Etymologiae

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Etymologiae (or Origines, standard abbrev. Orig.) is an encyclopedia compiled by Isidore of Seville (died 636) towards the end of his life, which forms a bridge between a condensed epitome of classical learning at the close of Late Antiquity and the inheritance received, in large part through Isidore's work, by the early Middle Ages. According to the prefatory letters, the work was composed at the urging of his friend Braulio, Bishop of Saragossa, to whom Isidore, at the end of his life, sent his codex inemendatus ("unedited book"), which seems to have begun circulating before Braulio was able to revise it, and issue it, with a dedication to the late Visigothic King Sisebut. Partly as a consequence, three families of texts have been distinguished, including a "compressed" text with many omissions, and an expanded text with interpolations.

Contents

Overview

Etymologiae presents in abbreviated form much of that part of the learning of antiquity that Christians thought worth preserving. Etymologies, often very learned and far-fetched, a favorite trope of antiquity,[citation needed] form the subject of just one of the encyclopedia's twenty books, but perceived linguistic similarities permeate the work. Isidore's vast encyclopedia systematizing ancient learning includes subjects from theology to furniture and provided a rich source of classical lore and learning for medieval writers.

In all, Isidore quotes from 154 authors, both Christian and pagan. Many of the Christian authors he read in the originals; of the pagans, many he consulted in contemporary compilations. Bishop Braulio, to whom Isidore dedicated it and sent it for correction, divided it into its twenty books.

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