Archive for July, 2010

The conman and the Jews, in the Chronicle of Zuqnin, part 4

Here’s the next chunk of the 8th century anonymous Syriac chronicle, written at the monastery of Zuqnin, just north of Amida (= modern Diyarbekir), and once wrongly attributed to Dionysius of Tell-Mahre.

In the year 1040 (728-729), Neocaesarea was taken by Maslamah [27] who took captive the people of this town and sold them into slavery like animals, except, however, the Jews who had handed over the city. They had traveled secretly to Maslamah and, after receiving his promise, they treacherously made possible his entry into the city. He made them captives, but did not sell them; he took them with him.

In the year 1045 (733-734), Suleiman invaded the Roman territory and captured Polozonium where he took all the inhabitants into captivity. These are the circumstances. Artabas, son of the Roman emperor Constantine, revolted and took control of the city of Constantinople, and he assumed tyrannically the imperial crown. While the Emperor Constantine marched with his army against the multitude of his enemies, he had left in the city, to keep it, this tyrant Artabas with the garrison of Pelozonium. The latter, forgetting the pact concluded before God with Leo, and seeing that he was occupying the town, tried to take control of the Empire. He then occupied the city, and the imperial army, with Constantine himself, was camped outside, while the whole legion of Pelozonium fought inside against the emperor. As Suleiman was approaching, Leo sent to tell him: “Do not come to me; you risk finding it difficult to escape from me;  but go to Pelozonium, devastate it, demolish it, make of it whatever you please, because there no one will resist you.” He went there, sacked it and despoiled it at his pleasure, carrying off a booty like no one before him had ever won. Leo seized the tyrant, blinded him and deprived of pay the army which had taken his side.

 [28] In the year 1043 (734-735), Malik ibn Sebib, Emir of Melitene, and `Abdallah al-Batal besieged city of Synada. While they were encamped in the meadows that surround that place, a huge army gathered against them to revenge what the Arabs had done the previous year at Pelozonium. When the Arabs, who were about fifty thousand, were unsuspectingly within their camp, the Romans suddenly surrounded it on all sides and made them all perish by the sword. Only a few escaped, thanks to the time of day which was late: they fled, defending themselves with the sword, spear and bow, and they marched all night. Of the fifty thousand who had come, just five thousand escaped. The leaders themselves fell in the battle; never did such a misfortune happen to the Arabs.

At that time there was in the western region a seducer who deceived and ruined a great number of the Jews. Satan, who is pernicious and malignant from the outset, always tries to deceive people, not just some but everyone equally, regardless of their race or language, suggesting to each what seems to be agreeable and capable of misleading. He derives his name from his works: Satan, in fact, means “adversary”. He neglects nothing and does not cease to disrupt or deceive all peoples in all generations. He never gets tired, and he never gives up his ancient wickedness, that he once invented against the first of the human race to ruin it.

 [29] In this time, then, he brought out of Mesopotamia, a man from the village of Phalkat in the Mardin region, and he led him into the western country, near to Beit Shammar. This individual had access to the house of one of the principal men among the Jews, but abusing the hospitality given him, he corrupted the daughter of the latter. When the matter came to the Jews, they promised to put him to death. But as he was a Christian, they inflicted on him cruel and long-drawn out punishments during which he found an opportunity to escape from their hands. He decided therefore to subject them to all sorts of misery. Leaving there, he went down to the Aramoyé country where he plunged into every kind of evil incantation. There he devoted himself to magic and devilish artifices. He made progress in all the evil arts and became a master of them. Leaving this place, so he returned to the area of Beit Shammar. He told the Jews: “I am Moses, the very man who formerly brought Israel out of Egypt, who was with them in the sea and the desert for forty years. I am sent again for the salvation of Israel and to lead you into the desert, so that you may once then come into the inheritance of the Promised Land, so that you will possess it as before. Just as God overthrew all the nations who lived there so that your fathers might take ownership, so also he will make them disappear before you so that you can enter, so that you will own it as previously, and so that all the dispersed Israelites may be gathered according to what is written: ‘He will bring together the dispersed of Israel.’” As he spoke such language to them daily and constantly excited their admiration by his incantations, they went astray after him. Sometimes he made them wander in the mountains and threw them from craggy peaks and killed them, sometimes he shut them up in caves and caverns, where they perished. [30] He made them suffer so much misery, in killing and slaying many. He also took from them a lot of gold, persuading them by his incantations that he was leading them in the desert. When he had had his fill of the misery that he made them suffer daily, he deceived them by his tricks, took all the gold and all the property that he had acquired from them and fled to his own country. The Jews, come to themselves and seeing the evil that had made them suffer, chased him across the world, questioning and inquiring about him. Having finally discovered him, they took him before the Emir of the believers, Hisham. The latter abandoned him to them, so they made him suffer tortures and torments in Babylon and finally crucified him. So he died, and God gave him the sort of reward he so deserved.

Note how the term “Christian” refers to a group, not a belief; and how there is a Moslem emir charged with the affairs of the Christians (=”believers”). 

Gregory of Nyssa fails to adapt to then contemporary attitudes on slavery

Look at who is linking to you, and you can find some interesting things!  One was this post, and of course I shall have to read this blog some more! 

Another of these is an extract from Gregory of Nyssa’s Homilies on Ecclesiastes here (over-paragraphing by me):

‘I got me slave-girls and slaves.’ For what price, tell me? What did you find in existence worth as much as this human nature? What price did you put on rationality? How many obols did you reckon the equivalent of the likeness of God? How many staters did you get for selling that being shaped by God?

God said, Let us make man in our own image and likeness. If he is in the likeness of God, and rules the whole earth, and has been granted authority over everything on earth from God, who is his buyer, tell me? Who is his seller?

To God alone belongs this power; or, rather, not even to God himself. For his gracious gifts, it says, are irrevocable. God would not therefore reduce the human race to slavery, since he himself, when we had been enslaved to sin, spontaneously recalled us to freedom.

But if God does not enslave what is free, who is he that sets his own power above God’s?

This from St. Gregory of Nyssa, Homilies on Ecclesiastes; Hall and Moriarty, trs., de Gruyter (New York, 1993) p. 74. 

It is a pity that only the page reference to the translation is quoted, not the text reference with homily, chapter, etc.  (I did intend to add a comment about this, but to do so meant logging in and disclosing apparently endless personal info, which I am not stupid enough to do).

What a world away this is, from the attitudes expressed in Martial, a man whose idea of a pleasant afternoon is to summon one of his slaves, and the girl-slave that the lad loves, and rape both of them.

Quiet flows the Don

Everyone must be on holiday.  The usual forums are quiet, and the volume of emails has dropped to almost nothing.  Not that I am complaining, you understand, but it is curious. 

Everyone, evidently, has better things to do than sit in front of the evil machine.  There’s a lesson there for those of us still doing so.

Turn off your computer and go outside and do something!

PS: You can tell it’s summer here in England — it’s still raining, but it just isn’t cold.

Scythians worship Zalmoxis, and serve them right!

According to Herodotus, the Getae were a godless lot, but they worshipped a certain Zalmoxis.  Herodotus also repeats a story current in the local Greek settlements that made this Zalmoxis a pupil of Pythagoras, who worked a con on the ignorant Scythians.  He hid in a cave in the ground for three years, and was mourned as dead.  Then he reappeared.  Apparently this made them think his teaching must be true.  Here’s what he says:

The belief of the Getae in respect of immortality is the following. They think that they do not really die, but that when they depart this life they go to Zalmoxis, who is called also Gebeleizis by some among them. To this god every five years they send a messenger, who is chosen by lot out of the whole nation, and charged to bear him their several requests. Their mode of sending him is this. A number of them stand in order, each holding in his hand three darts; others take the man who is to be sent to Zalmoxis, and swinging him by his hands and feet, toss him into the air so that he falls upon the points of the weapons. If he is pierced and dies, they think that the god is propitious to them; but if not, they lay the fault on the messenger, who (they say) is a wicked man: and so they choose another to send away. The messages are given while the man is still alive. This same people, when it lightens and thunders, aim their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the god; and they do not believe that there is any god but their own.

I am told by the Greeks who dwell on the shores of the Hellespont and the Pontus, that this Zalmoxis was in reality a man, that he lived at Samos, and while there was the slave of Pythagoras son of Mnesarchus. After obtaining his freedom he grew rich, and leaving Samos, returned to his own country.

The Thracians at that time lived in a wretched way, and were a poor ignorant race; Zalmoxis, therefore, who by his commerce with the Greeks, and especially with one who was by no means their most contemptible philosopher, Pythagoras to wit, was acquainted with the Ionic mode of life and with manners more refined than those current among his countrymen, had a chamber built, in which from time to time he received and feasted all the principal Thracians, using the occasion to teach them that neither he, nor they, his boon companions, nor any of their posterity would ever perish, but that they would all go to a place where they would live for ever in the enjoyment of every conceivable good.

While he was acting in this way, and holding this kind of discourse, he was constructing an apartment underground, into which, when it was completed, he withdrew, vanishing suddenly from the eyes of the Thracians, who greatly regretted his loss, and mourned over him as one dead. He meanwhile abode in his secret chamber three full years, after which he came forth from his concealment, and showed himself once more to his countrymen, who were thus brought to believe in the truth of what he had taught them. Such is the account of the Greeks.

I for my part neither put entire faith in this story of Zalmoxis and his underground chamber, nor do I altogether discredit it: but I believe Zalmoxis to have lived long before the time of Pythagoras. Whether there was ever really a man of the name, or whether Zalmoxis is nothing but a native god of the Getae, I now bid him farewell. As for the Getae themselves, the people who observe the practices described above, they were now reduced by the Persians, and accompanied the army of Darius. — Book IV, 93-96.

I discovered yesterday that some people online believe that Zalmoxis is somehow like Jesus, at least to the extent that he has a resurrection in his myth.

When I encounter stuff like that, my first reaction is always to ask to see the data.  I compiled all the references I could find about Zalmoxis, which I put here.  There isn’t a lot.  All the later material reads to me as if it is an embellishment of the account of Herodotus.  Finding links between people, and deities, and writing stories about this, was how ancient syncretism worked.  By the time of Iamblichus the theurgist, in the mid-4th century, it has to be questionable whether any real information remained on this subject.

So … did Zalmoxis rise from the dead?  Herodotus does not say that people thought so.   The text would bear that meaning; but it would also bear the meaning that he pretended to be a god or spirit who was appearing to them.

We need to avoid imposing any preconceptions on the text.  Which means, of course, that sometimes we cannot say what the text means.

Google funding for discovery of ancient texts online — and some unforeseen difficulties

Stephan Huller has drawn my attention to a press release from the university of Southampton:

A University of Southampton researcher is part of a team which has just secured funding from Google to make the classics and other ancient texts easy to discover and access online.

Leif Isaksen at the University’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) is working together with Dr Elton Barker at The Open University and Dr Eric Kansa of the University of California-Berkeley on the Google Ancient Places (GAP): Discovering historic geographical entities in the Google Books corpus project, which is one of 12 projects worldwide to receive funding as part of a new Digital Humanities Research Programme funded by Google.

The GAP researchers will enable scholars and enthusiasts worldwide to search the Google Books corpus to find books related to a geographic location and within a particular time period. The results can then be visualised on GoogleMaps or in GoogleEarth.  The project will run until September next year.

The PR people don’t seem to have really understood what is involved here.  This isn’t about placing ancient texts online, as far as I can see.  Rather it is about indexing volumes in Google books, so that they can be searched for using region and date.   The information will be accessible using a webservice.

There is one obvious difficulty with all this, tho.  Most books on Google books are not accessible in the United Kingdom!  This is because European publishers lobbied and threatened Google if it made material prior to 1923 available, for fear that some of it might still be copyright somewhere in the EU, and that that copyright might belong to one of them, and that maybe, just maybe, they might lose some money. 

Google listened this contemptible nonsense, scratched its head at the idea that people wanted to prevent access, and said, “Fine.  Do without!” They chopped access to Google books material after 1880 or something like that.  The euro-nuts lose, the US gains.

So … most of the results returned by this new webservice will be of no service to anyone.

A myth-take about Helice, the earthquake, and Diodorus Siculus

In 373 BC, two years before the battle of Leuctra, an earthquake destroyed two cites of the Achaean league, pitching them into the sea.  This evening I received an email about this. 

I am writing a book about the science of disaster prediction, and will be making a brief reference to anecdotal evidence (and, more recently, scientific evidence) that some animals do seem to show a premonitory response to earthquakes. The earliest written account seems to be that of the earthquake/tsunami destruction of Helice (Achaea) in 373 B.C., where snakes, rats, weasels etc were supposed to have left beforehand. The account is often attributed to Diodorus, but reading through various translations of his History I have found his account of the earthquake, but no mention of the prior migration of animals. …  if you happen to know whether he did give an account of animal migration before the earthquake, I would certainly appreciate the reference so that I can quote it rather than relying on secondary sources.

I would have preferred at least to get a reference to Diodorus!  A quick Google search revealed that this is a legend doing the rounds, such as here:

In Rupert Sheldrake’s book, ‘Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home; and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals’ cites many occurrences of “Forebodings of Earthquakes and Other Disasters”, Chapter 15: … The first detailed description from Europe concerns a cataclysmic earthquake in 373 B.C. at Helice, Greece, on the shore of the Gulf of Corinth, which swallowed the city up.  Five days before the quake, according to the historian Diodorus Siculus, rats, snakes, weasels, and other animals left the city in droves, to the puzzlement of the human inhabitants.

So … what’s the story?  Well, I find from the RealEncyclopadie that Diodorus describes the earthquake in book 15, c. 48:

When Asteius was archon at Athens …  great earthquakes occurred in the Peloponnese accompanied by tidal waves which engulfed the open country and cities in a manner past belief; for never in the earlier periods had such disasters befallen Greek cities, nor had entire cities along with their inhabitants disappeared as a result of some divine force wreaking destruction and ruin upon mankind. 

The extent of the destruction was increased by the time of its occurrence; for the earthquake did not come in the daytime when it would have been possible for the sufferers to help themselves, but the blow came at night, so that when the houses crashed and crumbled under the force of the shock, the population, owing to the darkness and to the surprise and bewilderment occasioned by the event, had no power to struggle for life.

The majority were caught in the falling houses and annihilated, but as day returned some survivors dashed from the ruins and, when they thought they had escaped the danger, met with a greater and still more incredible danger. For the sea rose to a vast height, and a wave towering even higher washed away and drowned all the inhabitants and their native lands as well.

Two cities in Achaia bore the brunt of this disaster, Helice and Bura, the former of which had, as it happened, before the earthquake held first place among the cities of Achaia.  These disasters have been the subject of much discussion. Natural scientists make it their endeavour to attribute responsibility in such cases not to divine providence, but to certain natural circumstances determined by necessary causes, whereas those who are disposed to venerate the divine power assign certain plausible reasons for the occurrence, alleging that the disaster was occasioned by the anger of the gods at those who had committed sacrilege. This question I too shall endeavour to deal with in detail in a special chapter of my history

No mention of animals on the move.  I then looked into Strabo, Geographica VIII, 9:

For the sea was raised by an earthquake and it submerged Helice, and also the temple of the Heliconian Poseidon, whom the Ionians worship even to this day, offering there the Pan-Ionian sacrifices. … Helice was submerged by the sea two years before the battle at Leuctra. And Eratosthenes says that he himself saw the place, and that the ferrymen say that there was a bronze Poseidon in the strait, standing erect, holding a hippo-campus in his hand, which was perilous for those who fished with nets.

And Heracleides says that the submersion took place by night in his time, and, although the city was twelve stadia distant from the sea, this whole district together with the city was hidden from sight; and two thousand men who had been sent by the Achaeans were unable to recover the dead bodies; and they divided the territory of Helice among the neighbours; and the submersion was the result of the anger of Poseidon, for the Ionians who had been driven out of Helice sent men to ask the inhabitants of Helicê particularly for the statue of Poseidon, or, if not that, for the model of the temple; and when the inhabitants refused to give either, the Ionians sent word to the general council of the Achaeans; but although the assembly voted favorably, yet even so the inhabitants of Helice refused to obey; and the submersion resulted the following winter; but the Achaeans later gave the model of the temple to the Ionians.

But again there is a shortage of rats in this account.

The answer is to be found in Aelian, De natura animalium, book 11.  An English translation does exist in the Loeb, but I have no access to it.

quinque enim diebus priusquam pessum iret Helice, omnes in ea mures, mustelae, serpentes, scolopendrae verticilli, et alia hujusmodi animalia, magnis copiis exibat per viam, quae ducit Coriam. Haec Helicenses cum fieri viderent, admirabantur; neque tamen de ei causa facere conjecturam poterant. Proxima autem ab illorum animalium egressu nocte terrae motu concussa civitas subsedit, et inundantibus aquis abolita est; et pariter cum urbe Lacedaemoniorum naves decem, quae tum forte ad portum appulerant, eadem maris exundatione perierunt.

Which we may render as:

for five days before Helice went down, all the mice in it, the weasels, serpents, scolopendrae verticilli (?) and other animals of this kind, in great numbers flowed out by the road to Corinth. When the Helicians saw this happen, they marvelled; however they were unable to make a guess as to the cause of it.  But the next night after the egress of those animals the earth moved violently and the city subsided, and by the inundation of water was obliterated; and likewise ten ships from the city of Sparta, which had put ashore by chance then at the harbour, perished in the same flood of the sea.

So that’s the real source.  Nice to see a legend floating around which is NOT about Christian origins for a change!

UPDATE: It turns out there is a website dedicated to Helice, which has the sources in English for the disaster here.  Aelian is given as follows:

For five days before Helike disappeared, all the mice and martens and snakes and centipedes and beetles and every other creature of that kind in the city left in a body by the road that leads to Keryneia. And the people of Helike seeing this happening were filled with amazement, but were unable to guess the reason. But after these creatures had departed, an earthquake occurred in the night; the city subsided; an immense wave flooded and Helike disappeared, while ten Spartan vessels which happened to be at anchor were lost together with the city.

More from the Chronicle of Zuqnin, part 4

Here is the next section of the 8th century anonymous chronicle, written at the monastery of Zuqnin, just north of ancient Amida, now Diarbekir in Eastern Turkey:

Wonders worked by holy Mar Habib, Bishop of Edessa.

“In these days it is good to hide the secret of the king, but it is always right to publish and communicate to everyone the wonders of the Lord.”  (Tobit 12 :7)

It will not seem strange, and the ears of listeners shall not be burdened if I here report a miracle that God’s power worked today through one of his apostles.

There was an Arab in the army, which, when they wanted to invade the territory of the Romans, came to stay at the holy monastery of Mar Habil in the region of Edessa. Finding that the porter of the convent was a God-fearing man, humble, benevolent and adorned with all divine virtues, he gave him a considerable sum of gold, saying: [17]  “Keep this for me; if I return alive, I will want my property back; if you learn that I am dead, distribute it to the needy.” Then he left this place. The monk accepted the deposit, and having taken the treasure, he dug in the earth to bury it, without making the matter known to anybody. The Arabs remained a long time, and after a gap of about three years, it happened by the permission of the Creator, that before the Arabs were to leave the territory of the Romans, the porter departed from this troubled world. But he did not even then make known his secret. However, the owner of the deposit returned and asked for the man. He was told that he was dead. “Give me,” he said, “what I left in his hands.”  —  “We know absolutely nothing of what you speak,” said the monks; he never mentioned it or made any recommendation to any of us saying: I have something that belongs to others.” But this man was powerful and he strongly urged the monks, “Give me my property or I will devastate your monastery.” As this was a considerable sum, they were very embarrassed. The governor forced them to sell everything they had and to deliver the price to the man. And if that sum was not enough to release them, the monks themselves were to be sold until the debt was paid off. All the people of the city and the whole country, learning the severe sentence that had been enacted against the pious monks felt a deep grief to think they would see sold as slaves, their brothers and their children, who from renouncing the world, would have go to servitude among the Gentiles. The bishop of the city, the chaste Mar Habib, felt a great pain in seeing his brothers about to be led into slavery, and after having shed tears of anguish before the Saviour, he mounted his horse and went to the monastery with a great crowd of notables of the city and the country, [18] to intercede with the man. They tried to persuade him for a  long time to wait while the monks tried every means to raise the sum demanded, but he would not consent: “They have my property, he said, let them give me what is mine and I’ll go.” And they, in turn, assured him again and again with oaths and distress that they knew nothing of his gold; but he did not believe them. Holy Mar Habib was embarrassed by both sides, some saying: “We know nothing,” the other refusing to accept it. He then donned the saving armour of the true faith of the Lord and, walking in the footsteps of he who at Bethany sought, speaking of Lazarus: “Where have you put him?” he took the censer with incense, and went to the cemetery of the monastery without allowing anyone to accompany him. So he went there and stopped at the grave in which they had laid the blessed monk. There he knelt and prayed; then rising, he offered the incense and made rise before the Lord, the sweet smell of tears from his heart. Standing at the door of the tomb, with that imperturbable faith that God works miracles, he raised his voice and said: “In the name of Our Lord, get up!” He arose on hearing this word and stood before him with a cheerful face as though he had never experienced the corruption of the tomb. Habib said to him: “My son, tell me if such a master of the Arabs has entrusted you with something when he left to enter the territory of the Romans?”  — “Yes, sir,” said the deceased .–  “How much?” asked the bishop. — “So many thousands of minas;” said the dead man. — “Where are they?” asked Habib. — The dead man replied: “I’ve buried them inside the very gates of the monastery, under such a seat. In fact, if you command it, I will go myself and I will return his property.” The Bishop asked him again: “Is there in the monastery, besides you, anyone who knows where this gold is?”  — “No, sir,” he replied. — The saint [19] said to him them: “The time of the resurrection of the dead is not yet come, rest now until the voice of your Lord commands you to arise.” Immediately he changed and became as he was before. The saint, well informed of the case by the dead man, returned and ordered a hatchet brought. He went to the place that had been designated by the deceased, and stopping there, he commanded them to overthrow the seat, dig and search below. His order was executed, and thus was found the gold which he gave to his landlord, and thus procured the deliverance of the holy monastery.

In the year 1034 (722-723). Omar [II], King of the Arabs, died after a reign of two years and four months. He was succeeded by Yazid [II] who reigned four years.

In the year 1035 (723-724), Yazid ordered the destruction of all images wherever they were to be found, whether in temples or in churches or in homes. That’s why he sent out workers charged with destroying images wherever they were found.

In the year 1036 (724-725) Yazid ordered again the killing of white dogs, pigeons and white cockerels. So a rigorous decree was pronounced and dumb animals who were innocent were destroyed. The squares of cities and villages were infected by the smell of their corpses. And while it is written: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill and occupy the land; let birds fly in the sky; let the animals multiply upon the earth,” they, contrary to the order of creation, were destroyed. They wanted to destroy by their cruelty that which had been formed in the womb according to the principle of creation, and established by the will of the Creator at his pleasure, trying to destroy the order of the Creator and to prevent the world from marching under the laws which were imposed by its author. He even ordered the killing of all fair men [lit. with blue eyes]. [20] But the project was aborted because of the attention of God-fearing men, and it did not cause the death of anyone. He also ordered that the testimony of a Syrian against an Arab should not be accepted. He fixed the price [of blood] of an Arab at twelve thousand [dinars] and that of a Syrian at six thousand. This is the origin of these biased laws. He ordered that thieves should be mutilated at the sleeve instead of the wrist. The Arabs despised him and his teachings.

In the year 1038 (726-727), Yazid died. He had as emirs in Mesopotamia first Abourin, whom he deposed, and then Mardas. The latter was disgraced in turn and Abourin returned.

In the year 1039 (727-728), Hisham, son of `Abd al-Malik, ruled over the Arabs for nineteen years and four months.

In the year 1010 (728-729), holy Mar Habib, Bishop of Edessa, died; Constantine succeeded him.

At this time shone holy Mar Elias the Patriarch, Simeon, Bishop of Harran, Constantine of Edessa, and Theodotus of Amida.

About St. Theodotus, bishop of Amida.

This holy Theodotus, bishop of Amida, had grown up in the solitude and the humble labors of monasticism, to which he had constantly given himself, and which he loved: this was a peaceful and benign man, and adorned with all divine virtues: also he abdicated the episcopate of the city. He then retired from his see and leaving the city, he descended into the countryside of Dara, between Dara and Amida. Following in the footsteps of Mar [21] Thomas of Tela, he built a pillar on which he mounted. He also built in this same place a large monastery, which still exists near the village called Qalouq.  This is where he ended his life.

After him holy Mar Cosmas received  the episcopate.

About holy Mar Cosmas, bishop of Amida.

This holy Mar Cosmas was also a great monk, applying himself to all the virtues: also he did wonders and miracles like Elijah the Tishbite and like the first apostles. But because he was zealous and rebuked both great and poor, he was not liked by the lords of the city, because he vigorously attacked, openly and without respect of persons, the perverse deeds that they carried out continuously; and they feared he might open his mouth to curse them, because he was an austere man. They dared not openly rebel against him; so they stirred up the villagers not to receive him when went  to visit them, so as to have a reason thereby to expel him from their city. But that did not profit them in any way, any more than those who followed their advice. When, therefore, according to the rule established by the elders, he left to visit the region, knowing nothing of the ambush that awaited him, he came to a village called Tell-Dakoum, whose inhabitants were detractors. When he rang the bell, as usual, they met and were unwilling to receive him; they did not even judged him worthy of the word of a man, but sent word to him by a [22] old woman: “Go honorably on your way, otherwise you will not get out of here without having been mistreated.” These perverse men “did not know and did not understand, because they walked in darkness,” that the word of our Lord to the Apostles cannot be without effect: “Whoever receives you, receives me. If someone does not receive you, shake off the dust of your feet in testimony against him. It will be better for Sodom on the day of Judgement, for this place.” The saint, learning of their malice from the old woman, ordered his disciples to change the direction of the car in which he was and to pass south of the village. The prophetic word: “The fool does not know and the fool does not understand,” was fulfilled in these wretches. This first sin was not enough for them; but they went to the door of their church that stood on the height to jeer at the saint and to see what he would do. The brave man, seeing all their contempt, was not disturbed; but dressed in the faith and trust in his Lord, he went on his way and passed on. On reaching the eastern edge of the village, he stopped his car, pulled his shoes, and raising them in the direction of the town, shook them at him, saying: “Since you do not receive your bishop, wait and God’s anger will come upon you soon and without delay.” Then, continuing his way quickly, he went to the village which is to the East and called Tarmil-Raba; he came indeed from the west.That was in the time of the barley harvest and no appearance of a cloud covered the sky that day. The divine wrath suddenly and without delay seized the unfortunate village who had wanted to be an instrument of injustice in the hands of the great in the city, [23] so that it became an object of fear and terror to the country and for all those who dare to despise their bishops, and it should serve as a warning to future generations. He entered Tarmil. And now the clouds gathered over the village. While the inhabitants were running to and fro, a tempest and a rush of winds violent enough to topple mountains rose up against them. It fell like a hail of stones, which struck their vines and fig trees, broke the trees of their territory and destroyed in their fields everything that was green, and reduced their crops to dust, to the point that they did not recognize their place,  and dispersed also their mules, so they could not collect them and all hope of life was lost to them. The critics, seeing what had happened: “Their words were still on their lips and the anger of God came on them.” They understood the anger of God also weighed on them, and they awoke from a deep sleep, like a drunkard who has slept off his wine; they remembered what they had done to their bishop and recognized that this scourge happened because they had despised him. They were all the more confirmed in this opinion that the scourge had not exceeded the limits of their village. That’s why they all left, young and old, and went barefoot, humbly, weeping bitterly, and covered with shame to the village where the bishop was. The saint, seeing them, like once Elisha in the presence of the children whom the bears devoured, was deeply affected, especially because the scourge had destroyed everything they owned. He returned with them and prayed for them. In this way God poured out his fear and terror throughout all the countryside and on the great of the city, so that when the Bishop left the village [24] where he lived, the inhabitants of the other villages all came, great and small, humbly before him.

To holy Mar Elias, Patriarch of Antioch, Athanasius succeeded.

In the year 1042 (730-731), Maslamah crosses the Gate of the Turks. Because the Huns, that is to say the Turks had left their country and caused immense harm to Armenia, and throughout the northern country, Maslamah marched against them with an innumerable army. Every year they sortied out thus and caused great damage. He therefore advanced toward them and they came to meet him. He gave them battle and destroyed a large number of them. They were frightened and came to his feet and asked for peace. He gave it them, thinking they would keep their word.

In the same year, Maslamah destroyed this Gate which was at the entrance to the territory of the Turks, because, locking themselves inside it, they had fought a battle with him; but he feared to venture into the unknown region that belonged to the Turks, lest they come together against them and make them disappear from the earth. They are a nation without God and they are magicians. Because of this, Maslamah was forced to order the destruction of the Gate of the Turks which had been built by Alexander the Macedonian. They removed and brought out first, all the camels and donkeys, then the workers, they finally left themselves, throwing brambles behind them throughout the defile.

In the year 1043 (731-732), Maslamah assembled a great multitude [25] of artisans and labourers, carpenters, made all the necessary preparations for construction, and went to rebuild the Gate of the Turks which he had destroyed the previous year. After rebuilding, he made a treaty with them, confirmed by oath, after which it was agreed that none of them would cross the boundary of their ally. He then returned: but the Turks who know not God, who did not understand that they are his creatures, who do not admit that there is a God in heaven, did not keep their promise. They despised God, mocked the oath, crossed the border and did much evil in the land which was outside their own territory. Hisham sent against them his general Girah with a large number of horsemen. The latter entered the country during harvest and made by his passage a lot of damage in this area, because he was a madman. Feeling himself secure, he was not just; he devastated their crops and caused many other problems to the poor on his way. The people came to complain to him, but nobody met with relief from him; and so, as everyone had to suffer his passage, everyone also prayed for that to happen to him what he deserved. When he fought against the Turks, they killed many of his soldiers and carried off many captives into their country. After that, he sent to Hisham to get help. Maslamah hurried to reach him with an immense army, but before he could get to him, Girah and all his army had been exterminated by the sword; for the Turks gathered on all sides against them in large numbers and gave them all over to the sword. Nobody escaped. The Lord returned to the robber the harm he had done, and punished the wrongs he had done, [26] he and his army, to the peasants on the way. Everything they had committed during the road was accumulated at one time on their heads. Upon the arrival of Maslamah, the Turks were troubled and filled with fear because they feared his reputation more than his appearance. The latter gave them battle, shed their blood like water on the surface of the earth, and filled with their flesh the birds and beasts of the earth. After having cut them to pieces, he set up in Armenia Marwan Ibn Muhammad – the very man who ruled later over the Arabs – and retired, leaving him with a strong army. The latter caused more losses [to the Turks] than all those who had preceded him.

In the year 1029 (717-718), there was a strong and devastating earthquake that toppled in many places the temples, churches and large buildings, including the baptistery and the ancient church of Edessa. Great and large homes were thrown down on their inhabitants; while those which resisted and did not collapsed in the commotion, showed traces of it. So the people were filled with fear in the presence of the Lord every time they consider these remnants of the earthquake. At that time Hisham canalised the Zeitoun, built [on its banks] towns, castles, many villages which he embellished with numerous plantations of every kind.

He also channeled [the River] Beit Balash on which he built a castle, and there he planted plantations of every kind.  He also canalised the Hani, on which he built fortresses and gardens of every kind.

In his turn, Maslamah canalised the Beit Balash and built near the river which he had canalised houses and villas which he decorated with ornaments of every kind.

The story of Mar Habib is a depressing one.  Despite the pious exclamations of the monkish chronicler, it seemed to me that the monks did indeed intend to swindle the Arab, and kept up the pretence as long as they could, with the connivance of the bishop.  The cruelty of the Arabs, prefiguring the methods of Ottoman days, takes us into the Islamic world and away from the ancient world.

The story of holy Mar Cosmas, cursing a village which dares not to give him free lodging, is likewise retailed — by a member of the clerical caste, remember — as a “warning” to others.  Superstition flourished in that soil, it is clear.   More interesting is that the village had a bell which mendicant monks could ring, and the implication that this was standard.  The burden of wandering monastics upon the community must have been considerable.

Difficult decisions or discrimination at Oxford centre for Jewish studies

There is a curious news report in the Daily Telegraph today here, reprinted at VirtueOnline here.  There is also a Telegraph blog by Damian Thompson here.

Oxford University lecturer ‘discriminated against’ after converting to Christianity
A lecturer at Oxford University’s centre for Jewish studies claims colleagues discriminated against her after she converted to Christianity.

Dr Tali Argov says she was overlooked for promotion, stripped of her privileges and cold-shouldered at social gatherings.

She says staff wanted to vet her lectures to make sure that, as a Christian, she would not criticise Israel.

Eventually she claims she was made redundant from her post at the prestigious Oxford Centre for Hebrew & Jewish Studies, despite offering to take on new roles.

Dr Argov is claiming unfair dismissal and discrimination on grounds of religion or belief at Reading Employment tribunal.

I only know what the news report says.  Naturally I am opposed to discrimination against Christians, because I am one.  But I have mixed feelings about all this. 

My first response is to wonder why someone following a religion founded by a Jew cannot hold a post at a centre dedicated to Jewish studies.  Presumably the idea  is that anyone who becomes a Christian ceases to be a Jew, and that only Jews can hold posts at the centre.  This seems a little extreme, unless the centre is really dedicated to studying Judaism, rather like a theological college.  It would be quite understandable in the last case that staff should share a certain ethos.

On the other hand, I can’t help feeling that people should be able to employ who they want to.  In particular Jewish groups which support Israel are unpopular with the political establishment in the UK, and need to organise themselves to rebut a great deal of obstruction.  Shouldn’t they be able to ensure  that they’re all singing from the same songsheet?

And there is yet another aspect to this.  This is Britain.  English Christians are a mild lot, even the most evangelical of us.  We do not wear suicide belts.  Christianity has been part of the University of Oxford since its beginning (despite various expulsions and harassment in periods of moral decay).  Is having a CofE member in the centre really that radical?

In the pyramid of privileged groups that the establishment has erected in modern Britain, Christians are plankton.  They really do get targetted by the nastier sort of bureaucrat.  But Jewish groups, which have been more privileged, are sliding down the chain and starting to get the same treatment.  Most Christians are pro-Israel, for obvious reasons.  Is there no way that Christians and Jews can work together?

I have no answers.  I have a feeling that no-one will come out of this well.   And … I am quite sure that the full story is not in the newspaper article.  But well done to the Daily Telegraph for reporting this story.

More from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

I continue translating part IV of ps.Dionysius of Tell-Mahre.  Dates are in AG, but Chabot has added AD to them.

In the year 1008 (696-697), died Constantine, Emperor of the Romans; he was succeeded by Justinian who reigned ten years.

In the year 1017 (705-706), a synod met in the monastery of Mar Silas. The principal members of this synod are known: the Patriarch Julian, Thomas, bishop of Amida, and James [bishop] of Edessa, the Interpreter of books. This holy Mar James, Bishop of Edessa, is famous.

In the year 1018 (706-707), died Justinian, Emperor of the Romans; he was succeeded by Leontius, who reigned three years.

In the year 1019 (707-708), holy Mar Julian, Patriarch of Antioch, died; Mar Elias succeeded him.

 [12] In the year 1020 (from 708 to 709), there took place a new census that was added to the first, which greatly increased the evil.

In the year 1021 (709-710), died holy Mar James, Bishop of Edessa, who was succeeded by Mar Habib.

At that time flourished holy Mar Thomas the Stylite, of Tela.

In the year 1022 (710-711), died Leontius, Emperor of the Romans, in place of whom reigned for seven years, Tiberius Apsimar.

In the year 1023 (711-712), Walid died, King of the Arabs; he was succeeded by Suleiman who reigned two and a half years.

In the year 1024 (712-713), died Mar Thomas Saint, Bishop of Amida; Mar Theodotus succeeded him.

After Apsimar, emperor of the Romans, Justinian reigned six years; after him Philip reigned three years; then Anastasius two years, finally Theodosius-Constantine one year.  The latter was occupying the throne when Maslamah invaded the territory of the Romans. In the years of the reigns of the Roman emperors added together make twelve years; this calculation is made almost to the year, more or less.  The Arabs only count the moons and never the months like the Syrians; most writers even do not make a complete chronology, but counting only the years of the reign, they omit the time of discord between the two kingdoms. As for me, I did the same in this chapter, so that the reader is not disturbed.

[13] In the year 1028 (716-717), Maslamah entered the Roman Empire. The countless troops of the Arabs gathered and began to invade the territory of the Romans. All the countries of Asia and Cappadocia fled before them, as well as the entire coastal region. 

They reached mount Maurus and the Lebanon, as far as Melitene, and on the river Arsanias, and as far as Armenia. This whole area was remarkable for the number of its inhabitants and its abundant vineyards, its grain, and its magnificent trees of all kinds. Since then it is devastated, and these regions are no longer inhabited. When the emperor saw the multitudes that came against him and he learned that his general, Leo, had made a pact with them, his heart grew weak and his hands trembled. He abdicated the throne, laid down the crown and had his head shaved. Indeed, it is the custom, if a Roman emperor abdicates, that he has his head shaved and then lives in his house without going out. So he did this. Leo sent to him: “Take courage and do not fear,” but he was not convinced, and he persisted in abdicating the empire.

Now this Leo was a man of courage, strong and aggressive. He was Syrian by race and originally from these confines. Because of his valour, he had been made general. By his skillfulness, he prevented the earth drinking the blood of men. He made a pact with Maslamah, promising to bring him into Constantinople without a fight. The latter, confident in the promise of Leo, no longer made war, made no prisoners, went to Constantinople and vigorously laid siege to this city. Leo came into [14] the city, and seeing that the Romans were desperate and that the emperor had abdicated, he stirred up their courage. “Fear not,” he said to them. They saw his bravery, and fearing that he would reproach them for what they had done to the previous emperor, made him emperor.

In assuming the imperial crown, he also gave strength and courage. He consolidated the city wall. He sent an army to cut the roads that would let through an army from Syria; he also destroyed the pontoon bridge and cut it.

The Arabs and their whole army were thus shut up as prisoners. Maslamah ordered vines planted, but a great and violent famine broke out among them, so much so that bread was absent from the camp and they ate their pack animals and horses. When Maslamah asked Leo, “Where is the oath that you made to bring me into Constantinople without fighting?” the latter replied calmly: “Wait a few days until the nobles of the Empire have submitted to me.” They remained without fighting in their respective positions, one inside, the other outside, for about three years. The famine grew so much among Arabs that they ate their shoes and the corpses of dead, and they attacked each other, so that nobody dared to go alone.

While Maslamah was constantly putting pressure on Leo: “Keep your promise, or I will attack,” the news came that the king of the Arabs, Suliman, was dead and Omar [II] had succeeded him. However, Omar sent him a letter: “Get out of there, lest you perish with hunger, you and all that are with you,” Maslamah, after having received [15] this letter, asked Leo to allow him to enter the city to visit him. He entered with thirty horsemen, went around for three days and admired the royal works. The Arabs retired from there and returned without having achieved anything. They arrived at a certain town called Tounou [=Tyana]; the prefect of the city seeing them starving, emaciated, weak, conceived a contempt for them and sent a message to Leo, “Send me an army and I will attack them by surprise.” But this design did not escape them. When they learned that an army was behind them, a leader of the Arab troops, one of the principal men among them, called `Abbas said to Maslamah: “Give me an army, to go to face them before they arrive, lest they surround us and make us disappear from the earth, and that our end is worse than anything that happened to us in this way.” – He took a large army and went to meet them. The latter were marching in separate groups, were not yet prepared to fight and knew nothing of this army of Arabs coming to meet them. `Abbas went down before them into a large meadow, in which they themselves had intended to camp that day. He put the whole army in ambush, in ditches and patches of reeds that were there.

The Romans came in their turn, and went down into the meadow, not knowing anything and not perceiving even what had been done by Arabs. They set up their camp and everyone sent his horse to pasture, as is customary in the army. Then the Arabs sortied out of their ambush and from the valleys in which they were standing all around the meadow. At the signal agreed upon between them, they rushed upon the Romans they were surrounding them and put them all to the sword. Not one of them escaped. However the Romans were about sixty thousand. After having stripped the dead, the Arabs returned to their companions. 

[16] Another Roman army who was coming from behind, having learned what had happened to the first, was seized with terror and turned back. The Arabs, after they had plundered and foraged everything that was within their reach, they left this country and came to Syria.

In the year 1032 (720-721), which was the first year of `Omar, King of the Arabs, and the fourth of Leo, emperor of the Romans, Maslamah left the territory of the latter, after having plundered and devastated the entire region, which he changed into a barren desert.

I omit many things that happened in this campaign to avoid prolonging this story.

At this time flourished the patriarch Elias, Mar Habib, [Bishop] of Edessa, Simeon of Harran  and Theodotus of Amida.

Always verify your references

To Norwich this morning, mainly to escape my cleaning lady.  But I went into the cathedral library, where I knew that they had a 1696 edition of the works of Julian the Apostate.  This includes the text of Cyril of Alexandria, Contra Iulianum.

According to the Sources Chretiennes edition of books 1 and 2 (only), this edition was the source for Migne’s Patrologia Graeca text.  But you can never tell, unless you look.

In I went, accordingly, and asked to see the book.  The library was merged with a modern theology library some years ago, and closed to visitors.  The new librarian has made it into a rare books room.  This is rather a pity.  Sitting among the volumes in a library founded some centuries ago was a treat by itself.

Anyway out came the book, a massive folio volume in white leather.  As soon as I tried to use it, it became clear that no-one had opened it in years, if not decades or longer.  The spine was tight and stiff.  Indeed it looked like an original 17th century binding to me.  It was almost impossible to open more than about 30 degrees.

But the effort was worthwhile, because it revealed that this cannot be the source for the PG text.  The PG text prints the full text of books 1-10, which survive complete.  But there were certainly books 11-20 in antiquity, because people like John Damascene quote them!  In the PG, therefore, there is a meagre collection of fragments following book 10.  I know that there are Syriac fragments, and I would be surprised if there are not Arabic fragments too, and indeed Armenian ones.  For Julian’s book attacked the bible; Cyril’s reply necessarily defends it; and such comments must be of interest to catenists.  Cyril was such an important figure in monophysite Christianity, that we would expect his work to travel into those languages.

None of this extra material is present in the 1696.  Therefore Migne, for these items at least, used some other source.

It all goes to show that you cannot rely on what you read in even the best editions.  You must check.