A Dull Writer, an Untrustworthy Authority

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. I:

“We learn much about Tzetzes from his own writings; he often complains of his poverty and his misfortunes and of the scanty recognition of his services. He was once reduced to such distress that he found himself compelled to sell all his books, except his Plutarch; and he had bitter feuds with other scholars. His inordinate self-esteem is only exceeded by his extraordinary carelessness. He calls Simonides of Amorgos the son of Amorgos, makes Naxos a town in Euboea, describes Servius Tullius as ‘consul’ and ‘emperor’ of Rome, and confounds the Euphrates with the Nile. He is proud of his rapid pen and his remarkable memory; but his memory often plays him false, and he is, for the most part, dull as a writer and untrustworthy as an authority.”

4 responses

  1. What Sandys is missing is that Tzetzes was a baller, as evidenced by his epigram at the beginning of his scholia to Lykophron.

    “I, Lykophron’s thick book, abounding in songs,
    Was once obscure, possessing unseeable visions.
    But now by means of Hermean craft Isaac Tzetzes
    Has set me free, once he loosed my well-woven restraints.”

    ἡ βίβλος τελέθουσα Λυκόφρονος ἀσματοκόμπουσα
    ἦν ἀλαὸς προπάροιθεν ἀδερκέα δέργματ’ ἔχουσα·
    νῦν δέ με δορκαλέην ῾Ερμείῃ θήκατο τέχνῃ
    Τζέτζης ᾿Ισαάκιος ἐύστροφα πείσματα λύσας.

    • Is ‘baller’ a Tzetzes pun in reference to your former Tzetzes/testes limericks?

      Sandys definitely adopts the censorious posture so fashionable in his day! In fact, Sandys exudes contempt for most of the scholars mentioned from Late Antiquity onward to at least the 12th century (which is where I am in the book so far – maybe it goes on until his own day!).

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