Meleager

, a Greek epigrammatic poet, and the first collector of the epigrams that form the Greek Anthologia, was the son of Eucrates, and is generally considered as a native of Gadara in Syria, where he chiefly lived; but, according to Harles, was born rather at Atthis, an inconsiderable place, in the territory of Gadara. The time in which he lived has been a subject of controversy. Vavassor, in some degree, with the consent of Fabricius, and Reiske, in his Notitia Poetarum Anthologicorum, p. 131, contend, that he lived under Seleucus VI. the last king of Syria, who began to reign in olym. 170. 3. A. C. 96. This is confirmed by an old Greek scholiast, who says, ἤχμασεν ἐπὶ Σελεύχ τᾶ ἐσχάτα. “He flourished under Seleucus the last.” Saxius accordingly inserts his name at the year abovementioned. Some would carry him back to the 148th olympiad, A. C. 186, which, however, is not incompatible with the other account; and Schneider would bring him down to the age of Augustus, from a supposed imitation of an epigram of Strato, who lived then. But, as it may equally be supposed that Strato imitated him, this argument is of little validity. One of his epigrams in praise of Antipater Sidonius, seems to prove that he was contemporary with him (Epig. cxxiii*. ed. Brunck.) and another, in which he speaks of the fall of Corinth as a recent event, which happened in olym. 158. 4. may be thought to fix him also to that time. As he calls himself Kokuetw, or aged, in one of his compositions, there will be no inconsistency between these marks, and the account of the scholiast.

In his youth, Meleager lived chiefly at Gadara, and | imitated the style and manner of Menippus, who had lived before him in the same city. He afterwards resided at Tyre j but in his old age, on account of the wars which then ravaged Syria, he changed his abode to the island of Cos, where he died. In the Anthologia are extant three epitaphs upon this poet, two of which, at least, are supposed to have been written by himself. Of one there can be no doubt from internal evidence, “N<roj spot,” &c.

There was a Cynic of Gadara, of the name of Meleager, whom some confound with this poet, and others distinguish; it seems very unlikely that this elegant writer was a Cynic. Meleager formed two collections of Greek verses, under the name of Anthologia - t one, it is melancholy to say, was entirely dedicated to that odious passion of the Greeks, which among us it is a shame even to mention. To this infamous collection was prefixed a poem, still extant, in which the youths whose beauty was celebrated, are described as flowers. A poet named Strato, increased this collection, and prefixed to it his own name: but Agathias and Planudes, to their honour, rejected this part altogether, and formed their collections from the second Anthologia of Meleager, which consisted of compositions entirely miscellaneous. On this the present collections of Greek epigrams are founded. The poems of Meleager in Brunck’s edition, amount to 129, the greater part of which are epigrams. They display great elegance of genius, and do as much honour to the collection, as most of those which it contains. Lord Chesterfield’s indiscriminate censure of the Greek epigrams, must be the result of mere ignorance, since many of them are of the highest elegance. He had seen, probably, a few of the worst, and knew nothing of the rest. Of the epigrams of Meleager, many are truly elegant, but those numbered, in Brunck’s Analecta, 50, 51, 52, 55, 57, 58, 61, 63, 109, 111, 112, and several others, have beauty enough to rescue the whole collection from the unjust censure of the witty, but not learned earl. 1

1

Harles in edit. Fabric. Bibl, Grsec. vol. IV. p. 416, Schneider Peric. Criticum, p. 65. —Saxii Onomast.