Help! How can I get hold of this?

Time for a public appeal!  I’m trying to get hold of an exhibition catalogue, for an exhibition held at the town hall in Viterbo on 21 June 1997-10th January 1998, title: Il Mitreo di Vulci : Montalto di Castro, Palazzo del Comune, 21 giugno 1997-10 gennaio 1998, which is 43 p. and was written by a certain A.M. Sgubini Moretti (although the name may not be obvious, I think).

Copies exist in various Italian libraries: in Florence, in what might be Rome, and so on – a Google search on the title will bring up some OPACs.

But how on earth can I get hold of a copy?  And especially the colour illustrations?

Suggestions, however off the wall, very welcome!


Italian items online!

I spend a very busy morning attempting to locate the publication of the Mithraeum in Vulci, in Etruria.  My search was rewarded, after around 3 hours persistence, by discovering that it was online!  It was certainly impossible to buy, probably because it seems to have been an exhibition catalogue.

The site that made this possible is new to me, and seems to be an official “Italian digital internet” site:

I searched on “mitreo” and there it was.

I’m not entirely clear what the remit of the site is.  But nevertheless, it seems to contain some very hard to find material!

UPDATE: Oh good grief … the PDF contains … only the cover and its reverse.  No content whatever!  Drat.


From my diary

I’m mainly busy with the Mithras site at the moment.

I’ve been working through a list of new finds since 1960 made by John W. Brandt, together with a list by Szabo Csaba.  In each case I do a web search for pictures or sites.  I did the Riegel Mithraeum on Friday night.  It’s slow, but useful.

I wish I could find a picture of the curious sword found at Riegel.  This had a semi-circle in the middle of the blade, as wide as a man’s neck.  If put on, it would look as if a sword had been driven through the neck.  Undoubtedly it featured in some initiation ceremony.

Today I collected a curious volume from the library – Al. N. Oikonomides, Mithraic art: a search for unpublished and unidentified monuments.  It’s only a little book, with monochrome photos of a few such.  But it’s still very interesting, if not very scholarly.  It’s basically a set of random notes typed up.

The Origen volume has come back from the typesetter with the latest set of corrections, and I have now produced a proof copy for the translator, and another for me.  I think that I will allow one set of corrections from this, and then go to print.  Somewhere there has to be an end to this task.  The typesetter, Simon Hartshorne, has been very good about this indeed, but I am embarassed to trespass on his generosity much more.

I’m probably doing some other things as well: just can’t think of them tonight!


A ray of light for Mithras at Hawarte on the 25th December?

I’ve been back working on the Mithras site in the evenings, and in particular looking at Mithraea found in recent years.   I’ve created a page for these, and I’m going through them.

Last night I was searching for material about the Hawarte Mithraeum in Syria.  The site was a 5th century church, excavated in the 1970’s.  The floor of the church was bowed near the altar, where a mosaic was removed.  Some time in the mid-90’s, the floor collapsed revealing a painted chamber underneath.  Robbers were quickly on the scene, and their attempts to sell fragments of painting came to the attention of the authorities.  Michal Gowlokowski happened to see photos of some of the paintings and realised that the chamber must be a Mithraeum. He the Polish Archaeological Mission reached an agreement with the Syrian authorities, and excavated the site.  Pleasingly, all their annual reports are online in English here!

The paintings are 4th century, which makes them some of the latest Mithraic monuments.  They are also rather spectacular, as this blog (in Polish – but try using Google Translate on it) indicates!  A sample image:

Mithras, his horse, and a chained demon.
Mithras, his horse, and a chained demon.

Here’s another image, of a fresco restored by the Polish conservation team.  The image seems to have been digitally enhanced for sale, but in the process has revealed additional data, especially the face of Luna at top left:

Travel Pictures Ltd

Here’s a picture of the inside of the Mithraeum from the conservators blog here:


I’m collecting images and data, and I need to write all this up.  But notice on the left of this image a city wall, surmounted by the heads of demons, each being struck by rays (of light?).  The detail at Hawarte is better than this photo may indicate.  It adds something to our knowledge of the myth of Mithras.  At Hawarte, it begins with the war of Zeus against the Giants, followed by the birth of Mithras and the usual story, and ending with a depiction of the city of demons and the demons being killed by the light of the (unconquered) sun.

More interestingly still, Dr Gowlikowski has managed to demonstrate a connection between Mithras and the winter solstice, the 25 December.  For it seems that the chamber was so arranged that a ray of light would shine on Mithras’ face a couple of hours before sunset on that day.[1]  However I need to read into this with some care, and make sure that I understand the argument!

One can only praise the Polish team for their exemplary work in preserving and restoring the site.  The paintings are today at the museum in Hama.  Let us hope that they are safe!

  1. [1]Michał Gawlikowski, Krzysztof Jakubiak, Wiesław Małkowski i Arkadiusz Sołtysiak (2011). A Ray of light for Mithras, Monografie di Mesopotamia XIV s. 169-175.  Thank heavens this is online!

1st century inscription mentioning the library at Alexandria

A tweet drew my attention to a monument by a certain Tiberius Claudius Babillus which mentions the library of Alexandria.  There is a Wikipedia article about him here, asserting that he died in 59 AD (we will all be wary of anything in this source I am sure). An image is online at Wikimedia Commons here:


The page gives the following source information:

Source: “Forschungen in Ephesos”, Vol. III, Vienna 1923, p.128.
References: IK-17-01, 03042 = AE 1924, 00078 = AE 1927, +00156 = AE 1933, +00251b = AE 1934, +00001

From which I infer that the inscription is from Ephesus.  The extremely formulaic nature of Roman inscriptions means that the image fills in some of the missing chunks, where these are routine.  There is a clear mention of “(Alexandri)na Bybliothece”

It would be nice to know more about this monument.


Ancient Christian Writers volumes online at

A correspondant tells me of a website which lists the volumes of the ACW series, and, better, has links to some which are online at!  The link is here.

Ah, those were the days, before century-long copyrights!!


The Bankes 2nd c. Homer papyrus roll now online at the British Library

I wonder how many of us have ever heard of the “Bankes papyrus”?  Certainly not I, before today.  Yet it is a fascinating item.

A tweet from Sarah Biggs alerted me that:

The Bankes Homer is now online & blog post to come! (Papyrus 114, Greek, 2nd century).

P.Lond.lit.28, British Library papyrus 114, is a 2nd century Greek roll, containing the last 16 columns of Iliad 24.

The website browser is a bit “wobbly”, but displays a single image of the whole unrolled item (which is probably the right thing to do).  I’m not sure whether a PDF of such an image is even technically possible, which is what one would otherwise want to have.

There are two images; one in a frame and one without.  The framed image is clearly just for reference, as it isn’t very zoomable.  It isn’t clear whether the verso is blank.

At the end is the colophon which consists only of “Ἰλίαδος Ω”, as is common in the papyri.[1]  If you zoom and pan, you eventually see something like this:


But of course you must look for yourself.  The digitisation is really remarkable, and the quality of the result is extraordinary.  You can probably see more, than you could if you were holding the item itself.

I learn from the page on the BL website – which is really very good, with very nice references for us to look up on Google books! – that William Bankes purchased the roll at Elephantine in 1821.  The discovery was made by a certain Giovanni Finati, acting for him, and is told as follows:[2]

… we all took our departure together for Assouan. And it was during our stay there of a few days that, on the opposite island of Elephantine, (which I have always remarked to be, after Thebes, the place where the greatest harvest of curious antiquities is brought for sale by the natives,) a roll of papyrus in the Greek character + was put into my hands, for which I bargained and fixed the price in the first place, and then took it to Monsieur Linant[3] for the money, stipulating at the time that it was to be bought on Mr. Bankes’s account.

This roll proved to be that manuscript of Homer * which is considered so precious, but which it grieved me afterwards, and ever will, to have seen sold for more than its weight in gold + to that gentleman whom I considered the owner of it, and who would certainly have had it at my hands, without any further demand.

+ In my own journey, I bought a scrap of Greek upon papyrus in a very fine clear character, which seems to be the fragment of a letter or edict. I have a great number of tiles also written in a cursive Greek character, and highly curious upon that account, which purport to be receipts of pay by the Roman soldiery at Assouan during several reigns, from Tiberius to Commodius—one of these I found myself at Elephantine; and I have an amphora, also, that has served the same purposes as a modern slate to some tradesman’s family in Roman times, with his house or shop accounts registered upon it in ink from day to day.

* It contains the last book of the Iliad, most beautifully written, in uncial letters, and the lines numbered in the margin: what is very surprising, it has had accents added to it afterwards.

+ The author, though the first who had the handling of this papyrus, seems here to have formed a very undue estimate of its weight, for the sum which I paid for it amounted to no less than 25,000 piastres (about 500l.), that being stated as the offer that had been made for it from another quarter.

It is wonderful to have this item online!  How many of us would ever have been able to see it otherwise?  I doubt many of us could have managed to induce the keeper to let us see it, as recently as 10 years ago.

For this is what an ancient book looked like.  This is a real roll, complete with the end of the book.  Not a fragment of one; but 16 columns of it.

Look, and admire, and wonder!

  1. [1]As discussed in F. Schironi, Τὸ Μέγα Βιβλίον: Book-ends, End-titles, and Coronides in Papyri with Hexametric Poetry, American Studies in Papyrology 48), Durham (NC) 2010, no. 25 (pp. 134-35).
  2. [2]W. J. Bankes, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Giovanni Finati, Native of Ferrara, 2 vols, London 1830, vol. 2, pp. 357-58. Online here.
  3. [3]Retained to search for antiquities by Bankes.

Getty your hand out of my wallet – some way to go on open access, I fear

The Getty Museum laudably makes some images available online.  Some of these (but not all) may be freely used for personal purposes online.  Most of the images on their site are NOT usable by anyone else, and they want money if we want to use any of them for scholarly purposes.

This simple statement is the outcome of some correspondence, which is worth detailing since I found the statements on their website confusing.

The Getty holds a statuette of Mithras riding a horse.  I’d give you a photo of this – they have one here – except that I can’t.  They want $15 if I let you see it.  Don’t worry, it’s not very special.  It’s probably not even Mithras.  But rather annoying that I can’t just post a picture here.  The object is not on display either, or I’d ask someone to go and take a photo.

But it gets more interesting.  Originally I gave the wrong link, to another item.  I got back:

We could agree to your request, but there would be a scholar rate fee of $15.00 to provide an image file and permission to publish the image on your site.  …

If you do decide to order the image and obtain permission to publish it, here is a link to the Museum’s rights & reproductions information page:

Links to our order forms are at the bottom of the information page.  You would need to complete the form entitled Terms of Use for Electronic Media or Television/Film/Video.  Please note that even if there was an image on our website, we would ask you to complete this image and permission request form, and there would be a $15.00 fee.

Their “information page” was rather uninformative about permissions, which is why I had to write and ask.  But of course if they have to do some work to make an image, then the $15 fee is reasonable.  I fear, however, that making the image for them is something they would charge for again.

Once I gave them the right link, the answer was the same – $15 please.

I am a poor scholar.  They are a very rich institution.   It’s a bit rubbish for them to try to charge scholars for this.

What I’m doing is making a catalogue of all Mithraic monuments and items.  Why is it in the interest of the Getty to obstruct scholars doing this?

Basically you can’t use their images in any way.  Which is rather silly.

Still at least they have put an image of the item online.  And they are starting to make some of their images available for use by the great unwashed. I would guess that some people at the Getty understand that open access is the way.  But others haven’t got the message.

No doubt they will see that it makes no sense – and just irritates – to demand fees that nobody will pay to use images that nearly nobody cares about.

I would suggest that they do what the Walters have done, and allow ordinary people to use the images (suitably attributed) so long as money isn’t involved.  Nobody won from trying to stiff me for money.


What happened to the later neoplatonists – a quotation from Damascius

A passage in Damascius’ commentary on the Phaedo sheds an interesting light on the later neoplatonist philosophers and their involvement in theurgy – the art of invoking the gods by magic:

Some honour philosophy more highly, as do Porphyry and Plotinus and many other philosophers; others honour more highly the hieratic art [=theurgy] as do Iamblichus and Syrianus and Proclus and all the theurgists [=hieratists].[1]

The rise in superstition in late antiquity, and still more in the post-Roman world, is a deplorable feature of the Roman decline and fall.  Sometimes this rise is attributed to the rise of Christianity, which occurs in the same period.  Nor is this allegation always without merit.

We are all familiar with the story of Justinian closing the philosophy schools.  There are not lacking writers who rage against Christianity for this event, supposing that the successors of Proclus and Marinus and the like were pure intellectuals.  But as we see from this excerpt from Damascius, they were in fact seriously involved in something not notably different from witchcraft.

Why did the neoplatonists lose contact with philosophy?

  1. [1]L.G. Westerink, The Greek commentaries on Plato’s Phaedo, 1977, ii.I.172.1-3, via Anne Shepherd, “Proclus’Attitude to Theurgy”, Classical Quarterly N.S. 32, 212-224. JSTOR.

A list of the works of Origen (Jerome, Letter 33)

A correspondent kindly sent me some extracts of a English translation of Henri Crouzel’s book on Origen.[1]  On p.37-38 I find an English translation of the list of Origen’s works, as given by Jerome in letter 33.  This is very useful information, and I reproduce it below.

On Genesis 13 books;[3] assorted homilies 2 books; on Exodus scholia; on Leviticus scholia; Stromateis 10 books; on Isaiah 36 books; also on Isaiah scholia; on Hosea about Ephraim 1 book; on Hosea a commentary; on Joel 2 books; on Amos 6 books; on Jonah 1 book; on Micah 3 books; on Nahum 2 books; on Habakkuk 3 books; on Zephaniah 2 books; on Haggai 1 book; on the beginning of Zechariah 2 books; on Malachi 2 books; on Ezekiel 29 books. Scholia on the Psalms from the first to the fifteenth;[4] also a book on each of the Psalms[5] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 24, 29, 38, 40. On Psalm 43, 2 books; on Psalm 44, 3 books; on Psalm 45 1 book; on Psalm 46, 1 book; on Psalm 50, 2 books; on Psalm 51, 1 book; on Psalm 51, 1 book; on Psalm 53, 1 book; on Psalm 57, 1 book; on Psalm 58, 1 book; on Psalm 59, 1 book; on Psalm 62, 1 book; on Psalm 63, 1 book; on Psalm 64, 1 book; on Psalm 65,1 book; on Psalm 68, 1 book; on Psalm 70, 1 book; on Psalm 71, 1 book; on the beginning of Psalm 72, 1 book; on Psalm 103, 2 books. On the Proverbs 3 books; on Ecclesiastes scholia; on the Song of Songs 10 books and two other volumes which he wrote in his youth; on the Lamentations of Jeremiah five volumes. Also the Monobibla;[6] four books On Principles;[7] two books On the Resurrection and two others on the Resurrection which are dialogues; a book on certain problems of the Proverbs; the dialogue against Candidus the Valentinian; a book on martyrdom.

Of the New Testament; on Matthew 25 books; on John 32 books;[8] scholia on certain parts of John, 1 book; on Luke 15 books; on the epistle of the apostle Paul to the Romans 15 books; on the epistle to the Galatians 15 books;[9] on the epistle to the Ephesians 3 books; on the epistle to the Philippians 1 book; on the epistle to the Colossians 2 books;[10] on the first epistle to the Thessalonians 3 books;[11] on the second epistle to the Thessalonians 1 book; on the epistle to Titus 1 book; on the epistle to Philemon 1 book.

Also homilies on the Old Testament: on Genesis 17;[12] on Exodus 8;[13] on Leviticus II;[14] on Numbers 28; on Deuteronomy 13; on Jesus, son of Nave (Joshua) 26; on the book of the Judges 9; on the Passover 8; on the first book of the Kings 4;[15] on Job 22; on the Proverbs 7; on Ecclesiastes 8; on the Song of Songs 2; on Isaiah 32; on Jeremiah 14;[16] on Ezekiel 12. A homily on Psalms 3, 4, 8, 12, 13; 3 on Psalm 15; on the Psalms 16, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27; 5 on Psalm 36; 2 on Psalms 37, 38, 39; 1 on Psalms 49, 51; 2 on Psalm 52; 1 on Psalm 54; 7 on Psalm 67; 2 on Psalm 71; 3 on Psalms 72 and 73; 1 on Psalms 74 and 75; 3 on Psalm 76; 9 on Psalm 77; 4 on Psalm 79; 2 on Psalm 80; 1 on Psalm 81; 3 on Psalm 82; 1 on Psalm 83; 2 on Psalm 84; 1 on Psalms 85, 87, 108, 110; 3 on Psalm 118; 1 on Psalm 120; 2 on Psalms 121, 122. 123,  124; 1 on Psalms 125, 127, 128, 129, 131; 2 on Psalms 132, 133, 134; 4 on Psalm 135; 2 on Psalm 137; 4 on Psalm 138; 2 on Psalm 139; 3 on Psalm 144; 1 on Psalms 145, 146, 147, 149, Scholia on the whole Psalter.

Homilies on the New Testament: on the Gospel of Matthew 25; on the Gospel of Luke 39; on the Acts of the Apostles 17; on the second epistle to the Corinthians 11[17] on the epistle to the Thessalonians 2;[18] on the epistle to the Galatians 7; on the epistle to Titus 1; on the epistle to the Hebrews 18. A homily on peace. A (homily) of exhortation to Pionia. On fasting. On cases of monogamy and trigamy[19] 2 homilies. At Tarsus[20] 2 homilies. Also scholia by Origen. Two books of letters from Firmilian,
Gregory and various persons: the epistles of the synods of Origen’s case are in Book II. Nine books of letters from him to various people; the letter in defence of his works is in Book II.

I imagine the footnotes that Crouzel gives are also useful:

3. Eusebius says 12: HE VI. XXIV, 2.
4. Perhaps it should be to the twenty-fifth: cf. Eusebius’s Iist below.
5. The psalms are numbered according to the Greek, not the Hebrew, system.
6. Etymologically: books (or Bible) only. We have no idea what that meant.
7. The famous Peri Archon or De Principiis.
8. 22 according to Eusebius HE VI, XXIV, 1: but we have Books XXVIII and XXXII.
9. This figure is certainly wrong. The von der Goltz codex only speaks of five volumes
covering the whole of the epistle and notes the verses commented on in each volume. See E. von der Goltz, Eine textkritische Arbeit des zehnten bezw. sechsten Jahrhundert. Texte und Untersuchungen XVII 4. Leipzig, 1899. p. 95. Jerome also mentions five books in Letter 112 to Augustine, §4.
10. In reality 3 books of which the von der Goltz codex notes the verses on which each
comments: see previous note.
11. A long passage of the third book is quoted in Latin translation by Jerome in Letter 119 to Minervius and Alexander, §§9-10 .
12. Sixteen homilies are usually reproduced but a Homily XVII is given in PG 13. 253-262: its text is the same as that of part of the De Benedictionibus Pamarchorum of Rufinus and it is eliminated as unauthentic for that reason, a faker being thought to have made up a homily of Origen out of that passage of Rufinus. I confess myself sceptical about this solution and think the opposite equally plausible: the early Fathers having no idea of literary etiquette – shown in numerous cases, the typical examples being Ambrose of Milan – Rufinus may well have sent to Paulinus of Nob who was asking for a treatise one which began by reproducing a homily by Origen which Rufinus had himself translated. In Letter 72 to Evangelus Jerome mentions a homily on Melchisedec which is no longer extant.
13. We have 13 of them.
14. We have 16 of them.
15. That is of Samuel.
16. These are the 14 that Jerome translated, but we have 22 and also in the Philocalia fragments of homilies 21 and 39.
17.  Perhaps we should read the ‘first epistle’, for we have numerous fragments on it published by Cl. Jenkins in the Journal of Theological Studies IX-X, 1908-1909.  Jerome says in Letter 48 to Pammachius §3 that Origen gave long expositions of this epistle. On the other hand we have no fragments on 2 Corinthians.
18. First or second?
19. These words mean in the primitive Church those who have been married once and
those who have been married three times successively. Three simultaneous marriages would have been illegal in the Greco-Roman world .
20. There is no other evidence of a stay by Origen in Tarsus. From this point on we
reproduce the text as corrected by P. Nautin.

Isn’t it odd that nobody has ever thought it worthwhile to produce an English translation of all of Jerome’s letters?  This awkward, difficult man stands at the foot of all western biblical studies, and is of incredible importance for the history of Christianity in the west.  Yet the majority of his works – written in simple Latin – remain untranslated.

  1. [1]H. Crouzel, Origen, tr. A.S. Worrall, T&T Clark, 1989.