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Born Amphipolis or Ephesus
Died Chios or Smyrna
Other names Zoilos, Zoïlus
Era Ancient philosophy
Region Ancient Greek philosophy
School Cynic
Notable ideas
Critique of Homer

Zoilus or Zoilos (Greek: Ζωΐλος; c. 400 – 320 BC) was a Greek grammarian, Cynic philosopher, and literary critic from Amphipolis in East Macedonia, then known as Thrace. He took the name Homeromastix (Ὁμηρομάστιξ "Homer whipper"; gen.: Ὁμηρομάστιγος) later in life.

According to Vitruvius (vii., preface) he lived during the age of Ptolemy Philadelphus, by whom he was crucified as the punishment of his criticisms on the king; but this account should probably be rejected as a fiction based on Zoilus' reputation.[1] Vitruvius goes on to state that Zoilus also may have been stoned at Chios or thrown alive upon a funeral pyre at Smyrna. Either way Vitruvius felt it was just as well since he deserved to be dead for slandering an author who could not defend himself. Zoilus appears to have been at one time a follower of Isocrates, but subsequently a pupil of Polycrates, whom he heard at Athens, where he was a teacher of rhetoric.[1]

Zoilus is especially notable for his role in the beginnings of Homeric scholarship. His monograph Homeric questions seems to have analyzed continuity errors in Homer, but also criticized the impropriety of Homer's depiction of gods indulging in allegedly inappropriate behavior. This monograph is widely regarded as the beginning of classical scholarship.[citation needed] Zoilus also wrote responses to works by Isocrates and Plato, who had attacked the style of Lysias of which he approved.[1]

However, the Homeric questions led to his name becoming a byword for harsh and malignant criticism: in antiquity he gained the name Homeromastix, "scourge of Homer"; in the modern period, Cervantes calls Zoilus a "slanderer" in the preface to Don Quixote and there is also a (now disused) proverb, "Every poet has his Zoilus." Since his writings do not survive, it is impossible to know whether this caricature is justified.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Zoïlus". Encyclopædia Britannica. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 1000.  This cites:
    • U. Friedländer, De Zoilo aliisque Homeri Obtrectatoribus (Königsberg, 1895)
    • J. E. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship (2nd ed. 1906).


  • U. Friedländer, De Zoilo aliisque Homeri obtrectatoribus (Königsberg, 1895)
  • J.E. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship (2nd ed. 1906)
  • Ancient Library