Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Life and Writings
Aratus was born in Soli on the island of Cyprus. He spent time at the courts of the Egyptian court of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and the Syrian court of Antiochus I. His principal patron was the Macedonian King Antigonus II Gonatas, whose victory over the Celts (277) Aratus set to verse. He died in Pella, the capital of the Macedonian Kingdom (today central Macedonia in Greece).
Aratus' principal work, the Phaenomena (Appearances), versifies one or more works of Eudoxus of Cnidus. In 1154 hexameters he lays bare the names and movements of the heavenly bodies, and the significance of various weather signs. Technical description are primary but mythical digressions are frequent. The second half, on weather signs, has sometimes circulated under the title Diosemeia (Signs from Zeus), but was not originally separate.
Aratus enjoyed immense prestige among Hellenistic poets, including Theocritus, Callimachus and Leonidas of Tarentum . This assessment was picked up by Latin poets, including Ovid and Vergil. Latin versions were made by none other than Cicero (fragmentary), the near-emperor Germanicus (mostly extant), and the less-famous Avienus (extant). He was also cited in the New Testament, where, in second half of Acts, 17.28, Saint Paul, speaking of God, quotes the fifth line Aratus's Phaenomena (Epimenides gets credit for the first half of Acts 17.28):
- Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.
- For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.
- Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity.
- Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.
- For we are indeed his offspring... (Phaenomena 1-5).
Authors of 27 commentaries are known; ones by Theon of Alexandria, Achilles Tatius and Hipparchus of Nicaea survive. An Arabic translation was commissioned in the ninth century by the Caliph Al-Ma'mun
Aratus wrote a number of other poems, many of an astronomical or technical nature.
Bibliography and Links
- The best edition of Aratus' work is now Douglas Kidd's Cambridge edition, with translation and commentary.
- The Apostle and the Poet: Paul and Aratus (Dr. Riemer Faber)
- Review of above by Mark Possanza, BMCR (September 1999).
- Hellenistic Bibliography, Aratus and Aratea compiled by Martijn Cuypers
- "Written in the Stars:Poetry and Philosophy in the Phaenomena of Aratus" by Richard L. Hunter, Arachnion 2.
- Suda On-Line: Aratus, with a list of works ascribed to Aratus.
- The Suda is a Byzantine encyclopedia.
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