Apollonius Rhodius Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

The birth of Apollonius Rhodius is placed by scholars at various times between 295 and 260 b.c.e., and the year of his death is equally uncertain. In fact, there is very little information about his life available today. There are two “lives” of Apollonius, both derived from an earlier biography which is lost. From these one learns that Apollonius was the son of one Silleus (or Illeus) and was born either at Alexandria or Naucratis. Possibly, as has been suggested, he was born at Naucratis and reared in Alexandria.

Apollonius lived during the reign of the Ptolemies and apparently was a pupil of Callimachus, the literary dictator of the time, an author of frigid, learned poems and a few highly polished epigrams and the originator of the terse and generally true dictum that a big book is a big nuisance. Apollonius’s opinions on the subject of lengthy poems were diametrically opposed to those of Callimachus and, hence, heretical. At a youthful age, the student-poet produced a long poem on the Argonautic expedition. It was a complete failure, and in his shame and distress, Apollonius left Alexandria and settled in Rhodes. There he revised and polished, and perhaps completed, his work. The Rhodians gave his book a far more favorable reception. He was given Rhodian citizenship, hence the surname Rhodius, and was held in high esteem. Years later, after the death of Callimachus, Apollonius returned to Alexandria to a better reception; indeed, one biographer...

(The entire section is 519 words.)