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(ca. 305 - ca. 240 BC) Lybia


Greek poet, ctitic and grammarian


Native of Cyrene and a descendant of the illustrious house of the Battiadae. Educated at Athens, he taught before obtaining work in the Alexandrian library. There he drew up a catalogue, with such copious notes that it constituted a full literary history. He also wrote criticism and other works in prose, but is most notable as a poet.

It is said that he wrote more than 800 different pieces. Of these, six hymns (meant for reading, with no religious use), a number of epigrams, and fragments of other poems survive. His greatest work was the Aetia, a collection of legends. Other longer poems of which fragments survive are The Lock of Berenice, Hecale, and Iambi.

Callimachus' poetry is notable for brevity, polish, wit, learning, and inventiveness in form. He engaged in a famous literary quarrel with Apollonius of Rhodes over whether well-crafted short poems were superior to long poems. His works had a considerable influence on later Greek and Roman poets, especially Catullus.

Callimachus founded a new "Alexandrian" school of poetry that was fastidious and erudite. Though he inaugurated a revolution in style, Callimachus was a conservative in his amorous verse: A dozen of his epigrams on boy-love appear in the Greek Anthology. One of these love poems is addressed to Theocritus. It would appear that once again the two leading Greek poets of their age were lovers.



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