Hesychius of Alexandria
Hesychius of Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

(῾Ησύχιος ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς), a grammar
In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that govern the composition of clauses, phrases, and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics,...

ian who flourished probably in the 5th century CE, compiled the richest lexicon of unusual and obscure Greek words that has survived (in a single 15th century manuscript). The work, titled "Alphabetical Collection of All Words" (Συναγωγὴ Πασῶν Λεξέων κατὰ Στοιχεῖον), includes approximately 2640 entries, a copious list of peculiar words, forms and phrases, with an explanation of their meaning, and often with a reference to the author who used them or to the district of Greece where they were current. Hence, the book is of great value to the student of the Greek dialects, while in the restoration of the text of the classical authors generally, and particularly of such writers as Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

 and Theocritus
Theocritus , the creator of ancient Greek bucolic poetry, flourished in the 3rd century BC.-Life:Little is known of Theocritus beyond what can be inferred from his writings. We must, however, handle these with some caution, since some of the poems commonly attributed to him have little claim to...

, who used many unusual words, its value can hardly be exaggerated. Hesychius is important, not only for Greek philology, but also for studying lost languages and obscure dialects (such as Thracian
Thracian language
The Thracian language was the Indo-European language spoken in ancient times in Southeastern Europe by the Thracians, the northern neighbors of the Ancient Greeks. The Thracian language exhibits satemization: it either belonged to the Satem group of Indo-European languages or it was strongly...

 and the ancient Macedonian language
Ancient Macedonian language
Ancient Macedonian was the language of the ancient Macedonians. It was spoken in the kingdom of Macedon during the 1st millennium BCE and it belongs to the Indo-European group of languages...

) and in reconstructing Proto-Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...


Hesychius' explanations of many epithets and phrases also reveal many important facts about the religion and social life of the ancients.

In a prefatory letter Hesychius mentions that his lexicon is based on that of Diogenianus
Diogenianus was a Greek grammarian from Heraclea in Pontus who flourished during the reign of Hadrian. He was the author of an alphabetical lexicon, chiefly of poetical words, abridged from the great lexicon of Pamphilus of Alexandria and other similar works. It was also known by the title...

 (itself extracted from an earlier work by Pamphilus
Pamphilus of Alexandria
Pamphilus was a Greek grammarian, of the school of Aristarchus of Samothrace.He was the author of a comprehensive lexicon, in 95 books, of foreign or obscure words, the idea of which was credited to another grammarian, Zopyrion, himself the compiler of the first four books...

), but that he has also used similar works by the grammarian Aristarchus
Aristarchus of Samothrace
Aristarchus of Samothrace was a grammarian noted as the most influential of all scholars of Homeric poetry. He was the librarian of the library of Alexandria and seems to have succeeded his teacher Aristophanes of Byzantium in that role.He established the most historically important critical...

 of Samothrace
Samothrace is a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea. It is a self-governing municipality within the Evros peripheral unit of Thrace. The island is long and is in size and has a population of 2,723 . Its main industries are fishing and tourism. Resources on the island includes granite and...

, Apion
Apion , Graeco-Egyptian grammarian, sophist and commentator on Homer, was born at the Siwa Oasis, and flourished in the first half of the 1st century AD....

, Heliodorus
-People:Several persons named Heliodorus are known to us from ancient times, the best known of which are:*Heliodorus a minister of Seleucus IV Philopator ca...

, Amerias
Amerias was an ancient Macedonian lexicographer, known for his compilation of a glossary titled Glossai...

 and others.

Hesychius was probably not a convert
Religious conversion
Religious conversion is the adoption of a new religion that differs from the convert's previous religion. Changing from one denomination to another within the same religion is usually described as reaffiliation rather than conversion.People convert to a different religion for various reasons,...

 to Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

. Explanations of words from Gregory Nazianzus and other Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 writers (glossae sacrae) are later interpolations.

The lexicon survives in one deeply corrupt 15th century manuscript, which is preserved in the library of San Marco at Venice, (Marc. Gr. 622, 15th century). The best edition is by Moriz Wilhelm Constantin Schmidt (1858–1868), but no complete comparative edition of the manuscript has been published since it was first printed by Marcus Musurus
Marcus Musurus
Marcus Musurus was a Greek scholar and philosopher born in Retimo, Castello, Venetian Crete . The son of a rich merchant, he became at an early age a pupil of John Lascaris in Venice....

 (at the press of Aldus Manutius
Aldus Manutius
Aldus Pius Manutius , the Latinised name of Aldo Manuzio —sometimes called Aldus Manutius, the Elder to distinguish him from his grandson, Aldus Manutius, the Younger—was an Italian humanist who became a printer and publisher when he founded the Aldine Press at Venice.His publishing legacy includes...

) in Venice, 1514 (reprinted in 1520 and 1521 with modest revisions).

A modern edition has been published under the auspices of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

, begun by Kurt Latte
Kurt Latte
Kurt Latte was a German philologist and classical scholar known for his work on ancient Roman religion.His major work is Römische Religionsgeschichte , which was intended to replace the work of Georg Wissowa that by then was nearly 60 years old. Although widely referenced, Latte's work has not...

(vol. 1 published in 1953, vol. 2 posthumously in 1966) and completed by Peter Allan Hansen and Ian C. Cunningham (vol. 3, 2005, vol. 4, 2009).

External links

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