Religionsgesprach am Hof der Sasaniden (the Legend of Aphroditian) online in English

The anonymous sixth century novel, De gestis in Perside – On events in Persia, CPG 6968, depicting a fictional dialogue between Christians, pagans and Jews at the court of the Sassanid Persians is also now online in English, thanks to the splendid efforts of Andrew Eastbourne.

These are also at here.  An HTML version is here, after some efforts by me.

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

UPDATE 12 Feb 2024.  I’ve made sure these files are on the local site as well, and added the .doc.


Fragments of Philip of Side now online

There are quite a few fragments of the monster Christian History of Philip of Side around, but no complete English translation has ever been made — until now.   Last year I commissioned Andrew Eastbourne to do it, and it is now complete and online.

A PDF of the collection is available from here, or here: Philip_of_Side_Fragments.  The HTML version is here.

I’m placing this in the public domain — do whatever you like with it.

A translation of the Religionsgesprach am Hof der Sasaniden will be uploaded shortly.


Back to the Religionsgesprach

The project to translate all the fragments of Philip of Side is still progressing.  A bunch of these are in a 6th century fictional text depicting a religious debate at the court of the Sassanids.  More or less by accident, I seem to have commissioned a translation of this text, although it is turning out to be very interesting indeed.

Another chunk arrived today, and I thought I would share with you the opening words, which struck me as truly splendid and brightened my morning considerably:

34.  The following day, Oricatus the foremost of the enchanters came to him and said:  “Master of everything under the sun, grant me glory, so that I may preside in this assembly, since I have three mighty acts to perform!” 

Not many job interviews begin like that!


Philip of Side update

I forgot to mention that fragment 7 of Philip of Side arrived over the weekend as well.  It’s the bit which is alchemical in nature. 

I’m always wary of alchemical texts.  I have a degree in Chemistry, but I find them quite hard to understand.  However this one is clear enough, and refers to dyeing copper.


Update on Philip of Side

The project to translate all the remaining or supposed fragments of Philip of Side’s 24-book Christian History is going well.  Regular readers will remain that the fragments were classified into seven groups.  Nos 1, 2, 5 and 6 are done, and 7 is in progress.  The translator is doing is very good job, and the results are pretty spectacular, and will be definitive, I think.  I still find myself amazed that no-one has done this earlier.

We’re also going to include the testimonia, since these are few.  The critical edition of Socrates Scholasticus Church History arrived at my local library today, and I have copied the relevant pages and will send them across.  How we get the Photius text I’m not sure, tho.


From my diary

Very busy this week with work-related stuff; too much so, to do anything useful! 

The fragments of Philip of Side are coming along nicely. The translator is doing his usual excellent job and ferreting out a lot of useful related information buried in articles in languages none of us know.  The publication — which will be free and online — will be an excellent one.

One interesting issue arose concerning the text to translate of the fragments contained in the Religionsgesprach text — a 6th century fictional dialogue at the court of the Sassanids.  This was printed by Bratke, but a critical edition does exist, in a thesis form, by Pauline Bringel.  The two texts are rather different, even aside from the fact that Bringel identified two recensions of the text.  We’re going to use Bratke, tho, and footnote differences.  Bratke is accessible.  Bringel will not be publishing her thesis any time soon, I learn, although the Sources Chretiennes would publish it, because of pressure of teaching duties.  There would be little point in doing a translation from a text that none have access to.

This weekend is deadline time for contributors to the Eusebius project.  There is more that could be done to the Coptic materials — but there has to be a limit some time!  The translator is sending me hard-copy of proof-changes, which I hope will arrive tomorrow.  I’m afraid it looks as if I may have to learn the Coptic alphabet to do some work on it, which is a nuisance, but there we are.  However I shall do the minimum possible!  With luck I can put the Coptic fragments to bed this weekend.  I still need to resolve issues with fonts, tho.  I’m still awaiting the transcription of the Syriac fragments, but I am told this will be ready on time, but not before.  The Latin fragments I revised last night and are now — thankfully — done.  An index of fragments and publications that I commissioned is in Excel, and needs more work and to be turned into a Word document.

The translator of the Origen Homilies on Ezechiel has found some more materials that probably derive from Origen’s Scholia on Ezechiel; these will be added in.  I have admonished him to remember to take a summer holiday!

On a quite different subject, I had to rebuild the installer of QuickLatin, the tool that I sell ($29) to help people with Latin.  My local anti-virus wailed about “unsigned code”, and I have been trying to work out how to sign a .exe file.  Apparently no-one wants to make it too easy, although why anyone would want to make a security measure hard to implement I can’t imagine.  I tried to f ind out this afternoon and failed.  Oh well.  It can go unsigned a while longer. 

I’m still thinking about going to the UK patristics conference at Durham in September.  I may yet go.  But I’ll wait until July at least, because I don’t quite know what will happen to me in my current freelance job.  I may need to find a new contract in a month, although I suspect that I shall end up with time off this summer!  And I shall take some time off too. 

I’ve also had a lot of correspondance this week, much of it very interesting.  One chap who is interested in Coptic turns out to have a PDF of the British Library manuscript containing De Lagarde’s catena.  This is the catena which I am publishing the Coptic from.  He declined to give me a copy of it, because of fears about copyright — not entirely unreasonable, considering that today there was an announcement about more enforcement measures by the regulator, OFCOM.  But he did let me see a  page with the first Eusebius entry on it.  The Coptic text was extremely clear, and interestingly there was a difference from De Lagarde’s printed version.  De Lagarde runs the text together, and the names of the authors of each bit appear inline.  But in the ms. the “Eusebius” was actually on a separate line!  I’d show you, but apparently the British Library don’t want you to see it unless we pay them money. 

It did leave me wondering what the point of running a public collection of manuscripts is, when circulation of images is prohibited!  But I think I’ve asked that question before.


Philip of Side update

The first two fragments of the translation of the Christian History of Philip of Side have arrived!  And they look very good indeed.  The footnotes are very enlightening.

The translator has also volunteered to write an introduction, bringing together an explanation of the various Byzantine epitomes from which the fragments are drawn.  This will be of no small help to people like myself with little German!

(Something very odd happened just now when I tried to post this — my first draft vanished and I got an error.  I hope this does not mean something nasty is about to happen to this blog!)


Testimonia for Philip of Side

When dealing with a lost text, the comments by other ancient writers who read it are usually included with the fragments as testimonia.  I need to pay attention to these for Philip of Side.

There seem to be three for Philip of Side’s Christian History.  Photius and Socrates HE, book 7, c.27.  I would have thought both should be included.  The critical text of the first is the edition by Rene Henry.  For Socrates it is the GCS NF 1 Socrates Scholasticus, Historia ecclesiastica (1. Aufl. 1995: Günther Christian Hansen).

Apparently Nicephorus Callistus also says something (Hist. eccl., xiv. 29).  

Here are the English translations of what we have.  First Photius:

35. [Philip of Side, Christian History]

Read the work of Philip[1] of Side, entitled a Christian History, beginning with the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” He gives an account of the Mosaic history, sometimes brief, sometimes full, although wordy throughout. The first book contains twenty-four volumes, like the twenty-three other books, which we have seen up to the present.[2] His language is diffuse, without urbanity or elegance, and soon palls, or positively disgusts; his aim is rather to display his knowledge than to benefit the reader. Most of the matter has nothing to do with history, and the work might be called a treatise on all kinds of subjects rather than a history, a tasteless effusion. Philip was a contemporary of Sisinnius and Proclus, patriarchs of Constantinople. He frequently attacks the former in his history, because, while both filled the same office[3] and Philip was considered the more eloquent, Sisinnius was elected to the patriarchate.

1 Philip of Side in Pamphylia (fifth century). He was a presbyter in Constantinople, and a friend of John Chrysostom.
2 It originally contained thirty-six books and nearly one thousand volumes.
3 They were both presbyters.

And Socrates:

Chapter XXVI.  Sisinnius is chosen to succeed Atticus.

After the decease of Atticus, there arose a strong contest about the election of a successor, some proposing one person, and some another. One party, they say, was urgent in favor of a presbyter named Philip; another wished to promote Proclus who was also a presbyter; but the general desire of the people was that the bishopric should be conferred on Sisinnius…. The presbyter Philip was so chagrined at the preference of another to himself, that he even introduced the subject into his Christian History, making some very censorious remarks, both about the person ordained and those who had ordained him, and much more severely on the laity. But he said such things as I cannot by any means commit to writing. Since I do not approve of his unadvised action in committing them to writing, I do not deem it unseasonable, however, to give some notice here of him and of his works.

Chapter XXVII. Voluminous Productions of Philip, a Presbyter of Side.

Philip was a native of Side; Side is a city of Pamphylia. From this place also Troilus the sophist came, to whom Philip boasted himself to be nearly related. He was a deacon and thus admitted to the privilege of familiar intercourse with John Chrysostom, the bishop. He labored assiduously in literature, and besides making very considerable literary attainments, formed an extensive collection of books in every branch of knowledge. Affecting the Asiatic style, he became the author of many treatises, attempting among others a refutation of the Emperor Julian’s treatises against the Christians, and compiled a Christian History, which he divided into thirty-six books; each of these books occupied several volumes, so that they amounted altogether to nearly one thousand, and the mere argument of each volume equalled in magnitude the volume itself. This composition he has entitled not an Ecclesiastical, but a Christian History, and has grouped together in it abundance of very heterogeneous materials, wishing to show that he is not ignorant of philosophical and scientific learning: for it contains a medley of geometrical theorems, astronomical speculations, arithmetical calculations, and musical principles, with geographical delineations of islands, mountains, forests, and various other matters of little moment. By forcing such irrelevant details into connection with his subject, he has rendered his work a very loose production, useless alike, in my opinion, to the ignorant and the learned; for the illiterate are incapable of appreciating the loftiness of his diction, and such as are really competent to form a just estimate, condemn his wearisome tautology. But let every one exercise his own judgment concerning these books according to his taste. All I have to add is, that he has confounded the chronological order of the transactions he describes: for after having related what took place in the reign of the Emperor Theodosius, he immediately goes back to the times of the bishop Athanasius; and this sort of thing he does frequently. But enough has been said of Philip: we must now mention what happened under the episcopate of Sisinnius.

I know almost nothing about the Ecclesiastical History of Nicephorus Callistus, tho.  Apparently it is in PG145, PG146 and PG147.

UPDATE:  A reader writes:

I looked over the account of Philip of Side in Nicephorus Callistus (PG 146: 1152-6); it’s nearly identical to Socrates’ account, although I haven’t looked at the Greek of Socrates.


The Bringel thesis of the Religionsgesprach

Fragments of Philip of Side are in the 6th century fictional dialogue set at the court of the Sassanids and known as the Religionsgesprach after Bratke’s publication.  But since I learned that Pauline Bringel had made a critical edition in an unpublished French thesis a few years ago, I have been attempting to obtain a copy.

I did find a website which sort of looked as if it supplied theses.  But the site — the Atelier National de Reproduction des Thèses has got back to me, telling me that they can suppy a copy for 20 euros or so… in micro-fiche format!  Yes, really!!  What an extraordinary thing to do, in the age of the PDF.  And… shouldn’t they make these available for free?  The public has already funded them, in taxes, after all.

Of course this means that there is a fall-back position.  I could get the fiche, get it converted to PDF (at further cost) and then email it to my translator.

But a French scholar has slipped me Dr Bringel’s email address.  I have written to her and asked if she has a PDF, or will sell me a photocopy.  Let’s hope I can get a copy that way.

UPDATE: Pauline Bringel has very kindly given me a copy of her thesis.  515 pages!  Wow! 


The church-historical epitome

I’ve been trying to understand just what this “kirchegeschichtliches Epitome” text is that all the articles about Philip of Side mention.  The catalogue of fragments referred to it quite a bit.

It seems it’s a text whose existence is inferred (don’t you hate that?).  Apparently there are three 14th century manuscripts containing excerpts from church histories of various sorts.  If you compare these, there’s enough commonality that they can’t be independent.   They must all derive from some earlier epitome of church history.  Then there are a couple of pages in Milan, which seem to derive from a copy of that earlier epitome.  The conclusion of De Boor, when printing the fragments of Philip of Side, was that this epitome was the source for all the fragments now extant.

The epitome consists of snippets from Eusebius’ Church History, plus additions from sources unspecified; then material from the Historia Tripartita (i.e. Socrates, Sozomen, Theodoret), plus some stuff from the now lost history of Gelasius of Caesarea.  It ran from the time of Christ up to the reign of the emperor Phocas (610), so was presumably written at that time.  The Christian History of Philip of Side must have been one of the minor sources.