The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 1 (part 3)

Continuing…. Part of the fun in this is trying to recognise the familiar biblical characters behind their unfamiliar Arabic names!

5. When Yārid felt near death, he called to him his son Akhnūkh, and Mātūshālikh, son of Akhnūkh, Lāmikh, son of Mātūshālikh and Nūh, son of Lāmikh, and said to them: “Do not let any of you come down from this holy mountain.  Your children have already fallen and are lost, and I know that God – powerful and exalted – will not let you remain on this holy mountain.  But whoever of you will come out of this place, let him take with him the body of Adam and these offerings and take them where God will command him”.  Yārid lived in all nine hundred and sixty-two years.

Akhnūkh had had Mātūshālikh at the age of one hundred and sixty-five years.  He was twenty when Shīt died, on Tuesday, at the ninth hour of the day, on the 27th of the month of Āb, that is, of Misra (11).  He lived in all nine hundred and twelve years.  Anūsh, his son, embalmed the body with myrrh, incense and cinnamon and buried it in the Cave of the Treasures together with Adam, and he mourned him for forty days.

At the age of one hundred and eighty-seven Mātūshālikh had Lāmikh.  Mātūshālikh lived in all nine hundred and sixty-nine years.  When Mātūshālikh was fifty-three, Anūsh died on Saturday, at the setting of the sun, on the third of the month of Tìshrīn al-Awwal, or Bābih (12).  He had lived in all nine hundred and five years.  His son Qīnān embalmed his body with myrrh, incense and cinnamon, buried it in the Cave of the Treasures and mourned him for forty days.

6. At the age of one hundred and eighty-two Lāmikh had Nūh.  Lāmikh lived in all seven hundred and seventy-seven years.  Lāmikh was thirteen when God selected Akhnūkh and raised him to himself.  The Arabs call him Idrīs (13).  Akhnūkh was three hundred and sixty-five years old when God raised him to himself.  At that time the sons of Cain, the accursed, and the sons of Shīt who had come down among them worshiped whatever they liked and that the soul desired and sought.  Qīnān died when Lāmikh was sixty-one, on Wednesday, at noon, on the 13th of Hazīrān, or Bābih (14).  His son Mahlali’īl embalmed his body with myrrh, incense and cinnamon, buried it in the Cave of the Treasures and mourned him for forty days.  Qīnān had lived in all nine hundred and ten years.

After five hundred years, Noah had three children.  He called the first Sām, the second Yām and the third Yāfit.  He lived in all nine hundred and fifty years.  Noah was thirty-four years old when Mahlali’īl died, on Sunday, at the third hour of the day, on the 2nd of Nīsān, or Barmūdah (15).  His son Yārid embalmed his body with myrrh, incense and cinnamon, buried it in the Cave of the Treasures and mourned for forty days.  Mahlali’īl lived in all eight hundred and ninety-five years.

Yārid died when Noah was two hundred and six years old, on Fridays, at sunset, 13 of Adhār, or Baramhāt (16).  His son Mātūshālikh, Lāmikh and Noah embalmed his body and buried him in the Cave of the Treasures, mourning his death for forty days.  Yārid lived in all nine hundred and sixty-two years.

Noah was five hundred and ninety-five years old when his father Lāmikh died.  Before he died, Lāmikh called his son Noah and said to him: “God – powerful and exalted – will not leave you [to live] on this mountain.  When you go down, take the body of Adam with you and bring the three offerings with you, namely gold, myrrh and incense (17).  Recommend also to your son that, after your death, he take with him the body of Adam, our father, and place him in the centre of the earth, placing at his service his son who shall spend his whole life there, in religion: he will not marry or shed blood; he will not offer either birds or beasts in sacrifice, but only bread and wine, because from that place will come the salvation of Adam.  He will dress in the skins of animals, he will not cut his hair or trim his nails.  He will be alone, because he will be called a priest of God.  You know well that I am referring to Malshīsādāq”.

When Lāmikh had finished recommending these things to his son Noah, he died on Sunday at sunset, 19 of Adhār, or Baramhāt (18).  Noah embalmed his body and buried it in the Cave of the Treasures and mourned him for forty days.  Lāmikh lived in all seven hundred and seventy-seven years.  Noah was six hundred years old when Mātūshālakh died on Friday, at noon, on the 21st of the month of Aylūl, or Tūt (19).  Noah and Sām embalmed the body and buried it in the Cave of the Treasures and mourned him for forty days.  Matūshālakh lived in all nine hundred and sixty-nine years.  On the holy mountain there only remained Noah, his wife Haykal, daughter of Nāmūsa, son of Akhnūkh, and his three sons Sām, Hām and Yāfit with their three wives, daughters of Mātūshālakh.  Sām’s wife was called Salii, Hām’s wife was called Nahlat, and Yāfit’s wife was called Arīsīnah (20).

Depictions of the column of Justinian in manuscripts of the Notitia Dignitatum

While reading Twitter I happened to see this item:

”Constantinopla Nova Roma” – Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, Spain -(15th. c. Manuscript)

What struck me at once was the prominent view of the column of Justinian, complete with the equestrian statue of the emperor pointing towards the east.  The column stood outside Hagia Sophia, and was destroyed by the Turks after they took the city.

But where does this come from?  A little searching revealed that it comes from the 15th century Madrid copy of the Notitia Dignitatum, Matritensis Reserva 36, Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid, which is online here and in the catalogue as the “Descriptio orbis terrarum”.  The pages may be downloaded individually.

There are, indeed, quite a number of interesting texts in this manuscript.  This image is on folio 84r, which is page 185 in the online facsimile, at the start of a text labelled “Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae”.  The Notitia Dignitatum itself follows somewhat later.  So this is a collection of late Roman documentary texts describing the cities, and the late Roman military organisation.

Sadly the image online is not as high-resolution as one could wish, as an attempt to zoom in reveals.  This is a shame.  I’d have liked a clear view of the statue’s hat.

Other copies of the same text and indeed even the picture are around.  Google images gave me this one:

This comes from Bodleian Library, Ms. Canon. Misc. 378, fol. 84r., via Boeck, Imagining the Byzantine Past, “7.Constantinople: story spaces or storied imperial places” p.244.  It is really remarkably similar.

Fascinating to see, all the same.  These manuscripts were created at a time when the column and the statue still stood.

From my diary

It is Saturday night; in fact the twelfth night after Christmas day, and so – according to Google – the time to take down Christmas decorations.  It is slightly surprising that the Church of England press office does not issue a formal letter to the press, reminding everyone.  Sadly the ecclesiastics of today tend to have other things on their mind.  In its place, a google search reveals confusion.

My own Christmas tree has disappeared into the loft for another year.  How quickly the Christmas season is over!  On Monday I must go back to work on a client site.  It’s a total mess over there – worse than I have ever seen – so how long I will last there remains to be seen.  It will take all my energies just to remain.  If this is what God wants me to do at this time, however, I am willing.  I must bring it to the Lord in prayer, as we must all.  I must make sure to leave, however, before it becomes too much.

My paper trimmer, that I use to cut off the gluey edge next to the spine of a book, has given up the ghost.  The thousand pages of Tissington Tatlow’s Story of the Student Christian Movement were too much for it, it seems; and it died.  I must get another.

I had intended to chop up and scan Douglas Johnson’s Contending for the faith, the history of the Intervarsity Fellowship (now UCCF), but found myself reading it instead and growing interested.  One episode took place at Edinburgh University, where the EUCU (Edinburgh University Christian Union) faced a takeover bid from the SCM in 1951.  On searching the web about this, I was surprised to find a detailed account from someone involved whom I have actually met at the Oxford Patristics Conference and corresponded with about Tertullian!   He was, of course, on the side of the resistance.  I’ve written to ask for more details.  It’s a long time ago, but Christian Unions in universities still face malicious opposition from time to time.  It’s useful to recognise some of the standard ploys.

A few of the books on my “out” shelf have proven more interesting a second time around.  Maybe I should have another go at the Mystery of Mar Saba.

Over Christmas a friend lent me (by post) the autobiography of Emerson Lake and Palmer keyboardist, Keith Emerson, entitled Picture of an Exhibitionist.  I’ve read the corresponding rather sober book by Greg Lake.  Emerson’s book was intended, I think, to show what a wild man he was in the 60’s with The Nice and in the 70s with ELP.  To my surprise it was a sad story, of a lost soul who lived a rather wretched life. Thus he tells us how his creative ability ended when he started using cocaine.  All the “groupies” that the music press journalists loved were in reality just prostitutes.  Many of them were diseased, and so were the “roadies” and musicians.  Indeed ELP actually went on tour with bags of condoms and packs of anti-biotics!  And so on.  There was little glamorous about the life described.  It was a vision of hell, as perhaps so much of the showbiz world really is, if we but knew.


From my diary

The Christmas-New Year holidays continue here, which is just as well as it allows me to get something worthwhile done.  It also allows me to plan things for the year to come.  After several dull days this morning was bright, sunny and full of light; and so, therefore, was I.

When household papers arrive on my desk, I tend to pile those which might be useful later into a pile at one corner.  Naturally this grows.  I last pruned it well over a year ago. I spent this morning doing so.  I was rewarded by finding a shopping voucher that a previous client had given me, due to expire in a few weeks time.  Sometimes virtue is its own reward.

This afternoon I have been dealing with three books in my “out” tray, scanning whatever I wanted from them.  I’ll probably post some excerpts in another post soon.

The first was the autobiography of liberal theologian-turned-evangelical Thomas Oden.  I found it rather thin, full of events that a better writer would have done more with.  But it contains a slightly more interesting section that might concern us directly.  He refers to the IVP “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” series, which he created and edited.  He mentions that his minions scanned the text of the 37 volume Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers collection of translations.  Now my own interest in the fathers as a class was facilitated in the mid-1990s by finding online text files containing these volumes.  They came from Wheaton college in the US, itself associated in some way with IVP.  Were these text files the output from that process?

The second was an “anecdotal history” of IVP – Intervarsity Press – in the USA.  This was frankly very dull.  I do not need to know that in 1958 Mr Suit became head of carpets.  Why do I, the reader, care about Mr Suit?

But I did learn from it why “IVP Academic” came into existence.  While I value what they have done in making translations available, it has always seemed to me like a distraction from the college Christian ministry, to serve which IVP was founded.  But all is revealed.  IVP, like many Christian enterprises, is run on a shoe-string.  Reference volumes are steady sellers, that help give financial stability to a firm.  This, it seems, is why they grabbed the opportunity to do the series.

The third volume is also related to student ministry, although distantly.  It is Tissington Tatlow’s official history of the Student Christian Movement, published in 1933, and more than a thousand pages long.  It’s self-published, and unreadable.  It is, in truth, the annual report of a dull bureaucrat, extended to the point of madness.  Like all such reports any hint of irregularity is suppressed.  So it is both long and meaningless.  It does contain some interesting early photographs.

Unfortunately I have been obliged to break the volume and scan the pages using a sheet-feeder.  I hate the idea of destroying books.  But I am quite certain that, if I had opened every page and scanned it in turn, I would have been the first person to do so since the typesetter.  Nobody can ever have read this torrent of sludge.  It needs to be online, where it can be consulted.  So in order to preserve the work, I have been obliged to kill a copy.  I hesitated long.  But I could not bring myself to spend a couple of days of my life on it.  I apologise, but plead for mercy!

The thing is still going through the sheet-feeder as I write.  This has been a productive day.

UPDATE: The Tatlow book is now on here.

From my diary

Happy New Year to everyone who reads this blog!  May it be a prosperous and successful year for us all!

We stand on the first step of the year.  There are 364 more steps until we get to this place again!  So… it’s the time to decide just what we want to do with the year.

Last year I was busy working, so I didn’t really make any plans, and certainly didn’t put them into execution.  So my year passed mainly in working, looking for work, and sleeping!  Ouch!  That’s what happens to us, unless we make plans.

Long ago my family lived in Cyprus for two years.  I’d like to go back.  If I’m not working in February, as may well be the case, then I might go out and spend a week there.  I owe my interest in antiquity to that stay.  I was only a boy, but I remember Roman cities and crusader castles in the hills.  I remember camping in the ruins of the city of Salamis.  Nothing gives a sense of the reality of the ancient world like swimming in the blue water over huge blocks of worked stone lying on the sandy sea-bed, a few feet below.  Doubtless the coast is more built-up, but it would be interesting to see it again!

It’s always a good motto to “grab a chance, and you won’t be sorry for a might-have-been”.  I’m glad that I visited Libya in 2006 and 2007.  We can’t do that now!  I’m glad that I saved my pennies and booked a flight on Concorde, just for the experience of flying at Mach 2.2.  Again, we can’t do that now.  I regret the injury that prevented me going to Syria in 2010 and looking at the then intact temples and colonnades of Palmyra.  Carpe diem: seize the day.

I’d like to go to Sudan.  But it looks as if a civil war is in progress at the moment. Oh well…

I think I will go to Bath, this year, and see the remains of Aqua Sulis there.  Apparently the hot spring-fed Roman baths are unsafe to bathe in, however – a recent bather caught meningitis!  This is a pity.

So there’s much to think about!

Happy New Year again!

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 1 (part 2)

Let’s carry on from where we left off in September 19, 2016, when last we looked at Chapter 1.  All of this material is derived from the Old Testament, albeit with some imaginative reworking, and it is of no historical value except as indicating how people in the Muslim world thought about this narrative in the 10th century AD.

2. Shīt was two hundred and five years old when Anūsh was born.  After Adam’s death, Shīt’s family separated themselves from the family of Cain, the accursed one.  Shīt took his first-born Anūsh, Qīnān, son of Anūsh, and Mahlali’il, son of Qīnān, along with their women and their children and made them climb to the top of the mountain, where Adam was buried.  Cain and all his sons remained in the place where Abel was killed (9). Shīt’s sons lived on that mountain, pure and holy, and they heard the voices of the angels because they were close to them and they glorified and praised God together with the angels. Therefore they, together with their women and their children, were called children of God. They did not work, they did not sow, they did not reap.  They only fed on the fruits of the trees.  There was no envy among them, nor injustice, nor lies. And when they swore an oath they used to say: “No, for the blood of Abel”. They went to the top of the holy mountain every day and prostrated themselves before God by invoking blessings on the body of Adam.  When Shīt felt death approaching, he made his sons swear on the blood of Abel that none of them would ever come down from that holy mountain nor would they allow any of their children to come down among the sons of Cain, the accursed one.  Shīt lived in all nine hundred and twelve years.  Anūsh had Qīnān at the age of one hundred and ninety years.  In his time the sons of Cain, the accursed, made drums, cymbals, lyres and harps.  They were the first to work iron and copper and all that could be obtained, and they finally made tents in which they lived.

3. Anūsh was three hundred years old when Cain was killed, the accursed son of Adam and murderer of his brother Abel.  It happened that Lāmikh, the seventh descendant of Cain and a shepherd, shot a dart, as a game, that struck his grandfather Cain killing him.  Cain had continued to roam the woods, because he was a wanderer, never stopping in one place.  Cain died at the age of nine hundred and thirty years.  Anūsh lived in all nine hundred and five years.  Qīnān had had Mahlali’il at the age of one hundred and seventy years.  Feeling close to death, Qīnān called Mahlali’īl to himself and made him swear by the blood of Abel that he would not allow any of his sons to come down among the sons of Cain, the accursed.  Qīnān lived in all nine hundred and ten years.

4. Mahalali’īl had Yārid at one hundred and sixty-five years.  Qīnān died when Mahlali’il was one hundred and thirty-five years old, and was buried in the Cave of the Treasures.  When Mahlali’īl felt close to death, he called to his son Yārid and made him swear by the blood of Abel that he would not allow any of his sons to come down from the mountain among the sons of the murderer Cain, the accursed one.  Mahlali’il lived in all eight hundred and ninety-five years. Yārid had, at one hundred and sixty-two years, Akhnūkh.

Of the sons of the murderer Cain, the men behaved like stallions and whinnied after the women.  The women, in turn, were no better and behaved shamelessly like the men.  They fornicated and committed adultery among themselves, in front of everyone, in the open, and two or three men had the same woman together.  The elders were more libidinous than the young, fathers lay with their daughters and their sons with their mothers. The children did not know who their fathers were, nor did the fathers know who their children were.  They played every kind of musical instrument and the echo of their cries and their games reached the top of the holy mountain.  On hearing their cries, a hundred men among the sons of Shīt met together with the intention of descending from the mountain among the sons of Cain, the accursed one.  Yārid exhorted them to swear on the blood of Abel that they would never come down from the holy mountain, but they did not receive his words and went down.  When they were down, they saw the daughters of Cain with beautiful faces, naked and without any modesty, and were seized with burning lust.  The daughters of Cain looked at them, they saw that they were beautiful and gigantic and they fell on them like beasts, soiling their bodies.  Thus it was that Shīt’s sons perished, fornicating with the daughters of Cain.  From their union with the sons of Shīt, the daughters of Cain, the accursed, gave birth to the giants (10).  In the Torah it is said that the sons of God, also called sons of Elohīm, when they saw that the daughters of Cain were beautiful, descended to live among them and the giants were born.  They are therefore mistaken and do not know the truth, those who assert that the angels have descended among the daughters of Adam.  They were instead, the sons of Shīt, come down from the holy mountain among the daughters of Cain, the accursed, because the sons of Shīt, both for their purity and because they lived on the holy mountain, were called sons of Elohīm, that is children of God.  As for those who claim that the angels have descended among the daughters of men, well they are in error, because the substance of the angels is a simple substance and by their nature they cannot have sexual relations.  Man, on the other hand, is a compound substance and by his nature can have sexual relations, as is the case with animals.  If the angels could have sex they would not have left any woman among the daughters of the man without contaminating her.  When the sons of Shīt, who had come down from the mountain among the daughters of Cain, the accursed, wanted to return to the holy mountain, the rocks of the mountain became like fire and it was not possible for them to return to the mountain.  Later, group by group, [others also] came down from the holy mountain among the daughters of Cain, the accursed one

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 2 – part 3 and last

Time to get back to Eutychius… This is more Old Testament stuff: Joshua.  The invasion of the Israelites into Canaan is depicted in rather similar language to the Muslim invasion, doubtless intentionally.

6. After the death of Moses, there took command of the people Yūshā‘ (29), son of Nūn, and held it for thirty-one years.  After crossing the Jordan, he besieged Rīha (30) for seven days.  On the seventh day, the sons of Israel blew the trumpets around the city of Rīha with loud clamor.  By the vehemence of their cries and the sounds of their trumpets the city walls collapsed and all the men, children and women who were in the city were killed.  After conquering Rīha, he celebrated the passover in the desert of Rīha.  Then he sent his army against the city of ‘Ānī (31) and to Bayt II (32) to have news of the city.  But the inhabitants of ‘Ānī moved against them and killed thirty-six of Yūshā‘’s men.  Then Yūsha‘ sent an army of thirty thousand men against the city of ‘Ānī.  Yūsha‘, son of Nūn, followed the soldiers secretly.  The king of ‘Ānī went out with his men against the soldiers of Yūsha‘.  The sons of Israel engaged them in a long pursuit until they had moved away from the city.  Yūsha‘, then, with his men broke into the city of ‘Ānī, destroyed it and burned it, killing all the men and women who were there.  Then he chased the king of ‘Ānī, killed his men, took the king alive and ordered him killed by making his body hang on a cross.  Yashū‘ then went up with his soldiers to the mountains of Canaan.  In the desert the sons of Israel had stopped practicing circumcision, but when they occupied the territories of the Jordan and surrounding regions and mingled with their peoples, God ordered Yashū‘, son of Nūn, to prepare knives and circumcise the sons of Israel with them.  He did as God had ordered.  There is an Ethiopian tribe, the Buğāhs (33), who still practice it today.  He then wrote for the sons of Israel the second law with his blessings and curses (34).

7. When the king of Gī‘ūn (35) heard of Yūsha‘, he wrote to him asking him to make a covenant with him and sent him many gifts.  Yūsha‘ granted him his protection and confirmed him in his charge.  When the king of Ūrashalīm, named Nīsādūq, the king of Gibrūn, the king of Yarmūth, the king of Lākhīs and the king of ‘Aqlūn (36) understood that the king of Gī‘ūn had put himself under the protection of Yūsha‘, son of Nun, they gathered, moved against the city of Gī‘ūn and besieged it.  The king of Gī‘ūn wrote to Yūsha‘, son of Nūn, informing him of the fact. Yūsha‘ gathered an army, went out to fight them and defeated them.  [The kings] sheltered in the cities of ‘Arīqā and Mafīdā (37). God rained hail stones on them that killed them.  The sun remained motionless for Yūsha‘, son of Nūn, without moving to the east or west, until God gave him victory over them and the five kings fled into the cave of a mountain where they hid (38).  Yūsha‘ took them out of the cave, killed them and had their bodies hung up. Then Yūsha‘ left the city of Mafīdā and went to the city of Libna (39). He besieged it, took it and killed the king and all who were there. From the city of Libna he marched against the city of Lākhīs, conquered it and killed the king and all who were there.

8. When the king of Ghazza became aware of the fact that Yūsha‘ had besieged the city of Lākhīs, he went out with his soldiers to help the king of Lāhīsh against Yūsha‘, son of Nūn.  But Yūsha‘ won the victory over him and killed him along with his men.  From Lāhīsh Yūsha‘ went to the city of Aqlūn, laid siege to it, conquered it and killed the king along with all the inhabitants. Then he marched against the city of Hibrun, besieged it, took it and killed the king and all who were there. Then he went out against the city of Dibīr (40), besieged it, conquered it and killed the king and all who were there.  When Yābīn, king of Hāsūr (41), heard these things, he sent messengers to the king of Marūn (42), to the king of Shimrūn (43) to the king of Akhshāf (44), to the king of Saydā (45), to the king of ar-Rāma, ai Muwābiyyūn, the Harrāniyyūn, the Awābiyyūn, ai Qarrāriyyūn, ai Yābūsāniyyūn, ai Sanābiyyūn (46) and all the inhabitants of the sea coast to gather together. The kings and all their men gathered and there were so many that they were as numerous as sand.  Then they went out to fight Yūsha‘, son of Nūn, who moved against them and routed them, killed them and set fire to their tents, and cut the hocks of their beasts and they were all pierced with the sword as far as the city of Mārūn (47) and Saydā, without anyone finding a way out. Then he took the kings and killed them. The kings that Yūsha‘, son of Nūn, killed occupying the territories were altogether thirty-five: the king of the Sanābiyyūn, the king of the Muwābiyyūn, the king of the Kan‘āniyyūn, the king of the Qarrāriyyūn, the king of the Yābūsāniyyūn, the king of the Awāniyyūn, the king of the Girsāniyyūn, the king of Ūrashalīm, the king of ‘Ānī, the king of Sābā (48), which is in the vicinity of Bayt Īl, the king of Hibrūn, the king of Yarmūt, the king of Lākhīsh, the king of ‘Adūlām (49), the king of Gadar (50), the king of Dabīr , the king of Hāsīr (51), the king of Hurmā (52), the king of ‘Arād (53), the king of Libnā, the king of Lālām, the king of Abdād, the king of Hāfir (54), the king of Fīq (55), the king of Sadūm (56), the king of Shimrūn (57), the king of Barmūth (58), the king of Hafīr (59), the king of Qadas (60), the king of Rāhib, the king of Mardūth, the king of Sīqūm, the king of Bātindūn (61), the king of Ğabal al-Ğalīl (62) and the king of Kirsā (63), who were exactly thirty-five (64). Yūsha‘ fought for six years against kings and nations until he conquered and governed the countries.

9. Later he divided the territories and countries among the sons of Israel for fourteen years, and he ruled the people for eleven years in peace and quiet.  In his day there prophesied Il‘āzar, son of Harūn, and Finhās, son of Il‘āzār, son of Harūn.  Yūsha‘, son of Nūn, died at the age of one hundred and ten years and was buried in the mountains of Ğal’ād (65) together with the flint knives which he used to circumcise the sons of Israel in Ğalğal (66).  After the death of Yūsha‘, son of Nūn, the people were administered by the priest Finhās, son of Il‘āzār, son of Harūn.  He was priest for twenty-five years.  The Jews believe that the aforementioned Finhās, the priest, is the prophet Iliyā, whom the Arabs call al-Khidr (67).

An unusual angle on the Meta Sudans

On the 15th December this image was posted, dated to the 1920s-30s:

It shows the Arch of Titus, and behind it the Colosseum, from the unusual vantage point of the Palatine hill.  But at this date, of course, it also shows the remains of the ancient Roman fountain, the Meta Sudans, which was demolished soon after by Mussolini.  Unhappily the image is too low-resolution for us to see much of it.  But each photo is precious.

Arator, his “Historia Apostolica” and its “tituli” and “capitula”

Back in October I received an email enquiring about the chapter headings in the manuscripts of Arator.  My first reaction, like yours, was to wonder who on earth was Arator!  So I thought that it might be interesting to give some information here about this obscure figure, and discuss the question posed to me.

Let’s start with Arator himself.  He lived in the early 6th century, in northern Italy, and wrote a single work, on the Acts of the Apostles, generally labelled Historia Apostolica, or sometimes De Actibus Apostolis.

Few perhaps are aware that a sixth volume of Quasten’s Patrology exists, covering the Latin authors from the end of vol. 4 up to the time of the Venerable Bede.  Sadly it exists only in Italian.[1]  Let’s hear what it has to say:


A little information on the life of this poet and his writings is given to us in the Variae of Cassiodorus and in the works of Ennodius. We know that he was originally from the north of Italy and that his father, perhaps a teacher of rhetoric and certainly a man of high culture, had provided for his early education. Following the untimely death of his father, he was taken care of by the bishop of Milan, Laurentius, and so the young boy passed, together with the great Ennodius, into the school of Deuterius, as we learn from one of the Ennodian dictiones (number 9). There in Ravenna he established a great friendship with Parthenius, nephew of Ennodius, and they began to study the classics, especially the commentaries of Caesar, but also Christian authors such as St Ambrose, “Decentius” (as a rule identified with Dracontius) and Sidonius Apollinaris. The Gothic ruler Theodoric had the opportunity to appreciate his eloquence on the occasion of his participation, perhaps in 526, in an Dalmatian embassy, and Athalaric raised him to the position of Comes domesticorum and Comes privatorum He went to Rome in an unspecified year and was named subdeacon by Pope Vigilius. For four days, between April 13 and June 1, 544 AD, he had the honor of reading his poem on the Acts of the Apostles in the Roman church of St. Pietro in Vincoli, in the presence of clerics and laity, with frequent applause and repeated invitations to read some passages again. After that all trace of him is lost.

Arator has left us a single poem in two books, the De actibus Apostolorum in which the two proemial charms are addressed to Florianus (12 couplets) and to Pope Vigilius (15 couplets); and the final metric epistle (51 couplets) is addressed to Parthenius. They are all one, if only for their illustrative character of the Aratorian poetics. Apparently the poem would appear to be a late product of that movement, inaugurated by Juvencus in the fourth century, whose obvious purpose was to excuse the rough simplicity of the biblical text by covering its contents with a metrically unexceptionable and stylistically elegant form; in other words to create a high-level Christian epic, up to the standard of the great classical tradition.

This cliché does not quite fit the Arator’s poem. In fact, Arator chooses only a few episodes of Acts, reserving the first book for those relating to Peter, and the second to those concerning Paul. He gives much space, in imitation of his predecessor Sedulius, to the allegorical and moral interpretation of the succinctly expressed events, as well as, in some cases, to the mystique of numbers. In essence, the poem fits more decisively into the didascalic strand than into the epic one. This explains and justifies the good fortune that it had in the Middle Ages, as evidenced by the numerous commentaries produced upon it between the ninth and tenth centuries.

Editions: CPL 1504-1505; PL 68, 63-252 (H.J. Arntzen, Zutphiae 1769); G.L Perugi, Venezia 1909; A.P. McKinlay, CSEL 72, Vindobonae 1951.

Studies: J. Schrödinger, Das Epos des Arator De actibus apostolorum in seinem Verhältnis zu Vergil, Progr., Weiden 1911; A. Ansorge, De Aratore veterum poetarum Latinorum imitatore, Breslau 1914; R. Anastasi, “Dati biografici su Aratore in Ennodio”: MSLC 1 (1947) 145-152; K. Thraede, “Arator”. JbAC 4 (1961) 187-196; F. Châtillon, “Arator déclamateur antijuif”. RMAL 19 (1963) 5-128; 197-216; 20 (1964) 185-225; S. Blomgren, Ad Aratorem et Fortunatum adnotationes. Eranos 72 (1974) 143-155; R.J. Schrader, Arator revalutation: CF 31 (1977) 64-77; D. Kanschoke, Bibeldichtung, Munchen 1975, 53-55; 72-74; 93-97; G.R. Wieland, The Latin Glosses on Arator and Prudentius in Cambridge University Library; Ms. Gg. 5, 35, Toronto 1983; H. Tiffenbach, Altdeutsche Aratorglossen, Paris. B.N. lat. 8318: AAWG 3, 107, 1977; L.T. Martin, The Influence of Arator in Anglo-Saxon England, in: Proceedings of the PMR Conference, Villanova 1985; P. Angelucci, I modelli classici di Aratore. Per una tipologia dei rapporti poeta-fonte. Boll. Studi Lat. 15 (1985) 40-50; R.J. Schrader, Notes on the Text. Interpretation of the Sources of Arator. VC 42 (1988) 75-78; P.A. Deproost, La mort de Judas dans l’”Historia apostolica” d’Arator. REAug 35 (1988) 75-78; Idem, Les functions apostoliques du sacre dans le poème d’Arator. BAGB (1989) 376-393; Idem, Les images de l’heroisme triomphale dans l'”Historia apostolica” d’Arator, in: SP 23, Leuven 1989, 111-118; N. Wright, Arator’s Use of Caelius Sedulius: a Re-Examination: Eranos 87 (1989) 51-64; P. Angelucci, Centralità della Chiesa e primato romano in Aratore, Roma 1990; P.A. Deproost, L’Apotre Pierre dans une épopée du VIe siècle. L'”Historia apostolica” d’Arator, Paris 1990; Idem, Notes sur le texte et l’interpretation d’Arator. VC 44 (1990) 76-82.

That’s a rather wordy description, but clear enough for our purposes.  The successful public reading in 544 is known to us from a subscriptio to several of the manuscripts in which the work is transmitted.[2]

A deeply obscure English translation appeared in 1987.[3]  A modern French edition and translation exists in Les Belles Lettres series, and there is also a Portugese one[4]

There is apparently a complex manuscript tradition, as the poem was popular in the middle ages.  Unfortunately, lacking access to McKinlay’s edition, I can’t say anything about this.

But what about the table of contents and chapter titles, with which the original enquiry was concerned?  Well, the table of contents appears in the Patrologia Latina edition, which reprints the Arntzenius edition, but only in his introduction, in columns 58-9.  Apparently the capitula – the chapter headings – were still unprinted when McKinlay started work on his edition.[5]  Here’s the start of them:

The verse numbers are no doubt modern.  My correspondent was asking about the unusual usage “De eo ubi…”, “Concerning that passage where”.  For the text is a retelling of the Acts of the Apostles, so it is perfectly reasonable to refer to the passage of scripture.

Notice how often the verb appears, not at the end as in ancient texts, but in the middle of the sentences, just as it would in a modern language.  This by itself suggests that the chapter titles are not ancient, but medieval.

McKinlay reviewed 20 manuscripts, for both the table of contents (‘tituli’) and the in-body headings (‘capitula’).  The tituli and capitula differ, as is very common.  Furthermore they were not revised capriciously by scribes, as might be supposed, but rather were handled not much less carefully than the main text.  Rather the manuscripts fall neatly into two groups. The text of the items was revised, at some point during their transmission, and made closer to the biblical text.  They predate 820 AD, when they appear in ms. Paris 12284.

It all tends to show that we need much more information on these meta-textual elements.  The statements in the handbooks that have always tended to skip over the headings as late (which they may be) and often corrupt (which they may sometimes be) need to be based on something other than anecdote.  In the last century we have seen much more care taken with these elements in the medieval manuscripts.  If this is done enough, one day a monograph will be possible which can survey the field.  But not yet!


  1. [1]Angelo di Berardino &c, Patrologia: I Padri latini (secoli V – VIII), Marietti (1996).
  2. [2]Roger P.H. Green, Latin Epics of the New Testament: Juvencus, Sedulius, Arator, Oxford (2006), p.251-2; edition and translation of the subscriptio on p.391-2.  This item is edited from mss. Voss. Q 15 and Q 86, and Vat. Pal. Lat. 1716; but another 8 mss are known.
  3. [3]R.J. Schrader, Arator’s On the acts of the Apostles (De Actibus Apostolorum), Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987.
  4. [4]Bruno Bureau, Paul-Augustin Deproost, Histoire apostolique / Arator; texte établi, traduit et commenté, Paris : Les Belles Lettres 2017; José Henrique Manso, História apostólica a gesta de S. Paulo / Arátor, Coimbra : Centro de Estudos Clássicos e Humanísticos 2010.
  5. [5]A.P. McKinlay, “Studies in Arator: I. The Manuscript Tradition of the Capitula and Tituli”, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 43 (1932), pp. 123-166. JSTOR.

Cotelerius on Pope Julius and Cyril of Jerusalem

In my last post I looked into John of Nicaea – or John of Nike, as we ought to call him – and found the full version of the De nativitate Dei text that Migne quoted briefly in the PG 33 to show that Cyril of Jerusalem wrote to Pope Julius I to find out the day of Christ’s birthday.  The story was spurious, of course, and I discussed it in the Dubious Claims post.

Migne also quoted another version of the story, with a reference to  Cotelier, Patres Apostolici, i.316 (1724).  Let us see, then, what the original has to say.

It is easy enough to find the Cotelier volume, so long as you ignore the title above and search for “SS. Patrum qui temporibus apostolicis floruerunt, Barnabae, Clementis”…, the actual title of the work, and use Cotelerius, the Latinized form.  The 17-18th century habit of giving books very long names, which inevitably were abbreviated, is a problem until you are aware of it; whereupon you search for the author on Google, and hope to find what his works were, and so guess at the real title.  The 1724 edition is a reprint, but volume 1, p.316 is here.

The passage is again longer than Migne prints, which ended with “…among many a murmur arose”, three lines from the bottom of column 1 in the page image above.  The continuation tells us that Gregory the Theologian quelled the objections to dividing the festival into two parts.

But even this longer passage clearly has been abbreviated.  Where does it come from?

Well, Cotelier tells us that it comes from a Paris manuscript, with the shelfmark “Regius 969”.  This is the shelfmark in the old royal library.  Of course the modern Bibliothèque Nationale Français has its own system.

Older literature often uses old shelfmarks.  The BNF online catalogue is not bad, but a search for “Regius 969” drew blank.  Fortunately Cotelier tells us that the “John of Nicaea” letter was edited by Combefis: “And in ms. Regius 969, from which the most learned Combefis published that work of John of Nicaea, there is another little narrative on the same subject which is not markedly different, where the bishop is called Juvenalis:…”.  Page 200, note 102 of Glen L. Thompson’s book on the correspondence of Pope Julius tells us about the letter of John of Nicaea – which is in the same ms., remember – that:

…the letter, transmitted in the fifteenth century manuscript Paris, BN, gr. 900, was first edited by Combefis (1672).  Coustant, who reprints (coll. 83-86) Combefis’ text, notes (col. 83f) that it was transcribed “ex codice Regio olim 696, nunc 2428, pag. 149“.  The same text was taken over by Migne…

So the current shelfmark of the manuscript is BNF gr. 900.  This is online here, although in a monochrome microfilm.  Thompson tells us (p.201) that our fragment is found on fol. 120 of the manuscript, under the title Ἀναγκαία διήγησις (=necessaria narratio, necessary narration), and so it is.

The header in the right-column is visible even in this reproduction, followed by the Greek text printed by Cotelier.

Sadly I can’t read the Greek text – my paleography is non-existent, and the image is poor – but Thompson says it is preceded by a note that attributes it to Juvenalis. (Edit: wrong – the text itself mentions Juvenalis; line 5 of the text after the header, at the start)

Other short pieces precede and follow it.  Here is the BNF online catalogue:

  • (f.111)Anonymi de divinis mysteriis liber, e variis SS. PP. libris : Ἡ γὰρ σάρξ μου… ;
  • (119 v°)Anonymi de illis qui V. Testamenti libros de hebraica lingua in græcam converterunt ;
  • (120 v°)Petri Antiocheni epistola de azymis, ad Dominicum Gradensem ;
  • (128 v° et 149)Joannis, Nicæni archiep., ad Zachariam, magnæ Armeniæ catholicum, epistola de Christi nativitate ;
  • (135)Joannis, Hierosolymit. archiepiscopi, epistola ad Constantinum Caballinum de sacris imaginibus ;

Note however that the catalogue actually fails to mention our piece, starting on fol. 120 recto.  (I have communicated this omission to the BNF).

The catalogue does make clear why our piece is here.  It relates the Hebrew months to the Roman months; so naturally follows on from the anonymous item on fol. 119v.

That’s about as far as we can take this.  It’s a revised item of the Pope Julius I story, in a 15th century manuscript, among a bunch of other short pieces.

I’ve uploaded the two pages of the manuscript here:

Does anybody with better paleography than me fancy transcribing the whole of our piece, starting at the top of folio 120 and continuing down to the next header in the right-hand column of the reverse of the page?