Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.11.23

Kurt Latte, Peter Allan Hansen, Hesychii Alexandrini Lexicon. Volumen III: P-S.   Berlin:  Walter de Gruyter, 2005.  Pp. xxxiii, 404.  ISBN 3-11-017852-4.  $179.20.  

Reviewed by Robert Renehan, University of California, Santa Barbara (
Word count: 1772 words

Hesychius's lexicon, dating from the fifth or sixth century A.D., with its some 51000 discrete entries, is in many ways the most important lexicon to have survived from Greek antiquity. It is of great value especially for Greek poetry, where it sometimes preserves both correct readings lost in the direct tradition and fragments otherwise not known, and for its material on the Greek dialects. I give one illustration of its interest. In 1974 the now famous Cologne papyrus of Archilochus (fr. 196a West = fr. S 478 Page) was published. "Many are the delights of the goddess (= Aphrodite) for young men" it states therein, "apart from the divine thing" (vv. 13-15). This last phrase, παρὲξ τὸ θεῖον χρε̂μα, occurs verbatim in Hesychius (Π 839 where it is glossed ἔξω τῆς μίξεως. This entry proves that Hesychius's source(s) still had access to a commentary on this poem of Archilochus's and removes any doubt as to how the Greek scholarly tradition understood the phrase, which could have more than one meaning.1 Further evidence that this poem was known to the tradition on which Hesychius drew is perhaps to be seen in the entry Π 1449: πέπειρα γραῖα. This word in this pejorative sense occurs in v. 26 of the poem. (It occurs also in Anacreon fr. 87 Page; compare also West on Hes. Op. v. 705.)

The work is preserved in a single manuscript, the Marcianus Graecus 622 (now dated to c. 14302), which has not only suffered significantly from both abridgement and interpolation, but also very frequently exhibits corruptions due at least in part to the recondite subject matter that was not always understood by the copyists. In short, the text is in parlous condition. To put this into perspective let us recall the boast of Bentley in his Epistola ad Joannem Millium (pp. 291-292 Goold): If ever a new edition of Hesychius be prepared, he asserts, I can promise that I will provide five thousand corrections -- more or less (sic!).3 Whether even Bentley could have quite made good on this promise may be doubted, but that there is indeed a great number of corruptions in the text, some of them seemingly beyond healing, is certain. Much has been done to remedy this situation; more remains to be done.

This edition, as the title already indicates, is a continuation of the edition of Kurt Latte (1891-1964): Vol. I, Α-Δ, 1953 and Vol. II, Ε-Ο, 1966, this latter volume having appeared posthumously. The virtues of Latte's edition were soon recognized, as were its defects. See especially the magisterial reviews of H. Erbse in BZ 48 (1955) 130-138 and BZ 61 (1968) 71-77 and W. Bühler in Gnomon 42 (1970) 339-354. Compare also H. Lloyd-Jones in CR 19 (1969) 50-51. The most glaring defect is perhaps the number of inaccurate reports of readings in the Marcianus (codex unicus!) to which both Erbse and Bühler called attention. But there are others. Thus it is now believed that Hesychius was interpolated from MSS of the so-called Cyril Glossary and not the reverse (as Latte believed). It is a valuable feature of the edition under review that it includes a contribution by K. Alpers, "Corrigenda et Addenda to Latte's Prolegomena to Hesychii Alexandrini Lexicon Vol. I: Α-Δ" (pp. XV-XXIII). This is an up-to-date survey of the current state of Hesychian research by one of the leading experts on the Greek lexicographers, who has himself made very important contributions to the field. And when one reads in the Editor's Preface (p. XIII) that the edition was read and commented on by the likes of Rudolf Kassel and M.L. West (as well as by Alpers and others), one cannot but be reassured. West has provided a number of conjectures, some printed by H. and others reported in the apparatus. Not all are convincing, but all display West's customary acuity. (At Σ 3074 a conjecture (σομάτοιφος for the MS reading σομάλοιφος) is ascribed to West; in M. Schmidt's 1862 edition it is already ascribed to Salmasius. For a treatment of this entry not mentioned by Hansen (hereinafter H.) see LSJ Supplementum Novum s.v. σομάλοιφος.)

So far as I can judge, H. has given us a very fine piece of scholarship which constitutes an important contribution to the text of Hesychius. While I do not have ready access to the Marcianus, or to a facsimile of it, and therefore cannot test the accuracy of H.'s reporting of its readings, it seems safe to assume that, after the severe criticism of Latte for his deficiencies in this regard, H. surely would have taken special pains not to repeat the fault. The format of the edition is exemplary. Below the text there are first given references to relevant passages in other authors, and below this comes the apparatus criticus proper. Strictly it is much more than an apparatus confined to reporting readings and conjectures; rather it contains a good deal of material strictly appropriate to a commentary. In the case of many authors this might be criticized as an unnecessary encumbrance. Not so in the case of Hesychius, for whom there is no commentary and who in passage after passage is quite unintelligible to most readers without some assistance. After all, the work is basically a collection of rare words and phrases which were unfamiliar to most native speakers of Greek in antiquity. For instance, already in the third entry in this volume 3) the lemma is a Scythian word for dog! These old Greeks needed help, and so do we. Thus the apparatus is in good part instar commentarii. (This format is no innovation of H.'s: both Schmidt and Latte, to name the two immediate predecessors of H., did the same thing.) Furthermore the apparatus serves to explain and defend numerous conjectures accepted or proposed by H. All this I found very useful, indeed indispensable.

H. has a good sense of Greek style. Take for instance Σ 46: σαί τό κινηθῆναι πλῶς. The entry is truncated, but its sense can be gleaned from Σ 50. The adverb πλῶς really makes little sense here and Schmidt proposed παλῶς, which does make sense. H. conjectured rather ἁβρῶς, comparing Σ 100. This is the mot juste and is therefore preferable. There are a number of passages where a slight change of punctuation, with no alteration of a single letter,can entail a significant change, specifically in establishing what constituted the lemma and what the explanation. Π 73: παιδοκόρης Ἑρμῆς. τιμᾶται ἐν Μεταποντίοις. H. deletes the colon after παιδοκορ́ης and replaces the period after Ἑρμῆς with a colon. This has the effect of making the lemma παιδοκόρης Ἑρμῆς instead of simply παιδοκόρης. There is a similar treatment at π 42: Παιὰν Ζεύς τιμᾶται ἐν Ῥόδωι. (Here the change of punctuation was proposed by Schmidt.) There is a certain attractiveness to such adjustments, though I do not feel that they are absolutely necessary. Similar are cases where a lemma is immediately followed by a synonym from the same root which begins the definition. Here H. often transfers the second word to the lemma by a change of punctuation. Thus π 2034: πέσσυρα, πίσυρα τέσσαρα, as it appears in H.'s edition. The MS and earlier editors have a colon after πέσσυρα thereby making πίσυρα part of the explanation. One understands perfectly why H. wishes to collocate the two rare forms together in the lemma and restrict the definition to the common form τέσσαρα. But the form πέσσυρα seems to survive only in Hesychius and πίσυρα is not uncommon in poetry, especially in epic. May not Hesychius's source have defined the extremely rare πέσσυρα first with a familiar cognate form, πίσυρα, and then with the commonplace τέσσαρα? H. helpfully lists a number of similar cases in his apparatus at π 2507.

There are, then, passages where one can, or must, disagree with H. This is only to be expected and it must not detract from our recognition of the high quality of his scholarship. I conclude with a typical example of it, ς 3019: σχιζογυ<ν>άνδρους τοὺς συκοφάντας (= Com. Ad. Fr. Dub. 428K.-A.) The conjecture σχιζογυ<ν>άνδρους, which H. seems to be the first editor to print, is to be found in the Thesaurus Graecae Linguae, 3rd edition, of H. Stephanus. Here are H.'s comments in his apparatus: "σχιζογυάνδρους Hesychius: Hansen, post Thes. 7, 1669b, ubi vix recte reicitur; multae explicationes in Hesychio alibique, postquam contextus deperditus est, intelligi non possunt, praesertim glossarum comicarum." This is sound and sensible practice and I think H. clearly right to have printed the conjecture -- even though we may not yet fully understand the meaning because of abridgement in the MS of Hesychius. (I think I know what it means -- sed nolo tangere praefanda.) To illustrate the principle involved consider the following passage, ς 579: σιγέρπης λαθροδάκτης, where H. writes "Callim. AP 12, 139, 6?" This entry has obviously suffered severe abridgement. The lemma appears to mean "silent creeper/ mover" and the interpretation "secret biter". It is not apparent, at first glance, why anyone would gloss the one word with the other, for the two are hardly synonymous. Bentley, with his extraordinary learning, restored σιγέρπης from Hesychius for the meaningless σειγάρνης in the MSS of Callimachus, loc. cit. (= Call. Epigr. 44 (45), 6 Pf.). Now in vv. 4-5 of this poem Callimachus, in mock fear, compares his beloved to a silent river ( ἡσύχιος ποταμός) which escapes notice as it eats away a wall (λήθει τοῖχον ὑποτρώγων). In other words, the glossing of σιγέρπης in Hesychius by λαθροδάκτης is clearly based on the surrounding context in this very epigram of Callimachus: "It is a well-known habit of ancient commentaries to explain an obscure or difficult word with the help of a neighboring word in the text" (E. Fraenkel, on A. Ag. 1320). Here λαθρο- echoes Callimachus's λήθει and -δάκτης answers to -τρώγων. This is too striking a correspondence to be mere coincidence. Recall that, had we a complete and unabridged copy of Hesychius, we would probably have seen here an explicit mention of the actual passage which was the basis of the entry (a common practice in Hesychius) -- and it surely would have been Callimachus, loc. cit.4

To sum up this review, whose brevity is out of all proportion with the riches of this edition, H. deserves much gratitude for a splendid achievement. It will make Hesychius, an author whose importance, and difficulty should not be underestimated, more accessible. The publisher has announced that work on Vol. 4 (Τ-Ω) has already commenced, and a fifth volume of indices and addenda is in the planning stage.5 We wish them every success.


1.  μίξις (= "sexual intercourse") in Hesychius is decisive for the meaning in the Archilochus passage. This may seem obvious but when the papyrus first appeared not every scholar so understood the expression. For the phrase in a non-sexual sense see the Byzantine physician Simeon Seth,Ἀντιρρητικός p. 44 Daremberg: πρὶν ὁμιλῆσαι, Γαληνέ, τοῖς θεῖόν τί σε χρῆμα λογιζομένοις. The corresponding expression θεῖον πρᾶγμα occurs in Plato, Smp.206C of intercourse, and similarly in Hdt. 6.69.3 whereas in Hdt. 3.42.4 and Hp. Morb. Sacr. c.1 it occurs in a non-sexual sense. The plural also occurs in Herodotus of "divine affairs", "religion."
2.  See N. Wilson in GRBS 23 (1982) 372-373. The date is based on the watermark.
3.  "Id tibi de plano possum promittere, Milli [cf. Lucr. 1.411], quinque plus minus millia mendorum me correcturum esse, si libuerit; quae aliorum εὐστοχίαν et laboriosam diligentiam hactenus eluserunt."
4.  For a fuller discussion of this passage see HSCP 68 (1964) 376-378.( Gow-Page, Hellenistic Epigrams II. 164 raise objections to earlier interpretations. They do not seem to me to be insuperable, but this is not the place to discuss them.)
5.  See also H.'s edition, p. X, where it is stated that Ian C. Cunningham will complete the edition "in co-operation with Dr. Hansen as concerns the parts where the latter has done preparatory work, and independently as concerns the rest."

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