Silent in Seven Languages

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. 3:

“As a contribution to Greek lexicography, he [Immanuel Bekker] produced a new edition of the small Greek lexicon of Niz, in which the words are arranged according to their etymology. The only Latin texts which he edited (apart from a few items in the Byzantine series) were Livy, with short notes by Raschig, and Tacitus, with the commentaries of earlier scholars. His extraordinary activity as an editor seems to have left him little energy for anything else; he was held in the highest esteem by scholars, but he did not shine in ordinary conversation. It was said of the editor of some sixty volumes of Greek texts, and the collator of more than four hundred MSS, that he could be silent in seven languages.”

Reception of Homer by the Tragedians

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

The Tragic Poets

“The influence of the Homeric poems on the tragic poets of Athens was very considerable. Notwithstanding Aristotle’s statement that ‘the Iliad and the Odyssey each furnish the theme of one tragedy, or of two, at the most’, we find that they supplied Aeschylus with the theme of at least six tragedies and one satyric drama, Sophocles with that of three tragedies (Nausicaa, and the Phaeacians, and possibly the Phrygians), and Euripides with that of one satyric drama, the Cyclops. The unknown author of the Rhesus derived his theme from the Iliad; and Achilles and Hector, with Laertes, Penelope and her Suitors, were among the themes of the minor tragic poets of the fifth and fourth centuries. Aristotle’s statement is practically true of Sophocles and Euripides, but not of Aeschylus, whom he almost ignores in his treatise on Poetry. It is however the fact that, among the tragic poets in general, a far larger number of their subjects were suggested by other poems of the Epic Cycle, namely the Cypria, the Aethiopis, the Little Iliad, the Iliupersis, the Nostoi and the Telegonia.


Aeschylus himself probably regarded ‘Homer’ as the author of all the poems of the Epic Cycle, when he descnbed his dramas as ‘slices from the great banquets of Homer’. In the Frogs of Aristophanes, he is made to confess that it was from ‘Homer the divine’ that his mind took the impress of noble characters like those of the ‘lion-hearted’ heroes, Teucer and Patroclus. The influence of Homer shows itself in many of his picturesque epithets, and in the use of not a few archaic nouns and verbs, as well as in Homeric phrases and expressions, and Homeric similes and metaphors.


Sophocles is described by Greek critics as the only true disciple of Homer, as the ‘tragic Homer’, and as the admirer of the Epic poet. His verbal indebtedness to Homer is less than that of Aeschylus, though, like other dramatists, he borrows certain epic forms and epithets, as well as certain phrases and similes. His dramas reproduce the Homeric spirit. He is also Homeric in the ideal, yet human, conception of his characters, and in the calm self-control, which characterises him even in scenes of violent excitement. Here, as elsewhere, ‘he has caught the impress of Homers charm’. While very few of his dramas were directly suggested by the Iliad or Odyssey, he is described as ‘delighting in the Epic Cycle’. The extant plays connected with that Cycle are the Ajax and Philoctetes.


Of the extant plays of Euripides, the Cyclops alone is directly taken from Homer’s Odyssey, while the Epic Cycle is represented by the Iphigeneia in Aulide, Hecuba, Troades, Andromache, Helen, Electra, Iphigeneia in Tauris and Orestes. The plot of no extant play that was certainly written by Euripides is inspired by the Iliad, but the opening scene of the Phoenissae, where Antigone and her aged attendant view from the palace-roof the movements of the Argive host outside the walls of Thebes, is clearly a reminiscence of the memorable scene in the Iliad, where Helen and Priam watch the Greek heroes from the walls of Troy.”


Poetic Study in the Time of Pindar

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol.1: 


“In the age succeeding the expulsion of the Peisistratidae, Pindar, with a conscious reference to the origin of the word Rhapsodos, describes the Rhapsodes as ‘the sons of Homer, singers of deftly woven lays’. He also alludes to the laurel-branch that they bore as an emblem of poetic tradition. Homer himself (he tells us) had ‘rightly set forth all the prowess of Ajax, leaving it as a theme for other bards to sing, by the laurel-wand of his lays divine. Pindar’s praise of Amphiaraus is a clear reminiscence of a Homeric line in praise of Agamemnon. He describes the ‘fire-breathing Chimaera’ in a phrase like that of Homer, but differs from him in minor details as to Bellerophon, Ganymede and Tantalus. He shows a similar freedom in giving a new meaning to a phrase borrowed from his own countryman the Boeotian poet, Hesiod, by applying to the athlete’s toilsome training a proverbial admonition originally referring to the work of the farm. In the age of Pindar, and in the Athenian age in general, the poet and his audience were alike saturated with the study of the old poets. Homer and Hesiod, and a touch alone was wanted to awaken the memory of some long familiar line.”

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Early Interpolations in Homer

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. 1: 

Early Interpolations

“There are some dubious stories of early interpolations in the Homeric poems. Thus Peisistratus is said to have introduced into the Odyssey a line in honour of the Attic hero, Theseus[1]; and both Solon and Peisistratus are credited with the insertion of a line referring to Ajax, for the supposed purpose of proving that Salamis was an ancient possession of Athens[2]; but, as the recovery of Salamis took place in Solon’s time, while Peisistratus was still a boy, Solon alone should have been mentioned in this connexion[3] Onomacritus, who is said to have been one of the four who put together the Homeric poems under the authority of Peisistratus[4], was, according to Herodotus, caught in the act of interpolating the oracles of Musaeus, and was banished by the tyrant’s son, Hipparchus[5].”

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[1] Od. Xi 631 Θησέα Πειρίθοόν τε, θεῶν ἐρικυδέα τέκνα· Plutarch, Theseus 20; cp. Flach, p. 27.

[2] Il. Ii 558, στῆσε δ’ ἄγων ἵν’ ᾿Αθηναίων ἵσταντο φάλαγγες. Strabo, p. 394; cp. Flach, p.29

[3] Cp. Diog. Laert. i 2, 57, and see Busolt, Gr. Gesch. ii 220.

[4] Tzetzes, Proleg. In Aristoph. τεσσάρων ὄντων ἐπὶ Πεισιστράτου συνθέντων <τῶν> ῞Ομηρον. Cp. La Roche, Hom. Textkr. P.10, and Jebb’s Homer p. 115.

[5] Her. vii 6.

Earliest Studies in Greek Epic

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship, Vol. I, Chapter 2:

The Study of Epic Poetry

Homer and the Rhapsodes – Solon

“The earliest poems of Greece supplied the Greeks with their earliest themes for study, for exegesis, and for Homer and literary criticism. From about 600 B.C. we have definite proof of the recitation of the Homeric poems by rhapsodes in many parts of the Greek world, — at Chios, at Delos, at Cyprus, at Syracuse, at Sicyon, and in Attica. The recitations in Attica were probably connected with the festivals of Dionysus at Athens and with a similar festival at Brauron; and, by an ordinance of Solon, the date of whose archonship is 594 B.C., the rhapsodes were required to recite consecutive portions of the Homeric poems, instead of selecting isolated passages. The effect of this ordinance would be not merely to cause the competition to be more severe, but also to promote on the part of the audience, no less than on that of the reciters, a more consecutive and more complete knowledge of the contents of the poems themselves. Moreover, the competitions between rhapsode and rhapsode, like the contests between poet and poet in an earlier time, would excite in the audience a faculty for discriminating not only between the competing reciters but also between their competing recitations, and would thus give an early impulse to a widely diffused and popular form of literary criticism.

Peisistratus – Hipparchus

The above tradition regarding the Athenian legislator Solon has its counterpart in a legend relating to the Spartan legislator Lycurgus. The date of Lycurgus is uncertain, one account placing him in 776 B.C., at the beginning of the Olympic era, and another a century earlier. According to Plutarch, Lycurgus met with the Homeric poems in Crete, and brought a copy back with him to Greece. Plutarch’s authority for this may possibly have been Ephorus, a historian of the fourth century B.C. Even on Attic soil, Solon has a rival in Peisistratus, whose rule at Athens began m 560 and ended in 527 B.C. According to the well-known story, he is said to have been the first to collect the scattered poems of Homer and to arrange them in order. The story is not found in any earlier author than Cicero, or in any extant Greek writer earlier than Pausanias (fl. 174 A.D.); but the question whether it was Solon or Peisistratus who did a signal service to the Homeric poems was apparently familiar to a Megarian historian of the fourth century B.C. The story about Peisistratus, it need hardly be added, has been much discussed. Accepted unreservedly by some eminent scholars and rejected entirely by others, it has sometimes been accepted in a limited sense by those who hold that the story need only imply the restoration of a unity which in process of time had been gradually ignored. The festival of the Panathenaea, at which the Homeric poems were in after times usually recited was celebrated with special splendour by Peisistratus, who is even sometimes called the founder of the festival; and, according to a dialogue attributed to Plato, it was one of the sons of Peisistratus, namely Hipparchus (527 – 514 B.C.), who ‘was the first to brmg into this land the poems of Homer, and who compelled the rhapsodes to recite them successively, in regular order, at the Panathenaea, as they still do at the present day. The story is inconsistent with the statement that the poems of Homer were recited at Athens in the time of Solon, but it is possibly true that the recitations at the Panathenaea in particular were introduced by Hipparchus. It was on the invitation of Hipparchus that Simonides of Ceos lived at Athens from about 522 to 514 B.C., and it is interesting to notice that it is in Simonides that we find the earliest extant quotation from Homer in a line which he ascribes to ‘the man of Chios’, — οἵη περ φύλλων γενεὴ τοίη δὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν. [As the generations of leaves, so too the generations of humans.]”

Prospectus of The History of Classical Scholarship

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

“History of Classical Scholarship

The history of Classical Scholarship corresponds to the last of the four and twenty subdivisions ‘Philology’ suggested by Wolf; and is the first of the studies classical  introductory to ‘Philology’ in the scheme proposed Scholarship by Haase, and also in that elaborately carried out in the encyclopaedic work known as Iwan Müller’s Handbuch der klassischen Altertümswissenschaft (1886 f). A knowledge of the general course of the history of Classical Scholarship in the past is essential to a complete understanding of its position in the present and its prospects for the future. Such a knowledge is indispensable to the student, and even to the scholar, who desires to make an intelligent use of the leading modern commentaries on classical authors which necessarily refer to the labours of eminent scholars in bygone days. And the study of that history is not without its incidental points of interest, in so far as it touches on themes of such variety, and such importance, as the earliest speculations on the origin of language, the growth of literary and dramatic criticism at Athens, the learned labours of the critics and grammarians of Alexandria and Rome, and of the lexicographers of Constantinople. It also has its points of contact with the Scholastic Philosophy of the Middle Ages, with the Revival of Learning and the Reformation of Religion, and with the foundations of the educational systems of the foremost nations of the modern world.

Subdivisions of the Proposed Work

The volume now offered to the public is the first instalment of a History of Classical Scholarship from the sixth century B.C. to the present day. That history may of the proposed be most conveniently distributed over the following twelve divisions of the subject, but the dates of the limits assigned to each division must be regarded as only approximate.

I. The Athenian Age, from 600 to 300 B.C.

II. The Alexandrian Age, from 300 B.C. to the beginning of the Christian era.

III. The Roman Age of Latin Scholarship, from 168 B.C. to 530 A.D

IV. The Roman Age of Greek Scholarship, from the beginning of the Christian era to 530 A.D.

V. The Byzantine Age, or the Middle Ages in the East, from 530 to 1350 A.D.

VI. The Middle Ages in the West, from 530 to 1350 A.D.

VII. The Revival of Learning in Italy from 1350 A.D. to the death of Leo X in 1521, with the subsequent history of scholarship in Italy.

The modern history of scholarship in (VIII) France, (IX) Holland, (X) England, (XI) Germany, and (XII) the other nations of Europe and the United States of America.

The time to be traversed will ultimately extend to as much as two thousand five hundred years, and in the sequence of the centuries the narrative will pass from one home of learning to another, from Athens to Alexandria and Pergamon, from Pergamon and Alexandria to Rome, and from Rome to Constantinople. It will also range over the vast expanse of the Middle Ages in the West, as well as in the East of Europe, pausing for a time in Italy at the date of the death of Dante (1321). On some future day it may invite us to visit the studious haunts of Petrarch at Vaucluse and Arqua; to linger for a while in Florence and in other famous cities of Italy; and then to turn to the chief centres of scholarship in the northern lands which were successively reached by the Revival of Learning. For three centuries of this survey our interest will be mainly fixed on Athens, for three on Alexandria, for more than five on Rome; then, for eight centuries, it will be first concentrated on Constantinople, and afterwards diffused over the West of Europe. Rather less than six centuries will thus await our study at some not far distant time. In any future review of the period of exactly two centuries that divides the death of Dante from the death of Leo X, our attention will be almost exclusively confined to Italy, and, in the final period of little more than 380 years, we shall look forward to tracing the progress of scholarship in Italy and in other lands from the close of the Italian Renaissance down to the present day.

In that final period, even more than in the far earlier ‘Ages’ of the present volume, a history of scholarship must necessarily to a large extent consist of notices of the lives and works of individual scholars. In the case of the more important names, some estimate of the value of their services will naturally be expected. In the case of names of minor importance, the briefest mention must suffice; and, in a work so limited in compass as compared with the wide extent of the subject, many will unavoidably be omitted altogether. Every endeavour will however be made to give accurate details as to the dates connected with those who are mentioned in these pages. Names of special importance in the annals of literature or scholarship will also find a place in the chronological tables, in which an attempt will be made to give a brief conspectus of the more than nineteen centuries over which the present volume extends. The reader may remember that Cicero, in his Orator, tells us that his friend Atticus, in composing a comprehensive work extending over seven centuries, had succeeded ‘by a strict observance and specification of dates, without omitting any notable event, in including within the compass of a single volume the annals of seven hundred years’. Elsewhere he makes the author modestly ask, ‘what his work could possibly contain, that was either new or particularly useful to Cicero’, and himself vouchsafes a reassuring reply as to its ‘utility’, and as to its containing ‘much that was new to him’. I trust that the reader, whether in using the present work he finds much or little that is new to him, will at any rate find in its chronological tables, unpretentious as they are, the same kind of utility that Cicero found in the liber annalis of Atticus: — ut explicatis ordinibus temporum uno in conspectu omnia viderem[1].”

[1] Cicero, Orator 120, Brutus 14 f. For a conspectus of the periods covered by these tables, and the pages on which they will be found, see p. xi supra.

The Birthday of Philology

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

“Modern ‘Philology’

In modern times the first who called himself studiosus philologiae was F. A. Wolf, the founder of the modern German school of scholarship, who thus described himself in the matriculation-book of the University of Göttingen on 8 April 1777, a date which has accordingly been designated as the ‘birthday of Philology’[1] In after years Wolf himself was dissatisfied with the term Philologie because its Alexandrian associations confined it to the study of Literature alone, to the exclusion of Art, and also because in modem times it was apt to be regarded as synonymous with the Science of Language. He therefore preferred the term Alterthums-wissen-schaft, ‘the Science of Antiquity[2]. Other terms have been suggested at various times[3], but in France and Germany the term Philologie still holds its own.

‘Philology’ was for a long time limited to linguistic studies, and was regarded as only including grammar, lexicography, exegesis, and textual and literary criticism; but, since the time of Wolf, it has been generally understood in a wider sense, as including the study of ancient life in all its phases, as handed down to us in the literature, the inscriptions, and the monuments, of Greece and Rome[4]. It has thus been interpreted by scholars such as Ast and Bernhardy, Boeckh and Otfried Müller, Ritschl and Haase[5]. In contrast to the comprehensive definition given by these, we have the narrower view best represented by Gottfried Hermann, who saw in ‘Philology’ a science of language alone[6].

The varied studies included within the province of ‘Philology’ have been grouped and classified in different ways by Wolf and Bernhardy, Boeckh and Müller, Ritschl, Reichardt and Haase’[7]. The tendency in the later classifications of the subject has been to make Grammar not a merely instrumental means towards the study of ‘Philology’, but one of the main subjects of study in itself. It has also become increasingly necessary to include among the introductory studies, the general and also the comparative Science of Language. Inscriptions, which were classed by Wolf under the heading of Art, are now rightly regarded as part of the written records of antiquity, and as supplying, side by side with Literature, part of the documentary evidence for the history and the antiquities of the Greek and Roman world[8].”

[1] F. Haase in Ersch und Gruber, s.v. ‘Philologie’ p. 383 n. 29.

[2] Kleine Schriften, ii 814 f.

[3] e.g. ‘classical learning’, studia humanitatis, and the unclassical term humaniora (criticised by Boeckh, Encyklopädie der philologischen Wissenschaften, p. 24 f).

[4] Kleine Schriften, 11 826

[5] Ast, Grundriss der Philologie (1808) p. i; Bernhardy, Grundlinien zur Encyklopädie der Philologie (1832) p. 48 — 53; Boeckh, Rheinisches Museum (1827) i 41; Müller (1836) Göttingen gel. Anzeiger, p. 169; Ritschl, Convers.-Lexikon, s.v. Philologie p. 501; and Haase in Ersch u. Gruber iii 23 p. 390 (all quoted in Freund’s Triennium Philologicum, i p. 5).

[6] Hermann’s view was attacked by Boeckh and Müller l.c. In the preface to the Acta Societatis Graecae he had spoken with contempt of the Comparative Philologists ‘qui ad Brachmanas et Ulphilam confugiunt atque ex paucis non satis cognitarum linguarum vestigiis quae Graecorum et Latinorum verborum vis sit explanare conantur’ (cp. Freund, pp. 12, 15).

[7] Wolf, Kleine Schriften, ii 894; Bernhardy, Grundlinien, p. xi; Boeckh, Encyklopädie, pp. 54 – 64; Müller, l.c ; Ritschl, l.c.; Reichardt, die Gliederung der Philologie (1846); and Haase, l.c. (transcribed in Freund, l.c. p. 8 — 14).

[8] Boeckh, Introd. to Corp. Inscr. Gr. vol. vii.

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Grammarians, Critics, and Philologists

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. 1:


The Alexandrian use of γραμματικός in the above sense was apparently somewhat later than the use of κριτικός in the same general sense. The word κριτικός is found in a pseudo-platonic dialogue of uncertain date, in a passage in which the Greek boy, on reaching the age of seven, is humorously described as ‘suffering much at the hands of tutors and trainers, and teachers of reading and writing’ (γραμματισταί), and as ‘passing, as he grows up, under the control of teachers of mathematics, tactics and criticism’ (κριτικοί)[1]. There is reason to believe that, just as this use of κριτικοί probably preceded that of γραμματικοί in its Alexandrian sense, similarly the term κριτική was earlier than the corresponding term γραμματική[2].

Criticism was regarded as founded by Aristotle, and among its foremost representatives in the Alexandrian and Pergamene age were Aristarchus at Alexandria and Crates at Pergamon[3]. Crates and his pupils of the Pergamene School subordinated γραμματική to κριτική, and preferred to be called κριτικοί[4]. Criticism was among the higher functions of the γραμματικός. Thus Athenaeus (fl. c. 200 A.D.) describes the authorship of certain poems as a matter for the critical judgement (κρίνειν) of the best γραμματικοί[5]; and Galen (130-200 a.d.) wrote a treatise on the question whether any one could be κριτικός and also γραμματικός, implying a certain distinction between these terms.

Meanwhile, more than two centuries before Galen, Cicero in one of his letters, after alluding to Aristarchus, describes himself as about to decide, tamquam criticus antiquus, whether a certain document is genuine or spurious[6]. The term is also used by Horace, in a passage in which he calls Ennius an alter Homerus, ut critici dicunt, where Varro is probably meant[7]. It also occurs repeatedly in the Commentary on Virgil by Servius, in the frequent phrase notant critici[8]. Lastly, κριτικός is found as a designation of Dionysius of Halicarnassus; also of Munatius of Tralles (the tutor of Herodes Atticus) in the second century, and of Cassius Longinus in the third[9]. Thus it appears that, owing to a certain ambiguity in the term γραμματικός with its lower sense of ‘grammarian’ and its higher sense of ‘scholar’, and a corresponding ambiguity in the term γραμματική with its lower sense of ‘grammar’ and its higher sense of ‘scholarly criticism’, the term κριτικός was generally applied to those of the γραμματικοί who excelled in the higher branch of γραμματική, that of literary criticism. We may conclude on the whole that one who in modern times is in English called a ‘scholar’, in French a philologue, and in German a philolog, would in ancient times have been called either a grammaticus or a criticus, according to his degree of distinction, the latter being the higher term of the two; while the term philologus in general designated a lover of learning, or a learned student of varied accomplishments and especially of antiquarian tastes[10].

[1] Axiochus 366 E. Cp. P Girard, L’éducation athénienne, p. 224 – 7

[2] Schol. on Dionysius Thrax, p. 673, 19 ἐπιγέγραπται γὰρ τὸ παρὸν σύγγραμα κατὰ μέν τινας περὶ γραμματκικῆς κατὰ δέ ἑτέρους περὶ κριτικῆς τέχνης. κριτικὴ δὲ λέγεται ἡ τέχνη ἐκ τοῦ καλλίστου μέρους. Bekker, Anecdota, p.1140 κριτικὴ δὲ λέγεται ἡ τέχνη ἐκ τοῦ καλλίστου μέρους. τὸ πρότερον κριτικὴ ἐλέγετο (ἡ γραμματική), καὶ οἱ ταύτην μετιόντες κριτικοί. Cp. Usener in Susemihl l.c. ii 665

[3] Dion Chrysostom, Or. 53, 1, ᾿Αρίσταρχος καὶ Κράτης καὶ ἕτεροι πλείους τῶν ὕστερον γραμματικῶν κληθέντων, πρότερον δὲ κριτικῶν. καὶ δὴ καὶ αὐτὸς ᾿Αριστοτέλης, ἀφ’ οὗ φασι τὴν κριτικήν τε καὶ γραμματικὴν ἀρχὴν λαβεῖν.

[4] Sextus Emp., Math. i 79, (Κράτης) ἐκεῖνος ἔλεγε διαφέρειν τὸν κριτικὸν τοῦ γραμματικοῦ, καὶ τὸν μὲν κριτικὸν πάσης, φησί, δεῖ λογικῆς ἐπιστήμης ἔμπειρον εἶναι, τὸν δὲ γραμματικὸν ἁπλῶς γλωσσῶν ἐξηγητικὸν καὶ προσῳδίας ἀποδοτικὸν κτλ., and 248, γραμματικῆς, συμφανές. Ταυρίσκος γοῦν ὁ Κράτητος ἀκουστής, ὥσπερ οἱ ἄλλοι κριτικοὶ ὑποτάσσων τῇ κριτικῇ τὴν γραμματικήν κτλ.

[5] p. 116

[6] ad Fam. Ix 10, I.

[7] Ep. II i 51.

[8] Servius on Aen. i 71, viii 731, xi 188 etc. (ap. Lehrs l.c., p.397 note)

[9] Usener on Dionysius Hal. De Imitatione p. 133 note; and Lehrs l.c. p. 395.

[10] Lehrs l.c. p. 379

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γραμματικός – The Birth of Literary Criticism

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol. 1


Having briefly traced the history of the word φιλόλογος, we may now deal no less briefly with the two terms which in modern Latin, and in French and German, it has ultimately superseded, the terms γραμματικός and κριτικός.

In the golden age of Greek literature the common meaning of γράμματα is ‘letters of the alphabet’, and γραμματικός is applied to one who is familiar with those letters, knows ‘their number and their nature’[1]; one in short who has learnt to read[2]. In the same age τέχνη γραμματική is simply the art of γρἁμματα[3], the art of reading[4]. Not in the same age only, but in all later ages, γραμματιστής is a teacher of γρἁμματα, a teacher of reading and writing[5]. The Latin term corresponding to γραμματιστής is litterator[6]

In the earlier time γράμματα seldom means ‘literature’[7]; but it is to this sense of the word that we owe the new meaning given to its derivative γραμματικός in the Alexandrian age. That new meaning is a ‘student of literature’, especially of poetical literature; and similarly γραμματική now comes to mean the ‘study of literature’, especially of poetry. γραμματική in this new sense of the term is sometimes said to have begun with Theagenes of Rhegium (fl. 525 B.C.), who was the earliest of the allegorical interpreters of Homer[8]. When Plato is described as the first who speculated on the nature of γραμματική[9], we may assume that the reference is to the Cratylus, a dialogue in which he discusses the nature of words. Aristotle is similarly described as the founder of the art of γραμματική in that higher sense which implies the learned study of poetic literature[10]. But this is only the language of later writers, and we may be sure that neither Theagenes nor Plato nor Aristotle would have described himself as γραμματικός, except in the sense applicable to all who could read and write.

The first who was called γραμματικός in the new sense of the term was a pupil of Theophrastus, the Peripatetic Praxiphanes of Rhodes (fl. 300 B.C.), the author of certain works on history and poetry. According to another tradition, the first who received this designation was Antidorus of Cumae, who wrote a treatise on Homer and Hesiod, and also a work on Style, and may be placed very early in the Alexandrian age. After the time of Antidorus, we find Eratosthenes giving the title γραμματικά to two of his works, but their contents are unknown[11]. Dionysius Thrax (bom about 166 B.C.), in the earliest treatise on Grammar now extant, defined γραμματική as being ‘in general the practical knowledge of the usage of writers of poetry and prose’[12]. He divided it into six parts: — (i) accurate reading, (2) explanation of poetic figures of speech, (3) exposition of rare words and of subject-matter, (4) etymology, (5) statement of regular grammatical forms. These five parts form the ‘minor’ or ‘imperfect’ art of Grammar, the ‘perfect’ art including: (6) ‘the criticism of poetry, which is the noblest part of all’[13] A better subdivision gives us only four parts, (i) correction of the text, (2) accurate reading, (3) exposition, (4) criticism[14]. Dionysius of Halicarnassus twice describes τὴν γραμματικὴν as including the art of reading and writing and the art of grammar, without extending its meaning to literary criticism[15].

In the Roman age the Alexandrian meaning of γραμματικός is noticed by Suetonius who makes the borrowed word grammaticus synonymous with the Latin litteratus[16]. He adds that Cornelius Nepos agrees with this view, and regards litterati and grammatici as equivalent to poetarum interpretes. Similarly Cicero treats grammatica (neuter plural) as synonymous with studium litterarum[17]and includes in its province poetarum pertractatio, historiarum cognitio, verborum interpretatio, pronuntiandi quidam sonus[18]‘. Elsewhere he describes grammatici as interpretes poetarum[19]. Just as Cicero identifies the science with studium litterarum, so Quintilian describes it as sometimes translated by litteratura[20], and as including disquisitions on style and subject-matter, the explanation of difficulties and the interpretation of poetry[21]. He divides it into two parts, (i) ‘the science of correct language’, (2) ‘the interpretation of poetry[22]; the former, he adds, must include ‘correct writing’, and the latter must be preceded by ‘reading aloud with correctness’. It thus embraces correct reading and correct writing, and, beside these, criticism, which detects spurious lines or spurious works, and draws up select lists of approved authors[23]. Seneca, as an adherent of the Stoic philosophy, which had paid special attention to Grammar, uses grammaticus in a somewhat narrower sense[24]. He also compares the different lights in which Cicero’s treatise de Republica is viewed by a philosophus, a philologus and a grammaticus. While the philosophus wonders that so much can be argued on the side contrary to that of Justice, the philologus notices that, of two kings of Rome, the father of the one (Ancus) and the mother of the other (Numa) were unknown; also that Romulus is said to have perished during an eclipse of the sun, that the dictator was formerly called the magister populi, and that there was a provocatio ad populum even in the time of the kings, ‘as Fenestella also holds’. But the grammaticus (he continues) notices (i) verbal expressions, such as reapse for re ipsa, (2) changes in the meaning of words, as the use of calx for creta, of opis pretium (in Ennius) for operae pretium, (3) the phrase caeli porta, borrowed by Ennius from Homer, and itself borrowed in turn by Virgil[25]. Lastly, when Aulus Gellius (fl. 150 A.D.) wished to ascertain the meaning of the phrase ex iure manum consertum, he applied to a grammaticus, who professed to expound Virgil, Plautus and Ennius, but (as it happened) was quite unaware that this legal phrase was actually found in Ennius[26]. Thus it appears that, in and after the Alexandrian age, γραμματικός mainly implied aptitude in the study and interpretation of poetry, and γραμματική included not only Grammar but also (in its higher sense) the criticism of the poets.

[1] Plato, Philebus 17 B; cp. Theaet, 207 B; Xen. Mem. Iv 2, 20

[2] Plato, Rep. 402 B

[3] Philebus 18 D; Cratylus 431 E; Soph. 253 A; cp. ἡ τῶν γραμμάτων μάθησις (Theaet. 206 A, 207 D; Protag. 345 A)

[4] Aristotle, Pol. 1337 b 25 f; Categ. c. 9; Top. vi 5, 142 b 31 f.

[5]  Plato, Euthydemus 279 E, περὶ γραμμάτων γραφῆς τε καὶ ἀναγνώσεως οἱ γραμματισταί, cp. Protag. 326 D, Laws 812 A

[6] Suetonius, De Grammaticis 4.

[7] It seems to bear this meaning in Plato Apol. 26 D, ἀπείρους γραμμάτων, though this is denied by Kaibel in Hermes xxv (1890) 102 f.

[8] Schol. On Dionysius Thrax, p. 729, 22. (γραμματική) ἀρξαμένη μὲν ἀπὸ Θεαγένους, τελεσθεῖσα δὲ παρὰ τῶν Περιπατητικῶν Πραξιφάνους τε καὶ ᾿Αριστοτέλους·

[9] Diogenes Laertius, iii. 25 πρῶτος ἐθεώρησε τῆς γραμματικῆς τὴν δύναμιν.

[10] Dion. Chrysostom, Or. 53, 1, ἀφ’ οὗ φασι τὴν κριτικήν τε καὶ γραμματικὴν ἀρχὴν. Cp. Susemihl, Geschichte der Gr. Litt. In der Alexandrinerseit ii. 663-5

[11] Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromateis I p.309 Ὰντίδωρος (᾿Απολλόδωρος MS) δὲ ὁ Κυμαῖος πρῶτος τοῦ γραμματικοῦ ἀντὶ τοῦ κριτικοῦ εἰσηγήσατο (παρῃτήσατο Usener) τοὔνομα καὶ γραμματικὸς προσηγορεύθη. ἔνιοι δὲ ᾿Ερατοσθένη τὸν Κυρηναῖόν φασιν, ἐπειδὴ ἐξέδωκεν οὗτος βιβλία δύο, γραμματικὰ» ἐπιγράψας. ὠνομάσθη δὲ γραμματικός, ὡς νῦν (c. 200 A.D.) ὀνομάζομεν, πρῶτος Πραξιφάνης (c. 300 B.C.)

[12]     Γραμματική ἐϲτιν ἐμπειρία τῶν παρὰ ποιηταῖϲ τε καὶ ϲυγγραφεῦϲιν λεγομένων. (Iwan Müller’s Handbuch i.130, 152)

[13] Cp. Philo p.348 B C and 462 G; and Sext. Emp. pp. 224, 226, quoted by Classen, De Gram. Gr. Primordiis, p. 12 f.

[14] Schol. On Dion. Thrax in Bekker’s Anecd. 736, (μέρος) διορθωτικόν, ὰναγνωστικόν, ὲξηγητικόν, κριτικόν.

[15] De Dem. p. 1115 R, De Comp. Verb. p. 414 Schaefer (c.14)

[16] De. Grammaticis 4

[17] De. Or. i § 10.

[18] ib. §187.

[19] De. Div. i § 34; cp. ib. 116 and Orator § 72. Cp. ad Att. Vii 3, 10, quoniam grammaticus es, si hoc mihi ζήτημα persolveris, magna me molestia liberaris.

[20] II i, 4.

[21] I ii 14.

[22] I iv 2.

[23] I iv 3, (iudicium) quo quidem ita severe sunt usi veteres grammatici, ut non versus modo censoria quadam virgula notare et libros, qui falso viderentur inscripti, tanquam subditos summovere familia permiserint sibi, sed auctores alios in ordinem redegerint, alios omnino exemerint numero.

[24] Ep. 88 § 3 grammaticus circa curam sermonis versatur, et, si latius evagari vult, circa historias, iam ut longissime fines suos proferat, circa carmina

[25] Ep. 108 §§ 30 – 34

[26] Gellius, XX 10.

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φιλόλογος: What Could It Mean?

J.E. Sandys, A History of Classical Scholarship Vol.1


“The word φιλολογία has a somewhat varied history[1]. It is first found in Plato, where it means the ‘love of dialectic’ or ‘of scientific argument’[2]. The corresponding adjective φιλόλογος is applied to ‘a lover of discourse’[3], as contrasted with a ‘hater of discourse’[4]. It is applied to Athens as a city ‘fond of conversation’, in contrast with Sparta and Crete with their preference for brevity of speech[5]. Socrates applies it to himself in a studiously ambiguous sense, either ‘fond of talking’, or ‘fond of speeches’ (like those of the orator Lysias)[6]. Elsewhere, when added to φιλόσοφος, it means a ‘lover of reason’[7] Thus its uses in Plato are as varied as the meanings of the word λόγος, ‘speech’, ‘discourse’, ‘conversation’, ‘argument’, ‘reason’.

Aristotle describes the Spartans as having made Chilon, one of the ‘Wise Men’ of Greece, a member of their Council, although they were ἥκιστα φιλόλογοι, ‘the least literary of all people’[8]; and in the ‘Aristotelian ‘ writings we find included under the general phrase, ὅσα περὶ φιλολογίαν, questions of reading, rhetoric, style and history[9]. Thus far, the word has not yet acquired any narrower signification. When Stobaeus (in the fifth century of our era) in telling an anecdote of Pericles, uses φιλόλογος in one of its later senses, that of ‘educated’, in contrast to ‘uneducated’ (ὰπαίδευτος), he is not really quoting the language of Pericles himself, but is only reflecting the usage of a later age[10].

The first to assume the title of φιλόλογος at Alexandria was the learned and versatile scholar, astronomer, geographer, chronologer, and literary historian, Eratosthenes (c. 276-195 B.C.). The same title was assumed at Rome by a friend of Sallust and Pollio, a Roman freedman of Athenian birth, Lucius Ateius Praetextatus (fl. 86-29 B.C.)[11]. The term is applied by Plutarch to those who, in reading poetry, are attracted by its beauty of expression. In late Greek it is mainly found in two senses (i) ‘studious’, ‘fond of learning’, (2) ‘learned’, ‘accomplished’[12] The first is approved by the Atticist Phrynichus; the second is condemned[13].

The word is frequent in the familiar Latin of Cicero’s Letters; philologia is there applied to the study of literature[14], and philologus means ‘learned’ or ‘literary’[15]. Vitruvius calls Homer poetarum parens philologiaeque omnis dux, ‘the father of poetry and the foremost name in all literature’, and describes the Pergamene princes as prompted to found their famous Library by the delights of philologia, or ‘literature’[16]. In Seneca’s Letters philologus is contrasted with grammaticus in the lower sense of the latter: the philologus (he observes) will notice points of antiquarian interest; the grammaticus, matters of expression[17]. Lastly, in the fanciful allegory de nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, written by Martianus Capella in the fifth century, the bride Philologia appears as the goddess of speech, attended by seven bridesmaids personifying the seven liberal Arts. In modern Latin the meaning of philologus had been made much more comprehensive. It is now used in the sense of a ‘scholar’, thus including all that ancient writers understood by grammaticus in the higher sense of the term, and much more besides, — not only a knowledge of the languages of Greece and Rome but also a knowledge of all that contributes to the accurate understanding of their literature and their art. Those who in modern Latin are called philologi were in ancient times known either as grammatici (in its higher sense), or as critici.

Having briefly traced the history of the word φιλόλογος, we may now deal no less briefly with the two terms which in modern Latin, and in French and German, it has ultimately superseded, the terms γραμματικός and κριτικός.”

[1] Lehrs, De Vocabulis φιλόλογος, γραμματικός, κριτικός (Königsberg, 1838); reprinted in Appendix to Herodiani scripta tria, p.379-401, 1848; cp. Boeckh, Encyclopädie…der philologischen Wissenschaften, p. 22-24

[2] Theaet. 146 A.

[3] Ib. 161 A.

[4] Laches 188C.

[5] Laws 641E; cp. Isocr. Antid. 296, where φιλολογία and εὐτραπελία are characteristic of Athens.

[6] Phaedrus 236 E.

[7] Rep. 582 E.

[8] Rhet. Ii 23, 11

[9] Probl. xviii, p.916 b.

[10] Stobaeus, 70, 17

[11] Suetonius, De Grammaticis, 10

[12] Lehrs, l.c. p. 380 (1) eruditionis amicus, studiosus; (2) eruditus, litteratus

[13] P.483 Rutherford,     Φιλόλογος· ὁ φιλῶν λόγους καὶ σπουδάζων περὶ παιδείαν· οἱ δὲ νῦν ἐπὶ τοῦ ἐμπείρου τιθέασιν τοὔνομα, οὐκ ὀρθῶς.

[14] Ad Att. Ii 17, I; (Cicero filius) ad Fam. Xvi 21, 4; συμφιλολογεῖν = una studere, ib. § 8.

[15] Ad Att. Xiii 12, 3; 52, 2; used as a Subst. in xv 29, 1 and ad Quinti fr. Ii 10, 3.

[16]  vii Praef. § 8 and § 4

[17] Ep. 108 § 29

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