The colloquia of the Hermeneumata PseudoDositheana

A press release advises me that the excellent Eleanor Dickey of Exeter University has brought out a rather interesting book:

The colloquia of the Hermeneumata Pseudodositheana are a set of little stories and dialogues about daily life in the Roman Empire, written for ancient Greek speakers learning Latin. Like modern language textbooks, they contain scenes illustrating shopping, dining, and banking; unlike their modern counterparts they also include bathing, litigation, and fighting.

Their potential to tell us about the experiences of ordinary Romans has so far been greatly underutilized because of the poor state of the text and lack of any translation. A modern edition with full translation, commentary, and explanation of these texts’ fascinating history by Eleanor Dickey has recently been published by CUP and are available from:

The CUP page tells me that the subtitle is “Volume: 1 Colloquia Monacensia-Einsidlensia, Leidense-Stephani, and Stephani”.  It also tells me, sadly, that the price is £90, or around $135; a quite impossible price.

From elsewhere I find:

Originally, this collection of encyclopedic excerpts, Latin and Greek glossaries, proverbs, and fables was attributed to Dositheus, a fourth century grammarian and teacher. Further analysis of all manuscripts, however — predominately those held in Leiden — established that the individual items must been part of a small textbook for use in schools. With its roots reaching back into the early third century, the textbook came to be influenced by various authors later on.

Medieval manuscripts often have non-descriptic short texts of this kind within them, which go ignored.  Eleanor Dickey came to my attention as the author of a handbook on scholia; a unique item, never attempted before.  She has managed the difficult task of doing for a second time something both useful and original, of breaking new ground.  Well done!


4 thoughts on “The colloquia of the Hermeneumata PseudoDositheana

  1. If Cambridge had vision, they’d be publishing it as a textbook naoooow. All you’d have to do is print separate editions with the Greek text as English/French/Spanish/German text. Money!

    (Well, yeah, I’m sure it’s not that easy. But Latin teachers and students would probably like it. The old dictionaries of Latin for Irish or Old English speakers are pretty darned entertaining, too.)

  2. Hm. It seems that Cambridge does do a reasonably priced (and even US-priced) New Testament Greek ebook, which is something I haven’t seen for a while. And it comes right out to say it assumes no prior language learning, which seems like a fair place to start in a language I have to self-study instead of get from a teacher.

    But I assume that their textbook and academic book divisions are Not the Same People, so it might not be an obvious or easy step to sell academic translations as contemporary enrichment/supplemental learning materials.

  3. In fairness to CUP, it’s a question of market. No normal person would look at the Colloquia, and libraries don’t care what they pay (*), so a low price on a book intended only for research libraries is just throwing money away. Some of the people at CUP are reasonably sensible (a faint memory, that).

    (*) P. J. O’Rourke has a good piece on this in one of his books: if you spend your own money on yourself, you are concerned about both value for money and quality. If you spend your own money on someone else, you are concerned about value for money, but less about whether it is suitable. This is why kids get socks for Christmas. If you spend other people’s money on yourself, you are still concerned to get good stuff, but the price no longer matters. And if you spend other people’s money on other people… well, who gives a f***?

    Which adequately summarises the problem with modern state-run institutions; they violate human nature.

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