Archive for the ‘History’ Tag

Old Georgian phrases and sentences 24   Leave a comment

Below is a simple sentence from the work known as The Capture of Jerusalem by the Persians in 614, by Antiochos Strategos (bibliography here). The Georgian version was first published by N. Marr in 1909 based on two manuscripts (Jer. 33 and A-70), but another copy (Bodl. Geo. 1) was discovered thereafter, and so the text was again edited and translated (into Latin) by Gérard Garitte as CSCO 202-203, and the Arabic version (two recensions) later appeared with a translation by the same scholar’s pen as CSCO 340-341, 347-348. Before Garitte’s work, excerpts of the Georgian text were translated into English and German by Conybeare and Graf, respectively.

Here is today’s sentence (§ 5.15), with Garitte’s LT:

ვაჲ ბოროტისმოქმედთა და რომელნი მახლობელ მათა იყვნენ.

Vae malefactoribus et iis qui propinqui illis erunt!

The Georgian sentence offers no difficulties, the vocabulary and the syntax both being very simple (but note the difference in case between ბოროტისმოქმედთა and რომელნი). The only words that may not be as readily known to beginners are:

  • ბოროტისმოქმედი evil-doer (< ბოროტი and მოქმედება)
  • მახლობელი someone close, friend, relative

In English, we might loosely say, “Damn evil-doers and their ilk!”

This short example may be worth memorizing: you never know when you’ll need to say, “Damn the malefactors &c.” in Old Georgian!

Select Bibliography

Conybeare, F.C. “Antiochus Strategos’ Account of the Sack of Jerusalem in A.D. 614.” English Historical Review 25 (1910): 506-13. [Text here.]

Graf, Georg. ”Die Einnahme Jerusalem durch die Perser 614 nach dem Bericht eines Augenzeuger.” Das Heilige Land 67 (1923): 19-29.

Peeters, Paul. ”De Codice hiberico Biliothecae Bodleianae Oxoniensis.” Analecta Bollandiana 31 (1912): 301-318.

________. ”Un nouveau manuscrit arabe du récit de la prise de Jérusalem par les Perses en 614.” Analecta Bollandiana 38 (1920): 137-147.

________.”La prise de Jérusalem par les Perses.” Mélanges de l’Université Saint Joseph 9 (1923-24): 1-42.

A short Syriac chronicle for the time of Adam to the mid-fifteenth century   7 comments

I continue with cataloging the collection of the Chaldean Cathedral of Mardin. In a very important manuscript, some other texts of which I hope to publish in the near future, I’ve come across a short work counting the years from Adam up to the mid-fifteenth century. I’ve just uploaded a document with both the Syriac text and an English translation here, and below just the translation is given.

CCM 20, f. 235r

CCM 20, f. 235r

The text comes from an East Syriac manuscript dated to 1770 AG (= 1458/9 CE), Chaldean Cathedral of Mardin (CCM) 20, ff. 235r-235v (olim Diyarbakır 106). Judging from the text itself, it is original to this manuscript (i.e. it’s not a copy). In its details for the years, I have not compared it with other similar texts in Syriac or other languages, but I offer it with an English translation simply as an example of how a fifteenth-century Syriac scribe looked back very briefly across human history as he saw it. In addition, Syriac students might find it to be a short and easy text, especially to practice their knowledge of Syriac numbers.


With God’s help I note down an index of the sum of years from Adam to today, [the years] sometimes defined, indicating the years of the Greeks. Our Lord, help me!

1 From Adam to the Flood there are 2242 years.

2 From the Flood to the building of the Tower [of Babel], 700 years.

3 From the building of the Tower to the promise [made to] Abraham, 500 years.

4 From the promise [made to] Abraham to the exodus from Egypt, 430 years.

5 [From that time to the time] of Moses, Joshua b. Nun, 67 years.

6 [From that time to the time] the kings, 524 years.

7 [From that time to the time] of the Babylon[ian captivity], 70 years.

8 From the freedom from Babylon to the crucifixion of our savior, 480 years.

9 From the crucifixion of our savior until the Persians ruled, 81 years.

10 From [the time] that the Persians ruled [f. 235v] until the Arabs [ṭayyāyē] ruled, 505 years.

11 From [the time] that the Arabs ruled to the year in which this book was noted down, 862 years.

12 The sum of all the years is 6950 years.

13 The years that the Persians ruled are 550 years.

14 The blessed lady Mary received the good news [i.e. the Annunciation] in the year 303 of the Greeks.

15 Our savior was born in the year 304.

16 He was baptized by John in the year 334.

17 He suffered, died, arose, and ascended to heaven in the year 337 of the Greeks.

18 From the ascension of our Lord to the year in which this book noted down, 1433 years.

Ended is the reckoning and numbering of the years from Adam to the year in which we are.

Documentary on the Encyclopaedia Iranica and Prof. Yarshater   Leave a comment

A friend of mine shared this documentary from BBC Persian on Prof. Ehsan Yarshater (b. 1920) and the amazing work of the Encyclopaedia Iranica (online here). It’s in Persian, but English subtitles are available. Knowing the background and looking behind the scenes of major research projects such as this — or the CAD, for another example, volumes of which, like the Encyclopaedia Iranica, have also for some time been freely available online  — is not an opportunity to be missed even by those remotely interested in whatever field the project concerns. In this case, the field is the full breadth of Persian history, languages, literatures, and connections with cultures across a long time period. We can be very grateful that the Encyclopaedia is freely accessible online, rather than hidden behind extortionate tomes in perhaps too distant libraries to multitudes of would-be readers, so interested researchers of all kinds have an ever fruitful resource at their fingertips. But even more than on the Encyclopaedia itself, we get to hear firsthand from a hard-working and experienced scholar. Yarshater mentions his studies many years ago with W.B. Henning and Mary Boyce. I always enjoy seeing scholars’ workspaces, and we have that here, too. We hear him using Persian proverbs and reciting some lines of poetry. In his voice and memories we see an inspiring gentleman. These twenty-five minutes, then, will make for worthy time to anyone interested in Persian culture and intellectual biography.

Notes by Ignatius Afram Barsoum in a sixteenth-cent. manuscript   Leave a comment

Saint Mark’s, Jerusalem, 135 is dated Feb 1901 AG (= 1590 CE) and contains a copy of Bar ʿEbrāyā’s Candelabrum of the Sanctuary (Mnārat Qudšē). It was copied at Dayr Al-Zaʿfarān by Behnām b. Šemʿon b. Ḥabbib of Arbo. From a much later note immediately after the colophon we learn that this scribe was made metropolitan of Jerusalem in 1901 AG and died in 1925 AG. Who wrote this later note? None other than Ignatius Afram Barsoum (1887-1957; see GEDSH, 62, including a photo). On the following page, there are three more notes by Barsoum, all autobiographical.

Notes by Barsoum at the end of SMMJ 135.

Notes by Barsoum at the end of SMMJ 135.


In the year 1913 AD I visited the tomb of the savior and I spent two months in our monastery, that of Saint Mark, while I — the weakest of monks and the least of priests, Afram Barsoum of Mosul, alumnus of the Monastery Mār Ḥnānyā [Dayr Al-Zaʿfarān] — was using the old books [there]. Please pray for me!

In the year 1918 AD, on the 20th of Iyyār, I was elected metropolitan of the diocese of Syria, Damascus, Ḥoms, and their environs, and I was named Severius Afram.

In the year 1922 AD I again returned to Jerusalem and I took part in the consecration of the myron with Patriarch Eliya III on the 18th of Ēlul.

Notes like this are important for at least two reasons. First, they remind us that books have had their readers throughout their individual histories, that is, we are usually not the first readers since the time of the author or scribe to examine and study a book; rather, readers make contact with, or meet, books here and there along the way, with ourselves just one node in that continuum, and some of those readers leave their marks, wittingly or not, in the books. Second, these notes are a kind of archival document, in this case for the future patriarch Barsoum and for some goings-on in Syriac Orthodox circles in the first quarter of the twentieth century, and anyone studying the region in this time period might find something of interest here and in similar places. Once again, we see manuscripts as unique objects with unexpected finds!

A note in a 13th-cent. manuscript on Dionysios bar Ṣalibi   Leave a comment

Saint Mark’s Monastery, Jerusalem, 48 is a big manuscript — 26.1x18x13.5 cm and about 600 folios — containing Dionysios bar Ṣalibi’s commentary on the Gospels, and a notable copy because it comes from only a century after the author’s death: the colophon (f. 588v) has the date Nisan 23, 1582 AG (= 1271 CE). Before the text itself begins on f. 1v, there is on the previous page a note in Garšūnī:

SMMJ 41, f. 1r

SMMJ 41, f. 1r

The note is not in the same hand of the manuscript’s scribe, and there is no explicit indication of its date, but it bears no marks of being recent. Here is a quickly done translation into English:

We found the date of this holy, venerated father, Mār Dionysios (that is Yaʿqub) bar Ṣalibi, recorded in the Chronicon [Ecclesiasticum] of St. Gregory Bar ʿEbrāyā, the fact that he was ordained bishop over Marʿaš by Athanasios the patriarch (that is, Yešuʿ b. Qaṭra). The ordination of Patriarch Athanasios was in the year 1450 AG (1138/9 CE), and the ordination of St. Dionysios bar Ṣalibi as bishop was in the year 1462 [AG, = 1150/1 CE]. This St. Dionysios was present at the ordination of St. Mār Michael the Great, Patriarch of Antioch, whose ordination was in the year 1478 AG [1166/7 CE] in the Monastery of Mār Barṣawmā. The eternal rest of St. Dionysios bar Ṣalibi was in Tešrin II [November] 1483 AG [= 1171 CE], and he was buried in the Church of the Virgin in Diyarbakır.

If you wish, you can read more about Dionysios bar Ṣalibi in:

  • Michael the Great’s Chronicle, Edessa-Aleppo Codex, ff. 349v-350v (outer columns; = pp. 701-703 in the Gorgias Press facsimile)
  • Bar ʿEbrāyā’s Chronicon [Ecclesiasticum] I 511-513, 559-561
  • Assemani, Bibliotheca Orientalis II 156-211
  • S.P. Brock, in GEDSH 126-127

The note above, which acknowledges Bar ʿEbrāyā as a source, apparently by an early reader, is a good example showing how manuscripts are not static objects serving merely as text-receptacles, but unique witnesses not only to this or that version of a particular text, but also to the scribes who copied them, their readers from generation to generation, and the communities that have curated them.

UPDATE: Thanks to Gabriel Rabo for pointing out a mistake in my translation due to eyeskip. It has now been corrected.

The Dictionary of Georgian National Biography   1 comment

I recently stumbled upon the Dictionary of Georgian National Biography online, where interested people can find short biographical summaries about famous Georgians (or people from elsewhere who came to be associated with Georgia) from antiquity — even Medea, as the daughter of the king of Colchis, has an entry — to the present. It’s hardly in-depth, but on occasions where only basic information about this or that individual from Georgia is needed, it’s worth a look. Here are direct links to a few entries that might interest readers of this blog:

Enno Littmann’s work on inscriptions from Ethiopia   2 comments

As vol. 4 of the Deutsche Aksum-Expedition appeared Enno Littmann’s Sabaische, Griechische und Altabessinische Inschriften (Berlin, 1913). Despite the book’s age and importance, I found no copy online, so, thanks to HMML staff, it’s now available at

The frontispiece to The Library of Enno Littmann

Enno Littmann was one of the outstanding scholars of the Semitic languages, those of Ethiopia in particular, in the first half of the twentieth century. (The German Wikipedia article is not very long, and the English one is almost nothing more than a list of a few publications.) Edward Ullendorff, in his obituary for Littmann published in Africa, Oct 1958, p. 364 (and reprinted in his From the Bible to Enrico Cerulli, p. 194), concluded “Among the greatest éthiopisants of the present century, Guidi, Praetorius, Conti Rossini, Marcel Cohen, Cerulli, Enno Littmann’s name occupies a most honored place.” Littmann himself wrote an autobiographical sketch (“An meinem Grabe zu verlesen”), and it is published at the beginning of the catalog of his library: The Library of Enno Littmann, 1875-1958 (Leiden, 1959), with an introduction by his student, Maria Höfner. In addition, pp. 52-57 of Ernst Hammerschmidt’s excellent little book Äthiopistik an deutschen Universitäten (Wiesbaden, 1968) discuss Littmann’s activities and contributions. Incidentally, I have before referred to a brief book inscription by Littmann among HMML’s holdings.

There is a much more recent book that collects early Ethiopian inscriptions (E. Bernard, A. Drewes, and R. Schneider, Recueil des inscriptions de l’Éthiopie des périodes pré-axoumites et axoumites [Paris, 1991]), which is unfortunately not plentifully available, but in any case, Littmann’s work is not to be dismissed. He was an expert philologist and his judgement is always worth consideration. In his presentation of the inscriptions, there are black-and-white photographs, line drawings, transcription into a usual printed type — a presentation in Hebrew letters is included for the South Arabian inscriptions, and the Old Ethiopic material is given in both the South Arabian script and in (now vocalized) Fidäl —, German translation, and commentary. The book is beautifully typeset, something we see too little of these days! Anyone working on the history of Ethiopia in antiquity and late antiquity and anyone likewise interested in epigraphy generally or in the languages used in Ethiopia will find Littmann’s book, now almost a century old, still a worthwhile volume.

From HMML's shelves

From HMML’s shelves

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