Zoilus (Greek: Ζωίλος, c. 400 BC-320 BC) was a Greek grammarian of Amphipolis in Macedonia.

According to Vitruvius (vii., preface) he lived during the age of Ptolemy Philadelphus, by whom he was crucified as the punishment of his criticisms on the king. This account, however, should probably be rejected. Zoilus appears to have been at one time a follower of Isocrates, but subsequently a pupil of Polycrates, whom he heard at Athens, where he was a teacher of rhetoric. Zoilus was chiefly known for the acerbity of his attacks on Homer (which gained him the name of Homeromastix, "scourge of Homer"), chiefly directed against the fabulous element in the Homeric poems. Zoilus also wrote against Isocrates and Plato, who had attacked the style of Lysias of which he approved. The name "Zoilus" came to be generally used of a spiteful and malignant critic.

However, the Homeric questions led to his becoming a byword for harsh and malignant criticism: in antiquity he gained the name Homeromastix, "scourge of Homer"; and in the modern period, Cervantes calls Zoilus a "slanderer"in the preface to Don Quixote, and there is a (now disused) proverb, "Every poet has his Zoilus." Since his writings do not survive, it is impossible to know whether this caricature is justified.

The king told Zoilus, that while hundreds had earned a livelihood by pointing out the beauties of the Iliad and Odyssey in their public readings, surely one person who was so much wiser might be able to live by pointing out the faults S. Rappoport, History of Egypt


U. Friedlander, De Zoilo aliisque Homeri Obtrectatoribus (Konigsberg, 1895)

J. E. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship (2nd ed. 1906)

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.
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