Gaius Julius Hyginus

Gaius Julius Hyginus, (c. 64 BC - 17 AD) Latin author, a native of Spain (or Alexandria), was a pupil of the famous Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor and a freedman of Caesar Augustus, by whom he was made superintendent of the Palatine library (Suetonius, De Graminaticis, 20).

He is said to have fallen into great poverty in his old age, and to have been supported by the historian Clodius Licinus. He was a voluminous author, and his works included topographical and biographical treatises, commentaries on Helvius Cinna and the poems of Virgil, and disquisitions on agriculture and bee-keeping. All these are lost.

Under the name of Hyginus what are probably two sets of school notes abbreviating his treatises on mythology are extant:

  • Fabulae, some 300 very brief and plainly, even crudely told mythological legends and celestial genealogies, valuable for the use made by the author of the works of Greek tragedians now lost. This represents in primitive form what every educated Roman in the early Empire was expected to know of Greek myth, at the simplest level. IThe Fabulae are a mine of information today, when so many more sophisticated versions of the myths have been lost. In fact Fabulae was all but lost: a single surviving manuscript, in a Beneventan script formed the material for the first printed edition, 1535. In the course of printing, the manuscript was pulled apart, and only two small fragments of it have turned up. Another fragmentary text from the 5th century is in the Vatican Library. (Major 2002)
  • De Astronomia, usually called Poetica Astronomica, containing an elementary treatise on astronomy and the myths connected with the stars, chiefly based on Eratosthenes, in four books.

Both are abridgments and both are by the same hand; but the style and Latinity and the elementary mistakes (especially in the rendering of the Greek originals) are held to prove that they cannot have been the work of so distinguished a scholar as G. Julius Hyginus. It is suggested that these treatises are an abridgment (made in the latter half of the 2nd century) of the Genealogiae of Hyginus by an unknown grammarian, who added a complete treatise on mythology.

His authorship of the Poeticon astronomicon star atlas is disputed, though during the Renaissance this attribution was commonplace.

Edition: P.K. Marshall, Hyginus: Fabulae. Editio altera. 1993, corrected ed. 2002

External link

fr:Hygin (écrivain)


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