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Callimachus of Cyrene (c. 310 BC – c. 240 BC) was a Greek poet, critic and bibliographer, of Libyan birth. He is considered the most influential figure of the Alexandrian school.


Nothing unattested do I sing.
  • A big book is a big misfortune.
    • Fragment 465; translation by A. W. Bulloch, in P. E. Easterling and B. M. W. Knox, in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature (1989) vol. 1, part 4, p. 30
    • Variant translation: A great book is like great evil.
  • Nothing unattested do I sing.
    • Fragment 612; translation by A. W. Bulloch, in P. E. Easterling and B. M. W. Knox, in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature (1989) vol. 1, part 4, p. 30
  • Ὅμηρον ἐξ Ὁμήρου σαφηνίζειν
    • To explain Homer with Homer
    • Maxim attributed to Callimachus; see Ancient Scholarship and Grammar: Archetypes, Concepts and Contexts (2011) edited by Stephanos Matthaios, Franco Montanari, Αντώνιος Ρεγκάκος, p. 108
  • [...] ὅσσα τ' ὀδόντωνἔνδοθι νείαιράν τ' εἰς ἀχάριστον ἔδυ,
    καὶ τῶν οὐδὲν ἔμεινεν ἐς αὔριον· ὅσσα δ' ἀκουαῖς
    εἰσεθέμην, ἔτι μοι μοῦνα πάρεστι τάδε.
    • "and of all that passed my teeth
      and plunged into my ungrateful belly,
      of these too nothing remained into the morning; but only this
      do I still possess, what I put into my ears."
      • Aetia, Book II. Fr. 43. Lines 14-17.
        • variant translation: All that I have given to my stomach has disappeared, and I have retained all the fodder that I gave to my spirit. [1]


  • Εἰπέ τις, Ἡράκλειτε, τεὸν μόρον ἐς δέ με δάκρυ
        ἤγαγεν ἐμνήσθην δ᾿ ὁσσάκις ἀμφότεροι
     ἠέλιον λέσχῃ κατεδύσαμεν. ...
    • They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,
      They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.
      I wept, as I remembered, how often you and I
      Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.
    • Epigram 2, translation by William Johnson Cory in Ionica (1858) p. 7
  • Two goddesses now must Cyprus adore;
    The Muses are ten, the Graces are four;
    Stella's wit is so charming, so sweet her fair face;
    She shines a new Venus, a Muse, and a Grace.
    • Epigram 5; translation by Jonathan Swift, cited from Anthologia Polyglotta (1849), edited by Henry Wellesley, p. 47
  • Here sleeps Saon, of Acanthus, son of Dicon, a holy sleep: say not that the good die.
    • Epigram 10; translation from The Works of Hesiod, Callimachus and Theognis (1856), edited by J. Banks , p. 194
  • O Charidas, what of the under world? Great darkness. And what of the resurrection? A lie. And Pluto? A fable; we perish utterly.
  • Set a thief to catch a thief.
    • Epigram 43; translation by Robert Allason Furness, from Poems of Callimachus (1931), p. 103


  • His blend of sensitivity and detachment, elegance, wit, and learning, had a profound influence on later Roman poets, especially Catullus, Ovid, and Propertius (the last thought of himself as the Roman Callimachus), and through them on the whole European literary tradition.
    • D. E. W. Wormell, in The Penguin Companion to Literature (1969) vol. 4, p. 47
  • The most outstanding intellect of this generation, the greatest poet that the Hellenistic age produced, and historically one of the most important figures in the development of Graeco-Roman (and hence European) literature.
    • A. W. Bulloch, in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature (1989), edited by P. E. Easterling and B. M. W. Knox, vol. 1, part 4, p. 9

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