Aristophanes of Byzantium

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Aristophanes of Byzantium
Bornc. 257 BC
Diedc. 185/180 BC
(modern-day Egypt)

Aristophanes of Byzantium (Greek: Ἀριστοφάνης ὁ Βυζάντιος Aristophánēs ho Buzántios; c. 257 – c. 185/180 BC) was a Hellenistic Greek scholar, critic and grammarian, particularly renowned for his work in Homeric scholarship, but also for work on other classical authors such as Pindar and Hesiod. Born in Byzantium about 257 BC, he soon moved to Alexandria and studied under Zenodotus, Callimachus, and Dionysius Iambus. He succeeded Eratosthenes as head librarian of the Library of Alexandria at the age of sixty.


Aristophanes was the first to deny that the "Precepts of Chiron" was the work of Hesiod.[1]


Accent system[edit]

Aristophanes is credited with the invention of the accent system used in Greek to designate pronunciation, as the tonal, pitched system of archaic and Classical Greek was giving way (or had given way) to the stress-based system of Koine. This was also a period when Greek, in the wake of Alexander's conquests, was beginning to act as a lingua franca for the Eastern Mediterranean (replacing various Semitic languages). The accents were designed to assist in the pronunciation of Greek in older literary works.


He also invented one of the first forms of punctuation in c. 200 BC; single dots (théseis, Latin distinctiones) that separated verses (colometry), and indicated the amount of breath needed to complete each fragment of text when reading aloud (not to comply with rules of grammar, which were not applied to punctuation marks until centuries later). For a short passage (a komma), a stigmḕ mésē dot was placed mid-level (·). This is the origin of the modern comma punctuation mark, and its name. For a longer passage (a kolon), a hypostigmḗ dot was placed level with the bottom of the text (.), similar to a modern colon or semicolon, and for very long pauses (periodos), a stigmḕ teleía point near the top of the line of text (·).[2][3][4] He used a symbol resembling a for an obelus.


As a lexicographer he compiled collections of archaic and unusual words. He died in Alexandria around 185–180 BC. His students included Callistratus, Aristarchus of Samothrace, and perhaps Agallis.

Surviving works[edit]

All that has survived of Aristophanes of Byzantium's voluminous writings are a few fragments preserved through quotation in the literary commentaries, or scholia, of later writers, several argumenta to works of Greek drama, and part of a glossary.[5] The most recent edition of the extant fragments was edited by William J. Slater.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ H. G. Evelyn-White, tr. Hesiod II: The Homeric Hymns and Homerica (Loeb Classical Library 503), 2nd ed. 1936 fr. 4.
  2. ^ Reading Before Punctuation Archived September 2, 2006, at the Wayback MachineIntroduction to Latin Literature handout, Haverford College
  3. ^ A History Of Punctuation
  4. ^ Bliss, Robert. "Points to Ponder". Software Technology Support Center. Archived from the original on 28 November 2002. Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  5. ^ Beach, Frederick Converse (1912). The Americana: A Universal Reference Library. Vol. 2. New York City, New York: Scientific American Compiling Department. Retrieved 21 July 2017.
  6. ^ Aristophanis Byzantii fragmenta, Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1986.

General sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by Head of the Library of Alexandria Succeeded by