From my diary

The run up to Christmas is always busy, even if you are at home, and mine is no exception.

A few months ago Dr Michael Fuller kindly sent me some excellent photographs from the Mithraeum of S. Maria Capua Vetere, and some Mithraea in Ostia.  I have finally got around to uploading them to my Mithras site, and adding them to the catalogue of images.  It took much more time than I thought, even though I omitted some.

I’ve always hesitated to add the Ostia Mithraea to the site.  The reason for this is that the excellent Ostia Antica site has a page on each Mithraeum, which is simply splendid and better than anything that I’d be able to do.  There has never seemed any point in duplicating this; so my own photographs from Ostia have remained unused as well.

Today is the shortest day, the winter solstice.  I saw on Twitter a link to a good article by Richard Flower, on the Bruma and Brumalia, here.  This reminded me of my own soundings, I don’t know how long back.  He in turn made use of an article on Choricius of Gaza by Roberta Mazza, which, delightfully, was online at Academia.edu here.[1]  This not merely discusses the Bruma and Brumalia, but also refers to a study (which Dr. F. mentioned also) in Latin: Crawford’s “De Bruma et Brumalibus festis” in Byzantinische Zeitschrift 23.

Googling for this, I don’t find the volume online.  Yet somehow I have it on my local storage, downloaded from somewhere.  How odd.  But it does make the point that we do need local copies of things.

The Latin seems fairly easy.  It makes the point that the festival of Bruma is unknown to Martial, in Domitian’s time, who simply uses it as a synonym for Saturnalia; its first appearance as a distinct feast is two references in Tertullian.

I suppose I ought to read this.  ‘Tis the season to be paying attention, after all.  But … it’s really dark out there, and I find it very hard to wake up.  Maybe I’ll just lie on the sofa and read social media on my smartphone!

  1. [1]Roberta Mazza, “Choricius of Gaza Oration XIII: Religion and State in the Age of Justinian”, in: E. Digeser, R.M. Frakes, J. Stephens (eds.), The Rhetoric of Power in Late Antiquity: Religion and Politics in Byzantium, Europe and the early Islamic World, Tauris Academic Studies: London-New York 2010, 172-93. At Academia.edu

More on Choricius of Gaza

We’re interested in Choricius because one of his works contains a description of the magnificent celebration of the winter festival, the brumalia, by the emperor Justinian.  We’re interested in the facts about the brumalia because there are rumours online that Christmas is ‘really’ the brumalia.

This evening I find the following in the latest Patrology volume (tr. Adrian Walford), p. 269-70:

Chroricius of Gaza was the disciple and successor of Procopius of Gaza, whose close friend he was and whose funeral oration he delivered.  He spent the whole of his life in Gaza, which was then, in the 6th century A.D., at the height of its fame.  He composed encomia for Marcianus bishop of Gaza and other notables, a funeral oration for Marcianus’ mother Mary, and epithalamia for several of his pupils.  In addition there survive declamations on various mythological and historical subjects, and popular discourses on various philosophical subjects.  Although undoubtedly a Christian, his writings display no interest in theology.  As a rhetor, he was regarded as a model for later Byzantines.

Editions: CPG 7518; R. Foerster, E. Richsteig, Orationes, declamationes, dialexes, Leipzig 1929.
Studies: Photius, Bibliotheca, cod. 160 (ed. Henry, vol. 2, 121-123); H. Gärtner: Der Kleine Pauly Lexicon der Antike 1 (1964) 1159-1160; D. Stiernon, EEC 1 (1992) 201.

The mention of dialexes must be significant; one of these contains the Justinian material.  The content of his work means that he does not appear in Migne.

CPG 7518 is found in volume 3 of the Clavis Patrum Graecorum, p. 403; but just gives the 1929 edition.  However it does add that the edition also contains the funerary oration on Procopius of Gaza (p.109-128) and the oration on Mary the bishop’s mother on p. 99-109.

Few people know that Google books search gives different results if you are outside the US to inside.  It’s not just that some books are not viewable; the list of results differs.  This evening I have found more on Choricius, in Reinhard Pummer, Early Christian authors on Samaritans and Samaritanism, here.  Chunks on the Samaritans are given from Foerster, with Litsas’ translation, preceded by the following introduction:

Choricius of Gaza
c. 490 – c. 543

Almost nothing is known of the life of Choricius.[1] He mentions that he was born in Gaza but gives no further details about his life. Nor do any of his contemporaries, including Procopius, who was his teacher, speak about or refer to him. Later sources, such as Photius and Suda. speak only of his literary works. The approximate date of his birth is inferred from his first oration, held shortly after 518, at the occasion of the death of the mother of Bishop Marcian, Maria;[2] Marcian must then have been thirty or thirty-five years old. Moreover, at the time of the oration, Choricius already had established himself as an excellent rhetorician. For these reasons, he must have been born in the early 490s.[3]

There are a number of similarities between Choricius and Procopius. Like Procopius, Choricius lived all his life in Gaza, except for his studies in Alexandria and Caesarea; he seems to have declined offers to teach in other cities; and he was never married. His life was dedicated to scholarship, teaching, charitable work, and the administration of the school.

The extant works of Choricius can be grouped thus:[4] 10 Orations (lo/goi),[5] 12 Declamations (mele/tai),[6] and 25 Dialexeis (diale/ceij). The latter are either independent compositions about philosophical subjects or proems to longer orations. Choricius’ excellent education in classics comes to the fore in quotations from Greek writers, including Homer, Thucydides, and Demosthenes.

Choricius’ primary concern was rhetoric. Any historical data contained in his works are therefore incidental to his main goal and, in fact, are sunk “into a profusion of allusions, rhetorical nuances or stylistic ornamentation.”[7] The Samaritans are never mentioned by name. It is only through affinities with other sources, such as Cyril of Scythopolis’ Vit. Sab. 70, that we are able to tell that certain passages in some of Choricius’ orations make reference to Samaritan unrests in 529-30.

1 For a short summary see PLRE 3, 302.
2 On Marcian cf. PLRE 3, 819-820 (Marcianus 1); on Maria. PLRE 3, 827 (Maria 1).
3 See Litsas. Choricius 13.
4 Cf. the edition of Choricius’ works by Foerster and Richtsteig p. XXXV.
5 Encomia in honour of important personalities; epithalamia: and epitaphs.
6 On mythical, historical, and invented subjects.
7 Litsas, Choricius 64.

This is very helpful for those of us trying to get a handle on what Choricius wrote.  Some of the orations were published by Foerster for the first time in the late 19th century, prior to including them in his edition, such as this one, on Miltiades.  Online is also his orations on Achilleus and Polyxena here.

Choricius has a great deal to say on how speeches should be made.  In his funeral oration on Procopius, he says that “no non-Attic word ever passed his lips” (from here).  A couple of extracts from one of his orations are to be found here.

UPDATE (22 Dec. 2016): A translation of Choricius’ oration about the Brumalia, and a wonderful summary of information on Bruma and Brumalia, has been made by Roberta Mazza, and is online here.[1]

  1. [1]Roberta Mazza, “Choricius of Gaza Oration XIII: Religion and State in the Age of Justinian”, in: E. Digeser, R.M. Frakes, J. Stephens (eds.), The Rhetoric of Power in Late Antiquity: Religion and Politics in Byzantium, Europe and the early Islamic World, Tauris Academic Studies: London-New York 2010, 172-93.

Choricius of Gaza, the Suda on the “brumalia”

One of the authors mentioned in yesterday’s post about evidence for the winter festival of the Brumalia was Choricius of Gaza.  Apparently he records the magnificent celebration of this festival in the first consulship of the emperor Justinian.  If you’re like me, this is an author about whom you know very little.  He seems to be an author of the 6th century, whose declamations have come down to us, at least in part.

Unfortunately the 1929 edition by Richard Förster and Eberhard Richtsteig, Choricii Gazaei opera, does not seem to be online.  The Wikipedia article lists an English translation by Robert J. Penella, made in this very year, but of course none of us plebs have access to that.

I would like to pin down the portion that deals with the brumalia, and quote it.  There is an 1846 edition online here.  Unfortunately the only reference to the brumalia is in a footnote on p.305.

The introduction to the Penella volume appears here on this site, discussing the “twelve declamations” and gives the following reference:

…on the occasion of Justinian’s Brumalia, the sophist [Choricius] compares the emperor to Zeus, but makes no reference to his Christianity (Dialex. 7 [XIII]).

The excerpt on the site gives a very clear idea that Penella’s volume is a good solid piece of work, which I wish I had access to.

Moving on, the 10th century lexicon the Suda is online.  The entry (beta, 556) for “Brumalia” reads:

This was devised by Romus, since he and his brother Remus, having been born as a result of fornication, were exposed and reared by a woman. It was [considered] disgraceful among the Romans to eat someone else’s food. At drinking parties each guest would bring his own food and drink in order not to gain the reputation of being feeders-off-others. On account of this Romus invented the Brumalia, having declared that it was necessary for the king to feed his senate in the winter, when they enjoyed respite from war, starting with the alpha up to the omega, and he ordered the senate likewise to invite the soldiers. And when the soldiers were ready to leave, they used to play pipes starting in the evening so they would know where they would find their meal. And Romus devised this in atonement for his own outrage, giving the meal the name “Brumalium”, which is ‘to feed off another’s goods’ in the Roman language.

This gives no indication of when the brumalia was held beyond “winter”.

UPDATE (22 Dec. 2016): A translation of the oration in question by Choricius, and a wonderful summary of information on Bruma and Brumalia, has been made by Roberta Mazza, and is online here.[1]

  1. [1]Roberta Mazza, “Choricius of Gaza Oration XIII: Religion and State in the Age of Justinian”, in: E. Digeser, R.M. Frakes, J. Stephens (eds.), The Rhetoric of Power in Late Antiquity: Religion and Politics in Byzantium, Europe and the early Islamic World, Tauris Academic Studies: London-New York 2010, 172-93.