Uploading the remains of the failed al-Makin transcription project

If you wish to learn the literature of a people, a good place to start is their histories of themselves.  For Arabic Christian literature – the literature of the Christian peoples occupied by the Muslims in the 7th century, there are five such histories.  I have done some work on Agapius and Eutychius.

But the world history from the Creation to his own times of al-Makin, a 13th century writer, has remained outside the knowledge of most people.  It exists in two parts; the first part taking the story up to the Arab Invasions, and the second part to his own day.

The first part of al-Makin has never been printed, to my knowledge.  The second part was badly printed by Erpenius centuries ago from a manuscript which had lost the last section, with a Latin translation.  The missing text at the end was printed by Cahen in the 1950’s.

Foolishly, I decided that it ought to be possible to get the whole text transcribed from manuscripts.  If an electronic Arabic text existed, then at least we could all use machine translation on it or something.

Unfortunately the project went hopelessly awry, because I was dealing with people in other cultures, who proved intractable.  I ended up $600 out of pocket and with nothing that was usable.  Somehow my wish to transcribe part 1 became a transcription of part 2.  My wish to transcribe from manuscripts turned into a transcription from Erpenius.  Unfortunately the PDF of Erpenius was damaged; and getting it fixed was beyond my powers of communication or persuasion, even though the portion to fix was trivial, if you know Arabic letters.

In fact the psychological pain, caused by the stress and frustration in trying to get this done, became so acute that I was obliged to abandon the project.  I have never regretted that decision.  It was stupid for me to try to deal with foreigners on a text in a language which I do not know using an alphabet that I do not know.

I believe that someone with knowledge of Arabic might fix the transcription in an hour.  I could not do so.  If anyone would like to do this, I would be grateful.  So it seems to me that it might be useful to upload the mangled text, and the PDF, marked up with the fixes, in case anyone does feel like running with it.  So here it is:

  • Erpenius_with_fixes – small (PDF of the copy of Erpenius from which the transcription was made, with pages that should have been inserted marked in red, and duplicate pages that should not be in the transcription marked also).
  • complete Makin (PDF of transcription of Erpenius, complete with errors)
  • complete Makin (.doc of transcription)
  • cahen1 (PDF of part 1 of original article by Cahen)
  • cahen2 (PDF of part 2 of original article)
  • cahen1 (.doc) – transcription of Cahen)

I also have PDFs of various manuscripts, about which I have written in other posts (click on the tag for “Al-Makin” at the bottom of this post to see them).  Rubbish quality most of them are too!  But as more manuscripts come online, it may well be possible to attack this problem again.  And it should be done.

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

Up to now, Eutychius has repeated material derived from the Greek chronographic tradition.  As we saw in the last post, in chapter 10, for the first time, he introduces material from elsewhere: a now lost Sassanid Persian chronicle, beginning with Ardashir, founder of that dynasty.  Since it is unlikely that Eutychius knew Middle Persian, we may reasonably surmise that he consulted it in an Arabic translation.

5.  As for Sabur, son of Azdashir, king of the Persians, as far as he could he ruled the people with justice.  He dedicated himself to visit the provinces and to support the urban system of the countries.  After eleven years of his reign, he marched with his soldiers to the city of Nisibis (23), in which were garrisoned many soldiers of Antoninus Caracalla, King of the Romans, and he besieged it for some time without being able to conquer it.  Once aware of being unable to get the better of it, he ordered a large, spacious well-fortified seige-tower to be built next to the city.  After it was completed, he climbed up with the generals of his army, and looked down from the height into the inside of the city.  They shot arrows, so that no one dared to go into the open.  Eventually the besieged decided to surrender the city.  Meanwhile, it was reported that an enemy out of Khurasan had attacked the people of his kingdom.  For this reason, he sent messengers to the nobles of Nisibis, proposing to them either to give entry to the soldiers there that had kept them engaged in combat until his return, or to enter into a covenant with him, by which they agreed not to remove the seige-engine unless he did not return.  They preferred to enter into a covenant with him, and an agreement whereby they undertook to leave the bastion where it was, and the king left.  However the people of Nisibis poured out of the walls of the city, opened a gap in the wall near the place where the seige-engine was, took it inside the city, and surrounded it with a well fortified wall.

6. Antoninus Caesar, King of the Romans, diedAfter him reigned over the Romans Marcianus Caesar (24), for a year and two monthsHe was killed, and after him reigned another Antoninus Caesar (25) for three years and nine months.  This happened in the fourteenth year of the reign of Sabur, king of the Persians[Antoninus Caesar] sent a huge army to Nisibis to defend and protect the city. In the first year of the reign of Antoninus Caesar Bitiyanus was made patriarch of Rome (26).  He held the office for five years and diedIn the second year of his reign Zebennus was made patriarch of Antioch. He held the office for nine years and died.

7. Quanto a Sābūr, figlio di Azdashir, re dei Persiani, tornato che fu a Nissfbfn e visto quel che gli abitanti avevano fatto del propugnacolo, li tacciò di tradimento e disse:

7.  As for Sabur, son of Azdashir, king of the Persians, he returned to Nisibis and saw what the people had done to the seige-engine, he spoke of betrayal and said:  “You have been rebels, and have broken the covenant.”  So he besieged the city.  But since already a long time had passed, without having found a way to get the better of the city, he was worried and said to his men, “Come, let us see if there is any of our soldiers who are not worrying at all about how long this is taking!”  They made a tour of the field and found two men intent on drinking wine and singing. [The king] said to them:  “Seemingly you have no right to be with us, since you behave in this way and you stand on the sidelines.”  They answered: “O king, however worried you are about how to conquer this city, we have a good chance of success, if you do what we tell you.”  “How so?” asked the king. They replied: “Advance with your soldiers in close order, and raise invocations to your Lord, to make you conquer the city.” Sabur ordered that it should be done as they had said.  But since that was no good, he said to them: “We have implemented your advice, but we have not seen any results. What have you to say to us now?” They answered: “We fear that what we suggested doing has just been taken lightly. But if you think it’s possible to get them to be sincere in what they do, and to invoke their Lord all together, as if it was the invocation of one man, then you’ll get what you want.”  Sabur then summoned his men and urged them to do what they were going to do with sincere intention and firm conviction.  It is said that they had not yet raised the second invocation when the wall fell down from top to bottom, leaving open a passage through which the men were able to enter the city.  Great was the dismay of the inhabitants and they exclaimed: “This is what we deserve for our treachery!”  Sabur entered the city and killed as many warriors as he could.  Then he captured the rest of the inhabitants, and took away with him many riches.  He left just as it was the gap that had opened in the walls, because people saw it and it was a lesson to them.  Next he stormed several cities of Syria, slaughtering the inhabitants and taking away great plunder.  He overran the territories of the Romans and made great slaughter, occupying Qalawniyah (27) and Cappadocia.

8. Antoninus Caesar, King of the Romans, died.  After him reigned over the Romans, in Rome, Alexander Caesar (28) for thirteen years.  This was in the seventeenth year of the reign of Sabur, son of Azdashir, king of the Persians.  In his day the Christians lived peacefully and were left in peace.  His mother’s name was Marna (29) and he was very fond of the Christians.  In the first year of his reign Heraclas was made patriarch of Alexandria.  He held the office for thirteen years and died.  It was in his time that the Patriarch of Alexandria was called “Baba”, or “grandfather”.  In the third year of his reign Antis was made patriarch of Rome (30).  He held the office for twelve years and died.  In the eighth year of his reign Babilas was made Patriarch of Antioch.  He held the office for eight years and died.  In the second year of his reign Narcissus he was made bishop of Jerusalem.  He held the office for twelve years, and fled.

What does Eutychius’ Annals contain?

Arabic Christian literature is little known.  There is no English-language handbook, and even the “big histories”, the works in which Arabic-speaking Christians recount their own history, are mostly not translated into English; or, indeed, sometimes even edited.

Eutychius – also known as Sa`īd al-Bitrik -, Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria between 877-940 AD, wrote one of the five histories; and indeed was one of the first Christians to adopt Arabic, the language of the conquerors.  This is commonly known by its 17th c. Latin title, the Annals.  A partial German translation exists – of value to that tiny part of the world who speak German – and a full Italian translation by Bartolomeo Pirone.  The latter was published in Cairo in 1987 by the Franciscan Centre, thereby ensuring that few copies were distributed.  My own copy came over the internet from the Franciscan bookshop in Jerusalem and is, to the best of my knowledge, the only copy in England.

I thought that it might be useful to give the table of contents here.  Note what was known in the 10th century, as passed down by (mainly ecclesiastical) writers.

Note that Pirone has decided to give proper names as transliterated from the Arabic, except in exceptional cases, so I have done likewise.

Part I – From the Creation to Heraclius

Cap. I.  The Creation of Adam and Eve Cain, Abel and their sisters The descendants of Shīt and those of Cain Noah, his descendants, and the Flood Noah leaves the Ark The calling of Malshīsādāq – The commencement of the spread of the cult of images – The confusion of tongues in Bābil and the division of territories among the peoples of the earth  The origin of magic – Abraham came out from Harran and went to live in Kan’ān  More on Malshīsādāq Ishmael and Isaac Jacob and his sons Joseph in Egypt (p.33)

Ch. II.   The Israelites become slaves of the Egyptians The killing of every newborn Jew Moses is forced to leave Egypt and goes to Midian Pharaoh allows the children of Israel to leave  Moses on Mount Sinai – Death of Moses, Aaron and Maryam Joshua becomes leader of the people Joshua’s battles and alliances with nations and cities Partition of the conquered territories among the children of Israel (p.63)

Chap. III.   Israel gives itself to the worship of idols Judges appear The prophetess Deborah Judge Gideon Abimelech rules the nation three years Israel returns to the worship of the idols Baalim, Ashtarot and Bael Yefte, judge of Israel – Samson frees the people from the slavery of foreign tribes Samson gives himself to Delilah, is taken, blinded, killed. (p.73)

Chap. IV   The priest Ali governs the people The Prophet Samuel in the Temple in Shīlūn The Ark and the misadventures of foreign tribes Samuel governs the people of Israel The people demand a king Saul is made ​​king over the children of Israel Samuel anoints the young David King David fights, by order of Saul, against foreign tribes Death of Saul and his sons Gloriata, Abbiadati and Malhīsh (p.83)

Chap. V    David, king of Israel, faces various types of opposition and civil unrest – The ark in the house of Abinadab David wars against the enemies of IsraelSolomon succeeds David Hiram, king of Tyre, and the origin of purple – Measurements of the Temple built by Solomon – Two women ask for the judgment of Solomon the Queen of Sheba in Jerusalem Kingdom of Jeroboam and Rehoboam the kings of Judah and Israel Akhab and the prophet Elijah Akhab and Yosafat. (p.91)

Chap. VI    King Ocozia and the prophet Elijah – Reign of Yoram, son of Akhab Yoram fights against the king of Damascus – Prophecies of Elisha Ocozia and his mother Athaliah reigned over Judah – Elisha sent to anoint king Yehu Yehu becomes King of Israel Yoash reigns over Judah Akhaz returns to worship of idols Yoash king of Israel – was followed by the kings of Judah: Amaziah, Azariah, Yotam, Akhaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amori, Josiah, Yoakhaz, Yoakim, Yahunakim Sennacherib invades Judah the pharaoh Necho fights against the king of Mosul (p.111)

Chap. VII    Nebuchadnezzar and the three young men in the furnace Daniel interprets and explains the king’s dream Prophets in Babylon Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Egypt, then he dies – Reign of his successors Daniel explains to King Belshazzar the meaning of the three words on the wall the reign of Darius and the appearance of the Persians Daniel and the idols of Babil Daniel in the den Sequence of Persian kings Ezra rebuilds the Temple – War between Darius and Alexander the Great: exchange of Letters – Death of Darius and campaigns of Alexander – Death of Alexander and panegyrics of the sages of the time, before the body of the hero, humbled by death Dismemberment of the empire: the Ptolemies Simeon the Just receives the grace of seeing the Messiah (p.127)

Chap. VIII   Caesar and Augustus rule Rome – Death of Cleopatra – Herod terrorizes Jerusalem and the region  Augustus orders a census in the territories of the Empire The Birth of Christ The Magi looking for Jesus Jesus is baptized by John – Death of John and death of Christ Joseph of Arimathea places the body in a tomb the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ (p.147)

Chap. IX      Reign of Tiberius and Herod Agrippa Arcadius first Patriarch of Antioch – Death of Agrippa The apostle Mark in Alexandria: founding of the Patriarchate of Alexandria – Nero, the persecutor of Christians Luke writes the Gospel and the Acts The Crucifixion of Peter head down Vespasian, Titus and the destruction of Jerusalem in Rome Titus, Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, and Hadrian succeed one another Hadrian destroys Jerusalem and builds a new city called Aelia  Successions of popes, patriarchs and emperors – question of the calculation of Easter, when it should be celebrated (p.157)

Chap. X    Under the rule of Ardashir the Persians reappear In Rome Pertinax, Julian, Severus follow one another: new persecutions against Christians Sequence of kings of Persia: rule of Sapor  Maximinus Caesar persecutes the Christians The persecution of Decius Legend of the Seven Sleepers Sequence of Persian kings and Roman emperors (p.173)

Chap. XI   Reign and persecution of Diocletian – Arian heresy arises Phenomenon of the Tetrarchy persecution suffered by Christians at the hands of Maximian and Galen Constantine becomes emperor and took over the command of his father Constantius Galerius contracts a nasty disease Sapor secretly visits the Roman lands  Constantine‘s vision of the Cross – the Martyrs of Sebastia  Schism caused in the church by Arius and Meletius the Council of 318 – Helena in the Holy Land: the discovery of the Cross – Constantine gives instructions to rebuild the churches of Jerusalem Synod of Tyre and consecration of the church of Jerusalem Constantine persecutes the Jews (p.187)

Chap. XII    Murder of Constantine Apparition of the Cross on the Mount of Olives Cyril of Jerusalem interprets the meaning – Dissemination of the doctrine of Arius Heresy of Macedonius – Reign of Julian the Apostate: persecution of Christians and attempt to re-establish the worship of gods the monastic movement in Egypt and Palestine  Reigns of Valentinian and Valens – Cycle of Theophilus and Theodosius (p.209)

Chap. XIII Reign of Theodosius the Great Still more Arianism  Council of 150 on the teaching of Macedonius, Apollinaris and of Sabellius – Of the Manichaeans: their habits and customs Theophilus, former friend of Theodosius, became patriarch of Alexandria – Arsenius, tutor of Arcadius and Honorius, emperors, one of the East , the other in the West Still more on Arsenius  Disagreement between John Chrysostom and Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria – The Queen Eudoxia Epiphanius and John Chrysostom – Third ecumenical Council Nestorius and his heresy (p.223)

Chap. XIV   Refutation of Nestorius and Nestorianism by Sa`id ibn Batrīq – Against Nestorius, Eutyches, Dioscorus, Severus, Jacob Baradaeus and their followers On the various types of union – The person, two natures, two wills of Christ (p.239)

Chap. XV    End of Yazdagard and reign of Bahram Gor Heresy of Eutyches The Synod of 8 November 448 against Eutyches The robber-synod of Ephesus: August 449 – Eudoxia, wife of Theodosius Marcian reigns in Constantinople – the Council of Chalcedon in 451 against the heretic Eutyches and Dioscorus Repercussions within the realm (p.259)

Chap. XVI    Reign of Firuz over the Persians The coming to the throne of Leo the Great – Rioting in Alexandriathe murder of the patriarch Proterius Basilicus usurps the throne Succession of Patriarchs in the various locations The figure of Patriarch Elias I – Firuz at war with the king of Hephthalites – Death of Firuz and the kingdom of Qabād Anastasius, king of the Byzantines, abandons the doctrine of the Melkites and embraces that of the Jacobites Opposition of the monks of Laurium, supported by Elias and guided by their superiors Theodosius, Chariton, Saba the heresy of Severus and the support given to it by the king Anastasius the monks of Palestine against the king Eutychius refutes the doctrine of the Jacobites A famine at Jerusalem Justin becomes emperor of Constantinople (p.269)

Chap. XVII   Justinian vanquishes the Jacobite heresy using Apollinaris and monitors the Samaritans of Nablus. St. Saba at the court of Constantinople – Construction of the Basilica of the Nativity of the monastery of Sinai, and the houses for the keepers of the monastery – The heresy of Origen and the synod of Constantinople II on May 5 553 – Mazdak preaches in Persia and implements the equal distribution of property The coming to the throne of Anūshirwān Anastasius, Patriarch of Antioch Doctrine of Maron The robber of the city of Ifrīqiyah War between the Persians and Khaqan Kisra Abarwīz, king of Persia Kisra marries the daughter of Maurice and becomes a Christian  Phocas Emperor of Constantinople – the Persians invade Palestine and Egypt John the Almoner The Jews of Tyre plot to annihilate the Christians Heraclius becomes Emperor of Constantinople (p.291)

Part II – From Heraclius to ar-Rādī  (p.317)

Cap. XVIII    Heraclius break the siege of Constantinople, Heraclius and kisra Heraclius to Jerusalem Heraclius and Maronites – Death of Muhammad the Caliphate of Abū Bakr — Caliphate of ‘Umar — Caliphate of ‘Uthman — Caliphate of ‘Alī— Caliphate of Mu‘āwiya — Caliphate of Yazīd b. Mu‘āwiya — Caliphate of Marwān b. al-Hakam — Caliphate of ‘Abd al’Malik b. Marwān — Caliphate of al-Walīd b. ‘Abd al-Malik — Caliphate of Sulaymān b. ‘Abdal-Malik — Caliphate of ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Azīz — Caliphate of Yazīd b. ‘Abd al-Malik — Caliphate of Hishām b. ‘Abd al-Malik — Caliphate of al-Walīd b. Yazīd — Caliphate of Yazīd b. al-Walīd — Caliphate of Marwān b. Muhammad al-Gā‘dī  (p.319)

Cap. XIX    The Abbasid Caliphs.   Caliphate of Abū l-Abbās as-Saffāh — Caliphate of Ga‘far al-Mansūr — Caliphate of al-Mahdī — Caliphate of Mūsa al-Hādī — Caliphate of Hārūn ar-Rashīd — Caliphate of Muhammad al-Amīn —Caliphate of al-Ma’mūn — Caliphate of al-Mu‘tasim — Caliphate of al-Wāthiq — Caliphate of al-Mutawakkil — Caliphate of al-Muntasir bi’llāh — Caliphate of al-Musta‘īn — Caliphate of al-Mu‘tazz — Caliphate of al-Muhtadī — Caliphate of al-Mu‘tamid e nascita di Sa‘īd Ibn Batrīq — Caliphate of al-Mu‘tadid — Caliphate of al-Muktafī — Caliphate of al-Muqtadir — Caliphate of al-Qāhir: Sa‘īd Ibn Batrīq is made Patriarch of Alexandria — Caliphate of ar-Rādī  (p.391)

It might be interesting to translate some of this material.

A Coptic life of Severian of Gabala (!)

Severian of Gabala was the enemy of John Chrysostom.  The latter’s importance necessarily involved Severian’s eclipse, and all the accounts of their quarrel are written from John’s point of view.  Or so I thought.  But an email from Albocicade, a correspondent of this blog, reveals a “Life of St. Severian of Gabala”, in the Arabic Synaxary of the monophysites.

It is understandable that the Copts would preserve some kind of account.  For although they also revere Chrysostom, it is also a fact that Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, was also an enemy of Chrysostom, and is also revered as a saint.  The rehabilitation of Severian is a necessary consequence of that of Theophilus.

Interestingly there is a mention of a Montanist congregation at Gabala.  It is perhaps doubtful that the life is anything but fiction, however.

This text was published by René Basset with a French translation in the Patrologia Orientalis 1 (1907).  It is short, so I shall give an English version from the French here.  The life of Severian follows that of “Saint Dioscorus”.

    *    *    *    *

7th day of Tut (= 4th September)

On this day rested in the Lord the Holy and Virtuous Father Severian, bishop of Gabala.  The name of his father was Valerian.  He studied profane philosophy at Athens, and went to Caesarea where he studied the sciences.  Then he returned to Rome, where he studied the ecclesiastical sciences, and learned by heart all the ancient and modern books, in a few years.  After this his parents died, leaving him a considerable and immeasurable fortune.  He wished to give this to Christ, in order to receive a hundred-fold reward in its place.  He built a hospice for strangers, the unfortunate, and the poor; he placed attendants there, to receive the money for the poor, such that even today these places are called by his name.  His uncle was the governor of the town; he complained about him to the emperor Honorius, because he had dissipated his fortune saying, “I give it to our Lord Christ in order to receive the equivalent [in heaven], as he said in his gospel.”  The emperor admired this, and ordered him not to separate himself from him in his palace, to go with him to church and to pass the entire night in prayer.  For the emperor also was a righteous man: he led the life of a monk and wore a hair-shirt under his royal robe.  The patriarch (pope) of Rome was then St. Innocent; he learned from God that Severian was doing good to huge numbers, and began to honour and venerate him.  The saint [Severian] was loved by the masses; his reputation reached Theodosius, who was reigning at Constantinople.  When the saint saw the respect in which he was held, he feared that his trouble was in vain, and decided to leave secretly.  An angel of the Lord appeared to him, and ordered him to go to the town of Gabala, where he would lead many souls.  He left by night, accompanied by his disciple Theodosius, to whom he had given the monastic habit.  The Lord sent him a light in the form of a wheel which preceded him until he arrived at Gabala.  There was there a convent at the head of which was a holy man.  He learned in a dream about St. Severian.  He went out to meet him, and made known to him his vision, and the saint was extremely surprised.  His history followed him to this place, and an innumerable crowd gathered around him.  The emperor Theodosius sent abbots to grow the convents which he founded, after an angel of the Lord had determined the place where they should be.  These became a refuge for many souls, and the Lord worked by him many miracles.

Among these, the daughter of the governor of Gabala had a demon in her, who said to her father, “If you make Severian leave this place, I will go out of her.”  When the father went to find Severian and told him about the matter, asking him to heal her, the saint wrote a note in which he said, “In the name of Jesus, the Christ, you shall go out of her.”

A troop of Samaritans and other people attached themselves to the soldiers, and wanted to get into the convent.  The saint made darkness come upon them and they remained for three days without sight, until they implored him with many tears, and he sent them away.

Likewise all the monks who were under his authority prayed over anyone who was ill and they were healed.  He encouraged and instructed each of them so well that they became like angels.

The bishop of this town was named Philadelphus.  He learned in a dream sent by God that the saint would occupy his place.  He sent to almost all the communities and recommended them to support him in order (to fulfil) the intention of God and, following the opinion of the righteous rulers and leaders, he was made bishop and began with a great struggle to protect his flock.

In that town there was a Jew named Saktar, very learned and proud that he was possessed of the law of Moses.  He went to find the saint and disputed with him, but no word was able to come out of his mouth.  Then the Lord informed him [Severian] in a dream that this man [Saktar] would be part of the blessed flock.  When Saktar returned to his house, he saw in a dream places of torment, and a voice saying, “Here are the faithless Jews and those who don’t believe in our Lord the Messiah.”  The next day he went to find St. Severian, fell at his feet and asked to become a Christian.  He baptised him, him and all the people of his house.  When the other Jews learned that their leader had become a Christian, they believed, were baptised, and became Christians as if they had been born into the religion of Christ.

Likewise there is another sect of magicians who are called Montanists.  When the saint asked them to enter the faith, they did not do so, because they had confidence in their art.  In fact, when a man came towards them, they would throw dust in his face and he would see nothing.  Then the saint asked our Lord the Messiah, with many tears, to bring them into the holy flock.  The Lord sent upon them, but not on the Christians, various illnesses like those with which the Egyptians were affected before.  They recognised that this was the consequence of their disobedience towards the saint.  They went to find him and became Christians.  The town formed but a single flock.  The demon screamed in pain and cried out, in the form of an old man with torn clothing, “I am tormented on all sides: Egypt is filled with holy monks; at Rome, there is Innocent; at Constantinople, John Chrysostom; This place remains to me, and Severian has taken it from me.”

The Persians sent a message to the kings Theodosius and Arcadius, wishing to make war.  They sent the letter to the saint.  When he learned of it, he wrote to them to comfort them: “We belong to Christ; our realm comes from Christ; we have therefore no need of arms, lances or men”; and he reminded them one by one of all the things that God had done to kings, before the forty-day fast; and the Persians went away.

As for the business of John Chrysostom with the empress, the saint came with all the bishops.  He addressed all kinds of remonstrances to the empress, saying that John Chrysostom had done nothing which deserved exile.  When she did not listen, he returned to his town.

He composed discourses, exhortations and sermons which are copied in the church down to the present.  He grew old and attained the age of 100.  Ten days before he died, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and invited him to leave.  He made his recommendations to his flock, and fell asleep in the Lord.  His death happened two years before that of St. John Chrysostom, who died the same year as Epiphanius of Cyprus.  The body of the blessed Severian was buried fittingly; funeral orations and panegyrics were made, and he was laid to rest in the tomb.  May his prayer be with us.  Amen.

Diez on al-Makin and the Testimonium Flavianum

Just a quick note to signal an important article: Martino Diez, “Les antiquites greco-romaines entre ibn al-`Amid et Ibn Khaldun. Notes pour une histoire de la tradition, in: Studia Graeco-Arabica 3 (2013), 121-140 (Online here).  (In this and what follows, don’t presume I have every letter just correct: WordPress won’t allow me to!)

The abstract tells it all:

The Coptic Historian al-Makin Girgis ibn al-`Amid (1206 – after 1280) is the author of a universal history known as al-Magmu` al-Mubarak (‘The blessed collection’). This work is divided into two parts: a section on pre-Islamic history, still unpublished, and a summary of Islamic history, edited by Erpenius in 1625 and completed by Claude Cahen. The article analyzes the two recensions of the first part of the Magmu` through the comparison of three manuscripts, in particular as regards the sections on Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine history. After discussing the particular version of the Testimonium Flavianum which can be found in the longer recension of the Magmu`, the article traces the fortune of al-Makin in subsequent Islamic historiography, especially al-Qalqašandi, al-Maqrizi and Ibn Khaldun.

Al-Makin is the big unpublished Arabic Christian history.  His version of the Testimonium Flavianum in the first half of al-Makin’s work was referenced by Shlomo Pines in his well-known article on the subject, when discussing Agapius, but a look at the French translation of Agapius reveals that Pines must have used Al-Makin’s version extensively.

The article is in French, but promises to be very interesting!  Watch this space!

Update (16th Dec. 2013): I had not realised that the article was online.  I’ve added the link, and also corrected a typo in the title.

A 12th century trilingual Arabic, Greek and Latin psalter

A correspondent tells me about this post at Arab Orthodoxy:

On the website of the British Library they’ve posted images of a Psalter dated to 1153 written in parallel Greek, Latin, and Arabic. The Arabic translation of the Psalms is that of Abdallah ibn al-Fadl al-Antaki, the famous 11th century deacon and translator from Antioch. You can turn to all the pages and zoom in. Take a look, it’s beautiful.


In St. Petersburg they’ve recently published a two-volume facsimile and study of a 17th century illuminated Arabic Psalter based on Abdallah ibn al-Fadl’s translation. I’ll get around to writing a review of that at some point…..

I wonder where on earth that was written.  My guess, considering that it dates to the crusader period, is in Syria.  Just before the crusades the Byzantines had conquered the area, bringing Greek; then the crusaders come in, with Latin; and the local Christians speaking Arabic.  Where else would you have this kind of tri-lingualism?

What a wonderful thing to have online!

New online Syriac manuscripts, catalogues of Cairo mss

Kristian Heal at BYU has been busy, and is doing some excellent work in making resources available.  The following announcement appeared in Hugoye and in Nascas.

I am pleased to bring to your attention some additional resources now available on our website.

1.       Manuscript catalogues

Almost 20 years ago, Professor Kent Brown from Brigham Young University coordinated an NEH funded project to microfilm and catalogue manuscripts from Cairo and Jerusalem. Our Center is working on a project to improve access to this important collection of manuscripts on microfilm. As a first step to improving access we have digitized the preliminary catalogues of the whole collection that were prepared by the late Dr. William Macomber.

The catalogues are now available for download here: http://cpart.byu.edu/?page=121&sidebar

Over the coming months we will be donating copies of the microfilms to 10 research centers in Europe and the United states in an effort to enable scholars to better work with this important collection.

2.       Syriac and Garshuni Manuscripts from St. Mark’s Convent, Jerusalem

As part of our effort to improve access to Syriac resources in particular, we have prepared PDF copies of the  manuscripts filmed at St. Mark’s Convent, Jerusalem. One of the conditions of usage is that a copy of any publications based on these manuscripts be sent to St. Mark’s convent.

The manuscripts can be freely downloaded here: http://cpart.byu.edu/?page=126&sidebar

The online manuscripts are a wonderful idea, no hesitation.

I have more hesitation about the copies of the microfilms.   Now I have found it very difficult to get copies of material from BYU, so possible alternatives must be a good thing.  But … the libraries that will hold them are bound to be places like the Bodleian, who will certainly see this merely as a chance for profit, and will charge incredible sums if they are allowed to get away with it.  I can’t get material that I need from the Bodleian now. 

I imagine that KH was unable to get clearance to simply digitise the collection and place it online.  But it is a pity that his benevolence will probably be rendered useless by the greed of European library staff.

Nominate Mingana manuscripts for digitisation

Peter Robinson of the Virtual Manuscripts Room at Birmingham has responded here to a post of mine, bewailing the emphasis on Islamic manuscripts so far, with a very interesting response:

We are aware that the only way to satisfy everyone is, simply, to digitize everything. The project was by way of an experiment, to learn about the issues involved in the digitization and to satisfy ourselves that it WOULD be possible to go on and digitize the entire collection.

Now, we believe we can do that. We have developed a plan for this, and it would be very helpful to have the support of people on this list.

One way you could do this would be to go send in any mss from Mingana that you would like to see digitized using the form at http://vmr.bham.ac.uk/contact/. The more such requests we gather, the stronger our case for digitizing the whole collection.

This is a very open-minded and sensible approach, and I would encourage people to do just this. 

The catalogues are all online here.  I know that it is summer, and we all have many things to do involving strawberries, but if you can tear yourself away, mull over what texts you would like to see online.  I can think of the manuscript including Cyrus and Thomas of Edessa, without blinking, for instance; and there will be more!

Coptic Museum Library — restoration of mss in progress

This lengthy article in Al-Ahram records that a team of conservators are working over the manuscripts in the Coptic Museum in Cairo.  This collection contains not merely Coptic texts but also Arabic Christian manuscripts.  Thanks to Andie Byrnes at Egyptology News for this one.

The interest in the collection is welcome.  But… how can we access the mss?  How can we get reproductions?  There still seems to be no way to contact them using the internet, which is astonishing.  Especially when there is a website here.

Asterix, manuscripts, and the Bibliothèque Nationale Français

In Asterix and the Normans, the Gauls encounter the Normans, who know no fear but would like to.  They are invited to listen to the village bard, the aptly named Cacafonix.  After his first number, the Normans look pained.  “By Thor!” says one; “By Odin!” another; “Bite on the bullet!” says a third.  A few more numbers, and they run!  Recommended, actually, this one.

What brought this on, I hear you cry?  Well, I want to get images of a manuscript of the History of the Arabic Christian historian, Al-Makin.  The British Library let me down when I ordered some from them, so I’ve asked the BNF in Paris for help.  The invoice arrived today.  For Ms. Arabe 294 and 295, total number of pages 648, the price is going to be…. 234 euros!  OUCH!

I’ve paid it anyway.  I have to have it to progress.  But this is serious money.  Each page costs 26c from the first ms and (mysteriously) 36c from the second.  But of course it hardly costs that much to make these copies. It certainly doesn’t cost a different amount for each of the two halves! Greed, I fear, is responsible for this bill. And all these images, I suspect, will be low quality monochrome. It’s enough to make any digital camera owner spit!

I know that I have banged on about this before, but this is serious stuff.  The medieval manuscripts are the raw stuff of scholarship on all ancient texts.  If we can’t access the dratted things — and a bill of 234 euros per manuscript is no different to refusing access, for most people — then we can’t work.  This is particularly bad for unpublished texts, which means most of Arabic Christian and Syriac and Armenian and…

The fact is that these institutions are making money off this.  Come on, you scholars; clamp down on it!