Home » Blog » 2003 » March » From Simmias to Apollo
Written by Graham on Friday 24th March 2023.
This is an old translation of Simmias of Rhodes' poem to Apollo, containing references to the Hyperboreans, Campasus and the Kynocephaloi. It is taken from William Peter's 1847 opus Specimens of the Poets and Poetry of Greece and Rome. Additional notes appear below the text.
I reached the distant Hyperborean state,
The wealthy race, - at whose high banquet sate
Perseus the hero. On those wide-stretch'd plains
Ride the Massagetæ, (giving the reins
To their fleet coursers,) skilful with the bow. -
And then I came to the stupendous flow
Of Campasus, who pours his mighty tide
To th' ocean-sea, eternally supplied.
Thence to isles clad with olives green and young,
With many a tufted bulrush overhung.
A giant race, half man, half dog, live there:
Beneath their shoulders the heads they wear;
Jaws long and lank, and grizzly tusks they bear:
Much foreign tongues they learn, and can indite;
But when they strive to speak, they bark outright.
The author of this piece, Simmias of Rhodes, was a member of the school of Alexandria during the early Ptolemaic period, slightly before 300 BC. He is most well-known for his "pattern poems," in which the words were written in such a way as to provide a shape. This particular piece of religious poetry was preserved for posterity by the Byzantine antiquarian John Tzetzes, who flourished in the mid-to-late 12th century AD, and appears in his Chiliades [7.693 ff.]. Tzetzes' use of the quote is part of a section on the dog-headed men or kynocephaloi, with the mention of the fantastic land of the Hyperboreans merely incidental.
Simmias' Campasus has both its source and its mouth into the Ocean, an ancient concept of a river encircling the earth. Timothy Bridgman, in his study of the Hyperboreans, notes that the "olives" mentioned on the island are perhaps an error for fir trees and the general notion of darkness engulfing these isles is associated with ancient concepts such as the Homeric Kimmeroi, who dwelt eternally in the dark.
Categories: Classics; Greek; Horizons; Hyperborea; kynocephaloi; mythology.