Aratus Criticism - Essay

E. Poste (essay date 1880)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Poste, E. Preface to The Skies and Weather-Forecasts of Aratus, translated by E. Poste, pp. v-viii. London: Macmillan, 1880.

[In the following preface to his translation of Aratus's Phaenomena, Poste briefly summarizes the poet's life and antique commentaries on his writing.]

A little observation of the nightly skies inspired a curiosity to see what an ancient poet, now seldom read, had to say on the subject; and a moderate amount of pleasure having been derived from the perusal, the thought occurred that other students of Astronomy or Meteorology, to whom Aratus in his Greek garb was inaccessible, might feel the same curiosity. Hence the following...

(The entire section is 643 words.)

Alfred Körte (essay date 1929)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Körte, Alfred. “Alexandria: The Epic.” In Hellenistic Poetry, translated by Jacob Hammer and Moses Hadas, pp. 150-256. New York: Columbia University Press, 1929.

[In the following excerpt, Körte surveys the content of Aratus's Phaenomena, noting its widespread popularity in the classical era.]

Aratus was a contemporary of Callimachus, perhaps an older contemporary, and was descended from a respectable family of Soli, a Greek city of Cilicia. With his brother Athenodorus he went to Athens to study. Both brothers joined the philosopher Zeno, who had at that time founded the Stoic school. Although Aratus' connection with the Stoa does not appear to...

(The entire section is 1966 words.)

William Sale (essay date January 1966)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Sale, William. “The Popularity of Aratus.” Classical Journal 61, no. 4 (January 1966): 160-64.

[In the following essay, Sale explores the reputation of Aratus's Phaenomena, discussing the work as a guide to the stars, an astrologer's handbook, and a poetic blend of science and Stoicism.]

One of the tasks which any historian of Hellenistic literature must look upon as providing a definition of the term “thankless” is to explain why the Phaenomena of Aratus, which seems in most of its parts tedious, was so enormously popular from the third century b.c. until at least the fourth of our era. That it was popular cannot be gainsaid. The polymath...

(The entire section is 2955 words.)

Friedrich Solmsen (essay date January 1966)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Solmsen, Friedrich. “Aratus on the Maiden and the Golden Age.” Hermes 94, no. 1 (January 1966): 124-28.

[In the following essay, Solmsen discusses Aratus's depiction of Dike, the maiden goddess of justice, and his vision of the Golden Age in the Phaenomena.]

Walther Ludwig's illuminating article1 has shown how ingeniously and with how gentle a hand Aratus appropriates Hesiodic motifs and phrases. Availing myself of Ludwig's insights, I offer a few additional observations bearing on the section about the Παθένοs (vv. 96-136).

In the opening lines of this section Aratus professes to leave his readers a choice between three...

(The entire section is 2360 words.)

William Levitan (essay date 1979)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Levitan, William. “Plexed Artistry: Aratean Acrostics.” Glyph 5 (1979): 55-68.

[In the following excerpt, Levitan identifies three hidden acrostics in the Phaenomena that, he concludes, suggest the concepts of “subtlety, totality, and signification” which inform the literary aesthetics of Aratus.]

ϕύσιs κρύπτεσθαι ϕιλεῖ


Well, we have frankly enjoyed
more than anything these
secret workings of nature. …

Finnegans Wake

The aesthetic revolution that gave rise to the literature of the Hellenistic period (and ultimately to the literature of Rome)...

(The entire section is 4577 words.)

Stanley Lombardo (essay date 1983)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Lombardo, Stanley. Introduction to Sky Signs: Aratus's Phaenomena, translated by Stanley Lombardo. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, 1983, np.

[In the following excerpt from the introduction to his translation of the Phaenomena, Lombardo remarks on Aratus's poetic vision and provides a structural outline of the poem.]

Aratus' Phaenomena is a semiological celebration of the sky in 1154 Greek hexameters. The sky has not changed much since the time of its publication (c. 270 b.c.) and it may be that the literary climate today is conducive to the revival of a work in which visual signs—celestial, meteorological and verbal—form the very stuff...

(The entire section is 6117 words.)

Carl Springer (essay date 1984)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Springer, Carl. “Aratus and the Cups of Menalcas: A Note on Eclogue 3.42.” Classical Journal 79, no. 2 (1984): 131-34.

[In the following essay, Springer notes allusions to Aratus in Virgil's third Eclogue.]

In Vergil's third Eclogue the herdsman Menalcas has forgotten the name of one of the two figures carved on the drinking cups which he proposes to wager in an amoebaean singing contest with another herdsman, Damoetas. Menalcas can only remember the name of Conon, a third-century astronomer at the court of Ptolemy Philadelphus. So he asks Damoetas:

… quis fuit alter,
descripsit radio totum qui gentibus orbem,
tempora quae messor, quae...

(The entire section is 1847 words.)

A. W. Bulloch (essay date 1985)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Bulloch, A. W. “Hellenistic Poetry: Minor Figures.” In The Cambridge History of Classical Literature I: Greek Literature, edited by P. E. Easterling and B. M. W. Knox, pp. 598-621. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

[In the following excerpt, Bulloch recounts what is known of Aratus's life and writings.]

Apollonius' Argonautica is the only narrative epic to have survived intact from the Hellenistic period, and the only other major examples of epic hexameter writing are poems in the didactic tradition by Aratus and Nicander. The biographies of both authors are uncertain, but about Aratus we can make some reasonable inferences. He seems to...

(The entire section is 1918 words.)

George Lovi (essay date October 1986)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Lovi, George. “Aratus, the Constellation Bard.” Sky and Telescope 72, no. 4 (October 1986): 375-76.

[In the following essay, Lovi explores the content and popularity of Aratus's Phaenomena.]

Astronomers take the constellations so much for granted that relatively few give much thought to their origins. We're all aware that the best-known constellations “date from ancient times.” Yet in fact the 88 groups we recognize today differ drastically in age. The most recent are the 14 introduced in the southern sky by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1752 and 1763. The oldest have origins lost in prehistoric times.

Many constellations, including...

(The entire section is 950 words.)

G. O. Hutchinson (essay date 1988)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Hutchinson, G. O. “Other Poets: Aratus.” In Hellenistic Poetry, pp. 214-35. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

[In the following excerpt, Hutchinson presents a detailed structural, thematic, and linguistic analysis of the Phaenomena.]

We consider first Aratus, whose poetic career overlapped with Callimachus'.1 The only substantial work of his to survive is the Phaenomena. The poem was praised by Callimachus and others for its elegance; it also contains some elevated passages on the gods.2 We should not allow either fact to limit too greatly our approach to the poem. It does have for its core a poetic version of two...

(The entire section is 8281 words.)

Barbara Hughes Fowler (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Fowler, Barbara Hughes. “The Creatures.” In The Hellenistic Aesthetic, pp. 115-67. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.

[In the following excerpt, Fowler describes Aratus's portrayal of animals, the Stoic worldview, and his indebtedness to Hesiod in the Phaenomena.]

Aratus, more obviously than any other Hellenistic poet, shows a scientific interest in animals. He, of course, follows self-consciously in the Hesiodic, didactic tradition. A part of his didacticism is his versification of the works of Eudoxus and Theophrastus. Governing it all perhaps is his Stoicism. The pattern in the skies is perpetuated in the patterns on earth. The same fire that...

(The entire section is 2045 words.)

M. J. Edwards (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Edwards, M. J. “Quoting Aratus: Acts 17,28.” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentarische Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 83, nos. 3-4 (1992): 266-69.

[In the following essay, Edwards considers the extent to which Saint Paul and Luke may have possessed first-hand knowledge of the Phaenomena of Aratus.]

ἐν αὐτo γὰρ ζoμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμἐν· ὡs καί τινεs τoν καθ'ὑμas ποιητῶν εἰρήκασιν· τοὑγ ὰρ καὶ γἐνοs ἐσμἐν.

This verse from Paul's speech to the Athenians prompts two related...

(The entire section is 1938 words.)

A.-M. Lewis (review date fall-winter 1999)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Lewis, A.-M. Review of Aratus: Phaenomena, edited and translated by Douglas Kidd. Phoenix 53, nos. 3-4 (fall-winter 1999): 371-74.

[In the following review, Lewis evaluates Douglas Kidd's prose translation of the Phaenomena, emphasizing its status as the new standard critical edition of the poem in English.]

Douglas Kidd is Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. He was first inspired to undertake an edition of the Phaenomena of Aratus over thirty years ago (as he mentions on page xi of his preface) and has written, since 1961, three articles dealing with Aratus and the...

(The entire section is 1381 words.)

Emma Gee (essay date 2001)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Gee, Emma. “Cicero's Astronomy.” Classical Quarterly 51, no. 2 (2001): 520-36.

[In the following essay, Gee assesses Cicero's Aratea—a Latin adaptation of Aratus's Phaenomena—comparing two versions of the work and analyzing the symbolic and philosophical concepts highlighted in Cicero's strongly Stoic interpretation of the poem.]


Imagine that the only reliable way of telling the time of year was by the stars. The observer would have to know the positions of the constellations and their movements relative to one another, and to be aware of the meteorological phenomena accompanying them. This...

(The entire section is 9438 words.)

Mirjam Plantinga (review date 2001)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: Plantinga, Mirjam. Review of Aratos: Phénomènes, edited and translated by J. Martin. Classical Review 51, no. 1 (2001): 23-5.

[In the following review, Plantinga compares J. Martin's French-language critical edition of the Phaenomena, with that of English translator Douglas Kidd, concluding that the two editions as complementary.]

At the beginning of his career, Professor J. Martin published his first edition of this text (Arati Phaenomena [Florence, 1956]) and a book on its textual tradition (Histoire du Texte des Phénomènes d'Aratos [Paris, 1956]); this was followed in 1974 by his edition of the scholia (Scholia in Aratum...

(The entire section is 1498 words.)