Saturday, January 03, 2009

Fifty ancient history blogs

One of the first e-mails I received this year was a notification that I was included on one listing of Top 50 Ancient History Blogs. Checking the list out I was surprised to see how few I'd run across, and how different they were from each other. So I say, have a look.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

The Chronography of 354

I have mentioned here before Roger Pearse's public-spirited project to publish in translation as many late ancient and early Christian primary sources as he legally can. Roger is an Internet hero.

His most recent publication might be of interest to some readers: it's the kind of thing that you might never hear of unless you were a specialist in late ancient historiography (that's how I came across it first): The Chronography of 354.

This work, which is unique is an almanac including various calendars and chronological lists commissioned by or presented to a man (presumably a man who lived in Rome) named Valentinus. The original, which no longer exists, was a real luxury product, including fancy calligraphy and lavish illustrations. (The illustration that you see above and the others preserved in various manuscripts are copies made in the Renaissance, a thousand years after the originals were made.)

What I found most interesting about the almanac when I first looked at it, is that it gave me a look at what aristocrats in mid-fourth-century Rome thought was important. Some of the material is Christian -- lists of bishops of Rome, lists of local martyrs -- but a lot of the visual material seems completely strange (pagan?) to my later eyes. A non-graphic example of surprising material can be seen in the Philocalian Calendar, part 6 of the Chronography, which gives all the official holidays, Senate meetings, good and bad luck days, observed in the city. Likewise part 16, the Chronicle of the City of Rome gives a summary of what local leaders might be expected to know of the history of the city and to a very limited extent, the empire. Have a look and see how much of this "Roman History" you've heard of!

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Marutha of Maiperqat


Love that internet.

A public benefactor named Roger Pearse has for some time now been posting translations of works by the early "church fathers" (bishops, monks, and other early ecclesiastical writers).

Today I got a note that he's posted an unpublished account of the Council of Nicaea by the obscure writer Marutha of Maiperqat. The Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325, was one of those crucial moments when a diverse, amorphus movement, the Christian churches, tried to define itself as "the Church," by specifying what real Christians believed and condemning all others as heretics (people with false opinions instead of true faith).

Well, of course, this effort and later ones ended up splitting the Christian assemblies (original meaning of ecclesia or "church") into hostile alliances, especially in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. The Council of Nicaea, which was called and presided over by Constantine, also provided a precedent for imperial control of the churches and their doctrine (not that this was ever entirely successful).

Now, today, for the very first time ever, you can read one sectarian account of that event, one not widely available for many centuries.

This seems to be a good time to mention that Ramsay MacMullen, a well-known historian of the Roman empire, has published a book called Voting About God in Early Church Councils.
I can't wait to get hold of it.

Image:
The Church Fathers at Nicaea.

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