Hellanicus of Mytilene
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Hellanicus of Lesbos (Ancient Greek: Ἑλλάνικος) was an ancient Greek logographer who flourished during the latter half of the 5th century BC. He was born in Mytilene on the isle of Lesbos in 490 BC and is reputed to have lived to the age of 85. According to the Suda, he lived for some time at the court of one of the kings of Macedon, and died at Perperene, a city in Aeolis on the plateau of Kozak near Pergamon, opposite Lesbos.
His work includes the first mention of the legendary founding of Rome by the Trojans; he writes that the city was founded by Aeneas when accompanying Odysseus on travels through Latium. However, he supported the idea that the Etruscans lay behind the origins of the Pelasgians, an ancient Greek people who were thought to have antedated the great Achaean invasions.
Some thirty works are attributed to him—chronological, historical and episodical. Mention may be made of:
- The Priestesses of Hera at Argon: a chronological compilation, arranged according to the order of succession of these functionaries
- The Carneonikae: a list of the victors in the Carnean games (the chief Spartan musical festival), including notices of literary events
- An Atthis, giving the history of Attica from 683 to the end of the Peloponnesian War (404), which is referred to by Thucydides (1.97), who says that he treated the events of the years 480-431 briefly and superficially, and with little regard to chronological sequence
- Phoronis: chiefly genealogical, with short notices of events from the times of Phoroneus, primordial king in Peloponnesus.
- Troica and Persica: histories of Troy and Persia.
Hellanicus authored works of chronology, geography, and history, particularly concerning Attica, in which he made a distinction between what he saw as Greek mythology from history. His influence on the historiography of Athens was considerable, lasting until the time of Eratosthenes (3rd century BC).
He transcended the narrow local limits of the older logographers, and was not content to merely repeat the traditions that had gained general acceptation through the poets. He tried to give the traditions as they were locally current, and availed himself of the few national or priestly registers that presented something like contemporary registration.
He endeavoured to lay the foundations of a scientific chronology, based primarily on the list of the Argive priestesses of Hera, and secondarily on genealogies, lists of magistrates (e.g. the archons at Athens), and Oriental dates, in place of the old reckoning by generations. But his materials were insufficient and he often had recourse to the older methods.
On account of his deviations from common tradition, Hellanicus is often called an untrustworthy writer by the ancients themselves, and it is a curious fact that he appears to have made no systematic use of the many inscriptions which were ready to hand. Dionysius of Halicarnassus censures him for arranging his history, not according to the natural connection of events, but according to the locality or the nation he was describing; and undoubtedly he never, like his contemporary Herodotus, rose to the conception of a single current of events wider than the local distinction of race. His style, like that of the older logographers, was dry and bald.
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He also wrote a work (mostly lost) entitled Atlantis (or Atlantias), about the daughter of the Titan Atlas. Some of his text may have come from an epic poem which Carl Robert called Atlantis, a fragment of which may be Oxyrhynchus Papyri 11, 1359.
- Mure, William. A Critical History of the Language and Literature of Ancient Greece. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1853, pp. 227-228.
- "Atlantis" (Ατλαντίς) also means the daughter of Atlas in ancient Greek. Entry Ατλαντίς in Liddell & Scott. Also in Hesiod, Theogony, 938.
- Three short fragments of that work have been assembled by Robert Louis Fowler (2000), Early Greek Mythography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 161-162.
- "The following papyrus, 1359, which Grenfell and Hunt identified as also from the Catalogue, is regarded by C. ROBERT as part of a separate epic, which he calls Atlantis'." Bell, H. Idris "Bibliography: Graeco-Roman Egypt A. Papyri (1915-1919)", The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Apr., 1920), pp. 119-146.
- P.Oxy. 1359. See Carl Robert (1917): "Eine epische Atlantias", Hermes, Vol. 52, No. 3 (Jul., 1917), pp. 477-79.
Further reading 
- Fragments in Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Müller, Fragmenta historicorum Graecorum, i. and iv.; see among older works Ludwig Preller, De Hellanico Lesbio historico (1840); Mure, History of Greek Literature, iv.; late criticism in H Kullmer, Hellanikos in Jahrbücher für klass. Philologie (Supplementhand, xxvii. 455 sqq.) (1902), which contains new edition and arrangement of fragments; CF Lehmann-Haupt, Hellanikos, Herodot, Thukydides, in Klio vi. 127 sqq. (1906); JB Bury, Ancient Greek Historians (1909), pp. 27 sqq.
- Transcription of Atlantis from P.Oxy 1084 (Wikimedia Commons)
- Transcription of Atlantis from P.Oxy 1084 (Catalogue of Paraliterary Papyri)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- D. Ambaglio, L'opera storiografica di Ellanico di Lesbo, Pisa 1980 ISBN 88-427-0963-8
- G. Ottone, L'Attike xyngraphe di Ellanico di Lesbo. Una Lokalgeschichte in prospettiva eccentrica. In C. Bearzot - F. Landucci (a cura di), Storie di Atene, storia dei Greci. Studi e ricerche di attidografia, Milano 2010, pp. 53-111 ISBN 978-88-343-1950-5.