- This article is about the didactic poet. There was also an Aratus of Sicyon and an Aratus, son of Asclepius
- For the crab genus, see Aratus (crab).
Aratus (Greek Ἄρατος ὁ Σολεύς) (ca. 315 BC/310 BC – 240 BC) was a Greek didactic poet, known for his technical poetry.
He was born in Soli
in Cilicia and was a contemporary of Callimachus
. He is known to have studied with Menecrates
. As a disciple of the Peripatetic philosopher Praxiphanes
, in Athens
, he met the Stoic
, as well as Callimachus
, the founder of the Eretrian School.
About 276 he was invited to the court of the Macedonian king Antigonus II Gonatas, whose victory over the Gauls in 277 BC Aratus set to verse. Here he wrote his most famous poem, Phaenomena ("Appearances"). He then spent some time at the court of Antiochus I Soter of Syria, but subsequently returned to Pella in Macedon (now located in the periphery of Central Macedonia, Greece), where he died about 240 BCE.
Aratus' major extant work is his hexameter poem Phaenomena
("Appearances"), the first half of which is a verse setting of a lost work of the same name by Eudoxus of Cnidus
. It describes the constellations
and other celestial phenomena. The second half of Phaenomena
, "on weather signs", is chiefly about weather lore. Frequently referred to as the Diosemeia
, and sometimes circulated separately under that title, it draws chiefly from a work on weather signs attributed to Theophrastus
. The work as a whole has all the characteristics of the Alexandrian
school of poetry
. Although Aratus was ignorant of astronomy, his poem attracted the favorable notice of 18 distinguished specialists, such as Hipparchus
, who wrote a commentary upon it.
Aratus also wrote a number of other poems, many of an astronomical or technical nature.
Aratus enjoyed immense prestige among Hellenistic
poets, including Theocritus
and Leonidas of Tarentum
. This assessment was picked up by Latin
poets, including Ovid
versions were made by none other than Cicero
(fragmentary), Ovid (only two short fragments remain), the member of the imperial Julio-Claudian dynasty Germanicus
(mostly extant), and the less-famous Avienus
was less enthusiastic. Aratus was also cited by Luke the Evangelist
in the second half of Acts
, 17.28, where he relates Saint Paul
's address on the Areopagus
. Paul, speaking of God
, quotes the fifth line of Aratus's Phaenomena
seems to be the source of the first part of Acts 17.28
, although this is less clear):
- 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 twenty-seven 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. He is cited by Vitruvius, Stephanus of Byzantium and Stobaeus. Several accounts of his life are extant, by anonymous Greek writers.
The Aratus crater on the Moon was named in his honour.
- Two important recent editions of Aratus' work:
- Douglas Kidd, Phaenomena, edited with introduction, translation and commentary, Cambridge, 1997.
- Jean Martin, Aratos. Phénomènes, edited with translation and notes, 2 vols., Collection Budé, 1998.
- 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.
- Ancient Greek Scientists
- A prose translation of Phaenomena Book I