English translation in progress of Cyril of Alexandria’s “Contra Julianum”

A correspondent has advised me that Matthew Crawford is engaged in making the first ever English translation of Cyril of Alexandria’s Contra Julianum, the 10-book work refuting Julian the Apostate’s attack on the Christians.  And it is true!  Dr C. has uploaded the preface and opening sections of book1 to his Academia.edu account here.

This is excellent news.  Making an English translation is going to be very hard work; some “900 pages of difficult Greek”.  But it is great to learn that someone is going to attempt it.

More power to his elbow!

From my diary

About a week ago summer arrived.  The temperatures rose by 10 degrees, and it is now in the upper 20’s centigrade outside, and the upper teens at night.  The happiest thing to do is to drive around in air-conditioned comfort, and observe the world from there.  Now is the time to make outdoor visits to Roman sites in Britain!

On Monday I drove to Norwich.  The playing-card shape of Venta Icenorum is visible from the Ipswich road, which runs along a rise at that point.  A medieval church stands in one corner of the deserted Roman city, as so often in Britain.  But the tower was largely shrouded by the leaves of the oaks and other trees that have grown up around it.

It’s not the weather to sit indoors over a computer, unless you are being paid for it.  My own time at home is now drawing to a close; in just over a week, I shall be back to work.

In the meantime, I wonder whether I should make a day-trip to Roman Leicester?  I’ve never been there, and I gather that there are considerable remains to be seen.

I’m taking something of an interest in studies on the way in which Eusebius quotes other writers.  I have Inowlocki’s study of the citations from Jewish writers[1].  I have today ordered a copy of Carotenuta’s Tradizione e innovazione nella Historia ecclesiastica di Eusebio di Cesarea, which apparently is also important.  I was sad to discover that no copies of the work are held by any British library, according to the COPAC union catalogue.  Fortunately it was cheap.  Even more fortunately, my insurance company recently paid me some token compensation for unwanted spam emails, and that nicely covers the cost.  It should arrive next week, thanks to the miracle of Amazon.

I’m discovering that a fair bit of Eusebius scholarship is going on at the moment.  Of course as an outsider, I don’t get to hear about a lot of it.  I do get the impression that there might be something of a clique involved.  But so long as good work gets done, that’s the main thing.

I’ve been meaning to scan a volume of a translation of the first five books of Livy.  It stands on my shelf, disbound.  I merely haven’t got around to it.

Nor can I find any energy to proceed with translating Eutychius right now.  It’s summer, chaps.  Get your straw hats on, and get out on the river on a punt.  Or something.

A correspondent tells me that the new two-volume German edition of Cyril of Alexandria’s Contra Julianum, against Julian the Apostate, is now out, in the GCS series (NF 20 and 21).  Better yet, the Sources Chrétiennes series are at work.  Long ago Pierre Evieux edited and translated books 1 and 2 of the work for the SC.  Now SC 583 has appeared, volume 2 of the SC Contre Julien, and it contains books 3-5, from the new German text, with French translation.  I’m glad that they have decided not to replace the Evieux volume.  Evieux’s translation was simply splendid!

Cyril’s work was in at least 20 volumes, and is important because of long verbatim citations from Julian the Apostate’s work against the Christians.  Cyril in fact rearranged the order of Julian’s rambling text, and made his own work consist (from book 2 onwards) of quote followed by refutation.

Unfortunately only the first 10 books survive, plus fragments from the next 10.  It has been estimated that 30 books would be needed to cover all of Julian; but whether books 21-30 ever existed is unknown.

Long ago I felt that the world needed an English translation of this work.  I reluctantly approached the National Lottery for money, only to be contemptuously rejected.  Oh well.  I never liked the idea of taking lottery money anyway.  I think today that I wouldn’t do that.

It’s a fascinating work, anyway.  It’s good to see it made more readily available.

It’s still a sunny day.  Enough.  I’m going to take my own advice and get out there!

  1. [1]Eusebius and the Jewish Authors.

Porphyry on quotation practices in antiquity

An interesting volume has come my way on the quotations in Eusebius.  It is Sabrina Inowlocki, Eusebius and the Jewish Authors: His citation technique in an apologetic context, Brill, 2006.  This, remarkably, was a PhD thesis in French.

The study is interesting enough that I should like to read the paper volume. I have a PDF but reading more than a bit on screen is impossible. But sadly the price at $150 renders that impossible.  However the PDF is indexed, and as a result I keep finding good things.

Chapter 2 is about the way that ancient authors quoted sources.  In chapter 2E, Faithfulness to the Text Cited, we find the following statements:

The changes brought by an author to the cited passage vary substantially. They generally consist in the omission or addition of words, in grammatical changes, in the combination of citations, and in the modification of the primary meaning of the quotation. These changes may be deliberate, which means that they are made by the citing author specifically in order to appropriate the content of the citation.52 They may also be accidental. If deliberate, the changes result from the author’s wish to adjust the citation to his own purposes, to ‘modernize’ the stylistic expression of a more ancient writer, or to adapt the grammar of the cited text to that of the citing text. It may be noted that deliberate changes do not always stem from the citing author’s eagerness to tamper with the primary meaning of a passage, as modern scholars often suspect and harshly condemn.

A passage from Porphyry, cited in the Praeparatio, is particularly revealing. It shows the methodology applied to the cited text, even by an author who was eager to preserve the primary meaning of that cited text:

(I omit the Greek, since I can’t paste it and don’t have time to retype it tonight)

To such you will impart information without any reserve. For I myself call the gods to witness, that I have neither added, nor taken away from the meaning of the responses, except where I have corrected an erroneous phrase, or made a change for greater clearness, or completed the metre where defective, or struck out anything that did not conduce to the purpose; so that I have preserved the sense of what was spoken untouched, guarding against the impiety of such changes, rather than against the avenging justice that follows from the sacrilege.(53)

53.  De philosophia ex oraculis I, p.109-110 (Wolff) = PE IV. 7. 1.

The sense, in other words, is what Porphyry transmits, not the exact words before him.  This is perhaps easier to understand if we remember that the copies before him were manuscripts, and so could easily contain corruptions.

Inowlocki goes on to say:

This passage emphasizes the prominence of the meaning of the text over its phrasing: The nous is clearly opposed to the lexis.54 Porphyry claims not to have tampered with the noemata of the oracles but he does not claim that he has not changed the terms and expressions of the cited text.55 Yet it should be noted that the respect shown to the meaning of the oracles is due to their sacredness. Similar attitudes are also found among Jewish and Christian authors regarding the modification of the Scriptures. Such changes are even more harshly condemned in the Jewish and Christian traditions.56[1] This was not the case with secular texts, as can be seen from Porphyry’s use of citations in his De abstinentia.57 Porphyry was especially gifted in manipulating texts, although the concept of manipulation hardly applies to antiquity. At any rate, the neo-platonic philosopher was not the only one to do so. Plutarch, who is well known for his extensive use of quotations, does not hesitate to transform the passages he cites by omitting, adding or modifying terms or expressions occurring in the quotation. Not even Plato was spared by him.

However, it should be emphasized that our scholarly criteria of citation are not relevant to the practice of ancient authors. Purpose and methodology differ dramatically. Actually, that which we might consider falsification was viewed by ancient writers as a methodology in explicating the true, authentic meaning of a text. In a sense, in the ancient authors’ view, modifying the text cited was meant to express its essence more clearly.59

In addition to the distinction between sacred and secular texts, the treatment of prose citations differs from that of poetic citations. Indeed, it was more difficult to modify poetic texts because of the metric rules. Moreover, in many cases, the readership knew them by heart. This was especially the case with Homer. As Stanley has pointed out in a study on Paul,60 the status of Homeric poems in Hellenism was to some extent comparable to that of the Scriptures in Judaism and Christianity. Both texts constituted the most authoritative text. Homer had been critically edited in the Hellenistic period and this ‘vulgate’ was in general faithfully copied by second-century C.E. authors. This observation may probably also apply to Euripides’ and Sophocles’ tragedies.

However, the poetic text cited by the ancient authors is not always identical to that which has reached us through direct transmission, i.e., in manuscripts. Several explanations other than the responsibility of the citing authors may be suggested. Firstly, the authors often cited passages from memory and therefore made mistakes;61 secondly, in the case of Homeric quotations, the authors could use a text other than the Alexandrian ‘vulgate;’ thirdly, most authors excerpted passages from florilegia rather than from the original text;62 finally, some differences may be due to the corruptions to which medieval manuscripts were subject.

As for prose texts, they could be more easily modified thanks to the flexibility of their form. They could easily be summarized, paraphrased and transformed. It is worth noting that the faithfulness to the text also depends on the feelings of the quoting author towards the quoted author. An author such as Strabo, whose faithfulness to the Homeric text has been shown by Stanley, proves to be rather loose in his citations from Herodotus.63 Likewise, Plutarch quotes Herodotus faithfully only in half of the cases64 whereas it is well known that he cites Homer faithfully.

The different methodologies in modifying a text may be presented as follows:65 …

But here we must halt our quotation.  Most of the footnotes refer to studies.

Isn’t this fascinating stuff?  It is really useful to hear Porphyry’s statement.  It is really useful to hear some solid examples of how ancient writers handle these things.

The author, Sabrina Inowlocki, is a Eusebius scholar, and her study of the quotations in the Apodeixis (i.e. the Praeparatio Evangelica and Demonstratio Evangelica) is really interesting.  But it’s the kind of book to read through.

What a murder it is, that so useful a volume, funded by a tax grant, should be obscured by such a high price!

  1. [1]56. See, e.g. Josephus, Antiquities I. 17, X. 218 and Against Apion I. 42; Letter of ps.Aristeas 310…

Altercatio Simonis et Theophili online in English!

Anthony Alcock has translated a much longer piece for us all this time – the Altercatio Simonis et Theophili, or, Disputation between Simon the Jew and Theophilus the Christian.  This has been dated to the 5th century AD, and is the oldest Latin dialogue between Christians and Jews.  It relies extensively on proof-texts.

This is enormously useful to have accessible online! Thank you, Dr. A!

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 7 – part 1

Let’s return to the start of chapter 7, in Old Testament times.  Compared to the last two chapters, this chapter is not very long.  So let’s have a crack at it.  Some of this story might be a little familiar…  Read the names aloud, and see if you recognise them.

1. In the eighteenth year of the reign of Bakhtanassar, i.e. in the year before the destruction of Bayt al-Maqdis, [the king] made an idol of gold sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and erected it in the centre of the city of Bābil, ordering all the people of his kingdom to worship it.  Anyone who refused to worship it would be burned in the furnace.  Bakhtanassar chose three young Israelites and named the first Sīdrākh, the second Mīsākh and the third ‘Abdanāghū.  These three young men refused to prostrate themselves in front of the idol and the king commanded them to be thrown into the furnace.  But God sent them an angel from heaven who extinguished the fire, and the fire was changed for them into coolness and health.  Seeing this, Bakhtanassar ordered them to be taken out of the furnace, scrutinized them thoroughly and found no traces of fire injuries either on their bodies or on their garments.  This increased his astonishment, and he was afraid, and honored them, invoking his power and making them heads of his household.

2. In the fourth year after the destruction of Bayt al-Maqdis, Bakhtanassar had a dream.  He therefore summoned the interpreters of dreams and the astrologers and said to them:  “Tell me about the dream I had and give me an explanation, otherwise I will kill you.”  They replied,  “How will we know what dream you had, if you do not tell us what you dreamed about, so that we can give it an interpretation?”  Bakhtanassar became angry and thought about having them beheaded.  The prophet Dāniyāl was still young when the deportation had taken place.  Bakhtanassar had taken him for himself, and had educated him in his house covering him with favours.  He then sent to call him.  Dāniyal said to him: “I will tell you the dream you had, and I will give you an interpretation.  The king saw a great idol, which looked like a beast.  Its head was of gold, its hands of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, the legs of iron, and the feet of clay.  Then the king saw a huge boulder fall from a mountain, and batter and shatter the idol until nothing was left of it.  The boulder then became an imposing mountain and filled the earth.  This is what the king saw.  The interpretation is then the following.  You, O king, are the head of that idol, the gold.  After you will rule one less than you, the silver.  After him will rule a king less than him, the bronze.  After him will rule a king less than him, the iron.  After him will rule a king less than him, the clay.  Then after him will rule a great king whose kingdom will never end.  And just as you saw a boulder fall from the mountain alone and break the idol and fill the earth, so that king will reign over all the earth forever”.  Bakhtanassar then ordered them to give new clothes to Dāniyāl, to cover him with honour, preferred him to all the wise men of Bābīl, appointed him chief of his house and called him Baltāssar.

3. In the fifth year of the captivity of Bābil and the destruction of Ūrashalīm, Hizqiyāl, son of Yūzi, prophesied at Bābil, in the place called Karmila, Bārūkh, son of Nāriyā, and his brother Sirās, Dāniyāl of the house of David, Mardukhāf of the house of Benjamin, Hakāy, Zakhariyā, son of Bārāshiyā, Malākhīya, ‘Izrā e Nāhūm.  In Egypt there were Habaqūq, the tribe of Simeon, and the prophet Irimiyā.  In Bābil the Israelites worshiped idols, and the prophet Hizqiyāl reproached them for their conduct.  But the magnates of the Israelites attacked him and killed him.

4. In the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Bakhtanassar, he marched against Egypt, devastated it and killed its king, thus extending his kingdom over Egypt, Syria, the land of Judah, of the Rūm, of the Greeks, the Fāris, of Bābil and of Mossul.  Bakhtanassar reigned for forty-five years, nineteen of which were before the destruction of Ūrashalīm and the captivity of the Israelites, and twenty-six after the destruction of Ūrashalīm.  King Bakhtnassar died.

Reading the Italian translation of Methodius “De resurrectione”

The Italian translation of Methodius of Olympus, De resurrectione, has arrived.  I was able to order it from the publisher without undue difficulty (although IBS.it would probably have been easier, had I remembered them!)  I have now scanned some of it, which means that I can now use Google Translate on the Italian.  Google Translate handles Italian well, so long as you read intelligently.

I thought that I would give a page-worth, on the Old Slavonic translation of Methodius.  Here it is:

The Corpus Methodianum, however, was preserved in Old Slavonic. This translation was supposedly made in Bulgaria around the tenth century and was made accessible to the West by the end of the nineteenth century in the German translation of Bonwetsch, who edited all the works of Methodius for the critical edition except those considered inauthentic. This Old Slavonic translation contains the almost complete text of De autexusio, De resurrectione, and De lepra, and also that of other works of which there was no mention in ancient testimonies, and of which there were no Greek remnants (De cibis, De sanguisuga, De vita). The Greek text used for this translation seems to have been in good condition. It is translated to the letter, except in some passages where we are faced with summaries (it is difficult to determine whether this was done by the Old Slavonic translator, or found by him in the original). As we have mentioned earlier, Musurillo believes that the writings of Methodius have been handed down in Slavonic because of a happy error of attribution, because of the homonym with the 9th century evangelizer of the Slavs. Bracht criticizes this suggestion, noting that Musurillo does not provide reasons for this affirmation, and considers it simpler to attribute the interest in preserving his writings to the uninterrupted tradition of the Eastern Church, which continued to venerate Methodius as a saint, martyr and Doctor of the Church. Bracht does not exclude the idea that the influence of the homonym, Methodius, apostle of the Slavs, might have helped preserve the writings; but not – as Musurillo suggests – by error in attribution. In his opinion, a stronger reason – in turn already advanced by Ivan Dujchev – would be this: the thesis of the De autexusio would be considered very useful in order to counteract the doctrinal errors of the Bogomil heresy (a heresy that arose in Bulgaria around the 10th century). These heretics affirmed a strong dualism. The refutation of any kind of dualism contained in the De autoexusio of Methodius would have helped to get it translated.[1]

I shall keep reading.

PS: I wondered what Old Slavonic manuscripts were used for the Slavonic text.  This is not stated; but two manuscripts – Q.I. 56a and Q.I. 57b – are mentioned in footnotes.

  1. [1]Italian: “Il Corpus Methodianum ci è tuttavia rimasto in traduzione paleoslava. Tale traduzione è stata realizzata presumibilmente in Bulgaria attorno al X secolo ed è stata resa accessibile in occidente dalla fine del XIX secolo nella traduzione tedesca di Bonwetsch, che ha curato l’edizione critica di tutte le opere di Metodio, eccetto quelle considerate inautentiche 81 . Questa traduzione paleoslava contiene il testo quasi completo del De autexusio, del De resurrectione, del De lepra e quello di altre opere di cui non si aveva notizia da testimonianze antiche e di cui non erano rimastiframmenti greci (De cibis, De sanguisuga, De vita). Il testo greco di riferimento di questa traduzione sembrerebbe essere stato in buono stato. Esso è tradotto alla lettera, tranne in alcuni punti in cui ci troviamo di fronte a riassunti (se del traduttore paleoslavo o degli originali stessi è difficile a dirsz). Come abbiamo accennato,  Musurillo ritiene che gli scritti di Metodio siano stati tramandati in slavo per un felice errore di attribuzione, a causa del!’ omonimia con l’evangelizzatore degli slavi del IX secolo 82. Bracht critica questa informazione, rilevando come Musurillo non offra motivi per questa sua affermazione, mentre ritiene più lineare far risalire l’interesse per la conservazione dei suoi scritti all’ininterrotta tradizione della Chiesa orientale che ha continuato a venerare Metodio come santo, martire e Dottore della Chiesa 83. Bracht non esclude che un influsso dell’omonimia del Metodio apostolo degli slavi abbia potuto contribuire a salvare gli scrittz; ma non – come vuole Musurillo – per errore di attribuzione. A suo parere, un più forte motivo – a sua volta già avanzato da Ivan DujCev 84 – sarebbe questo: le tesi del De autexusio sarebbero state ritenute molto valide per contrastare gli errori dottrinali dell’ eresia dei bogomili (corrente eretica sollevatasi in Bulgaria attorno al X secolo). Questi eretici affermavano un forte dualismo. La confutazione di ogni tipo di dualismo presente nel De autexusio di Metodio avrebbe portato a favorirne la traduzione 85.”

From my diary

Well!  I have finally reached the end of chapter 19 of the Annals of Eutychius.  Of course I skipped chapters 1-7; and a long theological excursus in chapter 16 (?).  But it’s still very pleasing to get to the end of the interminable Muslim section.  Thank you, everyone who has offered encouragement.

I probably ought to gather together the Islamic stuff, while it is still current in my mind, and sort it out into a more final form.  There are issues with how to represent names.  What Pirone gave as “Ga`far” should probably be “Jafar”.  What do I do with “Abd Allah” – render it as “Abdullah”?  There are points where I changed my mind part way through, rendering “commanders” as “officers”.  These two chapters – the Ummayads and the Abbasids – could use more footnotes also.

So there is a job of work to do there, and I will probably do that next.

The translation of Eusebius of Caesarea’s Commentary on Luke is still alive, and the translator tells me that another chunk will be coming my way shortly.  It will be good to get that done.

I have some tweaks to do with my Mithras site, uploading some useful photographs that I have stumbled across.  There is also an article that I need to get, which apparently has evidence of repair work to a Mithraeum in the early 5th century, at Hawarte.  This would be unprecedented if so – the cult seems to have expired completely with paganism – but the article will require a visit to a research library.

I also have four books on the side that I need to convert to PDF form, by means of the guillotine.

And of course it is summer, and there are strawberries to be purchased and eaten!  Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 19m – Abbasids part 12

The last chapter!  Continuing the reign of al-Muqtadir, the reign of al-Qāhir, the start of the reign of ar-Rādī, and the end of the Annals.  It ends with a solicitation of money – “O munificent king”! 

9. Al-Muqtadir withdrew his favour from his minister Hāmid b. al-‘Abbās and had him killed in the month of Rabi’ al-awwal of the year 321 [of the Hegira].[1]  He released Ali b. Ahmad (sic!) b. al-Furāt and appointed him as his minister, nine days before the end of the month of Rabī ‘al-ākhar of the year 311 [of the Hegira], for the third time. The Muslims of ar-Ramlah rioted, and destroyed two churches of the Melchites, namely the church of St. Cosmas and the church of St. Cyril.  They also damaged the churches of Ascalon and Caesarea, in the month of ğumādā al-ākhar of the year 311.  The Christians complained to al-Muqtadir, to allow them to [re]build what had been destroyed.  Then the Muslims of Tinnis rose up and demolished a church of the Melchites from Homs at Tinnis, called “Būthawr’s Church”, in the month of Rağab.  Afterwards, Christians [re]built the church of Tinnis, but before they had finished the Muslims rioted for a second time and destroyed what they had built, setting it on fire.  The sultan then gave his support to Christians so that they could complete the [re]building of the church.  Al-Muqtadir withdrew his favour from his minister Ali b. Muhammad b. Al-Furāt and had him killed together with his son Muhassin in the month of Rabi` al-awwal of year 312.  Al-Muqtadir appointed as his minister ‘Abd Allah in the month of ğumādā al-ākhar of the year 314 [of the Hegira].

10. The Muslims of Damascus rioted and destroyed the Church of the Catholics dedicated to the Blessed Mary.  It was a majestic, beautiful and beautiful church, for the construction of which two hundred thousand dinars were spent.  They looted all the vessels, ornaments, and drapes that were there.  They also looted the monasteries, especially the convent of nuns which was beside the church.  They demolished many churches of the Melchites and pulled down the Nestorian church, in the middle of the month of Ragab of the year 312 [of the Hegira].

11.  ‘Ali b. ‘Isà was at Mecca.  The minister Abd Allah wrote to him, that he should go to Egypt to see close up how things went.  ‘Ali b. Isa entered Egypt at the beginning of the month of Ragab.  He summoned the monks and bishops, and demanded that they pay the poll-tax for all the monks, the sick and the poor, and for all the monasteries who were in Lower Egypt, as well as for the bishops and monks who were in Dayr Mīnā.  A group of monks then went to Iraq to al-Muqtadir and begged him to come to their rescue.  [Al-Muqtadir] then wrote that no poll-tax was required from them, and that things would return to be as they always were.  He then dismissed the minister Abd Allah b. Muhammad b. Khāqān and appointed as his minister Abū’l-‘Abbās Ahmad b. ‘Abd Allah b. Ahmad b. Al-Khasib in the year 313 [of the Hegira].

12. Nicholas, patriarch of Constantinople, died after holding office for thirty-three years.  After him there was made patriarch of Constantinople Stephen.[2]  He was a eunuch. He held office for three years and died.

13. A huge star appeared in the land of Egypt, whose rays were brilliant and very fast-moving, and behind it a sparkling tail, and an impressive flame of considerable size and strongly reddish colour.  It ranged from north to east, nearly three hundred rods long,[3] and nearly two wide, like a snake.  This happened at sunset, on Wednesday, 5th of the month of Rabi` al-ākhar of the year 313 [of the Hegira].  It lasted three hours, then went out.

14. The minister Abu’l Abbas ibn al-Khasib was dismissed and Ali ibn Isà b. al-Garrah was appointed minister. Then [al-Muqtadir] dismissed him and appointed as minister Abū ‘Ali b. Muhammad b. ‘Ali on the Thursday of the middle of the month of Rabi` al-ākhar of the year 316 [of the Hegira].  At Baghdad, the officers rose up against al-Muqtadir and decided to kill him.  They were Abū’l-Hayğā, Nazūk, and others.  Al-Muqtadir, fearing for his own life, abdicated on the Saturday of the middle of the month of al-Muharram of the year 317 [of the Hegira].  Al-Muqtadir’s brother, Muhammad b. Ahmad, was enthroned in his place.  He sat on the throne for only the Sabbath and Sunday, for on Monday, the servants gathered, better known as the al-Masāffiyyah[4], killed Nāzūk and Abū’l-Hayğā, returned the Caliphate to al-Muqtadir, removed Muhammad ibn Ahmad and sent him back to his home with all honours.  In Egypt there was such an indescribable invasion of grasshoppers that they prevented, by their multitude, the sun’s rays falling on the earth.  The Egyptians had never seen similar grasshoppers.  The grasshoppers devastated their vineyards, all the fruit trees, the palms and the leeks, and the gardens and the vineyards were reduced to complete devastation.  This took place in the month of Rabi` al-awwal of the year 327 [of the Hegira]. (In another text it says “of 317”.)

15. In Yamāmah[5] and in Bahrain, there arose a rebel called Sulayman ibn Hasan, better known as Abū Sa’id al-Gānābi (268), who marched on Basra, conquered it, and destroyed it, making a great massacre of the inhabitants.  From there he moved to Kūfa, occupied it, and killed the population, taking away a great booty.  Then he went on and camped near Baghdad, in a place called “Tell ‘Arqūf”.  There were many battles between him and the soldiers of al-Muqtadir, but, unable to get what he wanted, he returned to Kūfa in the year 313 [of the Hegira].  Then he filled with earth, in order to block them, the water wells that were scattered along the road leading to Mecca and the lowlands.  The people of Baghdad and Khurāsān saw themselves thus forced to forgo the pilgrimage, for fear of him, while those of Egypt and Syria continued to make it.  It was the 7th of the month of Dhū’l-higga of 317 [of the Hegira] and many people were intent on doing their pilgrimage, when al-Gannābi with his men fell upon Mecca and entered it.  Around the Ka’bah, in the mosque and in the markets, he killed such a multitude of people as to fill with corpses the well of Zamzam.[6] Even the valleys, the streets, the houses and the deserts were full of corpses.  Of those who had escaped escape, some were killed by the desert Arabs who deprived them of what they had, others fled to Jedda and took to sea.  Al-Gannabi[7] was insatiable of these incalculable riches and furnishings, and he laid his hands on all the gold and silver that was inside the Ka’bah.  On the door of the Ka’bah there were silver plates: he prised them off and took them.  In a corner of the Ka’bah, outside, there was a black stone that people worshiped and kissed, imploring blessings from God: he removed it and took possession of it. He stayed at Mecca for seven days, stripping it of everything he found.  Then he returned to his country, making pilgrimage impossible [to Mecca].

16. Elias, Patriarch of Antioch, died, on Saturday, 13th of the month of gumādà al-ākhar of the year 317 [of the Hegira].  He had held office for twenty-eight years.  Muhammad ibn ‘Ali b. Muqla was dismissed as minister on a Tuesday, eleven days before the end of the month of gumādā al-awwal and there was appointed as minister Sulaymān ibn al-Hasan b. Makhlad on Thursday, thirteen days before the end of the month of ğumādà al-awwal, of the year 318 [of the Hegira].  He was dismissed eight days before the end of the rağab month of year 317 (sic!).[8]  There was made minister ‘Ubayd Allah b. Muhammad al-Kaddāni on Saturday, six days before the end of the month of Ragab of the year 319 [of the Hegira] and he was dismissed.  There was appointed as minister al-Hasan ibn al-Qasim b. ‘Ubayd ad-Dīn Sulaymān b. Wahb on Saturday, three days before the end of the month of Shawwāl of the year 319 [of the Hegira] and he was nicknamed ‘Amīd ad-dawla b. Wali ad-dawla.  He was dismissed and there was appointed as minister Abū’l-Fadl b. Ga‘far b. al-Furāt b. Khayzurānah, on Sunday, three days before the end of the month of Rabi al-ākhar of the year 320 [of the Hegira].  His genealogy was derived from his mother, because it was his mother who was called Khayzurānah.

17. As for the Rūm, Christopher, son of Domitius, died and Domitius embraced the monastic life.  Constantine alone remained in the government of the empire. Stephen, patriarch of Constantinople, died after having held office for three years. There was made patriarch of Constantinople Atrānfinūs.[9]  Christodoulus, Patriarch of Alexandria, died on Wednesday, eleven days before the end of the month of Dhul-qa’da of 320[10], or November 25, 649 of the era of Diocletian.  He was buried at Fustāt-Misr.  He had held office for twenty-six years and six months.  He was buried in the church of [St] Michael.  The officers who were stationed in Baghdad rose up against al-Muqtadir, along with the eunuch Mu’nis and provoked rioting against him.  [Al-Muqtadir] went out against them to fight against them, but they killed him and with his head, hoisted on top of a spear, they went around the city.  It was the Wednesday, two days before the end of the month of shawwāl of the year 320 [of the Hegira].  His caliphate lasted twenty-four years, eleven months and fifteen days.  His minister was al-Fadl b. Ga’far b. al-Furat.

18. The Patriarch of Constantinople [Tryphon] died after having held office for three years.  There was made patriarch Dumniyūs, his own son, called Brufilaqta.[11]  He was an eunuch and he was twenty-two years old.

CALIPHATE OF AL-QĀHIR (320-322/932-934).

1. The bay’ah was given to al-Qāhir bi’llāh Muhammad b. Ahmad al-Mu‘tadid on Thursday, the last day of the month of Shawwāl of the year 320 [of the Hegira]. He named as his minister Muhammad b. ‘Ali b. Muqla.

2. In the first year of his caliphate, there was made patriarch of Alexandria Sa‘id ibn Batrīq[12], the physician, a native of of Fustāt-Misr, and later called Anba Eutychius, on Thursday 13th of the month of Safar of the lunar year 321.

CALIPHATE OF AR-RĀDĪ [BI’LLĀH] (322-329/934-940).

1. The bay’ah was given to ar-Rādī, i.e. Abū’l-`Abbās Muhammad b. Al-Muqtadir, on Wednesday 6 ğumādā al-awwal of 322 [of the Hegira].  He named as his minister Muhammad b. Muqla.

2. In the first year of his caliphate there was made patriarch of Antioch anba Theodosius, i.e. Stephen, the scribe who was in Baghdad with the eunuch Mu’nis, in the month of Ramadan of the year 323 [of the Hegira].  On the 3rd of the month of dhū’l-qada of that year, there was a frightening earthquake in Egypt and a confused movement of falling stars.

3. Muhammad ibn Tu‘g[13] fled to Barqah with a group of officers and people. Then they gathered and returned to Alexandria while those in the city fled to the Gulf of Rosetta.  Ibn Tughğ sent an army with his brother Abu’z-Zafar at the head.  He repulsed them in the year 304 [of the Hegira][14], killing some of them and making some of them prisoners.  The people then returned to Alexandria.[15]

4. Ar-Rādī withdrew his favor from his minister Muhammad b. Ali and appointed as his minister ‘Abd ar-Rahmān b. ‘Isa in the year 324 [of the Hegira].

5. On Palm Sunday of the year 325 [of the Hegira] the Muslims made an uprising against the church of Jerusalem, focusing on the southern gates of the church of Constantine and the portico.[16]  The patriarch was from Ascalona, ​​had two sons and two daughters and was called Christopher.[17]  The fire occurred in the first Easter of his period of patriarchy.  [The Muslims] also attacked the Place of the Skull and the Place of the Resurrection.[18]  In year 325 [of the Hegira] ar-Rādī removed his favour from ‘Abd ar-Rahmān b. ‘Īsā and dismissed him, appointing as his minister al-Fadl b. Ga’far.  In the year 326 [of the Hegira] there was a satisfactory truce between the Rum [and the Muslims].  That same year Theophilus, patriarch of Constantinople, sent his own message to the patriarchs of Alexandria and Antioch asking them to mention their name in their prayers and in their masses, as this was no longer done from the time of the Umayyads.  They welcomed his request.

6. Here ends the book of Sa`īd ibn Batrīq the doctor, namely Eutychius the Melchite, who became patriarch of the city of Alexandria in the year 321 of the Islamic Hegira at the age of sixty lunar years.  But if you want to know the date of the beginning of this book and from when it is composed, start your calculations from this date, i.e. from the day when Sa’id ibn Batriq became patriarch, i.e. from the 8th of the month of Safar of  the year 321 of the Islamic Hegira.  May God keep us in good health!

The book has been completed with the help of God Most High, O munificent King.

  1. [1]This should be 311 AH, as the next sentence makes clear.
  2. [2]Stephen II, who held off from 29 June 925 to 18 July 927.
  3. [3]The Italian word for “rods” is “aste”.  I have no idea how long this is supposed to be.
  4. [4]A special group of palace slaves.
  5. [5]In central Arabia
  6. [6]A well in the mosque area south of the Kaaba, 72 feet deep.
  7. [7]Jedda is “Gedda” in the Italian; perhaps al-Gannabi should be al-Jannabi?
  8. [8]Should be 319.
  9. [9]Tryphon, who held office 927-31 AD.
  10. [10]I.e. 22-23 November, 932 AD.
  11. [11]Theophilus, 933-56 AD.
  12. [12]I.e. Eutychius himself, who held office 7 Feb. 933-11 May 940.
  13. [13]This is Muhammad b. Tughg al-Ikhshīd, founder of the Ikhshid dynasty who controlled Egypt for three decades.
  14. [14]Should read 334.
  15. [15]This paragraph doesn’t make sense, as far as I can see.  The Italian is: “Muhammad ibn Tu‘g (284) fuggì a Barqah assieme ad un gruppo di comandanti e al popolo. Poi si riunirono e fecero ritorno ad Alessandria mentre quelli che si trovavano in città fuggirono verso il golfo di Rosetta. Ibn Tughğ mandò un esercito con a capo il fratello Abū’z-Zafar. Costui li sgominò nell’anno 304 /dell’ègira/ (285), in parte uccidendoli e in parte facendoli prigionieri. La popolazione fece così ritorno ad Alessandria.”
  16. [16]Pirone: Recorded in PG 111, 1155-6: “The Muslims set fire to the basilica of Constantine while the patriarch was officiating.  The episode is commemorated in the Jerusalem calendar on March 24th.
  17. [17]Probably Christodoulos is meant here.  If so, this means that Eutychius omits the reign of Athanasius I, his predecessor.
  18. [18]Cf. PG 111, 1083.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 19k – Abbasids part 11

A new caliph, al-Muqtadir.  In this period the entire population of Alexandria is ordered out of the city, and many perish in the countryside, leaving ruins behind.  Some do return in the end.

As is often the case in chroniclers, the events of recent history – but not contemporary history, which might be dangerous for the chronicler – get treated at more length. 


1. The bay‘ah was given to al-Muqtadir bi’llāh Ga‘far b. Ahmad al-Mu‘tadid bi’llāh, on the very day that his brother al-Muktafī died, that is, on Sunday 13th of Dhul-qa’da of the year 295 [of the Hegira]. His mother was an umm walad named Sha‘ab.  He confirmed the position and office of al-‘Abbās, his brother’s minister, and entrusted him with the management of his affairs.

2. Then some of the officers came together in order to put on the throne ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mu‘tazz.  For several days Baghdad was convulsed by acts of war.  The ministers al-‘Abbās ibn al-Husayn and Fātik were killed in the month of Rabī‘ al-ākhar of the year 299 [of the Hegira].  ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Mu‘tazz was taken and put in prison.  Al-Muqtadir appointed as minister Ali ibn Muhammad b. Musa b. Al-Furāt.

3. In the Maghrib, a man named Abū ‘Abd Allah al-Muhtasib bi’llāh revolted who, put to flight the troops of Ibn al-Aghlab, killed his men and captured the Maghrib.  Learning this, Ziyādat Allah b. Ibrāhim b. Al-Aghlab, who took with him his women and followers and went to Egypt.  He entered Egypt in the month of Ramadan of the year 296 [of the Hegira], and then went to ar-Ramlah and remained there until his death.  Abū ‘Abd Allah al-Muhtasib, who had been raised in the Maghrib, took a man named ‘Ubayd Allah who claimed to be an ally, enthroned him, gave him the bay’ah, and invited others to do the same.  Then ‘Ubayd Allāh attacked Abū ‘Ubayd [1]Allah al-Muhtasib and killed him, taking over the Maghrib, in the year 298 [of the Hegira].  Al-Muqtadir removed his favour from Ali ibn Muhammad b. Al-Furāt in the month of Dhū’l-hiğğa of the year 299 [of the Hegira] and he was thrown into prison, appointing as his minister Muhammad b. ‘Abd Allah Allāh b. Yahya b. Khāqān, nicknamed “Daqqa sadrahu”, because when asked to do something, he used to beat his chest saying, “Yes, with great pleasure!”[2]

4. In the third year of the caliphate of al-Muqtadir there was made Patriarch of Jerusalem Leo.  He held office for seventeen years and died.  In Alexandria, the great church called “al-Qaysāriyyah” – i.e. the temple that Queen Cleopatra had erected and dedicated to Saturn – caught fire on Monday, 3 of the month of Shawwāl of the year 300 [of the Hegira].

5. In the month of Rabī’ al-ākhar of the year 300 [of the Hegira] Abd Allah sent an officer named Habāsa at the head of a large army.  Habāsa occupied the city of Barqah, routing the soldiers of al-Muqtadir who were there, then he aimed at Alexandria, engaging the soldiers of al-Muqtadir in Alexandria in a tough battle.  Habāsa routed them and occupied Alexandria.  He then sent a detachment to al-Fayyūm and to al-Bahnasā[3] and occupied them.  He wrote to Ubayd Allāh[4] to inform him about what was happening, and Ubayd [Allah] sent his son Abū’l-Qasim (In another copy it says ‘Abd ar-Rahmān’) at the head of a great army to support Habāsa.  Takin al-Khassah was governor of Egypt.  Al-Muqtadir sent al-Qāsim ibn Simā to help with a group of officers, as well as the eunuchs Mu’nis and Hawa.  They went to al-Gizah and asked for the help of the people, recruiting about a hundred thousand armed men.  [Habāsa] moved against them with his army, and the others also deployed, ready for battle.  The battle between the two sides took place in an district of al-Ğazīrah known as “Ard al-Khamsin”.  Habāsa was put to flight, and his servants were killed and hunted down by the population.  Then Habāsa’s soldiers marched back and fell upon the people and killed all those whom they came across.  It was already evening and night separated them.  Of the people there were about twenty thousand killed, and of the men of Habāsa ten thousand.  During the night, the men of ‘Ubayd Allāh reassembled, and cryers went around to recall the population.  Abū’l-Qāsim returned to the Maghrib with his men and his army.

6. Al-Muqtadir withdrew his favour from Ali ibn Muhammad b. ‘Ubayd Allāh b. Yahya b. Khāqān on Monday, 10th of the month of al-Muharram of the year 301 [of the Hegira], and appointed as his minister Ali b. Al-Garrāh, who he then dismissed in the month of Dhūl-hiğğa of the year 303 [of the Hegira].  Ali b. Muhammad b. Al-Husayn b. Al-Furāt was brought out of prison and appointed as minister.  Then he dismissed him, and again put him in prison in the month of ğumādà al-awwal of the year 304 [of the Hegira], appointing as his minister Hāmid ibn al-‘Abbās.

7. In the year 307 [of the Hegira] Abū’l-Qāsim ibn ‘Ubayd Allāh moved from the Maghrib at the head of one hundred thousand men and captured Alexandria.  The people of Egypt were terrified.  He then conquered al-Fayyūm, al-Bahnasi, and the island of al-Ashmuriyyin.[5]  Learning of this, al-Muqtadir sent the eunuch Mu’nis with a large army.  The armies encamped at al-Gizah.  Then Ubayd Allah arose and sent one hundred warships, eighty of those called humuli[6] and twenty of those called ushārinī[7], who docked at Rosetta.  Mu’nis wrote al-Muqtadir, informing him of the fact.  Al-Muqtadir sent the eunuch Thamāl with fifty warships.  Thamāl confronted them, and destroyed the fleet by burning it.  Most of the men were killed, others drowned, many others surrendered pleading for protection.  He then sent the latter to Misr.  When they arrived, the people said to them, “Whoever of you is a kutāmī [8] should separate himself from the Sicilians, the Africans, and the Tripolitanians.” The Kutāmiyyūn were set aside: they were about five hundred.  Then they attacked them and killed them in a place called “al-Muqass”, without saving anyone, in the vilest and most repugnant manner.  Mu’nis stayed with his army at al-Gizah for two years, and dug a moat around his camp.  Abū’l-Qāsim ibn ‘Ubayd Allah was camped at Alexandria and soon marched in the direction of al-Fayyūm.  The eunuch Mu’nis wrote to the eunuch Thamāl to take his ships to Alexandria – in fact it was known that in Alexandria there were only three thousand soldiers of Abū’l-Qāsim – to evacuate the population, and to prevent anyone from entering.  When he arrived in Alexandria with his ships, Thamāl sent around his cryer, announcing that no one could stay in Alexandria beyond the third day, on penalty of death.  The inhabitants left their furnishings and everything they possessed, closed the doors of the house, and left Alexandria as if going for a walk.  Thamāl transported them on his ships to the island known under the name of  “gizat Abi Qir”.  Many of them were drowned in the Nile while others, about two hundred thousand men, women and children, died of hunger and thirst in rural villages and at al-Fustāt.  The country was reduced to a ruin, depopulated as it was.  Thamāl acted in this way so that Abū’l-Qāsim would find no place to take refuge if he returned from al-Fayyūm.  Later the eunuch Mu’nis gathered his army and went against him while he was still at al-Fayyūm.  He routed them, killed the men and laid hands on their possessions and everything they had.  Abū’l-Qāsim ibn ‘Ubayd Allāh fled with his followers and returned to al-Qayrawān in the month of Dhū’l-hiğğa of the year 308 [of the Hegira].  After these events the eunuch Mu’nis stayed at that place for another two months, then returned to Baghdad, leaving in Egypt [as governor] Hilāl b. Badr.  As for Alexandria, the survivors of those who had fled returned, and the city returned to life.

8. King Leo contracted a serious illness, and fearing that he was to die soon, sent for the Patriarch Nicolas, who he had dismissed, reconciled with him and returned him to his office.  He then removed the patriarch Anthimus,[9] and relegated him to a monastery in Constantinople, where he remained for two years and died.  King Leo bore his illness for several months, until he died.  After him there reigned over Rum his brother Alexander.  He reigned seven years and died.  After him reigned over Rūm Constantine [10], son of Leo.  He was twenty-three years old (in another text it says “thirteen years”).  His mother Augusta administered the empire.  The King of the Bulgars sent to ask Constantine to give his sister to his son, but Constantine did not consent.  There were many wars between the king of Rūm and the king of the Bulgars.  Observing such a continuous succession of wars between the two, Nicholas, patriarch of Constantinople, had good reason to fear that they might destroy each other.  He therefore called for an officer of the king named Domitius[11] and joined him to Constantine as emperor.  He then took Domitius’ daughter and gave her to Constantine.  Constantine, Domitius and Christopher, the son of Domitius, were recognized as the three kings of the Rūm, and together administered the Empire.  Domitius gave his daughter to the king of Bulgars and the wars ceased.[12]

The reign of al-Muqtadir will be continued in the next post.

  1. [1]This should read “Abū ‘Abd Allāh…”.
  2. [2]Pirone does not explain this nickname, instead referring to the reader to another source.  I would infer that the label is obscene.
  3. [3]I.e. to Oxyrhynchus.
  4. [4]Called ‘Abd Allah a little earlier.
  5. [5]Probably “al-Ashmūnayn”, the classical Hermopolis or Mercurii oppidum, now in the district of Rawdah in the province of Assiut.
  6. [6]I.e. transport or cargo vessels, also known as markab hamla or markab hammāl.
  7. [7]Lighter vessels, seemingly used for transfer of goods and people from cargo ships to shore.
  8. [8]The Kutama tribe were Berbers, and supported the Fatimids against the Aghlabids.
  9. [9]I.e. Eutymius I.
  10. [10]Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus.
  11. [11]Pirone suggests a confusion of consonants in the Arabic for Romanus, i.e. Lecapenus.
  12. [12]In fact Peter of Bulgaria, son of Simeon of Bulgaria, married the neice of Romanus Lecapenus.

There are Italian translations of Methodius of Olympus!

Few are familiar with the works of Methodius of Olympus.  He is an Ante-Nicene Fathers whose works are hard to access. Most were not translated into English as part of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, because they are preserved mainly in Old Slavonic.  Only one large work was translated in the ANF series, the Symposium, because that exists in Greek.  I have listed his works here, with a bibliography.

Thanks to a correspondent, I have today become aware that all three of the major works have been translated into Italian!  This should be of use, if only because Italian is handled quite well by Google Translate.

On the downside, it seems that translations into Italian are rarely stocked by reference libraries in the US and UK.  But all three are in print.  So if you want them, you can purchase them.  I see that Italian site IBS.it has them all here.  Just search for “metodio di olimpo”.

In case that link disappears, here are the details:

On Free-Will – R. Franchi, Metodio di Olimpo: Il libero arbitrio, Paoline Editoriale Libri, 2015.  448p. Series: Letture cristiane del primo millennio.  ISBN 9788831546690.  €39.  (22 sample pages at the publisher site here).  Facing pages of Greek/Slavonic and Italian.

Symposium – N. Antoniono, Metodio di Olimpo: La verginità, Città Nuova, 2000.  200p.  Series:  Testi patristici.  ISBN 9788831131520. €20.  (Google Books preview here).

On the Resurrection – M. Miroslaw & B.Zorzi, Metodio di Olimpo: La risurrezione, Città Nuova, 2010.  296p.  Series:  Testi patristici.  ISBN 9788831182164. €30.

Useful stuff!  (The minor works are all now available online in English at Archive.org, of course).