Libraries of Apollodorus

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The so-called library or "Library of Apollodorus" is an extensive compilation of ancient myths, presumably from the 1st century AD, written in Greek . It is a valuable source of Greek mythology .

Date of origin and author

Since Castor of Rhodes is mentioned as the author of a chronicle in the traditional text , this chronicle handed down in 20 fragments until the year 61/60 BC. Chr. And there is no further reason to assume that the relevant passage was added at a later point in time, the earliest possible date for the creation of the library is given. Today it is generally assumed that it originated in the 1st or 2nd century AD. A plausible latest possible date of origin cannot be given, as the first datable citation can be found in the Bibliotheca of the Byzantine Photios from the 9th century. References to the libraries in the Homerscholien cannot be dated.

The library was attributed to the grammarian Apollodorus of Athens by Photios . Photios quotes the title of the work as "Little book of Apollodor, a grammarian". However, since Apollodorus of Athens was already at the end of the 2nd century BC He is out of the question as an author. Whether the library is a pseudepigraphy or whether a coincidental identity of names (the name Apollodor was widespread) is the cause of the attribution or whether, as suggested by Diller, the frequent mention of the "real" Apollodor in a similar context as the library in the Homerscholia led to a mix-up, cannot be clarified.

Text transmission

The text of the library is not completely preserved. Originally consisting of four books, the 1st and 2nd parts have been completely preserved, the 3rd part ends abruptly with (3.218 Dräger), the 4th part was originally completely missing. In the oldest manuscript R (Parisinus graecus 2722, Bibliothèque nationale , Paris) , probably dating from the 14th century, 17 of the original 29 leaves have been preserved.

By a happy coincidence, the young scientist Richard Wagner was able to identify the Codex Vaticanus graecus 950 (manuscript E) in the Vatican Library in 1885 as an epitome (i.e. an extract) of the library, of which 23 of the 73 printed pages reported the lost part up to that of Photios Cover the end of the work. In 1891 this text was published by Wagner under the title Epitome Vaticana .

In 1887 the Greek scholar Anastasios Papadopoulos-Kerameus discovered the text he had edited in 1891 under the title Fragmenta Sabbaitica , which contained parts of the 3rd and the end of the 4th part of the library, while the library of the monastery of St. Sabbas in Jerusalem was being reorganized (Handwriting S).

Other manuscripts (which are copies of R) are kept in the Bodleiana in Oxford and in the Bavarian State Library in Munich.

The library was first published in print by Aegius (Benedetto Aegio von Spoleto) in Rome in 1555.


The library is roughly divided into three main parts:

  • Origin of the Gods (Theogony, 1.1.1–1.6.3)
  • Origin of people and heroic sagas (1.7.1 – E2)
  • Events around Troy (E3 – E7)

Within the heroic sagas, the content is essentially divided genealogically:

Classification and source value

Disregard and disdain for the library has a long tradition, beginning with Photios, who calls the library a “little book” ( βιβλιδάριον ), which is not useless for those who are interested in such antiquities. Until it reaches to the present: In Little Pauly pulls Heinrich Dörrie the conclusion: "The compilation ... has little value as a source."

In contrast, the library is highly valued, especially in recent research. Paul Dräger, for example, calls it “a jewel of inestimable value.” Considering such a different view, the following causes of a devaluation of the library are probably the basis:

  1. The literary evaluation. In contrast to the decorative portrayal of Greek myths, for example in Homer, Hesiod or the tragic figures of the classical period, the portrayal of the library is sober and unadorned. Frequent, long lists, such as naming the 50 dogs of the Aktaion , do not raise the poetic rank.
  2. The discovery that the grammarian Apollodorus cannot be the author. In the 19th century in particular there was a tendency to lump pseudepigraphy and forgery into one pot and to underestimate anything that somehow appeared to be inauthentic.
  3. The alleged errors and omissions of the libraries. Compared to the versions of the Greek myths handed down by the classical poets, the library version shows numerous deviations, omissions and additions. This was taken as evidence that the library was a sloppy, unreliable compilation.

On the other hand, it was precisely this last point that established the library as a central source for Greek mythology. A precise comparison of the differences, omissions and additions makes it probable that, although the text probably dates from the early imperial era, the content reproduces material from an archaic tradition that has not been passed on anywhere else except in a few fragments. This means that for example certain episodes of the Odyssey or the Argonautica of Apollonios of Rhodes are not missing in the library or presented in a slightly different way because the author of the library did not remember or only badly remembered it; rather, it seems plausible that the The relevant parts are missing because they represent a poetic invention of Homer or Apollonios and therefore do not appear in the sources used by the author of the library.

In this context there is also an otherwise difficult to explain omission: The Roman Empire is never mentioned, not even where it would be appropriate, for example in connection with Aeneas or with the legendary march of Heracles through Italy. If the source (s) of the library e.g. B. from the 6th century BC The omission would be natural, since the Roman Empire did not exist at that time.

The actual source of the library is therefore assumed to be a “mythographic handbook”, which obtained its material from the works of Pherecytes of Athens and Akusilaos of Argos , which have only survived in fragments . Hesiod's catalog of women ( γυναικῶν κατάλογος ) was also identified as a source. Since this material is rooted in a pre-Homeric, oral tradition (epic Kyklos), the library offers a unique view of an archaic layer of Greek myth.


  • Apollodor: Libraries. Legends of gods and heroes. Greek and German. Edited, translated and commented by Paul Dräger . Tusculum series. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf / Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-7608-1741-6 .
  • Apollodorus: gods and heroes of the Greeks . Einel., Ed. and over. by Kai Brodersen . Library of Antiquity. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2012, ISBN 978-3-534-25246-6
  • James George Frazer (translator): Apollodorus. The library. 2 vols. Loeb Classical Library. London / New York 1921. (Frazer integrated the traditional text with the material from manuscripts E and S to form a coherent text.)
  • Dorothea Vollbach (transl.): The Greek world of legends. Apollodor's mythological library . Dieterich'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung , Leipzig 1988, ISBN 3-7350-0012-6 (editing of the translation by Christian Gottlob Moser )
  • Richard Wagner (Ed.): Apollodori Bibliotheka. In: Mythographi Graeci. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana. Vol. 1. Teubner, Leipzig 1926. Reprint 1965. (Today still authoritative edition of the Greek text.)

Individual evidence

  2. ^ Photios, Bibliotheca , cod. 186, p. 142a-b
  3. This was established by Carl Robert in 1873 at the latest (Robert 1873, pp. 4–48).
  4. ^ Diller: Text History , pp. 296-300
  5. ^ Richard Wagner: Epitoma Vaticana ex Apollodori Bibliotheca. Leipzig 1891
  6. Anastasius Papadopoulos-Kerameus: Apollodori bibliothecae fragmenta Sabbaitica. In: Rheinisches Museum 46 (1891). Pp. 161-192.
  7. Oxoniensis Laudianus Graecus 55 (manuscript O)
  8. Monacensis Graecus 182 (manuscript M)
  9. The Little Pauly - Lexicon of Antiquity. Stuttgart 1964. Vol. 1. Sp. 439.
  10. ^ Paul Dräger: Libraries. P. 891
  11. The regret about the loss of all authentic works by Apollodor may also have made a (psychological) contribution. The fact that Apollodors Peri theon is lost was, so to speak , reproached for the library that had been preserved.


  • Marc Huys: 125 Years of Scholarship on Apollodoros the Mythographer: A Bibliographical Survey. In: L'antiquité classique 66 (1997). Pp. 319-351; updated in Marc Huys, Daniela Colomo. Bibliographical Survey on Apollodoros the Mythographer: a Supplement. In: L'antiquité classique 73 (2004). Pp. 219-237.
  • Aubrey Diller : Studies in Greek Manuscript Tradition. Amsterdam 1983, pp. 199-216. Originally published as: The Text History of the Bibliotheca of Pseudo-Apollodorus. In: Transactions of the American Philological Association Vol. 66 (1935). Pp. 296-313.
  • Carl Robert : De Apollodori Bibliotheca. Berlin 1873

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