Greek Anthology

The Greek Anthology (Latin: Anthologia Graeca) is a collection of poems, mostly epigrams, that span the Classical and Byzantine periods of Greek literature. Most of the material of the Greek Anthology comes from two manuscripts, the Palatine Anthology of the 10th century and the Anthology of Planudes (or Planudean Anthology) of the 14th century.[1][2]

Beginning of the Anthologia Palatina, main part of The Greek Anthology. Scan by the Gesellschaft der Freunde Universität Heidelberg e. V.

The earliest known anthology in Greek was compiled by Meleager of Gadara in the first century BC, under the title Anthologia, or "Flower-gathering." It contained poems by the compiler himself and forty-six other poets, including Archilochus, Alcaeus, Anacreon, and Simonides. In his preface to his collection, Meleager describes his arrangement of poems as if it were a head-band or garland of flowers woven together in a tour de force that made the word "Anthology" a synonym for a collection of literary works for future generations.

Meleager's Anthology was popular enough that it attracted later additions. Prefaces to the editions of Philippus of Thessalonica and Agathias were preserved in the Greek Anthology to attest to their additions of later poems. The definitive edition was made by Constantine Cephalas in the 10th century, who added a number of other collections: homoerotic verse collected by Straton of Sardis in the 2nd century AD; a collection of Christian epigrams found in churches; a collection of satirical and convivial epigrams collected by Diogenianus; Christodorus' description of statues in the Byzantine gymnasium of Zeuxippos; and a collection of inscriptions from a temple in Cyzicus.

The scholar Maximus Planudes also made an edition of the Greek Anthology, which while adding some poems, primarily deleted or bowdlerized many of the poems he felt were too explicit. His anthology was the only one known to Western Europe (his autograph copy, dated 1301 survives; the first edition based on his collection was printed in 1494) until 1606 when Claudius Salmasius found in the library at Heidelberg a fuller collection based on Cephalas. The copy made by Salmasius was not, however, published until 1776, when Richard François Philippe Brunck included it in his Analecta. The first critical edition was that of F. Jacobs (13 vols. 1794–1803; revised 1813–17).

Since its transmission to the rest of Europe, the Greek Anthology has left a deep impression on its readers. In a 1971 article on Robin Skelton's translation of a selection of poems from the Anthology, a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement wrote, "The time of life does not exist when it is impossible to discover in it a masterly poem one had never seen before." Its influence can be seen on writers as diverse as Propertius, Ezra Pound and Edgar Lee Masters. Since full and uncensored English translations became available at the end of the 20th century, its influence has widened still further.