A new year — looking forward, looking back

2010 is nearly at an end.  It is my custom, at this time, to look back over the last year and see what I can remember of it.  Which bits of it left a lasting memory?  What did I achieve in the year now gone?

Of course there are unpleasant memories in every year.  There is the endless treadmill of employment and earning, just to live.  I don’t need or want to review them.

Rather, I mean the things that added value to me.  I mean the things that made me feel happy — even if there was annoyance mixed in.  I mean the things that leave a sunshine in my memory. 

I am somewhat sorry to discover that, of the whole year, only a few days left any trace — the patristics conference in Durham, and a visit to Cornwall to see relatives and friends.  The rest of the year … well, I can give no account of it, other than just surviving.  Every day spent working, every evening tired and preparing a meal, slumping in front of the TV, reading some book, then off to bed, in order to rise and do the same.

This treadmill is the lot of us all, unless we make it otherwise.  The pressure of just doing what we have to do will crowd out everything else.

So at this time of year I also look forward.  What could I do this year?  What will I do with 2011?   I need to start to plan.  Because without a plan, it won’t happen.  Without a plan, I shall be just too tired to do more than routine. 

At the start of 2010 I did have a plan.  I was going to go to Syria.  But illness washed that out.  It might still be a problem this year.  But I still need a plan!

We only have so many years.   Use them!


Manuscripts of the calendar of Antiochus of Athens

I thought it might be useful to signal how the calendar of Antiochus got to us.  We have Boll’s nice printed edition, and Daryn Lehoux’s even nicer text, translation and explanatory notes.  But … how did these get to us?  What is the text based on?  Boll lists the copies available to him, which were the following:

Ms. Vaticanus Graecus 1056 (V) is a paper manuscript of the 14th century.  The main content is three books of a five-book collection of Greek and Arabic-Persian astrological materials, apparently compiled in the Byzantine period.  The manuscript is described in detail in the Catalogus codicum astrologicorum graecorum (=CCAG), vol. 5, part 3, p.7-64, and also by Boll in his Sphaera, p.34.  In the first book, on folio 29, is the calendar or parapegma of Antiochus.  Unlike the other manuscripts, the calendar here begins in March.

Ms. Munich Graecus 287 (M) is a manuscript of the late 14th or early 15th century.  There is a detailed description in CCAG vol. 7, pp.8-24.  The calendar appears on fol. 127v-132v.

Closely related to the Munich ms. is Ms. Modena Graecus 85, belonging to the Biblioteca Estense (III C 6).  This is also known as the Mutinensis.  It was written at the end of the 15th century by a scribe named Michael Suliardus, and was later in the possession of George Valla.  See also CCAG 4, 28-33, and Boll’s Sphaera p.53 f.  The calendar is on folios 69-74v.  Franz Boll, publishing the text, gives the opinion that it is either a copy of the Munich ms., or else derived from a common exemplar, in which case, he feels, it can be disregarded.  In the latter case, of course, it could well contain some truth not found in its brother  ms. so Boll is in error here.  He prints a facsimile of two pages from it, tho, because the drawings are clearer, and the Modena ms. is also less well known.

The next manuscript is in Oxford, one of the Selden mss. (number 16) in the Bodleian library, and is described in Coxe, Catalogi codd. mss. bibliothecae Bodlianae vol. 1, p.593 f..  Boll gave it the siglum O.  It dates from the 15th century.  The calendar is on folios 147-149.  It is quite unrelated to any of the preceding manuscripts.  On f.145 are extracts which are labelled here and in other manuscripts as from the Thesaurus (=Treasury) of Antiochus of Athens.  Following the calendar are further extracts again labelled here and elsewhere as by Antiochus.

Ms. Cambridge, Trinity College, O 7, 39, pars III, is a copy of the Oxford manuscript made in the 17th century, probably by Edward Bernard for Thomas Gale (see M.R.James, The western mss in Trinity College, Cambridge, III 375).  The only deviations from O are obvious typos.

Vienna ms. philos. gr. 179, was brought from Constantinople.  It is 14-15th century, and from folio 41 onwards contains excerpts from Antiochus.  It is described in Kroll, Beschriebung Catal. VI. 28f., and also by Boll in his Sphaera p.52f.  Unfortunately there are pages missing from this section of the manuscript, but a title is given in the list of chapters, indicating that it was present.

Boll therefore edited the text from the three independent mss, M, V and O.  He found the text was better preserved in V and O, than in M.

In V and M, and the related Modena ms., the text is anonymous.  Only in the Oxford ms. does the name of Antiochus appear.   But the calender is just one chapter in O, sandwiched between other chapters under the name of Antiochus.  Some of those chapters are also in M, but again no author name appears.But we know that O is correct, for there are other astrological manuscripts which also contain these non-calendar chapters, and identify the author as Antiochus.  So we have to accept that the loss of the author’s name in M is merely an accident of transmission.  The same is true in the Vatican ms.  Boll concludes that we can reasonably suppose Antiochus to be the author, that an ancient tradition attaches his name to the text, but that when V and M were compiled, the name of Antiochus was omitted for some now unknown reason.

No biographical information has reached us about Antiochus himself, but he is one of the better known ancient astrologers, because of those who refer to him.  Porphyry, in his Isagoge of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, quotes him; Hephaistio of Thebes, in book 2, chapter 1, tells us he was from Athens, quoting some of the same material word for word.  Firmicus Maternus (II, 29) mentions him.  The Arab Massala (Catal. I 82) tells us that he wrote in seven books, together with the titles of two works, περι γενεθλίων and περι ερωτήσεων.  He is also listed in the anonymous writer of the year 379 AD, in the consulate of Olybrius and Ausonius, in a list of older writers, between Valens (2nd century) and Antigonus of Nicaea (2-3rd century).  Antiochus makes use of the data of Ptolemy (early 2nd century).  Boll therefore dates him to around 200 AD, “unless some unexamined Paris or Vatican astrological manuscript” should contain more information about him.

All this may seem rather dry.  But it is worth remembering that, for many or most writers of antiquity, this sifting of slight facts is how we gain knowledge.  We are so accustomed to the Pliny’s and Vergil’s and Tacitus’ — even to the point at which people get revisionist about this work or that — that it is salutary to be reminded by what little threads we receive much of what we know.


The calendar of Antiochus of Athens as a ‘parapegma’, and an existing translation (!)

In a very useful comment on a recent post, Alexander Jones drew my attention to the term “parapegma”, and to Daryn Lehoux, “Astronomy, weather, and calendars in the ancient world: parapegmata and related texts in classical and Near Eastern societies”, CUP, 2007.

The link is to the Google Books preview.  At a price of $155,[1] this is the only way most of us will ever see any of this book.  The table of contents is online at the start, and from it I learn that Dr Lehoux is a man with a sense of humour, as well as a detailed knowledge of this recondite subject.  From the preview, the book looks very well written and referenced.  It looks like a fine piece of work, indeed.  The preview is a generous one, for which we may all be grateful.  I notice that Dr Lehoux has wisely kept the copyright in his own hands.  When it falls out of print, I hope that he will make the book available online.

Now I had never heard the term parapegmata, but this is what the calendar of Antiochus is.  The early examples were engraved on marble with holes for pegs, which could be advanced each day, as a way to determine astronomical and weather information.

Lehoux catalogues these sort of texts, and describes each, and then — I nearly missed this — gives the text and translates them.  The calendar of Antiochus is described on p.162, and is item A.x in Lehoux’s classification.  Here is what he says.

A.x. The Antiochus parapegma [27] is a short Greek parapegma that correlates stellar phases with changes in the weather and occasionally with causal statements such as ‘July 14: The whole of Orion rises at the same time as the sun; it causes (poiei=) rain and wind.’ All dates are in what I call the modified Julian calendar (i.e., dates are given as 1 July, 2 July, etc. rather than by the traditional method ofcounting down to the Kalends, Nones and Ides), which system seems to have begun to be used in the fourth century ad, rather than the sixth, as Mommsen thought.[28] Unique features of this parapegma are its mention of the ‘u9ywma of the sun’ on 10 April, and the duration of a change in the weather ‘for seven days’ on 23 May and 5 November, ‘nine days’ on 5 October, and ‘fifteen days’ on 6 November. It mentions a religious festival to celebrate the Nile flood on 22 October. Only one stellar phase is attributive (19 July: ‘Rising of Sirius, according to the Egyptians’), and it also has ‘birth of the sun, light increases’ on 25 December.


27.  Extant in six manuscripts, of which the earliest is fourteenth-century, and the latest is seventeenth.  Edition: Boll, 1910a.
28.  For this argument see Ferrua, 1985.



I wish I’d known about this book, as it would have saved me a couple of days work making my own translation.  Lehoux’s translation of Antiochus is on pp.338-343.

  1. [1]UPDATE (April 2012): Now available in paperback at $40, and on Amazon here!  Now that’s much more possible!

December in the calendar of Antiochus of Athens

At last, here we are at the point of greatest interest — December.  But we now have much more context for what we find.

Μὴν Δεκέμβριος. December
βʹ. Κύων ἑῷος δύνει. 2.  Sirius sets in the east.
γʹ. Ἀρκτοῦρος δύνει · ἐπισημασία. 3.  Arcturus sets : weather change.
δʹ. Σκορπίος ἐπιτέλλει ἅμα ἡλίῳ · ἐπισημασία. 4.  Scorpio rises at the same time as the sun : weather change.
ζʹ. Αἲξ ἑῴα δύνει. 7.  The Goat sets in the east.
θʹ. Ἀετὸς ἐπιτέλλει ἅμα ἡλιῳ · ἐπισημαίνει. 9.  The Eagle rises at the same time as the sun : it indicates weather change.
κʹ. Ταύρου κέρατα δύνει · ἐπισημαίνει. 20.  The horns of Taurus set : it indicates weather change.
καʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τοῦ Ὄρνιθος ἑῷος ἀνατέλλει. 21.  The radiance of the Bird arises in the east.
κβʹ. τροπὴ χειμερινή. 22.  Winter solstice.
κγʹ. Προκύων ἑῷος δύνει. 23.  Procyon sets in the east.
κεʹ. Ἡλίου γενέθλιον · αὔξει φῶς. 25.  Birth of the sun : the light grows.
κϛʹ. Δελφις ἐπιτέλλει · ἐπισημαίνει ἐπὶ ἡμέρας ζʹ. 26.  The Dolphin rises : it indicates weather change over 7 days.
κηʹ. Κυων ἑσπέριος ἀνατέλλει. 28.  Sirius arises in the west.
λʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τοῦ Ἀετοῦ ἐπιτέλλει. 30.  The radiance of the Eagle rises.
λαʹ. ὁ ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς τοῦ ἡγουμένου τῶν Διδύμων ἑῷος δύνει. 31.  The region against the head of the leading one of Gemini sets in the east.

And that’s our lot.

It’s easy to see why Franz Boll, who edited it, associated it with Egypt, since it references Egyptian sources, and includes mention of the Nile flood.


November in the calendar of Antiochus of Athens

Μὴν Νοέμβριος. November
αʹ. ὁ κατὰ τὸ γόνυ τοῦ Τοξότου κρύπτεται. 1.  The portion below the knee of the Archer is absent from the sky.
γʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τῶν Ὑάδων ἑσπέριος ἀνατέλλει. 3.  The radiance of the Hyades arises in the west.
εʹ. Ὑάδες δύνουσιν · ἐν ἡμέραις ἑπτὰ ἐπισημασία. 5.  The Hyades are setting : in seven days, weather change.
ϛʹ. Ὡρίων ἄρχεται δύνειν ἅμα Ὑάσι καὶ Πλειάσιν · ἐπι ἡμέρας ιεʹ ἐπισημασία. 6.  Orion begins to set, at the same time as the Hyades and Pleiades [1] : in 15 days, weather change.
ηʹ. Κάνωβος ἑῷος δύνει. 8.  Canopus sets in the east.
ιαʹ. Πλειάδων δύσις τελεία. 11.  Complete setting of the Pleiades.
ιβʹ. Ὑάδες ἀνατέλλουσιν · ἐπισημασία. 12.  The Hyades arise : weather change.
ιζʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τοῦ Περσέως ἑῳος δύνει. 17.  The radiance of Perseus sets in the east.
κγʹ. ὁ μέσος τῆς ζώνης τοῦ Περσέως ἑῷος δύνει. 23.  The middle of the belt of Perseus sets in the east.
κεʹ. Κύων δύνει ἅμα ἡλίῳ · ἐπισημασία. 25.  Sirius sets at the same time as the sun :  weather change.
λʹ. ὁ ἐν τῷ ἑπομένῳ ὤμῳ τοῦ Ὠρίωνος ἑσπέριος ἀνατέλλει. 30.  The following shoulder of Orion arises in the west.

1. I have been unable to understand the construction “Ὑάσι καὶ Πλειάσιν”.  The Hyades and Pleiades seem to be meant, but surely these words are verbs?  Is there some contraction here?

One problem I have faced throughout is ἀνατέλλει, which makes “it rise”. It appears in Matthew 5:45, τὸν ἥλιον αὐτοῦ ἀνατέλλει ἐπὶ πονηροὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς (His sun He does cause to rise on evil and good). But Antiochus equally uses ἐπιτέλλει, seemingly in much the same sense. So … why use both?

Possibly the answer is found here, in material from Hippocrates, Airs Waters Places, at Perseus, where a calendar from Aetios is given:

Spring began with the equinox, but was often popularly dated from the appearance of swallows and the acronychal rising of Arcturus in February. The heliacal rising of the Pleiades marked the beginning of summer, which ended with that of Arcturus, an event nearly coinciding with the autumnal equinox. Finally, winter began with the cosmic setting of the Pleiades.

A star is said to rise heliacally when it gets far enough in front of the sun to be visible before dawn. It sets cosmically when it gets so much further in advance as to be first seen setting in the west before dawn. The acronychal is the evening rising of a star, when it is visible all night, and contrasts with the heliacal, or morning, rising, when it soon disappears in the sun’s rays.

Ouch.  Here we’re getting into some astronomical jargon.  But in that calendar ἐπιτέλλει is used at least once for “heliacal rising.”  Interestingly it appears on the Antikythera mechanism.


October in the calendar of Antiochus of Athens

Μὴν Ὀκτώβριος.


βʹ. Αἲξ ἑσπερία καὶ ὁ Στάχυς ἀνατέλλει. 2.  The Goat arises in the west, and Stachys.
εʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τοῦ Στεφάνου ἀνατέλλει · ἐν ἡμέραις θʹ ἐπισημασία. 5.  The radiance of the Crown arises: weather change in 9 days.
ζʹ. Ταύρου οὐρὰ καὶ ὁ λαμπρὸς τῆς βορείας χηλῆς τοῦ σκορπίου ἀνατέλλει. 7. The tail of Taurus and the radiance of the northern claw of Scorpio arise.
θʹ. Στέφανος τελείως ἀνατέλλει · ἐπισημασία. 9.  The crown arises completely : weather change.
ιʹ. Πλειάδων δύσις καὶ Ἔριφοι ἀνατέλλουσι · ἐπισημασία. 10.  The setting of the Pleiades and the Kids [1] rise : weather change.
ιγʹ. Ταύρου οὐρὰ τελεία ἀνατέλλει · ἐπισημασία. 13.  The tail of Taurus arises completely : weather change.
ιζʹ. ὁ ἐν τῶ ἑπομένῳ ὤμῳ τοῦ Ἡνιόχου ἑσπέριος ἀνατέλλει. 17.  The following shoulder of Auriga arises in the west.
ιθʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τοῦ βορείου Ἰχθύος ἑσπέριος ἀνατέλλει. 19.  The radiance of the northern Fish arises in the west.
κβʹ. Τὰ Νειλῷα · ἐπισημασία. 22.  The Nile flood [2] : weather change.
κηʹ. Λύρα ἀνατέλλει ἅμα ἡλίῳ καὶ ποιεῖ χειμῶνα καὶ φυλορροεῖν τὰ δένδρα. 28.  The Lyre arises at the same time as the sun, and causes winter and the trees to lose their leaves [3].
λαʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τῆς βορείας χηλῆς τοῦ Σκορπίου ἀνατέλλει · ἐπισημασία. 31.  The radiance of the northern claw of Scorpio arises : weather change.

1.  Ἔριφοι is the goat’s kids.
2. See Plutarch, On the mysteries of Isis and Osiris, 268:1. “the water of Nile’s superfluity” on which the note: “τὸ Νειλῷον ὕδωρ—τὰ Νειλῷα was the Feast of the Overflowing of the Nile.”
3.  Not sure what φυλορροεῖν means, but I presume “to lose leaves”.


September in the calendar of Antiochus of Athens

The Chronography of 354 tells us of a Roman state festival on 25 December.  I saw a reference to the Calendar of Antiochus of Athens, quoted to support the idea that this festival was earlier than 354 AD.  After all, Antiochus must pre-date Porphyry, who refers to him.  So I’ve been translating the calendar.  But clearly this is not a calendar of state festivals, but of astronomical events.  Here is the section on September.

Μὴν Σεπτέμβριος.


αʹ. Ἰχθὺς νότιος ἐπιτέλλει · ἐπισημασία. 1.  The southern Fish rises : weather change.
εʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τοῦ Ὄρνιθος ἑῷος δύνει. 5.  The radiance of the Bird sets in the east.
θʹ. Ἀρκτοῦρος ἐπιτέλλει · ἐπισημασία. 9.  Arcturus rises : weather change.
ιαʹ. Αἲξ ἀνατέλλει. 11.  The Goat arises.
ιϛʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τῆς νοτίας χηλῆς τοῦ Σκορπίου κρύπτεται. 16.  The radiance of the southern claw of Scorpio is absent from the sky.
ιθʹ. ὁ ἐν τῷ ἑπομένῳ ὤμῳ τοῦ Ἡνιόχου ἑσπέριος ἀνατέλλει. 19.  The region of the following shoulder of Auriga [1] arises in the west.
κβʹ. Ἰχθύες δύνουσιν · ἐπισημασία. 22.  The Fishes have set : weather change.
κεʹ. ἰσημερία μετοπωρινή. 25.  Autumnal equinox.
κηʹ. Ἀρκτοῦρος ἑῷος ἀνατέλλει. 28.  Arcturus arises in the east.

1. Auriga is the constellation of the “Charioteer”.

I’m using my QuickGreek tool to translate this stuff.  It does not recognise everything.  But I find that entering a phase into Google often takes me to a parallel Septuagint-English such as this, which elucidates some obscure words. 


August in the calendar of Antiochus of Athens

Μὴν Αὔγουστος. August
αʹ. Λέων ἀνατέλλει · ἐπισημασία. 1.  Leo arises : weather change.
βʹ. γαυρίαμα Κυνὸς σὺν εξάλματι Λέοντος. 2.  The exaltation of Sirius with the interval of Leo.
ζʹ. Ὑδροχόος μέσος δύνει · ἐπισημασία. 7.  The middle of Aquarius sets : weather change.
ιαʹ. ὁ ἐπὶ τῆς καρδίας τοῦ Λέοντος ἀνατέλλει καὶ Λύρα δύνει · ἐπισημασία. 11.  The region next to the heart of Leo arises and the Lyre sets : weather change.
ιζʹ. ὁ ἐπὶ τῆς οὐρᾶς τοῦ Λέοντος κρύπτεται καὶ Δελφὶς δύνει · ἐπισημασία. 17.  The region near the tail of Leo is absent from the sky and the Dolphon sets : weather change.
καʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τοῦ Ὑδροχόου ἐπιτέλλει. 21.  The radiance of Aquarius rises.
κγʹ. ὁ λαμπρὸς τοῦ νοτίου Ἰχθύος ἑσπέριος ἀνατέλλει. 23.  The radiance of the southern Fish arises in the west.
κηʹ. ὁ ἐπὶ τῆς οὐρας τοῦ Λέοντος ἐπιτέλλει. 28.  The region near the tail of Leo rises.
λʹ. Ἀνδρομέδα ἀνατέλλει · ἐπισημασία. 30.  Andromeda arises : weather change.
λαʹ. ὁ Στάχυς κρύπτεται · ἐπισημασία. 31. Stachys[1] is absent from the sky : weather change.

1. L&S.: “name of the chief star in the constellation Virgo, Spica Virginis, Arat. 97, Ptol. Alm. 7.5 : in pl., Man. 2.134 .”


Syriac manuscript dated 1992 AD

On Facebook, Adam McCollum of the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library posted an extraordinary snippet which I think deserves wider attention:

Yesterday I came across a Syriac manuscript written in 1992—yes, just 18 years ago—that was copied from an 1184/5 manuscript, i.e. a leap of eight centuries!

It’s a hagiographic ms containing the stories of Jacob of Nisibis, Ephrem, and Awgen. In addition to the 12th c. ms, it was compared (according to the colophon) with a ms. “apparently of the 15th generation of the Lord”.

It was copied at Dayr Al-Za’faran, where it remains, and the older copies were there, it seems, in 1992, but are so no longer.

Finally, believe it or not, the manuscript is written on the empty lines of a Turkish-English-German calendar book!

The ms date is given in the colophon in AD (and the calendar book itself is for 1992), and the date of the early exemplar is also given there as 1496 AG (= 1184/5 AD).

We must never disregard a manuscript simply on account of its age.  Who knows what it may be a copy of?


Watching the omissions in a current media story 1

After my post on how the media always identifies paedophile priests as Catholics, while suppressing mention that terrorists are Moslems and immigrants, I’ve been having some fun with media reports this evening about the attempted massacre in Denmark.  It’s a chance to play a game, actually.

The game is played like this.

  • How many use the word “Moslem”?
  • How many indicate that those responsible are foreigners?

One point for each.

Here’s the scores this evening:

  • BBC Ceefax — no mention of either, but half a point for the weasel word “Islamist”.
  • Channel 4 7pm news item — no mention of either word, so zero points.
  • Sky News digital teletext report — no mention of Moslem or “Islamist”, but one point for making clear that they’re all from overseas.  One, amusingly, is an Iraqi “asylum seeker”.

Three news reports, and 1.5 points among the lot of them, out of a possible 6!

Enjoy yourselves, and watch the truth — truth that would NOT be omitted if they were Catholics — being suppressed!