Palaephatus (Παλαιφατος) is the name of four literary persons in Suidas, who, however, seems to have confounded different persons and writings.

Palaephatus of Athens

Palaephatus of Athens, an epic poet, to whom a mythical origin was assigned. According to some he was a son of Actaeus and Boeo, according to others of locles and Metaneira, and according to a third statement of Hermes. The time at which he lived is uncertain, but he appears to have been usually placed after Phemonoe [phemonoe], though some writers assigned him even an earlier date. He is represented by Christodorus (Anth. Graec., i. p. 27, ed. Tauchnitz) as an old bard crowned with laurel Suidas has preserved the titles of the following poems of Palaephatus:

  1. Εγραψηδε
  2. Κοδμοποιιαν, εις επη ε',
  3. 'Απολλωνος και 'Αρτεμιδος γονας επη ε'
  4. 'Αφροδιτης και Ερωτος φωνας και λογους επη ε'
  5. 'Αθηνας εριν και Ποδειδωνος επη ε'
  6. 'Αητουςπλοκαμον

Palaephatus of Paros

Palaephatus of Paros, or Priene, lived in the time of Artaxerxes. Suidas attributes to him the five books of Atricrra, but adds that many persons assigned this work to Palaephatus of Athens. This is the work which is still extant, and is spoken of below.

Palaephatus of Abydus

Palaephatus of Abydus, an historian (ιστορικος), lived in the time of Alexander the Great, and is stated to have been loved (παιδικα) by the philosopher Aristotle, for which Suidas quotes the authority of Philo, περι παραδοξον ιδτοριας, and of Theodorus of Ilium, 'Εν δευτερω Τρωικων. Suidas gives the titles of the following works of Palaephatus: Κυπριακα, Δηλιακα, 'Αττικα, 'Αραζικα. Some writers believe that this Palaephatus of Abydus is the author of the fragment on Assyrian history, which is preserved by Eusebius, and which is quoted by him as the work of Abydenus. There can, how­ever, be little doubt that Abydenus is the name of the writer, and not an appellative taken from his native place. (Voss. de Hist. Graec, pp. 85, 375, ed. Westermann.) [abydenus.]

Palaephatus the Egyptian

An Egyptian or Athenian, and a grammarian, as he is described by Suidas, who assigns to him the following works:

  1. ΑιγυπτιακηΔεολογια
  2. Μυθικα Βιξλιονα
  3. Λυσεις των μυθικωςειρημενων
  4. 'Υποζεδηις ειςΣιμωνιδην
  5. Τρωικα, which some however attributed to the Athenian [No. 1], and others to the Parian [No. 2].

He also wrote Ιστυρια ιδια. It has been supposed that the Μυθικα and the Λυσεις are one and the same work; but we have no certain in­formation on the point. Of these works the Τρωικα seems to have been the most celebrated, as we find it frequently referred to by the ancient gramma­rians. It contained apparently geographical and historical discussions respecting Asia Minor and more particularly its northern coasts, and must have been divided into several books. (Comp. Suidas, s. v. Μακροκεφαλοι; Steph. Byz. s. v. Χαριμαται; Harpocrates s. v. Δυθανλνς)

There is extant a small work entitled Παλαιφατος περι απιστων or "Concerning Incredible Tales", giving a brief account of some of the most celebrated Greek legends. That this is merely an abstract of a much larger work is evident from many considerations ; first, because Suidas speaks of it as consisting of five books [see above, No. 2]; secondly, because many of the ancient writers refer to Palaephatus for statements which are not found in the treatise now extant; and thirdly, because the manuscripts exhibit it in various forms, the abridgement being sometimes briefer and sometimes longer. It was doubtless the original work to which Virgil refers (Cms, 88):

"Docta Palaephatia testatur voce papyrus."

Respecting the author of the original work there is however much dispute, and we must be content to leave the matter in uncertainty. Some of the earliest modern writers on Greek literature assigned the work to the ancient epic poet [No. 1]; but this untenable supposition was soon abandoned, and the work was then ascribed to the Parian, as it is by Suidas. But if this Palaephatus was the contemporary of Artaxerxes as Suidas asserts, it is impossible to believe that the myths could have been treated at so early a period in the rationalizing way in which we find them discussed in the extant epitome. In addition to which we find the ancient writers calling the author sometimes a peripatetic and sometimes a stoic philosopher (Theon, Progymn. 6, 12; Tzetzes, Chil. ix. 273, x. 20), from which we must conclude, if these designations are correct, that he must have lived after the time of Alexander the Great, and could not therefore even have been the native of Abydus [No. 3], as others have maintained. It is thus impossible to identify the author of the work with any of the three persons just mentioned; but from his adopting the rational­istic interpretation of the myths, he must be looked upon as a disciple of Evemerus [evemerus], and may thus have been an Alexandrine Greek, and the same person as the grammarian spoken of by Suidas, who calls him an Egyptian or Athenian. [No. 4.]

The work Περι απιστων consists of 51 sections, of which only the first 46 contain explanations of the myths. The remaining five sections are written in an entirely different style, without any expression of distrust or disbelief as to the common form of the myth; and as they are want­ing in all manuscripts at present extant, they are probably the work of another hand. In the first 46 sections Palaephatus generally relates in a few lines the common form of the myth, introducing it with some such words as φασιν ως, λεγεται ως, etc.; he then expresses his disbelief, and finally proceeds to give what he considers a rational ac­count of the matter. The nature of the work is well characterised by Mr Grote (Hist. of Greece, vol. i. p. 553, etc.). "Another author who seems to have conceived clearly, and applied consistently, the semi-historical theory of the Grecian myths, is Palaephatus. In the short preface of his treatise Concerning Incredible Tales, he remarks, that some men, from want of instruction, believe all the current narratives; while others, more searching and cautious, disbelieve them altogether. Each of these extremes he is anxious to avoid: on the one Land, he thinks that no narrative could ever have acquired credence unless it had been founded in truth; on the other, it is impossible for him to accept so much of the existing narratives as conflicts with the analogies of present natural phaenomena. If such things ever had been, they would still con­tinue to be--but they never have so occurred; and the extra-analogical features of the stories are to be ascribed to the licence of the poets. Palaephatus wishes to adopt a middle course, neither accepting all nor rejecting all; accordingly, he had taken great pains to separate the true from the false in many of the narratives; he had visited the locali­ties wherein they had taken place, and made care­ful inquiries from old men and others. The results of his researches are presented in a new version of fifty legends, among the most celebrated and the most fabulous, comprising the Centaurs, Pasiphae, Actaeon, Cadmus and the Sparti, the Sphinx, Cycnus, Daedalus, the Trojan horse, Aeolus, Scylla, Geryon, Bellerophon, etc.

It must be confessed that Palaephatus has performed his promise of transforming the 'Incredibilia' into narratives in themselves plausible and unobjectionable, and that in doing so he always follows some thread of ana­logy, real or verbal. The Centaurs (he tells us) were a body of young men from the village of Nephele in Thessaly, who first trained and mounted horses for the purpose of repelling a herd of bulls belonging to Ixion, king of the Lapithae, which had run wild and did great damage: they pursued these wild bulls on horseback, and pierced them with their spears, thus acquiring both the name of Prickers (κεντορες) and the imputed attribute of joint body Avith the horse. Actaeon was an Arca­dian, who neglected the cultivation of his land for the pleasures of hunting, and was thus eaten up by the expense of his hounds. The dragon whom Cadmus killed at Thebes, was in reality Draco, king of Thebes; and the dragon's teeth, which he was said to have sown, and from whence sprung a crop of armed men, were in point of fact elephant's teeth, which Cadmus, as a rich Phoenician, had brought over with him: the sons of Draco sold these elephants' teeth, and employed the proceeds to levy troops against Cadmus. Daedalus, instead of flying across the sea on wings, had escaped from Crete in a swift-sailing boat under a violent storm. Cottus, Briareus, and Gyges were not persons with one hundred hands, but inhabitants of the village of Hecatoncheiria in Upper Macedonia, who warred with the inhabitants of Mount Olympus against the Titans. Scylla, whom Odysseus so narrowly escaped, was a fast-sailing piratical vessel, as was also Pegasus, the alleged winged horse of Belle­rophon. By such ingenious conjectures, Palaephatus eliminates all the incredible circumstances, and leaves to us a string of tales perfectly credible and common-place, which we should readily believe, provided a very moderate amount of testimony could be produced in their favour. If his treat­ment not only disenchants the original myths, but even effaces their generic and essential character, we ought to remember that this is not more than what is done by Thucydides in his sketch of the Trojan war. Palaephatus handles the myths con­sistently, according to the semi-historical theory, and his results exhibit the maximum which that theory can ever present: by aid of conjecture we get out of the impossible and arrive at matters in­trinsically plausible, but totally uncertified; be­yond this point we cannot penetrate, without the light of extrinsic evidence, since there is no intrinsic mark to distinguish truth from plausible fiction."

It has been already remarked that the manu­scripts of the Περι απιστων present the greatest discrepancies, in some the work being much longer and in others much shorter. The printed editions in like manner vary considerably. It was first printed by Aldus Manutius, together with Aesop, Phurnutus, and other writers, Venice, 1505, and has since that time been frequently reprinted. The following is a list of the principal editions:

  • Tollius, with a Latin translation and notes, Amsterdam, 1649
  • Martin Brunner, Upsala, 1663, which edition was reprinted with improve­ments under the care of Paulus Pater, Frankfort, 1685,1686, or 1687, for these three years appear on different title pages
  • Thomas Gale in the Opuscula Mythologica Cambridge, 1670, reprinted at Amsterdam, 1688
  • Dresig, Leipzig, 1735, which edition was frequently reprinted under the care of JF Fischer, who improved it very much, and who published a sixth edition at Leipzig, 1789
  • JHM Ernesti, for the use of schools, Leipzig, 1816
  • the best edition of the text is by Wester­mann, in the "Μυθογραφοι: Scriptores Poeticae Historiae Graeci," Brunswick, 1843, pp. 268— 310. (Fabric. Bill. Graec. vol. i. p. 182, etc.
  • Voss. de Hist. Graec. p. 478, ed. Westermann
  • Westermann, Praefatio ad Μυθογραφους, p. xi. etc.
  • Eckstein, in Ersch and. Gruber's Enclopädie, art. "Palaphatus")

External links

Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology

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