About “the Art of Grammar”
By this otherwise unknown author, we have a short book, coming from sometime in the 2nd century BCE. His work, the Art of Grammar (Gr. «Τέχνη Γραμματική»), seemingly not in its original form, begins with the definition of grammar and its various functions. It touches matters as accentuation, punctuation, letters’ and syllables’ sounds, exhibiting Dionysius division in eight parts of speech as well as their characteristics and forms. Although he starts by stating the purpose of this Art, we don’t meet e.g. any passage about critical evaluation of poetry or speech, as one would expect.
If this work is really by Dionysius Thrax has been doubted by medieval commentators and grammarians. On the other side, the fact that grammarians of the stature of Apollonius Dyscolus and Herodian knew this work in its present form, defends its authenticity, however it might have been altered in later times.
From a Hamburg manuscript J. A. Fabricius published it in his Bibliotheca Graeca, VI. Another edition comes from Cirbied (1830), originally from a 4/5th cent. Armenian translation, including five additional chapters.
You can follow the text online at Wikisource and an English translation at Archive.org
Dionysius with the epithet “Thrax” (Θρᾷξ) who is traditionally considered the composer of this work, otherwise than his name suggests, was born of Alexandria in the year 170 BCE. The epithet “Thrax” (Θρᾷξ) rather points to the region of Thrace, which according to the Suda (encyclopaedia of the 10th c.CE) was the place Dionysius’ father lived, although others say it was attached to him because of his hoarse voice, which seemingly characterised the Thracians.
He was a pupil of Aristarchus, the better known librarian of the Alexandrine Library in the 2nd cent BCE, who is responsible for the division of the Homeric epic poems into the 24 rhapsodies’ form, still in use today.
Dionysius Thrax left Alexandria spending time teaching Greek in Rhodes and Rome for a living as a “sophist” during the time of Pompey the Great. He also composed “very many grammars, treatises and commentaries”. Whether Dionysius alone is responsible for the text is not and cannot be known. He has also contributed much to the elucidation and criticism of Homeric works, also authoring an account of Rhodes, and a collection of literary studies, among others to whom the fragment in the «Στρωματεῖς» (Stromata) of Clement of Alexandria probably belongs.
He lived until 90 BCE.
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ΤΕΧΝΗ ΓΡΑΜΜΑΤΙΚΗ (§§ 1-2)
Γραμματική ἐστιν ἐμπειρία τῶν παρὰ ποιηταῖς τε καὶ συγγραφεῦσιν ὡς ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ λεγομένων. Μέρη δὲ αὐτῆς ἐστιν ἕξ· πρῶτον ἀνάγνωσις ἐντριβὴς κατὰ προσῳδίαν, δεύτερον ἐξήγησις κατὰ τοὺς ἐνυπάρχοντας ποιητικοὺς τρόπους, τρίτον γλωσσῶν τε καὶ ἱστοριῶν πρόχειρος ἀπόδοσις, τέταρτον ἐτυμολογίας εὕρεσις, πέμπτον ἀναλογίας ἐκλογισμός, ἕκτον κρίσις ποιημάτων, ὃ δὴ κάλλιστόν ἐστι πάντων τῶν ἐν τῇ τέχνῃ.
Ἀνάγνωσίς ἐστι ποιημάτων ἢ συγγραμμάτων ἀδιάπτωτος προφορά. Ἀναγνωστέον δὲ καθ᾽ ὑπόκρισιν, κατὰ προσῳδίαν, κατὰ διαστολήν· ἐκ μὲν γὰρ τῆς ὑποκρίσεως τὴν ἀρετήν, ἐκ δὲ τῆς προσῳδίας τὴν τέχνην, ἐκ δὲ τῆς διαστολῆς τὸν περιεχόμενον νοῦν ὁρῶμεν· ἵνα τὴν μὲν τραγῳδίαν ἡρωϊκῶς ἀναγνῶμεν, τὴν δὲ κωμῳδίαν βιωτικῶς, τὰ δὲ ἐλεγεῖα λιγυρῶς, τὸ δὲ ἔπος εὐτόνως, τὴν δὲ λυρικὴν ποίησιν ἐμμελῶς, τοὺς δὲ οἴκτους ὑφειμένως καὶ γοερῶς. τὰ γὰρ μὴ παρὰ τὴν τούτων γινόμενα παρατήρησιν καὶ τὰς τῶν ποιητῶν ἀρετὰς καταῤῥιπτεῖ καὶ τὰς ἕξεις τῶν ἀναγιγνωσκόντων καταγελάστους παρίστησιν.