You are on page 1of 1

Aristophanes of Byzantium

Aristophanes of Byzantium
Born c. 257 BC
Byzantium
Died c. 185/180 BC
Alexandria
Aristophanes of Byzantium (Greek: ???st?f????; c. 257 c. 185/180 BC) was a Helle
nistic Greek scholar, critic and grammarian, particularly renowned for his work
in Homeric scholarship, but also for work on other classical authors such as Pin
dar and Hesiod. Born in Byzantium about 257 BC, he soon moved to Alexandria and
studied under Zenodotus, Callimachus, and Dionysius Iambus. He succeeded Eratost
henes as head librarian of the Library of Alexandria at the age of sixty.
Aristophanes was the first to deny that the Precepts of Chiron was the work of H
esiod.[1]
Aristophanes is credited with the invention of the accent system used in Greek t
o designate pronunciation, as the tonal, pitched system of archaic and classical
Greek was giving way (or had given way) to the stress-based system of koine. Th
is was also a period when Greek, in the wake of Alexander's conquests, was begin
ning to act as a lingua franca for the Eastern Mediterranean (replacing various
Semitic languages). The accents were designed to assist in the pronunciation of
Greek in older literary works.
He also invented one of the first forms of punctuation in the 3rd century BC; si
ngle dots (distinctiones) that separated verses (colometry), and indicated the a
mount of breath needed to complete each fragment of text when reading aloud (not
to comply with rules of grammar, which were not applied to punctuation marks un
til thousands of years later). For a short passage (a komma), a media distinctio
dot was placed mid-level (·). This is the origin of the modern comma punctuation
mark, and its name. For a longer passage (a colon), a subdistinctio dot was plac
ed level with the bottom of the text (.), similar to a modern colon or semicolon
, and for very long pauses (periodos), a distinctio point near the top of the li
ne of text (·).[2][3][4]
As a lexicographer he compiled collections of archaic and unusual words. He died
in Alexandria around 185180 BC. His students included Callistratus, Aristarchus
of Samothrace, and perhaps Agallis.