EPICHARMUS (F 1–5)
The Sicilian poet Epicharmus (ca. 540–450 BC) is best known as a writer of comedies based on Greek myths and contemporary themes, but a significant body of gnomic material and philosophical sayings also circulated under his name. Whether he actually composed separate philosophical works is uncertain: the authenticity of this philosophical corpus was already challenged in antiquity (Pseudepicharmeia). He did, however, come to be seen as an exponent of neo-Pythagorean views (remains in PCG, vol. I, pp. 8–173, including fragments from the comedies and Pseudepicharmeia as well as Ennius’ version; “philosophical” works in DK 23, B 47–54; discussion of Pseudepicharmeia in, e.g., Kerkhof 2001, 79–115).
The work of Ennius called Epicharmus seems to have been based on these philosophical writings: one fragment suggests the poet dreaming (F 1), another explains the etymology of a name (F 3); others deal with the four elements and their relation to mind and body. It is possible that, as in the proem to the Annals, an encounter between Ennius and his Greek predecessor explained how he came
EPICHARMUS (F 1–5)
to narrate Epicharmus’ doctrine, perhaps drawing upon Pythagorean views on the migration of souls. Epicharmus may also have appeared speaking in his own voice, if Varro’s introductions, “Epicharmus says” or “Ennius’ Epicharmus says” (F 2, 3), refer to the text and not simply to the work’s title.
Various metrical patterns appear in the fragments, though the text is often uncertain, and since observations on the nature of the universe and the relationship among gods, humans, and the natural world can also be found in the Annals and tragedies, attribution of unidentified fragments to the Epicharmus can be problematic. Vahlen and Courtney, for example, ascribe Inc. F 9, 40, and 56 to this work.
Bibl.: Suerbaum 2002, 130–31; 2003, 225. Edd./Comm.: Garbarino 1973, 130–32, 276–89; Courtney 1993, 30–38. Lit.: Kerényi 1950, 73–80; Suerbaum 1968, 92–94 (on the dream motif); Brink 1972, esp. 562–64 (on the role of Homer); Liuzzi 1973–74 (on Ennius’ Pythagorism); Bettini 1979, 31–51; Feeney 1991, 120–22.