St Nicholas of Myra in the Greek Synaxarium – now online in English

Christmas is coming, and, as it happens, I have a new translation for you.  This is another piece of the medieval St Nicholas of Myra material, all edited by G. Anrich in Hagios Nikolaos back in 1902.

In the Greek orthodox church, various days are marked as saints’ days, and a short life of the saint is included in the church service for that day.  These materials for each saints’ day are included in a 12-volume collection known as the Menaion, or the Synaxarium.

There are two versions of the Life of St Nicholas in the manuscripts, a longer one and a shorter one (itself in two versions).  Anrich printed them all as section VIII of his book.  These are translated below.

These were translated by Fr Albert Iustinos.  This is the pen-name of a monk on Mount Athos.  I think that he has done a splendid job, and I am looking forward to a translation of the Vita Compilata (Anrich section IX) in due course.  Thank you very much!

As ever, these are public domain.  Do whatever you like with them, personal, educational or commercial.

The tomb of St Nicholas of Myra?

Turkish archaeologists have used ground-penetrating equipment and discovered the shrine of St Nicholas of Myra underneath the church of St Nicholas in Demre, ancient Myra, according to the Daily Telegraph.  The report seems rather sketchy, and the claims likewise.  They are also claiming that the bones of St Nicholas, supposed now to be in Bari, have in fact remained in Demre/Myra, although it is hard to see how any electronic equipment could tell that.  But of course the Turks are hoping for a boost to the tourist trade, and understandably so.

Let us wish them good luck in their excavations!

Church of St Nicholas of Myra in modern Demre, ancient Myra, in Turkey.

Proclus of Constantinople, “Encomium on St Nicholas of Myra”, now online in English

I have another piece for you of the ancient literature about St Nicholas of Myra.  This is an encomium which is found in the manuscripts among the sermons of Proclus, the 5th century Patriarch of Constantinople.  Although it has acquired his name, it is really anonymous.  Bryson Sewell completed a draft of the translation, and Andrew Eastbourne revised it and completed it.  Here it is:

As usual I make these public domain – use them for any purpose, personal, educational or commercial.

It’s translated from the Greek text published by G. Anrich.  Apparently there are quite a number of late encomia which merely retread the earlier material, and this is mostly one of them.  Still useful to have, tho!

UPDATE: Dr. E. has drawn my attention to an editorial error with note 14.  I’ve uploaded new versions of the files.

A challenge for Greek language nerds! What do you make of *this*?!

One of the texts for St Nicholas of Myra is a beast and a monster.  No matter how good your Greek is, it is bafflingly hard.  Part of the problem is that it is written in a poetic style – the editor, Anrich, even marks the cadences with <> marks!  The opening section is highly rhetorical and windy; even the narrative portion, telling the tale of the three virgins for whom Nicholas found dowries, is difficult.

David Miller had a go at it, and has produced the following: but if you reckon yourself a Greek whizz, then why not see if you can work out what’s going on with the text?  David writes:

Anyway, speed of work on this was about twice as slow as on the previous ones, even with leaving seven places where I have had to take a guess from the context at meanings which were out of my reach.  I suggest that, as it’s only for your blog, you could put this bit up, complete with my notes about those seven places, and invite anyone who knows more to contribute their solutions.

Here’s the page images from Anrich’s edition:

And here is David’s final version of the translation, after much discussion in the comments.  Any further comments are very welcome!

David’s first encounter with the text produced the following email, which I reproduce for the benefit of others who may walk this way:

Now, as for Methodius ad Theodorum:

I’ve reached, in rough, halfway through para.2 (“Heimat”) – far enough to try a bit of it out on you, to see if it really is the sort of stuff you want.

Note first that, as the bit of Greek embedded in Anrich’s introduction reveals, it is designed as a poem (ποιημα).  The angle brackets that disfigure the text passim are the cadences, marked by Anrich in accordance with Meyer’s Sentence-end Law (intro. para.2), and therefore, I suggest, nothing whatever to do with us, even if I could reproduce them.

The whole of the first paragraph is the sort of wordy grovelling that you see in the preface of 17th/18th cent. English treatises, designed to flatter the dedicatee;  it expresses the author’s intention to please him by giving up writing encomia, and writing narrative instead.

Here’s the start of para.2:

“O Nicholas, God’s servant, vessel containing the perfume of the [all-holy and lifegiving] Spirit;  flower, shoot and root of the Myrans, and their fragrance, lily-white in pre-eminence, adorned like a violet in public life, red as a rose in truthfulness, greener even than the buds in self-control, and with your head crowned in grey; you have toiled to the uttermost at your work, making light of the body but keeping the spirit tightly strung, bedewed with purity and alive [lit. “foaming”] with zeal ….”  [incidentally we have yet to reach a verb – I stuck in “you have toiled” in place of the participle because I could hold out no longer – and I should probably be putting “thou” for “you”, in an attempt to reach the distant heights of Methodius’ language, which he claimed in par.1 was going to be plain and clear]

It all sounds very, um, Byzantine!