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Stobaeus, Joannes

Ἰωάννης Στοβαῖος), derived his surname apparently from being a native of Stobi in Macedonia. Of his personal history we know nothing. Even the age in which he lived cannot be fixed with accuracy. He lived, at all events, later than Hierocles, whom he quotes. Probably he did not live very long after him, as he quotes no writer of a later date. His studious avoidance of all Christian writers seems to render it probable that Stobaeus was a heathen, though his name would rather indicate a Christian, or at least the son of Christian parents.


Ἰωάννου Στοβαίου ἐκλογῶν

Though Stobaeus is to us little more than a name, we are indebted to him for a very valuable collection of extracts from earlier Greek writers. Stobaeus was a man of extensive reading, in the course of which he noted down the most interesting passages. The materials which he had collected in this way he arranged, in the order of subjects, as a repertory of valuable and instructive sayings, for the use of his son Septimius. This collection of extracts he divided into four books, and published under the title Ἰωάννου Στοβαίου ἐκλογῶν, ἀποφθεγμάτων, ὑποθηκῶν βιβλία τέσσαρα. This however, is not exactly the form in which the work has come down to us. In most of the manuscripts there is a division into three books, forming two distinct works ; the first and second books forming one work under the title Ἐκλογαὶ Φυσικαὶ διαλεκτικαὶ καὶ ἠθικαί, the third book forming another work, called Ἀνθολόγιον (Florilegium or Sermones). Some have supposed in consequence that the fourth book is lost. This, however, is not the case. Photius (Cod. 167) has preserved a detailed table of contents of all four books; and on comparing the contents of the Florilegium with the table of the contents of the third and fourth books of the original arrangement, it is perfectly evident that the Florilegium consists of both those books combined in one. It is true that according to Photius the third and fourth books together contained 100 chapters, while the Florilegium contains 126 (ed. Gaisford). This, however, may easily have arisen from a subdivision of some of the longer chapters by the copyists. There seems no sufficient reason for supposing that Stobaeus originally arranged his extracts in two separate works. The table of contents in Photius is sufficiently full to allow of the restoration of the original subdivision of the Florilegium or Sermones into two books, answering precisely to those which were in the edition of Stobaeus used by Photius.

The two books of Eclogues consist for the most part of extracts conveying the views of earlier poets and prose writers on points of physics, dialectics, and ethics. The Florilegium, or Sermones, is devoted to subjects of a moral, political, and economical kind, and maxims of practical wisdom. We learn from Photius that the first book of the Eclogues was preceded by a dissertation on the advantages of philosophy, an account of the different schools of philosophy, and a collection of the opinions of ancient writers on geometry, music, and arithmetic. The greater part of this introduction is lost. The close of it only, where arithmetic is spoken of, is still extant. The first book was divided into sixty chapters, the second into forty-six, of which we only possess the first nile. The third book originally consisted of forty-two chapters, and the fourth of fifty-eight. Each chapter of the Eclogae and Sermones is headed by a title describing its matter. The extracts quoted in illustration begin usually with passages from the poets, after whom come historians, orators, philosophers and physicians. Photius has given an alphabetical list of above 500 Greek writers from whom Stobaeus has taken extracts, arranged according to their different classes, as philosophers, poets, &c. The works of the greater part of these have perished. To Stobaeus we are indebted for a large proportion of the fragments that remain of the lost works of poets. Euripides seems to have been an especial favourite with him. He has quoted above 500 passages from him in the Sermones, 150 from Sophocles, and above 200 from Menander. In extracting from prose writers, Stobaeus sometimes quotes verbatim, sometimes gives only an epitome of the passage. The latter mode is more common in the Eclogae than in the Sermones. With regard to such passages the question has been raised, whether Stobaeus quoted at first hand, or from some collection similar to his own. It is at least clear that he had Plutarch's collection of the opinions of philosophers before him, and that in its complete form. A detailed account of the contents of so miscellaneous a collection as that of Stobaeus would be foreign to the purpose of the present work. For tables of contents the reader may consult Photius (l.c.) and Fabricius (Bibl. Gr. vol. ix. p. 574, &c.).


The first portion of the work of Stobaeus that was published was the Sermones, edited by Franc. Trincavelli (Venice, 4to. 1536) under the title Ἰωάννου τοῦ Στοβαίου ἐκλογαὶ ἀποφθεγμάτων.

Three editions of the same portion were published by Conrad Gesner, with the title Κέρας Ἀμαθαίας. Ἰωάννου τοῦ Στοβαίου ἐκλογαὶ ἀποφθεγμάτων (or ἐκλ. ἀποφθ. καὶ ὑποθηκῶν), at Zürich in 1543, at Basle in 1549, and at Zürich in 1559, fol.

The best edition of the Sermones or Florilegium is that by Gaisford (Oxford, 1822, 4 vols. 8vo.).

The first edition of the Eclogae was that by Canter (Antwerp, 1575, fol.).

The best edition is that by A. H. L. Heeren (Götting. 1792-1801, in 4 vols. 8vo.).

The only edition of the whole of Stobaeus together is one published at Geneva in 1609, fol.

Further Information

Schöll, Gesch. der griech. Litteratur. vol. iii. p. 395, &c.


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