(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Aratus (uh-RAYT-uhs) was born in Soli in Cilicia, where his portrait appeared on later coins. Ancient accounts associate him with many philosophers and poets, most importantly the Stoics Zeno and Persaeus of Citium. Like Persaeus, he accepted the invitation to join the court of another student of Stoicism, Antigonus II Gonatas, king of Macedonia, probably in 277 or 276 b.c.e. The poet may have worked in Syria and died in Macedonia.

Aratus’s Phaenomena (n.d.; English translation, 1893), the most important example of Hellenistic didactic poetry, is a rendering in hexameter verse of two prose works, Eudoxus’s description of the celestial sphere and a Peripatetic treatise on weather signs. Its affinities to the earlier poems of Hesiod were noted in antiquity, and its emphasis on the predictability of the natural world as evidence of divine providence made it particularly popular within Stoicism and later Christianity. Of the large number of other works attributed to Aratus, only two short epigrams survive.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Phaenomena was praised and echoed by Aratus’s contemporaries, Theocritus of Syracuse and Apollonius Rhodius, and by Latin poets including Vergil and Ovid. Several translations into Latin survive in whole or part, as do many late handbooks, often illustrated, that use Phaenomena as an introduction to the study of astronomy.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Aratus. Phaenomena. Translated by Douglas Kidd. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Lewis, A. M. “The Popularity of the æPhainomena’ of Aratus: A Re-evaluation.” In Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History, edited by C. Deroux. 9 vols. Brussels: Latomas, 1979-2000.