Notes on the Laus Pisonis

My copy of Texts and Transmissions is still lying beside my computer with a bookmark at the page on the manuscripts of Juvenal.  But over the page is a short entry on a Latin text previously unknown to me.  This is an anonymous Latin panegyric known as the Laus Pisonis (Praise of Piso).  Fortunately I find the text and a translation already present at Bill Thayer’s site, Lacus Curtius, here.

The work survived to the renaissance in a single manuscript, which in 1527 was found at the South German abbey of Lorsch.  The text was published by Johannes Sichard in that year at Basle (by Froben?), which is fortunate for the Lorsch codex has since disappeared.  Lorsch was founded in the middle of the Dark Ages, and was sacked, like the other abbeys of Southern Germany, during the Thirty Years War.  The manuscripts of Lorsch, such as survived, were taken to Heidelberg.  The collection of manuscripts at Heidelberg ended up in the Vatican collection, as the “Palatine” manuscripts.  But like the two volume Tertullian, listed in a medieval catalogue, the collection of minor Latin poets which contained the Laus Pisonis did not make it. 

Anyone wishing to edit the text is therefore dependent upon the fidelity of Schard’s edition.  This is not an enviable fate.  Even so good an editor as Beatus Rhenanus, who printed the editio princeps of Tertullian at Basle in 1521, was quite willing to simply mark up the manuscript for the printer and send it to the monkeys of the press to be typeset in the new moveable type.   Quite a number of errors could creep in, from such a hands-off policy.  Rhenanus did just this, in 1520, with the only manuscript of Velleius Paterculus (since lost).  But in that case, once sample sheets had been printed, errors were noticed — and one of Rhenanus’ associates recalled the manuscript from the printer, and collated it against the print.  The collation was then itself added to the edition.

The process also led to the loss of manuscripts.  A careless editor might well feel that the parchment manuscript, by now considerably defaced, was of no further interest, now that he had a nice new clean copy.  It is a lamentable fact that quite a few unique manuscripts survived the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages, only to be chopped up for parchment once printed.  However we happen to know that the manuscript of Velleius survived this treatment and existed as late as the 18th century.  Similarly the manuscripts of Tertullian used by Rhenanus did not perish at that point; one, indeed, survives today among Rhenanus’ papers in the little town of Selestat in Alsace.  But we can only speculate whether the only manuscript of the Laus Pisonis perished in 1527, cut up to line baking dishes, or suffered some other fate somewhat later.

Fortunately a second source is available, in the form of a 12th century anthology of texts, the Florilegium Gallicum.  This contains 75% of the Laus Pisonis, and so can be used to correct the text.

The poem itself praises a young Calpurnius Piso, one of a number of that name.   The references to Maecenas suggest a date in the mid- to late-first century.


A thought on the end of Juvenal

The 16th and last satire breaks off mid-flow.  The ending is lost, therefore, or perhaps was not written.

Ancient books were written on rolls.  One modern author theorized that the end of a text ought to be safer than the start, because it should be inside the rolled up scroll.  He seems to think that a roll would normally be stored ready to read.

But it seems to me, in my ignorance, that the reverse is the case.  The average ancient reader would get to the end of his reading, and find his roll almost fully rolled-up.   It is possible, of course, that some readers would then unwind the whole roll and roll it back up the correct way.  But human nature being what it is, surely most of the time the reader will just pop the roll back in its cylindrical case.  A reader who takes up a roll to read and finds it is back-to-front has an incentive to rewind it.  A reader who wants his lunch has none.

I suggest, therefore, that as a rule most rolls were stored with the end hanging out.  This would explain quite simply why so many ancient texts are mutilated at the end, without requirement for the hypothesis that they were written in codex form.


The manuscripts of Juvenal

L. D. Reynolds, Texts and Transmissions: A survey of the Latin classics, Oxford 1983, is the first port of call for any enquiry into the transmission of any of the Latin classics.  On p.200-3 is the article by R. J. Tarrant on Juvenal.

Juvenal went through a period of obscurity after his own times.  Not cited by Donatus, or Jerome, he is referenced more than 70 times in the commentaries on Virgil by Servius.  Some of the manuscripts include subscriptions which suggest Servius may have been connected to their rediscovery: ms. K, for instance, contains Lego ego Niceus apud M. Serbium Romae et emendavi — I, Nicaeus, read this at the house of M. Servius in Rome and corrected it, and ms. L a version of the same.

More than 500 manuscripts later than the 9th century exist.  Unfortunately, by the 4th century, a considerable number of spurious lines  had already found their way into many copies of the text.  Difficult language was sometimes replaced by simpler expressions.  The vast majority of the medieval manuscripts derive from such corrupted copies.

As a rule we tend to find that medieval manuscripts go back to a single Dark Ages exemplar, or perhaps a few.  In the case of Juvenal, however, we can clearly see that two ancient families of manuscripts both gave rise to medieval children.  For in addition to the majority, we have a few manuscripts which preserve a more correct and less interpolated text, although the text itself is often rather more corrupt than in the interpolated copies.

The better mss. are:

  • P:   Montpellier H 125, first quarter of the 9th century, from Lorsch (online here).  Once owned by Pierre Pithou, who used it for his edition of 1585.  The Pithoeanus is the best and most important manuscript of Juvenal.  It also contains Persius.
  • Arou.:  Aarau, Stadtarchiv I, Nr. 0. The fragmenta Arouiensia.  These are five leaves from a destroyed manuscript of the 10th century, written in Germany, and broken up to use in bindings.  They are now in the Stadtarchiv in Aarau  (website here) An enquiry by email to them got the reply: “Das Juvenal-Fragment befindet sich im Stadtarchiv Aarau, I Nr. 0, vgl.: Katalog der mittelalterlichen Handschriften des Klosters Wettingen ; Katalog der mittelalterlichen Handschriften in Aarau, Laufenburg, Lenzburg, Rheinfelden und Zofingen, S. 195f.”.  It also contains scholia, which are important for several reasons.  Firstly each scholion is introduced by a quotation of a few words from the text.  These headwords or lemmata are themselves valuable for the authentic text.  Secondly the scholion itself sometimes reflects a different version of those same words, showing that the two were put together at different times.
  • Sang.:  St. Gall ms. 870, second quarter of the 9th century.  This is a florilegium — an anthology — which contains 280 lines of Juvenal.  Pp.40-326 contain the ancient scholia.
  • R:  Paris latin. 8072, from the end of the 10th century, probably French, containing long sections of the text.
  • V:  Vienna 107, end of the 9th century, containing book 1, line 1 – book 2, l.59 and book 3.107-5.96.

P, Arou. and Sang. are very closely related.  The first two are almost identical, with the text even laid out in the same manner on the page.  R and V are less reliable, and V has been much influenced by the other family.

The remaining manuscripts — hundreds of them — are hard to classify.  No stemma can be constructed because cross-contamination is so general, and even geographical groupings are pretty blurred.  This will not surprise any manuscript enthusiast.  For heavy lumps of wood and parchment, manuscripts travel about just as much as rock groups on tour, or so it seems sometimes.

Finally there are some fragments of ancient books containing Juvenal.  Two pages of a 6th century volume exist in ms. Vatican lat. 5750, with scholia, and also a portion of Persius.  More pages from a different 6th century book exist in Milan in ms. Ambrosianus Cimelio 3.  Finally a parchment leaf from Antinoe, ca. 500 AD, contains 49 lines of book 7.  None of these fragments agrees consistently with either of the medieval groups, unfortunately.

By the last decade of the 4th century, Juvenal had been equipped with a substantial commentary, which is the source for our scholia vetera (there are also Carolingian scholia), found in the three mss. P, Arou. and Sang.  Mommsen discussed the date of the commentary in his Gesammelte Schriften 7 (1909), p.509-11: Zeitalter des Scholiasten Juvenals.  The scholia must post-date 352-3, since there is a reference in the scholion on Juvenal book 10, l.24 to a praefectus urbis named Cerealis.  But much of the material must be older, or so the footnote says.  It can hardly date later than the abolition of paganism — the scholiast shows little knowledge of Christianity, and resorts to quoting Tacitus.  It is difficult to believe that the compulsory state religion could be unknown in the 5th century, and indeed the writer says that the gods are still worshipped.  The festival of the Matronalia is a state festival, as it still is shown in the Chronography of 354, but not in that of 449.  Likewise the term used for the silver coinage is not the silliqua of the 5th century, but the older terms argenteolus or nummus.

Mommsen concludes  that the commentary was composed ca. 400 AD, and that later, as is usual with ancient commentaries, it was pillaged for the materials to create the scholia in the margins of the new-fangled codex-style books.


Islamic mss now online

I’m not sure whether it is relevant or useful to any readers of this blog, but I saw an email saying that the Islamic manuscripts at the University of Michigan are now pretty much all online here.

It’s all happening, people — the manuscripts are coming online, slowly.  The dam is bursting, and we will all be able to hunt through the primary sources in the oldest extant copies without leaving our desks!


What is Bombycin?

I mentioned that one of the manuscripts of Photius’ Lexicon was written on ‘bombycin’, and a commenter has asked what this is.   It’s Arabic paper, used widely in Byzantium from the 9th century onwards until superceded by western methods of paper manufacture.

One of the key references is J. Irigoin, Les premiers manuscrits grecs écrits sur papiers et le problème du bombycin, Scriptorium 4 (1950), 194-202; and this was reprinted in Dieter Harlfinger’s Griechische Kodikologie, p. 132.  And I happen to own a copy of Harlfinger.  Here is a quick translation of the opening portion of his article:

Ever since Bernard de Montfaucon, textbooks on Greek paleography have distinguished two types of paper used in manuscripts; bombycin paper, of oriental origin, and western paper.

Until the end of the 19th century, it was believed that bombycin paper was made with cotton, which neatly distinguished it from western paper which was made from old rags (hence the name, rag paper) made of linen.  Around 1885, the work of Briquet, at Geneva, and of Wiesner and Karabacek at Vienna has shown that “cotton paper” is a myth; oriental paper was made with linen fibres, and bombycin is a linen paper just like western paper.  The only difference between the two papers is the choice of product used to hold it together; starch in the east, and gelatine in the west.

Paleographers have all the same continued to use the adjective bombycinus to designate manuscripts written on paper of oriental origin, in opposition to chartacei, written on paper made in the west.  All the same, the distinction between the two papers is far from simple and recent catalogues of Greek mss. label as chartaceus all manuscripts on paper, without giving any indication of the origin of the material.

As a general rule, paleographers state that bombycin is of a more or less obvious brown colour.  It is thick and opaque, often fluffy at the edges of the leaves; it is this which gives it sometimes the appearance of blotting paper, and it happens sometimes that the bombycin disintegrates at the surface, which is very unfortunate for the text written on it.  Western paper is less obviously coloured, thinner and better glued together, and on holding up to the light the marks left by the manufacturing process, the mesh, and eventually the watermark.  The latter appears sporadically in the last 20 years of the 13th century, and generally from the 14th century on.

This rule appears clear and certain.  In fact it is not so clear, and it often  happens that one hesitates as to whether thick paper does or does not show the marks of the process, and in cases of doubt it tends to be called bombycin.

My work has made it possible for me to study a certain number of Greek mss.  I have examined with care those which are said to be written on bombycin, and this has led me to the following conclusion: many of the manuscripts listed as bombycins in the most recent publications show watermarks and are thus written on western paper.  I shall limit myself to three series of examples.

Irigoin then goes on to detail his work, and to draw up more precise guidelines for identifying bombycin.  After studying more than 200 Greek paper manuscripts written before 1300, he felt able to state with confidence which was which.  The blotting paper effect was unusual rather than characteristic, for instance.  He also looked at Arabic manuscripts, which used paper from the 9th century onwards.  There he found that most used the same kind of paper, suggesting that they were written in the Near East, in the region from where the Byzantine empire imported its paper at that period.

He also points out that paper sizes were different in the orient and in the west.  The oldest manuscript he could find written on western paper was from 1255 A.D.    He also mentions the first known Greek ms. written on paper — Ms. Vatican. gr. 2200, written at Damascus ca. 800 A.D., in an archaising cursive, and suggests that it was a one-off.  The next known ms. is Vatican gr. 504, from 1105, written partly on paper and partly on parchment.  But literary references indicate that paper was being used by the middle of the 11th century.  Western paper, imported from Italy, starts to appear in Byzantium in the middle of the 13th century.  In the 14th century, and especially after 1340, paper replaces parchment almost entirely.  Oriental paper declined in quality during the first years of the 14th century, and disappears.  It is used rarely after 1350, and hardly ever after 1380.  Political and economic factors prevented the Byzantines from trading to the east, and the Turkish threat forced them to look west.  Irigoin adds:

In conclusion, a manuscript written on oriental paper must be placed between the middle of the 11th century and 1380.

and finishes by listing technical details.


The manuscripts of Caesar’s works

An email reached me this evening, asking what are the earliest manuscripts of the works of Julius Caesar.  I thought my reply might be of general interest. I obtained the following details from L.D.Reynolds, Texts and Transmissions, pp.35-6, written by Michael Winterbottom.

The extant mss fall into two families.  The alpha family contains only the Bellum Gallicum, and is notable for allusions in colophons to late antique ‘correctores’.  The beta family contains the whole collection of works.  Where the two overlap, the readings are often rather different.

Alpha family

There are 6 early witnesses to the alpha family.  Two derive from a common lost ancestor: these are:

  • Amsterdam 73, 2nd quarter of the 9th century, written at Fleury (=A)
  • Paris lat. 5056, 11-12th century, written at Moissac (=Q)

The remaining four derive from another now lost ms: 

  • Paris lat. 5763, 1st quarter of the 9th century, French, later at Fleury (=B)
  • Vatican lat. 3864, 3rd quarter of the 9th century, written at Corbie (=M)
  • Florence, Laur. Ashb. 33, 10th century, possibly French (=S)
  • British Library Additional 10084, 11-12th century, probably from Gembloux (=L)

Some 75 mss later than the 9th century have been listed by Virginia Brown, who has classified them into groupings tentatively.

Beta family

The Klotz edition of 1950 used 8 mss, although at least 3 of these are now considered to be non-primary.  The five are:

  • Florence, Laur. 68.8, basically 10-11th century, probably Italian, once the property of Niccolo Niccoli (=W)
  • Vatican latinus 3324, 11-12th century, possibly French (=U)
  • Paris lat. 5764, 3rd quarter of the 11th century, French (=T)
  • Vienna 95, 1st quarter of the 12th century, probably from Trier (=V)

and apparently S above is also a member of this family (not sure how that works).  There is no agreement about how all these are related or to be classified.  Virginia Brown classified and eliminated 162 later mss of this family.  (I would imagine, myself, that the majority of these are 15th century, the sort of books being made in quantity in Italy on the eve of the invention of printing).

How the text travelled from the ‘correctores’ of late antiquity to the earliest manuscripts is not clear.  Brown argues that all our manuscripts derive from a single copy in a minuscule book hand.  One factor that must be considered is that the medieval authors who refer to Caesar (mostly French and German) refer only to the Bellum Gallicum.

It would be interesting to know what the “testimonia” are — the quotations of the text in antique authors.  But for that, I’d have to look further!

UPDATE: A search in Google Books on testimonia caesar brought up an edition here with quotations from Caesar’s lost works in Cicero, etc.  It’s an 1813 edition of Caesar’s works, with English notes, by a certain Thomas Clark.


Syriac manuscript dated 1992 AD

On Facebook, Adam McCollum of the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library posted an extraordinary snippet which I think deserves wider attention:

Yesterday I came across a Syriac manuscript written in 1992—yes, just 18 years ago—that was copied from an 1184/5 manuscript, i.e. a leap of eight centuries!

It’s a hagiographic ms containing the stories of Jacob of Nisibis, Ephrem, and Awgen. In addition to the 12th c. ms, it was compared (according to the colophon) with a ms. “apparently of the 15th generation of the Lord”.

It was copied at Dayr Al-Za’faran, where it remains, and the older copies were there, it seems, in 1992, but are so no longer.

Finally, believe it or not, the manuscript is written on the empty lines of a Turkish-English-German calendar book!

The ms date is given in the colophon in AD (and the calendar book itself is for 1992), and the date of the early exemplar is also given there as 1496 AG (= 1184/5 AD).

We must never disregard a manuscript simply on account of its age.  Who knows what it may be a copy of?


The Babylonica of Iamblichus the Syrian

The 1853 Manual of Greek literature by Charles Anthon may be antiquated, and its opening portions discursive to the point of madness, but it still has use.  Indeed I don’t quite know where else one might go for a survey of Greek literature in the Roman period and after.

I picked it up casually last night, to see if he had anything to say about astrological texts — not much — and found myself reading a section on Greek novels.  On p.488 I found the following:

V. Subsequently Iamblichus, the Syrian, who lived in the time of the Emperor Trajan, wrote his Babylonica (Babulwni/ka). It contained the story of two lovers, Sinonis and Rhodanes, and was in thirty-nine books, according to Suidas; but Photius, who gives an epitome of the work, mentions only seventeen. A perfect copy of the work in MS. existed down to the year 1671, when it was destroyed by fire. A few fragments only are still extant, and a new one of some length has recently been discovered by Mai (Nov. Collect. Script. Vet., vol. ii., p. 349, seqq.) The epitome of Photius and the fragments are given in Passow’s Corpus Eroticorum, vol. i.

I confess that I had never heard of this text before, and it is a shame that it should make it all the way to 1671 only to perish then.

The Corpus scriptorum eroticorum graecorum is a series new to me.  Volume 1, from 1824, is here.  On p.iii we learn that the sole manuscript was in the library of the Escorial in Spain, and destroyed in the fire of 1671.  But the edition is of no great value, I suspect.

Photius’ summary can be found here, in the Bibliotheca codex 94. 


The Berlin Didymus / Hierocles papyrus

In his paper on ancient chapter titles, Mutschmann next discusses something which I had never heard of before.  Here is what he says:

R. Laqueur (Berliner Klassikertexte XLIII 1908, p. 220 ff) has already taken the Berlin Didymus papyrus (Diels and Schubart, Berliner Klassikertexte I, reprinted in the Teubner library) as the starting point for his statements about the literary status of the Anonymous Argentinensis. I agree with him on the whole. However, I must differ in one respect from him. The Didymus-text, just like the text transmitted on the back of the same roll, Ἠτηικη Στοιχείωοις of Hierokles (see Arnim Berliner Klassikertexte IV), has headings on the columns, which indicate, not the content of the columns, but rather the sense of the relevant portion of the work. It would be a mistake to see them as column titles: they are rather regular chapter headings.  These titles were in existence before the scribe of the Didymus papyrus made his copy: this is shown by a mistake, where he has put over the 8th column the title already associated with the 7th column.  Sometimes there are two headings, but also often no heading over a column; a diple or a cross sign (x) in the text clearly marks the beginning of the corresponding section. The reason why these titles were transmitted with the text is clear: the idea was to escape the whims of the copyist, even when copying the contents of a constantly shifting column. For the Hierokles text, it is also of particular importance that the transcript is from the time of the author himself (von Arnim, p. VII).  But whether the author troubled himself about this material remains to be seen. It was part of the technical equipment of the book, and it had to be provided, by those who oversaw its reproduction, perhaps the corrector. So it may be related, that the title of Didymus papyrus possibly is by a second hand (Diels-Schubart p. XI), but that it was handed down for the above reason is indisputable.

The diple is an ancient mark indicating where text should be inserted.  It looks the same as the modern one.  The publication is H. Diels and W. Schubart, Didymos Kommentar zu Demosthenes (Berlin, 1904), while the other is H. von Arnim, Hierokles, Ethische Elementarlehre (Papyrus 9780), Berliner Klassikertexte. IV, 1906, p. 48-64.  The papyrus roll has the shelfmark P Berol. inv. 9780.   

An English translation of Didymus is reviewed at Bryn Mawr here.  Better still, Craig A. Gibson, Interpreting a classic: Demosthenes and his ancient commentators, University of California Press, 2002 is online in Google books preview here.  This begins as follows:

P. Berol.inv.9780 (Pack2 339) is a substantial papyrus roll from Hermoupolis dated to the early second century C.E.  The recto contains Didymus’ commentaries on Demosthenes’ Third Philippic (Dem. 9), Fourth Philippic (Dem. 10), Reply to Philip’s Letter (Dem. 11), and On Organization (Dem. 13).  Toward the end of the second century, an introduction to Stoic ethics by Hierocles (early second century C. E.) was copied on the verso and in the opposite direction.  Most of the commentary on Dem. 9 is lost; the extant text begins with the end of the commentary on that speech.  The commentaries on Dem. 10, 11 and 13 are preserved almost in their entirety, the most notable exceptions being cols. 1.31-45, 2.3-3.62, 4.16-59 and 5.32-51, which are very poorly preserved.  The surviving commentary extends for fifteen columns.  The scribe labelled some of the columns with a brief table of contents1, probably indicating his intention to consult the text frequently.  These column headers read as follows:

Col. 1 (header not restored)
Col. 2 Who are the ones… Concerning the suspicion (that) … the Thebans … alliance … That … is ill disposed … (ends of each of 4 lines not restored)
Col. 3 (header not restored)
Col. 4 (Who it was who was dragged off to the king and informed him of Philip’s preparations against him.  What those who have written about Hermias of Atarneus say about him.
Col. 5 (no header given)
Col. 6 A reconstruing of hyperbatic phrasing.
Col. 7 What the king’s recent philanthropy2 towards the Athenians was.
Col. 8 What the date was when, humbled, they (the Athenians) were receiving only 130 talents of revenue.  Concerning the Athenians’ receiving 400 talents of revenue.
Col. 9  That there are two men named Aristomedes, one from Pherae, the other an Athenian nicknamed “Brazen”.
Col.10. Dates and cities of the speech.  That the speech is by Anaximenes.
Col. 11.  What ὀρρωδεῖν (means).  Concerning Nicaea.  Concerning σκορακίζειν and the proverbial expression “to the crows”.
Col. 12.  But if (it is) not (νεομένους or ναιωμένους, then it is) νεμομένους.3 Concerning Philip’s wounds.
Col. 13  That the speech is not one of the Philippics, but is otherwise by Demosthenes.
Col. 14  Concerning Orgas.  Why he called the Megarians “accursed.”
Col. 15 (no header given)

At the end of the roll is a title identifying it as the third book of Didymus’s commentaries on the Philippics, part of a series of commentaries on twenty-eight speeches of Demosthenes.4

1.  Col. 12a is the one exception: it is a critical comment about a word occuring in the text at col. 12.3, rather than a description of the column’s contents.  D-S1, x-xi, mention the possibility that the column headers were written by a different hand from that of the main text.

Gibson has not taken into account Mutschmann’s article — the marginal status of scholarship on chapter titles should pain us all — but this is excellent stuff, and he goes on to give a translation.  But I don’t know how we reconcile Mutschmann’s comments about the titles on columns 7 and 8 with this.  I wish we could see a facsimile.

But it seems that we have some solid evidence of chapter titles, given here in a second century papyrus of some length as running titles, and marked in the text indicating where they should appear.

But who are these authors?  Well, Didymus himself is Didymus ChalcenterusHierocles Stoicus seems even more obscure, although his surviving work was edited by Illara Ramelli and translated into English by David Konstan — well done! — in 2009 as Hierocles the Stoic: Elements of Ethics, Fragments, and Excerpts, and is on Google books in preview here.


The manuscript of the Chronicle of Zuqnin (Ps.Dionysius of Tel-Mahre)

Amir Harrak, who published an English translation of parts 3 and 4 of this world chronicle, introduces the manuscript in the following, very interesting way.

The Chronicle of Zuqnin is a universal chronicle which begins with the creation of the world and ends with the time of writing, A.D. 775-776. The Chronicle is known from a single manuscript of 179 folios, 173 of which are now housed in the Vatican Library (Codex Zuqninensis, Vat. Syr. 162), and an additional six are currently in the possession of the British Library (formerly British Museum), labelled Add. 14.665 folios 2 to 7. Each folio is circa 235 to 255 mm high and 150 to 165 mm wide. The Vatican folios have been bound in 1881 into a single volume, protected by a hard red cover, whereas the six folios in the British Library have been included with fragments belonging to other manuscripts. According to Tisserant’s reconstruction of the Codex, it originally comprised at least 190 folios.

Of the folios of our manuscript 129 are palimpsest—one a double palimpsest (BM fol. 3), the originally inscribed text representing a number of books of the Old Testament in Greek (the Scptuagint). In fact, the folios once belonged to six distinct manuscripts with text from five biblical books (Judg, 1 Kgs, Ps, Ezek, Dan), which have been assigned dates ranging from the fifth to the eighth centuries.

In 1715 the famous Maronite bishop and scholar J. S. Assemani found the Vatican portion of the manuscript in the Syrian Monastery of Saint Mary in the Egyptian desert of Natrun, and purchased it for the Vatican Library. The other six folios were acquired by the British Museum between 1839 and 1842. That both were part of one and the same manuscript was confirmed on the basis of the Septuagint texts by Cardinal Eugene Tisserant. Tisserant, however, dated the manuscript to the 9th century in light of the Syriac script.

According to J. S. Assemani the manuscript was written in Egypt by a monk of the Desert of Scete (Wadi al-Natrun) at the beginning of the 10th century. By the time he wrote his Catalogue with his nephew S. E Assemani, however, he had changed his mind and believed that the manuscript had been brought, along with others, from Mesopotamia to Egypt, by the abbot Moses of Nisibis (died in 944) in 932. Although this statement is only an assumption, it makes sense, since the manuscript was the product of the monastery of Zuqnin, located near Amida now in south-east Turkey, judging from a note inserted by a monk of the same monastery. This monk, Elisha by name, was a contemporary of Moses of Nisibis (see below for more details). Tisserant further observed that since the sub-script was Greek and not Coptic, as Assemani had first asserted, Syria rather than Egypt must have been the place of origin, seeing that most of the manuscripts in the possession of the monastery of Saint Mary of the Syrians in Scete (of which Moses of Nisibis was the abbot) came from Syria.

As is often the case, the first and last folios of the manuscript of Zuqnin have been lost. The preface of the work, however, has survived, albeit in a very damaged condition. It was written in S(eleucid) 1087 (A.D. 775-776) “in which (year) Mahdi son of `Abd-Allah is ruling over Syria, Egypt. Armenia, Azarbayjan, all of Persia, Sind, Kho[rasan], as well as over the Arabs, and over the Greeks Leo son of Constantine, and over the Romans Pepin”. The addressees in the preface are the “spiritual fathers (of the writer), George, chorepiscopus of Amida. the abbot Euthalius, Lazarus the Visitor, the honourable Anastasius, and the rest of the monastic community (of Zuqnin)”. Unfortunately, the Chronicler’s name, and perhaps indications of his status and origin have not survived. Moreover, the manuscript per se is scarcely in a perfect state of preservation, since several folios—especially of its first half—have either suffered erasure or are damaged in varying degrees. For some reason, the second half of the manuscript, which contains Parts III and IV, fared better, even though here, too, many folios have suffered erasure and/or are fragmentary. Furthermore, the folios housed in the British Library are worm eaten, a fact which explains why the last account of the Chronicle—the martyrdom of Cyrus of Harran—is very fragmentary and comes to an abrupt end.

As I have remarked before, manuscripts are not static things.  In fact they lead a full and interesting life, and move around like bumble-bees.