Aristophanes of Byzantium

Aristophanes (Ἀριστοφάνης) of Byzantium (c.257–c.180 BC) was a 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 B.C., he soon moved to Alexandria and studied under Zenodotus and Callimachus. He succeeded Eratosthenes as head librarian of the Library of Alexandria. at the age of 60.

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 the 3rd century BC; single dots (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 thousands of years later). For a short passage (a komma), a media distinctio dot was placed mid-level (·). This is the origin of the modern comma punctuation mark, and its name. For a longer passage (a colon), a subdistinctio dot was placed level with the bottom of the text (.), similar to a modern colon or semicolon, and for very long pauses (periodos), a distinctio point near the top of the line of text (·).[1][2][3]

He died in Alexandria around 185-180 B.C.


  1. ^ Reading Before Punctuation — Introduction to Latin Literature handout, Haverford College
  2. ^ A History Of Punctuation
  3. ^ Points to Ponder — STSC Crosstalk

See also

Alexandrian School

Alexandrian Canon

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