Suda

The Suda (Greek: Σοῦδα or alternatively Suidas Σουΐδας) is a massive 10th century Byzantine Greek historical encyclopædia of the ancient Mediterranean world. The derivation is from the Latin suda, meaning "fortress" or "stronghold". It is an encyclopædic lexicon with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost.


Little is known of the compilation of this work, except that it must have been before Eustathius (12th century, who frequently quotes it. Under the heading "Adam" the author of the lexicon (which a prefatory note states to be "by Suidas") gives a brief chronology of the world, ending with the death of the emperor John Zimisces (975), and under Constantinople his successors Basil II and Constantine VIII are mentioned.

It would thus appear that the Suda was compiled in the latter part of the 10th century. Passages referring to Michael Psellus (end of the 11th century) are considered later interpolations. The lexicon is arranged alphabetically with some slight deviations, letters and combinations of letters having the same sound being placed together. It thus partakes of the nature of both a dictionary and an encyclopaedia.

It includes numerous quotations from ancient writers; the scholiasts on Aristophanes, Homer, Sophocles and Thucydides are also much used. The biographical notices, the author tells us, are condensed from the Onomatologion or Pinax of Hesychius of Miletus; other sources were the excerpts of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the chronicle of Georgius Monachus, the biographies of Diogenes Laërtius and the works of Athenaeus and Philostratus.

The work deals with biblical as well as pagan subjects, from which it is inferred that the writer was a Christian. A prefatory note gives a list of dictionaries from which the lexical portion was compiled, together with the names of their authors. Although the work is uncritical and probably much interpolated, and the value of the articles is very unequal, it contains much information on ancient history and life.

The Suda was critically edited by the Danish scholar Ada Adler (Leipzig, 1928-1938).

Most of the Suda was lost during the crusader sacking of Constantinople and the Ottoman pillage of the city in 1453.

Suidas's lexicon is somewhere between a grammatical dictionary and an encyclopedia in the modern sense. He explains the source, derivation, and meaning of words according to the philology of his period, using such earlier authorities as Harpocration and Helladios. There is nothing especially important about this part of his work. It is the articles on literary history that are valuable. In these he supplies details and quotations from authors whose works are otherwise lost. He uses older scholia to the classics (Homer, Thucydides, Sophocles, etc.), and for later writers, Polybius, Josephus, the Chronicon Paschale, George Syncellus, George Hamartolus, and so on. This lexicon represents a convenient work of reference for persons who played a part in political, ecclesiastical, and literary history in the East down to the tenth century. His chief source for this is the encyclopedia of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (912-59), and for Roman history the excerpts of John of Antioch (seventh century). Krumbacher (Byzantinische Literatur, 566) counts two main sources of his work: Constantine VII for ancient history, Hamartolus (Georgios Monachos) for the Byzantine age.

The lexicon is arranged, not quite alphabetically, but according to a system (formerly common in many languages) called antistoichia; namely the letters follow phonetically, in order of sound (of course in the pronunciation of Suidas's time, which is the same as modern Greek). So for instance alpha-iota comes after epsilon; epsilon-iota, eta-iota come together after zeta, omega after omicron, and so on. The system is not difficult to learn and remember, but in some modern editions (Bekker) the work is rearranged alphabetically.

Links

Suda On Line (http://www.stoa.org/sol/). An on-line edition of the Adler edition with translations and commentary. "The purpose of the Suda On Line is to open up this stronghold of information by means of a freely accessible, keyword-searchable, XML-encoded database with translations, annotations, bibliography, and automatically generated links to a number of other important electronic resources."

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica.

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