From my diary

I have now got all the way through the 5th century Latin “Passecrates” Life of St George, as edited by Arndt, and I have prepared an English translation of every sentence.

What a mess the text is in!  The editor, Arndt, plainly had trouble reading the manuscript at all.  At points it makes no sense.  You get readings like “deus Christianorum”, where the sense plainly calls for “genus Christianorum”.

Fortunately a collection of five Latin Lives of St George, printed by Huber, contains a version which is very close indeed to the Arndt Life.  It does help, in working out the meaning of the text.  Indeed in the above example Huber’s text does read “genus”.

Next, I need to resolve a couple of issues, and check whether the translation makes sense and has continuity: to move away from the focus on individual sentences to paragraphs and the text as a whole.  At one point St George tells the wicked emperor that he has put St George to death three times – as you do.  It would be good to check whether the text has actually done this!

The “miracles” seem over to the top to squeamish moderns like me.  But they must have seemed over the top to those in the Dark Ages too, because all of them tone it down!

I have started to wonder whether the text is actually intended satirically, to mock the credulity of Catholics in the 5th century.  The author definitely mocks this same group, by giving a villain the name of “Athanasius”.  Maybe I shall say something like this in a note.



6 thoughts on “From my diary

  1. I seem to recall that the earliest legend of St George was indeed Arian, which explains why Athanasius is the villain. Only later was the story absorbed into the Orthodox/Catholic tradition, suitably amended. Sorry I can’t remember the sources, but I’m sure they’re out there somewhere.

  2. There was a George of Cappadocia who became the Arian bishop of Alexandria during one of Athanasius’ many exiles. He was apparently quite a militant Christian so when Julian became emperor George was lynched by a pagan mob. Arians clearly saw him as a martyr and maybe even wrote hagiography about him. The theory is that some of this might have contaminated the life of George the soldier.

  3. Re: Datianus, there were several emperors who fought the Dacians, and gave themselves the victory title of Dacicus Maximus. Decius was one of them, as well as some other pagan emperors that had persecutions during their reigns. Constantine was the last one, apparently. Pertinax served in Dacia as a soldier and was its governor at one point. Marcus Aurelius was named Samarticus Maximus for a Dacian campaign.

    Shrug. Who knows?

  4. If you take the sarcasm view, it would probably be the Christian emperor Gratianus.

Leave a Reply