Ridiculous Poet, Grumpy Critic: Some Homeric Critiques from Zoilos the Zealot

Iliad 5.4

“A tireless fire burned from his helmet and shield…”

δαῖέ οἱ ἐκ κόρυθός τε καὶ ἀσπίδος ἀκάματον πῦρ

Schol. D ad Il. 5.4

“Zoilus the Ephesian criticizes this passage and he blames the poet because he composed this in too ridiculous a fashion, fire burning from Diomedes’ shoulders. For the hero runs the risk of burning up in flames! Therefore some say that it needs to be taken as it is, according to the habit of the fire. Others struggle about the fire—that it is the image of fire, not really fire.

Τρωσίν. ᾿Ακάματον. Πολύ. Ζωΐλος δὲ
ὁ ᾿Εφέσιος κατηγορεῖ τοῦ τόπου τού-
του, καὶ μέμφεται τὸν Ποιητὴν, ὅτι λίαν
γελοίως πεποίηκεν ἐκ τῶν ὤμων τοῦ Διο-
μήδους καιόμενον πῦρ. ἐκινδύνευε γὰρ κα-
ταφλεχθῆναι ὁ ἥρως. ῎Ενιοι μὲν οὖν πα-
ρειλῆφθαί φασι τὸ ὡς, κατὰ συνήθειαν
τῷ Ποιητῇ. ὡς καὶ ἐν ἑτέροις. ῞Ως οἱ
μὲν μάρναντο δέμας πυρός. ὡς πυρὸς
φαντασίαν, οὐκ εἰδικῶς πῦρ.

Zoilos is most often said to be from Amphipolos and appears in Aelian’s Varia Historia 11.10

Zôilos of Amphipolos, who wrote against Homer, Plato and others, was in attendance at a speech of Polycrates. Polycrates wrote a diatribe against Socrates. Zôilos himself used to be called the rhetorical Dog, and he was this kind of man: he had a beard though he shaved his head and he wore a coat above his knee. He loved to carp in public and he spent his time picking fights with many men: he was a complaining, mean-spirited man. When some educated man asked him why he spoke poorly of everyone, he said: “I cannot do them harm when I want to.”

Ζωίλος ὁ ᾿Αμφιπολίτης ὁ καὶ ἐς ῞Ομηρον γράψας καὶ ἐς Πλάτωνα καὶ ἐς ἄλλους, Πολυκράτους μὲν ἀκουστὴς ἐγένετο· οὗτος δὲ ὁ Πολυκράτης καὶ τὴν κατηγορίαν ἔγραψε τὴν κατὰ Σωκράτους. ἐκαλεῖτο δ’ ὁ Ζωίλος οὗτος Κύων ῥητορικός. ἦν δὲ τοιοῦτος. τὸ μὲν γένειον αὐτῷ καθεῖτο, κέκαρτο δὲ ἐν χρῷ τὴν κεφαλήν, καὶ θοιμάτιον ὑπὲρ τὸ γόνυ ἦν. ἤρα δὲ ἀγορεύειν κακῶς, καὶ ἀπεχθάνεσθαι πολλοῖς σχολὴν εἶχε, καὶ ψογερὸς ἦν ὁ κακοδαίμων. ἤρετο οὖν αὐτόν τις τῶν πεπαιδευμένων διὰ τί κακῶς λέγει πάντας· ὃ δὲ ‘ποιῆσαι γὰρ κακῶς βουλόμενος οὐ δύναμαι.’

Schol ad. Il. 10.274b

“Zoilos was called the scourge of Homer and was from Amphipolis. He was the teacher of Isocrates and he wrote Against Homer as an exercise since the sophists where in the custom of writing exercises on the poets. He criticized Homer for many other things….

Ζωίλος ὁ κληθεὶς ῾Ομηρομάστιξ γένει μὲν ἦτ ᾽Αμφιπολίτης, τοῦ δὲ ᾽Ισοκρατικοῦ διδασκαλείου, ὃς ἔγραψε τὰ καθ᾽ ῾Ομήρου γυμνασίας ἕνεκα, εἰωθότων καὶ τῶν ῥητόρων ἐν τοῖς ποιηταῖς γυμνάζεσθαι. οὗτος ἄλλα τε πολλὰ ῾Ομήρου κατηγόρει…

Schol. D. ad Il. 5.20

“Zoilos also criticized this passage. For, he says, the poet composed this too ridiculously, that Idaios fled, abandoning his horses and chariot in order to flee. For he was more capable of fleeing upon the horses. But it must be said, that he leaps upon the chariot to guard his brother. After he faced war in this way, he rushed into flight.”

Κατηγορεῖ καὶ τούτου τοῦ τόπου Ζωΐλος.
ὅτι λίαν, φησὶ, γελοίως πεποίηκεν ὁ Ποι-
ητὴς τὸν ᾿Ιδαῖον, ἀπολιπόντα τοὺς ἵπ-
πους καὶ τὸ ἅρμα, φεύγειν. ᾿Εδύνατο
γὰρ μᾶλλον ἐπὶ τοῖς ἵπποις φυγεῖν. ᾿Αλ-
λὰ ῥητέον, ὅτι κατέθορε μὲν τοῦ ἅρματος,
ὡς ὑπερασπίσων τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ. Εὐλαβη-
θεὶς δὲ τὸν πόλεμον, εἰς φυγὴν ὥρμησεν.

Suda

“Zoilos of Amphipolis was called the “Scourge of Homer” because he mocked Homer. For this reason, those who live near Olympia chased him and threw him from the Skironian cliffs.”

Ζωίλος, ᾽Αμφιπολίτης· … ὃς ἐπεκλήθη ῾Ομηρομάστιξ, ὅτι ἐπέσκωπτεν ῞Ομηρον. διὸ αὐτὸν διώξαντες οἱ ἐν τῆι ᾽Ολυμπίαι κατὰ τῶν Σκιρωνίδων πετρῶν ἔρριψαν.

Schol. ad Il. 21.256

“He fled behind the flows…” Zoilos carps that, even though he has immortal horses, he does not use them at an opportune time.”

φεῦγ’ ὄπισθε ῥέων] Ζωΐλος αἰτιᾶται ὅτι ἀθανάτους ἵππους
ἔχων ἐν τῷ ἀντικειμένῳ καιρῷ οὐ χρᾶται.

Schol. ad Il. 21.447

“wide and very fine”: Zoilos writes [instead] “both wide and very large.

εὐρύ τε καὶ μάλα καλόν] Ζωΐλος γράφει· «εὐρύ τε καὶ μάλα
μακρόν».

Schol. Il. 18.22-5

“Zoilos writes that it is strange to see Achilles now. For he knew previously that it was necessary that the dangers of war are shared, and that it was not right that he consider death so terrible, and to grieve so much in a womanly fashion. Thus, not even a barbarian would behave. And, certainly, Hekabê is nothing of this sort in her mourning over Hektor.”

τι πεπονθότων (cf. ib. 387 d 5). Ζωΐλος (fr. 31 Friedl. = FGrHist
71,11) δέ φησιν ἄτοπον νῦν εἰδέναι τὸν ᾿Αχιλλέα· προειδέναι τε γὰρ
ἐχρῆν ὅτι κοινοὶ οἱ πολεμικοὶ κίνδυνοι, τόν τε θάνατον οὐκ ἐχρῆν δει-
νὸν ὑπολαμβάνειν, τό τε οὕτως ὑπερπενθεῖν γυναικῶδες. οὕτως οὔτ’
ἂν βάρβαρος τι<τ>θὴ ἐποίησεν· καί τοι ῾Εκάβης ἐπὶ τῷ συρμῷ ῞Ε-
κτορος οὐδὲν τοιοῦτόν ἐστιν (cf. Χ 405—7).

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