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 Archive.org, 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):

I.e.

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.

fol.138v:

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.

Fol.156r:

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
TITI LIVI
uc ter praef. urbis apud Hennam
AB VRBE CONDITA
Victorianus uc emendabam domnis Symmachis
EXPLICIT LIBER VII INCIPIT LIBER VIII.

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 archive.org 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:

= APPUNTO PER S.E. IL CAPO DEL GOVERNO =

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.e.

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:

I.e.

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.

Manuscripts and text of the Vita S. Valentini: a review of the article by Edoardo D’Angelo

I’ve started to look at the photocopies that I obtained three days ago of articles in the Bassetti volume of papers about St Valentine.[1]  Naturally my first interest is the paper by Edoardo D’Angelo, “La Passio sancti Valentini martyris (BHL 8460-8460b): Un ‘martirio occulto’ d’età postcostantiniana?” (p.179-222), as it contains a discussion of the manuscripts and a new critical edition.

The first thing that struck me about the paper was its position.  If I were doing a volume of papers centred around a single literary text, and one of those papers was a critical edition of the text, then I would most certainly place it at the front.  I would also insist on a translation.  Doing so would be the natural way to begin such a volume and present it to the public.  Instead it is the seventh paper in the volume, and relatively one of the shortest.

The paper starts with a list of manuscripts containing the work, which is really very useful considering the small space in which it has to appear.  There are 118 manuscripts in all, and two of a slightly modified  version of the text identified as BHL 8460b.  Seven of these date from before 1000 AD, two before 900; and a further thirty-seven from before 1200.  These are all given.[2]  The remainder sadly are not; but of course there is no space.

The origins of each manuscript are not given, but we learn that nearly all of these are Italian, and all of the early ones.  D’Angelo infers from this that the text has an Italian origin.  It is always risky to argue from survivals, but it is not improbable in any way that the Life of St Valentine of Terni should originate close by, in Lazio.  The other content of the manuscripts likewise relates to Umbrian saints.

The 37 manuscripts include a manuscript from South Africa, from the “Grey collection”.  I don’t think that I have ever before seen reference to a medieval manuscript held in South Africa.  I would hope that the remaining South Africans are photographing the manuscripts as fast as they can before the barbarian rulers of that unhappy land destroy them.

The wide diffusion of the text and the Carolingian date of some of the copies tends to suggest an early date.  The quotation of two sentences verbatim by Bede in his Martyrology (CPL 2032) in the early 8th century provides a terminus antequam.  The text is most likely therefore of the 6-7th century.

The standard reference edition of the text is still that of the Bollandists in the Acta Sanctorum (AASS), under February 14.  This was printed in 1658, yet D’Angelo tells us that “Tale edizione seicentesca, fondata su una base decente di codici, ha retto tutto sommato all’urto del tempo e dell’avanzamento della ricerca.” (“This seventeenth century edition, founded on a decent base of manuscripts, has all in all survived the impact of time and the progress of research”), which is fair comment.  The AASS introduction states that it was based on five mss plus the Mombritius edition; but the footnotes to the text come from three manuscripts; “S. Maxim.”, “Regium.” and “Gladbas.”, six breviaries, and two printed editions, the Mombritius and Surius.  D’Angelo has clearly not had the chance to pursue this very far, but suggests that the “Regium” must be one of the 8 mss in the Royal Library in Brussels – reasonable, considering that the Bollandists were working in that area – and the “Gladbas” is probably ms. 72 in the library of the Bollandists, previously from the monastery of St Vitus Martyr in Gladbach.

The editor has produced his new edition based on the earliest manuscripts, plus a handful from the next 37, which he believes to be from the same geographical area.  This is reasonable up to a point; but what we do not see is proper stemmatics.  We all know that late manuscripts can contain truth which is not found in surviving earlier manuscripts.  There is also the problem that this is not a literary text, but a hagiographical one, where the copyist may feel free to alter the text.  The article is not nearly long enough to explore these questions properly, and so the new edition is not really as critical as it could be.  All the same it involves various small changes to the text printed by the Bollandists.

One decision made by the editor seems to me to be absolutely mistaken.  He has not normalised the spelling: we have “michi” rather than “mihi”, for instance.  The logic here seems to be faulty: we are told that the mss vary wildly, that we have no idea what spelling the author might have used (although I do not see why we care), and so he has compromised between the spellings of the manuscripts, in order to avoid “alle pericolosissime tentazioni di classicizzazione forzata” (the most perilous temptations of forced classicization”).  But we do not do this in our literary editions.  The variable spelling of Shakespeare, or even Jane Austen, are not respected in modern editions.  Spelling was not standardised in the past.  This was an evil, not a good, and it was a barrier to communication.  The editor should have used the standard spellings, and noted anything he felt was significant in the apparatus.

Short though the paper is, the author has also been obliged to discuss whether the content of the Life of St Valentine is in some way historical.  The attempt is made to show that it might be.

We learn that many people suppose the events in the story to belong to the reign of Claudius II Gothicus (268-270), because that is the setting for the martyrdom of Valentine the Roman in the Passio Maris et Martha, which may or may not be the same saint as our St Valentine of Terni.  The logic of this is poor: there may be two separate St Valentines, or they may be the same one.

The Prefect of the City of Rome in the Life is given as “furius Placidus”, “the furious Placidus”.  The Bollandists treated this as a joke by the author, but D’A. identifies him as a certain absurdly named Marcus Mecius Memmius Furius Baburius Cecilianus Placidus, praetorian prefect from 342-4 and prefect of the city from 346-7.  Other not very distinctive names are adduced to suggest that the story should be set in the same period.  None of this seems much more than speculation.  Nothing compels us to believe that these are anything but coincidences.

  1. [1]M. Bassetti &c, San Valentino e il suo culto tra medioevo ed età contemporanea. Uno status quaestionis, Terni, 2012. ISBN-13: 978-8879885713.
  2. [2]The numeral for the shelfmark for the early MS in the Arch.Cap.S.Pietro has been omitted; unfortunate considering that there are 470 such mss.

From my diary

Today I had to drive for three hours each way for a job “interview” of around twenty minutes.  I already had a job offer, but I thought it wise to have a face-to-face meeting, and it proved very wise indeed.  The job looks like a stress-fest.  Not for me.

But I redeemed the travel time somewhat.  The road passed close by Cambridge University Library, so I stopped off on the way.  The volume that I wanted was waiting, for I had ordered it last night using the internet.  This was the Bassetti volume, San Valentino e il culto, on St Valentine of Terni, to which I referred in this post.  My intention was to photocopy the key articles within it, which I did, and then went on my way.

The most important article was Edoardo D’Angelo, “La passio sancti Valentini martyris…”, which contains a critical text of the Life of St Valentine that I have been translating, together with a list of manuscripts and an attempt at a stemma.  I have extracted the Latin text  of the Life, this evening, using my trusty Finereader 14.  It will be most interesting to see how and where it diverges from the text as given in the Acta Sanctorum, which I have been translating.  I’ve not seen any obvious changes so far.

One deviation is regrettable.  D’Angelo has decided to number the individual sentences of the Life, which is fine. But he also decided to ignore the section/chapter numbers from the Acta Sanctorum.  This is not fine.  It means that anyone with his text before them cannot locate material mentioned in any prior scholarship; they will have to find the Acta Sanctorum text.  Likewise any subsequent scholarship using his edition and numbering system will force the reader to obtain access to an obscure Italian volume of collected papers, held in relatively few research libraries.

D’Angelo is not the only editor to commit this sin. A little while ago I found that Zacharopoulos, a modern Greek editor of Theophanes of Nicaea (see here), did exactly the same.  This was even more of a problem because the Sotiropoulos editio princeps is almost completely inaccessible without an international flight.

Every new edition should always indicate the divisions or page numbers of the very first edition, the editio princeps.  It’s only considerate towards those who will use your work.

For Valentine, I might see if I can rectify this problem myself somehow, by giving a concordance or something on this blog.

    *    *    *    *

It’s slightly odd to think that I have made brief raids up to Cambridge like this for more than twenty years now.  It means that I have witnessed a lot of change there.

In fact every time I visit Cambridge University Library something is different.  It is not always better.  For instance some strange person has moved the photocopiers out of a dedicated room and scattered them around the building.  Staff are becoming used to bewildered visitors hunting for a machine.

Likewise I am not an alumnus of Cambridge.  It is merely the nearest research library that I can use.  Because of this, I have to pay a fee to use the library, and outsiders like myself are second-class readers in many little ways.

This time the change was about photocopying.  In reception I asked to put some money on my library card in order to pay for photocopies at the machine.  To my surprise they deducted some odd amount, on the pretext of the VAT tax.  A notice in the photocopier room in the West Room informed me that university members got their photocopies ex-VAT.

I confess that I wasn’t aware that national taxes on the supply of goods and services do not apply if you are a member of certain universities.  This sounds unlikely, in fact.  I suspect that the taxman will take a dim view of this approach, once he becomes aware.  But of course he shall not learn it from me.

The other thing that made me smile was that they made me fill out a paper form, in order to add money to my card.  I suppose we must expect pettifoggery from library staff.  The more conscientious they are, the better for the books, but the worse for low-status readers like myself.

I confess that, in my exasperation at all this tomfoolery, I expressed myself less politely than I might have done.  Luckily there was no harm done this time.  But it is always a mistake, as well as uncharitable.

I shall see what Bassetti’s volume looks like tomorrow!

From my diary

Yesterday and today I’ve been working on a translation of the “Saint’s Life” of St Valentine of Terni / Interamna.  I started this a few months ago, and then got diverted.  It’s only ten chapters in the Acta Sanctorum, two sides of a page.  It is mildly incredible that nobody has translated this.

Anyway this evening I got to the end of chapter ten.  So the first pass all the way through is complete.  However I think that a few scattered sentences were left uncertain last time, so I need to produce a draft for these too.

After that, I shall have to read through it, and revise it.  I also need to read the prefatory material, and take a look at modern material, in order to write a short introduction.  This will probably happen next week, so the Life will go online when that happens.   I have engagements Monday-Wednesday so probably this will be at the end of the week; but who knows?

I never did gain access to Bassetti’s volume on St Valentine.  I think that, for 80 dollars, I can live without it.

An email late last night invited me to investigate the background to the text printed in Migne as Athanasius’ Exposition on the Psalms.  The “work” is actually a collection of catena extracts, assembled by the Maurist fathers in the 18th century.  They went through the 11th century catena of Nicetas of Heraclea, and copied each extract that Nicetas ascribed to Athanasius – a risky proceeding.  If I had nothing else to do then I might look into it, but of course I do.

My time at home is probably coming to an end.  I started applying for contracts a couple of weeks ago, and I now have an interview with an old client, plus four other irons in the fire.  I would expect to start work in July.  I suspect that it will be good for me to get back to work, surrounded by busy people with things to do.  But I expect that it will be quite a shock to the system, after almost five months at home.   It does mean that I need to get my projects to a suitable point to stop.

More on “Magganum” and St George

Following yesterday’s post, a kind correspondent wrote to tell me of a Greek word in wiktionary that seems relevant, μάγγανο.  This noun may be a form of war machine, but also a type of crane, or a windlass.  The email continued:

The -um endings in Latin coincide with the Greek ending -on, hence, “magganon”.

It is a byzantine war machine like a catapult, but also a windlass or a winch.   I looked into the biographies of Saint George, and one of the tortures he was made to suffer by the relentless persecuter Diocletian was a wheel, to which he was strapped, and as it was turned (by a windlass?) his body was slashed by various sharp objects.

This is an icon of that torture:

St George on the wheel

Another tidbit, regarding the term “magganon”: a modern, composite Greek word for the instrument used for drawing water out of a well (πηγάδι) = μάγγανο-πήγαδο.

The icon is very helpful.  It shows George, tied to the wheel with rope, and the swords positioned underneath to injure him.

Now this does indeed look like the right approach.  There are mentions in the Life of daggers, right next to the references to “maggana”.  It works!