Aratus: Phaenomena

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The Phaenomena (literally “Things that appear”) is a didactic poem comprising 1154 hexameters composed by the poet Aratus of Soli (ca. 315/310 – 240 BC). It can be divided into two parts which follow an introductory hymn to Zeus (1-18): a description of the constellations and the circles, later called Phaenomena (19-558), and the Diosemeia which deals with weather-signs and gives advice on how to “read” them (559-1154). For both parts, Aratus used technical works written in prose, probably those by Eudoxus and Theophrastus. His didactic poem was highly influenced by and shaped in correspondence to Hesiod’s Works and Days. Its poetic form made it extremely popular for centuries. Even Hipparchus, who wrote his Commentary on the Phaenomena of Eudoxus and Aratus (Τῶν Ἀράτου καὶ Εὐδόξου φαινομένων ἐξήγησις) a century later demonstrating its mistakes, could not dissuade people from reading, or rather falling for the charm (charis) of Aratus’ verses.

The archaic style of the work, on the other hand, made it an elite text, as Richard Hunter [1995] observed, and thus created the need for a companion to the Phaenomena. Such a work is Pseudo-Eratosthenes’ Catasterisms. This commentary is a simplified version of an original work of Eratosthenes that was rearranged in such a way as to fit the order of the constellations presented in the Phaenomena. Thus this manual consists of 44 chapters one for each constellation discussed by Aratus, providing further information on the myths. Both Hipparchus and Pseudo-Eratosthenes commentaries or corrections were later used and introduced into the text of the Latin translations of Germanicus and Avienus as well as a source for Hyginus (ca. 64 BC –17 AD) who borrowed from them for his De astronomia.


  • Aratus. Aratus, Phaenomena. Edited by Douglas A. Kidd. Cambridge: CUP, 1997.
  • ———. Phainomena: Griechisch - Deutsch. Edited by Manfred Erren. 2nd ed. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2011.
  • ———. Phénomènes. Edited by Jean Martin. 2 vols. Paris: Belles Lettres, 1998.
  • Callimachus, Lycophron, and Aratus. Callimachus: Hymns and Epigrams, Lycophron and Aratus. Translated by A. W. Mair and G. R. Mair. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1921.
  • Eratosthenes. Eratòstenes de Cirene, Catasterismes. Edited by Jordi Pàmias i Massana. Barcelona: Fundació Bernat Metge, 2004.
  • ———. Ératosthène de Cyrène: Catastérismes. Edited by Jordi Pàmias i Massana and Arnaud Zucker. Collection Des Universités de France [Collection Des Universités de France / Série Grecque] . - Paris : Les Belles Lettres, 1946- 497. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2013.
  • ———. Eratosthenes, Sternsagen (Catasterismi). Edited by Jordi Pàmias and Klaus Geus. Bibliotheca classicorum 2. Oberhaid: Utopica, 2007.
  • ———. Eratosthenis Catasterismorum reliquiae. Edited by Karl Robert. 2nd ed. Berolini: Weidmann, 1963.
  • Manitius, Karl (ed.) Hipparchi in Arati et Eudoxi Phaenomena commentariorum libri III. Leipzig: Teubner, 1894.
  • Selected Literature

  • Böker, Robert. Die Entstehung der Sternsphaere Arats. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1952.
  • Cusset, Christophe. ‘Aratos de Soles est-il « naturaliste » plutôt que poète?’ In L’Homme et la Science, edited by Jacques Jouanna, Michel Fartzoff, and Béatrice Bakhouche, 257–66. Paris: Les belles lettres, n.d.
  • Dickey, Eleanor. Ancient Greek Scholarship: A Guide to Finding, Reading, and Understanding Scholia, Commentaries, Lexica, and Grammatical Treatises, from Their Beginnings to the Byzantine Period. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2007.
  • Effe, Bernd. ‘Arat, ein medizinischer Lehrdichter?’ Hermes 100 (1972): 500–503.
  • Erren, Manfred. ‘Arat und Aratea 1966-1992’. Lustrum 36 (1994): 189–284.
  • ———. Die Phainomena des Aratos von Soloi: Untersuchungen zum Sach- und Sinnverständnis. Hermes Einzelschriften 19. Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1967.
  • Fakas, Christos. Der Hellenistische Hesiod: Arats Phainomena Und Die Tradition Der Antiken Lehrepik. Serta Graeca : SG ; Beiträge Zur Erforschung Griechischer Texte 11. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2001.
  • Gee, Emma. Aratus and the Astronomical Tradition. Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • ———. Ovid, Aratus and Augustus: Astronomy in Ovid’s ‘Fasti’. Cambridge Classical Studies. Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.
  • Hunter, Richard. ‘Written in the Stars: Poetry and Philosophy in the Phaenomena of Aratus’. Arachnion 2 (1995): 1–34.
  • Lewis, A.-M. ‘The Popularity of the Phaenomena of Aratus: A Reevaluation’. In Studies in Latin Literature and Roman History, edited by Carl Deroux, 94–118. Latomus: Revue d’études Latines 217, 1992.
  • Lewis, Anne-Marie. From Aratus to the Aratus Latinus: A Comparative Study of Latin Translation (Ph. D. Dissertation). Hamilton: McMaster university, 1983.
  • Ludwig, Walter, and David Pingree. ‘Review of Phainomena Des Aratos von Soloi: Untersuchungen Zum Sach- Und Sinnverständnis by M. Erren’. Gnomon 43 (1971): 346–54.
  • Martin, Jean. Histoire du texte des Phénomènes d’Aratos. Paris: Klincksieck, 1956.
  • ———, ed. Scholia in Aratum Vetera. Stuttgart: Teubner, 1974.
  • Sale, William. ‘The Popularity of Aratus’. The Classical Journal 61, no. 4 (1966): 160–64.
  • Semanoff, Matthew. ‘Undermining Authority: Pedagogy in Aratus’ Phaenomena’. In Beyond the Canon, edited by Annette Harder, Remco F. Regtuit, and G. C. Wakker, 303–17. Leuven: Peeters, 2006.
  • Volk, Katharina. ‘Letters in the Sky: Reading the Signs in Aratus’ Phaenomena’. American Journal of Philology 133, no. 2 (n.d.): 209–40.
  • Manuscripts