Letters to the Editor SpecGram Vol CXLVII, No 3 Contents An Argument for Them--Meemigh Selfin Aye
The Curious History of the Σπεκουλάτωρ Γραμματεύς

by D. Reindl, Rice University

Fragment of a Petition to Basil
Demanding a Σπεκουλάτωρ Γραμματεύς

The office of Σπεκουλάτωρ Γραμματεύς 'executioner-scribe' was established in the latter days of the Byzanthine Empire, under the reign of Basil Bulgaroctonos. The motivation for the institution of the position is generally assumed to have its origins in a general concern regarding the decline in the quality of the Greek literary language. Several fragments have been unearthed lately in south-eastern Bulgaria which seem to confirm this hypothesis. They appear to be part of a petition addressed to the emperor, in which deteriorating stylistic standards are cited, sometimes vehemently, as justification for establishment of the post.

Historical evidence shows us that the creation of the office of the Σπεκουλάτωρ Γραμματεύς was initially popular among the common citizenry of the Byzantine Empire, for it was a legal means through which they were able to vent their frustration at the substandard use of the language, especially by the increasing number of foreigners living among them.

Eventually, the Σπεκουλάτωρ Γραμματεύς gained such prestige that several neighboring tribes felt compelled to establish similar officials among themselves. However, excessive zeal, in combination with the lack of a standard for the various languages, produced the inevitable tragic results. Indeed, induced by the lure of spekoulator-gild - that is, the practice of rewarding the Σπεκουλάτωρ Γραμματεύς with all of the property of the offending party as payment - entire villages were sometimes massacred at the drop of a participle. Eventally, in those tribes in which the Σπεκουλάτορες Γραμματεῐς grew exceedingly wealthy and powerful, the entire nation often perished, along with their language, without trace.

An Early Engraving of the Σπεκουλάτωρ Γραμματεύς at Work

Letters to the Editor
An Argument for Them--Meemigh Selfin Aye
SpecGram Vol CXLVII, No 3 Contents