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38. Surnamed PERIEGETES, from his being the author of a περιήγησις τῆς γῆς, in hexameter verse, which is still extant. Respecting the age and country of this Dionysius the most different opinions have been entertained, though all critics are agreed in placing him after the Christian era, or in the time of the Roman emperors, as must indeed be necessarily inferred from passages of the Periegesis itself, such as 5.355, where the author speaks of his ἄνακτες, that is, his sovereigns, which can only apply to the emperors. But the question as to which emperor or emperors Dionysius there alludes, has been answered in the most different ways: some writers have placed Dionysius in the reign of Augustus, others in that of Nero, and others again under M. Aurelius and L. Verus, or under Septimius Severus and his sons. Eustathius, his commentator, was himself in doubt about the age of his author. But these uncertainties have been removed by Bernhardy, the last editor of Dionysius, who has made it highly probable, partly from the names of countries and nations mentioned in the Periegesis, partly from the mention of the Huns in 5.730, and partly from the general character of the poem, that its author must have lived either in the latter part of the third, or in the beginning of the fourth, century of our era. With regard to his native country, Suidas infers from the enthusiastic manner in which Dionysius speaks of the river Rhebas (793, &c.), that he was born at Byzantium, or somewhere in its neighbourhood; but Eustathius (ad v. 7) and the Scholiast (ad v. 8) expressly call him an African, and these authorities certainly seem to deserve more credit than the mere inference of Suidas.



The Periegesis of Dionysius contains a description of the whole earth, so far as it was known in his time, in hexameter verse, and the author appears chiefly to follow the views of Eratosthenes. It is written in a terse and neat style, and enjoyed a high degree of popularity in ancient times, as we may infer from the fact, that two translations or paraphrases of it were made by Romans, one by Rufus Festus Avienus [AVIENUS], and the other by the grammarian Priscian. [PRISCIANUS.] Eustathius wrote a very valuable commentary upon it, which is still extant, and we further possess a Greek paraphrase and scholia.


The first edition of the Periegesis appeared at Ferrara, 1512, 4to, with a Latin translation. A. Manutius printed it at Venice, 1513, 8vo., together with Pindar, Callimachus, and Lycophron. H. Stephens incorporated it in his " Poetae Principes Heroici Carminis," Paris, 1566, fol. One of the most useful among the subsequent editions is that of Edw. Thwaites, Oxford, 1697, 8vo., with the commentary of Eustathius, the Greek scholia and paraphrase. It is also printed in the fourth volume of Hudson's Geogr. Minor. 1712, 8vo., from which it was reprinted separately, Oxford, 1710 and 1717, 8vo. But all the previous editions are superseded by that of G. Bernhardy (Leipzig, 1828, 8vo.), which forms vol. i. of a contemplated collection of the minor Greek geographers; it is accompanied by a very excellent and learned dissertation and the ancient commentators.

Other Works

Besides the Periegesis, Eustathius states that other works also were attributed to our Dionysius, viz. λιθικά, ὀρνιθικά, and Βασσαρικά. Concerning the first, compare the Scholiast on 5.714; Maxim. ad Dionys. Areopag. de Myst. Theol. 2; and Bernhardy (l.c.), p. 502. Respecting the ὀρνιθικά, which some attribute to Dionysius of Philadelphia, see Bernhardy, p. 503. The Βασσαρικά, which means the same as Διονυσιακά (Suid. s. v. Σωτήριχος) is very often quoted by Stephanus of Byzantium.

Further Information

See Bernhardy, pp. 507, &c. and 515.

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