“Evil head!” A term addressed to martyrs in hagiographic literature   2 comments

While perusing the Armenian synaxarion over the weekend, I came across an expression that I remembered seeing in a Syriac text that I edited a few years ago. In the Syriac Martyrdom of Theonilla (my edition and translation, in Analecta Bollandiana 128 [2010]: 312-328, are available here), § 9, when they are trying to get Theonilla to renounce Christianity, they say to her, lā tpakknin, qarqaptā bištā!, which I translated as “Stop chattering, wretch!” and in a note on “wretch” I indicated the literal meaning, “evil head”, and I pointed to Hoffmann’s Iulianos der Abtruennige: Syrische Erzaehlungen (Leiden, 1880), 82.12, which is cited by both Brockelmann and Payne Smith, s.v. qarqaptā. I also cited the similar expression ὦ κακὴ κεφαλή from the Martyrdom of Domnina (Lackner, “Eine unedierte griechische Passion der kilikischen Märtyrin Domnina,” AB 90 [1972]: 241-259, here p. 254, § 4). In the Armenian synaxarion reading that commemorates Fausta on Mehekan 8/Feb 14 (PO 21: 39-42; for the Greek synaxarion, see Feb 6 here, and further BHG 658 [mainly catal. references]), this same expression occurs twice, again with the “bad guys” using it to address a Christian martyr-to-be, here the recently converted Evilasius.

Եւ առաքեաց զեպարքոսն Մաքսիմիանոս ի Կիզիկոն, եւ երթեալ հարցանէր ընդ Եւիլասիոս. Ով չարագլուխ, ո՞րպէս իշխեցեր թեթեւացուցանել զաստուածսն մեր, եւ լինել քրիստանեայ։ (40.15-17)

He [the emperor] sent the eparch Maximianus to Cyzicus and [the latter], having arrived, was questioning Evilasius, “You evil head, how have you dared to think lightly of our gods and to become a Christian?”

And not many lines later Maximianus addresses Fausta herself with the title, this time with a preceding adjective:

Կոչեաց եպարկոսն զՓաւստեա եւ ասէ. Ով փոքրիկ չարագլուխ, ո՞րպէս իշխեցեր զայնպիսի մեծ իշխան թագաւորին եւ զաստուածոց քահանայն կորզել ի մէնջ եւ մատուցանել Աստուծոյն քոյ։ (41.6-8)

The eparch called Fausta and said, “You little evil head, how have you dared to snatch from us such a great prince of the emperor and priest of the gods [i.e. Evilasius] and to offer him to your god?”

The Armenian word (չարագլուխ) is a compound, and it does show up in Bedrosian’s dictionary (582a), with the meaning “malignant, malevolent,” etc. There are terms of abuse in English (and other languages) with the suffix -head and -skull (blockhead, numbskull, etc.), but I know of nothing quite like “evil head”. This expression almost certainly appears in other hagiographic tales (and elsewhere?), in these and other languages. If you know of or come across any, please note them in the comments.

UPDATE Feb 17, 2015. I mentioned the Greek ὦ κακὴ κεφαλή above. A quick search in TLG reveals its occurrence in a few other martyrdom texts (there are, of course, many such texts not yet in TLG), but also four times in Aesop’s fables; Dem. De falsa leg. 313; Nicolaus, Frag. 10.56 (see FHG 3, pp. 348‑464); twice in Plutarch (Alexander 9.8.2, 51.1.2); six times in Libanius (Decl. 12.2.25.2, 12.2.32.2; Prog. 7.1.26.4, 7.3.21.2, 7.4.12.1, 7.4.17.1); and Achilles Tatius, Leucippe et Clitophon 5.17.8.3. (This list is not exhaustive.) The expression is especially used in questions. In his epigrams to the Bible (Luke 250a, on Lk 22:31), Theodore Prodromos uses this vocative expression to address Satan, and finally, here is a memorable curse from the Scholia to Lucian’s Μυίας ἐγκώμιον (§ 7): ἀλλ’ ἔρρ’ ἐς μυίας καὶ σκώληκας, κακὴ κεφαλή. “To flies and worms with you, evil head!” (Ἔρρε, with or without qualifiers, is used this way.)

Advertisements

2 responses to ““Evil head!” A term addressed to martyrs in hagiographic literature

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Dear Adam,
    The Nor Baṙgirk‘ II:564 gives a few references for the use of չարագլուխ in other Armenian lives as well as in Step‘annos Ōrbēlian’s History and Grigor Tat‘ewac‘i’s Oskep‘orik.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: