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Sextus Pompeius Festus was a Roman grammarian, who probably flourished in the later 2nd century AD, perhaps at Narbo (Narbonne) in Gaul.

He made an epitome in 20 volumes of the encyclopedic treatise in many volumes De verborum significatu, of Verrius Flaccus, a celebrated grammarian who flourished in the reign of Augustus. Festus gives the etymology as well as the meaning of many words; and his work throws considerable light on the language, mythology and antiquities of ancient Rome. He made a few alterations, and inserted some critical remarks of his own. He also omitted such ancient Latin words as had long been obsolete; these he apparently discussed in a separate work now lost, entitled Priscorum verborum cum exemplis. Even incomplete, Festus' lexicon reflects at second hand the enormous intellectual effort that had been made in the Augustan Age to put together information on the traditions of the Roman world, which was already in a state of flux and change.

Of Flaccus's work only a few fragments remain, of Festus's epitome only one damaged, fragmentary manuscript. The rest is further abridged in a summary made at the close of the 8th century, by Paul the Deacon.

The sole surviving Festus manuscript, the Codex Farnesianus at Naples, is an 11th century manuscript. When it was rediscovered during the early Renaissance half of it was already missing, so that it only contains the alphabetized entries M-V, and that not in a perfect condition. It has been scorched by fire and disassembled.

Collating these fragmentary abridgements, and republishing them with translations, is a project being coordinated at University College London with several objectives in view: to make this mass of information available to researchers in a usable form; to stimulate debate on Festus and on the Augustan antiquarian tradition on which he drew, and generally to enrich and renew studies on Roman life, on which Festus provides such essential information.

Festus' modern editors sum up his importance:

"The text, even in its present mutilated state, is an important source for scholars of Roman history. It is a treasury of historical, grammatical, legal and antiquarian learning, providing sometimes unique evidence for the culture, language, political, social and religious institutions, deities, laws, lost monuments, and topographical traditions of ancient Italy."

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This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SEXTUS POMPEIUS FESTUS, Roman grammarian, probably flourished in the 2nd century A.D. He made an epitome of the celebrated work De verborum significatu, a valuable treatise alphabetically arranged, written by M. Verrius Flaccus, a freedman and celebrated grammarian who flourished in the reign of Augustus. Festus gives the etymology as well as the meaning of every word; and his work throws considerable light on the language, mythology and antiquities of ancient Rome. He made a few alterations, and inserted some critical remarks of his own. He also omitted such ancient Latin words as had long been obsolete; these he discussed in a separate work now lost, entitled Priscorum verborum cum exemplis. Of Flaccus's work only a few fragments remain, and of Festus's epitome only one original copy is in existence. This MS., the Codex Festi Farnesianus at Naples, only contains the second half of the work (M-V) and that not in a perfect condition. It has been published in facsimile by Thewrewk de Ponor (1890). At the close of the 8th century Paulus Diaconus abridged the abridgment. From his work and the solitary copy of the original attempts have been made with the aid of conjecture to reconstruct the treatise of Festus.

Of the early editions the best are those of J. Scaliger (1565) and Fulvius Ursinus (1581); in modern times, those of C. O. Muller (1839, reprinted 1880) and de Ponor (1889); see J. E. Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship, vol. i. (1906).

Fetis, Francois Joseph (1784-1871), Belgian composer and writer on music, was born at Mons in Belgium on the 25th of March 1784, and was trained as a musician by his lather, who followed the same calling. His'talent for composition manifested itself at the age of seven, and at nine years old he was an organist at Sainte-Waudru. In 1800 he went to Paris and completed his studies at the conservatoire under such masters as Boieldieu, Rey and Pradher. In 1806 he undertook the revision of the Roman liturgical chants in the hope of discovering and establishing their original form. In this year he married the granddaughter of the Chevalier de Keralio, and also began his Biographie universelle des musiciens, the most important of his works, which did not appear until 1834. In 1821 he was appointed professor at the conservatoire. In 1827 he founded the Revue musicale, the first serious paper in France devoted exclusively to musical matters. Fetis remained in the French capital till in 1833, at the request of Leopold I., he became director of the conservatoire of Brussels and the king's chapelmaster. He also was the founder, and, till his death, the conductor of the celebrated concerts attached to the conservatoire of Brussels, and he inaugurated a free series of lectures on musical history and philosophy. He produced a large quantity of original compositions, from the opera and the oratorio down to the simple chanson. But all these are doomed to oblivion. Although not without traces of scholarship and technical ability, they show total absence of genius. More important are his writings on music. They are partly historical, such as the Curiosites historiques de la musique (Paris, 1850), and the Histoire universelle de musique (Paris, 1869-1876); partly theoretical, such as the Methode des methodes de piano (Paris, 1837), written in conjunction with Moscheles. Fetis died at Brussels on the 26th of March 1871. His valuable library was purchased by the Belgian government and presented to the Brussels conservatoire. His work as a musical historian was prodigious in quantity, and, in spite of many inaccuracies and some prejudice revealed in it, there can be no question as to its value for the student.


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