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This short paper is about Callimachus of Cyrene (circa 310-240 BC). He was a renowned poet and scholar associated with the Library of Alexandria. His significant contributions to Greek literature and his literary aesthetic had a profound influence on the development of Western literature.

Callimachus is best known for his work called The Pinakes, which was a comprehensive bibliographic catalogue of Greek literature. It was an ambitious project aimed to compile and classify the vast corpus of Greek writings. The Pinakes served as a valuable resource for scholars and played a crucial role in preserving and organising the literary heritage of ancient Greece.

As a poet, Callimachus emphasised brevity and simplicity of form, deviating from the traditional epic style. His approach to poetry favoured shorter works that conveyed their message directly and succinctly. This preference for concise storytelling is encapsulated in his famous quote, “A big book is a big bore,” which advocates for the idea that less can often be more powerful and impactful.

While Callimachus is often portrayed as rejecting the works of Homer, it is important to note that his stance was more nuanced. He challenged the literary standards established by Homer but acknowledged the significance and influence of his works. Similarly, his relationship with Plato’s writings also showcased a complex interplay of influence and inspiration.

Picture: Callimachus is thought to have worked under the patronage of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. This bust of Ptolemy II is held at the National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Source/Photographer: Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011)
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This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.

Callimachus’ legacy as a poet and scholar endures through his significant contributions to Greek literature and his influence on subsequent Roman writers. His emphasis on brevity, simplicity, and meticulous cataloguing of literary works set the stage for the development of Western literature, leaving an indelible mark on literary aesthetics and poetic traditions.

Following Apollonius, Eratosthenes assumed the position of librarian at Alexandria. He, too, may have been influenced by Callimachus, potentially making him another student of the renowned poet and scholar.

Picture: 19th century artistic rendering of the Library of Alexandria, where Callimachus compiled the Pinakes
Attribution: O. Von Corven, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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It is said that Callimachus is considered one of the greatest poets of antiquity and, through his influence on Roman writers, set the course for Western literary development, especially through his emphasis on brevity and simplicity of form. Among his best-known quotes is “A big book is a big bore,” by which he seems to have meant that “less is more” and one should strive to tell one’s story as directly and succinctly as possible. Although much has been made of his rejection of Homer, it seems this has been sensationalised. He rejected the standard of literature Homer had come to define but not necessarily the work itself. A similar case could be made for his relationship with the works of Plato, but both authors clearly influenced his own works.[2]

Contrary to popular belief, Callimachus was not at any time the head of the Library at Alexandria. However, he is believed to have been a teacher of Apollonius of Rhodes, who later became the head librarian. The alleged feud between Callimachus and Apollonius is largely speculative and based on interpretations of fragmentary evidence. Due to the scarcity of information about their lives, little can be definitively concluded about their personal relationship.

Disagreements between Callimachus and Apollonius
A literary dispute between Apollonius and Callimachus is often discussed by modern scholars since it is thought to give some insight into their poetry, although there is very little evidence of such a dispute between the two men[3].

Both Apollonius and Callimachus were prominent Alexandrian librarian poets. While there is scant evidence to support the existence of an actual feud between the two men, it is believed to shed light on their respective poetic styles.

The quarrel is often associated with The Argonautica, Apollonius’ work resembling an epic poem, and Callimachus’ criticism of epic poetry. Although the dispute may not have occurred in reality, it becomes a central theme in the poem itself. The heroes in The Argonautica are portrayed as eager to participate in a Homeric epic, while the narrator, influenced by Callimachean aesthetics, refuses to compose such an epic.[4]

Callimachus of Cyrene, a Prominent Poet of the Hellenistic Age[5]
Callimachus of Cyrene, a prominent poet of the Hellenistic age, played a significant role in the transition from the classical Greek world to the emergence of Ptolemaic Alexandria. He capitalised on the multicultural environment of the thriving city, skillfully blending the literary traditions of the past with new possibilities offered by the written word. Through his poetic works, Callimachus addressed critics and presented his own unique aesthetic ideals, influencing later poets in Greece and Rome.

Picture: Papyrus fragment from the Aetia of Callimachus
Attribution: The Egypt Exploration Society, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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In addition to his renowned work called the Aetia, Callimachus composed hymns, epigrams, iambic poetry[6], a hexameter poem, victory odes, encomia of rulers[7], and prose writings[8]. Unfortunately, only a fraction of his works has survived intact, with the majority preserved in fragmentary form or discovered on papyrus.

Verifiable details about Callimachus’ life are scarce, and much of what we know is inferred from what he wrote. He was likely born around 305 BC and lived until at least 240 BC. He identified himself as a Cyrenean but spent much of his life in Alexandria, a rapidly growing city teeming with immigrants from various Greek-speaking backgrounds. This diverse environment influenced his poetic compositions, often incorporating themes of migration and the experiences of different Greek communities.

Callimachus actively participated in the vibrant poetic scene of Ptolemaic Alexandria, which benefited from royal patronage and the establishment of the Library. Although he never held the position of head librarian, he actively engaged with the Library through his composition of the Pinakes and his extensive intertextual references across his works. His contemporaries included Theocritus, known for his bucolic poetry, and Apollonius of Rhodes, who authored the epic Argonautica. Notable epigrammatists like Asclepiades of Samos and Posidippus of Pella also thrived during this period.

The exact chronology of Callimachus and his contemporaries remains a subject of debate, as they often responded to each other’s texts. However, their shared thematic material suggests an interactive and dynamic poetic environment, highlighting the growing significance of the written word as a medium for poetic expression and ideology.

Callimachus’ Claim of Descent and Historical Context
Callimachus was born in Cyrene and claimed descent from Battus, the city’s founder. He lived during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285-247 BC) and into the reign of Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221 BC). Cyrene was an ancient Greek city located in present-day Libya. Founded in the 7th century BC as a Dorian colony, Cyrene held cultural significance and had historical connections to Greece.

Callimachus lived during a crucial historical period characterised by the transition from the classical Greek world to the establishment of Ptolemaic Alexandria. This transition marked the rise of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt, led by Ptolemy I Soter, following the death of Alexander the Great. Under Ptolemaic rule, Alexandria became a thriving centre of culture, scholarship, and commerce.[9]

During Callimachus’ lifetime, Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Ptolemy III Euergetes reigned over Egypt. Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who ruled from 285 to 247 BC, was known for his patronage of the arts and the further development of the Library of Alexandria. Ptolemy III Euergetes continued to support cultural endeavours and expand the library’s collections.

The historical context of Callimachus’ life, with the emergence of Ptolemaic Alexandria as a multicultural and cosmopolitan hub, provided fertile ground for intellectual and artistic endeavours. This environment influenced Callimachus’ literary pursuits and interactions with other prominent figures of his time, such as Theocritus, Apollonius of Rhodes, and the epigrammatists Asclepiades of Samos and Posidippus of Pella.

While specific details about Callimachus’ lineage and historical background remain scarce, his claim of descent from Battus connects him to the ancient origins of Cyrene, and his life unfolded during a critical period of cultural and political transformation in the Mediterranean region.

The historical context of his life marked the transition from the classical Greek world to the establishment of Ptolemaic Alexandria.

Teaching Career and Notable Pupils
Before gaining recognition in the Ptolemaic court, Callimachus, widely believed by scholars to have faced financial hardships, pursued a career as a schoolteacher in the Alexandrian suburb of Eleusis. Despite his modest background, Callimachus proved to be an influential and esteemed mentor to numerous students who would themselves go on to become significant figures in the literary world, achieving their own acclaim and contributing to various literary genres, carrying forward Callimachus’ legacy.

Among his most renowned pupils were Eratosthenes of Cyrene, Aristophanes of Byzantium, and Apollonius of Rhodes. These students had divergent views on poetic traditions and the concept of modernised poetry. Apollonius, influenced by the Homeric tradition, believed in the viability of an epic poem adapted for contemporary times. In contrast, Callimachus advocated for learned and refined poetry aligned with the aesthetics of Alexandria, emphasising brevity and precision.

Callimachus’ teachings left a lasting impact on his pupils. Eratosthenes of Cyrene, for instance, became a polymath renowned for his contributions to various fields, including geography, astronomy, and mathematics. Aristophanes of Byzantium, known as the head librarian of the Library of Alexandria, played a crucial role in developing literary criticism and editing Homeric texts. Apollonius of Rhodes gained recognition as the author of the epic poem Argonautica, which showcased his own distinct style and narrative approach.

Callimachus’ teaching career exemplifies his ability to nurture and inspire aspiring scholars and poets, ultimately shaping the literary landscape of the time. Through his guidance, he propelled the careers of Eratosthenes, Aristophanes, and Apollonius, leaving an indelible mark on their works and contributing to the rich tapestry of Alexandrian literature.

Librarian at the Library of Alexandria
Callimachus is also recognised as a librarian of the great Library at Alexandria. Although he is often credited with succeeding Zenodotus as the head librarian, concrete evidence is scarce. Nevertheless, Callimachus’s association with the library is prominent.

His most renowned accomplishment as a librarian was the creation of the “Pinakes” or “Tables”, an extensive catalogue encompassing 120 volumes, providing annotations and biographies of authors while covering a wide range of literary works from Homeric manuscripts to contemporary cookbooks.

Extent and Genres of Callimachus’ Works
According to the 10th century encyclopedist Suidas, Callimachus wrote around 800 works, with titles spanning various genres. This extensive body of work demonstrates Callimachus’ versatility and mastery across multiple literary forms. Genres include satyric dramas, tragedies, comedies, and lyrics. However, only a few hymns and epigrams have survived in their entirety, while the majority of Callimachus’ works are now only known through fragmentary references in later sources.

Picture: A painting by John William Waterhouse depicting a scene from The Argonautica by Apollonius of Rhodes
Attribution: John William Waterhouse, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL:

Among the genres attributed to Callimachus are satyric dramas, tragedies, comedies, and lyrics. Satyric dramas were a type of theatrical performance characterized by their light-hearted and satirical nature. Tragedies, on the other hand, explored profound and often sombre themes, while comedies aimed to entertain and provoke laughter through humour and wit. Callimachus’ forays into these dramatic genres showcased his ability to engage with diverse subjects and capture a wide range of emotions.

The hymns showcase Callimachus’ poetic craftsmanship and his ability to explore themes of mythology, devotion, and celebration. These hymns provide valuable insights into his poetic style and themes. Similarly, the surviving epigrams, though limited in number, are highly regarded for their brevity and wit. Epigrams were concise poetic compositions often inscribed on tombstones or monuments, capturing poignant or humorous observations on various subjects. Callimachus’ epigrams exemplify his talent for distilling complex ideas into succinct and memorable verses.

While most Callimachus’ works are known only through fragmentary references in later sources, these fragments still offer glimpses into the breadth and depth of his literary contributions. Scholars and researchers have diligently pieced together these fragments, enabling a better understanding of Callimachus’ style, themes, and innovative literary techniques.

Overall, the surviving hymns and epigrams, along with the fragmentary references, attest to Callimachus’ immense creative output and his significant influence on subsequent generations of poets. Although many of his works have been lost to time, his contributions in various genres still resonate and inspire readers and scholars today.

The Pinakes
The Pinakes, also known as the Tables of Callimachus, was an extensive catalogue created by Callimachus of Cyrene during his tenure as a librarian at the Library of Alexandria. The Pinakes aimed to compile and classify the vast corpus of Greek literature, providing a comprehensive overview of works from various genres and authors.

The Library of Alexandria was founded by Ptolemy I Soter in about 306 BC. The first recorded librarian was Zenodotus of Ephesus. During Zenodotus’ tenure, Callimachus, a librarian but never the head librarian, compiled many catalogues/lists, each called Pinakes. His most famous one listed authors and their works; thus, he became the first known bibliographer and the scholar who organized the library by authors and subjects about 245 BC.[10]

The Pinakes was huge, consisting of 120 volumes and served as a significant scholarly resource, offering annotations, biographies of authors, and references to a wide range of literary works.[11] Its purpose was to provide a systematic and organised record of Greek literature, allowing scholars to locate and access specific works.

­­­One of the primary objectives of the Pinakes was to preserve and organise the literary heritage of ancient Greece. By categorising works by genre and providing additional information about authors and their works, the Pinakes ensured that the rich literary tradition of Greece would not be lost to time.

The Pinakes covered a diverse range of literary genres, including epic poetry, tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, historical works, philosophical treatises, and more. It encompassed works from prominent ancient Greek authors such as Homer, Hesiod, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, and many others. Even lesser-known or fragmentary works found their place within the catalogue.

In addition to providing information about works and authors, the Pinakes also included references to specific lines or passages within the texts, allowing scholars to easily locate and cross-reference specific content. This feature made it a valuable tool for researchers, ensuring efficient access to the vast wealth of Greek literature.

The Pinakes had a profound influence on subsequent scholarly endeavours and became a significant reference work in its own right. Its meticulous cataloguing system and comprehensive coverage set a standard for future libraries and collections, serving as a model for organizing and preserving literary works.

Unfortunately, the original Pinakes created by Callimachus has been lost to history. However, its influence and legacy continued through references and citations in later works. Scholars and researchers have relied on these references and fragments to reconstruct and understand the scope and significance of the Pinakes in the study of Greek literature.

Overall, the Pinakes represented Callimachus’ dedication to the meticulous cataloguing, preservation, and organisation of Greek literary works. Its impact on the field of literature and scholarship cannot be overstated, and it stands as a testament to Callimachus’ immense contributions to the preservation and accessibility of ancient Greek literature.

The collection at the Library of Alexandria contained nearly 500,000 papyrus scrolls, which were grouped together by subject matter and stored in bins or containers.[12] Each bin/container carried a label with painted tablets hung above the stored papyri. The bins gave bibliographical information for every roll.[13] A typical entry started with a title and also provided the author’s name, birthplace, father’s name, any teachers trained under, and educational background. It contained a brief biography of the author and a list of the author’s publications. The entry had the first line of the work, a summary of its contents, the name of the author, and information about the origin of the roll, as well as any doubts about the genuineness of the ascription.[14]

Callimachus’ system divided works into six genres and five sections of prose: rhetoric, law, epic, tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, history, medicine, mathematics, natural science, and miscellanies. Each category was alphabetised by author.

Callimachus composed two other works referred to as pinakes and were probably somewhat similar in format to the Pinakes (of which they “may or may not be subsections”[15] but were concerned with individual topics. These are listed by the Suda as: A Chronological Pinax and Description of Didaskaloi from the Beginning and Pinax of the Vocabulary and Treatises of Democritus.[16]

Emphasis on Poetic Form and Influence
Early in his career, Callimachus faced criticism for not producing lengthy works. In response, he composed the Hecale[17], a substantial poem frequently mentioned by Greek and Roman authors but unfortunately lost to history. Callimachus prioritised perfection of poetic form, refining and purifying the style and employing innovative approaches to convey familiar themes. His influence surpassed that of his contemporaries, as he became highly regarded and popular among later ancient poets. Grammarians, metricians, lexicographers, scholiasts, and Byzantine scholars frequently quoted and studied his works. Callimachus was renowned for his dedication to perfecting the form and style of his poetry.

He sought to refine and purify his verses, employing innovative approaches to convey familiar themes. His commitment to precision, elegance, and careful crafting of language set him apart from his contemporaries. Callimachus’ distinctive poetic style emphasised brevity, clarity, and meticulous attention to detail.

Despite his initial critics, Callimachus’s influence surpassed that of his peers, earning him a prominent place in the literary canon. His works resonated with readers and fellow poets alike, and he became highly regarded and popular among later ancient writers. Callimachus’s poems were not only appreciated for their aesthetic qualities but also studied for their technical virtuosity and intellectual depth.

The impact of Callimachus’s poetry extended beyond his immediate circle. His works were widely studied and quoted by various scholars and practitioners of literature. Grammarians, metricians, lexicographers, and scholiasts regularly drew upon his verses as exemplary models of poetic craftsmanship. His poems served as a source of inspiration and instruction for Byzantine scholars, who continued to engage with his works centuries later.

Callimachus’s innovative approaches to poetic form and his emphasis on meticulous craftsmanship left an indelible mark on the literary traditions of ancient Greece and beyond. His works became touchstones for subsequent generations of poets, influencing their own creative endeavours and shaping the development of Western literature.

Despite the loss of many of his works, the fragments and references that remain attest to the enduring legacy of Callimachus’s poetic genius. His dedication to form, style, and precision continues to inspire readers and scholars to appreciate the power and beauty of concise and meticulously crafted poetry. Callimachus’s impact on ancient literature and his enduring influence on subsequent generations testify to his remarkable contribution to the world of poetry.

Survival of Callimachus’ Poetry and Modern Rediscovery
While only a small portion of Callimachus’ writings has survived, his poetry persisted until at least the Fourth Crusade in 1205. In modern times, critics have rediscovered Callimachus, recognising his true poetic genius, despite the possibility that he may not have been the most popular or important poet in the eyes of his contemporaries.

Among the surviving works of Callimachus are the six hymns that provide insight into his interests and themes. These hymns cover a range of topics, such as Zeus’s birth, Apollo’s festival in Cyrene, Artemis, Delos and its mythological stories, Ptolemy’s Gallic encounter, and Demeter’s search for her daughter Kore and the punishment of Erysichthon. Additionally, fragments of the elegiac Aitia, which explored the legendary origins of various localities and rituals, have been preserved. Furthermore, a Latin rendition by Catullus exists for The Lock of Berenice (see below), another work attributed to Callimachus. These hymns showcase Callimachus’ poetic craftsmanship and his ability to engage with diverse mythological and religious themes.

The Lock of Berenice tells the story of Queen Berenice’s sacrifice of her hair to the gods and its transformation into a constellation. Catullus’ version demonstrates the enduring influence and reach of Callimachus’ works beyond the Greek-speaking world.

Additionally, fragments of the elegiac Aitia[18] have been preserved. This work delves into the legendary origins of various localities and rituals, offering glimpses into Callimachus’ exploration of the historical and mythical foundations of different places and practices. While only fragments remain, they provide valuable glimpses into Callimachus’ broader poetic repertoire.

In modern times, scholars and critics have rediscovered the poetry of Callimachus and recognised his true poetic genius. While he may not have been the most popular or important poet in the eyes of his contemporaries, his works have found renewed appreciation and admiration in later periods.

The survival of these poems, albeit in fragmentary form or through translations, allows readers and scholars to appreciate the richness and complexity of Callimachus’ poetic genius. The meticulous reconstruction and interpretation of these fragments have shed new light on his unique style, thematic concerns, and innovative approaches to poetry.

In the modern era, Callimachus’ works have gained recognition as valuable contributions to ancient Greek literature. His emphasis on brevity, refined style, and intellectual depth has resonated with contemporary readers and critics, who have come to appreciate the power and beauty of his concise and meticulously crafted verses. The modern rediscovery of Callimachus’ poetry has affirmed his status as a significant figure in the literary canon, and his works continue to inspire and captivate audiences today.

Epigrams as a Literary Genre
Callimachus played a significant role in elevating the epigram as a literary genre, leaving a lasting impact on its development and influence. While some of his epigrams served as tomb inscriptions, Callimachus expanded the possibilities of the epigram beyond its traditional role and transformed it into a vehicle for expressing genuine emotions, including love, wit, and social commentary.

In ancient Greece, an epigram was a concise poetic composition, often inscribed on tombstones or monuments. Traditionally, epigrams were brief and focused on commemorative or funerary themes, offering concise reflections on life and mortality. However, Callimachus expanded the scope of the epigram, infusing it with personal sentiments and a broader range of subject matter.

Callimachus’s approach to the epigram allowed for a greater exploration of human experiences and emotions. He imbued his epigrams with a sense of intimacy, enabling readers to connect with the profound emotions expressed within the concise verses. By incorporating genuine sentiments and personal experiences into the epigram, Callimachus brought a new level of depth and emotional resonance to the genre.

The shift in the epigram’s purpose and content that Callimachus initiated had a significant impact on ancient literature. His innovative approach paved the way for subsequent poets to explore the potential of the epigram as a means of personal expression, social commentary, and artistic experimentation. The epigram became a versatile and influential form of poetic expression, capable of capturing the complexities of human emotions and offering incisive and intelligent insights into society and culture.

Callimachus’s contributions to the development of the epigram were not limited to his own works. His approach and style were a model for later poets who sought to explore the genre’s possibilities. His emphasis on concise and carefully crafted verses, infused with emotion and depth, left an indelible mark on the literary landscape. Subsequent poets, including the renowned Roman poet Martial, drew inspiration from Callimachus’ mastery of the epigram.

Through his transformative approach to the epigram, Callimachus expanded the boundaries of the genre, allowing for a more nuanced exploration of human experiences and emotions. His elevation of the epigram as a vehicle for genuine expression contributed to its enduring legacy in ancient literature and beyond. The influence of Callimachus on the epigram as a literary genre continues to be recognised, as his contributions shaped the artistic possibilities and expressive potential of concise poetic forms.

Concluding Words
In conclusion, Callimachus of Cyrene stands as a prominent figure in ancient Greek literature, renowned for his contributions across various aspects of poetic and scholarly endeavours. From his early career as a schoolteacher to his tenure as a librarian at the Library of Alexandria, Callimachus displayed a remarkable dedication to pursuing literary excellence and intellectual refinement.

His teachings left an indelible mark on his notable pupils, including Eratosthenes of Cyrene, Aristophanes of Byzantium, and Apollonius of Rhodes, who themselves went on to make significant contributions to their respective fields. Callimachus’ influence extended beyond his immediate circle, shaping the literary landscape of his time and inspiring subsequent generations of poets and scholars.

As a poet, Callimachus exemplified a commitment to perfecting poetic form, refining language, and embracing innovative approaches to convey familiar themes. His emphasis on brevity, precision, and meticulous craftsmanship set him apart from his contemporaries, and his poetry resonated with readers and fellow poets alike. Despite initial criticism, Callimachus’ works gained recognition for their technical virtuosity, intellectual depth, and aesthetic qualities.

Callimachus’ notable accomplishments include his role as the librarian of the great Library of Alexandria, where he undertook the monumental task of creating the Pinakes, a comprehensive catalogue that captured the vast corpus of Greek literature. Although the original Pinakes is lost to history, its influence on subsequent libraries and the organization of literary works cannot be overstated.

While only fragments of Callimachus’ works have survived, they provide valuable insights into his poetic genius and thematic concerns. The surviving hymns and epigrams demonstrate his versatility, covering a wide range of topics from mythological narratives to personal expressions of love and social commentary. Through these works, Callimachus showcased his ability to engage with diverse subjects, employing his refined style and profound insights to captivate readers.

In modern times, critics and scholars have rediscovered Callimachus, recognizing his true poetic genius and the enduring relevance of his works. His impact on subsequent literary traditions, including the influence on Latin poets like Catullus, attests to the timelessness and universal appeal of his poetry.

Callimachus’ legacy is a testament to his immense contributions to the world of literature. His dedication to form, style, and precision, combined with his innovative and intellectual approach, have secured him a prominent place in the literary canon. The modern rediscovery and appreciation of his works have reaffirmed his status as a significant figure in ancient Greek literature, inspiring readers and scholars to delve into the richness and complexity of his poetic genius. His teachings, literary works, and scholarly achievements have left an indelible mark on the literary traditions of ancient Greece and beyond. His influence can be seen in the works of subsequent generations, and his legacy continues to resonate with readers and scholars today. Through his unwavering commitment to perfection, Callimachus has earned his place as one of the most significant poets and intellectuals of the Hellenistic era, forever enriching the world of poetry and scholarship.

Sources and Further Reading


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End Notes and Explanations

  1. Source: Compiled from research using information at the sources stated throughout the text, together with information provided by machine-generated artificial intelligence at: [chat] and
  2. Source and Acknowledgement:
  3. Sources:,,
  4. Source: Part of the book description (Apollonius’ Argonautica: A Callimachean Epic, by M.M. DeForest) at:
  5. Source: Based on text at:
  6. Explanation: Iambic Poetry or Iambus was a genre of ancient Greek poetry that included but was not restricted to the iambic meter and whose origins modern scholars have traced to the cults of Demeter and Dionysus. The genre featured insulting and obscene language and sometimes it is referred to as “blame poetry”. For Alexandrian editors, however, iambus signified any poetry of an informal kind that was intended to entertain, and it seems to have been performed on similar occasions as elegy even though lacking elegy’s decorum. The Archaic Greek poets Archilochus, Semonides and Hipponax were among the most famous of its early exponents. Callimachus composed “iambic” poems against contemporary scholars, which were collected in an edition of about a thousand lines, of which fragments of thirteen poems survive. He in turn influenced Roman poets such as Catullus, who composed satirical epigrams that popularised Hipponax’s choliamb. Horace’s Epodes on the other hand were mainly imitations of Archilochus and, as with the Greek poet, his invectives took the forms both of private revenge and denunciation of social offenders. Source:
  7. Explanation: “Encomia of rulers” refers to the practice of writing and delivering speeches or compositions that praise and extol the virtues and achievements of rulers or leaders. The term “encomium” comes from the Greek word “enkomion,” which means “praise” or “eulogy.” In the context of Callimachus, it refers to his composition of poems or speeches that celebrated and honoured the rulers of his time, particularly the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt. These encomia would have been crafted to express admiration, highlight accomplishments, and emphasise the virtues and qualities of the rulers.

    Encomia of rulers were a common literary genre in ancient Greece, serving as a means to express loyalty, flattery, and gratitude towards those in positions of power. These compositions aimed to solidify the bond between the ruler and the poet, as well as to reinforce the ruler’s authority and legitimacy in the eyes of the audience.

  8. Explanation: “Prose writings” refer to literary works that are written in prose rather than in verse or poetry. Prose is a form of written language that does not adhere to the metrical or rhythmic patterns characteristic of poetry. It is the standard style of everyday language, typically used for narrative, informative, or persuasive purposes. Prose writings encompass a wide range of literary forms, including novels, short stories, essays, biographies, histories, speeches, letters, and philosophical treatises, among others. Unlike poetry, which often employs structured lines, stanzas, and rhyme schemes, prose is characterized by its natural flow, sentence structure, and the absence of metrical constraints. Prose allows for more extensive and detailed exploration of ideas, characters, and narratives, offering a broader canvas for writers to develop their thoughts and communicate complex concepts. It is the dominant form of written expression in most forms of literature, academic discourse, and everyday communication. Within the context of Callimachus, his prose writings likely refer to non-poetic works that he composed. While Callimachus is best known for his poetry, he was also involved in various scholarly activities, including writing prose works such as catalogues, treatises, or critical essays. Unfortunately, only fragments and references to his prose writings have survived, making it challenging to ascertain their full extent and content.
  9. See: Author’s blog (The Ptolemies – Successors to Alexander the Great) at tb
  10. Sources: [1] Neil HopkinsonA Hellenistic Anthology (CUP, 1988) 83, and [2]  “Greek Inventions”. Cited at:
  11. Source: Neil HopkinsonA Hellenistic Anthology (CUP, 1988) 83 Cited at:
  12. Source: P.J. Parson, “Libraries”, in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3rd ed. (OUP, 1996) describes the evidence for the size of the library’s holdings thus: “The first Ptolemies (see Ptolemy (1) ) collected ambitiously and systematically; the Alexandrian Library (see ALEXANDRIA (1) ) became legend, and *Callimachus (3)’s Pinakes made its content accessible. There were rivals at *Pella, *Antioch (1) (where *Euphorion (2) was a librarian), and especially *Pergamum. Holdings were substantial: if the figures can be trusted, Pergamum held at least 200,000 rolls (Plut. Ant. 58. 9), the main library at Alexandria nearly 500,000 (*Tzetzes, Prolegomena de comoedia 11a. 2. 10–11 Koster)—the equivalent, perhaps, of 100,000 modern books.” Cited at:
  13. Source: Phillips, Heather A., “The Great Library of Alexandria?”. Library Philosophy and Practice, August 2010 Archived 2012-04-18 at the Wayback Machine. Cited at:
  14. Source: At Wayback Machine – Cited at:
  15. Source: Nita Krevans, “Callimachus and the Pedestrian Muse,” in M.A. harder et al., eds., Callimachus II (Hellenistica Groningana 7), 2002, p. 173 n. 1. Cited at:
  16. Source: Cited at: as “SOL Search” [possible dead link]
  17. Explanation: Hecale: Callimachus is said to have written this poem as a riposte to critics who claimed that he was incapable of writing a long poem; but even so it was not more than a thousand lines long, much shorter than the traditional Greek epic poem. This type of poem, which became popular in Hellenistic and Roman times, is called an epyllion by modern scholars. The device by which Callimachus introduced separate stories within his narrative (such as in fragment 260) had a great influence on later poets. The last known manuscript of the poem was destroyed in 1205 A.D., but many fragments have survived from it.  The Greek text of the fragments can be found on the website. Source:
  18. Explanation: “Aitia” and “Aetia” refer to the same work by Callimachus. “Aitia” is the Greek spelling, while “Aetia” is the Latinizsd version of the title. It is a poetic work by Callimachus that explores the legendary origins of various localities and rituals. The title can be translated as “Causes” or “Origins.”

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