Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The Ravishing Praise of Pseudo-Hegesippus

We were perusing an article: 

"Pseudo-Hegesippus at Antioch? Testing a Hypothesis for the Provenance of the De Excidio Hierosolymitano", by Carson Bay, Florida State University in BABELAO 8 (2019), p. 97-128:

which is ostensibly about a rewrite of Josephus' Judean War but in fact has a lot to do with the supposed Antiochene origin of the mysterious Pseudo-Hegesippus. In his work, the ancient author speaks of Antioch (at 3.5.2) in glowing terms, though nothing we haven't heard from others of its native sons that sung similar praises:

"This city is held, without hesitation, to be the first, and for that reason the metropolis, of Syria, having been founded by the partisans of the warrior Alexander the Great and called by the name of its founder. The city is situated thus: spread out over an immense length, it is narrower in width, because it is bounded on the left side by the steep face of a mountain, such that the spaces of the city as measured were not able to be extended further. Necessity marked the location, because such a high mountain would provide a place to hide from the Parthians breaking in through unknown and alternate routes, from which they could pour themselves out by way of an unanticipated onset and immediate attack against an unprepared Syria, unless the city should lie before a mountain as before a bulwark and obstruct the egress of those approaching, so that if any of the barbarians should ascend, immediately he would be seen from the hollow center of the city. Eventually, they hold that, when theatrical plays were being frequented in that city, one of the farcical actors, raising his eyes to the mountain, saw the Persians arriving and immediately said: “I am either beholding a dream or a great danger. Behold: Persians!” This was possible because the mountain leaned over the city, so that not even the height of the theatre provided an impediment to seeing the mountain. A river separates it in the middle which, originating from the direction of the sun’s rising, is joined to the sea not far from the city. This river those of former times called ‘Orient’ due to the tracing of its origin, inasmuch as they [those of former times] are commonly believed to have given names to places, names which were thereafter adopted. It is from the frigid flows of this river from its very onset, and from the Zephyrs blowing constantly through it in places, that the entire city is cooled at nearly every moment, so that it has hidden the East in its eastern parts. Within it are sweet waters, and without a nearby meadow surrounded by open spaces and clusters of cypress trees, as well as productive fountains. They call it Daphne, because it never sets aside its greenery. There there exists a populus numerous and very happy that is more refined than nearly all others of the East, but nearer to licentiousness. This city, having been reckoned to hold third place of all other citizen bodies which exist in the Roman world, now holds fourth place, after the citizen body of the Byzantines has produced Constantinople, once capital of the Persians, but now a means of defense. I believe enough has been said concerning the situation of the city. For it is not seemly to delay by describing its edifices. When I spoke of the East from its back, it was clear enough that the South is situated from the left, that Europe meets it from the front, that the Northern peoples live to the right, where also the Caspian kingdoms are held, who had previously been the most inclined to make incursions into Syria. But after Alexander the Great established the Caspian Gate at a steep part of the Taurus Mountain, and closed off the way to all the peoples of the interior, he returned the famous city to peace, except perhaps when observing Persian movement".

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Plethron & the Xystos

The plethron was the ancient wrestling stadium of Antioch. It merited an Oration from Libanius (Oration X, "On the Plethron"). In Downey's article on the Antioch Olympics he says ".. the successive enlargements of the Plethron, which had been built under Didius Julianus in the heart of Antioch, near the site of the later Forum of Valens, for use in the athletic trials and preliminary contests in the games. In a statement by Malalas (cited by Downeythe Plethri(o)n was built on the site of the house of Asabinus of the Council (πολιτευομενου), a Jew by religion.

The structure was originally designed, with two rows of seats about its four sides, to accomodate as spectators only the trainers, patrons and present and past officials of the games, the building was enlarged by Argyrius, who gave the games in 332AD, and then by Libanius' uncle Phasganius, who gave them in 336, each doubling the former capacity of the seats. The resulting admission of students, workmen and idlers of all sorts destroyed, Libanius says, the sacred character of the contests, which were even set at a later hour to suit the convenience of the new spectators". Downey adds that Proculus, the comes Orientis of 383-4 proposed a further expansion of the seating. This last proposal is what spurred Libanius to his outburst against riff-raff at the plethron!

The Xystos was another structure used for the Games. Malalas relates that this was built (or rebuilt) by Commodus (180-192AD). This is described in some commentaries as a covered track used for sports. In a footnote A.F. Norman suggests some sort of linkage with the Theatre of Zeus and references Roland Martin in Festugiere but my reading of Martin quite clearly states the Theatre of Zeus was in Daphne, moreover Norman attributes Martin as claiming that the Xystos and Plethron were in some way connected with the theatre. Maybe our French is faulty but R. Martin says in reference to the Plethron " il est bien distingué des deux theatres". That sounds like the contrary view.

Both of these structures were in or around the Forum, which is usually named in honour of Valens, for his rebuilding activities.

I have uploaded Richard Foerster's edition of Libanius' Oration X: "On the Plethron" and it is available here:

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Short Bibliography on the Antiochikos

We have dealt with the subject of a broad bibliography of Antioch in a previous postings here and here. A subset of Antioch studies is the study of Libanius's Oration in praise of his home city, the Antiochikos, which we posted upon here. The oration in translation, by Glanville Downey, can be found here

It might be useful to list here the research that deals solely with the Oration in question. Here are the articles I know of:

Les fondations d’Antioche dans l’Antiochikos (Or. XI) de Libanios, Catherine Saliou, Aram 11-12 (1999-2000), p. 357-388

Libanius' Oration in Praise of Antioch (Oration XI): Glanville Downey - Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 103, No. 5, (Oct. 15, 1959), pp. 652-686

Antioche décrite par Libanios. La rhétorique de l’espace urbain et ses enjeux au milieu du quatrième siècle, Catherine Saliou, in  M. Steinrück, E. Amato, A. Roduit (dir.), Approches de la troisième sophistique (Mélanges J. Schamp), Bruxelles, 2006, p. 273-285

Libanius the Mythographer: Cultural Competition in the Antiochikos, Alex Lee, Florida State University. 112th annual meeting of CAMWS, 16-19 March 2015 

Vergangenheit und Gegenwart im “Antiochikos” des Libanios. Wiemer, H-U. 2003. Klio 85(2): 442-468.

Libanios' Antiochikos as the First Independent City Praise to Contain an Extent City Description or the Last Evolutionary Stage of a Rhetorical Genus, Alexandra
Voudouri, University of Athens, Greece, I.S.H.R Twentieth Biennial Conference,
Tübingen, July 31, 2015

Antiochikos - Zur heidnischen Renaissance in der Spätantike Aus dem Griech, Tilman Krischer & Georgios Fatouros, 286 S., ISBN 978-3-85132-006-0

Der Antiochikos des Libanios; eingeleitet, übersetzt und kommentiert, Leo Hugi.
Solothurn, "Union," 1919. 164 p.

Antioch as a Centre of Hellenic Culture, as Observed by Libanius, A. F. Norman,  Liverpool University Press | Series: Translated Texts for Historians | 2000, 199p