Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

His history, as Epiphanius informs us, was in great.repute, among the ancients, and often quoted by those who wrote on the same subject. He, too, enriched the Alex, andrian library, at vast expence; having sent learned men into all parts of the world, for that purpose, and allowed ample pensions to learned men, and distin. guished philosophers,

In such a fostering seminary of talent, where a long succession of mụnificent and learned princes, formed in their court an academy for arts and literature, for genius and philosophy, the propensities of the sovereign imprest a literary stile, a tone of cultivation, not only on the court, but on the people at large; and prepared, on the confines of Libya, a refinement and perfection of the Greek language, that equalled the happiest efforts of Athens herself, and produced a Ptolemaic age, which, though less, known and celebrated, at least in modern times, 'may deserve to be placed in competition with the Augustan age of Rome. Boundless wealth to reward merit, attracted competitors, from every side, ambitious of obtaining the smile of royalty. No doubt, the great, the rich, and powerful of the court, who always imitate the propensities of the sopereign, wished to distinguish themselves, by an encouragement of genius and learning, according to the fashion of the day. Thus, the poet found himself a personage of importance. He was cultivated, caressed, encouraged, and rewarded. Splendour, magnificence, wealth, and elegane luxury, shone on every side to elevate his fancy. Aļl the means of cultivațing the understanding were rendered generally accessible to all, in the magnificent. repository of the sovereign, where were not only books, but every instrument and object of science, which the world then knew. To this were added philosophical converse, elegant society, the emulation of genius and ta

lent,

Sent, the collision of mind, all tending to mature and digest the understanding. Here was collected the splendour of beauty, with that of pomp and opulence. The taste and elegance of Greece were blended with the state and magnificence of Asia. Every delight of sense, every possible indulgence of the fancy, tended to fill the mind with images of delight. The ear was perpetually filled with the ravishing sounds of exquisite harmony; the eyes were incessantly gratified with the surrounding forms of animate and inanimate beauty. What a situation for a poet! wrapt in the bosom of ease and indulgence, exempt from any toil, but that which the inspiration of his muse demanded, freed from the intrusion of every care; excepting that of his reputation, exempt from every source of vexation, except those created by the irritability of talent, the wakeful jealousy of genius and sensibility, and the restless impatience of competition. The exertions of genius were facilitated, by an easy access to an admirable library and museum; and, at the same time, called out, by a variety of contending and powerful motives, and interests.

At the court of Alexandria, avarice was attracted, and satiated, to its utmost wish, by the noble rewards which the bounteous hand of royalty showered on merit. The pride and consciousness of genius were stimulated to exertion by competition, in which talent strove to surpass itself. The mind displayed powers, which she did not imagine she possest, and arrived at heights, which she thought herself incapable of attaining. Vanity was flattered, by the hope of attracting the smiles, and deserving the applause, of the fair and young, of the great and the brave, of the rich and the noble, of the learned and the wise, of the elegant and the accamplished-in fine, of every thing that the known world could then produce, of amiable, brilliant, and respeč.

table.

[ocr errors]

- table.—The ambitious spirit marked, with grayer eyes, the predilection of the sovereign, for the faculties and endowments, which he possest; and anticipated, from the favour and encouragement of a discerning monarch, a certain road to eminence, in the display of genius, the exertions of art, and the researches of science.

The literary stile of conversation, that prevailed at the court of the Ptolemies, and the amenity and condescension of those accomplished princes, may be col. lected from a story, which is related of Ptolemy Soter, the first of the dynasty.---This prince was commonly supposed to be of mean descent-one day, after he had heard, for a long time, a vain and trifling grammarian, who made a display of his skill in antiquities h e interrupted the torrent of learning, with a question“ Since you are so well versed in the learning of the “ ancients, tell me, without hesitation, O grammarian, “ who was the father of Peleus?"--The grammarian answered with promptitude — Tell me, first, О king, * if you can, who was the father of Lagus?"__ This answer produced no small indignation in the courtiers; but Ptolemy, applauding the humour, and pleased with the freedom of the grammarian, told them, that if it was beneath the dignity of a king to bear a jest, it still less became him to jest on his subject.

Sach was the happy situation of the arts and letters, at the court of Alexandria-a situation how different from that, in which they have been too generally found, in times both ancient and modern! Melancholy, indeed, is the history of arts and sciences in this respect. It is hardly any thing but a martyrology, filled with the la. mentations, and mournful destinies, of the victims of genius; which might lead us to think, that there is an almost general conspiracy, a confederacy of ingratitude, among men, which has disposed them to condemn their

benefactors 'benefactors to the dark and doubtful recompence of "posthumous fame; and to repay the èxertions of those, 'who have přesumptuously attempted to delight, instruct, Cor reform the world, with discouragement in éñery form, * with envy and vexation, with pain, with poverty, and with neglect.

It was the fortune of Apollonius the Rhodian, as he has been generally stiled, to be born in a country, and an age, thus auspicious to men of letters; how he acquired the appellation of the Rhodian, will be seen in 'the progress of this essay; but, it seems to be ascertained, beyond a doubt, that he was an Egyptian by birth, and a native of Alexandria. One may suppose, that

his rank and condition in life were not mean. If we "may judge, indeed, from the celebrity and eminence of the preceptor, to whom the care of his youth was entrusted, we must incline to place him in the higher classes of society. This early instructor of our poet, was no less a person, than the famous poet Callimachus. This distinguished poet was a native of Crete, a city of Libya: he arrived at the zenith of his reputation, in the time of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and during the first years of his successor Euergetes-about the 125th Olympiad. He'at first’taught polite literature publicly, at Eleusis, a suburb of the city of Alexandria---he was afterwards invited into the household of the monarch, where he obtained an establishment, and remained for a considerable time.

· As' Apollonius studied under Callimachus, we must conclude, that he was considerably younger than that poet, a conclusion, which is strengthened by the consi.

deration that he survived his master; near whose tomb * he was interred at his decease. It is probable, there.

fore, that Apollonius was born towards the close of the " reign of Ptolemy' Soter-perhaps, within the last three or

four

[ocr errors]

four years of it 4if so, he was a little more than twenty years old, about the middle of the reign of Philadelphus, which, according to the best accounts, lasted thirty. eight years. Thus, Apollonius might have been twenty years old, or under that age, when Callimachus was a * public teacher at Eleusis ; and between forty and fifty "years old, when,' in the reign of Euergetes, he was appointed to the care of the Alexandrine library. .

Previous to the time of Plutarch, the utility and phi. losophy of biography were not much considered, among **the ancients to the irreparable loss of modern times,

enquiries into the springs of action, details of the labours of men of genius and learning, have been rare * and scanty; and the glory of critical and philosophi'cal biography, has been peculiarly' reserved for farer "ages. Yet, even now, how imperfect, in general, "is "the biography of talent! It would be of the utmost ad"vantage to the cause of literature; it would tend to the developement of the motives and accidents, that inAuence the human mind; and lead to the perfection of the history of arts and sciences, and to an extension of

the philosophy of the human heart and intellect; hảd "we minute details of the course of education, 'of the

early transactions, the modes and habits of study, of the professional and literary labours, and of the private life

of men of genius and learning. Such morsels of infor. ****mation, when they happens to be preserved, and com

municated to the world, are of inestimable value. They i form the most amiable and engaging part of biography. *But it is much' to be lamented, that such memorials are

still rare.-Condemned to struggle with sordid difficul. "ties, to langüish in penury and obscurity, neglected and

undervalued by some, traduced and satirized by others

of their cotemporaries, the worth and importance of *the opinions, the labours, and the lives of men of ġe.

- nius

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »