Callisthenes, or Kallisthenes, (Καλλισθενης) of Olynthus (c. 360-328 BC) was a Greek historian, a great nephew and pupil of Aristotle, through whose recommendation he was appointed to attend Alexander the Great in his Asiatic expedition as a professional historian.
He censured Alexander's adoption of oriental customs, inveighing especially against the servile ceremony of adoration. Having thereby greatly offended the king, he was accused of being privy to a treasonable conspiracy and thrown into prison, where he died from torture or disease. His melancholy end was commemorated in a special treatise (Callisthenes or a Treatise on Grief) by his friend Theophrastus, whose acquaintance he made during a visit to Athens.
Callisthenes wrote an account of Alexander's expedition, a history of Greece from the peace of Antalcidas (387) to the Phocian war (357), a history of the Phocian war and other works, all of which have perished.
The romantic life of Alexander, the basis of all the Alexander legends of the middle ages, originated during the time of the Ptolemies, but in its present form belongs to the 3rd century AD. Its author is usually known as pseudo-Callisthenes, although in the Latin translation by Julius Valerius Alexander Polemius (beginning of the 4th century) it is ascribed to a certain Aesopus; Aristotle, Antisthenes, Onesicritus and Arrian have also been credited with the authorship.
There are also Syrian, Armenian and Slavonic versions, in addition to four Greek versions (two in prose and two in verse) in the middle ages (see Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur, 1897, p. 849). Valerius's translation was completely superseded by that of Leo, arch-priest of Naples in the 10th century, the so-called Historia de Preliis.
See Scriptores rerum Alexandri Magni (by CW Müller, in the Didot edition of Arrian, 1846), containing the genuine fragments and the text of the pseudo-Callisthenes, with notes and introduction; A Westermann, De Callisthene Olynthio et Pseudo-Callisthene Commentatio (1838-1842); J Zacher, Pseudo-Callisthenes (1867); W Christ, Geschichte der griechischen Litteratur (1898), pp. 363, 819; article by Edward Meyer in Ersch and Gruber's Allgemeine Encyklopädie; A Ausfeld, Zur Kritik des griechischen Alexanderromans (Bruchsal, 1894); Plutarch, Alexander, 52-55; Arrian, Anab. iv. 10- 14; Diog. Laertius v. r; Quintus Curtius viii. 5-8; Suidas s.v.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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