Searching for Aphroditian

The archmage Aphroditian, the Persian judge who takes the Christian side in the fictitious 6th century Religious dialogue at the court of the Sassanids, is an unfamiliar name.  A google search produces much that is of interest to the curious reader, for precisely this reason.  Here are a few examples from “Aphroditian”, mostly in German.

 It seems that there was a 16th century Greek named Michael, who came to Russia where he was known as Maksim Grek.  His story can be found here, in Dimitris Cizevskij’s History of Russian Literature, as an author and a victim of political persecution.  On p.298, Cizevskij refers to “apocrypha … The Tale of Aphroditian, a bogomil writing, …”  It is clear that the author has never heard of the work, and knows only of its Slavonic transmission among the Bogomils.

On p.323 of Porphyrogenita by J. Chrysostomides &c, we find the following interesting statement, in the middle of a discussion of what the name of Sophocles would have meant to a middling-educated Byzantine:

And then at the very outermost edge of contact with culture we find Sophocles — and Euripides — sometimes turning up among the ‘Hellenes’ who are to be saved at the Second Coming — the ‘Seven Sages’ or ‘pagan philosophers’ to whom Apollo foretold the Incarnation.  The commonest names to be mentioned in these theosophical texts (and later to be represented in iconography) are Thucydides, Plato and Plutarch, but the poets sometimes get included, often in odd company, rubbing shoulders with bizarrely corrupted names (‘Dialed’, ‘Aphroditian’).  The jumbling of Greeks and foreigners, real and fictitious  persons, does not presuppose contact with any actual line by Sophocles; at most it implies that the name was vaguely familiar, as an eminent ancient worthy.

It does not seem that Aphroditian the Persian, a man who is certainly intended as a worthy, was familiar to this author.

A complete article on the text by C. Kaufmann is here, in Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 2.  This queries whether the reference to Hera Pege vs Mary Pege in Hierapolis is evidence of the continuation of the cult of the Magna Mater into Christian times in this region.

Searching for “Aphroditianus” gives different results.

Stephen Gero, Apocryphal Gospels: a survey, ANRW (1988) 2.25, includes a brief mention of the work in his review of Infancy Gospel apocrypha here.  Page 3981 and n.63 tells us that there is an unedited Armenian version of the Religionsgesprach, referring to Bratke’s edition, p.128, which in turn refers to Brosset’s catalogue of the manuscripts in Edchmiadzin.  Gero believes that the birth narrative is “surely” taken from a source of the early 5th century, although he doesn’t say why.


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