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Marcellus, No'nius

a Latin grammarian, the author of an important treatise, which in MSS. is designated as Nonü Marcelli Peripatetici Tuburticensis de Compendiosa Doctrina per Litteras ad Filium, for the latter portion of which title many printed copies substitute erroneously De Proprietate Sermonis. The most recent editor is obliged to confess, after a full investigation of every source from which information could be derived, that we are totally unacquainted with the personal history of this writer, that we cannot fix with certainty either the place or the time of his birth, that it is difficult to detect the plan pursued in the compilation of the work, that no satisfactory classification of the numerous codices has yet been accomplished, and that no sure estimate has been formed of their relative value. The epithet Tuburticensis, which appears also under the varying shapes, Tuburcicensis, Tuburgiceesis, Tiburticensis, Thiburticensis, Tiburiensis, does not lead readily to any conclusion. We can scarcely agree with Wass in considering it equivalent to Tiburtinus, a word which occurs so frequently elsewhere, that even the most ignorant transcribers would not have transformed it so rudely; nor can we persuade ourselves that Gerlach has succeeded in proving that it must be derived from Tubursicumor Tubasrsicca, in Numidia, near the river Ampsaga, a town which became at an early period the seat of a Christian bishopric, and is to be distinguished from Tubursicum, in the proconsular province of Africa, also a bishop's see, the inhabitants of which unquestionably termed themselves Thibursicenses (see Orelli, Corp. Inscrip. No. 3691), from the Colonia Tuburnica, the Oppidum Tuburnicense of Pliny (Plin. Nat. 7.4), and from the Oppidum Tuburbitunue, Majus and Oppidum Minus of the ecclesiastical writers. It is equally difficult to determine within narrow limits the epoch when Nonius flourished: he must be later than the middle of the second century, since once at least (p. 49, ed. Gerl.) he refers to Appuleius, and frequently copies A. Gellius, although he nowhere refers to him by name. He must be earlier than the sixth century, since he is himself quoted repeatedly by Priscian (pp. 43, 278, 477, ed. Krehl.). Two points are thus fixed, but they are unfortunately far asunder, and we are left to wander over a space of three centuries, while the very nature of the piece almost entirely excludes the possibility of drawing any inference from style; all that can be said upon this head is, that the various words ond expressions which have been adduced for the purpose of proving that he must belong to the fifth century, will, without exception, be found, upon examination, to fail in establishing this proposition; and on the other hand, the arguments employed to demonstrate that he ought to be placed at the commencement of the third are equally powerless. He may be the same person with the grammarian Marcellus addressed by Ausonius (Care. xix.), but there is no evidence whatever in favour of the supposition except the identity of a very common name.


The work is divided into eighteen chapters, but of these the first twelve ought in reality to be viewed as separate treatises, composed at different periods, with different objects, and not linked together by any connecting bond. At the same time each chapter is far from presenting a compact, well-ordered, consistent whole, but generally exhibits a confused farrago, as if a compartment of an ill-kept commonplace book had been transcribed without adequate pains having been bestowed on the classification and distribution of the materials collected. Some idea of the contents may be obtained from the following outline:

Cap. I.

De Proprietate Sermonum, may be regarded as a glossary of obsolete words, which are thrown together without any arrangement. Many are, however, inserted which do not belong to this class, and which might, with perfect propriety, be transferred to c. iv.

Cap. II.

De Honestis et Nove Veterum Dictis. A collection of words placed in alphabetical order, which were employed by the early Latin writers in a sense different from that which they bore in the age of Nonius. Many of these ought to have found a place in c. i.; and from the statements with regard to others, we might draw some curious inferences regarding the state of the language when this tract was drawn up.

Cap. III.

De Indiscretis Generibus, a collection of words in alphabetical order, of which the gender is found to vary in the best authorities, such as finis, calx, papaver, and the like.

Cap. IV.

De vera Significatione Verborum, a collection of words in alphabetical order, which occur in the same or in different writers with marked variations of meaning, such as aequor, conducere, lustrare. This is by far the longest section in the book.

Cap. V.

De Differentiis Verborum, what we should now term a dissertation on synonyms, being a collection of words not in alphabetical order, which, although allied in signification, express distinct modifications of thought, such as auspicium and augurium, urbs and civitas, superstitio and religio.

Cap. VI.

De Impropriis, a collection of words, not in alphabetical order, which are frequently employed, not in their true and literal, but in a figurative sense, such as liber, focus, rostrum; the greater number of the examples, however, ought to have been included in chapter iv.

Cap. VII.

De Contrarüs Generibus Verborum, a collection of verbs not in alphabetical order, which, although usually deponent, are occasionally found assuming the active form, and vice versa, such as vaeas for vagaris, contempla for contempllre, praesagitur for praescagit. Intermingled are archaic forms, such as esuribo for esuriam, which belong to c. x., and some of which are actually repeated there, as expediam for expediam; and some archaic constructions, such as potior illam rem, libertatem uti, opus est illamrem, which are altogether out of place, but might have been inserted in chapter ix.

Cap. VIII.

De Mutata Declinatione, a collection of nouns, not in alphabetical order, which vary in form or in declension, or in both, as itiner, iter ; lacte, lac; poelma, poematum; perrieus, pervicax ; senati, senatuis, senatus, for the genitive of senatus.

Cap. IX.

De Generibus et Casibus, a collection of passages in which one case seems to be substituted for another, such as fustiditmei, non ego sum dignus salutis.

Cap. X.

De M tatis Conjugationibus, a collection of verbs, not in alphabetical order, which are conjugated sometimes according to one form, sometimes according to another, such as fervit and fervet, cupiret and cuperet, larit and lavat. Some of the examples belong to c. vii., such as possetur for posset, poteratur for poterat; others, such as expedibo, audibo, ought to have constituted a separate section.

Cap. XI.

De Indiscretis Adverbüs, a collection of adverbs, not in alphabetical order, which occasionally appear under forms at variance with ordinary usage or with analogy, such as amiciter, ampliler, fidele, memore, pugnitus, largittus.

Cap. XII.

De Doctorum Indagine, is a complete medley, being a sort of supplement to the preceding books, and containing, in addition, some curious notices upon matters of antiquarian research.

Cap. XIII.-XVIII. Technical Terms on Various Subjects.

Cap. XIII.-XVIII. are all in the style of the Onomasticon of Julius Pollux, each containing a series of technical terms in some one department. They are severally entitled De Genere Navigiorum, De Genere Vestimentorum, De Genere Vasorum vel Poculorium, De Genere vel Colore Vestimentorum, De Genere Ciborum vel Pomorum, De Genere Armorum, De Propinquitate. of which the last appears to be an unfinished sketch.


Although the attentive reader will soon discover that he can repose no confidence in the learning, critical sagacity, or logical precision of Nonius Marcellus, this compilation must ever be looked upon as one of value, since it is in a great measure made up of quotations from the early dramatists, annalists, satirists, and antiquaries, from Accius, Afranius. L. Andronicus, Caecilius, Ennius, Nonius, Pacuvius, Turpilius, Lucilius, Cato, and Varro, writers whose chief works have not descended to us, and most of whom exist in fragments only. as well as from Plautus, Terence, Lucretius, Cicero, Virgil, and a few others, of whom we have more copious remains, thus affording many curious specimens of what we can find nowhere else, and occasionally enabling us to correct and illustrate the text of those productions which have been preserved entire.


The Editio Princeps of Nonius Marcellus is, according to the best bibliographic authorities, a folio volume, in Roman characters, without date and without name of place or printer, but which is known to have been printed at Rome, by George Laver, about 1470. The first edition with a date was published in 1471, and is, like the former, without name of place or printer. The first critical edition was that of Junius, 8vo. Antv. 1565, which was followed by that of Gothofredus, 8vo. Paris, 1586. Considerable reputation was enjoyed by the editions of Mercier, 8vo. Paris, 1583 and 1614, especially the second, which gave a new recension of the text, and was reprinted at Leipzig, 8vo. 1826. This, however, as well as every other, is now superseded by the edition of Gerlach and Roth, 8vo. Basil, 1842, which is in every respect infinitely superior to any of its predecessors. It contains, as well as those of Junius, Gothofredus, and Mercier, the tract of Fulgentius Planciades, "De Prisco Sermnone." [FULGENTIUS.]

Further Information

Osann, Beiträge zur Griech. und Röm. Litteratugescht. p. 381; Praef. ad ed. T. D. Gerlach, et C. L. Roth.


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