Editing Hesychius Pi-Omega

The Completion of Kurt Latte's Hesychius for the Danish Academy

Hesychius of Alexandria lived in the fifth century A.D. and compiled a dictionary of unusual or difficult Greek words with explanations in Greek. Approximately 51,000 entries make it the richest surviving Greek lexicon compiled until the invention of printing. It is of great importance to Ancient Greek studies because it contains countless words and expressions from poetry, administration, medicine, and so on, that are otherwise unknown or insufficiently explained. In particular, numerous words from the Greek dialects are important, not only for Greek but also for Indo-European philology.

The Lexicon suffered substantial alterations, including abridgements and additions on its way from the author to the only surviving manuscript (fifteenth century). The production of an edition that gives all important information about the manuscript and the work of earlier scholars, as well as meeting modern requirements for the noting of parallels in other lexicographical works, is a slow and difficult task. Marcus Musurus published the first edition in 1514 (reprinted in 1520 and 1521 with modest revisions). There have since been many plans for an edition, but only four were started. Of the four editors, only one, M. Schmidt, lived long enough to finish the work himself. His edition (1858-68) is now completely out of date.

A new edition was one of the most urgent requirements in Greek studies already when the German scholar KURT LATTE began preliminary work in the 1920s for the Danish Academy's Commission for Corpus Lexicographorum Graecorum. The project was severely hampered by the events of 1933-45. Volumes 1-2 were published in 1953 and (posthumously) 1966.

In March 1987, the Commission entrusted me with producing a third volume (= pi-omega, 13844 entries) to bring the project to completion. I have worked on this since July 1988, supervised by the Commission and supported by four years' stipend from the Carlsberg Foundation (Carlsbergfondet), which has also financed the acquisition of computer equipment. The four stipends were divided into eight portions. The last portion covered a period ending in early April 1996.

In 1998 the backing of the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, combined with the generosity of the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung at Cologne, resulted in my being given a stipend for a four year period, and I received the first instalment in October 1998. I am thus once more able to concentrate on finishing the task. I am currently working on the letter sigma.

I am in regular contact with the following, who read and comment on instalments of my work: Prof. Klaus Alpers (the Danish Academy's supervisor of the project), Hamburg; Dr. Ian C. Cunningham, Minard (Argyll)/Edinburgh; Prof. Rudolf Kassel, Köln; Dr. Martin L. West, All Souls College, Oxford.

Peter Allan Hansen

21 Leckford Road
Tel: 01865 554747


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Last updated by Peter Allan Hansen on Tuesday, 23 March, 1999: 13:01:58