Archive for the 'Announcements' Category

From my diary

I’ve got a translation of another legend of St Nicholas of Myra ready for release as soon as I can find some time.  This is a translation of De Stratelatis.  I’ve also commissioned a translation of the Encomium of Methodius ad Theodorum – it will be interesting to see if we have more luck this time.

I’ve also been looking at the Latin material about St Nicholas, ascribed to John the Deacon.  It looks quite doubtful that there is any decent text available of this.  I’ve also ordered a volume of material about the St Nicholas legends, which should arrive in a couple of weeks, and, I hope, will give me some more orientation on the material.

I’m pretty busy in my offline life at the moment, so I haven’t had the time to do anything on any of my projects.  The flak should stop flying in a couple of weeks, tho.  An old friend has invited me to an Italy trip in late April, but it probably won’t be convenient to do more than fly out for a weekend.

Notes on the Life of Nicholas of Myra by John the Deacon

Frequently listed among the important sources for the legends of St Nicholas of Myra is the Life written in Latin by John the Deacon.  This is not printed in Anrich’s collection of Greek sources, which is a nuisance.  Various versions of John’s text were created in the Middle Ages, and there is a translation of something into English online here.  But where to find John’s text?

Today I happened on some useful information.  The old Catholic Encyclopedia article on John the Deacon tells us:

(2) John, deacon of Naples, d. after 910. This deacon, or head of a diaconia at the church of St. Januarius of Naples, flourished towards the end of the ninth and the beginning of the tenth century, …. A biography of St. Nicholas of Mira (ed. Cardinal Mai in “Spicilegium Romanum”, IV, 323 sqq.) is not by this John but by another author of the same name.

The volume of Spicilegium Romanum is here, in a poor-quality scan.  This is indeed a different text to that translated above.  It is on p.323-339.  But surely so widely known a text as John the Deacon has been printed before this?

This leads me, of course, to a text that I have never consulted before: the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina, whose volumes are online here: Vol. 1. A – I and Vol. 2. K – Z, although not to non-US readers because of the greed of German publishers. Thankfully a V1 is here and V2 can be found here.  On p.890 (=p.203 of the PDF), we find an entry for Nicholas of Myra.

In the BHL we find the Life of John the Deacon in first place (BHL 6104-9), and printed by Falconius in Sancti confessoris pontificis … Nicolai acta primigenia (Neapoli, 1751), 112-22, containing chapters 1-13, and also on p.126.  Falconius is here, and the text starts here.

After John’s work there follows in the BHL a mass of other Latin versions of the Life, too many to be of any interest.  But it might be interesting to translate John’s Life of Nicholas into English.

The Roman dice tower from Vettweiss-Froitzheim (=Vettweiß-Froitzheim Römisches Würfelturm aus Bronze)

Here’s a picture of a rather interesting item – a pyrgus or Roman dice tower, used to throw dice and prevent dishonest manipulation of the dice:

Roman dice tower. From Wikipedia

Roman dice tower. From Wikipedia

I found myself wondering what the other sides look like.  It wasn’t easy to find out much, so I thought I’d write up what I found.

Via this forum, I found an image of them (click on image for larger picture):

Roman dice tower - other two sides

Roman dice tower – other two sides

According to a forum post, the item is apparently 9.5 x 9.5 cm  and 22.5 cm high – about 9″ tall and just under 4″ x 4″.  The main inscription on the front reads Pictos victos, Hostis deleta, Ludite securi – “Now the Picts have been conquered and the enemies destroyed, play safely”.  The other words are utere felix vivas – “use and be lucky”.  It was found as a set of bronze plates in 1983, and reconstructed by the museum.  Originally the tower had battlements and four pine-cones on top.  Inside folded steps form a kind of staircase, down which the dice rolled.  A pair of dolphins at the front are either side of a little bell which rings when the dice comes out.  The lattice work is a series of circles and cross patterns, whose pattern is distinctive to the 4th century AD.  Note also that each word of the inscription is 6 letters.  Apparently an ancient dice game involved six and twelve letters.

I say apparently for a curious reason.  The item is held by a German museum of some sort, which is – apparently – anxious to ensure that nobody can find any information about it.  This infer from searching assiduously for such information.

There is a Wikipedia page in English (only), the Vettweiss-Froitzheim Dice Tower.  This links to the information page at the holding institution, the Rheinisches Landesmuseum of Bonn; but clicking on that link takes you, not to the item, but to a redirect to the front-page of some other Bonn museum, the Landesmuseum Bonn.  The English version of this page has not even a search page.  It’s utterly useless.  I did discover eventually a search box on the German-only page (!) but it returned no results.  Compared to the excellence of the British Museum website, it’s disappointing.

My search also indicated an offline article in Britannia from 2008, identifying some bone box-casings from Richborough as also the remains of a humbler dice tower.

Nicholas of Myra in the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca

The Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca (3rd ed) gives a list of hagiographical texts about St Nicholas of Myra, the origin of our Santa Claus.

As I am commissioning translations, I thought that I would run through this, in an abbreviated way, and see just what there is listed.  Nothing like typing it out, to get a feel for the material!  But of course it may be rather boring to read!

  • BHG 1347. Vita. Printed in G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos I (Leipzig, 1913), 3-55; cf. 56-59. Also in N.C. Falconius, Sancti Nicolai … acta primigenia (Neapoli, 1751), 1-29. But … this work is actually the Vita of Nicholas of Sion, not of Nicholas of Myra.
  • 1348. Vita by Michael the Archimandrite. Anrich I, 113-139.
  • 1348b. Vita praemetaphrastica. Inc. aceph. Anrich I, 268-275, but omitting most of a speech. Cf. Anrich II, 127-128.
  • 1348c. “Vita compilata”. Anrich I, 211-233, but with significant omissions.
  • 1348d. Miraculum de tribus filiabus. Chapters 25-28 of the “Vita compilata”.
  • 1348e. Miraculum. De muliere sanata. Chapter 47 of the “Vita compilata”.
  • 1348f. Nativitas. Chapters 1-13 of the “Vita compilata”.
  • 1349. Vita by Simeon Metaphrastes. Anrich I, 235-267; Falconius t. c. 86-108; PG 116, 317-356.
  • 1349a. Vita “Lycio-Alexandrina”. Anrich I, 301-311.
  • 1349b. Vita. Mentioned in Anrich II, 566; not printed but a manuscript given.
  • 1349c. Vita or Periodoi. Anrich I, 312-332.
  • 1349d. A related text, somehow printed in the same place in Anrich.
  • 1349e. Vita, like c and d. Not printed.
  • 1349k. Vita, inc. aceph. Not printed.
  • 1349s. Synaxarium et miracula. Anrich I, 205-209.
  • 1349t. Synaxarium brevius. Anrich II, 300, ann. 1.
  • 1349u. Epitome. Anrich I, 277-288.
  • 1349z. Acta seu Praxis de stratelatis. Anrich I, 67-77.
  • 1350. Second version of the same. Anrich I, 77-83; Falconius t.c. 30-34.
  • 1350a. Another version again. Anrich I, 83-91.
  • 1350b-k. The same story in various other forms, none available in printed form, and so of no immediate interest here.
  • 1351. Praxis de tributo. Anrich I, 98-102; Falconius 34-38.
  • 1351a. Second version of same. Anrich I, 102-110.
  • 1351s. Unpublished version of same.
  • 1352. Miraculum de imagine. Anrich I, 339-342; Falconius 82-86.
  • 1352a. Miracula sex. Anrich I, 168-197.
  • 1352b. Miracula duo. Anrich I, 361-363.
  • 1352c. Miraculum de navibus frumentariis. Anrich I, 288-299.
  • 1352d. Miraculum de arbore. Anrich I, 333-330.
  • 1352e. Miraculum de presbytero Siculo. Anrich I, 343.
  • 1352f. Another version. Anrich I, 344-345.
  • 1352g. Miraculum Catanense. Anrich I, 345-347.
  • 1352h. Same again. Anrich I, 347-349.
  • 1352i. Miraculum de Nicolao claudo. Anrich I, 349-352 ; cf. II, 567.
  • 1352j. Miraculum de Leone paralytico. Anrich I, 353.
  • 1352k. Miraculum Euripense. Anrich I, 354-357.
  • 1352m. Miraculum de pastore fure. Inc. aceph. Anrich I, 359-361, omissa clausula; cf. II, 133, 145.
  • 1352n. Miraculum de thesauro imperatorio. Anrich I, 365-368.
  • 1352p. Miraculum de colybis. Anrich I, 368-371.
  • 1352q. Miraculum de tribus pueris Cretensibus. Anrich II, 557-563, omisso prologo.
  • 1352r. Miraculum de Arnabandensibus. Anrich I, 59-61.
  • 1352s. Miraculum de Nicolao Presbeiensi. Anrich I, 61-62.
  • 1352t-x. Various excerpts and unpublished items.
  • 1352y. Vita a. Methodio (postea patr. CP.). Inc. prol. ad Theodorum. Anrich I, 140-150 ; iterum II, 546-556. — Emend. A. Brinkmann in Rheinisches Museum 69 (1914), 424-426.
  • 1352z. Laudatio a. Methodio patr. CP. (vel Basileo ep. Lacedaem.). Anrich I, 153-182. Insunt miracula tria illa de tribus filiabus, de navibus frumentariis et de stratelatis, deinde miracula tria post mortem patrata (= 1357-1360).
  • 1353-6. Thaumata tria, including prologue. Falconius t. c. 56-66; Anrich I, 185-197.
  • 1356y-z. Miracula tria post mortem patrata a. Methodio patr. CP. B. 7 (b) (vel Basileo ep. Lacedaem.). Anrich I, 167-168. Cf. II, 87-88.
  • 1357-60. I. De Ioanne auctoris patre. II. De sacerdote. III. De Petro scholario. Epilogus. Falconius t. c. 66-74; Anrich I, 169-182 (altera pars laudationis 6z = 1352z).
  • 1360a. Miracula VII. Not printed. See Anrich II, 91.
  • 1360b. Miracula VII post mortem patrata. Excerpts in Anrich I, 357-358 (de Antonio monacho naufrago). — Cf. Anrich II, 94-95.
  • 1360c,de, f. g. k and m. More unpublished miracles.
  • 1361. Miracula metrica a. Nicephoro Callisto. Inc. prol. Papadopoulos-Kerameus, Analecta Hieros. stachy. IV, 357-366. — Excerpts in Anrich I, 352-353, 363-364, 456-457.
  • 1361b. Translatio Barim sub Alexio Comneno. Anrich I, 435-449.  English translation here.[1]
  • 1361z. Prologus metricus in sequentem orationem a. Manuele Phila. E. Miller, Manuelis Philae carmina II (Parisiis, 1857), 337-339.
  • 1362. Laudatio a. Andrea Cretensi. Combefis, S. Andreae Cret. orationes 188-196; Falconius t. c. 75-81 (ubi Leoni VI imp. adscribitur); P.G. 97, 1192-1205 ; Anrich I, 419-428.
  • 1362b-c. Two more unpublished versions of the Laudatio of Andrew of Crete.
  • 1362z. Prologus metricus in sequentem orationem (a. Manuele Phila). Unprinted.
  • 1363. Laudatio a. Leone VI imp. P. Possinus, Leonis Augusti oratio in laudem S. Nicolai (Tolosae, 1644), 7-40; P.G. 107, 203-228 ; Akakios 145-159. — an except in Anrich II, 165-166.
  • 1364. Laudatio a. Neophyto incluso. Anrich I, 392-417, omissa maiore perorationis parte.
  • 1364a. Oratio a. « Theophane Cerameo». Scorsi 347-353; Palamas 218-222; P.G. 132, 905-917.
  • 1364b. Laudatio a. Georgio chartophylace. Excerpts: Anrich I,92-96.
  • 1364c. Laudatio a. Proclo ep. CP. Anrich I, 429-433.
  • 1364d. Laudatio a. Niceta Paphlagone. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 163-165.
  • 1364e. Laudatio. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 166-167, 568.
  • 1364f. Laudatio. Anrich II, 167-168.
  • 1364g. Laudatio a. Nicolao Cabasila. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 168-169.
  • 1364h. Laudatio. Anrich II, 568.
  • 1364i, k, and m. Various Laudationes. Unpublished. See Anrich II, 169, 568.
  • 1364n. Homilia. Unpublished.

There’s quite a lot there, but probably much of it is the same stuff again and again.  Good to see the full extent of it, tho.

  1. [1] “An anonymous Greek account of the transfer of the Body of Saint Nicholas from Myra in Lycia to Bari in Italy.” Translated by J. McGinley and H. Mursurillo in: Bolletino di S, Nicola, N. 10, Studi e testi, Bari: October 1980), 3-17

No grant from the Arts Council to translate Methodius from Old Slavonic

Last summer I wrote to the Arts Council, enquiring whether they would sponsor a translation of a couple of long works by Methodius of Olympus from Old Slavonic.  I usually pay for translations myself, but in this case the cost was beyond what I can reasonably afford myself. I was willing to pay a significant part of it, however.  But it would be a permanent benefit to the world.  So I thought I’d try.  The response was encouraging, and stated that they do fund translations.  So I set things up, and a couple of weeks ago I applied.

Today I received a letter telling me that my application was rejected on the grounds that it was unclear that the objective was an artistic work.  The letter made clear that the application had basically gone unread, and not even been subjected to examination or formal decision – i.e. that a box-ticker had rejected it.

This reason contradicts what I was told. Naturally I have written an email of enquiry to the person who invited me to apply.  I will make a telephone call next week as well.  But I suspect that I will just get fobbed off.

We live in an age where the individual can rarely break through.  The internet has given people like myself a way to contribute.  But once we enter the world of the official body, the real truth is probably that only corporate bodies and professional fundraisers, paid to do it, can hope to navigate the shoals and extract any money; and that these are the only applicants they really deal with.

I have always felt sympathy for the way that academics are forced to waste their time on these sorts of process; and that sympathy is not abated by this experience.  What I regret, really, is the time and energy wasted.  It is characteristic of a pointless application that you hear different things from different officials, because – in essence – you don’t matter to any of them.

It has to be said, though, that I don’t find dealing with bureaucracy enjoyable or productive.  For this reason I was reluctant to expose myself to that world in the first place.  The process of applying to the Arts Council itself pretty much excludes 99% of possible applicants, since it requires them to plough through a 50-page manual.  Another requirement, that funding must be found from more than one grant-making body, pretty much excludes everyone other than the organisations with access to databases of such people.  (I was going to just pay a proportion myself).  I do wish that my application had actually been read tho, rather than rejected by a box-ticker.

It is rather disappointing.  But probably people like us simply can’t get any money out of that system.  (Which leads one to ask: what is the point of it?)  I was willing to take on the burden of driving and editing the Methodius project, which would have been considerable.  I was willing to do it, pro bono publico, and because nobody else would.  It needs to be done.  But … evidently it will not be done by me.

Anyway, unless I can think of anything else, Methodius will have to remain untranslated unless or until some Old Slavonic scholar with an interest in patristics decides to do something on his own initiative.  This may be some distance away: for even the text has never been printed.

On the other hand, in all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to working within an unnecessary straightjacket of timescales and milestones.  So there is that consolation, that I won’t have to!

UPDATE: 2 Feb 2016.  I sent in my enquiry as to why they solicited an application that they dismissed as ineligible without reading it.  As I rather expected, I got an insulting email back, consisting of a single paragraph pasting the same “ineligible” message, followed by many paragraphs, all boilerplate, from the guide.  The whole did not actually answer the question, except to say “you aren’t important enough for us to even reply to”.  I fear that the Arts Council is just another group of elitists giving public money to their friends.  “Not our sort of people, dahlink”, before firing off the form rejection.

Hero of Alexandria, on the making of automata

The technical works of antiquity are not well known, not least because modern technical knowledge is often necessary to understand them.  For instance a reading of an alchemical work may well baffle anyone without a Chemistry degree!  So … they go untranslated and unread.

Four years ago I listed the works of the engineer, Hero of Alexandria, here.  In this I included a reference to a translation of his work Peri automatopoietikes, on making automata: Susan Murphy, “Heron of Alexandria’s On Automaton-making“, in: History of Technology 17 (1995), 1-46.  At the time I was quite unable to locate this journal, or the translation, so the matter went no further.

A correspondent asked about this a couple of weeks ago, and then – mirabile dictu – was able to obtain a PDF by mysterious means.  The PDF originated in Sydney University library, from whose catalogue I learned that it was published in London by Mansell.  It seems that the “journal” is actually a series of books, published under the imprint of Mansell of London, by none other than Bloomsbury Press.  It is a series aimed at engineers, and so naturally shelved away from the sort of material with which we are familiar.  In fact the series seems to be widely held, and it is merely the rather generic title which makes searching difficult.

Dr Murphy’s article is 44 pages long – can that really be the size of the volume? – and itself is full of interest.  I learn that the work is illustrated in the manuscripts, with diagrams that may go back to the author but are supposedly corrupt.  The critical edition of the text does not trouble to reproduce them – no doubt because of the difficulties of printing coloured photographs – but instead has drawings by a modern author, based upon them.

The work describes the construction of  two automata, as an example of two types of automaton.

The first is a mobile shrine of Dionysus, complete with little figurines of the god and his worshippers.  This rolls of its own accord on a wheeled base to a specified point, at which the figurines enact a scene of sacrifice and pouring libations.  It then returns to the original point.

The second is a minature theatre, which stages a complete tragedy when activated.

Both types of automaton rely on a descending counterweight and various cords and axles – essentially upon clockwork.

The opening section of the work, before the technical receipes, is itself rather interesting.

ON AUTOMATON-MAKING

Book I

1. 1. The study of automaton-making has been considered by our predecessors worthy of acceptance, both because of the complexity of the craftsmanship involved and because of the striking nature of the spectacle. For, to speak briefly, every facet of mechanics is encompassed within automaton-making, in the completion of its several parts.

2. These are the topics to be discussed: shrines or altars of appropriate size are constructed, which move forward of themselves and stop at specified locations; and each of the figures inside them moves independently according to the argument of the arrangement or story; and then they move back to their original position. Thus such realizations of automata are called mobile.

3. But there is another kind, which is called stationary, and its function is as follows: a toy stage with open doors stands on a pillar, and inside it an arrangement of figures has been set up in line with some story.

4. To begin with, the stage is closed, and then the doors open by themselves, and the painted representation of the figures is displayed. After a little while the doors close and open again of their own accord, and another arrangement of figures, sequential to the first one, appears. Again the doors are closed and opened and yet another arrangement, which logically follows the one before it, appears; and either this completes the planned story, or yet another display appears after this one, until the story finally is finished.

5. And when the figures which have been described are shown in the theatre each one can be shown in motion, if the story demands; for instance, some sawing, some chopping with the adze, some working with hammers or axes – making a noise with each blow, just as they would in real life.

6. Other movements can be effected below the stage; for instance, lighting fires or making figures which were not visible at first appear and then disappear again. Simply, anyone can move the figures as he chooses, without anybody being near them.

7. But the mechanism of the stationary automata is safer and less risky and more adaptable to every requirement than that of the moving ones. Older generations called such feats of craftsmanship miraculous because they offered an amazing spectacle.

8. Therefore, in this book I am going to write about moving automata, and set out my own complex scenario, which is adaptable to every other scenario, so that someone who wanted to offer a different presentation would not lack anything for the implementation of his own scenario. In the following book I talk about stationary automata.

Well worth hunting out this volume, if you have even the slightest interest in ancient technology.

Legends of St Nicholas of Myra: the miracle of the tax (Praxis de tributo, recension 1) now online in English

Considering how important Santa Claus is to our culture, it has always seemed remarkable to me that the medieval sources for whatever stories we tell about him – or rather St Nicholas of Myra, his prototype – remained untranslated.  I’ve had a few translations made, and here is another.  This is a short medieval story about how St Nicholas got an unfair tax remitted.  David J. D. Miller kindly did the translation for us all.  This exists in four manuscripts, in two different versions.  This is the shorter first recension.

  • Nicholas_of_Myra_Praxis_De_Tributo_rec1_2015 (PDF)
  • Nicholas_of_Myra_Praxis_De_Tributo_rec1_2015 (Word .doc file)

As usual this translation is public domain – do whatever you like with it.

I have commissions out for two other short texts at the moment, so there will be more of these.

UPDATE (10 Feb 2016): updated version with numbering.

Severian of Gabala conference in November 2016

A call for papers has reached me for a conference in Leuven on Chrysostom and Severian of Gabala, talking about their exegetical strategies.  Lots of good speakers are planned, and I suspect most of it will be in English. One of the main items will be Severian’s commentary on the six days of creation in Genesis, which exists in an English translation these days.  Translations of various homilies have been uploaded at this site also (search for Severian).  It sounds interesting!

The PDF for the conference is here:

Shenoute – Against the Pagan Philosopher. Now online in English

Dr Anthony Alcock has just sent me another of his excellent translations from Coptic.  This one is an oration by the 4th century Father Shenoute, the most important figure in Coptic monasticism, against a pagan philosopher (Ad philosophum gentilem).  He has helpfully included an introduction and notes.  Here it is:

It is wonderful to have these texts of Shenoute accessible – thank you!

‘Finding a home’ for copies of about 500 periodical articles and monographs on Tertullian

Dr Ian Balfour is retiring, and writes:

While working on a Ph.D. thesis on Tertullian in the 1970s, I photocopied about 500 periodical articles and monographs on Tertullian from libraries all over the country (with appropriate permissions) and bound them in spring-back foolscap-size folders, and stored them at home.

My son took over our house in 2001, but allowed me to leave the collection there. He is now going to sell the house in the summer of this year, so I would like to find a good home for the collection.

I do not wish any payment for it, and the cost of transport would be for discussion between myself and anyone who was interested in taking it or any part of it.

I don’t have a typed index of the articles and books, but I could give some details of what is available to anyone who was interested.

If anybody would like to acquire this useful collection, please write to me using this form and I will forward this on.

He also adds:

… my 1980 University of Edinburgh Ph.D thesis, ‘The Relationship of Man to God, from conception to conversion, in the Writings of Tertullian’ is now available (with an English translation of non-English words and comments on it by Rene Braun of Nice) on my website, www.ianbalfour.co.uk.

An English translation of some German and French works, with the original and the translation on alternate pages, are also available on the website, and more are to follow.

Very useful indeed – thank you!



css.php