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Al-Maqrizi’s account of Coptic feast days – online in English by Anthony Alcock

In the Topographical and Historical Description of Egypt by al-Makrizi (or al-Maqrizi), a 13th century Muslim author, there is a section which describes the Feast Days of the Copts.  Anthony Alcock has translated this from the Patrologia Orientalis text into English and made it available for us all online.  It’s here:

The work by al-Makrizi should really exist in English.  However the French translation of 1854 is online and doubtless accessible using Google Translate.[1]

  1. [1] Al-Maqrizi (1895). Mémoires publiés par les membres de la Mission archéologique Française au Caire: Description topographique et historique de l’Égypte (in French) 17. Translator: Urbain Bouriant. Cairo: Mémoires publiés par les membres de la Mission archéologique. Alternative: Al-Maqrizi (1895). Mémoires publiés par les membres de la Mission archéologique Française au Caire: Description topographique et historique de l’Égypte (in French) 17. Translator: Urbain Bouriant. Cairo: Mémoires publiés par les membres de la Mission archéologique

The encouragement of learning

Edward Gibbon, the author of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was a notoriously vain little man.  In the Walpoliana of Horace Walpole, a collection of anecdotes, I find this story:[1]

I was told a droll story concerning Mr. Gibbon, t’other day.  One of those booksellers in Paternoster Row, who publish things in numbers, went to Gibbon’s lodgings in St. James Street, sent up his name, and was admitted.  “Sir,” said he, “I am now publishing a history of England, done by several good hands.  I understand you have a knack at them there things, and should be glad to give you every reasonable encouragment.”

As soon as Gibbon recovered the use of his legs and tongue, which were petrified with surprise, he ran to the bell, and desired his servant to show this encourager of learning down-stairs.

  1. [1] 1800, p.198.

Notes upon the modern history of the “Bruce codex”

A correspondent kindly sent me a copy of a rather interesting recent paper on the “Bruce codex”, which deserves the attention of many more people than it is likely to get.[1]  The article author apparently lives in Canada, but for some reason has published in French, a language better known in Europe than in North America.  Furthermore, the PDF that reached me is locked, which means that the electronic text can’t simply be pasted into Google Translate, to get a quick idea of the contents.  Barriers of these kinds are unnecessary.

But the article is rather splendid. The author, Eric Cregheur, has tracked down some fascinating new evidence about the codex and its origins.

But what is the Bruce codex?  It’s a Coptic manuscript which was acquired by the Scottish explorer James Bruce in 1762 during a journey to Ethiopia in the 18th century.  It is today in the Bodleian library in Oxford, where it bears the shelfmark Bruce 96.  It contains gnostic texts, the two books of Jeu and a further mutilated text of the same kind.

When Bruce returned to London, his account of his travels was met with incredulity, and he was widely suspected of being a charlatan.  Among the anecdotes of Horace Walpole, printed in 1800 as the Walpoliana, we find the following well-known statement:

Bruce’s Travels,

Bruce’s book is both dull and dear. We join in clubs of five, each pays a guinea, draw lots who shall have it first, and the last to keep it for his patience.

Bruce’s overbearing manner has raised enmity and prejudices; and he did wrong in retailing the most wonderful parts of his book in companies. A story may be credible when attcnded with circumstances, which seems false if detached.

I was present in a large company at dinner, when Bruce was talking away. Some one asked him what musical instruments are used in Abyssinia. Bruce hesitated, not being prepared for the question, and at last said, “I think I saw one lyre there.” George Selwyn whispered his next man, “Yes; and there is one less since he left the country.”[2]

Walpole’s opinion may have been softened by his editor.  For in a letter of 1789 he writes frankly:

Mrs. Piozzi, I hear, has two volumes of Dr. Johnson’s letters ready for publication. Bruce is printing his Travels; which I suppose will prove that his narratives were fabulous, as he will scarce repeat them by the press. These, and two more volumes of Mr. Gibbon’s History, are all the literary news I know.[3]

By 1842 we read however:

The name of Bruce ought not to be passed by without a tribute to the injured memory of one whose zeal was rewarded with reproach and disbelief! How easy is the part of a sceptic! What a slight effort, yet what an air of superiority, and appearance of learning, attend the expression of a doubt! Bruce had been provokingly enterprising. Many of his readers were incredulous, because he had done what they, in the plenitude of their wisdom, conceived impossible; and mapy of those most violent in their censures had neither sufficient experience or knowledge of the subject to hazard an opinion. Envy prompted some, and fashion more, to speak of Bruce’s narrative as a tale of wonder, or a pure invention; and those who had never read his work fearlessly pronounced a censure to which others were known to assent. But it is gratifying to find that the more mature investigations of the present day have vindicated the character of this distinguished traveller; and it is to be hoped that his name will henceforward continue to be attached to the interesting monument above alluded to, as a memorial of his diligence under the most unfavourable circumstances, and as a token of his veracity. And so shall the name of Bruce be honoured in his tomb.[4]

What we want to know, however, is where did this Coptic codex come from?  Now that we know about the Nag Hammadi collection, and the Gospel of Judas, and other papyrus codices, it would be useful to know more of the source for the book.

Cregheur assembles a number of witnesses; not merely Bruce himself, but also Woide, who copied the manuscript for publication, and a certain J. R. Forster, all of whom describe the codex, all indicating that it came from Thebes, modern Luxor.  In a letter to J.D. Michaelis published in 1796, Forster writes:

Ich habe kürzlich bey Herrn Bruce einen alten koptischen Codex auf wirklichem Papyrus geschrieben gesehen. Er ist im Sahidischen Dialecte, ziemlich alt, und der Inhalt gnostisch. Er ward bey Theben aus den Ruinen in seiner Gegenwart ausgegraben. Herr Hof-Pred. Woide hat von ihm Erlaubnitz erhalten, den Codex abzuschreiben, um wenigstens die Wôrter fürs Sahidische Lexicon zu gebrauchen; denn der Inhalt ist gar nicht interessant.

I have recently seen with Mr Bruce an old Coptic codex written on real papyrus.  It is in the Sahidic dialect, quite old, and the content is gnostic.  It was excavated from the ruins at Thebes in his presence.  Dr Woide has received a commission from him to transcribe the codex, in order to use at least the words for the Sahidic lexicon, since the content is not very interesting.[5]

Anyone who looks at the Michaelis volume will admire Dr C.’s persistence in even reading the name of Bruce on that page!

After sifting all the data, Cregheur concludes:

Our witnesses allow us to sketch the early history of Bruce codex. It was acquired by James Bruce between 7 and 17 January 1769, at or near Thebes, after had been exhumed from ruins, supposedly in the presence of Bruce. We do not know what happened to the manuscript after it was purchased by Bruce. It could have been immediately sent to Europe, been left in Egypt to be recovered later by its owner, or accompanied him throughout his expedition.

In the state in which it was purchased by Bruce in 1769, the manuscript was large, very readable, had a leather cover reinforced with cartonnage, and was probably already incomplete. Perhaps some leaves were already disordered, separated from each other and mutilated. This state of affairs probably worsened due to the manipulation of the codex in the seven years which separate the acquisition of the manuscript by Bruce from the reproduction by Woide. The leather cover could also have been removed in this interval, perhaps by Bruce himself, but pieces of cartonnage still remained when Alexander Murray Bruce made an inventory of manuscripts in the early nineteenth century. That’s about all we can learn from Bruce codex for the period when it was in the hands of its purchaser.  It should only be added that Bruce offered his manuscripts in the British Museum for a sum £ 25,000, an offer that was declined.

This is a fine paper, making something solid out of snippets of literary gossip.  While we always knew that the Bruce codex was from Thebes, the statement that it came “from the ruins” is new.

  1. [1] Eric Cregheur, “Pour une nouvelle histoire de la découverte et de l’état primitif du codex Bruce (1769-1794)”, in: Journal of Coptic Studies 16 (2014).
  2. [2] Walpoliana, (1800), p.101.
  3. [3] Horace Walpole, The Correspondence of Horace Walpole, with George Montagu, Esq. … 1770-1779, p.389.
  4. [4] J.G. Wilkinson, Manners and customs of the Ancient Egyptians, vol. 2 (1842), p.231 
  5. [5] Literarischer Briefwechsel von Johann David Michaelis, vol.3, 1796, p.386.

The sack of Constantinople in 1453 (Part 3)

In The sack of Constantinople in 1453, I quoted a very vivid description of the sack on Constantinople, found online and attributed to Critobulos, the renegade who served the Muslim attackers and wrote a history of the event.

In The sack of Constantinople in 1453 (Part 2) I gave the Riggs translation of the relevant passages, which seemed rather different.  It looked to me as if the source for the online passage was an English translation by Halliday of a book by Guerdan.

Now I have today received a copy of Rene Guerdan’s Byzantium. So let’s see whether he is indeed the source of the original quote.

I have scanned the last six pages of the book, p.217-222 to PDF, and they are here:

And here is the text that they contain:

… Mahomet uttered a cry of triumph. Victory at last was in his grasp! He leapt forward from the moat and shouted to his Janissaries. ‘The city is ours! It is ours already! See, there is no one left to defend it! Fear not! Follow me! The city is ours!’ The reply was a frenzied howling, and a furious wave struck the wall. It flowed over the emergency wall and the debris of the ramparts.

Now the Byzantines fled in disorder. Some were flung into the moat and killed, others were chased and cut down from behind. There was nothing to stop the incoming tide. The last gates were swept down and a turbulent wave, cascading and roaring, spilled over the city. Yes, this was the end. On this May 29, 1453, fell the empire which had endured for more than a thousand years. And on this day Christianity disappeared from the Eastern sky. What can the thoughts of the last Basileus have been? Why should he live? He dismounted and slowly divested himself of the Imperial insignia, retaining of it only the red campagia—those famous boots ornamented with two- headed eagles—and plunged into the hand to hand fighting. He thrust to right and to left, and then suddenly vanished. Much later they found his body and Mahomet caused it to be decapitated. Then for many months to come, accompanied by forty captive young men and forty captive virgins, it was displayed throughout Asia to announce the triumph of the Crescent to the remotest comers.

* * *

And this is how this precious city was destroyed. . . .

The first picture which history offers us of this Dantesque hell is one of breathtaking violence. This was the feast day of St Theodosia. Slowly a procession of women, children and old men moved out of the rose-covered church dedicated to her. Everyone was wearing his or her best clothes and white-bearded priests held on high the comforting images of Christ and his gentle Mother, the Theotokos. Suddenly there burst on the scene a disordered mass of shouting monsters, their faces streaked with sweat, half-naked and blood-bespattered. What followed may be imagined. The procession broke up, but they were caught almost immediately and a few minutes later thousands of hacked and disembowelled and decapitated bodies reddened the slabs and the gutters.

Such scenes were to be seen everywhere. Drunk with slaughter, the Turks massacred throughout the morning. Nothing, and certainly not pity, stayed their hands. Like madmen the unhappy Christians ran about the streets, shouting, weeping, pleading, until lance, scimitar or knife stretched them on the pavement in their blood. Inside the houses women were dragged by the hair to windows and pushed through, old men were cut down, children were stabbed with pikes under the very beds where they hid.

When the orgy of killing had spent itself, rape took its place. Here is an extract from Critobulus, the Christian renegade who had entered the Sultan’s service.

‘Nothing will ever equal the horror of this harrowing and terrible spectacle. People frightened by the shouting ran out of their houses and were cut down by the sword before they knew what was happening. And some were massacred in their houses where they tried to hide, and some in churches where they sought refuge. The enraged Turkish soldiers . . . gave no quarter. When they had massacred and there was no longer any resistance they were intent on pillage and roamed through the town stealing, disrobing, pillaging, killing, raping, taking captive men, women, children, old men, young men, monks, priests, people of all sorts and conditions . . . there were virgins who awoke from troubled sleep to find those brigands standing over them with bloody hands and faces full of abject fury. This medley of all nations, these frantic brutes stormed into their houses, seized them, dragged them, tore them, forced them, dishonoured them, raped them at the crossroads and made them submit to the most terrible outrages. It is even said that at the mere sight of those savages many girls were so stupefied that they almost gave up the ghost. Old men of venerable appearance were dragged by their white hair and piteously beaten, and beautiful children of noble family were carried off. Priests were led into captivity in batches as well as reverend virgins, hermits and recluses who were dedicated to God alone and lived only for Him to whom they sacrificed themselves, who were dragged from their cells and others from the churches in which they had sought refuge, in spite of their weeping and sobs and their emaciated cheeks, to be made objects of scorn before being struck down. Tender children were brutally snatched from their mothers’ breasts and girls were pitilessly given up to strange and horrible unions and a thousand other terrible things happened.’

With senses satisfied the Turks gave themselves up to pillage. Shops, houses, palaces, churches—nothing was spared. Let us turn again to Critobulus.

‘Temples were desecrated, ransacked and pillaged . . . sacred objects were scornfully flung aside, the holy icons and the holy vessels were desecrated. Ornaments were burned, broken in pieces or simply thrown into the streets. Saints’ shrines were brutally violated in order to get out the remains which were then thrown to the wind. Chalices and cups for the celebration of the mass were set aside for their orgies or broken or melted down or sold. Priests’ garments embroidered with gold and set with pearls and gems were sold to the highest bidder and thrown into the fire to extract the gold. Immense numbers of sacred and profane books were flung on to the fire or tom up and trampled underfoot. However, the majority were sold at derisory prices, for a few pence. Saints’ altars, tom from their foundations were overturned. All the most holy hiding places were violated and broken in order to get out the holy treasures which they contained.’

Amongst all these outrages the profanation of Saint Sophia stood out. In the great church an immense crowd was assembled, praying despairingly. The famous bronze doors had been closed, and full of anguish all awaited the imminent arrival of the conquerors. Suddenly violent blows shook and broke down the doors, and a tide of blood-covered brutes swept into the holy place. To make room for themselves they began by using the pike and scimitar a little; but they were in the grip of covetousness, not sadism. Here, they said to themselves as they looked about, fortune awaits us. In an instant, all who were young, good-looking and healthy were stripped, despoiled and herded. High-born women, young and gentle girls of noble family, now naked under their long hair, fell thus into slavery. Their masters bound them with whatever was at hand: sashes, belts, kerchiefs, stoles, tent ropes, camel and horse reins. With blows and kicks they were herded outside into long columns, to be led to a shameful fate and to all the extremities of the Islamic world.

Then came the turn of the Church where generations of the pious had added to the store of sacred treasures. There were vases of gold and silver studded with pearls and precious stones, sacerdotal garments of prodigious richness, reliquaries, icons and luminaries. All were broken open, pillaged and destroyed. To amuse their comrades some capered about in priests’ robes, holding up a crucifix surmounted by a turban. The famous relics which had protected the town—the bodies of the most illustrious martyrs, the most glorious champions of orthodoxy, and the most celebrated icons—were wrenched from their settings of precious metal and thrown out amongst the dead bodies and wandering dogs. In all history only the sack of Jerusalem can compare with this! To make their attitude quite clear the Turks stabled their camels there and installed their public women; and the Church of the Holy Wisdom became a stable and a brothel.

The orthodox still recount a legend which has come down to them from this tragic time. At the very moment that the great church was attacked the wall behind the altar opened and the priest who was officiating disappeared into it, bearing the holy chalice, and the wall closed up again. When at last an orthodox ruler returns to Constantinople, that priest will emerge from the wall and complete the mass which was so tragically interrupted many centuries ago.

As for the Sultan, he was sensual rather than acquisitive, and more interested in people than in goods. Phrantzes, the faithful servant of the Basileus, has recounted the fate of his young and good-looking family. His three daughters were consigned to the Imperial harem, even the youngest, a girl of fourteen who died there in despair. His only son, John, a fifteen-year-old boy, was killed by the Sultan himself for having repelled his advances. The Basileus was survived by his brother, the Grand Duke Lukas Notaras, the second personage of the Empire and a man of great intelligence and ability. At first the Sultan covered him with honours and discussed with him the possibility of his becoming governor of the town, with responsibility for clearing up and repopulation. One night, having been told of the graces of Notaras’ youngest son, he sent a eunuch to fetch him. When Notaras told the Sultan that his religion did not permit him to consent to so ignominious a proposal, the Sultan was seized with anger and caused both the boy and his brother and father to be brought before him. Then he summoned the executioner. Notaras asked to be put to death last in order, says Critobulus, ‘that his children perhaps fearing death, might not be tempted to renounce their faith to purchase their lives’. Standing there pale-faced, but without lowering his eyes, Notaras saw his two sons decapitated. He prayed and in his turn bowed his head to the blade. As for the Sultan, it pleased him to stare for some time at the faces of his three victims.

Critobulus has assessed the impact on Byzantium of the events of those few days in spring 1453.

‘Constantinople seemed to have been visited by a hurricane or to have been burnt in some fire. It became suddenly silent. . . . The Turkish sailors were extremely active in bringing about this destruction for they upset, undermined and turned upside down everything more thoroughly than the Persian Datis at Eritrea. They broke temples, chapels, ancient shrines, tombs, crypts, vaults and all the most secret hiding places. They examined everything. They pulled everybody and everything out of their hiding places. . . . The whole army, both of land and sea, flooded through the town from break of day till nightfall, pillaging and wrecking and carrying booty back to camp and ship. Nevertheless there were some like hawks who took hold of things, crept away stealthily and returned straight home. In this manner was the whole city emptied and depopulated and destroyed as though by a fire and changed into a tomb. Seeing it thus one would have found it hard to believe that it ever contained men’s homes, wealth, abundance or any goods or ornaments, and that in a city which had been so brilliant and great. Now there were only deserted dwellings, which by their tomb-like appearance instilled terror in the minds of those who contemplated them.

The same author tells an interesting story about the Sultan. ‘When he saw the ravages, the destruction and the deserted houses and all that had perished and become ruins, then a great sadness took possession of him and he repented the pillage and all the destruction. Tears came to his eyes and sobbing he expressed his sadness. “What a town this was! And we have allowed it to be destroyed!” His soul was full of sorrow. And in truth it was natural, so much did the horror of the situation exceed all limits.’

It was, we said at the beginning of this chapter, over a simple question of winds that Byzantium fell. The Christian fleet bearing reinforcements had been off Chios for a month, waiting for a wind. The little brigantine had passed nearby without seeing it. During a whole month it would have sufficed if the weather had been favourable for just one day; then would the Turks have raised the siege and hastily withdrawn. One windy day— on such things hang the fate of empires and the course of history.

The book is a popularisation of Byzantium, and in fact a very good one, which I recommend.  We need not cavil at details of accuracy.  It is intended for people who know nothing of the Eastern Empire.  Doubtless the text of “Critobulos” has suffered in being translated from Greek into French and then into English.  But the author’s object was not dry scholarship, but to inspire interest, and emotion involvement in his readers.  In this he has succeeded admirably.  I wish the book were online.

However, for purposes of controversy – which I think is the origin of the internet use – it would be better to use Riggs’ translation of the whole of Critobulos.

That said, Guerdan’s book was published in 1962, when men were free to say what they thought, in a way unthinkable today.  This led me to wonder whether Guerdan dressed up Critobulos’ description of the rape of the city, in order to sell more copies; or whether Riggs played it down, in deference to modern politics?  Let us hope the former.

Methodius of Olympus, De Lepra (On Leprosy) – now online in English

The fourth short work by Methodius of Olympus (d.311) is De Lepra, On Leprosy, an explanation of Leviticus 13.  The first English translation of it is now made available.

Unlike the three previous works, some fragments of the original Greek text are preserved in a medieval anthology found in at least 20 manuscripts.  The task of translating both sides has been a long one!  But it is done at last.  The comparison reveals that the Old Slavonic text is an abbreviated version of the original.

Ralph Cleminson translated the Old Slavonic, and Andrew Eastbourne translated the Greek, and drew attention to many issues which will considerably modify how we go about the task of translating the two long works.  Anyway, here are the files:

I’ve also uploaded these to here.

As ever, I make these public domain.  Do whatever you wish with them, personal, educational or commercial. Let them circulate as widely as possible, entire or in part.  That’s the whole idea!

UPDATE 22/9/15: Tweaked for a couple of late thoughts.

The Greek fragments of Methodius translated in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series

Most of the works of Methodius of Olympus (d. 311) are preserved only in Old Slavonic.  His Symposium exists in Greek, and was translated in the mid-19th century, and appears in the Ante-Nicene Fathers series in volume 6.  A modern translation by Musurillo also exists.

Three short works exist in Old Slavonic only; a fourth, De Lepra, also has some Greek fragments.  Two long works extant in Old Slavonic, De resurrectione and De autexusio, likewise have substantial Greek fragments.

As I consider commissioning a translation of these two long works, I have to decide what to do about the Greek fragments.

I had originally intended to commission a translation of these also.  But I am still having difficulty getting a satisfactory version of De lepra together.  Obviously it helps to have someone who knows both Slavonic and Greek to do both sides; but this I do not have.

Instead I have two translators working independently, a process that masks the correspondences between the two versions.  But the Greek is often fuller than the Slavonic; so one can’t just ignore it.

Recently Andrew Eastbourne courteously drew my attention to the fact that the ANF translators also translated the fragments extant in Greek.  This I had either not known, or had forgotten.  I need to see what is there; and this post will document that.

The ANF series is an American pirate edition of the Ante-Nicene Christian Library series commissioned by the Scottish firm of T. & T. Clarke in the 1860’s.  A list of the volumes is here, and so I learn that Methodius was vol. XIV, which is accessible at Google Books here.

Looking at the ANCL volume, I find more information than is included in the ANF.  The translator was Rev. William Clark, M.A., vicar of St Mary Magdalen in Taunton, and he includes a preface to Methodius, seemingly omitted from the ANF (or at least the online OCR of it), which I reproduce here:


METHODIUS, who is also called Eubulius,[1] was first of all bishop simultaneously of Olympus and Patara, in Lycia, as is testified by several ancient writers.[2] He was afterwards removed, according to St Jerome, to the episcopal see of Tyre in Phoenicia, and at the end of the latest of the great persecutions of the Church, about the year 312, he suffered martyrdom at Chalcis in Greece. Some consider that it was at Chalcis in Syria, and that St Jerome’s testimony ought to be thus understood, as Syria was more likely to be the scene of his martyrdom than Greece, as being nearer to his diocese. Others affirm that he suffered under Decius and Valerian; but this is incorrect, since he wrote not only against Origen long after the death of Adamantius, but also against Porphyry, whilst he was alive, in the reign of Diocletian.

Methodius is known chiefly as the antagonist of Origen; although, as has been pointed out, he was himself influenced in no small degree by the method of Origen, as may be seen by his tendency to allegorical interpretations of Holy Scripture. The only complete work of this writer which has come down to us is his Banquet of the Ten Virgins, a dialogue of considerable power and grace, in praise of the virginal life. His antagonism to Origen, however, comes out less in this than in his works On the Resurrection, and On Things Created. The treatise On Free Will is, according to recent critics, of doubtful authorship, although the internal evidence must be said to confirm the ancient testimonies which assign it to Methodius. His writings against Porphyry, with the exception of some slight fragments, are lost, as are also his exegetical writings.

For the larger fragments we are indebted to Epiphanius (Haeres. 64), and Photius (Bibliotheca, 234-37).

Combefis published an edition of his works in 1644; but only so much of the Banquet as was contained in the Bibliotheca of Photius. In 1656 Leo Allatius published for the first time a complete edition of this work at Rome from the Vatican MS.  Combefis in 1672 published an edition founded chiefly upon this; and his work has become the basis of ali subsequent reprints.

The following translation has been made almost entirely from the text of Migne, which is generally accurate, and the arrangement of which has been followed throughout. The edition of Jahn in some places rearranges the more fragmentary works, especially that On the Resurrection; but, although his text was occasionally found useful in amending the old readings, and in improving the punctuation, it was thought better to adhere in general to the text which is best known.

A writer who was pronounced by St Epiphanius[3] to be ανὴρ λόγιος καὶ σφόδρα περὶ τῆς ἀληθείας ἀγωνιστάμενος, and by St Jerome, disertissimus martyr,[4] who elsewhere speaks of him as one who nitidi compositique sermonis libros confecit,[5] cannot be altogether unworthy the attention of the nineteenth century.

1. St Epiph., Haeres. 64, sec. 63.

2. St Hieronymus, De viris illust. c. 83.

3. Epiph. Haer. 64, sec. 63.

4.  Hieron. Comm. in Dan. c. 13.

5. Id. De vir. ill. c. 83. Many more such testimonies will be found collected in the various editions of his works in Greek.

Now this is very useful to me, because it identifies the texts used.  The Migne edition is the Patrologia Graeca volume 18 and the Jahn edition of 1865 is online also.  The PG edition starts with an introduction to Methodius, in Latin, followed by a collection of testimonia.  Both were clearly used by Mr Clark as the source for his own remarks.

The fragments begin on column 239 (p.125 of the PDF above), rather than the 229 of Migne’s table of contents, and it looks as if Mr Clark simply translated from the top.

The first item in sequence is fragments of De libero arbitrio (= De autexusio = On free will), col.239-266, based on three chunks: material from Meursius; Photius codex 236; and then material from Sirmond.  The Meursius and Sirmond material is no doubt from Greek miscellaneous manuscripts.

The ANCL translates exactly this in order on p.120-138.  On p.136 is a significant note, however:

The whole of this work, as preserved, is in a very fragmentary state. We have followed Migne in general, as his edition is most widely known, and but little is gained by adopting Jahn’s, which is somewhat more complete.—Tr.

For the ANCL little may be gained; but for us, we will need those extras; and potentially the modern edition, in the GCS series, will have more again.

Looking at Jahn, I find that the volume has no table of contents, in common with other volumes produced in that period for the convenience of the editor rather than the reader.  De autexusio appears on p.54 f. Variants for De autexusio appear on p.117 (!).  It looks as if Jahn has essentially used the same materials, but run them together.  There might be additional sources used, it’s hard to tell.  In fact Migne is far clearer, in his pre-critical edition, on what he is using and from where, than Jahn is.

De resurrectione appears on Migne col. 266, ANCL p.139, and p.64 of Jahn.

A fragment on Jonah is next, from Combefis (Migne 327, ANCL 174).

Then we have fragments from De creatis, derived from Photius (Migne 331, ANCL 176).

Then extracts from Methodius work against Porphyry, On the Martyrs, and on Simeon and Anna  (Migne, ANCL 183), and then various other fragments and supposed works, most of them omitted by Jahn.

What are we to make of this?

My first impression is, frankly, to revise my project and simply leave the Greek alone.  The only value in translating both Greek and Slavonic together is to indicate the parallels by means of translating the same word in each language in the same English way; and this is the one thing that I can’t do, since I don’t have a translator who knows both.  So what value is there, in translating the Greek again, even if we add a few more fragments?  Why not just translate the Old Slavonic, and leave the Greek?

Much of the material is from Epiphanius Panarion; so not merely do we have the ANCL translation, but we have the new Williams translation of the whole work.  We are spoiled for English translations of this material.

I will have to mull this over, but at the moment I must ask: Is it worth it?  I don’t aim to make something for scholars; I want to make something for ordinary people.  In what way will they benefit?

Much to think about over lunch today!

The sack of Constantinople in 1453 (Part 2)

A commenter queried the outcome of an investigation that I began in The sack of Constantinople in 1453, and asked whether the “quote” with which I started was, or was not, found in Critobulous.

Here is the Riggs’ translation of the passage describing the sack of Constantinople, which must be the passage in question (p.71 f.):

§ 237. Then a great slaughter occurred of those who happened to be there: some of them were on the streets, for they had already left the houses and were running toward the tumult when they fell unexpectedly on the swords of the soldiers; others were in their own homes and fell victims to the violence of the Janissaries and other soldiers, without any rhyme or reason; others were resisting, relying on their own courage; still others were fleeing to the churches and making supplication – men, women, and children, everyone, for there was no quarter given.

§ 238. The soldiers fell on them with anger and great wrath. For one thing, they were actuated by the hardships of the siege. For another, some foolish people had hurled taunts and curses at them from the battlements all through the siege. Now, in general they killed so as to frighten all the City, and to terrorize and enslave all by the slaughter.

§ 239.  When they had had enough of murder, and the City was reduced to slavery, some of the troops turned to the mansions of the mighty, by bands and companies and divisions, for plunder and spoil. Others went to the robbing of churches, and others dispersed to the simple homes of the common people, stealing, robbing, plundering, killing, insulting, taking and enslaving men, women, and children, old and young, priests, monks-in short, every age and class.

§ 240. There was a further sight, terrible and pitiful beyond all tragedies: young and chaste women of noble birth and well to do, accustomed to remain at home and who had hardly ever left their own premises, and handsome and lovely maidens of splendid and renowned families, till then unsullied by male eyes-some of these were dragged by force from their chambers and hauled off pitilessly and dishonorably.

§ 241. Other women, sleeping in their beds, had to endure nightmares. Men with swords, their hands bloodstained with murder, breathing out rage, speaking out murder indiscriminate, flushed with all the worst things-this crowd, made up of men from every race and nation, brought together by chance, like wild and ferocious beasts, leaped into the houses, driving them out mercilessly, dragging, rending, forcing, hauling them disgracefully into the public highways, insulting them and doing every evil thing.

§ 242. They say that many of the maidens, even at the mere unaccustomed sight and sound of these men, were terror-stricken and came near losing their very lives. And there were also honorable old men who were dragged by their white hair, and some of them beaten unmercifully. And well-born and beautiful young boys were carried off.

§ 243. There were priests who were driven along, and consecrated virgins who were honorable and wholly unsullied, devoted to God alone and living for Him to whom they had consecrated themselves. Some of these were forced out of their cells and driven off, and others dragged out of the churches where they had taken refuge and driven off with insult and dishonor, their cheeks scratched, amid wailing and lamentation and bitter tears. Tender children were snatched pitilessly from their mothers, young brides separated ruthlessly from their newly-married husbands. And ten thousand other terrible deeds were done.

§ 244. And the desecrating and plundering and robbing of the churches – how can one describe it in words? Some things they threw in dishonor on the ground – ikons and reliquaries and other objects from the churches. The crowd snatched some of these, and some were given over to the fire while others were torn to shreds and scattered at the crossroads. The last resting-places of the blessed men of old were opened, and their remains were taken out and disgracefully torn to pieces, even to shreds, and made the sport of the wind while others were thrown on the streets.

§ 245. Chalices and goblets and vessels to hold the holy sacrifice, some of them were used for drinking and carousing, and others were broken up or melted down and sold. Holy vessels and costly robes richly embroidered with much gold or brilliant with precious stones and pearls were some of them given to the most wicked men for no good use, while others were consigned to the fire and melted down for the gold.

§ 246. And holy and divine books, and others mainly of profane literature and philosophy, were either given to the flames or dishonorably trampled under foot. Many of them were sold for two or three pieces of money, and sometimes for pennies only, not for gain so much as in contempt. Holy altars were torn from their foundations and overthrown. The walls of sanctuaries and cloisters were explored, and the holy places of the shrines were dug into and overthrown in the search for gold. Many other such things they dared to do.

§ 247. Those unfortunate Romans who had been assigned to other parts of the wall and were fighting there, on land and by the sea, supposed that the City was still safe and had not suffered reverses, and that their women and children were free-for they had no knowledge at all of what had happened. They kept on fighting lustily, powerfully resisting the attackers and brilliantly driving off those who were trying to scale the walls. But when they saw the enemy in their rear, attacking them from inside the City, and saw women and children being led away captives and shamefully treated, some were overwhelmed with hopelessness and threw themselves with their weapons over the wall and were killed, while others in utter despair dropped their weapons from hands already paralyzed, and surrendered to the enemy without a struggle, to be treated as the enemy chose.

The extremely vivid language of the original quotation is not, therefore, found in the original.  I suspect that it is a modern rewriting of Critobulos.  One would have to look at “Guerdan and Halliday” to see whether that text was theirs.[1]

UPDATE: I have ordered a copy of Guerdan, so we will find out.

  1. [1] Byzantium: its triumphs and tragedy, by R. Guerdan, trans. by D. L. B. Halliday, Allen and Unwin (1954).

A Coptic fragment of Severian of Gabala on Penitence via Alin Suciu

The excellent Alin Suciu has continued his trawl through uncatalogued Coptic papyri.  The lost papyri of Louvain have attracted his attention.  A post on his blog reports the discovery of parts of a Coptic version of CPG 4186, a homily by Severian of Gabala on penitence:

Under no. 48, Lefort published an unidentified papyrus fragment which he tentatively dated to the 6th or 7th century.[1] In fact, the text can be identified as a portion from a homily on penitence by Severian of Gabala (CPG 4186). Like all the other sermons of Severian, the Greek manuscript tradition transmitted this text under the name of John Chrysostom. It is thus no wonder that the homily can be found in different modern editions of Golden Mouth’s works. For example, in Montfaucon’s edition, which was taken over by Migne in his Patrologia Graeca, the text was printed as the seventh homily on penitence by John Chrysostom (cf. PG 49, coll. 323-336).

However, the attribution of this sermon to Severian was defended on good grounds by Charles Martin.[2] He pointed out that some Patristic catenae are quoting the text under the name of its real author: Severian of Gabala. Besides, it should be remarked that the style of the document does not conform to that of John Chrysostom, but rather contains many features proper to Severian.

The Coptic text published by Lefort corresponds literally to Migne PG 49, col. 325, lines 15-25. However, as the pagination of the Louvain fragment is lost and Lefort was not able to identify its content, he mixed up the recto/verso faces.

He goes on to give the edition of the Greek and Coptic.

This kind of work is immensely valuable to have online.  Well done, Dr S!

From my diary

Autumn has arrived very early this year, with its quota of draughts in the office, and consequent colds and chills and air-conditioner wars.  I am rather preoccupied with some work-related nuisance of just this kind, so don’t expect too much from me for a bit.  But things are moving slowly forward anyway.

I’ve been corresponding with Dr Mary B. Cunningham of Nottingham University, who has translated a number of pieces by Andrew of Crete.  I had hoped that she might translate Andrew’s Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra, but sadly she is otherwise engaged.  That is perhaps unsurprising at the start of a new academic year!

However she has given me the name of a gentleman who might be interested and qualified to do it instead.  So I have written this evening to offer a commission to him.  Let’s hope that it works out.  The work is about 11 pages of Anrich, so far from huge (thankfully).

I have also commissioned a translation of another piece by Severian of Gabala: CPG 4201, “In illud: Quomodo scit litteras (John 7:15)”, text in PG 59. 643-652 = Montfaucon; Savile edition, vol. 5, 752-761.  This is rather more meaty.  But I am hoping to use the translator for the Greek side of several works by Methodius of Olympus preserved in Old Slavonic, so I do need to know that she can handle the task.

The application for grant money to translate two large works of Methodius of Olympus from Old Slavonic (and Greek where it exists) is stalled until I have sorted out a Greek translator.  However one query on the form was resolved this week by a query to the grant body.  But I need to revisit the form entirely – my answers are rather waffly at the moment, and not especially focused on answering the specific question.

Methodius “on the Leech” is still on my hard disk, and the subject of some debate between the translators of the Greek and the Slavonic.  I will try to finalise this in a few days, depending on the crud at work.

A prediction of mine, that the availability of online PDFs would lead to libraries selling off their physical books, appears to be coming true.  A correspondent drew my attention to this item. A book dealer in Oxford is advertising a complete set of the printed 19th century Patrologia Latina, all 221 volumes of it (!), for £6,000 (about $9,000).  The source is “an English cathedral library”.  The volumes have apparently hardly been opened; probably the library never allowed clergy to look at them without onerous conditions.  Now … they’ve been sold off.  Clerical libraries have often been knocked down for cash in times of decay, such as our own, to the rage and chagrin of subsequent generations, and it seems those days have come again.

But did they get very much money for it?  Well, I myself once sold a load of patristic books to that bookseller. I can tell you that I got really very little money for them (but I did get the blasted things off the floor).  We may sure that the cathedral got much less than the sum demanded; probably a couple of thousand, if that.  Ten pounds per volume?

But we may wonder who might have the shelf-space for such an item?  And … considering that they are all online, why would anyone buy it?

Notes on Andrew of Crete’s Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra

In all the Methodius stuff, I have not forgotten that there are many untranslated hagiographical texts about St Nicholas of Myra, or Santa Claus, which are still on my hit list.  A correspondent has written to offer help with translating Greek texts, and I recalled that the Encomium by Andrew of Crete (BHG 1362, CPG 8187) might be a possible starting point.  The work dates to the beginning of the 8th century, so might be a little early for that translator.  But we will see.

Since I have to look this up, here’s some bibliography.

Greek text:

G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos, der Heilige Nikolaos in der Griechischen Kirche; Texte und Untersuchungen, 2 vols, Leipzig: Teubner, 1913-17. Volume 1, p.419-428.

Patrologia Graeca 97, col. 1192-1205, where the work is given as “oration 18” of Andrew of Crete.  With Latin translation.


German translation:  L. Heiser, “Die Festrede des Andreas von Kreta,”  in idem, Nikolaos von Myra. Heiliger der ungeteilten Christenheit, Trier, 1978, p.80-89.  I do have a copy of this, it turns out.

Partial English translation: I find by looking online that someone has made an English translation of a slab of it here, although who and from what is not clear.  There is a link at the end to the PG text, so presumably that was used, or the Latin of it.

Let’s see what comes of this.

UPDATE: I came across a useful article on Andrew of Crete this morning, which gives us a little more information.[1]

The best study of Andrew and his work is apparently S. Valhé, “Saint André de Crete“, Echos d’Orient 5 (1902), 378-87.  There are some modern articles in Greek also.  Also M.-F. Auzépy, “La carriere de André de Crete”, BZ 88 (1995) 1-12.

The Encomium may not, in fact, be by Andrew of Crete.  It seems that Anrich expressed doubts on this (154-60, 339-56) which were endorsed by N. Sevcenko in The Life of St Nicholas in Byzantine Art, Turin, 1983, p.26.  Apparently Auzépy fails to mention this question, tho.

  1. [1] Mary B. Cunningham, “Andrew of Crete: a high-style preacher of the eighth century”, in: M. Cunningham and P. Allen, Preacher and His Audience: Studies in Early Christian and Byzantine Homiletics, 1998, 267-294.