from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Etymologiae (sive origines) are an encyclopedia by Isidore of Seville (approx. 560 to 636 ).

The Etymologiae in the Basel edition 1489 ( Johann Amerbach )

Isidore of Seville (also known as Isidorus Hispalensis ), the "teacher of Spain", published the Etymologiae (also known as Origines ; full title: Originum seu etymologiarum libri XX ; also: Etymologiarum sive originum libri XX ) around 623 (630 (?)) (?); German: "Twenty Books of Etymologies or Origins" ). Isidore tried in this encyclopedia to unite the entire worldly and spiritual knowledge of his time.

The Etymologiae are based on the Artes liberales , but supplement them with an outline of the world history known at the time. The "land register of the entire Middle Ages" ( ER Curtius ) was compiled from a wide variety of templates.

Map of the western hemisphere, printed by Günther Zainer, 1472

The print of the Etymologiae of 1472 contains the first map print of the West as an illustration of Isidore's text. The simple map is designed as a cycling map in the TO style .


The Etymologiae in the manuscript Vercelli, Biblioteca capitolare, CCII, fol. 66r (9th century)

The content is divided into 20 "books", whereby such a "book" roughly corresponds to a current book chapter:

  • Book 1: Grammar
  • Book 2: Rhetoric and Dialectic
  • Book 3: Of the Four Mathematical Disciplines
  • Book 4: Medicine
  • Book 5: Law and Time Management
  • Book 6: Books and Church Feasts
  • Book 7: God, Angels, Saints
  • Book 8: Church, Sects, Religions
  • Book 9: Languages, Peoples, Empires
  • Book 10: Words, Names, Concepts
  • Book 11: Man, Monster
  • Book 12: Animals
  • Book 13: The world and its division
  • Book 14: The Earth and Its Division
  • Book 15: Community Life
  • Book 16: Stones and Metals
  • Book 17: Of Agriculture
  • Book 18: War and Games
  • Book 19: Craft
  • Book 20: Objects of Use

Book 2: Of Rhetoric and Dialectic

In Chapters I-VIII, rhetoric , the science of effective speaking in public affairs (Chapter 1), is classified in various ways, according to function (advisory, solemn, court speech (Chapter IV)), according to the type of presentation ( Honorable, amazing, everyday, open, mysterious (Chapter VIII)), u. a. The source is largely Cassiodorus , but also Marcus Tullius Cicero , who is mentioned. In chap. IX deals with the syllogism , which is a concept of both rhetoric and dialectic. Chapters X to XXI present several aspects of rhetoric, such as the liveliness of the lecture through the personification of inanimate things (Chapter XIII) or an adapted level of style (low, serene, glamorous, solemn (Chapter XVII)). The source is De institutio oratoria by Marcus Fabius Quintilianus and several works by Cicero. In the extensive Chapter XXI in particular, numerous terms are adorned with detailed citations from the literature (mainly from Virgil's Aeneid ).

In the following, Isidore defines dialectics as a subspecies of logic , as a doctrine of how truth can be recognized from falsehood (Chapter XXII), referring to Aristotle . For a more detailed explanation, an overall presentation of the history and definition of philosophy is offered (Chapter XXIV) and some of the writings About the Categories (Chapter XXIV) and About the Interpretation (Chapter XXVII) of Aristotle. Finally, in Chapter XXVIII, Isidore offers an insight into the propositions of the categorical syllogism (propositions of the kind: all that is just is honorable, all that is honorable is good, so all that is just is good ) and of the hypothetical syllogism ( when it is day, it is light, it but is not bright, so it is not daytime ). Isidore refers to Marius Victorinus , but largely cites Cassiodorus. The 15 types of definition in Chapter XXIX also go back to Marius Victorinus ( De definitionibus ).

Book 3: Of the Four Mathematical Disciplines

Isidore von Sevilla translates mathematica ( ancient Greek μάθημα = what has been learned, science) with doctrinis scientia = teaching science. He defines four disciplines: arithmetic = countable quantities, geometry = of sizes and shapes, music = about the numbers that are contained in the tones and astronomy = about the course of the heavenly stars. In doing so he follows the school of Pythagoras , which he also gives as a source.


After some etymological derivation of number names, he gives definitions in the field of natural numbers , rational numbers , areas and bodies . He follows closely the Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum (Book II, 3) of Cassiodorus. Like him, he gives Nicomachus of Gerasa as a source in Boethius' translation ( De institutione arithmetica ). The explanations on par / impar ( even / odd ), perfectus ( perfect number ), simplex ( prime number ), superparticularis (considerations on rational numbers), superficialis (approximation of the polygonal numbers ) etc. are taken over in terms of content, but also verbatim over long periods . Isidore, however, probably also used other works, for example not only taking the smallest perfect number from Cassiodorus, but naming two more.


The chapter mainly consists of a historical outline and the enumeration of geometric figures, such as cubus , sphaera , pyramis , some of which can also be found in Martianus Capella .


Isidore of Seville stands between the ancient and the Christian tradition. He passed on the story of Pythagoras in the forge , but also the harp of King David ( 1 Sam 16.23  EU ).

However, the ancient sources predominate by far. In the praise of the music there is a hint of platonic ideas that he may have taken over from Boethius.

"... and the sky itself rotates to the beat of harmony"

- Book III, Chapter XVII

"... which was not incorrectly said by Plato that the world soul consists of a musical harmony"

Like Cassiodorus, he wants to divide music into 3 areas: harmonia , rhythmica and metrica . However, he cannot develop an overall picture of the harmony, but only brings a few terms such as modulatio , symphonia , genus hypodorius . Contrary to the announcement, the topics rhythmica and metrica are hardly dealt with, only the brief note that arsis et thesis (= raising and lowering) are essential components of the metric is found.
The author lists an impressive number of musical instruments with descriptions of their manufacture, use and legends of origin. He surpasses Martianus Capella, from whom he takes over the tuba and the rarely mentioned sambuca . The psaltery Hebraei however, comes from the Bible.
It concludes with figures of music . Starting with the numbers 6 and 12, the numbers 36, 18, 8, 4, 2 are formed by arithmetic operations, which represent musical intervals, about 6-12 the octave, 6-8 the fourth. This connecting line between numbers and music is not drawn, however, so that the text appears incomplete and unthought. The source could be Martianus Capella or Boethius.


The task of astronomy is (Book 3, chap. XXVIII) to define
... quid sit mundus, quid caelum, quid sphaerae situs ... qui cursus solis et lunae atque astrorum
... what the world, the sky, the The position of the spheres is ... the course of the sun, the moon, the star
Isidore of Seville obviously combines several sources. This means that some areas are treated several times, for example the planets in Chap. LXVII and chap. LXXI, 20.
From chap. LXXI describes the constellations. The sources available are the numerous Latin and Greek books following the Phainomena of Aratos by Soloi , in particular De Astronomia by Hyginus Mythographus . However, only a few, very well-known constellations and stars such as Orion (constellation) , Pleiades , Sirius are recorded. There is also a lack of location information and the ups and downs.
The planets are given a Greek name ( Phaeton (planet) , Phaenon . Pyrion , Hesperos , Stilbon ) and their Latin name.
The zodiac constellation sequence is completely included without the term being mentioned. Then the author warns urgently against any superstition (chap. LXXI, 39):
... noxias, quae mathesis dicitur, eventus rerum praescire ... non solum Christianae religionis doctores sed etiam gentilium Plato, Aristotle damnaverunt
... by harmful astrology future foreseeing is condemned not only by Christian theologians but also by Plato and Aristotle

Book 4: Medicine

Isidore of Seville collects the medical knowledge of his time that was accessible to him. In chapters I - IV and in the final chapter XIII he presents the history of medicine. The mythical beginning with Aesculapius is followed by Hippocrates of Kos as the actual founder. The medical schools of methodologists and empiricists (medical school) are mentioned without the names of their representatives and without the basic principles of teaching.

In Chapter V the author develops a very condensed account of the humoral pathology of the Corpus Hippocraticum . He could have drawn it from the writings of Vindicianus . In many cases, attempts are made to derive etymological terms from terms that are not always convincing, for example when sanguis (blood) is associated with suavis (sweet).

In chapters VI to VIII, Isidore of Seville lists diseases, usually only with a name derivation, divided into acute and chronic diseases (based on Caelius Aurelianus ) and external diseases (based on Theodorus Priscianus ). In the case of acute illnesses, he mentions pestilentia ( plague ), which deviates from his ancient sources , which does not arise at all without the will of Almighty God .

In Chapter IX, too, the author refers to the Christian religion and justifies the use of remedies with two biblical quotations. The classification of the remedies in Greek: pharmacia , chirurgia and dieta , or Latin: medicamina , manum operatio and regula can already be found in Aulus Cornelius Celsus .

Also from the Naturalis Historia of Pliny took Isidor content for the fourth book of his Etymologiae .

Book 11: Of Men and Of Monsters

The body parts and organs of humans are represented. It starts with anima , animus , mens (spirit, soul, understanding). These statements can be found similarly in the early Christian church father Laktanz ( De opificio dei , chapters 16-18). The subsequent passage through the human body from the sensory organs, via the windpipe, kidneys, trunk, hands, etc. to the uterus is also modeled on there. However, Isidore also quotes Gaius Iulius Solinus ( De mirabilibus mundi ) in a larger piece of text and shows parallels to many other ancient and early Christian texts. The numerous etymological interpretations are based on vague word similarities.

In Chapter II, Isidore describes the ages of man from infancy to old age. Here he follows Augustine of Hippo ( De genesi contra Manicheaes , I, 35-41).

In Chapter III, Isidore goes into the portenta ( freak , monster, but also signs, omens). These are not against nature, since they were also created according to divine will. It is possible that he took over thoughts from Augustine of Hippo , with whom he agrees down to the choice of words and the quotation by Marcus Terentius Varros . For the list that now follows, from deviations in human body shape to mythical creatures (6 fingers on one hand, liver on the left side, hermaphrodites , centauri , cyclopes and much more), he also finds inspiration from Augustine, but also from several ancient ones Authors. Much is also taken from the books of Pliny the Elder

Book 17: Of Agriculture

Isidore of Seville cites the well-known agricultural writers of antiquity as sources, from Mago to Cato the Elder , Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella to Palladius . However, he does not reflect the rich knowledge accumulated there, but is content with an etymological interpretation of some technical terms and a botany of the agriculturally used plants. After a discussion of agriculture, a lot of which can also be found in Pliny the Elder , he turns to vines in Chapter V. He lists around 30 grape varieties, closely following Columella, but without its rich information on cultivation and properties. Remarks such as those on the venucula are rare . With Columella ... quarum uvae temporibus hiemis durabiles ... ut Vennuculae ut ... Numisianae , with Isidore of Seville durabiles autem per totam hiemen Venuculae et Numisianae , both: Venucula and Numisiana last through the whole winter .

In the following chapters, the author lists a large number of trees, spice trees, and herbs. Numerous ancient specialist writers on botany and agriculture come into question as his sources, in particular Palladius. He also sprinkles quotes from Latin poets; several times he refers to the Georgica of Publius Vergilius Maro . The etymology is often incorrect in this book too. For example, the name carica of the fig (VII, 17) is traced back to its abundance of fruit instead of its origin in Caria (Asia Minor).


The work was made available in the libraries of monasteries in the Middle Ages , used by students as a standard reference work for centuries, and first printed in Augsburg in 1472 by Günther Zainer .


  • Jacques Paul Migne : Sancti Isidori, Hispalensis Episcopi Opera Omnia , Turnholti 1969
  • Wallace Martin Lindsay (Ed.). 2 volumes. Oxford 1911 Internet Archive (both volumes)
  • José Oroz Reta, Marcos Manuel-A. Marcos Casquero and Manuel Díaz y Díaz: San Isidoro de Sevilla. Etimologias (Ed., Spanish transl.) 2 volumes, 2nd edition Madrid 1993-4

See also


  • Lenelotte Möller (translator): The Encyclopedia of Isidore of Seville . Marixverlag, Wiesbaden 2008, ISBN 978-3-86539-177-3 .
  • Stephen A. Barney, WJ Lewis, JA Beach, Oliver Berghof: The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2006; 3. Edition. Cambridge et al. 2007.
  • Peter K. Marshall: Isidore of Seville , Etymologies, Book II, Paris 1983.
  • Priscilla Throop: Isidore of Seville's Etymologies: Complete English Translation, 3rd ed. Charlotte, Vermont 2013


  • Brigitte English: The Artes Liberales in the Early Middle Ages (5th – 9th centuries). The quadrivium and the computus as indicators of continuity and renewal of the exact sciences between antiquity and the Middle Ages . Steiner, Stuttgart 1994, ISBN 3-515-06431-1 , esp.p. 126ff., P. 170 ff., P. 228 ff
  • Jacques Fontaine: Isidore de Séville et la culture classique dans l'Espagne wisigothique, 2 vols., Paris 1959
  • Roger Harmon: The Reception of Greek Music Theory in the Roman Empire II. Boethius, Cassiodorus, Isidor of Seville, in: From myth to specialist discipline. Antiquity and Byzantium, ed. v. Konrad Volk, Frieder Zaminer u. a. (History of Music Theory 2), Darmstadt 2006, pp. 385–504

Web links

Single receipts

  1. ^ Cassiodorus: Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum , Book 2, II
  2. Peter K. Marshall: Isidore ol Seville , note 70-205
  3. ^ Cassiodorus: Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum , Book 2, II, 12-14
  4. Carl von Prantl : History of Logic in the Occident , First Volume, XII. section
  5. BL van der Waerden : Pythagoreans . In: Paulys Realencyclopadie der classischen Antiquity Science (RE). Volume 10, Stuttgart 1893ff., Sp. 277-296.
  6. Martianus Capella: De nuptia Philologiae et Mercurii , Book IV, 721-722
  7. Boethius: De institutione musica , Book I, I.
  8. Cassiodorus: Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum , Book 2, V (4)
  9. ^ Martianus Capella: De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii , Book IX, 924
  10. ^ Martianus Capella: De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii , Book VII, 736
  11. Boethius: De institutione musica , Book I, I.
  12. Lenelotte Müller: The Encyclopedia of Isidore of Seville , Introduction, p. 13 and notes
  13. Jacques Paul Migne: Sancti Isidori, Hispalensis Episcopi Opera Omnia , Etymologiarum Lib. IV, footnotes
  14. Celsus: Proemium, 9
  15. ^ Samuel Brandt : L. Caeli Firmiani Lactanti Opera omnia , footnotes
  16. Jacques Paul Migne: Sancti Isidori, Hispalensis Episcopi Opera Omnia , Etymologiarum Lib. XI, footnotes
  17. ^ Karl Ernst Georges : Comprehensive Latin-German concise dictionary
  18. Augustine: De civitate Dei , XXI, 8
  19. Augustine: De civitate Dei , XVI, 8
  20. ^ Aulus Gellius : Noctes Atticae , IX, 4
  21. ^ Jacques Paul Migne: Sancti Isidori, Hispalensis Episcopi Opera Omnia , Etymologiarum Lib. XVII, footnotes
  22. Columella: Res rustica , 3rd book, 2nd
  23. Lenelotte Möller: The Encyclopedia of Isidore of Seville , p. 622