Archive for November, 2012
November 30th, 2012 by Roger Pearse
The monster history of the Coptic church, which Wikipedia says is called Ta’rikh Batarikat al-Kanisah al-Misriyah, is online in English, at least as far as 1894. But I know that modern authors have written continuations; and I wonder whether any of these are online.
Does anyone know?
I have someone who might be interested in translating some of it into English, you see.
November 30th, 2012 by Roger Pearse
Via AWOL I learn that the project to digitise the old (but comprehensive) Realencyclopadie is going very well indeed. Ten thousand articles have now been completed. The press release is here, and using Google Translate, we get something like this:
For five years, there has been a project at Wikisource for Pauly’s Realencyclopädie of the study of classical antiquity (RE), with the aim to make the public domain articles from this available online in full text form. Although only a few volunteers are working on it, their constant work has recently reached an impressive milestone: with the article “Herod (King of Judaea)” they have transcribed 10,000 items.
The advantage of such a project is obvious. Many articles in the RE still offer the best starting point, and most of the details, for each topic. However, they are only accessible in public libraries, for hardly any private individuals can afford such an expensive Lexicon. It was published from 1893 to 1980 in Stuttgart by Metzler and is still sold by this company. The articles from the RE on the Internet are not only searchable by keyword, but available to everyone for free. Of course the RE project can only upload articles which are now in the public domain. These are usually those whose author died more than 70 years ago. And in the RE this applies to many authors already.
Among the most significant items that are already available on Wikisource, we may include the articles on the epic poet Hesiod, the tragedians Aeschylus, , and Euripides , the comic poet Eupolis  and Aristophanes , the scholar of the same name,  the philosopher Aristotle , the rhetoricians Anaximenes of Lampsacus , Annaeus  Seneca and Libanius, the Archbishop Eustathius , of Thessalonica, but also the products agriculture, Athenai [1a], signboards, Basilica, libraries, beekeeping, beer, soil science, embalming, epistolography, Hermes Trismegistus, didactic poems, mushrooms, roses, stringed instruments, navigation, suicide and Taurus.
Unlike other similar sites on the Internet, Wikisource lays great emphasis on the quality of the provided texts. Each text is proofread at least twice (the respective correction status is displayed on every page) and on the basis of scans of the original, which are checked each time and are stored on Wikimedia Commons. The RE project also uses the hyperlink feature of the world-wide web, by linking keywords to each other, and provides each item with identifiable reference and author abbreviations. One particular aspect of the project is that here the many authors of the RE are systematically collected and identified. The bio-bibliographic index of authors is now one of 1111 entries and is about 70% complete.
This is almost the only open-source initiative in the German language, and is highly praiseworthy. The RE is hardly known outside of specialists; but the combination of exhaustive references, online access, and Google Translate should increase its reach manyfold. Well done.
UPDATE: The RE at WikiSource is here.
November 29th, 2012 by Roger Pearse
Another day another database, or so it sometimes seems. But this is not a complaint! On the contrary, it makes accessible material that no-one could ever see.
Today I learn via Cultural Property Observer of the PAS database.
The information provided by members of the public over the last 15 years is available for all to see on the PAS database. This now contains around 810,000 items and spans objects dating from the Stone Age to Anglo-Saxon, Roman, medieval, and post-medieval times. Every entry includes archaeological information on the object in question, details of where it was discovered and often incorporates notes of scholarly interest. The database provides a historical snapshot of human settlement in England and Wales and is an awesome example of what can be achieved by harnessing the power of the public.
Now that sounded interesting, so I headed over there and typed Mithras into the search box. Three results came up, one of them interesting:
A Roman copper-alloy figurine depicting Cautopates, Mithras’ attendant who symbolises darkness. He is shown holding a torch pointing downwards in his right hand and his left hand is placed on his waist. Cautopates stands facing forwards with his head turned slightly to the right, his legs crossed at the calves and with his left hand placed on the left hip. He wears a Phrygian cap, trousers, a short-sleeved tunic, a cloak and has mid-length tousled hair. The cloak is ornamented with V-shaped motifs and grooved, curved lines on the trousers and tunic represent the folds of the cloth. The figurine is 81.5mm long, 33.9mm wide and 11.2mm thick. It is not free-standing and despite the lack of evidence for an attachment it must have been fixed to a base.
The article continues, full of useful data. It’s undateable, of course, and comes from Yorkshire. Usefully there are a couple of excellent photographs. And these are downloadable!
November 28th, 2012 by Roger Pearse
Mike Aquilina of Way of the Fathers draws my attention to this piece:
Few people have ever visited the long network of underground tunnels under the public baths of Caracalla, which date back to the third century AD and are considered by many archaeologists to be the grandest public baths in Rome. This underground network, which is due to be reopened in December, is also home to a separate structure, the largest Mithraeum in the Roman Empire, according to its director Marina Piranomonte.
The Mithraeum was discovered a century ago and was almost entirely devoid of decoration. Only a small and poorly conserved fresco of Mithra remained, …
Ignore the statement about a “fossa sanguinus”, tho.
I’d love to see it. I must go to Rome again.
November 27th, 2012 by Roger Pearse
The sleepy little kingdom of Pontus in what is now Northern Turkey was a backwater in the Hellenistic era. Its rulers affected a Greek culture, but ruled over a largely Persian land, that had changed little since Alexander overthrew the Achaemenid Persian empire.
Mithridates V Euergetes married a princess named Laodice, from the Seleucid dynasty that ruled Syria and was descended from one of Alexander’s generals. She bore him two sons, and a gaggle of daughters. The elder son was Mithridates VI Eupator, known as the Great, who achieved fame as an enemy of Rome who had the military and political talent to defy even Sulla and Pompey. But what of his brother?
The literary sources are very limited. Strabo tells us:
Dorylaüs was a military expert and one of the friends of Mithridates Euergetes. … But when, a little later, he learned that Euergetes, as the result of a plot, had been treacherously slain in Sinopê by his closest associates, and heard that the succession had passed to his wife and young children, he despaired of the situation there and stayed on at Cnossus…. Now Euergetes had two sons, one of whom, Mithridates, surnamed Eupator, succeeded to the rule when he was eleven years old. Dorylaüs, the son of Philetaerus, was his foster brother; and Philetaerus was a brother of Dorylaüs the military expert. And when the king Mithridates reached manhood, he was so infatuated with the companionship of his foster brother Dorylaüs that he not only conferred upon him the greatest honours, but also cared for his kinsmen and summoned those who lived at Cnossus.
Appian tells us:
He [Eupator] was bloodthirsty and cruel to all – the slayer of his mother, his brother, three sons, and three daughters.
Photius includes an epitome of Memnon:
After this, the grievous war between the Romans and Mithridates king of Pontus broke out; the apparent cause of this war was the seizure of Cappadocia. Mithridates gained control of Cappadocia when he captured his nephew Arathes after breaking his oath concerning a truce, and then killed him with own hands. This Arathes was the son of Ariarathes and of the sister of Mithridates. Mithridates was a persistent murderer since his childhood. He had become king at the age of 13 years, and soon afterwards he imprisoned his mother, whom his father had left as joint ruler with him, and eventually put an end to her by violence; he also killed his brother. 
No literary source records the brother’s name. Fortunately there are two inscriptions from Delos that do mention it, which are accessible:
[βα]σιλέω[ς Μ]ιθραδάτου Εὐπάτο[ρ]ος [Ε]ὐ[— — —]
[καὶ το]ῦ ἀ[δελφοῦ α]ὐ̣τοῦ Μιθ[ρ]αδάτο[υ]
[Χρ]ήστου Δ[ιονύ]σιος Νέωνος Ἀθ[ηναῖος]
Διὶ Οὐρίωι ὑπὲρ βασ[ιλέως]
καὶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ
καὶ τῶν πραγμάτων αὐτῶν.
To Zeus Ourios on behalf of King
and his brother
and their fortunes.
His name, then, was Mithradates Chrestos or Chrestus. He suffered the fate that rivals to the throne traditionally suffered in oriental despotisms — to be murdered by a successful sibling.
Is anything else actually known about this man, or boy? I can’t find any other sources that mention him.
My thanks to the correspondent who drew my attention to this obscure and luckless princeling.
November 26th, 2012 by Roger Pearse
Jason Colavito has done something great, and something sensible. He has translated all the passages in al-Maqrizi’s al-Khitat which relate to the pyramids of Egypt and placed them online:
Ancient astronaut proponent Giorgio Tsoukalos claims that the fourteenth century Al-Khitat of Al-Maqrizi (1364-1442 CE) contains evidence that ancient astronauts assisted human beings in the construction of Egypt’s pyramids. This book, the most significant collection of medieval Arabian and Coptic pyramid lore ever assembled, has never been translated into English, so I have translated the passages dealing with pyramids to make this text accessible to interested readers. The following contains all of the significant references to the pyramids in the volume, though some minor allusions have been omitted.
He adds, quite properly:
I do not speak Arabic, so I am translating from the French edition published in 1895 and 1900. I cannot claim to be a professional translator, so before citing any material below, be sure to consult the original Arabic version.
The fact is, however, that this enterprise will still make these passages far more accessible. It is rather a point against the “ancient astronauts” people that they have not made such a translation.
It doesn’t seem to be possible to add comments, or I would have asked where he found the French edition. I suspect it is online somewhere, and it would be nice to know where. The book itself should plainly be translated into English in its entirety.
UPDATE: From Wikipedia I get the following:
The most important is the Mawaiz wa al-‘i’tibar bi dhikr al-khitat wa al-‘athar (2 vols., Bulaq, 1854), translated into French by Urbain Bouriant as Description topographique et historique de l’Égypte (Paris, 1895–1900; compare A. R. Guest, “A List of Writers, Books and other Authorities mentioned by El Maqrizi in his Khitat,” in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1902, pp. 103–125).
Volume 1 is on Google books here.
The whole book in two volumes is at Gallica.bnf.fr here.
November 24th, 2012 by Roger Pearse
Francesca Schironi’s book on how the end of a work was marked in an ancient papyrus roll ends with a dossier of photographs, as I remarked earlier. I think that it would be useful to give some extracts from this, as we all think about a subject better when we can see what we are talking about.
Number 10 in this dossier is P.Oxy. 42, 3000. It contains the remains of the last two columns of a lost epic work, Eratothenes’ Hermes. The papyrus dates from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD.
Fortunately the item is online, and may be found by a search at Oxyrhynchus online for “3000”. Curiously there seems to be no way to get a direct link. Possibly this link to the Hi-res image will persist?
I would like to mark up the image, to highlight its features.
Click through to see the full size image.
The fragment has two columns.
At the top of the remains of the second column (the left hand side only is preserved) is the end of the work, with a coronis — a bird-like mark — on the left.
Then there is a gap, and then some scribbled scholia in various hands.
In the middle of the second column, rather larger than the original text, is the end-title, which reads ERMHS | ERATOSQENO[US] – the last two letters being lost.
Underneath the end title is a numeral. This is a bit of stichometry — a count of the number of verses. It reads ARIQ … X. In the gap, in superscript, is M[OS]. The editor considered that this added up to about 1600 lines, if restored. This is about the average length of a tragedy or comedy, according to Schironi, so probably this is close to the end of the roll as well as the end of the work.
November 23rd, 2012 by Roger Pearse
I have continued to proof the OCR output of Sabbadini’s Scoperte chapter 3, in Finereader 10. Note the version number! I have abandoned the disastrous Finereader 11 software, which has effectually prevented Theodoret on Romans coming online by erasing all the italics every time I try to export my work.
Chapter 3 is the chapter concerned with the rediscovery of Greek literature in the 15th century. It’s about 29 pages. When the OCR errors are corrected, I shall pass it through Google Translate, and see what we have.
One volume often referred to in the notes is the Epistolae of Ambrogio Traversari, the monk who was friends with the humanists and took part in their many endeavours to recover classical and patristic literature. His letters are a treasure trove of information about this process. How I wish this existed in English!
I have seen a physical copy of this work, published in an immense format in the 18th century by Mehus, in two volumes. It is physically exhausting to handle and read.
It seems that the book scanners at Archive.org and Google Books have found the same. For sadly it remains inaccessible, and off-line.
November 22nd, 2012 by Roger Pearse
Ancient works were frequently divided into many books. What did the end of a book look like, in an ancient roll?
To answer this question requires examining papyri which contain such items. Francesca Schironi assembled a dossier, with photographs, of 55 papyrus fragments, 51 of them from Homer. Her analysis is very dense, and her conclusions deserve to be more widely known.
Two symbols are used in a great many of the papyri in this context. The symbols are mentioned among various forms of punctuation by Galen in Peri Alupias 14-15. These are the paragraphos, and the coronis.
The paragraphos is a horizontal line in the left margin, extending under the first few letters on the line. It is used to divide chunks of text in various ways, of which the end of a book is just one.
A coronis looks like a bird standing upright and looking to the left, and has been connected with korwnh, or “crow”. In the Palatine Anthology of Greek verse, Meleager says:
I, the coronis announcing the final lap, the most trustworthy guardian of the enclosure of written sheets, proclaim that Meleager has brought his labour to an end, having gathered all the works from all lyric poets into one collection and having wrapped them into this roll. And that from flowers he has twined together one poetic wreath worthy of remembrance from Diolces. And, curled in coils like the back of a snake, I am sitting here enthroned beside the conclusion of his learned work.
An example from P. Berol. inv. 9875, column 5, may be found online here, courtesy of an anonymous papyrologist in Wikipedia. This dates from 400 BC, contains a part of the Persae of Timotheus of Miletus, and shows both the coronis and paragraphos:
A less good image of the same material may be found here. The paragraphos, from the1st century onwards, is always “forked” at one end.
The end title is usually written in somewhat larger letters, usually after a line or two has been left blank.
4 papyri have the symbols, but no end-title. All are early (second half of 3rd century BC to second half of the 1st century BC), and tend to suggest that the use of the end-title in Homer developed in the Roman period. Dramatic papyri of the Ptolemaic period do contain end-titles, however.
One papyrus, numbered 2 by Schironi, has none of these signs or titles, and is one of the oldest, dated to the second half of the third century BC. It does demonstrate that even early rolls of Homer contained more than one book. And it is the only Ptolemaic papyrus of Homer not to have some form of division markers.
In the Roman period, a roll of epic poetry would be organised as follows:
At the end of each book of Homer there was an end-title. This consisted of the name of the word in the genetive (ILIADOS or ODYSSEIAS) followed by the letter ascribed to the book (not the same as a Greek numeral, for Homer) which had ended. In the case of non-Homeric poetry, the end-title consisted of the name of the work in the nominative, followed by the author’s name in the genetive.
As well as the end-title, there would be a marginal mark; a coronis or both a coronis and paragraphos, both rather ornamental.
The last book was terminated by an end-title only.
The same organisation appears in codices, of which examples appear from the 3rd century AD.
A 2nd century AD papyrus shows the end of book 24 (the last) of the Iliad, and has merely the end title and book number over two lines(i.e. ILIADOS | W), but no symbols. Schironi notes that this is the only example of the end of the whole work among the rolls, but that a codex likewise marks the end of the whole work in a different manner.
The remainder of the papyrus rolls are damaged in various ways, and so cannot be interpreted certainly as evidence. None contradict the impression given by the data above.
A further element at the end of the book is the versus reclamans. This is the first line(s) of the next book, written immediately after the last line of the book. It indicates, therefore, which is the next book; what the order of the books in the work may be. 5 Homeric papyri have these. Two of these are clearly the end of the roll, indicating that the next book was in a different roll. The reclamans became unnecessary with the development of end-titles, and is not found in any example of Homer after the 2nd century AD. Yet it persists in prose texts later, and indeed is found in medieval manuscripts of texts such as Herodotus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, and the biblical book of Kings.
In Ptolemaic papyri the beginning of a new book was not marked by the start of a new column. This is sometimes true in Roman rolls also, but more often a new book begins a new column.
There are also sometimes stichometrical annotations at the end of a book — a count of the number of lines. These indicate that some rolls contained 4 books.
The end-titles in other types of literature had some differences. They usually consisted of the name of the author in the genetive, following — often on a new line — by the title of the work in the nominative. Some texts circulated without an author’s name; sub-literary grammatical texts, glossaries, astrological texts. There are cases of works by very well-known authors where only the title is given. Homeric papyri do not name the author. Likewise a papyrus of Sappho is known with no name, although another exists which does. A collection of 8 oratorical manuscripts likewise fails to include any names of the authors; Demosthenes, Isocrates, Hyperides. But the hypothesis is that these all consist of manuscripts containing works by only one author; and that the name, therefore, probably appeared at the beginning, or end of the whole volume.
The name of the work can appear in these genres in a number of ways:
The name of the work in the nominative, preceded by the genetive of the author: e.g. “Menander’s GNWMAI”, etc.
Preceded by a preposition such as “Peri”, “Kata”, “Uper”.
Like #1, but with the name in the genetive, and followed by a number: “Xenophon’s ELLHNIKWN | A”.
Like #1, but just followed by the numeral: “Julius Africanus’ KESTOS | IH”.
Schironi does discuss beginning-titles briefly. 16 manuscripts of hexametric verse display beginning-titles, but only 13 are certain (7 rolls and 6 codices), all dating from the 2nd-6th century AD. The beginning title is not associated with any symbols.
I think we may all agree that this is very interesting indeed. The differences by genre are apparent; the text of Homer, the ‘bible’ of the Greek world, might be expected to differ in some respects from other texts.
There is certainly room for a further study, to cover the same ground with respect to the Herculaneum rolls. Let us hope that someone undertakes it!
November 22nd, 2012 by Roger Pearse
Via Dyspepsia Generation I find this story at Wired:
They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside
It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic “sight-restoring” ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least that’s what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.
In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany.
The story has wide application:
On October 25, 2011,The New York Times published a story about the Copiale, focusing on Knight’s code-cracking techniques. A flood of media attention followed—along with hundreds of emails from people who claimed to have ancient ciphers of their own. In December, when I visited Knight, he had just received a picture from Yemen. Some Bedouins had found a stone with an unknown, squarish script. Perhaps Knight could tell them what it said?