From my diary

It’s all rather busy right now, as it always is for me in April.

First, I’ve tried to enable “https” on the address.  It’s possible that this will cause something odd to happen.  Please let me know if it does.

I’ve got hold of the Greek text of Severian of Gabala, De sigillis sermo (On the seals; CPG 4209) and sent that over to Fr Alban Justinus, to see if he’d like to have a crack at it.  It’s supposed to have something interesting in it about the canon of scripture.  I’m also interested in Severian’s work against the Jews, but we’ll see about that sometime.

I’ve also sent the Latin text of John the Deacon, author of a medieval life of Nicholas of Myra, to a gentleman who wrote in, offering to translate something.  Let’s see what happens.

Another correspondent has written, raising questions about the translation of pseudo-Hegesippus that I have online.  There are a number of simple errors in it, it seems.  I shall write a preface containing the queries, and leave it as it is.  Ideally I would get someone to review and revise the translation – the original translator is now dead, and only did it as a quick-and-dirty exercise for a relative anyway.  I don’t have anyone at present to do that; and I can’t spare the time to do it myself.

I’m still not 100% recovered from my flu of 4 weeks.  I notice almost everyone has or has had a cold or flu.  What a sickly season it has been!  The sun arrived today, however.  This time of year is paperwork time, when the government demands that I account for all my earnings, so that they can take some of it.  Would that income tax had never been invented!

Nicholas of Myra, “Vita Compilata”, now available in English

Another of the medieval “saints’ lives” of St Nicholas of Myra, the basis for our Santa Claus, is now accessible in English.  This is the so-called Vita Compilata, or “Compiled life”, put together from earlier hagiographical sources.

A kind gentleman writing as Fr. Alban Justinus has translated it for us, from the Greek edition of G. Anrich.  Many thanks!

Here it is:

As ever, these are made public domain.  Do whatever you like with them, personal, educational or commercial.

Trial and Martyrdom of St Apollonius – by Anthony Alcock

Dr Alcock has sent over a translation of two texts, one Greek, one Coptic, of the Trial and Acts of St. Apollonius.  I’m a bit pressed for time this evening so I will release it as is:

It is great to have these, though.  Thank you!

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 5 – part 3

Eutychius continues with the reign of Solomon.

7. It is told that Hīram, king of Tire, was the first king to wear purple.  The cause of this was a shepherd who had a dog.  This shepherd went, one day, together with the flock and the dog, right onto the shore of the sea.  The dog took a shell that was lying on the bank, of a color similar to purple, and ate it.  In doing so, it filled its mouth with the blood of the shell.  Seeing him in that state, the shepherd took a woollen cloth and wiped the dog’s muzzle with it.  Then he put that woollen cloth on his head, like a crown, and so he began to walk in the sun, so that all those who saw him thought that rays of fire were coming out of his head.  Learning of this, Hīram, king of Tyre, sent for the shepherd who went straight to him.  [Hīram] saw the crown, was amazed and very pleased with the color, and ordered the dyers to dye an equal.  The dyers, then, went to the seashore, looked for shells until they found them, and they smelled the purple.  This is how we got purple (36).

The length of the temple that Solomon, son of David, built was sixty cubits, the width twenty and the height one hundred.  The interior was made all overlaid with gold.  Inside the temple he built a cedar-wood tabernacle twenty cubits long, twenty wide, and twenty high.  The inside and the outside he covered in gold.  On it he had the image of the cherubim sculptured in gold; the length of each of these was ten cubits, the width was five, one on the right and the other on the left of the tabernacle.  Each of them had six wings. They kept their wings spread out over the tabernacle as if to cover it.  He brought the ark from the city of Sihyūn and placed it in this [new] dwelling place.  In front of this tabernacle he had two majestic and imposing copper columns erected, each one thirty cubits high and five wide.  He then made a crimson veil studded with all kinds of precious stones and had it hung on the columns facing the tabernacle.  Then he made a table of copper on which to lay the bread of the sacrifice, twenty cubits long, twenty wide and ten high, which was covered all with gold and precious stones.  He then brought into the temple every vessel of gold, silver or precious stone.  He then built a palace for himself and covered it with gold and silver.  Inside the palace he built the hall of judgments, a hundred cubits long, fifty wide and thirty high, with four rows of cedar columns covered with gold on which stood four porticoes carved in gold.  Then he made a great ivory throne, engraved in gold and set with precious stones, and he had it placed in the centre of this hall, and he used to sit on it when he was busy with the affairs of the people.  He finished building the temple and the palace after seven years.  From the reign of David to the end of the construction of the temple fifty-nine years had passed.

8. The tributes owed to Solomon, son of David, each year were six hundred and sixty six thousand “qintār” (37) of gold, in addition to that from trade.  His daily provision was thirty “kurrs” of flowers of flour, sixty “kurrs” (38) of flour, ten calves, twenty-two bulls, one hundred sheep in addition to deer, goats, and birds.  In the palace of Solomon there were a hundred tables of gold and on each table a hundred trays and three hundred plates of gold, and beside each plate three hundred cups of gold.

One day when Solomon was sitting in the courtroom, two women came forward carrying a baby. One said: “Yesterday, I and this woman gave birth in the same house. The son of this woman died during the night while I was sleeping. She then took her already lifeless son and put him on me, taking my son.” The other said: “This child is mine. It is the son of this woman who is dead”.  Solomon then asked that they bring him a sword and taking the child with one hand he said: “I will cut the baby into two parts and give half of it to each of you.”  But the child’s mother said: “My lord, do not divide it. Give it to her”. The other said: “Divide him, so that he is neither mine nor hers”. Then Solomon gave the child to the one who had said “Do not divide it” because, from the love that she had shown for him, he realized that she was the mother.  And the people remained in admiration of his judgment (39).

Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines (40).  Solomon married the daughter of Pharaoh Shīshaq (41), king of Egypt, and took her to Ūrashalīm.  Later the pharaoh left Egypt, attacked the city of ‘Āzar (42) and set them on fire.  He also burned out the Canaanites who lived in Māri‘āb (42), took their possessions and sent them to his daughter, the wife of Solomon.

9. Hearing about King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba (44) came to him with many gifts and gave him one hundred and thirty “qintār” of gold (45).  Solomon granted her all that she asked and [the queen] went away.  Solomon, son of David, married [many] women of foreign tribes, of the Ammonites, the Amalekites, the Moabites and other [peoples].  He loved them, and because of his intense love towards them they induced him to build a temple for them where he had idols placed for them to worship and sacrifice to (46).  For this reason, Solomon, son of David, was removed from the list of prophets.  Among his soldiers there were forty thousand riders on mares and twelve thousand horsemen on horses (47).

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 5 – part 2

We’re in the Old Testament here.  Can you work out which familiar faces lie behind the Arabised names?

3. Then the king of Sūbā, called Hadad-‘Āzir, son of Rihūb (13), rose up against David, and waged war on him.  David confronted him and conquered him, killing seven thousand horsemen and twenty thousand infantrymen (14).  Then Sūris, king of Damascus (15), moved to bring help to Hadad-‘Āzir and David killed twenty-two thousand of his men.  Sūris, king of Damascus, became a slave of David.  David had all the gold and silver belts and the many jewels of the men of Hadad-‘Āzir taken and brought them to Ūrashalīm.  These jewels were then  taken by Sīsāf (16), king of Egypt, when he came to Ūrashalīm during the reign of Ragi‘ām, son of Sulaymān (17).  Following that same battle David brought to Ūrashalīm very much copper (18), and it was from this copper that Solomon made the columns, bases and doors when he built the temple.

4. After this David saw a woman named Birsāyi‘, daughter of Yliyāt (19), wife of Uriyā.  She was an attractive and beautiful woman.  In a passion, he summoned her and the woman went to him.  [David] slept with her and she conceived by him, while her husband Uriyā was with David’s lieutenant Yuwāb, fighting the tribes.  When [David] knew that [the woman] had conceived by him, he sent for Uriyā and gave him leave, and ordered him to sleep at his house that night.  Uriyā did not go home that night, but slept with the ushers in the palace [of the king].  The next day David sent him back to the war, thinking that Uriyā had spent the night at home.  By making Uriyā sleep at home, David simply waited for him to lie with his own wife, so that when she appeared that she was pregnant, he would not have had to say anything.  But since he had not slept at home, David wrote to Yuwāb to place Uriyā to fight at the head of the ark.  Yuwāb did as he was commanded and Uriyā fell fighting at the head of the ark.  After the death of Uriyā, David married his wife Birhāyi‘ and had a son.  Then the prophet Nāthān presented himself to him and said to him: “Two men lived in a village.  One was rich and possessed many sheep and oxen and the other was poor, and had only one sheep upon whose milk and wool he lived.  The rich had a man as a guest.  He took the poor man’s sheep, slaughtered it and fed it to his guest” (20).

David said to him: “What a wicked thing he did!  It is right that [the poor man] should have four [sheep] in exchange for the [stolen sheep]” (21). Then the prophet Nāthān rebuked him saying: “You are that man!” (22).  David tore his clothes, put on a rough sackcloth of wool and fasted for seven days, asking the Lord [not] to let the child die.  On the seventh day the child died.  Later the wife of Uriyā conceived a second time by David and he gave birth to Solomon.  David had twenty-four children.  Then Amnūn, son of David, who was the eldest of his children, looked at his sister on his father’s side, named Tamar, fell in love with her and lay with her.  So angry with him was the uterine brother of Tamar, named Abīshālūm, son of David, that he killed his brother Amnūn and took shelter with Thalmāni, son of ‘Imyāl, king of Kishūr (23).  Two hundred Israelites joined him and rose up against his father David, occupying Gibrun (24).  When David heard that he had occupied Gibrūn (25) he felt fear and escaped from Ūrashalīm, leaving the city.  His son went to Ūrashalīm and made his entrance.  He took his father’s concubines and fornicated with them.  Then he chased David who fled from him and passed over the Jordan. Then Yuwāb, David’s lieutenant, collected a part of his men and went out against Abīshālūm, son of David.  They came to battle in the territory of Ephraim.  Twenty thousand men fell from both sides and the battle was bitter.  Abīshālūm rode a mule and his hair became entangled with the branches of a terebinth, breaking the bone of his neck.  Yuwāh shot three arrows, hitting him in the heart and one of his men finished him with a sword stroke.  The news came to David and he felt immense pain.  Then he returned to Ūrashalīm.  Abīshālūm, son of David, had thick hair and when his hair was shaved from time to time, it actually weighed two hundred mithqāl (26).

5. There was a prophet in the time of David, Nāthān.  In his time also lived Wākhiyā as-Sīlūnī, Isāī, Hīmān and Badūthūn (27), of the tribe of Levi, and Yuwāb, son of Sārūyā sister of David, who was his lieutenant.  David and his lieutenant Yuwāb held a census of the tribes of the sons of Israel.  The sons of Israel counted by David and his lieutenant Yuwāb were forty million and a hundred thousand.  In another text it says: four million and one hundred thousand (28).  Four hundred and seventy thousand of them belonged to the tribe of Judah.  However, the tribes of Beniamin and Levi were not counted.  The number of “Sāqitūn”, of those who did not belong to the lineage of Jacob, was one thousand. God then said to the prophet Kād (29): “I had forbidden David to count the sons of Israel. So go to him and tell him to choose one of these three things: either that there is a famine throughout his kingdom for seven years; or that he is conquered and subjugated by his enemy for three months; or that death prevail for three days throughout his kingdom” (30). David chose death.  Seventy thousand people died within the space of six hours. David then begged for help from the prophet Kād.  They all implored God, who was moved to compassion on them and turned death away from them.  The high priest in the days of David was Abiyāthār, son of Abi-Mālikh (31), of the house of the priest Ālī and of Sādūq.  Now an old man, the prophet David called his son Solomon, dictated his will and gave him all the goods, jewels, gold and silver of his kingdom.  The prophet David died at the age of seventy. He had reigned for forty years.

6. After him his son Solomon reigned. He was twelve years old.  After his father he reigned for forty years. Yuwāb, David’s lieutenant, was afraid of him and took refuge in the sanctuary (32).  Solomon sent Nabā, son of Yahūnāda‘ (33) against him, who killed Yuwāb with a sword stroke and had him buried in the desert (34).  King Solomon came out stronger, and all the kings of the surrounding countries were afraid, and brought him gifts and concluded a truce with him.  Solomon surrounded Ūrashalīm with walls, and in the twelfth year of his reign began the construction of the temple.  Hiram, king of Sur, sent him many gifts, a lot of cedar, pine and fir wood, and a lot of money to make use of in the construction of the temple.  Solomon sent to Hīram each year twenty thousand “kurr” (35) of wheat and twenty thousand “kurr” of zibibbo.

The martyrdom of Theodore the Anatolian: a Bohairic Coptic text translated by Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock has sent in another of his excellent translations from Coptic.  This time it is a hagiographical text, the Martyrdom of Theodore the Anatolian, or Oriental.  It is translated from a Bohairic Coptic text preserved in Codex Vaticanus 63 ff. 28-54.  The text was edited by I. Balestri and H. Hyvernat in the Acta Martyrum (1907), p.34-62 (in the second half of the volume), with a Latin translation on p.30 f.  This is online here.

Here is Dr Alcock’s English translation, which is very welcome:

Most hagiographical texts belong to the 5-9th century; no doubt this does also.

There is a plate from a 9th century Morgan collection manuscript, of which details are here and here, and which contains a version of the Life in Sahidic Coptic (facsimile online at Internet Archive here).  The webpage labels him as Theodore Tiro.

There seems to be quite a  bit of confusion about the various lives of St Theodore, and whether he is one saint or two!  There are several lives in Greek, listed in the Bibliotheca Hagiographica Graeca (BHG) entries 1760-1773.  Unfortunately none of the material indicates which Greek life the Bohairic corresponds to.

But it is useful to have this text in English!  Thank you!

Where to find remains of the Hippodrome seating today

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

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

She writes:

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

Clearly well worth visiting!

From my diary

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

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

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

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

I must translate some more Eutychius.

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

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

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

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

Many thanks!

A genuine quote by Plato

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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