Archive for September 2015
The text this time is longer than others in the series, but here is the whole of Physiologus § 13 in Georgian. The Georgian version was published by Marr (in asomtavruli, with Armenian) and later by Gigineišvili and E. Giunašvili. For the Armenian version, published alongside Greek, see Muradyan. Generally on this very widespread work, see here. Alin Suciu has written on a use of the Physiologus in a Coptic lectionary here.
In addition to vocabulary and a few grammatical notes, below I’ve included Graf’s German translation (pp. 100-101).
Gigineišvili, B. and E. Giunašvili, შატბერდის კრებული X საუკუნისა / Шатбердский сборник X века (Tbilisi, 1979), pp. 175-190 (§ 13 on p. 180). Available at TITUS here.
Graf, G. 1925. “Der georgische Physiologus.” Caucasica 2: 93–114.
Marr, N. 1904. Физиолог. Армяно-грузинский извод. Грузинский и армянский тексты, исследование, издание и перевод. Издания факультета восточных языков Императорского Санкт-Петербургского университета 6. Tbilisi.
Muradyan, G., Physiologus: The Greek and Armenian Versions with a Study of Translation Technique, Hebrew University Armenian Studies 6 (Louvain, 2005). See here.
In addition, I refer a couple of times below to Gerhard Deeters, Das Kharthwelische Verbum (Leipzig, 1930), where the text of the Physiologus fortunately served for examples.
Text and notes
Here’s an image of Marr’s text:
Marr 1904, pp. 16-17
კეთილად ჰრქ(უ)ა იოვანე ფარისეველთა.
Gut sprach Johannes zu den Pharisäern:
„ნაშობნო ასპიტთანო. ვინ გიჩოჳენა თქ(უე)ნ სივლტოლაჲ რისხვისაჲ. რ(ომელ)ი მოსლვად არს‟.
„Natternbrut! Wer hat euch gezeigt, dem Zorne zu entrinnen, der kommen wird?‟
- ნაშობი born, child
- ასპიტი viper (ἀσπίς)
- გ-ი-ჩოჳენ-ა aor 3sg O2 ჩუენება to show, reveal
- სივლტოლაჲ to flee
- რისხვაჲ wrath
- მოსლვაჲ to come
სახის-მეტყოჳელმან თქ(უ)ა. ასპიტისაჲ.
Der Naturbeschreiber sprach von der Natter:
- სახის-მეტყოჳელი (physiologus) discoverer, investigator (სახეჲ nature + მეტყუელი speaker)
რ(ა)ჟ(ამ)ს მამალი შეეხის დედალსა. პირით მაკნდის. და დედალმან რ(ა)ჟ(ამ)ს შთანთქის თესლი იგი. საოჳრველნი მოჰკოჳეთნის მამალსა მას და განაშოვრნის
Wenn das Männchen das Weibchen berührt, wird dieses durch den Mund trächtig, und wenn das Weibchen den Samen verschlingt, schneidet es dem Männchen die Geschlechtsteile weg und trennt (sie) ab.
- მამალი male
- შე-ე-ხ-ი-ს iter aor 3sg შეხება to touch
- დედალი female
- პირი mouth
- მაკნ-დ-ი-ს iter aor 3sg მაკნება to get pregnant (cf. Fähnrich, Georg. Spr., pp. 242, 248-255 for the -დ- in the aor of this kind of verb)
- შთა-ნთქ-ი-ს iter aor 3sg შთანთქმა to swallow, gulp
- თესლი seed
- საოჳრველი testicle
- მო-ჰ-კოჳეთ-ნ-ის მოკუეთა to cut off (cf. Mt 5:30 Ad მოიკუეთე იგი)
- გან-ა-შოვრ-ნ-ის iter aor 3sg N განშოვრება to remove, eliminate
რ(ა)ჟ(ამ)ს ჰგონიენ მამალსა მას თოჳ შეეხო დედალსა მას. მოჳნქოჳესვე მოკოჳდის მამალი იგი. სიკოჳდილის წინა მრავალჯერ მივიდის. მოვიდის დედლისა მის. და რ(ამეთუ) ვერ დაოჳთმის შეეხის დედალსა [p. 17] მას და მოკოჳდის.
Indem das Männchen wohl weiß: Sobald es das Weibchen berührt, daraufhin stirbt es — so geht und kommt das Männchen vor dem Tode oftmals zu dem Weibchen, und weil es nicht ausharrt, berührt es das Weibchen und stirbt.
- ჰ-გონ-იენ perf 3sg გონება to think, to seem to (indirect verb) (on the form of the verb, cf. Deeters, § 93, where this very sentence is cited, along with the plural ჰგონიედ, from Keimena I 31.29)
- შე-ე-ხ-ო aor 3sg შეხება to touch
- მოჳნქოჳეს-ვე quickly, immediately
- მო-კოჳდ-ი-ს aor iter 3sg მოკუდომა to die
- სიკოჳდილი death
- მრავალჯერ often, frequently
- მი-ვიდ-ი-ს aor iter 3sg მისლვა to go
- მო-ვიდ-ი-ს aor iter 3sg მოსლვა to come
- და-ოჳ-თმ-ი-ს aor iter 3sg დათმობა to be patient
ხოლო დედალსა მას, რამეთუ არა ადგნ მუცელი, რაჲთა-მცა მართუენი იტჳრთნა, რაჟამს აღორძნდიან ლეკუნი იგი, განჴურიტნიან გუერდნი დედისა თჳსისანი და გამოჴდიან და მოკლიან დედაჲ იგი თჳსი და ესრეთ მამა-დედისა მჭამელ არიან.
Aber das Weibchen — weil es keinen Bauch hat, damit es die Jungen trage, — wenn die Jungen wachsen, durchstoßen sie die Seiten ihrer Mutter und töten ihre Mutter, und so sind sie die Verzehrer der Eltern.
- ა-დგ-ნ pres 3sg დგმა to have (see Deeters, § 204, p. 118, where this line is quoted)
- მუცელი belly
- მართუეჲ young (of animals)
- ი-ტჳრთ-ნ-ა aor 3sg ტჳრთვა to bear, raise
- აღ-ორძნ-დ-ი-ან aor iter 3pl აღორძინება to grow
- ლეკუი young animal
- გან-ჴურიტ-ნ-ი-ან aor iter 3pl N განჴურეტა to pierce, bore through
- გუერდი side
- გამო-ჴდ-ი-ან aor iter 3pl გამოჴდომა to come out
- მო-კლ-ი-ან aor iter 3pl მოკლვა to kill
- მამა-დედაჲ father-mother > parents (a dvandva compound)
- მჭამელ eater, consumer
კეთილად ამსგავსნა ფარისეველნი ასპიტთა:
Gut hat er die Pharisäer mit Nattern verglichen.
- ა-მსგავს-ნ-ა aor 3sg N მსგავსება to compare (cf. Lk 13:20 A-89 რასა ხოჳამსგავსო სასოჳფეველი ღ(მრთისა)ჲ τίνι ὁμοιώσω τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ;)
ვითარცა-სახედ ასპიტმან მამა-დედაჲ მოკლის, ეგრე-ცა ფარისეველთა — მამაჲ საგონებელი, მამაჲ და დედაჲ თჳსი, მაცხოვარი ჩუენი იესუ ქრისტჱ და ეკლესიაჲ. რაჲთა აღესრულოს სივლტოლაჲ რისხვისაჲ მის, რომელი მოსლვად არს?
Gleichwie die Natter die Eltern tötet, so auch die Pharisäer den geistigen Vater, ihren Vater und ihre Mutter, unseren Erlöser Jesus Christus und die Kirche, auf daß erfüllt wird: „zu entrinnen seinem Zorne, der kommen wird‟.
- მოკლის aor iter 3sg მოკლვა to kill
- საგონებელი conceivable
- მაცხოვარი savior
- აღ-ე-სრულ-ო-ს aor conj 3sg აღსრულება to fulfill
ხოლო მამაჲ იგი მათი და დედაჲ მათი ცხოველ არიან უკუნისამდე და იგინი მოწყდეს საუკუნოდ.
Aber ihr Vater und ihre Mutter sind lebend, ewig; und sie (die Pharisäer) kamen um auf ewig.
- ცხოველი living
- უკუნისამდე forever (უკუნი eternity + postposition -მდე until)
- მო-წყდ-ეს aor 3pl მოწყდომა to die out, go extinct, go to waste
- საუკუნოდ evermore (adv of საუკუნოჲ eternal)
CFMM 167 and 165 (in that order) are two small notebooks from the late 19th or early 20th century. There is no explicit date, nor did the scribe give a name, but the writing is very clear. Included in the collection are some of Jacob of Serugh’s homilies against the Jews (№№ 1-5, 7, so numbered); this cycle of homilies was edited by Micheline Albert, Jacques de Saroug. Homélies contre les Juifs, PO 38. There are also a few other homilies, the most important of which are the first four copied in CFMM 167, all of which have never been published, although they are known from the Dam. Patr. manuscripts and from Assemani’s list of homilies in Bibliotheca Orientalis I: pp. 325-326, no. 174 = the second hom. below. (For a list of incipits of Jacob’s homilies, see Brock in vol. 6 of the Gorgias edition of Bedjan, The Homilies of Mar Jacob of Sarug, , pp. 372-398.)
CFMM 167, p. 22
pp. 1-22 Memra on the Faith, 6
- Syriac title ܡܐܡܪܐ ܕܫܬܐ ܕܥܠ ܗܝܡܢܘܬܐ
- Incipit ܐܚ̈ܝ ܢܥܪܘܩ ܡܢ ܟܣܝ̈ܬܐ ܕܠܐ ܡܬܒܨ̈ܝܢ
pp. 22-56, Memra on the Faith, 7, in which he Talks about the Iron that Enters the Fire and does not Lose its Nature
- Syriac title ܡܐܡܪܐ ܕܫܒܥܐ ܕܥܠ ܗܝܡܢܘܬܐ ܕܒܗ ܐܡܪ ܥܠ ܦܪܙܠܐ ܕܥܐܠ ܠܢܘܪܐ ܘܠܐ ܡܘܒܕ ܟܝܢܗ
- Incipit ܒܪܐ ܕܒܡܘܬܗ ܐܚܝ ܠܡܝ̈ܬܐ ܘܙܕܩ ܚܝ̈ܐ
pp. 56-72, Memra on the Faith, in which He Teaches that the Way of Christ Cannot be Investigated
- Syriac title ܡܐܡܪܐ ܕܥܠ ܗܝܡܢܘܬܐ ܕܒܗ ܡܘܕܥ ܥܠ ܐܘܪܚܗ ܕܡܫܝܚܐ ܕܠܐ ܡܬܒܨܝܐ
- Incipit ܐܝܟ ܕܠܫܘܒܚܟ ܐܙܝܥ ܒܝ ܡܪܝ ܩܠܐ ܪܡܐ
pp. 72-68bis, Memra on the Faith, 10
- Syriac title ܡܐܡܪܐ ܕܥܣܪܐ ܕܥܠ ܗܝܡܢܘܬܐ
- Incipit ܢܫܠܘܢ ܣܦܪ̈ܐ ܡܢ ܥܘܩܒܗ ܕܒܪ ܐܠܗܐ
As a special treat, here is the cover of this manuscript, with a 19th-cent. image of the Golden Horn (Turkish Haliç) and the Unkapanı Bridge (see now Atatürk Bridge):
Front cover of CFMM 167
The Turkish beneath the French is roughly Haliç Dersaadet manzarından Unkapanı köprüsü. Dersaadet is one of the old names of Istanbul.
One of the pleasures of cataloging manuscripts is learning about authors and texts that are relatively little known. One such Syriac author is Athanasios (Abū Ġalib) of Ǧayḥān (Ceyhan). Two fifteenth-century manuscripts, CFMM 417 and 418, which I have recently cataloged, each contain different texts attributed to him. Barsoum surveys his life and work briefly in Scattered Pearls (pp. 441-442), and prior to that Vosté wrote an article on him; more recently Vööbus and Carmen Fotescu Tauwinkl have further reported on him. (See the bibliography below; I have not seen all of these resources.) According to Barsoum, he died in 1177 at over 80 years old. As far as I know, none of his work has been published.
The place name associated with this author is the Turkish Ceyhan. The Syriac spelling of the place in the Gazetteer has gyḥʾn, but in both of these manuscripts it is gyḥn. The former is probably an imitation of the Arabic-script spelling, while the form without ālap in the manuscripts still indicates ā in the second syllable by means of an assumed zqāpā.
Now for the CFMM texts.
CFMM 417, pp. 465-466
An untitled monastic selection. These two pages make up the whole of this short text. As you can see, it follows something from Isaac of Nineveh, and it precedes Ps.-Evagrius, On the Perfect and the Just (CPG 2465 = Hom. 14 of the Liber Graduum). The manuscript is dated March, 1785 AG (= 1474 CE).
CFMM, p. 465
CFMM 417, p. 466
CFMM 418, ff. 235v-243v
Excerpts “from his teaching”. Here are the first and last pages of the text. This longer text follows Isaac of Nineveh’s Letter on how Satan Takes Pains to Remove the Diligent from Silence (ff. 223v-235v, Eggartā ʿal hāy d-aykannā metparras Sāṭānā la-mbaṭṭālu la-ḥpiṭē men šelyā) and precedes some Profitable Sayings attributed to Isaac. This manuscript — written by more than one scribe, but at about the same time, it seems — is dated on f. 277v with the year 1482, but the 14- is to be read 17-, so we have 1782 AG (= 1470/1 CE; cf. Vööbus, Handschriftliche Überlieferung der Mēmrē-Dichtung des Jaʿqōb von Serūg, III 97).
CFMM 418, f. 235v
CFMM 418, f. 243v
Tauwinkl, Carmen Fotescu, “Abū Ghālib, an Unknown West Syrian Spiritual Author of the XIIth Century”, Parole de l’Orient 36 (2010): 277-284.
Tauwinkl, Carmen Fotescu, “A Spiritual Author in 12th Century Upper Mesopotamia: Abū Ghālib and his Treatise on Monastic Life”, Pages 75-93 in The Syriac Renaissance. Edited by Teule, Herman G.B. and Tauwinkl, Carmen Fotescu and ter Haar Romeny, Robert Bas and van Ginkel, Jan. Eastern Christian Studies 9. Leuven / Paris / Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2010.
Vööbus, Arthur, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient: A Contribution to the History of Culture in the Near East, III, CSCO 500, Subs. 81. Louvain: Secrétariat du CorpusSCO, 1988, pp. 407-410.
Vööbus, Arthur, “Important Discoveries for the History of Syrian Mysticism: New Manuscript Sources for Athanasius Abû Ghalîb”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 35:4 (1976): 269-270.
Vosté, Jacques Marie, “Athanasios Aboughaleb, évêque de Gihân en Cilicie, écrivain ascétique du XIIe siècle”, Revue de l’Orient chrétien III, 6  (1927-1928): 432-438. Available here.
Some time ago I shared some excerpts in English translation from the Syriac version of the Martyrdom of Christopher. One of my favorite aspects of hagiographic study is the fact that so many texts are available in some form or other in more than one language (an aspect investigated by Paul Peeters and others): translators active in the languages of the Christian east spared little effort in effectively broadcasting these versions across the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, in Africa as far as Nubia and Ethiopia, at least, and along the Silk Road further east (in Syriac, Sogdian, and other languages). An incomplete picture of this translation activity can be seen in the outdated but still essential Bibliotheca hagiographica orientalis (1910), incomplete because of its age, because it reflects only published (as opposed to manuscript) resources, and because not all languages were included, the almost complete absence of Georgian being especially noteworthy. (See the bibliography I am compiling here.) These translated texts offer readers a lot to compare, whether in terms of content — how are the versions different or the same, for example, and why? — or in terms of specific linguistic categories, i.e. within the study of translation technique. Editions and studies of hagiographic text materials often take place along the lines of a single language (whether the original or a translation), less frequently with texts in two languages, but a great many hagiographic texts offer the possibility and promise of multilingual synoptic editions.
That said, nothing so grand here and now: without going into detail about the possible textual relationships of the versions of this story, here is only a short look at an Armenian and Georgian version of the martyrdom-tale, with a bit on Old English at the end. What follows is a single paragraph from the beginning about the saint’s appearance, origins, and first impulse towards martyrdom; the text is from Kekelidze’s edition of the Christopher tale (§ 2) from manuscript Tbilisi A-95, which is thankfully available electronically at TITUS here, along with bitonal, and unfortunately quite small, images of the manuscript itself. Even a quick comparison with the published Greek text (ed. G. van Hooff in the very first issue of AB , this part on pp. 122-123) shows that an exact alignment of the two is impossible, and so, too, with the Armenian (here in Վարք եւ վկայաբանւթիւնք, vol. 2; “dog-headed” in Armenian is շանագլուխ, in case you’re wondering). Here are the beginnings of the aforementioned Armenian and Georgian texts with English translation and, for students of those languages, some lexical and grammatical notes. For comparison, note these synaxarion-readings: Arm. in PO 21: 429-433; Arab. in PO 16: 278-280; Gǝʿǝz in PO 46: 490-493.
Եւ էր այր մի Շանագլուխ, գտեալ զնա կոմսի մի ի պատերազնի, եւ ած զնա առ թագաւորն եւ զինուորեցոյց զնա ընդ զօրս իւր. որոյ անուն էր Մարգարիտ։ Եւ տեսեալ զգործս ամպարըշտութեանն՝ խռովէր, եւ շարժեալ սիրտ նորա ի շնորհաց սուրբ Հոգւոյն՝ աղաչէր զԱստուած լինել ձեռնտու եւ օգնական յամենայնի, զի համարձակեսցի խօսել զբանն կենաց նովին բարբառով եւ լեզուաւ, եւ ոչ էր տեղեակ լեզուին։
There was a dog-headed man, whom a count, after having found him in battle, brought him to the king and enlisted him in his army, the name of which was Margarit [Greek ἐν τῷ νουμέρῳ τῶν μαρμαριτῶν]. Having seen the works of wickedness [there], [the dog-headed man] was troubled, and his heart having been moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, he would ask God to be favorable and assisting in everything, that he might be permitted to speak the word of life with the same language and speech, and he was not skilled in speech.
- գտեալ root ptcp գտանեմ to find
- կոմէս, կոմսի count (< Gr.)
- պատերազն, -ի, -ունք, -աց war, battle, fight, combat
- ած aor 3sg ածեմ, ածի to lead, bring
- զինուորեցոյց aor 3sg զինուորեցուցանեմ, -ուցի to enlist, train as a soldier, arm (analogous to ցուցանեմ to show [aor 1sg ցուցի, 3sg եցոյց], ուսուցանեմ to teach [aor 1sg ուսուցի, 3sg ուսոյց]) (for the root, cf. ultimately Middle Persian zēn, also Aramaic zēnā/zaynā, “weapon”)
- զօր, -ու, -աց army
- տեսեալ root ptcp տեսանեմ, տեսի to see
- գործ, -ոյ work, thing, matter, action
- ամպարըշտութիւն (ամբարշտութիւն) impiety, ungodliness, wickedness
- խռովէր impf 3sg խռովեմ, -եցի to trouble, vex, disturb (here passive)
- շարժեալ root ptcp շարժեմ, -եցի to move, agitate
- սիրտ, սրտից heart
- շնորհ, -ի, -ք, -աց grace, favor, pardon, mercy
- աղաչէր impf 3sg աղաչեմ, -եցի to implore, ask
- լինել inf. լինիմ to become
- ձեռնտու helping, aiding, favorable
- օգնական assisting, aiding
- համարձակեսցի aor subj m/p 3sg համարձակեմ, -եցի to embolden; permit, allow
- խօսել inf խօսիմ, -եցայ to speak, talk
- բան, -ից speech, word, discourse
- կեանք, կենաց life
- նովին inst sg նոյն the same, the very
- բարբառ, -ոյ speech, voice, language, dialect; cry; sound
- լեզու, -ի/-ոյ, -աց tongue, language, speech
- տեղեակ skilled, expert, well-versed
იყო ვინმე კაცი მდაბალი და მოშიში ღმრთისაჲ. უცხოთესლთა ნათესავი, და ძაღლის-თავი იყო იგი. რამეთუ იყო იგი სოფლისაგან კაცის-მჭამელთაჲსა ტყუედ მოყვანებული გუნდისა ერთისაგან; და იქცეოდა იგი წინაშე მეფისა, და ნაქმევსა პირისა მისისასა შესცხრებიან. ხოლო ხედვიდა იგი დაჭრასა მას ქრისტიანეთასა და დევნასა ეკლესიათასა. და რამეთუ არა იცოდა მან ჩუენებრი სიტყუაჲ, ამისთჳს ფრიად და მწრაფლ მას-ცა ეგულებოდა მარტჳლობაჲ და ღუაწლი ქრისტჱსათჳს.
There was a certain man, humble and God-fearing, of barbarian stock, and he was dog-headed, since he was from the region of cannibals, brought as a prisoner from a troop. He would spend time before the king, and they enjoyed looking on the appearance of his face. But he noticed with concern the injury being done to the Christians and the persecution of the churches. Since he did not know speech like ours, for this reason he was greatly and quickly desiring martyrdom and a struggle for Christ.
- მდაბალი humble
- უცხოთესლი barbarian
- ნათესავი relative, related
- ძაღლი dog
- მჭამელი eating (კაცის-მჭამელი man-eating, cannibal)
- ტყუეჲ prisoner
- მოყვანებული brought
- გუნდი troop (cf. Middle Persian gund, Armenian գունդ, Aramaic gundā; see Jeffery, Foreign Vocabulary of the Qurʾān, 104-105, and more briefly, Fraenkel, Die aramäischen Fremdwörter im Arabischen, 238-239)
- ი-ქც-ე-ოდ-ა impf 3sg ქცევა to go, move, walk around
- ნაქმევი form, appearance
- პირი face, mouth
- შე-ს-ცხრ-ებ-ი-ან pres 3pl O3 შეცხრომა to take pleasure in, look on fondly
- ხედ-ვ-იდ-ა impf 3sg ხედვა to see, care for, look after
- დაჭრაჲ cutting, hurting
- დევნაჲ persecution
- იცოდა impf 3sg “to know”. An irregular verb, it takes, not only in the aor (3sg იცნა), but also in the impf (as here), subjects in the ergative and objects in the nominative. (This particular irregularity, manifest as such in assuming იცოდა is Series I — it thus being peculiar in having an ergative subject — points to this verb’s complex history, one in which the ending -ოდა has caused a Series II form to be taken as Series I [imperfect].)
- მწრაფლ quick
- ე-გულებ-ოდ-ა impf 3sg (indirect verb) გულება to wish, want
- მარტჳლობაჲ martyrdom (also მარტჳრობაჲ < μάρτυς)
- ღუაწლი struggle
Finally, and for fun, here is mention of dog-headed people, this time in Egypt, in The Wonders of the East in the famous Old English manuscript, Cotton MS Vitellius A XV, f. 100r (see here), presented essentially as in the manuscript, with a few vocabulary items.
Eac swẏlce þær beoð cende
healf hundingas ða syndon
hatene conopenas hẏ hab-
bað horses mana & eoferes
tuxas & hunda heafda & heo-
ra oruð bið swẏlce fẏres leg
þas land beoð neah ðæm bur-
gu(m) þe beoð eallum worldwe-
lum gefylled þ(æt) is on þa suðhealfe egẏpta-
- cennan give birth
- healf-hunding cynocephalus
- syndon = sind are
- hātan to call, name
- eofor wild board (cf. L. aper)
- tux = tusc (NB the variability of cs [x] and sc)
- oroþ breath
- līg, lēg flame
- weorld-wela worldly wealth
BL, Cotton Vitell. A XV, f. 100r
Note that immediately preceding this text is a life of Saint Christopher (ff. 94r-98r; mod. ET here), but it is acephalous (pun intended), and Christopher’s dog-head is not mentioned, it seems, but in the Old English Martyrology (April 28; pp. 66-69 in Herzfeld’s ed.), we find the description on Christopher as above (and as in Syriac), and with vocabulary similar to that of the passage in The Wonders of the East. Herzfeld’s text and modern ET):
…of þære þeode þær men habbað hunda heofod ond of þære eorðan on þære æton men hi selfe. he hæfde hundes heofod, ond his loccas wæron ofer gemet side, ond his eagan scinon swa leohte swa morgensteorra, ond his teð wæron swa scearpe swa eofores tuxas. he wæs gode geleaffull on his heortan, ac he ne mihte sprecan swa mon.
…from the nation where men have the head of a dog and from the country where men devour each other. He had the head of a dog, his locks were exceedingly thick, his eyes shone as brightly as the morning star, and his teeth were as sharp as a boar’s tusk. In his heart he believed in God, but he could not speak like a man.
(Apologia: Some background on the writing of this post. I wrote most of this post and translated the text when under the impression that there was not yet any English translation of it. I had stumbled upon Nau’s article while perusing the Syriac contents of ROC at Aramaico. But on the day I was finishing up the post, I happened to be looking at something completely unrelated in The Hidden Pearl, vol. 2, and I found to my surprise that there was a partial translation of this text in English! (If I had noticed it there before, I’d forgotten.) It will be found there on p. 258. Even though the translation below is not, then, the first English witness to this interesting text, it is, I think, the first complete English translation, and so I have decided to go ahead and share it. Being freely accessible online, it may also bring word of this text to a broader audience, and the other remarks and the vocabulary list will perhaps be of interest and use to some readers.)
Some time ago I published and translated two related notes in Syriac on some meteorological events from the sixteenth century (see also a later weather report in Syriac here). It happens that a more momentous sixteenth-century cosmic event, complete with a plague, was also recorded in Syriac: the Great Comet of 1577. The industrious François Nau first brought attention to the text with his publication and FT in his “Une description orientale de la comête de novembre de 1577,” ROC 27 (1929-1930): 212-214 (available here). Below I give the Syriac text, which is written in rhymed prose, followed by an English translation (which is not in rhymed prose!).
Comets are discussed here and there in Syriac cosmological literature. For example, in the Syriac version of the De Mundo, Sergius of Rēšʿaynā simply uses the Greek word (qwmṭʾ, qwmṭs; see McCollum, A Greek and Syriac Index to Sergius of Reshaina’s Version of the De Mundo, p. 104). Similar to the term below, Jacob bar Shakko has kawkbē ṣuṣyānāyē (see F. Nau, “Notice sur le livre des trésors de Jacques de Bartela, Évèque de Tagrit,” Journal Asiatique, 9th series, 7 (1896): 286-331, here 328). Similar is Bar ʿEbrāyā’s language in his “Book of Meteorology” in the Butyrum Sapientiae; see H. Takahashi, Aristotelian Meteorology in Syriac, pp. 148-149, 190-191. Via Bar ʿEbrāyā, too, we have the same terminology in a Syriac fragment based on “Ptolemy’s” Liber fructus; the fragment begins, āmar gēr Pṭolomos ba-ktābēh haw d-asṭrologia pērā qrāy(hy) (see F. Nau, “Un fragment syriaque de l’ouvrage astrologique de Claude Ptolémée intitulé le livre du fruit,” ROC 28 (1931-1932): 197-202, avail. here). (See further Payne Smith, Thes. Syr. col. 3382.)
Syriac text from ROC 27, p. 213
The events here are dated beginning in Tišrin II, 1889 AG, which corresponds to November, 1577 CE. The plague at the end of the text is dated throughout the years 1890-1893 AG (= 1578/9-1581/2 CE).
In the year 1889 of Alexander, Greek king,
A marvelous comet appeared in the west.
On Friday, the 8th of the month Tišrin II,
We saw a wonder that we had never before heard of,
And its cometness was not like the light of stars,
[Nor] as the tails [of comets] that people had seen in various generations:
No, it was a marvel full of wonder and a marvel of marvels.
It lasted and continued about fifty days.
The size of its tail was undoubtedly thirty cubits,
And its width was surely about two of our spans.
The color of its tail was like the color of the sun, which crosses our houses.
From the windows praise the Lord forever!
And in the year 1890 [AG], in the next year, a plague occurred
In Gāzrat Zabday, and numberless people died,
Also in Amid, Mosul, and in every city and every province:
[It lasted] a year, two, three, and four, each and every year.
For students of Syriac, here is a running list of vocabulary to the text:
ṣuṣyānāyā lock-like, having locks (of hair) < ṣuṣitā lock of hair (cf. “comet” κομήτης < κόμη)
dummārā marvel, wonder
sbh D to liken (here pass. ptcp)
te/ahrā wonder, miracle
puššākā uncertainty (d-lā puššākā certainly, undoubtedly)
zartā span (½ cubit)
gawnā (cstr ES gon, WS gwan; see Nöldeke § 98) color, manner
bāttayn pl of baytā + 1cp
kawwtā window (in BibAram Dan 6:11)
hepktā d-ša(n)tā the following year
mawtānā plague, pestilence
Gāzrat Zabday cf. Payne Smith, Thesaurus Syriacus, cols. 702-703; Wright, Cat. Syr. Brit. Mus., vol. 3, p. 1339)
šnā abs of ša(n)tā