Archive for ‘Finds’

July 26, 2012

Ϡ + (β · Ϟ) = ͵αξʹ

We’ve often come across sums done in the free pages at the back of a manuscript, where some poor monk has taken a date in A.M. (anno mundi) and subtracted 5508 to get the A.D. year.

(But caution: if it’s from the 1st of September to the end of the A.M. year, you have to subtract 5509: in Bodley’s Roe 18(b), for example, the scribe “Constantinus Sapiens” (he calls himself that (fol. 476v): «διὰ χειρὸς ἐμοῦ Κωνσταντίνου τοῦ σοφοῦ»!) dated the manuscript Sept., 6857.  A later hand just subtracted 5508 and wrote in the margin «ἔτει τῆς ἐνσάρκου οἰκονομίας ͵ατμθʹ», which in his catalogue the usually careful Henry O. Coxe (vol. 1, sub lem., §62) reproduced without comment, as did Πίνακες. But Paul Moore (who I think never made a mistake in his life) subtracted the right amount and correctly dated this (Iter Psellianum p. 734) to 1348.)

We’ve often wondered though how anyone could actually do sums with Greek numbers, and have joked about “carrying the stigma”.  But today, on the otherwise almost blank last folio of a codex, I came across a manuscript where someone does exactly that.  I “translated” the numbers and worked it out numeris indo-arabicis and… they got it right!

Interestingly, the dating system they’re using is not the usual one, but that of the antipope Hippolytus, where the earth is eight years younger.  (Many thanks to Βλαδιμηρῶπον for telling me about this.)  I’ll let the historians comment on the significance of the years themselves.


Codex parisinus græcus 1267
(Psellus de vitæ termino
[TLG 2702.011 & 2702.028];
Photius & alii varii
de processione
spiritus sancti
talibusque quæstionibus
fol. 208v.

͵ε φ

    τ ι η

    σ ι

    φ ν ε

    ρ κ θ


͵Ϛ ψ ι β

        ν ζ


͵Ϛ ψ ξ θ

     ρ Ϟ β


͵Ϛ Ϡ ξ α



This translates into the following:

vʹd  (año incarnationis domenicæ secũdũ Hippolytũ)

+ cccxviii

+ ccx

+ dlv

+ cxxix

= vʹmdccxii  (ca. añum Dom. 1212)

+ dvii

= vʹmdcclxix  (ca. añum Dom. 1269)

+ cxcii

= vʹcmlxi  (ca. añum Dom. 1461)


Or, in the middle ages, perhaps to something like this:


+ bxaiii

+ hx

+ ql


= zzzqhxii

+ laii

= zzzqhfxxaiiii

+ cnii

= zzzqhlxi


…So, let’s carry that sigma after all!


July 16, 2011

Ἀρχὴ σὺν Θεῷ: Two Mediæval Greek Poems on Learning

From Cambridge University Library, Manuscript Gg.1.2, a compendium of grammar, προγυμνάσματα, etymologies, &c. These poems come after the Περὶ Συντάξεως of George Pardus (a.k.a. “Gregory of Corinth”), which will protect the gentle reader from solœcisms, barbarisms, and other career-breaking faux pas: for example, it will remind you, if you even need reminding, to say ἀνέχομαι (with the dative, of course) rather than—mon Dieu!βαστάζομαι. A marginal gloss wrongly attributes that work to Constantine “Michael” Psellus, a mistake repeated by what I believe is still the standard catalogue to the library: Hardwick & Luard no. 1397.12 (vol. 3, pp. 11sq.; online here).

For help even beyond what Ψευδοψελλός can offer, we must call upon higher powers. As far as I know, these haven’t been published elsewhere.

256v  The top half of the page is an abbreviated run-through of nominal morphology.  The second half has the following poem:

Ὁ Λάζαρος τέθνηκε φύσεως νόμῳ·
τοῦτον δὲ Χριστὸς ἐξανιστᾷ τοῦ τάφου
ἄψυχον ὄντα καὶ νέκυν ὀδωδότα:
ἀλλ’ αὐτὸς οὗτος ὁ ζωῆς χορηγέτης, ζωῆς
ὁ κρατῶν καὶ θανάτου δεσπόζων, ὁ καὶ θα-
-νατῶν ζωοποιῶν τε ξένως, ὑμᾶς ἀνα-
στήσειε προσφιλῆ τέκνα, τῆς ἀμαθίας,
ὥσπερ νεκρὸν ἐκ τάφου.

Most of the words are marked (presumably numbered) with a superscription in another color, in a way we can derive no meaning from:  Α (Λάζαρος), Β (τέθνηκε), Γ (φύσεως), Δ (νόμῳ), Η (τοῦτον), Ε (Χριστὸς), Ζ (ἐξανιστᾷ), ΣΤ (τοῦ τάφου), Θ (ἄψυχον), ΙΒ (ὄντα), Ι (νέκυν), ΙΑ (ὀδωδότα), Α (αὐτὸς), Β (ζωῆς), [there may be a faint marking over χορηγέτης, but we can’t be sure], Δ (ζωῆς), Γ (κρατῶν), Ε (καὶ θανάτου), ΣΤ (δεσπόζων), Ζ (καὶ θανατῶν), Η (ζωοποιῶν), Θ (ξένως), ΙΣΤ (ὑμᾶς), ΙΕ (ἀναστήσειε), ΙΑ (προσφιλῆ), Ι (τέκνα), ΙΔ (ἀμαθίας), ΙΒ (ὥσπερ), ΙΓ (τάφου).  …An αἴνιγμα for the clever.

257r  This page is wholly taken up by another poem, a prayer for a young writer, with similar markings that we won’t reproduce here (puzzle-solvers can enlarge the photo), but with some verbal interlineal annotations as well.  The poem itself, in fairly large letters, runs:

Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, ὁ θεὸς ἡμῶν ὁ ἀσπόρως
εὐδοκήσας τεχθῆναι ἐκ τῆς ἁγίας
θετόκου καὶ ἀειπαρθένου Μαρίας
ταῖς πρεσβείαις αὐτῆς καὶ τοῦ   (4)
χρυσορρήμονος Ἰωσήφ, φώτισον τὸν νοῦν τοῦ νέου
τοῦ νῦν ἀρξαμένου τοῦ σχεδογραφεῖν,
καὶ τὴν καταρχὴν εὐλόγησον τοῦ σχέδους ~
Τρὶς ἤδη γράφεις, ὦ παῖ, καὶ γένοιτό σοι  (8)
ἡ ζωαρχικὴ τριὰς βοηθός, ἵν’ αὐτῆς
τυχὼν βοηθούσης σοι τῷ ταύτης στι-
χεῖν ἐπαίνῳ καὶ ἐγκωμίῳ.

If we include the smaller, interlinear writing as well, we find the following (with the main text here in capitals to aid in distinguishing the two):  ΚΥΡΙΕ (ὦ ἐξουσιαστά) ΙΗΣΟΥ (ὦ θεραπευτά), Ο ΘΕΟΣ (τίς: ποιητά), ΗΜΩΝ (τίνων), Ο ΑΣΠΟΡΩΣ (ὁ ἄνευ σπέρματος), ΕΥΔΟΚΗΣΑΣ (τί ποιήσας καὶ θελήσας) ΤΕΧΘΗΝΑΙ (καὶ γεννηθῆναι) ΕΚ ΤΗΣ (ἐκ τίνος) ΑΓΙΑΣ (καὶ σεβασμίας) ΘΕΟΤΟΚΟΥ (τῆς τὸν θεὸν γεννησάσης) ΚΑΙ ΑΙΕΙΠΑΡΘΕΝΟΥ (καὶ ἀεὶ καὶ πάντοτε παρθενευούσης) ΜΑΡΙΑΣ (τίνος) ΤΑΙΣ ΠΡΕΣΒΕΙΑΙΣ (ταῖς ἱκεσίαις καὶ παρακλήσεσιν) ΑΥΤΗΣ (τίνος) ΚΑΙ ΤΟΥ (καὶ ἄλλου τινός) ΧΡΥΣΟΡΡΗΜΟΝΟΣ (τοῦ χρυσολόγου, ἤγουν καὶ τοῦ χρυσὰ ῥήματα φθεγγομένου) ΙΩΑΝΝΟΥ, ΦΩΤΙΣΟΝ (κάθαρον, λάμπρυνον) ΤΟΝ ΝΟΥΝ (τίνα) ΤΟΥ (τίνος) ΝΕΟΥ (ἤγουν παιδὸς) ΤΟΥ ΝΥΝ (ἀρτίως) ΑΡΞΑΜΕΝΟΥ (ἀρχὴν λαβόντος) ΤΟΥ (τί) ΣΧΕΔΟΓΡΑΦΕΙΝ (ἤγουν τοῦ σχεδογραφεῖν· ἄλλο τι) ΚΑΙ ΤΗΝ ΚΑΤΑΡΧΗΝ (τὴν ἔναρξιν) ΕΥΛΟΓΗΣΟΝ (ἐν λόγοις εὔλογον) ΤΟΥ ΣΧΕΔΟΥΣ (τίνα). ΤΡΙΣ (τί ποιῶν· ἐκ τρίτου) ΗΔΗ (ἀπάρτι) ΓΡΑΦΕΙΣ (τί ποιῶν), Ω ΠΑΙ (ὦ παιδίον), ΚΑΙ ΓΕΝΟΙΤΟ ΣΟΙ (καὶ γενηθήτω σοι, καὶ ὑπάρξειε) Η ΖΩΑΡΧΙΚΗ (τίς: ἡ ἄρχουσα τῆς ζωῆς) ΤΡΙΑΣ (ἡ τίς) ΒΟΗΘΟΣ (ποδαπός) ΙΝ’ (καὶ ὅπως) ΑΥΤΗΣ (τίνος: ἤγουν τῆς ἁγίας τριάδος) ΤΥΧΩΝ (ἐπιτυχών), ΒΟΗΘΟΥΣΗΣ (καὶ συνεργούσης) ΣΟΙ (τίνι), ΤΩ (τίνος) ΣΤΙΧΕΙΝ (ἤγουν ἐμμένειν) ΕΠΑΙΝΩ (τιμῇ καὶ δόξῃ) ΚΑΙ (καὶ ἄλλο τι) ΕΓΚΩΜΙΩ (ἐπαίνῳ).

Although, as a rather secular-minded man of the 21st century, we are certainly less familiar with orthodox teaching than was this poem’s author, we wonder if he, or perhaps she, has somehow in confusion given to Mary an attribute of the latter’s cousin’s (Luke ch. 1) or even of the patriarch’s wife (Gen. ch. 18). Likewise, we would expect not Mary & John but Mary & Joseph. (The nomen sacrum here is ἸΩου’, and I don’t think Ἰωσήπου is meant. [Or is it?] An additional confusion, or influence, may be from the epithet’s being ordinarily used, as far as I know, as a synonym of Chrysostom.) Readers: am I missing something? The transcription of σχεδογραφεῖν as its own gloss is correct, as is the accentuation of στ(ε)ίχειν as στιχεῖν. One should very much like to know more about the author (or authoress) of the poem and its addressee!  (For σχεδογραφία, which I seem to recall Anna Comnena disapproved of, see here and here.)


Note: I’ve added a new category for tagging, “Manuscript Finds”, for fun stuff like this, and have tagged some of the earlier posts with it.

July 3, 2011

Monastic Photobombs

Several of our posts have been about the wonderful marginalia that we come across every day in our work.  From memories of snow on the Holy Mountains and maps for the traveller to detailed advice on how to cure sick cows and stern warnings invoking the curse of the 318 fathers of Nicaea on would-be thieves, these notes, pictures and doodles offer a delightful glimpse into thoughts of the writers and readers of the manuscripts. We’ve also found that the edges of the microfilm themselves become a kind of second margin where, to our surprise and occasional dismay, the photographers of the manuscripts leave their own traces. I have gathered a small selection of some of the more curious “meta-marginalia” we’ve encountered: hands and fingers are rather common but at times we’ve found office supplies too.  The strip of fabric in the top right of the collage is the (for us) very familiar Iviron monastery tablecloth which the monks seemed to use as a sort of decorative base when photographing manuscripts in the 1970’s and is often visible at the edges of the image.

(Thanks to Roderick and Vladimir for sharing their photos, click on the image to enlarge)

June 22, 2011

Getting to Zographou in the twelfth century

How did people travel before Google? Here is a little sketch from a twelfth century Menologion by Symeon Metaphrastes, now in the National Library of Greece (No. 2534, fol. 267r). The image has three short inscriptions, one around the top of Mount Athos, another above the monastery of Zographou, and another one saying “Vigla”—the medieval Greek word for watchmen’s post (from Latin vigilia), most likely today’s Megali Vigla in the hills beyond Ouranoupolis. The scribe was careful not to forget the small island of Ammouliani, another islet next to it (today’s Pena/Artemis), and a little ship to mark the dock of the monastery.

The only problem with the image, however, is that it is actually showing the wrong side of the peninsula. Both Zographou and Vigla (and the islets too) are on the western side, so this would take the traveler to Esphigmenou instead. Apart from that minor drawback, a beautiful map!

Ath. EBE 2534.267r

Once you pass Vigla, just ask…


June 21, 2011

Χιονόπτωση στὸ Μοναστήρι τῶν Γεωργιανῶν

Iviron 369 (our MTA.8.8), a manuscript from anno mundi 7124 [=AD 1616] in a beautiful archaizing hand, contains a sequentia about, a viva of, and an encomium to the Patriarch Athanasius the Younger. Two and a half centuries later (AM 7371) at the very end of the manuscript (fol. 155r), a monk whose specialty must have been something other than orthography leaves us a note about the weather.  Below is a diplomatic transcription, one with standardized spelling, and a translation.  Special thanks to Σασκῶπον καὶ Βλαδιμηρῶπον for help in deciphering the rough, but charming in its sincerity, scrawl.

1863 εκαμε μια χιονια μεγαλ̣[…]
οπο εσκεπασε το σπιτι ολω
Κυριλλως μωναχος Ιβιριτις
καιφαλινεος εγραψα τα ανω

1863 ἔκαμε μιὰ χιονιὰ μεγάλη, ὁποὺ ἐσκέπασε τὸ σπίτι ὅλο. Κύριλλος μοναχὸς Ἰβηρίτης Κεφαλληναῖος ἔγραψα τὰ ἄνω.

In 1863 there was a big snowstorm that covered the whole house. I, Cyril the Cephallonian, monk of Iviron, wrote the above.

If this Cyril is the same scribe who wrote in either of the gorgeous hands of the two previous pages, then he must have made himself quite free with the “μωναστυρηακω κρασυ” before deciding to tell us about the snowstorm.  ~Roderick

Cyril of Cephallonia's Autograph