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44. Surnamed THRAX, or the Thracian, a celebrated Greek grammarian, who unquestionably derived his surname from the fact of his father Teres being a Thracian (Suidas); and it is absurd to believe, with the author of the Etymologicum Magnum (p. 277. 53), that he received it from his rough voice or any other circumstance. He himself was, according to some, a native of Alexandria (Suidas), and, according to others, of Byzantium; but he is also called a Rhodian, because at one time he resided at Rhodes, and gave instructions there (Strab. xiv. p.655; Athen. 11.489), and it was at Rhodes that Tyrannion was among the pupils of Dionysius. Dionysius also staid for some time at Rome, where he was engaged in teaching, about B. C. 80. Further particulars about his life are not known.


Dionysius Thrax was the author of numerous grammatical works, manuals, and commentaries.

τέχνη γραμματική

We possess under his name a τέχνη γραμματική, a small work, which however became the basis of all subsequent grammars, and was a standard book in grammar schools for many centuries. Under such circumstances we cannot wonder that, in the course of time, such a work was much interpolated, sometimes abridged, and sometimes extended or otherwise modified. The form therefore, in which it has come down to us, is not the original one, and hence its great difference in the different MSS.


It was first printed in Fabricius, Bibl. Gr. iv. p. 20 of the old edition. Villoison (Anecd. 2.99) then added some excerpta and scholia from a Venetian MS., together with which the grammar was afterwards printed in Fabricius, Bibl. Gr. vi. p. 311 of Harles's edition, and somewhat better in Bekker's Anecdota, ii. p. 627, &c.


It is remarkable that an Armenian translation of this grammar, which has recently come to light, and was probably made in the fourth or fifth century of our era, is more complete than the Greek original, having five additional chapters.


This translation, which was published by Cirbied in the Mémoires et Dissertations sur les Antiquités nationales et étrangères, 1824, 8vo., vol. vi., has increased the doubts about the genuineness of our Greek text; but it would be going too far to consider it, with Göttling, (Praef. ad Theodos. Gram. p. v. &c.; comp. Lersch, die Sprachphilos. der Alten, ii. p. 64, &c.) as a mere compilation made by some Byzantine grammarian at a very late period.


The groundwork of what we have is unquestionably the production of Dionysius Thrax. The interpolations mentioned above appear to have been introduced at a very early time, and it was probably owing to them that some of the ancient commentators of the grammar found in it things which could not have been written by a disciple of Aristarchus, and that therefore they doubted its genuineness.

Work on Homer

Dionysius did much also for the explanation and criticism of Homer, as may be inferred from the quotations in the Venetian Scholia (ad Hom. Il. 2.262, 9.460, 12.20, 13.103, 15.86, 741, 18.207, 24.110), and Eustathius. (Ad Hom. pp. 854, 869, 1040, 1299.) He does not, however, appear to have written a regular commentary, but to have inserted his remarks on Homer in several other works, such as that against Crates, and the περὶ ποσοτήτων. (Schol. Ven. ad Hom. Il. 2.3.)

Other Works

In some MSS. there exists a treatise περὶ τόνου τερισπωμένων, which has been wrongly attributed to our grammarian: it is, further, more than doubtful whether he wrote a commentary on Euripides, as has been inferred from a quotation of the Scholiast on that poet.

The Etymol. M. contains several examples of his etymological, prosodical, and exegetical attempts. (pp. 308. 18, 747. 20, 365. 20.) Dionysius is also mentioned as the author of μελέται and of a work on Rhodes.


His chief merit consists in the impulse he gave to the study of systematic grammar, and in what he did for a correct understanding of Homer.

Further Information

Steph. Byz. s. v. Ταρσός; comp. Gräfenhan, Gesch. der Klass. Philol. i. p. 402, &c.

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