Reta, José Oroz, trans.; Casquero, Manuel-A. Marcos, trans., Etimologías (2 vols., Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos)
Text name(s): Etimologías; Etymologies
Number of pages of primary source text: 1164
Dates: 615 - 630
- Translated into another language (see translation comments).
- Original language included.
Translation Comments: A translation into Spanish is provided on pages facing the Latin, based on the critical edition of Wallace Lindsay (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1911).
- Science - Mathematics
- Science - Astronomy
- Science / Technology
- Material Culture: Food, Clothing, Household
- Education / Universities
- Early Germanic Peoples: Goths, Franks, etc.
- Clergy - Priests, Bishops, Canons
- Clergy - Monks, Nuns, Friars
- Classics / Humanism
- Church Fathers
- Architecture and Buildings
- Jews / Judaism
- War - Military History
- Philosophy / Theology
- Law - Secular
Isidore, Archbishop of Seville and Doctor of the Church, was one of the most significant figures of Visigothic Spain, exerting a tremendous influence in his own time (through his vigorous participation in the various synods of the early seventh century) as well as on education throughout the Middle Ages (through his extensive writings). His vast learning and debt to the Latin classics has led him to be considered “the last scholar of the ancient world.” The Etymologies, compiled from a wide variety of classical and early Christian sources, describes the origins of words grouped thematically in twenty books under the following headings: 1) Grammar; 2) Rhetoric and Dialectic; 3) Mathematics, Music, Astronomy; 4) Medicine; 5) Laws and Times; 6) Books and Ecclesiastical Offices; 7) God, Angels, and Saints; 8) The Church and Sects (including information on the Jews and pagan philosophers); 9) Languages, Nations, Reigns, the Military, Citizens, Family Relationships; 10) Vocabulary; 11) The Human Being and Portents; 12) Animals; 13) The Cosmos and its Parts; 14) The Earth and its Parts; 15) Buildings and Fields; 16) Stones and Metals; 17) Rural Matters; 18) War and Games; 19) Ships, Buildings, and Clothing; and 20) Provisions and Various Implements. Even though the subject of Etymology occupies only one of the twenty books (Book X), Isidore’s concern with the origins of the words which describe his subject matter permeate the entire work. The Etymologies has been read as a source for ascertaining those parts of classical learning which early Christians thought particularly worthy of being preserved. It has also been used to reconstruct in part ancient texts that have not survived save in excerpted form in the Etymologies. This work was a central feature of education throughout the Middle Ages—often used in the place of the classical works themselves whose collective wisdom it represented—and its popularity endured even into the Renaissance.
The magisterial introduction, written by Manuel C. Díaz y Díaz in Spanish, spans some 250 pages and details the political, religious, social, economic, and educational situation in Spain at the time of Isidore’s writing, and provides a complete biography of Isidore and an account of his literary works in the light of these factors. The section on the Etymologies offers a particularly full background on the sources of the work and its diffusion. A final section on Isidore’s “image” relates the ways in which Isidore has been viewed by his followers and scholars interested in him down to the present day. A history of the editions made of Isidore’s works is also included. Díaz warns against the anachronism which would have us assume that our modern conception of the nature and purpose of word origins and etymologies figure prominently in Isidore’s project.