Bryn Mawr Classical Review

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Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2017.11.41

Erich Trapp (ed.), Lexikon zur byzantinischen Gräzität besonders des 9.-12. Jahrhunderts. 8. Faszikel (ταριχευτικῶς - ὤχρωμα). Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung, VI/8.   Wien:  Verlag der Österreischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1994.  Pp. 318.  ISBN 9783700179962.  €136.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Michael Zellmann-Rohrer, Oxford (

The eighth and final fascicle of the Lexikon zur byzantinischen Gräzität (LBG) has now appeared, marking the completion of a monumental work whose foundations were first laid by the chief editor, Erich Trapp, in 1965. The LBG is already a standard reference among Byzantinists, but as it has not yet been reviewed in BMCR, some contextualization of the project is in order. Critical comments focus on the final fascicle.

The history of modern Byzantine lexicography in the West1 can be traced to 1610 with the publication by the Dutch philologist Ioannes Meursius of his Glossarium Graecobarbarum (Leiden), in which he aimed to explicate magna congeries uocum exoticarum, quas cum externis gentibus decliui Imperio paullatim Graecia admisit ... quae etsi Graecae quidem sint, tamen aut ipsas, aut earum significationem, antiqua Graecia ignorauit. The title page claims a collection of over 3,600 words, drawn from literary works, in some cases unpublished. A revised and augmented second edition of 1614 brings the total to over 5,400. (The lexicography of Classical Greek had already been progressing since the Renaissance, with the achievement of Stephanus, Thesaurus Graecae linguae, already reached in 1572.) The discipline begins in earnest in 1688 with the publication of Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange, Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae graecitatis (Paris), a monument still cited by modern Byzantinists. Making extensive use of unpublished manuscript material, and ranging across the entire Byzantine period, Du Cange’s collection spans 1794 folio columns (with 214 of addenda); the number of lemmata is not stated, but should easily surpass 15,000.

Despite methodological shortcomings, such as citation of manuscript texts in unverifiable form without shelfmarks, and an obvious and growing need for supplement, Byzantine studies were slow to produce a replacement. Noteworthy, albeit generally regarded as unsatisfactory, above all for its limited scope, is E.A. Sophocles, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (from B.C. 146 to A.D. 1100) (Cambridge, M.A. 1887, with revisions by J.H. Thayer and H. Drisler). This work deserves credit for expanding consideration, selectively, beyond the manuscript tradition to stone inscriptions. A significant portion of Byzantine literature is covered in exemplary fashion by G.W.H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford 1961-1968), with a specific focus on “theological and ecclesiastical vocabulary” from the first through early ninth centuries CE, and secondarily building on the then-standard lexicon of Classical Greek to give selective coverage of rare and new words with respect to LSJ. Comparably methodical attention to a subset of Byzantine Greek has been given by Emmanuel Kriaras, and collaborators, in the Λεξικὸ τῆς μεσαιωνικῆς Ἑλληνικῆς δημώδους γραμματείας, 1100-1669 (1968- ), with the aim of systematic coverage of vernacular literature starting from its recognizable origins. Work began in 1959, and coverage has progressed only partway through Ρ. More recently, simultaneous work has been undertaken on an abridged version, with revisions and emendations, which now reaches from Α partway through Π.2 Mention should also be made of the nine-volume Μέγα λεξικὸν τῆς Ἑλληνικῆς γλώσσης of Demetrios Demetrakos (Athens 1936-1951), which, though proceeding primarily by compilation from existing lexica, remains the only attempt at coverage of the Greek language over the full course of its history, from Homer through the present day, and integrates literary sources with documentary texts from inscriptions and papyri.

The tradition begun by Meursius and Du Cange sees a significant new achievement in the LBG, the largest congeries of Byzantine words yet, with the benefit of sound and systematic methodology. The project has been jointly centered at Vienna and Bonn and edited by Erich Trapp with various collaborators over its course. The publications have appeared in two phases of four fascicles each: Band I (Α-Κ), 1994-2001, and Band 2 (Λ-Ω), 2005-2017. As noted, preparatory work dates back to 1965, and sample lemmata for Η were offered in 1985.3

In a program outlined in a series of valuable companion publications by Trapp and his collaborators on lexicography and its contribution to Byzantine studies,4 the LBG takes as its core the “theologische und nicht-fachwissenschaftliche profane Literatur” of the ninth through twelfth centuries, with secondary consideration of sixth- through eighth-century sources for words not included in LSJ and Lampe. There has been a more selective review of literary texts from the fourth through eighth (especially hagiography) and thirteenth through fifteenth centuries, excluding the vernacular, and of technical literature and documentary sources, including papyri and inscriptions. LBG is conceived fundamentally as an “Aufbaulexikon” on the model of Lampe, with respect to the latter and LSJ, concentrating on new words and significant changes in Byzantine usage. For common words, attestations are limited to the earliest.

The extensive, if not exhaustive, collection of sources is concisely attested by the 91-page Verzeichnis der Abkürzungen, now issued in a definitive form accompanying the final fascicle. Trapp estimated in 1985 that a completed lexicon would contain approximately 50,000 lemmata. I have not seen a final tally in print, but from the total of 2,060 pages for the full lexicon, and the nearly 74,500 lemmata from fascicles 1-7 available online (see below), a rough estimate of c. 86,000 total seems plausible.

Lemmata offer accurate and succinct German translations, followed by sources and context (for limitations of space, only selectively), with helpful indications of their date. Slipping relies on indices, but is also informed as much as possible by fresh reading of the source texts, especially for the core period. References to other lexica and similar resources are also provided. Some of the references of Du Cange to unpublished manuscript material have been taken over (e.g., 2033a s.v. χωροκώμη), and resources used for control and completion of the lemmata include an unpublished word-list prepared by the philologist Emmanuel Miller, and collation with the digital TLG.

There are also selective etymologies for the many words of foreign derivation in Byzantine Greek, from, e.g., French, 1799b s.v. τρέβα; Medieval Latin, 1795b s.v. τρανσλαταρίζω; Turkish, 1793a s.v. τοῦφαξ; Italian, 1778b s.v. τζοῦστρα; Slavic 1774b s.v. τζελνίκος; Persian 1782a, s.v. τιμάριον. Occasionally there is room for improvement: e.g., τζεμέην at 1775a is defined as “Versammlungsort” and referred to Arabic ǧāmiʾ, apparently a misprint for ǧāmiʿa. Recourse to the cited source to confirm this correction shows that in context the reference is to the Umayyad mosque at Damascus,5 and hence a parenthetical reference to the more specific sense required here, “mosque,” would have been helpful; the lemma cites the Greek gloss συναγωγὴ τόπου supplied by the same source, but it may otherwise not be obvious that the meaning must be “local congregation.”

Uncertainty about definitions is frankly acknowledged with a query, and some especially difficult words are included without an attempt at definition. These lemmata will hopefully spur future lexicographical studies, in which direction I offer a few notes.

At 1782b, τιμογλύφιος is recorded without definition from a Life of St. Catherine.6 In context, the term is applied in a parody of a rhetorical declamation, to the magician Iambres, who is praised for having written efficacious treatises on necromancy. The declamation is delivered in a competition set by the emperor Maxentius, to test the skill of the saint, described as consummately trained “in the knife and pen of rhetoric” (γλυφίδι καὶ καλάμῳ ῥητορικῷ). Maxentius calls for a discourse “skillfully carved” (σαφῶς τορνευθείς), and Catherine retorts to one boastful competitor, “you know not even the butt of the orator’s knife” (οὐδὲ πτέρναν γλυφίδος ῥήτορος ἐπίστασαι). This amusing text abounds in nonce-words, of which τιμογλύφιος appears to be one: in the context of this conceit (rhetoric = knife, chisel) we might translate “renowned carver” or “phrase-turner.” The attractive v.l. ἑτοιμογλύφιος, “ready carver” in the same sense has not found a place in LBG, though its (senseless?) counterpart v.l. τρυμογλύφιος appears at 1824b.

At 1778b, τζυάκλης is given from Niketas Choniates (PG 140:137A) as “Sodomit,” in context an insult applied by an Armenian and glossed in Greek as κτηνοβατούμενος. The interpretation of LBG is clearly superior to the parallel Latin version furnished by Migne, homo belluino more gradiens, but remains decorously vague. I suggest instead “livestock-fucker” (in the passive role, certainly a stronger insult as such, cf. κτηνοβατέω as already included in LBG from this very passage, where it is analyzed as middle).

Some quibbles with selection and referencing may be illustrated by two samples: at 2034a ψαλιδωτός, “gewölbt,” is cited from SEG LIV 1385, which leads to a lengthy lemma reviewing an entire volume of inscriptions, I.Perge II, eventually citing the word in question as remarkable under “special terms and vocabulary.” Readers would surely have appreciated a reference in the first instance to the inscription itself, I.Perge II 366. There follows TAM III.1.590.11 (wrongly cited as 390 in the lemma). As helpfully marked in both cases, the former inscription is probably to be dated to the second century CE, and the latter to the third. As such, both sources, the only ones cited for this lemma, fall outside even the expansive starting point of “Byzantine” generally adopted for this project, the foundation of Constantinople as imperial capital. Other lemmata extend even earlier, such as χρυσωτός (2028a), entered solely from P.Oxy. LXXIX 5202.10, of the first century CE. It would be mean-spirited to censure the inclusion of such words, but one might have hoped for some further methodological discussion in the preface or companion lexicographical studies on their selection criteria and scope – as further complements to LSJ and Lampe? – with an announcement to users that such information, beyond the stated chronological scope, is also available. Both ψαλιδωτός and χρυσωτός at least are already found in LSJ, but without these new references.

The supplement of previously printed fascicles is already under way.7 In an afterword to fascicle 8, Trapp reflects on approaches to addenda and corrigenda accumulated over the course of the project and envisions an “Ergänzungsdatenbank zum LBG,” perhaps to be maintained online. Due to the pace of epigraphical and papyrological publications in particular, addenda are likely already in order for the final fascicle. A further help in this process should be the recently-published Wörterlisten compiled by Dieter Hagedorn and Klaus Maresch and maintained online. One addendum can be proposed here, from the mass of later Byzantine technical literature, the coverage of which was admittedly less systematic: χριάω, a by-form of χρίω, as the form underlying the perfect participles χριωμένον and χριωμένη in Demetrios Pepagomenos, Iatrikon. 8

The book is elegantly and carefully typeset. The content of the entire LBG will be made available without subscription in partnership with the TLG project: currently fascicles 1-7 are online, which already increases the utility of the material by allowing users to search in “meanings” (i.e., the text of lemmata) in addition to headwords.

Erich Trapp and his team should be congratulated on a lexicon whose adoption as an essential tool for Byzantinists is well deserved. For readers of BMCR it should be stressed once again that the LBG holds much of interest to Classicists, especially those who deal with papyri and inscriptions, and to students of the late ancient, medieval, and early modern Mediterranean area.


1.   For previous attempts and their shortcomings: E. Trapp, “Stand und Perspektiven der mittelgriechischen Lexikographie,” in E. Trapp et al., Studien zur byzantinischen Lexikographie (Vienna 1988) 11-46.
2.   I.N. Kazazes, T.A. Karanastases, Ἐπιτομὴ τοῦ Λεξικοῦ τῆς μεσαιωνικῆς Ἑλληνικῆς δημώδους γραμματείας, 1100-1669 (Thessalonike 2001- ).
3.   E. Trapp, W. Hörandner, J. Diethart, Jahrbuch der österreichischen Byzantinistik 35 (1985) 149-170.
4.   Besides the preface of fascicle 1, see most recently E. Trapp, S. Schönauer (edd.), Lexicologica Byzantina. Beiträge zum Kolloquium zur byzantinischen Lexikographie (Bonn, 13.–15. Juli 2007) (Bonn 2008).
5.   K.-P. Todt, Bartholomaios von Edessa, Confutatio Agareni (Würzburg 1988) 94.15.
6.   J. Viteau, Passions des saints Écaterine et Pierre d’Alexandrie, Barbara et Anysia (Paris 1897) 30.
7.   For some published proposals: D.R. Reinsch, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 89 (1996) 497-500; G.S. Henrich, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 91 (1998) 590-595, 93 (2000) 656-658, 96 (2003) 327-329, 100 (2007) 226-228; T. Antonopoulou, Byzantion 70 (2000) 9-24; A. Failler, Revue des études byzantines 64 (2006) 414-416; A. Rhoby, Jahrbuch der österreichischen Byzantinistik 57 (2007) 1-16, 62 (2012) 111-118; J. Diethart, C. Grassien, W. Voigt, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 105 (2012) 635-644 (further bibliography).
8.   Recension C §25; and ibid. §26, with recension L §31, ed. M. Capone Ciollaro, Demetrio Pepagomeno, Prontuario medico (Naples 2003).

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