignored what might
happen after death. Life was what concerned men and absorbed them; it
seemed sufficient for them to think about what they knew of.[17] The
revolution which Christianity brought into men's way of thinking as
regards life and death was that it made them know more certainly, or
so it seemed, about the latter than about the former. Who knows,
Euripides had long ago asked, if life be not death, and death life?
and the new religion answered his question with an emphatic
affirmation that it was so; that this life was momentary and shadowy,
was but a death, in comparison of the life unchangeable and eternal.

The dedicatory epigram was one of the earliest forms of Greek poetry.
Herodotus quotes verses inscribed on offerings at Thebes, written in
"Cadmean letters," and dating back to a mythical antiquity;[18] and
actual dedications are extant which are at least as early as 600
B.C.[19] In this earlier period the verses generally contained nothing
more than a bare record of the act. Even at a later date, the
anathematic epigrams of Simonides are for the most part rather stiff
and formal when set beside his epitaphs. His nephew Bacchylides
brought the art to perfection, if it is safe to judge from a single
flawless specimen.[20] But it is hardly till the Alexandrian period
that the dedication has elaborate pains bestowed upon it simply for
the feeling and expression as a form of poetry; and it is to this
period that the mass of the best prayers and dedications belong.

Ranging as they do over the whole variety of human action, these
epigrams show us the ancient world in its simplest and most pleasant
aspect. Family life has its offerings for the birth of a child, for
return from travel, for recovery from sickness. The eager and curious
spirit of youth, and old age to which nothing but rest seems good,
each offer prayer to the guardians of the traveller or of the
home.[21] The most numerous and the most beautiful are those where,
towards the end of life, dedications are made with thanksgiving for
the past and prayer for what remains. The Mediterranean merchantman
retires to his native town and offers prayer to the protector of the
city to grant him a quiet age there, or dedicates his ship, to dance
no more "like a feather on the sea," now that its master has set his
weary feet on land.[22] The fisherman, ceasing his labours, hangs up
his fish-spear to Poseidon, saying, "Thou knowest I am tired." The old
hunter, whose hand has lost its suppleness, dedicates his nets to the
Nymphs, as all that he has to give. The market-gardener, when he has
saved a competence, lays his worn tools before Priapus the Garden-
Keeper. Heracles and Artemis receive the aged soldier's shield into
their temples, that it may grow old there amid the sound of hymns and
the dances of maidens.[23] Quiet peace, as of the greyness of a summer
evening, is the desired end.

The diffusion of Greece under Alexander and his successors, as at a
later period the diffusion of Rome under the Empire, brought with the
decay of civic spirit a great increase of humanity. The dedication
written by Theocritus for his friend Nicias of Miletus[24] gives a
vivid picture of the gracious atmosphere of a rich and cultured Greek
home, of the happy union of science and art with harmonious family
life and kindly helpfulness and hospitality. Care for others was a
more controlling motive in life than before. The feeling grew that we
are all one family, and owe each other the service and thoughtfulness
due to kinsfolk, till Menander could say that true life was living for
others.[25] In this spirit the sailor, come safe ashore, offers prayer
to Poseidon that others who cross the sea may be as fortunate; so too,
from the other side of the matter, Pan of the sea-cliff promises a
favourable wind to all strangers who sail by him, in remembrance of
the pious fisherman who set his statue there, as guardian of their
trawling-nets and eel-baskets.[26]

In revulsion from the immense accumulation of material wealth in this
period, a certain refined simplicity was then the ideal of the best
minds, as it was afterwards in the early Roman Empire, as it is in our
own day. The charm of the country was, perhaps for the first time,
fully realised; the life of gardens became a passion, and hardly less
so the life of the opener air, of the hill and meadow, of the shepherd
and hunter, the farmer and fisherman. The rules of art, like the
demands of heaven, were best satisfied with small and simple
offerings. "The least of a little"[27] was sufficient to lay before
gods who had no need of riches; and as the art of the epigrammatist
grew more refined, the poet took pride in working with the slightest
materials. The husbandman lays a handful of corn-ears before Demeter,
the gardener a basket of ripe fruit at the feet of Priapus; the


Back to Full Books