Archive for the ‘Latin’ Category

The wise king: A passage from Philo’s Questions on Genesis (4.76) in Armenian   1 comment

(Preface: Some time ago I came across the passage below in Armenian. I don’t remember the trail that led me to it, but in any case, it’s an interesting passage for its content and vocabulary and for the fact that both the Greek original and the Armenian survive and can thus be readily compared.)

Most of Philo’s Quaestiones in Genesim survives only in Armenian. Here is part of § 4.76 on Genesis, which is on Gen 23:6. This passage = Chrysippus, Fragmenta Moralia, № 681 (SVF 3, p. 170; available here). The Armenian text was edited and translated into Latin by Aucher/Awgerean, a copy of which from Google Books is accessible at Robert Bedrosian’s site here; unfortunately, some pages were improperly scanned, resulting in an almost surreal stretching of the text, but this particular excerpt (pp. 304-305) is still legible. There is an ET of the Armenian by Marcus, in LCL Philo, suppl. 1, p. 354 (available here).

It happens that the fragmentary Greek evidence for this work of Philo includes part of this text. The Chrysippus fragment cited above is given in SVF in Aucher’s LT. The Greek fragment, of course, would be closer to Chrysippus’ own language. The fragment appears in J. Rendell Harris, Fragments of Philo Judaeus, p. 36 (available here), alongside Aucher’s slightly modified LT.

Fruitful observations would, no doubt, result from a close comparison and dual reading of the Greek and the Armenian version — NB e.g. the Armenian doublet զհմուտն եւ զտեղեակն for τὸν ἐπιστήμονα at the end — yet nothing so involved is given here, only a basic initial meeting with the two texts. So here is the Greek fragment (but nothing for the first sentence), the Armenian text (Aucher, pp. 304-305), and Marcus’s ET, with vocabulary and notes for the Armenian. For comparison and completeness Aucher’s LT follows at the end.

Եւ երկրորդ՝ օրէնս դնէ բնաւորականագոյն. զոր ոմանք յայնցանէ որ միանգամ իմաստասիրականքն եղեն՝ վտարեցին. And, in the second place, (Scripture) lays down a most natural law, which some of those who philosophize have rejected.
  • երկրորդ, -աց second(ly)
  • օրէն, օրինի law, rule, regulation, custom (later in pl.)
  • դնէ pres 3sg դնեմ, եդի to lay, put, establish
  • բնաւորականագոյն natural (Nor baṙgirk’ 498b)
  • ոմն indef. adj./pron.
  • յ-այնցանէ abl. pl. short form of այն that
  • որ միանգամ whoever
  • իմաստասիրական philosophical
  • եղեն aor 3pl եղանիմ to become
  • վտարեցին aor 3pl վտարեմ, -եցի to remove, expel, banish
Τῶν μὲν ἀφρόνων βασιλεὺς οὐδείς, καὶ ἂν τὸ πάσης γῆς καὶ θαλάσσης ἀνάψηται κράτος· μόνος δὲ ὁ ἀστεῖος καὶ θεοφίλης, καὶ ἂν τῶν παρασκευῶν καὶ τῶν χορηγιῶν ἀμοιρῇ, δι᾽ ὧν πολλοὶ κρατύνονται δυναστείας. եւ օրէնքն են, զի յանզգամացն թագաւոր ոչ ոք, թէպէտ զամենայն երկրի եւ զծովու զօրութիւն առցէ. բայց միայն իմաստունն եւ ա՟ծասէրն. եւ եթէ կազմածոցն եւ պատրաստութե՟ցն մասն իցէ, ի ձեռն որոց բազումք զօրանան բռնութեամբ զօրութեամբք։ This law is that no one of the foolish (is) a king, even though he should be master of all the land and sea, but only the wise and God-loving man, even if he is without the equipment and resources through which many obtain power with violence and force.
  • են pres 3pl եմ to be
  • անզգան, -աց knavish, wicked; foolish, mad
  • ոչ ոք no one, nobody
  • թէպէտ even if, although
  • զօրութիւն power, force
  • առցէ aor subj 3sg առնում, առի to take, occupy, carry off
  • միայն only, alone
  • իմաստուն, -տնոց wise, intelligent, prudent, skillful
  • աստուածասէր god-loving, pious
  • կազմած, -ոց apparatus, preparation, equipment
  • պատրաստութիւն preparation, disposition, attention
  • մասն, -սին, -սանց part, portion, share, lot (this and the following word for Greek ἀμοιρῇ)
  • իցէ pres subj 3sg եմ to be
  • ձեռն hand, power, strength, etc. ի ձեռն by, by means of, through
  • զօրանան pres 3pl զօրանամ to grow stronger, reign
  • բռնութիւն violence, tyranny
Ὥσπερ γὰρ τῷ κυβερνητικῆς ἢ ἰατρικῆς ἢ μουσικῆς ἀπείρῳ παρέλκον πρᾶγμα οἴακες καὶ φαρμάκων σύνθεσις καὶ αὐλοὶ καὶ κιθάραι, διότι μηδενὶ τούτων δύναται χρῆσθαι πρὸς ὃ πέφυκε, κυβερνήτῃ δὲ καὶ ἰατρῷ καὶ μουσικῷ λέγοιτο ἂν ἐφαρμόζειν δεόντως· Եւ քանզի որպէս նաւաստականին, կամ բժըշկականին, կամ երաժշտականին անփորձի՝ տարացոյց իրք են, քեղիք, եւ դեղոց եւ սպեղանեաց խառնուածք, եւ փողք, եւ քնարք. վասն զի ոչինչ յայսցանէ ի կիր առնուլ կարէ՝ առ որ բնաւորեցաւն. բայց նաւաստոյն եւ բժշկի եւ երաժշտականի ասասցի յարմարել եւ պատկանել։ For whereas the man ignorant of the art of the pilot or of the physician or of the musician has trouble with the rudders or with the compounding of drugs and ointments or with flutes and lyres, since he is unable to use any of them for its natural purpose, to the pilot, on the other hand, and the physician and the musician they may be said to be fitting and suitable.
  • նաւաստական, -աց sailor (Nor baṙgirk’ 408b)
  • բժըշկական medical
  • երաժշտական musical; musician
  • անփորձ, -ից inexperienced, untried
  • տարացոյց example, model, idea, design, paradigm (Nor baṙgirk’ 855c)
  • իր, -ի, -աց thing, affair
  • քեղի, -ղւոյ, -ղեաց rudder
  • դեղ, -ոց/-ից remedy, medicine
  • սպեղանի poultice, salve, ointment
  • խառնուած, -ոց mixture, compounding
  • փող, -ոց trumpet, horn, reed, pipe
  • քնար, -աց/-ից lyre, harp (cf. Syr. kennārā, Geo. ქნარი)
  • ի կիր առնուլ to put to use
  • կարէ pres 3sg կարեմ, -րացի to be able
  • բնաւոր natural, innate
  • նաւաստ, -տւոյ, տեաց sailor
  • բժիշկ, բժշկի, բժշկաց physician
  • ասասցի aor subj m/p 3sg ասեմ to say
  • յարմարել inf յարնարեմ, -եցի to adapt, accommodate, arrange
  • պատկանել inf պատկանեմ to adapt, adjust, suit, apply
οὕτως, ἐπειδὴ τἐχνη τίς ἐστι βασιλικὴ καὶ τἐχνων ἀρίστη, τὸν μὲν ἀνεπιστήμονα χρήσεως ἀνθρώπων ἰδιώτην νομιστέον, βασιλέα δὲ μόνον τὸν ἐπιστήμονα. Յիրաւի այսպէս. վասն [305] զի արուեստ իմն է թագաւորականն, եւ արուեստից առաքինին. քանզի այն որ անգէտն է եւ անտեղեակ պիտոյից մարդկան, տգէտ համարելի է, եւ գեղջուկ. բայց թագաւոր՝ միայն զհմուտն եւ զտեղեակն։ And this is proper, since there is a certain kingly art, and it is the most noble of the arts. For he who is ignorant and unversed in the needs of men must be considered a layman, while only he (can be considered) a king who is knowing and experienced.
  • յիրաւի justly, deservedly, in truth
  • արուեստ, -ից art, trade, study
  • թագաւորական royal
  • առաքինի, -նւոյ, -նեաց virtuous, honest (also valiant, courageous)
  • անգէտ ignorant, unlearned, stupid
  • անտեղեակ ignorant, unlearned, unskillful
  • պէտք, պիտոյից needs, necessity, use, business
  • մարդիկ, մարդկան people, the human race
  • տգէտ ignorant, unlearned, untaught, illiterate
  • համարելի counted, considered (< համարեմ, -եցի to count, consider, reckon, esteem; on the adjectival form derived from the infinitive, see Meillet, Altarm. Elementarbuch, § 105e)
  • գեղջուկ, -ջկի, -ջկաց peasant, villager, rustic
  • միայն, -ոյ, -ով only, sole
  • հմուտ well-versed, learned, experienced, skillful
  • տեղեակ well informed, skilled, expert

Aucher’s LT of the Armenian:

Secundo vero legem statuit nimis naturalem, quam nonnulli philosophorum sibi conciliarunt. Lex autem est, ut ex insipientibus nullus sit rex, quamvis terrae et maris totam vim subiugarit, sed solus sapiens et dei amans, praeter partes apparatuum armorumque, quibus multi proficiunt per vim violentam. Etenim sicut nauticae vel medicinae vel musicae si quis imperitus sit, pro argumento sunt ei clavus et medicaminum commixtura et tibia et lyra (nullum enim istorum usurpare potest ad usum destinatum, at nauarcho et medico ac musico dicatur omnino convenire) ita profecto, siquidem ars est quaedam regium hoc munus et artifex homo virtute praeditus. Nam qui imperitus est et nescius rerum homines iuvantium, rudis atque rusticus est censendus, rex autem dicendus solus peritus gnarusque.

More bibliography

On Philo in Armenian generally, see R.W. Thomson, Bibliography of Classical Armenian Literature to 1500 AD, pp. 75-76; and “Supplement to A Bibliography of Classical Armenian Literature to AD 1500: Publications 1993–2005″, Le Muséon, 120 (2007), 163–223, here, p. 177. More recently, several important studies appeared in:

Lombardi, Sara Mancini and Paola Pontani, eds. 2011. Studies on the Ancient Armenian Version of Philo’s Works, Studies in Philo of Alexandria 6. Leiden: Brill.

Earlier work by Marcus remains important. These are available at Bedrosian’s site mentioned above.

Marcus, Ralph. 1930. “The Armenian Translation of Philo’s Quaestiones in Genesim et Exodum.Journal of Biblical Literature 49: 61-64.

Marcus, Ralph. 1933. “An Armenian-Greek Index to Philo’s Quaestiones and De Vita Contemplativa.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 53: 251-282.

Marcus, Ralph. 1948. “Notes on the Armenian Text of Philo’s Quaestiones in Genesin, Books I-III.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 7: 111-115.

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Reading challenge, April 2015   2 comments

The study of spoken and (ancient) written languages intersect perhaps less than might be desirable, but sic semper erat, sic semper erit. Nevertheless, I would like to take a cue from Olle Linge’s Hacking Chinese (http://challenges.hackingchinese.com/) and suggest an intentional, focused reading effort for ancient language students.

For the month of April 2015, let’s take an opportunity to push reading limits, or at least to re-kindle reading habits in this or that language. It is no secret that wide exposure to multitudes of lines is a boon to philological understanding and enjoyment. By “exposure” I mean reading with understanding. And there’s the rub. This is what makes it possible for an advanced student to do 100 pages of text (or more) in a month, and a novice to do much less: the novice requires far more frequent recourse to the lexicon, grammatical tables, perhaps a translation, etc. than the more experienced user. But the payoff is experience itself. Here is some counsel from the great sinologist George A. Kennedy:

The value of a reference work is its capacity to furnish facts quickly, and a good reference work must be a well-ordered affair. But the quickness with which these facts are appropriated depends in large part on the skill of the user. And this skill results only from diligent practice. It is not enough to know about a book of reference; one must handle it, thumb the pages, know where the index is, know what sort of information it gives. You are not qualified for research unless you can locate the facts that are available quickly.

DO NOT SKIP ANY SUGGESTED EXERCISE

MAKE UP MORE OF THEM FOR YOURSELF

from his Introduction to Sinology: Being a Guide to the Tz’u Hai (Ci hai), (New Haven, 1981), 1 (emphasis in original)

He has the 辭海 cí hăi in mind, here as a reference work for students of Chinese history, but his advice is equally applicable to textual experience in a language, or philological experience.

Here, then, is the challenge for the month: not a contest, but an individual exhortation to purposefully spend a given amount of time and effort moving — or more picturesquely, plowing, sailing, crunching, &c. — through a text or texts, with understanding. You pick the language, the genre, the text(s), the length. The unique thing is to read carefully more than you might normally do for this month. It might be an opportunity to work especially hard on a language you’re now closely involved with, or it might be an opportunity to return to a language you’ve not read in a while. Simply to be not too vague, here are some language suggestions in no particular order (I assume that if you know the language well enough to do this, you know some texts to read, but in any case, the Bible is usually a good place to start due to the accessibility of texts and the ease of comparison with other versions):

  • Armenian
  • Christian Palestinian Aramaic
  • Syriac
  • Arabic
  • Jewish Babylonian Aramaic
  • Greek
  • Sogdian
  • Persian
  • Georgian
  • Turkish
  • Coptic
  • Gǝʿǝz
  • Uyghur

Do more than one language, if you like. How about reading the same text in more than one language? Read from printed editions, read from manuscripts, read from chrestomathies, whatever suits you. Quant à moi, my reading goals for the month include the following texts:

  1. Persian. 10 pages in the so-called Persian Diatessaron
  2. Turkish. Ali Bey’s Bible: Jonah 1-2; Mt 4:1-11; 11:17-19; 15:21-28
  3. Coptic. “Marina” (pp. 27-33) and “Siebenschläfer” (pp. 21–24) in W. Till, Koptische Heiligen- Und Martyrerlegenden: Texte, Übersetzungen Und Indices, vol. 1, Orientalia Christiana Analecta 102 (Rome: Pont. Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1935); volumes available here. Further on this story in Coptic, see here from my hagiography bibliography.
  4. Georgian. The five texts on David & Constantine in I. Abuladze and E. Gabidzashvili, ძველი ქართული აგიოგრაფიული ლიტერატურის ძეგლები, წიგნი IV სვინაქსარული რედაქციები (XI-XVIII სს.) (Monuments of Old Georgian Hagiographic Literature, Vol. 4, Synaxarion Redactions, [11th-18th Centuries]) (Tbilisi, 1968), 359-366; and the Parable of the Man & Elephant in the two versions of Barlaam and Ioasaph.
  5. Old Turkic/Uyghur. The text on p. 53 of  W. Bang, “Türkische Bruchstücke einer Nestorianischen Georgspassion,” Le Muséon 39 (1926): 41–75 (cf. Gabain, Gr., p. 264); and the text in P. Zieme, “Ein uigurisches Sündenbekenntnis,” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 32 (1969): 107-121.
  6. Arabic/Garšūnī. Epistle of Ps.-Dionysius to Timothy, SMMJ 263

If you like, share what you plan to read in the comments below. And any thoughts on this enterprise generally are welcome, too. Happy studying!

A meeting of three languages in the CPA version of Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures   Leave a comment

Among the texts surviving in Christian Palestinian Aramaic (CPA) that were translated from Greek is a fair amount of Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures (CPG 3585), translations of which also survive in several other languages. In one place (§ 6.14),* Cyril is discussing Simon Magus and says that the emperor Claudius set up a statue to him in Rome, so much did the traditional arch-heretic lead the city of Rome astray. (The story appears in other patristic texts, too.)

Καὶ ἐπλάνησέ τε οὕτω τὴν Ῥωμαίων πόλιν, ὥστε Κλαύδιον ἀνδριάντα αὐτου στῆσαι, ὑπογράψαντα τῇ Ῥωμαίων γλώττῃ, ΣΙΜΟΝΙ ΔΕΟ ΣΑΓΚΤΩ, ὅπερ ἑρμηνευόμενον δηλοῖ, Σίμωνι Θεῷ ἁγίῳ.

So Cyril gives the Latin of this inscription as Simoni Deo Sancto: “To Simon, the holy god.” Turning to the CPA text, we have:

ܘܟܠ ܕܢ ܐܛܥܝ ܪܘܡܐ ܡܕܝܢܬܐ܃ ܠܡܠܘ ܕܐܩܝܡ ܠܗ ܩܠܘܕܝ ܨܠܡ ܘܟܬܒ ܥܠܘܝ ܒܠܝܫܢܐ ܪܘܡܝܐ ܣܝܡܘܢ ܕܐܝܘܣ ܙܢܩܛܘ܃ ܡܐ ܕܗܘ ܡܬܪܓܡ ܘܡܘܕܥ ܣܝܡܘܢ ܐܠܗ ܩܕܝܫ

wkl d<y>n ʔṭʕy rwmʔ mdyntʔ lmlw dʔqym lh qlwdy ṣlm wktb ʕlwy blyšnʔ rwmyʔ symwn dʔyw{s} znqṭw mʔ dhw mtrgm wmwdʕ symwn ʔlh qdyš

The translation is straightforward and makes sense, but the appearance of the Latin inscription, which the CPA translator would have seen in Greek letters, is a bit mangled, not surprisingly. There is no indication of the dative -i in symwn, the -s of dʔyws should be deleted, and the znqṭw, while reflecting the right pronunciation of -γκτ-/-nct-, is a little odd for having a z- at the beginning. In addition, in the CPA version of the Greek translation of the Latin inscription, we really expect the preposition l- to mark the dedication, but there is not one.

Every translation naturally deals with at least two languages, but sometimes, as here, another language also makes an appearance, and, also as here, that appearance may offer an opportunity for some confusion, yet it also grants us an opportunity to have a glimpse at translators and/or scribes with their feet in a more or less complicated labyrinth of more than two languages.

*Greek and CPA published side-by-side in Christa Müller-Kessler and Michael Sokoloff, The Catechism of Cyril of Jerusalem in the Christian Palestinian Aramaic Version, A Corpus of Christian Palestinian Aramaic Version 5 (Groningen, 1999), here pp. 60-61.

 

On readers/chrestomathies: what’s the best kind of arrangement?   10 comments

I have spoken here before of my love of chrestomathies, with which especially earlier decades and centuries were perhaps fuller than more recent times. (I don’t know how old the word “chrestomathia” and its forms in different languages is, but the earliest use in English that the OED gives is only from 1832. We may note that, at least in English, the word has been extended to refer not only to books useful for learning another language, but simply to a collection of passages by a specific author, as in A Mencken Chrestomathy.) Chrestomathies may — and I really do not know — strike hardcore adherents to the latest and greatest advice of foreign language pedagogy as quaint and sorely outdated, my own view is that readers along these lines — text selections, vocabulary, more or less notes on points of grammar — can be of palpable value to students of less commonly taught languages, especially for those studying without regular recourse to a teacher. Since I’m talking about reading texts, I have in mind mainly written language and the preparation of students for reading, but that does not, of course, exclude speaking and hearing: those activities are just not the focus.

I have gone through seventy-one chrestomathies from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries in several languages (Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Syriac, Georgian, Old Persian, Middle Persian, Old English, Middle English, Middle High German, Latin, Greek, Akkadian, Sumerian, Ugaritic, Aramaic dialects, &c.). The data (not absolutely complete) is available in this file: chrestomathy_data. By far the commonest arrangement is to have all the texts of the chrestomathy together, with or without grammatical or historical annotations, and then the glossary separately, and in alphabetical order, at the end of the book (or in another volume). Notable exceptions to this rule are some volumes in Brill’s old Semitic Study Series, Clyde Pharr’s Aeneid reader, and the JACT’s Greek Anthology, which contain a more or less comprehensive running vocabulary either on the page (the last two) or separately from the text (the Brill series). Some chrestomathies have no notes or vocabulary. These can be useful for languages that have hard-to-access texts editions or when the editor wants to include hitherto unpublished texts, but the addition of lexical and grammatical helps would even in those cases add definite value to the work for students.

In addition to these printed chrestomathies, there are some similar electronic publications, such as those at Early Indo-European Online from The University of Texas at Austin, which give a few reading texts for a number of IE languages: the texts are broken down into lines, each word is immediately glossed, and an ET is supplied, with a full separate glossary for each language.

From a Greek reader I have been putting together off and on.

From a Greek reader I have been putting together off and on.

Over the years, I have made chrestomathy texts in various languages, either for myself or for other students, and more are in the works. (Most are unpublished, but here is one for an Arabic text from a few years ago.) I have used different formats for text, notes, and vocabulary, and I’m still not decided on what the best arrangement is.

This little post is not a full disquisition on the subject of chrestomathies. I just want to pose a question about the vocabulary items supplied to a given text in a chrestomathy: should defined words be in the form of a running vocabulary, perhaps on the page facing the text or directly below the text, or should all of the vocabulary be gathered together at the end like a conventional glossary or lexicon? What do you think, dear and learned readers?

Some maxims (Syriac & Arabic)   1 comment

At the beginning of CFMM 306 are a few maxims, first in Syriac, then in Arabic (Garšūnī):

CFMM 306, f. 1r

The ink and hand are none too lovely, but the thoughts are, at least. English’d they are:

  • Don’t believe everything you hear.
  • Don’t tell* everything that you see.
  • Don’t say everything that you know.
  • Don’t do everything that you are able to do.
  • Don’t give all you possess.

(*The Syriac has “judge”; the word can mean “declare”, but having to do with a dream, that is, to judge the significance of a dream and to declare it to the dreamer.)

These are maxims of reticence or prudent withholding, all of this basic theme, and they reflect the experience of those who, having given too freely of their means or knowledge, have gotten into trouble, lost relationships, and more. There are, of course, notable traditions of maxims and proverbs spanning ancient near eastern and classical literature (at least Sumerian, Akkadian, Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, and Latin), and the sentiments indicated above are hardly unique among those traditions. Erasmus’ Adagia would supply as with many similar items fromg Greek and Latin, richly commented upon — there is to my knowledge nothing comparable for ancient near eastern literature taken comprehensively — but it will suffice to list a few that are to hand.

  • Aḥiqar, Saying 15 (Lindenberger, pp. 75-76): “Above all else, guard your mouth; and as for what you have h[eard], be discreet! For a word is a bird, and he who releases it is a fool.” (מן כל מנטרה טר פמך ועל זי שמעת הוקר לבב כי צנפר הי מלה ומשלחה גבר לא לבב). The last line here brings to mind Homer’s ἔπεα πτερόεντα (“winged words”); perhaps Martin West or others have made the connection before, too, but I’m unaware of it, if so. (For the present purposes, for this and the other sayings from Aḥiqar, I have not marked the few conjectured letters of the Aramaic text as such: see Lindenberger for discussion of each case.)
  • Saying 53 (Lindenberger, 140-141): “Do not reveal your [secr]ets before your [frien]ds, lest your reputation with them be ruined.” (סתריך אל תגלי קדם רחמיך אל יקל שמך קדמיהם)
  • Saying 59 (Lindenberger, 149, partly reconstructed from Armenian and Slavonic versions): “Do not be too sweet lest you be [swallowed]; do not be too bitter [lest you be spat out].” (אל תחלי ואל יבלעוך אל תמר ואל ירקוך)

A quick scan of the gnomai Menandri (ed. Dindorf) yields these admittedly only slightly related finds, the iambic trimeters of which I apologize for not rendering analogously:

  • 90. Γλώσσης μάλιστα πανταχῆ πειρῶ κρατεῖν. Make every effort to rule especially over your tongue.
  • 448. Πρᾶττε τὰ σεαυτοῦ μὴ τὰ τῶν ἄλλου φρόνει. Mind your own business: don’t worry with the affairs of others.

There’s much more in the gnomai about friends, women (not much in appreciation!), parents, and old age.

From the Monosticha Catonis, we might mention:

  • 13. Rem tuam custodi. Watch over your own matter(s).
  • 23. Cui des, videto. Consider to whom you might give something.
  • 31. Nihil temere credideris. Believe nothing rashly.
  • 54. Pauca in convivio loquere. Say little at a party.
  • 57. Minime iudica. Don’t judge at all. [esp. for the Syriac version of the second maxim given above]

And finally, two lines from Leonard Cohen, “Waiting for the Miracle” (from The Future):

If you’re squeezed for information,

That’s when you’ve got to play it dumb.

So then, here’s to sharing and giving, but doing so with care, so advised from Aḥiqar to Cohen! I do hope, though, that you will share any related maxims from antiquity (or later) that come to mind in the comments!

Bibliography

James M. Lindenberger, The Aramaic Proverbs of Ahiqar, Johns Hopkins Near Eastern Studies (Baltimore and London, 1983).

The gnomai of Menander will be found in Dindorf’s Aristophanis comœdiæ…accedunt Menandri et Philemonis fragmenta (Paris, 1846); the monosticha Catonis are easily discoverable online.

A curse in Arabic against book thieves (in a copy of Dāʾūd Al-Anṭākī’s Taḏkirat)   5 comments

Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, 235 is a thick tome containing Dāʾūd Al-Anṭākī’s (d. 1599) Taḏkirat ulī ‘l-albāb wa-‘l-ǧāmiʿ li-‘l-ʿaǧab al-ʿuǧāb (The Reminder for Those with Understanding, and the Collector of Prodigious Wonders), a lengthy and thorough medical work divided into four sections with an introduction and epilogue, in Garšūnī; there are a number of manuscripts of the work known, but as far as I am aware, other than this copy they are all in Arabic script. This Jerusalem manuscript is dated 1757 AD and 1171 AH. In the margin of the next-to-last page someone has written (in Arabic script, unlike the text in the manuscript itself) the following:

SMMJ 235, f. 491v

English’d:

Property of the monastery of the Syrians in honorable Jerusalem. Anyone who steals or removes [it] from its place of donation will be cursed from the mouth of God! God (may he be exalted) will be angry with him! Amen.

This curse against would-be book robbers is hardly unique in Arabic — I have seen a number in the collections at HMML in both Arabic and Garšūnī — and similar warnings are well known in other traditions, too. From Paris Gr 301, for example, Elpidio Mioni (Introduzione alla paleografia greca [Padua, 1973], 85) cites Εἴ τις δὲ βουληθῇ ἆραι τοῦτον κρυφίως ἢ καὶ φανερῶς, ἔχῃ τὰς ἀρὰς τῶν ιβʹ ἀποστόλων καὶ κατάραν εὕρῃ κακίστην πάντων μοναχῶν, “Should anyone wish to take this [book] secretly, or even openly, he will get the curses of the twelve apostles and find the worst anathema of all the monks!” Interested readers will find a wealth of (mostly Latin) examples in Marc Drogin’s delightful work Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses (Totowa and Montclair, New Jersey, 1983).

Any other such gems, in any language, you’re aware of?

Note

On Dāʾūd Al-Anṭākī see GAL II 364 and GALS II 491-492. Wüstenfeld (Gesch. der Arabischen Aerzte [Göttingen, 1840], 158) calls the Taḏkirat “ein grosses Werk über die gesammte theoretische und practische Medicin” and Leclerc (Hist. de la médecine arabe, vol. 2 [Paris, 1876], 304) says it “embrasse la majeure partie de la science”. Much more recent, there is an entry on Dāʾūd by Raphaela Veit in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, 3d ed. (available online by subscription), with bibliography.

Translating into and composing in ancient languages   8 comments

When I studied Hebrew in graduate school, part of my work included translations from English into Hebrew, and after shorter sentences, I moved on and did parts from Weingreen’s Classical Hebrew Composition, a book rare at the time but which may have been reprinted since then. (See mention of this book, and some remarks related to the theme of this post, particularly in terms of Hebrew, here.) Composition into a language one is learning, even an ancient one, used to be very much the norm, so much so that you would be hard-pressed to find a 19th-century learning grammar (as opposed to a reference grammar) that does not include some composition exercises. I confess that I am not well-read on research (the latest or otherwise) for second-language acquisition and its pedagogical concerns, but speaking merely from personal experience, assuming there are adequate resources for it and a way to check it (preferably by another human being who knows the language better), second language composition is an excellent learning practice, not to mention possibly fun, depending on the material to be translated. Optimally, there should be a “known language” to “language being learned” glossary, with idioms, and a key, and the sentences to be translated ought to be based closely on passages that have been read. Good stand-alone dictionaries will of course also have idioms included.

Exercises for compositions and translations into Greek and Latin abound in classical textbooks, especially older ones. For work like this, a kind of practical vocabulary, one that is often not derivable from dull vocabulary lists at the end of language lessons in grammars, is necessary. Ancient, late antique, and medieval commentaries—there are immediate examples for Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Armenian, etc.—can be very helpful here, as can even later texts when they are written in an ancient language, as the compilers of the Delphin editions, a number of which, but far fewer than the entirety, are available online, recognized. A similar method was put to good use more recently in Waldo Sweet’s reader of Vergil’s Aeneid, Books I and II, which has the text, a facing Latin prose paraphrase, and commentary on certain passages from Servius and other commentators. Eleanor Dickey has made some material like this in Greek more approachable in her Ancient Greek Scholarship (Oxford, 2007).

Some classicists will also know of the method pushed by W.H.D. Rouse (see especially his Scenes from Sixth Form Life and A Greek Boy at Home, as well as The Teaching of Greek at the Perse School) and latterly the similar work of Hans Ørberg for Latin and the Italian adaptation of Athenaze by L. Miraglia for Greek. These all stress real direct use of the language and reading and composing without translation as an intermediary crutch. For one of the volumes (Sermones Romani ad usum discipulorum) in the Lingua Latina per se illustrata series, Ørberg used to good effect the Latin part of some colloquia (the original also has Greek) published with the Hermeneumata Pseudodositheana (ed. G. Goetz, Leipzig, 1892).

A plethora of English to Greek or Latin exercises exist in (especially older) grammars, and there are many slim volumes for both languages specifically dedicated to composition. Taking a cue from Cicero’s De oratore, Roger Ascham in the 16th century was a strong advocate of double translation in learning Greek and Latin: the student would learn a Greek or Latin passage, translate it into English and then, after a period of time, put away the copy in the original language and translate from his or her English translation back into the original language and finally compare it with the original text. (I can’t at present locate my copy of The Scholemaster, where he discusses this method, or I would cite some lines from it. Those interested may find the work online here and probably elsewhere.) The Gaisford Prize, long a venue for Greek composition at Oxford, is also worth mentioning. Some of these are new compositions (mostly prose), others translations from English literature into Greek (mostly verse). Unfortunately, only a few of these interesting specimens have been published. In prose, the most notable piece is on a trip to the zoo in Herodotus’ Ionic Greek style. As an example of verse, some lines from Henry IV, Part 2 (Act 1, sc. ii, ll. 173-181) were rendered into Greek by George Nutt in 1866. Shakespeare’s words read (Lord Chief Justice to Falstaff):

Do you set your name in the scroll of youth, that are written down old with all the characters of age? Have you not a moist eye? a dry hand? a yellow cheek? a white beard? a decreasing leg? an increasing belly? Is not your voice broken? your wind short? your chin double? your wit single? and every part about you blasted with antiquity? and will you yet call yourself young? Fie, fie, fie, Sir John!

The Hellenic version is:

ἆρ᾽ ἐγγράφεις σὺ τοὔνομ᾽ εἰς νεανίας,

ὅστις γέγραψαι πάντ᾽ ἔχων τεκμηρία

γήρως γέρων ὢν ἐμφανῶς; ἆρ᾽ οὐχί σοι

λημῶσιν ὀφθαλμοὶ μὲν αὔη δ᾽ ἐστὶ χείρ;

ὠχρὸς παρειὰν καὶ πολιὸς γενειάδ᾽ εἶ·

γαστὴρ μὲν οἰδεῖ, τὰ σκέλη δ᾽ ἰσχναίνεται·

φωνὴ παρέρρωγέν θ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἄσθματός τ᾽ ἀεὶ

πονεῖς· διπλοῦν γένειον ἀλλ᾽ ἁπλοῦς ὁ νοῦς.

οὐκ εἶ σὺ γὴρᾳ πᾶς παρεξηυλημένος;

κἄπειτα ληρεῖς σαυτὸν ὀνομάζων νέον;

αἰβοῖ.

A recent example of Greek composition is the brief paragraphs on current events in classical Greek at a site I have from time to time in leisure moments enjoyed for some years.

While Greek and Latin are the languages for which (for speakers of European languages, at least) the most tools in this regard  are available, they are not the only languages that have been and can be learned this way. For example, for Sanskrit, E.D. Perry’s Sanskrit Primer (4t ed., New York, 1936) contains exercises, and an English-Sanskrit glossary (but no key). Huehnergard’s Grammar of Akkadian has (generally short) sentences to be made into Akkadian from English; there is an English-Akkadian glossary, and a key is available as a separate volume. I was very surprised to read recently in Budge’s autobiographical remarks in his By Nile and Tigris (London, 1920; vol. 1, p. 60) that at Cambridge, where he read Syriac texts with William Wright and Robert Bensly, with the latter he translated part of The Pilgrim’s Progress into Syriac! In his words, “During the years I read with him, I turned, with his help, the greater part of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ into Syriac, as an exercise in composition.” It is possible that this translation is somewhere among Budge’s papers, but I don’t know where these are located. This was apparently not the only English-Syriac composition Budge did at Cambridge, but this is the only specific project named under this head. When he sat down with Wright at the beginning of his studies with him, Wright

at once sketched out a plan of work, and terrified me with the list of books which he expected me to read. Certain set books in Syriac and Arabic he would read with me himself; Syriac works which were translated from Greek were to be read with Mr. R. L. Bensly, who would help me in translating English into Syriac; and the Hebrew and Chaldee books were to be read with the Rev. W. H. Lowe, who would direct me in Hebrew composition. (pp. 55-56)[1]

Learning a language this way, where possible, is not only effective in improving one’s knowledge of it, it’s also quite fun, as mentioned above, and as, for example, the people at Eisenbrauns know, when they have their annual Valentine’s Day contest for putting together amorous compositions in ancient languages (see the 2011 results here). Well-known songs might also be good practice; I’ve long thought “Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” and almost anything from Dark Side of the Moon would be suitable.

Related to all of this, too, is the place of memorization (of lines and texts, not paradigms and individual isolated lexemes) in language learning. Hopefully, there’ll be opportunity for a post on that in the future. Until then, I would be glad to hear of others’ experiences, both good and bad, translating into and composing in ancient languages.

[1] These lines are also quoted in the introduction of the new publication of some of Wright’s letters. See my review here.

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