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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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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.

The Jerusalem manuscript of Antony of Tagrit’s Rhetoric   3 comments

This is just a short note on a manuscript I cataloged this morning. It’s not a new find, but rather a confirmation of the existence and the whereabouts of a significant copy of Antony of Tagrit’s Rhetoric. In the introduction to his edition of the fifth book of the Rhetoric (CSCO 480), John Watt, who has written extensively on the topic of rhetoric in Syriac (see the bibliography below), mentions a manuscript of the work known to have been at Saint Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem (cf. Baumstark in OC 3 (1913): 132 [no. 32*]), and not a late copy: he gives 14th/15th/16th century, but he had apparently not seen the manuscript. He says of it that its location “since 1949 is also unknown” (p. xi).

Thanks to HMML’s digitization of the collection at Saint Mark’s, the manuscript’s whereabouts can be confirmed, and images of this important copy are now easily accessible. As for the date, Baumstark suggests 15th or 16th century, and the data reported by Watt also includes the previous century. To me, 16th century seems too late an estimate; I would tentatively settle on the 15th. The manuscript contains most of the text of Antony’s Rhetoric, although the first two folios are later replacements, and the end of the fifth book is missing. Here are a few samples:

SMMJ 230, pp. 255-256, end of book 2 and beg. of book 3 (and end of quire 13, beg. of quire 14)

SMMJ 230, pp. 255-256, end of book 2 and beg. of book 3 (and end of quire 13, beg. of quire 14)

SMMJ 230, pp. 289-290, from book 4

SMMJ 230, pp. 289-290, from book 4

SMMJ 230, pp. 383-384, from book 5

SMMJ 230, pp. 383-384, from book 5, and with ink noticeably more faded

Bibliography (from The Compr. Bib. on Syriac Christianity)

Breydy, Michel, ”Précisions historiques autour des œuvres d’Antoine de Tagrit et des manuscrits de St. Marc de Jérusalem”, Pages 15-52 in Erkenntnisse und Meinungen II. Edited by Wiessner, Gernot. Göttinger Orientforschungen, I. Reihe: Syriaca 17. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1978.

Corcella, Aldo, ”Due citazioni dalle Etiopiche di Eliodoro nella Retorica di Antonio di Tagrīt”, Orientalia Christiana Periodica 74:2 (2008): 389-416.

Duval, Rubens, ”Notice sur la Rhétorique d’Antoine de Tagrit”, Pages 479-486 in Orientalische Studien: Theodor Nöldeke zum siebzigsten Geburtstag (2. März 1906) gewidmet von Freunden und Schülern. Edited by Bezold, Carl. Gieszen: Alfred Töpelmann, 1906.

Eliyo Sewan d-Beth Qermaz,, ed. The Book of the Rhetoric by Anthony Rhitor of Tagrit. Stockholm: Forfatteres Bokmaskin, 2000.

Eskenasy, Pauline Ellen, ”Antony of Tagrit’s Rhetoric Book One: Introduction, Partial Translation, and Commentary”. Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1991.

Köbert, Raimund, ”Bemerkungen zu den syrischen Zitaten aus Homer und Platon im 5. Buch der Rhetorik des Anton von Tagrit und zum syrischen Peri askeseos angeblich von Plutarch”, Orientalia 40 (1971): 438-447.

Raguse, Hartmut, ”Syrische Homerzitate in der Rhetorik des Anton von Tagrit”, Pages 162-175 in Paul de Lagarde und die syrische Kirchengeschichte. Göttingen: Göttinger Arbeitskreis für syrische Kirchengeschichte, 1968.

Rahmani, Ignatius Ephraem, ed. Studia Syriaca, seu collectio documentorum hactenus ineditorum ex codicibus Syriacis. Monte Libano: Typis Patriarchalibus in Seminario Scharfensi, 1904-1909.

Rücker, Adolf, ”Das fünfte Buch der Rhetorik des Anton von Tagrit”, Oriens Christianus 31 (1934): 13-22.

Seven d-Beth Qermez, E., ed. Antony Rhitor of Tagrit. The Book of Rhetoric. Södertälje: Författares Bokmaskin, 2000.

Sprengling, Martin, ”Antonius Rhetor on Versification, with an Introduction and Two Appendices”, American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 32:3 (1916): 145-216.

Strothmann, Werner, ”Die Schrift des Anton von Tagrit über die Rhetorik”, Pages 199-216 in Paul de Lagarde und die syrische Kirchengeschichte. Göttingen: Göttinger Arbeitskreis für syrische Kirchengeschichte, 1968.

Watt, John W., ”Antony of Tagrit as a Student of Syriac Poetry”, Le Muséon 98:3-4 (1985): 261-279.

Watt, John W., ed. The Fifth Book of the Rhetoric of Antony of Tagrit. CSCO 480-481, Syr. 203-204. Leuven: Peeters, 1986.

Watt, John W., ”Antony of Tagrit on Rhetorical Figures”, Pages 317-325 in IV Symposium Syriacum, 1984: Literary Genres in Syriac Literature (Groningen – Oosterhesselen 10-12 September). Edited by Drijvers, Han J.W. and Lavenant, René and Molenberg, Corrie and Reinink, Gerrit J.. Orientalia Christiana Analecta 229. Roma: Pontificium Institutum Studiorum Orientalium, 1987.

Watt, John W., ”Syriac Panegyric in Theory and Practice: Antony of Tagrit and Eli of Qartamin”, Le Muséon 102:3-4 (1989): 271-298.

Watt, John W., ”Grammar, Rhetoric and the Enkyklios Paideia in Syriac”, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 143:1 (1993): 45-71.

Watt, John W., ”The Syriac Reception of Platonic and Aristotelian Rhetoric”, ARAM 5 (1993): 579-601.

Watt, John W., ”Syriac Rhetorical Theory and the Syriac Tradition of Aristotle’s Rhetoric”, Pages 243-260 in Peripatetic Rhetoric after Aristotle. Edited by Fortenbaugh, William W. and Mirhady, D.C.. Rutgers University Studies in Classical Humanities 4. New Brunswick: 1994.

Watt, John W., ”The Philosopher-King in the “Rhetoric” of Antony of Tagrit”, Pages 245-258 in VI Symposium Syriacum, 1992: University of Cambridge, Faculty of Divinity, 30 August – 2 September 1992. Edited by Lavenant, René. Orientalia Christiana Analecta 247. Roma: Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 1994.

Watt, John W., ”Eastward and Westward Transmission of Classical Rhetoric”, Pages 63-75 in Centres of Learning: Learning and Location in Pre-Modern Europe and the Near East. Edited by Drijvers, Jan Willem and MacDonald, Alaisdair A.. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History 61. Leiden / New York / Köln: Brill, 1995.

Watt, John W., ”From Themistius to al-Farabi: Platonic Political Philosophy and Aristotle’s Rhetoric in the East”, Rhetorica 13:1 (1995): 17-41.

Watt, John W., ”From Synesius to al-Farabi: Philosophy, Religion, and Rhetoric in the Christian Orient”, Pages 265-277 in Symposium Syriacum VII: Uppsala University, Department of Asian and African Languages, 11–14 August 1996. Edited by Lavenant, René. Orientalia Christiana Analecta 256. Roma: Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 1998.

Watt, John W., ”The Recovery of an Old Text: Scribes, Scholars, Collectors and the Rhetoric of Antony of Tagrit”, The Harp 16 (2003): 285-295.

Watt, John W., ”Guarding the Syriac Language in an Arabic Environment: Antony of Tagrit on the Use of Grammar in Rhetoric”, Pages 133-150 in Syriac Polemics: Studies in Honour of Gerrit Jan Reinink. Edited by van Bekkum, Wout Jac. and Drijvers, Jan Willem and Klugkist, Alex C.. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 170. Leuven: Peeters, 2007.

Watt, John W., ”Literary and Philosophical Rhetoric in Syriac”, Pages 141-154 in Literary and Philosophical Rhetoric in the Greek, Roman, Syriac and Arabic Worlds. Edited by Woerther, Frédérique. Europaea Memoria I.66. Hildesheim: Olms-Weidmann, 2009.

Watt, John W., Rhetoric and Philosophy from Greek into Syriac. Variorum Collected Studies 960. Farnham, England: Ashgate, 2010.

Chrysostom’s reference to translations of the Bible   2 comments

The fact that texts of the Bible exist in so many languages makes it a fascinating arena in which to study all sorts of philological phenomena. Research on these texts, in whatever language, may include the attempt to pinpoint when the biblical text comes into this or that language, by whom, &c. With much less specificity and altogether different concerns, in his second homily on the Gospel of John, on Jn 1:1 (text in PG 59: 29-38), John Chrysostom has a remark that touches on some of the languages within the purview of hmmlorientalia. At this place, the homilist is making the point that the apostle John, unlettered as he was, uttered teachings grander, more glorious, and more useful than those the learned Greeks might appreciate, including Pythagoras — who “set in motion ten thousand kinds of magic” (col. 32, γοητείας κινήσας εἴδη μυρία) — and Plato, the doctrines of them all, he says implausibly, being “extinguished and vanished” (col. 31, ἔσβεσται ἅπαντα καὶ ἠφάνισται)! The teaching of the unlearned John, however, has been spreading.

ἀλλὰ καὶ Σύροι καὶ Αἰγύπτιοι καὶ Ἰνδοὶ καὶ Πέρσαι καὶ Αἰθίοπες καὶ μυρία ἕτερα ἔθνη εἰς τὴν αὐτῶν μεταβαλόντες γλῶτταν τὰ παρὰ τούτου δόγματα εἰσαχθέντα ἔμαθον ἄνθρωποι βάρβαροι φιλοσοφεῖν. (col. 32)

But Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Ethiopians, and ten thousand other peoples, translating into their own languages the doctrines introduced by him [John], barbarians learned to philosophize.

While we have and still use all of these gentilics, the identity of the peoples Chrysostom had in mind is not necessarily certain. Given his hyperbolic reference to “ten thousand other peoples,” he is not, in any case, aiming to be very specific. Whatever their identity, they’re still barbarians! (John, even without much learning, was not really a barbarian for Chrysostom because he used Greek.) Chrysostom is not being specific about the parts of the Bible he has in mind, either, but minimally he is thinking of the Gospel of John. One result of this vaguely mentioned translation activity is that hitherto non-philosophizing peoples have now learned to do just that. Combined with Chrysostom’s previous remarks in this homily, we come to his conclusion that the teachings of Plato and (especially) Pythagoras constitute bad philosophy, justly withering, while the simple, unlettered, and little-thought-of John the apostle is one means through which a higher and better philosophy, one that even non-Greeks can study and practice, has spread.

Avid Syriac readers will know about the appearance last year of the first part of the Syriac version of Chrysostom’s homilies on John (homilies 1-43) in CSCO 651/ScrSyr 250 by Jeff Childers. The Syriac part corresponding to the Greek text above is on p. 14, ll. 16-18. (Since the appearance of Syriac is still not always reliable on different machines, I’ve also given a transliteration. The accompanying ET in CSCO 652 is not immediately available to me, so the translation below is mine):

ܐܠܐ ܐܦ ܣܘܪ̈ܝܝܐ ܘܡܨܪ̈ܝܐ ܘܗܢܕ̈ܘܝܐ ܘܦܪ̈ܣܝܐ ܘܟܘܫ̈ܝܐ ܘܪ̈ܒܘܬܐ ܕܥܡ̈ܡܐ ܐܚܪ̈ܢܐ. ܝܘܠܦܢܗ ܕܗܢܐ ܒܠܫܢܝ̈ܗܘܢ ܦܫܩܘ. ܘܐܝܠܦܘ ܚܟܡܬܗ܀

ellā āp suryāyē w-meṣrāyē w-hendwāyē w-pārsāyē w-kušāyē w-rebbwātā d-ʕammē (ʔ)ḥrānē yulpānēh d-hānā b-leššānayhon paššeq(w) w-ilep(w) ḥekmtēh

But Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Persians, Ethiopians (Cushites), and myriads of other peoples have translated this man’s doctrine into their own languages and have learned his wisdom.

Here are some of the Greek-Syriac correspondences with comments:

  • εἰς τὴν αὐτῶν … γλῶτταν b-leššānayhon. The pronominal elements are plural in both languages, but “language” is singular in Greek, plural in Syriac.
  • μεταβαλόντες paššeq(w). Greek aorist participle rendered by a Syriac perfect, a very common phenomenon in Greek-Syriac translations.
  • τὰ παρὰ τούτου δόγματα εἰσαχθέντα yulpānēh d-hānā. The noun is plural in Greek, singular in Syriac, and where the Greek has a participle (“introduced”) with prepositional phrase (“by him”), the Syriac merely has a pronominal element (“his”): the near demonstrative pronoun with an anticipatory pronominal suffix on the noun.
  • ἔμαθον w-ilep(w). The Greek μεταβαλόντες and ἔμαθον are in Syriac put as past verbs joined by a conjunction.
  • ἄνθρωποι βάρβαροι ∅. In the Greek text, μεταβαλόντες and ἔμαθον have distinct agents: for the participle it is the named nations, and for ἔμαθον it is ἄνθρωποι βάρβαροι. The latter noun and adjective indeed refer to those same nations, but they are grammatically separate. The Syriac has nothing to correspond to ἄνθρωποι βάρβαροι — perhaps to avoid calling their own people barbarians! — and thus the two verbs paššeq(w) w-ilep(w) have as their agent the list of peoples at the beginning of the sentence.
  • φιλοσοφεῖν ḥekmtēh. A notable translation, the Greek infinitive has become a noun, and one with a pronominal suffix referring to the apostle. Syriac has words derived from Greek φιλοσοφία, but here a native Aramaic word is used.

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Notula on some Greek terminology for “translate”

The expression μεταβάλλειν εἰς γλῶτταν is used in the passage above for “translate”. Josephus also uses this verb in the same meaning:

Ant. Jud. 1.10
Εὗρον τοίνυν, ὅτι Πτολεμαίων μὲν ὁ δεύτερος μάλιστα δὴ βασιλεὺς περὶ παιδείαν καὶ βιβλίων συναγωγὴν σπουδάσας ἐξαιρέτως ἐφιλοτιμήθη τὸν ἡμέτερον νόμον καὶ τὴν κατ᾽ αὐτὸν διάταξιν τῆς πολιτείας εἰς τὴν Ἑλλάδα φωνὴν μεταβαλεῖν

Ant. Jud. 12.14-15
μεμηνῦσθαι δ᾽ ἔλεγεν αὐτῷ πολλὰ εἶναι καὶ παρὰ Ἰουδαίοις τῶν παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς νομίμων συγγράμματα σπουδῆς ἄξια καὶ τῆς βασιλέως βιβλιοθήκης, ἃ τοῖς ἐκείνων χαρακτῆρσιν καὶ τῇ διαλέκτῳ γεγραμμένα πόνον αὐτοῖς οὐκ ὀλίγον παρέξειν εἰς τὴν Ἑλληνικὴν μεταβαλλόμενα γλῶτταν. …  οὐδὲν οὖν ἔλεγεν κωλύειν καὶ ταῦτα μεταβαλόντα, δύνασθαι γὰρ τῆς εἰς αὐτὸ χορηγίας εὐποροῦντα, ἔχειν ἐν τῇ βιβλιοθήκῃ καὶ τὰ παρ᾽ ἐκείνοις.

In Ant. Jud. 1.7 he uses μεταφέρειν:

ὄκνος μοι καὶ μέλλησις ἐγίνετο τηλικαύτην μετενεγκεῖν ὑπόθεσιν εἰς ἀλλοδαπὴν ἡμῖν καὶ ξένην διαλέκτου συνήθειαν.

Now for a few other terms (but this is certainly not a complete list!). In a famous part of the Prol. to Ben Sira, we see μετάγειν used for translation: μεταχθῇ εἰς ἑτέραν γλῶσσαν. One Greek text that often refers to translation is, of course, the Letter of Aristeas (ET here; see recent discussion in T.M. Law, When God Spoke Greek, 35-39). Here are the places (probably not exhaustive) that I quickly picked out where translation, either as a noun or a verb, is mentioned. Words built on herm- are the favorite, and it does not seem that μεταβάλλειν appears there with reference to translation.

  • 11 Ἑρμηνείας προσδεῖται
  • 15 ἣν [sc. τὴν τῶν Ἰουδαίων νομοθεσίαν] ἡμεῖς οὐ μόνον μεταγράψαι ἐπινοοῦμεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ διερμηνεῦσαι (“…not only to copy, but also to translate” — μεταγράφειν can mean both “copy” and “translate”; cf. μεταγραφή in §§ 45 and 46)
  • 32 τὸ κατὰ τὴν ἑρμηνείαν ἀκριβές
  • 38 τὸν νόμον ὑμῶν μεθερμηνευθῆναι γράμμασιν Ἑλληνικοῖς ἐκ τῶν παρ᾽ ὑμῶν λεγομένων Ἑβραϊκῶν γραμμάτων
  • 45 ἡ τοῦ ἁγίου νόμου μεταγραφή (again in § 46)
  • 120 τὰ δὲ τῆς ἑρμηνείας (similarly again in § 308; cf. from § 307 below)
  • 301 παρεκάλει τοὺς ἄνδρας τὰ τῆς ἑρμηνείας ἐπιτελεῖν
  • 305 ἐτρέποντο πρὸς τὴν ἀνάγνωσιν καὶ τὴν ἑκάστου διασάφησιν (διασάφησις here might mean “translation”, but it could also be “explanation”, i.e. each person’s explanation of what had had been read. For another place where the word occurs, twice, certainly not meaning “translation”, see Acta Petri et Andreae § 15, p. 124.5, 124.7 in the ed. of Bonnet and Lipsius.)
  • 307 τὰ τῆς μεταγραφῆς (“the work of the translation”)
  • 308 παρόντων καὶ τῶν διερμηνευσάντων (the translators); in 310 we find τῶν ἑρμηνέων οἱ πρεσβύτεροι, and in 318 τοὺς ἑρμηνεῖς
  • 310 Ἐπεὶ καλῶς καὶ ὁσίως διηρμήνευται καὶ κατὰ πᾶν ἠκριβωμένος
  • 314 τινὰ τῶν προηρμηνευμένων ἐπισφαλέστερον ἐκ τοῦ νόμου προσιστορεῖν (“to tell in addition some parts from the earlier, less reliable, translations of the law”)

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The beginning of Nemesius of Emesa’s De natura hominis in Greek, Armenian, Georgian, Syriac, and Latin   2 comments

The name of the later fourth-century author and bishop Nemesius of Emesa may not often pass the lips even of those closely interested in late antique theology and philosophy, but his work On the Nature of Man (Περὶ φύσεως ἀνθρώπου, CPG II 3550), to judge by the evident translations of the work, attracted translators and readers in various languages. What follows are merely a few pointers to these translations and some related evidence in Greek, Armenian, Syriac, Georgian, and Latin (bibliography below), with renderings of the book’s incipit in the versions.

For Arabic, I don’t have any texts ready to hand, but with attribution to Gregory of Nyssa, Isḥāq b. Ḥunayn (d. 910/911) translated it into Arabic (GCAL I 319, II 130), and Abū ‘l-Fatḥ ʕabdallāh b. al-Faḍl (11th cent.) apparently writes in connection to the work in chs. 51-70 of his Kitāb al-manfaʕa al-kabīr (GCAL II 59). (Note also the latter’s translation and commentary to Basil’s Hexaemeron and its continuation by Gregory of Nyssa [GCAL II 56].)

Greek

Morani, Moreno, ed. Nemesii Emeseni De natura hominis. Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana. Leipzig: B.G. Teubner, 1987.

Older ed. in PG 40 504-817.

(ed. Morani, as quoted in Zonta, 231):
Τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐκ ψυχῆς νοερᾶς καὶ σώματος ἄριστα κατεσκευασμένον

Armenian

See Thomson, Bibliography of Classical Armenian, 40. The Venice, 1889 ed. is available here.

title: Յաղագս բնութեան մարդոյ

Զմարգն ի հոգւոյ իմանալւոյ եւ ի մարմնոյ գեղեցիկ կազմեալ

  • մարդ, -ոց man, mortal, human being
  • իմանալի intelligible, perceptible; intelligent
  • մարմին, -մնոց body
  • գեղեցիկ, -ցկի, -ցկաց handsome, agreeable, proper, elegant, good
  • կազնեմ, -եցի to form, model, construct, arrange

Latin

C. Burkhard, ed. Nemesii Episcopi Premnon Physicon sive Περὶ φύσεως ἀνθρώπου Liber a N. Alfano Archiepiscopo Salerni in Latinum Translatus. Leipzig: Teubner, 1917. At archive.org here.

It was translated into Latin by Alfanus of Salerno (fl. 1058-1085), and in the Latin tradition it is known by the Greek title πρέμνον φυσικῶν, “the trunk of physical things”. This seems to be the usual title (spelled variously in Latin letters, of course), and a marginal note has “Nemesius episcopus graece fecit librum quem vocavit prennon phisicon id est stipes naturalium. hunc transtulit N. Alfanus archiepiscopus Salerni.” The text begins thus:

A multis et prudentibus viris confirmatum est hominem ex anima intellegibili et corpore tam bene compositum…

Georgian

Gorgadze. S. ნემესიოს ემესელი, ბუნებისათჳს კაცისა (იოანე პეტრიწის თარგმანი). Tbilisi, 1914. The text from this edition is at TITUS here.

The translation is that of the famous philosopher and translator Ioane Petrici (d. 1125; Tarchnishvili, Geschichte, 211-225).

კაცისა სულისა-გან გონიერისა და სხეულისა რჩეულად შემზადებაჲ

  • გონიერი wise, understanding
  • სხეული body
  • რჩეული choice, select
  • შემზადებაჲ preparation

Syriac

The witness to a Syriac translation is fragmentary. It has been studied by Zonta. The incipit of Nemesius’ work appears in two places, and differently.

1. from Timotheos I (d. 823), Letter 43, as given in Pognon, xvii:

ܥܩܒ  ܬܘܒ ܘܥܠ ܣܝܡܐ ܕܐܢܫ ܦܝܠܣܘܦܐ ܕܡܬܩܪܐ ܢܡܘܣܝܘܣ ܕܥܠ ܬܘܩܢܗ ܕܒܪܢܫܐ ܘܐܝܬܘܗܝ ܪܫܗ ܗܢܐ. ܒܪܢܫܐ ܡܢ ܢܦܫܐ ܡܬܝܕܥܢܝܬܐ ܘܦܓܪܐ ܛܒ ܫܦܝܪ ܡܬܩܢ
Brock’s ET (“Two Letters,” 237): “Search out for a work by a certain philosopher called Nemesius, on the structure of man, which begins: ‘Man is excellently constructed as a rational soul and body…’”

2. from Iwannis of Dara (fl. first half of 9th cent.), De anima, in Vat. Syr. 147, as given by Zonta, 231:

ܒܪܢܫܐ ܡܢ ܢܦܫܐ ܝܕܘܥܬܢܝܬܐ ܘܦܓܪܐ ܡܪܟܒ

Bibliography

(In addition to the already cited editions, etc.)

Brock, Sebastian P., ”Two Letters of the Patriarch Timothy from the Late Eighth Century on Translations from Greek”, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 9 (1999): 233-246.

Motta, Beatrice, ”Nemesius of Emesa”, Pages 509-518 in The Cambridge History of Philosophy in Late Antiquity. Edited by Gerson, Lloyd Phillip. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Pognon, Henri. Une version syriaque des aphorismes d’Hippocrate. Texte et traduction. Pt. 1, Texte syriaque. Leipzig, 1903.

Sharples, Robert W. and van der Eijk, Philip J., Nemesius. On the Nature of Man. Translated Texts for Historians 49. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2008.

Zonta, Mauro, ”Nemesiana Syriaca: New Fragments from the Missing Syriac Version of the De Natura Hominis”, Journal of Semitic Studies 36:2 (1991): 223-258.

Marginal note on Ibn Sīnā in a sixteenth-century Syriac manuscript   Leave a comment

Ibn Sīnā (see also here, here, from the Enc. Iranica here, and specifically for metaphysics, here) stands among the most well known and most influential of philosophers who have written in Arabic, and his influence was hardly confined to the intellectual worlds where Arabic or Persian were the means of communication. From the twelfth and thirteenth centuries he was read in Latin — several volumes of the Latin witness to Ibn Sīnā have appeared since 1972 in editions by Simone van Riet (Brill) — and reflections of his work can be found in the writers of the Syriac Renaissance of the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries, especially in the voluminous work of Bar ʕebrāyā. Alongside the Qānūn fī ‘l-ṭibb may be mentioned especially his encyclopedic Kitāb al-šifāʔ, Dāneš-nāma (or Dānišnāma-i ʕalāʔī, in Persian, for the prince ʕalāʔ al-Dawla see here), and the Kitāb al-išārāt wa-‘l-tanbīhāt; the last mentioned work was translated into Syriac by Bar ʕebrāyā and there are two late copies with parallel Garšūnī and Syriac available at HMML: CFMM 550 and MGMT 20 (both twentieth century). John bar Maʕdani (d. 1263), a contemporary of Bar ʕebrāyā, penned two poems on the soul, one (or both) of which goes by the name of “The Bird” (pāraḥtā). I have recently cataloged an East Syriac manuscript of the sixteenth century that contains these two poems (and another, “On the Way of the Perfect”): it was copied in Gāzartā and completed on Aug. 10, 1866 AG/962 AH (= 1555 CE). The scribe, named Yawsep, rightly notes in the margin at the beginning of both of these poems that Bar Maʕdani is following Ibn Sīnā on this theme. The latter had written “a treatise, the Bird, an allegory in which he describes his attainment of the knowledge of the truth” (risālat al-ṭayr. marmūza yaṣif fīhā  tawaṣṣula-hu ilá ʕilm al-ḥaqq; see Gohlman, pp. 98-99). Here is the marginal note to the first poem, that to the second being much less legible:

CCM 24, f. 112v, marginal note

CCM 24, f. 112v, marginal note

Bar Sini [sic], the Muslim [hāgārāyā] philosopher, made a treatise [Syr. eggartā = Arb. risāla], the thought of which he somewhere directs to the subject at hand.

Here are the rubric and first lines of Bar Maʕdani’s first poem on the soul from this manuscript:

CCM 24, f. 112v.

CCM 24, f. 112v.

Bibliography (selected!)

Achena, M. and Henri Massé. Le livre de science (Danishnama-yi ‘Ala’i) I: Logique, Métaphysique II: science naturelle, mathématique. Paris, 1986.

Anawati, G. La Métaphysique du Shifa’ I-IV et V-X. Paris, 1978-86.

Furlani, Giuseppe. “Avicenna, Barhebreo, Cartesio.” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 14 (1933): 21-30.

________. ”La psicologia di Barhebreo secondo il libro La Crema della Sapienza.” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 13 (1931-1932): 24-52.

________. “La versione siriaca del Kitâb al-išârât wat-tanbîhât di Avicenna.” Rivista degli Studi Orientali 21 (1945): 89-101.

Goichon, A.-M. “Ibn Sīnā.” In Encylopaedia of Islam, 2d ed., vol. 3, 941-947.

________. Lexique de la langue philosophique d’Avicenne. Paris, 1938.

________. Livre de directives et remarques (al-Isharat wa’l-Tanbihat). 2 vols. Paris, 1951.

Gohlman, William E. The Life of Ibn Sina: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation. Albany, 1974.

Gutas, Dimitri. Avicenna and the Aristotelian Tradition. Leiden/Boston, 1988.

Hasse, Dag. Avicenna’s De Anima in the Latin West. London, 2000.

Heath, Peter. Allegory and Philosophy in Avicenna (Ibn Sînâ). Philadelphia, 1992.

Inati, Shams. Ibn Sina on Mysticism (al-Isharat wa’l-Tanbihat namat IX). London, 1998.

________. Remarks and Admonitions Part One: Logic (al-Isharat wa’l-Tanbihat: mantiq). Toronto, 1984.

Janssens, Jules. Bibliography of Works on Ibn Sina. 2 vols. Leiden, 1991-1999.

Janssens, Jules and Daniel de Smet, eds. Avicenna and His Heritage. Leuven, 2001.

Joosse, Nanne Peter. A Syriac Encyclopaedia of Aristotelian Philosophy: Barhebraeus (13th c.), Butyrum Sapientiae, Books of Ethics, Economy, and Politics. Aristoteles Semitico-Latinus 16. Leiden/Boston, 2004.

Mcginnis, Jon. Avicenna, The Physics of The Healing. 2 vols. Provo, 2009.

Marmura, Michael. The Metaphysics of Avicenna (al-Ilahiyyat min Kitab al-Shifa’). Provo, 2004.

________. “Plotting the Course of Avicenna’s Thought.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 111 (1991): 333-42.

Michot, Yahya. “La pandémie avicennienne.” Arabica 40 (1993): 287-344.

Morewedge, Parviz. The Metaphysica of Avicenna (Ilahiyyat-i Danishnama-yi ‘Ala’i). New York, 1972.

Rahman, F. Avicenna’s De Anima (Fi’l-Nafs). London, 1954.

Rashed, Roshdi and Jean Jolivet, eds. Études sur Avicenne. Paris, 1984.

Reisman, D. and Ahmed al-Rahim, eds. Before and After Avicenna. Leiden/Boston, 2003.

N. G. Siraisi, Avicenna in Renaissance Italy: The Canon and Medical Teaching in Italian Universities after 1500. Princeton, 1987.

Takahashi, Hidemi. Aristotelian Meteorology in Syriac: Barhebraeus, Butyrum Sapientiae, Books of Mineralogy and Meteorology. Aristoteles Semitico-Latinus 15. Leiden/Boston, 2004.

________. “The Reception of Ibn Sīnā in Syriac: The Case of Gregory Barhebraeus.”, In Before and After Avicenna (see above), 249-281.

Teule, Herman G.B.”Renaissance, Syriac.” GEDSH 350-351.

________. “The Transmission of Islamic Culture to the World of Syriac Christianity: Barhebreaus’ Translation of Avicenna’s kitâb al-išârât wa l-tanbîhât. First Soundings.” In J.J. van Ginkel, H.L. Murre-van den Berg, and T.M. van Lint, eds. Redefining Christian Identity: Cultural Interaction in the Middle East since the Rise of Islam. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 134. Leuven: Peeters, 2005. Pages 167-184.

________. “Yuḥanon bar Maʿdani.” GEDSH 444.

Watt, John W. Aristotelian Rhetoric in Syriac: Barhebraeus, Butyrum Sapientiae, Book of Rhetoric. Aristoteles Semitico-Latinus 18. Leiden/Boston, 2005.

________, “Graeco-Syriac Tradition and Arabic Philosophy in Bar Hebraeus.” In H.G.B. Teule, C.F. Tauwinkl, R.B. ter Haar Romeny, and J.J. van Ginkel, eds. The Syriac Renaissance. Eastern Christian Studies 9. Leuven/Paris/Walpole, Mass., 2010. Pages 123-133.

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