Hagiography makes excellent reading material for language learners: the stories are entertaining (the more outlandish the better), sentence structures are usually simple, vocabulary is common in the main, and in many cases one can read the story in more than one language or version. Hagiography is meaningful, of course, for other reasons, too. Some readers find spiritual value and encouragement in the stories. Those with a critical focus may explore the historicity or lack thereof in certain stories, and whether or not even a single event can be deemed to have taken place, the fact that the story was told, heard, and written down in any case says something about the tellers, hearers, writers, and readers of these tales. In the story below, that of Saint Vardeni, about whom I know nothing more than what is in this synaxarial commemoration, there is such material ripe for discussion by those interested in gender, authority, religious violence (in this case, self-violence), and more. As a textual basis for such discussion, here is the text, with vocabulary and grammar notes especially suited toward Armenian language learners. As far as I know, no English translation of this story has appeared, so I also offer a rough draft of a translation, both for Armenian language learners and for those less interested in Armenian but interested in this story for some reason or another. (The text, notes, and translation are available in a more aesthetically pleasing format in PDF here: vardeni_armen_synax.)
The story and the saint’s behavior probably have in view “If thy right eye offend thee…” (Mt 5:29-30), and further “whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea” (Mk 9:42 with parallels). Although the details differ greatly, other self-blinding stories come to mind. In hagiography, there is that of Simon the Tanner; outside hagiography, and much more famously, there is that of Oedipus.
Χο. ὦ δεινὰ δράσας, πῶς ἔτλης τοιαῦτα σὰς
ὄψεις μαρᾶναι; τίς σ᾽ ἐπῆρε δαιμόνων;
Οι. Ἀπόλλων τάδ᾽ ἦν, Ἀπόλλων, φίλοι,
ὁ κακὰ κακὰ τελῶν ἐμὰ τάδ᾽ ἐμὰ πάθεα.
ἔπαισε δ᾽ αὐτόχειρ νιν οὔ-
τις, ἀλλ᾽ ἐγὼ τλάμων.
τί γὰρ ἔδει μ᾽ ὁρᾶν,
ὅτῳ γ᾽ ὁρῶντι μηδὲν ἦν ἰδεῖν γλυκύ;
Soph. Oed.Tyr. 1327-1335
The commemoration of Vardeni (Armenian text and FT) is available in PO 21 395-396.
Յայսմ աւուր տօն է աղախնոյն Աստուծոյ Վարդենայ։
տօն, -ից feast, celebration | աղախին, -խնոյ, -նաց maidservant, female slave
Աղախինն Քրիստոսի եւ կոյս կրօնաւորն Վարդենի՝ նստելով ի յարկս իւր լռութեամբ եւ մեծաւ ճգնութեամբ հոգայր զհոգի իւր պահօք եւ աղօթիւք եւ տքնութեամբ։
կոյս, կուսից virgin | կրօնաւոր monk, cenobite | նստելով inf.instr նստիմ, նստայ, նիստ to sit down, lodge, reside, dwell | յարկ, -աց home, house, shelter (also roof, ceiling, story) | լռութիւն silence, tranquility | ճգնութիւն austerity, asceticism, penitence, mortification | հոգայր impf 3sg հոգամ, -ացայ/-ացի to take care of, preserve, mind | պահք, -հոց fast(ing) | աղօթ, -թից prayer | տքնութիւն wakefulness, vigilance, watch
Նա եւ ի ձեռագործէն իւրմէ բազում ողորմութիւն առնէր առ կարօտեալս։
ողորմութիւն charity, alms, mercy | առնէր impf 3sg առնեմ, արարի to do | կարօտեալ poor, needy
Այլ որ ի սկզբանէ թշնամի է արդարութեան հակառակն սատանայ ոչ ժուժեաց ընդ այնպիսի աստուածահաճոյ վարս, յարոյց ի վերայ նորա փորձութիւն, եւ ընկէց յերիտասարդ մի դիւական տռփութեան փափաք եւ սիրէր զանարատ կոյսն Վարդենի։
թշնամի, -մւոյ, -մեաց enemy, foe | արդարութիւն justice, equity, uprightness | հակառակ, -աց adversary, hostile, opponent | ժուժեաց aor 3sg ժուժեմ, -եցի to tolerate | աստուածահաճոյ god-pleasing | վարք, -րուց life, conduct, behavior | յարոյց aor 3sg յարուցանեմ, -ուցի to raise up (caus./factit. of յառնեմ յարեայ to rise, get up; on such verbs see Meillet, Altarm. Elementarbuch, § 109) | փորձութիւն temptation | ընկէց (= ընկեաց) aor 3sg ընկենում, -եցի to throw, cast, put | երիտասարդ, -աց young man | դիւական diabolic, demonic (< դեւ, դիւաց demon, devil, spirit; cf. Geo დევი, Syr daywā; all from Iranian, cf. MP dēw demon, devil; NB also dēwānag demonic) | տռփութիւն lust, burning desire | փափաք, -անք desire, wish, longing | սիրէր impf 3sg սիրեմ, -եցի to love | անարատ immaculate, innocent, pure
Եւ յորժամ ելանէր ի տանէն զի երթիցէ յեկեղեցին՝ ի ճանապարհին յոյժ նեղէր զնա եւ խօսէր ընդ նմա բանս փափաքանաց.
ելանէր impf 3sg ելանեմ, ելի to go out, go forth | տանէ abl.sg տուն, տանց house | երթիցէ aor subj 3sg երթամ, չոգայ to go (this verb is suppletive only in the aor ind, not subj; see Meillet, § 177b) | ճանապարհ, -աց way, road, street | յոյժ very, much, considerably | նեղէր impf 3sg նեղեմ, -եցի to press, trouble, annoy, harass | խօսէր impf 3sg խօսիմ, -եցայ to speak, talk | փափաքան of desire, of longing (< փափաք, see above)
եւ յղէր պատգամաւորս բազում խոստմամբ, այսպէս առնէր ի բազում աւուրս։
յղէր impf 3sg յղեմ, -եցի to send, dispatch | պատգամաւոր messenger | խոստումն promise, offer, declaration | այսպէս thus, so, in this manner | աւր, աւուրց day
Եւ ի միում աւուր երանելի կոյսն առաքեաց զաղախինն իւր եւ կոչեաց զերիտասարդն ի տուն իւր. եւ նա խնդայր եւ երթայր ուրախութեամբ, կարծէր եթէ հասցէ ցանկութեանն իւրում։
միում dat/loc.sg մի one | աւուր gen/dat/loc.sg աւր day | երանելի blessed | առաքեաց aor 3sg առաքեմ, -եցի to send, dispatch | կոչեաց aor 3sg կոչեմ, -եցի to call, invite | խնդայր impf 3sg խնդամ, -ացի to rejoice | երթայր impf 3sg երթամ, չոգայ to go | ուրախութիւն rejoicing, joy, pleasure | կարծէր impf 3sg կարծեմ, -եցի to believe, think | հասցէ aor subj 3sg հասանեմ, հասի to reach, arrive | ցանկութիւն desire, pleasure, lust
Եւ յորժամ եկն Վարդենի նստեալ էր յոստայնն իւր եւ գործէր, եւ ասէ ցայրն.
եկն aor 3sg գամ, եկի to come | ոստայն, -ից texture, web, weft (weaving) | գործէր impf 3sg գործեմ, -եցի to work, make, do, fashion | ասէ pres 3sg ասեմ, ասացի to say
Բարի եկիր տէր եղբայր. ընդէ՞ր նեղես զիս եւ չտաս թոյլ երթալ յեկեղեցին ի տանէս իմէ։
եկիր aor 2sg գամ, եկի to come | ընդէ՞ր why? | նեղես pres 2sg նեղեմ, -եցի to press, trouble, annoy, harass | չտաս neg չ- + տաս pres 2sg տամ, ետու to give grant | թոյլ տամ to give leave, permit
Ասէ զնա այրն. Յոյժ ցանկամ քեզ, եւ յորժամ հայիմ ի քեզ՝ ցանկութիւնն որպէս հուր բորբոքի ի սիրտս։
ցանկամ, -ացայ to desire, long for, covet | հայիմ, -եցայ to see, look upon | բորբոք heat, fervor | սիրտ, սրտից heart
Ասէ կոյսն. Եւ զի՞նչ բարի տեսանես յիս՝ զի այնչափ սիրես զիս։
տեսանես pres 2sg տեսանեմ, տեսի to see | այնչապ so much | սիրես pres 2sg սիրեմ, -եցի to love
Եւ ասէ այրն. Աչք քո գայթակղեցուցանեն զիս եւ բորբոքիմ ցանկալ քեզ։
աչք, աչաց eyes (pl. tantum) | գայթակղեցուցանեն pres 3pl գայթակղեցուցանեմ, -ուցի to trip, cause to stumble (caus./factit. of գայթագղիմ/գայթակղիմ to stumble) | բորբոքիմ pres pass 1sg բորբոքեմ, -եցի to kindle, heat, burn
Եւ յորժամ լուաւ Վարդենի եթէ աչքն խաբեն զերիտասարդն, մինչդեռ ի ձեռին ունէր զբարաբն ոստայնին՝ եհար զաչսն իւր եւ կուրացոյց զերկոսեանն, եւ հեղան իբրեւ զջուր երկու բիբք աչացն, եւ անկաւ ի վերայ երեսացն։
լուաւ aor 3sg լսեմ, լուայ to hear | խաբեն pres 3pl խաբեմ, -եցի to cheat, deceive, ensnare, mislead | մինչդեռ when, while | ունէր impf 3sg ունիմ, կալայ to have, hold | բարաբ shuttle | եհար aor 3sg հարկանեմ, հարի to beat, strike (also հարում, հարի) | կուրացոյց aor 3sg կուրացուցանեմ, կուրացուցի to blind (caus./factit. of կուրանամ, -ացի to b/c blind) | երկոսեան acc of երկոքեան both (cf. Meillet, § 81) | հեղան aor m/p 3pl հեղում, հեղի to pour | բիբ, բբի, բբաց pupil (cf. Syr bābtā) | անկաւ aor 3sg անկանիմ, անկայ to fall | երես, -ի, երեսք, երեսաց face
Եւ տեսեալ երիտասարդին զոր արար երանելի կոյսն վասն իւր՝ զահի հարաւ եւ զղջացաւ ի միտս իւր, հրաժարեաց եւ գնաց առ անապատաւոր ծերսն եւ եղեւ ընտիր կրօնաւոր հաճոյ Քրիստոսի։
տեսեալ ptcp տեսանեմ, տեսի to see | արար aor 3sg առնեմ, արարի to do | ահ, ահից fear, terror | հարաւ aor m/p 3sg հարկանեմ, հարի to beat, strike (also հարում, հարի) | զղջացաւ aor m/p 3sg զղջամ, -ացի to repent | միտ, մտի, զմտաւ, միտք, մտաց, մտօք mind, intellect, understanding | հրաժարեաց aor 3sg հրաժարեմ, -եցի to renounce, abstain, desist | գնաց aor 3sg գնամ, գնացի to go | անապատաւոր solitary, hermit, anchorite (< անապատ, -ից/-աց desert) | ծեր, -ոց old, aged, elder | եղեւ aor 3sg եղանիմ to become | ընտիր, ընտրոց/ընտրից worthy, fine, good | հաճոյ, ից aggreable, pleasant; grateful
Իսկ երանելի կոյսն Վարդենի՝ խաւարեալ աչօք՝ այնչափ խիստ կրօնաւորութեամբ հաճոյ եղեւ Աստուծոյ մինչ զի զմահ նորա հրեշտակ Աստուծոյ ազդեաց հարցն յանապատի, զոր երթեալ թաղեցին ի տապանի սաղմոսիւք եւ օրհնութեամբ։
խաւարեալ ptcp (here w/ pass sense) խաւարեմ, -եցի to blind | խիստ, խստից/խստաց hard, severe, strict, austere | կրօնաւորութիւն monastic life, religion, piety | մահ, -ուց death | հրեշտակ, -աց angel (cf. Man.Parth frēštag, MP frēstak [NP firišta]: apostle, messenger, angel) | ազդեաց aor 3sg ազդեմ, -եցի to announce; influence | հարց gen/dat/abl pl հայր father | թաղեցին aor 3pl թաղեմ, -եցի to bury | տապան, -աց large box, coffin, tomb (also Noah’s ark) | օրհնութիւն blessing, benediction, hymn, eulogy
Եւ բազում սքանչելիք եղեն յաւուր հանգստեան նորա։
սքանչելի admirable, wonderful, astonishing, miraculous | եղեն aor 3pl եղանիմ to become | հանգիստ, հանգստեան repose
On this day is the feast of God’s maidservant Vardeni.
The maidservant of Christ and the virgin nun Vardeni, by means of dwelling at her home in silence and great asceticism was preserving her soul with fasting, prayer, and wakefulness. From her handiwork she also performed much charity for the poor. But the one who was a foe from the beginning, Satan, hostile to uprightness, did not tolerate such a god-pleasing life: he raised up a temptation against her and put a demonic longing desire into a young man, and he was in love with Vardeni, the pure virgin. And when she would leave her house to go to church, he would harass her a lot on the road and express his desire to her. So he kept sending many messengers with a promise; this he did over several days. One day the blessed virgin dispatched her maidservant and invited the young man to her house, and he was very happy and started out in delight, thinking that he would fulfill his lust. When he had come, Vardeni was seated at work at her weaving, and she said to the man, “Welcome, sir, brother! Why do you harass me and not permit me to go from my home to church?” The man said to her, “I long for you deeply, and when I look upon you, this longing is like a fire burning in my heart!” The virgin said, “And what good thing do you see in me that you love me so much?” The man said, “Your eyes make me stumble, and longing for you is kindled in me.” When Vardeni heard that her eyes had ensnared the young man, she was holding at the time in her hand the shuttle for her weaving: she struck her eyes and blinded them both. The two pupils of her eyes flowed like water, and she fell on her face. The young man, when he saw what the blessed virgin had done because of him, was struck with terror and repented in his mind: he renounced [the world] and went to the old men of the desert and became a worthy monk, pleasing to Christ. As for the blessed virgin Vardeni, with blinded eyes, she became pleasing to God with piety so severe that the angel of God announced her death to the fathers in the desert: they buried her in a tomb [or coffin] with psalms and a benediction, and many astonishing things happened on the day of her repose.
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.
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”)
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].)
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
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
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…
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
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
(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.
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
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.
Among the very many contributions of Arthur Vööbus (born in 1909 in Estonia, died 1988), to Syriac studies, most of which touch manuscripts in some way or other, one of his most thorough and still most valuable is the four-volume Handschriftliche Überlieferung der Mēmrē-Dichtung des Jaʿqōb von Serūg (CSCO 344-345, 421-422/Subs. 39-40, 60-61; Louvain, 1973-1980). Jacob of Sarug (or Serugh; ca. 451-521), a prolific luminary of Syriac literature, is especially known for his numerous metrical homilies (mēmrē), the main published collection of which is that edited by the great Paul Bedjan and exquisitely published by Harrassowitz in a fully vocalized East Syriac font (as in Bedjan’s other editions). Still not all of Jacob’s surviving work has been edited, much less translated, but a translation project into English, the results published by Gorgias Press, is underway and hopefully also readers who do not read Syriac will begin to appreciate this author more (subseries Metrical Homilies of Mar Jacob of Sarug, series Texts from Christian Late Antiquity). There are now 304 records on Jacob in the Syriac bibliography of the Hebrew University; on Jacob generally see Brock in GEDSH, 433-435. The aforementioned books by Vööbus, indispensable for any close study of Jacob, present most of what is known concerning the manuscripts — those found in the well-known European collections and those in less accessible places in the Middle East — that have copies of Jacob’s works. Here, as in his other articles and books, we are impressed with the breadth of Vööbus’ manuscript experience and his record-keeping that is in such clear evidence. A perusal of the footnotes in almost any of his contributions reveals a mountain of work never published — how often does he refer to this or that piece “sous presse”, “im Druck”, or “in press” that never appeared? — but into these four volumes he poured years of close attention and study, and every student of Syriac literature is thus in his debt.
The work is a whole, but there are clear divisions in it, and not all of the volumes work the same way. There is, naturally, coverage of preliminary considerations at the beginning of vol. 1, and then he turns in that and the next volume to investigate manuscripts more or less particularly dedicated to preserving Jacob’s works (“Sammlungen”), and some of these are indeed hefty with line after line of that poetic bulk. Vols. 3 and 4 focus more on scattered witnesses to Jacob’s work (“Die zerstreuten Mēmrē”), that is, on manuscripts that are not really collections especially of Jacob, but that have one, two, or a few more mēmrē, amid works by other authors. Vols. 1 and 3 provide brief descriptions of the mss, while vols. 2 and 4 list the contents of the mss, with Syriac titles on the left pages, and the title in German translation on the right pages, but unfortunately he gives no incipits, for which, however, we now have Sebastian Brock’s list in vol. 6 of the augmented Gorgias Press reprint of Bedjan’s edition of Jacob’s mēmrē.
Vööbus’ Handschriftliche Überlieferung (HU), then, is obviously a great store of data for Jacob’s poetic œuvre, but it is not always easy to find the information you’re looking for, something I have discovered both while searching for details on a particular mēmrā and while hunting down the mss of particular collections. Something that can be done for each collection is to make a spreadsheet with the appropriate references in it. In its barest form, with shelfmarks and references to vol. and p. of HU, it would thus be useful for anyone with access to a particular collection, but of course the spreadsheet might be expanded to include date, codicological details, contents, bibliography, etc. A significant number of manuscripts for Jacob are present in Mardin in the collection of the Church of the Forty Martyrs (called CFMM at HMML), a massive collection, parts of which were earlier at nearby Dayr al-Zaʿfarān, and here I have made a simple spreadsheet for CFMM mss that Vööbus refers to. (Not all of CFMM has been cataloged at HMML, but much of it has; all of these Jacob mss are available for study at HMML, and copies may be ordered.) Collections of data like this for mss of Jacob’s works might eventually be brought into an open-access online database searchable by contents, date, collection, etc., but for now we must continue to have recourse to these four volumes of Vööbus’ helpful contribution.
Notwithstanding the attention hitherto given to Jacob’s homilies, there remains much work do be done: as mentioned above, not all of the mēmrē have been published, whether by Bedjan or someone else, and really only Vööbus has looked closely at the surviving mss, so that there is not yet a comprehensive picture of how the mss are related. I can say from my work cataloging and from my work in Bedjan’s edition that a new edition is needed, and the more accessible and clear manuscript data is for Jacob’s works, the better prepared the ground will be for that work.
CFMM 132, f. 16r (modern foliation): the beginning of the mēmrā “On the Beheading of John the Baptist” (cf. Bedjan, III 664-687).
I have before given some examples of writing a name upside down as a kind of curse (cf. here). This is most often done with the name of Satan, but also for those considered heretics. We know the practice from Syriac, but also from Arabic, at least in Garšūnī. (I wonder about other language traditions, Christian and otherwise; I will be glad to hear of examples from other manuscript traditions that have escaped me.) The image below is from CFMM 301, an early 20th-cent. manuscript (completed at Dayr Al-Zaʿfarān on Aug. 19, 1912) with some hagiographic works and the Tale of Aḥiqar, this part from a version of the Story of Mor Gabriel (pp. 82-150 of the manuscript).
CFMM 301, p. 92
Here is a transliteration (with vowels added, of course) and translation:
wa-māta Anasṭūs al-malik al-muʾmin allaḏī banā al-haykal wa-kāna mawtuhu sana 829 y[ūnānīya] allāh yunīḥu nafsahu wa-yanfaʿunā bi-ṣalātihi amīn. wa-baʿdahu Yūsṭānīnūs al-kāfir bi-l-masīḥ wa-tabaʿa sūnudūs al-muḫālifīn wa-ḍṭahad al-muʾminīn wa-aḏalla al-masīḥīyīn ǧiddan
Anastasius, the believing emperor, who had built the sanctuary, died; his death was in the year 829 Anno Graecorum [= 518 CE]. May God grant rest to his soul and benefit us with his prayer! After him [came] Yūsṭānīnūs, the denier of Christ, and he followed the synod of the transgressors [i.e. the Council of Chalcedon], oppressed the believers and greatly degraded the Christians.
- haykal I have rendered “sanctuary.” This probably refers to the church and prayer hall commissioned by Anastasius in 512.
- allāh yunīḥu nafsahu is a calque of Syriac alāhā nniḥ napšēh.
- (i)ḍṭahad must be the correct reading, despite the dot in the ṭet.
The first emperor mentioned here is Anastasius I, not a supporter of Chalcedon and not unfriendly to the adherents of Miaphysite doctrine. The second emperor referred to, whose name is written inverted, is either 1) Justin, who, in fact, followed Anastasius, or 2) Justinian, who followed Justin. The form of the name as written here looks more like that of the latter than of the former, but neither supported the Miaphysites and might be unexpectedly cursed by graphic inversion, while Anastasius is blessed. (Incidentally the name of Satan is not written upside down in this text!) On the next folio after this one, the expulsions of Severus, Philoxenus, Anthimus, and Theodosius are mentioned, and at least some of them were deposed before Justinian’s rule began in 527, but others closer to or in 536.
The ins and outs of the Council of Chalcedon and its aftermath are covered in any good volume that treats Late Antiquity and church history in the fifth and sixth centuries. For other topics in play here, note the following:
Aydin, Eliyo. Das Leben des heiligen Gabriel. The Life of Saint Gabriel. Tašʿitā d-qaddišā Mār(y) Gabriʾel. Bar Hebraeus Verlag, 2009. [Vocalized Syriac text, GT, and ET.]
Hunt, Lucy-Anne. “Eastern Christian Iconographic and Architectural Traditions: Oriental Orthodox,” in Ken Parry, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity. Oxford, 2007. 388-419 (esp. 390).
Palmer, A.N. “Gabriel, Monastery of Mor,” in GEDSH, 167-169.