Philo of Byzantium, On the Seven Wonders of the World: an English translation and some notes

Approximately 50,000 Greek manuscripts survive, containing a mass of literature from the ancient and medieval period.  Among these is a curious little work, On the Seven Wonders of the WorldDe septem orbis miraculis, or peri ton hepta theamaton (Τῶν ἑπτὰ θεαμάτων ἑκάστου φήμῃ μέν). This is the first literary account of the seven wonders of the world.  Unfortunately it is largely rhetorical, rather than descriptive.[1]

There is an English translation of this work, which I will give at the end.  However I wondered what the text was and how it reached us.[2]

The transmission of our text has been discussed by Aubrey Diller.[3]  It survives in a single 9th century manuscript, Heidelberg 398 (= A),  starting on folio 56v, where it is ascribed clearly to “Philo of Byzantium”.

Heidelberg 398, f.56v.

Philo of Byzantium, or Philo Mechanicus, was a writer of the second century BC, author of some works on technology. However a study by von Rohden in 1875 showed that the attribution must be wrong.[4]  The text carefully avoids any use of “hiatus”.  This is the technical term in rhetoric for the situation where a word or syllable ending in a vowel is followed by a word or syllable starting with a vowel.  The word “hiatus” itself contains a hi-atus, for instance.  Hiatus is a normal feature of Greek, but it was avoided by the rhetoricians, and most carefully so in late antiquity.  Von Rohden therefore concluded that the author was a late antique rhetorician, and felt able to date the work even as late as the 5-6th centuries AD.  The author is therefore sometimes referred to as pseudo-Philo of Byzantium.

The work is incomplete.  There is an introduction, and there should be seven chapters.  But the text breaks off in the 6th chapter at the bottom of a page without any colophon to mark the ending. Analysis of the binding has shown that the last page begins a new quire of leaves, but that the other leaves have all been removed.  It seems that A originally contained the full text.

Heidelberg 398 f.59v, bottom – the point where the text breaks off.

The marginalia mainly consist of chapter titles.  These are in small uncials, and are probably from the renaissance Paris circle of Platonists.

A has had an exciting history.[5]  It comes from Constantinople.  In the 1530s it was in the hands of the printer, Hieronymus Froben in Basle in Switzerland.  Froben printed a couple of works from it, but then presented various manuscripts – presumably including this one – to Ottheinrich, Elector of the Palatinate (d. 1558) who founded the Palatine Library in Heidelberg.  It remained there until the Thirty Years War.  At the conclusion of the war, the manuscripts of Heidelberg were transferred to the Vatican.  In 1623 the papal agent, Leo Allatius, removed all the covers from the Heidelberg manuscripts in order to do so.  Books are heavy, and in this period were often shipped in barrels, which could be rolled.  It was then rebound in the Vatican.  There it was studied by Allatius who wrote a Latin translation, a copy of which is also in the Vatican.  A remained in the Vatican until 1798, when it was looted by the revolutionary French and transferred to Paris.  After the Napoleonic wars were over, in 1816 it returned to Heidelberg where it is today, and has recently appeared online.

There is also a 13th century copy of A, most of which is at Vatopedi on Mount Athos in Greece: Vatopedi 655.  The portion of the Vatopedi manuscript that concerns us is contained in 21 leaves which were stolen by none other than Constantine Simonides.  After attempting and failing to sell bogus manuscripts to the British Museum, he sold some genuine ones, including these leaves.  They are today in the British Library, where they are Additional Manuscript 19391.  (= B).[6]  This too is online here.  That it is no more than a copy of A may readily be seen, because it breaks off at exactly the same point as A.  There are also some renaissance copies, of no value.  One of these that is online is Vat. Barb. gr. 69.

British Library Additional 19391, fol. 12v. Start of Philo.

The text has been printed a number of times, usually as an appendage to other works.  The editio princeps was in Rome in 1640, by Leo Allatius, with parallel Latin translation.  The standard edition seems to be that of Hercher (1858),[7] from which, I find, the translation was in fact made.

Start of Hercher text.

The translation I found as an appendix in a popular paperback,[8] translated by a certain “Jean Blackwood” whom I hae been unable to identify.  I give it in full, with the introductory remarks.  There are no footnotes.

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APPENDIX I

ON THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE WORLD

by Philon of Byzantium

The following is a free translation by Jean Blackwood of the text of De Septem Orbis Spectaculis as it appears in Aelianus Praenestinus compiled by Rudolf Hercher and published in 1858.

Everyone knows of the renowned Seven Wonders of the World, but few have set eyes on them, for, in order to do so you have to arrange a long journey to the land of the Persians on the far side of the Euphrates; you have to visit Egypt; you must then change direction and go to Elis in Greece. Then you must see Halikarnassos, a city-state in Caria, and Ephesos in Ionia, and you have to sail to Rhodes, so that, being exhausted by lengthy wanderings over the Earth’s surface, and growing tired from the effort of these journeys, you finally fulfil your heart’s desire only when life is ebbing away, leaving you weak through the weight of years.

Thus, learning is a quality which is truly to be admired  and to be treasured as a great gift because, at the same time  as it gives their minds insight, it may show men, freed from the burden of travelling, the most remarkable of sights which are to be seen at home, and it designates the sight that is worthy of admiration. For the traveller who reaches these places sees them once, and as soon as he leaves, he forgets, be­cause he has not firmly grasped the delicate beauty of the works he has gazed upon, and the individual details escape his memory. Whereas he, who by selective reading has become  acquainted with a worthy sight knows the details of its form and has thus set eyes upon a complete work of art, and, be­cause these sights have been seen in his mind’s eye they remain, imprinted on his mind, each single image, never to be destroyed.

I must add something else that in no way departs from the truth. Where I have managed to describe the Seven Wonders of the World as accurately as possible, my words, surveying the scene, are associated by the listener in such a way that it may seem to him that he has looked upon them with his own eyes. For these wonders are the only things which diminish the worth and reputation of other distinguished sights, for, truly, ordinary men may see them in the same way as other sights, but they do not marvel at other sights in the same way. For beauty, like the sun, dazzles by its own brilliance and does not allow one to see the others.

I.

The garden which is called the Hanging Garden suspends its plants in the air, having shoots which are supported away from the ground. The tree roots which hang above the ground, assuredly cover the earth and take the place of a floor. Here is a description of this work. First of all stone columns are supported on a general foundation and made firm. This is done in such a way that the engraved bases of the columns cover the whole area given over to the garden.

Then beams made from palm trees are set down in different places, separated from one another by only a small space. For palm is absolutely the only kind of wood which does not rot. It is moistened so that it will bend back after being pressed upwards by weights. Moreover it feeds the fibres and tendrils of the roots which mix with the matter in its own cells and sinews.

A vast and deep mass of earth is poured over the beams; trees are planted with their broad leaves nearly touching to help foster the Garden. There are all kinds of varieties of flowers, and, so that it will be enjoyed by all, whatever is the most delightful, agreeable and pleasant to the eyes is there. The whole of the place is ploughed like a normal field and it is no less fertile than other ground. Yet it is done in such a way that the land can be ploughed above the heads of those walking amongst the supporting columns.

Whilst the upper layer of soil is trodden on underfoot, in places the deep, lower layers remain untouched, and that which lies at the bottom remains virgin ground. The waters gush forth from lofty fountains and sink right down through the ground and are then forced up high in twists and spirals, rushing and swirling through the circuits of the pipes of cer­tain mechanical devices. And so the water having been col­lected on high in numerous ample containers irrigates the whole garden and, with its bountiful moisture, it bathes the roots of the trees which are pressed into the top layer of the ground and thus keeps the soil perpetually moist.

Here grow grasses which are perennially green, and trees whose leaves move in the breeze. The branches are made soft by constant moisture and so the leaves grow more densely. The roots, which are never removed, exude water continuously, and this circulates through the pores of the roots which are buried and pressed into the ground, keeping the trees natur­ally firm and thick. And so the cultivator, in his many ways, has created strength through nature; this certainly is a work of regal splendour giving much pleasure suspended above the heads of onlookers.

II.

The construction of the Pyramids at Memphis is beyond the strength of men and their description is beyond belief, for they are mountains placed on top of mountains, and it is not easy for the mind to grasp how the huge masses of hewn stone could have been raised; and all have doubts concern­ing the huge force of the mechanical devices needed to bring the massive structures together.

After a quadrangular base had been laid down, those very stones needed to support the construction and keep it off the ground were interred, and, as the pyramid rises, the superstructure decreases proportionately in size and the whole work turns visibly into a pyramid, assuming a tapering shape. The whole of the work of joining the stones together has been so cleverly and elegantly accomplished that the whole monument seems to have sprung from one hewn stone. Differ­ent kinds of stone are joined together in turns, for here is pure marble whilst there is a black Ethiopian stone. The stone which they call blood-like is not present. The one that is brought from Arabia is there, changing colour, translucently fresh and green. Some take on a radiant glossy blue colour, and there are others which, like the apple tree, turn golden. Some are a purple colour, not dissimilar to those stained with the marine purple dye of sea-shells. For the rest, delight is enhanced by astonishment, excellence of artistic inspiration by admiration, and distinction by extravagance. Climbing to the top tires one as much as a real journey, and if anyone stands at the highest point and looks down, dizziness veils his sight. Regal wealth adds splendour to the very pleasing variety of the range of colours. Let fortune smile while she believes that she can touch the very stars by spending extra­vagantly. For by works of this kind, either men rise to the level of gods, or the gods come down to man.

III.

As Kronos is Zeus’s father in heaven, so Phidias is his father in Elis. Immortal nature gave birth to the former, but the hands of Phidias, which alone have satisfied the gods, begat the latter. Blessed is Phidias who, alone, has seen the king of the world and has re-created his awesome presence for all to see. If it belittles Zeus to call him the son of Phidias, might we still not consider his mother to be Art, by which means Phidias created (Zeus’s) likeness. With this in mind Nature provided the elephant, and filled Africa with abundant herds so that Phidias might fashion their curved teeth. We honour the other Wonders of the World with our admiration, but this is the only one that we venerate. For however much a work of art is to be admired, the image of Zeus is sacro­sanct. If labour is worthy of praise, then an immortal being must truly be worthy of reverence.

O to the Grecian Age which will abound in works dedicated to the honouring of gods for many centuries to come and which has had as the creator of immortality the artist whose like has not been seen again. You have been able to show mortals the features of the gods, and whoever has looked upon them will look more soberly at the works of others. For no other has been superior to Phidias in the way he laid Olympus at his feet. For as we know that evidence is preferable to opinion, and fact to fiction, so sight is superior to hearsay.

IV.

Out to sea lies the island of Rhodes which, long ago, was submerged in the deep and which the Sun raised up to the light and demanded it as his own from the gods. Here stands the Colossus, seventy cubits high, executed in the likeness of the Sun, for it is recognized to be an effigy of the god as it bears his own special features. The artist used so much bronze for the work that there was almost a shortage of metals, for all the earth’s mines were exploited in carrying out the project.

You will remember that Zeus deluged the Rhodians with great wealth so that they might devote it to honouring the Sun as they had undertaken to produce a statue of the god that would stretch right from the earth to the sky.

The workmen fortified the statue of the Colossus from the inside by hewn stones joined together by iron bolts, and the bars which are used on the stones to bring the joins together seem to have been fashioned by the hammers of the Cyclops. Whatever part of the work remains hidden is greater than that which can be seen; for the onlooker, transfixed in admiration, can only doubt that such vast masses of bronze could have been melted down and cast, wonder by what clamps they have been held, to what kind of blows they have been subjected and what strenuous exertions have brought them into being.

A pedestal of pure marble was laid down and on this, calculating the proportion, the artist first fixed the feet of the Colossus as far as the ankle, on to which the god was to be erected, seventy cubits high. At this (foot) level the base was already greater than other statues and it was not possible to lift the rest of the statue into place above; yet there were so many people helping that the whole rose up, in one continuous movement, like the temples of the gods, as if of its own accord.

So, in order to achieve this, the artist cast the rest of the statue beforehand, and it was reassembled piece by piece, One piece was fixed to the part already cast, and a third piece was added when this was finished, and then each further part, just as it had been fashioned, was completed with the same skill. For whole parts of bronze could not be moved from the place where they were cast.

Seeing that the pieces were joined correctly, the artist en­sured that the joins and connecting rods were secured after the statue had been made even more firm by the stone laid in place to hold the work steady.

But the artist had to preserve the shape of the work in his mind for, as parts of the Colossus were finished he poured a huge quantity of earth about the base hiding that part already completed, so that he might finish the next parts from ground level. He gradually ascended to the very topmost point of his desire making a god-like image from 500 talents of bronze and 300 talents of iron, so freeing a great work of art from the bold mind of its creator; for in the world a second Sun stood face to face with the first.

V.

Queen Semiramis created majesty and regal splendour with her immense wealth, for she paid no heed to jewels and treasure and so left behind a Wonder of the World. For she surrounded Babylon with walls, the foundations of which were 360 stadia in diameter so that running around the city ex­hausted the daily courier. But they are to be admired not only because of their size but also truly on account of the solidity of their construction and the width achieved with the materials, for the walls have been built out of baked brick and bitumen.

The height of the wall certainly exceeds fifty cubits, and truly the width of the course is such that four quadrigas can drive along them at the same time. There are numerous multi-storeyed towers stretching in an unbroken link of sufficient size to house within them a large army. For this reason the city-state is a fortress for the Persians and, gener­ally speaking, the city seems more or less self-sufficient, so many people live within its walls. Truly other states scarcely till as much land as Babylon covers with dwellings alone, and only at that place can the inhabitants walk about inside the walls.

VI.

The unique Temple of Artemis at Ephesos is the abode of gods. Whoever has gazed upon it will believe that the heavenly world of the immortals has changed places with the earth. The Giants, or Aloidae, who undertook to conquer Olympus with mountains, have now built not a temple but a dwelling fit for gods. Just as work in progress surpasses its foundation, so art, by its boldness, surpasses the work in progress.

The artist, isolated from everyone because his work was known only to him, dug trenches to an immense depth and exhausted the mountain quarries in laying his extensive foundations. A supporting structure, solid and firm, was placed down with immense sculptured columns (Atlantes) to support the heavy superstructure; initially he constructed a base raised by ten steps placed outside to serve as a platform …

(Here the manuscript ends, and the remainder of this sec­tion, as well as that covering the Mausoleum, are missing.)

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It is useful to have this translation, and very interesting to see the history of this little work.

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  1. [1]G. Sarton, Hellenistic Science and Culture in the Last Three Centuries B.C., 1993, p.26.
  2. [2]I happened to see on Twitter a splendid depiction of the Colossus of Rhodes.  This led me to seek out the literary sources, and the Wikipedia article advised me of the existence of the translation.  I purchased a copy of the paperback, which arrived this week.
  3. [3]A. Diller, The Tradition of the Minor Greek Geographers, 1952.
  4. [4]Hermann von Rohden, De mundi miraculis quaestiones selectae, Bonn 1875.  Online here. Pp. 32-43 dates Philo in the fifth or sixth century because of his rigorous avoidance of hiatus.
  5. [5]These details all from Aubrey Diller’s fascinating monograph.
  6. [6]Seven leaves were stolen by a Greek adventurer, Minoides Mynas in September 1841 and ended up in Paris, as BNF supp. gr. 443A.
  7. [7]Rudolf Hercher (ed.), Aeliani De natura animalium, Varia historia, Epistolae et Fragmenta. Porphyrii Philosophi De abstinentia et De antro Nympharum. Philonis Byzantii De septem orbis spectaculis, 1858.  Online here.  Critical notes on p.lxx (p.80 of the PDF); the text is numbered strangely; Philo is labelled p.101-5.  (p.728 of the PDF)
  8. [8]Michael Ashley, The Seven Wonders of the World, Glasgow: Fontana Paperbacks, 1980.

An ancient handbook of short-hand: Tironian notes and the “Commentarii notarum Tironianarum”

A new article at the British Library Manuscripts blog, Emilia Henderson, “Note-worthy connections: antique shorthand in Carolingian books“,[1], discusses an obscure ancient text, the Commentarii notarum Tironianarum, or Lexicon Tironianum.  This is a handbook of short-hand, giving the symbols with the Latin word or phrase that they represent.

Bernard Bischoff wrote:

The name covers the many layers of material that we have in the Commentarii notarum tironianarum (CNT), a list of roughly 13,000 signs with their explanations, and in examples of their practical use as shorthand in many early medieval manuscripts and charters.

According to a credible statement by Isidore of Seville, M. Tullius Tiro, a freedman of Cicero’s, was the inventor of a basic corpus of signs that made writing from dictation easier for him. Other personalities of the first century BC and of the first century ad developed and expanded the system, amongst them Seneca (probably the philosopher). To the Commentarii that have been transmitted to us special lists of signs for names and concepts were added subsequently (among them Christian ones, which must belong to the latest additions, perhaps from the fourth century).[2]

There are something like 20 manuscripts of the Commentarii notarum Tironianarum, and a good number are online.  Here are some that I was able to locate.

  • British Library Additional 21164 – Here fol. 2v begins “De notis Militaribus”, and ends with “Incipiunt Notae Senecae”, before we get the title page on fol. 3r.:
BL. Add. 21164, folio 3r.
Fol. 1r.
Fol. 1v
Geneva Latin 85, fol. 1v.
BNF lat. 7493, folio 106r.
BNF latin 8777, fol. 1v
BNF latin 8779, fol. 15r.
Vatican latin 3799, fol. 1r
Wolfenbuttel 9-8-aug-4f

All these manuscripts are from the 9th century, I believe.  They show a common motif at the beginning, the dagger.  Some give a whole page, others abbreviate it; but perhaps it suggests that they derive from a common ancestor which was laid out like this.  I read somewhere that the tironian notae are used extensively in the post-Roman Merovingian period, becoming increasingly corrupt, but are then restored at the start of the Carolingian period by the discovery of a late-antique exemplar, from which these copies derive.  Unfortunately I do not have the reference for this claim.

There is an edition of the Commentarii notarum Tironianarum available, by W. Schmitz (1893),[4] and it may found downloaded from Archive.org here.  P. Legendre, Etudes tironiennes, Paris. (IV. Les manuscrits tironiens), 1907, contains a list of 21 manuscripts of the work, and is also online at Archive.org here.  R.M. Sheldon, Espionage in the Ancient World, 2015, p.90 (preview here) gives a bibliography and advises the reader to look at this work:

Herbert Boge, Griechische Tachygraphie und Tironische Noten: Ein Handbuch der antiken und mittelalterlichen Schnellschrift.  Boge begins with definitions of Tachygraphy (stenography) then goes on to discuss the examples found in the Greek world from the fourth century be including the Acropolis system, the consonant tables from Delphi, and examples from the second and first century BC. He then goes on to discuss Tironian notes and Roman shorthand writing. He includes an excellent bibliography.

It is, sadly, offline; and in German, so perhaps no loss.

The tironian notae may seem an old and obscure subject.  Yet they remain in use even today, in Southern Ireland.  The nota for “et”, , looking like a small numeral seven, is in unicode.  An Irish blogger, Stan Carey, posted this use on a street sign, as well as other examples in his post, “The Tironian et (⁊) in Galway, Ireland”.

How fascinating to see such a survival!

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  1. [1]12th August, 2019.
  2. [2]Bernhard Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages. p.80.  Preview here.
  3. [3]I did attempt to transcribe the prologue, probably not well: “Incipit de vulgaribus notis quomodo prius inventae sunt. Vulgares notas ennius primus mille & centum invenit notarum.  Usus erat repertus utquicquid procontentione aut iniudicus divisis incerse oartibus quod quisq: verba et quo ordine exciperet.  Romae primus Tullius tyro ciceronis libertus commentator est notas.  Sed tantum praepositio num; postcum tertius vipersammius philargius et aquila lib.tus mecenatis alius alias addiderunt.   Deine Seneca contractoque et aucto numero opus efficit in quique milia.  Notae autem dictae eo quod verba vel syllabas praefixis caracteribus notent, ut ad notitiam legentium revocent; quas qui didicerint. Propriae iam notarii appellantur.  Explicit prologus de vulgaribus notis.”
  4. [4]Commentarii notarum tironianarum cum prolegomenis adnotationibus criticis et exegeticis notarumque indice alphabetico : edidit Guilelmus Schmitz.

Free! Database of manuscripts containing Latin Saint’s Lives – at the Bollandists

I’ve been looking for manuscripts of the “Life” of St Nicholas by John the Deacon.  In the process I have just come across something very useful.

This is the “Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina Online” (although it doesn’t contain the BHL info) or Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina manuscripta (BHLms) database.  And … it is free!  You have to enter your name and email address,but then you can do what you want.

It’s hosted at the Société des Bollandistes.  Look under “online resources“.  The direct URL is here.  Click on Recherche, enter your name and email address (why?) and then you are in.

I clicked on “Trouver un texte hagiographique d’après son numéro BHL“, and entered 6104, which is the BHL number for the first part of John the Deacon’s Life.  This led to a page on the text, and then

Liste des manuscrits transmettant ce texte, décrits dans les catalogues des Bollandistes: par fonds ou par siècle.

Clicking on “fonds” – i.e. the libraries that hold the manuscripts – gave me a list ordered by library.  “siècle” gave me an even more useful list, in date order, thereby allowing me to concentrate on the earliest mss.  What I got was this:

Screen grab of the oldest manuscripts of John the deacon’s “Life of St Nicholas”

Note the statement at the top: 121 manuscripts counted in the catalogues published by the Bollandists.  That too is useful information.

The links do not lead to online manuscripts.  So it’s Google time.

Googling for “Chartres manuscrits” led me to a web page.  From this I learned that the Americans bombed Chartres in the war and destroyed half of its manuscripts, and cooked the rest.  But some survive.  A full list is here.  It turned out that the Bollandist “Ms. 68” now has the shelfmark ms.27, and … appears in the list of destroyed manuscripts.  So no luck, then.  The link to the catalogue info for it is here.

Googling for “Orleans manuscrits”, the next item, brought up a website alright: the “Aurelia – Bibliotheque numerique d’Orleans“.  I entered “342” in the search, and, among other cruft, got nothing useful.  I saw one manuscript had leading zeroes, so on a whim I tried 0342. This gave me a picture of a manuscript cover and “Views de saints et Sermons”, 342, Xe, XIe, et XII siecles”.  That looked OK, so I clicked on it and got … catalogue stuff, here.  A bit more experimenting and I found you have to click on the *image* itself.  There are facilities to download the manuscript, but unfortunately someone – a paperpusher, one fears – has limited it to 4 pages at a time.

The Life is supposedly at the start, but the very first page that one sees is damaged.  There are several references to St Nicholas tho.  It looks as if the cover was removed at some point, and the parchment is worn by being coverless for some period.  Turning the page reveals pen trials; turning again reveals a modern list of contents, and then the first page of the text (click to enlarge):

Orleans – manuscript 342, folio 6r. Life of St Nicholas by John the Deacon (BHL 6104)

The note at the top of the page – “Monasterii sancti Benedicti Floriacensi” – tells us that prior to the French revolution the ms. belonged to the Benedictine abbey of Fleury.  So here is yet another manuscript online, although it took a fair bit of clicking to get it.

The Bollandist list of mnuscripts is inevitably incomplete.  I know of other manuscripts of this particular Latin text, thanks to the entry in the Clavis Scriptorum Latinorum Medii Aevi: Italiae volume, which has an entry for John the Deacon / John of Naples, and which was the source that led me to the BHL Online.  But it’s still an invaluable resource.

Recommended.

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Looking for manuscripts of John the Deacon’s “Life of St Nicholas” (BHL 6104 etc)

When using Google, it really helps if you have the BHL (Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina) number for the text that you are interested in.  You can find interesting things!

My next project is to translate the “Life” of St. Nicholas, written in Latin by John the Deacon.  I shall use the Falconius text of 1751, which appears to be the most recent.

While working on the start of this, I saw that Falconius identified two manuscripts as the basis for his edition (as well as the older Mombritius edition).  One was from Naples, and basically unidentifiable.  But the other was one of the Queen of Sweden’s manuscripts in the Vatican, which he identified as Ms. Vaticanus latinus 5696.  He also commented about a heading in that manuscript.  So I thought that it might be fun to go and see if it was online.

There’s no trouble in finding the manuscript – it’s here.  Unfortunately it’s 300+ pages, and in a low-quality microfilm scan.  I couldn’t even find the right portion of the manuscript (but it’s folios 108v-115v).  But I wondered whether perhaps Google might help, might give me the page, or rather folio number.

To my surprise, I found something like a Vatican manuscript catalogue online.  My first hit was for another manuscript, Vat. lat. 1197, here.  Clicking on the book icon leads you to the manuscript; but clicking on the “Autore” link for “Iohannes Diaconus Neapolitanus, sec. X-XI” led me to a remarkable list of manuscripts and folio numbers!  (The link is here, but hardly looks very permanent.)

The page lists 8 manuscripts, 5 of them online.

The “Life” is divided into several parts by the BHL, and seems to be transmitted in sections.  I would imagine that this is because portions of it formed readings in church on the saint’s day, December 6th.

So from this I could find the start of the work.  Here are a couple of pages from Vat. lat. 1197, folios 13v and 14r, facing pages.  The individual pages are downloadable, so here are the first two (click for larger versions):

Ms. Vat. lat. 1197, folio 13v.
Ms. Vat. lat. 1197, folio 14r.

But this was not all.  I also found Fribourg/Freiburg, Bibliothèque cantonale et universitaire/Kantons- und Universitätsbibliothek, Ms. L 5, (13th c., second third, after 1235) online here., and starting at fol. 53v.  Here too the first page is downloadable:

Freiburg L. 5, Fol. 53v.

This also told me about an article: “Pasquale Corsi, «La “Vita” di san Nicola e un codice della versione di Giovanni diacono», dans: Nicolaus. Rivista di teologia ecumenico-patristica 7 (1979), p. 361-380 (seulement BHL 6104-6106).”

A catalogue page informed me of Durham Cathedral Library Ms. B.IV.14, (early 12th c.) but there was no link to the online manuscript.  I had to google to find the online book itself, here.  This contains three items of interest:

(h)     f.170-181  – Vita S. Nicholai,
Author: John, the Deacon of Rome, approximately 824-approximately 882
Edited: BHL 6104, 6105,6106

(i)     f.181-189  – Miracula S. Nicholai
Edited: BHL 6150, 6151, 6152, 6153, 6154, 6160, 6161, 6164, 6167, 6172

(j)     f.190-200v – Translatio S. Nicholai Barium A.D. 1087, cum miraculis,
Author: Johannes Barensis
“Post beati Nicholai gloriosum ab hac vita” (incl. verses “Tempore quid miseris”, quoted Ordericus Vitalis, Historia Ecclesiastica 3,VII,ix
Edited: BHL 6104, 6105, 6106

Here the page could not be downloaded, only viewed through the rubbishy viewer:

Durham Ms. B.IV.14, fol. 170r.

Another manuscript, Paris lat. 17625, is online here as a dreadful microfilm, but properly online bound in two volumes here and here. It was written before 968 AD, but all it has is a few pages at the end, on f. 258v-261v.

BNF lat. 17625 f. 258v

Another, Paris. lat. 18303, written between 1076-1100, is here, again as a microfilm, but also as a properly digitised ms, f.3r-59r, BHL 6104, 6105 and 6106.  The whole ms can be downloaded as PDF, which is really useful.  Here’s the first page of our work:

BNF Latin 18303, f.3r

Nor was it just online manuscripts.  Another page at the IRHT informed us that “Johannes Neapolitanus diaconus (0860?-0910?)” was responsible for BHL 6104-6113, and that:

Dated between : 875-885
Number of Manuscripts According to Bibliography : 608
Bibliography:

  • BHL 6104 : Prologue de la Vita sancti Nicolai, plus de 120 mss
  • BHL 6105 : plus de 150 mss.
  • BHL 6107 : plus de 70 mss
  • BHL 6108 : plus de 170 mss
  • BHL 6110 : 2 mss.
  • Clavis Scriptorum Latinorum Medii Aevi, Auctores Italiae, 700-1000, 157-158.

All of which is jolly useful. (I don’t have access to that Clavis, but clearly I need to do so!)

But note the developing confusion about John the Deacon, and the various dates assigned to him.  Durham indeed thinks he comes from Rome – the prologue to the Vita says that he actually is a “servant of St. Januarius” in Naples – and links to a John Hymmonides (825-882?), who is clearly who they have in mind, but is not the same person.  I shall have to look further into who this John may be.  Surely there is a list somewhere?

This brief search, undertaken at work during lunchtime, is not likely to be all that is available.  Yet it is already far more than Falconius had at his disposal to edit the text!

We are indeed very fortunate to live in such times.

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The late antique edition of Livy by the Nicomachean family

The vast history Ab urbe condita by Livy was so enormous – well over 100 books – that it was transmitted in collections of 10 books.  Most of these “decades” are lost.  We possess only the first, third, fourth, and half of the fifth decade.

In late antiquity the texts of the first century came back into fashion, and were once more copied and amended.  We learn from a letter by Q. Aurelius Symmachus, the opponent of St Ambrose, that “Munus totius Liviani operis quod spopondi etiam nunc diligentia emendationis moratur.” (Epist. 9.13: “The gift of the whole of the works of Livy which I have promised is also now delayed by the task of removing errors”.)  This letter seems to date to 401.[1]

What is remarkable is that this work of correction, undertaken by the interlinked Symmachan and Nicomachean families, is attested in the colophons of surviving manuscripts of the First Decade.  These are well-known to scholars.  But it is wonderful to find that we can see an example online at the Biblioteca Mediceo-Laurenziana in Florence, ms. Plutei 63.19, “M” to the editors.  This was written sometime before 968 at the Cathedral of Verona.  Tweeter GiorgiaV has extracted four pages with examples.

Here’s the end of book VI (fol.138):

I.e.

Titi Livi Nicomachus VC III prefect urbs emendavi ab urbe cond Victorianus VC. Emendabam Domnis Symmachis Liber VI Explicit.

Nichomachus, 3 times urban prefect, I have corrected the “Ab urbe condita” of Titus Livy.  Victorianus, I corrected [it] for the noble Symmachi.  Book 6 ends.

fol.138v:

And the end of book V:

TITI LIVI Nicomachus Dexter V.C. emendavi ad exemplum parentis mei Clementiani; ab urbe condit. Victorianus VC emendabam domnis simmachis.

Nicomachus Dexter, I corrected against the copy of my Clementian parents; the “Ab urbe condita” of Titus Livy. Victorianus, I corrected [it] for the noble Symmachi.

Fol.156r:

At the end of book 8:

Emendavi Nicomachus [F]lavianus Titi Livi ter praef. urb. apud hennam [i.e. terminam] ab urbe conditor.  Victorianus VIC [i.e. VC] emendabam domnis Symmachis. lib. VIII. explicit.

I, Nicomachus Flavianus, 3 times urban prefect, have corrected the “Ab urbe condita” of Titus Livy at the end.  Victorianus, I amended it for the noble Symmachi.  Book 8 ends.

Fol.172v has the colophon for book 8.

VC is vir clarissimus, a member of the aristocracy.  All these people engaged in textual criticism were very senior people indeed.  Victorianus is Tascius Victorianus.  He also worked with Nicomachus on a translation from Greek of Philostratus Life of Apollonius of Tyana, as we learn from Sidonius Apollinaris, letter 8.3.[2]  The publication in Latin of a life of this controversial figure, used then and now for anti-Christian purposes, reinforces the pagan background of the editorial team.

An old 1828 edition here provides a sometimes inaccurate transcription of these and other colophons.  Charles W. Hedrick’s volume History and Silence p.28 tells us about the three terms as urban prefect of Flavian Nicomachus, presumably ending in 408 AD.

The grammatical structure is sometimes a bit weird.  There is an article by J.E.G. Zetzel, “The Subscriptions in the Manuscripts of Livy and Fronto and the Meaning of Emendatio”, in Classical Philology 75 (1980), p.38-59.[3]  This offers an intriguing suggestion, that, particularly for book 7, we’re looking at the result of copying a colophon laid out like this:

emendaui Nicomachus Flauianus
TITI LIVI
uc ter praef. urbis apud Hennam
AB VRBE CONDITA
Victorianus uc emendabam domnis Symmachis
EXPLICIT LIBER VII INCIPIT LIBER VIII.

The Livy stuff is in capitals, the colophon info interspersed between it.  So one of the medieval copyists ran together what he found in the exemplar before him.

But the manuscript has yet another interesting feature for us, on fol.163v, in book 8, chapter 15:3, describing how a vestal virgin was buried alive.  Here we find a marginal note:

I am  unable to read this, but Zetzel informs us that it begins by paraphrasing the text and then reads:

miror autem, cum defossam indicat, omisisse illum ex libris Sibillinis hoc esse praeceptum, ut legisse me in ipsis apud Flegontem temporis istius uersibus recolo.

But I amazed, when he says that she was buried [alive], that he has omitted that this was commanded in the Sybilline books, as I recall that I read in them, in Phlegon in the poems of that time.

References in Latin to Phlegon are rare and late; found only in the Historia Augusta, and in Jerome.  It’s not likely that a medieval annotator could write such a thing, so it looks as if at least some of the marginalia also belong to antiquity, and quite possibly the Nicomachean editors.

It’s wonderful what you find in old books.

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  1. [1]Zetzel, p.38.
  2. [2]S. Stucchi &c, Apollonius of Tyana in Legend and History, p.170.
  3. [3]JSTOR

The medieval catalogue of the abbey of Lorsch now online!

I discovered yesterday that there is a project to reconstitute online the scattered volumes of the library of the abbey of Lorsch in Germany, and that some of the books are now online.  This includes the lengthy 9th century list of books then in the library.

Lorsch was founded during the Dark Ages, as part of the revival of learning spearheaded by Charlemagne.  A whole series of monasteries were founded, running eastwards, including Lorsch.  The holdings of these libraries remained intact until the Renaissance.  The 15th century manuscript hunter Poggio Bracciolini took advantage of his attendance at the Council of Constance (as a papal sidekick) to visit many of them, in search of the lost works of classical antiquity.

Unfortunately they all suffered badly during the Thirty Years’ War, when the Swedish army campaigned in Southern Germany and destroyed all of them.  Unique items went to line the leak boots of Swedish bombardiers.  The loot of Lorsch was taken to the Palatinate, to Heidelberg, and the disposal of the books formed part of the settlement of the Thirty Years War.  The Lorsch books mostly went to the Vatican, to form the “Palatinus Latinus” collection.

Here’s the page for the Lorsch catalogue, today Ms. Vatican. Pal. Lat. 57.  The catalogue is folios 1-7.  (Note that you can’t use IE for this; use Chrome.)

The first page (folio 1r) is mostly bible books.  Here’s the top of folio 1v:

I.e.

Chronica Eusebii. Hieronymi & Bedae. In uno codice.

Tripertita historia libri xii. Socratis, Zozomeni [i.e. Sozomen], Theodoriti. In uno codice.

Gesta pontificorum romanorum. In uno codice.

A little further down is the epitome of Pompeius Trogus in 44 books, in a single volume.

After a few leaves of Augustine, Jerome, Ambrose, etc, at the top of a leaf we find Tertullian:

I.e.

Liber Tertulliani presbyteri   (Book of Tertullian the presbyter)
Item alius lib. Tertulliani.  (Likewise another book of Tertullian).

This was almost certainly a copy of the two volume Corpus Cluniacensis of the works of Tertullian.  Sadly it has not come down to us.

The catalogue was printed long ago in G. Becker, Catalogi Bibliothecarum Antiqui, Bonnae 1885.

Looking at these images makes me nostalgic for the 90s, when I had just started the Tertullian Project, and learned of the lost Tertullian of Lorsch.  There was no Google Books then.  So I travelled to Cambridge University Library to consult “Becker”.

This was held in the awe-inspiring Rare Books Room, where you weren’t allowed to photocopy.  Of course it was impossible to do more than skim the book, and I ended up buying a reprint online.  (These days Becker is freely available for download at Archive.org, etc.)  It is by my elbow as I write, a very early purchase in my work online.  I read it, poring over the crabbed Latin, and reread it.  First I looked for Tertullian’s; but gradually it became so much more.

To read those library lists is to enter the literary history of the middle ages.  The book is a massive compendium of lists of the works that really filled up monastic libraries.  The bible at the front, then the fathers, then miscellania, then classical stuff at the back.  The lists are full of works never read today, but everywhere in the middle ages.  We read Tacitus and Suetonius; they read Dares Phrygius and Justinus.  It is a vision of a different world.

I never hoped that the manuscripts themselves would be online.  But so they are.

These are truly days of miracles and wonders.

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Fragments of a 4th century manuscript of Cyprian’s Letters

A tweet from the British Library medieval manuscripts account drew my attention to five damaged leaves in a British Library manuscript, Additional 40165 A.  They are portions of Cyprian’s Letters, letters 55, 74 and 79.  This is CLA II 178.

What makes them exciting is the early date – 4th century, according to the BL twitter account (the online page does not give a date) – and the location, which is North Africa.  The Trismegistos site gives the date as 375-400 AD, and location as Europe or North Africa.

The manuscript was the subject of an article by no less than Cyprian scholar Maurice Bévenot in the Journal of Theological Studies[1]  Sadly this is not accessible to me.  (My access to JSTOR is provided by Oxford University alumni, so it is curious that an Oxford University Press journal is not included.)

Catalogue:

Three fragments from St Cyprian’s epistles:.

1. Epistle LV, p. 645, 1. 11, “facit daemoniis” – p. 647, 1. 16, “inuenerint iudica[bit].” (f. 1r);

2. Epistle LXXIV: ‘[re]tro nusquam'(p. 801, 1. 12), to ‘effectus/m est.’ (p. 808,11. 9, 10) (ff. 2r-4r);

3. Epistle LXIX: ‘aepiscopo legitima’ (p. 752, 1. 11) – ‘episco[po] alium sibi’ (p. 754, 1. 17) (f. 5r).(References [to pages.lines] in Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Vol 3, Part 2).

The manuscript of which these fragments formed part, appears to have been the archetype, (at least in these three letters) of the English group of manuscripts (classed by von Soden, 1904) as ‘n’, which includes Royal MS 6 B XV, Oxford, Bodley Latin MS 210, New College MS 130, and Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 25. Decoration: Biblical quotations in red.

ff. 1-5: Origin: North Africa (Carthage?). ?Theodore of Tarsus and Hadrian, perhaps brought to England by them in the 7th century. In England by the 8th century: insular letter forms, e.g. ‘vr’ written over uncial ‘UR’ (f. 2v) (see Schipper 2004, p. 160). ff: 6-7:

Origin: England, S. W.?

Provenance of all parts : Used as flyleaves for a 12th-century Latin manuscript, now Additional 40165B: a table of contents of this manuscript in a hand of the 13th century covers an erased portion of the text (f. 3r).Bernard Howard, 12th Duke of Norfolk (b. 1765, d.1842): his bookplate in Additional 40165B.Purchased by the British Museum (with Additional 40165B) in the anonymous sale of manuscripts at Sotheby’s on 20th December 1921, lot 504, for £40.

Purchased by the British Museum (with Additional 40165B) in the anonymous sale of manuscripts at Sotheby’s on 20th December 1921, lot 504, for £40.

Here’s the twitter image:

The pages were cut-down and used as fly-leaves in the binding of a 12th century manuscript, which is how they survive.

Here’s the full leaf (3v), the bible stuff is the middle column.

The page is also of interest for indicating a means of citation – indenting one or two letters, and text in red.  This may be seen lower down, where the bible quote ends, and the original text resumes, outdenting by two letters[2]

It is unclear whether we can see paleographical evidence for origins in Roman North Africa.[3]  The pages have been trimmed, but Bévenot states that the original pages were written in four thin columns; very unusual, and a hang-over from the usage in the papyrus roll.

Very interesting to see!

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  1. [1]M. Bévenot, “The oldest surviving manuscript of St. Cyprian now in the British Library”, in: Journal of Theological Studies (new series) 31, 1980, 368-377.  JSTOR.
  2. [2]See Patrick McGurk, “Citation marks in early Latin manuscripts. (With a list of citation marks in manuscripts earlier than A. D. 800 in English and Irish libraries)”, in: Scriptorium 14, 1961, 3-13.  Online here.
  3. [3]R. Rouse, “North African literary activity : a Cyprian fragment, the stichometric lists and a Donatist compendium”, Revue de histoire de textes 30, 2001, 189-238.

Does Victor of Vita quote from the Three Heavenly Witnesses?

Victor of Vita lived in Roman Africa after its conquest by the Vandals.  The Vandals were Arians, and their kings persecuted the Catholic clergy.  In 484 Victor wrote an account of the persecutions, which has come down to us in a number of manuscripts.  These I list from C. Halms 1878 edition in the Monumenta Germanica Historiae, series: Auctores Antiq., vol. 3.1. Online here.  There is also the CSEL 7 edition by Petschenig (1881).

  • A = Laon, Codex Laudunensis 113 (9th c.)  Contains only book 2, and a list of Catholic bishops at the synod of 484, which alone is preserved in this copy.  Another used by an early editor no longer seems to exist.
  • B = Bamberg, Codex Bambergensis signatus E, 3, 4. (9th c.)
  • C = Upper Austria, Codex monasterii Cremifanensis, sign. 36 (12th c.)
  • L = Berlin, Codex Berolinensis lat. quart. 1. (12th c.)
  • M = Munich, Codex Monacensis 2545 (previously cod. Alderspacensis) (12th c.)
  • P = Paris latinus 2015 (once Colbertinus 905)(10th c.)
  • R = Brussels, Codex Bruxellensis 1794. (10th c.)
  • V = Vienna, Codex Vindobonensis 583 (previously “Univ. 239”)(10th c.)
  • W = Vienna, Codex Vindobonensis 408 (formerly Admontensis from the abbey of Admont) (11th c.).  Contains some crude interpolations.  Derived from V.
  • a = Codex Abrincensis 162 (12th c.) Both mutilated and interpolated.
  • b = Berne, Codex Bernensis 48. (Once Floriacensis)(11th c.)  Similar to R but inferior.
  • s = Admont, Codex Admontensis 739 (12th c.).  Derived from V.

Analysis of the readings means that the manuscripts fall into two families, both derived from O, the original now manuscript (manuscripts in Greek letters are lost ancestor manuscripts of one family or another).  The tree of which manuscript was copied from what (the stemma) looks like this:

The editio princeps, the first edition is actually “Parisiis ab Iano Parvo (=Jehan Petit) Ludovico XII. regnante impressa”.  This undated edition was unknown to editors who generally thought that this was the edition of Beatus Rhenanus at Basle in 1535.

There is a modern English translation in the Liverpool University Press series: Victor of Vita: History of the Vandal Persecution, tr. John Moorhead, Liverpool (1992); series: Translated Texts for Historians 10.

The passage that refers to the Comma Johanneum, the interpolated passage in 1 John 5:7 which discusses the Trinity, is in book 2, chapter 11 (section 82; p.34 of the edition).  Halms’ edition (which Moorhead translated) reads:

82. Vnde nullus ambiguitatis relinquitur locus, quin clareat spiritum sanctum et deum esse et suae voluntatis auctorem, qui cuncta operari et secundum propriae voluntatis arbitrium divinae dispensationis dona largiri apertissime demonstratur, quia ubi voluntaria gratiarum distributio praedicatur, non potest videri condicio servitutis: in creatura enim servitus intellegenda est, in trinitate vero dominatio ac libertas. Et ut adhuc luce clarius unius divinitatis esse cum patre et filio spiritum sanctum doceamus, Iohannis evangelistae testimonio conprobatur.  Ait namque: tres sunt qui testimonium perhibent in caelo, pater, verbum et spiritus sanctus, et hi tres unum sunt. Numquid ait: tres in differenti aequalitate seiuneti aut quibuslibet diversitatum gradibus longo separationis intervallo divisi? sed, tres, inquit, unum sunt.

The CSEL text is the same, and the apparatus contains only trivial variants.

This is rendered by Moorhead (p.56):

82 And so, no occasion for uncertainty is left. It is clear that the Holy Spirit is also God and the author of his own will, he who is most clearly shown to be at work in all things and to bestow the gifts of the divine dispensation according to the judgment of his own will, because where it is proclaimed that he distributes graces where he wills, servile condition cannot exist, for servitude is to be understood in what is created, but power and freedom in the Trinity. And so that we may teach the Holy Spirit to be of one divinity with the Father and the Son still more clearly than the light, here is proof from the testimony of John the evangelist. For he says: ‘There are three who bear witness in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.’ Surely he does he not say ‘three separated by a difference in quality’ or ‘divided by grades which differentiate, so that there is a great distance between them?’ No, he says that the ‘three are one.’

That’s that, pretty much; this 5th century Latin text definitely mentions the Three Heavenly Witnesses as part of the text of 1 John.

Moorhead adds a comment on the text of scripture used by Victor (p.xix ff.):

To avoid a multiplication of footnotes I have supplied references to biblical quotations and allusions in parentheses, without troubling to register minor ways, whether due to the text which Victor or the authors of the Book of the catholic faith were familiar with, faulty memory, or some other cause, in which they differ from modern printed versions of the Bible. The chapter and verse numbers of the psalms are those of the Vulgate, but the names of books of the Bible are those by which they are generally known in English. Where ‘Vulg’ is added, the text Victor cites is similar to the Vulgate and differs significantly from the modem translations readers may have at their disposal; where ‘cf’ is added, Victor’s text is significantly different from both the Vulgate and modem versions.[23]

The footnote:

23. It must be said that some of the variants which occur in the Book of the catholic faith constitute amendments in a Trinitarian direction.

It is perhaps inevitable in the circumstances, if undesirable, that the most useful reading was preferred.

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Manuscripts of the Suda / Suidas

I recently had reason to consult manuscripts of the 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia known as the Suda, and known in the past under the misleading title of “Suidas”.  This I did, but I realised that I did not actually know what the main mss of the Suda might be.  Some 80 manuscripts are listed at Pinakes, containing all or part of the text. The following notes are from Adler’s edition, vol. 1, p.218 f.

  • A = Paris, BNF, gr. 2625 and 2626.  Both have an older and a younger section.  2625 older portion is not dated by Adler; the younger is 14th century.  The older part of 2626 is 12-13th century, the younger is 15th century.
  • R = Vatican 3-4, copied from A before 1449.
  • Marcianus 449 (today 558), 15th c.  Copied from A.
  • British Library Additional 11892-3. Copied from A in 1402 by George Baeophorus.
  • Vatican 2317 (= 2431).  AD 1463.  Copied from A.
  • F = Florence, Mediceo-Laurenziana 55, 1.  Copied from A in 1422.
  • V = Leiden, Vossianus, 12th century.  Written before 1204 when S was copied from it.  Adler gives no shelfmark, and it does not appear to be listed in Pinakes.  A google search suggests it is Leiden University Library, Vossianus gr. F 2.[1]
  • S = Cod. Vaticanus 1296.  AD 1204.  Copied from V. Currently divided in 3 volumes.
  • C = Oxford, Corpus Christi College 76-7.  End of 15th c.  Copied from V.
  • British Library, Harleianus 3100.  End of 15th c.  Copied from V.  Originally at Durham Cathedral; presented by the dean and chapter to Edward Harley in 1715; and sold to the British Museum with the other Harley mss in 1753.
  • G = Paris 2623.  Written before 1481 by Caesare Strategus.  Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • Holkham Hall 288 (now in Bodleian library), 1454 AD.   Related to G.
  • I = Codex Angelicus 75. 15th c.  Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • Escorial X I 1. 15th c.   Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • Paris suppl. 96.  15th c. Excerpts.  Part of the mixed GIT family.
  • T = Vatican 881.  AD 1434.  Part of the mixed GIT family.  Interpolated at the end.
  • U = Urbinas gr. 161.  AD 1461.  Related to T.
  • N = Marcianus XI, 8 ( today 991). 15th c.  Related to T.
  • B = Paris 2622. 13th c.  Part of the BLM family.
  • Madrid 4882. (O 89) 16th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • Copenhagen Gl. Kgl. Saml. 413.  1465 AD.    Part of the BLM family.
  • Marcianus X 21-22, (today 1197-8). ca. 1475.    Part of the BLM family.
  • E = Brussels 11281. AD 1476.    Part of the BLM family.
  • L = Codex Sinaiticus, St Petersburg 125. 14th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • D = Bodleian Misc. Gr. 289. (= Auct. V 52). 15th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • H = Paris gr. 2624. 15th c.   Part of the BLM family.
  • Milan, Ambrosianus 494 (L 108 Sup.) 15th c.    Part of the BLM family.
  • M = Marcianus 448 (1047). 13th c.   Part of the BLM family.
  • Oxford, Bodleian Misc. 290 (Auct. V 53) 15th c. Copied from M.

There are also excerpts preserved.

Sadly no stemma is given by Adler.

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  1. [1]Tiziano Dorandi, “Liber qui vocatur suda: Translation of the Suda by Robert Grosseteste”, 2013. Via here: “Abstract: Robert Grosseteste (Bishop of Lincoln from 1235) translated in Latin some entries of the Byzantine Lexicon known as the Suda, a translation which is still unpublished. This paper investigates the textual transmission of Suda’s translation. In the first part Grosseteste’s learning and knowledge of Ancient Greek are briefly outlined. In the same section his other translations from Greek are also discussed. A description of the extant manuscripts of Suda’s translation is provided, as well as a catalogue of the items (pertaining to a separate textual tradition), which are found in Grosseteste’s notulae of his doctrinal, literary and scholarly works. Special attention is paid to the so-called Lexicon Arundelianum (a Greek-Latin Lexicon – but entirely written in Latin – Transmitted by MS London, College of Arms, Arundel 9). Grosseteste sometimes combines several Suda’s items and/or inserts in the original Lexicon text some entries of the Etymologicum Gudianum. Moreover Grosseteste’s translations are extremely literal (verbum de verbo). Finally, MS Leiden University Library, Vossianus gr. F 2 (12th cent.) is proved to be the Suda Greek manuscript used by Grosseteste for his translation.”

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!

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