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Bill Thayer

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Isidore of Seville:
The Etymologies (or Origins)

The Text on LacusCurtius

The Latin text is that of the critical edition by W. M. Lindsay, published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1911.

A version of this same text exists elsewhere, and I would not normally have put it online again, were it not that (a) it has no local links; (b) it is disfigured by a fair number of errors; (c) it lacks the illustrations in Books III and IX, as well as the proper symbols to make the text intelligible, as in Book I and elsewhere. After some hesitation, I decided to repair these deficiencies myself.

So whereas I normally key the entire text of a work by hand, here, exceptionally, I started with the text provided at Latin Library (which is in fact the work of Angus Graham, along with a number of other useful yet "orphan" texts of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages in support of his original work on Albertano da Brescia), proofread it meticulously against my print copy, added the local links, symbols and illustrations, and folded in the Corrigenda et Addenda that in the print edition appear at the end of Tome II. Whatever is online here I thus like to believe is entirely errorfree. The entire work is now proofread: therefore in the table of contents below, the Books are shown on blue backgrounds; anything on a red background would indicate, as elsewhere onsite, that my transcription had remained unproofread. The header bar at the top of each webpage will remind you with the same color scheme. Should you still spot an error, please do report it, of course.

Further details on the technical aspects of the site layout follow the Table of Contents.

Background material on Isidore may appear here in the fullness of time; as for the Origins, they can best be summarized, maybe, as an encyclopedia in the guise of an etymological dictionary, by a writer already centuries removed from some of his material. Isidore is a valuable source of information on Roman antiquity, and in reading him one gets the feeling that he himself knew that he was documenting a fading world.

Sections (each section is individually linked)

DE MATHEMATICA. De vocabulo arithmeticae disciplinae. De auctoribus eius. Quid sit numerus. Quid praestent numeri. De prima divisione parium et inparium. De secunda divisione totius numeri. De tertia divisione totius numeri. De differentia Arithmeticae, Geometriae et Musicae. Quot numeri infiniti existunt. De inventoribus Geometriae et vocabulo eius. De quadripertita divisione Geometriae. De figuris Geometriae. De numeris Geometriae. Expositio figurarum infra scriptarum.

De Musica et eius nomine. De inventoribus eius. Quid possit Musica. De tribus partibus Musicae. De triformi Musicae Divisione. De prima divisione musicae quae Harmonica dicitur. De secunda divisione, quae organica dicitur. De tertia divisione, quae rhythmica nuncupatur. De numeris musicis.

De Astronomiae nomine. De inventoribus eius. De institutoribus eius. De differentia Astronomiae et Astrologiae. De Astronomiae ratione. De mundo et eius nomine. De forma mundi. De caelo et eius nomine. De sphaerae caelestis situ. De eiusdem sphaerae motu. De eiusdem sphaerae cursu. De celeritate caeli. De axe caeli. De caelestibus polis. De cardinalibus caeli. De convexi caeli. De ianuis caeli. De gemina facie caeli. De quattuor partibus caeli. De hemisphaeriis. De quinque circulis caeli. De zodiaco circulo. De candido circulo. De magnitudine solis. De magnitudine lunae. De natura solis. De cursu solis. De effectu solis. De itinere solis. De lumine lunae. De formis lunae. De interlunio lunae. De cursu lunae. De vicinitate lunae ad terras. De eclipsi solis. De eclipsi lunae. De differentia stellarum, siderum, et astrorum. De lumine stellarum. De stellarum situ. De stellarum cursu. De vario cursu stellarum. De stellarum intervallis. De circulari numero stellarum. De Stellis planetis. De praecedentia et antegradatione stellarum. De remotione vel retrogradatione stellarum. De statu stellarum. De nominibus stellarum, quibus ex causis nomina acceperunt.



Chapter and Section Numbering, Local Links

Both chapters (large numbers) and sections (small numbers) mark local links, according to a consistent scheme; you can therefore link directly to any passage.


The Oxford edition provides a comprehensive apparatus criticus. For now, in view of diminishing returns in terms of its slight use to the overwhelming majority of Web users, I've decided not to reproduce it; I may change my mind.


For similar reasons, I have for now no intention of finding and providing translations into any modern language: besides, with the exception of Book II which requires a thorough grounding in ancient philosophy, Isidore's Latin, while attractive, is so very easy that anyone who really needs to read him can probably do so. (If you need help with a small passage, of course, you can write me.)

[image ALT: A small image of a manuscript map of the world, in which the entire world is viewed as a circle bounded by the sea, and divided into three parts: Asia, Africa, and Europe.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is a map of the world illustrating Guntherus Zainer's edition of the Origins, printed at Augsburg in 1472, a copy of which is in the Vollbehr Collection, Rare Book & Special Collections Division (105), U. S. Library of Congress; see that library's site for a full-size view of the page and some further details.​a

The Library of Congress selected a singularly appropriate graphic to represent our author's view of the world and of his own work. Placed at the beginning of Book XIV, section 3, Asia, but in fact illustrating the previous section (De orbe, q.v.) the image represents the entire world as a mandala or circle of knowledge (in Greek: "encyclopaedia"). It's still only the Roman portion, but Christianized with Jerusalem as its center. The waters of the map remind one of the rivers flowing out of Eden, as well of the salvific waters of the Redemption on the T‑shaped cross of Christ: a world-map that appears as the Orb of every Christian sovereign.

The inevitable note:

a I am indebted to Bernard M. Rosenthal for the correct spelling of Guntherus' name; the Library of Congress page, which naturally I trusted, is in error.

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Site updated: 20 May 18