Archive for the 'Announcements' Category

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – opening section of chapter 8

(I thought that it might be interesting to see how an Arabic Christian writer of the 10th century, Eutychius, also known as Sa’id al-Bitrik, the patriarch of Alexandria, saw the events of the time of Christ.  This is from the Italian translation, via Google translate, plus a certain amount of smartening up.  I think we may all have some fun trying to recognise the names from the Arabic transcriptions!)

1. In the fourth year of the reign of Cleopatra, there reigned over the city of Rome a king named Ghābiyūs Qaysar for four years.  After him then reigned, over Rome, a king called Yūliyūs Qaysar for three years (1).  After him, there reigned in the city of Rome Awghustus Qaysar son of Mūnarkhus, in the eleventh year of the reign of Cleopatra.

Caesar Augustus extended his dominion over the world and made kings subject to him.  When Cleopatra heard of Caesar Augustus she was dismayed, and felt a great fear.  She therefore strengthened her kingdom by erecting a wall from Nubia to al-Farama (2), on the east bank of the Nile, and a wall from Nubia to Alexandria on the west bank of the Nile.  Today [that] wall is called “Hayt al-‘Ağūz” (3).  Cleopatra then lived at Alexandria in Egypt and had a lieutenant named Anthony.  Caesar Augustus heard about her and decided to subject her to his dominion.  Then Augustus learned that the Jews of Ūrashalīm had refused obedience to him, and that the kingdom of Judah had not been ruled by the family of David since the time of their deportation at the hands of Bakhtanassar.  The Jews, in fact, do not recognize anyone as their king, even today, unless he is one of the descendants of David.  At that time there was a priest descended from David, named Aristūbal, who ruled the Jews instead of a king.  Augustus sent his general named Bitiyūs (4), who laid siege to Bayt al-Maqdis [Jerusalem] and conquered it.  He bound Aristobulus, priest of the Jews, together with a group of his men, and he sent them to Rome after imposing a personal tribute on the Jews.  Then he went away from them.  Among the Jews there arose serious disorder, and they elected as priest, instead of Aristobulus, his brother called Irqān (5).  Irqān had become friends with a man of Ascalon, named Antibatrus (6).  A native of Cyprus (7), he was a servant of the temple of idols and the father of Hirūdus.

The priest Hyrcanus appointed Herod, son of Antipater, to hunt down thieves, he being a very rude man.  But some residents of the Ghawr (8) made a raid on Bayt al-Maqdis, captured the priest Hyrcanus and killed Antipater, father of Herod.  The city was thus without an administrator and headless.  Herod ingratiated himself with the Rums [Romans] who resided in Bayt al-Maqdis, and gave them great wealth, thus becoming governor and leader of Bayt al-Maqdis.  Then Herod learned that Caesar Augustus, king of Rum, was on his way to Egypt in search of Cleopatra.  He met him in ar-Ramlah (9) bringing many gifts and he made with him a covenant of friendship.  When he arrived in Egypt, Augustus had Anthony, Cleopatra’s lieutenant, killed, and he went to Alexandria in search of Cleopatra to seize her, and expose her to ignominy and show her at Rum.  When Cleopatra heard that Caesar Augustus had killed her lieutenant Anthony, and had occupied Egypt, fearing to be exposed to mockery, and preferring to die, killed herself to avoid dishonour once she had fallen into his hands.  But she called two of her handmaidens, one named Abra, who combed her hair and made her beautiful, and the other named Mitriya, who cut her nails and dressed her, and commanded them to go into the garden and bring her the snake was called bāsīlidah (10).  That done, she tried it at first on the two maids who, bitten, died instantly.  Seeing that the viper caused death swiftly, [Cleopatra] took the crown, and she put on her head, every ornament of gold and silver, gems, corundum and chrysolido she had, then put on her royal robes, took the snake and pulled it to her left breast, because she knew that the heart is on the left side.  The snake bit her and [Cleopatra] died instantly.  When Caesar Augustus saw her, he was astonished by what she had done, and the fact that she had preferred death to a life of slavery and humiliation. They say that when King Caesar Augustus went in to her, he found her with her left hand grasping the crown, as to not have it fall from the head, and found her seated on a throne.  Others have said that, she wanting to die, injured her arm with a knife, to bring out the blood, and then took some snake venom that she had with her and putting it on the wound, she died instantly.  This took place in the twelfth year of the reign of Caesar Augustus.  Thus ended the reign of Cleopatra.

To be continued…

Severian of Gabala bibliography updated again

I received an email this evening telling me about four new English translations of homilies by Severian on the ascension; also that De Spiritu Sancto, as published by Migne, is missing the last 10 lines; and that the Clavis Patrum Graecorum Supplement has quite a bit of extra material.  Which, I find, it does.

I posted my bibliographic notes in this post, so I had better update them again.  These are not scholarly, just derived from whatever I have to hand, as a guide for commissioning translations.  But here they are:

From my diary

A new job at the start of November, so I have been rather preoccupied.  But a little progress has been made.

I’ve commissioned a translation of the fragments of Theodore of Mopsuestia on Genesis.  The main part of this was published by Sachau from the Syriac, but there are also Greek fragments.  The tendency towards a  non-allegorical approach in the Antiochene writers means that what he has to say should be of interest even today.

I hope to get some translations made of some of the medieval Greek legendary hagiographical material about St Nicholas of Myra – also known as Santa Claus.  It is remarkable that no English translation exists of almost all this material, regardless of its evident lack of historical value.

It was my intention to do some work on a translation of the 10th century Arabic Christian writer Eutychius.  No time so far!

A little work has been done on the Mithras site – uploading a couple more monuments, as photographs became available – but nothing significant.

I’m not clear how much time I shall get at home at Christmas and New Year, but there will be more activity if I get the chance!

The life of St Nicholas of Myra in the “Methodius ad Theodorum”

Further to my post about the ancient literary sources for Santa Claus – or St Nicholas of Myra – I have begun to look at getting translations made.  The first up is the “letter” of Methodius to Theodore, Methodius Ad Theodorum, BHG 1352y, which appears in Anrich vol. 1, 140-150 and in a revised version (with punctuation and some mistakes fixed) in vol. 2 546-556.[1]

So … what is this text?  Has any translation ever been made?

The text is preserved in Vaticanus graecus 2084, a 10th c. manuscript.  I don’t know if it can be found in Migne?  Or if a Latin translation exists?

Here is what I was able to discover.  I found pages like this one, from which I learn things like:

The oldest encomium — praise in honor of St. Nicholas — is preserved from the beginning of the eighth century.  It was delivered at his grave site by St. Andrew of Crete (d. 740), who called him a “pillar and support of the Church” (P.G. 97, 1191-1206).

Jean Blacker’s book on the hagiographical works of Wace incidentally contains quite a bit about sources for the Vita of Nicholas of Myra, and points me to a book by Gerardo Cioffari, S. Nicola nella critica storia, 1987.  This apparently discusses Methodius ad Theodorum as “the narrative encomium” on p.75-77 and gives it a date of 817-21 AD.  The Amazon page suggests that Cioffari has written a lot on Nicholas, indeed.  A German site exists for Nicholas of Myra here, but I could not find anything on our text in it.  More interesting was an Italian Encyclopedia site here, which said that Cardinal Pitra (who worked with Migne) was interested in the text:

Pitra (pp. 353-355) elenca trentotto scritti di M. di cui si ricordano: Encomio di s. Agata (Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca [=B.H.G.], I, n. 38; Stelladoro); Vitadi Eusebio Alessandrino (B.H.G. e Novum auctarium B.H.G., n. 635x); la già citata Vita di Eutimio di Sardi (Gouillard, 1987), che pare risalire al periodo della sua reclusione a Sant’Andrea e quindi all’inizio dell’832; Vita di s. Nicola di Mira (B.H.G., II, n. 1362y; il cosiddetto Methodius ad Theodorum: testo in Anrich), scritta probabilmente per Teodoro Cratero, tra l’821 e l’838 (Ševčenko, Hagiography, pp. 17 s.[2]); l’Encomio in s. Nicolaum ep. Myrrensis, collocabile intorno all’838-840, attribuito a M. dalla più antica tradizione manoscritta (ma alcuni preferiscono restituirlo a Basilio di Lacedemonia).

Which gives us a couple more references.  In fact, I see, in BHG II, entry 1362y does not exist in my copy of the 3rd edition.  I wonder where it is hidden?

It’s a reminder that, despite all the material online, there are vast swathes of knowledge that remain obstinately offline.

  1. [1] G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos, 2 vols, Leipzig, 1913.  This is accessible at Hathi Trust and there is a copy online elsewhere.
  2. [2] A. Bryer, J. Herrin, edd. Iconoclasm (Birmingham, 1977), esp. I. Sevcenko, “Hagiography of the Iconoclast Period,” 113-131 [= Ideology, Letters and Culture in the Byzantine World, (London:Variorum Reprints, 1982), V].

Half-way point on the British Library Greek manuscripts

A post on the British Library manuscripts blog tells me something once almost unimaginable: that fully half the Greek manuscripts in the collection are now online and accessible to the world 90% of the Greek manuscripts of the BL will be online by March.  All credit is due to Julian Harrison and his team for this massive work, and also to the Stavros Niarchos foundation –  never was Greek shipping money so well deployed! – and the other funding bodies.

The full list of 40 new manuscripts is at the blog above.  But here are the items which seem of most interest to us.  (And thanks to Cillian O’Hogan for making it much easier to write this list this time!)

  • Add MS 24372, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes: 1, 11, 14-16, 19, 21, 24, 38, 39, 40-45; 11th c.
  • Add MS 24381, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes, most being imperfect at the beginning, owing to miniatures which have been torn out. 1079 or 1088 AD.
  • Add MS 28823, John Zonaras, Commentary on the Canons of the Apostles, of the ecumenical and local councils and of the Fathers, and related texts. 4th quarter of the 14th century.
  • Add MS 28825, Greek translation of Ephraem the Syrian, Homilies, imperfect, and other patristic texts, including Isaiah of Gaza, Asceticon, Nilus of Ankara, Epistola ad Diaconum Achillium. Marcian of Bethlehem, and John of Lycopolis. 12th century.
  • Add MS 34554, Lives of saints and theological discourses, imperfect. 16th century.
  • Add MS 35212, John Chrysostom, In Genesim homiliae 10-17, imperfect. 11th century.
  • Add MS 36669, Apophthegmata Patrum: a compilation of the Greek Church Fathers, bearing the title Λειμὼν ἐνθάδε καρπῶν πεπληρωμένος. 14th century. In a 17th-century binding of boards covered with leather with gilt ornament, the centrepiece representing on the upper cover the Crucifixion, on the lower cover David and the angel of the Lord.
  • Add MS 36754, Basil of Caesarea, Homilies on the Hexameron and John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis, imperfect and mutilated. 11th century.
  • Add MS 36821, Works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, with the marginal commentary of Maximus the Confessor, and additional texts relating to Pseudo-Dionysius. 1st half of the 10th century, possibly copied from an uncial manuscript of Pseudo-Dionysius written by Methodius, future Patriarch of Constantinople, at Rome.
  • Add MS 39608, John Chrysostom, In Genesim homiliae 1-133. 13th century.
  • Burney MS 100, Works of Aristotle, preceded by Porphyry, Isagoge. Italy, N? 1st half of the 15th century.
  • Burney MS 111, Ptolemy, Geographia, with many diagrams and coloured maps, all except that on f 1v being later fifteenth-century replacements on inserted leaves. 4th quarter of the 14th century-1st quarter of the 15th century.
  • Harley MS 5600, Homer, Iliad, with prefatory material. Florence, completed on 16 May 1466. With a full-page frontispiece in colours and gold on f 15v; a full white vine border in colours and gold on f 16r; 25 white vine initials in colours and gold.
  • Kings MS 16, Homer, Iliad. Italy, 1431.

Marvellous!

Now how about making it possible to download a PDF of each manuscript?

UPDATE: A kind correspondent writes to advise me that this is actually the half way point of the current project; and that in fact 90% of all the mss will be online by the spring.  This is even better news!

What does Eutychius’ Annals contain?

Arabic Christian literature is little known.  There is no English-language handbook, and even the “big histories”, the works in which Arabic-speaking Christians recount their own history, are mostly not translated into English; or, indeed, sometimes even edited.

Eutychius – also known as Sa`īd al-Bitrik -, Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria between 877-940 AD, wrote one of the five histories; and indeed was one of the first Christians to adopt Arabic, the language of the conquerors.  This is commonly known by its 17th c. Latin title, the Annals.  A partial German translation exists – of value to that tiny part of the world who speak German – and a full Italian translation by Bartolomeo Pirone.  The latter was published in Cairo in 1987 by the Franciscan Centre, thereby ensuring that few copies were distributed.  My own copy came over the internet from the Franciscan bookshop in Jerusalem and is, to the best of my knowledge, the only copy in England.

I thought that it might be useful to give the table of contents here.  Note what was known in the 10th century, as passed down by (mainly ecclesiastical) writers.

Note that Pirone has decided to give proper names as transliterated from the Arabic, except in exceptional cases, so I have done likewise.

Part I – From the Creation to Heraclius

Cap. I.  The Creation of Adam and Eve - Cain, Abel and their sisters - The descendants of Shīt and those of Cain - Noah, his descendants, and the Flood - Noah leaves the Ark - The calling of Malshīsādāq - The commencement of the spread of the cult of images - The confusion of tongues in Bābil and the division of territories among the peoples of the earth - The origin of magic - Abraham came out from Harran and went to live in Kan’ān - More on Malshīsādāq - Ishmael and Isaac - Jacob and his sons - Joseph in Egypt (p.33)

Ch. II.   The Israelites become slaves of the Egyptians - The killing of every newborn Jew - Moses is forced to leave Egypt and goes to Midian - Pharaoh allows the children of Israel to leave - Moses on Mount Sinai - Death of Moses, Aaron and Maryam - Joshua becomes leader of the people - Joshua’s battles and alliances with nations and cities - Partition of the conquered territories among the children of Israel (p.63)

Chap. III.   Israel gives itself to the worship of idols - Judges appear - The prophetess Deborah - Judge Gideon - Abimelech rules the nation three years - Israel returns to the worship of the idols Baalim, Ashtarot and Bael - Yefte, judge of Israel - Samson frees the people from the slavery of foreign tribes - Samson gives himself to Delilah, is taken, blinded, killed. (p.73)

Chap. IV   The priest Ali governs the people - The Prophet Samuel in the Temple in Shīlūn - The Ark and the misadventures of foreign tribes - Samuel governs the people of Israel - The people demand a king - Saul is made ​​king over the children of Israel - Samuel anoints the young David King - David fights, by order of Saul, against foreign tribes - Death of Saul and his sons Gloriata, Abbiadati and Malhīsh (p.83)

Chap. V    David, king of Israel, faces various types of opposition and civil unrest - The ark in the house of Abinadab - David wars against the enemies of IsraelSolomon succeeds David - Hiram, king of Tyre, and the origin of purple - Measurements of the Temple built by Solomon - Two women ask for the judgment of Solomon - the Queen of Sheba in Jerusalem - Kingdom of Jeroboam and Rehoboam - the kings of Judah and Israel - Akhab and the prophet Elijah - Akhab and Yosafat. (p.91)

Chap. VI    King Ocozia and the prophet Elijah - Reign of Yoram, son of Akhab - Yoram fights against the king of Damascus - Prophecies of Elisha - Ocozia and his mother Athaliah reigned over Judah - Elisha sent to anoint king Yehu - Yehu becomes King of Israel - Yoash reigns over Judah - Akhaz returns to worship of idols - Yoash king of Israel - was followed by the kings of Judah: Amaziah, Azariah, Yotam, Akhaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amori, Josiah, Yoakhaz, Yoakim, Yahunakim - Sennacherib invades Judah - the pharaoh Necho fights against the king of Mosul (p.111)

Chap. VII    Nebuchadnezzar and the three young men in the furnace - Daniel interprets and explains the king’s dream - Prophets in Babylon - Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Egypt, then he dies - Reign of his successors - Daniel explains to King Belshazzar the meaning of the three words on the wall - the reign of Darius and the appearance of the Persians - Daniel and the idols of Babil - Daniel in the den - Sequence of Persian kings - Ezra rebuilds the Temple - War between Darius and Alexander the Great: exchange of Letters - Death of Darius and campaigns of Alexander - Death of Alexander and panegyrics of the sages of the time, before the body of the hero, humbled by death - Dismemberment of the empire: the Ptolemies - Simeon the Just receives the grace of seeing the Messiah (p.127)

Chap. VIII   Caesar and Augustus rule Rome - Death of Cleopatra - Herod terrorizes Jerusalem and the region - Augustus orders a census in the territories of the Empire - The Birth of Christ - The Magi looking for Jesus - Jesus is baptized by John - Death of John and death of Christ - Joseph of Arimathea places the body in a tomb - the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ (p.147)

Chap. IX      Reign of Tiberius and Herod Agrippa - Arcadius first Patriarch of Antioch - Death of Agrippa - The apostle Mark in Alexandria: founding of the Patriarchate of Alexandria - Nero, the persecutor of Christians - Luke writes the Gospel and the Acts - The Crucifixion of Peter head down - Vespasian, Titus and the destruction of Jerusalem - in Rome Titus, Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, and Hadrian succeed one another - Hadrian destroys Jerusalem and builds a new city called Aelia - Successions of popes, patriarchs and emperors - question of the calculation of Easter, when it should be celebrated (p.157)

Chap. X    Under the rule of Ardashir the Persians reappear - In Rome Pertinax, Julian, Severus follow one another: new persecutions against Christians - Sequence of kings of Persia: rule of Sapor - Maximinus Caesar persecutes the Christians - The persecution of Decius - Legend of the Seven Sleepers - Sequence of Persian kings and Roman emperors (p.173)

Chap. XI   Reign and persecution of Diocletian - Arian heresy arises - Phenomenon of the Tetrarchy - persecution suffered by Christians at the hands of Maximian and Galen - Constantine becomes emperor and took over the command of his father Constantius - Galerius contracts a nasty disease - Sapor secretly visits the Roman lands - Constantine‘s vision of the Cross - the Martyrs of Sebastia - Schism caused in the church by Arius and Meletius - the Council of 318 - Helena in the Holy Land: the discovery of the Cross - Constantine gives instructions to rebuild the churches of Jerusalem - Synod of Tyre and consecration of the church of Jerusalem - Constantine persecutes the Jews (p.187)

Chap. XII    Murder of Constantine - Apparition of the Cross on the Mount of Olives - Cyril of Jerusalem interprets the meaning - Dissemination of the doctrine of Arius - Heresy of Macedonius - Reign of Julian the Apostate: persecution of Christians and attempt to re-establish the worship of gods - the monastic movement in Egypt and Palestine - Reigns of Valentinian and Valens - Cycle of Theophilus and Theodosius (p.209)

Chap. XIII Reign of Theodosius the Great - Still more Arianism - Council of 150 on the teaching of Macedonius, Apollinaris and of Sabellius - Of the Manichaeans: their habits and customs - Theophilus, former friend of Theodosius, became patriarch of Alexandria - Arsenius, tutor of Arcadius and Honorius, emperors, one of the East , the other in the West - Still more on Arsenius - Disagreement between John Chrysostom and Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria - The Queen Eudoxia - Epiphanius and John Chrysostom - Third ecumenical Council - Nestorius and his heresy (p.223)

Chap. XIV   Refutation of Nestorius and Nestorianism by Sa`id ibn Batrīq - Against Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Severus, Jacob Baradaeus and their followers - On the various types of union - The person, two natures, two wills of Christ (p.239)

Chap. XV    End of Yazdagard and reign of Bahram Gor - Heresy of Eutyches - The Synod of 8 November 448 against Eutyches - The robber-synod of Ephesus: August 449 - Eudoxia, wife of Theodosius - Marcian reigns in Constantinople - the Council of Chalcedon in 451 against the heretic Eutyches and Dioscorus - Repercussions within the realm (p.259)

Chap. XVI    Reign of Firuz over the Persians - The coming to the throne of Leo the Great - Rioting in Alexandriathe murder of the patriarch Proterius - Basilicus usurps the throne - Succession of Patriarchs in the various locations - The figure of Patriarch Elias I - Firuz at war with the king of Hephthalites - Death of Firuz and the kingdom of Qabād - Anastasius, king of the Byzantines, abandons the doctrine of the Melkites and embraces that of the Jacobites - Opposition of the monks of Laurium, supported by Elias and guided by their superiors Theodosius, Chariton, Saba - the heresy of Severus and the support given to it by the king Anastasius - the monks of Palestine against the king - Eutychius refutes the doctrine of the Jacobites - A famine at Jerusalem - Justin becomes emperor of Constantinople (p.269)

Chap. XVII   Justinian vanquishes the Jacobite heresy using Apollinaris and monitors the Samaritans of Nablus. - St. Saba at the court of Constantinople - Construction of the Basilica of the Nativity of the monastery of Sinai, and the houses for the keepers of the monastery - The heresy of Origen and the synod of Constantinople II on May 5 553 - Mazdak preaches in Persia and implements the equal distribution of property - The coming to the throne of Anūshirwān - Anastasius, Patriarch of Antioch - Doctrine of Maron - The robber of the city of Ifrīqiyah - War between the Persians and Khaqan - Kisra Abarwīz, king of Persia - Kisra marries the daughter of Maurice and becomes a Christian - Phocas Emperor of Constantinople - the Persians invade Palestine and Egypt - John the Almoner - The Jews of Tyre plot to annihilate the Christians - Heraclius becomes Emperor of Constantinople (p.291)

Part II – From Heraclius to ar-Rādī  (p.317)

Cap. XVIII    Heraclius break the siege of Constantinople, Heraclius and kisra - Heraclius to Jerusalem - Heraclius and Maronites - Death of Muhammad - the Caliphate of Abū Bakr — Caliphate of ‘Umar — Caliphate of ‘Uthman — Caliphate of ‘Alī— Caliphate of Mu‘āwiya — Caliphate of Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiya — Caliphate of Marwān b. al-Hakam — Caliphate of ‘Abd al’Malik b. Marwān — Caliphate of al-Walīd b. ‘Abd al-Malik — Caliphate of Sulaymān b. ‘Abdal-Malik — Caliphate of ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz — Caliphate of Yazīd b. ‘Abd al-Malik — Caliphate of Hishām b. ‘Abd al-Malik — Caliphate of al-Walīd b. Yazīd — Caliphate of Yazīd b. al-Walīd — Caliphate of Marwān b. Muhammad al-Gā‘dī  (p.319)

Cap. XIX    The Abbasid Caliphs.   Caliphate of Abū l-Abbās as-Saffāh — Caliphate of Ga‘far al-Mansūr — Caliphate of al-Mahdī — Caliphate of Mūsa al-Hādī — Caliphate of Hārūn ar-Rashīd — Caliphate of Muhammad al-Amīn —Caliphate of al-Ma’mūn — Caliphate of al-Mu‘tasim — Caliphate of al-Wāthiq — Caliphate of al-Mutawakkil — Caliphate of al-Muntasir bi’llāh — Caliphate of al-Musta‘īn — Caliphate of al-Mu‘tazz — Caliphate of al-Muhtadī — Caliphate of al-Mu‘tamid e nascita di Sa‘īd Ibn Batrīq — Caliphate of al-Mu‘tadid — Caliphate of al-Muktafī — Caliphate of al-Muqtadir — Caliphate of al-Qāhir: Sa‘īd Ibn Batrīq is made Patriarch of Alexandria — Caliphate of ar-Rādī  (p.391)

It might be interesting to translate some of this material.

Coptic Acts of Andrew and Paul now online in English

Anthony Alcock has continued his programme of translations with the first English translation of two Coptic fragments from a Vatican manuscript, which have been given the title of the Acts of Andrew and Paul.  The two were printed, with French translation, by X. Jacques, “Les deux fragments conservés des ‘Actes d’André et Paul'”, in Orientalia 38 (1969), p.187-213.

Here is the translation:

In addition I have OCR’d the French introductory material, which is here:

What do we know about this material?  I thought that I would translate some of the introduction into English for those who do not read it.  I’ve included a few (but by no means all) of the bibliographic footnotes.

    *    *    *    *

The two fragments preserved of the ‘Acts of Andrew and Paul’ (Ms. Vatican Borgia Coptic 109, fascicle. 132)

Fascicle 132 of the manuscript Borg. Copt. 109, in the Vatican, consists of 11 folios.  Zoega, who made them known in 1811, gave them the pagination 115-126, 131-136, 139-142, and labelled them “Fragmenta duo de rebus SS. Andreae et Pauli; duo pariter de rebus S. Bartholomaei” (Two fragments about the doings of St Andrew and St Paul; likewise two about the doings of St. Bartholomew).  He then summarised the first two fragments (115-126, 131-136) and edited the first one (115-126). [1]

In 1835, Dulaurier translated a part of the first fragment into French (end of 117 to start of 123), using Zoega’s text.  He changed Zoega’s vague title, given, he felt, with little thought, into “the Acts of St. Andrew and St Paul.”[2]

Under this title, the text entered the general works devoted to the apocrypha.  Tischendorf transcribed the Latin summary of Zoega and added part of Dulaurier’s translation in a footnote.  Migne published large extracts of the same translation in his Dictionnaire des légendes du christianisme (Dictionary of Christian Legends) in the articles Judas Iscariot and Paul, and mentioned it in his Dictionnaire des Apo­cryphes.[3]  Lipsius mentioned it, in the context of the Acts of Andrew, translated freely the summary of Zoega, and added some reflections on the nature and origin of the text.[4]

In 1887 Guidi edited the second of these “frammenti relativi alla leggenda di s. Paolo e s. Andrea” (131-133 col. 1), and in the following year supplied an Italian translation.  Lipsius signalled it, in his complementary volume, and Schmidt reproduced this information in Harnack’s history of Christian literature.  Hennecke, on the other hand, in the first two editions of his work, made no mention of these fragments.

However, in 1894, Steindorff inserted the fragment published by Zoega in the selection of readings accompanying his grammar, and did the same with some extracts in his abridged grammar.  Guidi followed his example in publishing an extract of the same fragment in his Eléments.  M.R. James summarised the two fragments without translating them.[5]

The first English translation – but only of Steindorff’s extracts, minus the last lines of the second fragment – was offered by Hallock to the readers of the Journal of the Society of Oriental Research, in 1929[6] (J. Worrell, in 1945, citing the apology of Judas as an example of Coptic literature of the 4-5th century, gave a new translation of this fragment, based on Zoega’s Coptic text).[7]

Finally in 1964 Schneemelcher, in redoing the work of Hennecke, introduced a short notice on these two fragments.[8]  Erbetta translated the summary by James.

But the authors of general works were not the only ones interested in these fragments.  By 1890 von Lemm connected three passages of the fragment published by Zoega with other apocrypha, and he gave a German translation of them.  In 1911 Flamion attempted to situate the “Acts of Paul and Andrew” somewhere in his study of the Acts of Andrew.  Haase, with a broader perspective, reproduced the summary of Zoega among the sources of his enquiry, summarised himself the summary of Lipsius in the paragraph devoted to Andrew.  At this point he said nothing of the long narrative about Judas, nor, even more oddly, in the paragraph which he devoted to that apostle.

In the volume of magical texts published by Lexa, three passages of Zoega’s fragment are translated into French.[9]  The author relates to them some other passages in his collection.  …

In a note, published in 1947, Morenz suggests, on very fragile grounds, to see in the person of Andrew, as it appears in these fragments, a new Serapis.[10]  In 1955 an article by J. Zandee, devoted to the descent into Hell among the Copts, was the occasion for him to translate for his readers the extracts published by Steindorff…  In 1957 Godron proposed to place the bird labelled in our text among the Ardeidae.

Peterson, studying the history and legends concerning Andrew, summarised the two fragments.  They are often referred to in the work of Zandee, written in Dutch but published in English in 1960, on  ancient Egyptian ideas about death.[11]  …

    *    *    *    *

Jacques also states that Zoega’s text departs from the manuscript in 16 places, sometimes affecting the meaning.  But curiously he does not indicate the age of the manuscript, nor of the text.

Schneemelcher (vol. 2, p.450), adds the following:

It was only the contribution of X. Jacques, ‘Les deux fragments conserves des Actes d’Andre et de Paul’ (Orientalia N.S. 38, 1969, 187-213), with a complete and critical edition of the original text and a translation, also in French (reprinted a year later in Recherches de Science Religieuse 58,1970,289-296), bibliography and commentary, that finally replaced the earlier partial editions and translations.

Particular interest was aroused among scholars by the passage in which it is narrated that ‘Andrew with a beaker of sweet water put asunder the salt sea-water and so made it possible for Paul to ascend again from Hell.’ This motif has been associated inter alia with ancient Egyptian magical texts: so for example F. Lexa, La magie dans l’Egypte antique I, Paris 1925, 150-151 and A.M. Kropp, Ausgewahlte koptische Zaubertexte III, Brussels 1930, 61-62. S. Morenz (ThLZ 79, 1947, cols. 295-297) considers such explanations questionable, and suggests comparing the miracle of the dividing of the waters accomplished by Andrew with an act ascribed by Aelius Aristides to the hellenistic-Egyptian god Sarapis, according to which ‘in the midst of the sea he called forth drinkable water’. On this view we should here have before us a syncretistic text in which – in Morenz’ words – the apostle Andrew would appear as νέος Σάραπις. That this conclusion is not valid is already clear from the fact that the alleged parallelism between the two motifs is at least just as imperfect as others which might be drawn from the Egyptian magical texts previously mentioned, or even from biblical sources (e.g. Exod. 15:22ff., the bitter water at Mara). There appears to be a clearer analogy with an episode in the Prochorus Acts (= Zahn 5421569), which speaks of a transformation of sea-water into drinking-water. The motif of the dividing of the waters seems however to be deeply rooted in Egypt, and could – with the inclusion of other circumstances in the tradition – be taken as a sign that our present document originated in Egypt. For other indications in this direction, see Jacques, art. cit. passim.

A striking feature of these ‘Acts’ is the hybrid character of their contents: this is chiefly a matter of an alleged episode of the Acts of Andrew (i.e. the raising-up of a child through the apostle’s intercession, as in the Acta Andreae et Philemonis; see below, 5.5) into which the apocalyptic interlude of Paul’s journey to Hell is interwoven (with great reliance on the known Apocalypse of Paul [BHGII,1460] and the Gospel of Bartholomew [BHG 1,228]). This is without doubt an indication of a late time of origin. For adetailed analysis of the contents cf. Lipsius (Die apokr. Apostelgeschichten 1,616-617; Erganzungsheft 96), James, 472-475 and Moraldi II, 1616-1617.

Which gives us something, if not the data we want.

All the same, the material is now in English!

  1. [1] G. Zoega, Catalogus codicum copticorum manu scriptorum qui in Museo Borgiano Velitris adservantur (Romae 1810) 230-235.
  2. [2] É. Dulaurier, Fragment des Révélations apocryphes de saint Barthé­lemy et de l’Histoire des communautés religieuses fondées par saint Pakhome (Paris 1835) 30-35. The title of this work relates to two unpublished fragments of which the author gives the text and translation.  He added to these the three very short texts already published by Zoega, from cod. Borgia CII, CXXI et CXXXII. Of this last, which is of interest to us, he only published a fragment: 50-144 (these numbers, like those which follow, refer to the lines of our edition).
  3. [3] J. de Douhet, Dictionnaire des légendes du christianisme (Troisième et dernière encyclopédie théologique 14; Petit-Montrouge 1855) col. 720- 722 et 1040-1042. — Migne, Dictionnaire des Apocryphes. I (Paris 1856) col. 1102.
  4. [4] R. A. Lipsius, Die Apokryphen Apostelgeschichten und Apostel­legenden. I (Braunschweig 1883) 616-617.
  5. [5] M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford 1924, reprinted 1926, 1945, 1950) 472-475.
  6. [6] P. H. Hallock, “An Apocalypse of SS. Andrew and Paul”, JSOR 13 (1929) 190-194. He suppressed 144-146.
  7. [7] W. H. Worrell, A Short Account of the Copts (Ann Arbor 1945) 21-22 et 53. Fragment translated: 72-129.
  8. [8] E. Hennecke-W. Schneemelcher, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen in deutscher Übersetzung3. II (Tübingen 1964) 403. English Trans. (London 1965) 576.
  9. [9] P. Lexa, La magie dans l’Egypte antique, de l’Ancien Empire jusqu’à l’époque copte. II (Paris 1925) 223-225. Passages translated: 50-64; 152-171; 179-205.
  10. [10] S. Morenz, “Der Apostel Andréas als νέος Σάραπις”, TLZ 72 (1947) col. 295-297.
  11. [11] J. Zandee, Death as an Enemy, according to Ancient Egyptian Conceptions (Studies in the History of Religions, Supplements to Numen 5; Leiden 1960).

No photos allowed inside the National Museum in Damascus

It seems that the Syrian National Museum in Damascus does not / did not allow photography inside the building.  Not that it got many tourists, thanks to the grim reputation of the Assad regime in the old days, but those who did turn up were prevented from photographing, or rather recording, the contents.

That doesn’t seem like a satisfactory policy now, does it?  If ISIS capture the city, all that material will be gone for good, except for those pieces that they can sell on the art market.

If some people have their way, the art market for Syrian pieces will be shut down, in order to prevent ISIS raising money thereby.  But won’t that merely guarantee 100% destruction rate?  I rather doubt the evidently well-funded and foreign-backed ISIS gunmen will be deterred by the loss of a few art sales, however.

So what was the justification for not recording the museum contents?  To sell a few miserable postcards?  I fear so.

Wanted: an epigraphist. Or: Pancieri on “et nos servasti eternali sanguine fuso”

One of the most famous discoveries in Mithraic studies is the text painted on the wall of the Mithraeum of Santa Prisca in Rome which reads “et nos servasti eternali sanguine fuso” – “and you have saved us through the shedding of the eternal blood.”  This has been widely compared to Christian ideas, and, outside the scholarly world, almost insanely so.

Yesterday a kind correspondent sent me portions of an article in Italian by Pancieri in which he queries whether the text actually says this.  The paintings are badly damaged, after all, and conjecture plays a part in the text above.

I thought that it would be useful to translate what he has to say into English, if only to make his cautious remarks rather better known.  I will give the Italian as well, in case I misunderstand it at any point: corrections are welcome!

With regard to the mysteries of Mithras, I note – as has been noted above concerning the nature of its creator, and his saving and merciful character – that, although it is considered reliable in most respects, whatever may be the interpretation to be given of his work of salvation [c.f., leaving aside the cult images, the verse from the Mithraeum of S. Prisca, “et nos servasti eternali sanguine fuso”, according to the reading of the first editor (A. Ferrua, in Bull.Com., LXVIII, 1940, p.85; in Ann.épìgr., 1946, 84), confirmed and corrected CIMRM, I, 485, and by Vermaseren (Excavations, l.c., pp.217-221)**], it is almost never reflected in the dedications [CIMRM, I, 213 (salutaris?), 691 cfr. 891 (propitius), 900b (deo bono, dubious), II, 2265 (epekoos), 2276 (deo bono invicto?)].[1]

One could wish Dr Pancieri had not compressed his thought quite so much!  The point being made is that we don’t know what “saving” means in the cult of Mithras, and it features hardly at all in the inscriptions.  The last point suggests that it is not exactly an important element in the cult.

The footnote, however, is the bit that interests us.  It is printed as one paragraph, but I will split it, for ease of reading:

** The exceptional importance of this verse, for the issue addressed in this seminar, led me to thoroughly review it, after the recent cleaning of the frescoes in the mithraeum of S. Prisca, carried out ​​by the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma (restorer Sig.Elio Paparatti). During the restoration, the  Soprintendenza has taken some excellent new photographs, from which I took the detail which I have reproduced (fig. 10).

Fig. 10.  1978 photo

Fig. 10. 1978 photo

Judging from a comparison of these with the photos published by Vermaseren (Excavations, l.c., plate LXVIII, 1-3), and comparing those with even earlier ones, dating from the time of the original discovery and publication (fig. 11), we find that, at this point, against the inevitable damage of time may be contrasted some gains due to the  major cleaning of the wall.

Fig.11 How the wall appeared in the 1930's.

Fig.11 How the wall appeared in the 1930’s.

This does not mean that our verse makes easy reading even now, and so, for this reason, the first publishers are to be commended for their ability, starting from quite miserable fragments, to make available to scholars a text of the utmost importance.

The main danger that we now need to avoid (which, it seems to me, that many have been led into, because of the current habit of transcribing the text without any critical marks) is of believing that the reconstruction of this verse is certain at every point; or, at least, is of the same degree of reliability for each part (see, for example, more specifically among those who have dealt with this text: H.D. Betz, in Nov. Test., X, 1968, p. 77 ff.; I.M. Hackethal, in Zeitschr. Papyr. Epigr., III ,1968, pp. 233-238; M.J. Vermaseren, in Meded. Nederl. Inst. Rome, XXXVII, 1975, p. 92 ff.; M. Simon, in Rev. d’hist. et de philos. relig., LVI, 1976, pp. 277-288).

In reality, as may be seen from all the photographs (not only the most recent), and also from the facsimile published by Vermaseren (fig. 12), the painted text from the start was in a gravely fragmentary state.  In a new facsimile (fig. 13), I have tried to reproduce as closely as possible what I think can be seen today.

Fig.12 Vermaseren's facsimile (1965)

Fig.12 Vermaseren’s facsimile (1965)

Fig.13 - fascimile, 1978

Fig.13 – fascimile, 1978

Without pretending to give a new reconstruction of the text, I will limit myself to indicating which elements are confirmed, and which are doubtful, as the new evidence seems to require.  Proceeding backwards:

1) Absolutely certain is the word FUSO, which is found in perfect form also in the short text painted on a jar in the same mithraeum (Excavations, l.c., p. 409 fig. 204, plate. XCIX, 1-3).

2) Almost certain, although not readable in full, is the word SANGUINE which precedes it, both because it fits very well both the spaces and the fragments of letters remaining, and because sanguine fuso, as previous editors have noted, is an expression used elsewhere and perfectly in place in this context.

3) Doubtful (and Ferrua also had some doubts) is the word ETERNALI.  After carefully analysing the perfectly straight line, slanting from left to right and top to bottom, before the N (which is clearly recognisable), it seems very difficult to recognise this as an R, even if connected to the following letter.  In every R present in the inscriptions of this layer (of paintings) it is possible to find a common feature, rising above the top edge of the writing.  So this line could belong rather to an A or an M or to two letters joined.  There are doubts also because the word is unique, and because the supposed L shows the remains of an upper crossing stroke, which seems a little too strong on the left side to be a mere flourish.  I see no sign of the I.  What in the photo looks like the remains of an S, near the head of the Leo which interrupts the writing, in fact does not exist on the plaster, which is damaged at this point.

4) Likewise the reading SERVASTI, with the RVA linked together, does not appear convincing when compared with what remains today (but see also Vermaseren’s facsimile).  And the E is not certain; it may be an F.  The following letter, which has been interpreted as an R, looks like an O in the photos; nothing can be seen on the wall now, where the plaster is missing (and, it would seem, was missing in the past).  Apart from this, I am unclear as to whether the signs that follow (which may well be part of a group VA) can be made to follow an S, since they seem to be the remains of a letter joined to an N.

5) Everything before that is no longer verifiable today, in the present state of conservation.  The miserable scraps of letters are not definitely identifiable, and do not clearly result in the text above, nor in the old photos.

It seems obvious, after what has been said, that this famous verse should be studied again by epigraphists, as well as by Mithraic specialists.  In the meantime, it would seem to be important that this reading of the text is not taken as secure, both to avoid building on shaky foundations, and because the text deserves to return to the centre of scholarly critical attention.[2]

I should add that I have Vermaseren’s description, and further photographs of the wall and inscription – some in colour! – here.

Pancieri’s points are interesting, but clearly there is more to be done.  One avenue of exploration would be to see whether the other texts at Santa Prisca would be amendable to similar criticism.  Do they actually appear on the wall now?  Did they once, but now only exist in the photos?  What is the rate of decay of the paintings at Santa Prisca?  Or is it the case that decay is not a  factor, and that Ferrua and Vermaseren were over-imaginative?  What could the text read?

As far as I know, nobody accepted Pancieri’s challenge.  Which is now itself, some forty years ago.

Is there an epigraphist in the house?

  1. [1] h) Altre caratteristiche del dio sono la misericordia e la pietà [per misericordiam tuam, quomodo… misertus es, miserearis, per tuam pietatem] per il cui tramite pare manifestarsi una sua benevola disposizione nei confronti del mondo. Meritevole di discussione mi sembra se la frase introdotta da quomodo (che dovrebbe avere valore causale piuttosto che correlativo [Thes. l. L., Vili, col. 1293 rr. 58 sgg.]) debba essere intesa come riferimento a uno specifico intervento misericordioso del dio, o serva soltanto a sostenere la richiesta individuale con l’argomentazione che della benevolenza che si chiede per sè il mondo intero beneficia. Per quanto concerne Mitra dei misteri, osservo che, così come si è notato per la sua qualità di creatore, anche il suo carattere salvifico e misericordioso, quantunque sia ritenuto certo per più riguardi, quale che sia l’interpretazione da dare alla sua opera di salvazione [cfr., senza tener conto delle immagini di culto, il versetto del mitreo di S. Prisca et nos servasti eternali sanguine fuso nella lettura del primo editore (A. Ferrua, in Bull. Com., LXVIII, 1940, p. 85, inde Ann. épìgr., 1946, 84) confermata, rettificando CIMRM, I, 485, dal Vermaseren (Excavations, cit., pp. 217-221)**] quasi mai appare riflesso nelle dediche [CIMRM, I, 213 (salutaris?), 691 cfr. 891 (propitius), 900b (deo bono, dubbia), II, 2265 (epekoos), 2276 (deo bono invicto?)].
  2. [2] ** L’importanza eccezionale di questo versetto per il tema affrontato in questo Seminario mi ha indotto ad un suo accurato riesame dopo la recente ripulitura degli affreschi operata dalla Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma nel mitreo di S. Prisca (restauratore Sig. Elio Paparatti). In occasione del restauro, la Soprintendenza ha assunto anche nuove ottime fotografie, dalle quali ho tratto il particolare che riproduco (fig. 10). A giudicare dal confronto tra questo particolare e le foto pubblicate dal Vermaseren (Excavations, cit., tav, LXVIII, 1-3) e tra queste ed altra, ancora anteriore, risalente all’epoca della prima scoperta e pubblicazione (fig. 11), si riscontra che, in questo punto, ai danni inevitabili del tempo si contrappongono alcuni guadagni dovuti all’attuale maggior pulizia della parete. Ciò non significa che il nostro versetto presenti neanche adesso una lettura agevole e, per questo, i primi editori sono senz’altro da lodare per la capacità che hanno avuto, partendo da lacerti abbastanza miseri, di mettere a disposizione degli studiosi un testo di estrema importanza. Il pericolo principale che credo si deve evitare ora (mentre in esso mi pare siano stati indotti in molti dall’uso corrente di trascrivere il testo senza alcun segno diacritico) è quello di credere che la ricostruzione di questo versetto sia certa in ogni suo punto o, per lo meno, attinga allo stesso grado di attendibilità in ogni sua componente (si vedano, ad esempio, tra coloro che più specificamente si sono occupati di questo testo: H.D. Betz, in Nov. Test., X, 1968, p. 77 sg.; I.M. Hackethal, in Zeitschr. Papyr. Epigr., III ,1968, pp. 233-238; M.J. Vermaseren, in Meded. Nederl. Inst. Rome, XXXVII, 1975, p. 92 sg.; M. Simon, in Rev. d’hist. et de philos. relig., LVI, 1976, pp. 277-288). In realtà, come si vede bene da tutte le foto (non solo dalla più recente) ed anche dal facsimile pubblicato dal Vermaseren (fig. 12), il testo dipinto si è presentato fin dall’inizio in condizioni di grave frammentarietà. In un nuovo facsimile (fig. 13) ho cercato di riprodurre il più fedelmente possibile quello che mi sembra di vedere oggi. Senza pretendere di dare una nuova ricostruzione del testo, mi limito a mettere in evidenza in questa sede qualche conferma e qualche dubbio che il nuovo controllo sembra imporre. Procedendo a ritroso, risulta: 1) assolutamente certa la parola FUSO che trova del resto perfetto riscontro nel breve testo dipinto su un vasetto proveniente dallo stesso mitreo (Excavations, cit., p. 409 fig. 204, tav. XCIX, 1-3); 2) pressoché certa, anche se non leggibile per intero, la parola SANGUINE che precede, sia perché ad essa si adattano assai bene gli spazi ed i frammenti di lettera superstiti, sia perché sanguine fuso, come hanno ben visto i precedenti editori è espressione ricca di confronti e perfettamente a posto in un contesto come questo; 3) dubbia (e qualche dubbio lo ebbe anche il Ferrua) la parola ETERNALI. Dopo aver attentamente analizzato il tratto perfettamente rettilineo ed obliquo da sinistra a destra e dall’alto in basso che precede la N (ben riconoscibile), sembra infatti assai difficile riconoscervi parte di una R, sia pure in legatura con la lettera seguente; in nessuna R presente nelle iscrizioni di questo strato è possibile rintracciare un tratto analogo, per di più nascente dal margine superiore della scrittura; tale segno potrebbe appartenere piuttosto ad una A o ad una M o alle due lettere in nesso. Dubbi si potrebbero avere anche sull’unicità della parola e su altre lettere, come la presunta L i resti della cui traversa superiore potrebbero apparire un po’ troppo estesi a sinistra per un semplice segno di rifinitura; della I non si vede più nulla; quello che nella foto sembra un resto di S, vicino alla testa del Leo che interrompe la scritta, non esiste affatto sull’intonaco, che in questo punto è danneggiato; 4) similmente non appare convincente, se confrontato con quanto oggi rimane (ma si veda anche il facsimile del Vermaseren) la lettura SERVASTI con RVA in nesso; già la E non è del tutto sicura, potendosi trattare anche di una F; della lettera seguente, che è stata interpretata come R e nelle foto sembrerebbe una O, nulla si vede sulla parete che in questo punto manca (e sembrerebbe mancasse anche in passato) dell’intonaco; a parte ciò non mi è chiaro come ai segni che seguono (che potrebbero ben far parte di un gruppo VA) si possa far seguire una S, sembrando piuttosto i resti della lettera appartenere ad una N, anch’essa in nesso; 5) tutto quello che precedeva è oggi inverificabile non vedendosi più, nell’attuale stato di conservazione, che miseri brandelli di lettere non sicuramente identificabili e non risultando chiaramente il testo neppure nelle vecchie foto. Sembra evidente, dopo quanto si è detto, che questo famoso versetto dovrà essere nuovamente studiato tanto dagli epigrafisti, quanto dagli specialisti di cose mitriache. Per intanto, importantissimo sembrerebbe che la sua lettura non fosse data per scontata, sia per non fondare costruzioni su basi malsicure, sia perché questo testo merita di tornare al centro dell’attenzione critica degli studiosi.

Proof that Roman gladiators hated astronauts

Seen on Twitter this morning:

Hmm.  Maybe not.

We’re often told that “archaeology is science so only archaeology is reliable.”

So this is a fun illustration of the perils of that; of what can happen when you have no literary sources, and construct a narrative solely from archaeology or monuments.



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