Archive for October, 2007

Tyrannion: neither Crates nor Aristarchus

When we think about Strabo and the place where he studied, we have to bear in mind that at that time Rome become a major place for scholarship. If we believe Sueton (De Grammaticis, 2) Crates of Mallos shaped the Roman scholarship. This link to Pergamon is also strengthened by the fact that Attalus III gave his kingdom to Rome at his death (170-133 BC). However the Alexandrian philology, linked to an Aristotelian method, was also present in Rome. On may mention there the Latin poet and grammarian Accius (170-86 BC).

At this stage enters Tyrannion: he came to Rome in 68 BC, bought the library of Aristotle from Apellicon of Teos and started to publish the works of the Greek philosopher unknown to a larger public. With this huge editorial project Tyrannion emphasized the text. This focusing on new texts written before the works carried out in the two major Libraries could be felt by Tyrannion’s contemporaries as a kind of new start in philolophy: a midway between the two great philological traditions and a compromise in a long lasting debate between Pergamon and Alexandria.

Tyrannion was also the teacher of Strabo and may have influenced his student and shaped his work. Tyrannion was for instance well known for his geographical expertise (Cic. Ad Att. 2.6.1), he incarnated the ideal Strabonean scholar (a learned man coming from Asia Minor, counsellor of great politicians), and maybe one could add to this list Strabo’s preference for the Homeric text. In fact often Strabo tries to give new reading of the Homeric text, against previous readings, which could reflect this consciousness of a new Rome-based philology.


Blaensdorf J., “Cratès et les débuts de la philologie romaine”, Ktema 13, 1988,141-147.

Dangel J., “Accius grammairien?”, Latomus 49, 1990, 37-58.

LehmannY., “Varron et le grmmairien Tyrannion: l’apport doctrinal de l’aristotélisme”, Ktema 13, 1988, 179-186.

Strabo’s use of Demetrios

The work of Demetrios of Scepsis is known to us mainly thanks to Strabo’s Geography. So our understanding of Demetrios’ achievement depends on the knowlegde we have of Strabo’s intentions and his way of using sources. In recent researches on Strabo, this aspect has been emphasized and they provide new facts about the Greek geographer.

One of the more striking features about Strabo is his combining of two rather different aspects in one work. On the one side, he is clearly a Greek scholar and he adopts a very Greek point of view, espacially when he is speaking about Greece and Asia Minor. On the other hand he is writing for a Roman audience. He spends some time in Rome, which is at this time one of the major center for scholars.

This doubleness of Strabo has been pointed out by A.M. Biraschi. She links Strabo’s reaction against Eratosthenes’ famous statment that poetry should aim to entertain rather than instruct (Str. 1.1.10 C 7) to a discussion found in Horace (AP, 333: aut prodesse volunt aut delectare poetae). Both authors, Biraschi goes on, react against Eratosthenes’ point of view and echo a cultural debat in Rome at this time.

So the question is: Why the researches of Demetrios were so useful for Strabo that he made this scholar one of his main sources? Is it his link to Pergamon, his Trojan origine, his particular position in regard to the location of Troy, his close reading of the Homeric texts?

See: A.M. Biraschi, Strabo and Homer: a chapter in cultural histroy, in D. Dueck et al. (eds.), Strabo’s Cultural Geography, Cambridge 2005

Hometown of Demetrios