From my diary

A couple of things have held my attention in the last few weeks.  Firstly I have been working on the QuickLatin codebase.  The migration to dotNet is complete, and it is now a question of firing stuff at it and finding why it breaks!  I’ve also updated the dictionaries to the latest version.

Basically I can now enhance it as I like; which was the purpose behind doing all this in the first place.  It might be an idea to merge into it some translation tools that I have created over the years.  The main user of this will undoubtedly be me, so I may as well make myself comfortable.

The other piece of work is the ongoing translation of the very ancient Life of St George.  This is in 21 chapters.  The translator has done a draft of chapters 1-12, which I have revised and made ready for release.  I have in turn prepared a draft of chapters 18-21, which I have sent to the translator for comment.  I am now working on chapter 17, and using bits from it to test out QuickLatin.  The completed translation will of course be released online as public domain once it is done.

Easter is now behind us.  I had meant to do an Easter post, but somehow I got distracted.  I spent quite a bit of my downtime on Twitter fighting the “Easter is pagan” jeer that is circulated every year by the malicious and their innocent dupes.  This year the fight really got some traction behind it, and a number of people were patrolling and posting corrective links.  Alas it is probably an unwinnable battle, at least while the false story is agreeable to a certain sort of influential person; but it is something to have tried.

I have enquired about access to the Ipswich Museum files in Suffolk Record Office, in order to locate the survey of the Roman fort by the 1969 sub-aqua expedition.  The archivist has now looked at these, and found nothing.  It looks very much as if the report has been mislaid in the last 20 years.  However I can’t even go and look at the files; I’m told that permission to view the items must be obtained from Ipswich Museum, and their response time is six weeks (!)  I have written of course.  But it is a forlorn hope.

We must always be grateful for the internet and the ready availability of research materials on the web.  I certainly am!

From my diary

I was able to sit at my computer this evening for the first time and work a little on the translation of chapter 11 of the Vita of St George.  So I am clearly improving.  But I still can’t really walk, or leave the house, and I must keep my foot elevated most of the time.  So it will be a while yet.  Another chapter (12) of the vita has come in, in very rough draft, so I will have to look at that some time.

I received an email yesterday from Suffolk Record Office, suggesting strongly that the report on the sub-aqua survey of Felixstowe / Walton Roman fort has been lost.  It looks as if the archivist only looked at a catalogue, however, so there is still hope that it may just be  mislaid and might be found on examination.  This will have to wait until I am mobile again, however.

A rather large number of items have arrived in the last week or so which I have placed in my “things to blog about” folder.  One day perhaps I will get to them!

From my diary

I’ve had rather a busy week, ending with a rather splendid college reunion.  But of course everything else has gone out of the window, and I also have rather a large sleep debt to pay off.

Today brings another chunk of translation of an early Latin Vita of St George.  Chapters 9 and 11 are in my inbox now.  The version is a very rough draft. The only difficulty is that the translator doesn’t read my emails with feedback, so makes the same mistakes every time.  This means that I shall have to correct and finish it myself.  I hope to do the job on these chunks this week.  The translation is going forward nicely, tho; some 8 chapters still to do.

Today also brought a welcome email from the Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service with unwelcome news.  In 1969 a team of divers surveyed the ruins of a Roman fort in the sea off Felixstowe, known locally as Walton Castle.  A report was filed with the museum, and was accessible a decade ago.  The email today tells me that they cannot locate it now.  I have written therefore to the sub-aqua club, who may have it in their files.  Another email went to the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, who published the article mentioning the survey, to see if I can get in contact with the author in case he has a copy.  We tend to think of museums and archives as safe repositories.  But the truth is that history is vanishing before our eyes.  So it has always been.

Last week I was working industriously on the new QuickLatin.  This is going well, and crude errors are disappearing.  I must get a version released online, as a base version for further work.

My backlog of interesting topics to blog about continues to increase.  So much to do!

From my diary

This evening I spent some time looking at Huber’s article, Zur Georgslegende (1906).  I’d not looked at this before, so it was time to do so.  It contains five Latin versions of the Life of St George.

I also OCR’d the article, so that I could pass the German introduction through Google Translate, to see if it contained anything useful.  It was indeed very waffly and poorly structured, as is often the case at that period.  There was a lot of criticism of Papebroch, the Bollandist editor, for not printing much of the Latin versions.

But I learned from it that Arndt’s edition of the “Passicrates” Life that I am currently working on is indeed every bit as bad as I had thought.  Huber suggests that the text itself probably suffered, both from a bad translator, when it was created from Greek; and then from errors in transmission by copying.  He queries whether it has been significantly interpolated.  He also makes clear that Arndt isn’t a critical edition.  He gives as his third Passio another recension of the “Passicrates” life, which isn’t as old but is much easier to read.  My thanks to the kind correspondent who drew my attention to this.  But on the whole Huber achieves little in the pages he devotes to the question.

I came away from the exercise feeling even more strongly that a scholar needs to dedicate himself to sorting out the hagiography of St George, and write a definitive monograph.  It really can’t be that hard to list the versions, compare the texts within them, and do a proper analysis for both Latin and Greek.

My next task was to look at the possible meanings of “separo”, which usually means “separate”.  This appears at various points in Arndt’s text, in contexts where this meaning does not make sense.  Possibly “sever” will cover most of the choices.

However it is becoming clear that I ought to prepare a Word document containing the Latin, if only to use for searching through.  This will probably be my next task.  I have OCR’d and corrected chapters 12-21 already, but the rest should be done too.

Something that distracted me this evening was the tools that I am working with.  I’m using my old QuickLatin product for quick morphologies, which it does perfectly well.  But I find that I am using other PDFs and online dictionaries.  Surely these could be integrated somehow?

The problem is that it was written in Visual Basic 6, which is now some twenty years old, and only runs on Windows 10 by a special miracle.  Another tool that I use, to interleave Latin and English text, was written in VB.Net 2008, which replaced it.  This too is now more than ten years old.  Microsoft have been terrible at keeping their development tools working, and compatible, and I have complained before about their current offering, Visual Studio Community Edition, as nearly unusable by anyone but a professional.

My eye was caught by the old Delphi product, which I downloaded and played with a bit.  I always liked Pascal, the language it used.  It would be a bonus to be able to generate Android and iPhone apps.  Why can’t you do that from Visual Studio?  But of course my code is all in VB.  I have to work on this stuff in odd moments, unlike the way a professional works.  There is no way that I will ever port all this to Delphi; which is, in any case, nearly a dead tool itself.

Eventually I decided to leave that task for another time.  I was slightly nervous today that I might get a call about a job, and need to put everything to one side.  Whatever I do, it has to survive the call to go and earn a living, and to drop everything else in the mean time.  That is quite a demand of any project.

I’d better settle down and work up a text for chapters 1-11.

Update: I have just discovered, to my utter astonishment, that Arndt prints his corrections to the text, sometimes in the text with the manuscript reading in the footnote; and sometimes in the footnote, leaving the (unintelligible) manuscript reading in the text!  Generally “corr. minimos” means that minimos is what he thinks it should be.  “se. cod.” means that he has corrected it, but the ms. read “se”.

Less clear is “seccabo prius, corr. rad.” where he has printed “secabo” in the text.  The latter is the normal spelling.  But what is “prius”? Not the manuscript?  and what is “rad.” short for?  Some of his “corrections” in the footnotes don’t even make sense.

Incredible rubbish.  Both he and his editor should have been shot.

Update: An even worse example. Footnote reads: “corr. inest” on “inextimabiles”. By this he means we should read “inestimabiles”.  Good grief.  Fortunately after the first few pages he settles down.  But clearly his editor never read any of this.

Update: A commenter has pointed out that the mistake is mine! that “corr.” indicates a feature of the manuscript, changes introduced by a “corrector”.  “rad” is for “radendo”, “scraped away”.  Thank you!

The importance of standard spelling in critical editions

A few months ago a kind gentleman offered to translate some Latin for us all.  Meaning no harm, I suggested that the earliest Latin version of the Life of St George might be a good candidate.  For narrative texts are easier to translate, and how difficult could a late antique saints’ life be?  There was a 19th century edition by Arndt, and this I sent him.

Chunks of this have proceeded to arrive over the last few months.  I commented in detail on the first couple, and then pressure of work meant that I just filed the next few.

However last week I started to collect them, and go through them, and try to create a final version.  This evening I finished with what I had.  This consists of chapters 1-8 and chapter 10 (out of 21).

I feel really rather guilty now.  It’s a nightmare to translate and revise.  The reason, simply, is that the editor, Arndt, slacked on the job.  All he seems to have done is to fix one or two obvious errors, and leave the rest as he found it, weird late spellings and all.  That makes it very hard indeed to read.

I can cope with “capud” for “caput”, “head”.  But more obscure words have frequently left me baffled and guessing.  It’s obvious that “maggana” is “magana”, “daggers”, once you know.  Other words like “amos ferreos” – “iron whatsits” – are beyond me.

These spelling choices make it very difficult to find words in dictionaries!  The tortures that St George undergoes name quite a lot of bits of the body, as the wicked emperor gloats on what he will do to the saint unless he recants.  I do have a specialist glossary for body parts.  But even so what is the noun in “nerbona incidam”?  Or what does bella in “humera et bella secabo” mean?

In these few cases, indeed, I have been quite unable to work out what the word means.  Maybe this is down to the eccentric spelling.

What on earth did Arndt think he was doing here?  If he was providing a transcription, he had no business correcting the text, as his apparatus makes clear that he did.  If he was providing a text, then using normal spellings was essential.

We will plod on, of course.  But Arndt’s laziness makes the task much harder than it should have been.

St George – the main post! What do we know about him, and how do we know it?

Introduction to the St George material

Study: Christopher Walter, The Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art and Tradition, Ashgate, 2003.  Google Books Preview here.  Essential reading.

St George himself, whoever he was, even he even existed, has left no mark in the historical record.  There is not the slightest mention of such a figure prior to the late 5th century.  He was removed from  the Roman calendar of saints in 1969.

In the late 5th century, archaeology gives us churches, dedicated to Saint George.  Literary sources of the same time likewise mention the veneration of St George.  In 530 we have a mention of his shrine at Lydda ( = Lod, = Diospolis) in Palestine by the pilgrim Theodosius.[1]

Also in the early 6th century we have a Saint’s Life from which all subsequent Lives of the saint derive.  This Life is so silly and so full of absurdities, that it is clearly a piece of fiction, based on nothing but imagination.  It is so bad that we also have an official Catholic condemnation of it, again from the early 6th century, in the Decretum Gelasianum.

The narrative in brief is of a Roman soldier, born in Cappadocia, who becomes a Christian, is put on trial by the emperor Datianus (sic) in Egypt, executed three times(!), and buried at Lydda in Palestine.

During the Dark Ages folk-stories arise of miracles wrought by the saint after his death, in response to prayer.  These continue to come into being until modern times.  The notion of St George the “invincible warrior” appears.

During the crusader period, a version of St George, the Red Cross Knight, is adopted as patron saint of England.  Around the same time, some ingenious person composes the legend of St George and the Dragon, based on the ancient legend of Perseus and Andromeda.  This body of material appears in the Golden Legend of the west in the late medieval period.

In short, we are dealing with fictional material about a figure for whom we have no evidence whatever, and no factual material whatever.  Hagiography as a genre runs across a spectrum, all the way from historical accounts, down through fictionalised or “improved” versions of the facts, until we end up with wholly imaginary saints and wholly fictional Lives.  St George is at the far end of that spectrum.

Bloodstone Cameo with Saint George, 1000-1100, Byzantine, The Cleveland Museum of Art.

Early Archaeology and Literature for the veneration of St George

Database: Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity Database,.  St George is S00259 – http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=S00259.  Contains details of all the early archaeological and literary material, with very learned commentary.

These appear in the 6th century, although some inscriptions might be tentatively dated to the end of the 5th century.

It is frequently said that there is a 4th century inscription at Shaqqa in Syria dedicating a church to St George.  The inscription exists, but the dating era is that of the Era of Maximian, and the correct date is 549 AD.  I have written about this here.

The earliest dated inscription to mention St George in fact seems to be at Izra / Ezra / Zorava, also in Syria, again dedicating a church to the saint.  The date is 515 AD.  I’ve written about this item here.

Basilica of St. George (515 AD) – Ezra’ a, Syria

Literary mentions also exist.  An early example is the Itinerarium of the anonymous Piacenza pilgrim (ca. 570), the tomb of St George at Diospolis / Lydda in Palestine is mentioned in chapter 25; a hospice of St George, soldier and martyr in 35[2]

Miracle Stories of St George

Greek text: J.B.Aufhauser, Miracula S. Georgii, Teubner, 1913.  Available online here.

French translation: A.J. Festugière, Sainte Thècle, saints Côme et Damien, saints Cyr et Jean (extraits), saint Georges. Traduits et annotés, Paris: Picard, 1971.  All the material from Aufhauser is translated.

English translation:  Miracle 6: Daniel J. Sahas, “What an Infidel Saw that a Faithful Did Not: Gregory Dekapolites (d. 842) and Islam”, in: Greek Orthodox Theological Review 31 (1986), 47-67. Based on the text at PG 100, cols. 1201-12.  Online here. –  Other online St George material by David Woods is here – a nice bibliography here, inscriptions here.

Study: J.B. Aufhauser, Das Drachenwunder des heiligen George in der griechischen und lateinischen Überlieferung, 1911. Online here. – Piotr Grotowski, “The Legend of St. George Saving A Youth from Captivity and Its Depiction in Art”, Byzantine Studies, 2001. Online here.

These are  the miracles of St George.  (Notes by me here, and summary of each miracle here):

1. De columna viduae – The column of the widow
2. De imagine perfossa – The stabbed image
3. De iuvene Paphlagonensi – The Paphlagonian young man
4. De filio ducis Leonis – The son of Duke Leo
5. De bubus Theopisti – The runaway oxen of Theopistus
6. De visione Saraceni  – The Saracen’s vision
7. De imagine – The image
8. De milite interfecto – The murdered soldier
9. De iuvene Mytilenaeo capto – The captured young man of Mytilene
10. De libo – The pancake
11. De Manuele – Manuel
12. De dracone – The dragon
13. De daemone – The demon
14. De zona S. Georgii – The belt of St George
15. Apocalypsis S. Georgii – The apocalpyse of St George
16. Hymnus in honorem S. Georgii – A hymn in honour of St George
17. De mansionario – The inn-keeper
18. De statua marmorea – The marble statue
19. De voto coram imagine – The vow before the image

The items are given in order of how early they appear in manuscripts.  The collection itself is modern.  More than one version is often printed.  There is no canonical form for any of these narratives; they are folk-stories, retold as often as they were told, in different words.  For this reason Aufhauser’s summaries of the contents are as good as a translation to most of us.

The Lives of St George, Soldier and Megalo-Martyr

Greek text: K. Kumbacher, Der heilige Georg in der griechischen Überlieferung, . Available online here.

Other texts: Acta Sanctorum, April vol. 3.  In the Paris reprint this starts on p.101, here.

Studies: Hippolyte Delehaye, Les légendes grecques des saints militaires, Paris: Librairie Alphonse Picard, (1909) 45-76.  Online here. – John E. Matzke, “Contributions to the History of the Legend of Saint George, with Special Reference to the Sources of the French, German and Anglo-Saxon Metrical Versions”, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, (list of volumes online here), in vol. 17 (1903) and vol. 18 (1904).  Essential reading.  I discuss it here.

For most “saints lives”, the original story is more historical, and later versions acquire miraculous additions.  But for St George it is the other way around; the original story was so ridiculous that it was condemned in 492 in the Decretum Gelasianum, and all later versions show omission.  It tells the story of George of Cappadocia, arrested and tried in Egypt by the emperor Dadianus (??), executed three times, including being torn to pieces, and resurrected each time.  The author of the life is a certain Passicrates.

The “apocryphal” version is not attested earlier than the late 5th century.  Our knowledge of it consists of a 5-6th century palimpsest (Pal.), two more or less complete Latin translations (Gallicanus and Sangallensis), and four Greek manuscripts in various states discovered by Krumbacher.  This version was the basis for all the oriental translations, including Syriac, Coptic, and many others.

The “normal text” appears later, although how much later is unclear.  Dadianus becomes Diocletian, and the account is tidied up.  This in turn is the basis for most subsequent Greek versions, including the Symeon Metaphrastes edition of saints’ legends in the 11th century.

Latin texts are based on a mixture of the apocryphal and normal text.

There is much more detail on all this in my post on the texts of the Martyrdom of St George here.

Other notes

The martyrdom of St George, Solider and Megalo-Martyr, is commemorated on April 23.  I’ve been writing about St George for a while, now, as it has been hard to get access to solid information.  My initial post is here.  My post discussing St George and English nationalism is here.  The standard late-medieval English life – the Golden Legend – is here.  How the word “legend” changed from “Something that must be read” to “something probably not true” is discussed by Sherry L. Reames, The Legenda Aurea: A Reexamination of Its Paradoxical History, 1985, p.27 f.

As mentioned earlier, a Life of St George appears in the list of apocryphal works in the Decretum Gelasianum, (online here), a 5th century list of books approved and otherwise – as a composition likely to bring discredit on the church, and probably written by heretics!  No doubt the use of “Athanasius” for the name of the magician who opposes George in Egypt has something to do with this, as does the name of George of Cappadocia, the Arian bishop of Alexandria.

Finally, St George was still venerated quite late in England.  I came across a 1633 English account of St George which can be found online: Henry Seyle, The Historie of that Most Famous Saint and Souldier… St. George… the Institution of the Most Noble Order of S. George, Named the Garter, 1633.  Online here.

There are quite a few holes in all this, and most accounts of St  George contain errors.  The relationship of all the Latin stuff to the Greek texts is simply not defined.  Somebody needs to go through all this and draw up a spreadsheet of texts, recensions, and references.  The task requires more time and energy than anything else, and the output would certainly be publishable.  Anybody interested?

  1. [1]C. Walter, “The origins of the cult of St George”, in: REB 53 (1995), 295-326 (online here) : “The first pilgrim’s account, that of Theodosius, dates from about 530: “In Diospolim, ubi sanctus Georgius martyrizatus est, ibi et corpus eius est et multa miracula fiunt”115. His testimony could hardly be more explicit. It is supported by that of other pilgrims, Antoninus of Piacenza (about 570) and Adamnanus (about 670). The cult of Saint George’s relics certainly continued at Lydda.” “115. Pilgrims’ visits to Lydda: P. Geyer, Itinera hierosolymitana saeculi IV-VIII, Vienna 1898, p. 139 (Theodosius); p. 176-177, 182 (Antoninus); p. 288-294 (Adamnanus).”
  2. [2]Of the holy places visited by Antoninus martyr, Palestine Pilgrims Text Society, 1885. Online at Archive.org here.

Texts of the “Life” of St George

When I came to look at St George, my intention was to arrange for the translation of one or two versions of his Life.  What I had not anticipated was to find a mess, where there is still basic scholarly work to do in identifying and classifying versions of the Lives.  Originally I had hoped to list all the texts which contained versions of the martyrdom of St George; or at least the earliest ones.  But this quickly proved futile.  So here is what I was able to work out.

Literature

The relationships of the various Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Arabic and Ethiopic texts are dealt with in great detail by John E. Matzke, “Contributions to the history of the legend of St George”, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 17,1902, 464-535.[1] Each version of the legend is summarised; and better still, the characteristics of each strand of the tradition are listed.  But Matzke’s splendid article hardly touches on the Greek texts at all.

For the Greek, our main source of texts is K. Krumbacher, Der heilige Georg in der griechischen Überlieferung, 1908, online at Archive.org here, and in high-resolution at the BSB here.  These I list below, indicating page number as K1, K3, etc.  Krumbacher also discussed his texts, and was well aware of many more texts, as his discussion section makes clear.

Some texts are also printed in the Acta Sanctorum, in April volume 3, under 23rd April, the Saint’s Feast Day, and Krumbacher discusses which these are in his list of “Hilfs” texts.  His conclusion section is well worth reading, but he avoids going into the Latin texts.

Huber also prints some Latin texts.[2]

None of the early versions have ever been translated into any modern language, apparently.

Here’s what I can usefully glean.

The Apocryphal Text (O)

The oldest version of the Life of St George is known as the apocryphal version, or O.  The author is given as a certain Passicras, or Passicrates.  This version has reached us as follows:

  • The Latin “Codex Gallicanus” (G).  Passio Auct. Pseudo-Passecrate. BHL 3363.  This is in the Bollandists own library in Brussels, under the shelfmark “23. bibl. 1 Bollandiana 23 Bruz 1 (1842)”[3], and belongs to the second half of the 9th century.  Walter suggests that this is the oldest version of the story,[4] supposedly by a certain Passecrates. – Text: W. Arndt, in: Berichte über die Verhandlungen der kön. Sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, philol.-hist. Classe, XXVI (1874), 49-70.  Online here.  Excerpts in the Acta Sanctorum, April vol. 3, p.101, n. 4, 5.  I have asked a translator to have a look at this.
  • The Latin Codex Sangallensis (Sg), Saint-Gall 550, 9th century.  This seems to be derived from the same Greek exemplar as G. – Text: Zarnacke, Berichte über die Verhandlungen der königlich sächsischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, 17, 1875, p.265-277. Online here (but several vols bound together starting with 13 so be careful!).[5]
  • The Greek Vienna Palimpsest, “Pal.” (Krum. p.1).  Cod. Vindobon. lat. 954.  5th century.  Discovered by Detlefsen.[6]  This is part of the Greek version from which G and Sg derive.

Four more Greek versions of the apocryphal legend are given by Krumbacher, who says that these provide the full Greek text of the apocryphal text.  Prior to Krumbacher these were unknown.  They relate closely to the Gallicanus text.

  • Athens version (K. p.3).  Cod. Athen. 422, paper, 1546 AD, f. 277v-291r.
  • Venice version (K. p.16).  Codex Marcianus gr. II 160 fol. 150r-172r.
  • Paris version (K. 18).  Codex Paris gr. 770, parchment AD1315, fol. 59r-72r.
  • Vienna mixed text (K.30).  Codex Vindobonensis theol. gr. 123, 13th century, fol. 37v-43v.

The Coptic versions are also based on the Apocryphal text.[7]  So are the Syriac versions; but they have been revised in the same way as the normal text (but independently), to remove discreditable material.[8]  The Arabic version is also based on the apocryphal text. There are also Ethiopic versions (a late translation from Arabic[9]), Armenian, Old Slavonic, and Sogdian[10] (translated from Syriac), Georgian, and Nubian versions (these close to the Athens form of the Greek)[11] and probably more.

The Normal Text

Most of the articles tell us that this was produced by removing the most outlandish versions of the earlier apocryphal text.

  • The normal text is printed by K. p.41, from two mss.,  Cod. Vatic. 1660[12] (AD 916), fol. 272r-288r (=V) + Cod. Paris 499 (11th c.), fol. 289v-300r. (=P).

Krumbacher also prints an interpolated form of the normal text.

  • The interpolated standard text (K.51).  Cod. Paris. gr. 1534 (11th c.) fol. 107v-124v.

Further Greek texts are given by Krumbacher, each a representative of a large collection of orations, encomiums, etc.  None of these are of any interest here, however.

  • Rhetorical reworking by Theodoros Daphnopates (K. 59)
  • Eulogy: The homily of Arcadius of Cyprus (K. 78)
  • Eulogy: The encomium of Theodoros Quaestor (K. 81)
  • 3 songs, two by Romanus the Melodist (K. 84)
  • The story of the illegitimate birth of St. George (K.103)

The edition of the legend by Symeon Metaphrastes (BHG 676) does exist in print, not by Krumbacher, curiously, but in the Acta Sanctorum, April III. 7-12, printed at the end of the volume.[13]  It is also reprinted in the PG 115, cols. 141-161.

How any of the Latin or other texts relate to the Normal text is unknown to me.

For further research

Krumbacher also lists a mass of Greek manuscripts containing the legend of St George.  The BHG gives a bunch more Greek texts. The BHL gives a mass of Latin texts.  How all these relate to the Greek, or each other, I do not know. Krumbacher chapter 3 discusses the genealogy of the Greek texts.

It may be the limits of my German, I have been unable to find any article that indicates the relationships between all this material in Greek and Latin.  What is needed is a list of them all, in spreadsheet format, with incipit, shelfmark, BHL/BHG/AASS reference, date, and relationship to each strand of the tradition, using the characteristics identified by Matzke.

Does anyone care to undertake such a task?

A final thought, sent in by a correspondent:

I have only just begun looking into hagiography and it seems to me that there are very few “academic” translations. Rather, as there are usually several recensions/version of an hagiography floating around, academics provide summaries.  This seems fair, because it would be a very expensive exercise to translate each recension for little added value. Those hagiographies which are still used for liturgical purposes would have long been translated into their appropriate liturgical language. This is just my own observation. Those who work in the field would be better placed to comment.

  1. [1]Online at JSTOR, JSTOR.
  2. [2]Huber, “Zur Georgslegende”, In: Festschrift zum XII. Allgemeinen Deutschen Neuphilologentage in München, Pfingsten 1906, 175-235. Online here.
  3. [3]Matzke, p.466.
  4. [4]Walter, p.111.
  5. [5]List of volumes here; don’t get confused by the similarly-named series.
  6. [6]D. Detlefsen, “Über einen griechischen Palimpsest der k. k. Hofbibliothek mit Bruchstücken einer Legende vom heiligen Georg”, Vienna, 1858. Online here.
  7. [7]So Matzke p.466, Krumbacher, p.xviii.  Printed in E. W. Budge, The Martyrdom and Miracles of Saint George of Cappadocia. The Coptic text edited with an English translation, London, 1885.
  8. [8]Printed with English translation in E.W.Brooks, “Acts of St George”, in: Le Museon 38 (1925).  Online in v poor quality here.
  9. [9]So Krumbacher, p.xviii.
  10. [10]Hansen, “Berliner sogdische Texte II”; Benveniste, “Fragments des Actes de Saint Georges en version sogdienne”, JA, 1943-5, 91-116. See E. Yarshater, The Cambridge History of Iran: Seleucid Parthian, p.1226.
  11. [11]Gerald M. Browne, The Old Nubian Martyrdom of St George, CSCO 575, 1998.  Preview here.
  12. [12]Not 166, as in Walters.
  13. [13]If you get the PDF from here, it’s on p.1062 of the PDF.  But this is the original edition; the Paris reprint would probably be more readable.

From my diary

A.J. Festugière, Sainte Thècle, saints Côme et Damien, saints Cyr et Jean (extraits), saint Georges. Traduits et annotés, Paris: Picard, 1971, arrived by ILL a week ago.  Something made me guess that it might contain French translations of some of the miracle stories printed by Aufhauser in S. Georgii Miracula, Teubner, 1913; and so it does!  In fact it looks as if M. Festugière translated the whole set, or very nearly so.

The existence of a translation is a blessing, and I’ll will add it to my St George bibliography when I get the time to compile the St George blog post.  Since the individual texts are nothing – merely one incarnation of the folk-story, rather than a literary text – this is probably quite enough for anybody but specialists.

I saw today on Twitter a BMCR review of a volume of translations from the Menologion of Simeon Metaphrastes, describing them as “Christian novels”, which they are.  The review claimed that hagiographical texts are the most frequently translated Byzantine texts, which seems like an interesting claim.

I’ve not been able to blog much for some time.  For the last year I have been on contract away from home.  Fortunately there is only 5 days remaining, and then I am free.  I plan to holiday in July and August.  If God wills then I will find a new contract in September which is closer to home.  But whatever He wills is good.

I have collected quite a list of ideas for blog posts in the mean time and no doubt these will appear once I have recovered from the contract.  The main post that I want to write is an overview of St George and his literature. I will return to translating Eutychius too.

Looking at Aufhauser’s 1913 “edition” of miracle-stories of St George

A couple of years after his 1911 publication on the miracles of the Dragon and the Demon, Aufhauser went on to publish the text of 19 miracle stories or other pieces about St George, in the Teubner series in 1913.  (Online at Archive.org here).

The book contains text(s) taken from several manuscripts.  Unhappily these include the codex Athous Ioasaphaion 308, written on paper so late as 1878.  Yes, that is right – only 35 years before the Teubner, and written, much of it, in modern Greek.  The stories agree on content, but little else; so, mysteriously, Aufhauser edits two or three or more versions in parallel, in a hard to follow manner.

Here are the items in it (I’ve translated the Latin titles given by Aufhauser).  Aufhauser gave summaries of the first 13 items in his 1911 book, which I have already given here.  Items 14-19 he prints for the first time.

1. De columna viduae – The column of the widow
2. De imagine perfossa – The stabbed image
3. De iuvene Paphlagonensi – The Paphlagonian young man
4. De filio ducis Leonis – The son of Duke Leo
5. De bubus Theopisti – The runaway oxen of Theopistus
6. De visione Saraceni  – The Saracen’s vision
7. De imagine – The image
8. De milite interfecto – The murdered soldier
9. De iuvene Mytilenaeo capto – The captured young man of Mytilene
10. De libo – The pancake
11. De Manuele – Manuel
12. De dracone – The dragon
13. De daemone – The demon
14. De zona S. Georgii – The belt of St George
15. Apocalypsis S. Georgii – The apocalpyse of St George
16. Hymnus in honorem S. Georgii – A hymn in honour of St George
17. De mansionario – The inn-keeper
18. De statua marmorea – The marble statue
19. De voto coram imagine – The vow before the image

The contents of items 14-19 are not given except in the text.

I understand that a number of these items exist in French translation, in A.J. Festugiere, Saint Thecle, saints Cosme et Damien, saints Cyr et Iean (extraits), Saint Georges (Paris 1971), 33-82.  That’s a lot of pages; maybe he translated the lot!  I shall place an ILL and see.

I find that various of these miracles are recounted online on orthodox pages.  I don’t know if they have much connection to the texts published by Aufhauser.

My purpose in investigating all this has been to discover if there are literary texts which should be translated into English.  But it seems more than doubtful that any of this deserves translation, at least by me.  A summary of the contents of each story would serve for most purposes; for none of these texts are canonical, or literary, or form any kind of collection.  They are just stories, legends, that circulate.  So why spend much time on translating one of the many forms in which a given story exists in the manuscripts?

The passio of St George is another matter, as there is clearly a literary history involved.  It is possible that the materials around St George and the dragon might usefully be put into English, because of the importance of that myth to the English-speaking world.

But all in all, it’s some distance from what I want to be doing.

From my diary

So much is online these days, that I hardly use my local library any more.  Also I have rather more money than I did thirty years ago, and the temptation is strong to simply order any book that I want, and have it appear at my house – or my hotel room – the next day.

It is, of course, terribly wasteful to do this.  But I admit to having succumbed twice in recent weeks, once for Christopher Walter’s The Warrior Saints – a fine book indeed, and absolutely critical for anyone interested in the St George literature – and also for the Ashgate Research Companion to Hagiography volume 2.  The latter was probably a very expensive mistake, for I have still not opened it.

Another text was not online, nor readily available for purchase.  So I sent an email to my local library asking them to get it for me.  I was mildly surprised to be told that my library card had expired.  After using the same card for over thirty years, this seemed very odd!  But they ordered it anyway, and it arrived today.  For $8 I can have the use of it for two weeks.  That’s not very long; except that, of course, I always intended to scan it and create a PDF which would always be with me.  As the item was published before WW1, and is therefore out of copyright in the USA, I also intended to put it online.

This morning I collected it, on a steaming hot grey morning.  It was good to see  that my PC copy of Abbyy Finereader Pro 12 and book scanner still worked.  The small size of the volume, and small text size, meant that I had to scan it at 600dpi, which of course meant very large bitmaps.  These were almost 20mb per page in .png colour format; half that, on average, in jpg.  And they had to be colour, because the spine was tightly bound and the shadow in the spine covered some of the text.  Peculiarly the yellowed paper scanned as a faint pink.

Anyway the scan is certainly good enough for my purposes, although I do wish somebody would find a way to produce monochrome scans of tightly bound books!

I’ve been thinking about the legends of St George.  A remark by Christopher Walter has resonated.  These are not literary texts, where the specific words of the story matter.  These are folkstories, where the story is all, but the precise words nothing.

It’s like the legends of King Arthur.  There actually is no original text for these.  Instead there are the legends, in ever-changing forms, and any two recitings may be cast in quite different words.  Such written forms as exist are derivative from this process.

The same is true of the legends of Robin Hood.  There are the medieval ballads, but nobody pretends that these are definitive.  The story will feature Robin, and Little John, and the Sheriff of Nottingham; and at the end the Sheriff will be foiled and the Merry Men will celebrate in the greenwood.  The rest is mere scaffolding, temporary and of no permanent importance.

The same must be true of the stories of St George.  Nobody ever cared about the precise words.  It is the story that matters.  Consequently almost every other copy is quite different.  It is qualitatively a mistake to try to trace a stemma in the way that we might for a literary text.

The legends of St George, like those of Robin Hood, have an oral element.  On the feast day of St George, it would be necessary to give an account of the saint.  Collections of brief accounts of saints exist, in the synaxaries, compiled for just this purpose.  But longer accounts would naturally be given, sermons might well incorporate other material, and so tellings of the legend would extend.

I’ve also been mulling over the question of whether St George is English.  This sounds like a strange question!  But today English nationalism is held in great suspicion by the British ruling class, who rightly see it as a threat to their internationalist policies, and attacks on English institutions are encouraged.  St George as a symbol of England, wearing the red cross, is therefore suspect.

On twitter I saw a jeer that St George was a Palestinian immigrant.  Much nationalism has been excited by the settlement of more than five million immigrants in the last decade, which gives the jeer its point.  Like most good jeers it is designed to be hard to respond to.  But we instinctively know that something is wrong.  And it gives us the chance to clarify what we mean by a nation’s patron saint.

St George was adopted as the patron saint of England by the crusader kings of England.  The invincible warrior on horseback was about all they took from earlier Greek legends.  But saints of that period belonged to all of Christendom.  Possibly this is still true even today, for Catholic saints.  St George was not a Palestinian, even if his shrine stood in Lydda.  The original St George, if he existed, was a Greek or a Roman.  Like the heritage of antiquity, like the Holy Roman Emperor, he belonged to all Christians everywhere.  Any nation was at liberty to adopt a saint, and customise him for their nation.  And that is what kings like Richard the Lionheart and Edward III did.  In a sense, they created St George of England, from a mixture of existing materials – this linked him to the cult of the saint – and their own contemporary need for a hero-saint.  St George is not an immigrant, but a home grown expression of what the English wanted.

Is this perhaps some sort of reply?  At this point we pass rather beyond my period, so I can’t say how accurate all this is.  But it is certainly more true than the gibe of St George the immigrant, which nobody ever heard of until these unhappy days.

I confess that many of the working class nationalists that one sees depicted on the television are wildly unattractive.  But if we must have such people, would it be such a bad thing for them all to revere St George?!

That said, it seems most unlikely that anybody will.  I am the last person to predict how things will be.

That said, I have nagging doubts about the direction of modern life…!