From my diary

I’ve reached the last couple of volumes in the pile of books to slice and convert to PDF.  One of these was an old Loeb, but when I opened it, I found a “withdrawn” library stamp for Aberdeen University in it.  The book became an old survivor, and I couldn’t bring myself to pull its binding off and slice it up.  The other is a long, pseudo-scholarly volume – by someone supposed to be a leading scholar – and I decided that if I needed to write more about it, I’d prefer to have the book to leaf through.

Another volume that I own, and would prefer to have in PDF form, is L. D. Reynolds and friends, Texts and Transmissions: A Survey of the Latin Classics.  This marvellous volume gives the manuscript traditions of all the Latin classics. I was reluctant to chop it up, and I looked to see if I could buy a cheap second-hand copy.  Imagine my astonishment to find that second-hand copies now retail at $400 and upwards!!  It cost perhaps $50 new, in hardback.  Nor has it made its way, as far as I know, into pirate PDF form.  So my copy will remain intact.

Also standing on my shelves are three thick volumes of the Cambridge Ancient History.  I never read them, nor refer to them; but they were bought in my teenage years, with money sent for birthdays or Christmas, at great sacrifice.  These books, like some others, are part of what made me myself.  These are not the books that I merely need for reference.  Books that I grew up with are not for chopping up.

I’m not sure whether there are more books to convert.  At the moment I have reached the end.

Here it is winter, and a miserable grey winter it is.  It’s hard to find any motivation.  My commercial clients will not be wanting me for a few weeks at least.  So … perhaps it is time to plan to do something in February.  Time to do something to look back on at the end of the year.  I must consider this.  I see that lava is pouring out of the volcano in Hawaii; but eleven hours to LAX, and then a further six to Hawaii, does not really appeal that strongly.

Sanctions are being lifted on Sudan, and I’d love to see the pyramids of the black pharaohs.  But it’s a twelve hour flight, via Addis Ababa.  You can get some wonderful illnesses there, and it’s not as safe as it might be.

But if I want safe, there is always Israel, I suppose.  Five years ago I went on a pilgrimage holiday in February, organised by McCabe Pilgrimages.  Maybe I should go again.  But … the weather was variable.

What I need, I think, is a teleporter!

A couple more images of the Meta Sudans from Twitter

Roma Ieri Oggi has posted yet another old photograph, from 1898, of the Colosseum, with the Meta Sudans:

(Gargiolli, 1898) Colosseo, Meta Sudans e Arco di Costantino

The angle on the Meta Sudans is a little unusual, and indicates that the top was not level.

This caused a second photo to be posted, this one from 1865:

1865 photograph of the Meta Sudans

Note how much the land level has been lowered between 1865 and 1898!

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 18c (part 6)

We continue the account of the reign of Omar.

10. When he arrived at Medina, Omar ibn al-Khattab wrote a letter to remove Amr ibn al-‘As from office in Palestine, ordering him to equip himself and leave for Egypt, and he appointed Mu‘āwiya ibn Abi Sufyān as governor of Ashkelon, Caesarea and Palestine. Mu’awiya and his forces occupied Caesarea and Ashkelon, in the seventh year of the caliphate of Omar ibn al-Khattab. Othman ibn Affan paid a visit to Omar ibn al-Khattab, and Omar said:  “I have written to Amr ibn al-‘As, telling him to leave Palestine and Caesarea.  I’ve ordered him to go to Egypt and assigned the governorship of Palestine and Caesarea to Mu‘āwiya ibn Abi Sufyān”.  Othman said to him: “You know, O prince of believers, that ‘Amr is a bold, and intrepid commander.  I fear that he may start recklessly and without enough men, and then expose the Muslims to ruin, in the hope of a few opportunities that might turn out as easily good as bad.”  Omar ibn al-Khattab regretted the letter that he had sent to Amr ibn al-‘As, and worried about what Othman had said.  So Omar ibn al-Khattab wrote another letter to Amr ibn al-‘As, saying:  “If this letter reaches you before you’re entered the province of Egypt, go back to where you were.  If you’ve already entered, carry on.”  The letter came to Amr while he was at Rafakh.  Fearing that it might be an order to retire, if he took and opened the letter, Amr would not take it from the hand of the messenger and brought him with him, and he continued on his way until he came to a village halfway between Rafakh and al-‘Arīsh.  He enquired about the place and they said:  “This village belongs to the province of Egypt.”  He then called the messenger, took delivery of the letter, read it in front of the Muslims who were with him and said to them:  “Do you not know that this village belongs to the province of Egypt?”  “Yes,” they replied.  Then Amr said:  “The prince of believers has ordered me to go back if this letter is delivered to me before I entered Egyptian territory, and to continue if this letter comes to me after entering Egyptian territory.  We will continue, therefore, with the blessing and help of Allah. ”  It is said, though, that Amr was in Palestine and continued with his men to enter Egypt without any authorization and that Omar wrote the letter before Amr was at al-‘Arish.  However, he kept hidden the letter and did not read it until he arrived at al-‘Arish, where he opened it, and he read as follows: “From Omar ibn al-Khattab to Amr ibn al-‘As.  You’ve left for Egypt with those who are with you.  In Egypt there are many Rum and you have with you only a small handful of men.  If you’re not yet in Egypt, come back.”  Amr said: “Glory to Allah, what territory is this?”  They answered:  “It is Egyptian territory”.  Then he advanced and carried on.  It is also said that Omar sent him to attack Caesarea, to give a hand to the soldiers who were besieging it, when Omar ibn al-Khattab was at al-Ğābiyah and that Omar wrote secretly to Amr to travel to Egypt.  Amr then marched on Egypt and gave orders to his men as if they were only moving from one place to another place nearby.  He moved with them at night.  Later the leaders of his men halted their work because they saw that he had exposed them dangerously, and after they realised this, they reported it to Omar ibn al-Khattab, who sent a letter to Amr ibn al-‘As in which he said:  “You have endangered the lives of those who are with you.  If my letter reaches you before you have entered Egypt, then go back where you were.  If you have already entered Egypt, go ahead, and know that I give you my support.”  Then he carried on, until he came to al-Farama, besieged it for a month and captured it.  Then he continued his march into Egypt.  The Rum were well reinforced in the citadel, they had dug a moat around in which they had placed iron bars, and held back the garrison troops to guard the citadel, so that for seven months they defended themselves strongly.  Because of the delay in taking the city, [Amr] wrote to Omar and asked him for reinforcements.  He sent him as assistance four thousand men, including az-Zubayr ibn al-‘Arrām, Obāda ibn as-Samit, and Maslama ibn Muqallad. Amr already had four thousand men with him, and so this became eight thousand.

When a book order goes wrong: problems with Abebooks and Reuseabook

I think most of us have used Abebooks as a valuable way to get hold of second-hand literature.  And it is truly valuable.  I well remember hunting bookshops for Tertullians in the 80s, unable to find even ordinary books.

But Abebooks is not Amazon, and if things go even slightly wrong, the marvellous customer service of Amazon is not there.  I bought the wrong book by accident from a dealer called “Reuseabook”, of Stroud in the UK.  This dealer did something dodgy.  They – or their computer system – instantly marked the book as “shipped” as soon as I ordered, thereby preventing me cancelling it online, as I tried to do within 120 seconds of placing it. They then ignored my email requesting cancellation, preferring to force me to receive the book.

In fairness Reuseabook did make a return fairly painless.  All I had to do was circle their address on the packet and mark it “RTS” – return to sender.  But it seemed very odd, to be forced to receive a book that I never wanted.

Anyway I complained about this to Abebooks, the day after my mis-order.  To my surprise, Abebooks customer service ignored every line of my complaint, which was that this was sharp practice by the dealer.  Instead they advised me that they were “just a portal”, and forwarded my complaint to the dealer, as if it was a request for cancellation.  They also stated that I was only entitled to refuse the book if the dealer agreed, which is legally not the case.

In effect Abebooks take no responsibility for the fair dealing of the dealers on their site.  Which is quite a policy, and very nasty.  What if the book had cost real money? (It was only a few bucks, in fact)

I’ve learned a couple of lessons here.

Firstly, we are all accustomed to Amazon’s excellent customer service.  Amazon created online shopping, pretty much, because of that customer service.  So it comes as a shock when we find that a site as important as Abebooks has customer service which is rubbish.  I suggest that we give preference to Amazon, when buying second-hand.

Secondly, if we do use Abebooks, let’s make sure that we use a credit card.  Long ago I discovered that eBay had rubbish customer service, but that my credit card company would sort the cheaters out just fine.  We need to do the same with Abebooks.  I shall also try not to do business with Reuseabook, if I can get the same book elsewhere.  Nobody needs people who turn a mistake into a drama.

Who was “Euthalius”, and what did he write?

The Catholic Encyclopedia contains the following paragraph:

The martyrdom [of St Paul] took place towards the end of the reign of Nero, in the twelfth year (St. Epiphanius), the thirteenth (Euthalius), or the fourteenth (St. Jerome).[1]

But who is this “Euthalius”?

In medieval Greek bible manuscripts, there is a mass of commentary material.  For instance, in the margins are explanatory comments, made up of chains (catenae) of quotations from the fathers.

But there is also a bunch of material of various types for the following three chunks of the New Testament; first, the letters of Paul, then Acts, and then the letters of the other apostles.  This appears in manuscripts which are generally fairly late.

There is a prologue for each of these three “chunks”, and the prologue usually has a title.  In each case, the title usually attributes the prologue to a certain Euthalius.  In some manuscripts he is referred to in the title as “the deacon”; in other manuscripts, as “bishop of Sulca”, although this bishopric is not known.[2]

Nothing is known for certain of this Euthalius.  The prologues refer to the Chronicle of Eusebius, which means that Euthalius is later than that – perhaps much later.  Any date from the end of the 4th century onwards is possible. There is a confession of faith by a much later Euthalius of Sulca,[3] but it seems unlikely that this is the same man.

The prologue to the letters of Paul falls into three sections, the first and last being a life of St Paul.  It is to this prologue that the Catholic Encyclopedia refers.

British Library manuscript additional 28816, f.1r – Euthalius’ prologue.

As with all commentary material, the material is made up of all sorts of things, present in different amounts in different manuscripts.

Willard considered that there are 4 different types of material, all perhaps by this Euthalius.  The major pieces consist of:

  • The three prologues
  • “Lesson lists”, or “large sections” – which divide the bible text (except for the Gospels and Revelation) up into 57 readings suitable for church.  These are the “Euthalian sections”, and were generally adopted in the Greek church.[4] There is also a division of the books into short stichoi or versus (i.e. “lines”) of regular length.[5]
  • Quotation lists – lists of Old Testament quotations in the bible text
  • Chapter lists – a list of chapter headings, kephalaia-titloi, unnumbered, which taken together indicate the contents of the letter. They do not correspond to the modern chapter divisions.

In addition there is other material, which has little claim to be considered by the same author as the prologues.  This includes a Martyrium Pauli; a collection of argumenta / hypotheses, i.e. summaries of the content of each book; some miscellaneous pieces, and, at the end of some manuscripts, notably Codex H 015, a colophon.  This reads as follows:

I wrote and edited this volume of Paul the Apostle, arranging it in verses according to my abilities, so that the text of our brothers may be clearly written and easy to understand, and I ask all of them for forgiveness for my audacity, that I may receive acceptance through prayer for my [work (?)].

The book was compared with a copy in the library of Caesarea, written with the hand of the holy Pamphilus.

Address: I am the Coronis, teacher of the divine doctrine. If you lend me to anyone, you should get a receipt, because borrowers are evil.

Answer:  I keep you as a treasure of spiritual blessings, one which is longed for by all men, combined from many parts and adorned with writing in various colors. In truth, I will not rashly give you to anyone, nor again will I grudge the […][6]

The same colophon is found in the 12th century minuscule 88, where the first word is “Evagrius”.  It is possible that the erased first line of Ms. 015 began likewise.  Some scholars have supposed that Euthalius was really this Evagrius.

For lack of any better collective term, all this non-catena material tends to be referred to as the “Euthalian apparatus” for these books of the bible.  The material also exists, naturally, in the languages into which the medieval Greek New Testament was translated, namely Syriac, Armenian, and Georgian, and Slavonic[7]; although there seems to be no more than the list of chapter headings in Latin.

The “Euthalius” material was first edited by itself by L. A. Zacagni in 1698.  His edition is conveniently reprinted by Migne in the Patrologia Graeca 85, columns 627-790.  Far more useful to most of us is an English translation and commentary, with von Soden’s text, which has been published recently by Blomqvist.[8] There is an excellent 2009 study by Willard, based on a 1970 thesis, which includes a well-organised survey of all the material and of more than 400 manuscripts.[9] At Google Books there is a preview of an article by Dahl which seems to cover some of the discussion.[10]  There is very extensive discussion of the material, much of it from before 1914, which can be referenced from Blomqvist and Willard.

This material is perhaps mainly of specialist interest.  Euthalius’ comments on Paul can only be derivative.   The text of his apparatus may preserve variant readings of the bible.  The development of chapter divisions must have been influenced by this work, and reflects the rise and progress of sections and chapter divisions.  But all the same, it is useful to know about this work.

Let us end by hearing something from the author.  Few indeed will have access to Blomqvist’s invaluable volume.  So perhaps it would be useful for readers to end with most of his translation of the prologue to the letters of Paul (PG 85, cols. 693-713).  I have omitted the summary of the contents of the letters in the middle.  The statement, to which the Catholic Encyclopedia referred, is at the end, and I have placed it in bold.

    *    *    *    *

Prologue by the Deacon Euthalius, prefixed to the Book of the Letters of Paul the Apostle

Admiring your zealous love of learning, most honored father, I have obeyed your authority and your persuasive powers, and set out through a certain narrow strait and passage, that of scholarship, to write this prologue about the deeds of Paul. In fear of being disobedient, I promised a work far beyond my faculties, because I knew what is said in the Proverbs, that ‘the disobedient son shall perish’, while the obedient will be exempted. But come, offer your prayers for me, and, as though you were furnishing me with steering oars on both sides, stretch out your hands to God, just like the great Moses himself once extended his hands when he gave aid to Israel, drawn up for battle. Pray that even I may escape the rising winds of the air, and that keeping the course straight till the end, I may bring for you the vessel of my work into a calm harbor.

Beginning now this speech, I will describe what contains the truth. Paul the Apostle was a Hebrew by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, belonging to the party of the Pharisees, educated in the Law of Moses by Gamaliel, the faithful teacher.

Further, he lived in Tarsus, the eye-stone of Cilicia, persecuting and seeking to destroy the Church of God. For this very reason, he was present at the slaughter of Stephen, the apostle and the martyr, and he was also then taking part in the killing, as he received the mantles of all those who stoned him, to watch over them so that he could use the hands of all to kill. And he was seen everywhere as the most prominent among the rioters, eager to destroy the elect of the Church. Many and grave were the deeds that he committed against the Church, and he left nothing behind in excessive fury, because in this he believed he was acting piously and that he was setting the greatest things right, as both he himself confesses in his letters, and as Luke tells us in his second book. For not only did he in the beginning hate and turn away from the message of truth, like most Jews did, but he now nourished in himself an anger even greater than that of the whole people. For when he saw the radiance of the message and the blossoming word of truth growing stronger than the Jewish teaching, suffering because of this, and considering the greatest things offended as their teaching was being overthrown, he created in himself great zeal and eagerness directed against the nurslings of the Church, that they either should renounce the true teaching or suffer just punishment for their faith in Christ.

And when Paul at that time had received letters from the priests and the teachers to the Jews in Damascus, he set out, roaring like a violent river, thinking he would dash against the disciples in Damascus from all sides and send them into the pit of perdition. Since the Lord knew that he had somehow acquired his unjust fury from a just intention, He appeared to him in the middle of the road, and with the intensity of the light, He took away his sight. And he changed to such a degree that he who used to contrive all terrible things against the Church and planned to wipe out all the disciples, suddenly, right there, was considered His beloved and a most faithful man. For the enemy became straightaway a follower of Jesus, and having cast off his furious condition, he advanced to become an entrusted delegate, he confessed his faith in Christ and was sent to a certain Ananias, a disciple in Damascus. When God, the examiner of truth, saw that he was acting prudently and had become a better man who had left the evil ones behind, He declared that he should be exempted from punishment in no other way than this. So he went to Ananias and was baptised, he shared in unspeakable mysteries and became a remarkable defender and champion of the message.

And entrusted with a new message from God, he received a newer way to salvation. The blessed Paul changed so much that he even changed his name, having become true to his new name – for Saul  indeed used to shake the entire church, but Paul had now ceased to persecute and destroy the disciples of Christ. Thus he transformed his zeal into the utmost piety, strengthening the pious disciples with letters if he sometimes happened to be absent, in order that they for the future might acquire the teaching not only through his deeds, but also through his words, and, being strengthened by both, they might carry an unshakeable stronghold of piety within their souls.

After some time, Paul again went up to Jerusalem, to see Peter. Then they also divided the whole world between them, and after Paul received the part of the Gentiles, as it befell Peter to teach the Jewish people, he traversed many cities and many lands, and he almost filled all of Illyricum with the teachings of faith in Christ. Truly, he suffered and endured countless horrors for the sake of his belief in Christ, and he went through many and various dangers for the sake of the Gospel, as he himself recounts, but, having struggled hard for faith, he vanquished them all. For at that time, God still wanted Paul, and the unspeakable plan and decision of the Lord kept him living among men until he had proclaimed the Gospel to all nations.

And in the late hour, Paul again goes up to Jerusalem to visit the saints there and to help the poor. In the meantime, sedition took hold of the city, and the people were in a great uproar, as the Jews were rousing the crowd, because they considered it a terrible and heavy burden to be accused by the man who once protected them and shared their fury, and they were eager to kill him. But soon the chief captain Lysias took him away and sent him with military escort to the ruler in Caesarea. They arrested him and brought him to the governor. Felix was his name. When Paul realized that the Jews were plotting against him, he soon appealed to the emperor before the tribunal. His case was suspended, and the plot that the Jews had prepared against him came to nothing. And now the authorities sent him to the emperor in Rome, and there he proved himself worthy in the same struggles and he worked hard for the same prizes. Finally, he even departed from life for the sake of the doctrines of truth, as he considered life with Christ better than this life, which leads to death. For when the emperor Nero shortly afterwards wanted to lead him out of this life, he in fact bestowed true and genuine life upon him, and he made the man he took from earth a citizen of the heavens. So there the blessed Paul, having fought the good fight, as he says himself, received the crown of the holy and victorious martyrs of Christ.

The Romans, having enclosed his remains in the most beautiful kingly buildings, attend a festival to his memory once a year, on the third day before the calends of July, on the fifth day of the month Panemos, celebrating his martyrdom.

[There then follows a summary of the contents of the 14 letters]

Thus, the book as a whole includes every aspect of proper social conduct arranged according to progress.

So far, let this be said about them as described in our epitome. But in the following, we will prefix to each letter a short exposition of the chapters, worked out by one of the wisest of our fathers, a Christ lover. Not only that, but by going over the reading of the text we have with scholarly method indicated briefly the accepted list of the divine testimonies, and the most accurate division of the readings. This we will present just after this prologue.

I also considered it necessary to indicate briefly the period of time covered by the preaching of Paul, by making a summary based on the chronological tables of Eusebius, the disciple of Pamphilus.

When I get the book in my hand and open it, I find that the passion of our Savior, His resurrection on the third day, and the assumption of Christ back to heaven happened in the eighteenth year of the emperor Tiberius. And I saw there that the apostles after a few days elected the well-named Stephen and his companions to serve as deacons. I learn that after this there was a huge insurrection among the Jews, as we have already stated, and that Stephen then fought his fight, while Paul indeed approved of the murder. Soon he met the leaders of the Jews and received letters to the Jews in Damascus against the disciples. But in the middle of his journey the call came to him from God. This was a short time before the end of the year. When the nineteenth year of the emperor Tiberius began, Paul began to preach the message, the story tells, and he traversed the whole world preaching faith in Christ, until the thirteenth year of the emperor Claudius, when Felix was governor in Judaea. When Paul was accused by the Jews, he defended himself before him. But he kept the Apostle for two years in the prison of Caesarea. When Porcius Festus succeeded him in office, he soon wanted to reopen his case, thus presenting a great favor to the Jews. Then, as the blessed one understood that he could not escape the treachery unless he appealed to the emperor, he did so before the tribunal and was sent to emperor Nero in Rome. With him he had Aristarchus, whom he rightly called his fellow prisoner somewhere in the letters, and Luke, who consigned the acts of the apostles to writing. So there, in the city of the Romans, Paul was again kept under guard for two whole years.

Luke tells the story up to this point in the Acts of the Apostles, as this was the time when he finished his book. Since he had no knowledge then of what happened later, he did not include his martyrdom, as Luke and Aristarchus then left him and went away. But Eusebius, who has accurately described the following period, has told us also the story of his martyrdom in the second book of his History of the Church.

He says that Paul lived as a free man, and he confirms that he preached the word of God, no one preventing him. It is said that Paul, having defended himself before Nero, was sent from the emperor as a free man to serve the message, and that he preached the gospel for ten more years. When Nero reached the height of his madness, he killed Agrippina, his own mother, and also his father’s sister, his own wife Octavia and countless other relatives. After that, he instigated a general persecution of the Christians. And thus, he was roused to bring slaughter upon the apostles. Then, having called Paul to him, he once again placed him before the tribunal. Luke was with him also this time. Then it happened, in the thirty-sixth year after the passion of our Savior, in the thirteenth year of Nero, that Paul died as a martyr by having his head cut off by the sword.

From the nineteenth year of the emperor Tiberius, when he began to preach the gospel, till his twenty-second year, there are four years, and the years of Gaius are also four, but the years of Claudius are a little less than fourteen. His successor, Nero, killed the Apostle in the thirteenth year of his reign. Paul the Apostle says this about his first defense, writing to Timothy: ‘At my first defense no one stood by my side; all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength to proclaim the word fully, that all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.’ By this he means Nero. He says this about his second defense, in which his martyrdom was completed: ‘Fulfill your good ministry. For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has drawn near.’ Shortly after this, he writes that Luke is with him again: ‘Luke, who is with me, greets you’. The entire period of Paul’s preaching is twenty-one years, another two years he spent in prison in Caesarea. In addition, he was again two years in Rome, and the last years amount to ten.  Thus, all the years from his calling until his perfection number thirty-five.

But let no one rebuke me for this and reject the events following Acts, saying that Luke does not confirm them. To this a prudent man would respond: ‘My good friend, if you do not accept the period following Acts, show me,’ he would say, ‘where Luke tells the story of the martyrdom of Paul!’ For if Luke had told us about the martyrdom and estimated Paul’s stay in Rome to be only these two years, there would be no need for us to elaborate the chronology. But since he does not tell us about the martyrdom, as it happened much later than the time he covers in his book, trust for the remainder the chronicler Eusebius, and accept his history with benevolence, as a friend. For the disciples of Christ, receiving for their edification the teachings and traditions of the fathers with obedience and faith, are made heirs of the heavenly kingdom.

  1. [1]Article on St Paul; I first encountered the statement second hand in the strange hoax volume, “King Jesus: King of Judaea and Prince of Rome” by Ralph Ellis, p.212, which read: “It is said that his death took place in the 12th, 13th or 14th year of Nero, depending on whether you read St. Epiphanius, Euthalius or St. Jerome, which translates as either AD 66, 67 or 68.”  But this unreferenced statement seems to be derived from the Catholic Encyclopedia article.
  2. [2]All this from chapter 12 of Willard’s monograph.
  3. [3]See Jack Finegan, Encountering New Testament Manuscripts, Eerdmans (1980) p.45, online here.
  4. [4]There is more information online in the old Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography article here.
  5. [5]Again see the old Wace, Dictionary of Christian Biography article here; and this article, E M Thompson, Handbook of Greek and Latin paleography, chapter 6, on στίχοι.
  6. [6]Blomqvist, p.16.
  7. [7]An article on the Slavonic by W. Veder, “The Slavonic Translation of the Euthalian Apparatus to the Acts and Epistles”, is here.
  8. [8]Vemund Blomqvist, Euthalian Traditions: Text, Translation and Commentary, De Gruyter (2012).
  9. [9]Louis Charles Willard, A Critical Study of the Euthalian Apparatus, De Gruyter (2009).  Google Books preview here.  This uses the Aland numbers, rather than the shelfmarks, to refer to the manuscripts.  For some reason Willard left the Greek untranslated, which means that only those with reasonable Greek can follow some of the argument.
  10. [10]N.A. Dahl, “The ‘Euthalian apparatus’ and the affiliated ‘argumenta'”, in: Studies in Ephesians, Mohr Siebeck (2000), p.231-278.  Dahl is mainly concerned with mentions in the prologue of an “edition” of the Corpus Paulinum, the collection of Paul’s letters.  I was unable to access more than a selection of pages.

If death did not exist, would Stalin still rule in Russia?

I was reflecting on the career of Josef Stalin, the brutal bandit from the Caucasus, who rose to become Soviet dictator, and enslaved, first a huge nation, and then half of Europe.  He had total power.  The only thing that he could not control was death.  One day death came for him, and his empire crumbled soon after.

But what if he had had the choice, about whether to die or not?  We can be sure that he would have chosen to live.  Would Stalin still be ruling his empire from the Kremlin, even today?  It would be a brave man who would bet against it.

From time to time men arise, and impose their wills upon their fellow men.  A movement, an ideology, a class, a society.  We might like to think that the well-meaning will prevail; but it is not necessarily so.

We do not need to invoke the shade of Stalin, even.  If any of those scientists who are investigating age should ever find a “cure” for death, we may be sure that it will not be available equally.  An undying elite will arise, comprised of the wealthy and powerful, looking down, we may be sure, on all the “deplorables”.  Such men tend to despise those not like themselves.  History does not suggest that such a gilded elite will be a good thing.

However all men die, and so every tyranny has a limit.  We can escape from every monster, given time.

In Niven and Pournelle’s Inferno, a retelling of Dante, the fact that the damned cannot die, but can continue to suffer, is exploited by the devils as a way to impose sufferings impossible on earth.  But in reality men die, and thereby they can escape from their suffering, which is mostly caused by their fellow men.

In Genesis we learn that death was the penalty for the sin of Adam.  But if we look at it like this, then, like most things that God does, it was a mercy.  No undying tyrants shall reign forever.  No man shall suffer beyond a certain point.

In Greek myth, Tithonus was granted immortality, but not eternal youth.  In consequence he soon became incredibly old and withered, and was finally transformed into the cricket.  In a world where men can live forever, they must likewise receive eternal youth; but also sinlessness, for otherwise they will certainly become tyrants.  I fear that curing sin may be rather beyond the powers of our scientists, however.

We live in a  broken world, and all sorts of awful things happen within it.  But some of those things may be benefits, if we did but consider the alternatives.  In a world where all men are sinners, then we truly need some of these things.  Let us be grateful for death.

Roman pranks: Glueing a coin to the pavement, in Horace and Persius

While reading Horace at the weekend in the old Loeb edition, my eye fell upon a passage in Epistles I, XVI 63:[1]

Qui melior servo, qui liberior sit avarus, in triviis fixum cum se demittit ob assem, non video; nam qui cupiet, metuet quoque ; porro, qui metuens vivet, liber mihi non erit umquam.

How the miser is better than a slave, or is more free, when he stoops at the crossroads to pick up the copper fastened there,[a] I do not see: for he who covets will also have fears; further, he who lives in fear, will never, to my mind, be free.

The footnote indicated:

a. We are told that Roman boys would solder a coin to the pavement and then ridicule those who tried to pick it up (so scholiast on Persius, v. 111).

Persius imitates the lines from Horace in Satire 5, line 111.  So looking at Jahn’s 1843 edition of Persius and the scholia,[2] which is most likely the edition referenced, I find the scholion as follows:

111. Inque luto fixum, id est: Sordidum lucrum spernis; aut certe visum in luto nummum praetermittis, quia solent pueri, ut ridendi causam habeant, assem in silice plumbatum infigere, ut qui viderint, se ad colligendum inclinesit, nec tamen possint avellere, quo facto pueri etiam acclamare solent.

That is:

You spurn filthy cash; or at least, seeing a penny lying in the mud, you pass by, because boys, thinking it grounds for a laugh, used to fasten a coin on the stone with solder, so that when someone saw it and bent down to pick it up, and was unable to pull it of, when this happened, the boys commonly shout “[try] again”![3]

Human nature remains the same, even over a period of two thousand years.  For I remember this prank being practised a couple of decades ago on a television show that relied on this kind of embarrassment for its “humour”.  I have seen a coin affixed to the  ground in just this manner.

  1. [1]Tr. Rushton Fairclough, 1961. P.355-6 in the Loeb, volume 2.
  2. [2]Otto Jahn, Auli Persii Flacci Satirarum liber, 1843. Online at, here.  The page is 332, which is p.546 in the PDF, the scholia on Satire V.
  3. [3]Translation mine: corrected from comment by Alexander MacAulay – thank you!

More colophons from Coptic manuscripts, by Anthony Alcock

A little while ago Anthony Alcock sent in a set of colophons – ending remarks – from Coptic manuscripts, which appear here.

Today I have received a follow-up email from Dr A., with translations of a further 20 colophons found in Coptic manuscripts.  It’s here:

Here is an example (number 111):

Through the zeal and providence of the God-loving brother Chael, the son of late Stephen the island farmer, the man of the plain which is north of Esna: he is responsible for the production of this book through his own labour and gave it to the monastery of Mercurius at Edfu for the salvation to provide reading materal about St John and Apa Pachomius so that Mercurius the General and victorious martyr, John the Baptist and forerunner of Christ and Apa Pachomius the archimandrite might call upon Christ on his behalf and bless him in this world and save him from the snares of the devil and wicked people and assist him in all things towards good. After the completion therefore of this life he will be worthy to have his sins forgiven and to receive his inheritance together with all the saints. So be it. Amen.

Remember me, Theopistos, the lowly deacon, the son of Severus the archpresbyter of the monastery of St Mercurius at Esna. I wrote this book with my hand. Pray for me that God might forgive me my many sins, for they are indeed numerous. So be it.

Added in Greek which is not readable in places:

Written Emshir 16, indiction 15, AM 703, AH 376.

Abba Nicodemus the lowly . . . Apollonia . . . Thebes . . . Philae. Amen

Amshir is the Coptic month that starts on 8 February, AH (Anno Hegirae) is the Muslim era, so this manuscript was completed by the deacon Theopistos, son of Severus, on 24 Feb, 987 AD.

Let us indeed remember him, as he requested; and thank Anthony Alcock for making these words accessible to us all.

From my diary

I am continuing to turn my reference books into PDFs by taking the covers off and breaking them into sections, guillotining the edge and then scanning them.  This is going well.

I also visited a local second hand bookshop and purchased a few classics for a couple of dollars each.  These were books that I already had, but where I wanted to retain my cherished paper copy.

One thing that I would like to do is to scan Christian paperbacks from the 1980s in the same way.  Unfortunately it seems that charity shops and second-hand shops tend to discard “religious” paperbacks as unsaleable.

I now have a couple of monster volumes to do.  One of these is an Italian reference volume which I bought in a bookshop in the Via della Conciliazione in Rome, the street that leads up to the Vatican.  It has since been translated into English, and it would be more useful to me in PDF.  Another is a monstrous volume sent to me for review, which I consider unreadable in paper form.  I think that it is a show volume, created solely to impress, rather than inform.  Anyway, it would be better in PDF.

A correspondent drew my attention to a series of volumes giving yet another “real Jesus” narrative.  I am preparing a review of one of the key points of this theory; but it doesn’t really seem to be widely known, and I am nervous of giving it publicity.

In the process I discovered the existence of a “Life of St Paul” included in many Greek manuscripts of the Acts and Letters, and attributed to a certain Euthalius.  I’ll probably do a post on this once I understand the matter better than I do now.

It is the depths of winter here at the moment.  At some point I hope to get another contract and go back to work.  Meanwhile … I can continue to declutter my shelves!!

The crucifixion graffito of Alkimilla from Puteoli

I was unfamiliar with this item until today, and I doubt that I am alone in this.[1]

In 1959 a group of eight Tabernae were excavated at Puteoli.  Taberna 5 was a guesthouse, as is clear from the graffiti within it.  These mention various names and cities.

On the west wall of taberna 5, a mass of graffiti included the following graffito of a crucified woman.[2]  The cross is 40 cm high, the cross-piece is 26 cm long, and the figure is 35 cm high.  The graffiti belongs to the reign of Trajan or Hadrian.

A name, Ἀλκίμιλα (= Alkimila, Alkimilla), is inscribed over the left-hand side of the image, above the shoulder, suggesting that this is the name of the person in question. It is also possible that this is a form of curse text, rather than a record of an actual event.  The marks across the body are perhaps from flaying or whipping.

The Crucified Alkimilla. Trajanic-Hadrianic era. Puteoli: Via Pergolesi 146, Taberna 5. West Wall. Drawing by Professor Antonio Lombatti.
  1. [1]Details via John Granger Cook, Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World, 2014, p.203-4, which gives a photograph of the graffito and the inscription, and a good bibliography.
  2. [2]Published in M. Guarducci, “Iscrizioni grechi e latine in una taberna a Pozzuoli”, Acta of the Fifth International Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy Cambridge, 1967, Oxford (1971), 219-223.