The beginning of Nemesius of Emesa’s De natura hominis in Greek, Armenian, Georgian, Syriac, and Latin   2 comments

The name of the later fourth-century author and bishop Nemesius of Emesa may not often pass the lips even of those closely interested in late antique theology and philosophy, but his work On the Nature of Man (Περὶ φύσεως ἀνθρώπου, CPG II 3550), to judge by the evident translations of the work, attracted translators and readers in various languages. What follows are merely a few pointers to these translations and some related evidence in Greek, Armenian, Syriac, Georgian, and Latin (bibliography below), with renderings of the book’s incipit in the versions.

For Arabic, I don’t have any texts ready to hand, but with attribution to Gregory of Nyssa, Isḥāq b. Ḥunayn (d. 910/911) translated it into Arabic (GCAL I 319, II 130), and Abū ‘l-Fatḥ ʕabdallāh b. al-Faḍl (11th cent.) apparently writes in connection to the work in chs. 51-70 of his Kitāb al-manfaʕa al-kabīr (GCAL II 59). (Note also the latter’s translation and commentary to Basil’s Hexaemeron and its continuation by Gregory of Nyssa [GCAL II 56].)

Greek

Morani, Moreno, ed. Nemesii Emeseni De natura hominis. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana. Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1987.

Older ed. in PG 40 504-817.

(ed. Morani, as quoted in Zonta, 231):
Τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐκ ψυχῆς νοερᾶς καὶ σώματος ἄριστα κατεσκευασμένον

Armenian

See Thomson, Bibliography of Classical Armenian, 40. The Venice, 1889 ed. is available here.

title: Յաղագս բնութեան մարդոյ

Զմարգն ի հոգւոյ իմանալւոյ եւ ի մարմնոյ գեղեցիկ կազմեալ

  • մարդ, -ոց man, mortal, human being
  • իմանալի intelligible, perceptible; intelligent
  • մարմին, -մնոց body
  • գեղեցիկ, -ցկի, -ցկաց handsome, agreeable, proper, elegant, good
  • կազնեմ, -եցի to form, model, construct, arrange

Latin

C. Burkhard, ed. Nemesii Episcopi Premnon Physicon sive Περὶ φύσεως ἀνθρώπου Liber a N. Alfano Archiepiscopo Salerni in Latinum Translatus. Leipzig: Teubner, 1917. At archive.org here.

It was translated into Latin by Alfanus of Salerno (fl. 1058-1085), and in the Latin tradition it is known by the Greek title πρέμνον φυσικῶν, “the trunk of physical things”. This seems to be the usual title (spelled variously in Latin letters, of course), and a marginal note has “Nemesius episcopus graece fecit librum quem vocavit prennon phisicon id est stipes naturalium. hunc transtulit N. Alfanus archiepiscopus Salerni.” The text begins thus:

A multis et prudentibus viris confirmatum est hominem ex anima intellegibili et corpore tam bene compositum…

Georgian

Gorgadze. S. ნემესიოს ემესელი, ბუნებისათჳს კაცისა (იოანე პეტრიწის თარგმანი). Tbilisi, 1914. The text from this edition is at TITUS here.

The translation is that of the famous philosopher and translator Ioane Petrici (d. 1125; Tarchnishvili, Geschichte, 211-225).

კაცისა სულისა-გან გონიერისა და სხეულისა რჩეულად შემზადებაჲ

  • გონიერი wise, understanding
  • სხეული body
  • რჩეული choice, select
  • შემზადებაჲ preparation

Syriac

The witness to a Syriac translation is fragmentary. It has been studied by Zonta. The incipit of Nemesius’ work appears in two places, and differently.

1. from Timotheos I (d. 823), Letter 43, as given in Pognon, xvii:

ܥܩܒ  ܬܘܒ ܘܥܠ ܣܝܡܐ ܕܐܢܫ ܦܝܠܣܘܦܐ ܕܡܬܩܪܐ ܢܡܘܣܝܘܣ ܕܥܠ ܬܘܩܢܗ ܕܒܪܢܫܐ ܘܐܝܬܘܗܝ ܪܫܗ ܗܢܐ. ܒܪܢܫܐ ܡܢ ܢܦܫܐ ܡܬܝܕܥܢܝܬܐ ܘܦܓܪܐ ܛܒ ܫܦܝܪ ܡܬܩܢ
Brock’s ET (“Two Letters,” 237): “Search out for a work by a certain philosopher called Nemesius, on the structure of man, which begins: ‘Man is excellently constructed as a rational soul and body…’”

2. from Iwannis of Dara (fl. first half of 9th cent.), De anima, in Vat. Syr. 147, as given by Zonta, 231:

ܒܪܢܫܐ ܡܢ ܢܦܫܐ ܝܕܘܥܬܢܝܬܐ ܘܦܓܪܐ ܡܪܟܒ

Bibliography

(In addition to the already cited editions, etc.)

Brock, Sebastian P., ”Two Letters of the Patriarch Timothy from the Late Eighth Century on Translations from Greek”, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 9 (1999): 233-246.

Motta, Beatrice, ”Nemesius of Emesa”, Pages 509-518 in The Cambridge History of Philosophy in Late Antiquity. Edited by Gerson, Lloyd Phillip. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Pognon, Henri. Une version syriaque des aphorismes d’Hippocrate. Texte et traduction. Pt. 1, Texte syriaque. Leipzig, 1903.

Sharples, Robert W. and van der Eijk, Philip J., Nemesius. On the Nature of Man. Translated Texts for Historians 49. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008.

Zonta, Mauro, ”Nemesiana Syriaca: New Fragments from the Missing Syriac Version of the De Natura Hominis”, Journal of Semitic Studies 36:2 (1991): 223-258.

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2 responses to “The beginning of Nemesius of Emesa’s De natura hominis in Greek, Armenian, Georgian, Syriac, and Latin

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  1. The chapters you mention in Abdallah ibn al-Fadl al-Antaki’s Kitab al-Manfa’a are direct extracts from Hunayn’s translation, which he gives without attribution. He also quotes a large chunk of chapter 39 of Hunayn’s translation of Nemesius, attributing it to both Gregory of Nyssa and John of Damascus (who had also lifted it without attribution), in his Maqala fi ma’ani nafi’a lil-nafs, which was edited, poorly, by Sbath in his Vingt Traités and which I translated on a slightly wider manuscript base in Noble and Treiger, eds. The Orthodox Church in the Arab World- though I didn’t realize that he was using Hunayn until after the translation went to press.

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