Life

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

The son of Eucrates, a Hellenistic Galilean, Meleager (mehl-ee-AY-gur) of Gadara lived in Tyre during his youth and early adulthood. He was fluent in Greek, Syrian, and Phoenician. In his early career, he composed Charites (“the graces,” now lost), Menippean satires on popular philosophical themes. His philosophy may have been Cynic, but because all his philosophical works are lost, his leanings cannot be ascertained.

Meleager was one of the earliest Greek epigrammatists. He adapted the epigrams of Asclepiades and Callimachus of Cyrene and paid homage to Antipater of Sidon. As an older man, on Cos, he compiled Stephanos (c. 90-80 b.c.e.; Fifty Poems, 1890; best known as Garland), an anthology of epigrams. Its original scope and composition cannot be determined because, in the tenth century, Constantine Cephalas incorporated it into the Anthologia Hellīnikī (collected in the late ninth century c.e., revised and augmented in the late tenth century c.e.; The Greek Anthology, 1916, also known as Palatine Anthology). About 130 of Meleager’s own epigrams survive. A specialist in erotic poetry, his diction is emotional but his prosody is controlled.