Archive for September 2013

Queen Ketevan   Leave a comment

Today is the commemoration of Queen K’et’evan (1565-1624, დედოფალი ქეთევან), whose martyrdom is related by contemporary and near contemporary sources, Georgian and otherwise. The details of the events of her martyrdom are available in several other places (e.g. here, here, here, and here; see a fine, modern icon here), and I shall not recount them all here.  The story can be found in English, translated from a report of some Augustinian missionaries, at the end of Lang’s Live of the Georgian Saints (171-172), but there is also a poem on the queen by her son T’eimuraz, a play in German by Andreas Gryphius (1614-1664; Catharina von Georgien oder Bewähre Standhaftigkeit, 1657), a narrative in Georgian found in manuscript Tbilisi H-1370 — I don’t know whether there is an edition yet, but there apparently was not one at the time Tarchnishvili’s work was published in 1955 — and there are two shorter versions of the story from synaxarion manuscripts, both published in Abuladze and Gabidzashvili, ძველი ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ლიტერატურის ძეგლები, წიგნი IV სვინაქსარული რედაქციები (XI-XVIII სს.) (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature, vol. 4, Synaxarion Redactions, [11th-18th centuries]), (Tbilisi, 1968), 429-433. While a reading across all of these versions of Ketevan’s martyrdom would, no doubt, be an interesting exercise, here we turn our attention only to one short passage, the end of the shorter synaxarion reading just mentioned (432-433). This text was edited on the basis of four manuscripts (A-425, A-220, A-515, H-970) ranging in date from 1718-1742. (The longer story has a broader base of manuscripts.) Following a look at an icon and a list of a few more relevant resources I give the excerpted text below from Abuladze’s edition, an English translation, and a list of some of the vocabulary in the passage, which is especially replete with verbs, mostly with 3p agents (i.e. the torturers).

One icon of Queen K’et’evan was mentioned above, and there are many others. This one reads in asomtavruli (except the last letter of the first word, which is mxedruli), with the abbreviations resolved, Ⴜ(ႫႨႣ)Ⴀ Ⴃ(Ⴄ)Ⴃ(Ⴍ)Ⴔ(Ⴀ)ႪႨ Ⴕ(Ⴄ)Ⴇ(Ⴄ)Ⴅ(Ⴀ)Ⴌ Ⴜ(Ⴀ)Ⴋ(Ⴄ)Ⴁ(ႭჃ)ႪႨ (in mxedruli, წმიდა დედოფალი ქეთევან წამებული), “Holy Queen K’et’evan, martyr(ed).”

Avalishvili, Z. “Teimuraz I and His Poem ‘The Martyrdom of Queen Ketevan’.” Georgica 3 (1937): 17-42. [non vidi!]

Tamarati, M. L’église géorgienne des origines jusqu’à nos jours. Rome, 1910. Pp. 482-485. [Despite the age of the book, I can find no copy online.]

Tarchnišvili, M. Geschichte der kirchlichen georgischen Literatur. Studi e testi 185. Vatican City, 1955. P. 418.

Georgian text

და დაასხნეს ჴელნი ბილწთა მათ, განაშიშულეს, განურთხნეს ჴელნი, განბასრეს და მოიხუნეს განჴურვებულნი მარწუხნი, დააჴლიჩნეს (v.l. დახლიჩნეს) ძუძუნი და მერმე მკლავნი დაგლიჯნეს და ნაკუერცხალი აღგზნებული დააყარეს სისხლ-მწთოლვარესა ჴორცსა. და მერმე მოიღეს განჴურვებული სიავი და დახურეს თავსა მისსა [და] შეჰვედრა სული თჳსი ღმერთსა. მოვიდა ნათელი ბრწყინვალე და მოეფინა გუამსა ზედა წმიდისასა.

ხოლო იყვნეს მას ქალაქსა შინა მღდელნი ფრანგთანი ფურტუგეზელნი, მიიპარეს გუამი და წარიღეს ფურტუკს. და მერმე მოიღეს მარჯუენა ჴელი და თხემი თავისა და მიართუეს ძესა მისსა მეფესა თეიმურაზს ფრანგთა მათ.

Some vocabulary (in order of occurrence):

დასხმა to throw, lay, set, prepare
ბილწი impure, unclean, vile
განშიშეულბა to expose, bare
განრთხმა to stretch
განბასრება to deride
მოხუმა to take, bring
განჴურვებული burning hot
მარწუხი tongs, pincers
დაჴლეჩნა / დახლეჩა (not in Sarjveladze-Fähnrich, but cf. Rayfield et al., 611) to split, carve
ძუძუი breast
მკლავი arm
დაგლეჯა to break, tear, shred
ნაკუერცხალი ember(s)
[აღგზნება to ignite, light; for the participle Sarjveladze-Fähnrich 45 has only a form without -ნ-]
დაყრა to throw down, away; take away; leave
სისხლ-მწთოლვარეჲ dripping blood
ჴორცი flesh, body
სიავი kettle, bowl, basin
დახურვა to cover, close
შევედრება to commit, commend, entrust
მოფენა to spread out
მღდელი priest
ფრანგი Frank (i.e. Latin Christian)
მიპარვა to steal, take away
გუამი body
წარღება to take with, take away, loot
მარჯუენაჲ right, right hand
თხემი skull, cranium
მირთუმა to present, give


English translation

This translation is merely a preliminary attempt, and corrections and suggestions by readers of Georgian are welcome!

Those vile people held her hands, exposed her, stretched her hands, and laughed at her. They took burning-hot pincers and split her breasts. They then tore at her arms and threw burning embers on her blood-dripping body. Then they brought a burning-hot bowl and covered her head [with it]. She commended her soul to God and a bright light came and spread over the saint’s body.

Now some Latin priests, Portuguese, were present in the city, and they stole her body and took it with them to Portugal. Later the Latins took the right hand and the top of her head [i.e. the cranium] and presented them to her son, King T’eimuraz.

A self-deprecating scribe, one among many   Leave a comment

Lately I have been cataloging a group of manuscripts from Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, that have homiletic contents, especially the mēmrē of Jacob of Serug, including some that are hitherto unpublished. One of these manuscripts is SMMJ 162, from the late 19th or early 20th century. I don’t mention it here so much for the texts the scribe penned into it, but rather for a little colophon left at the end of Jacob’s Mēmrā on Love (cf. Bedjan, vol. 1, 606-627), f. 181r:

SMMJ 162, f. 181r

SMMJ 162, f. 181r

Pray for the sinner who has written [it], a fool, lazy, slothful, deceitful, a liar, wretched, stupid, blind of understanding, with no knowledge of these things, [nor] more than these things, but pray for me for our Lord’s sake!

Almost from the beginning of my time cataloging at HMML, I have been collecting excerpts of scribal notes and colophons that I found interesting for some reason or other, one such reason being the extreme self-loathing and self-deprecation that scribes not uncommonly trumpet. The cases in which scribes go on and on with adjectives or substantives of negative sentiment can elicit almost a humorous reaction, but scribes who do this do give their readers some semantically related vocabulary examples all in one spot!

NB: If interested, see my short article in Illuminations, Spring 2012, pp. 4-6, available here, for a popular presentation on colophons.

An album of Georgian manuscripts   Leave a comment

At the website ქართული ხელნაწერი წიგნი (in Georgian) is available the book ქართული ხელნაწერი წიგნი V-XIX სს.: ელექტრონული ალბომი [The Georgian Manuscript Book, 5th-19th centuries: Electronic Album] (Tbilisi, 2010), edited by Nestan Chkhikvadze, with contributions by Maia Karanadze, Lela Shatirishvili, and Tamar Abuladze. (Click the picture in the left column at the link above to see the book.) The book is in Georgian, but there is a description in English in its front matter, as follows:

An on-line album of Georgian manuscript book was created within the Grant project “Georgian Manuscript Book (including website)” financed by Rustaveli research fund. N. Chkhikvadze (scientific research manager), M. Karanadze, L. Shatirishvili were working on this project with participation of T. Abuladze.
In the album there are represented 5th-19th cent. Georgian manuscript books preserved in the fonds of National Centre of Manuscripts (A, H, S, Q) as well as some items belonging to foreign funds and National Manuscript Centre has the legal right of using photo copies of them.
Artistic copy of Adishi gospel is accomplished on the bases of authors’ descriptions and instructions. All this manuscripts show the origin and the development of the book as a cultural-historical phenomenon.
Album consists of four chapters. Common informational texts and photos with annotation come with every collected material, as well as main bibliography.
This album will be helpful for readers who are interested in written culture.

There are introductory chapters on the history of writing Georgian (up to p. 12), on theological (სასულიერო) manuscripts (pp. 13-90), secular (საერო) manuscripts (pp. 91-134), writing materials (pp. 135-148), and covers and binding (ყდა, pp. 149-185). A bibliography, mostly of works written in Georgian, is on pp. 186-188. The book is full of relatively high-quality color photographs, and thus may have some interest for all students and scholars of manuscript and book history, whether they read Georgian or not. (NB in the captions, a Roman numeral followed by ს. indicates the century [საუკუნე] and an Arabic numeral followed by წ. indicates the exact year [წელი]. At the end of the captions is the shelfmark: A, H, S, or Q followed by a number.)

The photographs give very many examples of varieties of script, as well as manuscript decoration, including images of scribes at work. The book is hardly intended as something along the lines of the paleographic textbooks of Ivane Javakhishvili or Ilia Abuladze, but this shorter and more humble offering has great value for a variety of readers, not least thanks to its open access, but also for the number and quality of the images it includes. Many thanks to the authors and the National Centre of Manuscripts for making this work available!

“The manuscript itself”   1 comment

In his excellent article, “Georgian Palaeography”,[1] J. Neville Birdsall (1928-2005),[2] after listing some reproductions of Georgian manuscripts, has the following to say (p. 95):

The aspirant in Georgian palaeography must use these and every available photographic reproduction, but it cannot be too much emphasized that acquaintance with manuscripts themselves is irreplaceable. A manuscript, said patristic scholar and Armenologist, Robert Pierce Casey, is “something between a gadget and a personality”. This is as true of manuscripts as paleographical evidence as it is of any other aspect of their use and value. The external technicalities of the manuscript may be learnt from pictures: the individuality of the scribe, even in technical matters such as thickness of pen, can be known best only from the examination of the manuscript itself.

Birdsall’s survey dates from a time not too distant, at least in terms of the slow-moving world of manuscript studies, but even so, the quality and the quantity of easily available, if not freely available, manuscript images online would probably have been inconceivable at the time of its writing. In other words, Birdsall, while acknowledging the value of often bitonal manuscript reproductions — if for no other reason than that that is sometimes all that was (and is!) available — seems to imply that one should always wish for a real, tactile encounter with “the manuscript itself”. This kind of autopsy today probably happens no more frequently than when Birdsall made the statement above, but it is likely that a great many more students and scholars have nevertheless seen manuscripts, and not bitonal images, but color photographs of such resolution that one might enlarge only a few lines and fill an entire screen without any loss of image quality. There are doubtless some things we miss when look at a manuscript on a screen, rather than on a library table — a notable one being an easily grasped perception of a manuscript’s actual size, something we can forget, even if we know the exact measurements, when reading on a screen and manipulating the size — but at least with very high quality digital reproduction, what do we lack that especially matters codicologically or paleographically speaking? Birdsall as an example mentions the thickness of the scribe’s pen. Is that still something “known best” only from immediate manuscript autopsy, is it something we cannot properly give attention to in digital manuscript facsimiles as available nowadays? On this question, see the image below and note the easily noticeable varieties of thickness as the scribe has turned the pen in different directions to form the letters.

If someone had access only to manuscript reproductions, even if bitonal and perhaps grainy, Birdsall, based the tone of his essay, would, I believe, encourage that person to go ahead and make the most of what they have. Those of us at work on manuscripts in various languages, not only Georgian, have the boon of much better images than were common fare even a couple of decades ago, and were he writing today, I wonder if Birdsall would have phrased his sentiments in quite the way as above.

A few lines from CFMM 309, p. 55, at full resolution. Each page has two columns and the ms measures 26.5x18x9 cm.

A few lines from CFMM 309, p. 55, at full resolution. Each page has two columns and the ms measures 26.5x18x9 cm.

[1] A.C. Harris, ed. The Indigenous Languages of the Caucasus, vol. 1, The Kartvelian Languages. Delmar, New York: Caravan Books, 1991. Pp. 85-128. It remains really the only thing of its kind in English. Unfortunately, it was published in a rather out-of-the-way book, not to mention the less than appealing typography.

[2] There is an obituary for Birdsall by J.K. Elliott from The Independent here.

Two scribal corrections   2 comments

While cataloging an undated, late manuscript from Saint Mark’s Monastery (Jerusalem) today, I came across this page spread, each page showing a correction in the scribe’s hand.

SMMJ 165, ff. 6v-7r

SMMJ 165, ff. 6v-7r

Homer nods and copyists sleep: scribes old and new, like typesetters and typists, have been bound to occasionally slip into error, whether by letter, word, or line. Here on the right (f. 6v), four lines from the bottom, the scribe indicates that he — the odds are that the scribe was male, but it could have been a female scribe — first erroneously copied the word tešbḥātēh by transposing B and Ḥ, so it was a mistake of a letter leading to an incorrect word. On the left (f. 7r), the scribe at first omitted (probably) two lines, and he adds them into the margin. Both mistakes are signaled by a variously oriented sign similar to ÷. Although their function is not the same, it is easy to be reminded a little of the Aristarchian or Hexaplaric signs (Field, Origenis Hexaplorum quae supersunt, vol. 1, lii-lx; Swete, Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek, 69-73).

Proofreading is hardly relished by any one, whether a centuries-old scribe or today’s or tomorrow’s writer with a keyboard and screen, but seizing and adequately rectifying an error, whether by marking the error and pointing to the correction, as here, or by wholly obliterating the mistake and only giving the proper reading, at least goes a long way toward repaying the time spent doing it!

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 12   1 comment

Our next Old Georgian excerpt comes from an episode in the story of Symeon the Stylite, § 21 (Garitte, CSCO 171-172, with text also available at TITUS here), two sentences reporting a fiendish onslaught by some devil-inspired beasts.

და ბრძოლა სცა ეშმაკმან მას შინა ბრძოლითა დიდითა, და მოიყვანნა მის ზედა მრავალნი მჴეცთაგანნი, გუელნი და ვეშაპნი, რომელნი ჰბერვიდეს და ისტუენდეს მის ზედა…

…et pugnam dedit ei diabolus in eo pugna magna, et adduxit super eum multas e bestiis, lupos [!] et dracones, qui sufflabant et sibilabant super eum… (Garitte’s LT)

…and the devil gave him a fight with a great fight within him, and brought against him many beasts, snakes and dragons, which were breathing and hissing at him…

Here are a few grammatical and lexical helps for those that might want them:


  • ს-ც-ა aor 3sg O3 ცემაჲ to give (the phrase with მას შინა here strikes me as a little strange, and that strangeness is also reflected in my translation, as well as Garitte’s LT)
  • მო-ი-ყვან-ნ-ა aor 3sg + N-infix მოყვანება to bring in
  • ჰ-ბერვ-ი-დ-ეს impf 3pl O3 ბერვა to breathe, blow (Z. Sarjweladze and H. Fähnrich, Altgeorgisch-Deutsches Wörterbuch [2005], 101: “blasen, hauchen, einhauchen”)
  • ი-სტუენ-დ-ეს impf 3pl სტუენა to hiss (cf. სტუენა “hissing” in Rayfield et al., Comprehensive Georgian-English Dict.,1197, which also agrees with Garitte’s LT, but Sarjweladze-Fähnrich, 1116, “pfeifen”!)

Other vocabulary

  • ბრძოლაჲ fight, struggle
  • ეშმაკი devil, demon
  • მჴეცი wild animal, beast (here analyzed as მჴეც-თა-გან-ნი)
  • გუელი snake (e.g. ὄφις in versions of Mt 7:10 and Jn 3:14; but compare Garitte’s LT!)
  • ვეშაპი δράκων (cf. Arm. վիշապ, etc.; see H. Ačaṙian, Arm. Etym. Dict., IV 341-342)

Constrained writing in Syriac poetry   1 comment conversation at the breakfast table this morning led to mention of E.V. Wright’s Gadsby (1939), a novel of no insignificant length that gets by without the letter E throughout its 50,000+ words. (I’ve not read it, but it’s apparently in print and buyable. Note also Georges Perec’s 1969 French novel, La Disparition, with several translations.) Avoiding this or that letter is a kind of constrained writing called a lipogram, but other kinds of constraint include palindromes, alliteratives, univocalism, attention to etymological source (e.g. avoiding latinate words in English), and acrostics. Meter and rhyme are the most typical constraints in much poetry.

These and other constraints, of course, are generally not limited to one particular language, although their application might be more difficult in some languages than others. Other than the meter (5-syllable, 7-syllable, and 12-syllable) and, more occasionally, rhyme, Syriac poetry offers (at least) two kinds of constrained writing, one common and the other rare: 1. the acrostic and 2. having lines or line-pairs that begin and end with the same letter. (I have tried but failed to come up with a concise name for № 2.)

Acrostic poems are well known in various languages, including English, but here we are mainly concerned with alphabetic acrostics. (For Hebrew, see the discussion, with several examples, of W.G.E. Watson, Classical Hebrew Poetry, 190-200, with bibliography, and for later examples see T. Carmi, The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, e.g. 206-207, 221-223, 223-224, 233-234, 235-238.) In Syriac, alphabetic acrostic poems, both mēmrē and madrāšē, are plentiful. Ephrem provides many early examples of strophic (as opposed to stichic) acrostics, and Andrew Palmer has studied them (see bibliography below). The hymn Res. 1 is not an alphabetic acrostic, but actually spells out Ephrem’s own name in the beginning strophes and then follows with strophes that all begin with M (vocalized text and ET in Brock and Kiraz, 80-95). The hymn Nis. 1 is an alphabetic acrostic, but it generally skips every other letter, the exception being the sequence P-Q (ʾ g h z ṭ k m s p q š; text and ET in Brock and Kiraz, 224-245). There are also other patterns, even reaching across several poems: № 7-15 of the hymns on Abraham of Qidun (ed. Beck, CSCO 322) follow the alphabet from start to finish with varying numbers of stanzas given to each letter.

We also find acrostics in dialogue poems, e.g. in text 3 of the collection published by Brock (pp. 13-14) we have, after a proem, each speaker beginning a line following the order of the alphabet up to ḥ, at which point the rest of the poem is lost. Several other texts in the collection (e.g. texts 8, 9) follow the same pattern and are complete. There are countless other acrostic poems in later Syriac literature, many still unpublished.

The other kind of constrained writing in Syriac poetry I would like to point out has two examples from the hand of Yaʿqub (Severos) bar Šakko (d. 1241) of Barṭelle. (See Martin and Sprengling in the bibliography for his discussions of poetry.) These verse letters have been known about, but they have not been published or translated, as far as I know. There are two copies of them both at HMML in almost identical manuscripts, even down to the pagination, copied by Dolabani (ZFRN 40 and CFMM 144). The first (pp. 261-263 in the mss) is “A Letter to Rabban Mar Faḫr al-Dawla bar Tomā” and the second (pp. 264-268) is “A Letter to Rabban Abū Ṭāhir Ṣāʿid, known as Tāǧ Al-Dawla bar Tomā of Baghdad”. The constraint in both texts, aside from the 7-syllable meter, is that each poem has each of its couplets beginning with the same letter, P in the first case, T in the second. Here is the beginning of the P-poem:

CFMM 144, p. 261

CFMM 144, p. 261

Here are the first four 7-syllable lines (copied two to a line in the manuscript) in English:

I have stretched out my neck in righteousness,

That I might bow before [his] feet.

I have opened my mouth that I might greet

Him who chases away every bad thing.

And now an example from the T-poem:

tāgāra (h)w da-myattrātā

d-šuprēh nābaʿ galyāʾit

tēʾaṭron (h)u d-ḥasyutā

wa-gmir b-kol-znā mpattkāʾit

He is a merchant of excellent goods,

Whose virtue springs up openly.

He is a theater of holiness,

And perfect in every way with variety.

The T-poem has its lines ending in adverbs in -āʾit, and similarly pp. 205-208 of these same two manuscripts have a mēmrā on fasting by John Ismaʿil (d. 1365 according to the manuscript), Patriarch of Antioch and nephew of Ignatius b. Wahīb (on whom see Graf, GCAL II: 271), in which every line of the poem ends with an adverb in -āʾit.

These Syriac authors show the depth of their knowledge of the language in being able to construct poems in these forms, and students may find their practice sharpened by studying these texts more closely. It may be easy to get caught up in the formalism of poetry with acrostic or other letter-focused features, but as a reading of the examples singled out here will show, this is not mere form — not that that’s always a bad thing. Plenty is still said here, and said well.

Bibliography (incl. basics for Syriac poetry)

Bickell, G. “Noch ein Wort über alphabetische und akrostichische Lieder Ephräms.” ZDMG 26 (1872): 809-811.

Brock, S.P. “The Dispute Poem: From Sumer to Syriac.” Bayn al-Nahrayn 7 [28] (1979): 417-426.

________. Sogyātā mgabbyātā. Holland, 1982.

________. “Syriac Dialogue Poems: Marginalia to a Recent Edition.” Le Muséon 97:1-2 (1984): 28-58.

________. “An Acrostic Poem on the Soul by Jacob of Serugh.” Sobornost 23:1 (2001): 40-44.

________. “Poetry and Hymnography (3): Syriac.” Pages 657-671 in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies. Edited by S.A. Harvey and D.G. Hunter. Oxford, 2008.

Brock, S.P. and G.A. Kiraz. Ephrem the Syrian: Select Poems. Eastern Christian Texts 2. Provo, 2006.

Cardahi, G. Liber thesauri de arte poëtica Syrorum nec non de eorum poetarum vitis et carminibus. Rome, 1875.

Geiger, Abraham, “Alphabetische und akrostichontische Lieder bei Ephräm.” ZDMG (1867): 469-476.

Hölscher, G. Syrische Verskunst. Leipzig, 1932. Rev. by G. Bergsträsser in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung 36 (1933): 748-754.

Kirschner, B. “Alfabetische Akrosticha in der syrischen Kirchenpoesie.” OC I, 6 (1906): 1-69; 7 (1907), 254-291. (As a monograph: Alfabetische Akrosticha in der syrischen Kirchenpoesie. [Rome, 1907].)

Martin, J.-P.P. De la métrique chez les Syriens. Abhandlungen für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 7.2. Leipzig, 1879.

Palmer, A. “St Ephrem of Syria’s Hymn on Faith 7: An Ode on His Own Name.” Sobornost / Eastern Churches Review 17:1 (1995): 28-40.

________. “Words, Silences, and the Silent Word: Acrostics and Empty Columns in Saint Ephraem’s Hymns on Faith.” PdO 20 (1995): 129-200.

________. “Akrostich Poems: Restoring Ephraim’s Madroshe.” The Harp 15 (2002): 275-287.

________. “Restoring the ABC in Ephraim’s Cycles on Faith and Paradise.” JECS 55:3-4 (2003): 147-194.

Schlögl, N. “Das Alphabet des Siraciden (Eccl. 51, 13-29). Eine textkritische Studie.” ZDMG 53 (1899): 669-682.

Sprengling, M. “Antonius Rhetor on Versification, with an Introduction and Two Appendices.” American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 32:3 (1916): 145-216.

________. “Severus bar Shakko’s Poetics, Part II.” American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 32:4 (1916): 293-308.

Excerpta synaxarica Armeniaca   1 comment

The synaxarion has made its appearance here in various languages many times. These collected hagiographic texts in brief arranged according to the church calendar offer students of the languages of the Christian east and students of Christianity more generally unique opportunities for learning the language and traditions. Not in terms of content, but of form, synaxarion entries are to the longer hagiographic texts dedicated to a saint’s legends almost what short stories are to novels. There are pleasures and benefits specific to the longer time required of a novel or a long hagiographic text, but there are likewise benefits and pleasures that derive from the shorter modes of the synaxarion and the short story. With the synaxarion, we collect some basics of the stories, either for the first time or as a review, and we can see the whole in minutes or hours, as opposed to days. Not all saints have a long vita, martyrdom, or encomium, but for those that do, their synaxarion reading may be a kind of praelectio or praeexercitamentum. Synaxarion selections often focus on the interesting bits that for this or that reason easily hold our attention, but they also present enough lexical and syntactic variety to be instructive for learners, yet without being too overwhelming in length. Selections from the synaxarion may even serve as a kind of chrestomathy with some appropriate helps (grammatical notes, glossaries, and/or translations).

St. Mamas on a lion. Image from here.

Below are a few excerpts from the readings for the past few days, Aug 31-Sept 2 (disregarding the difference between Old Style and New Style dates). Of course, since these are excerpts, we don’t get the whole story here, but hopefully you’ll learn (or re-learn) something, as I did in copying them. Most of these are simple sentences with basic forms and vocabulary, but a few were chosen simply because they struck me as memorable for some reason or other.

What’s the purpose of having picked out these excerpts and sharing them here? First, to highlight some hagiographic material readers might not otherwise regularly come across, and that chance meeting might lead to some story, passage, or text of interest and use to someone. The readings excerpted here come from longer or shorter remembrances of Photina (the woman at the well; cf. BHO 992), the invention of the cincture of Mary, Joshua, Symeon the Stylite (cf. BHO 1121-1126), Martha (cf. BHO ), Longinus (cf. BHO 565-566), and Mamas (cf. BHO ).

Second, especially for students of classical Armenian, these excerpts will provide some practice reading and also show how passages like these might be of use in studying the language. How much grammar might we divine, how much common and not-so-common vocabulary do we see in action in these selections from just a few pages of Armenian text? To list only a few examples, consider this vocabulary associated with tortures and martyrdom from the selections below:

  • հատանեմ, հատի to cut (off)
  • կտրեմ, -եցի to cut (off)
  • քերեն, -եցի to scratch
  • մարմին, մարմնոյ body
  • սուր, սրոյ sword
  • մուրճ, մրճոց hammer
  • հուր, հրոյ fire
  • դեղ, -ոց/-ից poison (here followed by the gen. մահու, lethal)
  • արիւն, -եան blood (e.g. with հեղում, հեղի to pour [here aor pass], հեղաւ արիւնն յերկիր the blood flowed on the earth)
  • բանտ/դ, -ից prison

And here are some terms associated with some aspect of Christianity:

  • յիշատակ, -աց remembrance, commemoration
  • երանելի blessed, happy (referring to a saint)
  • հաւատամ, -ացի to believe
  • խոստովանեմ, -եցի to confess

For verbs we have the ubiquitous participial forms as well as, given the genre, a host of past narrative forms that can be found in almost every line. This is not even to mention the very frequent function words and general vocabulary.

Thirdly, for readers with any interest at all in hagiography who may have less inclination to study classical Armenian, this little notice might serve as a reminder of what an important source hagiography, including the versions of the synaxarion in whatever language, is for questions of history, legend, literature, religious devotion, and religious memory. I do not know of an English translation of the Armenian synaxarion, but there is a complete French translation in the PO volumes. (An English version of the Armenian would be welcome, but it would be a long undertaking.)


Adontz, Nicholas. “Note sur les synaxaires arméniens.” Revue de l’Orient Chrétien 24 (1924): 211–218.

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

Cowe, S. Peter. “Armenian Hagiography.” In The Ashgate Research Companion to Byzantine Hagiography, edited by Stephanos Efthymiadis, 1:299–322. Ashgate, 2011.

Mécérian, Jean. “Introduction à l’étude des synaxaires arméniens.” Bulletin arménologique, Mélanges de l’Université de S. Joseph 43 (1953): 99–128.

The excerpts

These lines (with the corresponding French translation) are taken from PO 5: 461-483, ed. and tr. G. Bayan. (See a list here, with links, of synaxarion texts in Armenian and other languages published in PO.) They are cited by page number in PO 5.


հաւատաց ի Քրիստոս եւ երտեալ ի Կարթագինէ ի քաղաքն Ափրիկիոյ մկրտեցաւ եւ անունեցաւ Փաւտինէ։ Elle crut au Christ, se rendit à Carthage, dans la ville d’Afrique…

Եւ քարոզէր զանուն Տեառն մերոյ Յիսուսի Քրիստոսի ամենեցուն, եւ լուսաւորէր զբազումս ի կռապաշտիցն։ Elle prèchait à tous le nom de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ, et instruisait bon nombre d’idolâtres.


Եւ հրամայեաց զի սրով հատցեն զձեռսն Il ordonna de lui couper avec l’épée, les mains…

եւ ոչ կարացին հատանել զձեռսն։ … mais [ils] n’arrivèrent pas à lui couper les mains.

Հրամայեաց Ներոն արքայն զի մրճօք կտրեսցեն զձեռսն Néron ordonna alors de lui détacher les mains avec les marteaux.

Եւ ապա հուր բորբոքեցին եւ ընկեցին անդ զաղախինն Քրիստոսի On alluma ensuite un grand feu et on y jeta la servante du Christ.

Հանին ի հրոյն եւ արբուցին երկիցս անգամ դեղ մահու եւ ոչ վնասեցաւ նա։ On la fit sortir du feu, et on lui fit boire par deux fois du poison mortel, elle n’eut aucun mal.


Եւ ապա կախեցին զփայտէ եւ քերեցին զմարմին նորա եւ յոյժ հեղաւ արիւնն յերկիր Ensuite on la suspendit à un arbre, on lui déchira le corps, le sang coula abondamment à terre…

Եւ յորժամ իջուցին ի փայտէն հանին զերկոսին աչսն եւ բարձեալ տարան զնա ի խաւարյին եւ ի ժահահոտ բանտ յորուն էին օձք եւ թունաւոր սողունք։ Lorsqu’on la descendit de l’arbre, on lui creva les deux yeux et on la transporta dans une prison obscure et infecte, où se trouvaient des serpents et des reptiles venimeux.

Եւ մինչեւ ցայսօր որք իցեն աչացաւ եւ աչաչեն զԱստուած եւ զսրբուհի վկայն իւր զփօտինէ առժամայն բժշկին ե լուսաւորին աչք իւրեանց։ Et jusqu’aujourd’hui, ceux qui souffrent des yeux et prient Dieu et sa sainte martyre Photine guérissent aussitôt et recouvrent la vue.


Եւ ի ժամանակս Լեւոնի որդւոյ Վասլի թագաւորի՝ բազում սքանչելագործեաց գօտի սուրբ աստուածածնին բժշկիւթիւնս ի թագուհին Զոյի, յորմէ հալածեաց ի նմանէ զդեւն, որ բազում ամօք չարչարէր զնա, եւ յայլ ամենայն նեղեալս։ Sous le règne de Léon, fils de l’empereur Basile, la ceinture de la sainte mère de Dieu fit de nombreux miracles et guérisons sur la personne de l’impératrice Zoë, en chassant le démon, qui la tourmentait depuis de longues années, et sur tous les autres infirmes.


Սա ետ հրաման արեգականն եւ լուսնին եւ դադարեցին ի գնացից, մինչեւ կոտորեաց զՔանանացիսն ի Գաբաւոն։ C’est lui qui commanda au soleil et à la lune, et ils s’arrètèrent dans leur course jusqu’à ce qu’il eût massacré les Chananéens à Gabaon.


Symeon the Stylite on a 6th-7th century token (Walters Art Mus.,  48.2666; see here)

Symeon the Stylite on a 6th-7th century token (Walters Art Mus., 48.2666; see here)

Եւ մինչդեռ պատանեակն էր լսէր յեկեղեցւոջն հանապաց զգրելսն ի Պօղոսէ առաքելոյն եւ ի ծերունի ումեմնէ աստուածասիրէ տեղեկանայր եթէ վասն փրկութեան հոգւոց են գրեալքն։ Pendant qu’il était tout jeune il entendait continuellement à l’église les épîtres de l’apôtre Paul, et il apprit d’un viellard zélé qu’elles étaient écrites pour le salut des âmes.


Եւ նախանձեալ կրօնաւորացն ընդ ճգնութիւն արդարոյն ստիպեցին զհայր վանացն հանել զնա։ Les religieux devinrent jaloux de l’ascétisme du juste et obligèrent l’abbé du couvent de le renvoyer.

Իսկ երանելին ելեալ լալով գտանէ ջրհոր մի ցամաք, եր խոր յոյժ, լի թիւնաւոր զեռնօք եւ ընկէց զանձն իւր ի մէջ օձիցն, ոչ ինչ ճաջակելով։ Le bienheureux partit en pleurant, trouva un puits à sec et très profond, plein de reptiles venimeux, et se jeta parmi les serpents, sans prendre de nourriture.


Եւ նորա արարեալ անդ աւուրս ինչ՝ գնաց յանապատ եւ անդ շինեաց իւր արգելանոց նեղ եւ բնակեցաւ անդ ամս չորս. Il y demeura quelques jours, et se rendit dans un désert; il s’y fabriqua un abri étroit et y demeura quatre ans;

եւ ոչ ինչ ճաշակեաց բայց միայն ոսպն թրջեալ։ il ne se nourissait que de lentilles mouillées.

Եւ յետ այնորիկ շինեալ սիւն բարձրագոյն յերկրէ գիրկս չորս եւ ելեալ եկաց անդ ամս եօթն։ Il construisit ensuite une colonne élevée de la terre de quatre coudées, y monta et y demeura sept ans.

Եւ աղօթիւք զբազում հիւանդս բժշկէր, եւ ուսուցանէր առնել զկամս Աստուծոյ եւ կեցուցանել զհոգիս։ Par ses prières il guérissait beaucoup de malades et leur enseignait à accomplir la volonté de Dieu et à sauver leur âme.

հանգիր առ խարսխի սեան իմոյ եւ ննջեա. Repose-toi au pied de ma colonne et endors-toi.

եւ նորա եդեալ զգլուխ առ սեանն՝ աւանդեաց զհոգին։ Elle posa la tête auprès de la colonne et rendit son âme.

Եւ հրամայեաց դնել զմարմին մօրն իւրոյ առ սեանն. Il ordonna d’enterrer le corps de sa mère près de la colonne.

Եւ ի տեսանել զմայր իւր տխրեցաւ։ A la vue de sa mère il devint triste.

Եւ թաղեցին զնա ի տեղւոջն յայնմիկ վասն տեսանելոյ միշտ զգերեզմանն եւ յիշելոյ զհոգի նորա։ On l’enterra en cet endroit, pour qu’il ait toujours sous les yeux son tombeau et pour qu’il se souvienne de son âme.


Եւ ընդ աւուրսն ընդ այնոսիկ տեսեալ որսորղաց ոմանց եղն մի, զհետ մտեալ ոչ կարացին ըմդռնել զնա. En ces jours, quelques chasseurs ayant aperçu une biche, la poursuivirent, sans pouvoir l’atteindre.

եւ որսորղացն ըմբռնեալ զնա զենեցին եւ կերան. Les chasseurs la saisirent, la tuèrent et la mangèrent.

եւ նոյնժամայն ատամունք նոցա անկան ի բերանս իւրեանց առ հասարակ։ Aussitôt toutes leurs dents tombèrent dans leur bouche.

Կին ումն ի գիշերի ջուր ըմպելով՝ եմուտ յորովայն նորա ընդ ջրոյն ձագ օձի, եւ սնեալ ի փորին՝ աճեաց եւ յոյժ չարչարէր զկինն. Une femme en buvant de l’eau la nuit avait introduit dans son estomac, en même temps que l’eau, un petit serpent, qui continua à se nourrir et à croître dans le ventre et causait beaucoup de douleurs à la femme.

եւ գնացեալ առ երանելին աղաչեաց։ Elle alla trouver le bienheureux et la pria.

Եւ սուրբն Սիմէեոն աղօթիւք եհան զօձն ընդ բերան կնոջն. եւ առժամայն սատակեցաւ եւ էր կանգուն մի։ Saint Siméon, par ses prières, fit sortir le serpent par la bouche de la femme; il creva aussitôt. Il était long d’une aune.


եւ կեայր ի վերաի սեանն բացօթեաի, յամարայնի արեգակնակէզ լինելով եւ ի ձմերայնի ցրտանք եւ ձիւնով ժուժկալեալ։ Il vivait sur la colonne en plein air, brûlé par le soleil en été et subissant le froid et la neige l’hiver.


Եւ բազում վտանզաւորք ի ծովու եւ ի ցամաքի կոչէին յօգնականութիւն զանուն սրբոյն Սիմէոնի, եւ առժամայն փրկէին ի նեղութենէ իւրեանց։ Et beaucoup de gens en danger, sur mer et sur terre, appelant au secours et invoquant le nom de saint Siméon, furent aussitôt délivrés de leurs peines.

Եւ յաւուրսն յայնոսիկ այր մի ցանկացեալ կնոջ ումեմն եւ ոչ կարացեալ հասանել պիղծ ցանկութեանն: En ces jours, un homme convoitant une femme ne parvint pas à réaliser ses désirs impurs.

Իսկ յորժամ վածճանեցաւ կինն, երթեալ գաղտնաբար ի գիշերի առ տապան կնոջն կամէր պառնընկել ընդ նեռեալ մարմինն եւ կապեցաւ ընդ տապանին եւ ոչ կարէր ելանել։ Lorsque la femme mourut, il se rendit en secret et pendant la nuit à la tombe de la femme dans l’intention de violer le cadavre; il resta lié à la tombe, et ne pouvait en sortir.


Եւ յորժամ անցուցանէին դագաղօքն զմարմին սրբոյն Սիմէոնի մերձ ի տապանն յայն, աղաղակեաց այրն ասելով. Au moment où l’on faisait passer dans un cercueil le corps de saint Siméon près de cette tombe, l’homme se mit à crier:


Ողողմեա ինձ սուրբ Աստուծոյ Սիմէոն։ Aie pitié de moi, saint de Dieu, Siméon.

Եւ առժամայն արձակեցաւ, ել ի տապանէն եւ խոստաովանեցաւ զմեղս իւր։ Il se dégagea aussitôt, sortit de la tombe et confessa son péché.

Եւ թաղեցին զերանելին մերձ ի սիւնն։ On enterra le bienheureux près de la colonne.

Եւ Անտոն աշակերտ սրբոյն եւ ապասաւոր նորին գրեաց զաստուածահաճոյ վարս նուրա։ Et Antoine, le disciple du saint et son serviteur écrivit la vie du saint, si agréable à Dieu.

Ի ժամանակս պատկերամարտիցն զանարատ աստուածածնին զերանելի պատկերն՝ ունելով ի գիրկս զտղայացեալ Աստուածն մեր՝ որ էր ի տախտակի նկարեալ ի վանսն որ կոչի Միասինոն, ընկեցին ի ծովակն որ կոչի Ղազարու (?)։ A l’époque des iconoclastes, on jeta dans le lac dit Zagourou [sic] la bienheureuse image de l’immaculé mère de Dieu, tenant dans ses bras notre Dieu comme enfant, [image] peinte sur bois et qui se trouvait au couvent dit Miasinon.

Որ եւ զբազոմ ժամանակս անդէն անփուտ պահեցաւ տախտակն, եւ անապական ի նմին՝ դիւրաջինջ նկար դեղոց։ Le bois s’y conserva incorruptible pendant de longues années, et les couleurs délicates n’eurent à souffrir aucune détérioration.


Ի սոյն յիշատակ է սրբուհւոյն Մարթայի մօր երանելւոյն Սիմէոնի՝ որ է բարեշնորհ։ En ce jour commémoration de sainte Marthe, mère du bienheureux Siméon, qui est rempli de grâces.


Յայսմ աւու յիշատակ Կեսարիա կապադովկեցւոց Ղունկիանոսի զինուորի եւ վկայի, զորմէ ասի թէ նա էր որ եբաց գեղարդեամբ զկողս Տեառն ի խաչին եւ յետոյ մկրտեցաւ յառաքելոցն. En ce jour, commémoration, en Césarée de Cappadoce, du soldat et martyr Longinos, duquel on dit que ce fut lui qui perça de sa lance le côté du Seigneur sur la Croix, et qu’il fut baptisé ensuite par les apôtres.

եւ մերձ ի կապպադովկիա սրբութեամբ կենցաղավարելով եկաց։ Il vécut d’une sainte vie près de Cappadoce.

Յետոյ եղեւ ի յՕքտաւիդիս դատաւորէ եւ վասն խոստավանութեամ հաւատոցն հատաւ լեզուն եւ կորզեցան ատամունքն եւ սրով հատաւ գլուխն։ Il fut ensuite saisi par le juge Octavidis et pour avoir confessé la foi on lui coupa la langue, on lui arracha les dents et on lui trancha la tête avec la glaive.


Եւ էր Ռուփինա յղի։ Rufina était enceinte.

Եւ հարցեալ քննէր զնոսա եւ նոքա խոստովանեցան համարձակութեամբ զանունն Քրիստոսի։ Le juge les interrogea et ils confessèrent avec hardiesse le nom du Christ.

Եւ բարեպաշտին Ռուփինայ լցան աւուրք յղութեանն եւ ծնաւ ի բանդին արու մանուկ Quant à la pieuse Rufina, les jours de sa grossesse s’étant accomplis, elle mit au monde, dans la prison, un garçon.


Եւ մինչեւ զարգացաւ մանուկն ետ զնա ի դպրոց եւ ուսաւ գիր Lorsque l’enfant grandit, elle l’envoya à l’école et il y apprit les lettres.

եւ ձաղկեցին դահիճքն եւ այրեցին հրով զմարմինն. Les bourreaux le flagellèrent et brûlèrent son corps au feu:

եւ տարան ի ծովն եւ կապեցին ծանր կապար ի պարանոց նորա, եւ կամեցան ընկղմել զնա ի ծովն, ils l’amenèrent à la mer, attachèrent à son cou du plomb lourd, et voulurent le noyer dans la mer,

եւ հրեշտակ Տեառն կորզեաց զնա ի դահճացն, եւ եհան զնա ի մերձակայ լեառն Կեսարու։ mais l’ange du Seigneur le délivra des bourreaux, et le conduisit sur la montagne qui se trouvait près de Césarée.

Եւ ժողովէին առ նա երէք վայրիք եւ յորժամ ընթեռնոյր զաւետարանն երկիր պագանէին ամենայն կենդանիքն։ Les animaux sauvages s’assemblaient de lui et lorsqu’il lisait l’évangile tous ces animaux se prosternaient.


Եւ կթէր զեղունսն եւ առնէր պանիր եւ բաշխէր աղքասաց եւ որբոց հրամանաւն Աստուծոյ։ Il trayait les biches, fabriquait du fromage et le distribuait aux pauvres et aux orphelins sur l’ordre de Dieu.

Եւ աղաւնի բերէր նմա կերակուր. եւ նա տայր եւ այլ կապելոցն որ էին ի բանդին։ Une colombe lui apportait sa nourriture: il en distribuait aux autres détenus dans la prison.

Եւ բերին այլ առիւծ ահաւոր, զայն որ մինչ ի լերինն էր գնաց առ նա, On introduisit un autre lion terrible, celui qui était allé vers lui lorsqu’il était sur la montagne.

եւ տեսեալ առիւծուն ծանեաւ զերանելին եւ երթեալ երկիր եպագ նմա եւ խօսեցաւ մարդկային բարբառով եւ յանդիմանեաց զամպարշտութիւն դատաւորին. Le lion l’ayant aperçu, reconnut le bienheureux et se prosterna devant lui et parlant le langage humain, reprocha au juge son impiété:

եւ զբաբումս ի կռապատիցն սատակեաց. եւ ինքն գնաց ի տելի իւր։ il tua beaucoup d’idolâtres, et retourna à sa place.

Եւ ըմբիշ մի երեքժանի սուսերաւ եհար զսուրբն։ Un athlète armé d’un trident aigu en frappa le saint.


հեղոյր ի մարմնոյ նորա արիւնն որպէս աղբիւր։ … le sang coulait de son corps comme une fontaine.

Եւ ելեալ ի վերայ վիմի օրհնեաց զԱստուած Il monta sur un rocher, bénit Dieu…

եւ այնպէս աւանդեաց զհոգին իւր ի ձերս Աստուծոյ։ … il rendit ainsi son âme entre les mains de Dieu.

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