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Acrostĭcha

ἀκρόστιχα). Acrostics, which were popular alike with the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans. With the Hebrews, in acrostic poetry, the initial letters of the lines or stanzas are made to run over the letters of the alphabet in their order. Twelve Psalms in the Old Testament are so written, the most remarkable being the 119th. One of the most celebrated acrostics in Greek is that contained in the words Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υιὸς Σωτήρ, the initial letters of which spell ἰχθύς (fish), whence to the word ἰχθύς a mystical meaning was attached by the early Christians. The Romans borrowed acrostic poetry from the Greeks as early as the time of Ennius, who composed one (de Div. ii. 111). At a later period inscriptional acrostics occur, one of which calls the reader's attention to its character with the line Inspice, lector, primordia versiculorum (Wilmanns, 592, 593). The arguments to the Plautine plays are in acrostic lines. When the last letters of the lines spell words, the verse is called telestic; when letters in the middle of the lines do so, the verse is mesostic. Combinations of acrostic and telestic are found in the Corp. Inscript. Lat. v. 1693; of acrostic, mesostic, and telestic, in Flavius Felix (about A.D. 500). See Gerber, Die Sprache als Kunst, ii. pp. 262 foll., and the article Abecedarii Hymni.

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