Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An actual street address! (albeit Medieval)

One of the oddities of the rise of Open Access on the internet is that one can get access to some of the best of French writings on Antioch in recent times on sites like with papers written by Poccardi, Saliou and Cabouret and yet the scholars of much farther back have largely remained in a vale of obscurity induced by primitive copyright laws. If consulted these long past authors would probably be thrilled to have their views aired more widely.

One such who has become difficult to access on the internet but who was a colossus in his day was Claude Cahen. Pitifully little of his work from the 1940s to the 1970s is accessible on the internet. However, as Persee advances inexorably, some pieces are being revealed to the waiting world. One such with the less than riveting title of "Un document concernant les Melkites et les Latins d'Antioche au temps des Croisades" that appeared in: Revue des études byzantines, tome 29, 1971. pp. 285-292 and has now surfaced on Persee.

This piece contained one of those gems we seem to stumble upon in the most obscure works. In this case the document was an Arabic text detailing a transaction in which the Latin Church sold an abandoned church structure in Crusader Antioch to the Melkite church. The document had been translated to a monastery in Sicily after the fall of Antioch to the Islamic forces and remained there for 600 years.

The derelict church under discussion was Notre Dame de Gethsemeni. While we do not traffic much in the post-Imperial Antioch this piece is worthy of mention because it gives us a localisation of a structure that is more precise than anything else we have seen excepting the Antiochikos of Libanius (which was not exactly a paragon of precision either). In this case, after much preamble, the writers of the contract to pass over the Church site get around to describing where the site was located:

"Ce lieu est limité des quatre côtés comme suit: à l'est par la rue qui l'avoisine; à l'ouest, la place et la ruine sous... le couvent ; au sud les maisons et le jardin de Yânî al-Kâmîdârî et le jardin de Yârî fils de Mardalâ ; au nord enfin la rue aussi et la terre de Sire (?)... aujourd'hui aux mains de son héritier le nomîkoûs Românoûs ; c'est de ce dernier côté qu'ouvre la porte pour entrer et sortir sur la rue bordiere en ce lieu".

While not exactly "X marks the spot" this is the closest thing that exists to a street direction that we have ever encountered for pre-1300 AD Antioch.

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