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Nicander (Νίκανδρος) a physician, poet, and grammarian, of whose life very few particulars are found in ancient authors, and even these few are doubtful and contradictory. It seems most probable, upon the whole, that he lived about 135 BC in the reign of Attalus III., the last king of Pergamon, to whom he dedicated one of his poems, which is no longer extant. His native place, as he himself informs us, was Claros, a city of Ionia, near Colophon, whence he is commonly called Colophonius, and he succeeded his father as hereditary priest of Apollo Clarius. He appears to have been rather a voluminous writer, as the titles of more than twenty of his works have been preserved ; but of all these we possess at present only two in a perfect state, with a few fragments of some of the others. Both are poems. The longer one of these poems is entitled Theriaca, and consists of nearly a thousand lines in hexameter verse. It is dedicated to a person named Hermesianax, who must not be confounded with the poet of that name. It treats (as the name imports) of venomous animals, and the wounds inflicted by them, and contains some curious and interesting zoological passages, together with numerous absurd fables. His other poem, called Alexifarmaca, consists of more than six hundred lines, written in the same measure. It is dedicated to a person named Protagoras, and treats of poisons and their antidotes.

Nicander , Theriaka kai Alexipharmaka, 10th century manuscript, Paris National Library

Among the ancients, Nicander's authority in all matters relating to toxicology seems to have been considered high. Galen several times quotes him, and Dioscorides, Aetius, and other medical authors have made frequent use of his works. Plutarch, Diphilus, and others, wrote commentaries on his Theriaca ; Marianus paraphrased it in iambic verse ; and Eutecnius wrote a paraphrase in prose of both poems, which is still extant. Among the moderns, on the other hand, Haller has passed a very severe judgment on both productions. To counterbalance, however, in some degree, his unfavorable opinion, it ought in justice to be stated, that the knowledge of natural history possessed by Nicander appears to be at least equal to that of other writers of his own or even a later age.

Dr. Adams, the translator of Paulus Aegineta, remarks of Nicander's general treatment of cases, that it appears to be founded on very rational principles, and that, in some instances, the correctness of his physiological views is such as can not but command our admiration, considering the age in which he lived.

On the subject of his poetical merits the ancient writers were not well agreed ; for, though a writer in the Greek Anthology compliments Colophon on having been the birth-place of Homer and Nicander, and although Cicero praises the poetical manner in which, in his " Georgics," he treated a subject of which he was wholly ignorant, Plutarch, on the other hand, says that the Theriaca., like the poems of Empedocles, Parmenides, and Theognis, have nothing in them of poetry but the metre. Modern critics have differed equally on this point ; but, practically, the judgment of posterity has been pronounced with sufficient clearness, and his works are now scarcely ever read as poems, but merely consulted by those who are interested in points of zoological and medical antiquities. In reference to his style and language, Bentley calls him, with great truth, " antiquarium, obsoleta et casca verba studiose venantem, et vel sui saeculi lectoribus difficilem et obscurum."

A list of Nicander's lost works is given by Fabricius. Among them we may mention,

1. Georgika, a poem in hexameter verse on husbandry, consisting of at least two books, of which some long fragments remain.

2. Etereioumena, a poem in hexameter verse, in five books, mentioned by Suidas, and quoted by Athenaeus, Antoninus Liberalis, and other writers. It was perhaps in reference to this work that Didymus applied to Nicander the epithet of "fabulosus."

3. Thebaiika, in at least three books, mentioned by the scholiast on the Theriaca.

4. Peri Poieton, probably the work in which Nicander tried to prove that Homer was a native of Colophon.

5. The Prognostika of Hippocrates, paraphrased in hexameter verse.

6. Sikelia, of which the tenth book is quoted by Stephanus Byzantinus.

Nicander's poems have generally been published together, but sometimes separately. They were first published in Greek at the end of Dioscorides, Venice, 1499, fol., by Aldus, and by the same in a separate form, Venice, 1523, 4to. The Greek paraphrase of both poems, by Eutecnius, first appeared in Bandini's edition, Florence, 1764, 8vo. The most complete and valuable edition that has hitherto appeared is Schneider's, who published the Alexipharmaca in 1792, Halle, 8vo, and the Theriaca in 1816, Leipzig, 8vo ; containing a Latin translation, the scholia, the paraphrase by Eutecnius, the editor's annotations, and the fragments of Nicander's lost works. The latest edition is that of Lehrs, in Didot s Bibliotheca Graeca, Paris, 1846, printed along with Oppian and others, and containing the Greek text, a Latin version, and the fragments. The text is emended from the " curae posteriores" of Schneider, and the conjectures of Lobeck, Meineke, and Naeke. The Theriaca were published in the Cambridge " Museum Criticum" (vol. i.,p. 370, seqq.), with Bentle's emendations, copied from the margin of a copy of Gorraeus's edition, which once (apparently) belonged to Dr. Mead, and is now preserved in the British Museum. The scholia on Nicander have been published in Didot s Bibliotheca Graeca, along with those on Theocritus and Oppian, under the supervision of Dübner and Bussemaker.


JG Schneider (1792, 1816); O Schneider (1856) (with the Scholia); H Klauser, "De Dicendi Genere Nicandri" (Dissertationes Philologicae Vindobonenses, vi. 1898).

The Scholia (from the Göttingen manuscript) have been edited by G Wentzel in Abhandlungen der k. Gesellschaft der Wiss. zu Göttingen, xxxviii. (1892). See also W Voligraff, Nikander und Ovid (Groningen, 1909 foll.).

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