The limits of politics

This afternoon I was talking to a lady friend, when discussion strayed to the US.  I quickly became aware of a froideur, of a certain lack of sympathy with the views I was expressing.  Politely I changed the subject.

This evening I was reminded of a passage in Augustine Birrell’s essay on John Wesley, discussing his father, Samuel Wesley.

Here it is, taken from Selected Essays (1908), p.112-3.  The selection was made by none other than John Buchan.

The revolution of 1688 threatened to disturb the early married life of Samuel Wesley and his spouse. The husband wrote a pamphlet in which he defended revolution principles, but the wife secretly adhered to the old cause; nor was it until a year before Dutch William’s death that the Rector made the discovery that the wife of his bosom, who had sworn to obey him and regard him as her overlord, was not in the habit of saying “Amen” to his fervent prayers on behalf of his suffering Sovereign. An explanation was demanded and the truth extracted, namely, that in the opinion of the Rector’s wife her true King lived over the water.  The Rector at once refused to live with Mrs. Wesley any longer until she recanted. This she refused to do, and for a twelvemonth the couple dwelt apart, when William III. having the good sense to die, a reconciliation became possible.

We may smile at Mr Wesley’s folly.  For who but a fool would disturb his domestic happiness and quarrel for a year with his wife over something which affected neither of them.

Wesley knew neither monarch.  His good-wishes or otherwise signified precisely nothing.  The quarrel between James II and William III was of no importance whatsoever in the daily life of the couple.

But don’t we do this?  Which of us has not avoided someone with whose political views we disagree, or find ourselves uncomfortable?  We can all find reasons to say “Oh but it does affect me, if [insert name here] should choose to [insert action here].”  But in truth such claims are always special pleading.

Let us try not to deprive ourselves of the blessings or company of our fellow men, men with whom we must go through life together, over matters which affect neither of us.

At least Mr and Mrs Wesley were able to live together once more, thanks to King William’s unexpected early death!

From my diary

A couple of days ago I became aware of a sermon de fine mundi by pseudo-Ephraim, in Latin, which allegedly contains a reference to the Rapture.  This is when all Christians on earth are caught up to heaven before the Second Coming of Christ, at least according to some American Christians.  A draft translation of the work received non-scholarly publication – I am waiting for a copy to arrive from the US – and online transcriptions are apparently defective.  The discovery in the 1990s produced an outbreak of venomous trench warfare between US proponents of the various ideas about how the Millennium in Revelation should be interpreted.  I hope that I don’t get shot at.

To make sense of this, I’m delving into Ephraim Latinus – basically a collection of 6 homilies translated from Greek, plus some spuria.  Because the possible Greek origin is important, I’ve started to wade into the swamp that is Ephraim Graecus – a mass of Greek texts, often apocalyptic, mostly not by Ephraim Syrus.  This in turn means dealing with the question of whether the Greek is a translation of something from Syriac.  Ephraim Syrus did not write in Greek – that seems to be agreed – so we have a mass of material, mostly pseudonymous.

Ephraim Graecus is a mess.  There’s little scholarly work on it, and the only edition is the mess of J. Assemani in the 18th century.  Assemani just printed whatever the manuscripts said, and didn’t worry about “doublets” – passages appearing in more than one work.  For translation he reprinted in parallel column the renaissance translation of Ambrogio Traversari.  Just to add to the fun, only Chrysostom has more texts listed in the CPG, so it’s a huge area of work.  On the bright side I have identified a list of works that are considered to be translated from Syriac (if not always genuinely by Ephraim).

I’ve already got a bit further than the US boys did.  It looks as if the de fine mundi is probably an original Latin composition – there’s no Greek – by someone who quoted quite a bit from Ephraim Graecus, and probably in the ancient Latin translation of Ephraim Latinus.  The key passage is in fact quoted from de beatitudine animae, sermon 4 in the collection of 6.  I need to look at the Greek for that, and see what is there.

My trusty Fujitsu Scansnap S1300 scanner developed a fault with its power-supply, and only wiggling the power input will make it work.  To the dump it must go.  A new S1300i arrived today from Amazon, and stands boxed on the floor.  I don’t use my PC on Sunday, to stay sane, so it will wait until Monday now.

The sabbath awaits.  God bless you all.

From my diary

As the year grows older, bright warm days grow fewer, and more precious.  Fortunately this week we had two; yesterday and today.  I resolved to take a break from contract-hunting, and go somewhere.  After some thought, a trip to Cambridge beckoned.

I started as I usually do, by visiting the University Library.  I dropped in during the summer and renewed my library card.  But at that time I’d got a photocopy of an article and forgotten one page.  So that was something.  Likewise I wanted to look at Bousset’s book on the Apophthegmata for a blog post.  That was something else to do.

Cambridge University Library in the sunshine

Everywhere there were cyclists.  In the library there were welcome desks, and tours.  Clearly it was freshers’ week.  All those young faces.  Others walked hand in hand.  I wished for a moment that I had made more effort to meet someone at university.  It gets so much harder to find someone suitable after!  Among these strode or cycled the occasional third year, faces which seemed too knowing or mature for their years.

A corridor of books, and students

My mobile phone kept buzzing, but I’d set it to silent.  I did sneak out to the courtyard to talk to one agent.

Every time I make one of my infrequent visits I find that something is different.  This year there was no photocopying room any more; just photocopiers scattered around.  I got the missing page easily.  The search engine on the website was different too.  Whatever happened to “Newton”?

Bossuet appeared in 1923, which means he is not online; but was in the Rare Books Room.  I hadn’t been there for years and years.  It was much the same, except that now we could use our mobile phone cameras!  The assistant told me that I wasn’t allowed to photograph, except for personal purposes, or put the results on the web.  The prohibitions were, of course, quite unenforceable.

The Rare Books Room

I settled down to snap some photos.  Fortunately I quickly realised that Bousset contained little that I needed, and a couple of dozen photos would serve my needs.  Because I wanted to be out in the sunshine!

Bousset’a “Apophthegmata” in the Rare Books Room

Then I was done.  Back I went out of the library, showing my card as I did so.  Into the sunshine, and walked down towards the backs.  So many cyclists!

Into Cambridge!

Over the river I went at the backs…

Looking left from the bridge

Over the bridge…

Into the town…

Still the sun shone.

I was making for a sandwich shop next to the Round Church in Cambridge.  But it wasn’t there any more!  How long, I wondered, since I had last walked the pavements of Cambridge.  I made do with a not-very-good teashop nearby, for I was hungry.

My next stop was Heffers, the university bookshop.  But I was shocked… the basement, in which there were always shelves of history and theology books, was now turned over to Harry Potter junk.  The whole shop was a shadow of itself.  Doubtless Amazon is to blame.  When I found the classics section it consisted of two cases only.  I walked from there down Green Street to Galloway and Porter, where I had bought many a remaindered textbook back in the day.  But it was gone.  Bookshops were at a discount.

I ended up walking along to CLC, the Christian bookshop.  It still existed, thankfully, but around it were endless ethnic restaurants, with name boards in scripts even I don’t know.  But within it too was a husk, or so it seemed to me.  Then again, what is gone is gone.

The sun shone, the streets were full of young and happy folk.  The city bustled with life.  The University Hotel had been rebuilt after a fire with a quite magnificent stone portico, of a sort that evoked the Victorian age.  On the side they had proudly chiselled MMXVII.  That’s the spirit!

Finally I passed by Kings, and headed back to the UL and my car.

Kings College

After that, a long journey to the outskirts, and then home.  But it was a lovely day.  I haven’t done any trips anywhere for over a year.  This was a nice exception.  It’s really important to make time for fun!

A bibliography of the various collections of the Apothegmata Patrum (Sayings of the Fathers)

The Apothegmata Patrum is a collection of around 2,500 sayings in total.  These are attributed in the manuscripts to one or another of the Desert Fathers; monks and hermits living in the Egyptian deserts from the mid-4th century onwards.  Originally passed from mouth to mouth, they were then gathered into small collections which appear in manuscripts, and then gathered into larger collections and translated into all the languages of ancient Christianity.  A volume of sayings may be known as a Paterikon, or even a Gerontikon!

The sayings date from the mid-4th century onwards.  The attributions may be imperfect, and the wording may have been polished in transmission.  Like all “sayings” literature, the nearest analogy is the modern joke book, where every saying tends to be attributed to Churchill or Groucho Marx, and the wording varies as the editor thinks fit to improve it.

The original sayings were transmitted orally, in many languages.  But the first written form of these was in Greek, and all the other language versions are derived from the Greek written material.

There are two major Greek collections.  These are distinguished by the order in which the material is presented:

  • alphabetical-anonymous: A collection by author name, in alphabetical order, with an appendix of sayings which are anonymous.
  • systematic or topical: A collection in 20 chapters, organised by subject matter – the monastic virtues -, containing both named and unnamed sayings.  Each chapter contains named sayings in alphabetical order, followed by anonymous sayings.

Earlier authors believed that there were three collections, not two, because the anonymous collection was edited separately from the alphabetical collection.  This was entirely the fault of the first (and only) editor of the alphabetical collection, Cotelier, who printed his work in 1677.  He printed the collection only from Paris manuscript graecus 1599.  This does not contain the anonymous sayings, and even the preface to the collection, which states clearly that a section of anonymous sayings is at the end, is damaged.  Sadly texts were often printed from a single manuscript in this period, and if it was a damaged ms., then so be it.  In consequence the two parts have been edited and translated separately.  No complete edition of the anonymous sayings has ever been made, but a complete French translation – made direct from five manuscripts – does exist.

Other collections do exist in Greek, but are derived from the “big two”.

Here are the two Greek collections:

Collectio Alphabetica-Anonyma

This has been edited in two parts.  It is normally preceded by a short prologue in which the compiler states that others have made smaller compilations of sayings before him (see PG 65: 72-76; esp. 73A).

[AP] G – Collectio Graeca Alphabetica, the Alphabetical-order Collection. (CPG 5560).  No critical edition exists.

Edition: J.-B. Cotelier, Ecclesiae graecae monumenta I, Paris 1677; reprinted in PG 65, 72-440.
Translation: Benedicta Ward, Sayings of the desert fathers: the alphabetical collection, 1975.  The edition and translation reflect a single manuscript, Paris gr. 1599. But Butler tells us that a more complete version of this collection exists in the British Library, Ms. Burney 50.[1] Dom Lucien Regnault, Les sentences des Peres de desert: Collection alphabetique, Solesmes, 1981. ISBN 2-85274-051-6 (Blurb).  John Wortley, Give Me a Word: The Alphabetical Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Series: Popular Patristics 52, SVS Press, 2015.

[AP] GN – Collectio Graeca Anonyma, the Anonymous Collection (CPG 5561).

Partial Edition (from cod. Coislin 126): F. Nau, “Le chapitre περὶ τῶν ἀναχωρητῶν ἁγίων et les sources de la vie de S. Paul de Thebes”, Révue de l’Orient Chrétien 10 (1905); F. Nau, Apophthegmata Patrum (collectio anonyma) (e cod. Coislin. 126), ed. F. Nau, “Histoires des solitaires égyptiens,” Révue de l’Orient Chrétien 12-14,17-18: I.e. 12 (1907): 48-68,171-181, 393-404; 13 (1908): 47-57, 266-283; 14 (1909): 357-379; 17 (1912): 204-211, 294-301; 18 (1913): 137-146.
Translations: Benedicta Ward, The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers: Systematic Sayings from the Anonymous series of the Apophthegmata Patrum, 2nd ed., SLG Press, 2001; John Wortley, The Anonymous Sayings of the Desert Fathers: A Select Edition and Complete English Translation, Cambridge 2013; Complete French translation:  Lucien Regnauld, Les Sentences des Pères du Désert, série des anonymes, Solesmes and Bellefontaine, 1985.  This is mainly from Cod. Sinaï 448 and Cod. Coislin 126, but working directly from 5 manuscripts.[2].

Collectio Graeca Systematica

[AP] GS – This is the subject-order collection (CPG 5562), and has been edited in the Sources Chrétiennes series.

Edition and French Translation: Jean-Claude Guy, Les apophtegmes des pères, Series: Sources Chrétiennes 387 (1993: chapters i-ix), 474 (2003: chapters x-xvi), and 498 (2005).  498 (2005). English translation of the Guy edition: John Wortley, The Book of the Elders: Sayings of the Desert Fathers, the Systematic Collection, Collegeville, Minn., 2012. Wortley writes here that “An earlier translation by Dom Lucien Regnault, Les chemins de Dieu au desert: collection systematique des Apophtegmes des Peres, Solesmes 1992, is particularly useful as it includes some items from the various “oriental versions” (Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic etc.), not found elsewhere.”

There are other collections extant in Greek.

    *    *    *    *

Latin collections

The 5 Latin collections are all derived from the Greek.

[AP] PJ – Collectio Latina Systematica (CPG 5570).  Latin translation attributed to Pelagius and John.  Made in the 6th century.  Chapter headings preserved in Photius.

Edition: H. Rosweyde, Vitae Patrum V- VI, Antwerpen 1615, 1623; reprinted PL 73: 851-1022; 1060-1062.
Translation: Benedicta Ward, The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks, London and New York, 2003.  Les Apophtegmes des Pères (Recension de Pelage et Jean). Introduction de Dom L. Regnault. Traduction de Dom J. Dion et Dom G. Oury, Solesmes, 1966 (Review).

[AP] PA = Collectio a Paschasio Dumiensi = Collection by Paschasius of Dumio, disciple of Martin of Braga, under the title Verba Seniorum (CPG 5571).  Pa = the short recension in PL 73.

Edition: J. Geraldes Freire, A versao latino por Pascasio de Dume dos Apophthegmata Patrum, I, Coimbra 1971; PL 73: 1025-1062 (shortened version).
Translation: Lucien Regnault, Le Livre des Anciens. Recueil d’apophtegmes des Pères du désert traduit du grec en latin par le bienheureux Paschase, Solesmes. Blurb.

[AP] M = Collectio a Martino Dumiensi (CPG 5572) = Martin of Braga’s collection.

Edition: C. W. Barlow, Martini episcopi Bracarensis opera omnia, New Haven 1950; PL 74: 381-394, under the title Martin of Braga, Aegyptiorum Patrum Sententiae.

[AP] CSP = Collectio Commonitores Sanctorum Patrum (CPG 5573).

Edition: J. Geraldes Freire, Commonitiones sanctorum patrum, Coimbra 1974.

[AP] R = Collectio a pseudo-Rufino (CPG 5574).  This is a rag-bag compilation of material from the others (see CPG entry for details).

Edition: H. Rosweyde, Vitae Patrum III. Antwerpen 1615; PL 73: 739:810.

    *    *    *    *

Other languages

There are also collections in other languages, all derived from the Greek.

[AP] S = Collectio Syriaca, recensio Enaniesu = Syriac version by the Nestorian Anan-Isho / Ananjesus (CPG 5577).  An unpublished older translation is listed as CPG 5578.

Edition: P. Bedjan. Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum VII, Paris 1897; E. A. W. Budge, The Book of Paradise, I-II. London 1904 (with English translation).

[AP] A = Collectio Armeniaca, recensiones A & B (CPG 5582 + 5583).

Edition: Liber qui dicitur Patrum Vitae, ed. Gregorius Hierosolymorum patriarcha et Iohannes eparchus, Constantinople 1721; Vitae Patrum, I, Venice 1855. Louis Leloir, Paterica Armeniaca a P.P.Mechitaristis edita (1855) nunc latine redditat, CSCO 353, 361, 371, 379; 1974-6.

[AP] Sa = Collectio Sahidica (CPG 5588).  The Sahidic Coptic version.

Edition: M. Chaine, Le manuscrit de la version copte en dialect sahidique des “Apophthegmata Patrum”, Bibliotheque d’etudes coptes VI, Cairo 1960.  This version is preserved in a single manuscript, now scattered across five different libraries.  See T. O. Lambdin, Introduction to Sahidic Coptic, 1983, p.146.

[AP] Bo = Collectio Bohairica (CPG 5589).  The Bohairic Coptic version.

Edition: E. Amelineau, Histoire des monasteres de la Basse-Egypte (AMG 25), Paris 1894.

[AP] E = Collectio Ethiopica (CPG 5597 + 5598).  Ethiopic Collection.

Edition: V. Arras, Collectio Monastica (CSCO 238-239), Louvain 1963; V. Arras, Patericon Aethiopice. (CSCO 277-278), Louvain 1967.

    *    *    *    *

Nor is this all the language versions!

There are also Georgian versions of each of the two main Greek collections (CPG 5593 and 5594), discussed in M. Dvali, Anciennes traductions georgiennes de recits du moyen age. Vol. 1: Traduction par Euthyme l’Hagiorite d’une ancienne recension du Patericon, d’apres un manuserit du XIe siecle, Tiflis: Institut des Manuscrits, 1966.

There is also a “very rich” Arabic tradition.

Joseph-Marie Sauget, Une traduction arabe de la collection d’Apophthegmata Patrum de `Ananisho. Etude du ms. Paris. ar. 253. CSCO 495, Louvain, 1987.  See also articles listed in CPG 5602-4.

For an Old Slavonic version of the Greek Systematic Collection see William R. Veder, “The Systematic Collection of Apophthegmata patrum: The Life of Its First Greek Codex from ca. 500 to 885”, Ohio Slavic Papers 9 (2009), 375-386, online here.

    *    *    *    *


The standard study is Wilhelm Bousset, Apothegmata. Studien zur Geschichte des ältesten Mönchtums, Tübingen 1923, although unfortunately I was only able to obtain a few pages of this and it is less than clear.  This has around 100 pages of discussion, followed by extensive tables of what saying appears in what collection.

The Greek manuscripts and tradition is discussed in J.-C. Guy, Recherches sur la tradition grecque des “Apophthegmata Patrum”, Series: Subsidia hagiographica 36; Bruxelles: Société des Bollandistes, 1962.

An article by Samuel Rubenson, “Formation and Reformations of the Apophthegmata Patrum”, Studia Patristica 55.3 (2013), 5-22, is online here.


There is a rather wonderful database of sayings, texts (in various languages) and translations in Sweden, at Lund University at  This is incomplete as yet, according to the home page, but is obviously of great value.

    *    *    *    *

So there you have it. I’ve referred a couple of times recently to Benedicta Ward’s translation of one form of the Apothegmata Patrum (also Apophthegmata!), or Sayings of the Fathers.  This evening I have spent some time trying to establish what other versions of this collection of sayings may exist, so I thought that I would share it with you.[3]  The material in the patrologies is sadly inadequate.  So… I hope this is helpful.

UPDATE: I find that there is an upcoming volume by John Wortley, More Sayings of the Desert Fathers : An English Translation and Notes, Cambridge, 2019, with intro by Samuel Rubenson.  Blurb: “Most of the Tales and Sayings of the Desert Fathers (apophthegms) have survived in Greek and most of them are now available in English, almost 2500 in number. A further six hundred items in six languages have been available in French for some time, but often in second- and even third-hand translations. These have now been newly translated directly from the original languages by scholars skilled in those languages and are presented, alongside an Introduction and brief notes, to the English reader…”  The Wortley volumes are pricey, however.  The reference to the French probably refers to Lucien Regnault, Les Sentences des Pères du désert – Troisième recueil & tables, 2005 (blurb: which says that this is material from the two Greek collections not found in the printed texts, and translated directly from manuscripts).  A further item from the abbey of Solesmes is rather mysterious: Les Sentences des Pères du désert – Nouveau recueil. Apophtegmes inédits ou peu connus rassamblés et présentés par dom Lucien Regnault, traduits par les moines de Solesmes.(Blurb)

UPDATE (11th Oct. 2018): I had intended to give the manuscripts of the Greek in a separate post, but it seems better to add them in here.  The Pinakes database lists hundreds of manuscripts for both the Alphabetical-Anonymous collection and the Systematic collection; but Guy, who edited the latter and prepared to edit the former, has a rather more useful discussion in his Recherches.[4]

Manuscripts of the Greek Alphabetical-Anonymous Collection

  • A = Paris, Coislin 126, fol. 1-158. (10-11th century).  Mutilated at the start, missing title, prologue, and start of the text as far as “Antony” 17.  Also mutilated at the end.
  • B = Berlin, Phillipps 1624 (12th c.).  Starts with “Isaiah 5”.
  • C = Paris, Coislin 232 (11th c.)  Mutilated at the start, but missing part replaced in 14-15th century with not very good material.
  • D = Paris gr. 1599 (12th c.)  Does not contain the anonymous sayings.  The basis for the Cotelier edition.  The prologue has a lacuna.
  • E = Paris gr. 916 (11th c.) Does not contain the anonymous sayings.  Water damaged.
  • F = Athens, bibl. nat. 504 (12th c.)
  • J = Sinai, St Catherine 448 (1004 AD).  The only complete manuscript.  The subscription at the end is now difficult to read.
  • K = Paris, Coislin 283 (11th c.) Contains only the anonymous sayings.
  • L = London, British Library Addit. 22508 (12th c.).  Starts with “Gelasius 1”.
  • N = Paris, Coislin 126, fol. 158-313v.
  • P = Paris gr. 890 (11th century). Contains only the anonymous sayings.
  • c = Paris, Coislin 257 (11th century) Abbreviated version.
  • d = Sinai, St Catherine 450. (12th c.) Contains only the anonymous sayings.
  • m = Milan, Ambros. F 100 sup. (1113 AD)  Abbreviated version.
  • (G = the printed edition of the Alphabeticon, edited by Cotelier, reprinted in PG 65: 71-440).

ABCEFJL tend to agree in their readings over against D, which is the base of the printed text G, even though they disagree among themselves.

There is also an abbreviated version of the collection preserved in 4 manuscripts.

Manuscripts of the Greek Systematic Collection

  • H = Milan, Ambros. C 30 inf (12th c.)
  • M = Paris, Coislin 282 (11th c.)
  • Q = Paris gr. 917 (12th c.)
  • R = Paris gr. 914 (12th c.)
  • T = Athens, bibl. nat. 500 (12th c.)
  • V = Vatican, Ottoboni 174 (10-11th c.)
  • W = Athos, Lavra B 37 (970 AD)
  • Y = Athos, Protaton 86 (9th c.) Mutilated.
  • (PJ = Latin translation of the collection edited by H. Rosweyde, reprinted PL 73: 855-1022).
  1. [1]Cuthbert Butler, Lausiac History of Palladius, Cambridge, 1898, Part I, p.209, n.2.
  2. [2]So Wortley, here and n.11
  3. [3]The following list is based on Samuel Rubenson, The Letters of Saint Anthony, Fortress Press, 1995, and augmented somewhat by me.
  4. [4]See p.4 for sigla, p.16 for mss.

Epiphanius on reading the scriptures? An item from the Apothegmata Patrum

A quotation via Twitter:

Reading the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sin…It is a great treachery to salvation to know nothing of the Divine Law…Ignorance of the Scriptures is a precipice and a deep abyss.” – Epiphanius of Salamis/Cyprus

Very sound… but it doesn’t sound like Epiphanius.  It is, in fact, taken from the modern Engish translation of the Apothegmata Patrum, the Sayings of the Fathers, from the version known as the “Alphabetical Collection”, in the translation published by Benedicta Ward.[1]  The Greek text may be found  in the Patrologia Graeca 65, cols. 71-440, which reprints the edition of Cotelerius, itself a transcription from Codex Paris gr. 1599 (12th c.).  In the PG the text is listed as an “appendix” to Palladius’ Lausiac History; but the material is organised in order of the letters of the Greek alphabet:

The saying comes from the section on Epiphanius, sections 4-12.  Here’s the context.  (PG 65, col. 164C; Ward p.58):

4. One day Saint Epiphanius sent someone to Abba Hilarion with this request, ‘Come, and let us see one another before we depart from the body.’ When he came, they rejoiced in each other’s company. During their meal, they were brought a fowl; Epiphanius took it and gave it to Hilarion. Then the old man said to him, ‘Forgive me, but since I received the habit I have not eaten meat that has been killed.’ Then the bishop answered, ‘Since I took the habit, I have not allowed anyone to go to sleep with a complaint against me and I have not gone to rest with a complaint against anyone.’ The old man replied, ‘Forgive me, your way of life is better than mine.’

5. The same old man said, ‘Melchizedek, the image of Christ, blessed Abraham, the father of the Jews; how much more does truth itself, which is the Christ, bless and sanctify all those who believe in it.’

6. The same old man said, ‘The Canaanite woman cries out, and she is heard; (Matt. 15) the woman with the issue of blood is silent, and she is called blessed; (Luke 8) the pharisee speaks, and he is condemned;(Matt. 9) the publican does not open his mouth, and he is heard.’ (Luke 18)

7. The same old man said, ‘David the prophet prayed late at night; waking in the middle of the night, he prayed before the day; at the dawn of day he stood before the Lord; in the small hours he prayed, in the evening and at mid-day he prayed again, and this is why he said, “Seven times a day have I praised you.'” (Ps. 119.164)

8. He also said, ‘The acquisition of Christian books is necessary for those who can use them. For the mere sight of these books renders us less inclined to sin, and incites us to believe more firmly in righteousness.’

9. He also said, ‘Reading the Scriptures is a great safeguard against sin.’

10. He also said, ‘It is a great treachery to salvation to know nothing of the divine law.’

11. He also said, ‘Ignorance of the Scriptures is a precipice and a deep abyss.’

12. The same abba said, ‘The righteous sin through their mouths, but the ungodly sin in their whole bodies. This is why David sings; “Set, Ο Lord, a watch before my mouth and keep the door of my lips.” (Ps. 141.3) And again, “I will take heed to my ways that I do not sin with my tongue.” ‘ (Ps. 39.1)

Good sound stuff, of course.

The attributions in any collection of “sayings” literature should all be taken with a pinch of salt, as this is not a literary genre, where the original form matters, but a practical one, where whatever is useful is included and attributed to whoever.  The same process in modern times gives us the vast number of sayings all attributed to Winston Churchill.

  1. [1]Benedicta Ward (tr.), The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: the Alphabetical Collection, 1975.

That Museum in Washington

Via here:

Why the Museum of the Bible Angered So Many Academics
Sept 14, 2018

Opened last fall and located not far from the National Mall in Washington, DC, the Museum of the Bible was a source of controversy even before it opened its doors, in part because of its founder, Steven Green, the president of Hobby Lobby and a devout evangelical Christian. Scholars of the Bible and archaeology were prominent among the museum’s critics, in part because they objected to the museum’s framing of certain issues in ways that differ from accepted scholarship, in part because of serious concerns regarding the provenance of certain artifacts—some of which turned out to have been looted from Iraq. But Alex Joffe [at Ancient Near East Today] argues that something else is at stake:

“For academics, [at] issue [is their] loss of public authority over the Bible. The intellectual monopolization of the Bible by academics in the post-World War II era coincided with the gradual collapse of biblical literacy in America, along with many mainline [Protestant] denominations. With this went an important part of the language of American identity, conversation, and consensus. The Bible in the public square was taken over by professors.

“Inevitable or not, this was not healthy in social or political terms. Invocations of the Bible, religion, or God in politics today—[whether] earnest, banal, or grotesque—are condemned instantly. And yet this [habitual condemnation] cuts Americans off from not only a vernacular but from history; [for instance], the national, personal, and spiritual agony that Abraham Lincoln expressed in his second inaugural address is explicable only by reference to the Bible. . . .

“Academics have hardly been faithful stewards of the Bible any more than of other forms of canonical knowledge; efforts to reclaim the Bible on the part of faith were also inevitable. If these also lead to more earnest engagement with the Bible as literature, tradition, and [a source of] morality on the part of academics and intellectuals, all the better. Unfortunately, I see the opposite occurring; [such] reclamation will be met with further academic criticism, which will only increase the distance between academia and society, heightening mutual suspicion and alienation, and setting up at least one side for a nasty surprise. . . .

“The families and church groups visiting the Museum of the Bible are unlikely to be troubled by [issues of provenance] or converted to one denomination or another, but they might have elements of their faith, in the Bible and in America, reaffirmed. They are also likely to come away interested in Biblical history and archaeology. Many will go on to the Air and Space Museum for other sorts of reaffirmations, in technology and the human imagination, or to the National Gallery, filled with silent tributes to religious faith and to beauty itself. None of these is an unalloyed good, but that is the nature of museums. The good that one comes away with depends in part on what one goes in with.”

This articulates well the unease that many of us have felt at some of the criticism of the Museum of the Bible project.  I’m very glad to see it.

The criticism from a few scholars has been disturbingly intemperate, for no obvious reason.  Surely any project that brings money and public interest to papyrology is welcome, even if we don’t agree with the political or religious views of those doing it?  Instead every possible objection was made.

For me the breaking point was when the people working at the Museum of the Bible were attacked for dismantling cartonnage in order to recover documentary or literary papyri embedded within; a practice undertaken for a century or more now, yet suddenly criticised.  One scholar even suggested that it was better for the texts to remain lost than to dare to lay a finger on the (near-worthless) cartonnage.  Everybody knows better than that.

Nobody benefits from this.  Not even the scholars objecting benefit.

I see more and more signs that US Republicans are getting irritated at the use of public money to fund the humanities in the US universities.  I read article after article suggesting that some departments in this area – subjects like Gender Studies for instance – are pseudo-disciplines, staffed entirely by people hostile to the Republicans.  It doesn’t matter if this is so; the perception is there.  That perception goes a lot further than just Gender Studies.  The Campus Reform site publishes article after article on bias, bigotry and absurdity, mostly directed at Republicans on-campus.  Its articles are widely read by the rightists.

By chance today I saw the following report in the Wall Street Journal – hardly a bastion of the alt-right:

Fake News Comes to Academia: How three scholars gulled academic journals to publish hoax papers on ‘grievance studies.’
Oct. 2, 2018.  Jillian Kay Melchior.

… Beginning in August 2017, the trio wrote 20 hoax papers, submitting them to peer-reviewed journals under a variety of pseudonyms, as well as the name of their friend Richard Baldwin, a professor emeritus at Florida’s Gulf Coast State College. Mr. Baldwin confirms he gave them permission use his name. Journals accepted seven hoax papers. Four have been published.

This will only add fuel to the perception that the US humanities are a fraud on the taxpayer.

May I make a plea to academics to be responsible.  Don’t gratuitiously annoy the heck out of any political or religious group.  It is irresponsible to cause others to lose trust in the academy.  It is utterly irresponsible to deserve to lose that trust, by peddling our political or religious opinions as if they were the assured results of scholarly investigation.  It is damnably irresponsible to use the academy as a platform to indulge our ever-so-privileged hatreds of those who pay for us.

We may have to hold our noses.  I rather doubt that most British people, of any political or religious views, would be able to pass through the Museum of the Bible without wincing.  British people find a lot of American culture cringeworthy.  But it doesn’t matter.

The archaeologists are way ahead of most of us in the field of classics and patristics.  Every archaeologist is Indiana Jones, in the public mind.  They get free labour, free advertising, and television series.  Everyone “knows” that archaeology is objective, is “science” (which is not true, of course).  Whatever money is around, in these straitened times, they get.  Not enough, I know; but a fortune compared to classicists.  Every county has a county archaeologist.  Not many have a county classicist!  Or a county patristics scholar.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they did?  So let’s not pick fights with people bringing money and publicity into the subject.

Literary sources for the hippodrome of Alexandria: the Lageion

I thought that it would be interesting to discuss the literary sources for the horse-racing track in Alexandria, the hippodrome.  When the French scholars arrived with Napoleon, a Roman-style circus or chariot-racing track was still visible just behind the Serapeum.  The spina or central barrier showed that it was used for this purpose; the narrowness of the track suggested that it had originally been a Greek hippodrome.  The track was in a depression, which meant that the audience seats could hold a great number.  Was this the hippodrome of Alexandria?  And when was it built?

If we could visit ancient Alexandria by time-machine, these are questions that we could answer easily.  But instead we must sift the remains of ancient literature, looking for an allusion or two.

The hippodrome actually had a name.  It was known as the “Lageion”, after Lagus, the ancestor of the Ptolemaic kings.  This we learn from the fragments of Herodian Grammaticus with confirmation from Epiphanius of Salamis.

Herodian Grammaticus

There are three references to the hippodrome in the remains of the 2nd century writer Herodian Grammaticus as printed by A. Lentz, Herodiani Technici reliquiae, 1867-70, 2 vols (series: Grammatici Graeci 3); online: vol.1, vol. 2.1, vol. 2.2. The references are:

  1. Vol. 1, p. 371 lines 1-2: from: Περὶ καθολικῆς προσῳδίας / De prosodia catholica “On prosody in general.”

I.e. Λάγειον τὸ ἱπποδρόμιον Ἀλεχανδρείας ἀπὸ Λάγου τινός – Lageion: the hippodrome of Alexandria, after a certain Lagos.

2. vol. 2, p. 458 line 37 to p. 459 line 3.  From: Peri orthographias / De orthographia / “On orthography”.

Not sure what this is saying: anyone?

3. vol 2. p. 541, 20: also from De orthographia:

Which says much the same as #1.

However there is a problem with the Lentz edition.  Basically it’s fake.

The Lentz edition is a modern reconstruction.  Only one of Herodian’s works actually survives, which – fortunately for us – is De prosodia catholica.  So the first quote is certainly by Herodian.  But the rest is made up from fragments; and Eleanor Dickey, who is the expert on these sorts of sources, advises using the original sources instead.[1]  For our purposes however the first reference is sufficient.


Epiphanius of Salamis says much the same in De Mensuribus et Pondibus (On weights and measures) chapter 12.[2] The Syriac preserves the name of Lagus:

Then ceased the Rabbity (Lagid) kings, the Ptolemies, who were [105] descended from the Rabbit (Lagos), for whom the race course, when built in Alexandria, was called only in the same Alexandria the Rabbity.[106]

105 The Greek adds “plainly” or “clearly.”
106 I.e., the Lagid; but the Greek says, “who having built the race course in Alexandria named it the λαϊον.”[3]

One could wish that Epiphanius was slightly less pleased with his own linguistic cleverness here, but the sense is clear enough.

The next three texts suggest that the Lageion stood next to the Serapeum. This is compatible with the site found by Napoleon’s men.

Papyrus SB 6222 – letter of Dios

Papyrus SB 6222 is a letter from an athlete living at Alexandria to his sister.[4]  It records the emperor leading a religious procession at the Lageion on the date of a festival of Serapis, 22 December.  It’s probably Diocletian in 301 AD.  The procession probably relates to the Serapeum.

To my dear sister Sophrone, greetings, Dios.

Above all I pray to [the lord] god that you are doing well and also that the best things in life may be yours. I am wondering why until today you did not send us a single letter, although every day there are many acquaintances who are traveling north. Yet now, please, write back to us about your and our fathers’ wellbeing.

We are glad to be here. I will tell you everything that has happened to me in Alexandria. So, when we arrived here, we didn’t find the person whom we came looking for (but) we did find our lord the emperor visiting. He ordered that athletes be brought to the Campus and fortunately, I and the other five were selected, without the other athletes knowing. When I arrived there, I was at first paired up to do pankration and I had bad luck, as I do not know how to do pankration. So I was performing [poorly] for a long time… falling. The god was about to … I challenged the five to do pammachon. The emperor wanted to know whether I was [immediately) summoned to do it one man after the other. When I saw that [those who fell] were collecting dung from the contest, I challenged them for the pammachon.

The prize for us was a linen tunic and hundred guilders. The [linen tunic] is inexpensive, and I received … and I made … debtors (?) and I got a gold coin with the money and the other five the tunic. This happened on the 2?th of Choiak. And on the 26th of the same month he held the festival in the Lageion and we performed there. And I got a silver prize, a sleeveless tunic, and the money.[5]

So don’t be sad that we haven’t found the person, for good fortune has given us other things. Take care of your sister… God willing, we will come to meet you after Mecheir, making you happy. Your… sends you many greetings. I greet my dear father and all who love my soul.

I pray that you are well, my dear sister, for many years.

(Address on the back:) Deliver to my sister Sophronion, in D… For there (?) is the house. From her brother Dios. To Sophrone from her brother Dios.”[6]

Apothegmata Patrum, PG 65 col. 164

In the Apothegmata Patrum (Sayings of the Fathers) there is a reference to chariot racing and the Serapeum together.  When the Serapeum was overthrown by Theophilus of Alexandria, the news raced down the hill to where a miracle had just happened.

  1. The same related that there was a charioteer in Alexandria, whose mother was called Mary. In an equestrian fight he had a fall. Then getting up again he surpassed the men who had overthrown him and carried off the victory. The crowd cried out, ‘The son of Mary has fallen; he has risen again and is the victor.’ While these cries were still being heard, an uproar ran through the crowd in connection with the temple of Serapis; the great Theophilus had gone and overthrown the statue of Serapis and made himself master of the temple.[7]

Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana, book 5, 26.

Apollonius goes to the hippodrome, and attacks the crowd for sacrificing at a presumably nearby sanctuary while covered in blood. Possibly the sanctuary is the Serapeum.

[5.26] With these words he rebuked and silenced the Egyptian, showing that he was ignorant of religion. But because the Alexandrians are devoted to horses, and flock into the racecourse to see the spectacle, and murder one another in their partisanship, he therefore administered a grave rebuke to them over these matters, and entering the temple, he said: “How long will you persist in meeting your deaths, not in behalf of your families or of your shrines, but because you are determined to pollute the sacred precincts by entering them reeking with gore and to slaughter one another within the walls? … But here I see you rushing at one another with drawn swords, and ready to hurl stones, all over a horse race….”[8]

It’s all a bit speculative, but interesting.

However there was certainly another hippodrome in Alexandria, on the east side.

Strabo Book 17, 1:10.

This talks about a hippodrome which was known to Augustus.

Below the canal are the Serapion and ancient temples, so to speak abandoned, for the construction of new temples, those of Nicopolis there is also still an amphitheater and the five-year games also take place there, the old buildings are neglected. In short, the city monuments and shrines. The most beautiful is the porticoes have more than one stage. In the city center), the court and public gardens. There is also the Paneion …: from its summit, one can contemplate the whole city, which extends from all parts to its feet. Starting from the Necropolis, – the longitudinal avenue is next to the gymnasium to reach the Canopic Gate; then it is the Hippodrome, as it is called, and the adjacent valleys, as far as the Canopic Canal. As you cross the Hippodrome, you come to Nicopolis, which occupies on the seashore a built surface comparable to that of a city. It is thirty stades from Alexandria. Augustus favoured this place because it was there that he won battle over the troops who were marching against him with Antony.[9]

This is not spoken of as near the Serapeum.

Some further references.

3 Maccabees 4, 11; 5.46; 6.16

This discusses a persecution of the Jews in Alexandria under Ptolemy IV Philopator.

4:11. When they had been brought to the place called Schedia and the voyage as determined by the king was over, he ordered them to be thrown into the hippodrome on the outskirts of the city, an immense concourse eminently suitable for making the captives a public example to all who came down to the city and to those who left the city for a sojourn in the country, the purpose being to prevent them from associating with the king’s forces or claiming to be within the precincts of the city.

5:46. About dawn, when the city was already full of innumerable crowds making their way toward the hippodrome, he entered the palace and incited the king to take up the business on hand.

6:16. Just as Eleazar was finishing his prayer, the king arrived at the hippodrome with the beasts and the whole wanton array of his army. And the Jews observed it and raised a great cry to heaven that made the surrounding valleys ring with the is sound and struck uncontrollable terror in all the hosts.

Here the hippodrome is in a valley, as the one next to the Serapeum is.

Our final Greek reference is in Evagrius, which says that the city tended to assemble there.

Evagrius Scholasticus book 2, chapter 5

These events after the Council of Chalcedon, in 453 AD:

And that thence resulted still more alarming consequences, from the license of |64 the soldiery towards the wives and daughters of the Alexandrians: that, subsequently, the people, being assembled in the hippodrome, entreated Florus, who was the military commandant, as well as the civil governor, with such urgency as to procure terms for themselves, in the distribution of provisions, of which he had deprived them, as well as the privileges of the baths and spectacles, and all others from which, on account of their turbulence, they had been debarred: that, at his suggestion, Florus presented himself to the people, and pledged himself to that effect, and by this means stopped the sedition for a time.[10]

Next we come to Arabic  writers.

Eutychius (Sa`id ibn Bitriq), PG 111 col. 975A.

The 10th century Arabic Christian historian writes:

22. Ptolemy, the conqueror of Ur, died. After him ruled Ptolemy [I], called Lagus, for twenty-nine years. He built a large hippodrome for horse racing in Alexandria, which was later burned down in the days of King Zeno.  After him, his son Ptolemy [II] reigned, called Philadelphus, for twenty-six years.[11]

Severus of al-Ashmounein, History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria, PO1, p.467, in 539 AD.

The Copts are being persecuted by the emperor:

But the letters of their blessed Father Theodosius came to them from his place of exile, reminding them of the faith, and consoling them, and encouraging them to patience. So when their trouble increased, an assembly of the orthodox met together, priests and laymen, and took counsel together as to building a church in which they might take refuge, so that they might not be like the Jews. And they did what they proposed, and built a church by the power of Christ, in the western part of Alexandria, in the place called the Pillars, or the Serapeum; and this church is the Angelion, which they built secretly at the hundred and five steps. And another congregation of the people also built another church, in the name of Cosmas and Damian, to the east of the amphitheatre, and a little to the west of the colonnade; and they finished it in the year 278 of Diocletian. When the prince learnt this, he sent and opened all the churches, and put them under the authority of the Chalcedonians. So when the blessed Father Theodosius learnt that there remained to him no other than these two newly-built churches, the church of the Angelion, and the church of Cosmas and Damian the Martyrs, he sighed and wept, because he knew the people of Alexandria, and that they loved pomp and honour, and he feared that they would depart from the orthodox Faith, with a view to gaining honour from the prince.[12]

The translator has rendered “mal`ab” as amphitheatre but it should be hippodrome.


Writing very much later the Arabic writer al-Maqrizi says that the “mal`ab” or hippodrome is the third wonder of Alexandria in his time, after the Pharos and Pompey’s Pillar.

Among the marvelous things of Egypt, says Qoda’i, there is Alexandria and the marvels it contains, among which are: the Lighthouse, the Column and the Circus where everyone gathers on a certain day of the year; there, a ball is thrown, and the one in whose lap it fell must infallibly reign over Egypt. At one of these feasts, `Amr ben El’As, who received the ball in his lap, and later in the time of Islam, ruled Egypt. This circus could contain a million spectators who all perfectly saw the one facing them. When a reading was given, the whole world heard it, and if a show was given, everyone saw it distinctly to the end, without being at all obstructed by the multitude of steps which rose before or behind him.[13]

There are probably more references, but that’s what I have.  Not much, considering the central importance the place obviously played in Alexandrian life.

The name of “Lageion” only appears in Roman-period writers.  Epiphanius indicates that the building is Ptolemaic, named after Lagus.  Perhaps the original construction was by Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who built so much of Alexandria, and named it in memory of his grandfather Lagus.  But we cannot say this for sure.  Obviously it was remodelled in the Roman period to add the spina.

UPDATE:  Apparently the best study of the Lageion is John H. Humphrey, Roman Circuses: Arenas for Chariot Racing, 1986, pp.505-513, notes 676-680.  There is a Google Books preview here.  The opening remarks are worth reproducing:

A great deal of discussion has centred around the question of Alexandria’s entertainment buildings, particularly its hippodromes and stadia, of each of which there were probably two. The problems are thorny and caused in no small part by the fact that several different names are used in the ancient sources for the hippodromes (‘Lageion’, ‘hippodrome’ and ‘stadium’). P. M. Fraser, in his monumental study of Ptolemaic Alexandria, reached three conclusions about these entertainment buildings: 1. the third-century BC stadium was in the area of the palaces on the northeast side of the city; 2. a hippodrome referred to by Strabo was located outside the city walls on the east side on the way to the suburb of Nicopolis (there was also a stadium at Nicopolis); and 3. the large stadium or hippodrome found by the French near the Serapeion at the southwest corner of the city is probably that referred to by later Roman writers as the Lageion (although there is no evidence for it being called by that name in the Ptolemaic or early imperial sources).

These conclusions appear to be essentially correct, although some of the details of the picture require modification. In particular, the hippodrome referred to by Strabo appears not to have been a proper hippodrome and no races are likely to have been held there at any time. Instead, it appears that all the references to chariot and horse racing at Alexandria concern the other building, the Lageion, which is variously named in the sources by the three terms listed above. Secondly, the large entertainment building recorded by the French in 1799, a building which both Maricq and Fraser believe to be the same as the Lageion, poses a further problem in that it did not appear adequate to accommodate chariot racing throughout the Roman and later period: it appeared inadequate chiefly because of the recorded width of its arena (only 51m.). a width which had, among other reasons, prompted the French expedition to call the building a stadium and not a hippodrome. It will be argued that this figure of 51m. is in error and that the actual width of its arena was about 65m., so that the building was able to accommodate not only racing in the Greek style but also apparently up to twelve teams of the Roman style of racing once the circus factions had become installed in Alexandria (which happened by the early fourth century AD). Thus no obstacle remains as to why this building should not have been used for all chariot racing at Alexandria from the Ptolemaic to the Byzantine period, although it doubtless underwent many modifications including changes in the arrangements of its starting gates and barrier, to facilitate the change-over from Greek to Roman style racing, and to accommodate the growing citizen body and cater to the growing popularity of the sport there. …

The argument for the wider width is that 20 years elapsed between Napoleon’s engineers measuring the remains, and the publication, and the editors misread the plan prepared by the former.

The literary sources, then, refer almost exclusively to the Lageion, next to the Serapeum.

  1. [1]Eleanor Dickey, “A catalogue of works attributed to the grammarian Herodian”, Classical Philology 109 (2014), 325-45, writes thus (p.334):  “Περὶ καθολικῆς προσῳδίας / De prosodia catholica “On prosody in general.” This was Herodian’s main work, probably written after his more specialized treatises such as Περὶ Ἰλιακῆς προσῳδίας and Περὶ Ἀττικῆς προσῳδίας.[50] It was chiefly concerned with accentuation and now survives only in fragments and epitomes, from which Lentz has reconstructed the work. [51] It is safer to use the surviving material itself than to use Lentz’s reconstruction (particularly as some of the surviving material was unavailable to Lentz); this material is mainly to be found in an epitome attributed to Arcadius, an epitome attributed to John Philoponus, a palimpsest fragment, and a papyrus fragment.[52]”

     51. Lentz 1867–70 in GG 3.1: 1–547 + corrigenda in GG 3.2: 1233–40; cf. GG 3.1: xxxv–lxxi.
    52. For Pseudo-Arcadius there is an inadequate edition by Schmidt (1860) and a new one in preparation by Stephanie Roussou; for Philoponus there is an inadequate edition by Dindorf (1825) and a new one about to appear (Xenis 2014); the palimpsest fragment has been edited by Hunger (1967) and the papyrus by Wouters (1979, 216–24).” Roussou’s thesis is here:

  2. [2]Epiphanius, On Weights and Measures 12; Greek text: PG 43, col. 257A; Epiphanius’ Treatise on Weights and Measures, The Syriac Version, ed. and trans. J. E. Dean (1935), 12 p. 28.
  3. [3]Online:
  4. [4]
  5. [5] τὸ στιχάριο[ν. τ]αῦτα τῇ β̣[  ̣] τοῦ Χοίακ. καὶ τῇ κϛ τοῦ αὐτοῦ μη[νὸς] ἦξεν τὴν ἱερὰν ἐν τῷ Λαγαίῳ, καὶ ἐκεῖ ἐπο[ι]ησάμην, καὶ ἔλαβ[ον κ]ο[λό]β̣ιον ἀργυροῦν καὶ κολόβιο(ν) καὶ τὸ ἀργύριον.
  6. [6]Translation: S. Remijsen, “Pammachon, a New Sport”, BASP 47, 2010, 185–204.
  7. [7]Benedicta Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: The Alphabetical Collection. E – Epiphanius, section 2 (1984) p.57.
  8. [8]
  9. [9]From Mariq: En deçà du canal se trouvent le Sérapeion et temples antiques, pour ainsi dire abandonnés, à construction des nouveaux temples, ceux de Nicopolis il se trouve d’ailleurs encore un amphithéâtre et les jeux quinquennaux aussi se déroulent là-bas, les anciens édifices sont négligés. Bref, la ville monuments et de sanctuaires. Le plus beau est dont les portiques ont plus d’un stade. Au centre ville), le tribunal et les jardins publics. Il y a aussi le Paneion… : de son sommet, on peut contempler la ville entière, qui s’étend de toutes parts à ses pieds. Partant de la Nécropole,- l’avenue longitudinale côtoie le gymnase pour atteindre la Porte canopique ; puis c’est l’Hippodrome, comme on l’appelle, et les vallons adjacents3, jusqu’au canal de Canope. « En traversant l’Hippodrome, on arrive à Nicopolis, qui occupe sur le bord de la mer une surface bâtie comparable à celle d’une ville. Elle est à trente stades d’Alexandrie. Auguste a favorisé ce lieu parce que c’est là qu’il a gagné bataille sur les troupes qui marchaient contre lui avec Antoine. »
  10. [10]
  11. [11]Edited: Cheikho, CSCO, Script. arab., Ser. 3, 6 [1906], p. 76 ; trad. Pocock, PG, 111, col. 975A.  Italian translation: Pirone, Eutichio, p.140, chapter 7, section 22; my translation here.
  12. [12]
  13. [13]Edited: G. Wiet, t. 3 [= MIFAO, 46], p. 125. Online here.  French translation: Bouriant, Mém. Miss. Arch. Fr., 17 [1900], p. 452. Online here and here. Vol. 2, p.452: “Parmi les choses merveilleuses de l’Égypte, dit Qoda’i, il y a Alexandrie et les merveilles qu’elle renferme, au nombre desquelles sont : le Phare, la Colonne et le Cirque où l’on se réunissait à un jour déterminé de l’année; là, on lançait une balle et celui dans le giron de qui elle retombait devait infailli blement régner sur l’Égypte. A l’une de ces fêtes assista `Amr ben El’As qui reçut la balle dans son giron, et plus tard, au temps de l’Islam, il gouverna l’Égypte. Ce cirque pouvait contenir un million de spectateurs qui tous voyaient parfaitement celui qui leur faisait face. Quand on y faisait quelque lecture, tout le mondel’entendait, et si l’on donnait quelque spectacle, chacun le voyait distinctement jusqu’au dernier, sans être aucunement gêné par la multitude de gradins qui s’élevaient devant ou derrière lui.”

View the Serapeum from above on Google Maps!

The temple of Serapis stood on a raised area in ancient Alexandria.  It consisted of an enclosure with a colonnade all round, and the temple stood in the centre.

Remarkably this arrangement can still be seen today in satellite photographs on Google Maps!

The area to the north of the enclosure is a muslim cemetary, but then the great rectangle appears.  And in the centre of it, clear as a bell, is the square foundations of the great temple building itself.  It may have been destroyed by Theophilus of Alexandria in 391, but there it is today.

Let me give a map of ancient Alexandria for comparison, taken from A. Mariq’s article on the Lageion.[1]

Sadly nothing now seems to be visible of the hippodrome, that ran along the south side of the Serapeum enclosure.  It was still visible when Napoleon’s engineers arrived in the 1790s.

  1. [1]A. Mariq, “Une influence alexandrine sur l’art Augusteen? Le Lageion et le Circus Maximus”, Revue Archéologique 37 (1951), 26-46, 142.

New edition and commentary of the Chronography of 354!

The Chronography of 354 was a physical book, compiled for a late Roman nobleman and illustrated by a famous artist.  It contained 12 sections of practical information like calendars.  It also contained pictures of cities, and of Constantius and Gallus, “our emperors” – which the fall of Gallus later in the year must have made awkward.  The book is lost, but copies of all or part of it survive in various medieval manuscripts.  It was published piecemeal in the 19th century, and I gathered the bits and made them available online many years ago.  My scans of the illustrations have appeared all over the web since, amusingly.

A correspondent writes to tell me that a new edition and commentary has appeared, and is open-access!  You can download the PDFs!

A new open access edition is available:

Johannes Divjak and Wischmeyer Wolfgang, eds., Das Kalenderhandbuch von 354. Der Chronograph des Filocalus, 2 vols. (Wien: Holzhausen, 2014)

vol. 1: Der Bildteil des Chronographen,

vol. 2: Der Textteil,

Burgess has a detailed critique:

Richard W.  Burgess, “The New Edition of the Chronograph of 354: A Detailed Critique,” Zeitschrift fur Antikes Christentum / Journal of Ancient Christianity 21, no. 2, (2017): 383–415, doi: 10.1515/zac-2017-0020

Thankfully Dr Burgess has placed his article online at here, in which he complains about formatting – not something I care much about.  The editors did publish a one-page response in ZAC, which you can pay DeGruyter $42 for if you so wish (does anyone? ever?  I’ve written to Dr Divjak suggesting he post it on instead.)

This is a great undertaking.  The content of the Chronography means that writing a commentary is a devil of a task.  Minute objections will always be possible.  But let’s recognise that they have performed a considerable service to us all, and even more so in making it accessible online.

Sayings of Luqman – translated by Anthony Alcock

The sage Luqman appears in the Koran, but also in other sources, as the author of collections of wisdom.  Anthony Alcock has translated one of these collections from Arabic, which is very good news.  The content itself is highly readable, and it is very useful to have.  Here it is:

Thank you, Dr. A!