The “Collectanea” of Pseudo-Bede

There is a famous prophecy about the Colosseum, given in variable forms such as this:

As long as the Colosseum stands, Rome shall stand.
When the Colosseum falls, Rome will fall.
But when Rome falls, the world will fall.

The source for this is the “Collectanea” of pseudo-Bede.

This is not a text that many will be familiar with.  It is listed in the Clavis Patrum Latinorum as CPL 1129, “Collectanea (Excerptiones Patrum: Flores ex diversis)”, i.e. Miscellaneous (Excerpts from the Fathers, sayings from various).  The incipit is “Dic mihi, quaeso, quae est illa mulier”.  It’s a collection of excerpts of various sorts.

The Latin text is available in PL 94, cols. 539-560.  This, I learn, reprints the Basel edition of 1563, from the Opera Bedae Venerabilis presbyteri Anglosaxonis of Johann Herwagen, 8 vols in 4, vol 3, pp.647-74.  Apparently there is no manuscript, only that solitary edition. This is reprinted in the modern text and translation by Martha Bayless & Michael Lapidge, Collectanea Pseudo-Bedae, Dublin (1998), although this was not accessible to me.[1]

The start of the 1563 edition, our only source for the text.

It is often said that, in the 16th century, printing houses, who received grubby old manuscripts and created nice new clean printed editions, were in the habit of chopping up the now surplus manuscripts in order to use the parchment to bind books.  I don’t know on what that is based.  It was often supposed that this fate befell the sole manuscript of Velleius Paterculus at Basel, until an 18th letter recording the sale of the manuscript two centuries later came to light.  A paper in the Bayless edition apparently offers this as the likely fate of the manuscript.

The Latin text quoted online varies, but here is the 1563 text:

Quamdiu stat Colysaeus, stat & Roma;
Quando cadet Colysaeus, cadet & Roma;
Quando cadet Roma, cadet & mundus.

The CPL tells us that the text is apparently 8th century, because it does not include any source later than that date.  But opinions vary, it seems.

  1. [1]First page of review accessible at

From my diary

I came across someone online who professed that the transmission of texts from antiquity was so full of mistakes that the modern copies are not reliable sources of information about the past.  I demurred, and the response was:

We might say that Plato was right all along, what we see is but shadows projected on to the wall of the cave.

Naturally I pointed out that our source for these words of Plato is itself a literary text transmitted in the manner which he had just dismissed.

But it lead me to the question: just how is Plato’s Republic transmitted?  How do we get our text of Plato?

For Latin texts we have the marvellous volume by L.D.Reynolds, Texts and Transmissions, which presents an overview of the question for each Latin author in turn, compiled by a team of classical scholars including Michael Reeve.

Sadly I never knew L. D. Reynolds.  But I did meet Michael Reeve, who very kindly took me to lunch at high table, and bore my questions and my ignorance with admirable patience.  He was, indeed, grieving for Reynolds who had just died, so it was a very bad time for him.  He told me that all of the contributors got a bound copy of the book, with blank sheets bound into it on alternate pages to add notes and updates.  He wondered where Reynolds’ copy now was, as might we all.  Dr Reeve still stands in my memory as an example of what a classical scholar should be.

But no such volume exists for Greek classical texts.  Anybody who wishes to know how we get the texts before us must sift through masses of material in critical editions.  Most of this material is both over-detailed and over-narrow in scope for the newcomer to the field.  If the last critical edition is old, then it may well be out of date also.  The writer may also simply omit material about which he does not know.

I have spent a bit of time yesterday and today doing exactly this, with the aid of pirate book sites, and I think the effort involved would deter most people.  This is why a group of professionals really do need to produce a summary volume!

So far I have learned that the dialogues were gathered into groups of four (“tetralogies”) during the reign of Tiberius; that the earliest manuscripts are 9th century; that papyri do exist, but bring nothing new to the discussion; that the Coptic translation of portions of the Republic, found at Nag Hammadi, was really incompetent and is useless for establishing the text; and that Eusebius in his Praeparatio Evangelica is an indirect witness useful for the text, and is also the actual source of quotations in later sources like the Suda, rather than the original text.  I have also learned that the main edition, the Oxford Classical Text, edited by Burnet, is 120 years old, and relies on collations of manuscripts which are really unreliable; and that Lachmann’s method of analysing manuscript traditions is really really important when studying Plato’s manuscripts.

I will try to produce a short article containing the key points!


More sections of Philodemus’ history of the philosophers discovered, more info on Plato

An Italian team has revealed that they have managed to read some more of a Herculaneum papyrus, with fascinating results.  They have found literary evidence that Plato was sold into slavery by the Spartans, perhaps in 399 BC, and also the location of his tomb, previously unrecorded.

The literary text in question is the Σύνταξις τῶν φιλοσόφων, (“Treatise on the Philosophers”) of Philodemus, of which long sections had already been revealed.  There is a translation of it at Andrew Smith’s Attalus Project here.  Via Google Translate from an article in Italian:

The project, in addition to investigating the state of conservation of these artefacts, has the aim of publishing an updated edition – thanks to the application of imaging techniques and philological methods – of Philodemus’ Review of the Philosophers , the oldest history of Greek philosophy in our possession. The History of the Academy is part of it , which contains much exclusive information about Plato and the development of the Academy under his successors.

“Compared to previous editions, there is now an almost radically changed text…. The increase in text roughly corresponds to the discovery of ten new medium-sized papyrus fragments. The new readings often draw on new and concrete facts about Plato’s Academy, Hellenistic literature, Philodemus of Gadara and ancient history in general,” adds Kilian Fleischer, the editor of this precious papyrus as part of the Greek Schools project.

Among the most important news, we read that Plato was buried in the garden reserved for him (a private area intended for the Platonic school) of the Academy in Athens, near the so-called Museion or sacellum sacred to the Muses . Until now it was only known that he was buried somewhere in the Academy.

Again regarding the same philosopher, it emerges that he was sold as a slave on the island of Aegina perhaps already in 404 BC, when the Spartans conquered the island or, alternatively in 399 BC, immediately after the death of Socrates. Until now it had been believed that Plato had been sold into slavery in 387 BC during his stay in Sicily at the court of Dionysius I of Syracuse. In another passage, in a dialogue between characters, Plato expresses himself contemptuously about the musical and rhythmic abilities of a barbarian musician originally from Thrace.

“The GreekSchools project also aims to develop methods of investigation of manuscripts by applying the most advanced diagnostic imaging techniques available today (infrared and ultraviolet optical imaging, molecular and elemental imaging, thermal imaging, tomography, optical microscopy digital, etc.)”, specifies Costanza Miliani of the CNR-ISPC. Staff … using mobile instruments from the Molab platform belonging to the European research infrastructure on Heritage Science E-RIHS, apply non-invasive techniques to opisthograph and stratified papyrus order to read text inaccessible on the reverse or hidden within multiple layers.

The work is being undertaken as part of the “Greek Schools project” at the University of Pisa, led by Graziano Ranocchia.  There is a good article from the Daily Mail with many pictures here, although it brings in “AI” for no obvious reason.

Ranocchia and his team have uncovered 30 percent more text within the Herculaneum papyri than in the previous 1991 edition.

The new analysis also revealed that Plato may have been sold into slavery in 399 BC following Socrates’ passing or in 404 BC during the Spartan conquest of Aegina.

‘Until now it had been believed that Plato had been sold into slavery in 387 BC during his stay in Sicily at the court of Dionysius I of Syracuse,’ said Ranocchia.

‘In another passage, in a dialogue between characters, Plato expresses himself contemptuously about the musical and rhythmic abilities of a barbarian musician originally from Thrace.’

Ranocchia and his team set up a laboratory years ago in the Italian National Library in Naples, allowing easier access to Herculaneum scrolls stored at the facility.

Using a camera, they took hundreds of photos of the charred document that were analyzed by an algorithm.

The researchers used infrared imaging, which allowed them to ‘see’ through the front side of the papyrus to the writing on the back, according to

This is amazing stuff.  There is a definite tendency to dismiss the Herculaneum library as only containing dull Epicurean works by Philodemus, but clearly there is still gold to be found!


The medieval book lists of Rochester Priory

There are few more charming relics of the middle ages than the contemporary lists of the books owned by this abbey or that priory.  Usually written on a couple of leaves of some other volume, they give a wonderful picture of monastic libraries.  G. Becker’s Catalogi Bibliothecarum Antiqui (1885), online here, prints a great number of these.  It is quite a joy to look through the lists, looking for books.  In the process you gain a deep sense of what sort of books were commonly available.  You need almost no Latin, because the entries are formulaic: only a willingness to try.

The Benedictine Priory of Rochester, dedicated to St Andrew, has at least two surviving book lists.  The first is from 1122 and contains 93 volumes.  A second list from 1202 contains 241 volumes.  I had never come across either.  Neither is in Becker, although he does give a reference to the existence of the second one on p.286.  The priory was dissolved in 1540, the monks pensioned off, and the landed property passed briefly into the hands of King Henry VIII and, from him, and more permanently, into the hands of the landed gentry.  The books were scattered.  A good number ended up in the royal collection, now held in the British Library.

There is a research project at Rochester cathedral itself, led by Dr Christopher Monk.  A great deal of primary material from this is online at the Cathedral website.

The first list of the books of Rochester, from 1122, is preserved in the “Textus Roffensis”, a medieval manuscript belonging to Rochester Cathedral.    It seems to have no other shelfmark, curiously.  It is a miscellaneous volume of monastic papers.  The catalogue is on folios 224r-230r.  The manuscript itself is online at Manchester University here.  Unfortunately the pages are not labelled with the folio number, but it is page 457 in the online manuscript.  Rochester Cathedral has an index of the manuscript online here.

Here is the top of the first surviving page.  It is clear that other pages came before it, since it begins “Expositione eiusdem super psalterium in iii vol.” (exposition of the same on the psalms in 3 vols”.  The reference is to a work of St Augustine, as the next entry makes clear: “Librum ipsius de civitate dei in i vol.” (book of his on the City of God in 1 volume.):

Textus Roffensis, folio 224r: start of the book list of 1122, with books of St Augustine.

References online to the printed version of this are often confused.  The correct reference is:

R.P.Coates, “Catalogue of the Library of the Priory of St. Andrew, Rochester, from the Textus Roffensis,” in: Archaeologia Cantiana 6 (1866), pp.120-128.

This ought to be online.  The Kent Archaeological Society have much of the Archaeologia Cantiana material online and downloadable.  Unfortunately their website is going through some sort of migration.  In the meantime a PDF of the Coates article can be found in the Wayback When Machine at here.

The Coates article also identifies surviving volumes preserved in the British Museum Catalogue (BMC), now the British Library, indicating the catalogue number.  The “nempe…manu” is just about visible in the picture above.  Coates states that the blank area at the top of the leaf shows traces that it was rubricated – written in red ink -, and the ink has disappeared thanks to damp.

A transcription and translation of this is at the Rochester Cathedral website here, or should be!  If not, an archived copy is here.

The collection is a straightforward Norman collection: the four big fathers, Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose and Gregory, and then various other books.  It’s no older than the conquest, clearly.  The real interest is finding stray volumes like “Egesippus in 1 vol.”, i.e. the Latin translation of Josephus, a translation of Chrysostom into Latin, thankfully listing the works included.

The second list of books dates from 1202.  It is preserved in British Library Ms. Royal 5 B XII, on folios 2 and 3.  Some details of the manuscript are here.  The attack on the BL last year took its manuscripts offline, and strangely they are still unavailable.  But a low resolution (alas) image of the first page of the catalogue is online on a blog post here.

The printed text can be found in W. B. Rye, “Catalogue of the Library of the Priory of St. Andrew, Rochester, A.D. 1202,” in Archaeologia Cantiana 3 (1860), p.47-64.  This volume is online here.  The catalogue is on p.54 (p.127 of that PDF).  Here’s the beginning:

Further on (p.59), we find grammatical, rhetorical and arithmetical works, and then Priscian, Boethius, Virgil, Sallust, Terence, Arator, Persius, Lucan and other ancient authors.  A bit further on is Statius, then Suetonius and Ovid, belonging to “Master Hamon”.

These curious survivals are worth a look.  As we read the list, we seem to see in our imagination the volumes themselves, many long vanished, lying flat on the wooden shelves in the damp medieval library, illuminated by candles.

Thus was the knowledge of antiquity transmitted to us.


Did he really? Could any scholar…? Apparently he did. Angelo Mai and the Editio Princeps of the Vatican Mythographers

The “Vatican Mythographers” is a set of three ancient texts about pagan mythology, all originally published by Angelo Mai from Vatican manuscripts in 1831.[1]   His edition has been reprinted since, and translated into English and French, but no critical edition has ever appeared.

A paper appeared by Kathleen Elliot and J. P. Elder in 1947, in preparation for such an edition, which however never appeared.[2]  This contains the following curious remarks:

… his transcriptions are frequently incorrect, a fact which will surprise no one acquainted with this industrious prefect’s habits. His text is further vitiated we speak from at least scholastic purity – by his frequent euphemistic changes: “. . . illud non celabo, me videlicet complura mythographorum horum vocabula, quae, ut fit in ethnica mythologia, pudicis auribus ingratiora accidissent, euphemismis commutavisse . . .” (Mai, praef. xvi). Whether a “rem habuit” is actually less salacious than a “concubuit” or whether a “complexus” is more delicate than a “compressus” is doubtless a matter of secular taste.

This seems very odd behaviour.  So I retrieved Mai’s preface, and section IX is as follows.

IX.  Atque ego quidem in exscribendo, distin­guendo, plurimisque mendis purgando tam copiosos fabularum libros, non modicum laborem pertuli: scho­lia tamen mea nulla propemodum addidi, ne molem voluminis nimis augerem: cuius rei gratia minutis et­iam typis usus sum, quominus chartam innumeram lectoribus meis obiicerem: quos etiam illud non ce­labo, me videlicet complura mythographarum ho­rum vocabula, quae, ut fit in ethnica mytholo­gia, pudicis auribus ingratiora accidissent, euphemismis commutavisse “utcumque ferent ea fata mi­nores.” Auctorum apud hos mythographos appel­latorum syllabum scripsi: latinitatis tamen nova vo­cabula,quae sparsim videbam, philologis ac lexico­graphis colligenda permisi: a quibus etiam scholio­rum ad hos mythographos apparatum subinde con­cinnandum auguror. Interim laetari licet, quod his a me codicibus editis, tres insignes mythographos Hyginum, Placidum, et Leontium, adquisivisse videmur.

And indeed I endured not a little labour in copying, dividing, and cleaning up many errors such copious books of fables: but I added almost no notes, to avoid increasing too greatly the bulk of the volume: for the sake of which I also used small typefaces, to avoid throwing uncountable paper at my readers, from whom I will not conceal that, I have in fact exchanged for euphemisms many words of these mythographers which, as happens in pagan mythology, fall unpleasantly upon modest ears, “however those who come later may consider the deed.” (Aen. 6, 822). I have written an index of each author named in these mythographers; however I have left it to the philologists and lexicographers to collect the new words of Latin, which I saw occasionally: by whom I also predict that an apparatus of notes for these mythographers will be furnished hereafter. In the meantime, let us be happy that from these codices published by me, we seem to have acquired the three distinguished mythographers Hyginus, Placidus, and Leontius.

This is hard to credit.  A Latin text intended for schoolboys might be bowdlerised, but hardly a scholarly edition intended for research libraries!  What on earth was Mai thinking?  How extraordinary.  And his quotation from the Aeneid tells us that he knew that subsequent scholars would curse him.

Is it possible that he was ordered to do this?  That the Vatican press could not issue obscene works?  We can only guess.

Elliot does identify the manuscripts used by Mai, which the latter had left obscure.  For the first mythographer, this is Vat. reg. lat. 1401, online here.  So it would be possible to collate the two from home, and to discover precisely what Mai did to the text.

Here on folio 14v, the bottom of column 1 and the start of column 2, is the chunk that I quoted earlier today:

It’s interesting to compare this with Mai’s Latin text (p.34), and my translation:

89.  De ortu Panis. Post mortem Ulixis Mercurius cum uxore eius Penelope concubuit. Quae sibi juxta oppidum Tegeum peperit filium, Pan nomine.  Unde et Tegeeus dicitur.

89.  On the Origin of Pan. After the death of Ulysses, Hermes lay with his wife Penelope, who gave birth to a son near the town of Tegea, named Pan.  From which he is called “the Tegean”.

Bode corrected “Tegeum” to “Tegeam”, correctly.  But there’s nothing amiss here at least.

Searching for the “rem habuit” referred to by Elliot, it appears to be in chapter 94,

94. Neptuni et Erycis. Cum animadvertisset Neptunus Venerem spatiantem in litore siculi maris, cum ea rem habuit: ex quo gravida facta filium peperit, quem nominavit Erycem.

94.  Of Neptune and Eryx.  When Neptune had noticed Venus walking on the beach of the Sicilian sea, he had an affair with her: and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, whom she named Eryx.

Here’s the manuscript image, from folio 15r:

The “sicula maris” is clear enough, but the next two words are very abbreviated.  The horizontal stroke above the “a” of “ea” is clearly “eam”.  The backwards “c” is “con” or “com”, the “p” with a squiggle above it is “prae”. So I think they read “eam conpresset,” “he lay with her.”  Not what Mai printed.

It’s very strange.  Someone needs to do this work here, and compare the text and the manuscripts, line by line.

But not me!

Update (20 April 2024):  Apparently it has been done!  A kind commenter tells me of the existence of two critical editions:

Anyway, there are at least two modern editions of the first text that comply with current critical standards:
– P. Kulcsár, Mythographi Vaticani I et II (1987, Corpus Christianorum SL 91C)
– N. Zorzetti & J. Berlioz, Premier Mythographe du Vatican (1995, Les Belles Lettres #328)
Both read “eam compressit” (pp. 40 and 57 respectively).

Thank you!

Update 22 April 2024: A kind commenter pointed out that “spatiantem” should be “walking” – fixed! Thank you.

  1. [1]Angelo Mai, Classicorum auctorum e Vaticanis codicibus editorum Tomus III. Rome, 1831.  Online here.
  2. [2]Kathleen Elliot and J. P. Elder, “A Critical Edition of the Vatican Mythographers,” in: Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 78 (1947), pp. 189-207. JSTOR.

The unfaithful Penelope – two variants in Greek myth

Greek mythology was not static.  The stories contained within it could be modified by any poet at their pleasure.  Most of the legends exist in various forms, some of which turn it inside out altogether.  The source of this profusion is probably the need of entertainers to earn a living combined with the Greek fondness for novelty.

In the Odyssey, Penelope is faithful to Odysseus despite being pestered by countless suitors for ten years.  She is a type of chastity.  Yet even this legend has been  ruthlessly tampered with.  I thought that it might be interesting to see how it developed

A couple of sources suggest that Penelope was seduced by one or another of the suitors.  According to Pausanias (book 8, 12.5), her grave was shown in Mantinea, and the locals claimed that Odysseus banished her for infidelity after his return.  In ps.Apollodorus’ epitome (7, 38) we get the names of two of the suitors, and also a version in which she gave birth to Pan, the goat-headed god, at Mantinea.

Pausanias, book 8, 12.5: … and on the right of the road is a high mound of earth. It is said to be the grave of Penelope, but the account of her in the poem called Thesprotis is not in agreement with this saying.  For in it the poet says that when Odysseus returned from Troy he had a son Ptoliporthes by Penelope. But the Mantinean story about Penelope says that Odysseus convicted her of bringing paramours to his home, and being cast out by him she went away at first to Lacedaemon, but afterwards she removed from Sparta to Mantineia, where she died.

Apollodorus, Epitome 7.38:  …. When Telegonus learned from Circe that he was a son of Ulysses, he sailed in search of him. And having come to the island of Ithaca, he drove away some of the cattle, and when Ulysses defended them, Telegonus wounded him with the spear he had in his hands, which was barbed with the spine of a sting-ray, and Ulysses died of the wound. But when Telegonus recognized him, he bitterly lamented, and conveyed the corpse and Penelope to Circe, and there he married Penelope. And Circe sent them both away to the Islands of the Blest.  But some say that Penelope was seduced by Antinous and sent away by Ulysses to her father Icarius, and that when she came to Mantinea in Arcadia she bore Pan to Hermes.  However others say that she met her end at the hands of Ulysses himself on account of Amphinomus, for they allege that she was seduced by him.

The legend about Mantinea perhaps derives from the presence of a grave of Penelope there, recorded by Pausanias in the 2nd century AD.  Visitors would naturally enquire how it comes to be here, and the legend was perhaps manufactured to account for it.

On the other hand the legend that makes Penelope the mother of Pan by Hermes is recorded in Herodotus as common knowledge.  Indeed some rather scrappy bits of scholia suggest that it was probably present already in Pindar, in a hymn to Pan of which the relevant portion is now lost.[1]  After Herodotus it appears in quite a number of sources.[2]  Here are a few:

Herodotus 2.145.4:  Now the Dionysus who was called the son of Semele, daughter of Cadmus, was about sixteen hundred years before my time, and Heracles son of Alcmene about nine hundred years; and Pan the son of Penelope (for according to the Greeks Penelope and Hermes were the parents of Pan) was about eight hundred years before me, and thus of a later date than the Trojan war.

Theocritus, Palatine Anthology book 15, 21.1-2[3]:  21.  The Pipe of Theocritus.  The bed-fellow of nobody and mother of the farfighter [Telemachus] gave birth to the swift director of the nurse [Pan] of him whose place a stone took [Zeus]….

Cicero, De natura deorum 3.56[4]:  The first Mercury has the Sky for father and the Day for mother; he is represented in a state of sexual excitation traditionally said to be due to passion inspired by the sight of Proserpine. Another is the son of Valens and Phoronis; this is the subterranean Mercury identified with Trophonius. The third, the son of the third Jove and of Maia, the legends make the father of Pan by Penelope. The fourth has Nile for father; the Egyptians deem it sinful to pronounce his name. The fifth, worshipped by the people of Pheneus, is said to have killed Argus and consequently to have fled in exile to Egypt, where he gave the Egyptians their laws and letters. His Egyptian name is Theuth, which is also the name in the Egyptian calendar for the first month of year.

Mythographici Vaticani 1, 89[5]: After the death of Ulysses, Hermes lay with his wife Penelope, who gave birth to a son near the town of Tegea, named Pan.  From which he is called “the Tegean”.

Berne Scholia on the Georgics, book 1[6], on verses 17-18:

v. 17. “Pan.” Pindar writes that Pan was born from Apollo and Penelope on Mount Lycaeus, others from Aether and Oenone. … Maenala: a mountain of Arcadia.

v. 18. “O Tegean”, comes from Tegea, a town in Arcadia, because after the death of Ulysses, Mercury lay with his wife Penelope, and she became pregnant, and on Mount Maenalus near the town of Tegea, she gave birth to Pan, and therefore he was called ‘Tegean’. ‘Tegeus’ = three-armed, ‘Tegeaeus’ = the first paean.

A still more extreme version of the story discards Hermes / Mercury, and says that Penelope slept with all the suitors (πᾶν), and Pan (Πάν) was the result.  This appears in two unconnected sources.

Lycophon, Alexandra, 722:  For he [Odysseus] shall come, he shall come to Rheithron’s sheltering haven and the cliffs of Neriton. And he shall behold all his house utterly overthrown from its foundation by lewd wife-stealers. And the vixen, primly coquetting, will make empty his halls, pouring forth the pour wight’s wealth in banqueting. And he himself, poor parasite, shall see trouble beyond what he endured at the Scaean gates; he shall endure to bear with submissive back sullen threats from his own slaves and to be punished with jeers; shall endure, too, to submit to buffeting of fists and hurling of potsherds.

John Tzetzes in his Scholia on Lycophron 722:  “Kassoreuousa” means prostituting. “Bassara” is the bacchant, the prostitute, and “koilanei” means to empty, to spend. “Bassara” primarily signifies the bacchant – from this, the contemptible and prostitute woman is called “bassara”. “Bassara” is the bulb, the swelling, a kind of fox, and the bacchant, now “bassara” is the prostitute. He is referring to Penelope.

772 “Semnos” is an adverb meaning disgracefully.

772 And Duris in his work about Agathokles says that Penelope was gluttonous and had intercourse with all the suitors and gave birth to the goat-legged Pan, whom they consider a god (FHG II 479 42). He speaks nonsense about Pan; for Pan is the son of Hermes and another Penelope. And another Pan is the son of Zeus and Hybris.

Servius, Commentary on the Aeneid book 2 v. 44[7]:   Homer made his wanderings after the Trojan war known to all. Another story is told about this too. For when he had returned to Ithaca after his wanderings, it is said that he found Pan in his house, who is said to have been born of Penelope and all her suitors, as the very name Pan seems to make clear: although others say that he was born of Mercury, who, changed into a goat, had lain with Penelope. But Ulysses, after seeing the misshapen boy, is said to have gone back to wandering.

The first of these attributes this story to Duris of Samos, who wrote a history ending in 281 BC, and was apparently noted for jazzing up his narrative rather than strict accuracy.

It’s a useful reminder that legendary material is not fixed.  No doubt every single reader of these variant versions knew full well that Penelope was the famously chaste wife of Odysseus.  The other versions are derivative, no doubt in the interest of seeking notoriety or commercial interest.

It is rather delightful to find that so much of this material is online, if you look, and available in English translation.  In particular who would have imagined that Tzetzes’ scholia on Lycophron would be online in English!  Truly we are fortunate.

  1. [1]J. A. Haldane, “Pindar and Pan: frs. 95–100 Snell,” Phoenix 22 (1968), 18–31.
  2. [2]Haldane note 20 gives a list.
  3. [3]Loeb ed., “Greek Anthology” vol.5, p.125.
  4. [4]Mercurius unus Caelo patre Die matre natus, cuius obscenius excitata natura traditur quod aspectu Proserpinae commotus sit, alter Valentis et Phoronidis filius is qui sub terris habetur idem Trophonius, tertius Iove tertio natus et Maia, ex quo et Penelopa Pana natum ferunt, quartus Nilo patre, quem Aegyptii nefas habent nominare, quintus quem colunt Pheneatae, qui Argum dicitur interemisse ob eamque causam Aegyptum profugisse atque Aegyptiis leges et litteras tradidisse: hunc Aegyptii Theyt appellant, eodemque nomine anni primus mensis apud eos vocatur.
  5. [5]George Bode, Scriptores Rerum Mythicarum Latini Tres Romae Nuper Reperti, 2 vols. (Celle, 1834), p.30: Post mortem Ulixis Mercurius cum uxore eius Penelope concubuit. quae sibi juxta oppidum Tegeam peperit filium, Pan nomine.  Unde et Tegeeus dicitur.
  6. [6]Translation by me. v. 17. Pan. Pana Pindarus ex Apolline et Penelopa in Lycaeo monte editum scribit, alii ex Aether et Oenone. Si, siquidem. Maenala, mons Arcadiae.  v. 18. O Tegeaee, dirivativum a Tegeo oppido Arcadiae, quia post mortem Ulixis Mercurius cum uxore eius concubuit Penelopa et gravidam fecit et in monte Maenalo iuxta oppidum Tegeum parturiit Pana ideoque dixit ‘Tegeaeum’.  ‘Tegeum’ tribrachus, ‘Tegeaeus’ paeon primus. 
  7. [7]Translation by me.  Huius post Iliense bellum errores Homerus notos omnibus fecit. De hoc quoque alia fabula narratur. Nam cum Ithacam post errores fuisset reversus, invenisse Pana fertur in penatibus suis, qui dicitur ex Penelope et procis omnibus natus, sicut ipsum nomen Pan videtur declarare: quamquam alii hunc de Mercurio, qui in hircum mutatus cum Penelope concubuerat, natum ferunt. Sed Ulixes posteaquam deformem puerum vidit, fugisse dicitur in errores.

ChatGPT going haywire today in Eutychius

This afternoon I have been working on the end of Eutychius, chapter one, where we encounter the story of Joseph and his less-than-amazing family problems.  As before I have interleaved the sentences: Italian first, my original translation second, and then the output from ChatGPT.

But today it’s not working at all.  Today ChatGPT is generating hallucinations, not just once, but many times.  Here’s one:

S’abbatté sulla Siria una grave carestia. Giacobbe disse quindi ai suoi figli: “Andate in Egitto a comprare del grano” (148). I fratelli di Giuseppe andarono in Egitto.

A severe famine struck Syria.  Jacob then said to his sons, “Go to Egypt and buy grain.”(148)  Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt.

A severe famine spread over the whole country of Syria. Jacob said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”  Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt.

Um… what?

In other cases it took direct speech and turned it into indirect speech, sometimes omitting material.

Today I have a little time, so I was going to do some work.  But no.  Basically I can’t get anything done today.  The output from ChatGPT translation is switching around madly.

Yesterday I heard of the term “temperature”, used for one of the parameters to AI generated text.  Like so much about AI, the name is intended to obfusticate.  Many of the “explanations” are likewise intended to conceal.  This one is a bit better:

A temperature of 0 means roughly that the model will always select the highest probability word. A higher temperature means that the model might select a word with slightly lower probability, leading to more variation, randomness and creativity.

and here’s another:

TEMPERATURE is the variable in AI systems that determines how predictable or not it is.

HIGH temperature will cause it to be more creative.

LOW temperature will cause it to be more predictable.

High temperature ALSO can cause it to output complete nonsense if the temperature is too high.

Essentially it’s a parameter to say “how closely do you want to follow the data in the database, and how much randomness do you want?”

None of us need “tools” that aren’t there when you need them and vary randomly in output.


From my diary

I’m working away on revising the translation of Eutychius.  I am glad to say that I am really finding very few outright mistakes, which is encouraging.  I am most of the way through a revised version of chapter 1, and once this is complete then I will update the combined file, and change the version number.  I added a box of version numbers and changes to the back of the file for just this reason.

The death of a close family member last year has involved me in endless work to sort out the estate.  It’s going quite well.  The last six weeks have been spent attempting to get one set of forms done, which – after a journey to get signatures yesterday – I finally managed to get in the post today.  The forms are so old-fashioned that they even required me to pay by cheque.  I actually had to obtain a physical cheque-book in order to do so.  The whole business could and should be possible with a single form on the web.  Anyway with luck I have guessed all the answers correctly, and that bit of business will now happen, and be done and done with.  Other parts of the settlement will require yet more work, which I would guess will drain my time and energy for much of this year.

Eutychius is, therefore, a bit of sanity in all this nonsense.

I have also drafted a post on the origins of the Easter bunny.  If you do a search in Google Books, and the Library of Congress Newspaper Archive, you find very quickly that the phrase “Easter bunny” does not appear before 1900.  (Although the first references are clearly referring to earlier use).  The Easter bunny seems to be a stripped-down, streamlined, and industrialised version of the German Osterhase legend, brought into existence by the mass production of chocolate bunnies in Pennsylvania.  But you will have to wait until I can revise the draft and post it.

Many people will be aware that every year, on every Christian holiday, there is a chorus of screaming that “Easter” (or whatever) “is pagan.”  These absurd claims are repeated by lazy journalists.  It has got very bad in the last few years.  Anti-Christian malice is not absent, but some educated atheists have got fed up with this nonsense and are starting to campaign against it.

But there is another group also posting the same material, but from a very different perspective.  These people rarely reveal their affiliation, but say things like “Easter isn’t in the bible” and so “therefore Easter is pagan.”  They pose as Christians.  But invariably they turn out to be promoting Jewish observances.  This suggests that they are weird American cultists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hebrew Roots, Seventh Day Adventists, and other groups derived more or less directly from Herbert W. Armstrong’s “World Wide Church of God”.  They are not Jews, and they often appeal to the bible, despite the clear condemnation of such teaching in Galatians 3.  They often pretend to be Messianic Jews, although they are not.  I don’t quite know how best to address such folk, yet something ought to be done.  Many of them on social media seem to be “bots”, posting at the direction of another.  I had always thought such groups basically harmless, but the rage and spirit of deceit that I find online suggests something about their real origins.

While reading such stuff, I was reminded of one of the “Hebrew Roots” figures, a strange man named Michael Rood, who used to dress up as an ancient Hebrew priest, and who is responsible for some of the odder claims.  I have collected a certain amount of material about him.  But I am not clear that I am the best person to document this weird penumbra to American religion.  So I won’t write a blog post.  One has to draw the line somewhere!

In the last few days I have noticed that several Christian groups in England seem to be facing a coordinated campaign to destroy them.  May I ask Christian readers to pray for God’s grace, and for those attacked?

The attacks employ what is now a well-known methodology, of creating a scandal, using the media to holler it at the top of their voices, while smearing as many people as possible, regardless of whoever was alleged to be the original wrongdoer.  Once the moral reputation of the group is destroyed, demands are made for the existing leadership to resign, and that their replacement should be drawn from those supporting the attackers.  These in turn have no power to resist the demands to endorse fingerprint vices, and pay huge “compensation.”  In this way the group is effectively destroyed, or at the very least financially ruined.  The Catholic Church has been subjected to this process repeatedly, in order to seize its property and authority.  Usually the allegation is of child abuse, but in fact any accusation will do.  The sincerity of such awful allegations may be judged from the Rotherham scandal, in which the same people happily connived at appalling child abuse by Muslim gangs.  This demonstrated that the “abuse” claims are not the point.  These people care nothing for the supposed abuse.  It’s just a pretext for a power grab.  Likewise it is noticeable that it is only unpopular groups that seem to have problems of this sort.  British institutions are stuffed full of every kind of deviant, yet not one of them is up to mischief?  I think not.

No criminal accusations have been deployed against the British groups. But those campaigning are trying to smear as many Christian groups as they can.

Among the groups attacked in the last few months is the UCCF.  This is an inoffensive umbrella organisation for Christian Unions at British universities.  It has always been hated for its loyalty to the gospel.  The pretext deployed here is that UCCF only recruited young people for a few years and then encouraged them to resign, which – we are solemnly told, is a “breach of employment legislation”.  I would imagine that every youth organisation must do this, unless it wishes to be staffed by old people (!), so the claim is frivolous.  It’s a power-play, no more, of the kind above.  But experienced senior staff have resigned, which is troubling.

I myself owe a great deal to UCCF.  Please would you pray that God will defend them?  Those attacking hope to destroy Christian student work in the UK.

This summer the Oxford Patristics Conference will take place, as it does every four years.  This is critically important to anyone intending to pursue a career in patristics.  Unfortunately the cost to attend is now so great that I cannot afford to do so.  But I hope to be in Oxford for a few hours on one day – probably the 7th August -, and perhaps I will meet one or two people while I am there!