Augustus’ own reason for attacking Anthony, and an 18th century forgery

In the old Loeb edition of Martial’s epigrams[1], translated by Walter C. A. Ker, there is a curious epigram in book XI, 20, which gives Augustus’ own stated motive for the war with Anthony.


CAESARIS Augusti lascivos, livide, versus sex lege, qui tristis verba Latina legis: “Quod futuit Glaphyran Antonius, hanc mihi poenani Fulvia constituit, se quoque uti futuam. Fulviam ego ut futuam? quod si me Manius oret pedicem, faciam? non puto, si sapiam. ‘Aut futue, aut pugnemus,’ ait. quid quod mihi vita carior est ipsa mentula? signa canant!” absolvis lepidos nimirum, Auguste, libellos, qui scis Romana simplicitate loqui.

READ six wanton verses of Caesar Augustus, you spiteful fellow, who with a sour face read words of Latin:

“Because Antony handles Glaphyra,(2) Fulvia has appointed this penalty for me, that I, too, should handle her. I to handle Fulvia? What if Manius were to implore me to treat him as a Ganymede? Am I to do it? I trow not, if I be wise. ‘Either handle me or let us fight,’ she says. And what that my person is dearer to me than my very life? Let the trumpets sound.”(3)

You justify for certain my sprightly little books, Augustus, who know how to speak with Roman bluntness.(4)

The footnotes are likewise interesting:

(2) A beautiful hetaera, whose charms procured her son Archelaus at the hands of Antony the kingdom of Cappadocia. (3) These lines are historically interesting as giving the explanation attributed to Octavius of the origin of the civil war between him and Antony, namely, pique on the part of Fulvia, Antony’s wife, at the rejection by Octavius of her advances. Montaigne (iii. 12) refers to them as showing for how small causes great emperors will go to war.

The scene between Fulvia and Octavius was depicted on a cameo by Arellius, probably the painter mentioned by Pliny, N.H. xxxv. 37, as having outraged his art by depicting prostitutes. Fulvia is represented as sitting nude upon a bed, and holding Octavius by the arm. He is in full armour, and is beckoning to two soldiers in the rear. The cameo has been reproduced in a rare book published at the Vatican Press in 1786, and entitled “Monumens de la vie privée des douze Césars: d’après une suite de pierre et médailles gravées sous leur règne.” (4) As to Augustus’s plain speech, cf. Suet. Aug. lxix.

I was rather excited when I read this!  So I went in search of this cameo.  But the reference to the cameo is missing from the latest edition, translated by D.R.S.Shackleton-Bailey, and for good reason.  For the note contains a considerable number of errors.[2]

The volume referred to was edited by Pierre d’Harcanville, and may be found online, in the 1782 edition, here, where it is the 14th item, starting on p.61.  The French translation of the epigram above prefers “kiss” for “handle”, and probably rightly.

Unfortunately it requires very little effort – in our blessed days of internet access – to discover that this material is more than dubious.  Nor was the volume produced at the “Vatican Press”.  It was, in fact, a specimen of 18th century pornography.

From Alastair J. L. Blanshard, Sex: Vice and Love from Antiquity to Modernity, Wiley (2010), p.66:

His [D’Harcanville’s] excursion into the production of pornography seems to have been occasioned by money difficulties around 1770. In Monuments de la vie privee des douze Cesars, d’Hancarville pretends to offer a catalog of etchings supposedly taken from antique engraved gemstones, medallions, and cameos that reflect well-known anecdotes about the lives of the various Roman emperors. In fact, the illustrations are pornographic fictions. The origins of these images do not lie in any real object, but the sexual anecdotes found in our biographical and historical sources. The biographer Suetonius is the main supplier of material, but the images also make allusions to stories found in the historians Tacitus (c. AD 56-C.118) and Cassius Dio (c. AD 164-post 249). The images begin with Julius Caesar and end with the emperor Domitian. Originally, there seem to have been 25 images, and this was later expanded to 50. …

Apparently the volume was very successful, because of the quality of the images.

The volume proclaims that it was printed at “Caprée” (Capri?), but 19th century book catalogues indicate “Nancy: Leclerc” as the real place of origin.  The French Wikipedia (caution!) contains some interesting statements about sources for his life, and references of various sorts, all of which suggests that D’Harcanville was what used to be termed a “Bohemian” individual.  As with so many such, it seems unlikely that his irregular life made him anything but poor and miserable.

  1. [1]1920 edition, volume 2, p.252-3.
  2. [2]Shackleton-Bailey adds that the epigram refers, not to Octavian and Mark Anthony, but to the Perusine war of 41-40 B.C. with Anthony’s brother Lucius, backed by Fulvia; and that the epigram probably comes from a collection of epigrams of Augustus, not necessarily published by himself.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – opening section of chapter 8

(I thought that it might be interesting to see how an Arabic Christian writer of the 10th century, Eutychius, also known as Sa’id al-Bitriq, the patriarch of Alexandria, saw the events of the time of Christ.  I think we may all have some fun trying to recognise the names from the Arabic transcriptions!)

1. In the fourth year of the reign of Cleopatra, there reigned over the city of Rome a king named Ghābiyūs Qaysar for four years.  After him then reigned, over Rome, a king called Yūliyūs Qaysar for three years (1).  After him, there reigned in the city of Rome Awghustus Qaysar son of Mūnarkhus, in the eleventh year of the reign of Cleopatra.

Caesar Augustus extended his dominion over the world and made kings subject to him.  When Cleopatra heard of Caesar Augustus she was dismayed, and felt a great fear.  She therefore strengthened her kingdom by erecting a wall from Nubia to al-Farama (2), on the east bank of the Nile, and a wall from Nubia to Alexandria on the west bank of the Nile.  Today [that] wall is called “Hayt al-‘Ağūz” (3).  Cleopatra then lived at Alexandria in Egypt and had a lieutenant named Anthony.  Caesar Augustus heard about her and decided to subject her to his dominion.  Then Augustus learned that the Jews of Ūrashalīm had refused obedience to him, and that the kingdom of Judah had not been ruled by the family of David since the time of their deportation at the hands of Bakhtanassar.  The Jews, in fact, do not recognize anyone as their king, even today, unless he is one of the descendants of David.  At that time there was a priest descended from David, named Aristūbal, who ruled the Jews instead of a king.  Augustus sent his general named Bitiyūs (4), who laid siege to Bayt al-Maqdis [Jerusalem] and conquered it.  He bound Aristobulus, priest of the Jews, together with a group of his men, and he sent them to Rome after imposing a personal tribute on the Jews.  Then he went away from them.  Among the Jews there arose serious disorder, and they elected as priest, instead of Aristobulus, his brother called Irqān (5).  Irqān had become friends with a man of Ascalon, named Antibatrus (6).  A native of Cyprus (7), he was a servant of the temple of idols and the father of Hirūdus.

The priest Hyrcanus appointed Herod, son of Antipater, to hunt down thieves, he being a very rude man.  But some residents of the Ghawr (8) made a raid on Bayt al-Maqdis, captured the priest Hyrcanus and killed Antipater, father of Herod.  The city was thus without an administrator and headless.  Herod ingratiated himself with the Rums [Romans] who resided in Bayt al-Maqdis, and gave them great wealth, thus becoming governor and leader of Bayt al-Maqdis.  Then Herod learned that Caesar Augustus, king of Rum, was on his way to Egypt in search of Cleopatra.  He met him in ar-Ramlah (9) bringing many gifts and he made with him a covenant of friendship.  When he arrived in Egypt, Augustus had Anthony, Cleopatra’s lieutenant, killed, and he went to Alexandria in search of Cleopatra to seize her, and expose her to ignominy and show her at Rum.  When Cleopatra heard that Caesar Augustus had killed her lieutenant Anthony, and had occupied Egypt, fearing to be exposed to mockery, and preferring to die, killed herself to avoid dishonour once she had fallen into his hands.  But she called two of her handmaidens, one named Abra, who combed her hair and made her beautiful, and the other named Mitriya, who cut her nails and dressed her, and commanded them to go into the garden and bring her the snake was called bāsīlidah (10).  That done, she tried it at first on the two maids who, bitten, died instantly.  Seeing that the viper caused death swiftly, [Cleopatra] took the crown, and she put on her head, every ornament of gold and silver, gems, corundum and chrysolido she had, then put on her royal robes, took the snake and pulled it to her left breast, because she knew that the heart is on the left side.  The snake bit her and [Cleopatra] died instantly.  When Caesar Augustus saw her, he was astonished by what she had done, and the fact that she had preferred death to a life of slavery and humiliation. They say that when King Caesar Augustus went in to her, he found her with her left hand grasping the crown, as to not have it fall from the head, and found her seated on a throne.  Others have said that, she wanting to die, injured her arm with a knife, to bring out the blood, and then took some snake venom that she had with her and putting it on the wound, she died instantly.  This took place in the twelfth year of the reign of Caesar Augustus.  Thus ended the reign of Cleopatra.

To be continued…


Severian of Gabala bibliography updated again

I received an email this evening telling me about four new English translations of homilies by Severian on the ascension; also that De Spiritu Sancto, as published by Migne, is missing the last 10 lines; and that the Clavis Patrum Graecorum Supplement has quite a bit of extra material.  Which, I find, it does.

I posted my bibliographic notes in this post, so I had better update them again.  These are not scholarly, just derived from whatever I have to hand, as a guide for commissioning translations.  But here they are:

  • Severian-of-Gabala-works (PDF)
  • Severian-of-Gabala-works (.docx)

Note: updated version here.


From my diary

A new job at the start of November, so I have been rather preoccupied.  But a little progress has been made.

I’ve commissioned a translation of the fragments of Theodore of Mopsuestia on Genesis.  The main part of this was published by Sachau from the Syriac, but there are also Greek fragments.  The tendency towards a  non-allegorical approach in the Antiochene writers means that what he has to say should be of interest even today.

I hope to get some translations made of some of the medieval Greek legendary hagiographical material about St Nicholas of Myra – also known as Santa Claus.  It is remarkable that no English translation exists of almost all this material, regardless of its evident lack of historical value.

It was my intention to do some work on a translation of the 10th century Arabic Christian writer Eutychius.  No time so far!

A little work has been done on the Mithras site – uploading a couple more monuments, as photographs became available – but nothing significant.

I’m not clear how much time I shall get at home at Christmas and New Year, but there will be more activity if I get the chance!


The life of St Nicholas of Myra in the “Methodius ad Theodorum”

Further to my post about the ancient literary sources for Santa Claus – or St Nicholas of Myra – I have begun to look at getting translations made.  The first up is the “letter” of Methodius to Theodore, Methodius Ad Theodorum, BHG 1352y, which appears in Anrich vol. 1, 140-150 and in a revised version (with punctuation and some mistakes fixed) in vol. 2 546-556.[1]

So … what is this text?  Has any translation ever been made?

The text is preserved in Vaticanus graecus 2084, a 10th c. manuscript.  I don’t know if it can be found in Migne?  Or if a Latin translation exists?

Here is what I was able to discover.  I found pages like this one, from which I learn things like:

The oldest encomium — praise in honor of St. Nicholas — is preserved from the beginning of the eighth century.  It was delivered at his grave site by St. Andrew of Crete (d. 740), who called him a “pillar and support of the Church” (P.G. 97, 1191-1206).

Jean Blacker’s book on the hagiographical works of Wace incidentally contains quite a bit about sources for the Vita of Nicholas of Myra, and points me to a book by Gerardo Cioffari, S. Nicola nella critica storia, 1987.  This apparently discusses Methodius ad Theodorum as “the narrative encomium” on p.75-77 and gives it a date of 817-21 AD.  The Amazon page suggests that Cioffari has written a lot on Nicholas, indeed.  A German site exists for Nicholas of Myra here, but I could not find anything on our text in it.  More interesting was an Italian Encyclopedia site here, which said that Cardinal Pitra (who worked with Migne) was interested in the text:

Pitra (pp. 353-355) elenca trentotto scritti di M. di cui si ricordano: Encomio di s. Agata (Bibliotheca hagiographica Graeca [=B.H.G.], I, n. 38; Stelladoro); Vitadi Eusebio Alessandrino (B.H.G. e Novum auctarium B.H.G., n. 635x); la già citata Vita di Eutimio di Sardi (Gouillard, 1987), che pare risalire al periodo della sua reclusione a Sant’Andrea e quindi all’inizio dell’832; Vita di s. Nicola di Mira (B.H.G., II, n. 1362y; il cosiddetto Methodius ad Theodorum: testo in Anrich), scritta probabilmente per Teodoro Cratero, tra l’821 e l’838 (Ševčenko, Hagiography, pp. 17 s.[2]); l’Encomio in s. Nicolaum ep. Myrrensis, collocabile intorno all’838-840, attribuito a M. dalla più antica tradizione manoscritta (ma alcuni preferiscono restituirlo a Basilio di Lacedemonia).

Which gives us a couple more references.  In fact, I see, in BHG II, entry 1362y does not exist in my copy of the 3rd edition.  I wonder where it is hidden?

It’s a reminder that, despite all the material online, there are vast swathes of knowledge that remain obstinately offline.

  1. [1]G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos, 2 vols, Leipzig, 1913.  This is accessible at Hathi Trust and there is a copy online elsewhere.
  2. [2]A. Bryer, J. Herrin, edd. Iconoclasm (Birmingham, 1977), esp. I. Sevcenko, “Hagiography of the Iconoclast Period,” 113-131 [= Ideology, Letters and Culture in the Byzantine World, (London:Variorum Reprints, 1982), V].

Half-way point on the British Library Greek manuscripts

A post on the British Library manuscripts blog tells me something once almost unimaginable: that fully half the Greek manuscripts in the collection are now online and accessible to the world 90% of the Greek manuscripts of the BL will be online by March.  All credit is due to Julian Harrison and his team for this massive work, and also to the Stavros Niarchos foundation –  never was Greek shipping money so well deployed! – and the other funding bodies.

The full list of 40 new manuscripts is at the blog above.  But here are the items which seem of most interest to us.  (And thanks to Cillian O’Hogan for making it much easier to write this list this time!)

  • Add MS 24372, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes: 1, 11, 14-16, 19, 21, 24, 38, 39, 40-45; 11th c.
  • Add MS 24381, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes, most being imperfect at the beginning, owing to miniatures which have been torn out. 1079 or 1088 AD.
  • Add MS 28823, John Zonaras, Commentary on the Canons of the Apostles, of the ecumenical and local councils and of the Fathers, and related texts. 4th quarter of the 14th century.
  • Add MS 28825, Greek translation of Ephraem the Syrian, Homilies, imperfect, and other patristic texts, including Isaiah of Gaza, Asceticon, Nilus of Ankara, Epistola ad Diaconum Achillium. Marcian of Bethlehem, and John of Lycopolis. 12th century.
  • Add MS 34554, Lives of saints and theological discourses, imperfect. 16th century.
  • Add MS 35212, John Chrysostom, In Genesim homiliae 10-17, imperfect. 11th century.
  • Add MS 36669, Apophthegmata Patrum: a compilation of the Greek Church Fathers, bearing the title Λειμὼν ἐνθάδε καρπῶν πεπληρωμένος. 14th century. In a 17th-century binding of boards covered with leather with gilt ornament, the centrepiece representing on the upper cover the Crucifixion, on the lower cover David and the angel of the Lord.
  • Add MS 36754, Basil of Caesarea, Homilies on the Hexameron and John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis, imperfect and mutilated. 11th century.
  • Add MS 36821, Works of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, with the marginal commentary of Maximus the Confessor, and additional texts relating to Pseudo-Dionysius. 1st half of the 10th century, possibly copied from an uncial manuscript of Pseudo-Dionysius written by Methodius, future Patriarch of Constantinople, at Rome.
  • Add MS 39608, John Chrysostom, In Genesim homiliae 1-133. 13th century.
  • Burney MS 100, Works of Aristotle, preceded by Porphyry, Isagoge. Italy, N? 1st half of the 15th century.
  • Burney MS 111, Ptolemy, Geographia, with many diagrams and coloured maps, all except that on f 1v being later fifteenth-century replacements on inserted leaves. 4th quarter of the 14th century-1st quarter of the 15th century.
  • Harley MS 5600, Homer, Iliad, with prefatory material. Florence, completed on 16 May 1466. With a full-page frontispiece in colours and gold on f 15v; a full white vine border in colours and gold on f 16r; 25 white vine initials in colours and gold.
  • Kings MS 16, Homer, Iliad. Italy, 1431.


Now how about making it possible to download a PDF of each manuscript?

UPDATE: A kind correspondent writes to advise me that this is actually the half way point of the current project; and that in fact 90% of all the mss will be online by the spring.  This is even better news!