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mise à jour du
28 mars 2010
De verborum significatione
Sextus Pompeius Festus
André Dacier


Festus grammaticus, Sextus Pompeius Festus était un grammairien latin de la fin du IIe siècle ap. J.-C. Il avait composé, sous le titre de De Significatione Verborum, une sorte de dictionnaire précieux pour la connaissance des antiquités romaines, de la langue latine et de la mythologie.
Cet ouvrage est une sorte d'abrégé traité De Verborum Significatu de Verrius Flaccus, qui n'est pas parvenu jusqu'à nous. Il est d'ailleurs à noter que l'ouvrage de Festus ne nous est lui-même parvenu que partiellement (sa deuxième moitié), et de surcroît très mutilé et fut lui-même abrégé par Paul Diacre.
Il ne reste, outre l'abrégé de Paul Diacre, que des fragments de Festus lui-même, trouvés dans les manuscrits de Pomponius Laetus et publiés à Rome par F. Orsinus (Fulvio Orsini), 1581.
Le tout a été réimprimé par :
• André Dacier, Paris, 1681, ad usum Delphini (voir ci-dessous)
• Lindemann, Leipzig, 1832 ;
• Egger, Paris, 1838 ;
• Karl Otfried Müller, Leipzig, 1839.
Il a été traduit en français, par Auguste Savagner, 1846, dans la collection Panckoucke.
sex pompei festi
sex pompei festi
De verborum significatione: "Augustus locus sanctus ab avium gestu . .."
Bresciae: Boninus de boninis, 18 June, 1483 Sextus Pompeius Festus was a grammarian of the 2nd century A.D., who wrote this abridgement ('epitome') of the now lost encyclopedic dictionary of his contemporary Marcus Verrius Flaccus which survives only in fragments and in occasional citations by other authors. Verrius Flaccus, a freedman and celebrated grammarian who flourished in the reign of Augustus .
Festus gives the etymology as well as the meaning of every word; and his work throws considerable light on the language, mythology and antiquities of ancient Rome . He made a few alterations, and inserted some critical remarks of his own . He also omitted such ancient Latin words as had long been obsolete; these he discussed in a separate work now lost, entitled Priscorum verborum cum exemplis.
Our primary remaining source of this important Latin dictionary is Festus' abridgement, of which there is only one surviving manuscript (mutilated, and consisting of only the letters M-V), and an 8th-century abridgment of Festus by Paul the Deacon. The printed editions from the 15th century, therefore, are of the utmost importance in the history of the transmission of the text. Vancil lists 10: (201-210), beginning with the first edition of Milan, 1471.
This edition by Boninus de Bonini is the last edition printed in the 15th century, and apparently the last edition before the rediscovery of the mutilated manuscript was printed in 1559. Goff locates two copies (Hartford Theological Seminary and Newberry Library). RLIN & OCLC both locate one copy (Emory University), catalogued with the inaccurate remark that "this is the second and only remaining portion of the abridgement by Festus of the lost treatise, De verborum significatione of M. Verrius Flaccus, edited and with notes by Fulvio Orsini" - a remark which applies to the 1559 printing, edited by Orsini, from the mutilated manuscript now in Naples. The incunable editions represent the entire alphabet. In this edition, the text of the full alphabet runs through verso H2, ending with "Festi Popmpeii diligenter emendati liber finit".
"For modern readers, there is a critical text, published in the early part of the twentieth century; but no translation or commentary is available and the text itself needs modern re-assessment. Many individual entries from the dictionary have been much debated and play a major role in our understanding of the republican period; but there has been no collection of this bibliography and little attempt to look at the dictionary itself or at the information it provides as a coherent whole."
And modern editors have also remarked: "The text, even in its present mutilated state, is an important source for scholars of Roman history. It is a treasury of historical, grammatical, legal and antiquarian learning, providing sometimes unique evidence for the culture, language, political, social and religious institutions, deities, laws, lost monuments, and topographical traditions of ancient Italy."