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date: 03 October 2022

mythographersfree

mythographersfree

  • J. S. Rusten

Subjects

  • Greek Literature

The first comprehensive collection of heroic myths was the Catalogue of Women ascribed to Hesiod, and myths formed a substantial element in the writings of the genealogists (Hecataeus(1), Acusilaus, Pherecydes(2) of Athens, Hellanicus(1)) in the 5th cent. bce, and the Atthidographers (see Atthis) in the 4th. Asclepiades(1) of Tragilus, a pupil of Isocrates, treated the myths of tragedy in particular, and compared them with earlier versions.

But the main mythographic collections date from Hellenistic or early imperial times, and fall into two broad categories. The first type attempts to collect relevant myths to elucidate major authors such as Homer, Pindar, the tragedians (see tragedy, Greek), and the Hellenistic poets. Scattered in the ancient scholia to Pindar, Euripides, Theocritus, Apollonius(1) of Rhodes, and Lycophron(2) are rich collections of mythography. The most remarkable such collection consists of hundreds of stories (historiai) in the scholia to the Iliad and Odyssey, which papyrus discoveries now show to have been an independent book (dubbed the ‘mythographus Homericus’) in antiquity; only later was it incorporated with the scholia. See scholia.

The second category comprises independent collections of myths organized around a particular theme and attributed (usually falsely) to a famous name, such as the star-myths of Eratosthenes (see constellations, §. 3), the love stories of Parthenius, the ‘Tales from Euripides’ of Dicaearchus, the narratives of Conon(3) and the Metamorphoses of Antoninus Liberalis. The greatest of these is the Library of Apollodorus(9). It contains a continuous account of Greek myths from the Creation to the Dorian invasion, arranged by family genealogies; the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women is a likely structural model, although the sources are seldom named, and (for individual details) may be countless.

In Latin, Ovid'sMetamorphoses offered in poetry a comprehensive mythography (although of a very different sort) to match the Catalogue of Women, and several works in Latin either translate or imitate Greek predecessors: mythographic narratives are found in Servius and other scholia, and traces of earlier sources can be glimpsed in the Fabulae and Astronomia of Hyginus(3) (another suspicious attribution) and the miscellanies of Fulgentius and the so-called Mythographi Vaticani (ed. G. H. Bode (1834)).

Bibliography

  • R. L. Fowler, Early Greek Mythography 1 (2000).
  • A. Cameron, Greek Mythography in the Roman World (2004).

For bibliography on Apollodorus (9), see that entry.