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ISIDORUS
A Spaniard who, from the beginning of the 7th century, was bishop of Seville (in Latin Hispalis, whence he is called Hispalensis). He died about 636 A.D. He possessed a width of reading which was remarkable for his time, and an extraordinary faculty for collecting information. Next to Boethius and Cassiodorus, he exercised the most important influence upon the general culture and literature of the Middle Ages. Besides works on grammar, theology, and history (including a Chronicle of the World to his own day, and histories of the Goths, Vandals, and Suevi), he composed in the last years of his life his greatest and most important work, an immense but imperfect encyclopaedic survey of all knowledge, in twenty volumes, entitled the Etymologoe or Origines, from its often very capricious and marvellous explanations of the various subjects of which it treats. Though it is only a vast congeries of collected excerpts, devoid of a single original idea, it is nevertheless important owing to the variety of its contents and its citations from writings now lost, such as those of Suetonius. Another work, which is similarly a compilation, but was greatly used in the Middle Ages, is his De Natura Rerum, a handbook of natural history.
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