Agapius almost ready

I’ve finished turning the French translation of the 10th century Arabic Christian historian Agapius into English, formatting it and so forth.  Only a couple of issues remain, but these are important.

People get interested in Agapius for two reasons only, in my experience.  The lesser reason is that he preserves a fragment of Papias not found elsewhere.  This undoubtedly comes from a Syriac version of some lost Greek chronicle.

The main reason is that Shlomo Pines quoted a version of the Testimonium Flavianum as from Agapius, which has since attracted a lot of attention.  Pines made his own translation, using the 1912 CSCO text. 

The passage is found in the second part of Agapius.  This is preserved only in a single damaged manuscript in Florence.  The manuscript breaks off in 776 AD, in the second year of the Caliph al-Mahdi; but the text originally continued to 941 AD.  Quotations from Agapius are found in the 13th century Arabic Christian historian al-Makin.  The CSCO text supplemented the text found in the Florence manuscript from al-Makin. 

Methodologically this seems unsound to me.  We all know that texts tend to grow in transmission, as marginal notes find their way into the text, and additional material gets added.  It would be most interesting to learn whether attention was paid to this.  Since no edition exists of al-Makin, it is rather hard to judge.  Unfortunately the CSCO edition did not come with a translation.  Let’s hope it has a non-Arabic introduction!

Either way I need to look directly at the CSCO edition, and give both passages a special treatment.  So I shall drive up to Cambridge tomorrow, and get copies of the relevant passages.   I think I will take a little digital camera with me and just photograph the pages — the photocopiers at the university library are a disgrace!

4 Responses to “Agapius almost ready”


  1. John Uebersax

    Nice project. Would you consider nominations for other patristic works currently available in French or Italian, but not English?

  2. Roger Pearse

    Interested to hear suggestions, sure.

    It’s the sort of thing that benefits a lot of people but which a scholar couldn’t do without being thought crass. I on the other hand…

  3. John Uebersax

    Your example prompted me to try a similar experiment. I took a Spanish translation of a passage of Plato and ran it through Google translation; the result was surprisingly good. Yes, there were mistakes here and there, but the essential meaning was conveyed. In a way, the imperfection of the translation is good, because it supplies a motivation to review the result carefully and an opportunity to add value.

  4. Roger Pearse

    Good to hear that the Spanish is usable; I hadn’t tried that. And yes, it’s actually nice to be able to contribute corrections.



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