Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology by J. W. Mackail

[We have both a 7 bit version and an 8 bit version. The 7 bit version does not contain accents, the 8 This is the 8 bit version. SELECT EPIGRAMS FROM THE GREEK ANTHOLOGY By J. W. Mackail First Published 1890 by Longmans, Green, and Co. Etext prepared by John Bickers, and Dagny,
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First Published 1890 by Longmans, Green, and Co.

Etext prepared by John Bickers, and Dagny,




Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford.


This book was published in 1890 by Longmans, Green, and Co., London; and New York: 15 East 16th Street.

The epigrams in the book are given both in Greek and in English. This text includes only the English. Where Greek is present in short citations, it has been given here in transliterated form and marked with brackets. A chapter of Notes on the translations has also been omitted.

{eti pou proima leuxoia}
Meleager in /Anth. Pal./ iv. 1.

Dim now and soil’d,
Like the soil’d tissue of white violets Left, freshly gather’d, on their native bank. M. Arnold, /Sohrab and Rustum/.


The purpose of this book is to present a complete collection, subject to certain definitions and exceptions which will be mentioned later, of all the best extant Greek Epigrams. Although many epigrams not given here have in different ways a special interest of their own, none, it is hoped, have been excluded which are of the first excellence in any style. But, while it would be easy to agree on three-fourths of the matter to be included in such a scope, perhaps hardly any two persons would be in exact accordance with regard to the rest; with many pieces which lie on the border line of excellence, the decision must be made on a balance of very slight considerations, and becomes in the end one rather of personal taste than of any fixed principle.

For the Greek Anthology proper, use has chiefly been made of the two great works of Jacobs, which have not yet been superseded by any more definitive edition: /Anthologia Graeca sive Poetarum Graecorum lusus ex recensione Brunckii; indices et commentarium adiecit Friedericus Iacobs/ (Leipzig, 1794-1814: four volumes of text and nine of indices, prolegomena, commentary, and appendices), and /Anthologia Graeca ad fidem codicis olim Palatini nunc Parisini ex apographo Gothano edita; curavit epigrammata in Codice Palatino desiderata et annotationem criticam adiecit Fridericus Jacobs/ (Leipzig, 1813-1817: two volumes of text and two of critical notes). An appendix to the latter contains Paulssen’s fresh collation of the Palatine MS. The small Tauchnitz text is a very careless and inaccurate reprint of this edition. The most convenient edition of the Anthology for ordinary reference is that of F. Dübner in Didot’s /Bibliothèque Grecque/ (Paris, 1864), in two volumes, with a revised text, a Latin translation, and additional notes by various hands. The epigrams recovered from inscriptions have been collected and edited by G. Kaibel in his /Epigrammata Graeca ex labidibus conlecta/ (Berlin, 1878). As this book was going through the press, a third volume of the Didot Anthology has appeared, edited by M. Ed. Cougny, under the title of /Appendix nova epigrammatum veterum ex libris at marmoribus ductorum/, containing what purports to be a complete collection, now made for the first time, of all extant epigrams not in the Anthology.

In the notes, I have not thought it necessary to acknowledge, except here once for all, my continual obligations to that superb monument of scholarship, the commentary of Jacobs; but where a note or a reading is borrowed from a later critic, his name is mentioned. All important deviations from the received text of the Anthology are noted, and referred to their author in each case; but, as this is not a critical edition, the received text, when retained, is as a rule printed without comment where it differs from that of the MSS. or other originals.

The references in the notes to Bergk’s /Lyrici Graeci/ give the pages of the fourth edition. Epigrams from the Anthology are quoted by the sections of the Palatine collection (/Anth. Pal./) and the appendices to it (sections xiii-xv). After these appendices follows in modern editions a collection (/App. Plan./) of all the epigrams in the Planudean Anthology which are not found in the Palatine MS.

I have to thank Mr. P. E. Matheson, Fellow of New College, for his kindness in looking over the proofsheets of this book.



The Greek word “epigram” in its original meaning is precisely equivalent to the Latin word “inscription”; and it probably came into use in this sense at a very early period of Greek history, anterior even to the invention of prose. Inscriptions at that time, if they went beyond a mere name or set of names, or perhaps the bare statement of a single fact, were necessarily in verse, then the single vehicle of organised expression. Even after prose was in use, an obvious propriety remained in the metrical form as being at once more striking and more easily retained in the memory; while in the case of epitaphs and dedications–for the earlier epigram falls almost entirely under these two heads–religious feeling and a sense of what was due to ancient custom aided the continuance of the old tradition. Herodotus in the course of his History quotes epigrams of both kinds; and with him the word {epigramma} is just on the point of acquiring its literary sense, though this is not yet fixed definitely. In his account of the three ancient tripods dedicated in the temple of Apollo at Thebes,[1] he says of one of them, {o men de eis ton tripodon epigramma ekhei}, and then quotes the single hexameter line engraved upon it. Of the other two he says simply, “they say in hexameter,” {legei en exametro tono}. Again, where he describes the funeral monuments at Thermopylae,[2] he uses the words {gramma} and {epigramma} almost in the sense of sepulchural epigrams; {epigegrammai grammata legonta tade}, and a little further on, {epixosmesantes epigrammasi xai stelesi}, “epitaphs and monuments”. Among these epitaphs is the celebrated couplet of Simonides[3] which has found a place in all subsequent Anthologies.

In the Anthology itself the word does not however in fact occur till a late period. The proem of Meleager to his collection uses the words {soide}, {umnos}, {melisma}, {elegos}, all vaguely, but has no term which corresponds in any degree to our epigram. That of Philippus has one word which describes the epigram by a single quality; he calls his work an {oligostikhia} or collection of poems not exceeding a few lines in length. In an epitaph by Diodorus, a poet of the Augustan age, occurs the phrase {gramma legei},[4] in imitation of the phrase of Herodotus just quoted. This is, no doubt, an intentional archaism; but the word {epigramma} itself does not occur in the collection until the Roman period. Two epigrams on the epigram,[5] one Roman, the other Roman or Byzantine, are preserved, both dealing with the question of the proper length. The former, by Parmenio, merely says that an epigram of many lines is bad–{phemi polustikhien epigrammatos ou xata Mousas einai}. The other is more definite, but unfortunately ambiguous in expression. It runs thus:

{Pagxalon eot epigramma to distikhon en de parelthes tous treis rapsodeis xoux epigramma legeis}

The meaning of the first part is plain; an epigram may be complete within the limits of a single couplet. But do “the three” mean three lines or three couplets? “Exceeding three” would, in the one case, mean an epigram of four lines, in the other of eight. As there cannot properly be an epigram of three lines, it would seem rather to mean the latter. Even so the statement is an exaggeration; many of the best epigrams are in six and eight lines. But it is true that the epigram may “have its nature”, in the phrase of Aristotle,[6] in a single couplet; and we shall generally find that in those of eight lines, as always without exception in those of more than eight, there is either some repetition of idea not necessary to the full expression of the thought, or some redundance of epithet or detail too florid for the best taste, or, as in most of the Byzantine epigrams, a natural verbosity which affects the style throughout and weakens the force and directness of the epigram.

The notorious difficulty of giving any satisfactory definition of poetry is almost equalled by the difficulty of defining with precision any one of its kinds; and the epigram in Greek, while it always remained conditioned by being in its essence and origin an inscriptional poem, took in the later periods so wide a range of subject and treatment that it can perhaps only be limited by certain abstract conventions of length and metre. Sometimes it becomes in all but metrical form a lyric; sometimes it hardly rises beyond the versified statement of a fact or an idea; sometimes it is barely distinguishable from a snatch of pastoral. The shorter pieces of the elegiac poets might very often well be classed as epigrams but for the uncertainty, due to the form in which their text has come down to us, whether they are not in all cases, as they undoubtedly are in some, portions of longer poems. Many couplets and quatrains of Theognis fall under this head; and an excellent instance on a larger scale is the fragment of fourteen lines by Simonides of Amorgos,[7] which is the exact type on which many of the later epigrams of life are moulded. In such cases /respice auctoris animum/ is a safe rule; what was not written as an epigram is not an epigram. Yet it has seemed worth while to illustrate this rule by its exceptions; and there will be found in this collection fragments of Mimnermus and Theognis[8] which in everything but the actual circumstance of their origin satisfy any requirement which can be made. In the Palatine Anthology itself, indeed, there are a few instances[9] where this very thing is done. As a rule, however, these short passages belong to the class of {gromai} or moral sentences, which, even when expressed in elegiac verse, is sufficiently distinct from the true epigram. One instance will suffice. In the Anthology there occurs this couplet:[10]

{Pan to peritton axaipon epei logos esti palaios os xai tou melitos to pleon esti khole}

This is a sentence merely; an abstract moral idea, with an illustration attached to it. Compare with it another couplet[11] in the Anthology:

{Aion panta pserei dolikhos khronos oioen ameibein ounoma xai morpsen xai psuain ede tukhen}

Here too there is a moral idea; but in the expression, abstract as it is, there is just that high note, that imaginative touch, which gives it at once the gravity of an inscription and the quality of a poem.

Again, many of the so-called epideictic epigrams are little more than stories told shortly in elegiac verse, much like the stories in Ovid’s Fasti. Here the inscriptional quality is the surest test. It is this quality, perhaps in many instances due to the verses having been actually written for paintings or sculptures, that just makes an epigram of the sea-story told by Antipater of Thessalonica, and of the legend of Eunomus the harp-player[12]; while other stories, such as those told of Pittacus, of Euctemon, of Serapis and the murderer,[13] both tend to exceed the reasonable limit of length, and have in no degree either the lapidary precision of the half lyrical passion which would be necessary to make them more than tales in verse. Once more, the fragments of idyllic poetry which by chance have come down to us incorporated in the Anthology,[14] beautiful as they are, are in no sense epigrams any more than the lyrics ascribed to Anacreon which form an appendix to the Palatine collection, or the quotations from the dramatists, Euripides, Menander, or Diphilus,[15] which have also at one time or another become incorporated with it.

In brief then, the epigram in its first intention may be described as a very short poem summing up as though in a memorial inscription what it is desired to make permanently memorable in any action or situation. It must have the compression and conciseness of a real inscription, and in proportion to the smallness of its bulk must be highly finished, evenly balanced, simple, and lucid. In literature it holds something of the same place as is held in art by an engraved gem. But if the definition of the epigram is only fixed thus, it is difficult to exclude almost any very short poem that conforms externally to this standard; while on the other hand the chance of language has restricted the word in its modern use to a sense which it never bore in Greek at all, defined in the line of Boileau, /un bon mot de deux rimes orné/. This sense was made current more especially by the epigrams of Martial, which as a rule lead up to a pointed end, sometimes a witticism, sometimes a verbal fancy, and are quite apart from the higher imaginative qualities. From looking too exclusively at the Latin epigrammatists, who all belonged to a debased period in literature, some persons have been led to speak of the Latin as distinct from the Greek sense of the word “epigram”. But in the Greek Anthology the epigrams of contemporary writers have the same quality. The fault was that of the age, not of the language. No good epigram sacrifices its finer poetical qualities to the desire of making a point; and none of the best depend on having a point at all. ———-

[1] Hdt. v. 59.

[2] Hdt. vii. 228.

[3] III. 4 in this collection.

[4] Anth. Pal. vi. 348.

[5] Ibid. ix. 342, 369.

[6] Poet. 1449 a. 14.

[7] Simon. fr. 85 Bergk.

[8] Infra, XII. 6, 17, 37.

[9] App. Plan. 16.

[10] Anth. Pal. ix. 50, 118, x. 113.

[11] Anth. Pal. ix. 51.

[12] Infra, IX. 14, II. 14.

[13] Anth. Pal. vii. 89, ix. 367, 378.

[14] Anth. Pal. ix. 136, 362, 363.

[15] Ibid. x. 107, xi. 438, 439.


While the epigram is thus somewhat incapable of strict formal definition, for all practical purposes it may be confined in Greek poetry to pieces written in a single metre, the elegiac couplet, the metre appropriated to inscriptions from the earliest recorded period.[1] Traditionally ascribed to the invention of Archilochus or Callinus, this form of verse, like the epic hexameter itself, first meets us full grown.[2] The date of Archilochus of Paros may be fixed pretty nearly at 700 B.C. That of Callinus of Ephesus is perhaps earlier. It may be assumed with probability that elegy was an invention of the same early civilisation among the Greek colonists of the eastern coast of the Aegean in which the Homeric poems flowered out into their splendid perfection. From the first the elegiac metre was instinctively recognised as one of the best suited for inscriptional poems. Originally indeed it had a much wider area, as it afterwards had again with the Alexandrian poets; it seems to have been the common metre for every kind of poetry which was neither purely lyrical on the one hand, nor on the other included in the definite scope of the heroic hexameter. The name {elegos}, “wailing”, is probably as late as Simonides, when from the frequency of its use for funeral inscriptions the metre had acquired a mournful connotation, and become the /tristis elegeïa/ of the Latin poets. But the war- chants of Callinus and Tyrtaeus, and the political poems of the latter, are at least fifty years earlier in date than the elegies of Mimnermus, the first of which we have certain knowledge: and in Theognis, a hundred years later than Mimnermus, elegiac verse becomes a vehicle for the utmost diversity of subject, and a vehicle so facile and flexible that it never seems unsuitable or inadequate. For at least eighteen hundred years it remained a living metre, through all that time never undergoing any serious modification.[3] Almost up to the end of the Greek Empire of the East it continued to be written, in imitation it is true of the old poets, but still with the freedom of a language in common and uninterrupted use. As in the heroic hexameter the Asiatic colonies of Greece invented the most fluent, stately, and harmonious metre for continuous narrative poetry which has yet been invented by man, so in the elegiac couplet they solved the problem, hardly a less difficult one, of a metre which would refuse nothing, which could rise to the occasion and sink with it, and be equally suited to the epitaph of a hero or the verses accompanying a birthday present, a light jest or a great moral idea, the sigh of a lover or the lament over a perished Empire.[4]

The Palatine Anthology as it has come down to us includes a small proportion, less than one in ten, of poems in other metres than the elegiac. Some do not properly belong to the collection, as for instance the three lines of iambics heading the Erotic section and the two hendecasyllabics at the end of it, or the two hexameters at the beginning of the Dedicatory section. These are hardly so much insertions as accretions. Apart from them there are only four non- elegiac pieces among the three hundred and eight amatory epigrams. The three hundred and fifty-eight dedicatory epigrams include sixteen in hexameter and iambic, and one in hendecasyllabic; and among the seven hundred and fifty sepulchral epigrams are forty-two in hexameter, iambic, and other mixed metres. The Epideictic section, as one would expect from the more miscellaneous nature of its contents, has a larger proportion of non-elegiac pieces. Of the eight hundred and twenty-seven epigrams no less than a hundred and twenty-nine are in hexameter (they include a large number of single lines), twenty-seven in iambic, and six others in various unusual metres, besides one (No. 703) which comes in strangely enough: it is in prose: and is the inscription in commendation of the water of the Thracian river Tearos, engraved on a pillar by Darius, transcribed from Herodotus, iv. 91. The odd thing is that the collector of the Anthology appears to have thought it was in verse. The Hortatory section includes a score of hexameter and iambic fragments, some of them proverbial lines, others extracts from the tragedians. The Convivial section has five-and- twenty in hexameter, iambic, and hemiambic, out of four hundred and forty-two. The Musa Stratonis, in which the hand of the Byzantine editor has had a less free play, is entirely in elegiac. But the short appendix next following it in the Palatine MS. consists entirely of epigrams in various metres, chiefly composite. Of the two thousand eight hundred and thirteen epigrams which constitute the Palatine Anthology proper, (sections V., VI., VII., IX., X., and XI.), there are in all a hundred and seventy-five in hexameter, seventy-seven in iambic, and twenty-two in various other metres. In practise, when one comes to make a selection, the exclusion of all non-elegiac pieces leads to no difficulty.

Nothing illustrates more vividly the essential unity and continuous life of Greek literature than this line of poetry, reaching from the period of the earliest certain historical records down to a time when modern poetry in the West of Europe had already established itself; nothing could supply a better and simpler corrective to the fallacy, still too common, that Greek history ends with the conquests of Alexander. It is on some such golden bridge that we must cross the profound gulf which separates, to the popular view, the sunset of the Western Empire of Rome from the dawn of the Italian republics and the kingdoms of France and England. That gulf to most persons seems impassable, and it is another world which lies across it. But here one sees how that distant and strange world stretches out its hands to touch our own. The great burst of epigrammatic poetry under Justinian took place when the Consulate of Rome, after more than a thousand years’ currency, at last ceased to mark the Western year. While Constantinus Cephalas was compiling his Anthology, adding to the treasures of past times much recent and even contemporary work, Athelstan of England inflicted the great defeat on the Danes at Brunanburh, the song of which is one of the noblest records of our own early literature; and before Planudes made the last additions the Divine Comedy was written, and our English poetry had broken out into the full sweetness of its flower:

Bytuene Mershe ant Averil
When spray beginneth to springe,
The lutel foul hath hire wyl
On hyre lud to synge.[5]

It is startling to think that so far as the date goes this might have been included in the Planudean Anthology.

Yet this must not be pressed too far. Greek literature at the later Byzantine Court, like the polity and religion of the Empire, was a matter of rigid formalism; and so an epigram by Cometas Chartularius differs no more in style and spirit from an epigram by Agathias than two mosaics of the same dates. The later is a copy of the earlier, executed in a somewhat inferior manner. Even in the revival of poetry under Justinian it is difficult to be sure how far the poetry was in any real sense original, and how far it is parallel to the Latin verses of Renaissance scholars. The vocabulary of these poets is practically the same as that of Callimachus; but the vocabulary of Callimachus too is practically the same as that of Simonides. ———-

[1] The first inscriptions of all were probably in hexameter: cf. Hdt. v. 59.

[2] Horace, A. P., ll. 75-8, leaves the origin of elegiac verse in obscurity. When he says it was first used for laments, he probably follows the Alexandrian derivation of the word {elegos} from {e legein}. The /voti sententia compos/ to which he says it became extended is interpreted by the commentators as meaning amatory poetry. If this was Horace’s meaning he chose a most singular way of expressing it.

[3] Mr. F. D. Allen’s treatise /On Greek Versification in Inscriptions/ (Boston, 1888) gives an account of the slight changes in structure (caesura, etc.) between earlier and later periods.

[4] Cf. infra, III. 2, VII., 4, X. 45, XII. 18, I. 30, IX. 23.

[5] From the Leominster MS. circ. A.D. 1307 (Percy Society, 1842).


The material out of which this selection has been made is principally that immense mass of epigrams known as the Greek Anthology. An account of this celebrated collection and the way in which it was formed will be given presently; here it will be sufficient to say that, in addition to about four hundred Christian epigrams of the Byzantine period, it contains some three thousand seven hundred epigrams of all dates from 700 B.C. to 1000 or even 1200 A.D., preserved in two Byzantine collections, the one probably of the tenth, the other of the fourteenth century, named respectively the Palatine and Planudean Anthologies. The great mass of the contents of both is the same; but the former contains a large amount of material not found in the latter, and the latter a small amount not found in the former.

For much the greatest number of these epigrams the Anthology is the only source. But many are also found cited by various authors or contained among their other works. It is not necessary to pursue this subject into detail. A few typical instances are the citations of the epitaph by Simonides on the three hundred Spartans who fell at Thermopylae, not only by Herodotus[1] but by Diodorus Siculus and Strabo, the former in a historical, the latter in a geographical, work: of the epigram by Plato on the Eretrian exiles[2] by Philostratus in his Life of Apollonius: of many epigrams purporting to be written by philosophers, or actually written upon them and their works, by Diogenes Laërtius in his Lives of the Philosophers. Plutarch among the vast mass of his historical and ethical writings quotes incidentally a considerable number of epigrams. A very large number are quoted by Athenaeus in that treasury of odds and ends, the Deipnosophistae. A great many too are cited in the lexicon which goes under the name of Suidas, and which, beginning at an unknown date, continued to receive additional entries certainly up to the eleventh century.

These same sources supply us with a considerable gleaning of epigrams which either were omitted by the collectors of the Anthology or have disappeared from our copies. The present selection for example includes epigrams found in an anonymous Life of Aeschylus: in the Onamasticon of Julius Pollux, a grammarian of the early part of the third century, who cites from many lost writings for peculiar words or constructions: and from the works of Athenaeus , Diogenes Laërtius, Plutarch, and Suidas mentioned above. The more famous the author of an epigram was, the more likely does it become that his work should be preserved in more than one way. Thus, of the thirty-one epigrams ascribed to Plato, while all but one are found in the Anthology, only seventeen are found in the Anthology alone. Eleven are quoted by Diogenes Laërtius; and thirteen wholly or partially by Athenaeus, Suidas, Apuleius, Philostratus, Gellius, Macrobius, Olympiodorus, Apostolius, and Thomas Magister. On the other hand the one hundred and thirty-four epigrams of Meleager, representing a peculiar side of Greek poetry in a perfection not elsewhere attainable, exist in the Anthology alone.

Beyond these sources, which may be called literary, there is another class of great importance: the monumental. An epigram purports to be an inscription actually carved or written upon some monument or memorial. Since archaeology became systematically studied, original inscriptions, chiefly on marble, are from time to time brought to light, many of which are in elegiac verse. The admirable work of Kaibel[3] has made it superfluous to traverse the vast folios of the Corpus Inscriptionum in search of what may still be hidden there. It supplies us with several epigrams of real literary value; while the best of those discovered before this century are included in appendices to the great works of Brunck and Jacobs. Most of these monumental inscriptions are naturally sepulchral. They are of all ages and countries within the compass of Graeco-Roman civilisation, from the epitaph, magnificent in its simplicity, sculptured on the grave of Cleoetes the Athenian when Athens was still a small and insignificant town, to the last outpourings of the ancient spirit on the tombs reared, among strange gods and barbarous faces, over Paulina of Ravenna or Vibius Licinianus of Nîmes.[4]

It has already been pointed out by how slight a boundary the epigram is kept distinct from other forms of poetry, and how in extreme cases its essence may remain undefinable. The two fragments of Theognis and one of Mimnermus included here[5] illustrate this. They are examples of a large number like them, which are not, strictly speaking, epigrams; being probably passages from continuous poems, selected, at least in the case of Theognis, for an Anthology of his works.

The epigrams extant in literature which are not in the Anthology are, with a few exceptions, collected in the appendix to the edition of Jacobs, and are reprinted from it in modern texts. They are about four hundred in number, and raise the total number of epigrams in the Anthology to about four thousand five hundred; to these must be added at least a thousand inscriptional epigrams, which increase year by year as new explorations are carried on. It is, of course, but seldom that these last have distinct value as poetry. Those of the best period, indeed, and here the best period is the sixth century B.C., have always a certain accent, even when simplest and most matter of fact, which reminds us of the palace whence they came. Their simplicity is more thrilling than any eloquence. From the exotic and elaborate word-embroidery of the poets of the decadence, we turn with relief and delight to work like this, by a father over his son:

{Sema pater Kleoboulos apepsthimeno Xenopsanto thexe tod ant aretes ede saopsrosunes}[6]

(This monument to dead Xenophantus his father Cleobulus set up, for his valour and wisdom);

or this, on an unmarried girl:

{Sema PHrasixleias xoure xexlesomai aiei anti gamou para theon touto lakhous onoma}[7]

(The monument of Phrasicleia; I shall for ever be called maiden, having got this name from the gods instead of marriage.)

So touching in their stately reserve, so piercing in their delicate austerity, these epitaphs are in a sense the perfection of literature, and yet in another sense almost lie outside its limits. For the workmanship here, we feel, is unconscious; and without conscious workmanship there is not art. In Homer, in Sophocles, in all the best Greek work, there is this divine simplicity; but beyond it, or rather beneath it and sustaining it, there is purpose. ———-

[1] Anth. Pal. vii. 249; Hdt. vii. 228.

[2] Ibid. vii. 256.

[3] Epigrammata Graeca ex lapidibus conlecta. Berlin, 1878.

[4] Infra, III. 35, 47; XI. 48.

[5] Infra, XII. 6, 17, 37.

[6] Corp. Inscr. Att. 477 B.

[7] Ibid. 469.


From the invention of writing onwards, the inscriptions on monuments and dedicated offerings supplied one of the chief materials of historical record. Their testimony was used by the earliest historians to supplement and reinforce the oral traditions which they embodied in their works. Herodotus and Thucydides quote early epigrams as authority for the history of past times;[1] and when in the latter part of the fourth century B.C. history became a serious study throughout Greece, collections of inscribed records, whether in prose or verse, began to be formed as historical material. The earliest collection of which anything is certainly known was a work by Philochorus,[2] a distinguished Athenian antiquary who flourished about 300 B.C., entitled Epigramma Attica. It appears to have been a transcript of all the ancient Attic inscriptions dealing with Athenian history, and would include the verses engraved on the tombs of celebrated citizens, or on objects dedicated in the temples on public occasions. A century later, we hear of a work by Polemo, called Periegetes, or the “Guidebook-maker,” entitled {peri ton xata poleis epigrammaton}.[3] This was an attempt to make a similar collection of inscriptions throughout the cities of Greece. Athenaeus also speaks of authors otherwise unknown, Alcetas and Menetor,[4] as having written treatises {peri anathematon}, which would be collections of the same nature confined to dedicatory inscriptions; and, these being as a rule in verse, the books in question were perhaps the earliest collections of monumental poetry. Even less is known with regard to a book “on epigrams” by Neoptolemus of Paris.[5] The history of Anthologies proper begins for us with Meleager of Gadara.

The collection called the Garland of Meleager, which is the basis of the Greek Anthology as we possess it, was formed by him in the early part of the first century B.C. The scholiast on the Palatine MS. says that Meleager flourished in the reign of the last Seleucus ({ekhmasen epi Seleukou tou eskhatou}). This is Seleucus VI. Epiphanes, the last king of the name, who reigned B.C. 95-93; for it is not probable that the reference is to the last Seleucid, Antiochus XIII., who acceded B.C. 69, and was deposed by Pompey when he made Syria a Roman province in B.C. 65. The date thus fixed is confirmed by the fact that the collection included an epigram on the tomb of Antipater of Sidon,[6] who, from the terms in which Cicero alludes to him, must have lived till 110 or even 100 B.C., and that it did not include any of the epigrams of Meleager’s townsman Philodemus of Gadara, the friend of L. Calpurnius Piso, consul in B.C. 58.

This Garland or Anthology has only come down to us as forming the basis of later collections. But the prefatory poem which Meleager wrote for it has fortunately been preserved, and gives us valuable information as to the contents of the Garland. This poem,[7] in which he dedicates his work to his friend or patron Diocles, gives the names of forty-seven poets included by him besides many others of recent times whom he does not specifically enumerate. It runs as follows:

“Dear Muse, for whom bringest thou this gardenful of song, or who is he that fashioned the garland of poets? Meleager made it, and wrought out this gift as a remembrance for noble Diocles, inweaving many lilies of Anyte, and many martagons of Moero, and of Sappho little, but all roses, and the narcissus of Melanippides budding into clear hymns, and the fresh shoot of the vine-blossom of Simonides; twining to mingle therewith the spice-scented flowering iris of Nossis, on whose tablets love melted the wax, and with her, margerain from sweet- breathed Rhianus, and the delicious maiden-fleshed crocus of Erinna, and the hyacinth of Alcaeus, vocal among the poets, and the dark- leaved laurel-spray of Samius, and withal the rich ivy-clusters of Leonidas, and the tresses of Mnasalcas’ sharp pine; and he plucked the spreading plane of the song of Pamphilus, woven together with the walnut shoots of Pancrates and the fair-foliaged white poplar of Tymnes, and the green mint of Nicias, and the horn-poppy of Euphemus growing on these sands; and with these Damagetas, a dark violet, and the sweet myrtle-berry of Callimachus, ever full of pungent honey, and the rose-campion of Euphorion, and the cyclamen of the Muses, him who had his surname from the Dioscori. And with him he inwove Hegesippus, a riotous grape-cluster, and mowed down the scented rush of Perses; and withal the quince from the branches of Diotimus, and the first pomegranate flowers of Menecrates, and the myrrh-twigs of Nicaenetus, and the terebinth of Phaennus, and the tall wild pear of Simmias, and among them also a few flowers of Parthenis, plucked from the blameless parsley-meadow, and fruitful remnants from the honey-dropping Muses, yellow ears from the corn-blade of Bacchylides; and withal Anacreon, both that sweet song of his and his nectarous elegies, unsown honey- suckle; and withal the thorn-blossom of Archilochus from a tangled brake, little drops from the ocean; and with them the young olive- shoots of Alexander, and the dark-blue cornflower of Polycleitus; and among them he laid amaracus, Polystratus the flower of songs, and the young Phoenician cypress of Antipater, and also set therein spiked Syrian nard, the poet who sang of himself as Hermes’ gift; and withal Posidippus and Hedylus together, wild blossoms of the country, and the blowing windflowers of the son of Sicelides; yea, and set therein the golden bough of the ever divine Plato, shining everywhere in excellence, and beside him Aratus the knower of the stars, cutting the first-born spires of that heaven-high palm, and the fair-tressed lotus of Chaeremon mixed with the gilliflower of Phaedimus, and the round ox-eye of Antagoras, and the wine-loving fresh-blown wild thyme of Theodorides, and the bean-blossoms of Phanias, and many newly- scriptured shoots of others; and with them also even from his own Muse some early white violets. But to my friends I give thanks; and the sweet-languaged garland of the Muses is common to all initiate.”

In this list three poets are not spoken of directly by name, but, from metrical or other reasons, are alluded to paraphrastically. “He who had his surname from the Dioscori” is Dioscorides; “the poet who sang of himself as Hermes’ gifts” is Hermodorus; and “the son of Sicelides” is Asclepiades, referred to under the same name by his great pupil Theocritus. The names of these forty-eight poets (including Meleager himself) show that the collection embraced epigrams of all periods from the earliest times up to his own day. Six belong to the early period of the lyric poets, ending with the Persian wars; Archilochus, who flourished about 700 B.C., Sappho and Erinna a century afterwards, Simonides and Anacreon about 500 B.C., and a little later, Bacchylides. Five more belong to the fourth century B.C., the period which begins with the destruction of the Athenian empire and ends with the establishment of the Macedonian kingdoms of the Diadochi. Of these, Plato is still within the Athenian period; Hegesippus, Simmias, Anyte, and Phaedimus, all towards the end of the century, mark the beginning of the Alexandrian period. Four have completely disappeared out of the Anthology as we possess it; Melanippides, a celebrated writer of dithyrambic poetry in the latter half of the fifth century B.C., of which a few fragments survive, and Euphemus, Parthenis, and Polycleitus, of whom nothing whatever is known. The remaining thirty- three poets in Meleager’s list all belong to the Alexandrian period, and bring the series down continuously to Meleager himself.

One of the epigrams in the Anthology of Strato[8] professes to be the colophon {xoronis} to Meleager’s collection; but it is a stupid and clumsy forgery of an obviously later date, probably by Strato himself, or some contemporary, and is not worth quoting. The proem to the Garland is a work of great ingenuity, and contains in single words and phrases many exquisite criticisms. The phrase used of Sappho has become proverbial; hardly less true and pointed are those on Erinna, Callimachus, and Plato. All the flowers are carefully and appropriately chosen with reference to their poets, and the whole is done with the light and sure touch of a critic who is also a poet himself.

A scholiast on the Palatine MS. says that Meleager’s Anthology was arranged in alphabetical order {xata stoikheion}. This seems to mean alphabetical order of epigrams, not of authors; and the statement is borne out by some parts of the Palatine and even of the Planudean Anthologies, where, in spite of the rearrangement under subjects, traces of alphabetical arrangement among the older epigrams are still visible. The words of the scholiast imply that there was no further arrangement by subject. It seems most reasonable to suppose that the epigrams of each author were placed together; but of this there is no direct evidence, nor can any such arrangement be certainly inferred from the state of the existing Anthologies.

The Scholiast, in this same passage, speaks of Meleager’s collection as an {epigrammaton stephanos}, and obviously it consisted in the main of epigrams according to the ordinary definition. But it is curious that Meleager himself nowhere uses the word; and from some phrases in the proem it is difficult to avoid the inference that he included other kinds of minor poetry as well. Too much stress need not be laid on the words {umnos} and {aoide}, which in one form or another are repeatedly used by him; though it is difficult to suppose that “the hymns of Melanippides”, who is known to have been a dithyrambic poet, can mean not hymns but epigrams.[9] But where Anacreon is mentioned, his {melisma} and his elegiac pieces are unmistakably distinguished from each other, and are said to be both included; and this {melisma} must mean lyric poetry of some kind, probably the very hemiambics under the name of Anacreon which are extant as an appendix to the Palatine MS. Meleager’s Anthology also pretty certainly included his own Song of Spring,[10] which is a hexameter poem, though but for the form of verse it might just come within a loose definition of an epigram. Whether it included idyllic poems like the Amor Fugitivus of Moschus[11] it is not possible to determine.

Besides his great Anthology, another, of the same class of contents as that subsequently made by Strato, is often ascribed to Meleager, an epigram in Strato’s Anthology[12] being regarded as the proem to this supposed collection. But there is no external authority whatever for this hypothesis; nor is it necessary to regard this epigram as anything more than a poem commemorating the boys mentioned in it. Eros, not Meleager, is in this case the weaver of the garland.

The next compiler of an Anthology, more than a century after Meleager, was Philippus of Thessalonica. Of this also the proem is preserved.[13] It purports to be a collection of the epigrammatists since Meleager, and is dedicated to the Roman patron of the author, one Camillus. The proem runs thus:

“Having plucked for thee Heliconian flowers, and cut the first-blown blossoms of famous-forested Pieria, and reaped the ears from modern pages, I wove a rival garland, to be like those of Meleager; but do thou, noble Cantillus, who knowest the fame of the older poets, know likewise the short pieces of the younger. Antipater’s corn-ear shall grace our garland, and Crinagoras like an ivy-cluster; Antiphilus shall glow like a grape-bunch, Tullius like melilote, Philodemus like marjoram: and Parmenio myrtle-berries: Antiphanes as a rose: Automedon ivy, Zonas lilies, Bianor oak, Antigonus olive, and Diodorus violet. Liken thou Euenus to laurel, and the multitude woven in with these to what fresh-blown flowers thou wilt.”

One sees here the decline of the art from its first exquisiteness. There is no selection or appropriateness in the names of the flowers chosen, and the verse is managed baldly and clumsily. Philippus’ own epigrams, of which over seventy are extant, are generally rather dull, chiefly school exercises, and, in the phrase of Jacobs, /imitatione magis quam inventione conspicua/. But we owe to him the preservation of a large mass of work belonging to the Roman period. The date of Philippus cannot be fixed very precisely. His own epigrams contain no certain allusion to any date other than the reign of Augustus. Of the poets named in his proem, Antiphanes, Euenus, Parmenio, and Tullius have no date determinable from internal evidence. Antigonus has been sometimes identified with Antigonus of Carystus, the author of the {Paradokon Sunagoge}, who lived in the third century B.C. under Ptolemy Philadelphus or Ptolemy Euergetes; but as this Anthology distinctly professes to be of poets since Meleager, he must be another author of the same name. Antipater of Thessalonica, Bianor, and Diodorus are of the Augustan period; Philodemus, Zonas, and probably Automedon, of the period immediately preceding it. The latest certain allusion in the poems of Antiphilus is to the enfranchisement of Rhodes by Nero in A.D. 53.[14] One of the epigrams under the name of Automedon in the Anthology[15] is on the rhetorician Nicetas, the teacher of the younger Pliny. But there are at least two poets of the name, Automedon of Aetolia and Automedon of Cyzicus, and the former, who is pre-Roman, may be the one included by Philippus. If so, we need not, with Jacobs, date this collection in the reign of Trajan, at the beginning of the second century, but may place it with greater probability half a century earlier, under Nero.

In the reign of Hadrian the grammarian Diogenianus of Heraclea edited an Anthology of epigrams,[16] but nothing is known of it beyond the name. The Anthology contains a good deal of work which may be referred to this period.

The first of the appendices to the Palatine Anthology is the {Paidike Mousa} of Strato of Sardis. The compiler apologises in a prefatory note for including it, excusing himself with the line of Euripides,[17] {e ge sopsron ou diapstharesetai}. It was a new Anthology of epigrams dealing with this special subject from the earliest period downwards. As we possess it, Strato’s collection includes thirteen of the poets named in the Garland of Meleager (including Meleager himself), two of those named in the Garland of Philippus, and ten other poets, none of them of much mark, and most of unknown date; the most interesting being Alpheus of Mitylene, who from the style and contents of his epigrams seems to have lived about the time of Hadrian, but may possibly be an Augustan poet. Strato is mentioned by Diogenes Laërtius,[18] who wrote at the beginning of the third century; and his own epigram on the physician Artemidorus Capito,[19] who was a contemporary of Hadrian, fixes his approximate date.

How far we possess Strato’s collection in its original form it is impossible to decide. Jacobs says he cannot attempt to determine whether Cephalas took it in a lump or made a selection from it, or whether he kept the order of the epigrams. As they stand they have no ascertainable principle of arrangement, alphabetical or of author or of subject. The collection consists of two hundred and fifty-nine epigrams, of which ninety-four are by Strato himself and sixty by Meleager. It has either been carelessly formed, or suffered from interpolation afterwards. Some of the epigrams are foreign to the subject of the collection. Six are on women;[20] and four of these are on women whose names end in the diminutive form, Phanion, Callistion, etc., which suggests the inference that they were inserted at a late date and by an ignorant transcriber who confused these with masculine forms. For all the epigrams of Strato’s collection the Anthology is the only source.

In the three hundred years between Strato and Agathias no new Anthology is known to have been made.

The celebrated Byzantine poet and historian Agathias, son of Mamnonius of Myrina, came to Constantinople as a young man to study law in the year 554. In the preface to his History he tells us that he formed a new collection of recent and contemporary epigrams previously unpublished,[21] in seven books, entitled {Kuklos}. His proem to the Cyclus is extant.[22] It consists of forty-six iambics followed by eighty-seven hexameters, and describes the collection under the symbolism no longer of a flower-garden, but of a feast to which different persons bring contributions ({ou stepsanos alla sunagoge}), a metaphor which is followed out with unrelenting tediousness. The piece is not worth transcription here. He says he includes his own epigrams. After a panegyric on the greatness of the empire of Justinian, and the foreign and domestic peace of his reign, he ends by describing the contents of the collection. Book I. contains dedications in the ancient manner, {os proterois makaressin aneimena}: for Agathias was himself a Christian, and indeed the old religion had completely died out even before Justinian closed the schools of Athens. Book II. contains epigrams on statues, pictures, and other works of art; Book III., sepulchral epigrams; Book IV., epigrams “on the manifold paths of life, and the unstable scales of fortune,” corresponding to the section of {Protreptika} in the Palatine Anthology; Book V., irrisory epigrams; Book VI. amatory epigrams; and Book VII., convivial epigrams. Agathias, so far as we know, was the first who made this sort of arrangement under subjects, which, with modifications, has generally been followed afterwards. His Anthology is lost; and probably perished soon after that of Cephalas was made.

Constantinus Cephalas, a grammarian unknown except from the Palatine MS., began again from the beginning. The scholiast to the Garland of Meleager in that MS., after saying that Meleager’s Anthology was arranged in alphabetical order, goes on as follows:–“but Constantinus, called Cephalas, broke it up, and distributed it under different heads, viz., the love-poems separately, and the dedications and epitaphs, and epideictic pieces, as they are now arranged below in this book.”[23] We must assume that with this rearranged Anthology he incorporated those of Philippus and Agathias, unless, which is not probable, we suppose that the Palatine Anthology is one enlarged from that of Cephalas by some one else completely unknown.

As to the date of Cephalas there is no certain indication. Suidas apparently quotes from his Anthology; but even were we certain that these quotations are not made from original sources, his lexicon contains entries made at different times over a space of several centuries. A scholium to one of the epigrams[24] of Alcaeus of Messene speaks of a discussion on it by Cephalas which took place in the School of the New Church at Constantinople. This New Church was built by the Emperor Basil I. (reigned 867-876). Probably Cephalas lived in the reign of Constantine VII. Porphyrogenitus (911-959), who had a passion for art and literature, and is known to have ordered the compilation of books of excerpts. Gibbon gives an account of the revival of learning which took place under his influence, and of the relations of his Court with that of the Western Empire of Otto the Great.

The arrangement in the Anthology of Cephalas is founded on that of Agathias. But alongside of the arrangement under subjects we frequently find strings of epigrams by the same author with no particular connection in subject, which are obviously transcribed directly from a collected edition of his poems.

Maximus Planudes, theologian, grammarian, and rhetorician, lived in the early part of the fourteenth century; in 1327 he was appointed ambassador to the Venetian Republic by Andronicus II. Among his works were translations into Greek of Augustine’s City of God and Caesar’s Gallic War. The restored Greek Empire of the Palaeologi was then fast dropping to pieces. The Genoese colony of Pera usurped the trade of Constantinople and acted as an independent state; and it brings us very near the modern world to remember that while Planudes was the contemporary of Petrarch and Doria, Andronicus III., the grandson and successor of Andronicus II., was married, as a suitable match, to Agnes of Brunswick, and again after her death to Anne of Savoy.

Planudes made a new Anthology in seven books, founded on that of Cephalas, but with many alterations and omissions. Each book is divided into chapters which are arranged alphabetically by subject, with the exception of the seventh book, consisting of amatory epigrams, which is not subdivided. In a prefatory note to this book he says he has omitted all indecent or unseemly epigrams, {polla en to antigrapso onta}. This {antograpso} was the Anthology of Cephalas. The contents of the different books are as follows:

Book I.–{Epideiktika}, in ninety-one chapters; from the {Epideiktika} of Cephalas, with additions from his {Anathematika} and {Protreptika}, and twelve new epigrams on statues.

Book II.–{Skoptika}, in fifty-three chapters; from the {Sumpotika kai Skoptika} and the {Mousa Stratonos} of Cephalas, with six new epigrams.

Book III.–{Epitumbia}, in thirty-two chapters; from the {Epitumbia} of Cephalas, which are often transcribed in the original order, with thirteen new epigrams.

Book IV.–Epigrams on monuments, statues, animals, and places, in thirty-three chapters; some from the {Epideiktika} of Cephalas, but for the greater part new.

Book V.–Christodorus’ description of the statues in the gymnasium called Zeuxippus, and a collection of epigrams in the Hippodrome at Constantinople; from appendices to the Anthology of Cephalas.

Book VI.–{Anathematika}, in twenty-seven chapters; from the {Anathematika} of Cephalas, with four new epigrams.

Book VII.–{Erotika}; from the {Erotika} of Cephalas, with twenty-six new epigrams.

Obviously then the Anthology of Planudes was almost wholly taken from that of Cephalas, with the exception of epigrams on works of art, which are conspicuously absent from the earlier collection as we possess it. As to these there is only one conclusion. It is impossible to account for Cephalas having deliberately omitted this class of epigrams; it is impossible to account for their re-appearance in Planudes, except on the supposition that we have lost a section of the earlier Anthology which included them. The Planudean Anthology contains in all three hundred and ninety-seven epigrams, which are not in the Palatine MS. of Cephalas. It is in these that its principal value lies. The vitiated taste of the period selected later and worse in preference to earlier and better epigrams; the compilation was made carelessly and, it would seem, hurriedly, the earlier part of the sections of Cephalas being largely transcribed and the latter part much less fully, as though the editor had been pressed for time or lost interest in the work as he went on. Not only so, but he mutilated the text freely, and made sweeping conjectural restorations where it was imperfect. The discrepancies too in the authorship assigned to epigrams are so frequent and so striking that they can only be explained by great carelessness in transcription; especially as internal evidence where it can be applied almost uniformly supports the headings of the Palatine Anthology.

Such as it was, however, the Anthology of Planudes displaced that of Cephalas almost at once, and remained the only MS. source of the anthology until the seventeenth century. The other entirely disappeared, unless a copy of it was the manuscript belonging to Angelo Colloti, seen and mentioned by the Roman scholar and antiquarian Fulvio Orsini (b. 1529, d. 1600) about the middle of the sixteenth century, and then again lost to view. The Planudean Anthology was first printed at Florence in 1484 by the Greek scholar, Janus Lascaris, from a good MS. It continued to be reprinted from time to time, the last edition being the five sumptuous quarto volumes issued from the press of Wild and Altheer at Utrecht, 1795-1822.

In the winter of 1606-7, Salmasius, then a boy of eighteen but already an accomplished scholar, discovered a manuscript of the Anthology of Cephalas in the library of the Counts Palatine at Heidelberg. He copied from it the epigrams hitherto unknown, and these began to be circulated in manuscript under the name of the Anthologia Inedita. The intention he repeatedly expressed of editing the whole work was never carried into effect. In 1623, on the capture of Heidelberg by the Archduke Maximilian of Bavaria in the Thirty Years’ War, this with many other MSS. and books was sent by him to Rome as a present to Pope Gregory XV., and was placed in the Vatican Library. It remained there till it was taken to Paris by order of the French Directory in 1797, and was restored to the Palatine Library after the end of the war.

The description of this celebrated manuscript, the Codex Palatinus or Vaticanus, as it has been named from the different places of its abode, is as follows: it is a long quarto, on parchment, of 710 pages, together with a page of contents and three other pages glued on at the beginning. There are three hands in it. The table of contents and pages 1-452 and 645-704 in the body of the MS. are in a hand of the eleventh century; the middle of the MS., pages 453-644, is in a later hand; and a third, later than both, has written the last six pages and the three odd pages at the beginning, has added a few epigrams in blank spaces, and has made corrections throughout the MS.

The index, which is of great importance towards the history not only of the MS. but of the Anthology generally, runs as follows:–

{Tade enestin en tede te biblo ton epigrammaton

A. Nonnou poirtou Panopolitou ekphrasis tou kata Ioannen agiou euaggeliou.
B. Paulou poirtou selantiariou (sic) uiou Kurou ekphrasis eis ten megalen ekklesian ete ten agian Sophian. G. Sullogai epigrammaton Khristianikon eis te naous kai eikonas kai eis diaphora anathemata.
D. Khristodorou poietou Thebaiou ekphrasis ton agalmaton ton eis to demosion gumnasion tou epikaloumenou Zeuxippou. E. Meleagou poietou Palaistinou stephanos diaphoron epigrammaton. S. Philippou poietou Thessalonikeos stephanos omoios diaphoron epigrammaton.
Z. Agathiou skholastikou Asianou Murenaiou sulloge neon epigrammaton ektethenton en Konstantinoupolei pros Theodoron Dekouriona. esti de e taxis ton epigrammaton egoun diairesis outos. a. prote men e ton Khristianon.
b. deutera de e ta Khristodorou periekhousa tou Thebaiou. g. trete (sic) de arkhen men ekhousa ten ton erotikon epigrammaton upothesin.
d. e ton anathematikon.
e. pempte e ton epitumbion.
s. e ton epideiktikon.
z. ebdome e ton pretreptikon.
e. e ton skoptikon.
th. ebdome e ton protreptikon.
i. diaphoron metron diaphora epigrammata. ia. arithmetika kai grepha summikta.
ib. Ioannou grammatikou Gazes ekphrasis tou kosmikou pinakos tou en kheimerio loutro.
ig. Surigx Theokritou kai pteruges Simmiou Dosiada bomos Besantinou oon kai pelekus.
id. Anakreontos Teiou Sumposiaka emiambia kai Anakreontia kai trimetra.
ie. Tou agiou Gregoriou tou theologou ek ton epon eklogai diaphorai en ois kai ta Arethou kai Anastasiou kai Ignatiou kai Konstantinou kai Theophanous keintai epigrammata.}

This index must have been transcribed from the index of an earlier MS. It differs from the actual contents of the MS. in the following respects:–

The hexameter paraphrase of S. John’s Gospel by Nonnus is not in the MS., having perhaps been torn off from the beginning of it.

After the description of S. Sophia by Paulus Silentiarius, follow in the MS. select poems of S. Gregorius.

After the description by Christodorus of the statues in the gymnasium of Zeuxippus follows a collection of nineteen epigrams inscribed below carved reliefs in the temple of Apollonis, mother of Attalus and Eumenes kings of Pergamus, at Cyzicus.

After the proem to the Anthology of Agathias follows another epigram of his, apparently the colophon to his collection.

The book of Christian epigrams and that of poems by Christodorus of Thebes are wanting in the MS.

Between the /Sepulcralia/ and /Epideictica/ is inserted a collection of 254 epigrams by S. Gregorius.

John of Gaza’s description of the Mappa Mundi in the winter baths is wanting in the MS.

After the miscellaneous Byzantine epigrams, which form the last entry in the index, is a collection of epigrams in the Hippodrome at Constantinople.

The Palatine MS. then is a copy from another lost MS. And the lost MS. itself was not the archetype of Cephalas. From a prefatory note to the /Dedicatoria/, taken in connection with the three iambic lines prefixed to the /Amatoria/, it is obvious that the /Amatoria/ formed the first section of the Anthology of Cephalas, preceded, no doubt, by the three proems of Meleager, Philippus, and Agathias as prefatory matter. The first four headings in the index, therefore, represent matter subsequently added. Whether all the small appendices at the end of the MS. were added to the Anthology by Cephalas or by a later hand it is not possible to determine. With or without these appendices, the work of Cephalas consisted of six sections of {Erotika}, {Anathematika}, {Epitumbia}, {Epideiktica}, {Protreptika} and {Eumpotika kai Skoptika}, with the {Mousa Stratonos}, and probably, as we have already seen, a lost section containing epigrams on works of art. At the beginning of the sepulchral epigrams there is a marginal note in the MS., in the corrector’s hand, speaking of Cephalas as then dead.[25] Another note, added by the same hand on the margin of vii. 432, says that our MS. had been collated with another belonging to one Michael Magister, which was copied by him with his own hand from the book of Cephalas.

The extracts made by Salmasius remained for long the only source accessible to scholars for the contents of the Palatine Anthology. Jacobs, when re-editing Brunck’s /Analecta/, obtained a copy of the MS., then in the Vatican library, from Uhden, the Prussian ambassador at Rome; and from another copy, afterwards made at his instance by Spaletti, he at last edited the Anthology in its complete form. ———-

[1] Cf. especially Hdt. v. 59, 60, 77; Thuc. i. 132, vi. 54, 59.

[2] Suid. s.v. {PHilokhoros}.

[3] Athen. x. 436 D., 442 E.

[4] Athen. xiii. 591 C, 594 D.

[5] Ibid. x. 454 F. The date of Neoptolemus is uncertain; he probably lived in the second century B.C.

[6] Anth. Pol. vii. 428; Cic. Or. iii. 194, Pis. 68-70.

[7] Ibid. iv. 1.

[8] Anth. Pal. xii. 257.

[9] Melanippides, however, also wrote epigrams according to Suidas, s.v., and the phrase of Meleager may mean “the epigrams of this poet who was celebrated as a hymn-writer”.

[10] Anth. Pal. ix. 363.

[11] Ibid. ix. 440.

[12] Ibid. xii. 256.

[13] Anth. Pal. iv. 2.

[14] Anth. Pal. ix. 178.

[15] Ibid. x. 23.

[16] Suidas s.v. {Diogenianos}.

[17] Bacch. 318.

[18] v. 61.

[19] Anth. Pal. xi. 117.

[20] Anth. Pal. xvi. 53, 82, 114, 131, 147, 173.

[21] Agathias, Hist. i. 1: {ton epigrammaton ta artigene kai neotera oialanthanonti eti kai khuden outosi par eniois upophithurizomena}. Cf. also Suidas, s.v. {Agathias}.

[22] Anth. Pal. iv. 3.

[23] Schol. on Anth. Pal. iv. 1.

[24] Anth. Pal. vii. 429.

[25] {Konstantinos o Kephalas o makarios kai aeimnestos kai tripothetos anthrepos}.


When any selection of minor poetry is made, the principle of arrangement is one of the first difficulties. In dealing with the Greek epigram, the matter before us, as has been said already, consists of between five and six thousand pieces, all in the same metre, and varying in length from two to twenty-eight lines,[1] but rarely exceeding twelve. No principle of arrangement can therefore be based on the form of the poems. There are three other plans possible; a simply arbitrary order, an arrangement by authorship, or an arrangement by subject. The first, if we believe the note in the Palatine MS. already quoted, was adopted by Meleager in the alphabetical arrangement of his Garland; but beyond the uncommon variety it must give to the reader, it seems to have little to recommend it. The Anthologies of Cephalas and Planudes are both arranged by subject, but with considerable differences. The former, if we omit the unimportant sections and the Christian epigrams, consists of seven large sections in the following order:

(1) {Erotika}, amatory pieces. This heading requires no comment.

(2) {Anathematika}, dedicatory pieces, consisting of votive prayers and dedications proper.

(3) {Epitumbia}, sepulchral pieces: consisting partly of epitaphs real or imaginary, partly of epigrams on death or on dead persons in a larger scope. Thus it includes the epigram on the Lacedaemonian mother who killed her son for returning alive from an unsuccessful battle;[2] that celebrating the magnificence of the tomb of Semiramis;[3] that questioning the story as to the leap of Empedocles into Etna;[4] and a large number which might equally well come under the next head, being eulogies on celebrated authors and artists.

(4) {Epideiktika}, epigrams written as {epideixeis}, poetical exercises or show-pieces. This section is naturally the longest and much the most miscellaneous. There is indeed hardly any epigram which could not be included in it. Remarkable objects in nature or art, striking events, actual or imaginary, of present and past times, moral sentences, and criticisms on particular persons and things or on life generally; descriptive pieces; stories told in verse; imaginary speeches of celebrated persons on different occasions, with such titles as “what Philomela would say to Procne,” “what Ulysses would say when he landed in Ithaca”; inscriptions for houses, baths, gardens, temples, pictures, statues, gems, clocks, cups: such are among the contents, though not exhausting them.

(5) {Protreptika}, hortatory pieces; the “criticism of life” in the direct sense.

(6) {Sumpotika kai Skoptika}, convivial and humorous epigrams.

(7) The {Mousa paidike Stratonos} already spoken of. Along with these, as we have seen, there was in all probability an eighth section now lost, containing epigrams on works of art.

Within each of these sections, the principle of arrangement, where it exists at all, is very loose; and either the compilation was carelessly made at first, or it has been considerably disordered in transcription. Sometimes a number of epigrams by the same author succeed one another, as though copied directly from a collection where each author’s work was placed separately; sometimes, on the other hand, a number on the same subject by authors of different periods come together.[5] Epigrams occasionally are put under wrong headings. For example, a dedication by Leonidas of Alexandria is followed in the /Dedicatoria/ by another epigram of his on Oedipus;[6] an imaginary epitaph on Hesiod in the /Sepulcralia/ by one on the legendary contest between Hesiod and Homer;[7] and the lovely fragment of pastoral on Love keeping Thyrsis’ sheep[8] comes oddly in among epitaphs. The epideictic section contains a number of epigrams which would be more properly placed in one or another of all the rest of the sections; and the /Musa Stratonis/ has several which happily in no way belong to it. There is no doubt a certain charm to the very confusion of the order, which gives great variety and unexpectedness; but for practical purposes a more accurate classification is desirable.

The Anthology of Planudes attempts, in a somewhat crude form, to supply this. Each of the six books, with the exception of the {Erotika}, which remain as is in the Palatine Anthology, is subdivided into chapters according to subject, the chapters being arranged alphabetically by headings. Thus the list of chapters in Book I. begins, {eis agonas}, {eis ampelon}, {eis anathemata}, {eis anaperous}, and ends {eis phronesin}, {eis phrontidas}, {eis khronon}, {eis oras}.

On the other hand, Brunck, in his /Analecta/, the arrangement of which is followed by Jacobs in the earlier of his two great works, recast the whole scheme, placing all epigrams by the same author together, with those of unknown authorship at the end. This method presents definite advantages when the matter in hand is a complete collection of the works of the epigrammatists. With these smaller, as with the more important works of literature, it is still true that a poet is his own best commentator, and that by a complete single view of all his pieces we are able to understand each one of them better. A counter-argument is the large mass of {adespota} thus left in a heap at the end. In Jacobs there are upwards of 750 of these, most of them not assignable to any certain date; and they have to be arranged roughly by subject. Another is the fact that a difficulty still remains as to the arrangement of the authors. Of many of the minor epigrammatists we know absolutely nothing from external sources; and it is often impossible to determine from internal evidence the period, even within several centuries, at which an epigram was written, so little did the style and diction alter between the early Alexandrian and the late Byzantine period. Still the advantages are too great to be outweighed by these considerations.

But in a selection, an Anthology of the Anthology, the reasons for such an arrangement no longer exist, and some sort of arrangement by subject is plainly demanded. It would be possible to follow the old divisions of the Palatine Anthology with little change but for the epideictic section. This is not a natural division, and is not satisfactory in its results. It did not therefore seem worthwhile to adhere in other respects to the old classification except where it was convenient; and by a new and somewhat more detailed division, it has been attempted to give a closer unity to each section, and to make the whole of them illustrate progressively the aspect of the ancient world. Sections I., II., and VI. of the Palatine arrangement just given are retained, under the headings of Love, Prayers and Dedications, and the Human Comedy. It proved convenient to break up Section III., that of sepulchral epigrams, which would otherwise have been much the largest of the divisions, into two sections, one of epitaphs proper, the other dealing with death more generally. A limited selection from Section VII. has been retained under a separate heading, Beauty. Section V., with additions from many other sources, was the basis of a division dealing with the Criticism of Life; while Section IV., together with what was not already classed, fell conveniently under five heads: Nature, and in antithesis to it, Art and Literature; Family Life; and the ethical view of things under the double aspect of Religion on the one hand, and on the other, the blind and vast forces of Fate and Change.

[1] Single lines are excluded by the definition; Anth. Pal. ix. 482 appears to be the longest piece in the Anthology which can properly be called an epigram.

[2] Anth. Pal. vii. 433.

[3] Ibid. vii. 748.

[4] Ibid. vii. 124.

[5] Cf. especially Anth. Pal. vi. 179-187; ix. 713-742.

[6] Anth. Pal. vi. 322, 323.

[7] Ibid. vii. 52, 53.

[8] Ibid. vii. 703.


The literary treatment of the passion of love is one of the matters in which the ancient stands furthest apart from the modern world. Perhaps the result of love in human lives differs but little from one age to another; but the form in which it is expressed (which is all that literature has to do with) was altered in Western Europe in the middle ages, and ever since then we have spoken a different language. And the subject is one in which the feeling is so inextricably mixed up with the expression that a new language practically means a new actual world of things. Of nothing is it so true that emotion is created by expression. The enormous volume of expression developed in modern times by a few great poets and a countless number of prose writers has reacted upon men and women; so certain is it that thought follows language, and life copies art. And so here more than elsewhere, though the rule applies to the whole sphere of human thought and action, we have to expect in Greek literature to find much latent and implicit which since then has become patent and prominent; much intricate psychology not yet evolved; much–as is the truth of everything Greek –stated so simply and directly, that we, accustomed as we are to more complex and highly organised methods of expression, cannot without some difficulty connect it with actual life, or see its permanent truth. Yet to do so is just the value of studying Greek; for the more simple the forms or ideas of life are, the better are we able to put them in relation with one another, and so to unify life. And this unity is the end which all human thought pursues.

Greek literature itself however may in this matter be historically subdivided. In its course we can fix landmarks, and trace the entrance and working of one and another fresh element. The Homeric world, the noblest and the simplest ever conceived on earth; the period of the great lyric poets; that of the dramatists, philosophers and historians, which may be called the Athenian period; the hardly less extraordinary ages that followed, when Greek life and language overspread and absorbed the whole Mediterranean world, mingling with East and West alike, making a common meeting-place for the Jew and the Celt, the Arab and the Roman; these four periods, though they have a unity in the fact that they are all Greek, are yet separated in other ways by intervals as great as those which divide Virgil from Dante, or Chaucer from Milton.

In the Iliad and Odyssey little is said about love directly; and yet it is not to be forgotten that the moving force of the Trojan war was the beauty of Helen, and the central interest of the return of Odysseus is the passionate fidelity of Penelope.[1] Yet more than this; when the poet has to speak of the matter, he never fails to rise to the occasion in a way that even now we can see to be unsurpassable. The Achilles of the Iliad may speak scornfully of Briseïs, as insufficient cause to quarrel on;[2] the silver-footed goddess, set above all human longings, regards the love of men and women from her icy heights with a light passionless contempt.[3] But in the very culminating point of the death-struggle between Achilles and Hector, it is from the whispered talk of lovers that the poet fetches the utmost touch of beauty and terror;[4] and it is in speaking to the sweetest and noblest of all the women of poetry that Odysseus says the final word that has yet been said of married happiness.[5]

In this heroic period love is only spoken of incidentally and allusively. The direct poetry of passion belongs to the next period, only known to us now by scanty fragments, “the spring-time of song,”[6] the period of the great lyric poets of the sixth and seventh centuries B.C. There human passion and emotion had direct expression, and that, we can judge from what is left to us, the fullest and most delicate possible. Greek life then must have been more beautiful than at any other time; and the Greek language, much as it afterwards gained in depth and capacity of expressing abstract thought, has never again the same freshness, as though steeped in dew and morning sunlight. Sappho alone, that unique instance of literature where from a few hundred fragmentary lines we know certainly that we are in face of one of the great poets of the world, expressed the passion of love in a way which makes the language of all other poets grow pallid: /ad quod cum iungerent purpuras suas, cineris specie decolorari videbantur ceterae divini comparatione fulgoris/.[7]

{eraman men ego sethen, Atthi, palai pota–}[8]

such simple words that have all sadness in their lingering cadences;

{Oion to glukumalon ereuthetai–
Er eti parthenias epiballomai;
Ou gar en atera pais, o gambre, toiauta–}[9]

the poetry of pure passion has never reached further than this.

But with the vast development of Greek thought and art in the fifth century B.C., there seems to have come somehow a stiffening of Greek life; the one overwhelming interest of the City absorbing individual passion and emotion, as the interest of logic and metaphysics absorbed history and poetry. The age of Thucydides and Antipho is not one in which the emotions have a change; and at Athens especially–of other cities we can only speak from exceedingly imperfect knowledge, but just at this period Athens means Greece–the relations between men and women are even under Pericles beginning to be vulgarised. In the great dramatic poets love enters either as a subsidiary motive somewhat severely and conventionally treated, as in the Antigone of Sophocles, or, as in the Phaedra and Medea of Euripides, as part of a general study of psychology. It would be foolish to attempt to defend the address of the chorus in the Antigone to Eros,[10] if regarded as the language of passion; and even if regarded as the language of criticism, it is undeniably frigid. Contrasted with the great chorus in the same play,[11] where Sophocles is dealing with a subject that he really cares about, it sounds almost artificial. And in Euripides, psychology occupies the whole of the interest that is not already preoccupied by logic and rhetoric; these were the arts of life, and with these serious writing dealt; with the heroism of Macaria, even with the devotion of Alcestis, personal passion has but little to do.

With the immense expansion of the Greek world that followed the political extinction of Greece Proper, there came a relaxation of this tension. Feeling grew humaner; social and family life reassumed their real importance; and gradually there grew up a thing till then unknown in the world, and one the history of which yet remains to be written, the romantic spirit. Pastoral poetry, with its passionate sense of beauty in nature, reacted on the sense of beauty in simple human life. The Idyls of Theocritus are full of a new freshness of feeling: {epei k esores tas parthenos oia gelanti}[12]–this is as alien from the Athenian spirit as it approaches the feeling of a medieval romance- writer: and in the Pharmaceutriae pure passion, but passion softened into exquisite forms, is once more predominant.[13] It is in this age then that we naturally find the most perfect examples of the epigram of love. In the lyric period the epigram was still mainly confined to its stricter sphere, that of inscriptions for tombs and dedicated offerings: in the great Athenian age the direct treatment of love was almost in abeyance. Just on the edge of this last period, as is usual in a time of transition, there are exquisite premonitions of the new art. The lovely hexameter fragment[14] preserved in the Anthology under the name of Plato, and not unworthy of so great a parentage, anticipates the manner and the cadences of Theocritus; and one or two of the amatory epigrams that are probably Plato’s might be Meleager’s, but for the severe perfection of language that died with Greek freedom. But it is in the Alexandrian period that the epigram of love flowers out; and it is at the end of that period, where the Greek spirit was touched by Oriental passion, that it culminates in Meleager.

We possess about a hundred amatory epigrams by this poet. Inferior perhaps in clearness of outline and depth of insight to those of the Alexandrian poet Asclepiades, they are unequalled in the width of range, the profusion of imagination, the subtlety of emotion with which they sound the whole lyre of passion. Meleager was born in a Syrian town and educated at Tyre in the last age of the Seleucid empire; and though he writes Greek with perfect mastery, it becomes in his hands almost a new language, full of dreams, at once more languid and more passionate. It was the fashion among Alexandrian poets to experiment in language; and Callimachus had in this way brought the epigram to the most elaborate jewel-finish; but in the work of Callimachus and his contemporaries the pure Greek tradition still survives. In Meleager, the touch of Asiatic blood creates a new type, delicate, exotic, fantastic. Art is no longer restrained and severe. The exquisite austerity of Greek poetry did not outlive the greatness of Athens; its perfect clearness of outline still survived in Theocritus; here both are gone. The atmosphere is loaded with a steam of perfumes, and with still unimpaired ease and perfection of hand there has come in a strain of the quality which of all qualities is the most remote from the Greek spirit, mysticism. Some of Meleager’s epigrams are direct and simple, even to coarseness; but in all the best and most characteristic there is this vital difference from purely Greek art, that love has become a religion; the spirit of the East has touched them. It is this that makes Meleager so curiously akin to the medieval poets. Many of his turns of thought, many even of his actual expressions, have the closest parallel in poets of the fourteenth century who had never read a line of his work nor heard of his name. As in them, the religion of love is reduced to a theology; no subtlety, no fluctuation of fancy or passion is left unregistered, alike in their lighter and their graver moods. Sometimes the feeling is buried in masses of conceits, sometimes it is eagerly passionate, but even then always with an imaginative and florid passion, never directly as Sappho or Catullus is direct. Love appears in a hundred shapes amidst a shower of fantastic titles and attributes. Out of all the epithets that Meleager coins for him, one, set in a line of hauntingly liquid and languid rhythm, “delicate-sandalled,”[15] gives the key-note to the rest. Or again, he often calls him {glukupikros}, “bittersweet”;[16] at first he is like wine mingled with honey for sweetness, but as he grows and becomes more tyrannous, his honey scorches and stings; and the lover, “set on fire and drenched to swooning with his ointments,” drinks from a deeper cup and mingles his wine with burning tears.[17] Love the Reveller goes masking with the lover through stormy winter nights;[18] Love the Ball-player tosses hearts for balls in his hands;[19] Love the Runaway lies hidden in a lady’s eyes;[20] Love the Healer soothes with a touch the wound that his own dart has made;[21] Love the Artist sets his signature beneath the soul which he has created;[22] Love the Helmsman steers the soul, like a winged boat, over the perilous seas of desire;[23] Love the Child, playing idly with his dice at sundawn, throws lightly for human lives.[24] Now he is a winged boy with childish bow and quiver, swift of laughter and speech and tears;[25] now a fierce god with flaming arrows, before whom life wastes away like wax in the fire, Love the terrible, Love the slayer of men.[26] The air all round him is heavy with the scent of flowers and ointments; violets and myrtle, narcissus and lilies, are woven into his garlands, and the rose, “lover-loving” as Meleager repeatedly calls it in one of his curious new compound epithets,[27] is perpetually about him, and rains its petals over the banqueting-table and the myrrh-drenched doorway.[28] For a moment Meleager can be piercingly simple; and then the fantastic mood comes over him again, and emotion dissolves in a mist of metaphors. But even when he is most fantastic the unfailing beauty of his rhythms and grace of his language remind us that we are still in the presence of a real art.

The pattern set by Meleager was followed by later poets; and little more would remain to say were it not necessary to notice the brief renascence of amatory poetry in the sixth century. The poets of that period take a high place in the second rank; and one, Paulus Silentiarius, has a special interest among them as being at once the most antique in his workmanship and the most modern in his sentiment. One of his epigrams is like an early poem of Shakespeare’s;[29] another has in a singular degree the manner and movement of a sonnet by Rossetti.[30] This group of epigrammatists brought back a phantom of freshness into the old forms; once more the epigram becomes full of pretty rhythms and fancies, but they are now more artificial; set beside work of the best period they come out clumsy and heavy. Language is no longer vivid and natural; the colour is a little dimmed, the tone a little forced. As the painter’s art had disappeared into that of the worker in mosaic, so the language of poetry was no longer a living stream, but a treasury of glittering words. Verse- writers studied it carefully and used it cleverly, but never could make up for the want of free movement of hand by any laborious minuteness of tessellation. Yet if removed from the side of their great models they are graceful enough, with a prettiness that recalls and probably in many cases is copied from the novelists of the fourth century; and sometimes it is only a touch of the diffuseness inseparable from all Byzantine writing that separates their work in quality from that of an earlier period.

After Justinian the art practically died out. The pedantic rigour of Byzantine scholarship was little favourable to the poetry of emotion, and the spoken language had now fallen so far apart from the literary idiom that only scholars were capable of writing in the old classical forms. The popular love-poetry, if it existed, has perished and left no traces; henceforth, for the five centuries that elapsed till the birth of Provençal and Italian poetry, love lay voiceless, as though entranced and entombed.

[1] Cf. Il. iii. 156; Anth. Pal. ix. 166.

[2] Il. i. 298.

[3] Il. xxiv. 130.

[4] Il. xxii. 126-8.

[5] Od. vi. 185.

[6] {ear umnon}, Anth. Pal. vii. 12.

[7] Vopisc. Aurel. c. 29.

[8] Frag. 33 Bergk.

[9] Fragg. 93, 102, 106 Bergk.

[10] ll. 781, foll.

[11] ll. 332, foll.

[12] Theocr. i. 85.

[13] ll. 105-110 of this poem set beside Sappho, Fr. ii. ll. 9-16, Bergk, are a perfect example of the pastoral in contrast with the lyrical treatment.

[14] App. Plan. 210.

[15] Anth. Pal. xii. 158, {soi me, Theokleis, abropedilos Eros gumnon upestoresen}.

[16] Ibid. xii. 109; cf. v. 163, 172; xii. 154.

[17] Ibid. xii. 132, 164.

[18] Ibid. xii. 167.

[19] Ibid. v. 214.

[20] Ibid. v. 177.

[21] Ibid. v. 225.

[22] Ibid. v. 155.

[23] Ibid. xii. 157.

[24] Anth. Pal. xii. 47.

[25] Ibid. v. 177.

[26] Ibid. v. 176, 180; xii. 72.

[27] Ibid. v. 136, 147.

[28] Ibid. v. 147, 198.

[29] Ibid. v. 241; cf. Passionate Pilgrim, xiv., xv.

[30] App. Plan. 278.


Closely connected with the passion of love as conceived by Greek writers is a subject which continually meets us in Greek literature, and which fills so large a part of the Anthology that it can hardly be passed over without notice. The few epigrams selected from the Anthology of Strato and included in this collection under the heading of Beauty are not of course a representative selection. Of the great mass of those epigrams no selection is possible or desirable. They belong to that side of Greek life which is akin to the Oriental world, and remote and even revolting to the western mind. And on this subject the common moral sense of civilised mankind has pronounced a judgment which requires no justification as it allows of no appeal.

But indeed the whole conception of Eros the boy, familiar as it sounds to us from the long continued convention of literature, is, if we think of its origin or meaning, quite alien from our own habit of life and thought. Even in the middle ages it cohered but ill with the literary view of the relations between men and women in poetry and romance; hardly, except where it is raised into a higher sphere by the associations of religion, as in the friezes of Donatello, is it quite natural, and now, apart from what remains of these same associations, the natural basis of the conception is wholly obsolete. Since the fashion of squires and pages, inherited from the feudal system, ceased with the decay of the Renaissance, there has been nothing in modern life which even remotely suggests it. We still–such is the strength of tradition in art–speak of Love under the old types, and represent him under the image of a winged boy; but the whole condition of society in which this type grew up has disappeared and left the symbolism all but meaningless to the ordinary mind. In Greece it was otherwise. Side by side with the unchanging passions and affections of all mankind there was then a feeling, half conventional, and yet none the less of vital importance to thought and conduct, which elevated the mere physical charm of human youth into an object of almost divine worship. Beauty was the special gift of the gods, perhaps their choicest one; and not only so, but it was a passport to their favour. Common life in the open air, and above all the importance of the gymnasia, developed great perfection of bodily form and kept it constantly before all men’s eyes. Art lavished all it knew on the reproduction of the forms of youthful beauty. Apart from the real feeling, the worship of this beauty became an overpowering fashion. To all this there must be added a fact of no less importance in historical Greece, the seclusion of women. Not that this ever existed in the Oriental sense; but, with much freedom and simplicity of relations inside the family, the share which women had in the public and external life of the city, at a time when the city meant so much, was comparatively slight. The greater freedom of women in Homer makes the world of the Iliad and Odyssey really more modern, more akin to our own, than that of the later poets. The girl in Theocritus, “with spring in her eyes,”[1] comes upon us as we read the Idyls almost like a modernism. It is in the fair shepherd boy, Daphnis or Thyrsis, that Greek pastoral finds its most obvious, one might almost say its most natural inspiration.

Much of what is most perplexing in the difference in this respect between Greek and western art has light thrown on it, if we think of the importance which angels have in medieval painting. Their invention, if one may call it so, was one of the very highest moment in art. Those lovely creations, so precisely drawn up to a certain point, so elusive beyond it, raised the feeling for pure beauty into a wholly ideal plane. The deepest longings of men were satisfied by the contemplation of a paradise in which we should be even as they. In that mystical portraiture of the invisible world an answer–perhaps the only answer–was found to the demand for an ideal of beauty. That remarkable saying preserved by S. Clement, of a kingdom in which “the two shall be one, and the male with the female neither male nor female,”[2] might form the text for a chapter of no small importance in human history. The Greek lucidity, which made all mysticism impossible in their art as it was alien from their life, did not do away with this imperious demand; and their cult of beauty was the issue of their attempt, imperfect indeed at best and at worst disastrous, to reunite the fragments of the human ideal.[3]

In much of this poetry too we are in the conventional world of pastoral; and pastoral, it must be repeated, does not concern itself with real life. The amount of latitude in literary expression varies no doubt with the prevalent popular morality of the period. But it would lead to infinite confusion to think of the poetry as a translation of conduct. A truer picture of Greek life is happily given us in those epigrams which deal with the material that history passes over and ideal poetry, at least in Greek literature, barely touches upon, the life of simple human relations from day to day within the circle of the family.

[1] {ear oroosa Nukheia}, Theocr. xiii. 42.

[2] Clem. Rom. II. 12: {eperotetheis autos o Kurios upo tinos pote exei autou e basileia, eipen, otan estai ta duo en kai to exo os to eso kai to arsen meta tes theleias oute arsen oute thelu}. It is also quoted in almost the same words by Clem. Alex., Strom. xiii. 92, as from “the Gospel according to the Egyptians.”

[3] Cf. Plato, Sympos. 191, 192.


Scattered over the sections of the Anthology are a number of epigrams touching on this life, which are the more valuable to us, because it is just this side of the ancient world of which the mass of Greek literature affords a very imperfect view. In Homer indeed this is not the case; but in the Athenian period the dramatists and historians give little information, if we accept the highly idealised burlesque of the Aristophanic Comedy. Of the New Comedy too little is preserved to be of much use, and even in it the whole atmosphere was very conventional. The Greek novel did not come into existence till too late; and, when it came, it took the form of romance, concerning itself more with the elaboration of sentiment and the excitement of adventure than with the portraiture of real manners and actual surroundings. For any detailed picture of common life, like that which would be given of our own day to future periods by the domestic novel, we look to ancient literature in vain. Thus, when we are admitted by a fortunate chance into the intimacy of private life, as we are by some of the works of Xenophon and Plutarch or by the letters of the younger Pliny, the charm of the picture is all the greater: and so it is with the epigrams that record birthdays and bridals, the toys of children, the concord of quiet homes. We see the house of the good man,[1] an abiding rest from the labours of a busy life, bountiful to all, masters and servants, who dwell under its shelter, and extending a large hospitality to the friend and the stranger. One generation after another grows up in it under all good and gracious influences; a special providence, under the symbolic forms of Cypris Urania or Artemis the Giver of Light, holds the house in keeping, and each new year brings increased blessing from the gods of the household in recompense of piety and duty.[2] Many dedications bring vividly before us the humbler life of the country cottager, no man’s servant or master, happy in the daily labour over his little plot of land, his corn-field and vineyard and coppice; of the fowler with his boys in the woods, the forester and the beekeeper, and the fisherman in his thatched hut on the beach.[3] And in these contrasted pictures the “wealth that makes men kind” seems not to jar with the “poverty that lives with freedom.”[4] Modern poetry dwells with more elaboration, but not with the truer or more delicate feeling than those ancient epigrams, on the pretty ways of children, the freshness of school- days, the infinite beauty of the girl as she passes into the woman; or even such slight things as the school-prize for the best copy-book, and the child’s doll in the well.[5] A shadow passes over the picture in the complaint of a girl sitting indoors, full of dim thoughts, while the boys go out to their games and enjoy unhindered the colour and movement of the streets.[6] But this is the melancholy of youth, the shadow of the brightness that passes before the maiden’s eyes as she sits, sunk in day-dreams, over her loom;[7] it passes away again in the portrait of the girl growing up with the sweet eyes of her mother, the budding rose that will soon unfold its heart of flame;[8] and once more the bride renders thanks for perfect felicity to the gods who have given her “a stainless youth and the lover whom she desired.”[9] Many of the most beautiful of the dedicatory epigrams are thanksgivings after the birth of children; in one a wife says that she is satisfied with the harmonious life that she and her husband live together, and asks no further good.[10] Even death coming at the end of such a life is disarmed of terror. In one of the most graceful epitaphs of the Roman period[11] the dead man sums up the happiness of his long life by saying that he never had to weep for any of his children, and that their tears over him had no bitterness. The inscription placed by Androtion over the yet empty tomb, which he has built for himself and his wife and children, expresses that placid acceptance which finds no cause of complaint with life.[12] Family affection in an unbroken home; long and happy life of the individual, and still longer, that of the race which remains; the calm acquiescence in the law of life which is also the law of death, and the desire that life and death alike may have their ordinary place and period, not breaking use and wont; all this is implied here rather than expressed, in words so simple and straightforward that they seem to have fallen by accident, as it were, into verse. Thus too in another epigram the dying wife’s last words are praise to the gods of marriage that she has had even such a husband, and to the gods of death that he and their children survive her.[13] Or again, where there is a cry of pain over severance, it is the sweetness of the past life that makes parting so bitter; “what is there but sorrow,” says Marathonis over the tomb of Nicopolis,[14] “for a man alone upon earth when his wife is gone?”

[1] Anth. Pal. ix. 649.

[2] Ibid. vi. 267, 280, 340.

[3] Ibid. vi. 226, vii. 156.

[4] {Dunatai to ploutein kai philanthropous poiein}, Menand., {Alieis} fr. 7; Anth. Pal. ix. 172.

[5] Anth. Pal. vi. 308, ix. 326.

[6] Ibid. v. 297.

[7] Ibid. vi. 266.

[8] Ibid. vi. 353, v. 124.

[9] Ibid. vi. 59.

[10] Ibid. vi. 209.

[11] Ibid. vii. 260.

[12] Ibid. vii. 228.

[13] Anth. Pal. vii. 555.

[14] Ibid. vii. 340.


“Even this stranger, I suppose, prays to the immortals,” says Nestor in the Odyssey,[1] “since all men have need of gods.” When the Homeric poems were written the Greek temper had already formed and ripened; and so long as it survived, this recognition of religious duty remained part of it. The deeper and more violent forms of religious feeling were indeed always alien, and even to a certain degree repugnant, to the Greek peoples. Mysticism, as has already been observed, had no place with them; demons and monsters were rejected from their humane and rationalised mythology, and no superstitious terrors forced them into elaboration of ritual. There was no priestly caste; each city and each citizen approached the gods directly at any time and place. The religious life, as a life distinct from that of an ordinary citizen, was unknown in Greece. Even at Rome the perpetual maidenhood of the Vestals was a unique observance; and they were the keepers of the hearth-fire of the city, not the intermediaries between it and its gods. But the Vestals have no parallel in Greek life. Asiatic rites and devotions, it is true, from an early period obtained a foothold among the populace; but they were either discountenanced, or by being made part of the civic ritual were disarmed of their mystic or monastic elements. An epitaph in the Anthology commemorates two aged priestesses as having been happy in their love for their husbands and children;[2] nothing could be further from the Eastern or the medieval sentiment of a consecrated life. Thus, if Greek religion did not strike deep, it spread wide; and any one, as he thought fit, might treat his whole life, or any part of it, as a religious act. And there was a strong feeling that the observance of such duties in a reasonable manner was proper in itself, besides being probably useful in its results; no gentleman, if we may so translate the idea into modern terms, would fail in due courtesy to the gods. That piety sometimes met with strange returns was an undoubted fact, but that it should be so inexplicable and indeed shocking even to the least superstitious and most dispassionate minds.[3]

With the diffusion of a popularised philosophy religious feeling became fainter among the educated classes, and correspondingly more uncontrolled in the lower orders. The immense mass of dedicatory epigrams written in the Alexandrian and Roman periods are in the main literary exercises, though they were also the supply of a real and living demand. The fashion outlived the belief; even after the suppression of pagan worship scholars continued to turn out imitations of the old models. One book of the Anthology of Agathias[4] consisted entirely of contemporary epigrams of this sort, “as though dedicated to former gods.” But of epigrams dealing with religion in its more intimate sense there are, as one would expect, very few in the Anthology until we come to collections of Christian poetry. This light form of verse was not suited to the treatment of the deepest subjects. For the religious poetry of Greece one must go to Pindar and Sophocles.

But the small selection given here throws some interesting light on Greek thought with regard to sacred matters. Each business of life, each change of circumstance, calls for worship and offering. The sailor, putting to sea with spring, is to pay his sacrifice to the harbour-god, a simple offering of cakes or fish.[5] The seafarer should not pass near a great shine without turning aside to pay it reverence.[6] The traveller, as he crosses a hill-pass or rests by the wayside fountain, is to give the accustomed honour to the god of the ground, Pan or Hermes, or whoever holds the spot in special protection.[7] Each shaded well in the forest, each jut of cliff on the shore, has its tutelar deity, if only under the form of the rudely-carved stake set in a garden or on a lonely beach where the sea-gulls hover; and with their more sumptuous worship the houses of great gods, all marble and gold, stand overlooking the broad valley or the shining spaces of sea.[8] Even the wild thicket has its rustic Pan, to whom the hunter and fowler pray for success in their day’s work, and the image of Demeter stands by the farmer’s threshing- floor.[9] And yet close as the gods come in their daily dealings with men, scorning no offering, however small, that is made with clean hands, finding no occasion too trifling for their aid, there is a yet more homely worship of “little gods”[10] who take the most insignificant matters in their charge. These are not mere abstractions, like the lesser deities of the Latin religion, Bonus Eventus, Tutilina, Iterduca and Domiduca, but they occupy much the same place in worship. By their side are the heroes, the saints of the ancient world, who from their graves have some power of hearing and answering. Like the saints, they belong to all times, from the most remote to the most recent. The mythical Philopregmon, a shadowy being dating back to times of primitive worship, gives luck from his monument on the roadside by the gate of Potidaea.[11] But the traveller who had prayed to him in the morning as he left the town might pay the same duty next evening by the tomb of Brasidas in the market-place of Amphipolis.[12]

But alongside of the traditional worship of these multitudinous and multiform deities, a grave and deep religious sense laid stress on the single quality of goodness as being essentially akin to divinity, and spoke with aversion of complicated ritual and extravagant sacrifice. A little water purifies the good man; the whole ocean is not sufficient to wash away the guilt of the sinner.[13] “Holiness is a pure mind,” said the inscription over the doorway of a great Greek temple.[14] The sanctions of religion were not indeed independent of rewards and punishments, in this or in a future state. But the highest Greek teachings never laid great stress on these; and even where they are adduced as a motive for good living, they are always made secondary to the excellence of piety here and in itself. Through the whole course of Greek thought the belief in a future state runs in an undercurrent. A striking fragment of Sophocles[15] speaks of the initiated alone as being happy, since their state after death is secure. Plato, while he reprobates the teaching which would make men good in view of the other world, and insists on the natural excellence of goodness for its own sake, himself falls back on the life after death, as affected for good or evil by our acts here, in the visions, “no fairy-tales,”[16] which seem to collect and reinforce the arguments of the /Phaedo/ and the /Republic/. But the ordinary thought and practice ignored what might happen after death. Life was what concerned men and absorbed them; it seemed sufficient for them to think about what they knew of.[17] The revolution which Christianity brought into men’s way of thinking as regards life and death was that it made them know more certainly, or so it seemed, about the latter than about the former. Who knows, Euripides had long ago asked, if life be not death, and death life? and the new religion answered his question with an emphatic affirmation that it was so; that this life was momentary and shadowy, was but a death, in comparison of the life unchangeable and eternal.

The dedicatory epigram was one of the earliest forms of Greek poetry. Herodotus quotes verses inscribed on offerings at Thebes, written in “Cadmean letters,” and dating back to a mythical antiquity;[18] and actual dedications are extant which are at least as early as 600 B.C.[19] In this earlier period the verses generally contained nothing more than a bare record of the act. Even at a later date, the anathematic epigrams of Simonides are for the most part rather stiff and formal when set beside his epitaphs. His nephew Bacchylides brought the art to perfection, if it is safe to judge from a single flawless specimen.[20] But it is hardly till the Alexandrian period that the dedication has elaborate pains bestowed upon it simply for the feeling and expression as a form of poetry; and it is to this period that the mass of the best prayers and dedications belong.

Ranging as they do over the whole variety of human action, these epigrams show us the ancient world in its simplest and most pleasant aspect. Family life has its offerings for the birth of a child, for return from travel, for recovery from sickness. The eager and curious spirit of youth, and old age to which nothing but rest seems good, each offer prayer to the guardians of the traveller or of the home.[21] The most numerous and the most beautiful are those where, towards the end of life, dedications are made with thanksgiving for the past and prayer for what remains. The Mediterranean merchantman retires to his native town and offers prayer to the protector of the city to grant him a quiet age there, or dedicates his ship, to dance no more “like a feather on the sea,” now that its master has set his weary feet on land.[22] The fisherman, ceasing his labours, hangs up his fish-spear to Poseidon, saying, “Thou knowest I am tired.” The old hunter, whose hand has lost its suppleness, dedicates his nets to the Nymphs, as all that he has to give. The market-gardener, when he has saved a competence, lays his worn tools before Priapus the Garden- Keeper. Heracles and Artemis receive the aged soldier’s shield into their temples, that it may grow old there amid the sound of hymns and the dances of maidens.[23] Quiet peace, as of the greyness of a summer evening, is the desired end.

The diffusion of Greece under Alexander and his successors, as at a later period the diffusion of Rome under the Empire, brought with the decay of civic spirit a great increase of humanity. The dedication written by Theocritus for his friend Nicias of Miletus[24] gives a vivid picture of the gracious atmosphere of a rich and cultured Greek home, of the happy union of science and art with harmonious family life and kindly helpfulness and hospitality. Care for others was a more controlling motive in life than before. The feeling grew that we are all one family, and owe each other the service and thoughtfulness due to kinsfolk, till Menander could say that true life was living for others.[25] In this spirit the sailor, come safe ashore, offers prayer to Poseidon that others who cross the sea may be as fortunate; so too, from the other side of the matter, Pan of the sea-cliff promises a favourable wind to all strangers who sail by him, in remembrance of the pious fisherman who set his statue there, as guardian of their trawling-nets and eel-baskets.[26]

In revulsion from the immense accumulation of material wealth in this period, a certain refined simplicity was then the ideal of the best minds, as it was afterwards in the early Roman Empire, as it is in our own day. The charm of the country was, perhaps for the first time, fully realised; the life of gardens became a passion, and hardly less so the life of the opener air, of the hill and meadow, of the shepherd and hunter, the farmer and fisherman. The rules of art, like the demands of heaven, were best satisfied with small and simple offerings. “The least of a little”[27] was sufficient to lay before gods who had no need of riches; and as the art of the epigrammatist grew more refined, the poet took pride in working with the slightest materials. The husbandman lays a handful of corn-ears before Demeter, the gardener a basket of ripe fruit at the feet of Priapus; the