Callimachus

Callimachus
/keuh lim"euh keuhs/, n.
c310-c240 B.C., Greek poet, grammarian, and critic.

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I
born с 305, Cyrene, North Africa
died с 240 BC

Greek poet and scholar.

He migrated to Egypt, where he worked at the Library of Alexandria. Of his voluminous writings, only fragments survive. His best-known poetical work is the Causes (с 270 BC), a medley of obscure tales explaining the origins of customs, festivals, and names. He is the most representative poet of the erudite and sophisticated Alexandrian school. His most famous prose work is the Pinakes ("Tablets") in 120 books, a catalog of the authors whose works were held in the library.
II
flourished late 5th century BC

Greek sculptor.

Though little is known of his life, he reputedly invented the ornate Corinthian capital (see order) after seeing leaves growing around a basket placed on a girl's tomb. He was noted for the elaborate carving and detailed draperies of his sculptures, which survive only as Roman copies.

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▪ Greek poet and scholar
born c. 305 BC, Cyrene, North Africa [now Shaḥḥāt, Libya]
died c. 240

      Greek poet and scholar, the most representative poet of the erudite and sophisticated Alexandrian school.

      Callimachus migrated to Alexandria, where King Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt gave him employment in the Library of Alexandria, the most important in the Hellenistic world. Of Callimachus's voluminous writings, only 6 hymns, about 60 epigrams, and fragments survive, many of them discovered in the 20th century. His most famous poetical work, illustrative of his antiquarian interests, was the Aitia (Causes), probably produced between 270 and 245 BC. This work is a narrative elegy in four books, containing a medley of recondite tales from Greek mythology and history by which the author seeks to explain the legendary origin of obscure customs, festivals, and names. The structure of the poem, with its short episodes loosely connected by a common theme, became the model for the Fasti and Metamorphoses of the Roman poet Ovid. Of his elegies for special occasions, the best known is the Lock of Berenice (itself included in the Aitia as the last episode of the collection), a polished piece of court poetry later freely adapted into Latin by Catullus.

      Callimachus's other works include the Iambi, 13 short poems on occasional themes; the Hecale, a small-scale epic, or epyllion, which set a new poetic fashion for concise, miniaturistic detail; and the Ibis, a polemical poem that was directed against an unknown enemy (ancient biography identified him with the poet's former pupil Apollonius of Rhodes). Callimachus himself insisted on the exercise of consummate literary craftsmanship and virtuosity within poems of relatively short length. He raised the hexameter to new heights of order and euphony, and his poetry may well be considered the peak of refinement of Greek verse of the period. In the Hymns, Callimachus adapted the traditional religious form of the Homeric Hymns to an original and purely literary use. The Epigrams treat a variety of personal themes with consummate artistry. Of his prolific prose works, certainly the most famous was the Pinakes (“Tablets”) in 120 books. This work consisted of an elaborate critical and biographical catalog of the authors of the works held in the Library of Alexandria. Discoveries in the 19th and 20th centuries of ancient Egyptian papyruses confirm the fame and popularity of Callimachus; no other Greek poet except Homer is so often quoted by the grammarians of late antiquity. He was taken as a model by many Roman poets, notably Catullus (Catullus, Gaius Valerius) and Propertius (Propertius, Sextus), and by the most sophisticated Greek poets, from Euphorion, Nicander, and Parthenius (Parthenius of Nicaea) to Nonnus and his followers in the 5th century AD.

Additional Reading
Frank Nisetich (trans.), The Poems of Callimachus (2001), provides a framework for understanding the surviving fragments in relation to the full poems and to their original collections. Alan Cameron, Callimachus and His Critics (1995), places the poet in the context of the life and literature of his age.

▪ Greek sculptor
flourished 5th century BC

      Greek sculptor, perhaps an Athenian, reputed to have invented the Corinthian (Corinthian order) capital after witnessing acanthus leaves growing around a basket placed upon a young girl's tomb.

      Although no sculptures by Callimachus survive in the original, he was reported to have carved the golden lamp that burned perpetually in the Erechtheum (completed in 408). Callimachus was noted and criticized by his contemporaries for the overelaboration of draperies and other details in his sculptures. Viewed in this light, the elaborate carving that characterizes the Corinthian capital may well be his invention. Modern scholars have attributed to Callimachus the “Aphrodite Genetrix,” a Roman replica of which is in the Louvre. He has also been linked with a series of reliefs of dancing Maenads, such as the Roman copy now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, which are notable for their sensuously modeled limbs set off by voluminous, rippling draperies.

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Universalium. 2010.

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