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Hesychius of Alexandria

Hesychius of Alexandria grammarian of Alexandria, probably flourished in the 5th century AD.

He was probably a pagan; and the explanations of words from Gregory Nazianzus and other Christian writers (glossae sacrae) are interpolations of a later time. He has left a Greek dictionary, containing 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 and Theocritus, who used many unusual words, its value can hardly be exaggerated.

The explanations of many epithets and phrases 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 (itself extracted from an earlier work by Pamphilus), but that he has also used similar works by Aristarchus, Apion, Heliodorus and others.

The text is very corrupt, and the order of the words has often been disturbed. There is no doubt that many interpolations, besides the Christian glosses, have been made. The work has come down to us from a single manuscript, now in the library at Venice, from which the editio princeps was published. The best edition is by M Schmidt (1858-1868); in a smaller edition (1867) he attempts to distinguish the additions made by Hesychius to the work of Diogenianus.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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