Priscian


Priscian
Priscian, or the Grammar, relief from the bell tower of Florence by Luca della Robbia

Priscianus Caesariensis (fl. 500 AD), commonly known as Priscian, was a Latin grammarian. He wrote the Institutiones grammaticae ("Grammatical Foundations") on the subject. This work was the standard textbook for the study of Latin during the Middle Ages and provided the raw material for the field of speculative grammar.

Contents

Biography

The details of Priscian's life are largely unknown. Priscian was of Greek descent, and was born and raised in Caesarea (modern Cherchell, Algeria) the capital of the Roman province of Mauretania Caesariensis. According to Cassiodorus, he taught Latin at Constantinople.[1] Priscian's minor works include a panegyric to Anastasius (491—518), written about 512,[2] which helps establish his time period. In addition, the manuscripts of his Institutiones grammaticae contain a subscription to the effect that the work was copied (526, 527) by Flavius Theodorus, a clerk in the imperial secretariat.

Works

Priscian's most famous work, the Institutiones grammaticae, is a systematic exposition of Latin grammar. The dedication to Julian probably indicates the consul and patrician, not the author of a well-known epitome of Justinian's Novellae, who lived somewhat later than Priscian. The grammar is divided into eighteen books, of which the first sixteen deal mainly with sounds, word-formation and inflexions; the last two, which form from a fourth to a third of the whole work, deal with syntax.

Priscian's grammar is based on the earlier works of Herodian and Apollonius. The examples it includes to illustrate the rules preserve numerous fragments from Latin authors which would otherwise have been lost, including Ennius, Pacuvius, Accius, Lucilius, Cato and Varro. But the authors whom he quotes most frequently are Virgil, and, next to him, Terence, Cicero, Plautus; then Lucan, Horace, Juvenal, Sallust, Statius, Ovid, Livy and Persius.

The grammar was quoted by several writers in Britain of the 8th century - Aldhelm, Bede, Alcuin - and was abridged or largely used in the next century by Hrabanus Maurus of Fulda and Servatus Lupus of Ferrières. About a thousand manuscripts exist, all ultimately derived from the copy made by Theodorus. Most copies contain only books I—XVI (sometimes called Priscianus major), some include only (with the three books Ad Symmachum) books XVII and XVIII. (Priscianus minor), and a few contain both parts. The earliest manuscripts are from the 9th century, though a few fragments are somewhat earlier.

Priscian's minor works include

  • Three treatises dedicated to Symmachus (the father-in-law of Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius): on weights and measures; on the metres of Terence; and the Praeexercitamina, a translation into Latin of Greek rhetorical exercises from Hermogenes.
  • De nomine, pronomine, et verbo ("On noun, pronoun, and verb"), an abridgment of part of his Institutiones for teaching grammar in schools
  • Partitiones xii. versuum Aeneidos principalium: another teaching aid, using question and answer to dissect the first twelve lines of the Aeneid. The metre is discussed first, each verse is scanned, and each word thoroughly and instructively examined.
  • The poem on Anastasius mentioned above, in 312 hexameters with a short iambic introduction
  • A verse translation into 1087 hexameters of Dionysius's Periegesis, or geographical survey of the world.

Notes

  1. ^ Keil, Gr. Lat. vii. 207
  2. ^  "Priscianus". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 

Editions and translations

  • Prisciani caesariensis grammatici opera ... Edited by Augvst Krehl. Lipsiae: Weidmann, 1819-20.
  • Prisciani institutionum grammaticalium librorum I-XVI, indices et concordantiae. Curantibus Cirilo Garcia Roman, Marco A. Gutierrez Galindo. Hildesheim, New York: Olms-Weidmann, 2001.
  • Prisciani institutionum grammaticalium librorum XVII et XVIII, indices et concordantiae. Curantibus Cirilo Garcia Roman, Marco A. Gutierrez Galindo, Maria del Carmen Diaz de Alda Carlos. Hildesheim, New York: Olms-Weidmann, 1999.
  • Priscians Darstellung des silbisch gebundenen Tonhöhenmorenakzents des Lateinischen. Latin Text and German translation with commentary of De accdentibus.
  • Prisciani Caesariensis opuscula. Critical edition edited by Marina Passalacqua witn commentary in Italian. Roma: Edizioni di storia e letteratura, 1987 (vol. I: De figuris numerorum. De metris Terentii. Praeexercitamina; vol. II: Institutio de nomine et pronomine et verbo partitiones duodecim versuum aeneidos principalium)
  • Priscien, Grammaire. Livre XVII – Syntaxe I, Paris: Vrin 2010. (French translation)

References

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

  • M. Baratin, B. Colombat, L. Holtz, éds. 2009. Priscien. Transmission et refondation de la grammaire, de l'antiquité aux modernes, Brepols Publishers. ISBN 978-2-503-53074-1.
  • Schönberger, A. 2008. Priscians Darstellung der lateinischen Präpositionen: lateinischer Text und kommentierte deutsche Übersetzung des 14. Buches der Institutiones Grammaticae, Frankfurt am Main: Valentia, 2008, ISBN 978-3-936132-18-2 (German translation of book XIV; first translation into a modern language.)
  • Schönberger, A. 2009. Priscians Darstellung der lateinischen Pronomina: lateinischer Text und kommentierte deutsche Übersetzung des 12. und 13. Buches der Institutiones Grammaticae, Frankfurt am Main: Valentia. ISBN 978-3-936132-34-2 (German translation of books XII-XIII; first translation into a modern language.)
  • Schönberger, A. 2010. Priscians Darstellung der lateinischen Syntax (I): lateinischer Text und kommentierte deutsche Übersetzung des 17. Buches der Institutiones Grammaticae, Frankfurt am Main: Valentia. ISBN 978-3-936132-10-6 (German translation of book XVII = first book of the "Priscianus minor"; first translation into a modern language.)
  • Schönberger, A. 2010. Priscians Darstellung der lateinischen Konjunktionen: lateinischer Text und kommentierte deutsche Übersetzung des 16. Buches der Institutiones Grammaticae, Frankfurt am Main: Valentia. ISBN 978-3-936132-09-0 (German translation of book XVI; first translation into a modern language.)
  • Schönberger, A. 2010. Priscians Darstellung des silbisch gebundenen Tonhöhenmorenakzents des Lateinischen: lateinischer Text und kommentierte deutsche Übersetzung des Buches über den lateinischen Akzent, Frankfurt am Main: Valentia. ISBN 978-3-936132-11-3 (German translation of De accentibus; first translation into a modern language)).

Further reading

  • Luhtala, Anneli. 2005. Grammar and philosophy in late Antiquity: a study of Priscian's sources. John Benjamins. Series: Studies in the history of the language sciences; 107. Preview available at Google Books as of February 2011.

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Priscian — from L. Priscianus, name of a celebrated Roman grammarian (c.500 530); hence to break Priscian s head (1520s) to violate rules of grammar (L. diminuere Prisciani caput) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Priscian — [prish′ən, prish′ē ən] (L. name Priscianus Caesariensis) fl. A.D. 500: Latin grammarian …   English World dictionary

  • Priscian — /prish ee euhn, prish euhn/, n. fl. A.D. c500, Latin grammarian. * * * Latin Priscianus Caesariensis born с 500, Caesarea, Mauretania Latin grammarian. He used the writings of Apollonius Dyscolus on Greek grammar as a guide in producing his own… …   Universalium

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  • Priscian — biographical name flourished A.D. 500 Priscianus Caesariensis Latin grammarian at Constantinople …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • PRISCIAN —    Latin grammarian of the 6th century, born in Cæsarea; was author of Grammatical Commentaries in 18 books, a standard work during the Middle Ages, and in universal use at that time …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Priscian —    Distinguished Latin grammarian and poet who left Vandalic North Africa to settle in Constantinople, where he wrote a panegyric to the emperor Anastasios I (qq.v.) ca. 503. His chief work was a voluminous work on Latin grammar that became a… …   Historical dictionary of Byzantium

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  • Priscian — Pris•ci•an [[t]ˈprɪʃ i ən, ˈprɪʃ ən[/t]] n. big fl. a.d. c500, Latin grammarian …   From formal English to slang


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