Iviron 812, a textual treasure-trove

Shortly after obtaining my PhD in late 2017, I stumbled upon a new topic which has since stuck with me: Paeanius’ Greek translation (Metaphrasis) of Eutropius’ Roman History, a rare surviving case of a near-contemporary translation from Latin to Greek.

The Metaphrasis has come down to us in five extant manuscripts whose relations I established three years ago in a paper published in the Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies (online here:DOI). As I demonstrated, the parent of all other manuscripts is the most complete one, Athous 4932 = Iviron 812 (Diktyon 24407), a paper manuscript preserved in the library of the Monastery of Iviron on Mount Athos.

This manuscript is a veritable treasure-trove for Roman history for several reasons:

  1. First, it has the most complete version of Paeanius’ text.
  2. Second, on four leafs it preserves parts of John of Antioch’s Chronological History, a work otherwise attested only in fragments.
  3. Third, it is the only witness of a short text called On the genealogy of Caesar.
  4. Fourth, it represents an independent strand of transmission for John XiphilinusExcerpts from Cassius Dio (edition in preparation by Kai Juntunen, Helsinki).
  5. Last but not least, it has been attributed by Inmaculada Pérez Martín to the workshop of Maximus Planudes in the Chora library (“The role of Maximos Planudes and Nikephoros Gregoras in the transmission of Cassius Dio’s Roman History and of John Xiphilinos’ Epitome“. Medioevo Greco 15 (2015) 175–193).

Pérez Martín found notes resembling the handwriting of Planudes and Gregoras in the margins of the manuscripts, and Planudes’ composition of a series of historical extracts corroborates this hypothesis. Consequentially, Pérez Martín opted for an earlier date and suggested the 12th century by comparing a hand in Vat. gr. 746 (ff.14–219v). However, another scribe’s handwriting bears much more resemblance with the Iviron scribe: Marc. gr. IV 58 (Diktyon 70442), dated to the late 12th century. I owe this information to Ciro Giacomelli.

For comparison’s sake and future reference, here is a photograph of the first page of the manuscript taken in 2018 by Father Theologos Iviritis, librarian at the Holy Monastery of Iviron on Mount Athos.

ms. Iviron 812, fol. 1r. Published with permission of the owner, the Holy Monastery of Iviron on Mount Athos. Copyright is held by the owner.

As can be seen, the manuscript is not in the best condition. Its text gets more legible as it goes on, but water stains, corrosion of the ink and the ink bleeding through the pages have done their part. The best description of the manuscript is still that of Panagiotis Sotiroudis (Untersuchungen zum Geschichtswerk des Johannes von Antiocheia, Thessaloniki 1989, 159–164). For reference, and as the work is hard to obtain, I quote here some parts of his description: “Der heutige Zustand des Codex ist sehr schlecht, besonders am Anfang, wo man ihn kaum durchblättern kann. Schuld daran sind die Würmer und die Nässe. Die Würmer haben an einigen Stellen das beschriebene Papier angefressen, so daß die Schrift fast unlesbar geworden ist. (…) Ein großer Teil dieser Schäden muß während der letzten 90 Jahren entstanden sein, da Lambros’ Mitarbeiter, welche den Text entziffert haben, auch solche Stellen lesen konnten, wo man heute nicht einmal Spuren erkennen kann.”

In private communication, an eminent Austrian scholar had already opted for a 13th century dating of Iviron 812. He vividly described the writing style thus: “deutlich dekadent und nicht auf dieser Höhe, daher vermute ich (und das Papier würde dazu passen) eine spätere Entstehung. Der Schreiber bringt einfach die Ordnung nicht mehr in die Schrift, torkelt herum, fol. 18 sind schöne Beispiele, wie er das Niveau nicht mehr erreicht, aber immerhin eine gut lesbare Schrift zustande bringt.”

A lot more remains to be done. A classification and assigment of the marginal notes, which are by far more than the three hands identified by Sotiroudis. The original condition of the manuscript must also be determined as it was rebound in or after the 14th century and is now missing substantial parts. Also, a new edition and translation of Περὶ τοῦ Καισαρείου γένους would be most welcome.

I have made a transcription of the Paeanius text in the manuscript in 2018/19, and I hope I will some day have the opportunity to edit the whole text with a translation and notes. Perhaps this blog can help achieve this goal?