A manuscript of a regionary catalogue and a manuscript of the Notitia Dignitatum online!

Update: I misread the announcement of Vat.lat.3394 that it contained the Notitia Dignitatum.  It does not.  Post amended!

A few years ago I uploaded the Chronography of 354 AD to the web, and I included some of the regionary catalogues here as part 14, with notes by me; the lists of buildings, temples, etc in the 14 regions of ancient Rome.

Times have changed, and I learn from the Vatican digitisation project twitter feed that one of the manuscripts of a regionary catalogue has come online, ms. Vat. lat. 3394, late 15th c., belong to Pomponio Leto.  It’s here.  It’s a dull-looking manuscript, but full of hard data!  Here’s the start of region V.

Starts: “75 private bathhouses / 78 cisterns / 12 bakeries (pistrina)”  Interesting to see the differences to the printed version I uploaded.

But this is not all.

We also now have online here the Bodleian’s copy of the Notitia Dignitatum too, which contains lists of military posts.

Shelfmark is Ms. Canon. Misc. 378, written in 1436.  Image 312 (f.153v) is a picture, showing Britain and the forts of the Saxon Shore, while image 313 (f.154r) gives a list of the forces available to the Count of the Saxon Shore.

The manuscript is a “collection of texts on the late Roman Empire, many of which have been illustrated”.  I could wish that it was easier to find out just what the contents actually are!  The browser is as useless as usual, or I might flip through it.  In the end I found a list here.  It includes Polemius Silvius’ calendar, De Rebus Bellicis, Altercatio Hadriani Augusti et Epicteti philosophi, Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae, and regionary stuff. All useful and interesting to have!

A few months of interesting links

For some months I’ve been collecting bits and pieces.  Mostly I have nothing much to add, but they shouldn’t be lost.

Cool 9th century manuscript online as PDF

Via Rick Brannan I learn that a downloadable PDF of the Greek-Latin St Gall 9th century manuscript of Paul’s letters is online and can be downloaded as a single PDF:

Note the link on this page where you can download a PDF of what appears to be the entire Codex Boernerianus. It is beautiful.

And so you can.  It’s at the SLUB in Dresden here, where it has the shelfmark A.145.b.  It also contains Sedulius Scottus, I gather.

Nice to see the interlinear, isn’t it?

Codex Trecensis of Tertullian online

A correspondent advised me that the Codex Trecensis of the works of Tertullian has appeared online in scanned microfilm form at the IRHT.  Rubbish quality, but far better than nothing.  The ms is here.  De Resurrectione Carnis begins on 157r and ends on 194r.  De Baptismo begins on folio 194r and ends on 200v.  De Paenitentia begins on folio 200v.

Saints lives = Christian novels?

A review at BMCR by Elisabeth Schiffer of Stratis Papaioannou, Christian Novels from the ‘Menologion’ of Symeon Metaphrastes. Dumbarton Oaks medieval library, 45. Harvard University Press, 2017, caught my eye.   This contains 6 lives from Metaphrastes collection.

Even though hagiographical texts are among the most frequently translated Byzantine sources, little effort has been made so far to translate parts of Symeon Metaphrastes’ Menologion. This is primarily due to the generally unfortunate editorial situation of these texts: They are transmitted relatively standardized, but in a vast number of liturgical manuscripts.

In addition to summarizing the status of research on Symeon’s rewriting enterprise, Papaioannou explains in his introduction why he calls the texts in focus “Christian novels.” It is not unproblematic to apply this modern term, as he himself states, but he decided to do so because of the fictionality of these narratives and because of their resemblances to the late antique Greek novel. When saying this, it is important to emphasize—as Papaioannou explicitly does—that these texts of novelistic character were not understood as such by their audience. On the contrary, the Byzantines regarded these texts as relating true stories, written for edification and liturgical purposes (see pp. xiv-xviii).

It’s an interesting review of a neglected area of scholarship where the tools for research – editions and translations – are not available.

Full-text of the Greek Sibylline Oracles online for free

Annette Y Reed broke the story on Twitter: it’s J. Geffcken, Die Oracula Sibyllina, Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1902, which has turned up at Archive.org here.   A useful transcription, rather than the original book, is also online here.

All known mss in the Bodleian library – detailed in online catalogue

Ben Albritton on Twitter shares:

This is awesome – “This catalogue provides descriptions of all known Western medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, and of medieval manuscripts in selected Oxford colleges (currently Christ Church).” Sharing ICYMI too.

It also has direct links to the for Greek mss!

Where did the Byzantine text of the New Testament come from?

Peter Gurry at the ETC blog asks the question, and suggests that Westcott and Hort are no longer the authorities to consult.

How to respond to politically motivated persecution

Since the election of President Trump I have noted on Twitter a new form of anti-Christian posting.  There has been an endless stream of anti-Christian jeering online, demanding “how dare you support Trump”?  It is surreal to see how people who hate Christians suddenly have become expert theologians on what Jesus would do.  Thankfully a certain Kurt Schlichter writes *Sigh* No, Being A Christian Does Not Require You Meekly Submit To Leftist Tyranny:

Everyone seems to want to tell Christians that they are obligated to give in. There’s always some IPA-loving hipster who writes video game reviews when he’s not sobbing alone in the dark because no one loves him tweeting “Oh, that’s real Christian!” whenever a conservative fights back. I know that when I need theological clarification, I seek out the militant atheist who thinks Christ was a socialist and believes that the Golden Rule is that Christians are never allowed to never offend anyone.

It’s a good article, and sadly necessary in these horribly politicised times.  It’s worth remembering that, were times different, rightists would most certainly adopt the same lofty lecturing tone.

A quote for pastors from St Augustine

Timothy P. Jones posted on twitter:

“If I fail to show concern for the sheep that strays, the sheep who are strong will think it’s nothing but a joke to stray and to become lost. I do desire outward gains–but I’m more concerned with inward losses” (Augustine of Hippo).

Queried as to the source, he wrote:

It’s from Sermon 46 by Augustine–the entire message is an outstanding exposition of what it means to be a shepherd of God’s people…. I translated the above from thisHere’s a good English translation as well.

Artificial Intelligence in the Vatican Archives

I knew it.  It’s alive!!!

Well, not quite.  This is a piece in the Atlantic, Artificial Intelligence Is Cracking Open the Vatican’s Secret Archives: A new project untangles the handwritten texts in one of the world’s largest historical collections:

That said, the VSA [Vatican Secret Archives] isn’t much use to modern scholars, because it’s so inaccessible. Of those 53 miles, just a few millimeters’ worth of pages have been scanned and made available online. Even fewer pages have been transcribed into computer text and made searchable. If you want to peruse anything else, you have to apply for special access, schlep all the way to Rome, and go through every page by hand.

But a new project could change all that. Known as In Codice Ratio, it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to scour these neglected texts and make their transcripts available for the very first time.

They’ve found a way around the limitations of OCR by using stroke recognition instead of letter recognition.  They open-sourced the manpower by getting students (who didn’t know Latin) to input sample data, and started getting results.

All early days, but … just imagine if we could really read the contents of our archives!

Kazakhstan abandons Cyrillic for Latin-based alphabet

Via SlashDot I read:

The Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is changing its alphabet from Cyrillic script to the Latin-based style favored by the West. The change, announced on a blustery Tuesday morning in mid-February, was small but significant — and it elicited a big response. The government signed off on a new alphabet, based on a Latin script instead of Kazakhstan’s current use of Cyrillic, in October. But it has faced vocal criticism from the population — a rare occurrence in this nominally democratic country ruled by Nazarbayev’s iron fist for almost three decades. In this first version of the new alphabet, apostrophes were used to depict sounds specific to the Kazakh tongue, prompting critics to call it “ugly.” The second variation, which Kaipiyev liked better, makes use of acute accents above the extra letters. So, for example, the Republic of Kazakhstan, which would in the first version have been Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy, is now Qazaqstan Respyblikasy, removing the apostrophes.

The article at SlashDot instinctively opposed a change, which can only benefit every single Kazakhstani, by making a world of literature accessible.  Ataturk did the same, and for the same reason.

Tell Google that a book is in the public domain

Sometimes Google misclassifies books.  But there is a way to tell it that actually the book is public domain.  The Google link is here.  From It’s surprisingly easy to make government records public on Google Books:

While working on a recent story about hate speech spread by telephone in the ’60s and ’70s, I came across an interesting book that had been digitized by Google Books. Unfortunately, while it was a transcript of a Congressional hearing, and therefore should be in the public domain and not subject to copyright, it wasn’t fully accessible through Google’s archive….

But, as it turns out, Google provides a form where anyone can ask that a book scanned as part of Google Books be reviewed to determine if it’s in the public domain. And, despite internet companies sometimes earning a mediocre-at-best reputation for responding to user inquiries about free services, I’m happy to report that Google let me know within a week after filling out the form that the book would now be available for reading and download.

What does it mean to speak of an authorial/original/initial form of a Scriptural writing when faced with tremendous complexity in the actual data itself?

Back at ETC blog, Peter Gurry discusses this with Greg Lanier here.

Some of the difficulty, one senses, is because the interaction of the divine with an imperfect world is always inherently beyond our ability to understand.  It requires revelation, which is not supplied in this case.

And with that, I think I’ve dealt with a bunch of interesting stories which didn’t deserve a separate post.  Onward!

Fun with footnotes – the Laudatio Apostolorum of ps.Chrysostom

I do enjoy looking into footnotes.  I’ve been looking into another couple on a passage in Dirk Rohmann’s book, which we encountered a few days ago.  (I’m ignoring footnotes that I’m not looking at; but giving the context).

In John [Chrysostom]’s metaphorical words, the apostles have “gagged the tongues of the philosophers and stitched shut the mouths of the rhetoricians.” This passage echoes a similar statement in an unpublished manuscript (attributed to John) which asserts that “the senate decrees have been overthrown, the philosophers and orators have been put to shame, and the Areopagus has been wiped out.”[12] This statement could be right because it is attested that in the last quarter of the fourth century large private mansions were constructed on the Areopagus hill, traditionally a place that housed archives.

[12] Voicu (1997), 515: “Senatsbeschlüsse sind von den Aposteln umgestürzt, Philosophen u. Redner  beschämt u. der Areopag vernichtet worden”, referring to the unpublished manuscript Cod. Vat.  Gr. 455 fol. 119v. (Voicu, Sever J. 1997. “Johannes Chrysostomus II (Pseudo-Chrysostomica).” RAC 18:503–15)

Mmmm… unpublished manuscripts!!!

…the senate decrees have been overthrown, the philosophers and orators have been put to shame, and the Areopagus has been wiped out…

That does sound rather interesting.  I wondered what the context is?  What is this “unpublished manuscript”?  So… I thought I’d see what I could find!

The RAC seems to be the Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum which no normal person has access to.  It’s not accessible online.  That’s annoying.  Presumably nobody ever looks at it.

My next thought was that perhaps the manuscript itself was online?  Maybe I could take a look at it?  Maybe get a text transcribed, or translated?  After all, 15,000 Vatican manuscripts are now online.  But unfortunately this is not one of them.  Okay…

But surely the Pinakes database, maintained by the IRHT, will list the manuscript and it’s contents?  Well indeed they do!  The entry is here.  The manuscript appears to be a Byzantine homiliary, of the 10th century, and the passage comes from a very short work (folios 118v-120v), entitled Laudatio SS Apostolorum (= Praise of the holy apostles), CPG 4970 (BHG 0160i), incipit Οἱ πρὸ τῆς κλήσεως ἁλιεῖς καὶ μετὰ τὴν κλῆσιν πάλιν ἁλιεῖς, and ending ὅτι ἔδει ἐξ ὕψους μεγάλαις ταῖς πτέρυξιν ἐφιπτάμενον τὸ ἅγιον πνεῦμα φίλους θεοῦ καὶ προφήτας κατασκευάζειν… ἀμήν.  Three manuscripts are listed – Thank heavens for the thoroughness of the IRHT cataloguers!  The CPG entry tells us no more; a couple of items of inaccessible bibliography are listed by the BHG.  A google search reveals another article by Sever J. Voicu, likewise inaccessible.[1]  I infer that the work does indeed have some interesting features!

We can do nothing with this work at the moment.  It’s quite unusual, these days, that I can’t find some kind of access online to some of this stuff.  But of course this was once normal.  It’s a reminder of what is still offline.

But once the manuscript comes online at the Vatican site, I must have a look.  If the manuscript is legible – and Greek manuscripts tend to be heavily abbreviated – then I might try to get a transcription made; and then a translation.  It might be fun!

There is nothing we can do at the moment, however.  Nice footnote, to nice stuff.

  1. [1]S.J.Voicu, “Echi costantinopolitani di sant’Ireneo. Note su una pseudocrisostomica «Laudatio apostolorum» (CPG 4970)”, in Ultra Terminum Vagari. Scritti in onore di Carl Nylander, a cura di B. Magnusson, S. Renzetti, P. Vian & S.J. Voicu, Roma: Edizioni Quasar. Associazione Internazionale di Archeologia Classica, 1997, 357-366.

A portrait of Constantius II from 354, via two intermediaries

As manuscripts of the Vatican come online, it becomes possible to look at items previously known to us only from poor-quality photographs.  This is a good thing.

Years ago I made an online edition of the Chronography of 354, an illustrated luxury manuscript made for a Roman aristocrat in 354 AD, and transmitted to us by copies.  The pictures exist in various versions, mostly derived from a Carolingian copy now lost.  The best set, in monochrome, are preserved in Vatican Ms. Barberini lat.2154 B.  Sadly the full colours of the ancient original are not preserved; but the renaissance artist did his best to copy the Carolingian original.

Here’s one of the illustrations, on folio 13, depicting Constantius II, in the uncharacteristic pose of money falling from his hand.  Somehow one suspects that this charmless man did look rather like this.  (It is a pity that, as with other Italian stuff put online, the image is defaced with a watermark screaming “mine! mine! mine!!”)

A fragment of Bede’s “De ratione temporum” from his own lifetime?

Here’s a fun item!  Inside the binding of a book, somebody found a really early fragment of a manuscript of Bede’s De ratione temporum.  (This is the only work which mentions “Eostre”, and includes all his calculations of dates and events.)

Even more fun – it’s online in a nice high-resolution image at Darmstadt!  It can be found here, where it is manuscript 4262.  The piece originates at Wearmouth – i.e. in Bede’s own monastery – around 725, in his own lifetime.

It’s amazing to consider that Bede may have seen this being copied!

But there is more.  This is a chunk of chapter 27, De magnitudine, vel defectu solis et lunae, as you may verify from this old edition here.  In this passage, he quotes Pliny the Elder book 37.  You can see the red heading of Bede’s chapter in the left hand column; and the name of “Plinius” on the third line underneath.

Here’s one side of the folium:

And here’s the other (which plainly needs a bit of work with a graphics tool):

Here’s some of the Latin text:

De magnitudine, vel defectu solis, sive lunae, Plinius secundus in opere pulcherrimo naturalis historiae ita describit: Manifestum est solem interventu lunas occultari, lunamque terrae objectu, ac vices reddi, eosdem solis radios luna interpositu suo auferente terrae, terraeque lunae.

The “eosdem solis radios luna” is particularly clear in the right-hand column, two lines down.

Here’s the same bit in the Liverpool University translation by Faith Wallis, p.78-79:

Pliny relates the following information concerning the size or eclipse of the Sun and Moon in that most delightful book, the Natural History: “It is obvious that the Sun is obscured by the intervention of the Moon, and the Moon by the interposition of the Earth, and each affects the other. The Moon takes away by its interposition the very same rays of the Sun which the Earth takes away from the Moon.”

Isn’t it amazing that a page of a copy contemporary with the author, and from the same monastery, is still extant?  It does demonstrate the importance of looking in these 16th century bindings.

Well done Darmstadt, for making that accessible online!  (They ask that I mention their reference of urn:nbn:de:tuda-tudigit-51806)

An extant “sillybos” – parchment label – from an ancient roll

The British Library manuscripts blog has produced a rather marvellous article by Matthew Nicholls on Ancient Libraries.

But what made it special to me was an image of an item which I had never seen before.

As we all know, ancient books were written on rolls of papyrus.  The modern book form or “codex” belongs to late antiquity.  But the title of the work in each roll was written on a parchment slip known as the sillybos, or sometimes sittybos – the literature doesn’t indicate which is correct – which protruded from the end, allowing the reader to find out which roll he needed without unrolling any of them.

Cicero refers to such items in his letters to Atticus.  In book 4, letter 8, 2, we read:[1]

Postea vero quam Tyrannio mihi libros disposuit, mens addita videtur meis aedibus. Qua quidem in re mirifica opera Dionysi et Menophili tui fuit. Nihil venustius quam illa tua pegmata, postquam mi sillybis libros iIlustrarunt. Vale. Et scribas ad me velim de gladiatoribus, sed ita, bene si rem gerunt; non quaero, male si se gessere.

Since Tyrannio has arranged my books, the house seems to have acquired a soul: and your Dionysius and Menophilus were of extraordinary service. Nothing could be more charming than those bookcases of yours now that the books are adorned with title-slips. Farewell. Please let me know about the gladiators: but only if they are behaving well; if not, I don’t want to know.

 In book 4, letter 5.4 we read:[2]

Domum meam quod crebro invisis est mihi valde gratum. Viaticum Crassipes praeripit. Tu “de via recta in hortos.” Videtur commodius ad te: postridie scilicet; quid enim tua? Sed viderimus. Bibliothecam mihi tui pinxerunt constructione et sillybis. Eos velim laudes.

I am very grateful to you for going to see my house so often. Crassipes is swallowing all my travelling money. You say I must go straight to your country house. It seems to me more convenient to go to your town house, and on the next day. It can’t make any difference to you. But we shall see. Your men have beautified my library by binding the books and affixing title-slips. Please thank them.

A painting from Herculaneum shows an example of a roll with a sillybos dangling out of the end of the roll:

Matthew has posted here an image of one, attached to its original roll:

The slip has on it the name of “Bacchylides” – a poet of the 5th c. BC – with the title of the work, the Dithyramboi, underneath.  The bit of text attached is from the 17th dithyramb. The manuscript is BL papyrus 2056 (= P.Oxy. 1091), and is 2nd century AD in date.  It is, of course, from Oxyrhynchus, as is papyrus 733, the unique manuscript of Bacchylides’ poems.

It’s wonderful to see something like this.  It’s obvious how these could become detached, and a work could become anonymous and untitled.

Here is a parchment sillybos of the 1st-2nd century AD which became detached from a copy of the lost work, Sophronos, Mimes on Women. (I take this from Sarah Bond’s excellent article on the same subject).  This item is P.Oxy.II 304:

Another sillybos of the 1-2nd century is preserved from a copy of the 9th book of Hermarchus against Empedocles, POxy vol. 47, 3318.

A 2nd century AD sillybos comes from a commentary (hypomnema) on the Simonidea, possibly the Sayings of Simonides, POxy 25, 2433:

Even more interestingly, Dr B. tells us that a sillybos might be known as an index in Latin (although Cicero uses the Greek term), as we find in Livy 38, 56.  Here the lost speech of Scipio against Naevius (it looks as if Scipio was speaking for the defence) had Naevius’ name mentioned only in the sillybos, not in the speech itself:

[6] The index8 of the speech of Publius Scipio contains the name of Marcus Naevius, tribune of the people; the speech itself lacks the name of the accuser; it calls him now “a ne’er-do-well,” now “a no-good.” 

Note that a number of other sillyboi may be seen at the Oxyrhynchus website here.

I was also able to find another ancient depiction of a sillybos, protruding from a roll in the paintings from Pompei.  I found this online here.

Updated 21/07/2018 with additional images.

  1. [1]Loeb edition, vol. 1, p.292-3.
  2. [2]Loeb edition, vol. 1, p.284-5

The codex Aesinas of the minor works of Tacitus now online (?)

A correspondent advised me some time ago that the Codex Aesinas – the Iesi codex -, our sole remaining manuscript of the minor works of Tacitus, is now online in high-resolution images.

This is marvellous news, obviously.  The link is here:


But … just at the moment the viewer did not seem to be working for me, I should add, either in IE or Chrome.  The viewer has a facility to send you a PDF of the pages.  I’m not sure if this is working either, although I have tried.

If anyone can get this to work, please let me know in the comments.

A new work by Apuleius!

This story passed me by completely, until the excellent J.-B. Piggin tweeted about it, as part of his lists of Vatican manuscripts coming online.  Justin Stover has more here.

In 1949, the historian of philosophy Raymond Klibansky made a dramatic announcement to the British Academy: a new Latin philosophical text dating from antiquity, a Summarium librorum Platonis, had been discovered in a manuscript of the Vatican (although he did not disclose its shelfmark). During the remaining fifty-six years of his life, until his death in 2005, his promised edition never appeared (Proceedings 1949).

The work was transmitted with the other works of Apuleius, where it was treated as book 3 of De Platone, hitherto presumed lost.

Piggin notes (after Justin Stover added a comment) that Klibansky did reveal the shelfmark in 1993, in his catalogue of the manuscripts of Apuleius’ philosophical works, with Frank Regen, Die Handschriften der philosophischen Werke des Apuleius.

The manuscript is in fact Vatican Reginensis Latinus 1572, online here, although only in a wretched digitised microfilm.  The online catalogue entry is here.  The Vatican catalogue describes this as a 14th century manuscript, but R.H.Rouse has identified it as one of the manuscripts of the 13th century French bibliophile, Richard de Fournival.[1] It contains works of Apuleius, plus notes.  Justin Stover has a paper online here discussing how the manuscript fits within the stemma of the philosophical works of Apuleius.[2]

The new work begins on folio 77r (frame 78), and here’s the opening portion.  The text starts with the Quod in the third column.

Piggin adds that

Stover’s edition, A New Work by Apuleius: The Lost Third Book of the De Platone, has since appeared with OUP. (HT to Pieter Buellens (@LatinAristotle).)

Furthermore, there is also a paper online here from Justin Stover and Yaron Winter, in which the proposed authorship of the work is assessed using computational linguistics.[3]

I think we all owe a debt to Justin Stover for his work on this one.

And if you don’t follow J.-B. Piggin’s blog, with its endless notices of Vatican manuscripts as they come online, you should.

UPDATE: My thanks to Pieter Bullens for correcting my mistake about the date of the manuscript on twitter.  I’ve updated the reference.

  1. [1]R.H. Rouse, “Manuscripts belonging to Richard de Fournival”, Revue d’histoire de textes 3 (1974), 253-269; p.266, where it is identified as number 85 in the Biblionomia of Richard de Fournival.  Online here.
  2. [2]J. A. Stover, “Apuleius and the Codex Reginensis”, Exemplaria Classica: Journal of Classical Philology 19 (2015), 131-154.
  3. [3]J.A.Stover & Y. Winter, “Computational Authorship Verification Method Attributes a New Work to a Major 2nd Century African Author”, Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 67, 2016, 239-242.

The manuscripts of Philostratus’ “Life of Apollonius of Tyana”

The Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus is a curious text with an evil history.  It was perhaps originally composed in the Severan period, quite innocently, as a mainly fictional work based partly on earlier sources about the pagan sage of the last first century AD.

But it was then used, and perhaps re-edited, as a tool for anti-Christian propaganda during the Great Persecution under Diocletian, by Hierocles, the governor of Bithynia.  We learn from Eusebius how this unattractive man began his persecution first by putting out a series of forged texts.  Material designed to set Apollonius up as a “pagan Christ” – and a superior one – formed part of this campaign.  This PR campaign was designed to denormalise and to marginalise the Christians, whom he intended to murder, by first depicting them as deluded, irrational, unreasonably dogmatic and ignorant of the “real origins” of their faith. Having done this by way of preparation, he then felt able to begin the violence.

We know much of this from Eusebius, who wrote a refutation of the “Apollonius” material, under the title of Adversus Hieroclem. By chance this too has come down to us, and which has been printed together with the Life of Apollonius since the editio princeps of Aldus Manutius in 1502.[1]  Indeed the excellent N. G. Wilson has just published an edition and translation of the Aldine prefaces, including that on Philostratus and Eusebius, reviewed in BMCR.

First page of the Mediceo-Laurenziana Ms. 69:33.
First page of the Mediceo-Laurenziana Ms. 69:33.

The Life of Apollonius has come down to us in a number of Greek manuscripts.  But I find, absurdly, that the text has not been edited since the Teubner edition by C. L. Kayser of 1870![2]   Even that refers back to the edition by the same editor of 1844 for its critical work.[3]  The Loeb editions, which give us our English translations, simply work from Kayser.

Fortunately Dutch scholar Gerard Boter, who reviewed the most recent Loeb here, has come to our rescue, with an excellent article on the manuscripts, preparatory to a new edition.[4]  I imagine that few of us have a grasp on the manuscript tradition, so I thought that we would all be served by summarising it here.

The manuscripts are as follows, and doubtless more are online than I have seen.  The sigla are newly assigned by Boter, but all are mentioned by Kayser somewhere.[5]  I include Kayer’s sigla in brackets, as these are probably used in older literature, but Boter’s are clearly better-chosen.

  • B (-) = Berolinensis Phill. 1591 (gr. 315), 15th century [books I-IV only]  This is from the collection of Sir Thomas Phillips at Middlehill, where it was Middlehillianus 315.
  • E (e) = Escorialensis gr. 227 (Φ.III.8), 12th century.
  • S (s) = Florentinus Laurentianus CS 155, ca. 1400 [breaking off after
    332.16] = “Schellersheimianus” in Kayser.
  • G (fc) = Florentinus Laurentianus 69,26, 15th century.  The source for the Aldine edition.
  • H (fb) = Florentinus Laurentianus 69,27, 14th century.
  • F (f) = Florentinus Laurentianus 69,33, ca. 1000 AD. Online here.  The oldest member, and the source for all the mss of family β, according to Boter.
  • L (l) = Lugdunensis BPG 73D, 14th century.
  • P (p) = Parisinus gr. 1696, 14th century.
  • A (π) = Parisinus gr. 1801, 14th century.  The unique and “best manuscript”.
  • T (ρ) = Vaticanus gr. 956, 14th century [book 1, up to 26,1]
  • R = Vaticanus gr. 1016, 15th century.
  • Q (ψ) = Vaticanus Palatinus gr. 329, 14th century [starting at 144,27]
  • U (u) = Vaticanus Urbinas gr. 110, 15th century.
  • Y (μa) = Venetus Marcianus gr. 391 (coll. 856), 15th century.
  • Z (μb) = Venetus Marcianus gr. 392 (coll. 837), 15th century.
  • M (μ) = Venetus Marcianus gr. App. Cl. XI 29 (coll. 1376), 14th century.
  • V (v) = Vratislaviensis, BU, Rehd. 39, 15th century [lost in WW2].

After comparing them, Boter tells us that the manuscripts fall into two groups, A and the rest.  The rest all derive from a lost ancestor, α, which was a close cousin of A.  These children divide into two families: β, consisting of BEMPTU; and γ, being FGHLQRSVYZ.  Kayser considered the manuscripts of the β family generally had a better text, but that A was the most important manuscript.  (Identifying the “best manuscript” was very much the method of the time).

From all this, he draws the following stemma, of which manuscript is copied from which other manuscript:


There are also extracts from the text in other manuscripts.  Boter does not discuss these, but Kayser lists a few:

  • h = Vaticanus Palatinus gr. 129
  • d = Darmstadtinus.
  • φ = Laurentianus 74, 12.

The Boter article was in 2008.  That is now 8 years ago.  Let us hope that a new edition is being assiduously pushed forward!  It is certainly overdue.

I learn from Dr Boter’s home page of another article: “Studies in the Textual Tradiiton of Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana”, Revue d’histoire des textes (RHT) 9 (2014), which, according to this link, does discuss the manuscripts individually and also the excerpts.

I find that another article by him, “The title of Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius of Tyana“, has appeared in the Journal of Hellenic Studies 135 (2015) 1-7.

I have no access to either article, but I was amused to see the JHS home page try to obtain “$37.50 to buy this article” or – desperately, since nobody on earth would pay that – “$5.99 to rent this article now for 24 hours”!  I rather think that actually Dutch taxpayers have already paid for the article.  But from such examples of tawdry greed let us avert our eyes.

Instead, let us welcome the prospect of a new and much more accurate edition of this interesting text.  It is not every late antique text that gets two Loeb editions, after all.

  1. [1]Some believe that the Against Hierocles is not by Eusebius of Caesarea, but by another Eusebius.
  2. [2]C. L. Kayser, Flavii Philostrati Opera, vol. 1, Teubner, 1870.
  3. [3]C. L. Kayser, Flavii Philostrati quae supersunt: Philostrati junioris Imagines, Callistrati Descriptiones. 1844
  4. [4]Gerard Boter, “Towards A New Critical Edition Of Philostratus Life Of Apollonius: The Affiliation Of The Manuscripts”, in  K. Demoen & D. Praet (eds.), Theios Sophistes (2009), 21-56.  Online in preview here.
  5. [5]Kayser lists the codices in the 1870 edition, p.xxv; and the Berlin ms in the Appendix, p.xxiv.

Scribes removing paganism from Galen’s “On my own opinions”?

In 2005 a bored PhD student, left hanging around the catalogue desk at the Vlatades Monastery in Thessalonika, looked through the catalogue and discovered a previously unknown Greek manuscript of the works of the 2nd century medical writer, Galen.  The Ms. Thessalonicensis Vlatadon 14 contained complete Greek texts of several works previously known only from fragments or translations into Arabic, as well as a new and important work, the Peri Alupias (On Grief), about which I have written elsewhere.

One of the works whose complete Greek text is now accessible is On my own opinions.  Immediately after the prologue, we find that Galen discusses his opinion of the gods, as I learn from an interesting article by A. Pietrobelli.[1]  The passages are also extant in Latin, translating an Arabic version now lost; and in Hebrew, also translating a different Arabic version, also now lost.

The Latin version, made from Arabic, is entitled De sententiis, made at Toledo in the school of Gerard of Cremona in the 12th century AD.  There are five manuscripts of this work, all mutilated at the end.  (Another Latin translation does exist, made from Greek; but it only covers the last two sections of the work, whereas our material is from the beginning.)

The Arabic version, from which the Latin was made, is lost.

Hunain Ibn Ishaq was a 9th century Nestorian Christian writer.  He was commissioned with others to translate Greek technical works into Arabic.  The method used was to translate the Greek texts into Syriac, as there were well-established procedures to do this.  Then the Syriac, a semitic language, could easily be translated on into Arabic.

Hunain tells us, in his work on the translations of Galen,[2] that two Syriac translations of Galen’s On my own opinions existed at that time.  The first was made by “Job”, presumably Job of Edessa[3], the second by Hunain himself for his son Ishaq.  Thabit ibn Qurra then translated the latter version into Arabic.[4]  In addition a 13th century Hebrew translation exists, again made from someArabic version.

But the text has undergone some revision in transmission.  Let’s have a look at the different versions, and see how.  Pietrobelli gives the text and a French translation – I have rendered the latter into English so that we can see what is said.

Here’s the first passage:

Original Greek:

Whether the universe is uncreated or created, whether there is something after it or outside it or indeed nothing, because I say that I am in ignorance faced with such questions, I also do not know of course what is the nature of the creator of all things in the universe, if he is incorporeal or corporeal, and more, in what place he resides.[5]


So I say that I do not know whether the world is created, if there is something outside of it or not. And because I say I do not know these things, so it is clear that I do not know about the creator of all things in this world, whether he is corporeal or incorporeal, nor where he is located, namely the divinity, or rather the power of the divinity. This power is of him whose works are revealed in this world through acts that can only come from a creator. Thus these themselves demonstrate God.[6]


He said: I do not know if the world is created or not, and if there is something else outside of it, or nothing. And as I say that I am ignorant about these things, it is also clear that I do not know about the creator of all things in the world, whether he is a body or incorporeal, nor what is the place of his residence. As for God and the divine powers, that is to say the powers whose activities are manifested in the world, they can only come from the Creator, so they reveal Him and they are attributed to Him.[7]

In this case, the text has been augmented, somewhere along the line.  Somebody has added some extra explanatory text on the end.  Where Galen is ambivalent about the Creator, etc, the editor has firmly asserted the existence of a creator.

Here’s the second:


Is it only about the gods I also affirm that I am in uncertainty, as Protagoras said, or in fact that I say about them that I am ignorant of their essence, while recognizing their existence from their works? For the constitution of living beings is the work of the gods, and also all the warnings that they send, by omens, signs and dreams.[8]


And I will not speak like Pictagoras who denied having any knowledge about them, but I say that I have no knowledge of their essence; but that such powers exist, I know through their works because the organization of living beings is their doing, and they are revealed by divination and dreams.[9]


I do not say of them like Protagoras: “I do not know anything about them,” but I say I do not know what is their essence. That they exist, on the other hand, I know from their activities, and from their activities appear the composition of animals and that which is manifested through divination, omens, and the interpretation of dreams.[10]

These three are more similar – although the name Protagoras has turned into Pictagoras! All the same, the change is subtle.  A question that Galen leaves open becomes a positive statement.

Here’s the third passage adduced by Pietrobelli:


The god who is honoured at home in Pergamum has shown his power and providence on many other occasions but especially on the day he nursed me.

At sea, I experienced not only the providence, but also the power of the Dioscuri.

In fact, I do not think it is wrong for men to be ignorant of the essence of the gods, although I decided to honour them by following the ancient custom, in the manner of Socrates who advised people to obey the precepts of Pythios.

That is my position regarding the gods.[11]


Concerning the works of God in us … † †[12] they appeared by his power, because he nursed me once through an illness I had and because he manifests himself at sea in delivering those who are about to be wrecked thanks to the signs that they see and those who firmly believe in their salvation. That clearly indicates an admirable power that I have myself experienced. And I do not see what is harmful for men if they ignore the essence of divinity, and I see that I must accept and follow the law on this point and accept what Socrates prescribed who expressed himself quite strongly on this subject.

That’s what I have to say about the deity.[13]


And among the actions of God, blessed and praised be He, which reveal his power and his providence for his creatures, there is the fact that He healed me from an illness I had, and what can be seen at sea after the rescue of those who embark on the ships; after believing they will be shipwrecked and drowned, <they are saved> by the signs that they see and that they believe and by which they are saved. This gives a clear indication of a great power, and I do not think that does harm to people if they do not know what is the essence of the divine powers. That’s why I think I need to exalt and praise them, as religion ordains.[14]

The differences here are considerable.  Galen’s own text acknowledges the favour of Asclepius, the  god of Pergamum, Galen’s home city; of the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, and the teachings of Apollo (Pythios).  All this pagan material has been removed, in favour of acknowledgement of the intervention of God.

Furthermore, the Hebrew reveals yet more intervention  – “God, praised and blessed be He” has a  distinctly Islamic flavour.

What are we to make of all this?

The changes may have been made at any point in the transmission.  Without a general knowledge of changes of this kind in the Arabic translation movement, we cannot say if any of this reflects the Greek text before Hunain and Job; or is conventional, in Syriac translations; or is their own work, in adapting a medical textbook for the needs of a capricious Muslim despot; or is the work of later Arabic editors, or indeed of the Latin and Hebrew translators in Europe.  But somewhere along the line, someone got creative.

The changes, in fairness, are mild.  They adjust paganism to monotheism, and remove an irrelevant irritant for the reader.  They are probably no worse than some modern editors are doing to old but politically incorrect childrens’ classics like Biggles.

All the same, it does highlight that the transmission of texts is sometimes less than faithful, on ideological grounds.  It would be most interesting to see if there is any general pattern available in the data.  I suspect that there might be.

  1. [1]The material for this article is found in A. Pietrobelli, “Galien agnostique: un texte caviardé par la tradition,” Revue des Études Greques 126 (2013), 103-135.  Academia.edu.
  2. [2]Details here.  John Lamoreaux has since made an English translation, Hunayn Ibn Ishaq on His Galen Translations, BYU (2015).
  3. [3]Pietrobelli suggests alternatively a “Job le tacheté” of whom I can discover absolutely nothing – in Lamoreaux’s translation, Job is Job of Edessa.
  4. [4]Pietrobelli states that both Syriac versions were translated into Arabic, the first by Thabit ibn Qurra, the second by Isa ibn Yahya, a disciple of Hunain; Lamoreaux gives the passage as: “What He Believes by Way of Opinion [B113]  This book consists of a single volume. In it he describes what is known and what is not known. Job has translated it into Syriac. <I translated it into Syriac> for my son Ishaq. Thabit translated it into Arabic for Abu Jafar Muhammad Ibn Musa.” and “A adds: Isa Ibn Yahya translated it into Arabic, which Ishaq collated with the original and corrected, for Abd Allah Ibn Ishaq. “
  5. [5]Que l’univers soit incréé ou créé, qu’il y ait quelque chose après lui au dehors ou bien rien, parce que j’affirme être dans l’ignorance face à de telles questions, j’ignore aussi évidemment quelle est la nature du créateur de toutes choses dans l’univers, s’il est incorporel ou corporel, et bien davantage, en quel lieu il réside.
  6. [6]J’affirme donc ne pas savoir si le monde est créé, s’il existe quelque chose à l’extérieur de lui ou pas. Et parce que je dis que je ne sais pas ces choses, il est donc clair que je ne sais pas, à propos du créateur de toutes les choses qui sont dans ce monde, s’il est corporel ou incorporel ni où il est situé, à savoir la divinité, ou plutôt le pouvoir de la divinité. Ce pouvoir est de ceux dont les oeuvres sont révélées dans ce monde par les actes qui ne peuvent provenir que d’un créateur. Ainsi ils indiquent eux-mêmes Dieu.
  7. [7]Il dit : j’ignore si le monde est créé ou pas, et s’il y a quelque chose d’autre en dehors de lui ou rien. Et puisque je dis être ignorant sur ces choses, il est aussi évident que j’ignore, à propos du créateur de toutes les choses qui sont dans le monde, s’il est un corps ou incorporel  ni quel est le lieu de son séjour.  Quant à Dieu et aux pouvoirs divins, c’est-à-dire les pouvoirs dont les activités se manifestent dans le monde, ils ne peuvent que provenir du Créateur, c’est pourquoi ils Le révèlent et ils Lui sont attribuées. 
  8. [8]Est-ce donc qu’au sujet des dieux j’affirme également que je suis dans l’incertitude, comme Protagoras le disait, ou bien qu’à leur sujet j’affirme être ignorant de leur essence, tout en reconnaissant leur existence d’après leurs oeuvres?  Car c’est l’oeuvre des dieux que la constitution des êtres vivants, ainsi que tous les avertissements qu’ils envoient par des présages, des signes ou des songes.
  9. [9]Et je ne parlerai pas comme Pictagoras qui niait avoir une connaissance à leur sujet, mais j’affirme que je n’ai aucune connaissance de leur essence; mais que ces pouvoirs existent, je le sais à travers leurs oeuvres parce que l’organisation des êtres vivants est leur fait et qu’ils sont révélés par la divination et les rêves.
  10. [10]Je ne dis pas d’eux comme Protagoras : « Je ne sais rien du tout à leur sujet », mais je dis que j’ignore quelle est leur essence. Qu’ils existent en revanche, je le sais d’après leurs activités et à leurs activités appartiennent la composition des animaux et ce qui se manifeste à travers la divination, les augures et l’interprétation des rêves.
  11. [11]Le dieu qui est honoré chez moi à Pergame a montré sa puissance et sa providence en bien d’autres occasions mais particulièrement le jour où il me soigna. En mer, j’ai fait l’expérience non seulement de la providence, mais aussi de la puissance des Dioscures. Non vraiment, je ne pense pas que cela fasse du tort aux hommes d’être ignorants de l’essence des dieux, bien que je sois décidé à les honorer en suivant la coutume ancestrale, à la façon de Socrate qui conseillait d’obéir aux préceptes de Pythios. Voilà ma position en ce qui concerne les dieux.
  12. [12]Note 25. V. Nutton proposes to restore the text thus : “Concerning the workings of God in us +having come+ into deep trouble, +how much clearer+ have they appeared in their power!”
  13. [13]En ce qui concerne les oeuvres de Dieu en nous †…† elles sont apparues par son pouvoir, parce qu’il me soigna une fois d’une maladie que j’avais et parce qu’il se manifeste en mer en délivrant ceux qui sont sur le point de faire naufrage grâce à des signes qu’ils aperçoivent et qui leur font croire fermement à leur salut. Voilà qui indique manifestement un pouvoir admirable don’t j’ai moi-même fait l’expérience.  Et je ne vois pas ce qu’il y a de nuisible pour les hommes s’ils ignorent l’essence de la divinité et je vois que je dois revendiquer et suivre la loi sur ce point et accepter ce qu’a prescrit Socrate qui s’est exprimé assez fermement sur ce sujet. Voilà ce que j’ai à dire sur la divinité.
  14. [14]Et parmi les actions de Dieu, béni et loué soit-Il, qui révèlent son pouvoir et sa providence pour les créatures, il y a le fait qu’Il m’a guéri d’une maladie que j’avais et ce qui peut être vu en mer d’après le sauvetage de ceux qui s’embarquent dans des navires; après avoir cru faire naufrage et couler, <ils sont sauvés> par le signe qu’ils voient et auquel ils croient et par lequel ils sont sauvés. Cela donne une indication claire d’un pouvoir merveilleux, et je ne pense pas que cela fasse du tort aux gens s’ils ne savent pas quelle est l’essence des pouvoirs divins. C’est pourquoi je pense que je dois les exalter et les louer, comme l’ordonne la religion.