Didymus Chalcenterus

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Didymus (Δίδυμος)
Bornc. 63 BC
Diedc. 10
Rome (?)

Didymus Chalcenterus (Latin; Greek: Δίδυμος Χαλκέντερος, Didymos Chalkenteros, "Didymus Bronze-Guts"; c. 63 BC – c. AD 10), was an Ancient Greek scholar and grammarian who flourished in the time of Cicero and Augustus.


The epithet "Bronze-Guts" came from his indefatigable industry: he was said to have written so many books that he was unable to recollect what he had written in earlier ones, and so often contradicted himself. (Athenaeus records that he wrote 3500 books; Seneca gives the figure of 4000.)[1] As a result, he acquired the additional nickname Bibliolathes (βιβλιολάθης, Biblioláthēs), meaning "Book-Forgetter".

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.[2]


He was a follower of the school of Aristarchus, and wrote a treatise on Aristarchus' edition of Homer entitled On Aristarchus' recension (περὶ τῆς Ἀριστάρχου διορθωσέως), fragments of which are preserved in the Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad.[2]

He also wrote commentaries on many other Greek poets and prose authors.[2] He is known to have written on Greek lyric poets, notably Bacchylides and Pindar, and on drama; the better part of the Pindar and Sophocles scholia originated with Didymus. The Aristophanes scholia also cite him often, and he is known to have written treatises on Euripides, Ion, Phrynichus,[3] Cratinus, Menander,[4] and many of the Greek orators including Demosthenes, Isaeus, Hypereides, Deinarchus, and others.

Besides these commentaries there are mentions of the following works, none of which survives:

  • On phraseology in tragedy (περὶ τραγῳδουμένης λέξεως), which comprised at least 28 books[5]
  • Comic phraseology (λέξις κωμική), of which Hesychius made much use[6]
  • a third linguistic work on words of ambiguous or uncertain meaning, comprising at least seven books
  • a fourth linguistic work on false or corrupt expressions
  • a collection of Greek proverbs (πρὸς τοὺς περὶ παροιμιῶν συντεταχότας) comprising thirteen books, from which most of the proverbs in Zenobius' collection are taken[7]
  • On the laws of Solon (περὶ τῶν ἀξόνων Σόλωνος), a work mentioned by Plutarch[8]
  • A response to Cicero's De re publica, comprising six books,[9] which later induced Suetonius to write a counter-response[10]

In addition there survive extracts on agriculture and botany,[11] mention of a commentary on Hippocrates, and a completely surviving treatise On all types of marble and wood (περὶ μαρμάρων καὶ παντοίων ξύλων).[12] In view of the drastic difference in subject matter it is possible that these represent the work of a different Didymos.[13]

Further insight into Didymus' methods of writing was provided by the discovery of a papyrus fragment of his commentary on the Philippics of Demosthenes. This confirms that he was not an original researcher, but a scrupulous compiler who made many quotations from earlier writers, and who was prepared to comment about chronology and history, as well as rhetoric and style.[14]

In fiction[edit]



  • Scholia on the Iliad:
    Erbse, H. 1969-88, Scholia Graeca in Homeri Iliadem, 7 vols. (Berlin)
  • Didymus' work reconstructed from the Iliad scholia:
    Schmidt, M. 1964 [1854], Didymi Chalcenteri grammatici Alexandrini fragmenta quae supersunt omnia, reprint (Amsterdam)
  • The commentary on Demosthenes:,
    Didymos: On Demosthenes, edited with a translation by Philip Harding, 2006 (OUP)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Athenaeus 4.139; Seneca Letters 88. Cf. also Quintilian 1.9.19.
  2. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Didymus Chalcenterus". Encyclopædia Britannica. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 208.
  3. ^ Athenaeus 9.371.
  4. ^ Etymol. Gud. 338.25.
  5. ^ Macrobius Sat. 5.18; Harpocration s.v. ξηραλοιφεῖν.
  6. ^ Hesychius, letter to Eulogius; cf. Etymologicum Magnum 492.53, scholia on Apollonius 1.1139 and 4.1058.
  7. ^ Schneidewin, Corpus Paroemiogr. Graec. i.xiv.
  8. ^ Plutarch, Life of Solon 1.
  9. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus 22.16.
  10. ^ Suda s.v. Τραγκύλλος.
  11. ^ Preserved in the Geoponica.
  12. ^ Edited by Angelo Mai 1819 (Milan), as an appendix to the Iliadic fragments.
  13. ^ See Gräfenheim, Geschichte der klassische Philologie im Alterthum i.405, etc.
  14. ^ L.D.Reynolds & N.G.Wilson, Scribes and Scholars (OUP,1968), p.17.
  15. ^ "The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved January 29, 2016.
  16. ^ "Review: The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston". Kirkus Reviews. September 3, 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2016.

Further reading[edit]