The Lexicon of Photius

One of the references to the Adonia is supposedly in Photius.  Perhaps his Lexicon would help, perhaps under Adonis or Adonia?  This led me to wonder where this text might be found.  I quickly found that a Google search needs “lexicon photii” to find anything at all.  Is there no Wikipedia article, even, for this text?

Google books showed me an 1823 edition here.  But unfortunately there is a lacuna of ca. 100 pages at precisely the point we want.  More modern editions exist.  But an 1864 edition has the same problem.   All these are based on the Codex Galeanus (Cambridge, Trinity College, O.3.9/5985, once no. 306), a 12th century parchment ms. of 149 leaves.

A preview of a much more modern edition (1982, De Gruyter, vol. 1 – A-D) by Christos Theodoridis is here.  And this has a much fuller text, and much of the introduction is also online, from which the following notes are taken.

It seems that in 1959 an academic at the university of Thessalonika named Linos Politis made an journey into western Macedonia for research purposes, and discovered at the monastery of Zavorda a manuscript (codex Zavordensis 95) of the 13-14th century, containing the complete text of the Lexicon.  The editor comments (p.ix) that a find of this kind, outside of papyri, is a rarity.  But it was 1974 before editing began.  The manuscript is 406 leaves, written on bombycin in two columns.  It is the only complete manuscript of the text.  The manuscript contains other items also.

Besides the Cambridge and Zavorda manuscripts, there is also a manuscript in Berlin: ms. Berolinensis graec. oct. 22, a 13th century parchment ms. of 111 leaves, mostly of miscellaneous contents.  It was bought in 1901 from Valentin Rose, and contains a portion of the text.  It was thought lost in World War 2, but Theodoridis set out to locate it.  During the war the mss. of the Prussian Staatsbibliothek were first sent to Furstenstein for safety, and then to the Benedictine monastery of Grussau in Schliesian.  The monastery escaped the war, and the manuscript ended up in 1946 in Krakow, in the Jagellonen University Library there. 

There are a couple of other sources: Atheniensis 1083, a 15-16th century paper ms. containing a 4 leaf extract of the work; and a manuscript in Mar Saba in Jerusalem, Sabbaiticus 137, a miscellaneous ms. of the 14-15th century of 169 leaves, with an extract on f.162-9.  A couple more minor sources are also given by Theodoridis.

But back to the Adonia in Photius.  In the 1982 edition, on p.46 – 47 we get the following, which gives us exactly what we want:

Anyone care to do a translation?  The latter entry (401) clearly identifies the connection with Phoenicia and Cyprus.

7 Responses to “The Lexicon of Photius”


  1. MHB

    “The manuscript is 406 leaves, written on bombycin in two columns.” What is bombycin?

  2. Stephen C. Carlson

    I don’t know, but the Greek word βομβύκινος is an adjective that means “silken.” I would therefore guess that it is some sort of writing material made of silk.

  3. What is Bombycin? at Roger Pearse

    [...] of the manuscripts of Photius’ Lexicon was written on ‘bombycin’, and a commenter has asked what this is.   It’s Arabic paper, used widely in Byzantium from the 9th century onwards until [...]

  4. Roger Pearse

    It’s Arab paper. I’ve written a note about it here.

  5. ikokki

    398: Adonis’ gardens: In ostraca (ceramic pots?) they are sown in houses. They are often used in proverbs concerning the reckless and the deaf. They were sown so as to find Aphrodite’s fruits
    399: This is a commentary on grammar, it mentions authors that use “Adonios” instead of “Adonidos”
    400: Adonia: In a shy form? I think this is a commentary on how the next verse is sug “We lead Adonis and we mourn Adonis” Pherekrates. They call this idol of Adonis Adonion
    401: Adonia braxeia accent on the paraligousa ( third syllable from the end ) as Aristophanes and Pherekrates through their metres show. The Adonia is a celebration, the ones lead to the honor of Adonis, he others of Aphrodite ( Could he mean Aristophanes and Pherekrates here? My ancient Greek is not that good ) It is celebrated by the Phoenicians and the Cypriots

    I am an agronomist, I haven’t really used ancient Greek since high school so excuse me if my translation is bad.

    Linos Politis is a major figure in Greek letters. He went around the countryside and recorded folk traditions as they were dying out in the post-WWII era. Never know he also contributed to Byzantine studies…

  6. Nick Nicholas

    I’ll have a try, though my Ancient Greek is not much better:

    Adonis’ gardens: these were sown in potsherds near houses. They are used proverbially to refer to superficial and insubstantial people. And people would sow them, dedicating to Aphrodite the discovery of any fruit [in them].

    (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adonia#The_Gardens_of_Adonis )

    Adonia: with a short vowel [i.e. spelled with iota not epsilon iota]. “We lead Adonis and we cry for Adonis”: Pherecrates. And they also call the idol of Adonis thus, Adonion. [Singular of Adonia]

    Adonia: it has a short syllable on the penult, as Aristophanes and Pherecrates show through their metre. And the Adonia are a festival, which some say is celebrated in honour of Adonis, while others say it is in honour of Aphrodite. And [the festival] is for the Phoenecians and the Cypriots.

  7. Roger Pearse

    Nick, that is very interesting. And thank you very much for having a go! The scholia have (I discover) their own problems when translating because of their abbreviated nature.



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