Archive for the 'Announcements' Category

Uploading the remains of the failed al-Makin transcription project

If you wish to learn the literature of a people, a good place to start is their histories of themselves.  For Arabic Christian literature – the literature of the Christian peoples occupied by the Muslims in the 7th century, there are five such histories.  I have done some work on Agapius and Eutychius.

But the world history from the Creation to his own times of al-Makin, a 13th century writer, has remained outside the knowledge of most people.  It exists in two parts; the first part taking the story up to the Arab Invasions, and the second part to his own day.

The first part of al-Makin has never been printed, to my knowledge.  The second part was badly printed by Erpenius centuries ago from a manuscript which had lost the last section, with a Latin translation.  The missing text at the end was printed by Cahen in the 1950’s.

Foolishly, I decided that it ought to be possible to get the whole text transcribed from manuscripts.  If an electronic Arabic text existed, then at least we could all use machine translation on it or something.

Unfortunately the project went hopelessly awry, because I was dealing with people in other cultures, who proved intractable.  I ended up $600 out of pocket and with nothing that was usable.  Somehow my wish to transcribe part 1 became a transcription of part 2.  My wish to transcribe from manuscripts turned into a transcription from Erpenius.  Unfortunately the PDF of Erpenius was damaged; and getting it fixed was beyond my powers of communication or persuasion, even though the portion to fix was trivial, if you know Arabic letters.

In fact the psychological pain, caused by the stress and frustration in trying to get this done, became so acute that I was obliged to abandon the project.  I have never regretted that decision.  It was stupid for me to try to deal with foreigners on a text in a language which I do not know using an alphabet that I do not know.

I believe that someone with knowledge of Arabic might fix the transcription in an hour.  I could not do so.  If anyone would like to do this, I would be grateful.  So it seems to me that it might be useful to upload the mangled text, and the PDF, marked up with the fixes, in case anyone does feel like running with it.  So here it is:

  • Erpenius_with_fixes – small (PDF of the copy of Erpenius from which the transcription was made, with pages that should have been inserted marked in red, and duplicate pages that should not be in the transcription marked also).
  • complete Makin (PDF of transcription of Erpenius, complete with errors)
  • complete Makin (.doc of transcription)
  • cahen1 (PDF of part 1 of original article by Cahen)
  • cahen2 (PDF of part 2 of original article)
  • cahen1 (.doc) – transcription of Cahen)

I also have PDFs of various manuscripts, about which I have written in other posts (click on the tag for “Al-Makin” at the bottom of this post to see them).  Rubbish quality most of them are too!  But as more manuscripts come online, it may well be possible to attack this problem again.  And it should be done.

HMML microfilmed manuscripts in Syriac and Christian Arabic

The Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, under Fr Columba Stewart, has been photographing manuscripts in the East for quite a few years now, and creating microfilms of them.  How necessary this work is, has been shown graphically in recent weeks by the barbaric destruction of Assyrian monuments in Iraq by Muslim thugs, apparently out of sheer savagery.

This evening I learned by accident that the microfilms are being uploaded to Archive.org, as the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Texts, complete with catalogues.  For instance, the catalogue of microfilms of manuscripts from the Coptic Patriarchate is here:

Unfortunately the collection is very badly organised, at least to a newcomer.  Thus I know that manuscripts of the 13th century Christian Arabic writer al-Makin’s History are in this collection.  And indeed a search of the PDF – the online reader is unusable for black and white – reveals a mention of al-Makin, and some mysterious references:

Jirjis aI-Makin Ibn al-‘Amid:

Excerpts from the history of Agapius of Manbij falsely ascribed to him: CMA 7-13-12.
Kitab al-ta’rikh: CMB 8-15; 12-5; 13-3.
Ta’rikh al-Muslimin: CMB 12-16.

Erm, right.  I think we want the second one, the Kitab al-Tarikh.  So what is CMB 8-15?  More to the point, how do I find the microfilm of this on Archive.org?  Here I ran into difficulty.

I learned from the catalogue that CMB means volume B of some other catalogue of the mss of the Coptic Museum.  So far so good.  It looks as if this is connected to the name of the uploaded PDF.  CMD10-8 is https://archive.org/details/CMB10-8, for instance.  So …  no luck with al-Makin, then.

But perhaps it will come.  In the mean time, look around.  There are also Slavonic texts up there.  It is a huge treasure chest – if we can find anything.

Some stories from the Apophthegmata Patrum

I suppose that only a few will download the PDFs of Anthony Alcock’s new translation from Coptic of the Sayings of the Fathers.  But it contains many stories that the monks told each other.  Here are one or two samples.  I have over-paragraphed them for readability.

226. It was said of Apa Macarius that one day as he was walking in the desert, he found a skull. He moved it with his staff and it spoke.

The elder said to it: ‘Who are you ?’ It said: ‘I am the high priest of the pagans who were in this place. And you are Macarius the spirit-bearer at all times. If you are merciful to those in punishment, they will have a little rest.’

Apa Macarius said: ‘ What is rest ?’ He said: ‘As the heaven is far from the earth, so is the fire below us and above us as we stand in the middle of the fire. It is impossible for anyone to see the face of his neighbour, but back is turned to back. When you pray for us, each one for a moment sees the face of his neighbour.’

The elder heard this and said: ‘Woe to the day when the man was born if this is rest from punishment.’

The elder said to him: ‘Is there torture worse than this ?’

The skull said to him: ‘The great tortures below us.’

The elder said: ‘We who did not know God are given a little mercy. Those who knew God and denied Him and did not do His will, they are below us.’

The elder then took the skull, dug a hole in the ground, put it there and left.

It looks as if there is a mistake in the text: surely it must be the skull that describes “those below us”, rather than Macarius?

Here’s another:

231. At the time of Julian the Impious, when he went to Persia, he sent a demon to the west to bring news to him in haste. When the demon reached places where a monk lived, he stayed there for ten days. He did not move. He was unable to walk because the monk did not stop praying day or night.

The demon returned to the one who had sent him without having done anything. He said to him: ‘Why did you take so long ?’

The demon replied: ‘I took so long and did nothing because I spent ten days waiting for Apa Publius to stop praying when I might leave, but he did not stop. I was prevented from leaving and I returned, having wasted my time.’

The impious Julian then became angry, saying: ‘I will deal with him when I get back.’

Within a few days he was struck and died through the providence of God. One of the eparchs with him went and sold everything he had and gave the money to the poor. He came to the elder and became a monk with him.

Anthony Alcock, Fourth part of Coptic Sayings of the Fathers now online

Anthony Alcock continues his translation of the Apophthegmata Patrum – The Sayings of the Fathers with a translation of the fourth and final part.  The complete set are all here.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 12

This part of the Annals continues the history of the 4th century, interleaving material from the Greek chronographic tradition with a lost Sassanid Persian chronicle known to the author in Arabic translation.  Unfortunately the chapter ends with a curious oriental folk tale.  One wonders what Theodosius the Great would have thought of it!

1. Sabur lived for seventy-two years in all, and died. After him there reigned over the Persians Azdashīr, son of Sabur (1), for four years and died.  This was in the first year of the reign of King Constantine, son of Constantine, King of Rūm.  After him there reigned over the Persians, for five years and four months, his brother Sabur, son of Sabur (2).  This happened in the fifth year of the reign of Constantine, the son of Constantine, King of Rūm.  In the fifth year of his reign there rebelled against his brother Constans, in Rome, a general named Maghnitiyūs (3) who killed him.  When Constantine, son of Constantine, learned that his brother had been killed, he sent a large army,  killed Magnentius, together with all those who had supported him in conspiring against his brother, and appointed as his representative in Rome a man who reigned in his name.  In the seventh year of his reign there was made patriarch of Rome Marcus (4).  He held the office for two years and died.  In the ninth year of his reign there was made patriarch of Rome Būliyūs (5).  He held the seat for fifteen years and died.  In the twenty-fourth year of his reign there was made patriarch of Rome Līnāriyūs (6).  He held the office for six years and died.  In the twentieth year of his reign there was made bishop of Jerusalem Cyril (7).  He held the office for five years and fled.

2. At that time the followers of Arius and all those who professed the doctrine went to King Constantine;  after having presented their religion in a good light and expounded their doctrine in enticing colours they said: “The three hundred and eighteen bishops, who gathered at Nicaea, made a mistake and have turned away from the truth by claiming that the Son is consubstantial with the Father.  Please, order that such a thing is no longer upheld because it is an obvious mistake.”  The king agreed to their request.

3. At that time there appeared on the site of Cranion, i.e. on Golgotha, at noon, a cross of light which rose from earth to heaven, until it reached the top of the Tūr-Zaytā: (8) for the intensity of its glow even dimmed the sunlight.  All the inhabitants of Jerusalem, large and small, were spectators of this.  Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, also witnessed the phenomenon and hastened to inform the king, writing to him a letter in which he said: “In the days of your father, O blessed king, the cross of Christ, our Lord, appeared, made of stars, at noon, in the sky.  And in your days, O blessed king, there has appeared at noon, on the site of Cranion, a cross of light so intense that it exceeds that of the sun” (9).  In the same letter among other things he urged him not to welcome the doctrine of Arius and his supporters, or of his followers, because they were far from the truth and wicked, and had already been excommunicated by three hundred and eighteen bishops together with all those who professed the doctrine.  The king received willingly the letter of Cyril and rejoiced at what he had written, and turned back to the truth and decided not to accept the doctrine of Arius.

4. At that time, the doctrine of Arius had almost taken over Constantinople, Antioch, Babil, and Alexandria: the followers of the religion of Arius and the supporters of his doctrine were called Arians, from the name of Arius.  In the second year of the reign of Constantine, the son of Constantine, Cyprian was made patriarch of Antioch (10).  He was an Arian. He held the office for two years and died.  In the fourth year of his reign Blāsiyūs was made patriarch of Antioch (11).  He held the office for four years and died.  He was an Arian.  In the eighth year of his reign Ustātiyūs was made patriarch of Antioch (12).  He held the office for five years and died.  He was an Arian.  In the thirteenth year of his reign Lāwn was made patriarch of Antioch (13).  He was also an Arian.  He held the office for nine years and died.  The king then sent for Eudoxius (14), bishop of the city of Girmāna (15), and made him patriarch of Antioch.  He was a Manichaean.  He held the See of Antioch for two years.  Then the king sent him to Constantinople, where he remained for ten years and died as patriarch (16).  In the twenty-second year of his reign Athanāsiyūs was made patriarch of Antioch (17).  He was a Manichaean.  He held the office for four years and died.  In the first year of his reign, the king deposed Paul, the patriarch of Constantinople and made Eusebius patriarch of Constantinople, in his place (18).  He was a Manichaean.  He held the office for three years and died.  At his death the king reinstated in his own see the patriarch Paul, whom he had deposed.  He held the office for three years and died (19).

5. In the tenth year of his reign Macedonius was made patriarch of Constantinople (20).  He asserted that the Holy Spirit is a created being.  He held the office for ten years and died.  In his twenty-first year of his reign, the king called to Constantinople Eudoxius, Patriarch of Antioch, and appointed him patriarch of that city (21).  He was a Manichaean.  He held the office for ten years and died.  Of the population of Egypt and Alexandria, most were Arians and Manichaean.  They occupied the churches of Egypt and Alexandria and took possession of them.  Then they made a raid against Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria, with the intention of killing him, but he managed to escape and hide.  Up to that time he had been Patriarch for ten years.  Gregory was then made Patriarch of Alexandria (22).  He was a Manichaean.  He held the office for twelve years and died.  At his death Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria, reoccupied his own place.  He held the office for three years.  In that time there came from Constantinople to Alexandria a general named Sawīriyānūs that, being an Arian, confined Patriarch Athanasius in a place called Tībāriyādah and appointed Khurayğ  as patriarch of Alexandria (23).  He was an Arian.  He held the seat for six years.  The general Sūriyānūs then left Alexandria bound for Constantinople.  When he left Alexandria, the Melkites of the city revolted against the patriarch Gurayh and killed him and then burned his body.  Patriarch Athanasius again reoccupied his see.  At that time there was a terrible tsunami and many places and many churches of Alexandria were submerged.

6. The King Constantine, son of Constantine, died after a reign of twenty-four years.  After him reigned over Rum Julian, the apostate King (24).  This happened in the twenty-first year of the reign of Sabur, son of Sabur, king of the Persians.  This king Julian was a renegade from the Christian religion, who wanted to return people to the worship of idols and killed a large number of martyrs.  In the first year of his reign the Arians who were in Jerusalem rose against Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, with the intent to kill him.  [Cyril] fled and Heraclius was elected bishop of Jerusalem (25).  He was an Arian.  He held the office for three years and died.  In the second year of his reign Milītiyānūs was made patriarch of Antioch (26).  He was an orthodox (27).  He held the seat for twenty-five years.  In his twenty-first year in office there was the second council in Constantinople (28).

At the time of this king there lived at Alexandria the patriarch Athanasius, at Constantinople the Manichaean patriarch Eudoxius, and at Rome the patriarch Līnāriyūs (29).

At the time of this king lived the blessed Basil, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, a territory subject to the jurisdiction of Rum, and Gregory, bishop of Nazianzus.  The inhabitants of the city of Nazianzus were all Sabeans.  Gregory, bishop of Nazianzus, composed the sermon on the birth of Christ, our Lord, which begins: “Christ is born, glorify [him]; Christ [is] from heaven: welcome Christ on earth: glorify [him]”(30), and while he was reading to them, they mocked him and started laughing.  On the feast of the Baptism, Gregory wrote another sermon in which reviewed the religion of the Sabeans and illuminated its errors.  This was the sermon that begins with the following words: “And again, my Jesus, and still a mystery” (31).  At the time of Julian the Apostate there lived Anba Antonius, who was the first monk to live in the desert of Egypt, where he founded the monasteries and gathered monks there.  Anba Hilarion lived in Syria (32), who was the first monk to live in the desert of Jordan where he collected the monks and founded the monasteries and many other places.

Learning that Sabur, son of Sabur, king of the Persians, was preparing to invade his territories, Julian the Apostate made the necessary preparations and went out against him.  Meanwhile he had spread his cult and his wicked religion everywhere, carryinbg out his perverse intention and proposal to return people to the worship of idols.  But Sabur, son of Sabur, king of the Persians, defeated him and killed him in battle, making great slaughter of his men.

7. Basil, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, has handed down to us that, one day while he was sitting in his room in front of a painting depicting the martyr Mercurius, he realized, suddenly, that the image of the martyr was missing from canvas.  He was very surprised.  After just one hour the image of the martyr had reappeared on the canvas but now, on the tip of the spear in his hand, was something like blood.  The wonder of Bishop Basil at the sight of this increased, and he remained deep in thought, until the news came that the King Julian the Apostate had been killed in the war in that hour.  Basil then understood that the martyr Mercurius had killed him, that Julian had been put to death on account of the animosity he felt toward Christians, and because of his firm resolution to restore everywhere the worship of idols (33).

8. After Julian the Apostate had been killed, there reigned over Rum, for one year only, Jovian (34).  This happened in the twenty-first year of the reign of Sabur, son of Sabur, king of the Persians.  The king Jovian was of excellent faith and a staunch defender of the religion of the Christians.  A rebel rose up against him a rebel, and Jovian made war on him, but died on the way at a place called Daris (35).

After him there reigned for twelve years over Rum Valentinian (36). This happened in the twenty-fourth year of the reign of Sabur, son of Sabur, king of the Persians. In the third year of his reign Damasus was made patriarch of Rome (37). He held the seat for twenty-eight years and died.

9. In his seventeenth year in office there was the second council at Constantinople.  In the fourth year of the reign of Valentinian Demophilus was made patriarch of Constantinople (38).  He was a Manichaean.  He held the office for eleven years and died.  In the first year of his reign Irnis was made bishop of Jerusalem (39).  He was a Manichaean.  He held the office for five years and died.  In the seventh year of his reign Hilarius was made bishop of Jerusalem (40).  He was an Arian.  He held the office for four years and died.  On his death there returned to his own see Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, who had fled because of the Arians.  He held the seat for sixteen years and died.  The entire period for which Cyril was bishop was thirty-three years.

10. In his twenty-seventh year in office there was the second council at Constantinople.  The population of Alexandria rebelled again against the patriarch Athanasius and decided to kill him.  But [Athanasius] fled and hid.  They therefore made Lucius Patriarch of Alexandria (41).  He was an Arian.  Five months later there gathered, along with a large group of Melkite Christians, a good number of bishops who excommunicated the patriarch Lucius and deposed him. The patriarch Athanasius returned to his own see and remained there until his death.  He was patriarch was for forty six years.

11. In the eighth year of the reign of Valentinian Peter was made Patriarch of Alexandria (42).  But the followers of Arius rose up against him, with the intention of killing him, and he fled away from them.  Lucius was then recalled, who had been deposed, and he held the office for three years.  But since the Melkites rose up against him with intent to kill him, he fled away from them.  The patriarch Peter then returned to his place. He held the office for six years and died.  In the Maghrib a rebel rose up against Valentinian. Valentinian went out against him at the head of a huge force but was killed in the war (43).

12. After him his brother Valens (44) reigned over Rum for three years.  This was in the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Sabur, son of Sabur, king of the Persians.

At the time of Valens, king of Rum, there lived in Alexandria, a man named Theodore who disputed and fought in defense of the doctrine of the Melkites, refuting the assertions of the Aryans.  The followers of the excommunicate Arius took him, tied his hands and tied him to the feet of a horse that they drove off at full speed in the direction of the desert.  He thus had all his limbs dislocated and died a martyr for the faith.  In the second year of the reign of Valens, king of Rum, Timothy was made patriarch of Alexandria (45), Peter’s brother, former patriarch of Alexandria before him.  He held the seat for seven years and died.

In his sixth year in office there was the second council in Constantinople.  The patriarch Timothy had built many churches in Alexandria and numerous tombs, and converted many people from Arianism to the Melkite religion.  In the third year of the reign of Valens, king of Rum, Evagrius was made patriarch of Constantinople (46), of the Melkite religion.  He held the seat for two years and was removed.  The king Valens sent for Gregory, bishop of Nazianzus, and ordered him to take care of the see of Constantinople.  Gregory administered it for four years and died.

At the time of Valens, king of Rum, St Euthymius was born (47).  In the West there rose up against Valens a rebel and Valens came out against him with his forces.  After many days of fighting, in a place called Tarāqā, Valente, king of Rum, was defeated and fled to a village in the province of Adrianople where they set fire to him and to the village (48).

13. After him reigned over Rum his son Valentinian (49) together with Gratian (50) for three years.  The king Gratian died a few days after the king Valentinian.  Then arose within Rum much contention about to whom to entrust the kingdom.  Some said: “One of the sons of the great king Valentinian should reign over us”. Others said: “Only a man who shares our faith should reign over us, to fight for the Christian faith.”  The opinions of many Christians and their doctrines were varied, but the doctrine of the Arians and followers of Macedonius won out.  They remained prey to confusion for six months without being able to give themselves a king, nor was there, then, a patriarch in Constantinople, because after the death of Gregory (51), bishop of Nazianzus, who had held the seat of Constantinople, another patriarch had not yet been made.  Then the ministers and generals went to one of the bishops of Constantinople, named Cyrus, excellent man, and full of virtue, and said:  “We will rely on you because you can judge what is best for us in such a predicament.  Choose from your full and unconditional initiative a man of your own faith and make him our king, because, if we continue to be without a king, the Persians or others could invade our country and subjugate us, because of our many doctrines and bitter disputes, and destroy us”.  The bishop replied, “If I choose for you a man, and I make him your king, this will leave some happy and others not, and thus there may be more fighting between you and more dead.  I can only give you some advice, that if you follow it will be more useful both to me and to you.”  They said to him: “What?” And the bishop replied: “Send around the city of Constantinople an crier and tell people to gather, at sunset, in the church where we will pray all night. Tomorrow we will celebrate the Mass and ask our God and our Lord Jesus Christ to choose for us a king. Whom He will choose, we will welcome him as our king.”  They welcomed his advice.

14. There lived in Constantinople two men, poor and of low condition, bound together by friendship.  One was called Theodosius, and was bald and thirty years old, and the other Theophilus, who was a sage and a philosopher and was twenty-five.  Both, every day, went out early from Constantinople in search of wood, which they carried on their heads and then sold, giving half of the proceeds in alms to the poor.  With what was left they bought something to eat and whatever they needed.  Only night separated them, when each went to his home and returned to their accustomed place.  That day Theophilus went early in the morning to Theodosius to wake him and go out in search of firewood.  When he called, Theodosius came out and said: “My brother, I was having a strange dream when you called me and woke me up in the throes of my turmoil.  If I can find someone who will give me an interpretation, I will give all him earn throughout the week, allowing that I am poor and have no other source of income except what I procure by selling the wood.”  Theophilus said:  “I know how to interpret dreams.  Tell me what you have dreamed of, and also, Christ, our Lord, willing, I’ll give an explanation, without you having to give anything to the person who would explain it.”

Theodosius said: “While I was sleeping, I heard a great voice and I awoke in the grip of turmoil.  Then I said to myself:  “The soldiers of the Persians have come to Constantinople” and I rushed into the street, but I did not see anyone and I did not hear any voices.  So I went back to bed and I fell asleep and I dreamed that I was in a vast desert full of big rams, sheep, cows and beasts, lions and birds and animals of every race and species, of leafy trees and large and most numerous heaps of grain, and I said: “I wish I could have a bit of that grain I, who are so poor!”  And as I looked at the animals, the trees and the vast harvest of wheat, behold I saw a tall man fifty cubits high, whose body shone like pure gold in his right hand and wore a double-edged sword, on which were engraved four seals that shone like gold, and in his left hand he had a golden shield.  When I saw him come near me, I was afraid and fell face down. But he took me by the hand, raised me up and told me: “Fear not. Would you like to have all that is in this wilderness?” I replied: “My Lord, I just want a bit of wheat.” And he answered me: “Everything you see in this wilderness will be yours from now on, and under your power.” Then he told me: “Follow me,” and I followed, as I walked here and I saw the rams, sheep, cows, the beasts and the birds and the trees fall down before me and reverence me.  The lions, however, greeted me with roars and I had great fear. But he told me then: “Fear not, take this sword and shield and keep them tight in your hand.”  The sword was double-edged and there were four seals on it.  I took them from him, therefore, the sword and the shield, and I kept them tight in hand.  When the lions saw the sword and shield in my hands, they bent their legs to the ground and prostrated themselves before me.  Then he took me to the sea and I saw come out of it a column of light.  The man stretched out his hand, took the column and it covered me, and in doing so the column was divided into three stars.  The first star was similar to the earth, and he wrapped me up in this light around the chest; the second was like beryl and he wrapped this light around my thighs, and the third was similar to ruby ​​and he wrapped this around my foot.  Then I was taken by the hand and taken back in that great wilderness and he told me: “Lift up your eyes to the sky.”  I looked up, and I saw a big star like lightning which is divided into two parts falling on my head.  Then he led me to a corner of the wilderness, and I saw thick briars and brambles sprouting in the middle of fruitless trees.  Then I was led into a wide and beautiful tent.  I looked into the tent, and there I saw in the centre a lamb, and a spring of water, as white as milk.  Then that lamb became like the flame of a fire, and ascended to heaven together with the water.  I came out of the tent, and I saw the man holding a long key which was a cubit wide, which he gave me and I said to him: “My Lord, how can I hold the shield, the sword and this key?”  He replied: “This is what you are commanded to do.”  I am left to speculate on whom to entrust the key.  And I saw you, standing to my right, wrapped in a white pallium and beautiful, and with a tiara on your head.  I handed the key to you, and then I saw only the man.  Then we headed home, but along the way we came across a wall that blocked the road, two hundred cubits long.  And I said: “How will we overcome this wall?” And as we were halted, I saw a light descending from heaven like lightning. The wall collapsed and we passed through. Then I woke up to the sound of your shout.”

Theophilus said: “If you have described your dream accurately, know that it will be you that is chosen as king. There, now I’ll explain.  The great wilderness is the world.  The sheep and the sheep are men, both the good and the bad, living in the world.  The beasts are the Greeks and the birds represent every town and village.  The trees are the ministers and generals.  These all shall bow down before you in your kingdom.  The lions are the enemies of the king.  The double-edged sword is the Torah and the books of the Old and New Testaments.  The four seals of the sword are the four evangelists and the piles of grain represent the enormous wealth of your kingdom.  The column of light with which you have been covered is the mercy of God that has fallen upon you, and that your days will abound.  The three stars that have fallen on you represent the baptism that you received in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The star then that fell from heaven alighting on your head is the crown of your kingdom.  And as you saw it split in two, you will have two children in your kingdom.  The brambles and fruitless trees represent the people who do not believe in Christ, our Lord.  The tent is the church and the lamb you saw in the middle of the tent is the Eucharist.  And the water was like milk is Baptism.  And as you saw the lamb like the flame of a fire with water ascend to heaven, so the Eucharist will rise to heaven.  The key, then, is the authority that was assigned to you, to give the church a leader who will govern according to your mandate.  You gave me the key, and that means that I will be made patriarch.  The wall, finally, is the peace and tranquility that there will be in your kingdom. And this is the interpretation of your dream.”

Theodosius said: “That’s very nice, my brother, your interpretation of my dream! But that I become king, and that you will become patriarch, this will never be possible!  Come on, get up, let’s go to work.”  As they were going out, they saw people heading to church and asked: “What day is this?” “We go to church,” they answered, “to see who God will choose as our king.” Theophilus said to Theodosius: “Let’s do the same ourselves and go to church. It could also be that your dream will come true.”  They entered the church and having prayed, Theodosius said Theophilus: “Our clothes are shabby and worn.  Let’s get behind everyone and let ‘s see what happens.”  The mass ended, and people were about to leave, when suddenly a large bird appeared, carrying in its beak a crown of light.

The people watched it for a couple of hours and began to shout: “O Lord, have mercy on us!”  The bird then moved toward Theodosius and dropped on his head a crown of light.  He was immediately brought to the altar, where the bishop took away the worn and shabby clothes, covered him with the royal robes and put on his head the crown of the kingdom, calling on him the blessing of God.  Then he was made to mount on one of the king’s horses – Theodosius still did not believe his eyes seeing himself surrounded by ministers and generals – and introduced him to the court, that the king’s palace, going then each their own way.

Did St Nicholas of Myra / Santa Claus punch Arius at the Council of Nicaea?

In many places online we can find the statement that St Nicholas of Myra – the basis for Santa Claus – was present at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, where he punched Arius in the mouth.  So … is it true?

Unfortunately we have almost no historical information at all about any St Nicholas of Myra – our information is entirely based on Saint’s Lives of him, of which the earliest are 9th century, and the latest are modern compilations based on medieval collections.  All these Lives are really closer to folk-tales than to history, and they reflect the accumulations of popular legends.  Some of them do have Nicholas attending the Council of Nicaea; but they do not contain the story of Nicholas punching Arius.

The main collection of source materials about Nicholas is by Gustav Anrich,[1] and in this I found what I suspect is the answer.

Before I look at the data, let’s summarise what it says.  Sometime in the middle ages, the story about his attendance at Nicaea was “improved” to show him slapping “an Arian”.  Over time, this turned into a story about him slapping Arius himself.  The story is now a standard item in Greek Orthodox tradition, and is embedded in their handbook of icon-painting.

On to the data.

In Anrich volume 1, p.459, in the section devoted to testimonia, there is an extract from a Latin text (!) by a certain Petrus de Natalibus, a Venetian.  Petrus in 1370 was bishop of Equilio (Jesolo) near Venice, and died around 1400.  The text of his work reads:

Fertur beatum Nicolaum jam senem Nicaeno concilio interfuisse et quemdam Arrianum zelo fidei in maxillam percussisse ob idque a concilio mitra et pallio privatum extitisse; propter quod ut plurimum sine mitra depingitur.  Sed dum aliquando missam beatae virginis, cujus erat devotus, in pontificalibus celebraret et privationem mitrae et pallii defleret quasi zelo nimio fidei ablata: ecce, cunctis videntibus, duo angeli eidem astiterunt, quorum unus mitram, alius pallium sibi divinitus restituerunt.   Et extunc insignia reassumpsit sibi caelitus restituta.[2]

It happened that saint Nicholas, now an old man, was present at the Council of Nicaea,  and out of jealousy of faith struck a certain Arian in the jaw, on account of which it is recorded that he was deprived of his mitre and pallium; on account of which he is often depicted without a mitre.  …[3]

This tells us that the story had arisen by whenever Petrus wrote these words – it is really difficult to find much about him! -, and was known in the West, or at least in Venice.  So it probably had existed for some time at that point.  But at this point it is not Arius himself – only “a certain Arian”.

The next piece of data is an extract from a biography by an obscure Damaskenos Monachus, written in the second half of the 16th century.  Apparently he lived in the second half of the 16th century, and may (or may not) be identical with the man of that name who was Bishop of Liti and Rendini in 1564; and Metropolitan of Naupaktos and Arta in 1570.  He composed a biography of St Nicholas of Myra, based on earlier accounts, which he included in his Thesaurus.  The oldest edition of his work was printed in Venice in 1570.  Anrich obtained this information from E. Legrand, Bibliographie hellenique II (1885), p.12 f., which contains little more than you have above.[4]

Anrich states that the Vita of Damaskenos is a vulgarisation of the Vita by Simon Metaphrastes, who created the standard Greek hagiographical texts in the 11th century.  I don’t know if any edition of Damaskinos can be found online?

Anrich gives the Greek of the extract.  Yesterday I posted this, and an appeal for a translation.  A kind corrrespondent obliged:

Damascenos the Monk:  Life of saint Nicholas the wonder-worker:  Large collection of lives of saints, or “Great Book of Saints” by Const. Chr. Doukakis.   Athens, 20 December, 1896, pages 171-190.

10.  p.179-180.  After the king seated himself on the throne, one hundred and fifty nine fathers seated themselves at either side of him, both they and Arius arguing with much unease.  Saint Nicholas, noticing that Arius was about to quash all the archpriests and moved by divine zeal, rose up and gave him a slap that shook all his members. Complaining, Arius says to the king: “O most just king, is it fair, before your royal highness, for one to strike another?  If he has something to say, let him speak as the other fathers do; if he is ignorant, let him remain silent as his like are. For what reason does he slap me in the presence of your highness?”  Hearing this, the king was greatly disappointed and said to the archpriests: “Holy archpriests, it is the law, that whosoever raises his hand before the king to strike someone, that it should be cut off. I leave this to you, so that your holiness(es) might be the judge.”  The archpriests replied, saying: “Your majesty, that the archpriest has acted wrongly all of us confess it; except that we beseech you, let us unstate him now and imprison him, and after the dissolution of the council, we shall then convict him.”

Having unstated and imprisoned him, that night Christ and the Holy Mother Theotokos appeared in prison and said: “Nicholas, why are you imprisoned?”  And the saint replied: “For loving You”. Christ then said to him: “Take this,” and gave him the holy gospel; the Holy Mother Theotokos gave him the archpriestly omophorion (scapular).  The next day some acquaintances of his brought him bread and they saw that he was freed of his fetters and on his shoulder he was wearing the omophorion, while reading the holy gospel he was holding in his hands. Having asked him where he found them, he told them the whole truth.  Having learnt of this, the king took him out of the prison and asked for forgiveness, as did all the others.  After the dissolution of the council, all the archpriests returned home, as did saint Nicholas, to his province.

This is the earliest text known to me, and evidently to Anrich, which records Nicholas punching Arius.

Anrich adds:

Die Darstellung der Nicaea-Episode stimmt mit den Angaben des Malbuches (unten S. 463,15 ff u. 33 ff); die nur in den Hauptzügen mit diesen beiden stimmende Dartellung von Petrus de Natalibus beweist, daß der Grundstock der Legende mindestens ins 14. Jh. zurückgeht.

The presentation of the Nicaea episode is consistent with the information provided by the Painting book (below, p 463, 15 et seq u 33 et seq.); since only the more significant features of these two versions agree with the story as given by Petrus de Natalibus, this shows that the foundation of the legend goes back at least to the 14th century.

The “Painting book” (I don’t know the English name of this work: in German it is the Malbuch) is the 18th century manual of iconography from Mount Athos, produced by Dionysius of Foura.  This gives the legends to be attached to icons.  The first reads as follows:

“The holy and ecumenical 1st Synod in Nicaea….
And Arius, standing, also in hieratic vestment, and standing before him, Saint Nicholas with arm outstretched to slap him.”

The second one says:

“The saint in prison, receiving the gospel from Christ and the omophorion from the Holy Mother. – Prison, and at the centre is the saint and Christ at his right holding a gospel; at his left the Theotokos holding an omphorion: they are giving these to him.”

The presence of the item in the Handbook shows that the topic is a standard one for icons.  So we may presume that the story reaches us today from Greek Orthodox sources, for whom it is a traditional motif, depicted in their churches.

Here is an example of the scene in a fresco from the Soumela monastery (via Livius.org):

St Nicholas of Myra slapping Arius at the Council of Nicaea.  Fresco at Soumela.  By Marco Prins. Via Livius.org.

St Nicholas of Myra slapping Arius at the Council of Nicaea. Icon at Soumela. Via Livius.org.

To summarise again: there is no ancient evidence whatever that St Nicholas punched or slapped Arius at the First Council of Nicaea.  The story is not found in any text before the late 14th century, and even that one mentions only “a certain Arian”.  In the next two centuries the legend mutates into Nicholas slapping Arius; and is then disseminated in works of popular fiction, and by the paintings of icons.  It has no historical basis whatever.

UPDATE: I am advised that ράπισμα means slap, not punch.  My correspondent adds: ” it was a slap intended to shock Arius back to his senses”.

  1. [1] G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos: Der Heilige Nikolaos in der Griechischen Kirche, 2 vols, 1913.  Accessible to Americans at Hathi Trust.
  2. [2] Anrich gives a reference: Petrus de Natalibus, Catalogus sanctorum et gestorum eorum ex diversis voluminibus collectus, Lugduni 1508, Fol. VII.  The English title appears to be Legends of the Saints.  Various editions are present on Google Books.  In the 1543 edition, the text is on folio Vb, at the top of the right-hand column.
  3. [3] Translation is mine.
  4. [4] This volume can be found online at Google Books, but not without considerable effort.  It is here (US only).

Is this Katharevousa and can anyone translate it? A passage from Damaskenos Monachos on St Nicholas punching Arius

Let me introduce to a certain Damaskenos Monachos.  Apparently he lived in the second half of the 16th century, and may (or may not) be identical with the man of that name who was Bishop of Liti and Rendini in 1564; and Metropolitan of Naupaktos and Arta in 1570.  He composed a biography of St Nicholas of Myra, based on earlier accounts, which he included in his Thesaurus.  The oldest edition of his work was printed in Venice in 1570.  There is information about him in E. Legrand, Bibliographie hellenique II (1885), p.12 f.

All these details I obtain from G. Anrich’s Hagios Nikolaus, I (1913), p.459-60.  Anrich prints an extract from the 1896 edition of the text which mentions, charmingly, how St Nicholas of Myra punched Arius on the jaw at the First Council of Nicaea.  I’ve posted it below.

Unfortunately I can’t read this.  A Greek correspondent tells me that it seems very like Katharevousa, or like the Greek that might be read in a service on Mt Athos.  I had not heard of this, but apparently it was a compromise between ancient and modern Greek which was the official language of Greece until 1976.  An educated Greek should be able to handle it, he thinks.

If you can read it – all of it -, would you like to translate it into English for me?  I can pay something.  You can message me via my contact form.

Here is the text:

damaskenos_monachus

UPDATE: And here are a couple more lines, from the Handbook of painting icons, issued by Mount Athos:

painting_manual

A kind correspondent has sent in a rough translation of all this material, which is as follows:

Damascenos the Monk:  Life of saint Nicholas the wonder-worker:  Large collection of lives of saints, or “Great Book of Saints” by Const. Chr. Doukakis.   20th of December, in Athens, 1896, pages 171-190.

10.  p.179-180.  After the king seated himself on the throne, one hundred and fifty nine fathers seated themselves at either side of him, both they and Arius arguing with much unease.  Saint Nicholas, noticing that Arius was about to quash all the archpriests and moved by divine zeal, rose up and gave him a slap that shook all his members. Complaining, Arius says to the king: “O most just king, is it fair, before your royal highness, for one to strike another?  If he has something to say, let him speak as the other fathers do; if he is ignorant, let him remain silent as his like are. For what reason does he slap me in the presence of your highness?”  Hearing this, the king was greatly disappointed and said to the archpriests: “Holy archpriests, it is the law, that whosoever raises his hand before the king to strike someone, that it should be cut off. I leave this to you, so that your holiness(es) might be the judge.”  The archpriests replied, saying: “Your majesty, that the archpriest has acted wrongly all of us confess it; except that we beseech you, let us unstate him now and imprison him, and after the dissolution of the council, we shall then convict him.”

Having unstated and imprisoned him, that night Christ and the Holy Mother Theotokos appeared in prison and said: “Nicholas, why are you imprisoned?”  And the saint replied: “For loving You”. Christ then said to him: “Take this,” and gave him the holy gospel; the Holy Mother Theotokos gave him the archpriestly omophorion (scapular).  The next day some acquaintances of his brought him bread and they saw that he was freed of his fetters and on his shoulder he was wearing the omophorion, while reading the holy gospel he was holding in his hands. Having asked him where he found them, he told them the whole truth.  Having learnt of this, the king took him out of the prison and asked for forgiveness, as did all the others.  After the dissolution of the council, all the archpriests returned home, as did saint Nicholas, to his province.

And from the painting manual (I don’t know the English name of this work: in German it is the Malbuch), the items seem to be legends to place on the icons.  The first reads as follows:

“The holy and ecumenical 1st Synod in Nicaea….
And Arius, standing, also in hieratic vestment, and standing before him, Saint Nicholas with arm outstretched to slap him.”

The second one says:

“The saint in prison, receiving the gospel from Christ and the omophorion from the Holy Mother. – Prison, and at the centre is the saint and Christ at his right holding a gospel; at his left the Theotokos holding an omphorion: they are giving these to him.”

Again, many thanks!  Comments are welcome!

Negotiating the use of another translation – the Vita Per Michaelem of Nicholas of Myra

The earliest full-dress hagiographical “life” of St Nicholas of Myra, a.k.a. Santa Claus, is the Vita per Michaelem by Michael the Archimandrite, dating from the 9th century.  The first 11 chapters of this were translated by John Quinn of Hope College, Holland, Michigan, but he died in 2008 while out jogging without completing the work.  His version has been online at the St Nicholas Center website here, marked as their copyright.

A little while ago I commissioned Bryson Sewell to translate the remaining chapters, and his excellent translation has come through today.  I have donated a copy to the St Nicholas Center for their use, which should allow them to complete their page.  But of course I would like to circulate a complete text too!  So I have written to them to see whether they will make their chapters into something that can circulate, perhaps Creative Commons or something.

We’ll see.  In the mean time I shall look over the other St Nicholas material, with an eye to seeing what else ought to be translated.  There is, of course, loads of stuff; but it is the earliest and most important that matters here.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 11 (part 7 and end)

This seems to wind up the stories about the Arian controversy, and we then continue with the death of Constantine, and events in the Sassanid realm.  An apocryphal and rather awful story about Constantine persecuting the Jews appears in this section, which gives a rather nasty impression of the attitude of the Melkites in the 10th century towards religious persecution.

16. Eumenius said: “Arius did not say that Christ created all things.  But he said: “Through him all things were created”, because He is the Word of God through whom were created the heavens and the earth. For God simply created things through His Word, but the Word did not create, as is clear from what the Lord Christ said in his Gospel: “All things were made through him, and without him nothing was made of anything that was made” (50).  And he also said: “In him was life, and the life was the light of the world” (51). And he also said:  “He was in the world and through him the world was made” (52). So saying, he wanted to express that all things were made through Him, and did not intend to say that it was He who created them.” He concluded by saying: “This was the doctrine of Arius, but the three hundred and eighteen bishops were unjust to him and have unjustly and wrongly excommunicated him.”

17. Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria, responded by saying: “The three hundred and eighteen bishops have not condemned Arius speaking with falsehood nor acted unfairly against him because he simply said: “The Son has created things without the Father.”  Now if all things were created only through the Son without the [also] the Father to create them, He [i.e. the Father], would not have created even one thing.  But in this regard we have the gospel as evidence that belies his words, such as the passage that reads: “The Father creates, and I create” (53).  And also it is said: “If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe in me” (54). And again: “As the Father creates and gives life to those he wants, and takes it away, so also the Son gives life to those he wants and takes it away” (55).  With these words he means that He gives life, makes die, and creates.  In light of these words anyone must be considered a liar, who dares to say that He is not the creator and that things have simply been created through Him without being Himself the creator.  As for your saying “all things were made through him,” well we have no doubt in believing that the action in which they were made was by Christ himself, saying “Let there be…”, and they were made, as can be deduced precisely from the passage in which he says: “I create and give life.” If then your saying “through him all things were made” is to be understood simply in the sense that he has made them, then it is through him that they were made.  If it were not so, the two statements are contradictory.”

18. Then Athanasius replied further to Eumenius saying: “As for the assertion of the followers of Arius that the Father wills something and then the Son creates it, as if will was of the Father and creation of the Son, this is also false, as the idea that the Son created so would mean that the function of the one doing the creating would be greater than those of the creator, if he [i.e., the Son] willed and did it, while he [i.e. the Father], willed and did not do it.  The functions of the first, therefore, in what he did, are more extensive than those of the second.  And from this we should infer that the first in doing what the second wills, is in the same condition as any other agent of creation in the face of what the creator wants from him, namely that he do the same with respect to compulsion and free will.  But if he acted because he was coerced, he had no participation in the action; if he was free, he could obey or disobey, and therefore is deserving of reward or punishment. But to say such a thing [of Christ] would be absurd.”

19. Athanasius replied again to Eumenius saying: “If the Creator created the world by means of a created being, [the Son], this created being is certainly different from the Creator. You have in fact argued that the Creator works through another. Now the one that operates by means of another needs to be complementary to this acting through him, since he can not take any action if not through him. But he who needs another is imperfect, and the Creator is far from that!”  When Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria, had thus refuted the arguments of his opponents and showed all the defendants the falsity of their doctrine, they were dumbfounded, they were ashamed of themselves and they attacked Athanasius, patriarch of Alexandria, covering him with a barrel so as to almost kill him. He was saved from their hands by Dalmatinus, son of the king’s sister.  Athanasius fled, went to Jerusalem, prepared the chrism without any bishop present, and consecrated the churches by the anointing of the [sacred] chrism. He then went to the king and informed him of what had happened.  The king sent him back with honors to Alexandria and was angry with Eusebius, patriarch of Constantinople, repenting of having made him patriarch.  Then the bishops who had gathered in the city of Tyre went to Jerusalem, and found that Athanasius, patriarch of Alesandria, had preceded them and had consecrated the churches.  They celebrated a big party for the dedication of the churches, with great joy, and returned each to his own see.  This happened in the thirtieth year of the reign of Constantine (56).

Eusebius, patriarch of Constantinople, died excommunicate, having held the office for two years.  After him Paul was made patriarch of Constantinople, in his place (57).  He held the office for four years and King Constantine deposed him.

20. The King Constantine gave orders that no Jew should live in Jerusalem or pass through it, and he also ordered to put to death all those who refused to become Christians (58). Many pagans and Jews then embraced the Christian faith and Christianity took root everywhere.  It was then told to king Constantine that the Jews had become Christians for fear of being killed but that they continued to follow their religion.  The king said: “How will we know?” Paul, the patriarch of Constantinople, said: “The Torah forbids [eating] pork and it is for this reason that the Jews do not eat meat. Order that the throats of pigs be cut, that the meat should be cooked, and fed to the members of this community.  In this way you will find that all those who refuse to eat are still tied to their religion.” King Constantine replied. “But if the Torah forbids the pig, why is lawful for us to eat its flesh and make others eat it?”. Patriarch Paul replied: “You must know that Christ our Lord, repealed all provisions of the Torah and gave us a new law which is the Gospel. He said in the Holy Gospel: “Not everything that enters the mouth defiles a man (and he meant any food). What defiles a man is just what comes out of his mouth” (59), i.e. folly and wickedness, and all that is similar to this. The apostle Paul said so in his first letter to the Corinthians: “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will destroy both” (60). And it is also written in the Acts: “Peter, chief of the Apostles, was in the city of Jaffa (61) in the house of a tanner named Simon. At the sixth hour of the day he went out on the terrace of the house to pray, but a deep sleep fell upon him and saw the sky open. From the sky he saw a mantle descend to earth in which there was every kind of quadruped, wild beasts, flying things and birds of the air, and he heard a voice saying: ‘O Peter, get up, kill and eat.’ Peter replied: ‘O Lord, I have never eaten anything unclean.’ But a second time the voice said: ‘Eat, what God has cleansed you must not consider unclean.’ The voice repeated it three times. Then the mantle was taken back into heaven.” (62) Peter was amazed and wondered what it meant. Because of that vision and because of what Christ our Lord said in the Holy Gospel, Peter and Paul ordered us to eat the flesh of every quadruped and therefore it is not wrong to eat pork or any other animal.”  The king then ordered him to kill the pigs, cook the meat and put it at the doors of the churches in all his kingdom on Easter Sunday.  To everyone coming out of the church a bite of pork was given, and those who refused to eat it were killed.  Thus it was that many Jews were killed in that circumstance.  Constantine erected a wall around Byzantium and called Constantinople.  This was in his thirtieth year of the reign.  Helena, mother of Constantine, died at the age of eighty years. Constantine reigned for thirty-two years and died.  He lived in all for sixty-five years. He left three children.  The first was given his name, Constantine, he had called the second with the name of his father, Constantius, and the third was called Constans (63).  To Constantine he gave the city of Constantinople, to Constantius Antioch, Syria and Egypt, and Rome to Constans.

21. As for Sabur, son of Hurmuz, king of the Persians, he founded near Susa a city called Khuwwat-Sabar (64), and he founded another in the region of as-Sawad called Firūz-Sabur (65) and he founded many others in Sind (66) and in Sigistān (67).  He also had many streams dug out and built many bridges and viaducts.  Growing old, his strength failed him, his vision blurred and his eyelids drooped over his eyes.  So he sent his messenger to the king of India because he was searching for a good doctor and the king of India sent him a doctor named George who treated him in a way that let him regain his sight and enable him to ride.  As a sign of gratitude the king ordered him to choose a city to live in, and he chose Khuwwat-Sabur, also known as al-Karkh (68), which is near the city of Susa, and he lived there until he died.

Constantine banned crucifixion – sources

Yesterday someone told me that crucifixion was banned by Constantine.  I wondered how we knew this.

The actual edict has not survived, and is not included in our collections of Roman law.  Our source is only Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History I, 8:13, it seems.[1]  First Sozomen:

He regarded the cross with peculiar reverence, on account both of the power which it conveyed to him in the battles against his enemies, and also of the divine manner in which the symbol had appeared to him. He took away by law the crucifixion customary among the Romans from the usage of the courts. He commanded that this divine symbol should always be inscribed and stamped whenever coins and images should be struck, and his images, which exist in this very form, still testify to this order.

There is no indication of the date on which this was enacted, however.

Aurelius Victor, De Caesaribus, 41:4 is also referenced in this context:

Denique Constantinus cunctos hostes honore ac fortunis manentibus texit recepitque, eo pius, ut etiam vetus teterrimumque supplicium patibulorum et cruribus suffringendis primus removerit.

Finally, Constantine received all his enemies with honour and protected them by allowing them to retain their properties, and was so conscious of his obligations that he was also the first to abolish the long-established and utterly frightful punishment of the forked gibbet and the breaking of legs.[2]

Whether this passage refers to crucifixion depends on the meaning of the word patibulum, which can mean a number of things.  I find online everywhere the statement that the “patibulum” is the term for the cross-piece of a cross, as “stipes” for the upright; but without any adequate references.

The translation of patibulum given above – “forked gibbet” – is the standard meaning, and it may be found in Lewis and Short.  In Du Cange we find that the term was used for the cross itself in the medieval period.   But dictionaries are not reliable on technical terms.  Thus in the fragments of Plautus (Carbonaria, fr. 2) we find a usage of patibulum in connection with crucifixion, perhaps as the cross-piece:

…patibulum ferat per urbem, deinde offigitur cruci. [3]

…he carries the patibulum through the city, then he is fastened to the cross.

Fortunately Gunnar Samuelson has written a magnificent volume on the terminology.[4]  Unfortunately he does not discuss the use of the word in Aurelius Victor.  Nor does Hengel in his older study of the subject.[5]  Samuelson gives various instances of varied usages, but concludes (p.286, with references):

2.4.6. patibulum

patibulum is a pole or a beam in a broad sense. When used in connection with punishments of humans it is also a pole or a beam in a wide sense. It could be used as a punishment or torture tool used in connection with crux and perhaps also as an equivalent to crux. A condemned person could be forced to walk attached to a patibulum, but it is not sure in what way or in what sense he or she walked. It may be only a variant of walking sub furca. The etymology could be interpreted as support for the notion that a spreading of arms was connected with the noun. In the studied texts patibulum is used in the following sense:

patibulum – “a beam or pole in a wide sense; a beam, a yoke or perhaps a standing pole to which victims were attached (by their limbs); a beam or a yoke which a condemned person carried with outspread arms.”

The statement of Aurelius Victor, considering that it refers to “breaking the legs”, is indeed probably a reference to crucifixion; but perhaps we should be just a little careful here, and mark it as merely a possible.

  1. [1] H/T Sarah Bond, via Dorothy King’s blog, here, for some references.
  2. [2] H.W. Bird (tr.), Aurelius Victor: De Caesaribus, Liverpool (1994), p.49.
  3. [3] M. Hengel, Crucifixion, 1977, p.62.
  4. [4] Gunnar Samuelson, Crucifixion in Antiquity, Mohr-Siebeck, 2013. Preview of p.191 here.
  5. [5] M. Hengel, Crucifixion, 1977.


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