Aristarchus of Samothrace Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Aristarchus of Samothrace (ar-uh-STAHR-kuhs of sa-MUH-thrays) lived in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy VI Philometor (r. 180-145 b.c.e.). He studied under Aristophanes of Byzantium and became the fifth head of the Alexandrian library. He served as a tutor to Philometor’s brother, Ptolemy Euergetes II (Ptolemy VIII), and his sons, including Ptolemy VII Neos Philopator, who succeeded his father in 145 b.c.e. Ptolemy Euergetes II had Ptolemy VII murdered in 144 b.c.e. and persecuted the friends of the late king, including Aristarchus. Aristarchus escaped to Cyprus and died shortly afterward.

Aristarchus was most renowned for his Homeric scholarship. He produced two recensions of the Homeric text and commentaries on these editions. Although these works have been lost, parts of Aristarchus’s scholarship have been preserved in the scholia of the Venetian codex of Homer’s Iliad (c. 800 b.c.e.; English translation, 1616). Aristarchus also produced editions and commentaries on other poets and playwrights, including a commentary on Herodotus, the first on a prose writer. In these works, Aristarchus attempted to interpret a writer through the writer’s use of language.