What is Stichometry?

Stichos (στίχος, line) is the ancient standard measure of texts in prose:

Stichometry („measuring of lines“) occurs at three places in ancient texts:

Oldest references of these three kinds of stichometry in ancient and in Biblical texts:

Function regarding the edition of books (rediscovered since the end of the 19th cent.):

Ancient authors used the standard line of the stichos as well (as is proved clearly):

The authors also paid attention to the proportions of their works, in prose as well as in poetry:

More information

  1. Menandros Rhetor (3rd cent. AD), Περὶ ἐπιδεικτικῶν 434.6–9 (ed. Russell/Wilson 1981, 200; own tr.):
    (If you are the only speaker,) “you should prepare a farewell address in writing, with up to 200 stichoi or 300, if you want, and no well-meaning person will blame you” (… προάξεις τὴν συντακτικὴν συγγραφικῶς καὶ ἄχρι διακοσίων στίχων ἢ τριακοσίων, εἰ βουληθείης, καὶ οὐδείς σοι μέμψεται εὖ φρονῶν).
  2. Quintilianus (1st cent. AD), Institutio 10.3.32 (tr. H.E. Butler 1922):
    “The wax tablets should not be unduly wide; for I have known a young and over-zealous student write his compositions at undue length, because he measured them by the number of lines (quia illos numero versuum metiebatur), a fault which persisted …, until his tablets were changed, when it disappeared”.
  3. Josephus(1st cent. AD), Antiquitates 20.267:
    “With this I shall put an end to these Antiquities, which are published in twenty books, and in sixty thousand verses” (… τὴν ἀρχαιολογίαν βιβλίοις μὲν εἴκοσι περιειλημμένην, ἓξ δὲ μυριάσι στίχων).
  4. Vitruvius (1st cent. BC), Architectura 5.preface.3 (tr. M.H. Morgan 1914):
    “Pythagoras and those who came after him in his school thought it proper to employ the principles of the cube in composing books on their doctrines (cybicis rationibus praecepta in voluminibus scribere), and, having determined that the cube consisted of 216 lines, held that there should be no more than three cubes in any one treatise” (constitueruntque cybum ccxvi versus eosque non plus tres in una conscriptione oportere esse putaverunt).