Regular readers will recall that I found reference to a possible pagan festival, supposedly in Antiochus of Athens. I tracked down the text and made a translation, as part of the annual struggle against those headbangers who every year celebrate Christmas by jeering “Christmas is really a pagan festival” at the nearest Christian. My knowledge of ancient literature is rather decent, yet I had never heard of this author, so I have spent quite a few posts exploring who and what exists in this field of ancient Greek and Roman astrological writers.
It’s a strange sensation doing this, in a way. Surely there should be a handbook, which lists all the authors, gives us a brief biography of what facts are known, when they lived, and then lists their works with a reference to the printed text and whatever translations exist?
When we study the early Christians, we are so fortunate. We have Quasten’s Patrology in 4 volumes (plus the extra volume by Angelo Di Berardino, translated Adrian Walford), which gives us just this. It’s getting a little elderly now, and I could wish that someone would bring it up to date. But it is possible to gain so much knowledge of the field, just by reading through it constantly.
Likewise when I took an interest in Arabic Christian studies, I found Georg Graf’s Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, in 5 volumes. Of course a book of that kind in German is of limited use to most of us, but persistence pays off, and by purchasing a copy and reading and scribbling in the margins, I’ve been able to get something. We need this text in English, in truth. I did enquire through an intermediary whether the Vatican library, who own the copyright, would permit me to sell a translation, but got a refusal. In truth the cost of translation would have been something like $10,000, for each of two volumes, which is a bit rich for my slender resources. But until it is made, Arabic Christian studies in English will always be a cinderella subject.
While looking at the scholia on Aristophanes, I encountered Eleanor Dickey’s book Ancient Greek Scholarship, which gives us the information we need on ancient Greek commentaries on classical works. I was impressed enough to buy a copy, and indeed I am sitting here this morning awaiting a courier from Amazon with it.
But … when it comes to classical literature outside of Christian studies, what is there? Where is the equivalent sort of work for Greek literature? For Latin literature? For specialised technical works such as ancient medical literature? Or, in this case, for astrological literature? Unless I am mistaken — and I could be — it does not seem to exist.
I toyed, indeed, with creating such a thing for the astrological literature. But in truth I am simply not interested enough. I don’t particularly want to learn how ancient astrology was done, the various elements and jargon of that discipline. My mind is on other things. I can’t imagine how such a work can be written without that knowledge. In fact I get the impression that the field of study is largely left to historically-minded modern practitioners of astrology. Isn’t that a curious thing to do?
It is a pity that scholars like David Pingree, whose excellent article on Antiochus and Rhetorius I discussed yesterday, have not compiled the necessary overview text for that area of knowledge. I find that he died a few years ago, otherwise I should write and ask him to create one.