An etymological commentary on Cornutus' Epidrome
This thesis is a commentary on the only extant text by Lucius Annaeus Cornutus, titled variously as Theologiae Graecae Compendium, or peri Hellenikes theologias, or Epidrome ton kata ten helleniken theorian paradedomenon, a summary of the traditions of Greek theology. The thesis consists of an introduction, a translation into English, and a detailed commentary. The introduction comprises various sections: methodology and general findings of the thesis; an historical and cosmological background; a discussion of allegory and its relation to Stoic physics/theology; ancient concepts of wisdom and its transmission by myth; Cornutus' use of etymology, and Stoic etymology generally; the structure and content of the text; Cornutus' sources; Cornutus' readers. Previous scholarship has been scant, and concludes that the text is unsatisfactory, with inexplicable internal inconsistencies and little overall coherence. This has been a puzzle because the poor quality of the text is incompatible with the high regard with which Cornutus is known to have been held. A further problem has been the array of alternative etymologies which Cornutus provides for the names of the Gods, and various previous attempts have been made to identify Cornutus' sources by examining etymologies found for other writers, and textual parallels with Cornutus. The introduction to the thesis argues that the failure of the text as presented to us is due to its corruption by many accretions. A re-evaluation of the text and identification of accretions on simple and justifiable criteria reveals an unexciting but very well-written text with an overall coherence and clear low-level pedagogical objective. It is a school text which summarizes the theological beliefs handed down by Greek tradition, and aims to encourage correct behaviour and attitude towards the Gods by the avoidance of the two extremes of atheism and superstition. In order to achieve this aim, Cornutus consistently uses rational argument for the explanation of very many details of Greek religious practice, resorting to rhetorical argument where necessary. Etymologies of Gods' names are simply one kind of rational explanation. With this approach, Cornutus achieves a remarkable level of coherence for a fundamentally chaotic system of beliefs.