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Who is Callimachus? An Introduction

Born around 310 BC, Callimachus was a native of a Greek colony named Cyrene (located in Libya). Over the years, he would gain a reputation as a respected poet, critic, and scholar of the Library of Alexandria. Callimachus was able to continue his studies and interests due to the generosity of Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Ptolemy III Euergetes , who were Egyptian Greek pharaohs during his time. In this article, you will encounter ten facts about the scholar, including his family life and some of the works he is responsible for producing.

1) Callimachus was raised in the same city he was born in , Cyrene. His family enjoyed a notable position within society. Their station in life is due to their bloodlines, as his parent were Mesatme and Battus , regarded as descendents of the first Greek king of Cyrene (Battus I).

2) If you were wondering where Callimachus got his name from, he was named after his grandfather, who the citizens of Cyrene held great respect for him. This is probably because the elder Callimachus was once a general. Another Callimachus was brought into the world , offspring of his sister Megatime. She took a Cyrenaean man named Stasenorus (or Stasenor) as her husband and when she gave birth , the child was named Callimachus and eventually called “the Younger” so that he possessed an identity separate from his uncle. Later on, the boy would grow up to become a poet, who later penned “The Island.”

3) Callimachus took the daughter of a Greek gentleman named Euphrates , a native of Syracuse. It is not known if the two ever produced any children.

4) When it comes to those who have greatly influenced Latin poetry, modern classicists look upon Callimachus as a valuable contributor. In the past, Quintilian noted that he was the ‘chief of the elegiac poets,’ where the Romans revered his elegies. It was not uncommon to see imitation by greats, such as Ovid and Catullus.

5) Callimachus gained a reputation for writing short poems and epigrams, which are short poems that often highlight a clever twist at the end. Sometimes, a quick-witted statement at the end is common. The Greek had a tradition centered on epigrams, which appeared on anything from statues honoring great athletes to monuments associated with death.

6) While everyone following the trends of Greek-language poetry were trying to mirror the style of Homer, but Callimachus decided to ‘follow his own path.’ He envisioned poetry that was short and to the point, but also showcased a definite style.

7) The most famous piece of prose that Callimachus wrote was the Pinakes (Lists), which served as a bibliographical survey of authors whose works were kept at the Library of Alexandria. Can you imagine that the collection spanned 120 books?

To learn more about Callimachus, as well as enjoy a sampling of his own words and works, continue on to Part II, where you will also learn of a famous feud that he became a part of.