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Didymus Chalcenterus

Didymus Chalcenterus (c. 63 BC to AD 10), was a Greek scholar and grammarian who flourished in the time of Cicero and Augustus.

His surname (meaning brazen-bowelled) came from his indefatigable industry: he was said to have written so many books (more than 3500) that he was unable to recollect their names.

He lived and taught in Alexandria and Rome, where he became the friend of Varro. He is chiefly important as having introduced Alexandrian learning to the Romans. He was a follower of the school of Aristarchus, upon whose recension of Homer he wrote a treatise, fragments of which have been preserved in the Venetian Scholia. He also wrote commentaries on many other Greek poets and prose authors.

In his work on the lyric poets he treated of the various classes of poetry and their chief representatives, and his lists of words and phrases (used in tragedy and comedy and by orators and historians), of words of doubtful meaning, and of corrupt expressions, furnished the later grammarians with valuable material. His activity extended to all kinds of subjects:

  • grammar (orthography, inflexions)
  • proverbs
  • wonderful stories
  • the law-tablets of Solon
  • stones
  • different kinds of wood.

His polemic against Cicero's De republica (Ammianus Marcellinus xxii. 16) provoked a reply from Suetonius. In spite of his stupendous industry, Didymus was little more than a compiler, of little critical judgment and doubtful accuracy, but he deserves recognition for having incorporated in his numerous writings the works of earlier critics and commentators.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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