Text: Edgar Allan Poe (???), “Some Ancient Greek Authors,” Southern Literary Messenger, vol. II, no. 5, April 1836, 2:301-302


[page 301:]



Whether Homer or Hesiod lived first has never been determined. Herodotus supposes them both to have lived at the same time, viz. B.C. 884. The Arun. marbles make them contemporaries, but place their era B. C. 907. Besides the Iliad and Odyssey, Homer wrote, according to some, a poem upon Amphliaraus’ expedition against Thebes; Also, the Phoceis, the Cercopes, the small Iliad, the Epiciclides, the Batrachomyomfachia, and some Hymns to the Gods.

Hesiod wrote a poem on Agriculture, called The Works and Days, also Theogony, which is valuable for its account of the Gods of antiquity. His Shield of Hercules, and some others, are now lost.

Archilocus wrote elegies, satires, odes and epigrams, and was the inventor of Iambics; these are by some ascribed to Epodes. Some fragments of his poetry remain. He is supposed to have lived B.C. 742.

Alcæcus is the inventor of Alcaic verses. Of all his works, nothing remains but a few fragments, found in AthenNeus. B.C. 600. He was contemporary with the famous Sappho. She was the inventress of the Sapphic verse, and had composed nine books in lyric verses, besides epigrams, elegies, &c. Of all these, two pieces alone remain, and a few fragments quoted by Didymus.

Theognis of Megara wrote several poems, of which only a few sentences are now extant, quoted by Plato and some others. B.C. 548.

Simonides wrote elegies, epigrams and dramatical pieces; also Epic poems — one on Cambyses, King of Persia, &c. One of his most famous compositions, The Lamentations, a beautiful fragment, is still extant. Thespis, supposed to be the inventor of Tragedy, lived about this time.

Anacreon. His odes are thought to be still extant, but very few of them can be truly ascribed to Anacreon.

Æschylus is the first who introduced two actors on the stage, and clothed them with suitable dresses. He likewise removed murder from the eyes of the spectator. He wrote 90 tragedies, of which 7 are extant, viz. Promnetheus Vilnctus, Septem Ditces contra Thebas, Persæ, Agamemnon, Choephoræ, Eumenides and Supplices.

Pindar was his contemporary. Most of Piidar’s works have perished. He had written some hymns to the Gods, — poems in honor of Apollo, — dithyrambics to Bacchus, and odes on several victories obtained at the [column 2:] Olympic, Isthmian, Pythlian and Nemean games. Of all these the odes alone remain.

Sophocles first increased the number of actors to three, and added the decorations of painted scenery. He composed 120 tragedies — 7 only of which are extant, viz. Ajax, Electra, Œdipus, Antigone, The Trachniae, Phliloctetes and Œdipus at Colonos. B. C. 454.

Plato, the comic poet, called the prince of the middle comedy, and of whose pieces some fragments remain, flourished about this time.

Also Aristarchus, the tragic poet of Tegea, who composed 70 tragedies, one of which was translated into Latin verse by Ennius.

Herodotus of Halicarnassus, wrote a history of the Wars of the Greeks against the Persians from the age of Cyrus to the battle of Mycale, including an account of the most celebrated nations in the world. Besides this, he had written a history of Assyria and Arabia which is not extant. There is a life of Homer generally attributed to him, but doubtfully. B. C. 445.

Euripides, who lived at this time, wrote 75 or, as some say, 92 tragedies, of which only 19 are extant. He was the rival of Sophocles.

About the commencement of the Peloponnesian war, flourished many celebrated authors, among whom was Aristophanes. He wrote 54 comedies, of which only 11 are extant.

Also, Cratinus and Eupolis, who with Aristophanes, are mentioned by Horace — they were celebrated for their comic writings. B. C. 431.

Also, the mathematician and astrologer, Meton, who, in a book called Enneadecaterides, endeavored to adjust the course of the sun and moon, and maintained that the solar and lunar years could regularly begin from the same point in the heavens. This is called the Metonic cycle.

Thucydides flourished at this time. He wrote a history of the important events which happened during his command. This history is continued only to the 21st year of the war. It has been divided into eight books — the last of which is supposed to have been written by his daughters. It is imperfect.

Also Hippocrates; — few of his writings remain.

Lysias, the orator, wrote, according to Plutarch, no less than 425 orations — of these 34 are extant. B. C. 404.

Contemporary with him was Agatho, an Athenian tragic and comic poet-there is now nothing extant of his works, except quotations in Aristotle and others. Xenophon, whose works are well known, lived about the year 3198 before Christ.

Ctesias, who wrote a history of the Assyrians and Persians, which Justin and Diodorus have prefered [[preferred]] to that of Herodotus, lived also at this time. Some fragments of his compositions have been preserved.

The works of Plato are numerous — they are all written, except twelve letters, in the form of a dialogue. [[B. C.]] 388.

Of the 64 orations of Isœus, [[Isœus ]] 10 are extant. Demosthenes imitated him. 377.

About 32 of the orations of Isocrates, who lived at the same time, remain.

All the compositions of the historian Theopompus are lost, except a few fragments quoted by ancient writers. [page 302:]

Ephorus lived in his time — he wrote a history commencing with the return of the Heraclidae and ending with the 2Oth year of Philip of Macedon. It was in 30 books and is frequently quoted by Strabo and others.

Almost all the writings of Aristotle are extant. Diogenes Laertes has given a catalogue of them. His Art of Poetry has been imitated by Horace.

Æschines, his contemporary, wrote 5 orations and 9 epistles. The orations alone are extant. [[B. C.]] 340.

Demosthenes was his contemporary and rival.

Theophrastus composed many books and treatises — Diogenes enumerates 200. Of these 20 are extant — among which are a history of stones — treatises on plants, on the winds, signs of fair weather, &c. — also, his Characters, a moral treatise. [[B. C.]] 320.

Menander was his pupil; he was called prince of the new comedy. Only a few fragments remain of 10S comedies which he wrote.

Philemon was contemporary with these two. The fragments of some of his comedies are printed with those of Menander.

Megasthenes lived about this time. He wrote about the Indians and other oriental nations. His history is often quoted by the ancients. There is a work now extant which passes for his composition, but which is spurious.

Epicurus also lived now. He wrote 300 volumes according to Diogenes.

Chrysippus indeed, rivalled him in the number, but not in the merit of his productions. They were contemporaries. [[B. C.]] 280.

Bion, the pastoral poet, whose Idyllia are so celebrated, lived about this time. It is probable that Moschus, also a pastoral poet, was his contemporary — from the affection with which he mentions him.

Theocritus distinguished himself by his poetical compositions, of which 30 Idyllia and some epigrams remain — also, a ludicrous poem called Syrinx. Virgil imitated him. B.C. 280.

Aratus flourished now; he wrote a poem on Astronomy, also some hymns and epigrams.

Lycophron also lived at this time. The titles of 20 of his tragedies are preserved. There is extant a strange work of this poet, call Cassandra, or Alexandra, — it contains about 1500 verses, from whose obscurity the author has been named Tenebrosus.

In the Anthology is preserved a most beautiful hymn to Jupiter, written by Cleanthes, — of whose writings none except this is preserved.

Manetho lived about this period, — an Egyptian who wrote, in the Greek language, a history of Egypt. The writers of the Universal History suspect some mistake in the passage of Eusebius which contains an account of this history.

This was also the age of Apollonius of Perga, the Geometrician. He composed a treatise on conic sections in eight books — seven of which remain. It is one of the most valuable remains of antiquity.

Nicander’s writings were held in much estimation. Two of his poems, entitled Theriaca, and Alexipharniaca, are still extant. He is said to have written 5 books of Metamorphoses, which Ovid has imitated. He wrote also history. [[B. C.]] 150.

About this time flourished Polybius. He wrote an universal History in Greek, divided into 40 books; [column 2:] which began with the Punic wars, and finished with the conquest of Macedonia by Paulus. This is lost, except the first 5 hooks, and fragments of the 12 following. Livy has copied whole books from him, almost word for word — and thinks proper to call him in return “haudquaqulam spernendus auctor.”






Attributed to Poe by David K. Jackson and W. D. Hull, but disputed by Pollin and Ridgely.


[S:0 - SLM, 1835] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Misc - Some Ancient Greek Authors