Ancient Speculation on Homer and Hesiod: Aulus Gellius, 3.11

“There is no consensus regarding the age of Homer and Hesiod. Some have written that Homer is older than Hesiod, among whom are Philochorus and Xenophanes. Others have written that he is younger, among whom are Lucius Accius the poet and Ephorus the historian. Marcus Varro, however, in his first book of On the Imagines, says that it is not sufficiently well established which one of them was born first, but he adds that there is no doubt that they both lived at the same time, and he notes that this is shown by an epigram which is written on a tripod which according to tradition was placed on Mount Helicon by Hesiod.

Accius however, in the first book of his Didascalia, uses some rather flimsy arguments by which he thinks he has proven that Hesiod is older. He writes, ‘Homer, in the beginning of his poem, says that Achilles is the son of Peleus, but he does not add anything about the identity of Peleus. He would have undoubtedly done so if not for the fact that Peleus’ biography was already given by Hesiod.’ He adds, ‘The same is true of the Cyclops. Homer would not have neglected to mention that the cyclops had only one eye if that fact had not previously been popularized by Hesiod.’

There is also much doubt about Homer’s place of birth. Some say that he is from Colophon, others from Smyrna, still others from Athens, and there are even some who say that he came from Egypt. Aristotle says that he came from the island of Ios. Marcus Varro, in his first book of On the Imagines, added this epigram to the portrait of Homer: ‘This white goat marks out the tomb of Homer, because this is the rite which the inhabitants of Ios perform for the dead.'”

Super aetate Homeri atque Hesiodi non consentitur.  Alii Homerum quam Hesiodum maiorem natu fuisse scripserunt, in quis Philochorus et Xenophanes, alii minorem, in quis L. Accius poeta et Ephorus historiae scriptor.  M. autem Varro in primo de imaginibus, uter prior sit natus, parum constare dicit, sed non esse dubium, quin aliquo tempore eodem vixerint, idque ex epigrammate ostendi, quod in tripode scriptum est, qui in monte Helicone ab Hesiodo positus traditur. Accius autem in primo didascalico levibus admodum argumentis utitur, per quae ostendi putat Hesiodum natu priorem: “quod Homerus,” inquit “cum in principio carminis Achillem esse filium Pelei diceret, quis esset Peleus, non addidit; quam rem procul” inquit “dubio dixisset, nisi ab Hesiodo iam dictum videret. De Cyclope itidem,” inquit “vel maxime quod unoculus fuit, rem tam insignem non praeterisset, nisi aeque prioris Hesiodi carminibus involgatum esset.” De patria quoque Homeri multo maxime dissensum est. Alii Colophonium, alii Smyrnaeum, sunt qui Atheniensem, sunt etiam qui Aegyptium fuisse dicant, Aristoteles tradidit ex insula Io. M. Varro in libro de imaginibus primo Homeri imagini epigramma hoc apposuit: capella Homeri candida haec tumulum indicat quod hac letae mortuo faciunt sacra.

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