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Ste'phanus Byzantius or Ste'phanus Byzantinus or Ste'phanus of Byzantium

2. Of Byzantium, the author of the well-known geographical lexicon, entitled Ἐθνικά, of which unfortunately we only possess an epitome. There are few ancient writers of any importance of whom we know so little as of Stephanus. All that can be affirmed of him with certainty is that he was a grammarian at Constantinople, and lived after the time of Arcadius and Honorius, and before that of Justinian II. The ancient writers, often as they quote the Ἐθνικά, give us absolutely no information about its author, except his name. We learn from them, however, that the work was reduced to an epitome by a certain Hermolaus, who dedicated his abridgement to the emperor Justinian. [HERMOLAUS.] Hence, in turning to the few incidental pieces of information which the work contains respecting its author, we are met by the question, whether such passages were written by Stephanus himself, or by the epitomator Hermolaus. The most important of these passages is the following, which occurs in the article Ἀνακτόριον Καὶ Εὐγένιος δὲ, πρὸ ἡμῶν τὰς ἐν τῆ βασιλίδι σχολὰς διακοσμήσας, which cannot refer to any other Eugenius than the eminent grammarian of Augustopolis in Phrygia, who, as we learn from Suidas, taught at Constantinople, under the emperor Anastasius, at the end of the fifth century or the beginning of the sixth. (Suid. s. v.) This passage was pointed out by Thomas de Pinedo, the translator of Stephanus, as an indication of the author's age; but nearly all the editors of Stephanus, as well as Isaac Vossius and Fabricius, have chosen to regard it as an insertion made by Hermolaus, for the following reason; if Eugenius flourished under Anastasius, who died in A. D. 518, his successor in the presidency of the schools would in all probability be in office under Justinian I., who came to the throne in A. D. 527, which agrees with the statement of Suidas, that Hermolaus dedicated his epitome to Justinian. Plausible as this argument is, it is far from being conclusive. It evidently rests in part, if not chiefly, on the tacit assumption that, when a personal reference is made in an abridged work to the author, without any thing to show whether the writer of the passage is the original author or the epitomator, the presumption is, that it has been inserted by the latter. Now we believe that the presumption is just the other way; both on the general principle that, in an abridged work, whatever cannot be proved to be an interpolation should be referred to the original author, and also on account of the well-known habit of compilers and epitomators of the later period of Greek literature to copy their author almost verbatim, so far as they follow him at all, and to make their abridgement by the simple omission of whole passages, often in such a manner as even to destroy the grammatical coherence of what is left, as is frequently the case in this very epitome of Stephanus. On this presumption, we think, the question mainly turns. It would be rash to regard it as decided; but it may be safely said that the passage should probably be referred to Stephanus, unless some positive and decisive proof be produced that it was inserted by Hermolaus. The chronological argument stated above is not such a proof; for Suidas does not say to which of the two Justinians Hermolaus dedicated his epitome ; and, even if it was to Justinian I., there is nothing to prevent our supposing that the work of Stephanus was composed under Justin or in the early part of the reign of Justinian, and that the epitome was made very soon afterwards; but, considering how little Suidas troubles himself about minute distinctions, it is perhaps better to keep to the explanation that the Justinian to whom Hermolaus dedicated his epitome was Justinian II., and that Stephanus himself flourished under Justinian I., in the former part of the sixth century. Westermann argues further, that it is unlikely that a person of so little learning and judgment, as the epitomator of Stephanus appears by his work to have possessed, would have been placed at the head of the imperial schools of Constantinople, or would have written such a work as the Byzantine history quoted in the article Τότθοι, or as the disquisition on the Aethiopians referred to under Αἰθίοψ; but, in these cases also, it appears better to rest on the simple presumption that these passages proceed from the pen of the original author there being no proof to the contrary. A more important piece of collateral evidence respecting the time of Stephanus, pointed out by Westermann, is his eulogy of Petrus Patricius (s. v. Ἀκόναι), who died soon after A. D. 562, and was therefore a contemporary of Stephanus, supposing that the latter flourished at the time above assigned to him.


The literary history of the work of Stephanus is also involved in much obscurity. Even the title has been a subject of dispute. In the Aldine edition it is entitled περὶ πόλεων, which Dindorf has adopted; in the Juntine περὶ πόλεων καὶ δήμων, which Berkelius also places at the head of the text, while on his title-page he has Στεφάνου Βυζαντίου ἐθνικὰ κατ̓ ἐπιτομήν; and Salmasius prefers the title Στεφάνου Βυζαντίου περὶ ἐθνικῶν καὶ τοπικῶν. All these variations are supported more or less by the authority of the MSS. The numerous references, however, made to the work by ancient writers, especially by Eustathius, make it clear that the proper title of the original work was Ἐθνικά, and that of the epitome ἐκ τῶν ἐθνικῶν Στεφάνου κατ̓ ἐπιτόμην. The title prefixed to the important fragment of the original work, which is preserved in the Codex Seguerianus, deserves notice on account of its full explanation of the design of the work, although it has of course been added by a grammarian : -Στεφάνου γραμματικοῦ Κωνσταντινουπόλεως περὶ πόλεων νήσων τε καὶ ἐθνῶν, δήμων τε καὶ τόπων, καὶ ὁμωνυμίας αὐτῶν καὶ μετωνομασίας καὶ τῶν ἐντεῦθεν παρηγμένων ἐθνικῶν τε καὶ τοπικῶν καὶ κτητικῶν τε ὀνομάτων.

According to the title, the chief object of the work was to specify the gentile names derived from the several names of places and countries in the ancient world. But, while this is done in every article, the amount of information given went far beyond this. Nearly every article in the epitome contains a reference to some ancient writer, as an authority for the name of the place; but in the original, as we see from the extant fragments, there were considerable quotations from the ancient authors, besides a number of very interesting particulars, topographical, historical, mythological, and others. Thus the work was not merely what it professed to be, a lexicon of a special branch of technical grammar, but a valuable dictionary of geography.

How great would have been its value to us, if it had come down to us unmutilated, may be seen by any one who compares the extant fragments of the original with the corresponding articles in the epitome. These fragments, however, are unfortunately very scanty. They consist of : -- (1) The portion of the work from Δύμη to the end of Δ, a MS. of the Seguerian Library; but, unfortunately, there is a large gap even in this portion; (2) The article Ἰβηρίαι δύο, which is preserved by Constantinus Porphyrogennetus (de Admin. Imp. 100.23); (3) An account of Sicily, quoted by the same author from Stephanus (de Them. 2.10). The first two of these fragments are inserted by Westermann in the text, in place of the corresponding articles of the epitome, which he transfers to his preface ; the third differs so thoroughly from the article Σικελία in the epitome, that Westermann does not venture to insert it in the text, but prints it in his preface. There are also some other quotations in the ancient writers, which, from their general, but not exact, resemblance to the articles in the epitome, are presumed to be taken from the original They are particularized by Westermann in his preface.

From a careful examination of the references, it appears that the author of the Etymologicum Magnum, Eustathius, and others of the grammarians, possessed the original work of Stephanus. It also seems probable that the work, as it now exists, is not a fair representation of the epitome of Hermolaus, but that it has been still further abridged by successive copyists. The former part of the work is pretty full; the portion from Πάτραι to the middle of Σ is little more than a list of names; the articles in Τ and Ψ become fuller again; and those from Χ to Ω appear to be copied, almost without abridgement, from the work of Stephanus.

The work is arranged in alphabetical order; but it was also originally divided into books. the exact number of which cannot be determined; but they were considerably more numerous than the letters of the alphabet.


The following are the chief editions of the Epitome of Stephanus : --
  • 1. the Aldine, Venet. 1502, fol.
  • 2. the Juntine, Florent. 1521, fol.
  • 3. the edition of Xylander, with several emendations in the text, and with Indices, Basil. 1568, fol.
  • 4. that of Thomas de Pinedo, the first with a Latin version. Amst. 1678, fol.
  • 5. the text corrected by Salmasius, from a collation of MSS.; various readings collected by Gronovius from the Codex Perusinus, with notes; a Latin Version and Commentary by Abr. Berkelius, Lugd. Bat. 1688, fol., reprinted 1694, fol.
  • 6. that of the Wetsteins, containing the Greek text, the Latin version and notes of Thomas de Pinedo, and the various readings of Gronovius, with Indices, Amst. 1725, fol.
  • 7. that of Dindorf, with readings from a newly-found MS., and the notes of L. Holstenius, A. Berkelius, and Thomas de Pinedo, Lips. 1825, &c., 4 vols. 8vo.
  • 8. that of A. Westermann, containing a thoroughly revised text, with a very valuable preface, Lips. 1839, 8vo.: this is by far the most useful edition for ordinary reference.

Editions of The Fragment

The chief fragment was published separately, by S. Tennulius, Amst. 1669, 4to.; by A. Berkelius, with the Periplus of Hanno and the Monumentum Adulitanum of Ptolemy Euergetes, Lugd. Bat. 1674, 8vo., reprinted in Montfaucon's Catalogus Bibliothecae Coislinianae, pp. 281, &c., Paris. 1715, fol.; by Jac. Gronovius, Lugd. Bat. 1681, 4to., and in the Thesaurus Antiq. Graec. vol. vii. pp. 269, &c.; and it is contained in all the editions, from that of Thomas de Pinedo downwards.

There is a German translation of the fragment, with an Essay on Stephanus, by S. Ch. Schirlitz, in the Ephem. Litter. Scholast. Univ. vol. ii. pp. 385-390, 393-399, 1828, 4to.

Further Information

Fabric. Bibl. Graec. vol. iv. pp. 621-661 ; Vossius, de Hist. Graec. pp. 324, 325, ed. Westermann ; Wellauer, de Extrema Parte Operis Stephaniani de Urbibus, in Friedemann and Seebod's Miscell. Crit. vol. ii. pt. 4, pp. 692, &c.; Westermann, Stephani Byzantini Ἐθνικῶν quae supersunt, Praef.; Hoffmann, Lex. Bibl. Script. Graec. s. v.

Other Greek writers named Stephanus

There are several other Greek writers of this name, but not of sufficient importance to require notice here.

Further Information

See Fabric. Bibl. Graec. Index.


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