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On Line Library of the Church of Greece

Walter Berschin

Valuation and Knowledge of Greek 

From: Greek Letters and the Latin Middle Ages. From Jerome to Nicholas of Cusa   Translated by Jerold C. Frakes. Revised and expanded edition. The Catholic University of America Press, http://cuapress.cua.edu/  


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4. Glossaries and Other Sources of Greek Vocabulary -Greek Influence on the Medieval Latin Vocabulary

A considerable amount of Greek vocabulary was accessible to the Latin Middle Ages through the bilingual glossaries which had been handed down from the schools of antiquity and which even contained some idioms. The most important such Latin-Greek glossary which came down to the Middle Ages was that of "Philoxenus." Only one Carolingian manuscript has been preserved. In the sixteenth century, a second manuscript was at St.Germain-des-Prés in Paris, which was used for the Stephanus edition of 1573 before disappearing.45 A Greek-Latin counterpart is extant in the "Cyrillus glossary" of an eighth-century uncial manuscript, which came to its present repository -London- via the library of Nicholas of Cusa.

London, BL Harl. 5792 ed. G. Goetz and G. Gundermann, Corpus Glossarium Latinorum, II  215-483 (glossae graeco-latinae) and 487-506 (idiomata). In their description of the manuscript (pp. xx ff:), the editors date the codex "saec. VII"; in the first edition of CLA II, Lowe dates it "saec. VII-VIII"; Β. Bischoff ("Panorama der Handschriftenüberlieferung aus der Zeit Karls des Großen," in Karl der Große [Dusseldorf 1965], II, p. 249, no. 124) dates it "saec.VIII ex." Cf. Lowe in the second edition of CLA (1972), II, no. 203. The problem of the date of the codex, as well as the as yet unsolved problem of its provenance -Italy or Gaul- is important for its epochal classification: does this monument of Greek studies belong to the "Byzantine" or "Lombard" culture of Italy, in the "Merovingian" or "Carolingian" period? These four cultural spheres are temporally and spatially quite near one another in the eighth century. On the "Cyrillus glossary" and related dictionaries, see most recently J. Gribomont, "Saint Bède et ses dictionaires grecs," RB 89 (1979), 271-80.

The glossary of MS Laon 444, the famous textbook manuscript written by Irishmen in Laon during the second half of the ninth century, is closely related to the "Cyrillus glossary." Text witnesses for the large old glossaries are conspicuously lacking from the high and late Middle Ages.  

The textual tradition of the "Hermeneumata," a language textbook existing in many versions and consisting of three parts -a glossary, a terminological index organized according to topic (animals, plants, medicine, etc.), and reading and conversation passages- also extends essentially no further back than the Carolingian period; various passages were handed down to the high Middle Ages in trivialized form.46

 The works of Latin lexicography, flourishing since the eleventh century, incorporated Greek material, but the knowledge and pseudo- knowledge of Greek possessed by these authors served only to further disorient Greek studies. Greek terms were used by the lexicographers in the deflnition of words and were themselves "etymologically" interpreted. Throughout the high Middle Ages, beginning with the Elementarium doctrinae erudimentum (ca. 1050) of the Lombard Papias, one can follow a constantly deteriorating "lexicographer Greek," in which Greek nouns usually end in -os and -on, verbs in -in and -on; Greek compounds are dismembered for the sake of etymological explanation, and the elements of the compounds then go their own separate ways as independent "Greek" words." Through the Derivationes of Hugh of Pisa, the Grecismus of Eberhard of Béthune, and the Cornutus of John Garland, this form of Greek also asserted itself in the late medieval schools and universities, although the reaction against the corrupted "school Greek" began even in the thirteenth century: a comprehensive Greek-Latin lexicon, with declensional and conjugational information on the Greek words, was produced in England, where Bishop Robert Grosseteste fostered Greek studies (London, College of Arms, MS Arundel 9). 

Glossaries were, however, neither the sole sources for Greek and pseudo-Greek words during the Middle Ages nor the ones most often used. Numerous Graeca were found in the works of Quintilian, Lactantius, Jerome,  Macrobius, and Priscian, the majority of whom were "school authors" of the Middle Ages; some of these words were exceedingly corrupt, while others were intelligibly transmitted and even passed into the active vocabulary of the Latin Middle Ages.  

The false paths occasionally traveled by scholarship before a medieval Graecolatinum of this kind was correctly understood and its origin ascertained may be illustrated by foronimus. The term occurs in a Reichenau Mauritius sequence of the tenth century:


deo carus et foronimus

cunctae militiae praefuit.

Clemens Blume read Foronimus without hesitation in his edition, Analecta Hymnica (vol. 53, p. 304), and thus created a saint who exists neither in the Theban legend nor anywhere else. Von den Steinen (Notker, I, 611) remarks that foronimus stands for ΦΕΡΩΝΥΜΟC = "der seinen Namen ('der Unschuldige') mit Recht trägt" ("who bears his name ['the innocent one'] legitimately"). He also notes a parallel: "The rare word also occurs at the same time in Ruotger's vita of Brun of Cologne, written soon after 965 ["... quibus abbatem preposuit nomine Christianum, sue videlicet professionis foronomum"; ed. I. Schmale-Ott (Cologne/Graz 1952), c. 28, pp. 28 f ]. Did Ruotger know the sequence; or was he in the chancery with its poet around 950? It is indeed a small world. ... " More probable than such a relationship is the independent discovery of the word by the poet of the Reichenau sequence and the Cologne biographer-either in John the Deacon's widely read vita of Gregory the Great (c. I 2: Quod ΦΕΡΩΝΥΜΟC fuerit) or directly in Jerome's epist. 47: "Gratulor tibi et sanctae atque uenerabili sorori tuae Serenillae, quae ΦΕΡΩΝΥΜΩC calcatis fluctibus saeculi ad Christi tranquilla peruenit" ("I congratulate you and Serenilla, your holy and reverend sister, who in terms of her own name has reached the peace of Christ through the trampling storms of the world"); CSEL 54, 345 f.

The technical language of the VII artes liberales was and continued to be imbued with Greek and Grecisms, especially conspicuous in rhetoric,48 dialectic, and astronomy, but certainly most extensively in music. Since the VII artes liberales were the determining factors in the school system until the high Middle Ages, the tradition of the late antique Grecistic technical language was thus guaranteed, and not merely as scholarly ballast, but even as an influential part of poetic vocabulary. The technical language of medicine also made extensive use of Grecisms -as it still does today. The Christian theology of the West had felt the pervasive influence of Greek since late antiquity, and, in the course of the centuries, the Greek elements had been integrated rather than eliminated.49 

The ease with which Greek terms and terminological elements were incorporated into the Medieval Latin vocabulary is surprising. Μany Medieval Latin Grecisms came about by more complicated means than did anthropus, perhaps introduced by Alcuin, in which only the ending was latinized.50 Thus, the technical compound chirotheca, for a bishop's glove, was invented in the tenth century from the syllable chir-, familiar from numerous compounds (cf. chirurgia, etc. ) and theca; the word became a fashionable "Greek" term which simply did not exist in Constantinople.51 The useful word biblia was apparently not invented before the twelfth century, perhaps as a shortened form of the old designation for a manuscript of the complete Bible-bibliotheca.52 The prefix archi- was much used in Medieval Latin;53 word formations with anti- and pseudo- "received an impetus in the Investiture Controversy."54 Compounds with poly- (poli-) had publicity value as book titles, in which a tendency toward Grecisms is in general to be found: Brachylogus, Catholicon, Dragmaticon, Geronticon, Gnotosolitos (from ΓΝΩΘΙ CΕΑΥΤΟΝ!), Hypognosticon, Metalogicon, Micrologus, Pancrisis, Pantheon, Policratus,  Polipticum (ΠOΛΥΠΤΥXOΝ 'many-paged book'), Proslogion, ...55 An ancient tendency lives on here in the Latin Middle Ages: six Greek and only one Latin title occur in the works of Prudentius (Cathemerinon, Apotheosis, Hamartigenia, Psychomachia, Peristephanon, Dittochaeum -Contra Symmachum).  Such models called forth emulation, and just as Prudentius' Greek titles should actually be written in Greek -Gennadius explicitly cites  ΑΠΟΘΕΩCIC,  ΨΥXOΜΑXlA, AΜΑΡΤΙΓΕΝΕΙΑ (De viris illustribus, c. 13) -it would comply with the intentions of the authors to render many of the Grecistic medieval Latin titles with Greek script. That certainly holds true for the ΑΝΤΙΚΕΙΜΕΝΟΝ of Julian of Toledo, and probably also for his ΠPOΓΝΩCΤIΚOΝ, certainly for John Scottus' ΠEP1 ΦYCEΩC MΕPICMΟY or Liber  ΠΕPI ΦΥCΕΩΝ and Liudprand's Liber AΝΤΑΠOΔOCΕΩC or ΑΝΤAΠOΔOCIC, probably also for Anselm of Havelberg's ΑΝΤΙΚΕΙΜΕΝΟΝ- or Liber AΝΤΙΚΕΙΜΕΝΩΝ, in which the German of the twelfth century appropriated the title from a Spaniard of the seventh century.

Μany Greek words and Grecisms entered the Latin language through the adoption by the West of material objects, techniques and crafts, and modes of behavior from the East -in the domains of philosophy (analysis for the first time in Albertus Magnus), medicine (argalia 'catheter' first in Constantinus Africanus), astronomy (astrolabium or astrolapsus, for instance, in Hermannus Contractus), seafaring (chelandium 'warship' in Agnellus of Ravenna and Liudprand of Cremona), etc.56The Latin vocabulary of "common usage" was not "expanded to any great degree" ("der usuelle Wortschatz [hat] keinen nennenswerten Zuwachs erhalten")57 through the adoption of Greek words or neologisms on Greek models; even so, the Greek coloring of Medieval Latin cannot be ignored. The creative freedom to adapt Greek words to Latin usage was an opportunity consciously exploited by many authors to render their Latin richer and more colorful. In the later Middle Ages, Greek asserted itself as a component of the Medieval Latin scientific language, which -then as now- oftentimes brutally dismembers the language in forming its technical terms.