ἐπὶ τῇ ἀθροἰσει τῶν βουκολικῶν ποιημἀτων
Βουκολικαὶ Μοῖσαι σποράδες ποκά, νῦν δ᾽ ἅμα πᾶσαι
ἐντὶ μιᾶς μάνδρας, ἐντὶ μιᾶς ἀγέλας.
“The bucolic Muses, once scattered, are now all of one flock, one fold.”  The first century (B.C.) anthologizer who appended these lines to his Theocritean collection referred to his own efforts, but tradition has recognized a description appropriate to Theocritus’ achievement and has assigned the epigram to the poet himself. In the work of Theocritus, the images of man and nature, deity and art, arrange themselves into that pattern which, as the pastoral, has been adopted and adapted by artists of every European language and period, decisive in its impact on narrative, dramatic, and lyric conventions. Studies of pastoral have tended to begin with Italian Renaissance conventions and to explore their past only as far as the major source, Vergil. But the Eclogues, for all their importance, are themselves consciously derivative. The crucial originality of Vergil—for the Eclogues are, in many ways, primary sources for Western pastoral—can be gauged only in terms of a considered estimate of his own original, Theocritus. This thesis will argue that Theocritus’ invention is best illuminated by appreciation of the traditional elements that he reshaped, for on certain levels such antecedent traditions as that of the Homeric Hymns are closer to Theocritus—despite the contrast between pre-literate and highly literary—than the closely-imitative Vergilian Eclogues.