Gods and Heroes of the Greeks: The Library of Apollodorus

By Michael Simpson; Leonard Baskin et al. | Go to book overview
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The Library The Library of Apollodorus, a handbook of Greek mythology, alone of the many works of its kind survives antiquity. It is therefore a major source for our knowledge of the myths. Although it was attributed to the Athenian grammarian, Apollodorus ( 1 80)- 120 or 110 B.C.), all of whose writings, except for a few fragments, are lost, modern scholars agree that Apollodorus and the author of the Library were not the same man. The latter remains unknown.1 By convention, however, Apollodorus' name continues to be attached to the work.

The handbook was probably written no earlier than the first century B.C. The most likely date for its composition is the first century A.D.2 It is composed of three books and an epitome or abridgment of the remainder made by whom we do not know.

The Library gives a straightforward account of Greek mythology from the birth of the gods to the death of Odysseus. Sir James G. Frazer calls it "an accurate record of what the Greeks in general believed about the origin and early history of the world and of their race."3

There author of the work made no attempt to give literary shape to his handbook. It is not a work of art like Ovid Metamorphoses, but rather a compendium of mythology. The absence of literary artifice, however, enables us to trust Apollodorus' use of his sources.4

The most frequently quoted source in the Library is Pherecydes, who lived at Athens in the first half of the fifth century B.C. His prose work on Greek mythology (now lost) was consulted as a basic text by writers in the classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods.5 Next in importance are Acusilaus, a logographer who lived at the end of the sixth century B.C. and made a paraphrase in prose of Hesiod's genealogical poems; and Hesiod, the eighth-century B.C. Boeotian epic poet, whose Theogony and Works and Days survive entire. In relying on these


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