A new edition and translation of Hyginus, De munitionibus castrorum

An email from the editor, Duncan B. Campbell, tells me of a new edition, with facing translation, of an unusual text: ps.Hyginus, On fortifying a Roman camp (Liber de munitionibus castrorum).  He has self-published this, and it is available in eBook form for a trivial price through Amazon here (Amazon.co.uk here).

I must say when I received the email, my first question was “what on earth is this?”  It’s a rare author whom I have never heard of.

In fact this short text is one of a collection of ancient surveying texts, made in the 6th century, and preserved in the so-called Codex Arcerianus, preserved today and online in the Wolfenbüttel library in the Herzog August collection, under mysterious shelfmark “Codex Guelferbytensis 36.23 Aug. 2°”).  These are the “Gromatici” (groma-users), or “Agrimenores” (field measurers).  The groma is a Roman surveying stick, depicted on monuments. In fact part of one was found at Pompeii, I believe.

Few medieval surveyors would need to fortify a Roman camp.  The copies of the Arcerianus, therefore, always omit De munitionibus castrorum.

Top of folio 125r of the Codex Arcerianus – the title of Hyginus

Ps.Hyginus has been translated before.  Alan Richardson – Theoretical Aspects of Roman Camp and Fort Design (BAR, 2004), includes a 1925 translation of “De Munitionibus Castrorum” by Ian A. Richmond.  But few will have any access to this.

Likewise a translation is online: appendix 1 in Catherine M. Gilliver, “The Roman Art of War”, (PDF). PhD Thesis, is an English translation of De Munitionibus Castrorum, “based on the 1977 Teubner text of Grillone and the 1979 Budé text of Lenoir”.  No doubt this will do for many purposes.

Dr Campbell, however, has produced a new Latin text indicating all proposed emendations, and his version is no doubt superior.

Let us by all means encourage the production of translations at trivial prices online.

New at Livius.org: a revised Zosimus translation

Zosimus, “Count of the fisc” in the 6th century, wrote an oddball history in 6 books, which only just reached us.  It was an oddball text because Zosimus was a pagan, and blamed Constantine for everything.  Although he wrote around 550, he had access to lost sources, which make him our only source for events in Britain after the death of Theodosius I in 396.  The sole surviving manuscript was kept on the closed shelves in the Vatican until modern times.

Long ago I placed online an English translation of this work, which I obtained with great difficulty.  My introduction to it is here.

Today I heard from the excellent Jona Lendering of Livius.org, who has tidied this up and added it to his marvellous site:

I have copied your scan of Zosimus and put it online. I have also

  • polished a part of the spelling (as you already indicated, it’s a bad reprint of a cheap book that does not even mention the name of the translator),
  • added chapters and sections according to the Budé edition (anchors for the page numbers have been inserted),
  • linked to relevant pages,
  • and wrote an introduction based on information from the Budé.

You will find it at

The public domain English translation appeared in 1814, but was itself a reprint of a 1684, probably very lax, translation.  A nice modern translation by Ridley exists, done for the Australian Byzantine series, but of course this is not public domain and so is known only to specialists.

Back in 2002 I requested a copy of Zosimus by interlibrary loan.  What arrived after a considerable delay was a bound photocopy of the openings, itself faint, and with the pages effectively back to front.  This I scanned.

A year later I discovered that a copy was in Oxford, in the Bodleian, and I mae a special trip there to find it.  It wasn’t in any normal part of the Bodleian.  I ended up going to a building that I’d never known about; and then being directed to an annex in a house in an obscure part of west Oxford.  The street was narrow and with quite peculiar architecture, and an odd roundabout-park at the end of the road.  I was the only visitor!  I photocopied what I needed, and left.  Years later I saw the street in an episode of Inspector Morse.

That was in 2003, I find.  Back then Google Books did not exist.  Today a copy of the 1814 printing can be found there, at this link.  But so can a copy of the 1684 volume, here!  An 1802 German translation is here.

Notes and news

Here are a few items that I learned about over the last couple of weeks.

  •  De Gruyter have published an edition of the fragments of the Ecclesiastical History of Gelasius of Caesarea, ed. Martin Wallraff &c, with a translation by Nicholas Marinides.  The De Gruyter item is here.  A “teaser” extract is now available on the translators Academia.edu page here.  This is, of course, a very welcome addition to historical sources for the period, tho at $150 a pop I shall not i invest.
  •  Less expensive – indeed free for download online – is a translation of Book 3, chapters 1-30 of the Histories of John Cantacuzene (given as “John Kantakouzenos”; why not Ioannes Kantakouzenos, on the same logic?).  It’s a thesis by Brian McLaughlin, and it’s great to have available, and is online at Royal Holloway here.
  •  Another bunch of free translations can be found at the St George Orthodox Ministry blog, http://www.stgeorgeministry.com/category/translations/.  Homily 67 of Severus of Antioch; indeed quite a bit of Severus of Antioch.
  •  Finally another commercial item, which I happened to find quite useful in my work on Nicholas of Myra legends: John L. Hoh, Santa Claus: Is he for your child? 2011, eBook.  It’s padded out with all sorts of stuff, but I found it a useful version of many of the popular stories.  Not recommending it, you understand; but I didn’t know people were still publishing such things.

Apologies for slow correspondence.  I’ve had a winter bug.  Hopefully I can start catching up now!

Some more notes on the Archko volume

Fake gospels have been composed continuously from the second century until our own times.  The object is either to convert Christians to something else, or to make money off them.

One interesting example, which I have discussed before, is the Archko Volume, a collection of “ancient documents” corroborating the events of the New Testament, but in reality composed by a rural American presbyterian minister named William Dennis Mahan and self-published in 1884.  It’s a fairly crude fake, but has remained in print since.  The intended victims appear to be rural American Christians with limited education, and it is still marketed to them now.  The author was caught and tried by his church, found guilty and suspended for a year.  But nobody was going to allow a money-spinner to go out of print, and after a quick revision to remove some of the more damning evidence, it went into a “second edition” which is what circulates today.

I’ve recently come across some more material about this item, telling us about the author, and also about why it is circulating today.

Firstly, I have always wondered if Mahan was an honest man who outsmarted himself.  Perhaps he tried to compose a historical novel, in epistolary form, and found his parishioners took it as real?  Once money changed hands, a poor clergyman might be trapped in the mistake.

Recently I came across a collection of materials from his presbytery, the Cumberland Presbytery, and this has an entry for W.D.Mahan, listing his appointments.

Until 1885 he was a minister of the New Lebanon Presbytery.  In that year we read:

Suspended by New Lebanon Presbytery for one year.
[Source: Minutes of the New Lebanon Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, September 25-29, 1885, pages 134-148]

“Your committee to whom was referred the motion to grant W. D. Mahan a letter of dismission and recommendation after the term of his suspension expires, have had the subject under consideration, and in view of all the surrounding facts, and in view of the interests of the Church, we recommend the following:

Whereas, This Pres., at its session in Slater, Sept. 29th, 1885, did suspend from the functions of the ministry, for one year, W. D. Mahan; said one year terminating on the 29th of the present month; and

Whereas, The definite form of said suspension was more the result of sympathy for him and his family, than a desire for rigid administration of the law, and this sympathy being exercised under the hope that said W. D. Mahan would use all proper efforts to heal the wounds his course had inflicted; and,

Whereas, It now comes to the knowledge of this Pres., that he still occupies the same position, by the sale of his publications, and by negotiations to bring out new editions, therefore;

Resolved, That the suspension of the said W. D. Mahan, be, and the same is hereby declared indefinite, or, until he shall have complied with the law of the Church, as it applies in the case.”
[Source: Minutes of the New Lebanon Presbytery of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, September 10, 1886, pages 185-186]

I do not yet see online the source documents, but we need only wait.  A couple of other documents are reproduced at the same site, including the following:

After the suspension he made no effort to return to the pastorate, but lived quietly at the home of his son-in-law, a hotel keeper in Booneville. He declined to make any further statement regarding the part he had taken in the preparation of the book except to say when it was told him that the literary world pronounced it a forgery: ‘Well, I have been a much deceived and a much persecuted man.’

It would be interesting indeed to know what lies behind those words.  But even so, it is useful to hear this much.

The book has certainly been profitable.  I discovered today that an American TV preacher named Benny Hinn promoted its modern circulation until quite recently.  A blogpost by Tony Breeden of “Defending Genesis” in 2011 asked bluntly why.

Realizing that Mr. Hinn’s television broadcast reaches 200 countries worldwide and has hundreds of thousands if not millions of viewers, I hastily contacted his organization by phone…

But to no avail.  Breeden, who had no a-priori objection to Hinn, wrote a follow-up article at another blog later in the year here.  It seems that his experiences led him to conclude that Hinn also was a fraudster.  The correspondence does give the impression of dealing with a sales-oriented retail business organisation, rather than anything else.

Fortunately I find that the promotion has now vanished from Hinn’s site.  Mind you, at $50 a copy, the profit margin was pretty substantial.  Another blogger in 2011 remarked:

It’s a well-intentioned fraud, but it’s a fraud nonetheless. And you can buy it on Amazon (if you must) for $10, which is a fair bit less than Hinn’s $50.

I was just about to wrap-up, when I learned of something even more peculiar, on LinkedIn, of all places: the existence of a 38-minute film adaptation “Archko Confessions” made by someone named Douglas King.  According to IMDB he is a writer and director, known for Scrubbed (2014), A Second One Night Stand (2017) and This is Libby (2018).  Nice!  His LinkedIn profile says:

“Marketed to the Christian market”; of course.

But what did Christ say about all this?  Something about the love of money…?

Please don’t contribute to Wikipedia

Another day, and another example of some quite interesting research which some intelligent person has inserted into a Wikipedia article.  I can only sigh.

Wikipedia is an example of the centralising trend of the internet, placing control in the hands of a handful of very rich men or companies.  All of them are of one background, outlook and politics.  All of them are terribly susceptible to pressure by certain political groups.  Not one of them has any attachment to any principle of free speech.  Not one of them has ever resisted attempts to silence people for their opinions or politics.  And all of those trends always go in one direction.

Tim Berners-Lee pointed out recently that all these sites, like Google or Facebook or Twitter, exist by sucking out the life of a previous free and varied internet.  If one website got a sudden urge to act like Hitler, it was easy enough to create another.  If one blogger went mad, there was always another.  Now we have monoliths, all under political control.

Don’t contribute.  If you have research, start a blog of notes and queries.  By all means get Wikipedia to point to it, to get the traffic.  But do not contribute to making the web centralised.

Suppression of information is endemic in our age.  Don’t make that easier.

From my diary

I’ve received the final chunk of the Vita Compilata of St Nicholas of Myra.  There are only a couple of queries, which I have sent over to the translator.  He is currently busy with the Eastern Orthodox season of Lent; but when I get them back, I will go through the whole text, revise it, and make it freely available here and elsewhere.

Anybody who uses the contact form on this blog will find that I have added a “recaptcha” thing to it.  I loathe them myself; but some cyber-criminal has discovered it and has been abusing it to send me spam.  So… I have to do this.

Germany has passed an internet censorship law, under the pretence of “anti-hate”.  According to TechDirt, it has had the predictable consequence that opposition politicians are being arrested, and even those complaining about the German PM, or even the new law itself.  Sadly such efforts are not lacking anywhere at the moment.

While politicians are endlessly eager to imprison the expression of opinion, they seem unconcerned about spam.  Dealing with spam consumes all of our time, including mine.  The cost to the economy of diverting so much productive labour must be considerable.  I could wish that our rulers were less concerned with name-calling and more with crime.

From my diary

This morning I  have received another chunk of the translation of the Vita Compilata of St Nicholas of Myra.  This is going well, and the end is not so far distant now.

I’ve not been able to blog at all lately.  But I have a nice backlog of blog article ideas to work on when I get a moment (which will probably be at Easter – only a month away now!)

I’m working away from home at the moment.  But I’ve been having difficulties with my hotel.  It’s hard to blog when you don’t get much sleep!  Naturally I ask to be put in the quiet section of the hotel.  The problem arises when some chap who works nights arrives.  These gentry are not quite and sensitive souls, but they do want to sleep in the daytime.  So they always ask to be put in the quietest part of the hotel, where all the light sleepers are.  Then at 4am they get up and slam the doors and wake up all the other guests.

Maybe all of life is like that!

Two more items from Anthony Alcock

Dr Alcock has kindly sent over two new translations in the last week.  I am too busy to do them justice, but I am glad to make them available here:

Thank you, Dr. A.

Microsoft does not believe that Microsoft has a future?

Two events in the last week have convinced me that the management of Microsoft does not believe that their company has a future.  The management are, it seems, the sort of grey people who took over Apple, expelled Steve Jobs, and ran the company into the ground.

The first event took place at my PC in my workplace, where I was working on something delicate.  Windows 10 popped up an announcement that it wanted to do an upgrade.  I reset the schedule for a couple of hours hence and carried on.  And then, in the middle of my work, suddenly it closed all my work and tried to reboot.  Windows had ignored my request and just restarted.  Obviously some petty upgrade was way more important than my work.  But imagine that I was a broker, doing a deal for a hundred million dollars?  Well, my deal could wait.  As far as Microsoft was concerned, their update mattered more.

The second event took place in the evening, or rather over several evenings, in my hotel.  While at work, I realised that I needed to write a small windows application.  I’ve not written anything for windows in a  long time, but I remember how to do it.  A quick Visual Basic .Net application would be quite adequate.

So I went to the Microsoft site to get the tools, and found that … um … you can’t download Visual Basic .Net any more.  You have to download some obese monster called “Visual Studio 2017 Community Edition”.  Except you can’t download it.  You can install it off the web; but you can’t keep the media locally.  When you do install it, it demands to know which of a baffling array of options you want installed, nearly all of them irrelevant.

Bear in mind that I want to create a tiny Windows application – the environment that Microsoft control – and I want to do it in Basic, the language they control.  Surely that is the beginners’ path?  Why is it so hard?

Well I found my way through the menus and installed this THREE GIGABYTE (????) environment on my laptop.  Then I tried to set to work.  But … everything was hard.  Despite a decade of experience with Microsoft tools, and knowing clearly what I wanted to do, I was quite unable to work out how to do it.

The last straw came when I wanted to embed two icons in the project.  This should be trivial.  It was not.  You could, with difficulty, insert icons into your project.  But you couldn’t edit them.  The toolbars were greyed out.  Much googling later, I discovered that this was just how it was; you had to create them as external files.

The only people who could possibly work with Visual Studio would be a large professional corporate software department.  The individual tinkering at home is excluded.  It requires immense effort just to create a trivial application.  I remember VB6 – it was easy to do this.  I remember the original VB.Net – harder, but still not that hard.  But now … nobody new will develop for Microsoft.  It’s just too hard.

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that Microsoft is now run by people who do not use Windows seriously, and none of whom write software.  Anybody who did either would not allow their products to get so out of shape.

But if Windows now is a relic, doomed to die – at least in the opinion of its owners – the rest of us still use it.  We would like it to work, thank you.

And if it is now impossible to easily develop new software for Windows, as seems to be the case, this again reinforces the feeling that the owners of Microsoft do not care.  They don’t believe that any real new software will be delivered.  They don’t believe in the hobbyist at home.

The hobbyist is now writing web applications, where he can run up an application with ease.  I saw this week a website which mimicked Microsoft Paint!  It was done in Javascript.  I guarantee it was easier to do than working with Visual Studio.  But Microsoft management don’t care what the hobbyist does.  They don’t give him any access.

It’s sad really.  Whither the desktop computer?