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.


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