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Stephanus of Byzantium

Stephen of Byzantium, also known as Stephanus Byzantinus (Greek: Στέφανος Βυζάντιος; fl. 6th century AD), was the author of an important geographical dictionary entitled Ethnica (Ἐθνικά). Of the dictionary itself only meagre fragments survive, but we possess an epitome compiled by one Hermolaus, not otherwise identified.


Byzantium during Stephanus lifetime

Nothing is known about the life of Stephanus, except that he was a grammarian at Constantinople, and lived after the time of Arcadius and Honorius, and before that of Justinian II. Later writers provide no information about him, but they do note that the work was later reduced to an epitome by a certain Hermolaus, who dedicated his epitome to Justinian; whether the first or second emperor of that name is meant is disputed, but it seems probable that Stephanus flourished in Byzantium in the earlier part of the sixth century AD, under Justinian I.

The Ethnica

Even as an epitome, the Ethnica is of enormous value for geographical, mythological, and religious information about ancient Greece. Nearly every article in the epitome contains a reference to some ancient writer, as an authority for the name of the place. From the surviving fragments, we see that the original contained considerable quotations from ancient authors, besides many interesting particulars, topographical, historical, mythological, and others. Stephanus cites[1] Artemidorus, Polybius, Aelius Herodianus, Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Strabo and other writers.

The chief fragments remaining of the original work are preserved by Constantine Porphyrogennetos, De administrando imperio, ch. 23 (the article Ίβηρίαι δύο) and De thematibus, ii. 10 (an account of Sicily); the latter includes a passage from the comic poet Alexis on the Seven Largest Islands. Another respectable fragment, from the article Δύμη to the end of Δ, exists in a manuscript of the Fonds Coislin, the library formed by Pierre Séguier.

The first modern printed edition of the work was that published by the Aldine Press in Venice, 1502. The complete standard edition is still that of Augustus Meineke (1849, reprinted at Graz, 1958), and by convention, references to the text use Meineke's page numbers. A new completely revised edition in German is in preparation, however, edited by B. Wyss, C. Zubler, M. Billerbeck, J.F. Gaertner, 2006 onwards, with two volumes already published.



  1. ^ J. S. Richardson, Hispaniae: Spain and the Development of Roman Imperialism, 218-82 BC: "In four places, the lexicographer Stephanus of Byzantium refers to towns and ... Artemidorus as source, and in three of the four examples cites Polybius.; From political architecture to Stephanus Byzantius


Further reading

  • Smith, W., Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, vol. 3, s.v. "Stephanus" (2) of Byzantium.
  • Diller, Aubrey 1938, "The tradition of Stephanus Byzantius", Transactions of the American Philological Association 69: 333-48.
  • E.H. Bunbury, 1883, History of Ancient Geography (London), vol. i. 102, 135, 169; ii. 669-71.
  • Holstenius, L., 1684 (posth.), Lucae Holstenii Notae et castigationes postumae in Stephani Byzantii Ethnika, quae vulgo Peri poleōn inscribuntur (Leiden).
  • Niese, B., 1873, De Stephani Byzantii auctoribus (Kiel)
  • Geffcken, J., 1886, De Stephano Byzantio (Göttingen)
  • Whitehead, D. (ed.), 1994, From political architecture to Stephanus Byzantius : sources for the ancient Greek polis (Stuttgart).

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