Meleager of Gadara

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Meleager of Gadara (Greek: Μελέαγρος; 1st century BCE) was a poet and collector of epigrams. He wrote some satirical prose, now lost, and he wrote some sensual poetry, of which 134 epigrams survive. He also compiled numerous epigrams from diverse poets in an anthology known as the Garland, and although this does not survive, it is the original basis for the Greek Anthology.

Life[edit]

He was the son of Eucrates, born in the city of Gadara, now Umm Qais in Jordan, which was then a partially Hellenized community in northern Palestine and is identified with Ramoth-Gilead of the Old Testament. He was educated in Tyre and spent his later life in Cos where he died at an advanced age. The scholiast to the Palatine manuscript of the Greek Anthology says he flourished in the reign of Seleucus VI Epiphanes (95 – 93 BCE). The uppermost date of his compilation of the Anthology is 60 BCE, as it did not include Philodemus of Gadara, though later editors added thirty-four epigrams.

Some writers classed him among the Cynics,[1] and like his compatriot Menippus, Meleager wrote what were known as spoudogeloia (Greek singular: σπουδογέλοιος), satirical prose essays putting philosophy in popular form with humorous illustrations. These are completely lost. Meleager's fame is securely founded on the one hundred and thirty-four epigrams of his own which he included in his Anthology. The manuscripts of the Greek Anthology are the sole source of these epigrams.[2]

The Garland of Meleager[edit]

Meleager is famous for his anthology of poetry entitled The Garland (Greek: Στέφανος). Polemon of Ilium and others had created collections of monumental inscriptions, or of poems on particular subjects earlier, but Meleager first did so comprehensively. He collected epigrams by forty-six Greek poets, from every lyric period up to his own. His title referred to the commonplace comparison of small beautiful poems to flowers, and in the introduction to his work, he attached the names of various flowers, shrubs, and herbs — as emblems — to the names of the several poets. He arranged his Garland in alphabetical order according to the initial letter of each epigram.[3] The Garland itself has survived only as the original constituent root to the Anthologia Graeca.

Poetry[edit]

Meleager's poetry is concerned with personal experience and emotions, frequently with love and its discontents. He typically describes himself not as an active and engaged lover, but as one struck by the beauty of a woman or boy. The following is an example:[4]

At 12 o'clock in the afternoon
In the middle of the street –
Alexis!
Summer had all but brought the fruit
To its perilous end:
And the summer sun and that boy's look
Did their work on me!

References[edit]

  1. ^ Athenaeus, Deipnosophists iv. 157. See also Diogenes Laërtius, vi. 99, who classes Meleager with Menippus.
  2. ^ Select Epigrams from the Greek Anthology J.W. Mackail, editor. Longmans, Green & Co., 1890
  3. ^ Smith, Philip (1867). "Planudes". In William Smith. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology 3. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 385. 
  4. ^ Greek Anthology, xii. 127, from Peter Jay, (1974), The Greek Anthology and Other Ancient Greek Epigrams, page 142.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Greek Anthology: Hellenistic Epigrams Edited by A.S.F. Gow and D.L. Page (2 vols., 1965 Cambridge U.P.) (Ancient Greek text, English translations, detailed commentary)
  • Meleager, The Poems of Meleager Tr. Peter Wigham, Peter Jay. (1975. Anvil Press) ISBN 0-85646-000-1
  • Meleager, Meleager: The Poems Tr. Jerry Clack (1992. Bolchazy-Carducci) ISBN 978-0-86516-254-9