Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology
J. W. Mackail

Part 6 out of 6

With this brief latter summer the history of Greek poetry practically
ends. The epigrams of Damocharis, the pupil of Agathias, seem already
to show the decomposition of the art. The imposing fabric of empire
reconstructed by the genius of Justinian and his ministers had no
solidity, and was crumbling away even before the death of its founder:
while the great plague, beginning in the fifteenth year of Justinian,
continued for no less than fifty-two years to ravage every province of
the empire and depopulate whole cities and provinces. In such a period
as this the fragile and exotic poetry of the Byzantine Renaissance
could not sustain itself. Political and theological epigrams continued
to be written in profusion; but the collections may be searched
through in vain for a single touch of imagination or beauty. Under
Constantine VII. (reigned A.D. 911-959) comes the last shadowy name in
the Anthology.

COMETAS, called Chartularius or Keeper of the Records, is the author
of six epigrams in the Palatine Anthology, besides a poem in
hexameters on the Raising of Lazarus. From some marginal notes in the
MS. it appears that he was a contemporary of Constantinus Cephalas.
Three of the epigrams are on a revised text of Homer which he edited.
None are of any literary value, except one beautiful pastoral couplet,
vi. 10 in this selection, which seems to be the very voice of ancient
poetry bidding the world a lingering and reluctant farewell.


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