Quintus Smyrnaeus (or Quintus of Smyrna) was a Greek epic poet.
Time in history
The dates of Smyrnaeus's life are controversial, but they are traditionally placed in the latter part of the 4th century AD. Some scholars suggest an earlier date in the 3rd or even the 2nd century AD, arguing that his Posthomerica shows an influence from the Second Sophistic. He is sometimes called Quintus Calaber, because the only known manuscript of his poem was discovered at Otranto in Calabria by Cardinal Bessarion in 1450.
According to his own account (xii. 310), he began composing poetry in his early youth while tending sheep near Smyrna (present-day İzmir). His epic in fourteen books, known as the Posthomerica, covers the period between the end of Homer's Iliad and the end of the Trojan War. Its primary importance is as the earliest surviving work to cover this period.
His work is closely modelled on Homer, though Quintus is almost universally considered an inferior poet and a clumsy imitator of the Homeric style. His materials are borrowed from the cyclic poems from which Virgil (with whose works he was probably acquainted) also drew, in particular the Aethiopis (Coming of Memnon) and the Iliupersis (Destruction of Troy) of Arctinus of Miletus and the Ilias Mikra (Little Iliad) of Lesches.
There has been a renewed interest in the poet and his poem in the last several decades, with a new edition of the text with partial commentary and French translation done by Francis Vian (published by Bude); Combellack's publication of an English translation (now in print only through Barnes and Noble); Alan James and Kevin Lee's detailed commentary on book 5; and Alan James's well-regarded English translation, with newly edited text and commentary.
The first four books, covering the same ground as the Coming of Memnon of Arctinus of Miletus, describe the doughty deeds and deaths of Penthesileia the Amazon, of Memnon, son of the Morning, and of Achilles; and the funeral games in honour of Achilles.
Books five through twelve, covering the same ground as the Little Iliad of Lesches, span from the contest between Aias and Odysseus for the arms of Achilles, the death of Aias of suicide after his loss, the exploits of Neoptolemus, Eurypylus and Deiphobus, the deaths of Paris and Oenone, to the building of the wooden horse.
The remaining books, covering the same ground as Arctinus' Destruction of Troy, relate the capture of Troy by means of the wooden horse, the sacrifice of Polyxena at the grave of Achilles, the departure of the Greeks, and their dispersal by the storm.
- Editio princeps by Aldus Manutius (1504)
- Hermann Kochly (ed. major with elaborate prolegomena, 1850; ed. minor, 1853)
- Z. Zimmermann (author of other valuable articles on the poet), (1891)
- Franz Kehmptzow, De Quinti Smyrnaei fontibus ac mythopoeia (1889)
- CA Sainte-Beuve, Etude sur . . . Quinte de Smyrne (1857)
- FA Paley, Quintus Smyrnaeus and the "Homer" of the tragic Poets (1879)
- G. W. Paschal, A Study of Quintus Smyrnaeus (Chicago, 1904).
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.