1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Stobaeus, Joannes

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STOBAEUS, JOANNES, so called from his native place Stobi in Macedonia, the compiler of a valuable series of extracts from Greek authors. Of his life nothing is known, but he probably belongs to the latter half of the 5th century A.D. From his silence in regard to Christian authors, it is inferred that he was not a Christian.

The extracts were intended by Stobaeus for his son Septimius, and were preceded by a letter briefly explaining the purpose of the work and giving a summary of the contents. From this summary (preserved in Photius’s Bibliotheca) we learn that Stobaeus divided his work into four books and two volumes. In most of our MSS. the work is divided into three books, of which the first and second are generally called Ἐκλογαὶ φυσικαὶ καὶ ἠθικαὶ (Physical and Moral Extracts), and the third Ἀνθολόγιον (Florilegium or Sermones). As each of the four books is sometimes called Ἀνθολόγιον, it is probable that this name originally belonged to the entire work; the full title, as we know from Photius, was Ἐκλογῶν ἀποφθεγμάτων ὑποθηκῶν βιβλία τέτταρα (Four Books of Extracts, Sayings and Precepts). The modern arrangement is somewhat arbitrary and there are several marked discrepancies between it and the account given by Photius. The introduction to the whole work, treating of the value of philosophy and of philosophical sects, is lost, with the exception of the concluding portion; the second book is little more than a fragment, and the third and fourth have been amalgamated by altering the original sections. From these and other indications it seems probable that what we have is only an epitome of the original work, made by an anonymous Byzantine writer of much later date. The didactic aim of Stobaeus’s work is apparent throughout. The first book teaches physics—in the wide sense which the Greeks assigned to this term—by means of extracts. It is often untrustworthy: Stobaeus betrays a tendency to confound the dogmas of the early Ionic philosophers, and he occasionally mixes up Platonism with Pythagoreanism. For part of this book and much of book ii. he depended on the works of Aëtius, a peripatetic philosopher, and Didymus. The third and fourth books, like the larger part of the second, treat of ethics; the third, of virtues and vices, in pairs; the fourth, of more general ethical and political subjects, frequently citing extracts to illustrate the pros and cons of a question in two successive chapters. In all, Stobaeus quotes more than five hundred writers, generally beginning with the poets, and then proceeding to the historians, orators, philosophers and physicians. It is to him that we owe many of our most important fragments of the dramatists, particularly of Euripides.

Editio princeps (1609); Eclogae, ed. T. Gaisford (1822), A. Meineke, (1860–1864); Florilegium, ed. T. Gaisford (1850); A. Meineke (1855–1857), C. Wachsmuth and O. Hense (1884–1894, and 1909).