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Saint Christopher the Dog-headed (Armenian & Georgian; Old English)   2 comments

Some time ago I shared some excerpts in English translation from the Syriac version of the Martyrdom of Christopher. One of my favorite aspects of hagiographic study is the fact that so many texts are available in some form or other in more than one language (an aspect investigated by Paul Peeters and others): translators active in the languages of the Christian east spared little effort in effectively broadcasting these versions across the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, in Africa as far as Nubia and Ethiopia, at least, and along the Silk Road further east (in Syriac, Sogdian, and other languages). An incomplete picture of this translation activity can be seen in the outdated but still essential Bibliotheca hagiographica orientalis (1910), incomplete because of its age, because it reflects only published (as opposed to manuscript) resources, and because not all languages were included, the almost complete absence of Georgian being especially noteworthy. (See the bibliography I am compiling here.) These translated texts offer readers a lot to compare, whether in terms of content — how are the versions different or the same, for example, and why? — or in terms of specific linguistic categories, i.e. within the study of translation technique. Editions and studies of hagiographic text materials often take place along the lines of a single language (whether the original or a translation), less frequently with texts in two languages, but a great many hagiographic texts offer the possibility and promise of multilingual synoptic editions.

That said, nothing so grand here and now: without going into detail about the possible textual relationships of the versions of this story, here is only a short look at an Armenian and Georgian version of the martyrdom-tale, with a bit on Old English at the end. What follows is a single paragraph from the beginning about the saint’s appearance, origins, and first impulse towards martyrdom; the text is from Kekelidze’s edition of the Christopher tale (§ 2) from manuscript Tbilisi A-95, which is thankfully available electronically at TITUS here, along with bitonal, and unfortunately quite small, images of the manuscript itself. Even a quick comparison with the published Greek text (ed. G. van Hooff in the very first issue of AB [1882], this part on pp. 122-123) shows that an exact alignment of the two is impossible, and so, too, with the Armenian (here in Վարք եւ վկայաբանւթիւնք, vol. 2; “dog-headed” in Armenian is շանագլուխ, in case you’re wondering). Here are the beginnings of the aforementioned Armenian and Georgian texts with English translation and, for students of those languages, some lexical and grammatical notes. For comparison, note these synaxarion-readings: Arm. in PO 21: 429-433; Arab. in PO 16: 278-280; Gǝʿǝz in PO 46: 490-493.

Armenian

Եւ էր այր մի Շանագլուխ, գտեալ զնա կոմսի մի ի պատերազնի, եւ ած զնա առ թագաւորն եւ զինուորեցոյց զնա ընդ զօրս իւր. որոյ անուն էր Մարգարիտ։ Եւ տեսեալ զգործս ամպարըշտութեանն՝ խռովէր, եւ շարժեալ սիրտ նորա ի շնորհաց սուրբ Հոգւոյն՝ աղաչէր զԱստուած լինել ձեռնտու եւ օգնական յամենայնի, զի համարձակեսցի խօսել զբանն կենաց նովին բարբառով եւ լեզուաւ, եւ ոչ էր տեղեակ լեզուին։

There was a dog-headed man, whom a count, after having found him in battle, brought him to the king and enlisted him in his army, the name of which was Margarit [Greek ἐν τῷ νουμέρῳ τῶν μαρμαριτῶν]. Having seen the works of wickedness [there], [the dog-headed man] was troubled, and his heart having been moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit, he would ask God to be favorable and assisting in everything, that he might be permitted to speak the word of life with the same language and speech, and he was not skilled in speech.

  • գտեալ root ptcp գտանեմ to find
  • կոմէս, կոմսի count (< Gr.)
  • պատերազն, -ի, -ունք, -աց war, battle, fight, combat
  • ած aor 3sg ածեմ, ածի to lead, bring
  • զինուորեցոյց aor 3sg զինուորեցուցանեմ, -ուցի to enlist, train as a soldier, arm (analogous to ցուցանեմ to show [aor 1sg ցուցի, 3sg եցոյց], ուսուցանեմ to teach [aor 1sg ուսուցի, 3sg ուսոյց]) (for the root, cf. ultimately Middle Persian zēn, also Aramaic zēnā/zaynā, “weapon”)
  • զօր, -ու, -աց army
  • տեսեալ root ptcp տեսանեմ, տեսի to see
  • գործ, -ոյ work, thing, matter, action
  • ամպարըշտութիւն (ամբարշտութիւն) impiety, ungodliness, wickedness
  • խռովէր impf 3sg խռովեմ, -եցի to trouble, vex, disturb (here passive)
  • շարժեալ root ptcp շարժեմ, -եցի to move, agitate
  • սիրտ, սրտից heart
  • շնորհ, -ի, -ք, -աց grace, favor, pardon, mercy
  • աղաչէր impf 3sg աղաչեմ, -եցի to implore, ask
  • լինել inf. լինիմ to become
  • ձեռնտու helping, aiding, favorable
  • օգնական assisting, aiding
  • համարձակեսցի aor subj m/p 3sg համարձակեմ, -եցի to embolden; permit, allow
  • խօսել inf խօսիմ, -եցայ to speak, talk
  • բան, -ից speech, word, discourse
  • կեանք, կենաց life
  • նովին inst sg նոյն the same, the very
  • բարբառ, -ոյ speech, voice, language, dialect; cry; sound
  • լեզու, -ի/-ոյ, -աց tongue, language, speech
  • տեղեակ skilled, expert, well-versed

Georgian

იყო ვინმე კაცი მდაბალი და მოშიში ღმრთისაჲ. უცხოთესლთა ნათესავი, და ძაღლის-თავი იყო იგი. რამეთუ იყო იგი სოფლისაგან კაცის-მჭამელთაჲსა ტყუედ მოყვანებული გუნდისა ერთისაგან; და იქცეოდა იგი წინაშე მეფისა, და ნაქმევსა პირისა მისისასა შესცხრებიან. ხოლო ხედვიდა იგი დაჭრასა მას ქრისტიანეთასა და დევნასა ეკლესიათასა. და რამეთუ არა იცოდა მან ჩუენებრი სიტყუაჲ, ამისთჳს ფრიად და მწრაფლ მას-ცა ეგულებოდა მარტჳლობაჲ და ღუაწლი ქრისტჱსათჳს.

There was a certain man, humble and God-fearing, of barbarian stock, and he was dog-headed, since he was from the region of cannibals, brought as a prisoner from a troop. He would spend time before the king, and they enjoyed looking on the appearance of his face. But he noticed with concern the injury being done to the Christians and the persecution of the churches. Since he did not know speech like ours, for this reason he was greatly and quickly desiring martyrdom and a struggle for Christ.

  • მდაბალი humble
  • უცხოთესლი barbarian
  • ნათესავი relative, related
  • ძაღლი dog
  • მჭამელი eating (კაცის-მჭამელი man-eating, cannibal)
  • ტყუეჲ prisoner
  • მოყვანებული brought
  • გუნდი troop (cf. Middle Persian gund, Armenian գունդ, Aramaic gundā; see Jeffery, Foreign Vocabulary of the Qurʾān, 104-105, and more briefly, Fraenkel, Die aramäischen Fremdwörter im Arabischen, 238-239)
  • ი-ქც-ე-ოდ-ა impf 3sg ქცევა to go, move, walk around
  • ნაქმევი form, appearance
  • პირი face, mouth
  • შე-ს-ცხრ-ებ-ი-ან pres 3pl O3 შეცხრომა to take pleasure in, look on fondly
  • ხედ-ვ-იდ-ა impf 3sg ხედვა to see, care for, look after
  • დაჭრაჲ cutting, hurting
  • დევნაჲ persecution
  • იცოდა impf 3sg “to know”. An irregular verb, it takes, not only in the aor (3sg იცნა), but also in the impf (as here), subjects in the ergative and objects in the nominative. (This particular irregularity, manifest as such in assuming იცოდა is Series I — it thus being peculiar in having an ergative subject — points to this verb’s complex history, one in which the ending -ოდა has caused a Series II form to be taken as Series I [imperfect].)
  • მწრაფლ quick
  • ე-გულებ-ოდ-ა impf 3sg (indirect verb) გულება to wish, want
  • მარტჳლობაჲ martyrdom (also მარტჳრობაჲ < μάρτυς)
  • ღუაწლი struggle

Old English

Finally, and for fun, here is mention of dog-headed people, this time in Egypt, in The Wonders of the East in the famous Old English manuscript, Cotton MS Vitellius A XV, f. 100r (see here), presented essentially as in the manuscript, with a few vocabulary items.

Eac swẏlce þær beoð cende
healf hundingas ða syndon
hatene conopenas hẏ hab-
bað horses mana & eoferes
tuxas & hunda heafda & heo-
ra oruð bið swẏlce fẏres leg
þas land beoð neah ðæm bur-
gu(m) þe beoð eallum worldwe-
lum gefylled þ(æt) is on þa suðhealfe egẏpta-
na landes.

  • cennan give birth
  • healf-hunding cynocephalus
  • syndon = sind are
  • hātan to call, name
  • eofor wild board (cf. L. aper)
  • tux = tusc (NB the variability of cs [x] and sc)
  • oroþ breath
  • līg, lēg flame
  • weorld-wela worldly wealth
BL, Cotton Vitell. A XV, f. 100r

BL, Cotton Vitell. A XV, f. 100r

Note that immediately preceding this text is a life of Saint Christopher (ff. 94r-98r; mod. ET here), but it is acephalous (pun intended), and Christopher’s dog-head is not mentioned, it seems, but in the Old English Martyrology (April 28; pp. 66-69 in Herzfeld’s ed.), we find the description on Christopher as above (and as in Syriac), and with vocabulary similar to that of the passage in The Wonders of the East. Herzfeld’s text and modern ET):

…of þære þeode þær men habbað hunda heofod ond of þære eorðan on þære æton men hi selfe. he hæfde hundes heofod, ond his loccas wæron ofer gemet side, ond his eagan scinon swa leohte swa morgensteorra, ond his teð wæron swa scearpe swa eofores tuxas. he wæs gode geleaffull on his heortan, ac he ne mihte sprecan swa mon.

…from the nation where men have the head of a dog and from the country where men devour each other. He had the head of a dog, his locks were exceedingly thick, his eyes shone as brightly as the morning star, and his teeth were as sharp as a boar’s tusk. In his heart he believed in God, but he could not speak like a man.

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Saint Christopher the Dogheaded (Syriac)   5 comments

It being Hallowe’en, I thought it appropriate to do something hagiographic, and since misshapen and monstrous prodigies may surround the day, what better saint to consider than one with a doghead, Christopher (aka Reprebus; BHO 190-192, BHG 309-311). I’ve chosen only two episodes near the beginning of the saint’s story to give in a draft translation here, episodes that touch on his character as a sanctus informis. I’m using the Syriac text (translated from Greek), an edition of which Johann Popescu prepared based on three manuscripts (from Berlin, Cambridge, and the BL) for his Inaugural-Dissertation at Strassburg in 1903: Die Erzählung oder das Martyrium des Barbaren Christophorus und seiner Genossen.

These two parts of the story are from 2.4-3.14 and 5.6-6.13 in Popescu’s edition. There are several printer’s errors in the text. Here are the corrections (with only the consonantal form given for the mistakes):

  • 2.5 read ḥzātā (not ḥʔtʔ)
  • 5.9 read gabbāw(hy) (not gbwh)
  • 5.13 read mezdayyaḥ (not mʔdyḥ)
  • 5.16 read bnaynāšā (not bnnšʔ)
  • 6.7 add space to get lā yādʕā
  • 6.8 add syāmē to r(h)omāyē

2.4-3.14

This man was quite a sage. He was of the barbarian stock of cannibals, and he had an ugly appearance: his head was like that of a dog (which in Greek is translated κυνοκέφαλος), so that everyone knows [p. 3] that God helps not only the Christians, but he is the rewarder even of those from foreign nations who turn to the true faith, and he sets them up as select and skillful with his knowledge. This man was faithful in the knowledge [of God], and he meditated with God’s words in praise of him, for he was unable to use our language. When he saw the distress that the Christians were enduring, he was very sad and grieved. So he went outside the city and he cast himself before God in prayer and said, “Lord, God almighty, look upon my humility and show the abundance of your mercy with me. Renew my tongue with the language of this people, that I might go and rebuke this rebel.” Right then a man in multi-colored aspect [?] appeared to him and said, “Reprebus, your prayer has been heard before God. Get on your feet.” Then he approached his lips and breathed on them, and just then he was given the language as he had asked.

5.6-6.13

The blessed Reprebus went to the gate of the church, stuck his staff in the ground, and sat down  with his head bent between his knees, and the hair of his head hung down from both sides. He prayed and spoke thus: “Lord, God almighty, who heard the three youths from within the furnace of fire, whose habitation is in heaven, praised by the heavenly creatures, exalted and worshipped by the saints on earth, who is celebrated by the cherubim, and at whose appearance the angels are terrified: hear the sound of my prayer, incline your ear to my petition, and perform a favorable sign for me, and your grace upon me will be known to everyone, because I was dumb to the language of the[se] people, and you have granted me to speak. And now, cause [p. 6] this wood[en staff] in my hands to sprout by your power, that thus even I might approach and be made worthy of your praise.” Just then the staff sprouted and strengthened the man.

While he had been praying, a woman came into the garden to pick a rose. When she saw him sitting and weeping, she turned around in fear and went and told the people, “Today I saw something at the church [hayklā] and I think it was a dragon [tanninā], thanks to the ugly mark it has, but I don’t know the reason it was crying so much.” While she was speaking, the Romans looking for him arrived there, and when they heard the woman’s words, they asked her and said, “What is he like, and where did you see him?” She showed them, and because of the report of his frightful appearance, they did not dare approach him, but rather went up to a high spot across from him, that they might look at him.

That’s all for now! Be on the lookout today for κυνοκέφαλοι, saintly or otherwise!

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