Where to find remains of the Hippodrome seating today

A few days ago I posted some photographs of the 1950 excavations of the Hippodrome in Istanbul here.

Today I came across Eileen Stephenson’s Beginner’s Guide to the Hippdrome post, which includes photographs of various bits of the Hippodrome that I had not noticed on my own visit.  These include the seating that was excavated.

She writes:

Towards the end of our stay we visited the Turkish & Islamic Arts Museum, which was built across the square from the Blue Mosque and over some of the stands of the Hippodrome. In the lowest level of this museum you can find these remnants of the Hippodrome. …  Then another passageway with the remains of the stands.

Clearly well worth visiting!


From my diary

I’ve been mildly but definitely ill with the flu for more than three weeks now, and I am now convalescing.  I’ve taken advantage of my recovery to go through my backlog of blogging ideas, and turned them into posts.  The length of that list was rather daunting!

I attempted to obtain access to a copy of Myers, Hymns of Hilary of Poitiers, from Manchester University.  Apparently the university will only deal with members or ex-members of  the university, unless I travel there physically.  It’s a reminder of how useless physical libraries were.  They might hold a book, but they were devils in allowing you to access it.  It’s a shock, after finding things online so easily.

I have removed two modern translations of Juvenal from my shelf.  I shall use them only for reference, so I will slice them up and convert them to PDF.  For pleasure I read the old Loeb, which bowdlerises the worst of the filth.

I also have some guidebooks to Petra and Jerash, which have sat unused for more than 20 years.  I think they will go to Oxfam!

I must translate some more Eutychius.


Appealing for a photocopy – “The Hymns of Saint Hilary of Poitiers”, ed. Myers, 1928

I wonder if any of my readers have access to the following book: The hymns of Saint Hilary of Poitiers in the Codex Aretinus; an edition, with introduction, translation and notes, W.N.Myers, Philadelphia, 1928.  It’s 82 pages long.

Worldcat gives a long list of US universities that hold this volume.  So it’s not that rare.  It’s almost certainly out of copyright.  But I can’t get access to a copy where I am at the moment.

If you have access, and might be willing to copy the thing for me, please write to me using the blog contact form, which is here.  I’d be happy to pay any reasonable expenses.

Many thanks!


A genuine quote by Plato

Another quotation that I have come across is the following, attributed to Plato:

Who are the true philosophers? Those whose passion is to see the truth.


Who are the true philosophers? Those whose passion is to love the truth.

It sounds a bit cute, doesn’t it?  We have so many bogus quotes online.  But it turns out that this one really does represent Plato’s views, even if the words are a summary.  This commentary (online here) gives these exact words, as a summary of Republic, book 5, 475e.[1]  Looking at the old online Loeb, vol. 1 of the Republic, translated by Shorey, I see the sentiment is at the start of book 5, chapter 20, p.517.

XX, ” Whom do you mean, then, by the true philosophers? ” “Those for whom the truth is the spectacle of which they are enamoured,” said I.

Somewhat annoyingly I find that I have disposed of my copy of Sir Desmond Lee’s translation of the Republic in the Penguin series.  (I remember writing him a fan letter, to which he very courteously responded).  So here instead are the same lines in another modern translation:

“Who do you say are the true ones?” [philosophers] he said.
“The lovers of the sight of the truth,” I said.

More or less the same.  We may allow the “quote”.

  1. [1]R C Cross, A D Woozley, Plato’s Republic: A Philosophical Commentary, Springer (1979), p.139.

A few interesting items

Here are three items that might be of interest.  I had intended to blog about these, but they have sat in my inbox for more than six months, so clearly I never will.  So I thought I’d post a quick note about them.

Firstly, how many people know that there is an 1885 volumes, China and the Roman Orient, published in Shanghai, with text and English translation of a Chinese account of embassies to Antioch and Constantinople?  It was edited by F. Hirth, and can be found at Archive.org here.

Next, a dossier of documents relating to Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt (1798-1809) is online at the Bibliotheque Nationale Francais here.  I’m not certain what these are, but they look as if they might be the original drawings used to produce the Description de l’Egypte.  If so, it would be great to get behind the printed version.

Finally, among the manuscript digitisations at the Vatican library, is Barberini latini 2154 part B.  This is a manuscript containing the pictures from the Chronography of 354.  The Chronography was a lavishly illustrated volume of calendrical and other lists, produced by a known artist for a Roman nobleman in that year, complete with portraits of Constantius II and his nephew, the soon-to-be-disgraced Gallus.  The volume is lost, but copies of it, with or without the pictures, have reached us.  Long ago I found a printed version of the images and scanned it in; and I have enjoyed seeing those drift, unacknowledged, around the web.  But here are the originals.

We are fortunate to have such things online, aren’t we!


A dubious quote about devotion to Mary, attributed to Hilary of Poitiers

Some time ago I came across a rather odd quotation here.

No matter how sinful one may have been, if he has devotion to Mary, it is impossible that he be lost. – St Hilary of Poitiers.

Now that sounds like a very modern Roman Catholic position, rather than anything ancient. But did Hilary say it?

A couple of Hilary’s surviving works are in the NPNF translation here; On the Trinity, and On the Synods.  It’s easy enough to search these for “Mary”, and see if the quote is there.  It does not seem to be.

Hilary also wrote a number of letters to Constantius, and some historical stuff – hard to work out what is what -, at least some of which was translated in the Liverpool University Press series as Hilary of Poitiers: Conflicts of Conscience and Law in the Fourth-century Church by Lionel Wickham (1997).  There is also a Commentary on Matthew (translated in 2012 in the Fathers of the Church series, preview here), a Commentary on the Psalms (no translation known to me), and a De mysteriis (a French translation exists).

A collection of hymns also exists, edited by W.N.Myers for a dissertation in 1928: The hymns of Saint Hilary of Poitiers in the Codex Aretinus; an edition, with introduction, translation and notes.  It was published by the university of Pennsylvania, and is 82 pages long, according to Google Books, who have digitised it but not made it available.

Unfortunately I don’t have access to all these, so I can’t check more than the online material.  But little of this seems likely to contain our quote.

Google Books search by date range appears to be broken tonight.  But looking through the results, and also in Bing, it looks very much as if this “quote” first appears in the 21st century.

I think we must mark this one as highly suspect.  But until we can access the rest of Hilary’s works, we can’t know for sure.


Eutychius and the English Civil War

The Annals of the 10th century Arabic Christian writer Eutychius, also known as Sa`id ibn Bitriq, were printed for the first time, together with a Latin translation, during that curious period of history, the 1650s.  Charles I was dead, and the revolution had devolved into government by the army and the protector, Oliver Cromwell. Fanaticism was in the ascendant, and wearying the patience of all.

The editor and translator who achieved this feat was Edward Pococke, who held the professorships of Arabic and Hebrew at Oxford, and, amazingly managed to retain much of his academic connections despite the purges of the universities by the Commonwealth commissioners, and the opportunities this gave to the malicious or greedy.

A rather nice account of what happened may be found in G. J. Toomer, Eastern Wisedome and Learning: The Study of Arabic in Seventeenth-century England, Clarendon 1996.  I have only access to the Google Books preview, but it looks fascinating.

The Eutychius section begins on p.164.  Here is an excerpt.

The mover in this [project] was Selden, who wished to produce a complete edition and translation of the Annals of Eutychius, for which he had long borne an affection. At one time he contemplated doing this himself, for his own Latin translation of a large part of the work survives among his manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. However, in April 1652 he approached Langbaine with the proposal that the edition be printed at Oxford, at his own expense but under the supervision of Langbaine and Pococke, with a Latin translation which Pococke should make for the purpose.

On 11 May he put the same request to Pococke himself, who was reluctant, but felt that he could not refuse, since Selden had been so active in his promotion and defence. Twells has a long discussion of the reasons for Pococke’s reluctance, which he attributes primarily to Selden’s attempt (in his Eutychius, 1642) to use Eutychius to ‘bear down Episcopacy’, an attempt which Twells himself refutes at length. It is true that Pococke heartily disliked controversy, especially of the theological variety, but there was nothing of the kind in the book now projected by Selden, and it is absurd to suppose that he would feel himself compromised by the association with Selden’s earlier work. Rather, he must have disliked the delays in the publication of the Porta Mosis that this new task would entail.

Furthermore, Selden had idiosyncratic ideas about the right way to edit a text, and, although he had three manuscripts of the work available, insisted that the printed text should follow one of them to the letter, with any variants in the other two being consigned to the notes.[79]

Pococke was clearly unhappy with this practice, but perforce adopted it in the printed work. Above all, he knew how inferior as a historical source Eutychius’ Annals were in comparison with Abu ‘l-Faraj, and must have resented having to spend his time on this author when the other was still unpublished as a whole.

Pococke worked intermittently on the translation and correction of the text of the Eutychius from 1652 to 1654, by which time the book was substantially finished, and the title-page to the second volume already printed. Selden not only provided the paper for the edition, but also paid for Arabic type to be cast from the university’s matrices.

Twells mentions that a new puncheon and matrix were made for one letter at Pococke’s instance, and this story seems to have been generally accepted. The matter is indeed discussed by both Langbaine and Pococke in their correspondence with Selden (which reveals that the letter in question was dal). But the form of that letter in the printed Eutychius appears to be identical with that in earlier texts printed with the Oxford fount (e.g. those of John Greaves), so the plan must have been abandoned.

The publication of the work was delayed by the death of Selden, which occurred on 30 November 1654. In a codicil to his will he had bequeathed the whole edition of the Eutychius (500 copies) to Langbaine and Pococke, but it was published only in 1656, after Pococke had completed the notes (mainly listing variant readings), written the preface, and compiled extensive indices and a list of errata.

In the interval between 1654 and 1656, besides the distractions caused by the accusations of ‘insufficiency’ and by completing Porta Mosis, he had also been occupied with supervising the transfer of Selden’s oriental and other manuscripts to the Bodleian, where they had been donated.

Pococke’s preface to the Eutychius betrays his personal dissatisfaction with the work. He is distressed by the solecisms of the printed text which Selden’s editorial methods had imposed on him, and takes pains to document Eutychius’ untrustworthiness as a historian. Nevertheless, the translation is reliable, and given the paucity of any printed editions of Arabic historians at the time, it was a valuable contribution.

[79] This is explained by Pococke in his preface to the publication. This rule, and others which he insisted on, are listed by Selden in MS Selden supra 109, fol. 348.

Remarkable stuff for the disordered period of the Commonwealth.  For in such periods, when men are tested for their loyalty to this or that arbitrary principle, there are not lacking unscrupulous men who see their path to wealth by making accusations.  P.158-9 describe Pococke’s trials, even though he was a man who was obviously a bookworm and no harm to anyone.  In the preface to his Eutychius he refers to the “malitia plane insuperabili” which distracted him from his work on the volume.  He was denounced by some of his parishioners, who had a grudge about tithes, to the commissioners whose duty it was to remove idle and incompetent ministers.  Everyone testified for him.

However, it took the personal intervention of some eminent members of the university, headed by John Owen, the puritanical Vice-Chancellor, and himself one of the Commissioners appointed by Cromwell, to convince the County Commissioners ‘of the infinite contempt and reproach which would certainly fall upon them, when it should be said, that they had turned out a man for insufficiency, whom all the learned, not of England only, but of all Europe, justly admired for his vast knowledge, and extraordinary accomplishments’.

We could use a revival in Arabic learning today.  Would it really be so difficult or expensive to translate the whole of Arabic literature to 1500 into English?  But has there ever been a period of history in which such gigantic gestures were practical politics?  I fear not.


A June 1935 photograph of the Sphendone in Istanbul

Tourists who visit the Hippodrome in Istanbul are usually unaware that the far end is in fact supported by Byzantine masonry, as the land falls away on that side.  The construction is called the sphendone.  These days a Turkish official building sits on top of it.

Here’s a particularly nice photograph of the sphendone, as it appeared in June 1935.  I found it at DOAKS here, part of the Nicholas Artamonoff collection (Negative Number:  RA64; Reaccession Number: ICFA.NA.0021)

Very sharp, and very clear!  Lovely.  I must go and look at the sphendone if I can ever return to Istanbul!


Photos of archaeological work in the Hippodrome in Istanbul

A couple of photographs appeared on Twitter last year, from the @ByzantineLegacy account, of the 1950 excavations of the Hippodrome in Istanbul undertaken by Rüstem Duyuran.  Here’s the first:

That looks like some of the seating, today invisible, to my ignorant eyes.

This seems to be from the account of @Seda_Ozen, who also published two more:

Definitely the stadium steps!


I wonder if there is an account of the excavations in English or French anywhere?

UPDATE: A kind commenter points us to a summary of the research in English here, and with an additional picture:

PDFs can disappear, so let me record the salient bits here.  The article is by Meryem Arlette Cenani, “A summary of archaeological research in Turkey in 1950”, published by the Touring and Automobile Club of Turkey in 1952.  She writes:


Situated close to the Mesa or Middle Street, to St. Sophia and to the Emperors’ Great Palace, the Hippodrome was not only the meeting-place of chariot-racing enthusiasts, but also the starting-point of numerous political riots and revolutions.lt thus played an active and very important part in the history of Byzantium since the IVth century A.D.

Its axis, the «Spina», was decorated with rare works of art and monuments, some of which remained in situ to this day and can be seen on the Sultanahmet Meydam in Istanbul. The seats were built around the race-track, with the Imperial box in the place of honour.

North-West of the Great Palace and the Hippodrome, were the residences of high dignitaries of the Empire and, among these, the beautiful palaces of Lausos, patrician and governor under the Emperor Arcadius (395/408 A.D.) and of Antiochos who was councillor to young Theodosius II (408/450 A.D.). He later attained the highest honours but died a priest. His name was given to the quarter of Byzantium where he had lived and the Antiochos Gate was one of the main entrances to the Hippodrome.

Small churches and other monuments existed in the vicinity, but they disappeared in the course of time.

In 1950, while laying the foundations of a Court of Justice, so many valuable fragments were brought to light that the Museum of Antiquities at Istanbul intervened and began, with the support of the Ministry of education, the systematic excavation of the site, recording and preservating, whenever possible, important remains, under the supervision of Bay Rustem Duyuran, Assistant Director.

Two areas were excavated:

A) . Buildings grouped around the Martyrion of St. Euphemia (Vth century A.D.) excavated in 1942 by Dr. A. M. Schneider, of the German Archaeological Institute at Istanbul.

The church of St. Euphemia was adjacent to a «porticus semirotunda», a semi-circular portico, the axis of which was parallel to the Hippodrome. Excavations in 1950 showed that the building, which subsequently became the Martyrion, was originally the center of a complex of rooms disposed along this portico, the whole being part of a large palace. It is hoped that further excavations will enable the more exact designation of the ruins uncovered, as they coincide with the emplacement where the palaces of Lausos and Antiochos had once stood.

Traces of frescoes were discovered on the walls of a small church close to St. Euphemia. Both its floor and that of another building nearby were covered with «opus sectile» polychrome marble pavements of floral and geometric designs.

A IXth century frescoe of the Deisis (Adoration of Christ), already published by Dr. Schneider, was brought to light West of St. Euphemia, as well as another wall-painting representing a cross among flowers, which probably belongs to the period of the Latin conquest of Constantinople (XIIIth century A.D.).

B) . Archaeological remains connected with the Hippodrome.

This area is close to the Atmeydani and parallel to it. Six rows of seats «in situ» were first excavated. The lowest row is almost on level with the Atmeydani. A trench dug in front of the seats struck the Hippodrome pavement at a depth of 4 m, 46.

The thick sustaining wall back of the seats was cleared on a length of approximately 70 m. Behind it was a staircase leading to the highest row. Back of this staircase, a wide street appeared. It was paved with dark grey stones and a canal ran under it in a North to South direction.

According to the building technique and the materials used, the earliest structures belong to the period of Septimus Severus (beginning of the third century A.D.).

A bath ends the street on the West. Although rebuilt in early Turkish times, it was originally Byzantine. On either side of it was a marble staircase. The stairs on the right lead to a semi-circular gateway consisting of four steps: this probably was the famous Antiochos Gate.

A third area (C), lying between the Hippodrome and St. Euphemia, is to be excavated in 1951-52.

Soundings made in the «Earliest Level», the thickness of which is of 40/50 cm. over virgin soil, uncovered potsherds ranging from the IVth century B.C. to late Roman times. Although Byzantine and Islamic pottery was abundant all over the excavations, the disturbed state of the ground, into which so many foundations had been dug at all periods, prevents strati graphical study.

About 40 copper coins of the 9th/11th centuries and numerous stamped bricks were collected as well as bronze candelabra and clay lamps.

Archaeologists are indebted to the Turkish Government who enabled them to hold up the construction of the new Court of Justice in order to carry out these excavations which are of the highest importance for the historical and topographical study of Byzantium and have awakened a world-wide interest.

She adds:

Most of the information in this summary is extracted from the journals «Anatolian Studies», Vol. 1, 1951 and «Anadolu» No. 1, 1951.

Unfortunately Anatolian Studies (which is on JSTOR) does not refer to the Hippodrome excavations.  Anadolu is online here, but dates from 1956.

But all this is certainly more than we knew before! Thank you!


Mithras in Greece – some new locations

An article online by Michael Petropoulos, “Roman interventions in the city-plan of Patras”,[refP.65, online here.[/ref], contains a paragraph about Mithras.  This I found by googling for “Μίθρα”.  The article is in Greek, but thanks to the miracle of Google Translate, we can get an idea of its contents:

Μία ακόμη ανατολική λατρεία, αυτή του Μίθρα, αν και δεν αναφέρεται από τον Παυσανία, επιβεβαιώνεται εντούτοις από την ανεύρεση αναγλύφου που φέρει παράσταση Μίθρα Ταυροκτόνου και λατινική επιγραφή 152. Και η εισαγωγή της λατρείας του Πέρση Θεού οφείλεται στους Ρωμαίους βετεράνους στρατιώτες 153, στους οποίους ο Αύγουστος παραχώρησε γαίες 154. Και αυτή η λατρεία, όπως και της Ίσιδος, είναι γνωστή και στο Αίγιο, όπου εντοπίστηκε πρόσφατα το λατρευτικό του σπήλαιο 155, το οποίο δημοσιεύτηκε από τη συνάδελφο Ε. Κόλια. Αν, πράγματι, η λατρεία του Μίθρα ήλθε στην Πάτρα με τη ρωμαϊκή μορφή της, όπως υποστηρίζει ο Ν. Παπαχατζής, τότε και ο ναός αυτός πρέπει να βρισκόταν στην περιοχή της αγοράς, σύμφωνα με όσα έχομε ήδη υποστηρίξει. Ένα υπόγειο καμαροσκέπαστο κτήριο στις οδούς Ηλείας 6 και Παναγούλη 156, ανάμεσα στην Aedes Augustalium και το κτήριο με την επιγραφή του Αγρίππα Ποστούμου στην οδό Λόντου 24, αν και δεν βοηθούν τα κινητά του ευρήματα, εντούτοις μπορεί να θεωρηθεί ότι πρόκειται για το Μιθραίο, μόνον εξαιτίας της υπόγειας μορφής του.

Which comes out as:

Another Eastern cult, that of Mithras, although not mentioned by Pausanias, is nevertheless confirmed by the finding of an embossment featuring a Mithras Tauroctonus, and a Latin inscription. 152  The introduction of the worship of the Persian God is due to the Roman veteran soldiers,153, to whom Augustus gave land 154. This cult, like that of Isis, is also known in Aigio, where his cult 155, which was published by E. Kolia, was recently located. If, indeed, the cult of Mithras came to Patra in its Roman form, as N. Papachatzis argues, then that temple should have been in the market place, according to what we have already argued. An underground vaulted building on the streets of Ilia 6 and Panagouli 156, between the Aedes Augustalium and the building with the inscription of Agrippa Kostomou at 24 Lontou street, although its movable finds are of no assiatnce, can be considered to be the Mithraeum, purely because of its underground form.

The non-Greek references for the tauroctony:

  • HERBILLON J., Les cultes de Patras, Baltimore-London (1929)
  • RIZAKIS A.D. 1998, Achaie II: La cité de Patras: Épigraphie et Histoire, (ΜΕΛΕΤΗΜΑΤΑ 25), Αθήνα. Online here.
  • OSANNA M. 1996, Santuari e culti dell’ Acaia antica, Napoli.

And for the Aigion Mithraeum:

  • KOLIA Ε., “Eine Kulturgrotte des Mithras in Aigion. Aspekte der Mithrasverehrung in Achaia”, AM 118 (2003), 398-427.

The Rizakis article tells us that  Vermaseren caught this one, that it is CIMRM 2351-2.  Fortunately I already have some details on this here.