Snapshots of the secret world

They play an unacknowledged part in our universe, yet when they vanish few remember them, and there are no records of what they looked like or contain.

For the last few years, there have been a number of websites which contain large numbers of books in PDF or other format, making them available for free download.  The books are often (but not always) in copyright.

Here’s a screen shot of one of them, which I was sent.


I’m giving this, because these sites vanish quickly, and in a few years time, we may be curious to see what was available in the “Wild West” days of the internet!

Few of us could afford to purchase all the material held here, or even much of it. As library facilities collapse, as inter-library loans become prohibitively dear, such sites are invaluable to researchers who live in rural areas or do not have access to the very extensive (and expensive) collections of major research libraries.

The prices demanded for academic eBooks are very high, when you consider that they require no manufacturing process, and cost nothing to distribute.  It is not unusual to see a frivolous demand for an eBook which is the same as that for a paper copy.  Such greed naturally creates incentives for piracy.

In some countries the ruling elite behaves as if it is almost entirely uninterested in the welfare of the general public.  In Germany the elite have made that clear by importing 1 million able-bodied foreigners in one year and quartering them on the hapless German population.  That’s not going to be good for the Germans; but clearly there is profit to the elite in votes and cheap labour.

But that German elite has the same contempt when it comes to learning, for it has allowed the publishing companies to dictate some of the most oppressive “copyright” laws in the world.  One consequence of this is that there is really very little of use on the German internet.  Another consequence is that Google Books is basically useless outside the USA.

In fact there is not even much Wifi in Germany, because those same greedy publishers made “laws” such that Wifi hotspots were legally responsible for ensuring that only “legal” content could be viewed, despite the free-for-all nature of the internet.  (Although the elite have realised that this is inconvenient to themselves, so are going to rescind that particular despotic law).  To the German elite, seemingly, the German people are just cattle and sheep, to be fleeced.

But it is not just Germany, although that country is singularly unfortunate.  The same attitude may be found among the ruling elite in many countries, including the USA.

One symptom of this disconnect is the banning of pirate PDF websites, at the behest of publishers, without considering what the public welfare really is, or should be.  Education is essential.  Books are essential for education.  Yet access to books is obstructed by the greed of companies that charge impossible prices for textbooks.

I don’t know what the answer is.  But I really wish that our ruling elites would address it.

From my diary

My house is still being painted.  My books are still in 70 plastic crates in the garage.  But this weekend I’ve managed to sneak my laptop back into the house.  I’ve brought in the router and got my internet working again!

It is such a relief to be able to get online at home.  I can get online at work at my current client, but since I know that their office network is subject to repeated virus outbreaks, I don’t connect to my email there.

Here I am still surrounded by painter’s gear, and nearly everything still is packed up in boxes in my garage.  The smell of paint is everywhere.  The carpets are being taken up, and there is dust and dirt in all sorts of places.  Living in a building site is challenging, particularly when you have to wipe the paint off your taps, or your vacuum cleaner, where the painter has carelessly handled them.  It has become part of my routine every evening when I get home.

Also I’m finding that one thing leads to another.  What was originally just a job painting all the walls and ceilings and white woodwork is now going to involve replacing all the carpets.  Pulling up the carpets reveals damaged floorboards.  I’m trying to get a carpenter in, and deal with this.  My, these people are difficult to contact!

Tacking down a damaged floorboard was enough to stick a nail through a pipe, which meant a plumber, which meant lots of air into the radiators.  I’m still bleeding the radiators at intervals.

Meanwhile I decided that my original choice of replacement carpet colour – beige – would be depressing when it’s dark or raining, i.e. for 9 months of the year.  So I’m spending all my spare moments traipsing around carpet shops.  I would just buy the same type as I currently have;  but they do not make it any more.  You can only buy what they sell.

This leads me to wonder … will future archaeologists date our dwellings, not by types of non-existent pottery, but by types of polyester carpet?

So there’s no time for Thoughts on Antiquity.  But then, I am lucky.  If I was married, I’d have no time to do anything.

The most interesting thing today is a 1954 aerial photograph of the London Mithraeum, which was here.  Sadly it’s not that clear which bit is the temple.


Not very exciting, perhaps… but as good as it gets!

I’ve been thinking again about ways to manage my books.  One item that I could happily dispense with is Bart Ehrman’s Forgery and Counterforgery, a big fat worthless book of which I reviewed bits some time back.   I wish someone would make a PDF of it; I’m  not sure that a Kindle download is quite as useful for reference purposes.

I’d also like to see the back of my Ancient Christian Writers series volumes.  I don’t have many, but they’d be far more useful in eBook form, and they would take up less space.  But I couldn’t see any sign that you can buy eBooks of them.

Basically if it is a translation of an ancient text, in the majority of cases, I don’t want it in paper form.

The exception, of course, is translations that one can read for pleasure.  My copy of the Penguin translation by Betty Radice of Pliny’s Letters is one such example.  It can be read for pleasure, and I have done so, many times.

The four volumes of Cicero’s letters to Atticus, and to his friends are another – and I have no idea at all how to get an eBook of these, long out of print, volumes.  I’m not quite sure whether I will read through these again.  At the moment I am not in the mood; but I have done so several times in the past.

Maybe the answer is to find some young man with time on his hands who would sit in front of the scanner for a few hours, and create eBooks of some of my crucial books.  But where do I find this person?

Somehow, I must regain control of my book collection.

I’ve also been reading Lindsey Davis’ “Flavia Albia” books on my smartphone, via Kindle.  Davis is famous for the “Falco” series of Roman detective novels, set in the Flavian period.  The “Flavia Albia” series are “Son of Falco”; or rather, “Daughter of Falco”.  I bought the first three volumes on Kindle and read them, and they slipped down easily enough.

Recently volume 4 of this series appeared, and I bought it on paper; but in fact I would have been just as happy or happier with it on Kindle.  I don’t know that I shall read it again, so the paperback will go out to a charity shop.

Maybe one-time or two-time novels should be read electronically, rather than on paper?  But … what about our eyes?  Eyestrain is such a problem for smartphone users.

Today I broke off from my house-related chores, and took a restorative walk by the sea.  While doing so, I saw that a new information board had appeared there.  This referred to a building on the sea front, which was recently – within a year or two? – demolished, and was called the “long shelter”.  I always felt that it was an attractive building, and that it should have been repaired rather than demolished.

Well, the information board told me that the demolition took place in 2008!  Was it really 8 years ago?  How fast the years now fall, like leaves in autumn after the first frost.

I was reminded yesterday of “Thoughts on Antiquity”.  This was the blog, at, on which I started blogging.  It was the blog of Chris Weimer, who invited me to write a few posts.  These I copied here long ago; and just as well, for his blog has pretty much vanished.  Looking at, I see the last post was 24 May 2010.  The last snapshot to show it was on September 26, 2010, and the next snapshot, December 17 2010, shows only an HTTP 301 code.  I wonder what happened to it?  Indeed I wonder what happened to him?  I see that I have an email address … I must write and ask.

I’ve had a series of minor health problems for most of the year, although I don’t believe anything is really wrong.  On Tuesday I go into hospital as an outpatient for a somewhat unpleasant examination.  Wish me luck!

Petronius Secundus, Prefect of Egypt, at the Colossi of Memnon

The “Colossi of Memnon” at Luxor in Egypt were a recognised tourist sight in antiquity, because one of them made a “singing” noise at dawn.  Few will be aware that the lower portions of the statues are covered with ancient graffiti and inscriptions.

Among these, I learn from David Blocker, is an inscription by “Petronius”.  This is not the literary author, Petronius Arbiter, but rather the prefect of Egypt under Domitian, Petronius Secundus.  The inscription is as follows:

Imp(eratore) Domitiano
Caesare Aug(usto) German(ico) XVI c(onsule)
T(itus) Petronius Secundus pr(aefectus) Aeg(ypti)
audit Memnonem hora I pr(idie) Idus Mart(ias)
et honoravit eum versibus Graecis
infra scriptis:
φθέγξαο Λατοΐδα, σὸν γὰρ μέρος ὧδε κάθηται,
Μέμνων ἀκτεῖσιν βαλλόμενος πυρίναις.
curante T(ito) Attio Musa prae[f](ecto) coh(ortis) II


When the emperor Domitian Caesar Augustus Germanicus was consul for the 16th time, T. Petronius Secundus, prefect of Egypt, heard Memnon at the first hour on the day before the Ides of March, and honoured him with the Greek verses written below:

“You sent forth your song, O Memnon, because a part of you is seated here, when the son of Latona struck you with his brilliant rays.”

This work carried out by T. Attius Musa, Prefect of the 2nd cohort of Thebans.[1]

The date is 92 AD.  The graffito makes clear that it was the action of the sun that caused the sound.

Early travellers drew and published pictures of the statues and the graffiti, the latter often recorded very inaccurately.  Some tweets of these can be found here, although not ours.  French translations of the inscriptions can be found online here.

The statues themselves are actually of Amenophis III, and originally stood in front of his now-vanished mortuary temple.  But an earthquake damaged one of them.  After this, at dawn, the statue vibrated and gave out this peculiar noise.  The noise ceased after Septimius Severus had the statue repaired in the 3rd century AD.


  1. [1] The inscription is CIL III 37 = ILS 8759d = Bernand Memnon 13.  André et Étienne Bernand, Les Inscriptions grecques et latines du colosse de Memnon, Bibliothèque d’étude de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale, vol. 31, Paris (1960).  The inscriptions are online here.  The item is 217995, IGR I,5 1198.

From my diary

I have lived at my current address for nearly 20 years.  When I took possession, on 10th February 1998, I was staying in a hotel with my property in storage.  So I arranged for the place to be painted throughout before I moved in, on the 20th.  I have never been able to arrange for a painter to work without moving out again, so the house decoration has gradually grown rather tired.  It is not bad, but it won’t do for another 20 years.  I must repaint now.

This summer I was finally able to find a painter who was able and willing to do the deed.  He arrives on Monday 17th October, 2016, in fact, if all goes well – for these gentry are notoriously unreliable.  He will move large chunks of furniture around, in order to paint.

But there is one important exception.  Nobody can move bookcases which are full of books.  So this requires me to empty my book cases, which are mostly in my study bedroom.  This I have been doing, for over a week now.  The cartons I have placed in my garage; 24 of them so far.

It is difficult to find cartons suitable for books.  I have been driven to buying 32 litre shallow “underbed” plastic boxes with lids, available at £3 each, from Wilkinsons.  This evening I collected a further 30.

The process of packing is itself a painful one. Without a copious supply of boxes, it is even more stressful.  You find yourself agonising over how to fit stuff into the boxes.  With enough boxes, you don’t worry.  Buy lots of boxes.  It reduces the stress.

Tonight I have at last emptied every visible shelf in my study.  However there still remain many shelves in the large cupboard, including a stack of academic books.  Even these I have started, and may hope to complete tomorrow night.  This is well; for I have little space remaining in my garage.  It has been a heavy task for a man no longer young.  Will I ever have the strength to do it again?

In a way, this makes me think.  Should I really own so many books that I can’t manage them?  I say that I own many; but it is little more than 3,000, I would guess.  How many of these books will I never look at again?  It is all very well to retain books, especially academic books.  But I do wish that I had almost all the academic books in PDF, rather than in paper.  Will I have another purge, I wonder?

Clearing my shelves is like a journey into my own past.  I come across offprints, send unsolicited by a kindly academic.  Vast amounts of old hard disks litter my cupboard.  There are endless dictionaries of ancient Greek, from the days when I hoped to write a Greek translation tool.  Should I dispose of these?  Probably I should … for I no longer have the energy that I did.  In other cases I come across books that I know I will never reread, for I have read them out over the years.  Yet they are part of me, and made me who I am.  What to do?

Men of my age commonly deceive themselves that they will have more time when they retire.  If any of my generation can ever afford to retire, they may find different.

I spent two months at home this summer, in indifferent health.  Five days ago I went back to work, and found the first two days very awful.  I then had some very stressful and tiring days.  Yet … I find myself more alert, fitter, and in better health, now that I am working.  The “curse of Adam”, that all of us must work, turns out to be a blessing.  With “retirement” often comes a vegetable state.

As eBooks become more common, possibly it will be possible for me to buy or otherwise acquire eBooks of some of the academic stuff.  I must invest the money, I think; and buy back control of my shelves!

A Japanese Edo-period woodblock image of the Roman forum

Here’s a curiosity!  Have you ever wondered what Rome would look like, to someone from the alien cultures of China or Japan?

David Blocker kindly emailed me the following image, which he found on Wikipedia here.  It was made by a Japanese artist who had never seen Rome, and to whom a ruined stone city was utterly alien since he lived in a world constructed mostly of wood.


I learn from Wikipedia that the artist was Utagawa Toyoharu (d. 1814), and is based on an 18th century western print of various monuments of Rome.  It belongs to the Edo period, when Japan was closed to westerners.

Fascinating.  Thank you David!

The letter of Tiberius to Pilate (Epistola Tiberii ad Pilatum)

A little while ago I wrote a post on the apocryphal Letter of Pilate to Tiberius, which is a Latin text of the renaissance period.  Perhaps it was written as a composition exercise, or something, but it is not ancient.

A correspondent asked me about the date of another item in the same bunch of apocryphal texts, the so-called Letter of Tiberius to Pilate (Epistola Tiberii ad Pilatum).

This item is a Greek text, which has been dated on linguistic grounds to no earlier than the 11th century AD.[1]  The Greek text itself was printed by M.R. James in Texts and Studies 5 (1893), 78-81, with an introduction on p.xl-l; these were reprinted with the same page numbers as Apocrypha Anecdota. The introduction begins as follows:

A very much later effort of the ecclesiastical romancer is the Letter of Tiberius to Pilate. This has been twice printed, and both  times very badly, by Birch and Fleck. I think it is just worth while—seeing that both the editions are rather uncommon books— to give here a text which I have constructed from a comparison of the two.

“Birch” is A. Birch, Auctarium Codicis Apocryphi N. T. Fabricani, Fasc. i, Havniae (1804), p.172; and the text is printed from Codex Vindobonensis 246.  “Fleck” is F.F. Fleck, Wissenschaftliche Reise, Band ii, Abth. ii, Leipzig (1837), p.145; and he prints the text from Codex Taurinensis Regius Graecus C. ii. 5 (no. cccii).  It is likely that each just printed the manuscript as it was before him – ah, how easy to do this, when you don’t have to give a facing translation! – and so James’ otherwise odd proceeding does have scholarly value.

J.K. Elliot, The Apocryphal New Testament, p.224 states:

Although this is a Greek text, it has a typically Western view of Pilate regarding him as a criminal. The Eastern churches, and the Coptic in particular, regarded him as a saint and martyr. It is late in date (possibly from the eleventh century), and has affinities with the Acta Pilati (Greek B).

Although Tischendorf knew the text of the letter in two separate manuscripts (Vindobon.-Nessel 246 and Paris 1771) according to his introduction to Evangelia Apocrypha (pp. lxxix f.), he chose not to include it.

From this we learn of a better shelfmark for the Vienna manuscript, and of a Paris copy.  I wonder whether the Turin manuscript still exists, however, after the fire of 1904?

An abbreviated translation of the work is given again by M.R. James in his Apocryphal New Testament (1924), p.156-7.  There is an introduction and translation in Bart Ehrman and Zlatko Plese, The Other Gospels: Accounts of Jesus from Outside the New Testament, OUP (2014), 285-8.[2], which is apparently a subset of his Apocryphal Gospels: Texts and Translations, 2011, p.529.  The translation is as follows:

The Letter of Tiberius to Pilate

This is the reply of Caesar Augustus and sent to Pilate Pontius, who holds the rule in the eastern part of the kingdom. He also wrote his judicial decision and sent it with the courier Rahab, to whom he gave two thousand soldiers as well.

“Because you condemned Jesus of Nazareth to a violent death that was completely unjust, and before condemning him to death you handed him over to the insatiably furious Jews, and you showed no sympathy for this righteous man, but dipping your pen you delivered a disastrous judicial decision, and having him flogged you handed him over to be crucified, without cause, and you received gifts for condemning him to death, sympathizing with him in what you said, but in your heart handing him over to the lawless Jews—or all this you will be brought to me as a prisoner to defend yourself and render to me an account of what you have done, on behalf of this one whom you handed over to death without cause. Oh your shamelessness and hardness! When I heard about this in a report, I was moved in my soul and cut to the core. For a certain woman has come to me, calling herself a disciple of this man; she is Mary Magdalene, from whom others testify that he had cast out seven demons. She has testified that this one performed great healings: he made the blind see, the lame walk, and the deaf hear; he cleansed lepers and, to put it simply, as she herself testified, he performed these healings by a word alone. How could you permit him to be crucified without cause? Even if you did not receive him as a god, at least you should have sympathized with him as a physician. But even from your own treacherous writing that has come to me you have pronounced your penalty, since you write that he is greater even than the gods that we worship. How could you deliver him over to death? But just as you condemned this one unjustly and delivered him to death, I in turn will deliver you to death justly. And not only you, but also all your councillors and companions, from whom you received the gifts for his death.”

As he gave the letter to the letter carriers, Augustus’s judicial sentence was also given them in a written order, that they were to kill the entire race of the Jews with the sword, and that Pilate was to be brought to Rome as a condemned prisoner, along with the leaders of the Jews, those who were then the rulers of the region, Archaelaus, the son of the despised Herod, and his companion Philip, and those who were their chief priests, both Caiaphas and his father-in-law, Annas, and all the leaders of the Jews. When Rahab went forth with the soldiers, he did as he was commanded, and slew the entire male race of the Jews with the sword, and the gentiles sexually defiled their profane wives; and the loathsome posterity of their father, Satan, came to life and rose up. The courier took Pilate, Archaelaus, and also Philip, Annas, and Caiaphas, and all the leaders of the Jews, and led them as prisoners to Rome. But it came about that while they were passing through a certain island named Crete, Caiaphas was miserably and violently severed from life. When they took him in order to bury him, the ground would not receive him at all, but cast him out. Seeing this, the entire multitude took stones with their own hands and cast them on him, and so buried him. But the others came to anchor near Rome.

Now there was a custom among the ancient rulers that if someone was condemned to death but should happen to see their face, he would be spared from his condemnation. And so Caesar ordered that Pilate not see him, so that he might not be saved from death. Because of this command, they bricked him up in a certain cave, and left him there. But they rolled Annas up in the skin of an ox, and as the leather dried out under the sun, he was pressed tightly in it, so that his intestines came out through his mouth, and it violently tore away his wretched life. But all the other Jews who were given over to him he delivered to death. They killed these by the sword. But Archelaus, son of the despised Herod, and his companion Philip, he ordered to be impaled.

One day the king went out to hunt and was pursuing a certain deer. The deer came to the opening of the cave and stood there. Now Pilate was about to be killed by the hand of Caesar. That the inevitable might be fulfilled, Pilate moved forward to see the ruler, while the deer was standing in front of him. Caesar placed an arrow on his bow to shoot the deer, and the arrow passed through the opening and killed Pilate.

All who believe in Christ, our true God and savior, give him glory and greatness. For to him is due the glory, honor, and worship, with his Father who is without beginning, and the Spirit who is of his same nature, now and always, even unto the ages. Amen.

The text is, in other words, a medieval fiction.  It is part of the numberless medieval folk-stories with supernatural elements which are so alien to the modern western mind, but so typical of the medieval imagination.

  1. [1] R. Gounelle, “Rapport de Pilate, réponse de Tibère à Pilate, comparution de Pilate,” in: P. Geoltrain & J.-D. Kaestli, Écrits apocryphes chrétiens, vol. 2, Paris: Gallimard (2005) pp. 304-7. Via here.
  2. [2] A title that would have irritated M. R. James, who would have found it annoying that any professional scholar would propagate a work under such a title.  It is calculated to suggest to the unwary reader that these texts are somehow equivalent in age and status to the New Testament but merely not included in it by its compilers.  James patiently explains over several pages why William Hone and his Apocryphal New Testament – which attempted the same trick – is misleading, and adds, “The point is this, that when Hone or any one else speaks in terms which suggest that our New Testament is the result of a selection made by a council of the Church or any similar body, from among a number of competing books which might just as well have been included in it as not, he is very much astray.”

More paintings of the Meta Sudans

The vanished Roman fountain next to the Colosseum, demolished by Mussolini, but not before being photographed, is a long-term interest of mine.  In its later years, the monument was only half its former height.  But if we look at older paintings of the scene, we can see how it was during the 18th century.

A correspondent, Ezio, has sent in a useful list of links from which I have extracted the following images.  Click on the image to see it properly.

Let’s start with a 1694 painting by Jacob de Heusch, on Wikimedia Commons.


This shows the Meta Sudans, with the vegetation on the top which is characteristic of the monument before it was reshaped in the 19th century.  In the background is the Arch of Titus, as it was before Valadier extracted it from later buildings, and the entrance to the forum.

In Heusch’s painting, the fountain is still in use!  But I fear that this is artistic licence, just as his depiction of the Colosseum is.  So we don’t learn much from this except that the interior on this side was already gouged out, presumably by treasure hunters.

Next we have Caspar van Wittel’s paintings from 1707-1711, one of which I have shown before in a low-resolution form.  These are here, here, and here.  Let’s show the Meta Sudans from the first of these, against the background of the Arch of Constantine (so on the other side):


I have auto-leveled the colours, so that we can see it clearly.  This has no vegetation, but shows a tall, slender monument which has been gouged on the side facing the Arch of Titus also.

The third picture is from the same angle as the Heusch painting:


Sadly the online image is still low resolution; but this shows the vegetation at the top, the bulge part way up, the gouged out interior, and the Arch of Titus in the background.

Finally let’s see the painting by Panini (1747), which I have shown before, but this time at a decent resolution.


Again I have auto-leveled this.  It shows that the vegetation starts at the top and trails over towards the Arch of Constantine.  The bulge around the middle – which appears on ancient coin depictions – is present clearly.

Thank you Ezio for these!

It is really worth tracking down these old paintings.  They show a Rome that no longer exists, and there is historical data to be gleaned from them.

Materials for the study of the Ethiopian version of the history of al-Makin

The Arabic Christian historians are largely unknown.  Starting in the 9th century, the main ones are Agapius, Eutychius, al-Makin, Bar Hebraeus, and one whom I always forget.

Al-Makin wrote in the 13th century, and contains a version of the Testimonium Flavianum of Josephus, which appears in Shlomo Pines’ much-read but much-misunderstood paper on the subject.  But anyone wishing to consult the text of al-Makin, in Arabic, must find a manuscript; no printed edition exists.  I did attempt to do something about this, a few years ago, but in vain.

Al-Makin, like other Arabic texts, was translated into Ethiopian.  A correspondent writes to tell me about some sources for the Ethiopian version.

Firstly, an article on translation technique from Arabic to Ethiopic,  “Arabisch-äthiopische Übersetzungstechnik am Beispiel der Zena Ayhud (Yosippon) und des Tarika Walda-‘Amid” (i.e. “Arabic-Ethiopian translation techniques using the example of Zena Ayhud (Yosippon) and Tarika Walda-Amid”) by Manfred Kropp, with al-Makin as one of the examples, in the ZDMG, is now online in high resolution here.  In Ethiopian chronicles Al-Makin is known as Giyorgis Walda-Amid (George, son of Amid) while Tarika Walda-Amid (Chronicle of Walda-Amid) is the title given to his “Blessed Collection”.

Kropp has also published a book, Zekra Nagar – Die universalhistorische Einleitung nach Giyorgis Wala-Amid in der Chronikensammlung des Haylu aka (The preface to the Universal History of Giyorgis Walda-Amid in the Chronicle Collection of Haylu” – Haylu was an 18th c. Ethiopian prince).  There is a Google Books preview here.

Modern Ethiopians speak Amharic, not Classical Ethiopic or Ge’ez.  I learn that Prof. Sirgiw Gelaw from Addis Ababa University has prepared a translation of the Ge’ez version of Al-Makin into Amharic.  The manuscript is 560 pages long and is still waiting publication.

A manuscript copy of the Ethiopian version of the first part of Al-Makin – he divides his work into two parts, pre-Islam and post – is actually online at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, here.  The catalogue entry is here.

My thanks to Ezio for all this material!

A parchment fragment of Agrippa Castor “Against Basilides”?

A correspondent writes to tell me that there is a 5th century parchment item in the Bodleian Library in Oxford – a fragment from Egypt, of course – listed in the catalogue here, which the cataloguer attributes to Agrippa Castor:

Shelfmark:  MS. Gr. th. g. 3 (P)
Summary Catalogue no:  31812
Summary of contents: Theological controversy with B (? part of Agrippa Castor’s lost refutation of Basileides).
Language: Greek
Origin: Egyptian
Date: 5th century (?)
Material: parchment

This is very interesting, and I could wish that the parchment was online.

Agrippa Castor wrote around 135 AD against the 24 books of the gnostic Basilides.  Unfortunately all his work is lost, and we know about him only from Eusebius (HE IV, c.7), Jerome (De Viris Illustribus c. 21), and Theodoret (Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium I, c.4, PG 349C).  The Eusebius is as follows:

5. But as there were at that time a great many members of the Church who were fighting for the truth and defending apostolic and ecclesiastical doctrine with uncommon eloquence, so there were some also that furnished posterity through their writings with means of defense against the heresies to which we have referred.

6. Of these there has come down to us a most powerful refutation of Basilides by Agrippa Castor, one of the most renowned writers of that day, which shows the terrible imposture of the man.

7. While exposing his mysteries he says that Basilides wrote twenty-four books upon the Gospel, and that he invented prophets for himself named Barcabbas and Barcoph, and others that had no existence, and that he gave them barbarous names in order to amaze those who marvel at such things; that he taught also that the eating of meat offered to idols and the unguarded renunciation of the faith in times of persecution were matters of indifference; and that he enjoined upon his followers, like Pythagoras, a silence of five years.

8. Other similar things the above-mentioned writer has recorded concerning Basilides, and has ably exposed the error of his heresy.

Jerome writes as follows:

Agrippa surnamed Castor, a man of great learning, wrote a strong refutation of the twenty-four volumes which Basilides the heretic had written against the Gospel, disclosing all his mysteries and enumerating the prophets Barcabbas and Barchob and all the other barbarous names which terrify the hearers, and his most high God Abraxas. whose name was supposed to contain the year according to the reckoning of the Greeks. Basilides died at Alexandria in the reign of Hadrian, and from him the Gnostic sects arose. In this tempestuous time also, Cochebas leader of the Jewish faction put Christians to death with various tortures.

Theodoret writes:

And Basilides also had prophets, Barcabas and Barcoph and some others equally barbarian. And he formed other most abominable myths from these which I have not included because of the damage to those who will happen upon them.

And Isidore, the son of Basilides, with a certain addition, strengthened the mythology of [his] father. And Agrippa, surnamed Castor, Irenaeus, Clement’s Stromata and Origen struggled against these, while contending for the truth.[1]

Catalogues of fragments are not a reliable guide to the contents.  No doubt the fragment utters some anti-gnostic sentiments, perhaps mentions Basilides; and it would be most interesting to see it!

  1. [1] Glenn Melvin Cope, An analysis of the heresiological method of Theodoret of Cyrus in the “Haereticarum fabularum compendium”, thesis, Catholic University of America, 1990; p.92.

Reasons to hate Microsoft, part 2

A beautiful morning, I have just got up, and already I hate Microsoft.

That’s because part of my routine is to turn on my laptop and look at my email.  This I did and … it wouldn’t let me in.

I don’t have a password on my laptop; it never leaves my house, and only I use it.  But … yesterday I installed some software via the Windows Store – a first – and it made me login with my “Microsoft account”, and then reset the password, and a load of other nonsense.  Then Apple made me do the same.  I did my task and thought no more about it.

This morning I discover that Windows silently applied that “Microsoft Account”, not to the Windows Store as the display suggested, but to my entire computer.  And that is why I was presented with a demand for a password.  Of course I don’t know it – it’s a junk password.  I don’t *want* to login to my PC using that account.  So I requested shutdown, to see if I might get the option to “login as another user”.

Nope.  What I got was “we are installing an upgrade”.  Very very slowly.

They’re still doing it.  Almost half an hour later, it’s “working on updates 15%”.  I’d like my breakfast, please, but Microsoft have forced me this morning – twice – to fight with their software.

I’m typing this from a backup laptop.  I’ve found easily some Google results that suggest I can get rid of the unwanted account from my PC.  I imagine that an hour’s work will undo the havoc: an hour of my life gone, simply because of corporate arrogance.

Is it too much to ask, Microsoft, that you ask me before you screw up my morning?

UPDATE: An hour and a half after I first guilelessly wandered into my study, things seem to be back to normal.  I’ve returned the PC to use a local account.  In the process I found that Microsoft decided that I wanted to use tapping on my touchpad, so I had to work out where that was and disable it.  Then, when I restarted, it didn’t go to the desktop, but sat, displaying some pretty landscape picture – yes, they’d decided, silently, to force display of a picture on the “lock screen”.  I disabled that too.

Amusingly they also fiddled with my taskbar.  I don’t use Edge – does anyone? – so I put Internet Explorer as the left-most icon.  Microsoft primly moved Edge back to the prime position, and moved IE two along.

We need legislation.  This is a lovely morning, and half of it is gone, and I have no redress, purely because of arrogance by someone whom I have never heard of.