Simon de Dacia

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by Sten Ebbesen

Simon of Dacia (or Simon Dacus) is the supposed author of two late thirteenth-century works on grammar (Domus gramatice, Questiones super 2° Minoris voluminis Prisciani) and a lost Commentum super computum ecclesiaticum, but the attributions rest on slender evidence.

Biography and authorship

Nothing is known about the life of Simon of Denmark, and even his existence is not beyond doubt. The three works attributed to him are all such as belong in the context of a school on the level of a university or a good cathedral school. The attribution of the two grammatical works to Simon of Denmark rests on the authority of Amplonius, the early fifteenth-century owner of the only known manuscripts containing them, who gives “Symon Dacus” as their author in his catalogue of his own books. On doctrinal grounds, however, it seems improbable that one man composed both works, and Amplonius is notoriously unreliable in questions of authorship.

Apart from Amplonius’s testimony the only reason to think that the author of Domus gramatice (who will henceforward be called “Simon–1”) was named Simon is that on one occasion “Symon”, which is no stock example, is used to exemplify a proper name. He was scarcely a Dane; other examples point to a German setting. References in Domus gramatice show that the author had also composed a Glose Doctrinalis, i.e. a commentary on Alexander of Villadei’s Doctrinale. In scholarly literature the author of Domus gramatice is sometimes referred to as Simon Domifex to distinguish him from the commentator on Priscian.

As for the author of the Questions on Priscian Minor II (henceforward “Simon–2”), the case for the name of “Simon” is slightly better. PINBORG 1964 & 1967 gave reasons for thinking that this work is by the same author as an extant commentary on Martinus de Dacia’s Modi Significandi and a lost Glosa super Donatum. The commentary on Martin, though anonymous in the extant manuscripts, may be safely attributed to a Simon on the testimony of later quotations. The commentary on Donatus is known through quotations only, and the name of its author is given as Simon. PINBORG 1964 & 1967 found that agreement in views and expression makes it probable that all three works were composed by the same author. However, this conclusion has been called in doubt by unpublished research by I. ROSIER-CATACH, who found noticeable differences in doctrine between the Questions on Priscian and Simon’s commentary on Martin, while the latter turns out to have some remarkable similarities to a commentary on Peter of Spain’s Tractatus (= Summule logicales) composed by a Simon usually thought to be Simon of Faversham (d. 1306).

Amplonius may just have been right in ascribing the Questions on Priscian Minor II to a Simon, but it is even less certain that he was right in adding “Dacus”. In fact, “Simon Dacus” may be a conflation of “Simon” and “Martinus Dacus”. There is testimony that some medievals ascribed Martin’s work to Simon Dacus. This suggests that the figure of “Simon Dacus” arose due to a scholar’s slip of memory: Simon was a famous commentator on Martin’s work, someone confused commentator (Simon) and author (Martinus Dacus) and produced the hybrid Simon Dacus. The occurrence of “Erfordia” as an example in the commentary on Martin points to a German origin (PINBORG 1967, 97 n. 8 nevertheless proposed that the author might be the Englishman Simon of Faversham).

The Computus commentary is only known from an entry in Amplonius’s catalogue. Since the manuscript appears to be no longer extant, there is no way of knowing whether it provided a foundation for Amplonius’s attribution, or whether its author could possibly be identical with one or the other of the writers on grammar. Below he will be called “Simon–3”.

For the problems concerning the authorship of the grammatical works, see PINBORG 1967, 62–63, 95–97). PINBORG’s discussion there supersedes that of OTTO in the introduction to his 1963 edition and also importantly modifies the conclusions reached in PINBORG 1964.

Simon–1: (1) Domus gramatice

A reasoned exposition of the elements of grammar.


The title is explicitly mentioned in the author’s preface.


Sicut domus tribus partibus integratur, scilicet fundamento, pariete et tecto, sic eloquentia tribus scientiis perficitur: gramatica tanquam fundamento, dyalectica tanquam superedificio, retorica tanquam tecto.


Similiter dicendum est in tertia regula, quod dictio notans actum conuersum in habitum potest sic vel sic sumi. Hec de datiuo dicta sufficiant.


86 pages in the printed edition.


  • OTTO 1963.


PINBORG 1967, 96 dated the work about 1260, but his method of dating presupposed a uniform development of grammatical doctrine in different genres and places. Allowing for different speeds of development, it seems safer to say “probably ca. 1260, but possibly as late as ca. 1280.”


The prologues to the whole work and to single chapters outline the following structure: 1 Gramatica preceptiva 1.1 De non significabili 1.1.1 De voce 1.1.2 De littera 1.1.3 De accidentibus litere 1.1.4 De ethimologia 1.2 De significabili incomplexo seu de dictione 1.2.1 De dictione in generali 1.2.2 De dictione in speciali (the eight parts of speech) 1.3 De significabili complexo seu de oratione (syntax) 2 Gramatica prohibitiva 3 Gramatica permissiva

Parts 2 and 3 are not extant and may never have been written. Some parts of the work have the format of a straightforwardly didactic textbook. Thus the section on verbal tense runs: Sequitur de tempore. De quo videamus tria: primo quid sit et unde dicatur; secundo [...]; tertio [...]. Ad primum dicendum quod [...]. Ad secundum [...]. Ad tertium [...] (OTTO 1963, 45). Other parts consist of fully-fledged scholastic quaestiones, and still others have an intermediate format.

Medieval reception and transmission

Domus gramatice appears to have enjoyed only a limited circulation. No certain evidence has been found that it was used by later grammarians. The work is transmitted in one manuscript: Erfurt, Universitäts- und Forschungsbibliothek, CA 8° 12: 59rA–75rB, early fourteenth century.

Simon–1: (2) Glose Doctrinalis

Lost. Referred to in Domus gramatice, pp. 14, 17, 46, (ed. OTTO 1963). A commentary on Alexander de Villadei (Villedieu)’s versified summary of grammar, the Doctrinale.

Simon–2: (1) Questiones super 2° Minoris voluminis Prisciani


The title is derived from Amplonius’s catalogue entry “Questiones optime Symonis Daci super 2° minoris voluminis Prisciani.”


Queritur utrum gramatica sit scientia, et videtur quod non: Omnis scientia habetur per demonstrationem: Sed gramatica non est huiusmodi. Ergo etc. Maior patet per philosophum primo posteriorum.


Ad tertiam: Quando dicitur: sicut uerbum etc., verum est actu. Sed cum dicitur: sic per oppositum etc., verum est: actu est absolutum, tamen aptitudine et in potentia bene est transitivum, ergo etc.


88 pages in the printed edition.


  • OTTO 1963


The work consists of forty quaestiones on Book 18 of Priscian’s Institutiones grammaticae. “Minus volumen” was the common medieval designation of books 17–18 (the books on syntax). The first eight questions deal with grammar in general, qq. 9–10 with general problems relating to Priscian Minor, 11–22 with the syntax of cases (on Priscian 18.2–39), qq. 23–40 with the syntax of verbs (on Priscian 18.40 ff.).


PINBORG 1967, 94 argues for a date in the 1280s. For the question of authorship, see above. Manuscript: Erfurt, Universitäts- und Forschungsbibliothek, CA 8° 10: 83rA–90rA, early fourteenth c.

Simon–2: (2) Super Modos Significandi Martini

The work is a commentary on Martinus de Dacia’s famous Modi Significandi, direct commentary alternates with dubitationes (= quaestiones).


Rethorice primo scribitur a Philosopho “Turpe est ignorare quod omnibus scire contingit”


tamen est imperfecta quia ibi deficit mutua finitatio et ita reddendo singula singulis scilicet versus sequentes ad precedentes apparet que requiruntur ad perfectam orationem secundum constructionem.




PINBORG (1967, 94) argued persuasively for a date in the 1280s. For the question of authorship, see above. The commentary seems to have enjoyed considerable reputation, at least for some decades, and was used by later commentators; cf. PINBORG 1967, 98–99. Manuscripts: Brugge, SB, 535: 64rA–96rB, fourteenth century; Klagenfurt, Studienbibliothek, Perg. Hs. 13: 66rA–108rB, fourteenth century.; Leipzig, UB, 1356: 29–45, anno 1368.

Simon–2: (3) Glosa super Donatum

Lost. Referred to in an anonymous commentary on Donatus’s Ars grammatica in Uppsala, University Library, C 672. See PINBORG 1964, 228. If the questions on Priscian and the commentary on Martin are by different authors, the lost Glosa is more likely to belong to the commentator on Martin.

Simon–3: Commentum super compotum ecclesiasticum

Lost. Only known from Amplonius’s catalogue entry “Item egregium commentum Symonis Daci super compotum ecclesiasticum.” See OTTO 1963, XI. Being a commentary on a computus, the work will have dealt with calendarial calculations.


Some medieval sources misattribute Martinus de Dacia’s Modi Significandi to Simon Dacus. See PINBORG 1967, 96.


  • OTTO, A. 1963: Simonis Daci Opera (CPhD 3), Copenhagen.
  • PINBORG, J. 1964: “Eine neue sprachlogische Schrift des Simon de Dacia,” Scholastik 39, 220–32.
  • PINBORG, J. 1967: Die Entwicklung der Sprachtheorie im Mittelalter, (Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalters, Texte und Untersuchungen 42.2), Münster/Copenhagen.