Archive Page 2

Online: Free .pdf version of Lanciani’s “Forma Urbis Romae”

Ste Trombetti draws my attention to the existence of a PDF of 19th century archaeologist R. Lanciani’s map of ancient Rome.  It’s here.

It zooms really nicely too…

lanciani_map_excpt

Here’s a mirror of the PDF.

From my diary

Oops.  I was just preparing the Italian text for the next chapter of Eutychius when I noticed that it was chapter 14; while my posts for the last five chunks were supposedly “chapter 12″.  They should, of course, have been headed “chapter 13″.  I have gone back and fixed the headings.

The mistake was easy, because the Italian translation does not contain running headings, so that, once in error, I had no reason to examine the chapter heading again.

I remember looking at British Library Additional manuscript 12150, which is a Syriac codex written in 411 AD.  This has running headings throughout, in the hand of the scribe.  It is a pity that the Franciscans of Cairo, who printed Eutychius, were unable to do the same.

I shall press on with Eutychius, although I feel rather ashamed of translating an Italian translation into English, and doing so badly since I don’t know Italian and rely on Google translate plus a smattering of knowledge acquired along the way.  But the result still makes Eutychius more available than it would be otherwise.  With luck someone qualified to do so will take the Arabic text and make a proper translation, and make it accessible online.

The next chunk of Eutychius looks rather theological to me.  It is concerned with something of the utmost importance to Eutychius and his fellow-Melkites, a minority in Egypt – the council of Chalcedon, at which the monophysites were condemned.  I hope that I can make sense of the text, even though I only have a sketchy idea of the theology.  If not, I hope that you will forgive me.

Today I heard from a correspondent, asking me about the online translations of John Chrysostom’s Against the Jews; or Discourses against Judaizing Christians, as the Catholic University of America Press somewhat presumptuously calls them in the Fathers of the Church vol. 68 translation by Harkins.  Of course I directed him to that volume.  I believe that a critical edition of the text is in progress, in Germany – the discoverer of most of sermon 2, Wendy Pradels, is involved – and when this is complete then a fresh translation will be called for.  Considering the importance of the text, one can only hope that efforts will be made to make that new translation available online.  There really is no purpose in publishing such things offline any more.

It’s been a while since I myself have commissioned any translations of ancient texts.  At the moment I am at home, waiting for another contract.  It would be unwise to agree any fresh outgoings until the money tap is turned on again.  Wish me luck!  Once someone agrees to employ me, then I will simultaneously have less time and more money.

It looks as if the general election in the UK is interfering with the UK contract market, just as it did in 2010.  I suppose, logically, that few corporations would commence an expensive project now, when they could wait a month and know what kind of regulatory environment they will face.  So they do not recruit, or sign contracts with small businesses.  So the delay is something of a test of patience.

In the meantime, I can do a few projects myself!

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 13 (part 5 and end)

Eutychius continues telling us about the reign of Arcadius, in the 5th century, from his perspective of 5 centuries later, followed by the story of the Nestorian dispute.

13. In the fourth year of his reign, i.e. the reign of Arcadius, king of Rum, there reigned over the Persians Yazdağard (37), son of Bahram, called “the sinner”, for twenty years.  Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, built a large church in Alexandria in the name of Arcadius, king of Rum (38).  Arcadius, king of Rum, died after reigning for thirteen years.  After him his son Theodosius, called Theodosius the Less (39), reigned over Rum for forty years.  This happened in the eleventh year of the reign of Yazdağard, son of Bahram, king of the Persians.  In the ninth year of the reign of Theodosius, Yazdağard, son of Bahram, invaded the empire and between the two there was a violent battle with many casualties on both sides, so that both withdrew.  In the thirteenth year of the reign of Theodosius Zosimus was made patriarch of Rome (40).  He held the office for only one year and died.  After him Yūnūmātiyūs was made patriarch of Rome (41).  He held the office for three years and died.  After him Celestine was made patriarch of Rome (42).  He held the office for ten years and died.

14. In his fifth year in office there was the third council, against Nestorius, in Ephesus (43).  In the first year of his reign, i.e. the reign of Theodosius the Less, Cyril of Alexandria (44) was made Patriarch.  He held the see for thirty years and died.  In his twenty-first year in office there was the third council, against Nestorius.  In the first year of the reign of Theodosius the Less Alexander was made patriarch of Antioch (45).  He held the office for four years and died.  After him Baradūtus was made patriarch of Antioch (46).  He held the office for six years and died.  After him John was made patriarch of Antioch (47).  He held the office for seventeen years died.  In his eleventh year in office there was the third council, against Nestorius.  In the seventh year of the reign of Theodosius the Less, Flavius was made patriarch of Jerusalem (48).  He held the office for thirty-eight years and died.  In his fourteenth year in office there was the third council, against Nestorius, and in his thirty-seventh year in office took place the fourth council, against Dioscorus, in the city of Chalcedon (49).

15. In the fourteenth year of the reign of Theodosius the Less, Sisinnius was made patriarch of Constantinople (50).  He held the office for three years and died.  After him Nestorius was made patriarch of Constantinople (51).  He held the office for four years and two months, and then was excommunicated and deposed.  Nestorius claimed that the Virgin Mary is not the true mother of God because this means that there would be two sons: the one, the God who is born of the Father, and the other, the man who was born of Mary.  He argued then that this man, who claimed to be the Christ, was joined with the Son in virtue of love, and he was called God and Son of God, not in the proper sense, but as a gift and associate of the two names, as well as a title of honor, like one of the prophets.  Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, came to know what Nestorius was saying, and wrote him a letter, in which he highlighted the scandal of his doctrine and the perversity of his conduct, urging him to return to the truth.  Many were the letters that he wrote, but Nestorius did not desist from his doctrine.  Then Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, wrote to John, Patriarch of Antioch, asking him to write to Nestorius, and show the monstrosity and absurdity of his doctrine, and why they were appealing to him to return to the truth.  John, Patriarch of Antioch, then wrote to Nestorius telling him that if he did not return to the truth, they would meet and they would have him excommunicated.  Many were the letters that he wrote, but Nestorius did not recede from his doctrine.  Instead he persisted in his error and his depraved belief blinded him.  Then John, Patriarch of Antioch, wrote to Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, informing him that Nestorius remained firm in his depraved belief.  Cyril wrote then to Celestine (52), patriarch of Rome, to Juvenal (53), Patriarch of Jerusalem, and to John, Patriarch of Antioch, asking them to come together in the city of Ephesus to examine the doctrine of Nestorius and to try to get him to recant.  Otherwise he would be abandoned to his fate, excommunicated and deposed.

16. Two hundred bishops gathered in the city of Ephesus (54).  There presided at that council Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, Celestine, patriarch of Rome and Juvenal, Patriarch of Jerusalem.  John had promised them that he would be present, but since he was late in coming, Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, did not wait further.  He gathered the bishops who sent word to Nestorius, who was in Ephesus, that he should also be present.  But Nestorius refused to join them.  They sent for him three times and since he lingered, and finally decided not to show up, they examined his doctrine, and, judging it worthy of excommunication, voted him anathema and consigned him to exile.  They established thus that the Virgin is [true] Mother of God and that Christ is true God and [true] man, with two natures and one in regard to the person: quite different from love.  Nestorius was saying in fact that the unity is only a combination of the two persons and it was therefore necessary to assert that the true unity means that there can be only one person with two natures.  They had already excommunicated Nestorius when John, Patriarch of Antioch, arrived.  Seeing that they had already excommunicated Nestorius even before he was present, he was annoyed and said: “You have been unjust with him and have undeservedly excommunicated Nestorius.”  He sided then with Nestorius, gathered the bishops who were with him, and excommunicated Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria and Simon, bishop of Ephesus.  Faced with the hostile behavior of John, the companions of Cyril dissociated themselves from the others and left Ephesus.  The companions of Cyril and the Orientals formed thus two sides, and there were great struggles among them.  But King Theodosius intervened promptly and re-established peace between them.  The Orientals then drew up a paper in which they claimed that the holy virgin Mary gave birth [really] to our God and our Lord Jesus Christ, who is of the same nature with his Father, and of the same nature with men as to his humanity.  They also recognized the two natures, one hypostasis and one person, and excommunicated Nestorius.  They sent as bearer of the paper Paul, Metropolitan of Homs, to Cyril, patriarch of Alexandria, who read and approved it, responding: “My faith is in line with that expressed by you and contained in your paper.”  In this way agreement was re-established between Cyril and the Orientals.  Some have said that when Cyril received the letter of the Orientals he did not find that it entirely conformed to the dictates of true faith in that he, personally, did not intend to assert “two natures and one hypostasis.”  But they are certainly wrong because all the writings of Cyril speak, in fact, in favor of this claim.  Cyril wrote a copy of the paper of the Orientals to Hilary, bishop of the city of Corinth, to Acacius, bishop of Malatiyah (55) and many other bishops in order to let them know that the Orientals had returned to the true faith, and that they did not at all share the doctrine of Nestorius, but that of the second council of the hundred and fifty bishops who had gathered in Constantinople to excommunicate Macedonius.  From that second council to this third council of two hundred bishops, who had gathered at Ephesus and had excommunicated Nestorius, there had passed fifty years.  This happened in the twenty-first year of the reign of Theodosius the Less, king of Rum.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 13 (part 4)

Here’s the next chunk of the Annals of Eutychius, covering the period of Chrysostom.  The story of Chrysostom and his violent disagreement with Theophilus of Alexandria must always have been difficult for the Copts, who revered both. 

10. There lived in Egypt a bishop who had died leaving three children, who then all three became monks who were going to live in the monastery of Scete.  Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, took one and made him bishop of a certain city of Egypt, then appointed the other two as deacons and kept them with him as disciples.  In fact, they remained in the service of Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, but just three years afterwards, the two young men manifested a desire to return to Scete.  Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, was opposed to their request, but the two young men went away without his permission.  Then [the patriarch] forbade them to approach the Eucharist for the period of three years, and the two went to John Chrysostom asking him to write to Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, a letter requesting him to allow them to receive the Eucharist.  John Chrysostom sent them, accompanied with a letter from him, to Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, asking him to welcome them, but the patriarch was adamant.  The two then went back to John Chrysostom, and he allowed them to communicate.  Thus it was that the disagreements arose between Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, and John Chrysostom.

11. At the time of Arcadius, king of Rum, there lived a very wealthy man, named Thāwkatistus.  Because of some envy, with false witnesses, he was accused before the king, saying that he had renounced the Christian faith and insulted the king.  So the king sent him into exile and confiscated his goods.  The wife [of Thāwkatistus] owned a vineyard.  Happening to pass before the vineyard, and finding it so beautiful that she wanted it, Queen Eudoxia asked: “Whose is this vineyard?”  They told her that it belonged to the wife of the man whom the king had sent into exile.  The queen then said: “I wish it were mine and I could make my walks in it!”  Some ministers told her: “It is the custom that everything belongs to a king that is under his feet.”  On hearing these words the queen took possession of the vineyard.  The woman then had recourse to John Chrysostom, and John sent word to the queen to return the vineyard to the legitimate owner.  And because the queen refused to do so, he went personally to talk to her, but the queen did not deign to make any response.  He then appealed to the fear of God and said: “Take care that there doesn’t happen to you what happened to Yezabel, wife of Akhāb, king of Israel.”  The queen did not agree and ordered John to be driven from the building.  John went away saddened and gave orders to his deacons to close the door on the queen if she presented herself to enter the church.  They did as ordered and the queen retired in anger.

12. Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, was in Constantinople, to attend to some of his business with the King.  The queen summoned him and said to him: “John has turned against the truth and has meddled in affairs that do not concern him, and set himself as my accuser.  How can I remove him from the office he is occupying?”  “If things are as you say,” replied Epiphanius, “I will urge him to repent. If he repents, then it will be better for him, otherwise I will destroy him”. But the queen insisted: “If he is not destroyed, then I will open the temples of the idols and I’ll make people worship them.”  Then the queen commissioned some bishops and deacons to go to the king to testify before him against John, telling him that he was a transgressor of the law and that the population would not support him and hated him.  And since those bishops envied John, because of his great learning, they lent themselves to the queen’s game, and did just as she had taught them to do.  The king Arcadius then ordered that John be removed from office.  Then John Chrysostom wrote to Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, saying: “You, Epiphanius, you have helped to send me into exile and you have supported the conspiracy against me, saying things about me unbecoming to the position you occupy.  But know that you will not reach your city before you die.” Epiphanius answered him saying: “O John, I said only good things of you, and I have made every effort just to defend you, and with all diligence I tried to avert your doom, but all was in vain.  He who is present sees what the absent does not see.  But as you accuse me of things that I do not know and I did not say, know that you will not reach the place to which you have been exiled before you die.”  Epiphanius then set off for Cyprus, and he died on the ship when there was just half a day to go before arrival.  John Chrysostom, in his turn, died before reaching the place to which he had been confined.  At Constantinople there was then a terrible earthquake, violent thunder and lightning, lightning and rain.  The king said: “All this is because we have banished John Chrysostom”.  Therefore he gave orders to bring back the body to Constantinople and to bury it.  This was in the sixth year of the reign of Arcadius.  John was called Chrysostom, or “golden mouth”, because a woman who was mourning the dead exclaimed in the lamentations: “O John, O golden mouth”.  So he was called “golden mouth”.  After him another John was made patriarch of Constantinople (30).  He held the office for two years and died.  After him Eusebius was made patriarch of Constantinople.  He held the office for a year and died.  After him Iğnādiyūs was made patriarch of Constantinople.  He held the office for three years and died.  After him Atticus was made patriarch of Constantinople (31).  He held the seat for fifteen years and died.  This was in the twelfth year of the reign of Arcadius.  In the eighth year of his reign Anastasius was made patriarch of Rome (32).  He held the office for three years and died.  In the eleventh year of his reign Abrakītiyus was made patriarch of Rome (33).  He held the office for fifteen years and died.  In the eighth year of his reign Prailius was made patriarch of Jerusalem (34).  He held the office for twelve years and died.  In the fifth year of his reign Paulinus was made patriarch of Antioch (35).  He held the office for four years and died.  In the ninth year of his reign Aghrū was made patriarch of Antioch (36).  He held the see for five years and died.

English translation of Cramer’s catena on Galatians published

John Litteral writes to tell me that a complete translation of Cramer’s catena-commentary on Galatians has been made by Bill Berg, and is available at a trivial price ($12)on Amazon here (US) and here (UK).

Some will be unaware of what a catena is.  The medieval church created its bible commentaries by stringing together chains of quotations from the fathers.  These chain-commentaries are known today as catenas (from the Latin for chain).  These often reference now lost works, and so are of value as a source for lost early Christian commentary on scripture.  They tend to be found in the margins of Greek bible manuscripts; but sometimes standalone.  The author of each excerpt is indicated by an abbreviation at the start.

It’s pretty hard to work with the catenas.  The text is often corrupt, the author marks even more often corrupt, and the editions are all old – sometimes very old – and difficult to access.  So … scholars have ducked the task of producing modern editions.

In the 19th century John Cramer published a set of catenas on all the books of the New Testament, in eight volumes.  Bill Berg has attacked the catena on Galatians.

The authors cited in this catena include John Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, and Severian of Gabala, among others.

So … if ancient biblical commentary is your thing, pick up a copy.  It should certainly encourage work on this subject!

The Nazis at Jesi: some notes on the modern history of the codex Aesinas of Tacitus’ “Germania” &c.

The minor works of Tacitus include the Germania and the Agricola.  The history of the manuscripts is somewhat tangled.  Several manuscripts of the minor works reached the renaissance, but were then lost.  The only survivor today is the Codex Aesinas Latinus 8, possibly the same as that discovered at Hersfeld by Guarini.  It was discovered by Prof. Cesare Annibaldi in the private library of Count Aurelio Guglielmi Balleani of Jesi in the autumn of 1902.  It is today in the Biblioteca Nazionale in Rome, where it is now Cod. Vitt. Em. 1631.

But in between it had a lively history.  In 1995, in his book Landscape and Memory, British historian Simon Schama published an account of some curious events that took place in Jesi in 1944.  Few manuscript enthusiasts will have seen this, so I thought that I would give some excerpts.[1]  For the story is truly rather exciting!

AUTUMN 1943

A detachment of SS winds its way up the mountain road west of Ancona tracing a black line in the autumn gold: crows in the corn. Clouds of chalky dust rise from the road while the exhaust from the armored cars shakes the unharvested wheat. Ten miles down, on the Adriatic coast, Ancona waits in frantic terror for an Allied bombing raid. Already it chokes on the brown dust of disaster while the iron and stone wreckage of its port crumbles into the tepid turquoise sea. Italy spins in turmoil. The last days of July had seen the end of Mussolini’s dictatorship. Now, his Roman Empire is open to barbarian occupation, the Germans obeying Hitler’s orders not to relinquish an inch of the Apennine center and north; the Anglo-Saxon allies advancing slowly and bloodily from the south. Released from formal military obligations, the remnant of the Italian army disintegrates, spilling thousands into the countryside, where, as Fascist squadri and partisan bande, they fight like snarling dogs over the bones of the fallen dictatorship.

South of Iesi, the medieval hill-town where the most Italian of German emperors, Frederick II, had been born, the little column turns into a rutted carriage road and halts in front of a grandly Palladian nineteenth-century palazzo. Its pilastered columns speak authority but the visitors are famous for their contempt for such outworn pretensions. Fascist militiamen hammer melodramatically on the door while the German officers scrutinize the house, their boots crunching on the weedy gravel. It is open season in the Marche, when the hills crack with gunshot and uccellati, “little birds,” drop from the sky to be spitted between layers of roasting mushrooms. But these hunters have other quarry, not partisans, not even Jews. They have come for the birth certificate of the German race.

According to scholars who staffed the SS’s special research division of classics and antiquity, the Ahnenerbe (Race Ancestry), this had been supplied by the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus. His Germania; or, On the Origin and Situation of the Germans had been written around the year 98 …

Once printed, the Germania took on a life of its own and the Guarnieri manuscript slipped back into drowsy obscurity in the palazzo library in the hills back of Ancona. Revolution arrived in the 1790s and the male line of the Guarnieri disappeared. The chancellor’s legacy, however, lived on through a marriage alliance to the dynasty of the Marche family of the counts Balleani, who inherited the palazzi and the great library that went with them. …

At home, the Fascist government took a sudden, unhealthy interest in the Balleani “Tacito.” In 1902 the professore of classics at the local high school, Cesare Annibaldi, had “discovered” what was now called the Codex Aesinas lat. 8 (after the Latin name for Osimo, the third of the Balleani palazzi) and established it as the closest surviving link with the original. Before and after the First World War an entire cottage industry of German philologists, obsessed with the tribal origins of their new Reich, made it their business to comb through the manuscript folio by folio. For in the 1920s it came to be seen, in the decisive phrase of Eduard Norden, as their Urgeschichte, and some of his most avid readers hungered to have it return to its “natural homeland,” Among them were Alfred Rosenberg, the Party’s principal ideologue; Heinrich Himmler, who prided himself on his classical cultivation; and not least, Adolf Hitler.

In 1936 Mussolini visited Berlin, and the fuhrer took the opportunity, by way of expressing his enthusiasm for the historical relationship between Rome and Germany, to ask if the Codex Aesinas might not be brought back to the Reich. No philologist, the Duce obliged his host and, when told by his advisers that it belonged to a notorious anti-Fascist, the count Balleani, may have been still more delighted to dispossess him. On the other hand, Mussolini was also a great snob and the self-appointed guardian of the Roman imperial legacy (Tacitus included). So when a storm of protest greeted the suggestion that the Codex Aesinas leave Italy, Mussolini reneged on his offer. Doubtless this did not please Hitler. But nor did he care so very much about the manuscript that he would make special exertions to seize it from his ally. Heinrich Himmler, on the other hand, cared very much indeed. …

Through the war years the frustration of this act of philological repatriation was evidently not forgotten. Through the good offices of the German ambassador in Rome, Hans Georg von Mackensen, one of the most enthusiastic Latinists of the Ahnenerbe, Dr. Rudolph Till, had managed to secure access to the codex. A photographic facsimile was made in Berlin, and then, presumably in deference to the sensibilities of an ally, the codex went back to Italy. But once Mussolini had been overthrown, the Reich no longer had to bother with such courtesies. And in 1943 Till published his new “authoritative” edition, complete with a foreword by SS Reichsfuhrer Himmler (to the effect that the future would only be granted to those who understood the stock of their ancestry). The timing could not possibly have been accidental. Himmler’s foreword was, in effect, the warrant for the seizure of the codex.

Which is why the SS were parked on the grass in front of the palazzo Balleani at Fontedamo. They had come to make good on Mussolini’s reckless gesture— to repatriate the Germania to the Fatherland after a millennium of exile.

They were to be denied again. Once they had smashed in the door, the SS  stood in the empty, echoing vestibule of Fontedamo with no one to answer  their barked commands. With the help of the local Fascists, they then proceeded to take the house apart. The manuscript was not, of course, in the library; nor did there seem to be any alcoves, swinging doors, or secret closets that might be concealing the prize. And as room after room declared itself barren, what began as a systematic search turned into a violent festival of vindictive malice. Frescoes were scraped to the bare plaster, smeared with obscenities; paintings slashed; furniture ripped apart; mosaic floors smashed to shivers and ground into colored powder with the butt end of machine guns.

And while one Balleani house was being demolished from the inside out, another at Osimo, the hill-town to the southeast, was sheltering the family in its deep cellars. For Count Aurelio had been served well by his expansive brand of dynastic paternalism. Barroom gossip, doubdess falling from the slack tongue of a local Fascist, had tipped off the count’s driver in advance on the German excursion to Fontedamo. And even before he had let the family know, he had transported clothes and food to Osimo, enough to keep the count and his family hidden for weeks. And that house had been built, in the sixteenth-century fashion, to withstand assault: a fortress-like structure dominating one side of a piazza and opening onto the street from a single, inhospitable doorway. Still more helpfully, the Guarnieris had constructed deep below the house a labyrinth of cellars that ran below the square and connected with other noble palazzi. So where this subterranean Machiavellian architecture had once lodged wine and muskets and swordsmen, it now concealed Aurelio and Silvia and their two children, Lodovico and the little girl Francesca, who still remembers hearing violent, angry beating sounds far above of thwarted soldiers.

And all this time, the codex itself lay peacefully in the one place the SS failed to search, perhaps because it appeared to be the most obviously open and uninhabited. For there was, in fact, yet a third Balleani palazzo, in the very center of Iesi itself. The soldiers had looked, but they had found only empty rooms, an abandoned place. They had not looked hard enough. At the side of the square where the infant Frederick Hohenstaufen had been snatched from the bloody birth canal of his mother, in full public view, and shown to the citizenry in a demonstration of irrefutable imperial succession; behind the rococo facade of the palazzo with the Madonna and child lodged in a niche above the door; beneath the sala grande with its spectacularly coffered ceiling and portraits of the Guarnieris and the Balleanis hanging on the crimson walls; deep in a little kitchen cellar, inside a tin-lined trunk, was the manuscript that began in capitals of red and black DE ORIGINE ET SITU GERMANORUM.

I have omitted the footnotes, which may be found in the original.

Of course our first question is how Dr Schama knows all this about the SS visit to Iesi.  He tells us:[2]

The narrative that follows is based on the account generously provided in conversations with Giovanni Baldeschi-Balleani and his sister, Francesca. I am deeply grateful to the Baldeschi-Balleani family for their help in reconstructing this story, as well as with descriptions of the palazzi in and near Iesi….

Likewise the details of Hitler and Mussolini’s negotiation are derived from Luciano Canfora, La Germania di Tacito da Engels al nazismo (Naples,1979), 64-81.

Tommaso Giancarli drew my attention to a web page which says that photographs of the Jesi manuscript may be found at the end of it here.  Unfortunately the links are broken.  I have written to the site and asked for assistance.  The manuscript should certainly be online.

  1. [1] P.75-81.
  2. [2] P.583, note 2.

Drawings by Mercati (1629) of Aurelian’s “Temple of the Sun” / temple of Serapis

The excellent Ste Trombetti has discovered online a couple more drawings made in the days when more of ancient Rome existed than does now.  This is really valuable, since locating such items is difficult for most of us.

These drawings are by G. B. Mercati, from 1629, from the series Alcune vedute et prospettive di luoghi dishabitati di Roma (Some Views and Perspectives of the Uninhabited places of Rome).  They are online at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the series is visible here.

The two etchings given below depict the remains of the huge temple on the Quirinal hill, thought to be the Temple of the Sun built by Aurelian in 274 AD, but generally today believed to be the Temple of Serapis.  Remains of it may, apparently, be found in the Colonna gardens even today, but I have yet to locate them.

The first one is of a view which is new to me (plate 26).  You can click on the images below to get the full-size picture:

Mercati (1629). Aurelian's Temple of the Sun. Cartille [sic] del Cardinal di Fiorenza Leone XI (Courtyard of the Cardinal of Florence Leo XI), pl. 26 from the series Alcune vedute et prospettive di luoghi dishabitati di Roma (Some Views and Perspectives of the Uninhabited Places of Rome)

Mercati (1629). Aurelian’s Temple of the Sun. Cartille [sic] del Cardinal di Fiorenza Leone XI (Courtyard of the Cardinal of Florence Leo XI), pl. 26 from the series Alcune vedute et prospettive di luoghi dishabitati di Roma (Some Views and Perspectives of the Uninhabited Places of Rome)

Here’s the second one (plate 27):

Mercati (1629), Aurelian's temple of the sun in Rome

Mercati (1629), Aurelian’s temple of the sun in Rome

I think that we owe Ste Trombetti a debt of thanks.

Anrich online at German site

I keep losing these links, so perhaps a post will help.

Most of the literary sources for St Nicholas of Myra were published by G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos. Der heilige Nikolaos in der griechischen Kirche, in two volumes before WW1.  These are online at Hathi Trust, for US readers only – in case worldwide rioting breaks out at seeing these books online -, but an online version does exist on a German site at Gottingen.

Unfortunately they greedily want money for a PDF download – faugh! – but at least it means that you can get a sight of some of the pages, albeit painfully.

UPDATE:  Well I was wrong!  A couple of correspondents have kindly pointed out that you can get a PDF download:

If you click on the “PDF download” button, although it wants for money at the right, there is a red button down on the left that can be used to download the book!

Thank you everyone!

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 13 (part 3)

Let’s carry on reading the “Annals” of Eutychius of Alexandria.  The translation that I am making from Italian is very rough, no doubt: but since nobody capable of doing so has ever made a translation of this work into English, it does at least give us some idea of what the work contains.

8. In the eighth year of the reign of Theodosius the Great, the young men who had fled away from the king Decius by hiding in the cave, in the city of Ephesus, reappeared (13).  In fact the shepherds, as time passed, had ended up removing, one after another, the bricks with which the entrance of the cave had been blocked, so much as to leave an opening like a door.  The youths believed that they had slept for only one night and said to their companion who was to buy them food: “Go, buy us something to eat and try to learn something of the king Decius”.  When he was at the entrance of the cave and saw that the building that had been there was demolished, he almost could not believe his eyes, but kept walking until he came to the gate of the city of Ephesus on top of which he saw erected a large cross, and, doubting himself, he said: “I am just dreaming”, and began to rub his eyes and look to the right and left to find something known to him, but he saw nothing and was disconcerted.  Then he said to himself: “Maybe I’ve gone the wrong way, or maybe this is not the city of Ephesus.”  He went into the city, took a dirham he had with him and handed it to the baker to get bread.  Seeing the man, so strangely dressed, panicked and terrified, with a coin on which was engraved the image of King Decius, the baker was confused and thought that he was dealing with someone who had found a (buried) treasure.  So he said: “Where did you get this money?”  But the young man did not answer.  The baker then called other people, who came forward and spoke with him, but he did not give any response.  Then they took him to the patrician, the governor of the city, named Antipater.  The patrician questioned him but the young man did not answer.  He threatened him, but he still did not open his mouth.  Then there went to him Mark, the bishop of the city, who spoke to him, but he did not answer.  Then he tried to frighten him by saying: “Talk to us, and tell us where you got this money, otherwise we will kill you.”  But the young man continued to stay silent for fear of the king Decius, because he thought that he was still alive.  Then they tortured him, and, forced by the great pain, he said to them: “Where is the king Decius?” They answered: “The king Decius is long dead! Many other kings reigned after him and the official religion is now Christianity and our king is Theodosius the Great.”  Having been thus reassured, the young man told them what had happened.  Those that were with him went to the cave, they saw his companions and found the copper box with inside it the lead sheet on which Thaddeus, patrician of the king Decius, had written their story and their misadventures with the king Decius.  Great was their wonder and they wrote to King Theodosius, informing him of the matter.  The king immediately set out, arrived in the city of Ephesus, saw them and talked with them.  But three days later, returning to the cave, he found them dead.  He then decided to leave them where they were and to give them burial in that cave, and he constructed a church in their name, and they began to celebrate a festival in their honour, every year, on the same day.  King Theodosius then returned to Constantinople.

From the time the youths had fled away from the king Decius into the cave and had slept, until the time when they were dead and reappeared, as we read in the history of their martyrdom, there had passed three hundred and seventy-two years.  In the thirteenth year of the reign of Theodosius the Great Sirnīqun was made patriarch of Rome (14).  He held the office for twelve years and died.  In the seventeenth year of his reign died Niqtāriyūs (15), the patriarch of Constantinople, after having held the office for sixteen years.  After him John Chrysostom was made patriarch of Constantinople (16).  He held the office for five years and six months, was sent into exile and died there.  In the sixth year of his reign Flavian was made patriarch of Antioch (17).  He held the office for six years and died.  In the twelfth year of his reign Porphyry was made patriarch of Antioch (18).  He held the office for ten years and died.  In the eighth year of his reign John was made patriarch of Jerusalem (19).  He held the office for sixteen years and died.  At the time of King Theodosius lived Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus.  King Theodosius had built the church of Gethsemane in Jerusalem in which was the tomb of Martmaryam (20).  It was destroyed afterwards by the Persians, when they invaded Jerusalem, along with the other churches in the city, and still lies in ruins today.

9. In the tenth year of the reign of King Theodosius died Sabur, king of the Persians, son of Sabur.  After him reigned Bahram (21), son of Sabur, king of the Persians, for eleven years.  The reign of Theodosius was a reign of tranquility and peace.  On the death of King Theodosius reigned his sons Arcadius and Honorius.  Arcadius (22) reigned over Rum in Constantinople for thirteen years, and his brother Honorius (23) over the city of Rome for eleven years.  This was in the seventh year of the reign of Bahram, son of Sabur, king of the Persians.  The king Arcadio sent for his preceptor Arsenius to kill him, because of his smoldering resentment against him.  But Arsenius heard of it and fled to Alexandria, embracing the monastic life in the monastery which is located in Wadi Habib, near Tarnūt, named al-Asqīt (24).  When later Arcadius had a son that he named Theodosius, he asked after his tutor Arsenius because he was concerned with the education of his son, and he was told that he had become a monk in the monastery of Scete.  The king then sent for him and assured him that he would never and in no way make an attempt on his life.  But Arsenius refused.  He was indeed so sweet and good to the messenger that the latter left him in peace and departed.  Fearing, however, that the king might try to take by force, Arsenius went to Upper Egypt and found a home on Mount al-Buqattam (25), at a village called Tura (26).  He stayed there for three years and he died.  Then the king Arcadius sent another messenger with the task of taking Arsenius by force, but when he came to the monastery of Scetis he was told that Arsenius was already dead on Mount al-Buqattam (27) The messenger returned from king and told him what he had heard.  The king then sent for a monk named Tarāsiyūs, and giving him a large sum of money said: “Go and build at the tomb of Arsenius a monastery that bears his name.”  Tarāsiyūs went to Egypt and erected over the grave of Arsenio a monastery on Mount al-Buqattam (28), which is still called “Dayr al-Qusayr” (29).

The Easter Bunny must die! – fear and loathing at the Guardian

When I was young, I used to believe that the British press was independent, and derided claims of establishment control as being conspiracy theories.

Since those happy days, I have watched several examples of “three line whips”, where suddenly the press starts to talk in set phrases.

The first that I recall was when the establishment decided to create a national lottery.  No expressions of dissent were tolerated, and the phrase “national lottery to raise money for good causes” appeared everywhere, and was recited, dalek-like, on all TV stations.  In actual fact the lottery created lots of nice well-paid jobs for the establishment, and “good causes” were pretty much an afterthought.

Another was when the establishment appointed Rowan Williams, an obscure Welsh bishop, as Archbishop of Canterbury.  Suddenly there was a media blitz.  Everywhere, in every newspaper, every TV channel, his name, when mentioned, was qualified as “holy”.  You couldn’t get away from it.  Even the dirtiest tabloids praised his “holiness”.  And why was he so deserving?  Well, although they did not say so, he was appointed because he had “ordained” homosexuals, at a time when all the bishops – including himself – had agreed not to, and so was distinctly dodgy as a candidate in the first place.

A further establishment tradition is to mark major Christmas festivals by running knocking campaigns.  Every Christmas, every Easter, one or the other organs is put up to attack the Christians.  I gather that BBC Radio 4 is currently doing a series which I have seen described as ridiculously false; but I haven’t heard it.  Usually one or the other of the major newspapers will run an article slagging off the Christians and debunking their religion.

This year, the baton has been picked up by the Guardian newspaper in London.  On Easter Saturday they published an article by a certain Heather McDougall, it rejoices in the title The Pagan Roots of Easter.  [CORRECTION: my mistake: this is an old article from 2010, which was passed to me as new]

Easter is, of course, the festival of Christ’s death and resurrection.  Malicious or dishonest – but unscholarly – writers all over the internet peddle falsehoods about how it is *really* just a pagan festival in drag.

The object, of course, is to undermine the truth claims of the Christian religion.  The suggestion is an insinuation of borrowing, and therefore of falsity.  Yet, fairly obviously, the question of when Christ died is a historical question, amenable to standard scholarly methods.  If something happened on a particular date, is it relevant to ask whether something else happened, or was supposed to happen, at some other time on the same date?  But to ask the question is to answer it, and answer it in the negative.

But logic has little to do with this, so the argument is kept as an insinuation.  Few of these nasty individuals know much history, even about their own argument, as otherwise they would know that claims that catholic festivals were merely pagan festivals renamed was a stock argument of 19th century anti-papist invective.

So what does the Guardian – the house magazine of the British Establishment – have to say?

Let’s have a look at a few quotes:

Today, we see a secular culture celebrating the spring equinox, whilst religious culture celebrates the resurrection.

Do we?  I have never met any normal person “celebrating the spring equinox”.

As for “religious culture” – why can’t the author say “Christians”?  Because it sure as heck isn’t the Muslims doing so!  But the reason, of course, is animosity.

However, early Christianity made a pragmatic acceptance of ancient pagan practises, most of which we enjoy today at Easter.

Unfortunately this vague claim is entirely without evidence, to the best of my knowledge.  And what follows will make anyone with any knowledge of antiquity blush!

The general symbolic story of the death of the son (sun) on a cross (the constellation of the Southern Cross) and his rebirth, overcoming the powers of darkness, was a well worn story in the ancient world.

Yes.  She really suggested that a narrative relying on son/sun is ancient; something about the ancient world.  That the ancients did not speak English she does not, seemingly, know.   Likewise I thought everybody knew that the Southern Cross is only visible south of the equator.

But the core claim – that crucified gods were everywhere in the ancient world – is bunk.

There were plenty of parallel, rival resurrected saviours too. …

I’m sure every educated reader groaned at this.   Did this woman do NO research at all?

Mithras was born on what we now call Christmas day, and his followers celebrated the spring equinox. Even as late as the 4th century AD, the sol invictus, associated with Mithras, was the last great pagan cult the church had to overcome.

It’s hard not to feel contempt here.  No ancient source associates Mithras with 25 December.  No ancient source says that they “celebrated” the spring equinox.  The late Roman state sun god, Sol Invictus, was not “associated” with Mithras.  And the idea that it was the “last great pagan cult” is ridiculous.

In an ironic twist, the Cybele cult flourished on today’s Vatican Hill. Cybele’s lover Attis, was born of a virgin, died and was reborn annually. This spring festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday, rising to a crescendo after three days, in rejoicing over the resurrection.

But, strangely, no ancient text refers to any such resurrection, except Firmicus Maternus in 350 AD, who also tells us that this was part of a ploy by the cultists to evade the attentions of the police by pretending that Attis was just the corn which dies and rises.  For the cult of Attis was a seedy one indeed.  Attis was not “born of a virgin”, in the sense that the reader is intended to understand; his generation myth is considerably more dodgy than that.

And why, pray, is it “ironic” that a pagan cult should exist on the Vatican hill, the location of a mundus?  The answer, I fear, is that Miss McDougall knows nothing about Roman paganism at all.

There was violent conflict on Vatican Hill in the early days of Christianity between the Jesus worshippers and pagans who quarrelled over whose God was the true, and whose the imitation.

This, of course, is codswallop.  The early Christians were an illegal cult, and hardly in a position to object violently to anything.

What is interesting to note here is that in the ancient world, wherever you had popular resurrected god myths, Christianity found lots of converts. So, eventually Christianity came to an accommodation with the pagan Spring festival.

It is certainly true that Christians in the late 4th century came to an “accomodation” with paganism; if we use the word to mean that they made it illegal and destroyed all its temples and banned all its rituals.  Otherwise the claim is nonsense.

Although we see no celebration of Easter in the New Testament, early church fathers celebrated it, and today many churches are offering “sunrise services” at Easter – an obvious pagan solar celebration.

Easter was indeed celebrated by the “early church fathers” – by people like Polycarp, who knew the apostle John personally, for instance.  But not because it was pagan.  Polycarp was executed precisely for refusing to endorse paganism.

I was amused by the claim that people like myself, who get up for an Easter celebration at dawn, do so because of some “pagan solar” element.  Let me reassure the writer.  We get up because we choose to, to worship Christ at the start of a new day.  We do not do so because of some imaginary “pagan solar” celebration!

The date of Easter is not fixed, but instead is governed by the phases of the moon – how pagan is that?

Is the author utterly ignorant of ancient history?  Christ was crucified on the passover.  The passover date was determined by a lunar calendar.  So the date of Easter is likewise determined by the date of 14 Nisan.

How simple is that?  How easy to verify this with a quick Google search?

All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures.

Yet the only reference to “Eostre” is in the Venerable Bede, De ratione temporum.  He makes no mention of bunnies.  The custom is a modern invention.  Again, a few seconds on google would have shown this.

There is a madwoman out there named Acharya S who has industriously circulated falsehoods of this kind.  I’m sure she is hugging herself with glee at being given full play in the house newspaper of the British Establishment.

The sad truth is that the editor of the Guardian doesn’t care.  The point is the narrative.  The narrative is “the Christians to the lion”, as it was in Tertullian’s day.

Let us praise God that, in Britain at least, the Christians have not lost their saltiness, and that the wicked still hate them.



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