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A Syriac report on the comet of 1577   Leave a comment

(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

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)
ṣuṣyānutā cometness
dunbtā tail
te/ahrā wonder, miracle
puššākā uncertainty (d-lā puššākā certainly, undoubtedly)
ammtā cubit
zartā span (½ cubit)
ptāyā width
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)
uḥdānā province
šnā abs of ša(n)tā

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From Siirt to Sharur: A relocating scribe’s East Syriac colophon from the 19th century   Leave a comment

DCA (Chaldean Diocese of Alqosh) 62 contains various liturgical texts in Syriac. It is a fine copy, but the most interesting thing about the book is its colophon. Here first are the images of the colophon, after which I will give an English translation.

DCA 62, f. 110r

DCA 62, f. 110r

DCA 62, f. 110v

DCA 62, f. 110v

English translation (students may see below for some lexical notes):

[f. 110r]

This liturgical book for the Eucharist, Baptism, and all the other rites and blessings according to the Holy Roman Church was finished in the blessed month of Adar, on the 17th, the sixth Friday of the Dominical Fast, which is called the Friday of Lazarus, in the year 2150 AG, 1839 AD. Praise to the Father, the cause that put things into motion and first incited the beginning; thanks to the Son, the Word that has empowered and assisted in the middle; and worship to the Holy Spirit, who managed, directed, tended, helped, and through the management of his care brought [it] to the end. Amen.

[f. 110v]

I — the weak and helpless priest, Michael Romanus, a monk: Chaldean, Christian, from Alqosh, the son of the late deacon Michael, son of the priest Ḥadbšabbā — wrote this book, and I wrote it as for my ignorance and stupidity, that I might read in it to complete my service and fulfill my rank. Also know this, dear reader: that from the beginning until halfway through the tenth quire of the book, it was written in the city of Siirt, and from there until the end of the book I finished in Šarul, which is in the region of the city of Erevan, which is under the control of the Greeks (?), when I was a foreigner, sojourner, and stranger in the village of Syāqud.

The fact that the scribe started his work in Siirt (now in Turkey), relocated, then completed his work, is of interest in and of itself. As for the toponyms, Šarul here must be Sharur/Şərur, now of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (an exclave of Azerbaijan), which at the time of the scribe’s writing was under Imperial Russian control, part of the Armenian Province (Армянская область), and prior to that, part of the Safavid Nakhchivan Khanate, which, with the Erevan Khanate, Persia ceded to Russia at the end of the Russo-Persian War in 1828 with the Treaty of Turkmenchay (Туркманчайский договор, Persian ʿahd-nāme-yi Turkamānčāy). The spelling of Erevan in Syriac above matches exactly the spelling in Persian (ايروان). When the scribe says that Šarul/Sharur/Şərur is in the region of Erevan, he apparently means the Armenian Province, which contained the old Erevan Khanate. He says that the region “is under the control of the Greeks” (yawnāyē); this seems puzzling: the Russians should be named, but perhaps this is paralleled elsewhere. For Syāqud, cf. Siyagut in the Syriac Gazetteer.

See the Erevan and Nakhchivan khanates here called respectively Х(анст)во Ереванское and Х(анст)во Нахичеванское, bordering each other, both in green at the bottom of the map near the center.

For Syriac students, here are some notes, mostly lexical, for the text above:

  • šql G sākā w-šumlāyā to be finished (hendiadys)
  • ʿyādā custom
  • ʿrubtā eve (of the Sabbath) > Friday
  • zwʿ C to set in motion
  • ḥpṭ D incite (with the preposition lwāt for the object)
  • šurāyā beginning
  • tawdi thanks (NB absolute)
  • ḥyl D to strengthen, empower
  • ʿdr D to help, support
  • mṣaʿtā middle
  • prns Q to manage, rule (cf. purnāsā below)
  • dbr D to lead, guide
  • swsy Q to heal, tend, foster
  • swʿ D to help, assist, support
  • ḥartā end
  • mnʿ D to reach; to bring
  • purnāsā management, guardianship, support (here constr.)
  • bṭilutā care, forethought

So we have an outline of trinitarian direction in completing the scribal work: abā — šurāyā; brā — mṣaʿtā; ruḥ qudšā — ḥartā.

  • mḥilā weak
  • tāḥobā feeble, wretched
  • mnāḥ (pass. ptcp of nwḥ C) at rest, contented
  • niḥ napšā at rest in terms of the soul > deceased (the first word is a pass. ptcp of nwḥ G)
  • mšammšānā deacon
  • burutā stupidity, inexperience
  • hedyoṭutā stupidity, simplicity (explicitly vocalized hēdyuṭut(y) above)
  • šumlāyā fulfilling
  • mulāyā completion
  • dargā office, rank
  • qāroyā reader
  • pelgā half, part
  • kurrāsā quire
  • šlm D to complete, finish
  • nukrāyā foreigner
  • tawtābā sojourner
  • aksnāyā stranger
  • qritā village

Two meteorological reports from the sixteenth century   1 comment

As anyone who frequents this blog knows, manuscripts can be much more than simple receptacles for the main texts that their scribes copied. When present, colophons, notes, &c., may make a manuscript even more valuable and interesting. Here is a case in point. On f. 241r of SMMJ 211, a fifteenth-century copy of Bar ʿEbrāyā’s Chronography (secular & eccles.), are two later meteorological reports from different hands, neither the scribe’s.

Notes in outer column of SMMJ 211, f. 241r.

Notes in outer column of SMMJ 211, f. 241r.

 

 

 

The first note says roughly in English:

In the year 1814 (= 1502/3 CE) AG, in the month of Ḥzirān, there was a white meteor like the darkest night in the middle of the air for about an hour in the day, and everyone [lit. the whole world] saw it. And in the same year, on the feast of St. Jacob, on the 29th of the month of Tammuz, there was great and powerful thunder before midday, and with it were white clouds (ʿnānā), yet without a mist (ʿaymā) in the air, or rain, and this thunder continued roaring for about an hour of the day. They heard its sound throughout the region all the way to Gāzartā and the valley, and many people were frightened of its sound and fell on their faces. While the Lord shows us these signs for us to be repentant, our insolent and refractory heart neither repents nor is softened. May the Lord not repay us according to our evils, but according to the multitude of his mercy — amen — and his grace.

And from almost seven decades later, the second note (in less careful handwriting) says:

In the year 1882 AG (= 1570/1 CE) the clouds thickened and much rain appeared in Ṭur ʿĀbdin with terrible thunder, and intense lightning came down for six days in the month of Āb during the Feast of Booths in the villages, one of which is called Zāz, before the outer land of the Church of Mar Dimeṭ, and this lightning came down upon a house near that church with wood and straw inside it, and the house caught fire [with] all the firewood and straw.

(For the Church of Mar Dimet in Zaz, see a picture here.)

Update: Thanks to Thomas Carlson for the suggestion about PQʿTʾ (valley) in the first note, which I initially read as an unidentified place-name PWʿTʾ. The scribe writes waw and qop with little difference.

Recently available resources for Nubian studies   Leave a comment

Well over two years ago I wrote a short post on some Old Nubian resources. Giovanni Ruffini has recently announced more work in general Nubian studies. These, three in number, are:

So, even though the corpus of Old Nubian is comparatively small, it’s exciting to see new work appearing widely available in this and related fields. Go have a look.

The Council of Manazkert (726)   Leave a comment

Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, № 169 mostly contains homilies in Garšūnī, but at the beginning (ff. 4v-8r) there is an excerpt, in Syriac, from the Chronicle of Michael the Great, book 11 of chapter 20, on the Council of Manazkert (or Manzikert; see here for other forms of the name) convened in 726 by Catholicos Yovhannēs Ōjnec’i the Philosopher with Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Athanasios III. The title is “On the Unity Effected by Patriarch Athanasios and Catholicos John of the Armenians against the Heresy of Maximos that has Spread Abroad, and the Negation of the Phrase ‘Who was crucified for us.'” Neither Michael nor the title Chronicle are specifically mentioned here, however. This manuscript was copied outside of Amid/Diyarbakır; the date in the colophon seems to be 1092 AG, which is certainly wrong and probably a mistake for 2092 AG, so May 1781.

SMMJ 169, f. 4v

SMMJ 169, f. 4v

My friend and colleague, Ed Mathews, in his Armenian Commentary on Genesis attributed to Ephrem the Syrian, CSCO 573, (Louvain, 1998), pp. xlvii-xlviii, briefly discusses this council as follows:

It is fairly well known that a council of Manazkert, referred to by a number of historians, was convened in 726, by the great Armenian Kat‘ołikos Yovhannēs Ōjnec‘i, also known as the Philosopher (Arm., իմաստասէր) in order to quiet this dispute and come to some sort of union with the Syrian Church. This council was attended by a number of Armenian bishops and six Syrian bishops to try to effect a union between the two churches, and particularly, to find some common ground whereby each might suppress the more radical branch of Monophysitism as practiced by followers of Julian of Halicarnassus, who maintained the incorruptibility of the body of Christ. The Armenian historians, Step‘annos Asołik, Samuēl Anec‘i, Step‘annos Ōrbelian, and Kirakos Ganiakec‘i do little more than mention the council at all and, like the other historians just mentioned, seems far more interested in the personal appearance of Ōjnec‘i, being enthralled with his elaborate garments and even more with his gold-speckled beard. Clearly then, this council left no real lasting impression in the Armenian church.

As for Syriac sources on this council, as Mathews points out, Barhebraeus’ subsequent account (Chron. Eccl. 1.299-304) is based on that in Michael’s Chronicle, and there is also Dionysius b. Ṣalibi’s Against the Armenians. The bishop of Ḥarrān, Symeon of the Olives, associated with the Monastery of Mor Gabriel, attended the Council (cf. Brock “Fenqitho of the Monastery of Mor Gabriel in Tur ‘Abdin,” Ostkirchliche Studien 28 (1979): 168-182, here 177).

On the name of the place itself, Մանազկերտ, see Hübschmann, Die altarmenische Ortsnamen, 328, 330, 449-450, and Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History, p. 218, n. 253, who points to the name of the Urartian king Menua as the source of the place-name. We may also note the important battle fought there in 1071, with the Byzantine army defeated by the Seljuks.

 

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 39 (Mirian & religion in Georgia)   Leave a comment

Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ ႫႤႴႤ ႫႨႰႨႠႬႤ | წ(მიდა)ჲ მეფე მირიანი. King Mirian, from the Samtavisi Cathedral. Source.

Ⴜ(ႫႨႣႠ)Ⴢ ႫႤႴႤ ႫႨႰႨႠႬႤ | წ(მიდა)ჲ მეფე მირიანი. King Mirian, from the Samtavisi Cathedral. Source.

For today’s Georgian reading, here are a few lines from the K’art’lis c’xovreba, with Robert Thomson’s translation (Rewriting Caucasian History).

ed. 65.7-9 (Th. 77)

და იყოს შვილი ჩემი ორსავე სჯულსა ზედა: მამათა ჩუენთა ცეცხლის-მსახურებასა და თქუენთა კერპთასა, რამეთუ პირველვე ამას ზედა მოეცა ფიცი.

“My son [Mirian] will observe both religions, the fire-worship of our fathers and the worship of your idols”, because he had previously given his oath for this.

  • იყოს aor. conj. 3sg ყოფა to be
  • სჯული law, religion
  • ცეცხლის-მსახურებაჲ fire-worship
  • კერპჲ idol
  • მო-ე-ც-ა aor 3sg მოცემა to give
  • ფიცი oath, vow

ed. 65.15-17 (Th. 77)

და აღიზარდა მირიან მსახურებასა მას შინა შჳდთა მათ კერპთასა და ცეცხლისასა.

Mirian grew up in the worship of the seven idols and of fire.

ხოლო შეიყუარნა ქართველნი, და დაივიწყა ენა სპარსული და ისწავა ენა ქართული.

He loved the Georgians, forgot the Persian tongue,  and learned the Georgian language.

  • აღ-ი-ზარდ-ა aor 3sg აღზრდა to be reared, grow up
  • მსახურებაჲ worship (cf. above in ცეცხლის-მსახურებაჲ)
  • შე-ი-ყუარ-ნ-ა aor 3sg N შეყუარება to love
  • და-ი-ვიწყ-ა დავიწყება to forget
  • სპარსული Persian
  • ი-სწავ-ა aor 3sg სწავება to learn

The seven gods are:

  1. Armazi (არმაზი)
  2. Gac’i (გაცი)
  3. Gaim (გაიმ)
  4. Ainina (აინინა)
  5. Danina (დანინა)
  6. Zadeni (ზადენი)
  7. The seventh in view here may be Aphrodite, an idol of whom is mentioned as having been brought to Georgia by Sep’elia, wife of the king Rev, and set up at the entrance to Mc’xet’a (ed. 58.2, Thomson, p. 69).

In the Life of Nino, we also find mention of Armazi, Gac’i, and Gaim (cf. Lang, Lives and Legends of the Georgian Saints, pp. 23-24). Further on early religion in Georgia, for which the textual data are much later, see especially Michael Tseretheli (1935), “The Asianic (Asia Minor) Elements in National Georgian Paganism,” Georgica 1: 28-66; and later, the indices under the names of the gods in Cyril Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History and Stephen H. Rapp, Jr., Studies in Medieval Georgian Historiography: Early Texts and Eurasian Contexts (CSCO 601), esp. p. 277-279, where our passage above is also cited.

De Goeje et al., Al-Ṭabari   Leave a comment

As rightly locating multi-volume sets at archive.org and other repositories of scanned books is sometimes maddening, here’s a list of the volumes of the Leiden ed. of Al-Ṭabari, edited by M. de Goeje et al., that I’ve been able to find at archive.org.

On the History, see EI² 10: 13-14. The continuation, the Ṣila of ʿArīb b. Saʿd al-Qurṭubī, was also edited by De Goeje: Arîb Tabari Continuatus (Brill, 1897) at https://archive.org/details/ilattrkhalabar00agoog. (There were other continuations, too.) NB De Goeje’s Selections from the Annals of Tabari in (1902) Brill’s Semitic Study Series (https://archive.org/details/selectionsfroman00abaruoft).

A few words on the Persian adaptation, very important due to its age and manuscript attestation. The Persian adaptation is the work of the Sāmānid vizier Abū ʿAlī Muḥammad al-Balʿamī (EI² 1: 984-985). The Persian text was published in Lucknow 1874, of which I can find no version online, and there have been more recent editions published in Iran (see esp. Daniel’s article). From Persian the text was translated into Turkish. Incidentally, the beginning of a manuscript of the Persian text is at http://www.wdl.org/en/item/6828/. Here are a few resources:

  • Zotenberg’s French translation of the Persian text, Chronique de Abou-Djafar-Moʻhammed-ben-Djarir-ben-Yezid Tabari (1867-1874), is at archive.org (vol. 1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Rieu, Cat. Pers. BL, I. 69
  • (briefly) p. xxii of the Intro. volume to the De Goeje’s Leiden ed.
  • G. Lazard, La langue des plus anciens monuments de la prose persane (Paris, 1963), 38-41.
  • E.L. Daniel, “Manuscripts and Editions of Balʿamī’s Tarjamah-i tārīkh-i Ṭabarī,” JRAS (1990): 282-308.
  • Andrew Peacock, Mediaeval Islamic Historiography and Political Legitimacy: Bal’amī’s Tārīkhnāma (Routledge, 2007)
Title page to the Leiden edition.

Title page to the Leiden edition.

Prima Series

I 1879-1881 Barth https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal01abaruoft

II 1881-1882 Barth and Nöldeke https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal02abaruoft

III 1881-1882 Barth and Nöldeke https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri02unkngoog (another at https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal03abaruoft)

IV 1890 De Jong and Prym https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri02goejgoog (another at https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal04abaruoft)

V 1893 Prym https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri02guyagoog (another at https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri01unkngoog, https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal05abaruoft)

VI 1898 Prym https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri00goejgoog (another at https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal06abaruoft)

X 1896 Prym https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri04unkngoog

Secunda Series

I 1881-1883 Thorbecke, Fraenkel, and Guidi https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri00unkngoog (another at https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal07abaruoft)

II 1883-1885 Guidi https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri03unkngoog (another at https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal08abaruoft)

III 1885-1889 Guidi, Müller, and De Goeje https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal09abaruoft

Tertia Series

I 1879-1880 Houtsma and Guyard https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal10abaruoft

II 1881 Guyard and De Goeje https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal11abaruoft

III 1883-1884 Rosen and De Goeje https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal12abaruoft

IV 1890 De Goeje https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri00bargoog (another at https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri01goejgoog, https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal13abaruoft)

________

1901 Intro., Gloss., etc. https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri01guyagoog (another at https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal15abaruoft)

1901 Indices https://archive.org/details/annalesquosscri00guyagoog (another at https://archive.org/details/tarkhalrusulwaal14abaruoft)

________

It’s probable that I’ve missed some of those that are available, and as I find or am informed of others, I’ll update this list.

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