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This webpage reproduces part of the Introduction to
the Cynegetica and Halieutica


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Part 2

 p. xiii  Introduction
to Oppian

The Authorship of the Poems

The author­ship of the Cynegetica and the Halieutica presents a problem of some perplexity owing to the impossibility of reconciling some of the external evidence regarding Oppian with the internal evidence presented by the poems themselves.

I. External Evidence. — This consists in the ancient Vitae (Βίοι) preserved in various MSS. of the poems, with a short notice in Suidas, and some references to and quotations from the Halieutica — there are no references to or quotations from the Cynegetica — in later writers.

Vitae. Of the ancient Lives, which show at once considerable agreement and considerable discrepancy, Anton. Westermann, in his ΒΙΟΓΡΑΦΟΙ, Brunsvigae, 1845, distinguishes two recensions, which we shall here denote as Vita A and Vita B respectively.

Vita A, "quae narrationem praebet omnium simplicissimam," as printed by Westermann may be translated as follows:—

"Oppian the poet was the son of Agesilaus and Zenodotè, and his birthplace was Anazarbos in Cilicia. His father, a man of wealth and considered the foremost citizen of his native city, distinguished  p. xiv too for culture and living the life of a philosopher, trained his son on the same lines and educated him in the whole curriculum of education — music and geometry and especially grammar. When Oppian was about thirty years of age, the Roman Emperor Severus​1 visited Anazarbos. And whereas it was the duty of all public men to meet the Emperor, Agesilaus as a philosopher and one who despised all vain-glory neglected to do so. The Emperor was angered and banished him to the island of Melite in the Adriatic. There the son accompanied his father and there he wrote these very notable poems. Coming to Rome in the time of Antoninus,​2 son of Severus — Severus being already dead — he read his poetry and was bidden to ask anything he pleased. He asked and obtained the restoration of his father, and received further for each verse or line of his poetry a golden coin. Returning home with his father and a pestilence coming upon Anazarbos he soon after died. His fellow-citizens gave him a funeral and erected in his honour a splendid monument with the following inscription:

" 'I, Oppian, won everlasting fame, but Fate's envious thread carried me off and chilly Hades took me while still young — me the minstrel of sweet song. But had dread Envy allowed me to remain alive long, no man would have won such glory as I.'3

"He wrote also certain other poems and he lived for thirty years. He possessed much polish and  p. xv smoothness coupled with conciseness and nobility — a most difficult combination. He is particularly successful in sententious sayings and similes."

Vita B, which is "referta interpolationibus," is given by Westermann in its most interpolated form. In the main it agrees with Vita A and we merely note the discrepancies, apart from those which are only verbal.

1. The birthplace of Oppian is first given as "either Anazarbos or Corycos" and afterward it is referred to as Corycos.

2. The Melite to which his father was banished is described as an island of Italy, whereas in Vita A it is said to be in the Adriatic. This points to a confusion of the Adriatic Meleda with Malta — both anciently Melite.

3. While Vita A describes the poetry written at Melite quite vaguely as τοιαῦτα τὰ ποιήματα ἀξιολογώτατα ὄντα, Vita B says, τὰ ποιήματα τὰ κάλλιστα ταῦτα ἐν ε βιβλίοις [i.e. the Halieutica].

4. While Vita A says no more of his other writings than merely: ἔγραψε δὲ καὶ ἄλλα ποιήματά τινα, Vita B has: συνέταξε δὲ καὶ ἄλλα ποιήματα θαυμαστὰ παῖς ὢν ἔτι, τά τε Ἰξευτικὰ καὶ Κυνηγετικά, ἑκάτερα ἐν ε′ (sic) βιβλίοις παρὰ μέρος περιλαβών. ἐν τούτοις δὲ [sc. the Halieutica] μάλιστα διέπρεψεν, ἅτε δὴ περὶ τὴν ἀκμὴν τοῦ φρονεῖν γεγενημένος.

Westermann prints also a Life of Oppian in στίχοι πολιτικοί by Constantinus Manasses which is merely a paraphrase of Vita A.

Lastly, we have the notice in Suidas s. Ὀππιανός· Κίλιξ ἀπὸ Κωρύκου πόλεως, γραμματικὸς καὶ ἐποποιός, γεγονὼς ἐπὶ Μάρκου Ἀντωνίνου βασιλέως. Ἁλιευτικὰ ἐν βιβλίοις ε′, Κυνηγετικὰ ἐν βιβλίοις τέσσαρσι,  p. xvi Ἰξευτικὰ βιβλία β′ (sc. ἔγραψεν). He adds a single sentence about his being rewarded by the Emperor — as he does not specify what Emperor, doubtless he means Marcus Antoninus as above.

Other references or quotations

Athenaeus 13B (in a list of verse Ἁλιευτικά): καὶ τὸν ὀλίγῳ πρὸ ἡμῶν γενόμενον Ὀππιανὸν τὸν Κίλικα. The precise date of Athenaeus is not certainly known. Suidas has s. Ἀθήναιος Ναυκρατίτης· γραμματικός, γεγονὼς ἐπὶ τῶν χρόνων Μάρκου. The contemptuous reference to the Emperor Commodus in Athen. 537F τί οὖν θαυμαστὸν εἰ καὶ καθ’ ἡμᾶς Κόμμοδος ὁ αὐτοκράτωρ ἐπὶ τῶν ὀχήματων παρακείμενον εἶχεν τὸ Ἡράκλειον ῥόπαλον ὑπεστρωμένης αὐτῷ λεοντῆς καὶ Ἡρακλῆς καλεῖσθαι ἤθελεν suggests that the Deipnosophistae was not finished till after the death of Commodus (A.D. 193).

Suidas [10th cent.] s. Ἀσφάλιος Ποσειδῶν· Ἀσφάλιος ῥιζοῦχα θεμείλια νέρθε φυλάσσων· τελευταῖος οὗτος τοῦ ε′ τῶν Ἁλιευτικῶν Ὀππιανοῦ [Hal. V.680].

Geoponica [10th cent.] XX.2 gives Oppian as the authority for that chapter: Ἰχθῦς εἰς ἕνα τόπον συναγαγεῖν. Ὀππιανοῦ.

Etymologicum Magnum [c. A.D. 1100] s. ἀφύη· . . . ἡ μὴ πεφυκυῖα, τοῦ α κακὸν σημαίνοντος. Ὀππιανός· Ὧδε καὶ ἠπεδανῆς ἀφύης ὀλιγηπελὲς ἔθνος | οὔτινος ἐκγεγάασιν ἀφ’ αἵματος οὐδὲ τοκήων [= Hal. I.767 f.]· καὶ μεθ’ ἑτέρους <ς′>4 ζήτει στίχους· ἐκ δὲ γενέθλης | οὔνομ’ ἐπικλήδην ἀφρήτιδες αὐδάωνται [= Hal. I.775 f.]· γράφεται ἀφυήτιδες. s. Κωρύκιον· . . . καὶ Ὀππιανὸς ἐν τρίτῷ Ἁλιευτικῶν· Πανὶ δὲ Κωρυκίῳ βυθίην παρακάτθεο  p. xvii τέχνην | παιδὶ τεῷ [= Hal. III.15]. s. λάβραξ· . . . ἔστιν οὖν παρὰ τὸ λάβρως ἐσθίειν· ἀδηφάγον γάρ ἐστι τὸ ζῶον, ὡς ἱστορεῖ Ὀππιανὸς ἐν τοῖς Ἁλιευτικοῖς [= Hal. II.130].

Eustathius [12th cent.] on Dion. P. II.270 τοῦ εὐρωποῦ, ὅπερ δηλοῖ τὸν πλατὺν ἢ σκοτεινόν, ἐξ οὗ καὶ σπήλαιον παρὰ τῷ Ὀππιανῷ εὐρωπόν [apparently thinking of Hal. III.19 f. ἔκ τε βερέθρου | δύμεναι εὐρωποῖο]; on 538 οἱ δὲ περὶ Κύζικον καὶ Προκόνησον τὸν Μέλανα κόλπον τιθέμενοι δοκοῦσιν ἀμάρτυρα λαλεῖν, εἰ μὴ ἄρα ἔκ τινος χωρίου βοηθοῦνται κειμένου ἐν τοῖς τοῦ Ὀππιανοῦ Ἁλιευτικοῖς, ὅπου περὶ τῆς τῶν πηλαμύδων ἄγρας ἐκεῖνός φησι [= Hal. IV.115]; on 772 Ὀππιανὸς δὲ καὶ τοὺς περὶ Τίγριν Ἀσσυρίους καλεῖ, οὓς καὶ πολυγύναικας ἱστορεῖ [= Hal. IV.204]; on 803 καὶ τὸ ἀλγινόεις παρὰ τῷ Ὀππιανῷ [= Hal. IV.73]; on 916 καὶ Ὀππιανὸς τοῦ ἀλγινόεις ἀπισχνάνας τὴν δίφθογγον εἰς μονόφθογγον διὰ τοῦ ι γράφει ὡς προερρέθη τὴν προπαραλήγουσαν [= Hal. IV.73]; on 1055 ὅτι εὕρηται ὧδε τὸ ἀέναος διὰ ἑνὸς ν μετὰ ἐκτάσεως τῆς ἀρχούσης. φησὶ γάρ, καὶ πόρον ἀενάων ποταμῶν . . . εἰ μή τις τὴν τῶν ἀντιγράγων αἰτιώμενος φαυλότητα φυλάσσει μὲν τὴν διὰ τῶν δύο νν γραφήν, θεραπεύει δὲ τὸ πάθος τοῦ μέτρου διὰ συνιζήσεως, ὡς καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ τῶν Ἁλιευτικῶν Ὀππιανοῦ [= Hal. I.24].

Eustathius on Hom. quotes Oppian thus: on Hom. Il. XXI.337 οὕτω δέ πως καὶ Ὀππιανὸς τὴν λέξιν λαμβάνει, φλέγμα λέγων τὴν θερινὴν φλόγωσιν [= Hal. I.20]; on Hom. Od. XXII.468 διδάσκει δὲ (ὁ Ἀθηναῖος) ἀκολούθως τῷ Ὀππιανῷ καὶ ὅτι ἡ τρίγλη τριγόνοις γοναῖς ἐπώνυμος οὖσα [= Hal. I.590]; on Hom. Od. XVIII.367 ἰστέον δὲ καὶ ὅτι Ὀππιανὸς μὲν καὶ τὸ αἷμα ἔαρ ἔφη διὰ μόνου τοῦ ε ψιλοῦ [= Hal. II.618]; on Od. II.290 ὁ τρόφις, οὗ αἰτιατικὴ μὲν παρὰ Ὀππιανῷ ἐν  p. xviii τῷ "ἱερὸν τρόφιν (v.l. τρόχιν) Ἐννοσιγαίου," εὐθεῖα δὲ πληθυντικὴ παρὰ τῷ Ἡεροδότῳ ἐν τῷ ἐπὰν γένωνται τρόφιες (Herod. IV.9) [= Hal. II.634]; on Il. IV.20 ὅτι μύξα οὐ μόνον περίττωμα τὸ ζωικὸν ἀλλὰ καί τις ἑτεροία ἡ παρὰ τῷ Ὀππιανῷ γλαγόεσσα (cf. Eustath. on Il. II.637) [= Hal. III.376]; on Il. III.367 ἔστι καὶ ὄνομα (i.e. adjective) παρὰ τῷ Ὀππιανῷ ὀφέλλιμος, ὅ τινες ὀφέλσιμος ἔγραψαν Αἰολικώτερον [= Hal. III.429]; on Il. III.54 Ὀππιανὸς οὖν λατύσσεσθαι πτερυγίοις [= Hal. I.628 λατυσσομένη πτερύγεσσιν] ἰχθύας καὶ ἔλαφον πτώσσειν ἠλέματον [= Hal. IV.590 ἔλαφοι ἠλέματα πτώσσουσι]. Schol. BV on Il. XIII.443 quotes H. I.134 f.

II. Internal Evidence. — Cynegetica. 1. The Cynegetica is dedicated to Caracalla (more correctly Caracallus), one of the two sons (the other being Geta) of L. Septimius Severus, Roman Emperor, A.D. 193‑211, by his second wife, Julia Domna of Emesa in Syria: Cyn. I.3 f. Ἀντωνῖνε· | τὸν μεγάλη μεγάλῳ φιτύσατο Δόμνα Σεβήρῳ. Caracalla (this is only a nickname), born at Lyons in A.D. 188, was first called Bassianus. He was made Caesar in 196, Imperator under the name of M. Aurelius Antoninus in 197, and Augustus with tribunician power in 198. On the death of Severus at York in 211, his two sons shared the imperial throne till the murder of Geta in 212. The most natural date for the Cynegetica is after Caracalla became sole Emperor, i.e., after 212.

2. The poem is in any case dated after 198 by the allusion in I.31 ἐφρασάμην Πάρθων τε δύας καὶ Κτησιφόωντα to the capture of Ctesiphon by Severus in that year, when Caracalla was but ten years of age.

3. The author of the poem belongs to Apamea on  p. xix the Orontes in Syria, as is shown by Cyn. II.125 ff. where, speaking of the Orontes he writes:

αὐτὸς δ’ ἐν μεσάτοισιν ἐπαιγίζων πεδίοισιν,

αἰὲν ἀεξόμενος καὶ τείχεος ἐγγὺς ὁδεύων,

χέρσον ὁμοῦ καὶ νῆσον,​5 ἐμὴν πόλιν, ὕδατι χεύων

and just below 156 f. (after mentioning the Syrian tomb of Memnon) he says:

ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν κατὰ κόσμον ἀείσομεν εὐρέα κάλλη

πάτρης ἡμετέρης ἐρατῇ Πιμπληΐδι μολπῇ.

Halieutica. — 1. The author of the Halieutica is a Cilician as is proved by two passages:

(a) H. III.7 ff.

σοὶ δ’ ἐμὲ τερπωλήν τε καὶ ὑμνητῆρ’ ἀνέηκαν

δαίμονες ἐν Κιλίκεσσιν ὑφ’ Ἑρμαίοις ἀδύτοισι.

Ἑρμεία, σὺ δέ μοι πατρώϊε κτλ.

(b) H. III.205 ff.

Ἀνθιέων δὲ πρῶτα περίφρονα πεύθεο θήρην,

οἵην ἡμετέρης ἐρικυδέος ἐντύνονται

πάτρης ἐνναετῆρες ὑπὲρ Σαρπηδόνος ἀκτῆς

 p. xx  ὅσσοι θ’ Ἑρμείαο πόλιν, ναυσίκλυτον ἄστυ

Κωρύκιον, ναίουσι καὶ ἀμφιρύτην Ἐλεοῦσαν.

These passages certainly suggest that the author of the Halieutica came from Corycus, but they by no means prove it. The poet is describing a method of fishing, and Anazarbos is an inland town (Ptolem. V.8.7 among inland [μεσόγειοι] towns in Cilicia is Καισάρεια πρὸς Ἀναζάρβῳ) would not be in point. Nor is Ἑρμεία, σὺ δέ μοι πατρώϊε conclusive, as Hermes appears on coins of other Cilician towns, e.g. Adana and Mallos.

2. The Halieutica is dedicated to a Roman Emperor, who is addressed to Antoninus​6 (H. I.3, etc.) without further specification.

3. That Emperor's son, whose name is not indicated, is several times in the poem coupled with his father: H. I.66, the fish in a royal preserve are a ready spoil σοί τε, μάκαρ, καὶ παιδὶ μεγαυχέϊ; I.77 ff. σὺ δ’ ἰθύνειας ἕκαστα, | πότνα Θεά, καὶ πατρὶ καὶ υἱέϊ παμβασιλῆος | θυμήρη τάδε δῶρα τεῆς πόρσυνον ἀοιδῆς; II.41 σοί τε, μάκαρ σκηπτοῦχε, καὶ ἀγλαόπαιδι γενέθλῃ; II.682 Justice prevails among men ἐξ οὗ μοι κραίνουσι μέγαν θρόνον ἐμβεβαῶτες | ἄμφω θεσπέσιός τε πατὴρ καὶ φαίδιμος ὄρπηξ; IV.4 ff. ἀλλά σύ μοι, κάρτιστε πολισσούχων βασιλήων, | αὐτός τ’, Ἀντωνῖνε, καὶ υἱέος ἠγάθεον κῆρ, | πρόφρονες εἰσαΐοιτε κτλ.

Suidas, as we have seen above, puts the Cilician Oppian ἐπὶ Μάρκου Ἀντωνίνου βασιλέως, which most naturally means Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, Emperor 161‑180, in which case the son will be L. Aurelius  p. xxi Commodus,​7 son of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina, Emperor 180‑192. Born in 161, he was made a Caesar in 166, and Imperator in 176. As H. II.682 ff. (quoted above) implies that the son was associated with his father in the imperial power, this would date the Halieutica between 176, and the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180. For the sporting proclivities of Commodus cf. Herodian I.15. The schol. in most places, I.66, I.77, II.41, IV.4 take the son to be Ἀντωνίνῳ (sic) τῷ Γορδιανῷ, but on II.683 the father and son are given as Ἀντωνῖνος καὶ Κώμοδος.

The identification of the Antoninus of the Halieutica with Marcus Aurelius has been generally accepted. The date thus assigned to the Cilician Oppian agrees admirably with the external evidence mentioned above. It agrees too with the date given for Oppian by Eusebius (Chron. ap. S. Hieron., vol. VIII p722, ed. Veron. 1736), and Syncellus (Chronogr. pp352 f., ed. Paris, 1652), who place Oppian in the year 171 or 173. If there be anything at all in the somewhat suspicious story of the banishment of the father and his restoration through his son, the story would appear to refer to the poet of the Cynegetica.

The latest edition (sixth) of W. von Christ's Geschichte der griechischen Literatur (ed. W. Schmid and O. Stählin) holds that the Cynegetica and the Halieutica, although by different authors, are both alike dedicated to Caracalla. von Christ himself held, as we hold, that the Halieutica was dedicated to Marcus Aurelius. The reasoning by which the  p. xxii latest editors reach their conclusion is nothing less than astounding:

(1) Assuming Vita A to be the most trustworthy, they take the banishment to refer to the father of the Cilician Oppian.

(2) They put the visit of Severus in 194, when he was marching against Pescennius Niger.

(3) The poet of the Halieutica, they say, died in the thirtieth year of his age, after the death of Severus in 211. But the Vita A — their sole authority — says that the poet was about thirty years of age when his father was banished, and that he died at the age of thirty. In any case the whole story seems to contemplate a short period of banishment. On the showing of Messrs. Schmid-Stählin it extended at least from 194‑212, a period of eighteen years.

(4) Caracalla had no son. It was, apparently, only after his death that any hint was made with regard to the paternity of Elagabalus or his cousin; in any case neither youth could possibly have been referred to in the terms in which the poet of the Halieutica refers to the son of Antoninus. Messrs. Schmid & Stählin, feeling this difficulty, comfortably say that in H. I.66 "ist wohl πατρί statt παιδί zu schreiben." It is regrettable that their researches in Oppian should not have proceeded a little further, when the other references to the son, as quoted above, would have needed more serious surgery.

Our conclusion, on the whole, is that the Halieutica alone is the work of the Cilician Oppian. The Cynegetica, which shows knowledge of the Halieutica not merely in detail, e.g. Cyn. I.82 compared with Hal. III.35, but in general treatment,  p. xxiii is the work of a Syrian imitator, dedicated very naturally to Caracalla, with regard to whom, amid so many uncertainties, nothing about his later years seems certain except his close relations with Syria.

The Author's Notes:

1 Emperor 193‑211 A.D.

2 i.e. Caracalla, Emperor 211‑217.

3 Ὀππιανὸς κλέος εἶλον ἀείδιον· ἀλλά με Μοίρης | βάσκανος ἐξήρπαξε μίτος, κρυερός τ’ Ἀΐδας με | καὶ νέον ὄντα κατέσχε τὸν εὐεπίης ὑποφήτην. | εἰ δὲ πολύν με χρόνον ζωὸν μίμνειν φθόνος αἰνὸς | εἴασ’, οὐκ ἂν τίς μοι ἴσον γέρας ἔλλαχε φωτῶν.

4 Added by Editor.

5 χέρσον ὁμοῦ καὶ νῆσονΧερσόνησον, "quod versu dicere non est," one of the names of Apamea or Pella on the Orontes. Cf. Steph. B. s. Ἀπάμεια, Συρίας πόλις, ἀπὸ Ἀπάμας, τῆς Σελεύκου μητρός· ἐκλήθη καὶ Χερρόνησος, ἀπὸ τῆς περιοχῆς τῶν ὑδατων, καὶ Πέλλα, ἀπὸ τῆς ἐν Μακεδονίᾳ; Strabo 752 ἡ δ’ Ἀπάμεια καὶ πόλιν ἔχει τὸ πλέον εὐερκῃ· λόφος γάρ ἐστιν ἐν πεδίῳ κοίλῳ τετειχισμένος καλῶς, ὃν ποιεῖ χερρονησίζοντα ὁ Ὀρόντης καὶ λίμνη περικειμένη μεγάλη καὶ ἕλη πλατέα λειμῶνάς τε βουβότους καὶ ἱπποβότους διαχεομένους ὑπερβάλλοντας τὸ μέγεθος· ἥ τε δὴ πόλις οὕτως ἀσφαλῶς κεῖται (καὶ δὴ καὶ Χερρόνησος ἐκλήθη διὰ τὸ συμβεβηκός) καὶ χώρας εὐπορεῖ παμπόλλης εὐδαίμονος [cf. C. II.150 ff.], δι’ ἧς ὁ Ὀροντης ῥει . . . ἐκαλεῖτο δὲ καὶ Πέλλα ποτὲ ὑπὸ τῶν πρώτων Μακεδόνων διὰ τὸ τοὺς πλείστους τῶν Μακεδόνων ἐνταῦθαº οἰκῆσαι τῶν στρατευομένων.

6 The ambiguity is sufficiently great since the name Antoninus was borne by Antoninus Pius 138‑161, M. Aurelius Antoninus 161‑180, Commodus 180‑192, Caracalla 211‑217, Opellius 217‑218, Elagabalus 218‑222, etc.

7 His imperial name was Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus.

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