Images of vanished Rome : the Septizonium and the Meta Sudans

Ste. Trombetti has been busily searching the online site of the Spanish National Library, and posting the results on Twitter.

First of these is a view of the Septizonium, the vanished facade of the Palatine, built by Severus at the end of the Appian Way and demolished in the 16th century for materials to build New St Peter’s basilica.  This shot is particularly valuable, as it is more or less end-on, from the south, and shows the main structure consisted of two parallel walls, connected at intervals, with the facade on the front.  It can be found here (click to enlarge):

Italian, Anon. 1530-40?
Italian, Anon. 1530-40?

Next up is an old photograph of the Colosseum, with a particularly nice image of the Meta Sudans, the fountain just inside the arch of Constantine.  Its from here:

Vista Panoramica (1858-65)?
Vista Panoramica (1858-65)?

A detail shows the fountain clearly:


The same view is shown in an older drawing by Isidro Velazquez, made between 1792-96.  Note that in this drawing the Meta Sudans is perceptibly taller, and appears to have a second stage atop the first.  It’s from here:

Velasquez, Colosseum with Meta Sudans
Velasquez, Colosseum with Meta Sudans

Another image from the same period is an anonymous Spanish painting, “Anfiteatro Flavio, detto il Coloseo”, 1790-99.  Here too the Meta Sudans appears taller, and with a bulbous top.  From here:

Amphitheatro Flavio (1790-99)
Amphitheatro Flavio (1790-99)

Very interesting to see and compare!


Review: “Commentaries on Genesis 1-3: Severian of Gabala” from IVP Academic

Severian of Gabala is best known, if he is known at all, for his six sermons on Genesis 1-3.  His fame, or notoriety, is because he expounds a curious flat-earth theory in them.   This opinion, very rare among early Christian writers, is enough to stigmatise him in modern eyes, and his work has consequently received far less attention than it deserves.  As a result, his work has never been translated into English, until the work of R.F. Regtuit on a single homily in 1992[1], and, this year, the translations of Bryson Sewell.[2]

So it is a pleasant surprise to learn that a translation of these six sermons In Cosmogoniam – plus, unexpectedly of the Quomodo animum acceperit Adam – appeared inn 2010, from IVP Academic.[3]  It was translated by the late Australian scholar Robert C. Hill, who died in 2007, so this must have been one of the first volumes to be commissioned.

The physical shape of the book is tall and slim.  It shares the format of the Ancient Commentary on Scripture series exactly, being about 50% taller and wider than a Sources Chrétiennes volume, but much slimmer.  This makes sense only in the context of the ACS volumes, which were tall, wide and necessarily thick, and it is clearly intended to stand on a shelf with them.  The manufacturing details are also the same, and the print and typesetting also.

The translation of Severian is literal rather than popular, but perfectly serviceable and fulfils admirably the brief to produce a scholarly translation of service to all sections of the academic community.   The style is very literal, as most translations are today, without sacrificing readability too far.  On occasion the text does slip over the line into translationese, but these points are thankfully few and very rarely obscure the sense.

In the sermons, Severian tends to wander all over the subject, but his comments will be interesting to students of biblical studies, precisely because they are expository.  The translator compares the Antiochene approach with that of Chrysostom, from the same school; and also with the more allegorical style of Didymus the Blind.  He notes that Severian is by no means the dull literalist that he is sometimes supposed to be, resorting to typology without a qualm.

On the other hand the approach that Severian takes to Cosmology, interpreting stray phrases from the scriptures in order to build up a weird picture of the universe unlike that held by anyone else, either then or now, will endear itself to few.  Such people have always existed, of course: indeed I read today on Paleojudaica a post in which some Jewish scholars attempted to perform a geographical calculation of the size of the Garden of Eden using as a basis a rabbinical claim that “the entire world drinks from the runoff of the Garden of Eden.”  It is welcome to be able to judge the merits of the case in Severian’s own words.

The book is lacking in one respect, in that the translator does not seem to have appreciated that the reader may find it difficult to visualise the picture of the world in question.  This is surprising; and an unfortunate omission.  The English translation of Cosmas Indicopleustes (online here) thought it worthwhile to reproduce some illustrations from the manuscripts.  It would be interesting to know whether the medieval manuscripts of In Cosmogeniam are illustrated.

All the same the publisher should have included a diagram in homily 3.  Essentially Severian suggests that the world is in the shape of a tabernacle (presumably square, with a dome atop it, the sides and roof being the “firmament” of Genesis 1-3); and that the sun does not go underneath the earth, but round to the north side where it is hidden by a “wall”.  You will have to read the book to see his list of proof-texts for this!

One point will certainly strike the reader – the repeated appearance of phrases such as “pay attention please”.  The translator seems to have understood these as indicating boredom by the audience, and the reader may suppose this.  But Regtuit points out that these phrases appear elsewhere in Severian’s output and may indicate something more like “please concentrate – this bit is difficult”.   Severian was a popular preacher, and it is unlikely that sermons which nobody found interesting would be copied.  There is a paper to be written, I think, on the use of such phrases in Severian.

The homilies are printed without any divisions other than paragraphs.  The chapter numbers found in Migne are not indicated, nor the column numbers.  I do not know what the policy of IVP is, but it is unfortunate for the reader.  Readers will quite often come to read this book when following a reference in a footnote somewhere; and these are always to either the chapter or the PG column.  Indeed Hill uses the latter system himself in his introduction.  Many will ask which bit of the text is “homily 3, chapter 5”!

The footnotes are mainly biblical references, combined with comparison of Severian’s exegesis with other commentators of the period.  The sole index is an index of biblical passages.

As one of the first volumes to appear, there is a series introduction, directed mainly at institutional subscribers.  This tells us inter alia that the intention is not to produce material aimed at a particular constituency but rather to produce scholarly translations that would be useful to everyone; and quite right too.  In this case the translator was a liberal Australian Catholic, I think.  The volume is certainly not directed to IVP’s usual constituency, which does not seem to feature at all in the volume.  The general standard is certainly as good as the Fathers of the Church volumes.

The translator’s “introduction” is an interesting but frustrating piece of work, especially to myself, since I am in the habit of reviewing such things from the translations that I commission, and fixing some of the problems that appear.  This “introduction” does not actually introduce Severian or his works!  That’s a fairly basic failure, albeit hardly an important one.  The text is instead a rather unfocused and sometimes repetitive discourse about Severian.  It makes hard reading, even for someone as familiar with Severian and his work as myself.  Regtuit is a better model for the reader, and likewise Aubineau in his edition and translation of De centurione.  However this problem could be fixed rather easily by prefixing a couple of pages to this portion of the book, outlining what we know about Severian, his life and his work, and the reception of it by scholars.

The introduction also doesn’t explain very well just why the reader should want to spend his time reading Severian or his works; Hill writes as if he disliked his author – one can only sympathise with the task of translating someone you dislike! – and the sniping is irritating after a while.

However the persistent reader will find some useful points are made.    While Hill clearly can’t understand why anyone ever listened to Severian, he still quotes enough to make the latter’s charm quite clear.  He rightly highlights the word-pictures that Severian paints, and his flair for dramatisation, when describing biblical scenes, although Hill meanly questions whether Severian borrowed these from somewhere else, despite an utter lack of evidence for this.  We learn that it is possible that Severian delivered Quomodo animum immediately following the six sermons, during Lent in 401.   Severian’s interest in a scientific approach to the text receives mention – as does the complaint of his audience that it wasn’t theological enough!  Montfaucon’s dislike of Severian comes through – the monk was doubtless influenced by the enmity between St John Chrysostom and Severian here – and a few snippets of this are translated.  The discussion of different approaches to exegesis is interesting, but diffuse.

The defects of the introduction, and indeed the lack of reader-focused explanatory comments in the translation, are probably the result of two factors.  Firstly this was the last work by Dr Hill, who died soon afterwards.  Secondly the series editors were just beginning their task, and were probably too inexperienced or unable to exert much control over the translator.

But these criticisms are minor points, easily fixed by consulting other books on Severian.  The core of the book is a very solid, academic translation of the key works of Severian of Gabala.  IVP are to be commended on making it accessible to us all.

  1. [1]Remco F. Regtuit, Severian of Gabala: Homily on the Incarnation of Christ (CPG 4204). VU University Press, Amsterdam, 1992.
  2. [2]Published on this site: so far of De pace, and De fide et de lege natura.
  3. [3]The volume also contains a translation of book 1 of the Commentary on Genesis by the Venerable Bede, which will not be reviewed here.

Severian of Gabala, “De fide et de lege natura” – now online in English

Bryson Sewell has made the first English translation of another work by the 4th century preacher, Severian of Gabala.  This one is On faith and the natural law (De fide et de lege natura) (CPG 4185).  It is a homily on faith and works, in terms that would undoubtedly have interested Martin Luther, had he known it.

The item may be found on here, or below:

The work is public domain – do whatever you wish with it!


Another image of the Vatican rotunda

In the modern basilica of St Peter’s in Rome, the high altar is at the west end. The same was true of the basilica built in the 4th century by Constantine.

By the south door of the basilica stood two large round buildings, which ran in a line west-east.  The western-most of these was demolished as part of the construction of the new basilica, but the other stood until the 18th century, when it too was demolished. It is sometimes known as the Vatican rotunda.

To the east of them both, on the same line, stood the Vatican obelisk.   This item from ancient Egypt now stands in the piazza before St Peter’s.

The following 19th century reconstruction, depicting a magnificence that the old basilica probably never possessed, indicates what was where:


Another image of the Vatican rotunda has reached me.  This time it appears in a painting by Giorgio Vasari (d. 1574), “Pope Paul III Farnese directing the continuance of St Peter’s”, available here.  A detail of this shows the new basilica under construction, the Vatican rotunda to the right, and the obelisk (surely in the wrong place?) beyond it.

The rotunda was clearly not a particularly attractive building.  It looks as if it was a vast circular building, on top of which a structure with windows had been constructed.

One reason why the rotunda was so simple is that it was probably, originally, a massive, circular 3rd century Roman tomb.  The land around it was raised by Constantine’s architects, in order to provide a platform for the basilica; and the obelisk ended up with its lower section underground.

The archaeology clearly indicates that a circular building was constructed on this site in the early 3rd century, in the Severan period.  It is not quite clear whether the rotunda is the same building, or a replacement on the same site at a somewhat higher level.

The obelisk stood on the spina of the Circus of Gaius and Nero.  The presence of tombs on the same site indicates that the circus had gone out of use in the same period, as the Vatican cemetery spread down the hill towards it.

The archaeology is not as clear as might be desired, because the site can only be excavated with small pit trenches.  So there is much uncertainty in all this.


Lexicon: an introduction to the dictionaries of ancient Greek that survive from antiquity

Around twenty ancient and medieval lexicons/dictionaries/glossaries/encyclopedias of Greek words and their meanings have reached us, plus quite a number of minor lexica.  These works contain lists of Greek words, often dialect or otherwise unusual.  In many cases they are concerned with advising the reader how to write Attic Greek correctly.

The works exist because, after the classical period, the Greek language changed and terminology in classical authors could be a problem.  In the Roman period there was a fashion for writing the Attic Greek of 500 years earlier, and this fashion remained until 1453.  Consequently authors needed guidebooks on Attic usage.

Modern scholars are interested in these works because they preserve invaluable historical insight into the ancient world.  Every classicist will sooner or later need to refer to Hesychius, for instance.  The entries frequently preserve valuable historical information, which reaches us in no other way, not least because – unlike modern dictionaries – they include proper names, and attempt to identify the persons concerned.

The works are structured in generally the same way.  A word is given, followed by another word or words to explain it.  Sometimes a paragraph of explanation is involved.  Sometimes the authors who used the word are given.  Sometimes we are given a quotation from that author.  As most of ancient Greek literature is lost, these fragments are valuable.  The lexicon also often incidentally contains material of historical interest on the classical period.

Most of the works have been damaged, interpolated, or revised in transmission.  The tendency to copy from one into another means that material in two lexica may not be independent.

A survey of the extant texts can be found in Eleanor Dickey’s marvellous compendium of precise information, Ancient Greek Scholarship, p.87-103, which should be on the shelves of every Classicist, Byzantinist, and scholar of patristics or late antiquity.  What follows is a drastically abbreviated version of Dickey.  For bibliography use Dickey.  I only indicate where the text may be found.

The most important lexica are the Lexicon of Hesychius, and the “Suda”.

According to Hesychius’ prologue (below), lexicography begins with the creation of glossaries of unusual or obscure words.  Such glosses were compiled for a specific author, such as Homer; or for specific genres like Tragedy or Comedy.   These were known as glossai, and later as lexeis.   A writer (from 1839! use with caution) states:

The very names now given to works of the kind were unknown to the ancients. Glossarium first appears in the writings of Aulus Gellius; but from the context of the passage where it occurs, it cannot be inferred to have been used by him to denote “a book of glosses,” nor probably did it acquire that signification till some centuries after. Lexicon is, I believe, found for the first time in the Etymologicon Magnum, a compilation of which the author is unknown, but its age is ascertained not to reach farther back than the tenth century. Dictionarium and Vocabularium are terms of still later introduction.[1] (Wall, p.113)

The lexica are referenced differently to most ancient works.  They are organised as a series of words, with material about each word, and these words are usually in alphabetical order.  So a reference is to an entry.  For each entry we give the first letter of the word, followed by the number.  So Alpha 5 is the fifth word beginning with Alpha.  It is usually best to include the edition used as well (e.g. Pi 123, Adler).  Examples will be found below for entries in the Suda.

Aristophanes of Byzantium (ca. 257-180 BC)

Aristophanes of Byzantium was one of the most important Alexandrian scholars, and the teacher of Aristarchus.  He is credited with inventing the symbols for the Greek accents, and also critical signs for editing texts.  He produced editions of the classical authors Homer, Hesiod, etc.  He also produced or inspired the hypotheses, the summaries prefixed in the manuscripts to tragedies and comedies, which contain valuable information about the production of each play.  He seems to have been the first to divide lyric texts into verses, rather than writing them as prose.

Aristophanes produced a glossary-work which he called Lexeis.  The work was in several sections, such as “On words suspected of not having been said by the ancients” (i.e. post-classical words), “On the names of ages” (i.e. terms used to designate men, women, and animals of different ages), and “On kinship terms.”

Hundreds of fragments of it exist in other works, plus fragments transmitted directly in manuscripts.

Editions: A. Nauck, Aristophanis Byzantii grammatici Alexandrini fragmenta, Halle, 1848 (= TLG; online); W.J. Slater, Aristophanis Byzantii Fragmenta, Berlin, 1986, with some of the most important material, discovered later than Nauck.  Slater is the standard text.

Diogenianus (2nd c. AD)

Hesychius tells us that the first attempt, to unite the pre-existing single-author glossaries into a unfied work covering all authors, in alphabetical order, was that of Diogenianus.[2]  According to the Suda (below), he lived in the time of Hadrian.  But the Suda also states that even this was an epitome of a pre-existing compilation by Pamphilus and Zopyrion:

Of the other Heraclea, not in Pontus. Grammarian. He too lived under the emperor Hadrian. The possibility has to be considered that he is the doctor from Albace Heraclea in Caria, since he was an expert on literature in general; for I have not found it stated explicitly that he was from Heraclea in Pontus, though that is the opinion of some. His books are as follows: Miscellaneous Lexicon, alphabetically arranged, in 5 books – this is an epitome of Pamphilus’ Lexicon in 405 books and of Zopyrion’s; Anthology of Epigrams; On rivers, harbours, springs, mountains [and] mountain ridges; On Rivers, alphabetically arranged, a description in epitome; Collection and Table of Cities throughout the World; and so on.[3]

The lexicon as a whole is lost, but it was the basis for the lexicon of Hesychius (see below).  However some papyrus fragments exist: PSI[4] viii. 892; POxy. 47, 3329; a fragment on dialect glosses published by Latte in 1924[5]; and numerous fragments in scholia.

Aelius Dionysius and Pausanias (early 2nd c. AD)

These two authors, otherwise unknown, were the first to produce dictionaries of Attic.  Each produced a work listing Attic words and phrases, and these survived until at least the 12th c.   Both are lost, but substantial fragments exist.

Editions: H. Erbse, “Untersuchungen zu den attizistischen Lexika” in: Abhandlungen der deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, philosophischhistorische Klasse, Jahrgang 1949, Nr. 2.  Berlin, 1950 (=TLG)

Herennius Philo (early 2nd c.) and ‘Ammonius’

In the manuscripts is a bunch of epitomes of lexica, all closely related to one another.  One, De diversis verborum significationibus, is attributed to Herennius Philo, also known as Erenius Philo and Philo of Byblos; another to an unknown Ptolemy.  All these seem to be derived from a 2nd century lexicon by Herennius Philo, a well-known author of various non-lexical works in the late 1st / early 2nd century, notably the Phoenician History, extant in fragments.  Related to these is a larger lexicon, De adfinium vocabulorum differentia, preserved under the name of “Ammonius”, otherwise unknown.  It is most likely that all these texts are derived, in a longer or shorter from, from Herennius Philo’s lexicon. The work consists of pairs of words, which are similar, and explanations of the difference between them.  The material is generally historically correct and occasionally very valuable.

The Suda entry for him is as follows:

Philo of Byblos.Grammarian. He lived in the time of those near Nero, and survived a long while – at any rate, he says that Severus, surnamed Herennius, was consul when he was 78 years old, in the 220th Olympiad. He wrote On the Purchase and Selection of Books (12 books); On Cities and the Famous People Each of them Produced (30 books); On the Reign of Hadrian (under whom Philo lived); etc. Philo was consul, surnamed Herennius, as he himself says.[6]

Editions: For “Ammonius” = K. Nickau, Ammonii qui dicitur liber de adfinium vocabulorum differentia, Leipzig, 1966 (= TLG); Epitome of Herennius = V. Palmieri, Herennius Philo: De diversis verborum significationibus, Naples, 1988 (= TLG); Epitome of Ptolemy = G. Heylbut, “Ptolemaeus περδιαφορς λξεων”, Hermes 22, 1887, p.388-410 (online); V. Palmieri, “Ptolemaeus (Ambrosianus qui dicitur) De differentia vocabulorum in litteram,” Annali della Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia dell’Università di Napoli 24,  1981-2, -33; K. Nickau, “Zur Geschichte der griechischen Synonymica: Ptolemaios und die Epitoma Laurentiana,” Hermes 118, 1990, 253-6.

Harpocration (late 2nd c.)

Valerius Harpocration produced a glossary to the Attic orators.  It is important as a source of fragments and unusually authentic historical information on classical Athens.  It is one of the earliest surviving glossaries.  The text survives in a number of late manuscripts, in a somewhat contaminated and abridged form known as the “full version”.  An epitome of the 9th century also exists.  There is also a papyrus fragment from the 2nd-3rd century (P.Ryl. iii, 532), plus quotations in Photius and scholia.

Editions: I. Bekker, Harpocration et Moeris (Berlin, 1833) here; W. Dindorf, Harpocrationis lexicon in decem oratores Atticos (Oxford, 1853 = TLG) vol.1 and vol.2; John J. Keaney, Harpocration: Lexeis of the Ten Orators (Amsterdam, 1991; but unreliable).

Julius Pollux (late 2nd c.)

Pollux (or Polydeuces) of Naucratis was a rhetorician of the time of Commodus, to whom he dedicated his first book before the latter had become emperor.[7]  He compiled the Onomasticon in ten books, which has come down to us in the form of an epitome, but one that has also been interpolated as well as abridged.   It is based on Classical works and Alexandrian scholarship.  It is in topic order, rather than alphabetical, reflecting the original Greek approach to these things.  It contains definitions, fragments of lost works, better readings of extant works, and much historical information, such as a famous discussion of the classical theatre and the 78 different types of masks in use for different characters in comedy, tragedy and in satyr plays.

The Suda entry for him is as follows:

Polydeuces of Naucratis. Some write that the sophist was from Ardyenna, but they are joking:  Ardyenna [is] a city of Phoenicia. He taught in Athens under the emperor Commodus, and died aged 58, having composed the following books: Onomasticon (10 books: it is a collection of different words for the same thing); informal discourses, or talks; declamations; epithalamium to Caesar Commodus; Roman Speech; Trumpet, or Musical Contest; Against Socrates; Against the People of Sinope; Panellenic Speech; Arcadian Speech; and so on.[8]

Editions: E. Bethe, Pollucis Onomasticon, Leipzig, 1900-37 (=TLG). Series: Lexicographi graeci vol. 9. (Vol.1; vol.2; vol.3).

The anti-atticist (late 2nd c.)

This is an anonymous 2nd century lexicon which is not anti-atticist, but simply uses a wider definition of Attic than most.  It is extant in a very reduced form.  Originally it listed Attic words, defined them and gave quotations, but most of the latter have gone.  It is still useful to identify lost works, historical details about Athens, and fragments of Alexandrian scholarship, as well as details of the 2nd century controversies.

Editions: Bekker, Anecdota Graeca, 1814-21, vol.1, p.75-116 (=TLG; online). This contains the first edition of many Greek scholarly works.

Phrynichus Arabius (late 2nd c.)

Two works by this extreme Atticist rhetorician survive.  His Praeparatio sophistica was originally in 37 books; an epitome and fragments survive.  The work is a collection of obscure words, and is discussed by Photius.  His Ecloga in 2 books is more or less complete, and two short epitomes of it also survive.  It consists of a list of “bad” words, usually koine, and the Attic equivalent, together with pronouncements on Attic and non-Attic usage.  It is useful as a guide to the kind of mistakes 2nd century writers were liable to make in trying to write Attic Greek.  He makes use of the anti-atticist lexicon.

Editions: PS = J. Borries, Phrynichi sophistae Praeparatio sophistica, Leipzig, 1911 (=TLG).  Ecloga = E. Fischer, Die Ekloge des Phrynichos, Berlin, 1974 (=TLG).  English summary and discussion of findings in Slater’s review of it in Gnomon 49, 1977, 258-62.

Moeris (3rd c.?)

A lexicon containing almost a thousand entries alphabetised by the first letter, consisting of “this is Attic, but the other Greeks use that”.

Editions: D. Hansen, Das attizistische Lexikon des Moeris, Berlin, SGLG 9, 1998.

Philemon (3-2 c. BC) and Philemon (ca. 200 AD)

A glossographer named Philemon lived in the 3rd-2nd century BC and wrote a gloss on Attic words.  It is lost but fragments survive in Athenaeus, and in ‘Ammonius’.  Another Philemon of the same name (neither related to any other person of the same name) lived ca. 200 AD and composed a work in iambics, of which two brief extracts survive.  These consist of lists of non-Attic words and their equivalents.

Editions (of the second writer):  Frag. 1 = R. Reitzenstein, Geschichte der griechischen Etymologika: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Philologie in Alexandria und Byzanz, Leipzig, 1897, p. 392–6.; Frag. 2 = F.G. Osann, Philemonis grammatici quae supersunt, 1821.  Study: L. Cohn, “Der Atticist Philemon,” Philologus, 57 (1898) p.353–67.

Orus and Orion (5th c.)

These two grammarians are confused even in the Byzantine period, and the confusion continues to modern times.  Both wrote a number of scholarly works.

Orus was born in Alexandria, lived in Constantinople, and is associated with Miletus for unknown reasons.   Four works survive. (1) An Attic lexicon, aimed at distinguishing classical from koine, rather than Attic as such.  It was written in opposition to Phrynichus, and is based on classical sources.  But it is extant only in fragments, mainly from the lexicon of Zonaras. (2) A manual on orthography, of which we possess a substantial excerpt on the use of the iota subscript.  It gives a list of words (all from the second half of the alphabet), and indicates whether each uses it or not. Each is often accompanied by a quotation from a classical work, sometimes lost, and fragments of earlier scholarship. (3) A short treatise on words with several meanings, preserved in excerpts. (4) Another short treatise, on ethnic names, gathered from Stephanus and the Etymologicum genuinum.

Only one of the works of Orio(n) of Thebes survives, an etymological lexicon in alphabetical order.  This exists in three abbreviated versions, one of considerable bulk, the others known as the Werfer and the Koes excerpts. It preserves much earlier scholarship, including portions of Aristonicus on Homer.  We also have fragments of a florilegium by Orion.

Editions: Orus: (1) Alpers, Das attizistische Lexikon des Oros: Untersuchung und kritische Ausgabe der Fragmente (Berlin; SGLG 4), 1981 (in TLG). (2) H. Rabe, “Lexicon Messanense de iota ascripto,” in: Rheinisches Museum 47 (1892),. p.404-13. (TLG).  (3, 4) R. Reitzenstein, Geschichte der griechischen Etymologika: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Philologie in Alexandria und Byzanz, 1897, p.316-35 and 335-47.  Orion: F.W. Sturz, Etymologicum Graecae linguae Gudianum, 1818, p.611-17 (=Werfer excerpts); and: F.W. Sturz, Orionis Thebani Etymologicon, 1820 (=Koes extracts).  [The long version is supposedly also published in Sturz, but I don’t see it.]

Cyrillus (5th c.)

Numerous manuscripts exist of a lexicon attributed to Cyrillus, or Cyril, and material from it has also been interpolated into Hesychius.  The Cyril in question is probably intended to be Cyril of Alexandria, and may have had some association with him.  The lexicon contains mainly biblical glosses – words and explanations.  But there is also classical material.  Most of it is unpublished.

Editions: A. B. Drachmann, Die Überlieferung des Cyrillglossars, Copenhagen, 1936 in: Det Kgl. Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, Historisk-filologiske Meddelelser 21.5. (excerpts only); J.A. Cramer, Anecdota Graeca e codd. manuscriptis bibliothecae regiae Parisiensis, Oxford, 1839-41, vol. 4, 177-201 (only a very abbreviated version).

Hesychius of Alexandria (5-6th c.)

This is the most important of the lexica.  A corrupt, abridged and interpolated 15th century manuscript in Venice (Marc. xxxx) is the sole witness to a text by an otherwise unknown Hesychius of Alexandria.  The prefatory letter tells us that it is based on the 2nd century lexicon of Diogenianus (now lost), but supplemented from other lost lexical writers including Aristarchus, Heliodorus, Apion and Herodian.

It consists of a list of poetic and dialect words, phrases and short proverbs.  It includes proper names.  Each word is followed by a high-point, and then some words which are equivalent, or abbreviated from the original explanation by Hesychius.  The words themselves are given in the inflected form, complete with prefix – the one in which they appeared in the text from which the original lexicographer extracted them -, not the base form, and in alphabetical order based on the first three letters.  Thus an entry should be referenced as “a 1234 (Latte)” which would be the 1234th word under alpha in the edition of Latte.  (References are sadly often given in much less helpful forms).

The work was severely abridged, omitting most indications of sources for the words.  In addition about 33% of the entries are interpolated from the lexicon of Cyrillus (see below), or from other sources.  These interpolations are early, since the Cyrillus material was already present by the 8th century.

The opening words of the preface were translated long ago by Wall[9], and are as follows:

Hesychius, a grammarian of Alexandria, to his companion Eulogius, greeting.—Many others also collected in the order of the letters the ‘words’ of the Ancients, O most beloved Eulogius: some, however, those only of Homer, as Apion, and Apollonius, son of Archibius; some, those separately of the Comic, or those of the Tragic authors, as Theon and Didymus, and other such compilers; and no one, all the words of the different writers together. But after these arose a certain Diogenianus, a man of industry and taste, who, having brought together the forementioned books and all the words dispersed through all, united into one compilation in alphabetic order all of them; I mean, the Homeric, and the Comic, and the Tragic terms, and those which occur in the Lyric poets and in the Orators; nor these only, but also such as are to be found in the works of the Physicians and of the Historians. In short, no word, as far as we are aware of, did he omit, whether of the Ancients, or of the writers of his own time.

Editions: K. Latte, P. Hansen, I. Cunningham, Hesychii Alexandrini Lexicon (4 vols).  The previous best edition was by M. Schmidt, Hesychii Alexandrini Lexicon (1858-68 = TLG); vol.1 [Α-Δ], 2, 3[Λ-Ρ], 4[Σ-Ω], 5; the 1 volume editio minor by Schmidt (1867) should be avoided.

Stephanus of Byzantium (6th c.)

A grammarian who taught in Constantinople in the 6th c. AD, he composed a gigantic geographical lexicon in more than 50 books, of which we have only an epitome, some fragments, plus a stray set of 8 pages of the original text.  Originally it gave detailed information of all kinds on place-names and ethnic names.  Sources included Herodian, Orus, Pausanias, Strabo and some early Homeric scholia, plus many lost works.

Editions: J. A. F. A. Meineke, Stephani Byzantii Ethnicorum quae supersunt, Berlin, 1849 (=TLG).  “Standard edition but not ideal”[10]

The Synagogue (Συναγωγὴ λέξεων χρησίμων) (8-9th c.)

This lexicon is also known as the Lexicon Bachmannianum, or the Lexicon Bekkeri VI.  It was originally based on the lexicon of Cyrillus, and other sources are also known.  It was composed in the 8-9th c., but more material was added later.  It is often ignored, since it duplicates other material, and is interesting more as a guide to how lexica evolved than for its contents.

Editions: I. Bekker, Anecdota Graeca, vol.1, Leipzig, 1814, p.319ff. (online); L. Bachmann, Anecdota, vol. 1, Leipzig, 1828, p.3ff. (online); I. Cunningham, Synagoge: Συναγωγὴ λέξεων χρησίμων: Texts of the Original Version and of MS. B (Berlin; SGLG 10), 2003.

Photius (9th c.)

Photius, patriarch of Constantinople and author of the Bibliotheca, and many other works, also composed a large lexicon.  It is mostly concerned with prose words.  Some entries are substantial paragraphs, referencing authors and quoting from them.  The work derives mainly from late lexica like Cyrillus, but indirectly preserves much earlier scholarship, such as Diogenianus, Aelius Dionysius and Pausanias.  It is a source of fragments of lost works.  Only part of the work was known until 1959 when a complete text was discovered in a monastery.  This is not completely published, however.

Editions: Theodoridis, Photii Patriarchae Lexicon, 1982- (=TLG) has begun the new edition. Vol. 1 [Alpha – Delta] (Berlin, 1982) [limited preview]; vol. 2 [Epsilon – Mu] (Berlin, 1998) [limited preview].  Of the older material, use R. Porson, Photii Lexicon e codice Galeano, 1823 (=TLG. online) rather than that of A. Nauck (1864-5).

Lexicon αἱμωδεῖν (9-10th c.)

This is a small lexicon, so called after its first entry “αἱμωδεῖν”.  Contains fairly detailed entries, based in part on lost scholarly material for which it is sometimes useful.

Editions: Andrew R. Dyck, Epimerismi Homerici, Berlin; SGLG 5, 1983-95, vol. 2, p.825-1016.

“Suidas” / “The Suda” (late 10th c.)

The Suda is a huge dictionary/encyclopedia, compiled in the late 10th century.  From the 12th until the mid-20th century it was known as Suidae Lexicon, “the lexicon of Suidas”, but it is now generally thought that the word Σοῦδα in the manuscripts is the title, not the author, although not everyone agrees.

The work consists of around 30,000 entries of various sorts; some are definitions, some are articles like those of an encyclopedia.  The work is ordered alphabetically by pronunciation (so vowels that sound the same are gathered together).  It is related to the lexicon of Photius, and probably drew directly upon it.

The work is of great importance for our knowledge of antiquity because it is based on a vast array of lost sources.  These sources are transcribed intact and are often identifiable.  In the main they were lexica and other scholarly compilations of late antiquity, such as those of Harpocratian and Diogenianus.  These in turn preserved scholarship from hellenistic and even classical times.  The plays of Aristophanes and the scholia on them are especially well represented.  It is a source of important historical and poetic fragments.

The work is particularly useful as a guide to classical and later writers since it includes material from a lost dictionary of literary biography by Hesychius of Miletus, and indeed states that it is an epitome of that work.[11]  In particular it is our main source for the titles of lost works, and how much various authors wrote.

Editions: A. Adler, Suidae lexicon, Leipzig, 1928-38 (=TLG); The Suda Online (with English translation).

Byzantine Etymologica

A number of very large, anonymous Byzantine texts known as the etymological lexica have been preserved.  The entries are arranged in alphabetical order.  Each entry consists of a word, followed by some kind of explanation: which may be a definition, an etymology, or some other type of explanation of usage, including quotations from sources.

The oldest of these is the Etymologicum genuinum, of the 9th century, preserved in two poor 10th c. manuscripts.  Descended from this, in its original form, are almost all the other lexica of this type, of which the most important are:

  • The Etymologicum Magnum (12th c.)
  • The Etymologicum Gudianum (11th c.)
  • The Etymologicum Symeonis (12th c.)
  • The Etymologicum (Florentinum) parvum is somewhat older but too small to be very useful.

The sources for the material are generally 2nd c. AD and later, such as Herodian, Orus, Orion, Theognostus, Choeroboscus, plus scholia, and the Epimerismi Homerici.  These in turn were compilations of Hellenistic scholarship, and so preserve numerous fragments of lost classical literature.

Editions: A mess of partial modern editions.  Complete versions are old. EM: T. Gaisford, Etymologicon magnum, Oxford, 1848 (online at BSB). EG: F.W. Sturz, Etymologicum Graecae linguae Gudianum, Leipzig, 1818. (= TLG) (online); R. Pintaudi, Etymologicum parvum quod vocatur, Milan, 1973 (= TLG).  ES is largely unpublished.

Zonaras (13th c.)

The lexicon of Zonaras is an enormous lexicon from the 13th c., passing under the name of the 11th-12th c. historian.   It draws freely on a wide range of earlier scholarship.  It is organised first alphabetically, by the first two letters, and then by grammatical category.  Some entries are just a word and its definition, but others consist of long paragraphs with quotations from earlier writers.  The work has been little studied, and some of that little is valueless.

Editions: J.A.H. Tittmann, Iohannis Zonarae Lexicon, Leipzig, 1808 (=TLG) Online here.  The only edition, hence it is sometimes called Lexicon Tittmannianum.

Other lexica

There are a number of important glossaries on individual authors. For Homer, those of Apollonius Sophista, and of Apion; there are Erotian’s, and Galen’s glossaries on the Hippocratic corpus;  Plato: the lexicon of Timaeus; and some anonymous lexica on Herodotus.  A number of other minor lexica such as the 14th c. Lexicon Vindobonensis are known from late antiquity or the Byzantine period.  There is also a mass of lexicographical material in papyri or medieval mss.

Editions: A. Nauck, Lexicon Vindobonense, St. Petersburg, 1867. (Online)
Studies of Greek lexicography: Reitzenstein, Geschichte der griechischen Etymologika, Leipzig, 1897 (online); Enzo Degani, “La lessicografia,” in G. Cambiano, L. Canfora, and D. Lanza (edd.), Lo spazio letterario della grecia antica, Rome, 1995, vol.2. p.505–27; Herbert Hunger, Die hochsprachliche profane Literatur der Byzantiner, Munich; Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft, 12.5.i and 12.5.ii, 1978; vol. 2, p.33-50.
Lists of editions: H. Erbse, Scholia graeca in Homeri Iliadem (scholia vetera), Berlin, 1969-88; the TLG canon.

  1. [1]Charles William Wall, “An essay on the nature, age and origin of the Sanscrit writing and language”, in: Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy 18 (1839), p.65-152.  The statement is on p.113. Online here.
  2. [2]Hesychius, Prologue. (below)
  3. [3]Suda, delta,1140. Adler edition.
  4. [4]Papiri greci e latini, Pubblicazioni della società italiana per la ricerca dei papiri greci e latini in Egitto, Florence.
  5. [5]K. Latte, “Glossographika,” Philologus, 80: 136-75. Repr. in Kleine Schriften (Munich 1968): 631–66.
  6. [6]Suda, phi,447. Adler edition.
  7. [7]To Commodus as “Caesar” rather than Augustus: see the opening greeting here.
  8. [8]Suda, pi,1951. Adler ed.
  9. [9]Charles William Wall, “An essay on the nature, age and origin of the Sanscrit writing and language”, in: Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy 18 (1839), p.65-152.  The material is on p.110, as part of a general and interesting introduction to lexica. Online here.
  10. [10]Dickey, p.308.
  11. [11]Adler ref: eta,611: “Son of Hesychius the lawyer and of Philosophia. Lived during the reign of the emperor Anastasius. He wrote a biographical dictionary or Index of notable literary figures, of which this book [i.e. the Suda itself] is an epitome. Also a Chronicle of history, which work he divided into 6 diastemata; for such is the name given to each book. In these volumes the deeds of the Roman emperors are presented in chronological order and the mighty deeds of powerful rulers [arranged] by nation and the achievements of Byzantium up until the emperor Anastasius who was known as Dicorus. In the Index of famous literary figures he mentions not one of the teachers of the Church; from this [fact] we may suppose that he was not a Christian, but full of vain pagan labour. Also [sc. attested is] ἡσυχῇ , [meaning the same as] ἡσυχῶς [“gently/quietly”].[8]

“Glossa ordinaria” on 1, 2 and 3 John now available in English

The Glossa Ordinaria is a medieval Latin commentary on the bible, composed of excerpts from earlier writers (including the Fathers).  John Litteral writes to say that he has setup a project to translate it, here.

The results are now starting to appear.  The translation of the section on 1 John, 2 John and 3 John into English has now appeared.  The book is available on Amazon here, for the trivial sum of $10.

Dr Litteral tells me that his team will start work on a portion of Cramer’s Catena on the epistles next.  This is very good news indeed, for the catenas are nearly inaccessible, for practical purposes.  To produce a critical edition is tough; to master the contents impossible except for those with excellent Byzantine Greek and plenty of time.  In the modern academic environment, the latter is nearly impossible to supply.  A first step in remedying the lack is to provide serviceable translations; and this is what John hopes to do.


Translation of Bar Hebraeus “Chronicon Ecclesiasticum” to appear later this year

David Wilmshurst writes to tell me that he has reached agreement with Gorgias Press and that his translation of the Chronicon Ecclesiasticum of Bar Hebraeus will appear in print before the end of 2014.

This is excellent news.  All our knowledge of Syriac literature – who wrote what, and when – is based on this work.  It is a scandal that it has remained untranslated for so long.


Jerome: God hates the sacrifices of heretics

An interesting quote came my way on Twitter:

God hates the sacrifices of these [i.e., heretics] and pushes them away from Himself, and whenever they come together in the name of the Lord, He abhors their stench, and holds His nose…

Fortunately the tweeter had a reference:

Comment in Amos Proph, P.L. 25 1053-1054.

Those are dramatic words.  But the first question with any quotation is the same: is it accurate?

The PL 25 is online, and col. 1053 is here (or here).  As soon as we open it, and find ourselves in the Commentary on Amos (Commentariorum In Amos Prophetam Libri Tres), book 2, chapter 5, we find that the context is the well-known words of God through Amos, vv. 21-22, to the corrupt Israelites, “I hate your festivals…”.

The words are these (1053 D):

Horum Deus odit sacrificia, et a se projicit, et quotiescumque sub nomine Domini fuerint congregati, detestatur foetorum eorum, et claudit nares suas.

Jerome is, then, simply addressing the words of Amos to the heretics also, and with good reason.

The phrasing is shocking to our polite sensibilities.  We tend to think of “heretics” as us: people of sincerity and goodwill, who merely happen to hold some mistaken opinion, perhaps even unknowingly, and are sought out by malicious and narrow-minded people bent on condemnation.

But a better example in our own time is the Caiaphas kind of churchman, full of his own “piety”, full of “holy” phrases, yet ever eager to acquiesce in, or to advance vice of any and every kind, so long as it is to his liking.  The heretic has contempt for Christian teaching.  Our Lord condemned such people in the strongest terms, and they are not absent from our own day, as anyone who has followed the sad story of the American episcopalian church will know.  The problem is rather that we are far too reluctant to identify these infiltrators as such.

The ancient term still has value.  It is a characteristic of these people today that they demand the name of Christian for themselves.  In consequence they tend to scream at anyone who dares to suggest that some people might not, in fact, be Christians.  In fact it is a fingerprint of the heretic that they refuse to allow anyone to suggest that someone else is not a Christian.  More than one Christian has found himself censored, when responding to an attempt to point out that such and such a view – happily accepted by the heretics – is not Christian.

Worth remembering.  The words of scripture do have a contemporary application, and we mustn’t let ourselves be intimidated in applying it when it is earned.


A change to comment policy

The quantity of spam that is slipping past Akismet is now large enough that I feel obliged to change the comment setting.  From here all comments will be held foe moderation unless I have previously approved a comment by you.

I wish that all the policemen busily trawling twitter for thoughtcrime would spend as much time on spammers.


John the Lydian’s thoughts on the Roman months: June is now online in English

Another chunk of John the Lydian, De Mensibus – on the Roman Months – book 4 is now available!  Find it here:

As ever, full of abtruse Roman customs, and copiously and learnedly annotated.

Have fun!