Procopius: Buildings

19 April 2012

Byzantine squiggles:
a rather mild example.

Although the Buildings, in its English translation by Dewing (Loeb edition), has been on Lacus since 2003, the original Greek was not, nor was it to be found anywhere else online; and for years those who visited my orientation page have been reading there, “I have no intention of transcribing the original Greek text: the paucity of readers of ancient Greek out there make it a case of diminishing returns.”

It’s probably still true. The anecdotal evidence I have is that people who read Greek also have access to the TLG. But it recently became useful to me to run a software test on a product I’m developing, and since I’ve been unable to find the Greek text of the Buildings online, other than in a xerox of Migne (wonderful in its time but not so reliable and somewhat superseded by more recent text scholarship) the Buildings became my test document. Perseus has the Greek text of the Wars and of the Secret History, which are also reproduced in a GoogleBooks/Archive.Org xerox: ‘my’ Buildings, when complete, will put all of Procopius online.

All this by way of saying that Book I of the Greek text of the Buildings has now joined its English translation onsite, in 3 webpages. As elsewhere onsite, the text and the translation are crosslinked, if for now only rudimentarily: I’ll be putting in the chapter-by-chapter crosslinks, by and by. The other Books are on their way.

The “software product” — an overblown name for it, but hey, ya do computer stuff, ya follow da rules and give it a fancy IP-sounding moniker — may be more important than the test document. I mentioned it in an earlier post: an automatic text expander that lets you type ancient (polytonic) Greek without worrying about the breathings and accents. For those few who input even a small amount of Greek from time to time, it’s a boon; currently catching about 92% of non-technical text, and not much less even of text with high technical content. The expander, which runs on Macintosh only, takes the form of a Typinator “set” which works nicely now, but the good folks at Typinator (see their website) have asked me to hold off on releasing it until they in turn update Typinator to its next version: as a beta-tester for them I’d found some minor bugs, impacting the handling of Greek, that they’ve now fixed; but their new version is not available yet. The set will be available on their site and on mine, very likely within a coupla weeks.

At any rate, the test succeeded. I hadn’t used any of Procopius to create the expander dictionary, but my set caught about 90% of his somewhat technical text, and frankly, without it I would never have been able to input 45 pages of ancient Greek in three days; and typing in all the squiggles one by one is so depressing that I wouldn’t have tried: it’s currently the longest Greek text on my site. (Yes, you still have to proofread; but we all proofread anyway, rihgt?)

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Common Errors (30): The Menorah

20 February 2010

The Menorah as shown on the honorary arch of Titus.

In 455, the Vandals captured and looted Rome. They took many objects of art with them, including the Temple Treasure that had been in Jerusalem until the Roman commander Titus had sacked that city (in 70 CE). The Vandals took the objects to Carthage, and lost them to the Byzantines, who captured the city in 534. According to Procopius (History of the Wars, 4.9), the Jewish treasures were taken to Constantinople, where general Belisarius displayed them during his triumphal entry.

Among these were the treasures of the Jews, which Titus … had brought to Rome after the capture of Jerusalem. And one of the Jews, seeing these things, approached one of those known to the emperor and said: “These treasures I think it inexpedient to carry into the palace in Byzantium. Indeed, it is not possible for them to be elsewhere than in the place where Solomon, the king of the Jews, formerly placed them. For it is because of these that Gizeric captured the palace of the Romans, and that now the Roman army has captured that the Vandals.”

When this had been brought to the ears of the Emperor, he became afraid and quickly sent everything to the sanctuaries of the Christians in Jerusalem.

So, the treasures of the Jewish temple were returned to Jerusalem. They are not in the Vatican, as some people seem to think. I heard that urban legend for the first time in Italy, some fifteen years ago, and believed that the story, which is so flatly contradicted by a well-known and accessible ancient author, had died a well-deserved death, but I was wrong. When Benedict XVI visited Israel last spring, this myth was suddenly in the headlines again, because two pious Jews demanded that the pope would be seized and kept until the Menorah was returned. The judge dismissed the case on 11 May 2009 – unfortunately argueing that a foreign chief of state was immune, instead of saying that lunatic fringe theories ought to be ignored.

It must be noted, though, that there are other stories about the Temple Treasure. Ibn Abdelhakam writes that the Arabian conquerors of Spain found the “Table of Solomon” when they captured Toledo in 711 (History of the Conquest of Spain, 21). It was brought to Damascus. If this is a reference to the Table of the Table for the Shewbread, this suggests that at least one object was brought to Spain instead of Carthage. In any case, there is not a single piece of evidence that connects the Menorah to the Vatican.

<Overview of Common Errors>