Archive for the 'From my diary' Category

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 10 (part 4 and end)

Let’s continue using Google translate on the Italian translation of the Annals, with some smoothing and correcting, and see what Eutychius has to say.  This section again contains a chunk from the lost Sassanid Persian chronicle.

16. Ghallitīnūs Caesar, King of the Romans, died.  After him Claudius Caesar (61) reigned in Rome, for one year only.  This happened in the third year of the reign of Hurmuz, king of the Persians.  In the first year of the reign of Claudius Caesar, Paul was made patriarch of Antioch.  He held the office for eight years and died.  He was called Paul of Samosata because he was from the city of Samosata and it was he who gave rise to the sect of the Paulicians.  The followers of his religion and the supporters of his doctrine were in fact called Paulicians from his name, i.e. Paul.  Paul of Samosata maintained that Christ, our Lord, was a man and was created by the Deity, just as each of us is, as to the substance, which is the principle of the Son of Mary, and that he was to be chosen to become the saviour of the human substance, was visited by divine grace that entered him by means of Love and Will, and was therefore called the Son of God.  He went further by saying that God is one substance and one person, and he did not believe in the Word or in the Holy Spirit.  After his death thirteen bishops gathered in the city of Antioch, examined the case and the doctrine, and after excommunicating him and the advocates of the doctrine, they returned each to his own home.

17. Claudius Caesar, King of the Romans, died.  After him Aurelian Caesar (62) reigned over the Romans, in Rome, for five years.  This happened in the fourth year of the reign of Hurmuz, son of Narsi, king of the Persians.  In the first year of the reign of Aurelian Caesar Dionysius was made Patriarch of Rome (63).  He held the office for eight years and died.  In the fourth year of his reign Neron was made patriarch of Alexandria.  He held the seat for nineteen years and died.  The Christians of Alexandria had been accustomed to pray in quarries and houses, secretly, for fear that the Romans might kill them, and the patriarch of Alexandria until then never appeared in public.  But as soon as Neron became patriarch, he began to be seen in public and always treated the Romans with so much grace that he obtained the right to construct a church in Alexandria in honor of the Lady Martmaryam.  In the fifth year of his reign [i.e. Aurelian Caesar], Hurmuz, son of Narsi, king of the Persians, died, without leaving a son to take his place.  But one of his wives was pregnant, and when the people asked: “Can you tell us if you bear a male or a female child?”  “I feel,” she said, “that the baby moves to the right, even though it does not weigh much.  So this is a sign that it will be a male child.”  Great was their joy, and they put the crown on the lap of the woman.  In fact, she gave birth to a male child, whose name was Sabur (64), and he is the one who was later nicknamed “Dhu’l-Aktāf” [i.e. “detaching from behind”] because every time he conquered a king, he dislocated his shoulder blades.  So the joy of the Persians was great, because of her.

18.  Aurelian Caesar, King of the Romans, died.  After him reigned Tacitus and Qūrinūs (65) for nine months and they were killed.  After them Marūnus Caesar (66) reigned over the Romans for six years.  This happened in the third year of the reign of Sabur, son of Hurmuz, king of the Persians.  In the third year of the reign of Marūnus, Felix was made patriarch of Rome (67).  He held the office for five years and died.  In the second year of his reign, Cyrillus was made patriarch of Antioch.  He held the seat for fifteen years and died.

19.  Marūnus Caesar, King of the Romans, died.  After him Farus (68) Caesar reigned, along with his two sons Fan (69) and Nūmāziyānūs (70), for two years.  This happened in the ninth year of the reign of Sabur, son of Hurmuz.  He was cruel against the Christians, and it was he who put to death the two brother-martyrs Cosmas and Damian.

The king Farus died and his two sons were killed.  After him Diocletian Caesar (71) reigned over the Romans, in Rome.

20. From the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in the reign of Diocletian had passed two hundred and six years; from the birth of Christ, our Lord, to the king Diocletian had passed two hundred seventy-six years; from the reign of Alexander to the reign of Diocletian there passed five hundred ninety-five years; from the captivity of Babylon to the reign of Diocletian had passed eight hundred fifty-eight years; from David to the reign of Diocletian had passed thirteen hundred thirty-five years; from the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt to the reign of Diocletian had passed nineteen hundred forty-one years;  from Abraham to the reign of Diocletian had passed two thousand four hundred forty-eight years; from Faliq to Diocletian had passed two thousand nine hundred eighty-nine years; from the flood to Diocletian had passed three thousand five hundred twenty years; from Adam to Diocletian had passed five thousand seven hundred seventy-six years.

Latin scribes getting Greek numerals wrong – authorial corrections in the text of Jerome’s Chronicle

Sometime before 325 AD, Eusebius of Caesarea compiled his Chronicle, in two books.  The second volume exploited the new, large-size, parchment codex, and consisted of page after page of tables of dates and events, synchronising events in different kingdoms, and laying the basis for all subsequent history.[1]  Around 380, Jerome came across a copy in Constantinople, and translated it into Latin.  A copy of his translation dated to 450 AD is held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, where I have seen it; and 10 copies exist dated before 1000 AD.  Eusebius’ original Greek, unfortunately, did not survive.

The manuscripts split into two families, each based on a 5th century exemplar.  These are the group of 4 mss, SANP; and the group of 2, OM.  (A list, explaining each letter, can be found here).

In a fascinating paper which deserves to be better known,[2] Alden Mosshammer noticed that OM preserve errors of translation, which were corrected in SANP.   One of these requires access to the Greek.

Here’s the first example, (References are to Schoene’s 1956 edition, but you can find these in the online translation fairly easily).

P.217, line 24.

  • [Original] ἆθλα μ’ …  (nnn ran in the contest for the birthday of Rome …)
  • OM = athalamos natali romanae urbis cucurrit (currit M)  = “Athalamos ran in the contest…”
  • A = XL missus natali romanae urbis cucurrerunt = “40 ran in the contest…”
  • PN = quadraginta missus natali romanae urbis cucurrerunt = “40 ran in the contest…”

(I don’t know Greek numerals – what is the original number in Arabic numerals?)

It seems that Jerome dictated the numeral as a proper name, and the scribe wrote it down as one.  Somebody corrected it later, but OM preserve the dictation error.  Access to the Greek is required to spot this one.

The following example does not require consulting the Greek, and is in fact just a scribal correction:

P.83b, lines 21-23, is a heading.  It gives the name of Alcamenes, who was the 9th king of Sparta, and then the years of his reign follow below the heading.

  • [Original] = θἈλκαμένης  (i.e. “9. Alcamenes”).
  • O = thalcamenes
  • M = thalcamenis
  • A = VIIII menes
  • P = VIIII tarcamenes
  • N = VIIII tharcamenes

OM think the text reads “Thalcamenes”.  But the copyist SANP realised that the first letter was actually the number 9, although they still didn’t get the name right.  Possibly they realised this, because all the kings have numbers, so they inserted “VIIII” (i.e. “IX”) in front.

Here I have a little personal experience to contribute.

Scribes copied the names the first, and worked down the columns, rather than across.  When I transcribed the chronicle, I found that this was much the quickest and safest way.  The only problem was that you might write too many numerals, and suddenly realise that after year 9 there is a new king!  In the Bodleian ms (O), indeed, you see erasures of just this kind.  In HTML, luckily, I could just go back.

So the scribe will have quickly realised that a numeral was missing, and added it; although he could not determine the correct spelling of the name.  This correction could have occurred at any time, tho.

Mosshammer gives only these examples, and a couple of others which do not bear on this question.

Numerals in Greek are vulnerable things.  The first example proves that even St. Jerome could be foxed.  In this case, the lists of unfamiliar names, preceded by numerals, were a perfect occasion for error.

  1. [1] The online translation may be found here (part 1).
  2. [2] Alden Mosshammer, “Luca Bibl. Capit. 490 and the manuscript tradition of Hieronymus’ (Eusebius’) Chronicle”, California Studies in Classical Antiquity 8 (1975), pp. 203-240.  Online at JSTOR here.

From my diary – scanning my own past

You do it.  I do it.  We all do it.  Yes, I’m talking about photocopies!  All those journal articles… all those books that we couldn’t get hold of in any other way.

At least, that’s what we used to do.  I suspect that university libraries are allowing copying direct to PDF these days.  But certainly fifteen years ago, if I wanted a copy of a book, or an article, it was photocopying or nothing.

20150127_193808 20150127_193825

In consequence, over time, I amassed a great quantity of the things.  The first ones I neatly filed in hanging folders in a filing cabinet.  But this quickly became impossible.  I noted that the paper used in photocopiers came in nice-sized boxes, and appropriated these.  Inside them, I stored my articles, separated by wrapping a piece of paper around them.

Over time I ended up with nine of these boxes.  Big, heavy, and so solid that, as I had 6 of them piled next to my desk, I tended to use them as furniture and rest coffee cups, notes, pens, etc on top of them.

Only one is left now.  This evening I finished the last-but-one.  Its contents are now PDFs on my hard disk.

I imagine that I stopped keeping photocopies around 3-4 years ago, and just automatically scanned them to PDF.  But looking in the boxes is like looking into my own past.  Today, for instance, I have found a load of books and articles relating to the Chronicle of St. Jerome, which I (and a gang of volunteers) translated into English.  I’m told that was 10 years ago.  My, how the time has flown.

In those days I uploaded the result to HTML.  Should I have produced a PDF version?  It seems more clear each day that I should have done so.  But I doubt that I have the energy any more.  Let others do it, if they will: I have given them the materials.

At least I can now see the carpet next to my desk.  For the first time in over a decade!

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 10 (part 3)

We continue reading the Arabic Christian Annals by Eutychius, Melkite patriarch of Alexandria.  The Sassanid kings, whose lost chronicle is used here, seem to have had a direct way with the Manichaeans.

9. Alexander Caesar, King of the Romans, died.  After him Maximinus Caesar (31) reigned over the Romans, in Rome, for three years.  This happened in the thirtieth year of the reign of Sahur, son of Azdashīr, king of the Persians.  This king Maximinus procured serious misfortunes and long affliction for the Christians.  Many Christians were killed and people began to worship idols that they thought were gods.  Many bishops were killed, and Babila, Patriarch of Antioch, was killed as well.  When Narcissus, bishop of Jerusalem, heard that Babila, Patriarch of Antioch, had been killed, he fled and abandoned the see.  In the second year of his reign Diyūs was made bishop of Jerusalem (32), instead of Narcissus.  He held the office for three years and died.  In the third year of his reign Fabianus was made patriarch of Rome (33).  He held the office for thirteen years and was killed.  In the second year of his reign Dionysius was made patriarch of Alexandria.  He was a Katib.  He held the office for seventeen years and died.  In the second year of his reign Sabur, son of Azdashīr, king of the Persians, died.  After him reigned Hurmuz, son of Sabur (34), i.e. Hurmuz al-Hurri, for one year and ten months and died.

10. In the third year of the reign of Maximinus Caesar Bahram, son of Hurmuz (35), reigned over the Persians.  He reigned for three years and three months.  In the third year of the reign of Bahram, king of the Persians, Maximinus Caesar, King of the Romans, died.  After him reigned Pupienus Caesar (36), called Julianus Caesar, for three months and was killed.  After him Gordian Caesar (37) reigned over the Romans, in Rome, for four years.  In the first year of his reign Flavian was made patriarch of Antioch (38).  He held the office for eleven years and died.  In the second year of his reign Germanus was made bishop of Jerusalem.  He held the office for four years and died.  In the third year of his reign Bahram, son of Hurmuz, king of the Persians, died.

11. After him Bahram, son of Bahram (39), reigned over the Persians for seventeen years.  In his day appeared a Persian named Mani (40), who spread the Manichaean religion by going around claiming to be a prophet.  Bahram, son of Bahram, arrested him and cut him in two.  He then captured two hundred of his disciples and followers, and he put them in the ground up to neck until they died, saying:  “I set up a vegetable garden, and instead of planting trees I planted men” (41).  His followers and supporters of his doctrine were called Manichaeans, after Mani’s name.

12. In the third year of the reign of Bahram, son of Bahram, Gordian Caesar, King of the Romans, died.  After him Philip Caesar (42) reigned over the Romans, in Rome, for seven years.  He embraced the faith in Christ, our Lord.  In the first year of his reign Gordian was made bishop of Jerusalem.  He held the office for five years and died.  In the fourth year of his reign Narcissus (43), the Bishop of Jerusalem that had escaped, came back, and together with Gordian administered the bishopric for a year.  Then Gordian, Bishop of Jerusalem, died and Narcissus, bishop of Jerusalem, held the seat for [another] ten years until he died, at the age of one hundred and sixteen years.  As for the King Philip Caesar, his general named Decius revolted and killed him and took possession of the kingdom.

13. Decius Caesar (44) reigned over the Romans in Rome for two years.  This was in the tenth year of the reign of Bahram, son of Bahram, king of the Persians.  The Christians suffered many hardships and grave evils at the hands of Decius who killed an incalculable number.  Many people were martyred in his day, including Fabianus (45), patriarch of Rome.  Then Decius left the city of Carthage (46) and traveled to Ephesus where he built, at the center of the city, a large temple in which he placed the idols, ordering the population to worship them and offer sacrifices.  Those who refused would be killed.  For this reason he put to death many Christians, crucifying them on the walls of Ephesus.  Decius then took seven young men from among the families of some magnates of Ephesus and entrusted to them the care of his clothing.  The names of these young men were: Maximian, Amlicus, Dianus, Martinus, Dionysius, Antoninus and John.  And since these seven young men were not accustomed to bow down before idols, the spies of the king made him aware of this.  The king went into a rage and ordered them thrown into jail.  Then having to go away for an expedition, he set them free with the intention to defer to his return the decision on their fate.  When the king left the city, the young men took all they had and gave it away for charity.  Then they went up onto a high mountain, called Khāws (47), to the east of Ephesus.  There was on that mountain a large cave, and they hid themselves.  Each day, one of them in turn left that place and went into town to hear what people said of them, to buy food and to inform the others when he returned.  The king Decius returned and asked for news of the young men.  They told him that they were on the mountain, in the cave.  He ordered that the entry should be blocked so that they should die.  But God caused a deep sleep to descend on the seven youths and they fell asleep so that they almost seemed dead.  A general of the King picked up a sheet of lead and wrote on it their history and what there was between them and the king Decius.  Then he put the plate of lead in a copper box, and he left it inside the cave when the entry was blocked.

14. The king Decius died.  After him two kings reigned in Rome, over the Romans: Ghalliyūs Caesar and Yūliyānūs  Caesar (48) for two years.  This was in the twelfth year of the reign of Bahram, son of Bahram, king of the Persians.  In the first year of their reign Cornelius was made patriarch of Rome (49). He held the see for two years and died.  In that same year Demetrianus was made patriarch of Antioch. He held the office for eight years and died.

15. The king Yūliyānūs died and eighteen days afterwards the king Ghalliyūs, his partner, was killed.  After them reigned over the Romans Ghalititūs Caesar, called Alāriyānūs Caesar (50), for fifteen years.  This happened in the fourteenth year of the reign of Bahram, son of Bahram, king of the Persians.  In the first year of his reign Maximus was made patriarch of Alexandria.  He held the office for eighteen years and died.  In the same year Lucius was made patriarch of Rome (51).  He held the office for eight months and died.  After him Ustātiyūs was made patriarch of Rome (52). He held the office for six years and died.  In the eighth year of his reign Sixtus was made patriarch of Rome (53).  He held the seat for nine years and died.  In that same year Domnus was made patriarch of Antioch.  He held the office for three years and died.  In the twelfth year of his reign Timothy was made patriarch of Antioch.  He held the office for three years and died.  In the fifth year of his reign Alexander was made bishop of Jerusalem (54).  He had held the seat for seven years when this king had him killed in the city of Caesarea in the eleventh year of his reign.  In the fourteenth year of his reign Marzābān was made bishop of Jerusalem.  He held the seat for twenty-one years and died.  In the seventh year of the reign of Ghalinītūs Caesar the martyr Cyprian was killed in a village named Arshaginnah (55).  ‘Alitinūs Caesar was very cruel towards Christians and procured them many evils.  His son (56) went out to war against the Persians, but they took him prisoner and brought him to Bahram, son of Bahram, king of the Persians, who had him beheaded.  When Ghallitinūs Caesar learned that Bahram, son of Bahram, king of the Persians, had beheaded his son, he felt great pain and desisted from doing harm to the Christians.  In the fifth year of his reign died Bahram, son of Bahram, king of the Persians (57).  After him reigned Bahram, who is also the son of Bahram, called Shashan Shah (58), for four months and died.  After him reigned his brother Narsi (59), son of Bahram, son of Sabur, son of Azdashir, son of Babak, son of Shashan.  He reigned over the Persians for nine years and died.  In the fourteenth year of his reign, i.e. the reign of Ghallitinūs Caesar, Hurmuz, son of Narsi (60), reigned over the Persians for seven years and five months and died.

Why do Greek alchemical works get more and more obscure in terminology over time?

Greek technical literature is largely neglected.  Few can work with it, unless they have both excellent language skills, plus knowledge of the specialised jargon, plus some knowledge of the subject area – medicine, chemistry, or whatever.

But even someone who has all this may find themselves baffled.  The following section from a paper in Ambix: the Journal of the Society for the Study of Alchemy and Early Chemistry – a bunch of people who are somewhat standoffish, to cap it all – came to hand this evening, and I thought that I would share it with you.  The author is C.A. Browne.[1]

2. Obscurities of Expression in Alchemistic Literature.

All the treatises of alchemy, beginning with the earliest writings and continuing down to the latest compositions of the eighteenth century, are characterized by the greatest obscurity of expression.

The Graeco-Egyptian shop-recipes for gold-making of the early Christian era are simple directions for counterfeiting the precious metais by making various alloys of lead, copper, tin, mercury and silver to which, in a state of fusion, were added varying amounts of cinnabar, red oxide of copper, pyrites, litharge, smelter-dust and other yellow-coloured or reddish metallic substances that were expected to give the alloy a colour resembling that of gold. These recipes vary in the nature of their combinations, and because of the lack of a definite nomenclature a difference of opinion early arose as to the nature of such expressions as Spanish tutty, Persian talc, Chian earth, Attic ochre, Italian stibium and the like.

In the course of time, because of unsuccessful efforts to duplicate the results of the early recipes, the opinion became prevalent that the old practitioners had intentionally made use of obscure expressions. In his treatise upon ‘The Four Substantial Bodies’, Zosimos, an alchemical Greek writer of the fourth century, remarked, ‘If these things were useful they accepted them in their treatments but referred to them by means of enigmas and for this reason they are a mystery’. By the time of Zosimos deliberate obscurity of expression was the fashion in alchemy; minerals, metals, and apparatus were frequently mentioned not by their actual names, but by a multitude of cryptic terms to which only a few of the initiated had the key.  Zosimos, for example, describes mercury as ‘the silvery water; the masculine-feminine; the ever-fugitive; that which hastens unto its own; and the divine water’.

Again, in a Greek alchemical lexicon, mercury is variously mentioned as ‘seed of the dragon’, ‘bile of the dragon’, ‘dew’, ‘milk of a black cow’, ‘sandarach’, ‘Scythian water ‘, ‘water of silver’, ‘water of the moon’, ‘river water’, and ‘divine water’. Mercury, from its fluidity, was again called the ‘sea’ and ‘sea water’ (θαλάσσιον ὕδωρ), this being the origin of the Latin aqua maris, a later mediaeval designation for mercury.

According to Stephanos, who quotes the opinion of early writers, the old practitioners of the art employed enigmatic and obscure expressions because they wished to sharpen the wits of their pupils and to conceal the secrets of their art from the uninitiated. He repeatedly declares, ‘I shall make the enigmatic doctrines of my predecessors the subjects of clear inquiry’, and then proceeds in characteristic manner to make his subject still more unintelligible.

As a result of Christian ecclesiastical influences the ambiguities of alchemy were still further intensified.  Chemical operations such as washing, dissolving, melting, digesting and distilling, which were clearly enough indicated in the old technical works, were referred to under such terms as baptism, mortification, death, burial and resurrection. As man was held to be a microcosm of the great universe, so each metal was held to be a microcosm of man. ‘Thus copper, the same as man, has both a soul and a spirit’, to quote again from Stephanos, ‘for these fusible and metallic bodies are so constituted that whenever they are calcined in contact with fire they are again spiritualized by the fire granting them a spirit’ (Ideler. 210, 11-14). The transmutation of copper into gold was to be accomplished by endowing the body of copper with a new soul and a new spirit.

With the spread of astrological conceptions, the influence of the heavenly bodies upon the transmutation of metals became an established principle in Greek alchemy and the literature upon the subject was overspread with another layer of obscurities. Gold was referred to as Helios, silver as Selene, mercury as Hermes, copper as Aphrodite, iron as Ares, tin as Zeus and lead as Kronos, and the astrological signs of these heavenly bodies were employed to designate the respective metals. But these and other signs were differently employed, the symbol [omitted] for Mercury being applied by some writers to tin and by others to quicksilver. To the latter substance as the counterpart of Silver the sign [omitted] of the old moon was employed by some writers, the opposite crescent [omitted] of the new moon being reserved for silver. Confusion of these and other similar signs caused differences of interpretation and many of the texts became in this way corrupt.

Thus it happened that by a gradual process of syncretism old shop recipes of the metal workers, Egyptian magic, Greek philosophy, Jewish gnosticism, Chaldean astrology, Christian theology and Pagan mythology were combined into a confused allegorical system of chemical philosophy to which was given the name of the ‘Sacred Art ‘. In order to give their vague mystical doctrines a semblance of authority the alchemical writers published various pseudographs under the names of Hermes Trismegistos, Moses, Demokritos and other celebrities of Egyptian, Jewish, Persian and Greek origin, and it is probably because of this practice that the name of the eminent philosopher Theophrastos was selected by the author of the alchemistic poems as one of his several noms de plume.

The final phase of the delight of the Greek alchemists in figurative expression was the complete subordination of the physical act of transmutation to its allegorical symbol,– the conversion of lead and copper into gold being held up as a picture of the regeneration and transformation of man’s own base nature into something nobler and higher. Hence came the moralities and religious exhortations which make up so large a part of the treatises of Stephanos and of his later imitators.

I seem to recall that one of the texts referencing the origins of soap referred to “divine water” a little while back.  It was an alchemical text, of which I made very little.  Now I know why!

  1. [1] C.A. Browne, “Rhetorical and religious aspects of Greek alchemy: part II”, Ambix, 1946, p.17-18.

Some 1786 images from the Baths of Titus

The Baths of Titus have long been destroyed.  They stood over part of the remains of Nero’s Golden House, itself filled with frescos.

A volume published in 1786 and now online, Ponce, Description des bains de Titus, here, contains a general view of the Baths, as they then stood, together with the entrance to the underground areas; plus two maps.

First the overview, including one of the massive exedras:


View of the remains of the Baths of Titus (Thermae Titi) and the entrance to the underground tooms. From Ponce, Description des bains de Titus, 1786.

Next, a map of the underground areas, indicating the foundations of the exedras.


Map of the underground areas under the Baths of Titus. Note the foundations of the semi-circular exedras at each end. From Ponce, Description des bains de Titus, 1786.

Finally a map of the overground area, with some elevations.  I wonder, from the notes on it, how much of this was still standing in 1786, tho.  I’m guessing this is merely a reconstruction from Piranesi, etc.

Ponce (1786).  Map of the Baths of Titus, after Piranesi.

Ponce (1786). Map of the Baths of Titus, after Piranesi.

Update: Ste. Trombetti writes to say that in fact Ponce is a pixel-for-pixel reprint of Ludovico Mirri’s Vestigia delle terme di Tito e loro interne pitture, 1776, accessible at the Heidelberg Digital library here. (And, pleasingly, with a nice big “Download” button on it!)

A bunch of Chrysostom and ps.Chrysostom now online in English

Sometime correspondent “Inepti Graeculi” has been working away on some of the untranslated works of Chrysostom, and also some of the mass of literature attributed to him in transmission.

This sort of work is excellent.  Voicu has estimated that there are around 1,500 texts which are spuriously attributed to Chrysostom.  They are, of course, works which lost their original author, but were considered sufficiently interesting to be preserved; which means that they deserve attention now.  These translations should do much to make that happen!

There’s a list of material recently translated by IG at the bottom; but coming soon also is…

Ps.Chrysostom’s In Parabolam Ficu (CPG 4588) – a popular work that argues against the notion that God rejected the Jews (versions found in Syriac, Ethiopic, translated five times into Arabic (!), also in a very important manuscript in Slavonic etc etc.  Wrongly ascribed to Severian of Gabala in the Armenian tradition. Voicu assigns this to an anonymous Cappadocian. The amazing Sever Voicu’s short outline of Chrystostom in the Oriental tradition is quite eye-opening.

I have also nearly finished Chrysostom’s Non Esse Desperandum (CPG 4390) which I very much enjoyed

Here are the recent releases!


Title CPG Comment Version
In Jordanem Fluvuium 4548 Attributed to Severian of Gabala by Marx (1939) but this was rejected by Altendorf (1957). Calvin should have read this. 0.1 Link
De Cognitione Dei 4703 A short homily in which  the speaker relates that Christ’s advent brought the knowledge of god (θεογνωσία). He then briefly addresses neophytes and invites the audience to pilgrimage to the Jordan. Possibly delivered at Bethlehem on the night before the celebration of Christ’s baptism 0.1 Link


Precatio in Obsessos 4710 One of several prayers published by Montfaucon (and reprinted by Migne) as a supplement to the Liturgy ascribed to John Chrysostom. Montfaucon sourced this text from Goar, Rituale Graecorum, Paris, 1647, p. 783. It was not included in Savile’s or Fronto’s Chrysostom edition. This little prayer is still found in the liturgical books of Eastern Orthodox churches. 0.2 Link
In Ingressum sanctorum jejuniorum 4665 On fasting and drunkenness. Ascribed to Proclus (Marx, Le Roy, De Aldama) or an anonymous sophistic rhetor (Musurillo) 0.1 Link
In sanctum Stephanum 2 4691 One of several homilies on the Protomartyr Stephen among the Ps.-Chrysostomica 0.1 Link
Encomium in sanctos martyres 4759 Text: Aubineau (1975) 0.1 Link

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 10 (part 2)

Up to now, Eutychius has repeated material derived from the Greek chronographic tradition.  As we saw in the last post, in chapter 10, for the first time, he introduces material from elsewhere: a now lost Sassanid Persian chronicle, beginning with Ardashir, founder of that dynasty.  Since it is unlikely that Eutychius knew Middle Persian, we may reasonably surmise that he consulted it in an Arabic translation.

5.  As for Sabur, son of Azdashir, king of the Persians, as far as he could he ruled the people with justice.  He dedicated himself to visit the provinces and to support the urban system of the countries.  After eleven years of his reign, he marched with his soldiers to the city of Nisibis (23), in which were garrisoned many soldiers of Antoninus Caracalla, King of the Romans, and he besieged it for some time without being able to conquer it.  Once aware of being unable to get the better of it, he ordered a large, spacious well-fortified seige-tower to be built next to the city.  After it was completed, he climbed up with the generals of his army, and looked down from the height into the inside of the city.  They shot arrows, so that no one dared to go into the open.  Eventually the besieged decided to surrender the city.  Meanwhile, it was reported that an enemy out of Khurasan had attacked the people of his kingdom.  For this reason, he sent messengers to the nobles of Nisibis, proposing to them either to give entry to the soldiers there that had kept them engaged in combat until his return, or to enter into a covenant with him, by which they agreed not to remove the seige-engine unless he did not return.  They preferred to enter into a covenant with him, and an agreement whereby they undertook to leave the bastion where it was, and the king left.  However the people of Nisibis poured out of the walls of the city, opened a gap in the wall near the place where the seige-engine was, took it inside the city, and surrounded it with a well fortified wall.

6. Antoninus Caesar, King of the Romans, diedAfter him reigned over the Romans Marcianus Caesar (24), for a year and two monthsHe was killed, and after him reigned another Antoninus Caesar (25) for three years and nine months.  This happened in the fourteenth year of the reign of Sabur, king of the Persians[Antoninus Caesar] sent a huge army to Nisibis to defend and protect the city. In the first year of the reign of Antoninus Caesar Bitiyanus was made patriarch of Rome (26).  He held the office for five years and diedIn the second year of his reign Zebennus was made patriarch of Antioch. He held the office for nine years and died.

7. Quanto a Sābūr, figlio di Azdashir, re dei Persiani, tornato che fu a Nissfbfn e visto quel che gli abitanti avevano fatto del propugnacolo, li tacciò di tradimento e disse:

7.  As for Sabur, son of Azdashir, king of the Persians, he returned to Nisibis and saw what the people had done to the seige-engine, he spoke of betrayal and said:  “You have been rebels, and have broken the covenant.”  So he besieged the city.  But since already a long time had passed, without having found a way to get the better of the city, he was worried and said to his men, “Come, let us see if there is any of our soldiers who are not worrying at all about how long this is taking!”  They made a tour of the field and found two men intent on drinking wine and singing. [The king] said to them:  “Seemingly you have no right to be with us, since you behave in this way and you stand on the sidelines.”  They answered: “O king, however worried you are about how to conquer this city, we have a good chance of success, if you do what we tell you.”  “How so?” asked the king. They replied: “Advance with your soldiers in close order, and raise invocations to your Lord, to make you conquer the city.” Sabur ordered that it should be done as they had said.  But since that was no good, he said to them: “We have implemented your advice, but we have not seen any results. What have you to say to us now?” They answered: “We fear that what we suggested doing has just been taken lightly. But if you think it’s possible to get them to be sincere in what they do, and to invoke their Lord all together, as if it was the invocation of one man, then you’ll get what you want.”  Sabur then summoned his men and urged them to do what they were going to do with sincere intention and firm conviction.  It is said that they had not yet raised the second invocation when the wall fell down from top to bottom, leaving open a passage through which the men were able to enter the city.  Great was the dismay of the inhabitants and they exclaimed: “This is what we deserve for our treachery!”  Sabur entered the city and killed as many warriors as he could.  Then he captured the rest of the inhabitants, and took away with him many riches.  He left just as it was the gap that had opened in the walls, because people saw it and it was a lesson to them.  Next he stormed several cities of Syria, slaughtering the inhabitants and taking away great plunder.  He overran the territories of the Romans and made great slaughter, occupying Qalawniyah (27) and Cappadocia.

8. Antoninus Caesar, King of the Romans, died.  After him reigned over the Romans, in Rome, Alexander Caesar (28) for thirteen years.  This was in the seventeenth year of the reign of Sabur, son of Azdashir, king of the Persians.  In his day the Christians lived peacefully and were left in peace.  His mother’s name was Marna (29) and he was very fond of the Christians.  In the first year of his reign Heraclas was made patriarch of Alexandria.  He held the office for thirteen years and died.  It was in his time that the Patriarch of Alexandria was called “Baba”, or “grandfather”.  In the third year of his reign Antis was made patriarch of Rome (30).  He held the office for twelve years and died.  In the eighth year of his reign Babilas was made Patriarch of Antioch.  He held the office for eight years and died.  In the second year of his reign Narcissus he was made bishop of Jerusalem.  He held the office for twelve years, and fled.

Constantinople photos: the original width of the Hippodrome, plus the column of Arcadius

A couple of items have appeared on twitter this morning that I am loathe to let go by.  The first is a splendid, end-on view of the Hippodrome in Istanbul.  Note the arches at the foot of it.  This end of the Hippodrome was supported by them; which means that we can see just how wide the structure originally was!

End-on view of Hippodrome, Istanbul, from the air

End-on view of Hippodrome, Istanbul, from the air

I learn from Ste. Trombetti that the column of Arcadius, the “columna historiata”, was demolished in 1715, but a drawing of it survives (this from BNF):

Column of Arcadius, Istanbul, in 17th c.

Column of Arcadius, Istanbul, pre-1715.

However the base of the column does still exist, deprived of its reliefs!

Column of Arcadius, Istanbul.

Column of Arcadius, Istanbul.


UPDATE: Dr Trombetti also draws my attention to this stunning blog post on the column of Arcadius, complete with early maps showing it intact, early drawings of the column, its reliefs, sections, early photographs, and a google maps diagram indicating its location in the modern city.  The blog is in Turkish but if you view the page using the Chrome browser and let it translate automatically for you then you will get 95% of what the author says.

A first century fragment of Mark’s gospel? Some thoughts by an outsider

An article in Live Science two days ago:

Mummy Mask May Reveal Oldest Known Gospel

A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published. …

This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy.

Some sensible words of caution are here; and here at ETC, where it is suggested that the article at Live Science may be entirely derived from some public presentations.  There has also been some curious snarking from one or two papyrologists, who are not involved in the discovery, presumably out of sour grapes.

Is this a genuine discovery?  Who knows?  But I have some concerns about all this, even based on the story as we have it.

Mark’s gospel was completed ca. 70 AD, in Alexandria, according to the ancient literary sources, and to me there seems no pressing reason to suppose that they are wrong.  So it is possible, in principle, that a piece of an early copy could be found in waste papyrus in Egypt.  There’s no real reason why not.

But … surely it is somewhat improbable that one of the few copies of this text in existence at that date should happen to turn up in the limited amount of mummy cartonnage that has so far been dismantled?  Isn’t it?  Consider the vast output of papyrus made every year in ancient Egypt, of which a certain proportion ended up as waste papyrus.  What, statistically, are the chances of a 1st century copy of Mark being in that proportion?  They must be slim.

We’re told that portions of Homer have turned up, and this is not a surprise.  Likewise that documentary texts are found: this too does not surprise.  But something that must always have been a very rare item?

Of course probability is just that; a calculation based on averages.  All the same, it’s troubling.

In general, when a discovery is made which bears on matters of current interest or controversy (rather than something which was controversial in antiquity), it is wise to consider the possibility of forgery.   In the renaissance people forged stone monuments supposedly from well-known figures of classical antiquity, in order to make money.  Forgeries of papyri are not at all unknown.

There is a fingerprint for forgery, noted by Stephen C. Carlson.  By its very nature, a forgery must be of something which is exciting to people in the period in which it is “discovered”.   That’s where the money is.  Nobody is going to forge something that nobody is interested in.  But it is often the case that this modern excitement is over something that would not have been exciting in antiquity.  It is this dichotomy that marks out a forgery.

So any “discovery” that is of current interest, that fits squarely into a matter of current agitation, or fits the political or religious views of the discoverer particularly well, must be scrutinised with rational but exceptional caution.  Otherwise we will all be hoodwinked by those enterprising gentlemen in Turkey and Palestine whose attempts at forgery regularly attract interest from specialists.

A discovery of a first century fragment of a gospel fits that profile squarely.  A first century gospel could not have been of special interest in antiquity, when they were composed, but it would be very interesting today!

It is, therefore, of the utmost importance to do things right; to establish the provenance of the item, to look for signs of forgery, to get a range of experts involved, and, above all, to shed as much light as possible on the item.

When P52 was identified in the 1930s, the discoverer, Colin Roberts, proceeded with extreme care.  He did not publish, nor did he announce his find, until it had been examined by all the leading paleographers of the day, and a consensus reached.  The wisdom of his approach is evident: his result has not been seriously questioned in 80 years, even though it contradicted the established wisdom of biblical studies at the time, and reinforced the fondest wishes of Christians.

By contrast the way in which this supposed first century fragment is being made known raises in me the worst suspicions.

The papyrus trade is a secretive one, partly because of the foolishness of the Egyptian government in declaring all finds the property of state officials, and partly because of the stupidity of western activists, who harass those involved in the black market that has inevitably arisen.  It is, therefore, entirely understandable that nothing should be announced until everything is ready.  And if that silence is used, as Colin Roberts did, to determine the facts and build consensus, then well and good.  That’s one way to publish.

The alternative is better.  It is to shine a bright light on everything.  Publish the fragments now, without any very firm attributions, as soon as possible, with the provenance, and crowd-source an examination of every element of it.  The truth will out, and a consensus will come into being rather rapidly, as it did for the forgery known as the “gospel of Jesus’ wife”.

Either approach is acceptable.  But we seem to have neither.  Instead we have the worst of both worlds.

On the one hand we have a drip-drip of non-academic reportage, excitedly making all sorts of claims, possibly based on no more than a video by somebody who may (or may not) be involved in the project at all.  This feeds the fever of speculation; which, of course, increases the price that may be asked for publication, and generally increases the commercial value of the property.  It seems to benefit nobody in any other way that I can see.

On the other hand, we have an entire silence on all the matters that would allow professionals to form a judgement.

It is reminiscent of some of the hype around the Coptic Gospel of Judas.  That was a genuine text, and this mixture of whispers and real information is what we tended to get.  I suppose, in fairness, that this may be how Americans do things, for all I know.

But it is also reminiscent of how forgers operate: people whose sole aim is to boost the value of their merchandise and make a quick buck while the going is good.  For all I know, there is some Turkish forger at work, using some clever Swiss lawyer (or whatever) to control the whole process via “confidentiality agreements”, and manipulating the scholars at the far end who seek merely to recover knowledge.

If the discovery is genuine, then it is wonderful.  Any recovery of lost texts from antiquity is a joy, and any very early witness to any important text is to be treasured.

But is it genuine?  We cannot say.  But the manner in which it is becoming known to the public does nothing to give me confidence.

So I think we need to hold our horses, and await proper publication.  To me, all this is too good to be true.  But let’s hope not.