Callimachus of Cyrene ( Ancient Greek: Καλλίμαχος ὁ Κυρηναῖος Callimachus ho Kyrenaios, Latin form of the name: Callimachus Cyrenius; * 320-303 BC in Cyrene; † after 245 BC in Alexandria ) was a Hellenistic poet, scholar and librarian of the Alexandrian.

He is regarded as the founder of scientific philology and earned a reputation with the study of etiology, ie the mythical and legendary origins of names, cults and customs. Both his academic achievements as well as the rich allusions, the playfulness and irony of his literary work made ​​him one of the most important representatives of the culture under the Ptolemies in Egypt and the Hellenistic ever.

  • 4.1 expenditure
  • 4.2 Secondary Literature


Callimachus came from a distinguished family in Cyrene in Libya, which I. herleitete from the founder and first king of the city, Battus. He grew up in Alexandria at the court of the Ptolemies and received a comprehensive literary education. In the Suda, a Byzantine encyclopedia with a detailed article on him, mentioned that he had been school teachers in Eleusis, a suburb of Alexandria, but this can be reconciled neither with its noble origin nor with his soon reached high position at the court of the Ptolemies.

Several poems preserved on Ptolemy II and his second wife Arsinoe II prove Callimachus as a close confidant of this royal couple. He also worked on the Alexandrian library. Returning to an indication in John Tzetzes, in turn, on a traditional note ( Scholium ) to the Roman poet Plautus refers, he is often referred to as the third head of this library, a function for which he was well qualified. The Suda knows about it but nothing, and is only found in Oxyrhynchus Papyrus with a list of library director does not lead him on. Since some poems of his mature years have Cyrene as a residence, it was considered that Callimachus may be sought there due to political tensions between Alexandria and Cyrene refuge or the Ptolemies represented diplomatically.


Sparse tradition

Callimachus be attributed by the Suda works to the extent of about 800 books (ie ancient papyrus scrolls ) on various topics that have largely lost or received only fragmentary.

Complete obtained are only

  • Six hymns to the gods of Olympus: Zeus, Apollo, Artemis; on the island of Delos; on Athena and Demeter. The first two were the praise of Ptolemy II, all six envisioned a reading audience lively and at the same time ambiguous cult activities in which it no longer participated. Thus, the hymn is on The bath of Pallas ( Athena ) of the ablution of a Athenestatue in Argos. While the spectators that they get the statue to face, it tells how the prophet Teiresias, as he once surprised Athena at the bath, was blinded. - Receive are also
  • 63 epigrams ( in the Greek Anthology ).

In addition, Callimachus about 740 fragments can be attributed safe or reasonably safe. Part, it involves quotations in ancient authors or in the Suda, partly to papyrus finds. In the 19th century it came to a

  • Larger fragment of Epyllions ( small epos ) Hecale. It tells of the adventures of Theseus, his retreat with an old woman, according to which the text is named, and his conversation with a crow after her death. Numerous smaller quotes had previously occupied the prevalence and popularity of the text, said text larger testimony served well the school.

Other finds, especially in Oxyrhynchus, allowed since in outline the reconstruction of the

  • Aitia ("the initial poems ", from Ancient Greek: αἰτίον - Origin, guilt, cause; αἰτία - origins ), a four -volume work into a poem about the development of various cultic customs. It is expected from 1000 to 1500 verses ( elegiac couplets ) have included and have originated in two stages. The first two books are designed as a dialogue with the Muses, is named as the tenth Arsinoe II, which shortly after 270 indicates a compilation BC. The third and fourth book are framed by poems in honor of Berenike II, wife of Ptolemy as the ' III. 246 came to Alexandria. Represents the programmatic introduction of the overall work, in Callimachus, as he asked in a dream on Helicon the Muses - in the beginning of Hesiod's Theogony varying - it comes in the epilogue back again.

Character of Aitia

A total of 45 " aetiological " stories are detectable, with the smaller fragments give no idea of ​​how Callimachus could nest his stories. In the opening poem of the third book about a victory of Berenice at the Nemean games ( in a chariot race ) the creation of these games is called by Heracles, but the main plot device, like Hercules stop off at the farmers Molorchos and helps him against his plague of mice - and finally as the main thing the aitia that offered "founding Say" for two types of mouse traps. Markus Asper certifies Callimachus "wild pleasure in telling stories, on re- contextualizing, the cunning known alienation and proud on installation of new elements " and the Aitia " a strange kind of humor or irony. "

In the final poem of Aitia the Coma Berenices, which was probably established in the autumn of 245 BC with just this poem as a constellation told in a Katasterismos how it got to the sky after Berenike had sacrificed it in order to fulfill a vow. For centuries, the poem only in the Latin translation known Catullus ( c. 66, in c. Announced as 65 Callimachus translation ), larger parts of the Greek original was only in the 20th century rediscovered in Oxyrhynchus.

Literary feuds?

Callimachus is considered a masterpiece of meticulous perfectionist - free painting. That he should have extensive seals in the nature of the epics refused on principle, in the tradition of Homer and fallen out with his pupil Apollonius of Rhodes, was long claimed, but more recently questioned. His harsh criticism was of Lyde of Antimachus of Colophon, but not even the other works by this author.

The fond of quoting in this context sentence: " A great book is a great evil " ( altgr. μέγα βιβλίον μέγα κακόν - méga BIBLION méga kakon ) should have referred to his work as a librarian.

Scientific texts

The most important prose of Callimachus was the 120 -volume index of authors ( Greek: πίνακες - directories ) in which he each a short biography and a catalog raisonné aufführte to a variety of Greek authors from the library of Alexandria and thus created the first 'scientific' library catalog in the world. . Moreover, he wrote several encyclopedias: through local Typical expressions Barbaric customs, foundation stories of islands and cities as well as renaming, etc., as well as literary critical works.

Callimachus ' research, which spanned the entire room, from which the new Greek population of Alexandria recruited, were at the service of the development of a common cultural memory of the Greeks. Egyptian, he addressed directly, but a thesis Daniel Selden, according to the impression of the bizarreness of Callimachus ' text dissolves often, when viewed against the background of Egyptian mythology, king - (ie pharaoh ) ideology and iconography; Callimachus would have suggested duplicate readings and symbolic transfers here.


To Callimachus ' pupils were several later head of the Alexandrian Library, in addition to the already mentioned Apollonius of Rhodes Eratosthenes of Cyrene, and Aristophanes of Byzantium.

The numerous papyri found with his writings and his frequent citations suggest that Callimachus one of the most widely read authors of his time. Especially on the seal of the Roman Neoteriker ( Catullus ), as well as Propertius and Ovid, he had great influence, they attacked him with translations and adaptations. In the Greek-speaking area it was estimated in the 4th century by Gregory of Nazianzus, and in the 13th century had Michael Choniates the Aitia.