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The Transfiguration in Gǝʿǝz: Three sälam verses from the Synaxarion   Leave a comment

Today (Aug 19) some churches celebrate the Transfiguration, and there are readings for the feast in published synaxaria in Arabic, Armenian, and Gǝʿǝz. A close reading and comparison of the language of these texts would be worthwhile, but now I’d like only to share part of the Gǝʿǝz reading, namely the three sälam verses that close the commemoration of the Transfiguration. (On the genre of the sälam, see this post.) Most typically, there is only one five-line verse in the Gǝʿǝz synaxarion at the end of the commemoration of a saint or holy event, but for this important feast there are three together, the verses ending, respectively, with the syllabic rhymes -ʿa/ʾa, -wä, -se. As usual, verses like this provide a good learning opportunity for students interested in Gǝʿǝz, both in terms of lexicon and grammar, the latter especially thanks to the freer arrangement of the sentence’s constituents that obtains in this kind of writing.

I give Guidi and Grébaut’s text from PO 9: 513-514, together with a new, rough English translation.

ሰላም፡ለታቦር፡እንተ፡ተሰምየ፡ወተጸውዓ።
ደብረ፡ጥሉለ፡ወደበረ፡ርጉዓ።
ባርቅ፡ሞአ፡በህየ፡ወኃይለ፡ሲሳራ፡ተሞአ።
ወቦቱ፡አሪጎ፡አመ፡ኢየሱስ፡ተሰብአ።
ምሥጢረ፡ምጽአቱ፡ዳግም፡ከሠተ፡ኅቡአ።

ሰላም፡ለዕርገትከ፡ዓቀበ፡ደብረ፡ታቦር፡ጽምወ።
እምብዙኃን፡ነሢአከ፡እለ፡ኃረይከ፡ዕደወ።
ኢየሱስ፡ዘኮንከ፡እምቤተ፡ይሁድ፡ሥግወ።
ርእየተ፡ገጽከ፡አምሳለ፡መብረቅ፡ሐተወ።
ወከመ፡በረድ፡ልብሰከ፡ፃዕደወ።

ፀርሐ፡አብ፡ኪያከ፡በውዳሴ።
ወርእስከ፡ጸለለ፡ምንፈሰ፡ቅዳሴ።
አመ፡ገበርከ፡በታቦር፡ምስለ፡ሐዋርያት፡ክናሴ።
ኤልያስ፡መንገለ፡ቆመ፡ወኀበ፡ሀለወ፡ሙሴ።[1]
ዘመለኮትከ፡ወልድ፡ከሠትከ፡ሥላሴ።

Greetings to Tabor, which is named and called
The fertile mountain and the firm mountain!
There Barak conquered, and the might of Sisera was conquered.
And having ascended [that mountain], when Jesus had become man,
He revealed the hidden mystery of his second coming.

Greetings to your ascent up the slope of Mount Tabor in tranquility!
Having taken the men you had chosen from among many,
Jesus, you who were incarnate from the house of Judah,
The appearance of your face shined like lightning,
And your clothes were as white as snow.

The Father proclaimed you in praise,
And the Spirit of holiness concealed your head.
When you had made an assembly of apostles,
Where Elijah was present and where Moses was,
You, Son, showed the trinity of your divinity.

Note

[1] The two prepositions in this line behave more like adverbs than prepositions, given that a relative pronoun pointing back to ክናሴ፡ in the previous line is omitted: “assembly at [which] Elijah was present and with [which] Moses was.” Cf. Dillmann, Gr., § 201.

St. Nikolaos in eastern hagiography   1 comment

Today many Christian traditions are celebrating the commemoration of Nikolaos/Nicolaus/Nicholas, bishop of Myra in Lycia in what is now part of southern Turkey. I had hoped today to offer complete translations of some hagiographic material on him in Greek, Syriac, Gǝʿǝz, and Arabic (I had already omitted Armenian, the language among these that I’m slowest at reading), but alas, other necessities won out and prevented me from finishing it all. All is not given up, however: I can at least here make a few remarks about the sources and offer some snippets in English translation.

On a general bibliographic note, we may point to the long article in Bibliotheca Sanctorum 9: 923-948. BHG 1347-1364 lists a great plethora of Greek forms of hagiographic material for him. BHO 808-810 includes only an Armenian (in two parts) and a Syriac version; nothing is given for Arabic, Coptic, Gǝʿǝz, or Georgian, and I can here only supplement that list partly. Of course, I welcome any additions to that which I mention here.

Arabic. The saint will be found in the so-called Synaxaire arabe jacobite (rédaction copte) as published in PO 3.3: 420-423; this text is very close to the longer Ethiopic version mentioned below. In addition, I know of a short text (not the same as the previous) from the synaxarion manuscript CFMM 251 (see here), pp. 142-143. From the former, here is an interesting anecdote (also in the longer Gǝʿǝz text):

This saint banished many demons (šayāṭīn) from people and from a large tree in which Satan (šayṭān) lived and frightened people.

Armenian. BHO gives Վարք եւ վկայաբանութիւնք սրբոց հատընտիր քաղեալք ի ճառընտրաց, vol. 2 (Venice, 1874), 165-188 (see here; nondum legi!). The section for Nicolaus, who performed miracles “on sea and on land, in cities and in provinces” (ի ծովու եւ ի ցամաքի, ի քաղաքս եւ ի գաւառս) in the Armenian synaxarion will be found in PO 16.1:168-173; it is close to the Syriac text published by Bedjan (see below).

Gǝʿǝz. The saint’s story is given in the synaxarion for the 10th of Taḥśaś; text in PO 15.5: 704-706, and in the longer version, 708-713. There is an English translation of the longer version by Budge, without the sälam hymn (on which see D. Nosnitsin in Enc. Aethiopica, vol. 4, 484) at its end in The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church, vol. 2, 356-359. (As with all of Budge’s work on Gǝʿǝz, caveat lector.) I give here a translation of the short version, one notable miracle episode (my translation, not Budge’s) from the longer version (§ 7 acc. to PO), and the sälam.

The shorter version is as follows:

On this day, too, the father, the just saint Nicolaus (which means “the people’s victor”), bishop, died. This just father and saint was from the people of the city of Myra. The name of his father was Epiphanius, and the name of his mother Yona [“Tuna” in Syn. arab. jac.], and they were rich people in the city of Myra, and they were serious God-fearers. They had no child and for that reason they were very sad and they would continually pray and entreat God to give them a child, in whom they might rejoice and who might inherit their wealth. They were thus without a child until they had grown old and the time of childbirth had passed them by, and they despaired of desiring a child.

Nicolaus was thrown into prison, but God spared him, that he might be a great branch in the tree of the faith. He remained in prison until God destroyed Diocletian and installed Constantine, the just emperor. He released all the believers from the prisons, and this saint went out from their number and returned to his homeland and he stayed there teaching the people, so that they were strengthened in the orthodox faith, until the assembly of the gathering of the 318 bishops came together in the city of Nicaea, and this father was one of them, and he rebuked Arius, excommunicated him, cursed him, and banished him.

When this saint had completed his combat (gädlo) and had tended his flock, he departed to God, after having sat on the seat of the episcopate more than forty years. All the days of his life were eighty years.

From the longer version (cf. PG 116: 321-328 for this episode in Greek):

There was a certain rich man in his city. After a long time all of his wealth was spent, and he became so poor that he found for himself no daily nourishment. He had four daughters: they were grown and their time of marriage had passed, and he could not give them in marriage to anyone due to their poverty. Satan suggested to him an abominable thought: that he should build a whorehouse and put his four daughters in it for them to practice whoredom for payment, and he might find nourishment for himself and his children from whoredom. But God revealed to St. Nicolaus what that man was up to and he set out at night and took 100 gold dinars from his father’s wealth and tied it in a rag. Before it was morning, he threw it into the man’s house, and when the man woke up from his slumber, he found the gold, rejoiced greatly, and gave away his oldest daughter in marriage. Thus, too, a second time the saint threw him 100 gold dinars, and the man gave away his second daughter in marriage. A third time the saint threw him 100 gold dinars, but when he threw it, the man was already awake, and he didn’t take the gold, but instead went out of his house to see who it was that had thrown the gold. When he had gone out, he found St. Nicolaus and knew that he had thrown the gold to him three times. Immediately the man bowed down to him at his feet, thanked him greatly, and said to him, “Your reward in heaven is great, for you have saved me from the poverty of my wealth and from a fall into sin, which I thought I would do!” (And he gave away in marriage his fourth and his third daughters.)

The sälam (a poem, very frequent in the synaxarion, with each of its five lines ending in rhyme, in this case -u), refers to the saint’s distinction from his birth:

Greetings to Nicolaus, whose mention was praised
In Myra, his city!
The people were astonished and his fellow citizens amazed
On the day he was born, when they watched him
Stand for two hours on his feet.

Greek. The longer version of the saint’s life in the menologion of Symeon Metaphrastes will be found in PG 116: 317-356, and the short entry in that of Basil Porphyrogenitos in PG 117: 193 (these online scans are unfortunately not very easy to read). Several, but by no means all, of the texts indicated in BHG are in G. Anrich, Hagios Nikolaos: Der heilige Nikolaos in der griechischen Kirche, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1913), which I do not have and which I cannot find online; if it is online, I will be glad to know of it! Here is a translation of the short menologion entry:

Commemoration of our holy father Nikolaos, archbishop of Myra in Lycia.

This great high priest and wonder-working bishop lived in Myra in Lycia during the reign of Constantine the Great. Having earlier become a monk and having struggled much for virtue, when he was ordained bishop, he performed many wonders. He freed three men from death, for they had been slandered and bound and were about to be beheaded, but the saint ran, grabbed the blade and took it from the executioner, and freed the men. At yet another time three different men were slandered before Constantine by Ablabios the prefect as treacherous and they were shut up in the Praetorium. When they were about to be beheaded, they appealed to St. Nikolaos, and he came to Constantinople in a dream and gave an announcement to the emperor and to the prefect, and they freed the men. Having performed many other wonders, he died peacefully.

Syriac. A Syriac version is found in the voluminous collection of the acts of saints and martyrs edited by the indefatigable Paul Bedjan (it should be obligatory to use that adjective at every mention of his name!): AMS IV, 290-302. Most of the story in the Syriac text and also that of the Armenian synaxarion centers on three officials sent to quell the Phrygian rebellion, who are then slandered before Constantine (see the translation of the short Greek text above; for the longer Greek version, see PG 116: 337-352), eventually to be released thanks to the dreamy intervention of the saint. Constantine sends them to Nicolaus with, inter alia, “a golden Gospel-book infixed with precious stones” (Syr., 299). They become the saint’s students and stay with him henceforth. The remainder of the Syriac text deals with the saint’s alleviating a famine and his foiling the plans of the goddess Artemis (“that deceiver, whom the pagans call their goddess”) — in the Greek of PG 116: 353-356, it is said to be a demon of Artemis’ temple: Πονηρὸν δὲ δαιμόνιον, ὃ τῷ βωμῷ πάλαι τῆς Ἀρτέμιδος ἐνοικοῦν — who wished to unleash a jar of magical oil (šṭiptā d-mešḥā d-ḥarāšutā, Syr., p. 301; when cast into the sea, it spread a fire on the water’s surface for 15 miles!) to destroy the inhabitants and churches of Myra. Like some of the other versions, the Syriac concludes with a general list of his miraculous deeds post mortem:

These wonders God performed by the hands of the saint while he was with us in life. Here are the wonders and signs that he did after his death: persecuting demons, healing the sick and weak, assisting and encouraging those falling in temptations and dangers, and also those who travel by sea, to whom he appears in clear sight. All these things there is no tongue sufficient to tell, and to the end he shall not cease to make supplication for God’s church.

I do plan before long (hopefully this month) to finish what I had first set out to do, and, if successful, I’ll post the translations here. In the meantime, ad fontes!

A Gǝʿǝz manuscript at Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem   1 comment

As I’ve mentioned before, HMML has recently received the last of the images for the manuscript collection of Saint Mark’s Monastery in Jerusalem. The collection consists almost exclusively of Syriac and Arabic/Garšūnī manuscripts, but while surveying the whole of it I came across a late copy of the Gospels in Gǝʿǝz. Here is the colophon:

SMMJ 281, f. 181r

Mentioned in the colophon are then recently departed Emperor Menelik II, who reigned 1889-1913, his oldest daughter Zawditu, empress 1916-1930, and Haile Śǝlāse (Selassie), who was ras (the position just beneath the emperor or empress) at the time of the copy. Also named are Malʾaka Salām Walda Masqal, the ṣaḥafe tǝʾǝzāz (royal secretary), and Abbā Matewos. The seal in the left column is that of Saint Mark’s, and the one on the right is that of Walda Masqal, which can also be seen, for example in EMML 3094 (Walda Masqal is named a number of times in other EMML manuscripts, too); it has the motto, “He who has an ear to ear, let him hear” (cf. e.g. Rev 2:7, and with some variation from the wording here several places in the Gospels). In the Garšūnī note at the bottom of this page, it says that the copy was presented (to Saint Mark’s, presumably) from Empress Zawditu in 1916 by Gabra Śǝlāse “the minister (wazīr) of Ethiopia”. (It is notable that whoever penned this note used the etymological Arabic spelling with /θ/ to spell the name Śǝlāse, rather than a phonetic spelling.)

The manuscript is not particularly significant for its content or age, and, while colophons often supply us with otherwise unknown prosopographic details, that’s not the case here. It is, however, at least of mild interest because of the presence of a Garšūnī note in a Gǝʿǝz manuscript, for what that note says, and because of this copy’s peculiar place in an otherwise Syriac and Arabic collection.

If any other unusual settings of manuscripts within particular collections come to mind, feel free to point them out in the comments.

Recently digitized books from HMML’s collections   1 comment

I want to highlight five books from HMML’s rare books collections that we have recently photographed and made available at Vivarium. The first three are slim booklets with some very basic information about Arabic, Persian, and Syriac in the form of a guide to reading and pronunciation with some short well-known texts in the particular language and a Latin translation. The Alphabetum Arabicum (1592) has  the Lord’s Prayer, the Annunciation, Psalm 113 (112), Psalm 117 (116), and John 1:1-9.[1] Similar introductory books were published for Gǝˤǝz (Alphabetum Aethiopicum sive Gheez et Amhharicum [Rome, 1789]),[2] Armenian (Alphabetum Armenum), Coptic (Alphabetum Cophtum sive Aegyptiacum), Persian (Alphabetum Persicum), and Syriac (Alphabetum Syro-Chaldaeum), all of these printed by the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide press. Later the Dominicans at Mosul would print the comparable Syllabaire ou exercices de lecture arabe à l’usage des enfants (1862), Syllabaire chaldéen, 3d ed. (1884) for east Syriac script, and Livre de lecture syrienne, 3d ed. (1884) for west Syriac script.[3] These digitized booklets on Arabic, Persian, and Syriac (the script in this one is mostly Serṭo) may be of interest for the history of scholarship in these languages, typography, and perhaps even pedagogy.

Alphabetum arabicum (Rome, 1592).

Alphabetum persicum, cum Oratione dominicali et Salutatione angelica (Rome, 1783).

Alphabetum syro-chaldaeum, una cum Oratione dominicali, Salutatione angelica, et Symbolo fidei (Rome, 1797).

The next volume, completely unrelated to the previous three, is Budge’s The Miracles of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Life of Hannâ (Saint Anne), and the Magical Prayers of ‘Ahĕta Mîkâêl (London, 1900). Only 300 copies were printed (“for private circulation”), of which this copy is no. 79. No one who has not seen this ponderous tome will divine its heft and size merely from viewing the images on a screen, but I vouch for its massive dimensions. To be sure, some of the criticisms that R.H. Charles leveled against another of Budge’s huge books are fitting here (see in Hermathena 10 [1899]: 397-406, available here), too, but, at the very least, many of the plates are worth examining.

The last book is Giovanni Battista Ferrari’s Ktābā da-bnāt qālē suryāyātā = Nomenclator Syriacus (Rome, 1622), a Syriac-Latin glossary (based on onomasiological rather than semasiological principles). HMML also has a copy of Thomas Obicini’s similar work, Thesaurus Arabico-Syro-Latinus, which was posthumously published at Rome, 1636.[4]

[1] For Arabic HMML also has the similar, but longer, Fabrica overo dittionario della lingua volgare arabica, et italiana by Dominico Germano de Silesia (Rome, 1636); it includes some partially vocalized Christian phrases and texts, such as the Christian basmallah, the Lord’s Prayer, Ave Maria, the Apostles’ Creed, Ten Commandments, Salve Regina, and the Athanasian Creed.

[2] Note also the Chaldeae [sic!] seu Aethiopicae Linguae Institutiones (Rome, 1630). HMML also has this volume; it has already been photographed and will be added to Vivarium in the near future.

[3] See further M.W. Albin, “Preliminary bibliography of Arabic books printed by the Dominican fathers in Mosul,” MIDEO 16 (1983): 247-260, and J.F. Coakley and David G.K. Taylor, “Syriac Books Printed at the Dominican Press, Mosul,” in, George A. Kiraz, ed., Malphono w-Rabo d-Malphone. Studies in Honor of Sebastian P. Brock, Gorgias Eastern Christian Studies 3 (Piscataway, 2008), pp. 71-110.

[4] This work is based, without attribution, on Eliya of Nisibis’ Kitāb al-turjumān fī taˤlīm luġat al-suryān, of which I am preparing a new edition—there is an older one by Lagarde—based partly on six newly identified manuscripts of the work, including the oldest dated copy.

Ethiopic typography   1 comment

By virtue of my work at HMML, I work most closely with manuscripts, and it’s not infrequent that I find myself well reminded of how important it is to stay closely familiar with manuscripts over against printed editions for one reason or other, but I nevertheless have no trouble finding both interest and beauty in printed texts (and unfortunately also ghastliness!). And there are times when a printed text is the only witness to a text one has access to!

There have been studies and discussions of the history of Arabic type and Arabic typography, and for Syriac there is J.F. Coakley’s excellent Typography of Syriac: A historical catalogue of printing types, 1537-1958 (New Castle, Delaware and London: 2006). As far as I know, there is nothing very extensive on Coptic or Georgian from this viewpoint, but I will happily be corrected. (See here for some sources on Armenian typography.)

We are, I believe, richer in these cases from the standpoint of paleography than of typography. So, too, with Gǝ`ǝz: we have Siegbert Uhlig’s Äthiopische Paläographie (Stuttgart, 1988), and its much slimmer English cousin, Introduction to Ethiopian Palaeography (Stuttgart, 1990), but there is no Ethiopic counterpart to Coakley’s book mentioned just above. There are, by my unscientific estimate, less printed data to go on for Gǝ`ǝz than for Syriac, but there is still plenty to be of interest. Here I only give a kind of mini-gallery of some printed texts, some from screen captures of digital images and some from photos of books at HMML, but a proper presentation would also naturally include the history of the type used in this or that printing. These examples go from 1654 to 1900. We could also look at texts published after this time period, such as in PO, CSCO, and Aethiopica, but the typography of these publications is not appreciably different from the examples below from Dillmann’s Chrestomathia and Budge’s Miracles.

Nissel and Petraeus, S. Johannis Apostoli & Evangelistae Epistolae Catholicae Tres, Arabicae & Aethiopicae (Leiden, 1654), p. 11

Robert Bellarmine, Dottrina Christiana (Rome, 1786), p. 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

J.J. Marcel, Jonas propheta, idiomata gheez (Paris, 1802), p. 2

A. Dillmann, Cat. Cod. Manu. Orient. qui in Mus. Brit., pt. III (London, 1847), p. 1

 

 

 
 

 
 

 

A. Dillmann, Chrestomathia Aethiopica (Leipzig, 1866), p. 43

 

 
 

 
 

 

 
 

 

Budge, Miracles of the B.V.M. (London, 1900), p. 11

Posted December 16, 2011 by adam_bremer-mccollum in Gǝ`ǝz, Typography

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