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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Scholia (singular, scholion; from Greek "comment", "lecture"), are grammatical, critical, or explanatory comments, either original or extracted from pre-existing commentaries, which are inserted on the margin of the manuscript of an ancient author, as glosses. One who writes scholia is a scholiast.



Ancient scholia are important sources of information about many aspects of the ancient world, especially ancient literary history. The earliest scholia date to the 5th or 4th century BCE (such as the "D" scholia on the Iliad). The practice of compiling scholia continued through to as late as the 8th century in the Byzantine Empire.

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 on record are anonymous.

List of ancient commentaries

Some ancient "scholia" are of sufficient quality and importance to be labelled "commentaries" instead. The existence of a commercial translation is often used to distinguish between "scholia" and "commentaries". The following is a chronological list of ancient commentaries written defined as those for which commercial translations have been made:

Other uses

  • In modern mathematics texts, scholia are marginal notes which may amplify a line of reasoning or compare it with proofs given earlier. A famous example is Bayes' Scholium, a well-known result for interpreting observations of a Bernoulli process.
  • Scholia is an academic journal in the field of classical studies. Websites: Scholia; Scholia reviews.
  • At Balliol College, Oxford, "Scholiasts" is the classics-oriented drinking society.


  • 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.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Scholia" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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