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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2019

Adam Gitner*
Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften


In his poem ‘The Last Hours of Cassiodorus’, Peter Porter has the Christian sage ask: ‘After me, what further barbarisms?’. Yet, Cassiodorus himself accepted, even valorized, at least one form of barbarism that had been rejected by earlier rhetoricians: sardismos (σαρδισμός), the mixture of multiple languages in close proximity. In its earliest attestation, Quintilian classified it as a type of solecism (Inst. 8.3.59). By contrast, five centuries later Cassiodorus in his Commentary on the Psalms used the term three times to praise the mixture of Greek, Hebrew and Latin in the Latin Psalter. This reversal, from vice to virtue of speech, illustrates some significant changes in attitudes toward language and multilingualism that developed as Christianity reshaped Roman literary culture. For one, Christian preachers, modelling themselves on the plain style of the Gospels, embraced forms of speech that had been regarded as low and stigmatized. In the words of Augustine (In psalm. 36, Serm. 3.6): ‘better you understand us in our barbarism than to have been deserted in our eloquence’ (melius in barbarismo nostro uos intelligitis, quam in nostra disertudine uos deserti eritis).1 Secondly, Hebrew now entered the linguistic consciousness of the Roman literary elite as one of the three languages of Scripture. Even if in-depth knowledge remained rare, it was worthy of being mentioned alongside Greek and Latin, just as it had appeared with them in the inscription on Jesus’ cross (Luke 23:38, John 19:20). Lastly, linguistic variety itself came to be positively valued since it reflected the diversity of a church coming together out of many peoples. Commenting on the bride's appearance in Psalm 45, both Augustine and Cassiodorus saw the variegated adornment of her robe as a reference to the diversity of Christian languages.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2019 

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1 For similar thoughts compare August. In psalm. 138.20 line 7 melius est reprehendant nos grammatici, quam non intellegant populi; Greg. M. Moral. epist. 5 non barbarismi confusionem deuito … quia indignum uehementer existimo, ut uerba caelestis oraculi restringam sub regulis Donati. In general, see Auerbach, E., ‘Sermo humilis’, in Literary Language and its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages (New York, 1965), 2566Google Scholar.

2 Compare Augustine's praise for Jerome as homo doctissimus et omnium trium linguarum peritus (De civ. D. 18.43). Similarly Jerome praises Paula's knowledge of Hebrew and her ability to sing psalms in that language (Ep. 108.10.6, 26.3). Even Priscian shows his awareness that several Semitic languages lack a neuter gender (Gramm. II 147.18–48.3), a passage discussed by Paolo de Paolis, ‘La parentela linguistica fra greco e latino nella tradizione grammaticale latina’, in Haverling, G.V.M.(ed.), Latin Linguistics in the Early 21st Century (Uppsala, 2015), 622Google Scholar.

3 See Carruthers, M., The Experience of Beauty in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 2013), 155–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar, who cites August. In psalm. 44.24 sacramenta doctrinae in linguis omnibus uariis … faciunt istae linguae uarietatem uestis reginae huius and Cassiod. In psalm. 44.10.

4 I am grateful to Paolo de Paolis for communicating these medieval occurrences to me, which seem to derive from Cassiodorus. The eighth-century Leiden Glossary (Voss. lat. q. 69) contains a section excerpted from Cassiodorus’ Commentary on the Psalms, where the figure is defined as follows: Gloss. Leid. Hessels 28.85 figura sardismos: quę linguarum semper permixtione formatur. The word also appears twice in the marginalia of several manuscripts of Boethius’ De consolatione philosophiae (see Troncarelli, F., Tradizione perdute: la ‘Consolatio philosophiae’ nell'alto medioevo [Padua, 1981], 39, 45Google Scholar). Commenting on Cons. 1.5.4 (sed εἷς κοίρανός ἐστιν …), the scholiast writes sardismos. commixtio linguarum; so too at 3.12.37. Though only two languages are at issue here, the wording makes the debt to Cassiodorus clear. While Troncarelli argues that the marginalia were produced soon after the publication of the Consolatio, Margaret Gibson dates them to the late eighth century; see ‘“Tradizioni perdute” of the “De consolatione philosophiae”: comments on a recent book’, REAug 30 (1984), 274–8, at 277.

5 See Halm, K., ‘Über den Rhetor Julius Victor als Quelle der Verbesserung des Quintilianischen Textes’, Sitzungsberichte der königlich bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München 1 (1863), 389418Google Scholar, at 390 n. 3 and Radermacher, L., Anzeiger der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Wien 59 (1922), 14Google Scholar. The emendation is adopted in the editions of F. Meister (1886/1887), L. Radermacher (1907/1935), M. Winterbottom (1970), V. Cousin (1975–80) and D.A. Russell (2001).

6 See more generally Winterbottom, M., Problems in Quintilian (London, 1970), 36–7Google Scholar.

7 On the suffix -ισμός, see Schwyzer, E., Griechische Grammatik Ι: Allgemeiner Teil: Lautlehre, Wortbildung, Flexion (Munich, 1953), 491–3Google Scholar and Chantraine, P., La formation des noms en grec ancien (Paris, 1933), 138–44Google Scholar, esp. 139–42.

8 On the origin of σολοικισμός, first used to describe faulty syllogisms before being applied to language, see Salmeri, G., ‘Hellenism on the periphery: the case of Cilicia and the etymology of soloikismos’, YClS 31 (2004), 181206Google Scholar and Flobert, P., ‘La théorie du solécisme dans l'antiquité: de la logique a la syntaxe’, RPh 60 (1986), 173–81Google Scholar.

9 For the bilingual inscriptions, see Gusmani, R., Lydisches Wörterbuch (Heidelberg, 1964)Google Scholar, nos. 1, 20, 40, 41; the glosses transmitted in Greek are listed at 271–7 (cf. the Nachträge in R. Gusmani, Lydisches Wörterbuch: Ergänzungsband [Heidelberg, 1980–6], 160–4). On contact between Greek and Lydian, see Adiego, I.-J., ‘Greek and Lydian’, in Christidis, A.-F. (ed.), A History of Ancient Greek: From the Beginnings to Late Antiquity (Cambridge, 2001), 768–72Google Scholar.

10 See Schindel, U., Anonymus Ecksteinii: Scemata Dianoeas quae ad rhetores pertinent (Göttingen, 1987), 121–2Google Scholar.

11 See the introduction to Schindel (n. 10) and further Schindel, U., Die Rezeption der hellenistischen Theorie der rhetorischen Figuren bei den Römern (Göttingen, 2001), esp. 71–2Google Scholar.

12 The passage begins: quinque sunt linguae Graecorum, Ias Doris Atthis Aeolis coene. iuxta has igitur quinque linguas et Latina uerba conprehensa colliguntur hoc modo. Ias relictis propriis utitur similibus quasi propriis nominibus ac uersatur in omnibus tropis. Thus ‘Ionic’ is described as a style that replaces proper nouns with metaphors and tropes, and he goes on to provide similar interpretations of Doric, Attic and Aeolic.

13 On the instability of Greek characters in the transmission of Figurenlehren, see Schindel (n. 11), 71 n. 4.

14 See further Schindel, U., ‘Textkritisches zu lateinischen Figurenlehren’, Glotta 52 (1974), 113–14Google Scholar. Yet, the frequency of the adjective Ias, Iadis in Latin grammatical texts and elsewhere may point to Iadicus as a genuine Roman coinage (e.g. Diom. Gramm. I 440.4 K, Prisc. Gramm. II 65.15 H, II 68.5 H Iadis linguae; CIL 6.3967, 6.6971, etc.).

15 It may be possible to read Quintilian's <et> … et in a disjunctive sense. TLL V.2.894.30–56 cites examples of this usage from Horace onwards and notes speciatim in periphrasi apud gramm., though the cited grammarians commence only with Donatus (Ter. Eun. 843).

16 On this ‘Heliodorus’, who must postdate Choeroboscus, see Dickey, E., Ancient Greek Scholarship (Oxford, 2007), 80Google Scholar; Lallot, J., La grammaire de Denys le Thrace (Paris, 19982), 32–6Google Scholar; Hilgard, A., Scholia in Dionysii Thracis artem grammaticam (Leipzig, 1901), xiv–xviiiGoogle Scholar.

17 For this dating, see Adriaen, M., Magni Aurelii Cassiodori Expositio Psalmorum (Turnhout, 1958)Google Scholar, I.xii and Schindel (n. 11), 124.

18 Cassiodorus’ quotation of the Psalms mainly follows the Roman Psalter (abyssus abyssum rather than abyssum ad abyssum), but Hermoniim appears to be a contamination from the Gallican Psalter or contact with the Septuagint (Ερμωνιιμ); the reading also appears in the contaminated Lyon Psalter (Weber's codex η; cf. Weber, R., Le Psautier Romain [Rome, 1953])Google Scholar.

19 See Agosto, M., Impiego e definizione di tropi e schemi retorici nell’ Expositio psalmorum di Cassiodoro (Montella, 2003), 145–6Google Scholar.

20 For instance, similar interpretations appear at Ambr. In psalm. 35.18.6; Jer. In Hab. 2.3 lines 701–4; Jer. Tract. in psalm. I p. 61 lines 178–9; Leo M. Serm. 60.1.

21 This is the definition of Hoffmann, C., An Introduction to Bilingualism (London, 1991), 110Google Scholar, cited by Adams, J.N., Bilingualism and the Latin Language (Cambridge, 2003), 19CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Proper nouns are sometimes held not to belong unambiguously to any language and hence not to count as code-switches, but this obscures the fact that speakers face a stark choice whether to assimilate a foreign name or to preserve its foreignness; cf. Grosjean, F., Bilingual: Life and Reality (Cambridge, MA, 2010), 66–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

22 On this difficulty see, for instance, Durkin, P., The Oxford Guide to Etymology (Oxford, 2009), 173–7Google Scholar.

23 See Gramm. suppl. 177.3–5: ait ‘Epirus’ pi longa est, sed e habet accentum. similiter ‘abyssus’ ‘baptisma’, quorum antepaenultima positione cognoscitur esse longa, sed acuitur paenultima (cf. 176.35–7). The borrowing abyssus is attested frequently in the Vetus Latina (pace TLL I.243.46–50): e.g. Tert. Bapt. 3.2 super abyssum, citing Gen. 1:2; Lactant. Inst. 4.6.6–8 abyssos citing Prov. 8:22; Vet. Lat. Deut. 33:13 (cod. 100) abyssis. It is possible that Commodian scans the word as ábis(s)us (Instr. 1.27.19), but since the word occurs before the hexametric clausula it is uncertain whether length and accent can be inferred. Spellings with a singleton s are found in the codex unicus of Commodian and in Paulinus of Nola (Carm. 19.651 aby̆sis), which suggest that the preservation of the proparoxytone accent may have led to the simplification of the consonant cluster. This would thus be parallel to vowel shortening in forms such as ídŏlum, émblĕma, próblĕma, sínăpis, on which see J. André, ‘Accent, timbre et quantité dans les emprunts du latin au grec postérieurs au 3e s. p.C.’, BSL 35 (1958), 138–58 (but he lists aby̆sus among anomalies inexplicables). However, the simplification of -σσ- also occurred in post-classical Greek; see Gignac, T., A Grammar of the Greek Papyri of the Roman and Byzantine Periods: Volume 1 Phonology (Milan, 1976), 158–9Google Scholar.

24 It presents a Greek accusative ending in Tacitus (Hist. 5.6 amnem Iordanen), which suggests the word entered Latin via Greek (Ἰορδάνης). The indeclinable form Iordan appears only twice: Jer. Quaest. hebr. in gen. p. 24.6 and Carm. adv. Marc. 2.79.

25 The ending -iim apparently derives from the Septuagint (Ερμωνιιμ; cf. Vet. Lat. cod. 303 -niin and the var. lect. at Psalm 88:13), which differs from the expected transliteration of the Masoretic text by the addition of a second iota (חֶרְמוֹנִים ḥęrmônîm). The same suffix -ιιμ seems to represent the Hebrew plural morpheme -îm in Φυλιστιιμ (e.g. Gen. 10:14, Exod. 13:17, Josh. 13:12, passim).

26 Cic. Orat. 163–4 ‘qua pontus Helles, †supera† Tmolum ac Tauricos’: locorum splendidis nominibus illuminatus est uersus, sed proximus inquinatus insuauissima littera: ‘finis, frugifera et efferta arua Asiae tenet’. quare bonitate potius nostrorum uerborum utamur quam splendore Graecorum.

27 I am grateful to Paolo Pieroni for the suggestion.

28 See Wessner, P., ‘Der Terenzkommentar des Eugraphius’, RhM 62 (1907), 203–28Google Scholar, 339–65, at 244; arguments for the authenticity of the fuller version can be found in Gerstenberg, H., De Eugraphio Terentii interprete (Jena, 1886)Google Scholar.

29 See Schindel (n. 11), 96–117.

30 Maltby, R., ‘The distribution of Greek loan-words in Terence’, CQ 35 (1985), 110–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 121.

31 On phy as possible code-switch, see Jocelyn, H.D., ‘Code-switching in the comoedia palliata’, in Vogt-Spira, G. & Rommel, B. (edd.), Rezeption und Identität: die kulturelle Auseinandersetzung Roms mit Griechenland als europäisches Paradigma (Stuttgart, 1999), 169–95Google Scholar, at 189–90.

32 In the case of lexical borrowings, Roman writers sometimes distinguished between more and less well-integrated instances (e.g. Sen. QNat. 5.16.4 sed et ‘Eurus’ iam ciuitate donatus est et nostro sermoni non tamquam alienus interuenit); see Wenskus, O., ‘Markieren der Basissprache in lateinischen Texten mit griechischen Einschaltungen und Entlehnungen’, IF 101 (1996), 234–6Google Scholar. Evaluated negatively, the insertion of a foreign lexical item could also be described as a type of barbarismus (e.g. Quint. Inst. 1.5.7–8), a general category that encompassed any kind of lexical uitium whether or not it originated in language contact. Later terms include: barbara locutio (Fronto, Gramm. VII 526.19–20), barbaros lexis (Charisius, Gramm. p. 350.4 B, citing Cominianus) and barbarolexis (first attested in this sense at Donat. Gramm. mai. 3.1, p. 653.2 Holtz). On these categories, see Vainio, R., Latinitas and Barbarisms according to the Roman Grammarians (Turku, 1999), 23–7Google Scholar and more generally Rochette, B., ‘Les ξενικὰ et les βαρβαρικὰ ὀνόματα dans les théories linguistiques gréco-latines’, AC 65 (1996), 91105Google Scholar and Müller, R., ‘Verba peregrina: von der Interdiktion zur Integration’, in Calboli, G. (ed.), Papers on Grammar 9 (2005), 371–81Google Scholar. In the case of syntax, Roman grammarians could valorize borrowings from Greek by the term figurae Graecae thereby distinguishing them from solecisms; see Mayer, R., ‘Grecism’, in Adams, J.N. and Mayer, R.G. (edd.), Aspects of the Language of Latin Poetry (Oxford, 1999), 157–82Google Scholar.

33 See, for instance, Adams, J.N., ‘A passage of Varro, De lingua Latina and an Oscan fragment of Atellan farce’, Mnemosyne 57 (2004), 352–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar. On Greek and Oscan in contact, see Adams, J.N., Bilingualism and the Latin Language (Cambridge, 2003), 148–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

34 When Roman writers objected to Greek mixture, the context usually involved code-switching and applied to specific situations or registers. Cf. Afranius, com. 272–3, Cic. Off. 1.111, Tusc. 1.15, Hor. Sat. 1.10.29–30.

35 For instance, compare schem. line 84 ANTISAGOGE est contradictio and In psalm. 11.5 antisagoge, id est contradictio. The correct reading must have been contraria inductio.

36 Schindel (n. 11), 118–30 discusses the evidence in detail. Consider the following cases of agreement in error: (Quint. Inst. 8.3.82) βραχυλογία … cum plura paucis complectimur, (schem. lines 205–6) BRACHYLOGIA cum plura paucis amplectimur, (In psalm. 49.9) brachylogia id est breuis locutio, cum plura paucis amplectimur; (Inst. 8.3.56) cacozelon … quotiens ingenium iudicio caret et specie boni fallitur, (schem. lines 193–4) CACOZELON … quotiens ingenium iudicio caret et spes boni fallitur, (In psalm. 105.14) cacozelon … quoties ingenium iudicio caret et spe boni fallitur praecipitata uelocitas; (Inst. 8.5.11) est enim epiphonema rei narratae uel probatae summa adclamatio; (schem. lines 224–5) EPIPHONEMA est acclamatio post narratam rem aut probatam, (In psalm. 134.6) epiphonema, id est post narratas res crescens ad maiora sententia and (In psalm. 134.6) epiphonema id est acclamatio … quae post narratas res breuiter cum acclamatione prorumpit. The confusion between species (Quintilian) and spes (Schemata, Cassiodorus) probably arose through a misunderstood contraction.

37 See Schindel (n. 11), 129–30.

38 The entries in AE I are very formulaic: after the name of the figura, there is usually a Latin terminological equivalent in Latin, a full definition and examples. Here is the entry hypexaeresis (schem. lines 59–62): HYPEXAERESIS est latine exceptio, quando aliquid a generali complexione distinguimus, qualis est illa exceptio Ciceronis (fr. orat. B 18 Schoell) ‘minus me commouet …’. Cassiodorus and Eugraphius α supply the missing definitions for ethopoeia and synchoresis and missing terminological equivalents for epitrochasmos, parison and synathroismos.

39 See Schindel (n. 11), 88–9.

40 Schindel's correction rarissimus est in prosa usus for Quintilian's (Inst. 8.6.37) rarissimus et improuissimus is not noted in Russell's apparatus criticus, but seems to me more felicitous than Radermacher's supplement <cuius usus nisi in comoedia> rarissimus et improbissimus.

41 On these excerpts, see Schindel (n. 11), 91–5.

42 Schindel, U., ‘Neues zur Überlieferungsgeschichte der Bibliothek des Klosters Vivarium’, IJCT 15 (2008), 115CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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