The manuscripts of Juvenal

L. D. Reynolds, Texts and Transmissions: A survey of the Latin classics, Oxford 1983, is the first port of call for any enquiry into the transmission of any of the Latin classics.  On p.200-3 is the article by R. J. Tarrant on Juvenal.

Juvenal went through a period of obscurity after his own times.  Not cited by Donatus, or Jerome, he is referenced more than 70 times in the commentaries on Virgil by Servius.  Some of the manuscripts include subscriptions which suggest Servius may have been connected to their rediscovery: ms. K, for instance, contains Lego ego Niceus apud M. Serbium Romae et emendavi — I, Nicaeus, read this at the house of M. Servius in Rome and corrected it, and ms. L a version of the same.

More than 500 manuscripts later than the 9th century exist.  Unfortunately, by the 4th century, a considerable number of spurious lines  had already found their way into many copies of the text.  Difficult language was sometimes replaced by simpler expressions.  The vast majority of the medieval manuscripts derive from such corrupted copies. 

As a rule we tend to find that medieval manuscripts go back to a single Dark Ages exemplar, or perhaps a few.  In the case of Juvenal, however, we can clearly see that two ancient families of manuscripts both gave rise to medieval children.  For in addition to the majority, we have a few manuscripts which preserve a more correct and less interpolated text, although the text itself is often rather more corrupt than in the interpolated copies.

The better mss. are:

  • P:   Montpellier 125, first quarter of the 9th century, from Lorsch.  Once owned by Pierre Pithou, who used it for his edition of 1585.  The Pithoeanus is the best and most important manuscript of Juvenal.  It also contains Persius.
  • Arou.:  The fragmenta Arouiensia.  These are five leaves from a destroyed manuscript of the 10th century, written in Germany, and broken up to use in bindings.  They are now in the Kantonsbibliothek in Aarau.  It also contains scholia, which are important for several reasons.  Firstly each scholion is introduced by a quotation of a few words from the text.  These headwords or lemmata are themselves valuable for the authentic text.  Secondly the scholion itself sometimes reflects a different version of those same words, showing that the two were put together at different times.
  • Sang.:  St. Gall ms. 870, second quarter of the 9th century.  This is a florilegium — an anthology — which contains 280 lines of Juvenal.  Pp.40-326 contain the ancient scholia.
  • R:  Paris latin. 8072, from the end of the 10th century, probably French, containing long sections of the text.
  • V:  Vienna 107, end of the 9th century, containing book 1, line 1 – book 2, l.59 and book 3.107-5.96.

P, Arou. and Sang. are very closely related.  The first two are almost identical, with the text even laid out in the same manner on the page.  R and V are less reliable, and V has been much influenced by the other family.

The remaining manuscripts — hundreds of them — are hard to classify.  No stemma can be constructed because cross-contamination is so general, and even geographical groupings are pretty blurred.  This will not surprise any manuscript enthusiast.  For heavy lumps of wood and parchment, manuscripts travel about just as much as rock groups on tour, or so it seems sometimes.

Finally there are some fragments of ancient books containing Juvenal.  Two pages of a 6th century volume exist in ms. Vatican lat. 5750, with scholia, and also a portion of Persius.  More pages from a different 6th century book exist in Milan in ms. Ambrosianus Cimelio 3.  Finally a parchment leaf from Antinoe, ca. 500 AD, contains 49 lines of book 7.  None of these fragments agrees consistently with either of the medieval groups, unfortunately.

By the last decade of the 4th century, Juvenal had been equipped with a substantial commentary, which is the source for our scholia vetera (there are also Carolingian scholia), found in the three mss. P, Arou. and Sang.  Mommsen discussed the date of the commentary in his Gesammelte Schriften 7 (1909), p.509-11: Zeitalter des Scholiasten Juvenals.  The scholia must post-date 352-3, since there is a reference in the scholion on Juvenal book 10, l.24 to a praefectus urbis named Cerealis.  But much of the material must be older, or so the footnote says.  It can hardly date later than the abolition of paganism — the scholiast shows little knowledge of Christianity, and resorts to quoting Tacitus.  It is difficult to believe that the compulsory state religion could be unknown in the 5th century, and indeed the writer says that the gods are still worshipped.  The festival of the Matronalia is a state festival, as it still is shown in the Chronography of 354, but not in that of 449.  Likewise the term used for the silver coinage is not the silliqua of the 5th century, but the older terms argenteolus or nummus

Mommsen concludes  that the commentary was composed ca. 400 AD, and that later, as is usual with ancient commentaries, it was pillaged for the materials to create the scholia in the margins of the new-fangled codex-style books.

The scholia on Juvenal

A few days ago I managed to find an edition of the “scholia vetera” on Juvenal, in an 1839 edition .  It starts on p.153, here.   It’s not a critical edition.  Indeed I believe the critical edition is that of 1937, but this is not accessible to me.  So … let’s make do with what we have.

The scholia begin with a vita.  Then the scholia begin, starting with some remarks on Semper ego…? (Why should I always…?)  I can’t help feeling that the scholia could usefully be translated.

Masses of scholia online at

Searching for “scholia” in Google or Google books is disappointing.  But try searching at!  This search,, gives a huge list!

Did anyone know there were scholia on Suetonius, Vitae Caesarum?  I certainly didn’t!

UPDATE: Oh bother.  The “scholia” on Suetonius is merely a modern set of comments in Latin, not ancient scholia!

Latin scholia

I was writing yesterday about scholia, mainly with reference to Greek scholia.  But then it occurred to me to wonder what there was by way of Latin scholia.

A search online quickly revealed that, as with ancient Greek literature, the scholia is mainly attached to poetry and drama.  Two exceptions I came across were Lucan’s Bellum civile and the Bobbio orations of Cicero.  But otherwise it was poets and dramatists all the way.

I found myself reading an interesting article on the scholia of Juvenal.  The author argued that the scholia cannot belong to the period immediately after Juvenal, since they make crashing mistakes, such as not recognising Corbulo as the famous general of Nero, but instead supposing it is a noun referring to fat people!  The logic is good, and the inference, therefore, is that they belong to the period in the 4th century when interest revived in the literature of the early empire.

This has important consequences.  We know very little about Juvenal himself.  Old biographies are attached to the scholia.  But it must be questioned whether these have any real historical value, and whether they are older than the scholia, or merely compilations of hearsay from the Constantinian period or later.

It is interesting that few of the scholia have been translated.  Many scholia are text-critical, and to understand them it is necessary to know Latin, or Greek, as the  case may be.  Naturally there seems little need to translate, what only those equipped with the language can follow.  But others are historical, and have no such need.  We could usefully have more translations, I think.

All the same, the expansion of Google books makes it possible, for anyone with a little Latin, to explore a field that few could access.  One of my favourite books is the old Loeb edition of Juvenal.  This discusses the scholia in the introduction, but I never dreamed that people like me might have access to these.  As of today, I know better.

The origins of scholia

Homer and other poetical texts were used in school rooms during the classical period, and after.  Inevitably this led to a need for explanation of unusual or obsolete words, summaries of books, and explanations of mythological events — the same sorts of things that modern students seem to require in order to read Jane Austen or Shakespeare.

Ancient texts were written on papyrus rolls or scrolls.  These had narrow columns, and narrower margins.  It was possible to place a letter or symbol in the margin, but little more, although we do have examples of attempts to write in margins.  Consequently these explanations had to be written in separate rolls.

These commentaries were composed early in the classical period, and continued to be composed and compiled throughout antiquity.  They often consisted of a series of entries, beginning with the word or words under discussion, or the beginning of the line of poetry concerned, or the start of the first line of a passage, followed by the comments.  These comments would often include comments from older commentators, often separated by “allws” (“alternatively”). 

Inevitably such commentaries could swell to a considerable size, and might therefore be epitomised in turn, and then the epitome augmented.  Copyists might feel able to change the comments, far more than with a normal literary text.  Many of the commentaries are lost, subsumed into subsequent compilations of comments, but a considerable number survive.

In the Hellenistic period, at the museum of Alexandria, the staff worked on the text of Homer and other classical texts, producing considerable quantities of commentary on textual and other issues.  None of this material has survived directly, as stand-alone commentaries — our earliest extant commentaries are 2nd century BC — but they are quoted again and again in subsequent compilations.

The invention of the modern book form — the parchment codex — made a considerable change to the practice in this area.  A codex could contain considerably more text than a papyrus roll, and nearly all codices have wide margins.  It was therefore perfectly practicable to take material from commentaries and write it in the margin; and this practice seems to have become endemic at some period between the 4-6th centuries AD, and continues down to the end of the Byzantine period of Greek texts.

These marginal comments are known as “scholia”, although in some branches of classical studies the term is also applied to the stand-alone commentaries, which, after all, contain the same sorts of material and are usually the sources of the scholia.

The “old scholia” were soon supplemented by Byzantine scholia.  These themselves were often based on older sources, directly or indirectly, and therefore can preserve ancient opinion about ancient texts.

A thorough introduction to the subject, and what commentaries and scholia exist for classical Greek texts, with references, can be found in Eleanor Dickey’s Ancient Greek Scholarship, which I thoroughly recommend and which is the source for these remarks.  She also details how to read a critical edition, the Latin abbreviations used, and gives exercises in how to read and translate scholia.  And the book is very cheap as well!  Anyone with an interest in the subject should buy one.

I am amused to see Cramer editing various scholia in the 19th century.  We have discussed his work before, in this blog, in the context of catena-commentaries.  The connection between the two is perhaps something that should be explored.

Adonis and the scholia on Theocritus

The 15th Idyll of Theocritus describes a festival of Adonis in Alexandria in Ptolemaic times.  A commenter has suggested that the ancient scholia on Theocritus might contain more information.

I was not aware of the scholia, but a Google search quickly finds a reference to “Scholia in Theocritum vetera by Carl Wendel”.  According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, here, Theocritus actually is extant in papyri of the 2nd century and the 5th, as well as the medieval copies, and there are important scholia in the best manuscripts such as Ambrosianus 222.  This all leads me to Eleanor Dickey’s Ancient Greek Scholarship, which is the guide to the scholia.

What does she say about Theocritus (p.63)?:

The old scholia, which fill a volume much thicker than that of Theocritus’ own work, derive from a massive composite commentary assembled from at least two earlier works. One was a scholarly commentary dating to the Augustan period, composed primarily by Theon but also incorporating the work of Asclepiades of Myrlea (first century bc); in addition to many of the scholia, the surviving prolegomena and hypotheses have their bases in this commentary. The second major source of the composite commentary appears to be a work independently composed by Munatius of Tralles in the second century AD and containing a number of gross errors. …

These two commentaries were later combined, along with the work of the second-century commentators Theaetetus and Amarantus; it is likely but not certain that the compilation was done by Theaetetus in the second century. From the fourth to sixth centuries a revival of Theocritan studies resulted in some further alterations to the commentaries, but since no scholars later than the second century are named in the old scholia it is likely that no significant additions were made at that period. The scholia as they have come down to us represent a severely abridged version of the original commentaries, which were used by a number of early scholars in their fuller forms. There is thus a significant indirect tradition for the Theocritus scholia, involving Eustathius, Hesychius, various etymological works, and especially the scholia to Vergil. …

The standard edition of the old scholia is that of Wendel (1914 =TLG), which includes material derived from the indirect tradition and the Technopaegnia scholia but omits the papyri and the Byzantine scholia. The latter can be found in earlier editions of the Theocritus scholia, preferably that of Ahrens (1859), in which they are marked with “Rec”; the papyri must be consulted in their original editions. The definitive discussion of the scholia is also by Wendel (1920, with further references)…

and the references to Wendel are:

Wendel, Carl (1914), Scholia in Theocritum vetera (Leipzig; repr. 1966). Standard edition, excellent.  [Google books here]
——— (1920), Überlieferung und Entstehung der Theokrit-Scholien (Berlin; Abhandlungen der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, philologischhistorische Klasse, NF 17, Nr. 2). Indispensible study of Theocritus scholia, including their origins, the indirect tradition, and the Byzantine scholiasts.  [Does not seem to be on Google books]

This is why I like this book.  It gives you the orientation you need, and tells you where to find the text.  What more could an introduction do? and it should certainly do no less.

The Wendel edition of the Scholia thankfully has an index at the front — so many continental editions of that period make you hunt around –, and the scholia on Idyll 15 are on p.305-317.  This material is on the TLG CD, under “Scholia in Theocritum”.

Whether it contains anything of interest to us, tho, my Greek is inadequate to say!

More on the scholia on Aristophanes

I’m still looking for a scholion on Aristophanes which gives real extra information on the festival of Adonis, the Adonia.

The Koster volumes mentioned by Eleanor Dickey in the previous post turn out to be Scholia in Aristophanem, Groningen 1960.  I doubt I can access this.

But I find a bibliography (with horrible pop-ups etc) of Aristophanes material here.  In the section on the scholia I find this:


  • W.Dindorf  Aristophanis comoediae IV/1-3: Scholia Graeca ex codicibus aucta et emendata, Oxford, 1838
  • F.Dübner Scholia Graeca in Aristophanem, cum prolegomenis grammaticorum Parigi, 1842 (1877²) -si rifa per buona parte a Dind.-
  • solo Ravennate: W.G.Rutherford  Scholia Aristophanica I-II London 1896 (il III: A Chapter in the History of Annotation, being Scholia Aristophanica, vol III, 1905) 
  • cfr. anche lo studio di G.Zuntz Die Aristophanes-Scholien der Papyri, Berlin, 1975²

W.J.W Koster – D.Holwerda (dal 1974 o 5? a c.di) Scholia in Aristophanem, Groningen 1960-

W.J.W. Koster  1A Prolegomena de Comoedia, Groningen, 1975
N.G.Wilson 1B Scholia in Aristophanis Acharnenses, Groningen, 1975
D.Mervyn Jones 2 Scholia vetera in Aristophanis Equites et N.G.Wilson Scholia Tricliniana in Aristophanis.Equites, Groningen, 1969
D.Holwerda 3,1 Scholia vetera in Nubes et W.J.W.Koster Scholia scholiorumque partes editionis Aldinae propria Groningen, 1977
W.J.W.Koster 3,2 Scholia recentiora in Nubes, Groningen, 1974

PARS II (Scholia in Vespas, Pacem Aves et Lysistrata)
W.J.W.Koster 1 Scholia vetera et recentiora in Aristophanis Vespas, Groningen, 1978
D.Holwerda  2 Scholia vetera et recentiora in Aristophanis Pacem, Groningen, 1982
D.Holwerda  3 Scholia vetera et recentiora in Aristophanis Aves, Groningen, 1991
J.Hangard  4  Scholia in Aristophanis Lysistratam, Groningen, 1996

PARS III (Scholia in Thesmophoriazusas; Ranas; Ecclesiazusas et Plutum)
M.Chantry IVa  Scholia vetera in Aristophanis Plutum, Groningen, 1994
M.Chantry  IVb  Scholia recentiora in Aristophanis Plutum, Groningen, 1996 (-5?)
Mancano tuttora gli scoli a Thesm. (1), Ran. (2), Eccl. (3)

PARS IV (Ioannis Tzetzae commentarii), 1960-64, 4 voll. (l’ultimo di indici)
L.Massa Positano 1. Prolegomena et commentarium in Plutum, Groningen, 1960
D.Holwerda  2. Commentarium in Nubes, Groningen, 1960
W.J.W Koster  3. Comm. in Ranas et in Aves, Argumentum Equitum Groningen, 1964 (-2?)

That gives a lot more information (in Italian) on what and when are where. 

The first couple of these should be accessible, I would have thought.  And so it proves: the 1846 edition of Dindorf is indeed online: vol. 4 pt1 is here, pt 2 is here, pt 3 here.  But one problem with these volumes is the lack of a table of contents.  I was obliged to look through the PDF’s by reducing the magnification to “fit the page”, then skimming down with the scroll page at 100 page intervals looking at the titles.  The scholia in pacem — we’re looking for a scholion on Peace, 412, for stuff about the Adonia — is in vol.4, pt3, and 412 is on p.56 of the printed text (p.61 of the PDF). 

However the scholion did not seem to be what we are looking for.  It is very common to find that obscure references are inaccurate, precisely because few have the opportunity to verify them!  Here it is anyway:


412.  ἵνα τὰς τελετὰς αὐτοὶ λάβοιεν : Ἡμῶν ἀπολλυμένων καὶ τῶν βαρβάρων αὐτοῖς θυόντων.   παρατηρητέον δὲ ὅτι ἀντὶ τοῦ τὰς θυσίας κεῖται τὸ τελετάς.

Would someone with better Greek than me care to translate?

In the mean time I’m going to OCR the PDF using language = Greek, and see if a search will bring up anything on “Adon”!  I do believe a scholion is there somewhere.

UPDATE: Just scrolling down the page, 419 is it!  (link here)


419.  τὰ Διπόλεια : Τὰ Διπόλεια τῷ Διὶ, τὰ Ἀδώνια τῷ Ἀδώνιδι καὶ τῇ Ἀφροδίτῃ.

419.  The Dipoleia: the Dipoleia of Zeus, the Adonia of Adonis and Aphrodite.

Which doesn’t give us much.  Hmm.

The scholia on Aristophanes

Since I discovered yesterday that a scholion on Aristophanes Peace 412 was an important source for information on the Adonia, I have been trying to find the text.  A search today led me to here.  This is a Google books preview of Eleanor Dickey’s Ancient Greek Scholarship: a guide to finding, reading, and understanding scholia, commentaries, lexica, and grammatical treatises, from their beginnings to the Byzantine period, Oxford University Press 2007.  Don’t bother clicking on the link unless you are American — the preview is for the US only (and what a wretched business it is, this new trick of keeping the previews hidden from non-US readers!)  But the book looks like a gem, on a subject which few know anything about.

Pages 28-31 contain the following interesting remarks:

The scholia to Aristophanes are among the most important sets of scholia, in part because they provide historical background without which many of the jokes and allusions in the comedies would be incomprehensible. They are relatively well preserved, and most of them can be found in a sound and reliable modern edition, making them easier to use than many scholia.

Most Aristophanes scholia fall into one of four groups: the old scholia, Tzetzes’ scholia, Thomas Magister’s scholia, and Demetrius Triclinius’ scholia. Scholarly attention tends to focus on the old scholia, which are the most useful in terms of the information they provide on Aristophanes, but the later annotations preserve some old material and are interesting in their own right because of the perspective they offer on Byzantine scholarship.

The old scholia to Aristophanes are derived from a variety of sources going back to the beginning of Alexandrian scholarship. Callimachus, Eratosthenes, and Lycophron (a contemporary of Zenodotus) all worked on Aristophanes to some extent, and the first continuous commentary on his plays was produced by Euphronius, the teacher of Aristophanes of Byzantium. Aristophanes of Byzantium himself produced an edition of the plays, providing an introduction to each (the extant verse hypotheses of the plays are thought to be distant descendants of these introductions) and may also have written a commentary; Callistratus and Aristarchus probably wrote commentaries on the plays, and Timachidas of Rhodes wrote one on the Frogs.

The work of these and other scholars was combined into a single commentary by Didymus in the late first century BC or early first century AD, and sometime in the first two centuries AD Symmachus compiled another commentary, using Didymus as his main source but also consulting other works. At a later date Symmachus’ commentary or one of its descendants, along with some other material, was copied into the generous margins of a book of the plays of Aristophanes and formed the archetype of our extant scholia.

Perhaps the most important of the additional sources of our scholia is the metrical commentary on Aristophanes written by Heliodorus around AD 100. This commentary is often studied apart from the other scholia, for it is crucial for our understanding of ancient metrical theory but of limited use in understanding Aristophanes. Heliodorus’ work has been preserved to varying extents for the different plays; one can reconstruct from the scholia nearly all of it for the Peace, as well as substantial sections of it for the Acharnians and Knights and some fragments for the Clouds and Wasps, but little else.

In addition to the direct tradition of the scholia, which is well attested in several manuscripts, there is an indirect tradition via the Suda, whose writer had access to the same body of material when it was more complete and therefore often preserves scholia that did not survive in the direct tradition. There are also a number of papyri and ancient parchment fragments with commentaries or scholia on Aristophanes; on the whole, those of the fourth century and later seem to reflect a body of material very similar to the ancestor of our scholia (though in some places more complete), while the earlier ones, which are much rarer, apparently belong to different traditions.

There is then a discussion of the Tzetzes scholia, and then the hard data:

The best edition of the scholia is a multivolume work edited first by W. J. W. Koster and later by D. Holwerda (1960– =TLG), which includes both old and Byzantine scholia, usually in separate volumes. The volumes containing the Thesmophoriazusae and Ecclesiazusae have not yet appeared, so for those plays the standard text of the scholia is still that of Dübner (1842 =TLG). While the Koster–Holwerda edition is unquestionably the best in terms of completeness and quality of the text presented, a number of older ones are still useful for specific purposes. Rutherford’s edition (1896) of the scholia in the Ravenna manuscript provides translations and commentary in English. White’s edition of the Heliodorus fragments (1912: 384–421) extracts all the Heliodorus fragments from the scholia, groups them together, and provides an excellent introduction (in English) with explanation of Heliodorus’ Greek. Jorsal et al. (1970) collect the Byzantine metrical scholia to the Frogs. White’s edition of the Birds scholia (1914) has much more detailed indices than the new edition, and Koster (1927) provides an important supplement for Plutus and Clouds.

Papyri with Aristophanes commentaries or scholia are not uncommon, and are conveniently collected with German translation and excellent discussion by Trojahn (2002). In addition, most of those relating to extant plays are included in the Koster–Holwerda edition, and those relating to lost plays can be found in Austin (1973).

Discussions of the Aristophanes scholia are numerous, lengthy, and extremely varied in character and conclusions. The best overview in English is still White’s exceptionally lucid introduction to his edition of the Birds scholia (1914), which covers the entire history of the creation and transmission of the scholia and includes detailed information on Didymus and Symmachus; this work is, however, out of date in places and is concerned almost exclusively with the old scholia. Dunbar’s introduction (1995: 31–49) is briefer but up to date and covers all types of scholarship. Rutherford (1905) offers a detailed and highly informative examination of the nature and contents of the old scholia, but many of his views are no longer accepted, and the author’s evident grumpiness can make the book difficult to read. Additional discussions of textual history can be found in Koster (1985), Hangard (1983, 1985), and the prefaces to the individual volumes of the Koster–Holwerda edition (particularly volumes i.i a, i.iii.i, and ii.i). Montana (1996) discusses the information the old scholia provide on the Αθηναίων πολιτεία. 

The papyrus scholia and commentaries are particularly interesting for the question of the dating of the transition from self-standing commentary to marginal scholia, as the marginal commentaries in Aristophanes papyri of the fourth century and later tend to resemble the medieval scholia more than is the case with other authors. Discussions of this and other issues relating to the papyri can be found in Trojahn (2002), Zuntz (1975), H. Maehler (1994: 124–6), Luppe (1978, 1982), and McNamee (1977: 175–96, 356; forthcoming). The best sources for discussion of Heliodorus are White (1912: 384–95) and Holwerda (1964, 1967). For the scholia recentiora one can consult N. Wilson (1962), O. L. Smith (1976b), Koster (1964), Koster and Holwerda (1954), Holzinger (1930), and the prefaces to volumes i.iii.ii, iii.iv b, and iv.i of the Koster–Holwerda edition. For examples of the way scholars use the Aristophanes scholia for historical information on the plays and on Athenian history and culture, see Carawan (1990), Lavelle (1989), Sutton (1980), Bicknell (1975), and Holwerda (1958).

I think the only possible comment on that is “wow”. 

I deeply approve of this book.  In fact I’ve got to buy a copy of it.  I’ve managed to find a bootleg PDF of it, but you can’t read a book like this on-screen!

The author knew what she was doing.  In the preface she tells us that scholars are increasingly making use of the ancient Greek scholarly tradition, while finding it very difficult to access.  Her book, therefore, is intended to facilitate access.  Well done!

It is a pity that Oxford University Press did not see facilitating access in the same way.