Archive for July 2013

Saint Marina/Margaret   3 comments

Image source.

The saint known as Marina (Margaret in the west) — not to be confused with Marina the Monk — is in some churches celebrated on July 30. In the synaxaria available to me, I find her story only in the Gǝʿǝz for Hamle 23 (see PO 7:386-389, with a sälam). Her tale, quite fantastic, is known in many languages. Here is an outline of the version of the aforementioned Gǝʿǝz synaxarion, with some excerpts in that language.

Her father, Decius (ዳኬዎስ፡), was a chief of the idol-priests (ሊቀ፡ገነውተ፡አማልክት፡ዘሀገረ፡አንጾኪያ፡), and with the saint’s mother dead, he gave her over to the care of a nurse or guardian (ሐፃኒት፡), who was a Christian and who taught her the faith (ወመሐረታ፡ሃይማኖተ፡ክርስቶስ፡). One day, inspired by hearing about the martyrs (ሰምዓት፡እንዘ፡ትትናገር፡ሐፃኒታ፡ጻማ፡ተጋድሎቶሙ፡ለሰማዕታት፡), the young saint, then around fifteen years old, went out to seek martyrdom herself (ሖረት፡እንዘ፡ተኃሥሥ፡ከዊነ፡ስምዕ፡). On meeting a “wicked magistrate” (፩መኰንን፡ዓላዊ፡), who characteristically inquires as to her identity, she equally characteristically responds, “I am of the people of Jesus Christ, and my name is Marina” (አነ፡እምሰብአ፡ኢየሱስ፡ክርስቶስ፡ወስምየ፡መሪና፡). The magistrate noticed Marina’s beauty and splendor (ስና፡ወላሕያ፡) and could not control himself (ስእነ፡ተዓግሦ፡), so he tried to persuade her with all kinds of talk to make her agree to give herself to him (ወሄጣ፡ብኵሉ፡ነገር፡ከመ፡ኦሆ፡ትብሎ፡), but she would not, of course, and instead she cursed him and slandered his gods (ረገመቶ፡ወፀረፈት፡አማልክቲሁ፡). This results in the magistrate’s command that she be beaten with iron bars, cut and lacerated (አዘዘ፡ይቅሥፍዋ፡በአብትረ፡ሐፂን፡ወይምትሩ፡መለያልዪሃ፡ወይሥትሩ፡ሥጋሃ፡) “until her blood flowed like water” (እስከ፡ውኅዘ፡ደማ፡ከመ፡ማይ፡). The saint prays and Michael the archangel heals her (ፈወሳ፡), but she is then thrown into prison, an especially dark one (ቤተ፡ሞቅሕ፡ዘምሉእ፡ጽልመት፡). There she again prays, Michael comes and illumines the prison, and he takes her to heaven and before returning her he shows her the habitation of the saints and the just (ወአዕረጋ፡ውስተ፡ሰማይ፡ወአርአያ፡ማኅደረ፡ቅዱሳን፡ወጻድቃን፡). Once, while she is praying, having endured more tortures and having received subsequent archangelic healing, a huge serpent (or dragon) comes to her “from one of the corners of the prison” (መጽአ፡ኀቤሃ፡እማእዘንተ፡ቤተ፡ሞቅሕ፡ዐቢይ፡ተመን፡). She is afraid of it, and it swallows her whole  as she has her arms extended in prayer in the shape of a cross (ወውኅጣ፡እንዘ፡ስፉሕ፡እደዊሃ፡በአምሳለ፡መስቀል፡ወትጼሊ፡በልባ፡)! Just then, the serpent’s belly splits open, and the saint emerges unharmed (ተሠጥቀ፡ከርሡ፡ወወፅአት፡እምኔሁ፡ዘእንበለ፡ሙስና፡)! On her way back through the prison in another direction, she sees Satan sitting down in the form of a black man (በአምሳለ፡ብእሲ፡ጸሊም፡), his hands gripping the top of his knees (ወጽቡጣት፡እደዊሂ፡ዲበ፡አብራኪሁ፡); she marks him with the sign of the cross, grabs him by the hair and beats him with some kind of scourge (አኃዘቶ፡በሥዕርተ፡ርእሱ፡ወዘበጠቶ፡በበትረ፡መቅሠፍት፡)! After that, in a vision of the cross with a talking white dove on it (ተከሥተ፡ላቲ፡ዕፀ፡መስቀሉ፡ለኢየሱስ፡ክርስቶስ፨ወዲቤሁ፡ትነብር፡ርግብ፡ፀዓዳ፡), she knows her time of departure is near. The next day, the magistrate orders her stripped (አዘዘ፡መኰንን፡ያዕርቅዋ፡ልብሰ፡), hung upside down (ወይስቅልዋ፡ቍልቍሊተ፡), burned (ወያውዕይዋ፡በእሳት፡), and thrown into a cauldron of boiling liquid (ወይደይዋ፡ውስተ፡ጽሕርት፡ዘቦቱ፡ማይ፡ፍሉሕ፡). As she is praying inside the cauldron, a dove with a golden crown in its mouth comes and frees her bonds and baptizes her in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the saint emerges from the liquid. The magistrate has had enough and orders her decapitated (ወአዘዘ፡ከመ፡ይምትሩ፡ርእሳ፡በሰይፍ፡), but before she dies, Jesus comes to her and promises (ወወሃባ፡ኪዳነ፡) that her name and story will have an especially effective intercessory power.

So much for the tale of Saint Marina/Margaret. This fabulous (in the original sense of the word) story offers readers quite a spectacle of hagiography. We have several martyrological topoi, and students of Gǝʿǝz will find the excerpts, if not the whole, worth their time to pore over.

EMML @ 40   1 comment

Today and tomorrow at HMML there will be a small conference to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the EMML project. Here is the program:

EMML @ 40: The Life and Legacy of the Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library
Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, Saint John’s University

Thursday, July 25
Fr. Columba Stewart, OSB, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
EMML: A Brief History and a Look Ahead

Getatchew Haile, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
A Fragment of the Aksumite Period of a Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

Claire Bosc-Tiessé and Marie-Laure Derat, Centre national de la recherche scientifique
Towards an Archaeology of Manuscript Libraries around Lalibela (Begwena – Lasta, 12th – 21st cent.): Inventories of Books, History of Texts and Differential Preservation of Manuscripts

Adam C. McCollum, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library
A Mass of Texts: The Witness of the EMML Project to Hagiographic Material in Gǝʿǝz

Amsalu Tefera, Addis Ababa University
Gädlä Sarabamon: The Case of the Ethiopic Version

Sophia Dege, Ethio-SPARE, Universität Hamburg
The Aksimaros among EMML Manuscripts

Concluding discussion

Friday, July 26
Curt Niccum, Abilene Christian University, Abilene, Texas
What has Athens to do with Addis Alem? Greek Biblical Scholarship’s Renewed Interest in Ethiopic

Ted Erho, Hill Museum & Manuscript Library and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Demographic Trends in the Manuscript Tradition of Ethiopic Enoch

Concluding discussion

Sälam to Mary Magdalene   1 comment

Today (July 22) in some churches the feast of Mary Magdalene is celebrated. How about a few lines on her from the Ethiopian synaxarion, where she is commemorated on the 28th of Ḥamle (Aug 4)? These lines belong to the genre of the sälam (greeting; usually called ʿarke when outside of the synaxarion), five rhyming lines — e.g. the lines below all end in -ma — that typically conclude a saint’s mention in the Ethiopian synaxarion. The synaxarion in Gǝʿǝz goes back to the Arabic synaxarion for the Coptic church compiled by Michael of Atrīb and Malīg in the 13th century. The earliest Gǝʿǝz recension, from the end of the 14th century, survives in only three manuscripts, one of which being EMML 6458, for the first half of the year; another early, but distinct, witness is EMML 6952. In the sixteenth century, following a notable rise of interest in local hagiography, the synaxarion was revised, first, it seems, at Däbrä Ḥayq Ǝsṭifanos, but with a rival recension also from Däbrä Libanos. It is this sixteenth century revision, known as the Vulgate recension, that has the sälam verses. This corpus, a unique contribution of Gǝʿǝz hagiography, offers students of hagiography and students of the Gǝʿǝz language a long list of reading material sure to hold their attention. Here is the one for Mary Magdalene, the text in PO 7 435, and my translation.


Greetings to the Magdalene, Mary by name,
Who saw Christ’s resurrection first among the apostles.
Greetings to the women who shared in her toil
As they ran together to the tomb of the Wise Craftsman
Without the terror of the night frightening them.

Bibliography (further bibliography in each of these articles)

Aßfalg, Julius. “Synaxar(ion).” In H. Kaufhold, ed., Kleines Lexikon des christlichen Orients. 2d ed. Wiesbaden, 2007. Pp. 448-449.

Colin, Gérard and Alessandro Bausi. “Sǝnkǝssar.” Encyclopaedia Aethiopica IV 621-623.

Nosnitsin, Denis. “Sälam.” Encyclopaedia Aethiopica IV 484.

Yalew, Samuel. “ʿArke.” Encyclopaedia Aethiopica I 342.

Gallery of scholars   Leave a comment

I’ve just published a gallery of scholars (also available at the top of the page) who have worked in the fields of the languages and literature of eastern Christianity. I’ve not listed scholars who are still living. I’m sure I’ve failed to include some people who should be here, so if you have any suggestions for additions, please let me know. Also, I could find no photograph of Georg Graf, and I would be grateful to anyone who will point me to one.

Macomber at work   2 comments

I wrote a post here some time ago about William Macomber, whose name is well known to students of eastern Christian manuscripts and who used to frequent HMML’s desks and bookshelves. My colleague at HMML, Matt Heintzelman, came across some pictures of him at HMML from the mid-1970s, and here they are.



Posted July 19, 2013 by adam_bremer-mccollum in Personalia

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Old Georgian phrases and sentences 9   Leave a comment

პირველად გ(ა)ნიზრახე და მერმე ზრახევდი.

First think, and then talk.

Source: Sentences of Sextus 153 (Georgian 22). See Garitte, Gérard. “Vingt-deux ‘Sentences de Sextus’ en géorgien.” Le Muséon 72 (1959): 355–363.

The Sentences of Sextus, a Christian — the degree of its Christianness can be debated, as already noted by Jerome — gnomological text of the second or third century CE written in Greek, enjoyed notable popularity in Late Antiquity, with translations, in part or in whole, into Latin (by Rufinus), Coptic (Nag Hammadi), Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, and Gǝʿǝz. (I don’t know of an Arabic version of the Sentences, but there probably was one. Dimitri Gutas, Greek Wisdom Literature in Arabic Translation. A Study of the Graeco-Arabic Gnomologia, (New Haven 1975) would be a good place to start looking, but I don’t have access to it now.) Garitte published the collection of 22 sayings from the work in Georgian (სიტყოანი სოჳქესტისნი) based on Sinai codex 35 (10th cent.). This Georgian version was translated from the Armenian translation, not directly from Greek. Both the Armenian and Greek sentences have a clause not in the Georgian, but for comparison here are the corresponding parts: σκέπτου πρὸ τοῦ λέγειν and նախ խորհեսջիր եւ ապա խօսեսջին.

Chadwick, Henry. The Sentences of Sextus. Cambridge, 1959.

Sargisean, B. Srboy hōrn Ewagri Pontac’woy Vark’ ew Matenagrut’iwnk’. Venice, 1907.

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 8   Leave a comment

რად უქმ ხარ, სიკუდილო, და არა შეჰკრებ სნეულთა საუნხეთა შენთა?

(The Devil speaking to Death) Why are you idle, Death, and not gathering the ill into your hoards?

Source: Homily on Death and the Devil, attributed to Ephrem, 3.4. See Gérard Garitte, “Homélie d’Éphrem «Sur La Mort et Le Diable»: Version géorgienne et version arabe.” Le Muséon 82 (1969): 123–163; here p. 142. As usual, Garitte gives a fine literal Latin trans. for the Georgian; the Arabic version was published by Krachkovsky (“Новозаветный апокриф в арабской рукописи 885–886 г.” Византийский Временник 14 (1907): 246-275), and Garitte adds more from Mingana Chr. Arab. 93, and a Latin trans. of Krachkovsky’s text.

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 7   Leave a comment

მცირედ არიან აწინდელნი ესე ჟამნი

Pauca sunt haec praesentia tempora.

Slight are these present times.

Source: The Xanmeti Mravalt’avi 1.13. See Joseph Molitor, Monumenta iberica antiquiora, CSCO 166 (Louvain, 1956), 65-90.

Posted July 5, 2013 by adam_bremer-mccollum in Georgian, Liturgy

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A simple colophon in Gǝʿǝz   Leave a comment

I have often enough here referred to colophons in Syriac and Arabic, but here is a simple example of one in Gǝʿǝz, from The Beheading of John the Baptist in EMML 2514 (written in the 1380s CE), f. 43r.

EMML 2514, f. 43r

EMML 2514, f. 43r

In English:

Finished is the Combat [gädl] of the holy and elect John. May his prayer and blessing protect us forever and ever, amen!

May Christ have mercy in the kingdom of heaven on the one who has copied it, the one who has commissioned its copying, the one who has read it, and the one who has heard its words, through the prayer of the holy virgin, Mary, John the Baptist, and all the saints and martyrs, forever and ever, amen.

The operative vocabulary here is:

  • täfäṣṣämä to be completed
  • ṣäafä to write
  • aṣḥafä to have someone write
  • anbäbä to read
  • sämʿa to hear

And, as usual, there is a wish that this or that saint’s prayer (ṣälot) and blessing (bäräkät) protect (ʿaqäbä) the scribe, etc.

A typological study of colophons in eastern Christian manuscripts from all the languages has, as far as I know, yet to be written, but it would be a worthwhile topic of investigation.

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 6   Leave a comment

ესრეთ იყვნეს მთასა მას სიმართლით და სიწმიდით. და იყო მუნ მშჳდობაჲ და განსუენებაჲ.

Thus were they on the mountain in righteousness and holiness, and there was there peace and rest.

Source: The Cave of Treasures § 7.3. See Ciala Kourcikidzé, ed. La caverne des trésors. Version géorgienne. CSCO 526. Scriptores iberici 23 (Peeters, 1993).

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