Gallery of Philologists

Papyrus Fragment of Homer (c0200, somewhat later than Zenodotus). It contains parts of Odyssey 12:384-390

Zenodotus of Ephesus studied on the Greek island of Cos, an Ionian city closely identified with Homer. His teacher was Philetas, who later became tutor to Ptolemy I of Egypt. Zenodotus himself was the first head of the Library at Alexandria, a thoroughly systematic enterprise which attempted to collect manuscripts of the major Greek writers, collate their differences, and produce standard texts. Many of the manuscripts of Homer then in existence derived from Athenian schoolmasters and booksellers, and contained their scholia and their expansions, many of them added to make the epic more palatable to Athenian taste. Zenodotus with his Ionian background was closer to the Homeric ethos. It has suggested that he possessed an Ionian performance text of Homer, which would not have contained these Athenian additions. In any case, he marked them as dubious, thus igniting a controversy which still rages at the present time (some of the additions made to suit Athenian taste are also notably agreeable to modern schoolmasters).

In addition to editing Homer and the rest of Greek epic literature (two colleagues at the Library were responsible for other genres), Zenotodus produced a Glossary (Glossai) of hard words in Homer, following the precedent of his teacher Philetas, who had earlier made a study of hard words in general. Thus began the line of scholarly rather than schoolmasterly contributions to the understanding of Greek literature. With this may be compared the stage of development reached in the group (probably to be associated with Sywndz) who in the 03c began to produce glossaries of hard words in the Shr and, later, of other respected texts.

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