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valla and isidore 343

differ according to one's status, but there is no basic class di

1,13 as far as obligations are concerned.25
Since the obligations of ninth-century cartularies are clear
eighth-century L.Baiu. 1,13, the historical significance of th
examined. Indeed, Konrad Beverie26 believes L.Baiu. 1,13 was
the Bavarian code along with L.Baiu. 1,11-12, and this at
golfing (770/772). Such a proposal places L.Baiu. 1,13 closer t
of early ninth-century cartularies, resulting in increased sim
agrarian conditions contained in both. Since the obligations
in L.Baiu. 1,13 are not substantially different, this law pred
conditions of the Garolingian seigneurie.
New York Theodore John River


Lorenzo Valla in his De Linguae latinae elegantiis is high

vious Latin grammatical studies. In particular Valla seeks
treatise to revise for his contemporaries the teachings of Don
Priscian which he found in conflict with his ideal of classic
in general he seeks to complement the extant grammatical tradit

25 Fuste! de Coulanges, Recherches sur quelques probl?mes d'histoir

155, concludes that the obligations of coloni and servi ecclesiae in L.Ba
they are compensated by different wergelds. If he did not know the
would he draw the same conclusion?
26 Lex Baiuvariorum, lxxxviii-lxxxix. This view is also put forth b
'Die deutschen Worte der germanischen Gesetze,' Beitr?ge zur Gesc
Sprache und Literatur 59 (1935) 14.
* This paper is based on part of my doctoral dissertation presented
of Latin, Bryn Mawr College, in May, 1973. I am grateful to my dir
L. Uhlfelder, for her guidance in the preparation of that study.
Bibliographical data: Citations from the works of Valla referto the
H. Petri, 1540; repr. with a preface by E. Garin [Torino 1962]). The o
tions of this text have been preserved. Roman numerals refer to boo
Arabic numerals to chapter numbers, and final Arabic numerals to pag
commentary of Servius follow generally the form used by Mountford,
et nominum in scholiis Servii et Aelii Donati tractatorum,' Cornel
Philology 23 (Ithaca 1930). Texts of medieval l?xica: Johannes Balbus
J. Hamman pro P. Liechtenstein, February 1497/98); Papias, Vocabul
Vocabularium; originally Elementarium doctrinae rudimentum] (Ve
1496). I have used the following abbrevations: CGL = Corpus Gloss
(ed. G. Goetz and G. Loewe; Leipzig 1888-1923); Isidore Diff. = Isidor
entiarum libri (eds. F. Arevalo in PL 83); Isidore Etym. ~ Isidori H
Etymologiarum sive Originum libri (ed. W. M. Lindsay, 2 vols.; Oxfo
1 S. I. Camporeale, Lorenzo Valla, Umanesimo e Teologia (Firenze 1
critica filologica latina il Valla ha sempre presente le opere di Donat

This content downloaded from on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 05:35:28


In Book VI of the Elegantiae Valla treats topics explicitly drawn from ancient
grammatical sources, which he further explicates and clarifies. Moreover, man
of the topics of Books I-III are drawn from these same sources, as Valla's fre
quent citation of them indicates. In contrast with ancient and imperial gram
marians, Isidore of Seville is named only twice in the Elegantiae. In the prefac
to Book II (II. praef. 41). Valla brands him 'indoctorum arrogantissimus, qui
quum nihil sciat, omnia praecipit. ' He mentions Isidore once more when re
jecting an 'inept' etymology of oratio from oris ratio (VI. 36.217).2 Despite
the paucity of explicit references to Isidore in the Elegantiae, however, a com
parison of Valla's and Isidore's linguistic discussions suggests that Valla intend
a direct response to Isidore's verbal distinctions (differentiae), definitions, and
etymologies in his own section on signification, Books IV and V of the E
Goetz in the introductory volume to the Corpus Glossariorum Latinorum
states that Valla was exceptional among fifteenth-century lexicographers, who
in general relied heavily on medieval compilations.3 Valla himself claims in the
preface to Book IV that his treatment of signification will concentrate on those
words neglected by other writers on the subject:

prattutto sugli scritti di Prisciano che concentra la sua polemica, ed ? particolarmente a

quest'ultimo che contrappone continuamente, nelle Elegantiae e nelle Recriminationes, il
"suo" Quintiliano (insieme a Cicerone).' Valla believed that the ancient grammarians had
faults of commission and of omission. First he records those Latin words in the definitions
of which he believed that the grammarians actually had made errors. Secondly, he cites
essential linguistic points passed over by extant grammatical texts. He does not consider
his observations as necessarily unprecedented, but as replacing a part of the ancient grammat
ical tradition lost through the centuries. Employing an argumentum ex silentio, he explains
omissions of many points by the imperial grammarians as due to their reluctance to repeat
material from such classical linguistic works as those of Varr?, Caesar, and Messalla, whose
texts had been extant in late antiquity (II. praef. 41).
2 With his passion for proper denotation Valla distrusts etymology as a way of discov
ering the meaning of a word. Such etymologies as are found in the works of Isidore and
the medieval glossaries go back to Stoic linguistic sources. The naturalistic concept of the
Stoics posits a correspondence between words and the things they denote. The irregularity
(anomaly) of a living language only vaguely reflects this correspondence. Hence the Stoics
had recourse to fanciful etymologies to arrive at the 'natural' origins of words, which may
have become obscure through linguistic change. See R. Schr?ter, 'Die varronische Etymolo
gie,' Fondation Hardt pour l'?tude de l'antiquit? classique. Entretiens IX (Geneva 1962)
79-100, especially 86ff. Although he recognizes the great polymath as the acknowledged
linguistic authority of antiquity (IV.31.213), Valla criticizes Varr?, who preserves material
from Stoic linguistic sources, for his foolish confidence in etymology (VI.36.217). According
to Valla, erroneous etymologies result in erroneous definitions and vice versa (VI.52.228).
3 Although, as Goetz indicates, Valla hardly opposed correction of medieval vocabularies,
the following statement might well describe the chapters of the Elegantiae discussed below:
' Itaque qui procuderunt talia opera [studia lexigraphica] aut scholiastas Vergilii, Horath,
aliorum excerpebant, excerpta in glosarii formam redigebant, qualia inveniuntur non pauca,
velut illud Guarini glossarium . . . aut quae in vetustioribus glossarum collectionibus inventa
sunt propagabant et ad recentiorum temporum usum aliquo modo accommodabanV (CGL 1.241). on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 05:35:28


Quanquam ea qua e sequuntur, a superioribus nonnihil diff?rant, tractabimus enim

de verborum significatione, neque de omnibus vocabulis sed quasi gustum quendam,
et eorum maxime quae ab aliis tractata non sunt ... (IV. praef. 120).

Yet as this paper will attempt to show, his revision of chapters from Isidore's
Etymologiae and Differentiae indicates that Valla was indebted to Isidore for
suggesting topics discussed especially in sections of the fourth book of the Ele
gantiae; Isidore, however, unlike Valla's other sources in his treatise, remains
In the preface to Book II of the Elegantiae Valla criticizes, along with Isidore,
three medieval Latin lexicographers from northern Italy: Papias, from Lom
bardy, author of the so-called Vocabularium; Hugutio, from Pisa, author of the
Magnae derivationes; and the thirteenth-century Johannes Balbus from Genoa,
author of the Catholicon. Many of the entries in these vocabularies are indebted
to Isidore's etymologies or differentiae. Consequently, several of the terms
treated together in a single chapter of the Elegantiae appear not only in Isidore's
text, but also in the medieval l?xica, arranged alphabetically.4 Some of Valla's
observations, such as the 'illiterate' substitution of guerra for bellum (IV.64.144),
probably arise in direct response to entries in these later l?xica (s.v. bellum
in the Catholicon). Likewise, Valla's treatment of related compound verbs
may derive from the method employed in the Catholicon of including compounds
within the same entry as that of the main verb: e.g. appendo, suspendo, compendo,
expendo, impendo under pendo, which is similar to Valla's discussion (V.82.190)
of perpendo, expendo, appendo, impendo and impendeo. Occasionally the medieval
vocabularies preserve under a single entry a differentia. Such are the sections
on pupillus and orphanus, and utor and fruor in the Catholicon (s.v. pupillus,
fruor; cf. IV.33.133, V.5.162; Isidore, Etym. 11.2.12, Diff. 1 225).
More often, however, Valla's arrangement of such near-synonyms indicates
the direct influence of Isidore. At IV.27.131, for example, Valla treats arbor
and frutex in a differentia, mentioning also the term herba. Herba occurs in the
entry under arbor in the Catholicon as well as at Isidore, Etym. 17.6.1. In Isi
dore's text (Etym. 17.6.3-4), however, arbor and frutex appear together as in
the Elegantiae, but these words are separated in the alphabetical arrangement
of the vocabularies, which nevertheless preserve Isidore's definitions: 4 Arbor . . .
et fruct?fera et sterilis. . . . Frutex . . . appellatus quod terram fronde tegat. '
The following passages are examples of Valla's revision of Isidore's, and his
followers,' definitions.

1. Isidore defines crimen and flagitium as follows:

Crimen a carendo nomen. . . . Flagitium a flagitando corruptelam libidinis, qua noceat
sibi (Etym. 5.26.1-3; cf. Papias s.v. crimen).

In distinguishing the two words, Valla disregards Isidore's etymology of crimen,

but associates flagitium with flagrum (which has a different root from Isidore's
flagitare) and retains Isidore's reference to libido. He adds a qualification (sed

4 Of course Book X of Isidore's Etymologiae is alphabetically arranged as well. For a

discussion of the relationship between Isidore's text and the Italian l?xica, see G. Riessner,
Die 'Magnete Derivationes' des Uguccione da Pisa und ihre Bedeutung f?r die romanische
Philologie (Roma 1965) 41ff. on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 05:35:28


pro caeteris . . .) to the definition, however, by stipulating that flagitium is also

used to indicate non-sexual crimes:
Crimen non modo pro delicto, sed pro ipsa etiam criminatione. . . . Flagitium proprie
in libidine, quasi flagris dignum crimen, sed pro caeteris quoque peccatis accipitur
(IV.58.142-143; cf. CGL VI 455).

2. Isidore's discussion of femora, femina, and coxa relies mainly on etymology:

Femora dicta sunt, quod ea parte a f emina sexus viri discrepet. . . . Fe mina autem
per derivationem femorum partes sunt, quibus in equitando tergis equorum adhaeremus
.... Coxae quasi coniunctae axes; ipsis enim femora moventur (Etym. 11.1.106-107;
cf. Servius A.10.344; CGL VI 442-443; Catholicon s.v. femur; Papias s.v. fernen).

Valla redefines each term, omitting the derivations altogether:

Femora partem illam exteriorem significant. Femina partem interiorem mollioremque
quae se contingunt. . . . Coxa pars supra femora vertebrumque ipsum, quoties vitiatum
est, aut os illud, quod in vertebro volvitur fractum, coxa vitiata, fractave dicitur (IV.

3. In two separate places within a single chapter, Isidore offers different ety
mologies for frondes, one from fero and the other from folia, a 'derivation' of
the Greek a {Etym. 17.6.13, 20; cf. CGL VI 460, 470, Papias s.v. frondes).
Valla combines the two terms into a differentia, disregarding Isidore's deriva
Frondes arborum sunt tantum. Folia autem et arborum, et herbarum, et florum quoque

4. Isidore's definitions of orbus and caelebs are etymological:

Orbus, quod liberos non habet, quasi oculis amissis. Caelebs, conubii expers, qualia
sunt numina in caelo, quae absque coniugiis sunt (Etym. 10.34. 200).

Valla redefines each term, forming a differentia which retains Isidore's main
point about orbus:
Orbus est quicunque aliqua re chara privatus est. Proprie autem parens amissis liberis,
quasi amissa luce oculorum .... Coelebs, tarn qui caruit semper uxore, quam qui nunc
caret, et inde coelibatus (IV.106.156).

5. The association of the term orbus with the eyes mentioned above occurs
elsewhere in the Etymologiae:
Pupilli. . . dicti sunt, quasi in oculis, hoc est, a parentibus orbi (11.2.12).

In the same chapter, Isidore records the following differentia:

Hi autem vere pupilli dicuntur quorum patres ante decesserunt quam ab his nomen
acceperint. Ceteri orbi vocantur orphani, idem qui et pupilli (cf. CGL VII 33.161).
Valla redefines these terms as follows:
Pupillus est qui caret quidem patre, sed tantisper dum est in aetate, cui adhibetur
tutor. Orphanus qui caret patre praesidioque paterno, et qui summopere desiderai
illius opem, quum sine eo male habeat (IV.33.133). on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 05:35:28


6. Isidore gives an etymology of avis from a~via:

Aves dictae, eo quod vias certas non habeant, sed per avia quaque discurrunt. . . .
Volucres a volando. Nam unde volare, inde et ambulare dicimus (Etym. 12.7.3-4;
cf. Papias s.v. avis).
Valla disregards entirely the derivation of avis but retains that of volucris from
volare, while expanding the definition of the latter to suit its etymology:
Avis est, quae ova parit, pennisque est praedita. . . . Volucris est quaecunque volat
nec avis solum sed illae bestiolae quoque minutiores, ut apes, vespa, culex, tabanus,
locusta, musca, cicada (IV.45.138).

7. Servius defines iugum as cacumen montis (A.2.630; cf. Catholicon s.v. iugum;
Papias s.v. clivus, iugum). Employing an etymology, Isidore distinguishes this
word from co His:
Colles sunt praeeminentiora iuga montium, quasi colla. luga autem montium ex eo appel
lata sunt quod propinquitate sui iungantur (Etym. 14.8.19-20; cf. Catholicon s.v. collis).
Valla, after defining collis in relation to mons, treats iugum and clivus as per
taining to mons and collis respectively:
Collis est (ut ita dicam) monticulus, sive per se, et a monte separatus, sive pars montis.
Iugum (ut etiam ita dicam) ipsa arduitas montis, et proclivis, ac prona supinitas, cui
similis est in colle clivus, tarnen mollis magis, et Clemens. . . (IV.43.138).5

8. The differentia between incola and inquilinus is common in the lexicographical

Incola quidem et inquilinus Signum est perditae patriae; sed inquilinus dicitur quandiu
peregrinatur, incola cum invenerit sedem (Isidore Diff. 1.322; cf. CGL VI 558).
Inquilini enim sunt qui emigrant, et non perpetuo permanent. . . . Incola autem non
indigenam, sed advenam indicat (Isidore Etym. 9.4.38ff; cf. CGL VI 583; Catholicon,
Papias s.v. inquilinus).
Isidore also gives the following definition of a similar term, accola:
Accola eo quod adveniens terram colat (Etym. 10.16; cf. CGL VI 14; Catholicon, Papias
s.v. accolae).
Valla treats all three words together, first distinguishing incola from inquilinus,
then incola from accola. The former distinction differs from Isidore's although
Valla's statement about incola may be easily reconciled with Isidore's ' cum
invenerit sedem': i.e. sedes is obviously 'in alterius regione':
Incola, qui in alterius regione habitat, et in aliena civitate atque rep?blica. Inqui
linus qui in alieno privato, proprie tarnen in conducto sive in urbe, sive ruri. . . . Rursus
incola ita differt ab accola, quod incola, qui in loco; accola, qui ad locum habitat
9. Valla alters a definition from Isidore in his discussion of sinus and gr?mium.
For Isidore, the terms refer to a part of the clothing:
Sinum dicimus sinuatae vestis receptaculum, gr?mium interius accurtatae (Diff. 1.530;
cf. CGL VII 272; Papias s.v. gr?mium).

5 In the same chapter Valla presents a derivation of Promontorium ('locus est in mari
prominens'. . .) very similar to Isidore's 'Commune est insulis ut promineant. Inde et
loca earum promuntoria dicuntur' (Etym. 14.7.1). on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 05:35:28


Valla, however, confines his definition to parts of the body itself:

Sinus est intra pectoris brachiorumque complexum. . . . Gremium est inter complexum
femorum, feminumve (IV.37.134).

10. Isidore Etym. 18.1.8-9:

Differt autem bellum, pugna et proelium. Nam bellum universum dicitur, ut Punicum.
Huius partes sunt pugnae, ut Cannensis, Thermensis. Rursus in una pugna multa
sunt proelia. . . . Bellum igitur est totum, pugna unius diei, proelium pars pugnae
est (cf. Nonius 703 Lindsay; Servius A.2. 397; CGL VI 135, VII 157).

Valla discusses these terms together, along with the related word certamen,
and adds the non-military meaning of pugna and certamen:
Bellum est tum ipsa pugna, tum totum tempus, quo in militia sumus, quam illiterati
guerram vocant. PraeJium ipsum tantummodo armorum certamen. Nam et pugna,
certamenque etiam citra arma fit. Interdum etiam fit nudis verbis (IV.64.144).

Perhaps we may explain Valla's claim that Books IV and V of the Elegantiae
contain wholly new material as a response to charges of plagiarism levelled at
him by contemporaries. The zeal with which he defends the originality of his
work elsewhere in his treatise may have caused him to exaggerate his claim in
the preface to Book IV. In the prefaces to Books II and V, for example, he
refers to the pilfering of some of his material by students, causing him to publish
his work without delay. Valla's detractors in turn charged him with plagiarism.
Poggio in particular found passages in the Elegantiae which, he claimed, were
flagrantthefts.6 Valla replies to these charges in the preface to Book V, which
alludes metaphorically to his treatise as an unmarried daughter whom the father
must give to her suitor, the coetus literatorum. Although she comes to the union
without a great dowry, i.e. unfinished, she comes a virgin, i.e. unplagiarized.
The relationship between the Elegantiae and Isidore's work then is not so
simple as might be inferred from those passages in which Valla explicitly criti
cizes his predecessor. Solely on the basis of this criticism, one might conclude
that Valla's treatise was entirely free of Isidore's influence. Yet Valla, while
rejecting Isidore's etymological method, has sought to revise several of his
semantic distinctions and definitions, in much the same way as he corrects
perceived errors in the works of other grammarians throughout the Elegantiae.7
Valla's choice of topics to be grouped within single chapters suggests a random
adaptation of sections from Isidore's works. His refusal to identify his source
merely emphasizes a humanist's contempt for Isidore's authority in the field
of Latin lexicography.
Portsmouth Abbey School H. J. Stevens, Jr.
6 In L. V?llam Invectiva prima in Poggii Opera Omnia (Basel: H. P?tri, 1538; repr. with
introd. by R. Fubini [Torino 1964]) 1.194: ' Animadverti furta, cognovi expilationem ex
aliorum supellectili non obscure factam, ut qui repetundarum rerum hunc furem velit
accusare, manifestis testibus uti possit.'
7 Several other passages in Books IV and V of the Elegantiae also seem to be paraphrases
of earlier grammarians' observations: e.g. Servius on fiere, plorare, and piangere (A.11.211),
which has prompted Valla's discussion of these and related words (V. 52.181). Likewise
Valla's chapter (IV.56.142) on sylva, lucus, saltus, and nemus is a conflation of several earlier
sources, including Festus (159, 392f. Lindsay), Servius (A.1.310) and Isidore (Etym. 17.6.5-8). on Wed, 21 Sep 2016 05:35:28

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