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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 699 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MAURUS SERVIUS HONORATUS (or MARCUS), Roman grammarian and commentator on Virgil, flourished at the end of the 4th.century A.D. He is one of the interlocutors in the Saturnalia of Macrobius, and allusions in that work and a letter from Symmachus to Servius show that he was a pagan. He was one of the most favourable examples of the Roman "gram matici" and the most learned man of his time. He is chiefly known for his commentary on Virgil, which has come down to us in two distinct forms. The first is a comparatively short commentary, definitely attributed to Servius in the superscription in the MSS. and by other evidence. A second class of MSS. (all going back to the loth or 11th century) presents a much expanded commentary, in which the first is embedded; but these MSS. differ very much in the amount and character of the additions they make to the original, and none of them bears the name of Servius. The added matter is undoubtedly ancient, dating from a time but little removed from that of Servius, and is founded to a large extent on historical and antiquarian literature which is now lost. The writer is anonymous and probably a Christian. A third class of MSS., written for the most part in Italy and of late date, repeats the text of the first class, with numerous interpolated scholia of quite recent origin and little or no value. The real Servian commentary practically gives the only complete extant edition of a classic author written before the destruction of the empire. It is constructed very much on the principle of a modern edition, and is partly founded on the extensive Virgilian literature of preceding times, much of which is known only from the fragments and facts preserved in the commentary. The notices of Virgil's text, though seldom or never authoritative in face of the existing MSS., which go back to, or even beyond, the times of Servius, yet supply valuable information concerning the ancient recensions and textual criticism of Virgil. In the grammatical interpretation of his author's language, Servius does not rise above the stiff and overwrought subtleties of his time; while his etymologies, as is natural, violate every law of sound and sense. As a literary critic the shortcomings of Servius, judged by a modern standard, are great, but he shines in comparison with his contemporaries. In particular, he deserves credit for setting his face against the prevalent allegorical methods of exposition. But the abiding value of his work lies in his preservation of facts in Roman history, religion, antiquities and language, which but for him might have perished. Not a little of the laborious erudition of Varro and other ancient scholars has survived in his pages. Besides the Virgilian commentary, other works of Servius are extant: a collection of notes on the grammar (Ars) of Aelius Donatu"s; a treatise on metrical endings (De finalibus); and a tract on the different metres (De centum metris). Editions of the Virgilian commentary by G. Fabricius (1551); P. Daniel, who first published the enlarged commentary (16ao); and G. Thilo and H. Hagen (1878-1902). The Essai sur Servius by E. Thomas (188o) is an elaborate and valuable examination of all matters connected with Servius; many points are treated also by 0. Ribbeck in his Prolegomena to Virgil; see also a review of Thilo's edition by H. Nettleship in Journal of Philology, x. (1882). The smaller works of Servius are printed in H. Keil's Grammatici Lalini, iv.
SERVITUDE (Lat. servitus, from service, to serve)

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