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Title: Zenodotus  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Apollonius of Rhodes, Tabula iliaca, English translations of Homer, Dagger (typography), Librarians of Alexandria
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Zenodotus (Greek: Ζηνόδοτος) was a Greek grammarian, literary critic, Homeric scholar, and the first librarian of the Library of Alexandria. A native of Ephesus and a pupil of Philitas of Cos, he lived during the reigns of the first two Ptolemies, and was at the height of his reputation about 280 BC.

Zenodotus was the first superintendent of the Library of Alexandria and the first critical editor (διορθωτής diorthōtes) of Homer. His colleagues in the librarianship were Alexander of Aetolia and Lycophron of Chalcis, to whom were allotted the tragic and comic writers respectively, Homer and other epic poets being assigned to Zenodotus.

Although he has been reproached with arbitrariness and an insufficient knowledge of Greek, his recension undoubtedly laid a sound foundation for future criticism. Having collated the different manuscripts in the library, he expunged or obelized doubtful verses, transposed or altered lines, and introduced new readings. It is probable that he was responsible for the division of the Homeric poems into twenty-four books each (using capital Greek letters for the Iliad, and lower-case for the Odyssey), and possibly was the author of the calculation of the days of the Iliad in the Tabula Iliaca.

He does not appear to have written any regular commentary on Homer, but his Homeric γλῶσσαι (glōssai, "lists of unusual words, glosses") probably formed the source of the explanations of Homer attributed by the grammarians to Zenodotus. He also lectured upon Hesiod, Anacreon and Pindar, if he did not publish editions of them. He is further called an epic poet by the Suda, and three epigrams in the Greek Anthology are assigned to him.

In addition to his other scholarly work, Zenodotus introduced an organization system on the materials in the metadata, a landmark in library history.[1]

There appear to have been at least two other grammarians of the same name:

  1. Zenodotus of Alexandria, surnamed ὁ ἐν ἄστει (ho en astei, "the one from the city", i.e. Alexandria)
  2. Zenodotus of Mallus, the disciple of Crates, who like his master attacked Aristarchus of Samothrace

See also


  1. ^ Phillips, Heather A., "The Great Library of Alexandria?". Library Philosophy and Practice, August 2010


    • F. A. Wolf, Prolegomena ad Homerum, section 43 (1859 edition)
    • H. Düntzer, De Zenodoti studiis Homericis (1848)
    • A. Römer, Über die Homerrecension des Zenodotus (Munich, 1885)
    • F. Susemihl, Geschichte der griechischen Litteratur in der Alexandrinerzeit, i. p. 330, ii. p. 14
    • J. E. Sandys, Hist. of Class. Schol. (1906), ed. 2, vol. i. pp. 119–121.
    This cites:  
  • R. Pfeiffer (1968), History of Classical Scholarship (Oxford), pp. 105–22
  • L.D. Reynolds and N.G. Wilson (1991), Scribes and Scholars (3rd edition, Oxford), pp. 8–12

External links

  • New Advent Encyclopedia article on Library of Alexandria
New title Head of the Library of Alexandria Succeeded by
Apollonius of Rhodes
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