Stichometry

# Stichometry

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Encyclopedia
Stichometry is a term applied to the measurement (μέτρον) of ancient texts
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

by στίχοι (lit. "rows") or verses of a fixed standard length.

It was the custom of the Greeks and Romans to estimate the length of their literary works by measured lines. In poetical works the number of metrical verses was computed; in prose works a standard line had to be taken, for no two scribes would naturally write lines of the same length. On the authority of Galen
Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

(de Placit. Hipp. et Plat. Viii. I) we learn that the unit of measurement among the Greeks was the average Homer
Homer
In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

ic line, consisting of about 36 letters, or 16 syllables. The lines so measured were called στιχοι, or επη.

The practice of thus computing the length of a work can be traced back to the 4th century BC in the boast of Theopompus
Theopompus
Theopompus was a Greek historian and rhetorician- Biography :Theopompus was born on Chios. In early youth he seems to have spent some time at Athens, along with his father, who had been exiled on account of his Laconian sympathies...

that he had written more επη than any other writer. The number of such στιχοι or επη contained in a papyrus roll was recorded at the end of the work; and at the end of a large work extending to several rolls the grand total was given. The object of such stichometrical calculations was a commercial one, viz. to assess the pay of the scribe and the market value of the manuscript.

Callimachus
Callimachus
Callimachus was a native of the Greek colony of Cyrene, Libya. He was a noted poet, critic and scholar at the Library of Alexandria and enjoyed the patronage of the Egyptian–Greek Pharaohs Ptolemy II Philadelphus and Ptolemy III Euergetes...

, when he drew up his catalogue of the Alexandrian libraries in the 3rd century BC, registered the total of the στιχοι in each work. Although he is generally lauded for thus carefully recording the numbers and setting an example to all who should follow him, it has been suggested that this very act was the cause of their general disappearance from manuscripts; for that, when his πινακες were published, scribes evidently thought it was needless to repeat what could be found there; and thus it is that so few manuscripts have descended to us which are marked in this way. A more natural reason for the scarcity of such details is that scribes and booksellers suppressed them in order to impose upon their customers.

The application of the system to Latin manuscripts was fully recognized. The unit of measurement was the average Virgilian line. This is recorded in a North African memorandum written in the 4th century containing a computation of the στιχοι in the books of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

and the works of Cyprian
Cyprian
Cyprian was bishop of Carthage and an important Early Christian writer, many of whose Latin works are extant. He was born around the beginning of the 3rd century in North Africa, perhaps at Carthage, where he received a classical education...

. The writer states that in the city of Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

it had become the practice not to record the number of verses in the manuscripts, and that elsewhere also, for greed of gain, the numbers were suppressed. Therefore he has made a calculation of the contents of the text under his hand and has appended to the several books the number of Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

ian hexameter
Hexameter
Hexameter is a metrical line of verse consisting of six feet. It was the standard epic metre in classical Greek and Latin literature, such as in the Iliad and Aeneid. Its use in other genres of composition include Horace's satires, and Ovid's Metamorphoses. According to Greek mythology, hexameter...

s which would represent its length.

The rate of pay of the scribes in Diocletian
Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

's reign was fixed by his edict de pretiis rerum venalium at 25 denarii for 100 στιχοι in writing of the first quality, and at 20 denarii for the second quality; what the difference was between the two qualities does not appear.

The system of measurement described above has been called "total stichometry," in distinction from "partial stichometry," which was the calculation and marking off in the margins of the στιχοι from point to point, just as we mark off the lines in a poem at convenient intervals and number the verses of the chapters of the Bible. This method was for convenience of literary reference. Instances of such "partial stichometry" are not very numerous among existing manuscripts, but they are sufficient to show that the system was in vogue. In the Bankes Homer in the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

the verses are numbered in the margin by hundreds, and the same practice was followed in other Homeric papyri.

In the Ambrosian Pentateuch of the 5th century at Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

the book of Deuteronomy is likewise numbered at every hundredth στιχος. Euthalius, a deacon of Alexandria of the 5th century, marked the στιχοι of the Pauline epistles
Pauline epistles
The Pauline epistles, Epistles of Paul, or Letters of Paul, are the thirteen New Testament books which have the name Paul as the first word, hence claiming authorship by Paul the Apostle. Among these letters are some of the earliest extant Christian documents...

by fifties. In the Codex Urbinus of Isocrates
Isocrates
Isocrates , an ancient Greek rhetorician, was one of the ten Attic orators. In his time, he was probably the most influential rhetorician in Greece and made many contributions to rhetoric and education through his teaching and written works....

, and in the Clarke Plato of AD 888, at Oxford, there are indications of partial stichometry.

There was also in use in biblical texts and in rhetorical works a stichometrical system different from that described above, in which the στιχοι, as we have seen, were lines of measurement or space-lines. This other system, which is more correctly entitled colometry, consisted in the division or breaking up of the text into short sentences or lines according to the sense, with a view to a better understanding of the meaning and a better delivery in public reading. The Psalms
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

, Proverbs
Book of Proverbs
The Book of Proverbs , commonly referred to simply as Proverbs, is a book of the Hebrew Bible.The original Hebrew title of the book of Proverbs is "Míshlê Shlomoh" . When translated into Greek and Latin, the title took on different forms. In the Greek Septuagint the title became "paroimai paroimiae"...

and other poetical books were anciently thus written, and hence received the title of βιβλοι στικηρεις, or στικηραι; and it was on the same plan that St Jerome wrote, first the books of the prophets, and subsequently all the Bible of his version, per cola et commata "quod in Demosthene et Tullio solet fieri." In the Greek Testament also Euthalius
Euthalius
Euthalius was a deacon of Alexandria and later Bishop of Sulca. He lived towards the middle of the fifth century and is chiefly known through his work on the New Testament in particular as the author of the "Euthalian Sections"....

, in the 5th century, introduced the method of writing στιχηδὀν, as he termed it, into the Pauline and Catholic epistles and the Acts. The surviving manuscripts which contain the text written in short sentences show by the diversity of the latter that the rhythmical sentences or lines of sense were differently calculated by different writers; but the original arrangement of St Jerome is thought to be represented in the Codex Amiatinus at Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, and that of Euthalius in the Codex Claromontanus
Codex Claromontanus
Codex Claromontanus, symbolized by Dp or 06 , δ 1026 , is a Greek-Latin diglot uncial manuscript of the New Testament, written in an uncial hand on vellum. The Greek and Latin text on facing pages...

at Paris. With regard to St Jerome's reference to the division per cola et commata of the rhetorical works of Demosthenes and Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

, it should be noticed that there are still in existence manuscripts of works of the latter in which the text is thus written, one of them being a volume of the Tusculans and the De senectute in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. The same arrangement of the text of the orations of Demosthenes
Demosthenes
Demosthenes was a prominent Greek statesman and orator of ancient Athens. His orations constitute a significant expression of contemporary Athenian intellectual prowess and provide an insight into the politics and culture of ancient Greece during the 4th century BC. Demosthenes learned rhetoric by...

is also mentioned by the rhetoricians of the 5th and subsequent centuries.