(1) - a somewhat mythical personage in ancient Greece, said to have lived in the time of Cyrus and Croesus, or, according to some, ca. 690 B.C. We are chiefly indebted to Herodotus (iv. 13-15) for our knowledge of him and his poem Arimaspeia. He belonged to a noble family of Proconnesus, an island colony from Miletus in the Propontis, and was supposed to be inspired by Apollo. He travelled through the countries north and east of the Euxine, and visited the Hyperboreans, Issedonians and Arimaspians, who fought against the gold-guarding griffins. An important historical fact which seems to be indicated in his poem is the rush of barbarian hordes towards Europe under pressure from their neighbours. Twelve lines of the poem are preserved in Tzetzes and Longinus. Wonderful stories are told of Aristeas. At Proconnesus, he fell dead in a shop; simultaneously a traveller declared he had spoken with him near Cyzicus; his body vanished; six years afterwards, he returned. Again disappearing, 240 years later he was at Metapontum, and commanded the inhabitants to raise a statue to himself and an altar to Apollo, whom he had accompanied in the form of a raven, at the founding of the city. According to Suidas, Aristeas also wrote a prose theogony. The genuineness of his works is disputed by Dionysius of Halicarnassus.
See Tournier, De Aristea Proconneso (1863); Macan, Hdt. iv. 14 note.
(2) - the pseudonymous author of a famous Letter in which is described, in legendary form, the origin of the Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint (q.v.). Aristeas represents himself as a Gentile Greek, but was really an Alexandrian Jew who lived under one of the later Ptolemies. Though the Letter is unauthentic, it is now recognized as a useful source of information concerning both Egyptian and Palestinian affairs in the 2nd and possibly in the 3rd century B.C.
An English translation, based on a critical Greek text, was published by H. St J. Thackeray in the Jewish Quarterly Review, vol. xv. There are two modern editions of the Greek, one by the last named (in Swete's Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, Cambridge, 1900), the other by P. Wendland (Leipzig, 1900).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)