Maia Atlantis: Ancient World Blogs

14 hours 36 min ago Dutch Authorities Return Sculpture to Italy << Archaeology Magazine

ROME, ITALY—The Associated Press reports that Dutch police returned a second-century marble sculpture of the Roman empress Giulia Domna to Italian authorities at a ceremony in Amsterdam. The 12-inch head is thought to have been plundered from Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli in 2012. Two people have been charged with the theft and with trying to sell the sculpture at an auction in Amsterdam. Carabinieri Major Massimo Maresca said that the auction house alerted Italian authorities. For more, go to “Rome's Imperial Port.”

14 hours 47 min ago Resuming the Conversation with Anthony Buzzard << James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

Unfortunately, my conversation with Anthony Buzzard got interrupted by an internet outage in my building. So we’re planning to resume the conversation next Friday, a little later than we started this evening (or a little earlier than we got interrupted – whichever way you prefer to look at it). When the video recording of the [Read More...]

The post Resuming the Conversation with Anthony Buzzard appeared first on Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath.

14 hours 55 min ago Roman Ruler of Judea Named in 1,900-Year-Old Inscription << Archaeology Magazine

Israel Gargilius Antiques InscriptionHAIFA, ISRAEL—The Times of Israel reports that the name of a Roman ruler of Judea has been found in a 1,900-year-old inscription by scholars from the University of Haifa. Gargilius Antiques is now thought to have ruled over Judea in the years prior to the Bar Kochba revolt against Rome, which was fought between 132 and 136 A.D. The seven-line inscription, carved on a 1,300-pound rock, was found underwater at the site of Tel Dor, an ancient port city on the Mediterranean Sea. The rock may have been a statue base. “This is ... just the second time that the mention of Judea has been discovered in inscriptions traced back to the Roman era,” noted Assaf Yasur-Landau of Haifa University. To read more about underwater archaeology in Israel, go to “Sun and Moon.”

15 hours 24 min ago 2,000-Year-Old Pet Cemetery Unearthed in Egypt << Archaeology Magazine

Berenike pet cemeteryNEWARK, DELAWARE—USA Today reports that a 2,000-year-old pet cemetery has been discovered near a trash heap at the archaeological site of Berenike, a remote Roman port town on the Red Sea. The remains of dogs, monkeys, and cats have been unearthed. Some of the carcasses had been carefully placed under mats or jars. A few of them were wearing iron collars, some of which were decorated with ostrich-shell beads. Marta Osypińska of the Polish Academy of Sciences notes that the necks of the cats were not twisted, as the necks of cats mummified for ritual reasons often were. The remains of a mastiff-like dog suffering from bone cancer was found to have eaten a final meal of fish and goat, before its body was wrapped in a basket and covered with pieces of pottery. The dog is thought to have been imported from Greece or Rome, and was “a very loved animal,” said Steven Sidebotham of the University of Delaware. “What makes this unique is (despite) the very rough circumstances in which these people are living, they still manage to find the time and effort to have companion animals with them,” he said. For more, go to “Animal Mummy Coffins of Ancient Egypt.”

15 hours 46 min ago U.S. Repatriates Artifacts to Egypt << Archaeology Magazine

USA repatriation EgyptWASHINGTON, D.C.—Five artifacts seized by federal agents have been handed over to Egyptian officials in a ceremony at the Egyptian embassy in Washington D.C. by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to a report from ABC News. The objects, including a child’s wooden sarcophagus, a mummy shroud, and a mummified hand, were recovered during investigations based in New York and Los Angeles. Dubbed “Operation Mummy’s Curse” and “Operation Mummy’s Hand,” the investigations uncovered a network of smugglers, importers, money launderers, restorers, and purchasers. The agents traced the artifacts and money to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Iraq, France, and other nations. Yasser Reda, Egyptian ambassador to the United States, praised the agents for their efforts, saying that their work is essential to the preservation of the world's ancient cultures. For more, go to “Egypt’s Immigrant Elite.”

18 hours 24 min ago A Gnathian squat lekythos and the Becchina Archive << David Gill (Looting Matters)
Source: Becchina archive
Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has spotted that a Gnathian squat lekythos that is due to be auctioned by Gorny & Mosch (lot 127). The collecting history is provided:
Ex Christie´s London, 15.04.2015, ex 113; aus der Privatsammlung von Hans Humbel, Schweiz, erworben bei der Galerie Arete, Zürich in den frühen 1990er Jahren.
Tsirogiannis points out that the Becchina photograph is dated to 24 September 1988. The objects appear to have been supplied by Raffaele Montichelli.

The significance of the collecting history is that the object was offered for auction at Christie's (London) on 15 April 2015 (lot 113). This is one of four lots withdrawn from the Christie's sale after Tsirogiannis had raised concerns about their collecting histories. It is perhaps noteworthy that the online Christie's catalogue has removed information about the askos.

This raises a number of questions:

  • Was the askos sold at Christie's in spite of being withdrawn?
  • Was the askos returned to its vendor?
  • Is the vendor at Gorny & Mosch the same as at Christie's?
This raises further issues about the lack of sufficient rigour on the part of the team at Gorny & Mosch. Were they unaware of the controversy surrounding the askos at last year's sale?

Gorny & Mosch need to take responsible action and withdraw the askos from the auction and to contact the Italian authorities.


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18 hours 47 min ago Numbering The Stars: Remembering the Contributions of Medieval Muslim Astronomers And Catalogers << Sarah E. Bond

This week over at the Forbes blog, I discuss the International Astronomical Union (IAU)‘s publication of an official catalog of 227 star names. The list was published this week in order to further standardize how we reference stars and constellations, since each one has had numerous monikers in Greek, Roman, Chinese, Arabic and many other languages over the many millenia that people have been studying the stars.

Although I laud the IAU’s attempt to streamline naming, I was dismayed to see that in the section of the website recounting the history of cataloguing of the stars, the association begins with the western astronomers that worked during the European Renaissance. By crediting Johann Bayer’Uranometria atlas of 1603 as the first such popular catalog of stars, they in fact omit the great contributions of ancient astronomers and Muslim celestial cataloguers in particular. I attempt to remedy that by recounting a short history of Muslim mathematicians and astronomers (as well as a few forgotten medieval women).

I am also posting a list of digital resources and manuscripts below that I consulted for this article, so that you too can investigate the myriad contributions of Muslim scientists via the manuscripts themselves:

6a017ee66ba427970d01b8d0892894970cUrsa major (الدب الأكبر) as viewed on a celestial globe (upper) and as viewed in the sky (lower) (Or 5323, f.8v). Image via the British Library and is in the Public Domain.
  1. Library of Congress, “Astronomical Innovation in the Islamic World”
  2. Marika Sardar, “Astronomy and Astrology in the Medieval Islamic World
  3. Abd-al-Rahman al-Sufi, “Tables from the Book of the constellations of the fixed stars (Kitab suwar al-kawakib) in a Latin translation,” via the British Library
  4. Ursula Sims-Williams, “Arabic scientific manuscripts go live in Qatar Digital Library,” Asian and African Studies Blog, via the British Library.
  5. The J. Paul Getty Museum, “Astronomical and Medical Miscellany: Toledan Constellation Tables; De Dispositione Aeris; De Prognosticationibus Egritudinem; etc., English, late 14th century, shortly after 1386Ms. Ludwig XII 7
  6. Elly Decker, Illustrating the Phaenomena: Celestial cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
15181198_10104030019844748_76570874655340741_n I am grateful for the help given to me by the University of Iowa’s Special Collections librarians. Map librarian Paula Balkenende pulled a number of celestial maps for me and then gave me a special look at Lanciani’s Forma Urbis Romae–just for kicks. 

 


20 hours 21 min ago ΜΟΝΟΓΕΝΗΣ: Data Anecdotes << ἐν ἐφέσῳ: Thoughts and Meditations

This isn’t an empirical corpus study of μονογενής. It isn’t comprehensive or thorough; it’s just a handful of examples that popped out at me while looking at instances of μονογενής in Koine texts. At best these are anecdotes. Still, I thought it would be worth doing something as a follow up on my previous post on method and native speakers. I refused to speculate on the meaning of μονογενής there. While I still have no intention of drawing a hard conclusion, I did think it might be worth a few moment to look through some Koine texts to see what I’d find.

I can understand why μονογενής could be justifiably translated as ‘only begotten’ in contexts like  Judges 11:34, where μονογενής is the head noun.

Καὶ ἦλθεν Ιεφθαε εἰς Μασσηφα εἰς τὸν οἶκον αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἰδοὺ ἡ θυγάτηρ αὐτοῦ ἐξεπορεύετο εἰς ἀπάντησιν αὐτοῦ ἐν τυμπάνοις καὶ χοροῖς, καὶ αὕτη μονογενὴς αὐτῷ ἀγαπητή, καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτῷ πλὴν αὐτῆς υἱὸς ἢ θυγάτηρ.
And Jephthah went to Mizpah to his house; and behold, his daughter was going out to meet him with drums and dancing. She was his μονογενὴς beloved; there was not another son or daughter to him.

My big question would be:

What’s the benefit of maintaining ‘begotten-ness’ for biological contexts in texts where μονογενής is modifying ‘child’ or ‘son’ or daughter’ What’s its semantic contribution in such cases?

Consider the following:

Psalms of Solomon 18:4
ἡ παιδεία σου ἐφʼ ἡμᾶς ὡς υἱὸν πρωτότοκον μονογενῆ ἀποστρέψαι ψυχὴν εὐήκοον ἀπὸ ἀμαθίας ἐν ἀγνοίᾳ
Your instruction is upon us as a first-born μονογενῆ son to divert the obedient soul from ignorance in sins.

So this text has, “first born μονογενῆ son.” That’s a lot of redundancy if μονογενής means ‘only begotten.’

Another interesting example is from Josephus, Antiquities 2.181, where the contrast is on quantity rather than ‘begotten-ness’ in the context of Josephus retelling of the Old Testament historical books:

καὶ τὸ μὲν γνήσιον γένος τῷ Ἰακώβῳ τοῦτο ἦν, ἐκ Βάλλας δὲ αὐτῷ γίνονται τῆς Ῥαχήλας θεραπαινίδος Δάνος καὶ Νεφθαλίς, ᾧ τέσσαρες εἵποντο παῖδες, Ἐλιῆλος Γοῦνις Σάρης τε καὶ Σέλλιμος, Δάνῳ δὲ μονογενὲς ἦν παιδίον Οὖσις.
This was the children born to Jacob in wedlock. And from Balla (i.e. Bilhah), the maidservant of Rachel, there were born to him Dan and Nepthali, from whom four children were born—Eliel, Gunis, Sares, and Sellim. Dan had an μονογενὲς child, Usi.

Dan has a single son. Nepthali has four. Are Nepthali’s less ‘begotten’ somehow?

This other example from Josephus is also quite striking:

ἦν δὲ αὐτῷ Μονόβαζος τούτου πρεσβύτερος ἐκ τῆς Ἑλένης γενόμενος ἄλλοι τε παῖδες ἐξ ἑτέρων γυναικῶν. τὴν μέντοι πᾶσαν εὔνοιαν ὡς εἰς μονογενῆ τὸν Ἰζάτην ἔχων φανερὸς ἦν.
He [Bazeus king of Adiabene] had [the son\ Monobazos, his [Izates] elder brother also from Helena, and he had other sons by other wives additionally. Yet he [Bazeus] openly placed all his affections on this his μονογενῆ Izates.

Seems that something like ‘particularly special’ or ‘preferred/favorite’ would be best here.


Filed under: Greek, Historical Linguistics, Language, Lexicography, Linguistics, OT, Semantics
20 hours 25 min ago 2,000-year-old pet cemetery uncovered in Egypt << Archaeological News on Tumblr A nearly 2,000-year-old pet cemetery holding the remains of dogs, monkeys and scores of cats has...
20 hours 59 min ago Stolen Mummy Hand Makes Its Way Home << Archaeological News on Tumblr The blackened, cloth-wrapped hand arrived in a parcel at Los Angeles International Airport in...
21 hours 36 min ago Open Greek and Latin Project of the Open Philology Project << Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online) Open Greek and Latin Project of the Open Philology Project
The ultimate goal is to represent every source text produced in Classical Greek or Latin from antiquity through the present, including texts preserved in manuscript tradition as well as on inscriptions, papyri, ostraca and other written artifacts.  Over the course of the next five years, we will focus upon converting as much Greek and Latin, available as scanned printed books, into an open, dynamic corpus, continuously augmented and improved by a combination of automated processes and human contributions of many kinds. The focus upon Greek and Latin reflects both the belief that we have an obligation to disseminate European cultural heritage and the observation that recent advances in OCR technology for Greek and Latin make these intertwined languages ready for large-scale work.

The Open Greek and Latin Project aims at providing at least one version for all Greek and Latin sources produced during antiquity (through c. 600 CE) and a growing collection from the vast body of post-classical Greek and Latin that still survives. Perhaps 150 million words of Greek and Latin, preserved in manuscripts, on stone, on papyrus or other writing surface, survive from antiquity. Analysis of 10,000 books in Latin, downloaded from Archive.org, identified more than 200 million words of post-classical Latin. With 70,000 public domain books listed in the Hathi Trust as being in Ancient Greek or Latin, the amount of Greek and Latin already available will almost certainly exceed 1 billion words.

Where existing corpora of Greek and Latin have generally included one edition of a work, Open Greek and Latin Corpus is designed to manage multiple versions of, and to represent the complete textual history of, a work: every manuscript, every papyrus fragment, and every printed edition are all versions within the history of a text. In the short run, this involves using OCR-technology optimized for Classical Greek and Latin to create an open corpus that is reasonably comprehensive for the c. 100 million words produced through c. 600 CE and that begins to make available the billions of words produced after 600 CE in Greek and Latin that survive.

Open Greek & Latin Texts

A collection of machine-corrected XML versions of classical authors and works, freely available to download and reuse. For more information, click on the tabs below. Texts are published in GitHub on an ongoing basis. Watch this space and our Facebook page for updates.

athenaeus-dev

The works of Athenaeus of Naucratis, Greek rhetorician and grammarian.

church_fathers_dev

A selection of Church Fathers.

english_trans-dev

English translations of classical works.

misc-dev

An undefined collection of TEI and EpiDoc versions of classical texts.

cag-dev

The Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca.

csel-dev

The Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum.

fragmentary-dev

A Collection of classical fragmentary authors and works.

italian_trans-dev

Italian translations of classical works.

patrologia_latina-dev

The Patrologia Latina.

catenae-dev

The Catenae Graecorum Patrum in Novum Testamentum.

dfhg-dev

The Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum.

french_trans-dev

French translations of classical works.

libanius-dev

The works of the Greek rhetorician Libanius.

philo-dev

The works of Philo Judaeus, the Hellenistic Jewish philosopher.
21 hours 38 min ago Hendel on the rainbow << Jim Davila (Paleojudaica.com) <img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/blogspot/ABNx/~4/NAClJbBxRpo" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
21 hours 46 min ago More on the Jordan lead codices << Jim Davila (Paleojudaica.com) <img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/blogspot/ABNx/~4/bElHHDIaIe4" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
21 hours 52 min ago Karanis Housing Project << Charles Ellwood Jones (AWOL: The Ancient World Online) Karanis Housing Project
Karanis was a Greco-Roman town located in Egypt's Fayoum Region. Founded in the third century BCE, the town remained inhabited until the fifth century CE. A small population of Roman mercenaries lived in the primarily agrarian town, where sustenance farmers produced crops such as wheat, barley, olives, figs, and walnuts. Alexandria, one of the major centers of Roman trade, lay a mere 124 miles to the north of Karanis, making this small, rural town a gateway to more populated and urban areas.

The site was primarily excavated by a team from the University of Michigan, lead by Francis W. Kelsey, in the 1920s. However, Kelsey was not the first person to show interest in Karanis; local farmers had been obtaining government permits to remove nitrogen-rich soil from the site to use as fertilizer (sebbakh) up until the early twentieth century, and the papyri they inevitably unearthed caught the attention of English scholars Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt, who completed minor excavations of the site in 1895 before moving to a different site. As a result, Kelsey and his team were forced to work around whole swaths of the town that had been destroyed by earlier activities -- most notably, an area right in the center of the Karanis mound. The Michigan team completed a wonderfully thorough excavation of the areas that remained intact, cataloging each artifact and making careful note of where exactly each item was discovered. This provides crucial information to archeologists and classicists who wish to consider artifacts in their original contexts.

The Karanis Housing Project seeks to bring this valuable information into the twenty-first century by digitizing the dig and making a comprehensive list of finds easily accessible and searchable online. While still in its early stages, the model developed based on data from Karanis will eventually be applied to other excavations, providing a way to analyze finds and query specific artifacts that is far more user-friendly than sifting through boxes of field notes.
22 hours 40 min ago Two mosaic glass slices joined: a grotesque male head, frontal... << Ancient Peoples

Two mosaic glass slices joined: a grotesque male head, frontal on a dark-blue field, perhaps intended as a tragic mask. The top edge of the panel is framed with an opaque white and a pale-red rod fused. In turn the ensemble is inset into ancient wood.

Graeco-Roman Egypt, 1st century BC

Source: British Museum EA29396

22 hours 58 min ago Zoroastrian and Jewish apocalyptic literature << Jim Davila (Paleojudaica.com) <img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/blogspot/ABNx/~4/sfrzn9Y3eyY" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
23 hours 15 min ago Review of Fine, The Menorah << Jim Davila (Paleojudaica.com) <img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/blogspot/ABNx/~4/4JCiVefw3TI" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
23 hours 25 min ago Review of Lavan and Mulryan (eds.), Field Methods and Post-Excavation Techniques in Late Antique Archaeology << Jim Davila (Paleojudaica.com) <img src="http://feeds.feedburner.com/~r/blogspot/ABNx/~4/3CuprGNN3XA" height="1" width="1" alt=""/>
23 hours 56 min ago War and the Plague in the Sixth Century (AD) << Conor Whately (Byzantine OED) I've been going back over some material on the sixth-century plague in the past month or two, partially for another project (digital textbook), partially for this new (ish) research project, and partially out of interest.  I've made Meier's new article (Early Medieval Europe 2016) bus reading, and so I've been slowly working my way through it, and definitely enjoying it.  My bus trips are short, so I only ever get so far.

So far, just over halfway through, I think he's done a good job of summarizing earlier research - it's an excellent introduction as is to the subject - and is making some good points all the same.  Earlier today, I came across his brief sections, lines even, on the effects of the plague on waging war.  As he notes, this is an issue that hasn't been resolved. 

Some hold that the plague had a significant impact on Rome's ability to wage war, let alone that of other states like Persia.  This impacted everything from financing war to the paying of troops.  The varied instances of military unrest that cropped up afterwards in places like Africa should be attributed to the lack of money to pay the men.  Problems with recruitment too - Belisarius had to rely on finding men himself later during the war in Italy - would also come down to the impact of the plague.  There simply weren't enough men. 

Others, however, hold the opposite line.  Rome was able to wage war on at least two fronts simultaneously during the outbreak of the plague, which would seem to minimize its impact on the empire's ability to wage war.  The thinking goes:  if plague really did have a significant impact on Justinian's military, how could they put 1000s of men in the field in Africa, Italy, Bulgaria, and Syria at the same time? 

As noted, this is an issue that hasn't been resolved, and it's one that's interested me for a little while.  Coming back to it again now, however, is it even possible to get any kind of resolution?  Most importantly, how could we hope to measure the plague's direct impact on the state's ability to wage war?  Our evidence isn't good enough, so far as I can tell, to indicate changes in the number of soldiers fighting for Rome before or after the plague took hold.  There are a few big figures for the military as whole, and references to various armies by Procopius and others.  But those are very much context specific, and there's often a lot of material that gets left out.

We also know little about the specifics of recruitment.  There are a few pieces of legislation that get into recruitment, and some of this we can date with a good deal of precision.  But the recruitment material is from the years before the plague broke out.  It also tends to be about the process itself:  these are the sorts of men who can and should be recruited, and this is what they should and should not do.  It doesn't reveal anything, really, about where they might be from and what to do if men couldn't be found.  There's no legislation that reveals any sort of crisis in recruitment in the middle years of the sixth century. 

The truth is, the evidence, as a whole, is often ambiguous.  While it might reveal things like damage, depopulation, financial instability, and mixed success in war, it doesn't connect these potential impacts of war to the wars themselves or the plague.  For instance, was the Roman Empire in the 540s and 550s struggling in war so much because of the plague, or because it was engaged on so many different fronts?  To take another example, Procopius spends a good deal of time on the impact of the plague on the empire in his famous passage.  He also details the impact of the wars in his Wars and Secret History.  What he doesn't do, however, is connect the plague to the mixed success at war.  It could be because there was no connection.  It could also be that he didn't realize that there was a connection.  Or it could be that there was one that he recognized, but one he chose to ignore in favour of other explanations, like the evils of Justinian. 

In short, there's no resolution yet for this problem, but I'm not sure we could ever get a definitive one.  With that said, the best, I think, that we could hope for is an analysis of the indirect or circumstantial kind.  There seems to be better evidence for the impact of the plague on other aspects of life, like the broader economy and rural agriculture.  If we can establish its impact on all these other matters, it seems likely that it would have had an impact on the military too.
23 hours 59 min ago Conversation Tonight With Anthony Buzzard << James F. McGrath (Exploring Our Matrix)

I thought I would post a reminder about the conversation tonight. It will be recorded, and so you can just watch and listen later. But if you’d like to listen as it is happening, and perhaps even join in, then here is the link to follow, for your convenience:  http://zoom.us/j/725748189

The post Conversation Tonight With Anthony Buzzard appeared first on Religion Prof: The Blog of James F. McGrath.

1 day 18 min ago Ancient Greek speakers & their intuitions << ἐν ἐφέσῳ: Thoughts and Meditations
nicene-creed-greek

381 CE text from the First Council of Constantinople

Nobody would be shocked to hear that native speakers know

their language really well. They speak it natively after all. Everything that you could imagine to put in a reference grammar, they already have all of that knowledge in their heads.

So when a bible professor decides to write up an argument online for why μονογενής should be understood as meaning “only begotten” rather than “unique” and he appeals to native speaker knowledge of the language, surely we should all stop and listen to it, right?

Well, no. That’s probably not a good idea–or, at least, there are a number of caveats we need to think about first.

That’s because there is a significant difference between someone knowing a language and someone knowing about a language. To put it another way: there is a significant gap between one’s ability to speak a language and one’s ability to explain to another person why they spoke the way they did and why they used the grammatical structures they used. Now, of course, there is a sense in which the limit there is terminological: if I asked you to tell me whether the verb ‘ask’ is an object-raising predicate or an object-controlling predicate, your ability to answer would depend primarily on how much language of syntactic theory you have (for those interested, you can read about raising and control predicates on their Wikipedia page).

In linguistics, the term that gets thrown around is native speaker intuition. And in biblical studies, some who have heard the phrase have jumped on it and found it a useful concept to appeal to when they find a dead Greek speaker who wrote something that agrees with their interpretation. That sort of view of things, however, misses the key word: intuition. The moment a native speaker is talking about their language, they’re not using their intuition, they’re just talking. Now, what they’re saying is still going to be useful and important, but probably not for whatever the question at hand is. Native speakers talking about their language are providing insights about their own perceptions and biases, not insights into their language itself. The insight there is sociolinguistic. It isn’t lexical, phonological, morphological, or syntactic.

For example, if you encounter an English speaker who rebukes someone else because they used the word decimate to mean destroy, saying, “Decimate can only mean to reduce by 10%” (see John McIntyre’s recent video the topic at the Baltimore Sun, for example), such a statement says very little about the meaning of the word decimate, but a whole lot about the speaker own attitudes toward their language.

Another great example is the rule about passive voice in English. Don’t use it, they say. It makes for weak writing. But again, did we just learn something about English voice? Or did we just learn something about language education in North America and the hierarchical structure of sociolinguistic authority in English? Probably the latter. The fascinating thing about the passive voice example, is just how often the people pontificating on the topic either cannot actually recognize what a passive is or how often they, fully unaware, break their own rules (see, Geoffrey Pullum’s excellent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education: 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice).

So how do we get around these difficulties? Well, the first answer is simply: Be suspicious about language statements. Do not take them at face value. In the context of Ancient Greek, such statements could be taken as an opportunity to do research. Test the claim on the actual language and see if it’s correct.

The linguist William Labov was the 20th century trailblazer for establishing principles for eliciting linguistic data in a way that did not disrupt the native speakers’ language use or introduce bad data. He was studying how the pronunciation of r variety among English speakers (Labov 1966). Rather than asking directly how they pronounced certain words (which would immediately place the speakers in a situation where their speech is non-natural), he instead went to the mall and asked various people throughout the mall where various department stores were in the building–all of which he knew ahead of time were on the fourth floor. This gave him a means of getting unaffected linguistic data. He also pretended to have misheard so that he could get a repeated statement of the response. The result? One response at natural speed and one response at a slower speed.

This is the challenge of eliciting data. It is difficult to do naturally. Field linguists studying undocumented minority languages have an even more difficult time, since they cannot elicit natural data until they’ve learned the language. So usually, the majority of work is done in the context of asking some form of How do you say… and then transcribing the answer and asking for a translation of it. This can be highly risky for getting trustworthy dat. Claire Bowern (2015) has an entire section dedicated to how to make sure one’s elicited data is reliable in this context and since most of my audience is interested in ancient languages, I won’t go into the details.

Other field linguists will say that the answer is to simply not elicit data at all: only work for corpus texts. Dixon’s (2009) view is corpus work is the only acceptable method for studying language structure and elicitation is only acceptable for the purpose of filling in morphological paradigms that have gaps from the corpus.

So what can we take away from this in terms of Ancient Greek?

  • Explicit statements about lexical meaning or grammatical structure shouldn’t be trusted outright. They might be correct, but you need to do the corpus research to make sure–and you needed to do that research anyway.
  • Polemic debates about the meaning of words or sentences are even less reliable. If there’s a debate, that means some other native speaker holds the opposite view. Neither can be trusted. Do the corpus research yourself.
  • Assumptions about the meaning of words and sentences without argument are more interesting, particularly if there’s significant modern debate. This is more like Labov’s work–unelicited, intuitional information. If a native Ancient Greek speaker simply assumes one view with no awareness that there’s an alternative, that’s something that could be important, but negative data is still not as good as positive data. Check your corpus research and see if it coheres.

Moises Silva (2005, 27) actually provides a good summary of these points in the introduction to his Philippians commentary:

9780801026812Strange as it may sound, Chrysostom, along with other Greek fathers, can be particularly helpful when he does not offer an opinion on an exegetical problem. As a native Greek speaker, his innate sense of the language—but not necessarily his conscious reflection on it—provides an important bridge between the modern commentator and the Pauline writings (with the qualification that Paul’s Greek was of course not identical to Chrysostom’s). Educated speakers are notoriously unreliable in analyzing their own language. If Chrysostom weighs two competing interpretations, his conclusion should be valued as an important opinion and no more. If, on the other hand, he fails to address a linguistic problem because he does not appear to perceive a possible ambiguity, his silence is of the greatest value in helping us determine how Paul’s first readers were likely to have interpreted the text.

Now, I cannot say that I’m comfortable with how far Silva goes here. I would emphasize that any source of linguistic information ought to be collaborated from other sources. So when Silva says, “of the greatest value,” my fear is that readers will take that to mean that such linguistic intuitions are enough to move on without confirming the conclusion with other data. That would be an unwise move.

Now then, coming back to μονογενής, the fact that the Nicene Creed’s authors chose to say γεννηθέντα is certainly interesting. Here’s the larger context (the 325 CE text):

Πιστεύομεν εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, γεννηθέντα ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς μονογενῆ, τοὐτέστιν ἐκ τῆς οὐσίας τοῦ Πατρός, Θεὸν ἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα, οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί

I suppose the main question for me would be: Is it interesting in the context of John 3:16? Or it is interesting in the context of the debates about the nature of orthodoxy in the 3rd and 4th centuries? I hope that everything above makes it clear the methodologically responsible answer. Now, that doesn’t mean Denny Burk is right or wrong about the meaning of μονογενής. It just means that the way he is appealing to native speaker’s knowledge is wrongheaded.

As for myself, I can’t say my view of μονογενής. I haven’t studied it personally. The most striking point in Burk’s article was the fact that BDAG continues to include it as the first entry. But without digging more, I couldn’t say whether that’s a result of traditions of continuity in lexicography from one edition to the next or because of the data that Danker worked through.

Works Cited:

Bowern, Claire. 2015. Linguistic fieldwork: A practical guide. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dixon, Robert M. W. 2009. Basic linguistic theory: Methodology. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Labov, William. 1966. The social stratification of English in New York City. Washington DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.

Silva, Moises. 2005. Philippians. 2nd Edition. Baker Exegetical Commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.


Filed under: Exegesis, Grammar, Greek, Historical Linguistics, John Chrysostom, Language, Lexicography, Linguistics, Sociolinguistics
1 day 2 hours ago Inscription Discovered Underwater Naming Roman Governor of Judea << BiblePlaces Blog

Haaretz reports on this new discovery:

An underwater survey conducted by divers off Tel Dor, on the Mediterranean Sea, yielded an astonishing find: a rare Roman inscription mentioning the province of Judea – and the name of a previously unknown Roman governor, who ruled the province shortly before the Bar-Kochba Revolt.

Historians had thought that based on Roman records, the leaders Rome imposed on its provinces were all known.

The rock with the 1,900-year-old inscription was exposed by a storm on the seabed at a depth of just 1.5 meters in the bay of Dor. The town had been a thriving port in Roman times that even minted its own coins, which proudly proclaimed the city to be "Ruler of the Seas".

Found by Haifa University archaeologists surveying the remains of the ancient Roman harbor at Dor in January 2016, the rock, 70 by 65 centimeters in size, was partly covered in sea creatures when it was found.

The article continues with many large photos. For more information, see the University of Haifa press release, the Times of Israel article, and blog postings by Ferrell Jenkins and David Graves.

HT: Charles Savelle, Joseph Lauer, Agade

1 day 3 hours ago Koloniën van Weldadigheid in 2018 UNESCO-werelderfgoed? << ArcheoNet BE

In januari 2017 zal de Vlaamse regering, samen met Nederland, bij de UNESCO een werelderfgoednominatiedossier indienen voor de Koloniën van Weldadigheid. Het gaat in totaal om zeven koloniën uit het eerste kwart van de 19de eeuw, waarvan twee zich in Vlaanderen bevinden: Merksplas en Wortel. Het streefdoel is om het dossier in 2018 te laten behandelen door de UNESCO. Dat jaar markeert immers de 200ste verjaardag van de oprichting van de Maatschappij van Weldadigheid en de 25ste verjaardag van de afschaffing van de wet op de landloperij.

De Koloniën van Weldadigheid getuigen van een uitzonderlijke onderneming, die twee eeuwen geleden haar ontstaan kende in het Verenigd Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. Geworteld in het geloof in de maakbaarheid van de mens en zijn omgeving stichtte de private Maatschappij van Weldadigheid tussen 1818 en 1825 zeven landbouwkoloniën. In deze utopische koloniën moesten armen, landlopers en wezen de draad van hun leven weer oppikken. Dat deden ze aan de hand van een gedisciplineerd patroon van werken en leren. Individuele vrijheid was vrijwel onbestaande. Na het afschaffen van de landloperswet in 1993 volgde een periode van leegstand. De site van Merksplas krijgt momenteel een herbestemming.

Het dossier benadrukt de wereldwijde uniciteit van de Koloniën omwille van:
– de basistypologie van het landschap van de vrije en onvrije Koloniën
– de structuur van wegen, beplanting en waterstructuren, het maatsysteem dat werd toegepast en het patroon van de bebouwing
– de bebouwing en beplanting die representatief is voor het utopische experiment van armoedebestrijding en disciplinering

Na het akkoord van de Nederlandse regering, naar verwachting volgende week, zal het dossier met alle bijlagen op vrijdag 21 januari 2017 aan UNESCO worden overhandigd door diplomatieke vertegenwoordigers van Vlaanderen en Nederland, vergezeld van een delegatie uit de koloniën. De behandeling door het Werelderfgoedcomité gebeurt dan in de zomer van 2018.

Geert Bourgeois: “Vandaag zijn de verschillende koloniën van weldadigheid nog duidelijk herkenbaar. Wegens de hoge integriteit van dit onroerend erfgoed gaan Nederland en Vlaanderen ervan uit dat de zeven koloniën van weldadigheid een terechte en relevante bijdrage kunnen betekenen aan de Werelderfgoedlijst.”

1 day 4 hours ago Friday Varia and Quick Hits << Bill Caraher (The New Archaeology of the Mediterranean World)

It finally feels like winter here in North Dakotaland, but fortunately there are plenty of reasons to stay inside by the fire. This weekend’s highlights involve numerous conference championship footballing contests as well as the Mighty Spiders of the University of Richmond taking on the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota right here in Grand Forks. It doesn’t get any more exciting than that, folks. Throw the records out.

While the excitement builds for the big game, please do enjoy a little list of varia and quick hits:

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