The Best of the Grammarians

Aristarchus of Samothrace on the Iliad
Francesca Schironi
A landmark study of the emergence of Alexandrian and classical philology


A founding father of the “art of philology,” Aristarchus of Samothrace (216–144 BCE) made a profound contribution to ancient scholarship. In his study of Homer’s Iliad, his methods and principles inevitably informed, even reshaped, his edition of the epic. This systematic study places Aristarchus and his fragments preserved in the Iliadic scholia, or marginal annotations, in the context and cultural environment of his own time.

Francesca Schironi presents a more robust picture of Aristarchus as a scholar than anyone has offered previously. Based on her analysis of over 4,300 fragments from his commentary on the Iliad, she reconstructs Aristarchus’ methodology and its relationship to earlier scholarship, especially Aristotelian poetics. Schironi departs from the standard commentary on individual fragments, and instead organizes them by topic to produce a rigorous scholarly examination of how Aristarchus worked.

Combining the accuracy and detail of traditional philology with a big-picture study of recurrent patterns and methodological trends across Aristarchus’ work, this volume offers a new approach to scholarship in Alexandrian and classical philology. It will be the go-to reference book on this topic for many years to come, and will usher in a new way of addressing the highly technical work of ancient scholars without losing philological accuracy. This book will be valuable to classicists and philologists interested in Homer and Homeric criticism in antiquity, Hellenistic scholarship, and ancient literary criticism.

Jacket: Gr. Z. 454 (= 822), f. 24r. Courtesy of Ministero dei Berri e delle Attivita Culturali e del Turismo - Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. Reproduced by permission.

“This superb analysis of the great Aristarchus’ methods is the most comprehensive in over a century. Schironi’s lucid discussion of a huge array of topics in Alexandrian scholarship will be an indispensable reference for all students of the ancient world.”
—Robert L. Fowler, University of Bristol
“Comprehensive and masterly. This book will be an invaluable resource for anyone (whether beginner or expert) interested in Homeric exegesis, the history of ancient scholarship and literary criticism, and the technical language and strategies to be found in any body of Greek scholia.”
—Donald Mastronarde, University of California, Berkeley

Francesca Schironi is Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Michigan.

Praise / Awards

  • Winner, Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit by the Society for Classical Studies
  • "The book is very well written, lucid and at the same time elegant, with remarkably little jargon considering the subject matter ... In short, this magnificent work has set a new standard against which all studies of Alexandrian scholarship will now be measured."
    -- Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  • "Schironi’s new study... should now be the first port of call for any engagement with Aristarchus and his intellectual world."
    Journal of Hellenic Studies
  • "Schironi’s The Best of the Grammarians is a magnificent book... A welcome treatment of Aristarchus on his own terms, showing what he was trying to achieve and how he went about it. Schironi is to be congratulated on a massive scholarly achievement and thanked for making the subject so accessible."
  • "[Schironi] succeeds in producing a systematic descriptive encyclopaedia of Aristarchus’ philology: clearly written and elegantly produced, this volume is a major achievement, unlikely to be replaced for decades to come."
    The Classical Review
  • Shortlisted: Anglo-Hellenic League 2019 Runciman Award
    Listen: Francesca Schironi interviewed about the Runciman Award Link | 6/10/2019

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 936pp.
  • 4 figures, 10 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2018
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13076-4

Add to Cart
  • $154.95 U.S.

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