Bibliotheca (Pseudo-Apollodorus)

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The Bibliotheca (Ancient Greek: Βιβλιοθήκη 'library'), in three books, provides a grand summary of traditional Greek mythology and heroic legends, "the most valuable mythographical work that has come down from ancient times," Aubrey Diller observed,[1] whose "stultifying purpose" was neatly expressed in the epigram noted by Patriarch Photius I of Constantinople:

It has the following not ungraceful epigram: 'Draw your knowledge of the past from me and read the ancient tales of learned lore. Look neither at the page of Homer, nor of elegy, nor tragic muse, nor epic strain. Seek not the vaunted verse of the cycle; but look in me and you will find in me all that the world contains'.[2]

The brief and plainly expressed accounts of myth in the Bibliotheca have led some commentators to suggest that even its complete sections are an epitome of a lost work.



A certain "Apollodorus" is indicated as author on some surviving manuscripts (Diller 1983). This Apollodorus has been mistakenly identified with Apollodorus of Athens (born c. 180 BC), a student of Aristarchus of Samothrace, mainly as it is known—from references in the minor scholia on Homer—that Apollodorus of Athens did leave a similar comprehensive repertory on mythology, in the form of a verse chronicle. The text that we possess, however, cites a Roman author: Castor the Annalist, a contemporary of Cicero in the 1st century BC. The mistaken attribution was made by scholars from Photius onwards. Since for chronological reasons Apollodorus of Athens could not have written the book, the Scriptor Bibliothecae ("the writer of the Bibliotheca") is conventionally called the "Pseudo-Apollodorus" by those wishing to be scrupulously correct. Traditional references simply instance "the Library and Epitome".

Manuscript tradition

The first mention of the work, ignored as a popularised handbook by Classical authors, is by Photius. The work was almost lost in the thirteenth century, surviving in one now-incomplete manuscript,[3] which was copied for Cardinal Bessarion in the fifteenth century; from Bessarion's copy[4] the other surviving manuscripts depend.

Unfortunately the Bibliotheca has not come down to us complete. It is undivided in the manuscripts but conventionally divided in three books. Part of the third book, which breaks off abruptly in the story of Theseus, has been lost. The Patriarch Photius had the full work before him, as he mentions in his "account of books read" that it contained stories of the heroes of the Trojan War and the nostoi, missing in surviving manuscripts. On the other hand, we have an epitome that was made by James George Frazer, who conflated two manuscript summaries of the text,[5] also including the lost part, leaving us a good summary of its contents.

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