Methodius of Olympus, De Cibis – critical edition in progress

Most of the works of the Ante-Nicene writer Methodius of Olympus (ca. 300 AD) do not survive in Greek.  Instead they are preserved only in Old Slavonic –  a language known to very few in the west -, plus a few catena fragments.  I became aware of this a few years ago, and Ralph Cleminson very kindly translated some of them for us, such as De Cibis.  The text used was a couple of digitised manuscripts which I accidentally became aware of.

So I was really delighted to read the following from George Mitov on Twitter a couple of days ago:

The first chapter of my MRes thesis already submitted (with an extensive section on the Slavonic reception of Methodius of Olympus). Next step: a critical edition of the Slavonic text of the De cibis ad Chilonam and an English translation of it.

I have already obtained digital copies of the manuscripts, about 20 in total, and have already started preparing the critical edition. It is fascinating that this text by Methodius is preserved only in Slavonic and yet no critical edition so far.  What we have so far is the German translation of the Slavonic text, based mainly on two mss, and published by G. Bontwesch and the English translation of Cleminson.

Hope I will be done with the critical edition by the end of the summer.

This is excellent news.  It sounds as if a whole load more manuscripts have become available.  Mr. Mitov gives his biography as:

MRes at @KU_Leuven; BA and MA – Sofia University (Bulgaria); Durham University (UK); Byzantine and Paleoslavic Studies, History, and Greek Patristics

Which sounds ideal.  Indeed an earlier tweet shows him:

Presenting a paper on a newly discovered Slavonic translation of a letter (Ep. 1959) by Isidore of Pelusium at the International Conference “Constantine of Preslav’s Uchitel’noe Evangelie and the South Slavonic Homiletic Texts (9th-13th century)” (Sofia, 25-27 April 2023).

All of this is excellent stuff.  Patristic texts in Old Slavonic translation is something that we all need to know more about.  Looking forward to whatever he produces!


4 thoughts on “Methodius of Olympus, De Cibis – critical edition in progress

  1. Albeit late, Slavonic translations are quite important for chronological reasons.
    In the Greek world from the 9th century onwards minuscule replaced uncial letters as the usual script for formal manuscripts.
    Uncial manuscripts were (sometimes) translitterated and then discarded. Some may have found their way to Slavic areas where they were used as models for the translations (Cyrillic is derived from Greek uncial).
    Time and time again, there are Slavonic translations of lost Greek texts. The corpus of Methodius is but an example.

  2. Thank you – that is a fascinating piece of information! It does explain why old texts pop up in Slavonic, if they were using uncial manuscripts.

  3. I don’t know if the Byzantines went around ‘discarding’ Uncial manuscripts. When they switched to miniscule writing the Uncial manuscripts were lost to natural attrition (particularly fires and damp) and destruction in war (Arabs and Turks enjoyed burning monastic libraries).
    At the same time (9th century and after) there was a vigorous translation movement in Bugaria. In fact most early Slavonic texts were translation from Greek. There were few original works. The translations created a wider audience for the works. The same applies to languages like Syriac, Armenian and Georgian. If I’m not mistaken a number of writings of Hippolytus of Rome only survive in Georgian translation.
    The greater dissemination meant the greater likelihood would survive.
    In fact, most Slavonic translations from Greek have the Greek text surviving.
    People forget that Greek had only a small readership. Latin and Slavonic were much more ‘international’ languages.

    Is there a list anywhere of Patristic texts that survive in Slavonic?

  4. It is an interesting theory. One would, however, like some evidence for it.

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