Archive for the ‘Aleppo’ Category

Michael the Great on the Conversion of the Georgians   2 comments

Below is an English translation of Michael the Great‘s (d. 1199) short section on the conversion of the Iberians/Georgians. In the main he follows the narrative as in Rufinus‘ continuation of EusebiusEcclesiastical History and in Socrates, but not exactly. Neither Michael nor his historiographic predecessors give the name Nino to the female missionary-hero of the story, but in hagiographic tradition she is the one who brings Christianity to Georgia and performs the miracles related in the story.

I am in the course of preparing a study on this passage with commentary and full comparison of the known versions of the story, but for now, here is a bare and rough English translation. (Here are both the Syriac text and the translation in PDF.) As always, comments and questions are welcome.

Also during the time of Constantine, Georgia (Iberia) believed in Christ thus.
A certain pious woman was taken captive by [the people of] outer Georgia, which is near the Euxenian sea (they are far away from the Iberians of Spain). It happened that the son of their kingling got sick, and his mother cared for him with all manner of their customs, but to no avail. She then asked that captive woman for his healing, since she had seen her holy life, and the woman set him down on her hair blanket and said, “May Christ, who healed many, heal this child!” And immediately he got better.
After this, the king’s wife herself got sick, and she took refuge with the captive woman and came to her, and thus at that hour she was healed. When it became known, she taught all of them belief in the Christ of God. The king sent her gifts of honor, and she did not accept, but said, “This is a gift of honor: that the king should profess and trust in Christ,” but he did not accept. Some days thereafter he went out to hunt, and clouds and storm were upon them, and they were close to dying, and there was no avail. He took refuge with the god of the captive woman, together with his word; the cloud vanished and it was calm weather.
So when he returned he gathered all the people and commanded that they confess in Christ and that a temple be built. They began with the pattern that the holy woman had shown them, and when a great marble column was stuck by the influence of demons and they were unable to erect it, the woman prayed and it hung in the air by itself, and as they were looking at it with wonder and praise, it stood up on the pedestal where they had wished to erect it. (This miracle is known to this day.) Then the Georgians sent to Constantine the Emperor and took a bishop, priest(s), and clergy. Thus they believed and were baptized.

On the nature of the seven planets (Syriac)   Leave a comment

The recent transit of Venus has been in the news for the past few days, so it’s a fine time to have another look at something astronomical-astrological (see here for a previous post on the theme). Below is an image from Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo (SOAA) ms 148, a manuscript from, at the earliest, the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, this terminus from the fact that, in addition to some of Bar ʿEbrāyā’s poems (mušḥātā, see Takahashi 2005: 313-346), it also contains texts from David Puniqāyā (d. ca. 1500) and Sergius of Ḥāḥ (d. 1508). The selection below is the beginning of a poem, Bar ʿEbrāyā’s “On the nature of the seven planets” in the heptasyllabic meter with rhyming lines, the seven planets being the “wandering — as opposed to fixed — stars” known in antiquity: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the sun, Venus, Mercury, and the moon.

SOAA 148, f. 58v

As you can see, someone has penciled the planet names in Arabic (Garšūnī) in the margins. The poem was published, without the use of this manuscript, in Dolabani’s edition of Bar ʿEbrāyā’s poetry (1929: 77-78, no. 6.3), but it’s not in Scebabi’s edition (Rome, 1877). Bar ʿEbrāyā lists those things or people associated with each planet in the order given above. A comparison between the printed edition, based on manuscripts in Jerusalem and Mosul, and the Aleppo manuscript yields a notable difference: Dolabani has only given the domiciles (baytā here in Syriac, as also οἶκος in Greek with this meaning) for Mercury and the moon, the last two planets, but the Aleppo manuscript gives domiciles for all seven of the planets, which means that the manuscript has ten more heptasyllabic lines than the printed text. In addition, the two-part little poem printed in Dolabani separately as 6.4 is clearly taken by the scribe of this manuscript as part of the poem on the planets, and the subject matter and phraseology indeed fits.

A review of Takahashi’s bibliography for the poems will show that much work remains to be done on them, including not least a proper edition, which would be no small task given the plethora of known manuscripts. Till then, let this little notice stand as a harbinger of what else might be discovered.


Dolabani, Y., ed. 1929. Mušḥātā d-Mār Grigorios Yoḥannān Bar ʿEbrāyā mapryānā qaddišā d-madnḥā. Jerusalem. Reprint, Glane, 1983.

Takahashi, H. 2005. Barhebraeus: A Bio-Bibliography. Piscataway.

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