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New Latin, from Greek σχόλιον (comment), from σχολή (discussion).


scholium (plural: scholia)
  1. a note added to a text as an explanation, criticism or commentary
  2. a note added to a proof as amplification

Extensive Definition

A scholium, plural scholia ( "comment", "lecture"), is a grammatical, critical, or explanatory comment, either original or extracted from pre-existing commentaries, which is inserted on the margin of the manuscript of an ancient author as a gloss. The earliest attested use of the word dates to the 1st century BCE. The usage "a scholia" is a solecism. One who makes scholia is a scholiast.


Ancient scholia are one of our most important sources of information about many aspects of the ancient world, especially ancient literary history. They are rarely read, however, for two main reasons:
  • no translations of scholia exist (it is not commercially feasible); someone wishing to read scholia must learn Latin and/or ancient Greek
  • scholia are often unsuited to modern literary tastes, e.g. offering allegorical interpretations of a piece of literature which modern readers may find irrelevant


The very earliest scholia date to the 5th or 4th century BCE (the "D" scholia on the Iliad). The practice of compiling scholia continued through to as late as the 8th century in the Byzantine Empire; and some Western commentaries even up to the 15th or 16th century may be referred to loosely as scholia.
Scholia were altered by successive copyists and owners of the manuscript, and in some cases increased to such an extent that there was no longer room for them in the margin, and it became necessary to make them into a separate work. At first they were taken from one commentary only, subsequently from several. This is indicated by the repetition of the lemma ("headword"), or by the use of such phrases as "or thus", "alternatively", "according to some", to introduce different explanations, or by the explicit quotation of different sources.
For the most part, the Greek scholia we possess are anonymous; the commentaries of Eustathius of Thessalonica on Homer and John Tzetzes on Lycophron are prominent exceptions.

Important sets of scholia

The most important are those on the Homeric Iliad, especially those found in the 10th century manuscripts discovered by Villoison in 1781 in the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice (see further Venetus A, Homeric scholarship). The scholia on Hesiod, Pindar, Sophocles, Aristophanes and Apollonius Rhodius are also extremely important. In Latin, the most important are those of Servius on Virgil, of Acro and Porphyrio on Horace, and of Donatus on Terence.

Other uses

  • In modern mathematics texts, scholia are marginal notes which may amplify a line of reasoning or compare it with proofs given earlier.
  • Scholia is an academic journal in the field of classical studies. Websites: Scholia; Scholia reviews


Further reading

  • L.D. Reynolds and N.G. Wilson 1974, Scribes & scholars: a guide to the transmission of Greek & Latin literature, 2nd ed. (Oxford). ISBN 0-19-872146-3


scholium in Danish: Skoliast
scholium in German: Scholium
scholium in Spanish: Escolio
scholium in French: Scholie

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

adversaria, aide-memoire, annotation, apparatus criticus, comment, commentary, commentation, docket, entry, exegesis, footnote, gloss, item, jotting, marginal note, marginalia, memo, memoir, memorandum, memorial, minutes, notation, note, note of explanation, register, registry, reminder, scholia, word of explanation
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