Life of Aesop, translated by Anthony Alcock

Anthony Alcock has deviated from his usual work in Syriac and Coptic to translate one of the ancient Lives of Aesop.  His full introduction explains which, and based on what manuscripts.  This work belongs to the genre of “sayings” or “wisdom” literature (gnomologia); but I presume might also relate to the genre of Saints’ lives.

This is therefore very valuable to have.  Thank you!

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 4

Chapter four is also derived from the Arabic bible.

1.  Then the priest ‘Ālī governed the people for twenty years.  The temple was located in Shīlūm (1).  The priest ‘Ālī had two sons.  The first was called Hufni and the second Finhās.  In his time there lived a prophet of ar-Rāmayyayn (2) named Hilqānā, son of Yārūhām, of the tribe of Levi (3).  The prophet Hilqānā had two wives: one was called Hanna, and was sterile, and the other Hanānā (4), who had children.  Hanna used to go to the temple in Shīlūn to invoke God and ask him to give her a child.  She had made a vow to God that she would put him at the service of the temple.  She conceived and bore Samū’il, the prophet.  When Samū’il was three years old, his father Hilqānā and his mother Hanna took him to the temple in Shīlūn, where they offered sacrifices to God and entrusted their son Samū’il to the priest ‘Ālī.  So Samū’īl began to serve in the temple.  The foreign tribes gathered to fight against the children of Israel and killed four thousand men in war.  Then the leaders of the sons of Israel said:  “Let us take the Ark of the Covenant from Shīlūn and keep it among us when we fight for God, to deliver us through it from the hands of our enemies” (5).  So they took the ark from Shīlūn and placed the two sons of ‘Ālī, Hufni and Finhās near them. The foreign tribes came out against them and beat them and killed thirty thousand Israelites.  Whoever managed to escape fled.  The two sons of ‘Ālī, Hufni and Finhās were also killed.  The foreign tribes seized the ark and took it from Yazdūd to Ghazza (6), placing it in the temple of the idol Dā‘ūn.  The priest ‘Ālī was sitting at the temple door in Shīlūn, when a man entered who had taken part in the defeat, with a dirty face and tattered clothes. The priest Ālī said to him: “What happened to you?”  He replied: “The sons of Israel have been defeated. They made a great slaughter, even your children were killed and the ark was taken” (7).  On hearing that the ark had been taken, the priest ‘Ālī fell face down and died instantly, at the age of ninety (8).  The next day the inhabitants of Ghazza poured into the temple of Dā‘ūn to see the ark, but they found the idol Dā‘ūn with his face to the ground, at the foot of the ark.  Death fell on the city of Ghazza, the inhabitants were hit by dysentery and their territory filled with flies and geckos (9). The ark stayed with them for four months.  In another text it is said: for seven months.  Eventually the inhabitants of Ghazza said: “Clearly if we were struck by the dysentery and the plague of these flies and geckos it was because of this ark.  Let’s carry it away if we do not want to die”.  But some said: “Let’s see if it is precisely for this reason.  Let us take two bulls that have never ploughed, attach them to a new cart and place the ark on top of it, placing a chest near it with images of the flies and geckos (10) of gold and silver, gift of every village, of Ghazza, of ‘Asqalān, of Rafakh, of Yazdūd and of ‘Aqrūn (11). If the bulls go to the land of the sons of Israel, we will get rid of the ark and we will know that this dysentery, flies and geckos are here because of the ark.  But if they do not go in the direction of the land of the sons of Israel, we will know that all this is a phenomenon of the alteration of the air and of the pestilence” (12).  They did as they said.  But the two bulls made their way to the land of the sons of Israel, and that was how they found peace from the dysentery that had struck them, and the geckos and flies left them.  When the two bulls arrived at Bayt Shams (13), the inhabitants were busy at the harvest in the camp of Usiyā  (14).  They took the ark, tore the chariot to pieces and sacrificed the two bullocks, hastening them to God as a sacrifice.  Then they took the casket with pictures of flies and geckos of gold and silver. The ark was taken to the village known to the inhabitants under the name of Qaryat al-Inab (15), and to the home of Abinādāb, father of Ghazā (16) and hidden in a place called “al-Ğab’ā “, i.e. the stronghold.  There were chosen as custodians of the Ark Ghazā and Ahnū (17).

3. After the death of the priest ‘Ālī, the prophet Samuel ruled the people for twenty years. The children of Israel abandoned the worship of idols and began to worship God.  The foreign tribes were afraid of them.  The sons of Israel took back from the foreign tribes all the cities they had occupied, from ‘Aqrūn to Rafakh.  The prophet Samuel had two sons: the elder was called Yū’il and the younger Abiyyā.  They ruled the people in peace and quiet at Bi’r Sab‘a (18).  When the prophet Samuel became old, some of the Israelites went to him, to ar-Rāma, and told him: “Give us a king to reign over us like all the other peoples have.” The prophet Samuel answered them: “If you make a king, he will take your possessions for himself, and he will take tithes of all that you possess” (19).  They answered him: “That is acceptable”. Then the prophet Samuel told them: “I know a man from the tribe of Beniamin, named Qīsh, son of Anī’īl (20), who has a son named Shāwl (21), handsome, tall and brave. I will make him your king “.  Qish, Saul’s father, [found that] some donkeys were lost. Qīsh said to his son Saul: “Take your servant with you and go and look for the donkeys”. Saul went out from village to village looking for the donkeys.  The servant told him: “Let us go to the village of the prophet Samuel and he will show us the place where the donkeys are” (22).  Then they went to the prophet Samuel, who gave them food and drink.  Then he took a horn full of oil, poured it on Saul’s head and anointed him saying: “Today God makes you king of the children of Israel.  You will have a sign in the fact that you will go to your father and find the donkeys are with him” (23).  And it happened as the prophet Samuel had said.

4. Saul was the first to reign over the sons of Israel.  The men of the city of Yābīn (24) and of the city of Gala’ad went over to Māhash (25) the Ammonite because they were not satisfied with King Saul.  Māhash went out with many men to fight Saul.  But Saul won, and he made a great slaughter of the Ammonites.  Then the prophet Samuel took with him Saul and a group of elders of the sons of Israel and went with them to Galğāl (26).  He took a horn full of oil and anointed Saul a second time in Galğal before those gathered there.  The people were pleased with the choice of Saul and offered many sacrifices to God. Saul chose three thousand Israelites to stay with him.  Saul had a son named Yūnāthān (27).  Gionata, son of Saul, took a thousand of his father’s men and fought against Nāsīm (28) who was in Yūnawā (29) and killed him along with a great multitude of the foreign tribes.  When the foreign tribes learned what Jonathan had done, they gathered thirty thousand foot soldiers and six thousand horsemen (30) and went out to fight against the sons of Israel in Galğal.  The children of Israel were overwhelmed by fear and escaped into the mountains, through the valleys and into the desert.  Saul was in Galğāl.  Gionata then took with him a group of Israelites, went out against the soldiers of the foreign tribes and defeated them, making a great slaughter.  When he heard about it, Saul attacked the soldiers of the foreign tribes by surprise and killed them, and none were saved.  Then the prophet Samuel said to King Saul: “Go to the city of the Amalekites, destroy it and fire it, killing all those who are there, men, women, children and animals” (31). Saul took with him four thousand infantrymen of Galğal and thirty thousand Israelites of the tribe of Judah (32) and set off against the Amalekites.  He killed all the Amalekites from the city of Hayūlā to the city of Sur (33) and captured Aghāğ, king of the Amalekites alive. But he did not destroy their farms and their vineyards, nor did he kill any of their animals; on the contrary, his men looted their flocks, their cattle and their pack animals. When [Saul] returned from the war to Galğāl, the prophet Samuel told him: “Did I not order you to kill their flocks, their cattle, their pack animals and destroy their land?  Since you have not done so, I will anoint another man as king of the sons of Israel “(34). Then the prophet Samuel took Aghağ, king of the Amalekites, and had him killed. Then he returned to ar-Rāma and Saul returned to his home, al-Gab‘a (35).

5. A few days later Samuel went to Bethlehem, took Dāwud (36), son of Yassà, and anointed him with the oil as king of the sons of Israel.  David was still young.  Later the foreign tribes reunited to fight against Saul.  Saul went out to face them with his men. David’s brothers were fighting alongside Saul.  Yassà took his son David, provided him with food and sent him to his brothers at the war.  David reached his brothers in the middle of the war and saw a man of the foreign tribes, named Gulyāt (37), who shouted: “Sons of Israel, is there no one to come forward?”(38).  David told his brothers: “I will kill that man” (39).  The brothers scolded him.  But King Saul heard about it, called David, gave him a shield and a sword and ordered him to face Goliath.  When he was on the front line, David got rid of the shield and the weapons, throwing the sword away and took a sling that he always carried with him, put a stone on it and threw it, striking Goliath’s forehead.  Goliath collapsed on the ground.  David took the sword and finished him off.  The soldiers of the foreign tribes therefore fled and were massacred.  Saul named David the head of a thousand leaders (40).

6. Saul sent David to fight against the foreign tribes a second time.  David went out and killed a hundred men and cut off their foreskins and sent them to Saul.  Saul gave his daughter Milhūl to him as wife (41).  And those foreskins were her dowry.  Every time Saul sent David to fight he won and conquered [the city].  Seeing this, Saul feared he could take the throne away from him.  He was therefore very afraid of David and thought to kill him.  But David fled and four hundred men joined him (42).  The prophet Samuel died and was buried in his house, in ar-Rāmah.  Saul went out once again to fight against the foreign tribes, but he was defeated and was left wounded on the field.  He then said to his armour-bearer: “Kill me, so that the enemy do not take me alive” (43).  But the servant refused to do so.  Then Saul took the sword and killed himself.  Seeing this, the servant also gave himself death.  In that battle a great slaughter of the sons of Israel was made and among them were killed Gionata, Abīnādām and Malhīsh, the sons of Saul (44).  The next morning the tribes sought out the dead, took the head of Saul and those of his sons, and sent them to their country, hanging their bodies on the fortified tower of Baniyas (45).  Learning of this in his country (46), they took the bodies and buried them in Baniyas (47).  David was in Siqlā` (48).  A man with a smeared face and tattered clothes showed up.  David told him: “What news do you bring?” He replied: “Saul and his sons Gionata, Abinādam and Malhish were killed in the war.  And it was I who killed them” (49).  David and his men tore their clothes and for three days (50) remained without eating bread, because of the sadness felt for the fate of Saul and the sons of Israel who had died with him.  Then David called the man who had brought him the news and had him killed, to punish him for having himself confessed to having killed them.  Saul had reigned for twenty years.

The Annals of Eutychius of Alexandria (10th c. AD) – chapter 5 – part 4 and final

Let’s return to the “Annals” of Sa`id ibn Bitriq, Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria in the 10th century.  I’m reading the Italian translation using Google Translate, and thereby producing an English translation – the only one that exists.  The material in chapter 5 is mainly derived from the Arabic bible, so is of limited historical interest.  The variations from our own version, however, are entertaining.  Judging by the erratic use of [] in the text, the proof-readers found this really dull too.  Onwards: the sons of Solomon, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, down to Elijah and Elisha.

10. Solomon had a servant named Rubu’ām, son of Nābāt, of the tribe of Ephraim, whose mother, named Sīsarā, was a prostitute (48). Solomon entrusted the government of the tribe of Joseph to Rubu’am.  Rubu’ām [re]founded the city of Sā’īr [Sichem] in the territory of Ephraim.  He was strong and very brave.  The prophet Akhiyā came to him, took his garment and cut it into twelve pieces, gave ten to Rubu’ām, son of Nābāt, telling him:  “You will reign over ten tribes of the sons of Israel” (49).  Solomon then decided to kill Rubu’am, but he fled from him and took refuge with Shīshaq, Pharaoh of Egypt, and settled with him (50).  The pharaoh gave him as wife the sister of his wife, named Atū, who gave him a son whom he called Nābāt, like his father.  There prophesied, in the days of Solomon, Nāthān and Akhiyā (51) of the village of Shilūn.  The high priest was Sādūq (52).  At that time there lived, in the land of the Greeks, the Greek poet Homer.

Solomon died after reigning forty years.  He was buried in the house of David, and his son Ragī’ām reigned after him, at the age of sixteen.  He reigned for seventeen years in Ūrashalīm.  When Rubu’ām, the son of Nābāt, heard that Solomon was dead, he left Egypt, going to the city of Sā’īr (53).  The sons of Israel gathered together and went to Ragī’ām, son of Solomon, and said to him:  “Your father has administered us in a bad and reprehensible way.  Govern us with good manners and we will be your servants.”  He answered them: “Go ahead, I will give you my answer in three days”.  He therefore consulted his advisors who told him: “You will tell them: ‘”Where my father has ruled you badly, I will use with you and for you the most beautiful and good manners as well as the sweetest and mildest” (54).’  But he did not accept their advice.  Instead he went to his women and told them the same words he had addressed to his advisors.  The women advised him to tell the children of Israel: “Where my father has ruled you badly, I will so govern you as to disperse your community and break your union”. They also told him: “Tell them so, so that they will not treat you like a child and not give you due respect.”  He received their counsel and spoke to the children of Israel as his women had suggested to him (55).  When [the sons of Israel] heard his words, they left the hall and turned against him.  Ragī‘ām warred against them, and sent against them Dūnīrām, head of the receivers of tribute (56).  The sons of Israel stoned him and killed him.  Then Ragī’ām fled away from them and returned to Ūrashalīm.  The sons of Israel gathered and chose King Rubu’ām, son of Nābāt, as their king, and the kingdom divided.

11. Rubu’am, the son of Nābāt, reigned over ten tribes of the sons of Israel.  He built the city of Nābulus (57), which he chose as his home, and the city of Fāthūyil (58).  Ragī‘ām, son of Solomon, reigned over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  Ragī’ām, son of Solomon, had with him a hundred and twenty thousand (59) warriors and ruled over many cities, including Bethlehem, Bātshūr, Zīf, Lākhīsh, Gāt, ‘Azīqā and the cities of the territories of Judah and Benjamin (60) .  His mother was called Nānān and was an Ammonite (61).  His mother urged him to worship idols.  As for Rubu’ām, son of Nābāt, fearing that the sons of Israel would go up to Ūrashalīm, to the house of the Lord, with offerings and, on seeing the temple, would rebel against him and betray him to Ragī’ām, son of Solomon, king of Judah, he had two calves of gold made and placed one in Bayt-īl and the other in Bāniyās (62).  He appointed to their service some priests of the lineage of Levi telling them: “These are your gods who have saved you from the hand of the Pharaoh.  Worship them and you will no longer need to go up to Ūrashalīm “(63).  Then he set up for them a great feast that is still celebrated today in the land of Judah.

12. In the fifth year of the reign of Ragī’ām, son of Solomon, Shīshaq, pharaoh of Egypt, came up to Ūrashalīm at the head of twenty-two thousand men of whom seven thousand were horsemen.  Ragī’ām, son of Solomon, fled and Shīshaq, pharaoh of Egypt, took all the gold and silver that was in the house of the Lord and the gold and silver vessels that was in the palace of the King.  Ragī’ām, son of Solomon, then replaced it with vessels of copper [1 Kings 14.25-27].  There were many wars between Ragī’ām, son of Solomon, and Rubu’ām, son of Nābāt, for as long as Ragī’ām lived.  Ragī’ām, son of Solomon, married eighteen women and had many children.  He also married Mākhā, daughter of Abīshālūm (64), who bore him Abiyā and his brothers.  He also had thirty concubines (65).  His children were thirty-eight in total between males and females (66).  In the days of Ragī’ām, son of Solomon, there prophesied Sim‘ayā of Nahlām (67) and Akhiyā from Silo.  At Bayt-īl there prophesied ‘Ubīd (68) and the altar split in two.

13. Ragī’ām, son of Solomon, died and was buried with his father in David’s house.  After him his son Abiyā reigned, over Judah, at Ūrashalīm, for six years.  This occurred in the eighteenth year of the reign of Rubu’am, the son of Nābāt, king of Israel.  Between Abiyā, king of Judah, and Rubu’ām, king of Israel, there were many wars.  Abiyā, king of Judah, defeated him and killed five hundred thousand of the sons of Israel.  Rubu’ām, king of Israel, was afraid of Abiyā, king of Judah.  Abiyā, king of Judah, died and was buried in the city of David.  After him his son Āsā reigned over Judah, at Urashalīm, for forty-one years.  This occurred in the twenty-fourth year (69) of the reign of Rubu’ām, son of Nābāt, king of Israel. The mother of Āsā, king of Judah, was called Nā’imah, daughter of Abīshālūm (70).  Rubu’ām, son of Nābāt, king of Israel, died after having reigned for twenty-four years.  After him his son Nābāt (71) reigned over Israel for two years.  This took place in the second year of the reign of Āsā, king of Judah.  Fa’shā, son of Akhiyā, attacked Nābāt in Kib’ātūn and killed him (72).  Then he destroyed all the descendants of Rubu’ām, son of Nābāt.  Fa’shā, son of Akhiyā, reigned over Israel at Tirsā (73) for twenty-four years.  This took place in the third year of the reign of Āsā, king of Judah.  Between Āsā, king of Judah, and Fa’shā, king of Israel, there were many wars.  Fa’shā, king of Israel, crossed into the territory of Judah and founded Rāmā (74).  Āsā, king of Judah, sent [messengers] to Hadād, son of Ğazāyil, king of Damascus (75), with many gifts, and with all the gold, the silver and the precious stones that were piled up in his house asking his help against Fa’shā, king of Israel.  Hadād, son of Ğazāyil, sent him a huge army to help him.  [Āsā] then went out with the army and destroyed the cities of ‘Iyūn, of Bai, all the heights and all the territory of the Nifthālīm (76).  When Fa’shā, king of Israel, learned of it, he abandoned the construction of Rāmā and returned to Tirsā.  Āsā, king of Judah, took away the stones and wood with which Fa’shā, king of Israel, intended to build Rāmā and used it to build fortresses and palaces in the territory of Benjamin.  Zārākh, king of the Kushites, i.e. the inhabitants of Sūdān, came out against him at the head of a thousand thousand warriors.  Āsā, king of Judah, confronted them with three hundred thousand men of the tribe of Judah, and with fifty and two thousand men of the tribe of Benjamin (77), and he defeated them and made a great slaughter and put all their possessions to booty.

14. Fa’shā, king of Israel, died and was buried at Tirsā.  After him, his son Īlā reigned at Tirsā for two years.  This took place in the twenty-sixth year of the reign of Āsā, king of Judah.  ‘Omrī was commander of the army of Īlā, king of Israel, (78).  ‘Omrī attacked Īlā and killed him.  He also killed all the descendants of Fa’shā, king of Israel.  The sons of Israel had gathered at Gib’āthūr (79) to fight against the tribes, when they heard of the killing of Īlā, king of Israel.  Some of them accepted as king Omrī and others proclaimed their king Tibnī, son of Khīnāt, for a short time.  But Tibnī died and Omrī reigned over Israel for twelve years.  This took place in the twenty-seventh year of the reign of Āsā (80), king of Judah.  He reigned for six years at Tirsā and founded a city he called ‘Omrī, on Mount Sāmir (81).  He then reigned for six years in Samaria.  ‘Omrī died and was buried in Samaria.  After him, his son Akhāb reigned over Israel in Samaria for twenty-one years.  This occurred in the thirty-eight year of the reign of Āsā, king of Judah.  In old age Āsā fell ill with gout but his kingdom continued to be tranquil and at peace.  There prophesied, in his days, Hanānī, his son Yāhū, and ‘Azariyā, son of ‘Ūbid the prophet (82).  Āsā, king of Judah, died and was buried in the city of David.

15. After him his son Yūshāfāt reigned over Judah, at Ūrashalīm, at the age of thirty-five.  This took place in the fourth year of the reign of Akhāb, king of Israel.  The reign of Yūshāfāt was full of splendor and many were his possessions and numerous his army.  In his day, there prophesied Mikhā, son of Īlā (83), Yāhū, son of Hanānī, Ili’āzār, son of Dūdāyā (84), ‘Ubīdiyā (85), Iliyā, or al-Khadir (86), and the disciple of the latter Ilīsha ‘(87).  In his day there lived a pseudo-prophet named Sidiqiyā, son of Kina‘nā (88).  As for Akhāb, king of Israel, he married a woman named Izbil, daughter of Thalmānī, king of Sidon (89).  Akhāb, king of Israel, built a temple in Samaria where he placed the idol Bā‘il and worshiped him.  In the days of Akhāb, king of Israel, there lived an Israelite named Nābūthā (90) who had a very nice vegetable garden.  King Akhāb fell in love with it and sent messengers from Nābūthā asking him to sell him the garden because it was adjoining his home.  But Nābūthā refused it, saying:  “I inherited this garden from my fathers and my ancestors and I will not sell it or give it to anyone” (91).  Akhāb, king of Israel, received this badly, became irritated and angry.  His wife Izbil entered and told him: “Why do I always see you so angry and sad?”  He replied: “I asked Nābūthā to sell me his garden, but he refused it, and the fact that he rejected me and did not satisfy my request gave me great pain” (92).  Izbil left Akhāb, king of Israel, called the Israelites ready to obey them and told them: “Testify for me against Nābūthā by saying that he has denied God and has blasphemed against Moses” (93).  They testified against him and Izbil commanded that Nābūthā should be stoned to death.  Then Izbil went to Akhāb, king of Israel, and said to him: “Do not be in pain anymore.  I had Nābūthā killed.  Take your garden”(94).  Then the prophet Īliyās came to Akhāb, king of Israel, and scolded him and told him:  “Beware of putting your hands on the garden of Nābūthā and approaching it, because God is full of anger with you for having worshiped the idols and with your wife Izbil for killing prodigally Nābūthā.  But God has already chosen against you and your wife he who will kill you and her” (95).  On hearing the words of Iliyā, Akhāb, king of Israel, he felt great fear, left the garden and did not approach it.  When Izbil then heard that the prophet Iliyā had forbidden King Akhāb to take possession of the garden, she sent men to search for the prophet Iliyā with the intent of killing him.  The prophet Iliyā was afraid of her and asked the Lord not to rain on the earth (96).  The prophet Iliya escaped to the borders of the Jordan, on Mount Khūrīb, or Tūr-Sīnā (97), and he lived near the crevice of a spring.  He used to drink water from the crevasse, and every day a crow brought him bread and in the evening some meat to eat.  The prophet Īliyās, son of ‘Arbā, [was] from Gala’ad and the Arabs call him al-Khidr.  After a few days the spring dried up and the prophet Īliyās repaired to the city of Sārafiyyah of Sidon (98).  He came across a widow who collected wood and asked her for food and drink.  The woman took him to her house.  She had a little flour and some oil, prepared a focaccia and fed him and her children (99).  Iliyā invoked the blessing of the Lord on the container that contained the flour and on the one that contained the oil: that of flour was filled with flour, as was that of oil with oil.  The widow’s son became ill, and died.  Iliyā invoked his Lord, God restored his health and he lived.

16. After three years and six months (100) the prophet Iliyā decided to go to Akhāb, king of Israel.  It had never rained in all that time, and many people had died because of the great famine and drought.  And while ‘Ubīdiyā, lieutenant of Akhāb (101), went around the valleys in search of water he came upon Īliyā, who went with him to Akhāb, king of Israel.  King Akhāb told him: “It was you who asked the sky not to give rain all this time”. The prophet Iliyā answered him: “It was you who made the sky give no more rain because you worshiped idols and your wife Izbil killed prodigally Nābūthā and because you received the words of the false prophets” (102). Then King Akhāb summoned all the Israelites and all the false prophets: the prophets of the idol Bā‘il were four hundred thirty-four – In another text it says: they were four hundred and eighty – (103), and the prophets of Astīrā, which was a palm-tree they worshiped, were four hundred (104).  The prophet Iliyā said to the false prophets: “Let us take two calves. You will choose the best, slay it and offer it to your gods as a sacrifice. If a fire comes down from heaven and consumes it, we will know that your gods are true.  Otherwise I alone will do it and you will know that you are in error and I in truth “(105).  They then took a calf, slaughtered it and invoked their gods, Bā’il and others, from noon to night, but nothing happened.  Then the prophet Iliyā took twelve stones, formed an altar around which he dug a trench and laid wood on the stones.  He slaughtered the calf and laid it on the stones and wood. He poured twelve pitchers of water over it until it filled the little trench that ran around the altar.  He invoked his Lord, and there came a fire from heaven that devoured the flesh, the stones and the water until it dug a large ditch into the earth.  The Israelites were dismayed.  The prophet Iliyā then had the false prophets in the valley of Qīsūn killed by the sword (106).  Then the prophet Iliyā invoked his Lord.  God rained on them and the calamity left them.  When Izbil, wife of Akhab, heard what Iliya had done to the false prophets, she again threatened to kill him.  He was afraid of her and ran away.  Elisha, son of Yūshāfāt, met him while he was busy grazing oxen (107).  He left the oxen, followed Iliyā and became a disciple.

17. Then it happened that Ibn Hadād, king of Damascus (108), gathered the people of his kingdom, asked aid from thirty-two kings, formed a large and innumerable army and went out to fight against Akhāb, king of Israel, to whom he sent to say: “All the gold and silver you have, your male slaves and your female slaves, your women and everything you own is mine” (109).  Akhāb, king of Israel, was very afraid and consented to give him everything he had asked.  While the messengers came and went from one [king] to another, some young men, sons of the Syrian leaders, made a sortie by beating on the drums around the camp. When the Syrian soldiers saw them they believed they were being assaulted by the children of Israel and they flee wildly, chasing each other and killing each other.  Learning this, Akhāb, king of Israel, chased them together with his men.  He ransacked their camps, their tents and train and all they had (110).  Ibn-Hadād, king of Damascus, succeeded in escaping to Damascus where the other survivors reached him.  Then he raised an army and went out to fight, driven by the desire to take revenge on what had happened to him.  Akhāb, king of Israel, came out against him and put him to flight, killing twenty-seven thousand men (111).  Ibn-Hadād repaired by himself to Damascus where some councilors addressed these words to him: “The king of Israel is merciful, let’s go to him and ask him to leave us alone”.  Then they wore worn garments, and went to Akhāb, king of Israel, and said to him:  “Your servant, Ibn-Hadād, sends you to say: ‘Do not hold it against me for what I did against you.”‘ Akhāb, king of Israel, answered them: “I consider him my brother”. They answered him: “If he is your brother, give him a guarantee on Damascus, so that there is a truce between you and him”.  [Akhāb] consented (112).

18. Three years later Yūshāfāt, king of Judah, came down to Akhāb, king of Israel, to greet him. Akhāb met with him and hosted him at his house.  Yūshāfāt married his son Yūrām to ‘Ataliyā, sister of Akhāb, king of Israel.  Akhāb said to Yūshāfāt, king of Judah: “The city of Rāmūth of Kal’ād was ours (113), but the king of Syria took it from us.  If you helped me we could take it back”.  Yūshāfāt consented to what he had asked of him.  Then they gathered their men and marched on Ramwāth (114) of Kal’ād.  Learning this, the king of Syria gathered his men and went out against them.  Akhāb then said to Yūshāfāt: “Take off your clothes and wear mine so that you will not be recognized in war” (115).  He did so.  Now the king of Syria had ordered his men to seek, during the fight, the king of Israel, describing how he was dressed.  When they saw the garments of Yūshāfāt, king of Judah, they believed that it was Akhāb, king of Israel, pursued him and surrounded him.  But he gave a cry, addressed them and escaped them.  Akhāb, king of Israel, was hit by a dart and fled before the king of Syria.  Yūshāfāt returned to Ūrashalīm and Akhāb, king of Israel, returned home wounded.  Akhāb died because of the wound he had brought back and was buried in Samaria.

 

The Studios monastery in Constantinople – lots of it still standing

Today I came across a new Twitter feed, @ConstantineCity, publishing additions to https://cityofconstantine.com/, “Cataloging the remnants of Roman Constantinople in Istanbul”.  This is a great idea, which I wonder nobody has had before.

The website doesn’t seem to have much on it, but the twitter feed does.  Here is a tweet on the Studios monastery:

Stoudios Monastery: Monastic complex founded in the 5th c. and dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Its main basilica is still standing, albeit roofless, with elaborate flooring exposed to the elements.

The last image must be taken by a drone, which highlights how useful these things can be.

A Google search for “İmrahor İlyasbey Anıtı” or “Imrahor camii” – Camii is Turkish for mosque – will find more photos of the main basilica. 

The Studios monastery is immensely important in the transmission of Greek culture.  The Greek minuscule book hand was supposedly developed there in the 9th century, replacing the larger uncial hand.    The Wikipedia article (caution!) is here.

Hoaxed! “Dionysus, the son of the virgin, … His blood, the blood of the grape…”

I got scammed today.  Doesn’t happen that often.  It was on twitter, and a very respectable person tweeted:

From his blood, Dionysus created the first grapes and so the drinking of wine was the drinking of the God’s blood. It’s not the only parallel between Dionysus and later religious figures.

Of course I was all over this, and replied:

Does any ancient source make this link… drinking the god’s blood? (I can just see the headbangers incoming….!)

To which my friend replied:

How about Euripides?

“Next came Dionysus, the son of the virgin, bringing the counterpart to bread: wine & the blessings of life’s flowing juices. His blood, the blood of the grape, lightens the burden of our mortal misery.  Though himself a God, it is his blood we pour out to offer thanks to the Gods”  (Bacchae)

Well, there’s no arguing with that; and I expressed my thanks.  Until a kindly stranger butted in and asked:

Why does your translation replace the name “Semele” with “virgin”?

Silly me, not to check.  I googled, and quickly found the translation above given by “quote” sites; and also, ominously, by Christian-hating crank Tom Harpur in his 2007 book Water into Wine, p.125 (or so I find from Google Books).

At this point, as any of us might, and I should have done first, I reached for Perseus.  I quickly found the quote in the English, part of the speech by Tiresias in Bacchae line 266 here:

This new god, whom you ridicule, I am unable to express how great he will be throughout Hellas. For two things, young man, [275] are first among men: the goddess Demeter—she is the earth, but call her whatever name you wish; she nourishes mortals with dry food; but he who came afterwards, the offspring of Semele, discovered a match to it, the liquid drink of the grape, and introduced it [280] to mortals. It releases wretched mortals from grief, whenever they are filled with the stream of the vine, and gives them sleep, a means of forgetting their daily troubles, nor is there another cure for hardships. He who is a god is poured out in offerings to the gods, [285] so that by his means men may have good things.

Hardly “the son of the virgin”, eh?  And where is the “blood of the god” stuff in this?  As I tweeted, it was now easy enough to find the Greek, line 278, thanks to Perseus:

οὗτος δ᾽ δαίμων νέος, ὃν σὺ διαγελᾷς,
οὐκ ἂν δυναίμην μέγεθος ἐξειπεῖν ὅσος
καθ᾽ Ἑλλάδ᾽ ἔσται. δύο γάρ, νεανία,
275) τὰ πρῶτ᾽ ἐν ἀνθρώποισι: Δημήτηρ θεά–
γῆ δ᾽ ἐστίν, ὄνομα δ᾽ ὁπότερον βούλῃ κάλει:
αὕτη μὲν ἐν ξηροῖσιν ἐκτρέφει βροτούς:
ὃς δ᾽ ἦλθ᾽ ἔπειτ᾽, ἀντίπαλον Σεμέλης γόνος
βότρυος ὑγρὸν πῶμ᾽ ηὗρε κεἰσηνέγκατο
280) θνητοῖς, παύει τοὺς ταλαιπώρους βροτοὺς
λύπης, ὅταν πλησθῶσιν ἀμπέλου ῥοῆς,
ὕπνον τε λήθην τῶν καθ᾽ ἡμέραν κακῶν
δίδωσιν, οὐδ᾽ ἔστ᾽ ἄλλο φάρμακον πόνων.
οὗτος θεοῖσι σπένδεται θεὸς γεγώς,
285) ὥστε διὰ τοῦτον τἀγάθ᾽ ἀνθρώπους ἔχειν.

Which clearly indicates that Semele, not “virgin”, is given; that there is no reference to wine as the blood of Dionysus; rather that the wine itself is the god, not his blood.

So where did the original quotation come from?  I found an attribution here: to Michael Cacoyannis, a film maker.  It looks as if Mr Cacoyannis took liberties in order to sell his film!  His translation was published in 1987.  I’ve not been able to access it to verify the quote, but I do believe it.  Sadly the link is for an Indiana University class; which suggests that the university has fallen for this one too.

You have to be so careful, don’t you?

St George – the main post! What do we know about him, and how do we know it?

Introduction to the St George material

Study: Christopher Walter, The Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art and Tradition, Ashgate, 2003.  Google Books Preview here.  Essential reading.

St George himself, whoever he was, even he even existed, has left no mark in the historical record.  There is not the slightest mention of such a figure prior to the late 5th century.  He was removed from  the Roman calendar of saints in 1969.

In the late 5th century, archaeology gives us churches, dedicated to Saint George.  Literary sources of the same time likewise mention the veneration of St George.  In 530 we have a mention of his shrine at Lydda ( = Lod, = Diospolis) in Palestine by the pilgrim Theodosius.[1]

Also in the early 6th century we have a Saint’s Life from which all subsequent Lives of the saint derive.  This Life is so silly and so full of absurdities, that it is clearly a piece of fiction, based on nothing but imagination.  It is so bad that we also have an official Catholic condemnation of it, again from the early 6th century, in the Decretum Gelasianum.

The narrative in brief is of a Roman soldier, born in Cappadocia, who becomes a Christian, is put on trial by the emperor Datianus (sic) in Egypt, executed three times(!), and buried at Lydda in Palestine.

During the Dark Ages folk-stories arise of miracles wrought by the saint after his death, in response to prayer.  These continue to come into being until modern times.  The notion of St George the “invincible warrior” appears.

During the crusader period, a version of St George, the Red Cross Knight, is adopted as patron saint of England.  Around the same time, some ingenious person composes the legend of St George and the Dragon, based on the ancient legend of Perseus and Andromeda.  This body of material appears in the Golden Legend of the west in the late medieval period.

In short, we are dealing with fictional material about a figure for whom we have no evidence whatever, and no factual material whatever.  Hagiography as a genre runs across a spectrum, all the way from historical accounts, down through fictionalised or “improved” versions of the facts, until we end up with wholly imaginary saints and wholly fictional Lives.  St George is at the far end of that spectrum.

Bloodstone Cameo with Saint George, 1000-1100, Byzantine, The Cleveland Museum of Art.

Early Archaeology and Literature for the veneration of St George

Database: Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity Database,.  St George is S00259 – http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=S00259.  Contains details of all the early archaeological and literary material, with very learned commentary.

These appear in the 6th century, although some inscriptions might be tentatively dated to the end of the 5th century.

It is frequently said that there is a 4th century inscription at Shaqqa in Syria dedicating a church to St George.  The inscription exists, but the dating era is that of the Era of Maximian, and the correct date is 549 AD.  I have written about this here.

The earliest dated inscription to mention St George in fact seems to be at Izra / Ezra / Zorava, also in Syria, again dedicating a church to the saint.  The date is 515 AD.  I’ve written about this item here.

Basilica of St. George (515 AD) – Ezra’ a, Syria

Literary mentions also exist.  An early example is the Itinerarium of the anonymous Piacenza pilgrim (ca. 570), the tomb of St George at Diospolis / Lydda in Palestine is mentioned in chapter 25; a hospice of St George, soldier and martyr in 35[2]

Miracle Stories of St George

Greek text: J.B.Aufhauser, Miracula S. Georgii, Teubner, 1913.  Available online here.

French translation: A.J. Festugière, Sainte Thècle, saints Côme et Damien, saints Cyr et Jean (extraits), saint Georges. Traduits et annotés, Paris: Picard, 1971.  All the material from Aufhauser is translated.

English translation:  Miracle 6: Daniel J. Sahas, “What an Infidel Saw that a Faithful Did Not: Gregory Dekapolites (d. 842) and Islam”, in: Greek Orthodox Theological Review 31 (1986), 47-67. Based on the text at PG 100, cols. 1201-12.  Online here. –  Other online St George material by David Woods is here – a nice bibliography here, inscriptions here.

Study: J.B. Aufhauser, Das Drachenwunder des heiligen George in der griechischen und lateinischen Überlieferung, 1911. Online here. – Piotr Grotowski, “The Legend of St. George Saving A Youth from Captivity and Its Depiction in Art”, Byzantine Studies, 2001. Online here.

These are  the miracles of St George.  (Notes by me here, and summary of each miracle here):

1. De columna viduae – The column of the widow
2. De imagine perfossa – The stabbed image
3. De iuvene Paphlagonensi – The Paphlagonian young man
4. De filio ducis Leonis – The son of Duke Leo
5. De bubus Theopisti – The runaway oxen of Theopistus
6. De visione Saraceni  – The Saracen’s vision
7. De imagine – The image
8. De milite interfecto – The murdered soldier
9. De iuvene Mytilenaeo capto – The captured young man of Mytilene
10. De libo – The pancake
11. De Manuele – Manuel
12. De dracone – The dragon
13. De daemone – The demon
14. De zona S. Georgii – The belt of St George
15. Apocalypsis S. Georgii – The apocalpyse of St George
16. Hymnus in honorem S. Georgii – A hymn in honour of St George
17. De mansionario – The inn-keeper
18. De statua marmorea – The marble statue
19. De voto coram imagine – The vow before the image

The items are given in order of how early they appear in manuscripts.  The collection itself is modern.  More than one version is often printed.  There is no canonical form for any of these narratives; they are folk-stories, retold as often as they were told, in different words.  For this reason Aufhauser’s summaries of the contents are as good as a translation to most of us.

The Lives of St George, Soldier and Megalo-Martyr

Greek text: K. Kumbacher, Der heilige Georg in der griechischen Überlieferung, . Available online here.

Other texts: Acta Sanctorum, April vol. 3.  In the Paris reprint this starts on p.101, here.

Studies: Hippolyte Delehaye, Les légendes grecques des saints militaires, Paris: Librairie Alphonse Picard, (1909) 45-76.  Online here. – John E. Matzke, “Contributions to the History of the Legend of Saint George, with Special Reference to the Sources of the French, German and Anglo-Saxon Metrical Versions”, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, (list of volumes online here), in vol. 17 (1903) and vol. 18 (1904).  Essential reading.  I discuss it here.

For most “saints lives”, the original story is more historical, and later versions acquire miraculous additions.  But for St George it is the other way around; the original story was so ridiculous that it was condemned in 492 in the Decretum Gelasianum, and all later versions show omission.  It tells the story of George of Cappadocia, arrested and tried in Egypt by the emperor Dadianus (??), executed three times, including being torn to pieces, and resurrected each time.  The author of the life is a certain Passicrates.

The “apocryphal” version is not attested earlier than the late 5th century.  Our knowledge of it consists of a 5-6th century palimpsest (Pal.), two more or less complete Latin translations (Gallicanus and Sangallensis), and four Greek manuscripts in various states discovered by Krumbacher.  This version was the basis for all the oriental translations, including Syriac, Coptic, and many others.

The “normal text” appears later, although how much later is unclear.  Dadianus becomes Diocletian, and the account is tidied up.  This in turn is the basis for most subsequent Greek versions, including the Symeon Metaphrastes edition of saints’ legends in the 11th century.

Latin texts are based on a mixture of the apocryphal and normal text.

There is much more detail on all this in my post on the texts of the Martyrdom of St George here.

Other notes

The martyrdom of St George, Solider and Megalo-Martyr, is commemorated on April 23.  I’ve been writing about St George for a while, now, as it has been hard to get access to solid information.  My initial post is here.  My post discussing St George and English nationalism is here.  The standard late-medieval English life – the Golden Legend – is here.  How the word “legend” changed from “Something that must be read” to “something probably not true” is discussed by Sherry L. Reames, The Legenda Aurea: A Reexamination of Its Paradoxical History, 1985, p.27 f.

As mentioned earlier, a Life of St George appears in the list of apocryphal works in the Decretum Gelasianum, (online here), a 5th century list of books approved and otherwise – as a composition likely to bring discredit on the church, and probably written by heretics!  No doubt the use of “Athanasius” for the name of the magician who opposes George in Egypt has something to do with this, as does the name of George of Cappadocia, the Arian bishop of Alexandria.

Finally, St George was still venerated quite late in England.  I came across a 1633 English account of St George which can be found online: Henry Seyle, The Historie of that Most Famous Saint and Souldier… St. George… the Institution of the Most Noble Order of S. George, Named the Garter, 1633.  Online here.

There are quite a few holes in all this, and most accounts of St  George contain errors.  The relationship of all the Latin stuff to the Greek texts is simply not defined.  Somebody needs to go through all this and draw up a spreadsheet of texts, recensions, and references.  The task requires more time and energy than anything else, and the output would certainly be publishable.  Anybody interested?

  1. [1]C. Walter, “The origins of the cult of St George”, in: REB 53 (1995), 295-326 (online here) : “The first pilgrim’s account, that of Theodosius, dates from about 530: “In Diospolim, ubi sanctus Georgius martyrizatus est, ibi et corpus eius est et multa miracula fiunt”115. His testimony could hardly be more explicit. It is supported by that of other pilgrims, Antoninus of Piacenza (about 570) and Adamnanus (about 670). The cult of Saint George’s relics certainly continued at Lydda.” “115. Pilgrims’ visits to Lydda: P. Geyer, Itinera hierosolymitana saeculi IV-VIII, Vienna 1898, p. 139 (Theodosius); p. 176-177, 182 (Antoninus); p. 288-294 (Adamnanus).”
  2. [2]Of the holy places visited by Antoninus martyr, Palestine Pilgrims Text Society, 1885. Online at Archive.org here.

The importance of ignoring “nice to do” things

Long ago, I was told that there are three categories of things that we do in this life:

  1. Things that we must do, or end up in real trouble.  Like paying your bills.
  2. Things that would be nice to get done.  Like tidying up your cupboard of computer stuff.  Nothing bad will happen if you don’t; but it would be good to sort it out.
  3. Things that we want to do.

This morning I have been being brutal, and deleting the “nice to do” emails from my inbox.

I tend to use my inbox as a “to do” list anyway.  I dash off a quick email to myself.  Maybe I attach a link or a file.  Within the inbox are folders of stuff to do – subjects I need to learn about.  Recently there’s been a “St George” folder; a “ideas for blog posts”; “chores that can’t be done immediately”.

A month ago I finished my last contract, and I have been trying to catch up.

This morning I saw a post on Twitter about some Mithras photographs and … I caught myself.  I ignored it.  I didn’t forward it to myself.  It would be nice to get those photographs for my website, sure. But … it’s not essential, and it isn’t what I want to do.  It’s a “nice to do”.

If you don’t ignore the “nice to do”, you will fill your life doing stuff that you neither to do nor want to do.  Which is crazy.

Lots of the email items got deleted this morning.  I feel lighter already,

Take your holidays, people.

Texts of the “Life” of St George

When I came to look at St George, my intention was to arrange for the translation of one or two versions of his Life.  What I had not anticipated was to find a mess, where there is still basic scholarly work to do in identifying and classifying versions of the Lives.  Originally I had hoped to list all the texts which contained versions of the martyrdom of St George; or at least the earliest ones.  But this quickly proved futile.  So here is what I was able to work out.

Literature

The relationships of the various Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Arabic and Ethiopic texts are dealt with in great detail by John E. Matzke, “Contributions to the history of the legend of St George”, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 17,1902, 464-535.[1] Each version of the legend is summarised; and better still, the characteristics of each strand of the tradition are listed.  But Matzke’s splendid article hardly touches on the Greek texts at all.

For the Greek, our main source of texts is K. Krumbacher, Der heilige Georg in der griechischen Überlieferung, 1908, online at Archive.org here, and in high-resolution at the BSB here.  These I list below, indicating page number as K1, K3, etc.  Krumbacher also discussed his texts, and was well aware of many more texts, as his discussion section makes clear.

Some texts are also printed in the Acta Sanctorum, in April volume 3, under 23rd April, the Saint’s Feast Day, and Krumbacher discusses which these are in his list of “Hilfs” texts.  His conclusion section is well worth reading, but he avoids going into the Latin texts.

Huber also prints some Latin texts.[2]

None of the early versions have ever been translated into any modern language, apparently.

Here’s what I can usefully glean.

The Apocryphal Text (O)

The oldest version of the Life of St George is known as the apocryphal version, or O.  The author is given as a certain Passicras, or Passicrates.  This version has reached us as follows:

  • The Latin “Codex Gallicanus” (G).  Passio Auct. Pseudo-Passecrate. BHL 3363.  This is in the Bollandists own library in Brussels, under the shelfmark “23. bibl. 1 Bollandiana 23 Bruz 1 (1842)”[3], and belongs to the second half of the 9th century.  Walter suggests that this is the oldest version of the story,[4] supposedly by a certain Passecrates. – Text: W. Arndt, in: Berichte über die Verhandlungen der kön. Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, philol.-hist. Classe, XXVI (1874), 49-70.  Online here.  Excerpts in the Acta Sanctorum, April vol. 3, p.101, n. 4, 5.  I have asked a translator to have a look at this.
  • The Latin Codex Sangallensis (Sg), Saint-Gall 550, 9th century.  This seems to be derived from the same Greek exemplar as G. – Text: Zarnacke, Berichte über die Verhandlungen der königlich sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, 17, 1875, p.265-277. Online here (but several vols bound together starting with 13 so be careful!).[5]
  • The Greek Vienna Palimpsest, “Pal.” (Krum. p.1).  Cod. Vindobon. lat. 954.  5th century.  Discovered by Detlefsen.[6]  This is part of the Greek version from which G and Sg derive.

Four more Greek versions of the apocryphal legend are given by Krumbacher, who says that these provide the full Greek text of the apocryphal text.  Prior to Krumbacher these were unknown.  They relate closely to the Gallicanus text.

  • Athens version (K. p.3).  Cod. Athen. 422, paper, 1546 AD, f. 277v-291r.
  • Venice version (K. p.16).  Codex Marcianus gr. II 160 fol. 150r-172r.
  • Paris version (K. 18).  Codex Paris gr. 770, parchment AD1315, fol. 59r-72r.
  • Vienna mixed text (K.30).  Codex Vindobonensis theol. gr. 123, 13th century, fol. 37v-43v.

The Coptic versions are also based on the Apocryphal text.[7]  So are the Syriac versions; but they have been revised in the same way as the normal text (but independently), to remove discreditable material.[8]  The Arabic version is also based on the apocryphal text. There are also Ethiopic versions (a late translation from Arabic[9]), Armenian, Old Slavonic, and Sogdian[10] (translated from Syriac), Georgian, and Nubian versions (these close to the Athens form of the Greek)[11] and probably more.

The Normal Text

Most of the articles tell us that this was produced by removing the most outlandish versions of the earlier apocryphal text.

  • The normal text is printed by K. p.41, from two mss.,  Cod. Vatic. 1660[12] (AD 916), fol. 272r-288r (=V) + Cod. Paris 499 (11th c.), fol. 289v-300r. (=P).

Krumbacher also prints an interpolated form of the normal text.

  • The interpolated standard text (K.51).  Cod. Paris. gr. 1534 (11th c.) fol. 107v-124v.

Further Greek texts are given by Krumbacher, each a representative of a large collection of orations, encomiums, etc.  None of these are of any interest here, however.

  • Rhetorical reworking by Theodoros Daphnopates (K. 59)
  • Eulogy: The homily of Arcadius of Cyprus (K. 78)
  • Eulogy: The encomium of Theodoros Quaestor (K. 81)
  • 3 songs, two by Romanus the Melodist (K. 84)
  • The story of the illegitimate birth of St. George (K.103)

The edition of the legend by Symeon Metaphrastes (BHG 676) does exist in print, not by Krumbacher, curiously, but in the Acta Sanctorum, April III. 7-12, printed at the end of the volume.[13]  It is also reprinted in the PG 115, cols. 141-161.

How any of the Latin or other texts relate to the Normal text is unknown to me.

For further research

Krumbacher also lists a mass of Greek manuscripts containing the legend of St George.  The BHG gives a bunch more Greek texts. The BHL gives a mass of Latin texts.  How all these relate to the Greek, or each other, I do not know. Krumbacher chapter 3 discusses the genealogy of the Greek texts.

It may be the limits of my German, I have been unable to find any article that indicates the relationships between all this material in Greek and Latin.  What is needed is a list of them all, in spreadsheet format, with incipit, shelfmark, BHL/BHG/AASS reference, date, and relationship to each strand of the tradition, using the characteristics identified by Matzke.

Does anyone care to undertake such a task?

A final thought, sent in by a correspondent:

I have only just begun looking into hagiography and it seems to me that there are very few “academic” translations. Rather, as there are usually several recensions/version of an hagiography floating around, academics provide summaries.  This seems fair, because it would be a very expensive exercise to translate each recension for little added value. Those hagiographies which are still used for liturgical purposes would have long been translated into their appropriate liturgical language. This is just my own observation. Those who work in the field would be better placed to comment.

  1. [1]Online at JSTOR, JSTOR.
  2. [2]Huber, “Zur Georgslegende”, In: Festschrift zum XII. Allgemeinen Deutschen Neuphilologentage in München, Pfingsten 1906, 175-235. Online here.
  3. [3]Matzke, p.466.
  4. [4]Walter, p.111.
  5. [5]List of volumes here; don’t get confused by the similarly-named series.
  6. [6]D. Detlefsen, “Über einen griechischen Palimpsest der k. k. Hofbibliothek mit Bruchstücken einer Legende vom heiligen Georg”, Vienna, 1858. Online here.
  7. [7]So Matzke p.466, Krumbacher, p.xviii.  Printed in E. W. Budge, The Martyrdom and Miracles of Saint George of Cappadocia. The Coptic text edited with an English translation, London, 1885.
  8. [8]Printed with English translation in E.W.Brooks, “Acts of St George”, in: Le Museon 38 (1925).  Online in v poor quality here.
  9. [9]So Krumbacher, p.xviii.
  10. [10]Hansen, “Berliner sogdische Texte II”; Benveniste, “Fragments des Actes de Saint Georges en version sogdienne”, JA, 1943-5, 91-116. See E. Yarshater, The Cambridge History of Iran: Seleucid Parthian, p.1226.
  11. [11]Gerald M. Browne, The Old Nubian Martyrdom of St George, CSCO 575, 1998.  Preview here.
  12. [12]Not 166, as in Walters.
  13. [13]If you get the PDF from here, it’s on p.1062 of the PDF.  But this is the original edition; the Paris reprint would probably be more readable.

Broken noses, crosses on the forehead – the fate of statues at the end of antiquity

I saw today a truly remarkable statement which I thought that I would share with you.

From the sixth century BC through the fourth century AD, sculpture had been created and destroyed, stolen and repositioned, but always prominently displayed and used in the context of Corinthian religion, economic activity, and urban life. Yet from about the fifth century, creation of new work dropped off rapidly, preceded by a decline in technical ability and availability of raw materials, and closely followed by the defacement and then destruction of most of what existed in public and private contexts. Between the fifth and tenth centuries, the only new sculpture created at Corinth was in the form of architectural members or Christian reliefs for church decoration, while ancient sculpture of “pagan” or “secular” significance alike was steadily marked with crosses, defaced, cut up, reused, or melted down. This new attitude to sculpture was a fundamental change of Late Antiquity, as individually and collectively people both ceased to create new sculpture, and undertook the actual physical destruction of most of what existed.

This late antique change in attitude to sculpture happened all across the Roman Empire, and led both individuals and groups to behave toward the sculpted environment in new and hostile ways.[1]

This astonished me.  Suddenly statues were hardly erected, except perhaps for a few official ones.  Even these might well have a Chi-Rho on the top of the head, out of sight but “making the statue safe”.

The destruction of statues by smashing the nose (or more) is well-known to us.  Indeed it continued into early modern times, much to the mortification of excavators in 1901 where a workman, uncovering a small head of Aphrodite, promptly “battered the head”!  This apparently happened “frequently” in early modern Greece.[2]

There is also the practice of “cross marking”.  Greek crosses, with even sized members, tend to indicate post-Late Antiquity damage.   But this is relatively rare, compared to the quantity of sculpture that survives.

I found a number of examples at an anti-Christian hate site here.  Brown’s paper references a number of the items, which reinforces the point about rarity.

First a head of Aphrodite from the Agora at Athens, with crosses on forehead and chin.

Next, a statue of Germanicus:

A statue of Livia:

A statue of Augustus, from Ephesus, in the Ephesus Museum:

Also from Ephesus but unidentified:

A final one from “Turkey”:

All of these, note, are of people, not of deities.

Why smash the nose?  I believe the answer to this may be found in hagiographical literature, where statues may be possessed by demons, or else talismans for magical purposes.  There is a chain of references to follow, in order to get to the primary sources, but this is for another day.

But I incidentally came across a Jewish source, the Mishna, discussing how to nullify an idol:

“How does one nullify it?”

[If | he has cut off the tip of its ear, the tip of its nose, the tip of its finger, if he battered it, even though he did not break off [any part of] it—he has nullified it.

[If] he spit in its face, urinated in front of it, scraped it, threw excrement at it, lo, this does not constitute an act of nullification” (m. `Abod. Zar. 4:5 [Neusner 1988: 668]). [3]

No doubt this thinking was pretty general.

The chains of references are a bit long in the above volumes.  We could use some better presentation of the evidence on this.

  1. [1]Amelia R. Brown, “Crosses, noses, walls and wells: Christianity and the fate of sculpture in late antique Corinth”, in: Troels M Kristensen, Lea Stirling (eds),The Afterlife of Greek and Roman Sculpture: Late Antique Responses and Practices, Michigan 2016, 150 f.; p.151.
  2. [2]Brown, p.168-169.
  3. [3]Via William G. Dever, Confronting the Past: Archaeological and Historical Essays on Ancient Israel, 2006, p.11.