Lycophron was a Greek poet and grammarian (although the "Oxford Classical Dictionary" regards these as two different men).

He was born at Chalcis in Euboea, and flourished at Alexandria in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285-247 BC). According to Suda, the massive tenth century Byzantine Greek historical encyclopædia, he was the son of Socles, but was adopted by Lycus of Rhegium. He was entrusted by Ptolemy with the task of arranging the comedies in the Library of Alexandria; as the result of his labours he composed a treatise "On Comedy".

His own compositions, however, chiefly consisted of tragedies (The Suda gives the titles of twenty, of which a very few fragments have been preserved), which secured him a place in the Pleiad of Alexandrian tragedians. One poem traditionally attributed to him, "Alexandra" or "Cassandra" [Cassandra is merely the Latin form of Alexandra.] , containing 1474 iambic lines, has been preserved in its complete form. It consists of a prophecy uttered by Cassandra, and relates the later fortunes of Troy and of the Greek and Trojan heroes. References to events of mythical and later times are introduced, and the poem ends with a reference to Alexander the Great, who was to unite Asia and Europe in his world-wide empire.

The style obtained for Lycophron, even among the ancients, the title of "obscure" . The poem is evidently intended to display the writer's knowledge of obscure names and uncommon myths; it is full of unusual words of doubtful meaning gathered from the older poets, and long-winded compounds coined by the author. It was probably written as a show-piece for the Alexandrian school, rather than as straight poetry. It was very popular in the Byzantine period, and was read and commented on very frequently; the collection of scholia by Isaac and John Tzetzes is very valuable, and the manuscripts of the "Cassandra" are numerous. A few well-turned lines which have been preserved from Lycophron's tragedies show a much better style; they are said to have been much admired by Menedemus of Eretria, although the poet had ridiculed him in a satyric drama. Lycophron is also said to have been a skilful writer of anagrams.


* "Editio princeps" (1513)
* John Potter (1697, 1702)
* L Sebastian (1803)
* L Bachmann (1830)
* Gottfried Kinkel (1880)
* E Scheer (1881-1908), vol. 1 containing the text and (in footnotes) the paraphrases or metaphrases, vol. 2 containing the invaluable Tzetzian "scholia".

The most complete edition is by C. von Holzinger (with translation, introduction and notes, 1895). There are translations by F. Dehèque (1853) and Viscount Royston (1806; a work of great merit). See also

* Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, "De Lycophronis Alexandra" (1884)
* J. Konze, "De Dictione Lycophronis" (1870).
Tzetzes' commentaries on Lycophron (much used by, among others, Robert Graves in his "Greek Myths") had before Scheer also been edited by Otfried Müller (1811).



External links

* [ Online text: Lycophron's Alexandra translated by A. W. Mair, 1921]
* [ An ancient Life of Lycophron, compiled by Tzetzes]

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