Suda  

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The Suda or Souda is a massive 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia of the ancient Mediterranean world, formerly attributed to an author called Suidas. It is an encyclopedic lexicon, written in Greek, with 30,000 entries, many drawing from ancient sources that have since been lost, and often derived from medieval Christian compilers. The derivation is probably from the Byzantine Greek word souda, meaning "fortress" or "stronghold," with the alternate name, Suidas, stemming from an error made by Eustathius, who mistook the title for the proper name of the author.

The Suda is somewhere between a grammatical dictionary and an encyclopedia in the modern sense. It explains the source, derivation, and meaning of words according to the philology of its period, using such earlier authorities as Harpocration and Helladios. There is nothing especially important about this aspect of the work. It is the articles on literary history that are valuable. These entries supply details and quotations from authors whose works are otherwise lost. They use 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. The 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 the work: Constantine VII for ancient history, and Hamartolus (Georgios Monachos) for the Byzantine age.

Background

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 I Tzimiskes (975), and under Constantinople his successors Basil II (976-1025) and Constantine VIII (1025-1028) 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.

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 Laertius 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 Souda has a near-contemporaneous Islamic parallel, the Kitab al-Fehrest of Ibn al-Nadim.

Organization

The lexicon is arranged alphabetically with some slight deviations. 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 the tenth century, which is similar to that of 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 (Immanuel Bekker) the work is rearranged alphabetically.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Suda" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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