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Sy'meon SETH

27. SETH or SETHUS, Σηθ, or SETHI, Σήθι; or perhaps THE SON of SETHUS or SETH, a Byzantine writer of some importance of the eleventh century. He is known also by the titles which he bore of “Magister et Philosophus”, Μάγιστρος καὶ Φιλόσοφος, and of PROTOVESTIARIUS ANTIOCHI, Πρωτοβεστάρχης τῶν Ἀντιόχου, i. e. Master of the Robes in the palace of Antiochus (Flavius Antiochus the Eunuch, who was consul, A. D. 431) at Constantinople, in which the imperial jewels or costly articles were kept. (Comp. Ducange, Glossar. Med. et Infim. Graecitat. s. v. πρωτοβεστάρχης τῶν Ἀντιόχου, inter derivat. voc. Βέστης; and Constantinop. Christiana, lib. ii. sect. 13.5.) By a corruption of his title he has been improperly styled ANTIOCHENUS, Ἀντιοχεὺς, and MAGISTER ANTIOCHIAE, Μάγιστρος Ἀντιοχείας, and BESTUS, Βέστος. It is probable that he is the Symeon Protovestiarius (Συμεὼν πρωτοβεστιάριος) mentioned by Cedrenus (Compend. p. 737, ed. Paris, vol. ii. p. 511, ed. Bonn) as having been banished in A. D. 1034, by the Emperor Michael the Paphlagonian [MICHAEL IV. PAPHLAGO] on account of his sympathy with the Patrician Dalassenus. Symeon had been one of the personal attendants of the Emperor Constantine IX. (or VIII. as some reckon, brother and colleague of Basil II.), whose death occurred A. D. 1028. Symeon, on his banishment, retired to a monastery founded by himself near mount Olympus ; and appears to have spent the rest of his life in literary pursuits and monastic duties (Cedren. l.c.). As one of his works is dedicated to the Emperor Michael Ducas, he must have survived the accession of that prince in A. D. 1071. Nothing beyond this appears to be known of his personal history.


The principal works of Symeon Seth are as follows : --

1. Σύνταγμα κατὰ στοιχεῖον περὶ τροφῶν δυνάμεων (

This is the work dedicated to Michael Ducas. It is a descriptive catalogue, alphabetically arranged, of the chief articles of human food : the materials are for the most part taken from Symeon's contemporary, Michael Psellus [PSELLUS, No. 3.].


It was published, with a Latin version, by Lilius Gregorius Gyraldus of Ferrara, 12mo. Basel, 1538. The arrangement of the text differs from that of the version : the alphahetical order in the one being of the Greek titles to each article, in the other of their Latin equivalents; but in an edition of the version revised by Dominicus Monthesaurus of Verona, 12mo. Basel, 1561, the Greek titles are prefixed to each article, and the original order is restored. An improved edition of the Greek text, with a new version by Martinus Bogdanus, was published 12mo. Paris, 1658.

2. Σύνοψις καὶ ἀπάνθισμα φυσικῶν τε καὶ φιλοσόφων δογμάτων (

Of this work, which is also in great part pillaged from Psellus, Allatius (ubi infrà) has given a short extract, with a Latin version. The first two of the five books of which the work consists are extant in some MSS. under the name of Psellus. They bear the title of Ἐπιλύσεις συντόμοι φυσικῶν ζητημάτων, Solutiones compendiosae naturalium quaestionum.

3. .

A Latin version of two fragments of this appears at the end of Monthesaurus's revised edition of Gyraldus's version of the Syntagma de cibariorum facultate.

4. Περὶ ὀσφρήσεως () and 5. Περὶ γεύσεως καὶ ἁφῆς (

published by Ideler, in his Physici et Medici Graeci Minores, vol. ii. p. 283, 8vo. Berlin, 1842.

The Fables of Bidpai and Pilpay

But the work which has given Symeon Seth the greatest claim to remembrance, is his Greek version of the Indian apologues, now known as the Fables of Bidpai or Pilpay. This version is briefly entitled Στεφανίτης καὶ Ἰχνηλάτης (Stephanites et Ichnelates, s. Coronarius et Vestigator).

From a more prolix title or introduction prefixed to the work we learn that it was brought from India by Περζωὲ, Perzoe, or Barzouyeh, physician to Chosroes or Khosru I. Nushirwan [SASSANIDAE, No. 21], King of Persia, who reigned from A. D. 531 to 579, and that it was presented to that King. It is probable that what Barzouyeh presented to Khosru was a Pehlvi or old Persian version, not the Sanscrit original. It was, according to the title just cited, translated into Arabic, and this Arabic version Symeon Seth translated into Greek.


Latin Edition

A Latin version of a considerable part of it was subjoined by Possin to his edition of Georgius Pachymeres, fol. Rome, 1666; but it is omitted in the Bonn reprint of that version.

Greek Edition

The Greek text, not however in a complete form, was published under the title of Specimen Sapientiae Indorum veterum. by Seb. Godof. Starkius, 12mo. Berlin, 1697. The introductory chapters, which had been prefixed to Bidpai's work, and had been also translated by Seth but omitted by Starkius, were published under the title of Prolegomena ad Librum, Στεφανίτης καὶ Ἰχνηλάτης, by Floderus, Upsala, 1780.

Futher Information

A succinct account of this ancient and curious work is given in the Penny Cyclopaedia, s. v. BIDPAI, where are given numerous references to the authorities used. See also Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. vii. pp. 777-781.

History of Alexander the Great

A history of Alexander the Great, replete with fabulous incidents, and falsely bearing the name of Callisthenes [CALLISTHENES, No. 1], which is found in some libraries (comp. Catal. MStorum Biblioth. Regiae, vol. ii. p. 388, Cod. mdclxxxv. fol. Paris, 1740), is said by Fabricius (Biblioth. Graec. vol. iii. p. 36) and Wharton (Hist. of Eng. Poetry, vol. i. p. 129) to have been translated from the Persian by Symeon Seth, but on what authority this assertion rests they do not state : nor does the work seem to bear any internal marks of belonging to Seth. The opening portion of a history of Alexander which some identify with this work, is given by Berckel (in a note to Stephanus Byzant. De Urbibus, ad voc. Βουκεφάλεια) and by Fabricius (Biblioth. Graec. vol. xiv. p. 148, ed. vet.) : it bears the title of Βίος Ἀλεξάνδρου τοῦ Μακέδονος καὶ πράξεις, Vita et Gesta Alexandri Macedoniae Regis.


A Latin history of Alexander closely resembling this Greek work, and considered by some as a version though it varies much from the original, was printed in black letter, fol. Argentin. 1489 and 1494. These works bear, both of them, considerable resemblance to the work said to have been written in Greek by Aesopus [AESOPUS, p. 48], and translated into Latin by Julius Valerius, whose translation was first published from an imperfect MS. by Angelo Mai, at Milan, 1817, and again more complete in vol. vii. of his Classici Auctores e Vaticanis Codd. editi, 8vo. Rom. 1835. It is also given from Mai's first edition as an appendix to the edition of Quintus Curtius in the Bibliotheca Classica Latina of Lemaire, 8vo. Paris, 1824.

Further Information on the works of Pseudo-Callisthenes, Aesopus, Julius Valerius etc.

Considerable information respecting these works of the Pseudo Callisthenes, Aesopus or Julius Valerius and others, which have much in common with each other and appear to have had a common origin, may be found in the preface of Mai (reprinted by Lemaire); in the Journal des Savans for 1818, pp. 401, &c., 609, &c.; and in the Bibliothèque Universelle for the same year, pp. 218, &c., 322, &c. But of these works neither by Mai nor in the periodicals is any one ascribed to Symeon Seth. Some other works of Symeon are extant in MS.

Further Information

Fabric. Biblioth. Graec. ll. cc. vol. vii. p. 472, vol. xi. p. 320; Allat. De Symeon. Scriptis, p. 181, &c.; Vossius, De Historicis Graec. lib. 4. c.21.

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