Accius’ Trifling Scholarship

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 3.11:

Which and what stupid arguments Accius uses in his Didascalica, where he tries to show that Hesiod is more ancient than Homer.

There is no agreement about the dates of Homer and Hesiod. Some wrote that Homer was older than Hesiod (among these are Philochorus and Xenophanes), while others say that he was younger (including Lucius Accius the poet and Ephorus the historian). But Marcus Varro, in the first book of his Imagines, says that there is little agreement about which of the two was born first, but asserts that there is no doubt that they lived at around the same time, and that this fact is shown by an epigram written on a tripod which is said to have been placed on Mt. Helicon by Hesiod. Accius, in the first book of his Didascalica, uses some pretty weak arguments by which he thinks that it is shown that Hesiod was first in birth. He says, “Because Homer, in the beginning of the Iliad said that Achilles was the son of Peleus but did not say who Peleus was. Without a doubt, he would have said who Peleus was if he had not already seen that it was said by Hesiod already. Similarly, about the Cyclops, he would not have omitted to mention such a shocking fact as that he was one-eyed if it had not been made common knowledge by Hesiod in the songs of an earlier age.” About the fatherland of Homer there was a hell of a lot of argument. Some say that he was from Colophon, others from Smyrna, a few say from Athens, and a few even claim Egyptian birth for him. Aristotle says that he came from the island of Ios. Marcus Varro, in his first book of Imagines, placed this epigram next to the image of Homer: This white she-goat marks out the tomb of Homer, because with this the inhabitants of Ios make sacrificial offerings to the dead.

Quibus et quam frivolis argumentis Accius in didascalicis utatur, quibus docere nititur Hesiodum esse quam Homerum natu antiquiorem.

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 Ietae mortuo faciunt sacra.

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