The New Jerusalem like a bride in Rev. 21:2 and Christ as bridegroom

An interesting enquiry on Twitter here:

Who is the very first commentator to apply to Rev 21:2 (the New Jerusalem) the analogy of Christ as bridegroom to his Church? I’m looking for the very beginnings of this tradition and a nice juicy source on its dissemination.

Let’s have Revelation 21:2 first:

21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Probably the answer to this question is to consult some database of patristic references to scripture, like BIBLINDEX.  Unfortunately this is very laborious to use.

Another alternative is to look at the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) series.  There is a volume on Revelation, and this has quotations on Rev. 21:2.

The very interesting introduction (p.xx) informs us of commentaries in the west from the “commentary of Victorinus of Petovium through those of Tyconius, Primasius, Apringius, Caesarius of Arles, the Venerable Bede,” and later medieval writers.  Victorinus died ca. 304.  In the east “no Greek commentary of the Revelation appears before the sixth century (Oecumenius and Andrew of Caesarea), and that after the commentary of Arerhas (c. 900), who largely works over the commentary of Andrew of Caesarea, no additional commentary of significance arises…”.

On p.364 we find the material on Rev. 21:2.  Three of these refer to the matter at hand.

It begins with Primasius:

By the testimony of the Truth this is the “city set on a hill.” Also Isaiah says, “The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised above the hills.”‘ [Isaiah says this] either because of the height of its righteousness, of which we read, ‘Your righteousness is like the mountains of God,” or because both the apostles and the prophets are called mountains. However, being more excellent than all others, the Lord Christ towers as a mountain above the heights of mountains, and from his fullness, it says, we receive grace for grace. Fittingly he says [that the city comes] down our of heaven from God, for [the church’s] beauty will then be seen more fully, when through the Spirit, by whom her bridegroom is believed to have been conceived and born, she has merited to bear the heavenly image. Therefore, it is this very bride that is this city. – Commentary on the Apocalypse 21.9-10.”

Next, Caesarius of Arles:

By the mountain he refers to Christ It is the church, the city established on the mountain, that is the bride of the Lamb. The city is then established on the mountain when on the shoulders of the Shepherd it is called back like a sheep to its own sheepfold. For were the church one and the city coming down from heaven another, there would be two brides, which is simply not possible. He has called this city the “bride” of the Lamb, and therefore it is clear that it is the church itself that is going to be described. – Exposition on the Apocalypse 21.10, Homily 19.

Finally Andrew of Caesarea:

That he was “carried away in the Spirit” indicates that through the Spirit he was elevated in his mind from earthly things to the contemplation of heavenly realities. The image of the “great mountain” indicates the sublime and transcendent life of the saints, in which the wife of the Lamb, the Jerusalem above, will be made beautiful and glorified by God. – Commentary on the Apocalypse 11.10-11.

The Venerable Bede is worth quoting also:

After the destruction of Babylon, the holy city, which is the bride of the Lamb, is seen located on a mountain. The stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands broke the image of the world’s glory into small pieces, and it grew into a great mountain and filled the whole world. Explanation oh the Apocalypse 21.10.

In truth the link between the New Jerusalem and the Church and Christ as the bridegroom is pretty obvious in the biblical text.

Now Primasius is supposed to be based on Tyconius and Augustine, De civitate Dei, 20.7-17.  The latter is online in English here but I could not see any discussion of our point.

Tyconius has been reconstructed from Primasius recently, and an English translation of the reconstruction exists.  Tyconius, Exposition of the Apocalypse, in: Fathers of the Church 134, (2017) p.181, is as follows:

Chapter Twenty-One

[1] And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth have gone away. And the sea is no more. [2] And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. [3] And I heard a loud voice from heaven, saying: Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men; and he will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] And he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will no longer be death, and there will no longer be pain. The first things have passed away.

He calls this “Jerusalem” the church, by recapitulating from the passion of Christ up to the day on which she rises and, having triumphed with Christ, she is crowned in glory. He mixes each time together, now the present, now the future, and declares more fully when she is taken with great glory by Christ and is separated from every incursion of evil people.

How this relates to the text of Primasius is not obvious, but not our concern here.

So our winner is … Tyconius!


Arius to Eusebius of Nicomedia: the Son is “fully God”

The Da Vinci Code has spawned a host of people who believe that the First Council of Nicaea voted on whether Jesus was God.  I tend to correct such people by pointing out that Arius himself calls the Son, “fully God”, in his letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia (321 AD).  I usually include a paragraph from the translation of Henry Bettenson, Documents of the Christian Church, 1947, p.55 (online here), as a particularly clear statement of this:

Eusebius, your brother, Bishop of Caesarea, Theodotus, Paulinus, Athanasius, Gregory, Aetius, and all the other bishops of the East, have been condemned for saying that God existed, without beginning, before the Son; except Philogonius, Hellanicus and Macarius, men who are heretics and unlearned in the faith; some of whom say that the Son is an effluence, others a projection, others that he is co-unbegotten.

To these impieties we cannot even listen, even though the heretics threaten us with a thousand deaths. But what we say and think we both have taught and continue to teach; that the Son is not unbegotten, nor part of the unbegotten in any way, nor is he derived from any substance; but that by his own will and counsel he existed before times and ages fully God, only-begotten, unchangeable.

This evening I noticed that not every translation of this letter reads this way.  So I wondered just what the Greek said.

The letter is transmitted to us by Theodoret, Historia Ecclesiastica, book 1, chapter 5 (although in the NPNF version it is mysteriously chapter 4).  The text is edited in the GCS series, and the key passage appears on p.26-27.  In fact the key words are the very first two words on p.27.  And there are no variants!  Here’s the text:

And there it is: πλήρης θεός – pleres theos, fully God.  Pleres indeed can mean complete as well as full, as we see in LSJ.  But the idea is pretty clear.

I did wonder if there was a variant.  After all, everybody knows that Arius did not think that the Son was God in the same way as the Father.  I fully expected to see someone “correct” the text to fix what it said, to  bring it into accordance with the known views of Arius.  But the GCS does not list one.

But Theodoret is not our only source for the letter of Arius.  It is also transmitted by Epiphanius in the Panarion, 69.6.  This also was edited in the GCS series, by Holl.  On p.157 (here) we find the text as follows:

with apparatus:

Here Holl is proposing an emendation.  But the text as transmitted is still πλήρης θεός – pleres theos, fully God.

There are also two ancient Latin versions of the letter of Arius.  The first is by Candidus Arianus, which appears among the works of Marius Victorinus.  The other is found in an 8th century manuscript from Cologne Cathedral.  Both of these say “plenus deus”, “fully God”.  (I have written a separate post on these  here).

The letter was also edited by H.-G. Optiz in the Athanasius Werke III/1, as “Urkunden zur Geschichte des arianischen Streites” (= “Documents for the history of the Arian dispute”) 1934, Urk. 1 (= Doc. 1) accessible online here.  Optiz did something a little odd: he simply inserted Holl’s conjecture into the text:

With apparatus:

This refers to Holl, and to John 1:14

14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας· (SBL)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (ESV)

But there seems no pressing reason to introduce this into the text as transmitted.

The NPNF translator rendered πλήρης θεός as “perfect God”, doubtless thinking of the Latin “perfectus”, completed.

However the translation at the excellent Fourth Century site here is different: it follows Optiz.

(4.) We are not able to listen to these kinds of impieties, even if the heretics threaten us with ten thousand deaths.  But what do we say and think and what have we previously taught and do we presently teach?  — that the Son is not unbegotten, nor a part of an unbegotten entity in any way, nor from anything in existence, but that he is subsisting in will and intention before time and before the ages, full <of grace and truth,> God, the only-begotten, unchangeable.

The translation is in fact that of R. P. C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God, 1988, as they make plain.  Hanson page 6:

Which is what Optiz give us.

All the same, we have to work with what Theodoret and Epiphanius and the Latin witnesses record, and what Arius wrote.  The old heretic definitely wrote “fully God”.  What he actually meant by this, of course, was the subject of the Arian disputes.  But he did not believe that the Son was not God.

Note: My sincere thanks to A. von Stockhausen for telling me about Epiphanius and the Optiz text in the comments below, with the very useful links.  I have revised this post to include this very valuable information.


Some further notes on Primasius

Following my post of yesterday, I have gleaned a few more details on Primasius of Hadrumetum and his commentary on Revelation (Commentarius in Apocalypsin).

A better account of his life and actions can be found in the old 19th century Dictionary of Christian Biography volumes, with references, here.  It reads:

Primasius, bp. of Adrumetum or Justinianopolis, in the Byzacene province of N. Africa. He flourished in the middle of 6th cent., and exercised considerable influence on the literary activity of the celebrated theological lawyer JUNILIUS, who dedicated to him his Institutes, which spread the views of Theodore of Mopsuestia in the West. Primasius first comes before us in a synod of his province in 541, the decrees of which are known only through Justinian’s decrees confirming them, as given in Baronius, Ann. 541, n. 10–12. He was sent to Constantinople in connexion with the controversy on the Three Chapters c. 551. He assisted in the synod which pope Vigilius held against Theodore Ascidas and was still in Constantinople during the session of the fifth general council, but took no part in it, notwithstanding repeated solicitations (Mansi, ix. 199 seq.). He was one of 16 bishops who signed the Constitutum of pope Vigilius, May 14, 553. When, however, Vigilius accepted the decrees of the fifth council, Primasius signed them also. According to Victor Tunun. (Migne’s Patr. Lat. t. lxviii. col. 959), other motives conspired to bring about this change. He was at first exiled to a convent, and then the death of Boethius, primate of the Byzacene, aroused his ambition to be his successor. He gained his point, but, returning home, his suffragans denounced him as guilty of sacrilege and robbery. He died soon afterwards. His writings (ib. pp. 407–936) embrace commentaries on St. Paul’s Epp. and the Apocalypse; likewise a treatise (now lost), de Haeresibus, touching on some points which Augustine did not live to treat with sufficient fullness (Isid. HispaI.Vir. lll. xxii. in ib. lxxxiii. 1095; Cave, i. 525; Tillem. xiii. 927, xvi. 21). Our Primasius is sometimes confounded with bp. Primasius of Carthage. The best account of Primasius of Adrumetum is in Kihn’s Theodor von Mopsuestia, pp. 248–254, where a critical estimate is formed “of the sources of his exegetical works. [CHILIASTS.] Cf. also Zahn, Forschungen, iv. 1–224 (1891).

A kind correspondent linked to a study by Haussleiter from 1887.[1].

I was able to learn of the following manuscripts of the Commentarius in Apocalypsin:, partly from Haussleiter, partly from a wonderful twitter thread by Colleen Curran.  (When will somebody start a project like Pinakes for Latin mss?)

  • Oxford, Bodleian, ms. Douce 140.   Late 7th / early 8th century.  This was in England in the Anglo-Saxon period.
  • Kassel, MS Theol. fol. 24.  9th century.  From Fulda.
  • A = Codex Augiensis 222.  Late 8th / early 9th century.  Originally from Reichenau.  But Curran gives this as “Karlsruhe, MS 212 (s.vii, Reichenau)”.
  • C = Paris 2185, once the Colbertinus.  Partly 10th c., partly 11-12th.  Originally from Corbie.
  • G = Paris 13390, once the Sangermanensis 94.  9th century.  Also from Corbie.

In Becker’s Catalogi of old medieval libraries, various copies of Primasius seem to have existed.

  • 2 distinct copies at Reichenau in 822 AD, nos. 348 and 349 in the catalogue.
  • 1 copy at St Riquier in 831, no. 191.
  • 1 copy in two volumes at St. Gall in one catalogue of the 9th century, nos. 272-3, but only one volume in another catalogue of the same century, this time bound with Gregory but labelled as “corrupt”.
  • 1 copy at Bobbio in the 10th century in two volumes.
  • 1 copy at St Bertin in the 12th century, no. 211.
  • 1 copy at Corbie in the 12th century, no. 253.
  • The same single copy in the catalogue of Corbie of ca. 1200, no. 209.

The editio princeps of Primasius appears to be in 1535 in Cologne.  This was unknown to Haussleiter.  The manuscript used is attributed to Jean de Gagny, who seems to have had access to all sorts of monastic libraries in France at this period.

It is delightful to find this edition is online, at the Bayerische StaatsBibliothek (BSB), here.

The most easily available edition is that of the Patrologia Latina, 68, cols. 793-936.  This may be found from the links on the right.  There is a modern CCL 92 edition, which of course is inaccessible to most people, so I have not seen it.

Here’s the Latin for the prologue.  I initially scanned Haussleiter – scanning the PL text is a nightmare – but the PL was at least printed by someone who understood it, so I have added back in the capitals at the start of sentences and converted “Jotor” to “Jethron”, which is plainly what it should be, changed elitist spellings and generally changed it back to something that a normal person could work with.  I’ve had rather enough of working with partly corrupt Latin texts lately.

Prologus. Tuis, vir inluster et religiose Castor, suasionibus adquiescens, sic librum Apocalypsis beati Johannis multis mysteriis opacatum, in adjutorio domini nostri Jesu Christi, licet exiguis susceperem viribus exponendum, ut non meis solis tantum fuerim contentus inventis, sed quamquam numero pauca, si qua tamen a sancto quoque Augustino testimonia exinde exposita forte reperi, indubitanter adjunxi.  Sed etiam a Ticonio Donatista quondam certa, quae sano congruunt sensui, defloravi, et ex eis quae elegenda fuerant, exundantia reprimens, importuna resecans, et impolita componens, catholico moderamine temperavi.  Multa quippe in ipso eius opere reperi et supervacua, et inepta et sanae doctrinae contraria, ita ut et de causa, quae inter nos et illos vertitur, secundum pravitatem cordis sui loca nocentia captaret, nostraeque ecclesiae noxia expositione putaret mordaciter illudendum.  Nec mirum, quod haereticus rem sibi congruam fecerit, sed vel quod invenire potuit defloranda, quod tamen ille facere iniuste temptavit, nobis cura fuit, locorum opportunitatibus nactis, veraciter exsequi, eorumque errorem convincendo cassare.   Sicut enim preciosa in stercore gemma prudenti debet curare, collegi, et reperta dignitati ingenuae revocari, ita undecumque veritas clareat, catholicae defeudenda est unitati.  Huic enim soli competit quicquid veritas foris etiam personarit.  Juste namque fides a perfidis collegit, quod sui iuris esse cognoverit.  Nec prodesse potest alienis usurpatum sed filiis, cum iuri matris fuerit redditum.  Sic autem Donatistae hinc extolli non debent, sicut de sermone Caiphae quem dixit:  Expedit ut unus homo moriatur pro populo (John 11), Judaei non debent gloriari.  Sed nec nostris esse debet offensio.  Si qua enim fuerint ecclesiasticis utilitatibus profutura, nostris sunt instructionibus applicanda neque attendenda persona dicentis, sed qualitas consideranda est dictionis. Sic Moyses (Exod. 19), eruditus omni sapientia Aegyptiorum, post divini sermonis alloquium, cuius pridem meruit beari consortio, Jethron socerum suum, mitissimus rudem, peritus ignarum, magister copiosae multitudinis singularem, Israhelita gentilem devotus audivit, eiusque consilium sequens, mox utilitatem praedictam invenit.  Cum regendi populi communicanda per multos onera partiretur, specialiter levigatus, sic certe ab ethnicis auctoribus probabiliter dicta et apostolicis praedicationibus sociata nostro profectui usu meliore cesserunt, unde tamen non sinuntur gloriari gentiles.

Extenditur autem hoc opus in libros quinque.  Quorum lectio qualem studiosis sit latura profectum, experimento melius quam nostra pollicitatione probabitur.  Verum quia pro diversitatibus opinantium, diversis me modis arbitror fore culpandum, cum alii de huius operis coeperint prolixitate causari, alii autem libri profunda pensantes de exiguitate magis censuerint arguendum.  Tali primos reor sermone placandos, quod satius me fatear de paucitate notandum, eo quod latentem ibi mysteriorum plenitudinem divinorum nec penetrare conpetenter queverim, nec ea quidem quae intellegi potuerunt, idoneo valuerim sermone proferre. Secundis vero hoc alloquio satisfactionis insinuem, nihil me dominis conservisque meis malivole subtraxisse, sed ignorantiae confessione de exiguitate malle veniam postulare.  Si enim experto non crederem, sancti tamen Hieronymi edoctus sententia didicissem, qui de hoc libro docens dicit: ‘Apocalypsis Johannis tot tibi sacramenta quot verba: parum dixi et pro merito columinis laus omnis inferior est.  In verbis singulis multiplices latent intellegentiae.’  His intercedentibus, et veniam humilis confessio promeretur et praecelsi dignitas libri credentibus saltem, etsi necdum intellegentibus, innotescat.  Nam cum intellegentibus alibi raro interponi soleat tropica proprietati narratio, hic tamen aut frequenter intexitur, aut condensior figura sensus generatur ex altera, aut una eademque res sic variis profertur adumbrata figuris, ut non eadem credatur repeti potuisse, sed altera, quod et in principio Ezechielis et in aliquibus Danihelis visionibus invenitur, sed hic amplius.  Pro qua re me infirmem nostis vestris amplius orationibus adiuvandum.

I’ve not translated this, but let us note his description of getting material from Tyconius: “jewels from a dunghill” (“preciosa in stercore gemma”).

  1. [1]J. Haussleiter, “Leben und Werke des Bischofs Primasius von Hadrumetum: Eine Untersuchung”, Erlangen (1887), online

Primasius and his Commentary on Revelation

Few will have heard of Primasius, bishop of Hadrumetum in Vandal Africa.  What little we know about him comes from the obscure chronicle by Victor of Tunnuna (who is NOT Victor of Vita),[1] and from Isidore of Seville (De viris illustribus 22).  The Italian continuation of Quasten’s Patrology published by Marietti (Patrologia IV: I padri latini (secoli V-VIII)) tells us:

On Primasius we are informed by Victor of Tunnuna and Isidore (Vir. Ill. 22).  Bishop of Hadrumetum, he was among the African bishops summoned to Constantinople in 551 because of the controversy over the Three Chapters.  Initially he took a position against Justinian and did not participate in the council of 553.  In consequence he was exiled to a monastery.  But then, according to Victor, in order to obtain the position of primate of the late Roman province of Byzacena, roughly equivalent to modern Tunisia, he sided with the emperor and began to persecute the defenders of the Three Chapters.

His Commentarius in Apocalypsin in five books is also mentioned by Cassiodorus (Inst. I, 9).  This is presented in the prologue as a work of compilation, based upon Augustine – although Primasius notes that Augustine had never written a commentary on Revelation as such – and Tyconius.  Tyconius had been a Donatist, so Primasius took care to declare this, and that he had selected the best bits, taken the gem out of the dung, etc.  …

Apparently Primasius also wrote three books on Heresies, to bring up to date the catalogue of Augustine.  Cassiodorus knew the first book of this, but it has not reached us.  The work under his name in PL 68 is the commentary of Pelagius on Paul, reworked by Cassiodorus, and supplemented by a work by Halberstadt.

CPL 873-4; PL 68, 793-936; PLS 4, 1208-1221; A.W.Adams, Commentarius in Apocalypsin CCL 92 (1985). …

Which is useful stuff as far as it goes.

The commentary only survived in seven manuscripts.  Strangely it is easier to find one of these in Google than anything else.  This, the oldest manuscript, is Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 140, which is late 7th century.  A page of it, fol. 4r, following the preface and the capitula for book 1, is shown here at the British Library website; the ms. is online here and here.

I have not been able to find any trace of a translation into any language, which is most curious.  However a reconstruction of Tyconius, by Roger Gryson, largely extracted from Primasius, has been translated into both English and French.  I do not object; but it does seem odd that a hypothetical book should receive translation while a real book does not.

  1. [1]The chronicle has been translated in John R. C. Martyn, Arians and Vandals of the 4th-6th centuries, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008.

Augustine’s “De ordine” and his comment on prostitution

One of the earliest works of St Augustine is a work that he wrote in 386 AD at a country villa while preparing for baptism.  It is one of a number of works that he wrote at that time.  Augustine had just abandoned his job as a teacher of philosophy, but the milieu is still that of late philosophy.

The work is De ordine, “On Order”, which Robert P. Russell, the first translator, revised to a more meaningful “Divine Providence and the Problem of Evil”.[1]  The work is concerned with explaining how God controls everything that happens in the world, even the bad things, although he is not responsible for them.  Given in dialogue form, it records a discussion between Augustine and his friends and a couple of students.

In De ordine book 2, chapter 4, we read the following statement:

TRYGETIUS: … Indeed, the entire life of the unwise, although it is by no means consistent and by no means well regulated by themselves, is, nevertheless, necessarily included in the order of things by Divine Providence. And, certain places having been arranged, so to speak, by that ineffable and eternal law, it is by no means permitted to be where it ought not to be. Thus it happens that whoever narrow-mindedly considers this life [the life of the “unwise”] by itself alone is repelled by its enormous foulness, and turns away in sheer disgust. But, if he raises the eyes of the mind and broadens his field of vision and surveys all things as a whole, then he will find nothing unarranged, unclassed, or unassigned to its own place.’

AUGUSTINE: … Now, you were looking for just one or two illustrations for that opinion of yours. To me there already occur countless illustrations which bring me to complete agreement.

What more hideous than a hangman? What more cruel and ferocious than his character? Yet he holds a necessary post in the very midst of laws, and he is incorporated into the order of a well-regulated state; himself criminal in character, he is nevertheless, by others’ arrangement, the penalty of evildoers.

What can be mentioned more sordid, more bereft of decency, or more full of turpitude than prostitutes, procurers, and the other pests of that sort? Remove prostitutes from human affairs, and you will unsettle everything because of lusts; place them in the position of matrons, and you will dishonor these latter by disgrace and ignominy. This class of people is, therefore, by its own mode of life most unchaste in its morals; by the law of order, it is most vile in social condition.

And is it not true that in the bodies of animals there are certain members which you could not bear to look at, if you should view them by themselves alone? But the order of nature has designed that because they are needful they shall not be lacking, and because they are uncomely they shall not be prominent. And these ugly members, by keeping their proper places, have provided a better position for the more comely ones.[2]

(Paragraphing mine).  The argument is fundamentally one in which Augustine is trying to explain how God controls evil and makes a use of it, assigning it a role in our broken society, but does not endorse it or take responsibility for it.  The examples are incidental.  Augustine was not describing how a society should be, but how his society was.  The social order of the Western Roman Empire was pagan to the end.

Unfortunately this idea, that prostitution and pimping were a necessary evil, like the hangman, was picked up by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa theologica, 2a 2ae, q. 10. a; 11. c, who used it to illustrate the idea that human legislators may at times permit certain evils for the purpose of avoiding greater ones.  This led to the awful institution of legalised brothels in Catholic countries, the abuse of women for profit, even in Rome itself.[3]

As the Fathers of the Church editor is keen to point out, Augustine spoke rather more clearly in Contra Faustum Manichaeum, book 22, chapter 61 (Latin here, English here):

Consulta quippe aeterna lex illa, quae ordinem naturalem conservari iubet, pertubari vetat, non nisi propagationis causa statuit hominis concubitum fieri, et hoc non nisi socialiter ordinato connubio, quod non pervertat vinculum pacis: et ideo prostitutio feminarum, non ad substituendam prolem, sed ad satiandam libidinem propositarum, divina atque aeterna lege damnatur.

Obviously by that eternal law, which commands that the natural order be conserved, and forbids it to be disturbed, human sex is not established to happen unless for the cause of propagation, and this not unless a marriage has taken place, so that the bond of peace is not overthrown/corrupted: and likewise the prostitution of women who offer themselves, not for the begetting of offspring but for the sating of lust, is condemned by the divine and eternal law.

The “bond of peace” is of course the institution of marriage.  Certainly this indicates that Augustine reaffirms that prostitution is wrong.

It is remarkable what men will do to justify an evil, if they stand to profit by it.  Indeed only this week I came across someone campaigning to “legalise prostitution”.  Prostitution is legal; it is pimping that is not, so the campaign is to permit the legal trade in women to resume.  I pointed out that prostitution was awful; and he had the cheek to ask me sneerily, “Why is prostitution awful”.  Those willing to commit some obvious evil are seldom ashamed to lie about it as well.

Curiously the second half of the NPNF translation is wrong at this point, reading:

Undoubtedly, by the eternal law, which requires the preservation of natural order, and forbids the transgression of it, conjugal intercourse should take place only for the procreation of children, and after the celebration of marriage, so as to maintain the bond of peace. Therefore, the prostitution of women, merely for the gratification of sinful passion, is condemned by the divine and eternal law.

What happened to “non ad substituendam prolem”, one wonders.

  1. [1]“Writings of Saint Augustine volume 1”, in: Fathers of the Church 5 (1948), p.229-334
  2. [2]Key passage p.287-8.
  3. [3]See for another example, Michael M. Hammer, “Prostitution in Urban Brothels in Late Medieval Austria”, online here.  It seems to  be a paper from this 2017 seminar “Forgotten Women from a Forgotten Region: Prostitutes and Female Slaves in Central and Eastern Europe in the Long Middle Ages” here.

An online quote attributed to St. Jerome, on prayer

It’s often wise to be wary of online quotes which carry a famous name, but no reference.  One of these caught my eye a couple of days ago, and I wondered if it was genuine.  A google search revealed nothing as to its source, unfortunately.  It does appear without reference in a Catholic collection of quotes from the saints.

Here it is:

“Let prayer arm us when we leave our homes. When we return from the streets let us pray before we sit down, nor give our miserable body rest until our soul is fed.” – St. Jerome

The quotation in this case is indeed authentic.  The reference is St Jerome, Letter 22 to Eustochium (de virginitate servanda / on the duties of a virgin), chapter 37; taken from F.A.Wright (translator), St Jerome: Select Letters, Loeb Classical Library 262 (1933), p.144-5.

Letter 22 is a treatise, really, rather than a letter.  It was composed around 384 AD.  It was translated by W. H. Fremantle for the 19th century Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series II, volume 6.  This translation may be found online in many places, such as here.  Fremantle renders the Latin as follows:

When we leave the roof which shelters us, prayer should be our armor; and when we return from the street we should pray before we sit down, and not give the frail body rest until the soul is fed.

Yet another translation of letter 22 appears in P. Carroll, The satirical letters of St. Jerome, Chicago, 1956, on p.17-68.[1]  There are probably others.  The most recent translation known to me is by Charles Christopher Mierow, The Letters of St Jerome, vol. 1 (1-22), (1963), in the Ancient Christian Writers series, on p.134-80.  But I have not seen any of these.

The Latin text was printed by Hilberg in CSEL 54, on pages 143-211, from which the Loeb text was supposedly drawn.  The text of our quote is the same in both, and reads:

Egredientes hospitium armet oratio, regredientibus de platea oratio occurrat ante, quam sessio, nec prius corpusculum requiescat, quam anima pascatur.

Manuscripts are listed in Hilberg on p.143.  The oldest is 6th century.

There is apparently a commentary on the letter: Neil Adkin, Jerome on Virginity: A Commentary on the Libellus de virginitate servanda (Letter 22), ARCA Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs 42 (Cambridge: Francis Cairns, 2003).[2]

The Loeb is out of copyright, and so may be found on, or via this site.  Searching for it by Google is a depressing business, with a mass of bookseller results entirely concealing the download.  I had to specify “PDF” in the search to locate the free copy.  This made me notice how unfit a search engine Google now is.  It’s not really oriented towards useful information, so much as commerce.  Once it would easily have brought me material useful to me.  Now it brings me material useful to the shareholders of Amazon and half-a-hundred other merchants.  I had not originally known that it was online.  I did consider buying a volume; a sheer waste of money.  I did feel rather annoyed once I realised.

The Google search did produce two search results, which are on JSTOR.  The first is a negative review of the Loeb volume by the great Alexander Souter, here, which lists the defects and concludes with the words “It is abundantly clear that this book suffers from want of competence and of care”.  The second is a truly vicious review by one Martin R. P. McGuire here, ending with the words, “Professor Wright has shown himself incompetent to deal in a scholarly and accurate manner with a patristic writer. The editors of the Loeb must assume a certain amount of responsibility for not having investigated his qualifications thoroughly before assigning to him the letters of St. Jerome.”

The tone of the McGuire review is so intemperate that we must suppose some form of personal animosity.  There is a Wikipedia article on McGuire that informs us that he was a Catholic University of America scholar.

But who was F. A. Wright?  This is hard to say.  He does not appear in the Dictionary of National Biography.  His publications are mainly translations or deal with Greek poetry.  I did find a short statement in a book on Rationalist Criticism of Greek Tragedy, by James E. Ford, p.56:

Frederick Adam Wright was professor of Greek at London University, but his real vocation was his commitment to liberal causes, one of which was women’s rights (“The fact is—and it is well to state it plainly—that the Greek world perished from one main cause, a low ideal of womanhood” [1]). He takes from Verrall the basic idea of the ironic dual message in Euripides’ plays and states his acceptance of Verrall’s interpretations of Iphigenia in Taurus, Heracles, Orestes, and the Bacchae (see 109, 111). [3]

Other sources are vague.  One website says: “Frederick Adam Wright (1869-1946) was Professor of Classics in the University of London.”  The index of contributors in the “The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals, 1824-1900, Volume 5”, p.857, confirms his dates but says vaguely “headmaster, class. scholar”.  One final source, that I was only able to access as a snippet, stated: “FREDERICK ADAM WRIGHT (1869-1946) Wright was Professor of Classics at Birkbeck College, London, and the author of numerous books on classical literature as well as of translations from Greek and Latin authors.”[4]

Possibly Professor Wright and his critics may have been divided by political considerations here.  But I would guess that the cause of all the problems identified by Souter is that the old man simply produced a translation by the slacker standards of the early Loeb volumes, and left the rest to the Loeb editors; who let him down.

All the same, F. A. Wright gave expression to a thought of St Jerome that has achieved an independent existence.  I expect St Jerome is pleased!

  1. [1]ACW preface, p.20, currently visible online as preview here.
  2. [2]I owe many of these details to the excellent Fourth Century website, and their page on Letter 22 here.
  3. [3]Google Books preview here.
  4. [4]Richard Stoneman, Daphne into laurel: translations of classical poetry from Chaucer to the present, 1982.  The page number is unknown to me, but possible p.305.

John Zonaras on the date of Easter

Most of us think of John Zonaras as a Byzantine epitomator of Cassius Dio.  This he certainly did, as part of composing his own history.  Even in brief, that history was pretty long, running up to the reign of Alexius I Comnenus.  We’re still dependent on the old Bonn CSHB text for access to this work.  A good chunk of it was translated recently into English by Thomas Banchich, covering the period from Alexander Severus up to Theodosius the Great.  I also today found a bunch of earlier material translated on the Sententiae Antiquae blog here.

But Zonaras also left us a work commenting on ecclesiastical canon law; and one part of that affects the life of millions, by way of the “Zonaras Proviso”.  I learned of this recently from a very interesting article on Easter at the OrthodoxWiki site.

In the Orthodox world, there is a subtle difference in the calculation of Easter: that Easter or Pascha must always follow the Jewish Passover.  This rule is unknown in the west, with the effect that Easter can sometimes precede Passover.  For a lucid explanation of this, let me refer the interested reader to an article at Roads of Emmaus blog.

But our interest is the text of Zonaras, Commentary on Apostolic Canons, canon 7, which appears in the PG 137, cols. 49-50, in the middle of a combined commentary by Theodore Balsamon, Zonaras and Aristenus.  The canon reads “If any bishop, presbyter or deacon celebrates the holy day of Pascha before the spring equinox with the Jews, let him be deposed.”

Here’s Zonaras:

ZONAR. Ἐαρινὴν ἰσημερίαν τινὲς τὴν κε᾽ φασὶ τοῦ Μαρτίου· τινὲς δἐ τὴν κε᾽ τοῦ Ἀπριλλίου. Οῖμαι δὲ μήτ᾽ ἐκείνην μήτε ταυτην τὸν κανόνα λέγειν· ὡς ὲπι τὸ πολὺ γὰρ τὸ Πάσχα πρὸ τῆς κε᾽ τοῦ Ἀπριλλίου ἑορτάζεσθαι είωθεν· ἔστι δὲ ὅτε καὶ πρὸ τῆσ κε᾽ τοῦ Μαρτίου, ὡς συμβαίνειν (εἰ οὔτως νοοϊτο ἡ ἐαρινὴ ἰσημερία) παρὰ τὸν κανόνα τοῦτον τὸ Πάσχα ἑορτάζεσθαι. Ἔοικεν οὐν ἄλλο τι ἐαρινὴν ἰσεμερίαν τοὺς συνετοὺς ἀποστόλους ὀνομάζειν. Ἡ δὲ πᾶσα τοῦ κανόνα, διαταγὴ τοῦτό ὲστι, τὸ μὴ μετὰ Ἰουδαίων (ἤγουν κατ᾽ αὐτὴν τὴν ἡμέραν) ἑορτάζειν τὀ Πάσχα Χριστιανούς. Χρὴ γὰρ προηγεϊσθαι τὴν ανέορτον ἐκείνων ἑορτὴν, καὶ οὕτω τὸ καθ᾽ ἡμᾶς τελεϊσθαι Πάσχα. Ὁ δὲ μὴ τοῦτο ποιῶν ἱερομένο, καθαιρεθήσεται. Τοὺτο δὲ καὶ ἡ ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ σύνοδος ἐν πρώτῳ κανόνι διετάξατο, λέγουσα τῆς ἐν Νικαίᾳ πρώτης συνόδου ὄρον εὶναι περὶ τῆς ἑορτῆς τοῦ Πάσχα· εἰ καὶ μὴ εὑρισκεται ὲν τοῖς κανόσι τῆσ ἐν Νικαίᾳ συνόδου τοιοῦτος κανών.

Helpfully the OrthodoxWiki writer has translated it, humbly adding, “Please note, this text has been translated into English from the Latin parallel translation found in Migne, PG 137.”  I’ve amended it in places.

ZONAR. Some say the Spring equinox is the 25th day of March; others, the 25th day of April. I deem that the canon refers to neither the one nor the other. For Pascha is often celebrated before the 25th of April.  There are even times when it is celebrated before the 25th of March; so that, (if “Spring equinox” were so understood) Pascha would happen in violation of this canon. Whence it appears that the wise apostles call something else the “Spring equinox.” So the whole thrust of the canon is this, that Christians should not celebrate Pascha with the Jews (that is, on the same day). For it is fitting that their feast (which is no feast) is done first; and thus we do our Pascha. If one consecrated to God does this even once, he is removed from orders. The synod in Antioch also ordered this, in their first canon, where they stated that this was decreed concerning the feast of Pascha by the synod of Nicea, although no such canon is found in the canons of the Nicene synod.

I have never known anything about canon law.  I find that there is a volume on Greek canon law which tells us about this side of Zonaras.[1]  From this we learn the following details:

The work of commentary was completed after 1159, and Zonaras also included brief legal treatises within his text.  It is found in a “rich manuscript tradition”, sometimes combined with Balsamon, and sometimes by itself.  The work was translated into Old Slavonic.

The Zonaras material was edited by G. Beveregius, otherwise W. Beveridge, Synodikon sive Pandectae Canonum, Oxford 1672 in two volumes, and this was reprinted as we have seen in the PG, volumes 137 and 138.  There is, however, a newer edition by Rhalles-Potles in 6 volumes,[2] although, since this was printed in Athens, I imagine that few have access to it.

Apparently there are other works by Zonaras, which are theological, and remain largely unedited.

Clearly there is work to do on Zonaras.

  1. [1]Wilfried Hartmann, Kenneth Pennington, The History of Byzantine and Eastern Canon Law to 1500, Catholic University of America (2012), p.176-7.
  2. [2]Georgios A. Rhalles and Michael Potles, eds., Σύνταγμα τῶν θείων καὶ ἱερῶν κανόνων (6 volumes; Athens 1852–59, reprint Athens 1966).

The late antique edition of Livy by the Nicomachean family

The vast history Ab urbe condita by Livy was so enormous – well over 100 books – that it was transmitted in collections of 10 books.  Most of these “decades” are lost.  We possess only the first, third, fourth, and half of the fifth decade.

In late antiquity the texts of the first century came back into fashion, and were once more copied and amended.  We learn from a letter by Q. Aurelius Symmachus, the opponent of St Ambrose, that “Munus totius Liviani operis quod spopondi etiam nunc diligentia emendationis moratur.” (Epist. 9.13: “The gift of the whole of the works of Livy which I have promised is also now delayed by the task of removing errors”.)  This letter seems to date to 401.[1]

What is remarkable is that this work of correction, undertaken by the interlinked Symmachan and Nicomachean families, is attested in the colophons of surviving manuscripts of the First Decade.  These are well-known to scholars.  But it is wonderful to find that we can see an example online at the Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana in Florence, ms. Plutei 63.19, “M” to the editors.  This was written sometime before 968 at the Cathedral of Verona.  Tweeter GiorgiaV has extracted four pages with examples.

Here’s the end of book VI (fol.138):


Titi Livi Nicomachus VC III prefect urbs emendavi ab urbe cond Victorianus VC. Emendabam Domnis Symmachis Liber VI Explicit.

Nichomachus, 3 times urban prefect, I have corrected the “Ab urbe condita” of Titus Livy.  Victorianus, I corrected [it] for the noble Symmachi.  Book 6 ends.


And the end of book V:

TITI LIVI Nicomachus Dexter V.C. emendavi ad exemplum parentis mei Clementiani; ab urbe condit. Victorianus VC emendabam domnis simmachis.

Nicomachus Dexter, I corrected against the copy of my Clementian parents; the “Ab urbe condita” of Titus Livy. Victorianus, I corrected [it] for the noble Symmachi.


At the end of book 8:

Emendavi Nicomachus [F]lavianus Titi Livi ter praef. urb. apud hennam [i.e. terminam] ab urbe conditor.  Victorianus VIC [i.e. VC] emendabam domnis Symmachis. lib. VIII. explicit.

I, Nicomachus Flavianus, 3 times urban prefect, have corrected the “Ab urbe condita” of Titus Livy at the end.  Victorianus, I amended it for the noble Symmachi.  Book 8 ends.

Fol.172v has the colophon for book 8.

VC is vir clarissimus, a member of the aristocracy.  All these people engaged in textual criticism were very senior people indeed.  Victorianus is Tascius Victorianus.  He also worked with Nicomachus on a translation from Greek of Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana, as we learn from Sidonius Apollinaris, letter 8.3.[2]  The publication in Latin of a life of this controversial figure, used then and now for anti-Christian purposes, reinforces the pagan background of the editorial team.

An old 1828 edition here provides a sometimes inaccurate transcription of these and other colophons.  Charles W. Hedrick’s volume History and Silence p.28 tells us about the three terms as urban prefect of Flavian Nicomachus, presumably ending in 408 AD.

The grammatical structure is sometimes a bit weird.  There is an article by J.E.G. Zetzel, “The Subscriptions in the Manuscripts of Livy and Fronto and the Meaning of Emendatio”, in Classical Philology 75 (1980), p.38-59.[3]  This offers an intriguing suggestion, that, particularly for book 7, we’re looking at the result of copying a colophon laid out like this:

emendaui Nicomachus Flauianus
uc ter praef. urbis apud Hennam
Victorianus uc emendabam domnis Symmachis

The Livy stuff is in capitals, the colophon info interspersed between it.  So one of the medieval copyists ran together what he found in the exemplar before him.

But the manuscript has yet another interesting feature for us, on fol.163v, in book 8, chapter 15:3, describing how a vestal virgin was buried alive.  Here we find a marginal note:

I am  unable to read this, but Zetzel informs us that it begins by paraphrasing the text and then reads:

miror autem, cum defossam indicat, omisisse illum ex libris Sibillinis hoc esse praeceptum, ut legisse me in ipsis apud Flegontem temporis istius uersibus recolo.

But I amazed, when he says that she was buried [alive], that he has omitted that this was commanded in the Sybilline books, as I recall that I read in them, in Phlegon in the poems of that time.

References in Latin to Phlegon are rare and late; found only in the Historia Augusta, and in Jerome.  It’s not likely that a medieval annotator could write such a thing, so it looks as if at least some of the marginalia also belong to antiquity, and quite possibly the Nicomachean editors.

It’s wonderful what you find in old books.

  1. [1]Zetzel, p.38.
  2. [2]S. Stucchi &c, Apollonius of Tyana in Legend and History, p.170.
  3. [3]JSTOR

Bits and bobs

Here’s some stuff that’s wandered into my in-tray.

Google is becoming a useful tool for biblical quotations.  While checking some of these by googling, I found myself looking at at several volumes of the critical text of the Vetus Latina.  A search on Vetus Latina brings up quite a number here.  I hope that Archive have checked the copyright tho.

How people find the energy to scan books I do not know.  I’m sitting here with a volume of St Augustine, and having to pause for breaks.  I know that I did a lot of this ten or twenty years ago.  How on earth did I do it?

It’s been a while since I get out my Plustek Opticbook 3600, and I couldn’t remember if it worked with Windows 10 or not.  At first try it didn’t work.  Looking at the manufacturer site did not look good either.  But there was a Windows 8 driver, which I installed.  Still nothing.  Anyway I rechecked the cables and… um, the cable was half-unplugged at the scanner.  When pushed in firmly then it all worked.  I’m using it with Finereader 12 at the moment.

Next up is a photograph of one of the lost streets of Rome, the Via Bonella, from 1907.

The now-lost Via Bonella, with the so-called Pantani Arch. Photo taken in 1907.

I plucked from here this modern image:

The columns are those of the forum of Nerva, to the left of the temple of Mars Ultor.  The modern street behind the arch, running left-right, is the Via Tor di Conti.  The orange building behind the arch is today the Forum Hotel, complete with a rooftop restaurant at which I had a terrible dining experience on my only visit to the building.

I do quite a bit of translating, so I was interested to come across an article, Translating for a Digital Archive.  This shows how the professionals do it, rather than people like me, alone in a room with a pile of dictionaries.  The project is to put British Library Arabic manuscripts online, and make the titles etc searchable in either Arabic or English.

As part of the BL’s [British Library] translation team, I work to produce and edit the Arabic language content for the QDL [Qatar Digital Library]. While the collection items themselves are displayed solely in their original language, all of the portal’s supporting and descriptive content is translated, as are the expert articles, meaning that the catalogue can be searched and used just as easily in Arabic as in English.

Our Toolbox: Translation management software

Like many large-scale translation projects, ours involves multiple translators, and several rounds of proofing and quality checks to ensure accuracy and consistency. To manage this, we use a piece of software called memoQ that includes two essential tools: a translation memory (TM) and a term base (TB). The TM functions as a bilingual database of previously translated segments of text; it works by storing pairs of original source-language content alongside its approved translation. When a new text is imported, memoQ breaks it into smaller segments on the basis of punctuation and line breaks, and automatically conducts a search for exact and partial matches. These are then presented to the translator for approval and/or review.

While a human expert still has the final say on whether to accept any suggestion from the TM, frequently only a minor edit is needed to make the old translation suitable for the new context. This serves the double purpose of saving time and maintaining consistency across the catalogue as a whole. Translation memories tend to prove their worth the larger they are and the more repetition there is in the content. Having grown over the years since the start of the project, our TM now routinely recognises a third of content in a new file, and often much more.

While the TM grows organically over time by compiling and storing translation segments, the term base is maintained manually. It works as a glossary for key terms, allowing us to suggest preferred equivalents for individual words or phrases, and/or to blacklist translations that should be avoided. As the TB is visible to all parties at all stages of translation and proofing, it helps to ensure the consistency of these terms in Arabic.

Authorities: making the most of memoQ

The TB has proved especially useful when it comes to translating authority files. An authority record serves to identify and describe a person, corporate body, family, place name, or subject term that is featured in a catalogue description. Each term is authorised and unique. As every record and every expert article on the QDL is linked to at least one authority file, they form an index through which users can search for all the content related to a specific term.

Read the whole thing.  I was unable to find an author’s name on it, curiously.

This idea of “Translation Memory Tools” sounded interesting to me.  I quickly found that several seem to be proprietary and expensive.  I did come across OmegaT, which is not, here.  But I suspect that none of my projects are large enough for me to use it.

Another interest of mine is hagiography, about which I know very little.  So I was interested to come across a seminar description (Seminar VII: Hagiography) at Lancaster University, with bibliography, and the following interesting introduction:

Hagiography, the historical genre which is the subject of this week’s seminar, comprises narratives concerned with the saints and their achievements, especially the miracles which God has performed through them and on their behalf. Six basic types of hagiographical ‘story’ or ‘scenario’ may be distinguished:

  • first, the vita, the story of the achievements that a saint performed in his or her lifetime;
  • second, the passio, similar to the former, but about a martyr who has died a violent death for the faith or for some other God-arranged reason;
  • third, the inventio or revelatio, the story of how a new saint or more often a saint’s bodily remains were discovered;
  • fourth, the translatio, the story of how a saint’s relics were brought to a church or moved to a new shrine;
  • fifth, the visio, the story of how a saint appeared to someone in a vision;
  • and sixth, the miraculum, the story of how a miracle was performed on the saint’s behalf by God.

Miracula are typically concerned with the wonders that were performed after the saint has died and become a resident of the heavenly kingdom. A hagiographical text might well combine many of these stories or ‘scenarios’. Many vitae continue on, for example, well-beyond the scene of the saint’s death to describe how his or her corpse was lost, re-discovered and then brought and enshrined in the church where it now rests. In these texts the true climax comprises the saint’s translatio and enshrinement. Miracula, furthermore, were often combined to form libri miraculorum, ‘books of miracles’, which sometimes (but not usually) extended beyond the usual few dozen items to encompass hundreds of episodes.

In its various manifestations hagiography was the mode of historical discourse most frequently deployed in the Middle Ages, generating many thousands of vitae and miracula and contributing substantial passages to many chronicles and rhetorical histories. The similarities (and sometimes, the lengthy verbal affinities) between these narratives naturally lead to the suspicion that most, if not all, instances contain much that has been borrowed from earlier examples or which has been re-fashioned so as to resemble the scenes found in key archetypes—such as the late fourth-century Life of St Martin of Tours by Sulpicius Severus—which exerted great influence over the development of the genre. This conclusion seems inescapable; but the process might sometimes involve an oral phase, prior to the writing up of the legend, in which the hero’s story assimilated many standard elements or was gradually re-fashioned with each act of re-telling, bringing it ever closer to the recognised archetypes. The few texts which admit importing episodes from the lives of other saints invariably claim that the story was true of some saint if not of the saint with whom the text is chiefly concerned or that there is so little doubt about the subject’s sanctity that the mis-attribution of a few stories will scarcely make any difference to his or her cult. As such admissions show, hagiography’s claim to authority rested, as in the case of ecclesiastical history, on its claim to record actual events—actual moments of divine intervention in the world.

I’d like to know which texts include those admissions of borrowing material.  I wonder how one could find out.

That’s enough for now.  I find that I have 197 items in my backlog folder, so perhaps I should have a push on getting them out!


More Meta Sudans photos and a document on the demolition!

The excellent Roma Ieri Oggi site continues to upload old photographs of Rome.  I confess that I find the twitter feed more accessible than the website, and of course it allows for feedback.

A couple of days ago, I browsed through the feed and came across something very interesting.  First there was a photograph of the arch of Constantine and the Meta Sudans, taken around 1930, a few years before the latter was demolished.  Here it is:

But underneath another tweeter, “Paolo (@vonhoeneim)” posted three contemporary documents about the demolition.  Here’s the tweet:

Dall’Archivio centrale di Stato, tre documenti sulla demolizione della Meta sudans. Questa venne abbattuta per non impedire i flussi del traffico automobilistico e non, come si dice, per far sfilare la camicie nere.

From the Central State Archives, three documents on the demolition of the Meta sudans. This was removed so as not to obstruct the flow of car traffic and not, as is said, to allow the black shirts to parade.

He attaches evidence, which I will upload here (for twitter is ephemeral):

I can’t read this. Can any reader do so?

This is from the “office of the governor” and reads:


Mi onoro informare l’E.V. che, con la lettera odierna, di cui unisco copia, ho sottoposto a S.E. il Ministro dell’Educazio ne Nazionale la questione delle risoluzioni da adottarsi per i ruderi della base del Colosso di Nerone e della Meta Sudante, in relazione ai lavori in carso per l’allargamento della Via di S. Gregorio.

Con devoto ossequio

Roma, lì 7 settembre 1933-XI


I am honored to inform the EV. that, with today’s letter, of which I add a copy, I have submitted to his excellency the Minister of National Education the question of the measures to be adopted for the ruins of the base of the Colossus of Nero and the Meta Sudans, in relation to the work in progress due to the widening of the Via di S. Gregorio.

And then there is this:


mento rapidissimo dalla zona alta dei quartieri dell’Esquilino del Laterano e dei Monti, con la Via del Mare e con la Stazione di S.Paolo Lido di Roma, Appunto a tale scopo è già previsto l’allargamento del Viale Aventino ohe costituisce la diretta continuazione della Via di S.Gregorio.

Il traffico già intenso ohe in Questi ultimi anni si svolgeva in tutte le ore della giornata lungo la Via di S.Gregorio è venuto aumentando enormemento dopo l’apertura della Via dell’impero, cosi da consigliare a questo Governatorato le opportunità di provvedere senza indugio all’allargamento della strada. Precisamente verso la Via dell’impero erano già e saranno sempre più frequenti le comunicazioni con la nuova strada, sicchè é evidente la necessità di facilitare per quanto è possibile i raccordi, tra le due grandi arterie della nuova Roma di Mussolini, ambedue importantissime non solo per la loro bellezza estetica ma per la loro rispondenza si bisogni del movimento cittadino.

Si presenta perciò in vista della facilitazione di tale raccordo una questione che, nome l’E.V. avrà veduto, ha vivamente in bere usato in queste ultime settimane la stampa cittadina o la pubblica opinione, e cioè la conservazione dei due avanzi monumentali della Base del Colosso di Nerone, e della Meta Sudante.

Come appare dalla pianta allegata, la base del Colosso di Nerone costituisce indubbiamente un gravissimo imbarazzo per lo comuninazioni fra la Via dell’impero e la Via di S.Gregorio, obbligendo i veicoli provenienti dalla Via dell’impero ohe seguono, come è prescritto, ma marcia a destra a girare al di là del rudero, inflettendo uno stretto arco per raggiungere il passaggio tra l’Arco di Costantino ed il Palatino. E’ stata da varie parti avanzata la proposta di demolire il rudero della base del Colosso di Nerone (dopo averne fatto i più precisi rilievi) e di lasciarne la traccia nella pavimentazione stradale, con un piantato in travertino o in gradito o con altro materiale acconcio, e collocando nei pressi una iscrizione, che ricordi l’esistenza del rudero, individuandone esattamente la posizione.

… very fast from the upper area of ​​the Esquilino del Laterano and Monti districts, with the Via del Mare and the S.Paolo Lido station in Rome. Exactly for this purpose the widening of the Viale Aventino is already provided, which constitutes the direct continuation of the Via di S.Gregorio.

The already intense traffic that in recent years took place at all hours of the day along the Via di S.Gregorio has increased since the opening of the Via dell’Impero, so as to suggest to this office the need to provide without delay for the widening of the road. Precisely towards the Via del’Impero connections with the new road were already and will be more and more frequent, so that the need to facilitate as much as possible the connections between the two great arteries of Mussolini’s new Rome, both very important not only for their aesthetic beauty but for their correspondence, requires action by the city.

Therefore, as the name of the E.V has been mentioned, a question presents itself for the facilitation of the connection that has arisen in recent weeks in the city press and public opinion, that is the preservation of the two monumental remains of the base of the Colossus of Nero and the Meta Sudans.

As appears from the attached plan, the base of Nero’s CoIossus undoubtedly constitutes a very serious problem for the connections between the Via dell’Impero and the Via di S.Gregorio, obliging vehicles coming from the Via dell’Impero to follow, as designed, but it runs to the right to turn beyond the ruin, inflicting a narrow arch through which to reach the passage between the Arch of Constantine and the Palatine. The proposal to demolish the ruin of the base of the Colossus of Nero (after having made the most precise recordings) and to leave its trace in the road pavement, with traced in travertine or in gradito or with other acconcite material, has been advanced, and placing an inscription nearby, which reminds us of the existence of the ruin, identifying its exact position.

Unfortunately the document breaks off there before discussing the Meta Sudans, which was treated similarly.  It looks as if the impetus came from the local authorities, rather than the national government, however, in their eagerness to be seen to cooperate.

Finally here is another picture from Roma Ieri Oggi, from 1900, showing the Meta Sudans from an unusual angle, through the arch of the Arch of Constantine:

Wonderful to see it.

The destruction of the base of the Colossus and the Meta Sudans took place very recently.  So much that we might want to know is probably freely accessible in Italian archives, to those who read Italian.  I wish that someone would go through them all and make it accessible.