Manuscript evidence for alphabet-switching in the works of Cicero: Proper nouns and adjectives

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Our manuscripts of Cicero contain dozens of Greek words that are presented in some passages in Greek letters, and in others are transliterated into Latin. In a recent paper I collected the evidence for this phenomenon in connection with common nouns and adjectives (for example 'Greek Passage' vs hypotheca, 'Greek Passage' vs historicus), surveyed scholarship to date and posited an interpretative framework which is assumed in this study also. Key components of this framework are the use of mixed alphabets in surviving ancient documents (especially inscriptions) and an awareness of the frequency with which modern editors change the alphabets in the manuscripts when dealing with Greek words - hence the importance of using the apparatus critici, not just the printed text, of our editions. The earlier paper was also strict in its exclusion of words in continuous passages, and even short phrases, of Greek, since that context excludes the option of transliteration for the author. The major contention of that earlier study was that a coherent pattern of use in the manuscripts can only really be a reflection of Cicero's own considered choice of alphabets: consistently inexplicable choice may indicate that Cicero himself was indifferent to which alphabet he used for single Greek words, or that our copyists paid no attention to this aspect of their exemplars, or both.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-690
JournalClassical Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 16 Feb 2021


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