Rehabilitation for Forgotten Frick

When he was not at the blackboard, Carl Frick, a provincial German schoolteacher, studied the tangled world of Late Antique chronography. In 1892 he published Chronica Minora. This book was denoted volume one on the title page, indicating it was planned as the start of a series, but there was never any follow-up.

In a field where three celebrity scholars were at work, Frick (1848-?) was at a disadvantage, working without a place in the academic mill. He had the added misfortune to bring out the first volume in the same year as editions of chronica were also published by the legal historian Theodor Mommsen and by Paul de Lagarde.

Of Mommsen, the most eminent scholar in Germany in his own lifetime, and Lagarde, an unpleasant anti-Semite, we know a great deal. The story of another key scholar of chronography, Heinrich Gelzer, was recovered by Martin Wallraff in a book article in 2006. Frick however was largely forgotten.

Even the German national bibliography research unit with its vast documentary resources seems to have lost Chronica Minora and is apparently not aware of his date of death. One might note that here in Germany's second city, there appears to be only a single copy of Frick's main work in any Hamburg library today.

This week, Richard Burgess, the most eminent contemporary historian of Late Antique chronography, placed online an article which goes a considerable way to rehabilitating Frick and his achievements. The article seems to have been issued in print last month in the journal Traditio and is now also available via Burgess' repository on Academia.edu.
Professor Burgess's article acutely dissects a mysterious document, the Excerpta Latina Barbari, which forms codex Paris. Lat. 4884, now digitized at the BNF website (Catalog). He backs the BNF catalogers' view that it dates from about 780 CE, making it about a century later than supposed by some other authors, and that it was made at Corbie in France as a "perfect replica" (in Latin translation) of a "mass-produced" Greek codex which is now lost but was then in the possession of Bishop George of Amiens. His principal thrust is an argument, which is very much in the Frick tradition, in mitigation of the translator's so-called barbarian aptitude and a robust rejection of two recent alternative theses about the Excerpta from Benjamin Garstad and Pier Franco Beatrice.

Frick, who probably did not even see this Latin manuscript in Paris, tells us he borrowed in 1883 a sixteenth-century handwritten copy by Joseph Justus Scaliger from the Hamburg State Library. (This was in the day when the postman still brought thousand-year-old manuscripts to scholars' front doors.) Frick did not edit the text anew: he simply copied from a predecessor. But he had the creative idea of drafting up his own Greek version of the document. This was a central feature of Chronica Minora.

Burgess calls this (note 2) "still the most important study, which includes a surprisingly useful and insightful back-translation into Greek on facing pages" and praises (note 69) the "sensible comments of Frick in defense of the translator, whose Latin he says is no worse than that of Gregory of Tours (sixth century) or Virgilius Maro grammaticus (seventh century)." He also ridicules (note 10) Mommsen's claim to have personally examined the Paris manuscript, suggesting the polymath instead "had a student transcribe Schoene's text and add the entry numbers (for even they suffer from corruptions)." In conclusion he states:
Carl Frick's 1892 introduction and edition should have resulted in an intensified study of the Chron. Scal. But the earlier appearance that year of Theodor[e] Mommsen's own Chronica minora volume in the massive and authoritative Monumenta Germaniae Historica series, which has never gone out of print, meant that Frick's volume one was the last of the series, went out of print, and was on the whole forgotten ..." (page 43)
My own interest in chronography studies grew from the possibility that the evolution of chronicles might provide a key to date a fifth-century historical diagram, the Great Stemma, and a chronological text of perhaps the sixth century, the Ordo Annorum Mundi, which is transmitted with it. The Excerpta, or Chronographia Scaligeriana, as Burgess proposes it should be called, is not of direct assistance, since it is of a later date (Burgess proposes the final version in Greek cannot have dated any earlier than the 530s). However the chronographia comes from the same general culture as the Great Stemma and Liber Genealogus, where the uncanonical Protevangelium of James was regarded as a source of valid historical information.

In his volume, Frick has nothing to say about either the Great Stemma (imperfectly edited by me) or the Ordo Annorum Mundi (soon to be published by Brepols) and we cannot know what he planned to include in any later volumes, since his project collapsed. One is naturally curious about deserving figures who die in obscurity, so I find it touching that Burgess has now elevated Frick above Mommsen in his assessment.

It is Frick's modesty and dogged work which makes him an appealing figure (see my previous post). Whether any of Frick's papers survive at Höxter, where he ran a well-provided school library, I do not know. I once emailed the school but got no reply. At least one of his Latin textbooks remained in use for a century.

In Frick's further defence, I would also stress that his employment as a schoolmaster (see his Prussian education ministry file) should not be taken as a sign that he had a markedly lower academic standing than his professorial contemporaries. We judge this from a 21st century perspective at our peril. He worked in schools in a period when secondary education attracted many superb scholars. The more conservative sort of German schoolteacher today still joins a union known as the Philologenverband. In the nineteenth century, many of its members really were philologists.

Teachers of Latin and Greek in Frick's day were often first-class scholars or writers, as I can attest from the example of my cousin John Henry Fowler, an Oxford graduate and talented writer who earning his living as a rather dour Bristol boarding-school master. But the profession has come down in the world. Andreas Schleicher of the OECD warned only last week that the demotion and reduced professionalism of teachers is the central problem in the steady decline of many western education systems.


Java Disaster in Florence

The digital library of 3,000-plus manuscripts at the Medicea Laurenziana Library in Florence was introduced on this blog as outstanding news three years ago. This year, disaster struck as hackers round the world exploited security vulnerabilities in Java software. Java's security had to be tightened to such a degree that the current plug-ins for browsers can no longer access the digital library in Florence.

This mess has been evident for several weeks. The library has just issued a notice about the problem which offers little solace other than a promise to act in "a short space of time" to achieve a permanent solution. The notice (digitally dated December 6) blames "security controls in the latest version of the Java interpreter that no longer allow the execution of our viewer."

The interim solution proposed is not satisfactory: uninstalling your current Java version and downgrading to the old low-security version, SE 6, which is "still compatible with our application".

Oracle warns that this version is "not recommended for use" and is reserved for developers and administrators doing debugging. Running an unsafe Java version would, in my view, only be feasible if you were to reserve a dedicated computer to visit the Laurentian site alone. Otherwise the risk would be too great of catching a virus while the PC was used to visit other parts of the internet. And who has computers to spare?


Transcript in France

A transcription of the Great Stemma text from the Saint-Sever Beatus has appeared in France, along with a detailed introduction to the entire manuscript. There is no date on the transcription, but the file was last modified 2013 February 4, so I presume it was completed last winter. My own five-manuscript transcription does not include Saint-Sever, so scholars will now have six texts they can compare.

This appears to be only the second time, after my own publication of 2010, that the entire text of the diagram has been published. The authors of this welcome new work appear to be Jean Cabanot, who has a long association with studies of this codex, and Georges Pon. The complete history of the text's publication with editors in brackets would thus appear to be as follows:
  • 1951 transcription of the Genesis text from four bibles only (Bonifatius Fischer)
  • 2010 complete transcription on Piggin.net (Jean-Baptiste Piggin)
  • 2013 Saint-Sever transcription (Jean Cabanot and Georges Pon)
There is also an 80-page Introduction générale to the manuscript, apparently by the same authors. I have yet to read this, but from a digital search I note that it does not appear to mention the new edition of the Beatus Commentary by Roger Gryson. The website belongs to the Comité d’études pour l’Histoire et l’Art de la Gascogne.

Regrettably, there are no high-resolution scans of the manuscript itself. Some low-resolution scans are linked to from my website.


Sicut Lucas

Something I have just noticed is that the art historian Marcia Growden translated into English in 1976 the fulcrum passage of both the Liber Genealogus and the Great Stemma:
Just as Luke the Evangelist has indicated that his line was traced through Nathan to Mary, so also the Evangelist Matthew showed that his line was traced through Solomon to Joseph. That is, out of the tribe of Judah. That the divine tribe appears to proceed to them and thus to Christ according to the flesh that it might be fulfilled which was written. Behold the lion from the tribe of Judah has conquered for the family tree of the Lord. He is the lion from Solomon and descendant of Nathan.
As far as I know this is the first stab at putting into English this mysterious key passage which explains the purpose of both works, yet leaves as many questions as it answers.

The translation, arguably the first ever into English, appears in the text of her Stanford doctoral thesis on the Gerona Beatus, The Narrative Sequence in the Preface to the Gerona Commentaries of Beatus on the Apocalypse. I am a bit baffled by her phrase "for the family tree of the Lord". My translation (in fact mainly the work of Seumas Macdonald) appears in my online collation of the text, and there is some discussion of it on my Liber Genealogus page:
Whereas the evangelist Luke traces the origin of Mary back to Nathan, the evangelist Mathew traces that of Joseph back to Solomon, demonstrating an ancestry from the tribe of Judah. Thus it is clear that these two are biologically descended from a single tribe, leading down to Christ, so that what was written might be fulfilled, "Behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has prevailed" (Rev. 5:5), whereby the lion is Solomon, the root is Nathan.
I have not seen Growden's dissertation, but the passage is quoted by Jessica Sponsler in her own 2009 thesis at the University of North Carolina on the same topic, Defining the Boundaries of Self and Other in the Girona Beatus of 975. Growden appears to have gone on to become an art history professor at the University of Nevada in Reno.


Ludicrous Cardboard Cut-Out

At the start of a justly celebrated 1996 article which theorized on why humans benefit by using diagrams, two British authors, the late Mike Scaife and Yvonne Rogers, quoted a bizarre scolding in Britain’s House of Commons by the Speaker, Betty Boothroyd.

According to The Guardian of 1994 December 7, she rebuked a legislator for using a cardboard diagram to explain overseas aid figures, saying, "I have always believed that all members of this house should be sufficiently articulate to express what they want to say without diagrams."

I was curious as to the circumstances of such a foolish statement and whether it was accurately reported, and located it in Hansard 1803–2005. The person who had held up the diagram was Tony Baldry, the under-secretary for foreign affairs, who was defending the Conservative government's allocation of aid to Africa on December 5.

It was immediately mocked by the late Derek Enright (Labour) as a "ludicrous cardboard cut-out".

Shortly after Dale Campbell-Savours (Labour) raised a point of order:
You will have noted during Question Time an incident at the Dispatch Box when the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs made what can only be described as an idiot of himself by holding up a handwritten sign showing misleading statistics on overseas development. Are you happy with such conduct at the Dispatch Box, Madam Speaker?
Boothroyd's  reply was not quite verbatim the same as the sentence in The Guardian, but the quote is close enough:
I am not happy with conduct whereby any Minister or any Member brings such diagrams or explanations into the Chamber. I believe that all Members of the House and particularly Ministers should be sufficiently articulate to express what they want to say without diagrams.
Politicians take note: Scaife and Rogers' article points out (very articulately) why diagrams (graphical representations) are enormously important and useful for clear thinking.

Scaife, Mike, and Yvonne Rogers. “External Cognition: How Do Graphical Representations Work?” International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 45 (1996): 185–213.


Berlin Cab Fare Calculator

A while back I quoted Mark Twain on the subject of Berlin's cab-fare calculator at the end of the 19th century. This was a map where "every street is sectioned off like a string of long beads of different colors". I mistakenly described it as a tramlines map, since Berlin had horse-drawn trams at that time. However it is quite clear from Twain's text that this map was used to regulate hansom-cab traffic.

I have now located an online reproduction of the map dated September 1884. It is described as a Droschken-Wegemesser, a distance calculator for cabs, and it is plain that this is what Mark Twain was describing in his April 3, 1892 article.

The text indicates that each coloured segment was about 160 metres long and about 15 segments, or 2.4 kilometres, could be covered by a cab in a quarter of an hour.

The cabs must have been pretty speedy. Presumably major intersections had traffic policemen, but much of the traffic would have proceeded by the rule of shout and shove.

To ride a bicycle, morning and evening, between the main train station (then the Lehrter Bahnhof) and what used to be the site of the Jerusalem Church takes me 15 or 16 minutes in each direction. My route comprises 21 coloured segments of the map. So on the pedals, I am only about 40 per cent faster than a 19th century A-grade horse.

The reproduction is on a page presenting twelve historic Berlin maps. They have been re-published by the Berlin Public Library and I recommend you visit to see a greatly magnified version (under the heading Mai). Clearly this map is diagrammatic in use, but not diagrammatic in its overall form. The underlying form is a conventional street map.


Road Trip

Lisa Fagin Davis has begun a blog, the Manuscript Road Trip, exploring US manuscript collections, east to west. It has begun excitingly, and who knows, she may turn up a Petrus Pictaviensis Compendium (my current tabulation) or some other treasure as she proceeds.

Lisa is the author of a new book appearing this year, La Chronique Anonyme Universelle, which explores one of the post-Petrus diagrammatic chronicles, compiled around the year 1410 in a French noble library. I'll have to look at her study, since the Compendium, and before that the Great Stemma, are clear roots of this tradition. I'm also curious about what the publisher calls "an innovative image-annotation platform" that allows this roll to be published digitally along with the book.


Cassiodorus Digital

Since I first published several years ago a hyperlinked listing of the 37 diagrams "made up" by Cassiodorus for his Institutiones, two key sources have become available digitally: the great 8th-century codex from Monte Cassino now at Bamberg, Msc. Patr. 61, which contains the complete set, probably in the final form approved by Cassiodorus for publication, and Mazarine 660, which contains some peculiar variations in the motifs used in the diagrams. The tabulated listing now includes links to all these images, making it an excellent tool for comparing their evolution in the first millennium. The drawings from Mazarine 660 are to be found on the Liber Floridus illuminations site.

It is remarkable how much has changed in the 13 years since the definitive article on the Cassiodorus diagrams by Michael Gorman was published and included this comment:
Today it is relatively cheap and easy to buy a microfilm of a manuscript and print it out on paper, but in the 1930s this was a luxury that could probably not even be imagined ... I hope this note is sufficient to stimulate interest in preparing a facsimile of the Bamberg manuscript ... (pages 39, 41)
Since that was written, another unimaginable barrier has been breached and it has become possible for anyone to see these manuscripts at no charge via the internet, making facsimiles less necessary.

This update is one of three data upgrades to the Macro-Typography website that have been accomplished in the past month. The collation of the Great Stemma now contains a properly checked fifth and last set of text variations, from the Gamma manuscripts. This was previously bodged together from Fischer's Genesis edition and my transcription of the Urgell Beatus. The Gamma text is now based on a sounder manuscript, that in the San Juan Bible, with the Urgell Beatus only required to fill gaps. This data entry was a lot of work at an unwelcome time, but means that I can now close off the transcription phase with a good conscience.

The third of the upgrades has been some supplementing of the Petrus Pictaviensis table on my website. The major new find there has been a digitization (by Heidelberg) of one of the manuscripts in the Vatican Library. I have also restored the Walters digitization which for some inexplicable reason I had deleted from the list. This means there is an even wider range of quality digitizations -- 22 -- of the Compendium available for comparison.

In addition to these, I continue to keep an eye out for any more additions to the Stemma of Boethius tabulation I completed in the late spring.

Gorman, Michael. “The Diagrams in the Oldest Manuscript of Cassiodor’s Institutiones.” Revue Bénédictine no. 110 (2000): 27–41.


Railway Diagrams

Credit to Daniel Stuckey for pointing out an interesting new diagram proposal for the New York subway from Max Roberts, as reported on Fast Coexist. This employs concentric lines, a very nice design idea, and it is a lot more evenly laid out than the Massimo Vignelli design which I discussed on this blog one year ago.

Roberts' website contains a wealth of interesting history and comment on the London Tube diagram. In particular, he points out a variety of continental precursors, and he discounts the supposed connection between the network diagram and electrical circuit diagrams. Go explore!

One of his most interesting pages is devoted to denying what he calls London Underground myths about the Harry Beck diagram. There he points to the following Berlin S-Bahn diagram of 1931:

One of my long-put-off projects has been to dig up the tramlines map used in Berlin in the 1890s and described by Mark Twain in The Chicago of Europe as follows:
Any stranger can check the distance off--by means of the most curious map I am acquainted with. It is issued by the city government and can be bought in any shop for a trifle. In it every street is sectioned off like a string of long beads of different colors. Each long bead represents a minute's travel, and when you have covered fifteen of the beads you have got your money's worth. This map of Berlin is a gay-colored maze, and looks like pictures of the circulation of the blood. 
I have not been able to discover any images or paper copies of the map Twain saw, but it certainly does sound as if it too was based on a system of nodes and lines.


Vetus Latina at St Gallen

A highlight of this week's visit to the Stiftsbibliothek in St Gallen in Switzerland was to see in a glass case one of the leaves from the library's early fifth-century manuscript of the Vulgate translation of the Gospels. This manuscript, Cod. Sang. 1395, comprises parchment fragments recovered from St Gallen bindings. The digitized pages can be viewed online.

As the guide noted, the existence of the manuscript, estimated to have been penned in 410 or 420 CE in Verona, Italy when Jerome of Stridon was still alive in Bethlehem, is one of the great sensations of book history. That date is so old that it precedes by about a decade the compilation of the Great Stemma (which of course employs Vetus Latina, not Vulgate terms in its genealogical and chronicle material). Vetus Latina materials were also shown as part of the special exhibition, Im Anfang War das Wort.

I was very interested to leaf through the recently published Die Vetus Latina-Fragmente aus dem Kloster St. Gallen, a book of facsimile pages and commentary edited by Rudolf Gamper.

A striking feature of the permanent exhibition was an image of the so-called Verbrüderungsbuch, Cod. Fab. 1, which is digitized and available online. This contains lists of deceased monks of St Gallen and up to 60 other monasteries for whom the community prayed. As the online catalog notes, "starting in 830 the names of monks who joined the monastic community were listed in the empty canonical table frames."

Presumably the decorative arches were originally drawn on the 31 pages following a model devised by Eusebius of Caesarea. The neatness of the entries seems to decline with time. This use appears to be opportunistic, but elsewhere arches were an intentional meta-informational element. I have not yet got an overview of what range of significances such frames could bring to their content.

Gamper, Rudolf, Ph. Lenz, A Nievergelt, P Erhart, and E Schulz-Fluegel. Die Vetus Latina-Fragmente aus dem Kloster St. Gallen. Dietikon-Zürich: Graf, 2012.


Bridge at Blumau

In a post one year ago, I described the ancient road through the Eisack gorge in the north of Italy. The other day I took a closer look at its major surviving Roman feature, the Bridge at Blumau or Prato all'Isarco. In this post I will use the German name of the town, since this community is in a German-speaking area.

As I have already explained, this road possessed enormous geopolitical importance, providing the quickest communication route to move troops, intelligence, materiel and goods between Germania and Italia through the Alps. One might argue that every bridge on this north-south route possessed equal importance, but the Blumau crossing, deep inside a narrow, obstructed gorge, was surely the most challenging and most expensive to build, maintain and defend.

Other important crossings like that at Waidbruck (Ponte Gardena) could be re-sited, or may even have had back-ups, but the Bridge at Blumau was quite simply irreplaceable: there was almost no other position at Blumau in which it could be be placed, and pontoons could not be used. Without the bridge, this all-seasons route would have been impassable. Any north-south communication, weather permitting, would have required at least an extra day via the Ritten Plateau or Völs route, or at least three extra days, via the more westerly Via Claudia Augusta over the 1,500-metre Reschen Pass. See my map.

All that remains of the bridge today is a stone abutment, which stands on the left or south bank of the river. This important monument is not signposted in any way, and it is fairly difficult to get a view of. You can lean right out from the parapet of the existing concrete bridge and see at least part of the stonework from above (in the bottom left quarter of this picture, which you can enlarge by clicking):

A better view is obtained by driving down an asphalted lane on the right bank, and scrambling over steep loose soil to the water's edge, down-river from the bridge. Here it is possible to stand on a sandbank and peer through fronds of trees, obtaining a view of how the abutment curves up into the beginning of an arch. Eight layers of stone remain. It may be that some of the collapsed bridge is still here in the river-bed.

The next picture shows the structure, with the arch of a 20th-century concrete bridge above it. The remains are in shadow at the centre of the picture. It might have been better to wait all day until the sunlight was not so bright and then take a picture, but my dear wife and son came along for this expedition and we had some other pleasures such as hiking to also accomplish that day, so this picture will have to do:

Probably the most recent professional description of one of Late Antiquity's most neuralgic sites is that by Vittorio Galliazzo, the great scholarly authority on Roman bridges, who examined the structure in 1999. I do not know much Italian, so I have used Bing and Google Translate to essay the following rough translation from pages 64-65 of his 2002 article, Ponti e Forme di Attraversamento di Corsi d’Acqua dell’Alto Adige in Età Romana. Please let me know if you can improve or correct the translation:
Near a site that has already yielded a milestone from the reign of Maxentius (CIL V 8054 = 463 IBR), the left abutment of an ancient bridge on the old road through the Eisack Valley, together with a section of an arch almost up to its waist, was found in 1930 about 5 kilometres east of Bolzano during reconstruction of a bridge that forms part of the Brenner Highway. Further investigation at the end of 1988 by Dr. Lorenzo Dal Ri of the Archaeological Heritage Office of Bolzano Province confirmed that these remains were probably Roman. An architect, Andrea Perin, subsequently suggested his own reconstruction in a sketch based on the scant reliable information available and a good deal of hypothesis.
From the details that follow, one understands what an engineering challenge the structure posed for its designers and builders: it  had to cross high-volume rapids that are susceptible to flash floods. Land access to the cramped site is blocked from north and south. No boats could be used. A huge wooden frame had to be assembled to hold the large number of wedgestones during construction.
No piles could be driven: the footings had to be carved out of solid rock.

The section that follows is awkward to follow without any picture, so I have inserted letters into Galliazzo's account in square brackets, so that you can see in this detail from my photo which layers he is talking about:

The abutment is approximately 4.50 m wide at its base and consists of four rows of blocks of compact yellowish stone of modest thickness [B1, B2, B3, B4] which protrude on the upstream side, as if to form a protective flank with the aid of the carefully modelled porphyry stone of the riverbank. The abutment is fitted into a cavity specially hollowed out of the dark porphyry rock [P] on the left bank, evened out as need be with sandstone slabs. The sector of arch, which is about 4 metres wide, tops this support structure and likewise consists of yellowish blocks of porphyry. One sees four rows of wedge-stones, three of them [A1, A2, A3] nearly intact and one fragmented [A4].
All the surviving structure of the abutment is in big chiselled blocks, tied with leaded iron clamps. Several stones, especially the upstream ones in the third and fourth row [B3, B4], have rusticated faces with listello or refesso drafted margins. The arch segment appears to have had an intrados in opus vittatum consisting of rather small blocks joined with hard lime.
From what I could see directly during a first inspection in 1994 and a subsequent survey in 1999, the first row from the bottom in the remaining sector of the arch [A1], that is to say counting up from the join, comprised four quadrangular, regularly dimensioned blocks, with a fifth flanking them upstream while a sixth downstream from them was tailored to fit into the “living” rock. This layer was surely used at the time of construction to support a hoop-shaped wooden scaffold and then probably re-used as the footing for the wooden beams of the later medieval bridge, which was no longer a stone arch but probably a wooden truss (i.e. a series of vertical stays supporting a horizontal wooden superstructure). At about 10 and 21 metres respectively from this ancient abutment, you can see the remains of two piers in the bed of the Eisack River on which uprights of the scaffolding for the boxing to construct the 1928-1930 concrete bridge stood before they collapsed.
Galliazo's article includes two black and white photographs evidently taken in winter when there was less vegetation obscuring the view. He also reproduces Perin's sketch although he repudiates its veracity. Galliazzo concludes with the following general assessment of the structure:
It seems that the whole bridge, from abutment to abutment, had a length of about 33-34 metres which could be feasibly crossed not with three arches as has been proposed in the draft reconstruction, but with just two asymmetrical arches. This would result in a bridge similar to that at Merano with arches supported on sturdy abutments built into the rock of the banks and one pier of considerable proportions outside the river current: the greater of the two arches would have been on the left of the river and would have needed to have a length of about 18-20 meters to straddle the channel, while the lesser arch would have had an opening of less than 8 meters and would have probably provided an extra discharge during floods to better withstand the water pressure.
As regards the dating of the structure, the arrangement of the stone blocks and the overall impression given by the remnant of the abutment would suggest engineering of the Imperial if not of the Late Antique period, perhaps replacing an earlier bridge in wood, a material that was very abundant in the region. The collapse of this structure must have occurred by the Middle Ages, since the medieval timber replacement can be dated in all likelihood to the first half of the fourteenth century. It would seem to date from between 1314, when Count Heinrich of Tyrol commissioned the entrepreneur H. Kunter by contract to open an Eisack valley trail, the Kuntersweg, and 1390, when a document includes mention of construction of a bridge at Blumau.
It is notable that Galliazzo rejects the hypothesis that the structure could be the Pons Drusi which is marked on the Peutinger Diagram but in no other documentary source. He and other authors of the Südtirol archaeology volume consider the Pons Drusi to have been a bridge in the heart of Bolzano.

I took only rough notes from his bibliography and have not read these further materials, so I apologize that I must offer these references here with incomplete titles. The 1930 report at page 366 of Archivio per l'Alto Adige that first pointed to the existence of these remains should also be added to this reading list:

Dal Ri, Lorenzo. “?Title unknown.” In La Venetia nell’area padano-danubiana: le vie di comunicazione: Convegno internazionale: Papers, edited by Guido Rosada. Padova: CEDAM, 1990. See 620-621.

Galliazzo, Vittorio. I ponti romani. Vol. 1. 2 vols. Treviso: Canova, 1995. See 149, 249, 399.

———. “Ponti e Forme di Attraversamento di Corsi d’Acqua dell’Alto Adige in Età Romana.” In Archäologie der Römerzeit in Südtirol. Beiträge und Forschungen. Forschungen zur Denkmalpflege in Südtirol, edited by Lorenzo Dal Ri and S. Di Stefano, 57-71. 1, 2002. [The article quoted in this post.]

———. , ed. Via Claudia Augusta: un’arteria alle origini dell’Europa: ipotesi, problemi, prospettive : atti del Convegno internazionale Feltre 24-25 settembre 1999. Comune di Feltre, 2002. See 233, 236.

Olivi, M. “?Title unknown (‘Strada Romana Bolzano-Ponte Gardena’ or similar).” Archeologia Veneta 7 (1984). See 256-257.

Tabarelli, Gian Maria. Strade Romane nel Trentino e nell’Alto Adige. Trento: Temi Ed., 1994. See 122-125.

Regrettably, this very important structure is not yet included (at the time of this posting) in Wikipedia's List of Roman Bridges.


Pliny Manuscript

Roger Pearse's post also points us to the principal manuscript of Book 35 of Pliny's Natural History where the practice of placing a "stemma" in the entrance area of a patrician Roman home is mentioned at 35.2. The best manuscript of Book 35 is preserved in a very cleanly penned and well preserved codex in Bamberg, Germany.

A digitization can be consulted online. The text on stemmata can be consulted at Perseus, where there is also an English translation. The matching page of the Bamberg codex is 78v, first column.

New Eusebius Tables Coming Out This Year

Roger Pearse mentioned yesterday how "F. Mone" discovered in Austria in 1853 a key palimpsest containing books 11-15 of Pliny the Elder's Natural History. Roger links to a digitization where you can experience for yourself the frustration of trying to read a lower level of writing on an overwritten page.

I think this must be Fridegar Mone (1829-1900), since that is the name on the edition of 1855.  I wondered for a while if it was not the father, Franz Mone (1796-1871). Both men had fascinating, conflict-dogged lives. The elder was a religious controversialist who received manuscript-research commissions. The younger was essentially a manuscript hunter and dealer who was sacked at age 50 and had his "private" manuscript collection (which did not of course include the Pliny palimpsest) seized by the government from his Karlsruhe home in 1886.

Similar discoveries during the 21st century of miraculously surviving manuscripts of lost or semi-lost Latin or Greek works of Antiquity are likely to be the rarest events. The archives of Europe and the Middle East have been scoured so many times by so many generations of scholars that the pickings are now slim.

More likely is the reconnection of unlabelled manuscripts to their Antique authors, such as the discovery a year ago that an anonymous Greek-script manuscript in Munich contains Origen's Homilies on the Psalms, or my own proof that the "medieval" graphic genealogies in Spanish bibles are in fact a 5th-century Latin work.

I mentioned in a previous post that Martin Wallraff's paper revealing his attribution of a section of an Oxford manuscript to Eusebius would soon appear in print. The article will lay bare an Antique work, the Canon Tables of the Psalms, which no one had known about for the past 1,000 years. Professor Wallraff made his remarkable discovery public at the Oxford Patristics Conference in 2011.

Harvard University Press has now announced a publication date for this editio princeps. It will appear as an article in the next issue of the Dumbarton Oaks Papers. This ground-breaking paper will be available from December 16 this year and will be entitled "The Canon Tables of the Psalms: An Unknown Work of Eusebius of Caesarea", the announcement says. Presumably it will be on open access from 2024 under the periodical's web release policy.


Mistaken Improvements

The power of visual spatial displays often comes from their ability to simplify and abstract from reality, says Mary Hegarty in a 2011 paper.

Since figurative drawings are not so well adapted to the task of reasoning or explaining, the Late Antique inventors of node-link diagrams were careful to omit figurative elements from them.

Their successors since that time have repeatedly attempted to add figures, to regulate the distances between the nodes, to impose a standard orientation (for example, growing upwards like a tree) and to strictly align such diagrams. Those mistaken "improvements" indicate that later generations have not fully understood the genius of the original invention.

Hegarty quotes research suggesting why. We have a misplaced faith in fussily drawn diagrams,
with a strong preference for displays that emphasize high-fidelity spatio-temporal realism, even when these displays result in poor performance...  This may come from a folk fallacy that perception is simple, accurate and complete, whereas perception really is hard, flawed and sparse.

Markus Knauff's book (see my recent post) suggests an additional cause for the fallacy: if reasoning is largely spatial, and is taking place in a part of the mind that is not accessible by introspection, most of us are likely to be quite ignorant about what constitutes an effective explanatory method.

A similar point about why figurative art should be excluded from effective diagrams has been made by Manfredo Massironi in his theoretical account of Hypothetigraphy, the subject of a post on this blog in 2011. Massironi took the view that any diagram explaining abstract matters needs to be limited to what he called "precise marks" only: "Precise, clear lines contribute in conveying the impression that the depicted forms are mental constructs, not representations of natural objects."

Hegarty, Mary. ‘The Cognitive Science of Visuo-spatial Displays: Implications for Design’. Topics in Cognitive Science 3, no. 3 (2011): 446–474. doi:10.1111/j.1756-8765.2010.01113.x.
Massironi, Manfredo. The Psychology of Graphic Images: Seeing, Drawing, Communicating. Routledge, 2002.


Stemma of Boethius

A new tabulation of online Boethius manuscripts which contain his famous stemma, or arbor porphyriana, has just appeared on my website. (Here.) I have not done serious work on Boethius for more than three years, so I spent a couple of days looking again at the sources.

I find it remarkable that so many of these documents can now be seen remotely via the internet: there are no fewer than eight manuscripts accessible, and three of them duplicate the stemma, so we have a total of eleven early medieval drawings to study.

A task remains for any eager reader. I have not heard that the Greek text of Porphyry, or the translations to Latin, Syriac and Arabic (list by Roger Pearse), contain such a diagram. One is reluctant to trust the critical editions, since text scholars generally leave out diagrams. If anyone would care to comb online versions of these, it would be good to have a clear yes-or-no answer about this.


Our Secret Reasoning Device

A book published a couple of months ago by the German cognitive scientist Markus Knauff contains some remarkable new evidence and discussion about the seat of human reasoning. Summing up a couple of decades of experiments, he argues that a brain structure which can demonstrably be shown to analyse and reason is the so-called dorsal pathway.

This is the "where" stream which handles our awareness of space, our actions and, as a recent review article by Borst and others argues, our expectations. (All references below.) There has been some criticism in another review article by Schenk and others of the claims that this pathway is entirely distinct from the ventral or "what" pathway, but the dichotomy does seem to be holding up well.

In Space to Reason: A Spatial Theory of Human Thought, Knauff emphasizes that this dorsal pathway is not a self-aware channel, so it is easy to overlook its operations. It shows up in brain imaging, but we cannot examine it by introspection.
... people certainly have no clue about the mechanisms that work on a symbolic spatial array, and they are certainly not aware of a complexity measure that results in certain preferences. (190) [and quoting Goodale & Westwood:] ... the processing of spatial information in the dorsal stream is impenetrable to our conscious awareness. (191)
Knauff does not mention diagrams in his book at all. Most of his experiments involve reasoning about very simple problems such as:
The blue Porsche is parked to the left of the red Ferrari.
The red Ferrari is parked to the left of the green Beetle.
Is the blue Porsche parked to the left or to the right of the green Beetle? (2)

However he proposes that these yield valid data about problems such as:
If the teacher is in love, then he likes pizza.
The teacher is in love.
Does it follow that the teacher likes pizza? (95)
The cars problem is not difficult but it requires effortful thinking, whereas the if problem is instantly understandable. You will probably have guessed at the conclusion before you were conscious of reading the last line, which is said by some authors to be a characteristic of dorsal cognition.

Now there are two competing established accounts of what is going on: one is that we might pretend to see a real teacher whom we know and because we are so smart at understanding from sight, and teasing meaning from sight. we can deduce from visual indications that he is biting a slice of pizza that he must therefore be in love, just as we deduce from a distended belly that a woman is pregnant.

The rival account - propositional reasoning - maintains that we have a kind of machine language inside our brains, a computational logic. It does not use a language like English, but perhaps a language like JavaScript, and it tells us from the if what the only logical conclusion is.

Knauff argues for a third option: if I interpret this correctly, we have a black-box process in which we use the dorsal channel to simulate the problem as if we were perceiving something real. A mental model is constructed where the teacher, his state of romantic excitement and the pizza are encoded as spatial entities. Putting them in the only possible logical order allows us to grasp the conclusion.

The heart of his argument is that evidence shows the ventral stream need not be involved. One of the salient points about the spatial-thinking model is that the mental representation excludes all unnecessary information. The shape or colour of the cars or the exact distance between them does not need to be encoded, nor does the shape of the teacher's face or the flavour of the pizza.

As I have said, Knauff does not mention diagrams, let alone the Great Stemma or the Compendium of Petrus Pictaviensis. But the sense of excitement his book generates in the diagram researcher comes from the fact that the sparse, austere mental models he envisages as the bearers of human reasoning resemble the simpler sort of diagrams that are drawn on paper or on displays.

Reviel Netz suggests in The Archimedes Codex and his various articles that the Greek mathematician did not use diagrams to merely illustrate ideas that he had been thinking through in some propositional fashion. Archimedes was doing mathematics by manipulating spatial representations in his head. Since he was thinking about space, not propositions, the diagrams were the closest external representation to his raw thoughts. As far as I can guess, Netz's ideas are partly rooted in the ideas about external representations generated by externalists in philosophy of mind debates over the past 20 years.

Stemmata and diagrammatic chronicles are not direct reasoning tools in quite the way that geometrical drawings are. Geometry can yield mathematical proofs without numbers or words, whereas chronicles are not there to reason with, but usually serve to re-express histories or genealogies that have already been set down in textual form.

Their purpose is communication. I have always maintained that they are a form of direct author-to-reader communication which eschews the need to convert their content into language. An author massages his ideas into the most lucid spatial arrangement he can come up with, puts them on paper, and the reader's spatial reasoning abilities are sufficient to decode what is meant with a minimum of textual input.

The nearest that Knauff comes to this is when he suggests that there is a kind of diagrammatic substrate to reasoning, and compares this to subway or underground-rail diagrams:

I used the metaphor of a subway map to show that a qualitative representation does not display the shares and sizes of the stations or metrical distances between the stations but only represents the data that preserve spatial relations between stations and lines, for example, that one line connects with another. ... a visual image is completely different from a subway map. It is more like a topographical map ... that captures distances, streets, buildings, landform information, and so on. In contrast, spatial layout models are like schematic subway maps... (192)
His findings and his interpretation have some interesting implications for diagram studies. If the  mental model in our heads is somewhat like a diagram, it ought to be possible to devise diagrams that can inspire such mental models with a minimum of translation.

Since the precise distances between the elements, and their sizes, do not encode any information, both of the following work equally well.

The left diagram is a 6th-century classification system drawn by Cassiodorus, while the right one comes from the 5th-century Great Stemma. I have translated the text from Latin to English. Whether the circles are large, small or non-existent, or whether the text is inside them or out, does not matter. Spatial reasoning merely needs apartness.

Overall orientation does not encode information, so all of the following directions of ramification are functionally equivalent.

Spatial reasoning is also likely to be highly tolerant of defective alignment, so that curved or crooked pathways in a diagram do not make them ineffective.

If this is correct, node-link diagrams which use a spatial encoding to express hierarchical relationships are likely to be a powerful means to manipulate a complex type of data while directly engaging with human intelligence. Working pragmatically and without any scientific evidence from cognitive research, the Late Antique inventors of node-link diagrams established an effective means of simplifying information without losing its essential structure.

Borst, Grégoire, William L. Thompson, and Stephen M. Kosslyn. ‘Understanding the Dorsal and Ventral Systems of the Human Cerebral Cortex: Beyond Dichotomies.’ American Psychologist 66, no. 7 (2011): 624–632. doi:10.1037/a0024038.

Goodale, Melvyn A., and David A. Westwood. ‘An Evolving View of Duplex Vision: Separate but Interacting Cortical Pathways for Perception and Action’. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 14, no. 2 (April 2004): 203–211. doi:10.1016/j.conb.2004.03.002.

Knauff, Markus. Space to Reason: A Spatial Theory of Human Thought. MIT Press, 2013.

Netz, Reviel, and William Noel. The Archimedes Codex. Revealing the Secrets of the World’s Greatest Palimpsest. London. Orion, 2007.

Schenk, Thomas, and Robert D. McIntosh. ‘Do We Have Independent Visual Streams for Perception and Action?’ Cognitive Neuroscience 1, no. 1 (26 February 2010): 52–62. doi:10.1080/17588920903388950.



Some years ago, the French cultural historian Christiane Klapisch-Zuber examined the Great Stemma. Because she was in Paris, the nearest manuscript at hand was a late recension, from Gascony, which is held by the French National Library or BNF. In colour and effect, the sumptuous polychrome diagram in the Saint-Sever Beatus is a beautiful thing, but in organization it is curiously incoherent.

Among its great oddities is a fishnet pattern among the descendants of Noah that largely obliterates the careful encoding of their relationships which was characteristic of the original model. That led Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, who is the greatest scholar to have surveyed the full history of such diagrams, to dismiss the whole class of Spanish Bible diagrams as an affront to the principles of ‘graphical semiology’. She argued in her 2000 book that no coherent biblical genealogical diagram had existed before a medieval work, the Compendium, was devised by Peter of Poitiers.

Her point of view was taken up and amplified soon after by Beate Kellner, who is now deputy principal of Munich's  Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU), in her Habilitationsschrift, which was published in 2004. Kellner also focussed this part of her research solely on the Saint-Sever manuscript in Paris.

She seemed to be even more troubled by the way the diagram strung out siblings like beads on a string instead of exhibiting them in hierarchical fashion as we do in "family trees", and spotted another oddity of the Saint-Sever manuscript, its curious folding together of the descendants of Leah:
Here the organization of the panels avoids a coherent reading order as we would conceive it, from the top to bottom or from the bottom to top ... The genealogy below Jacob and Leah begins with their son Reuben ... His brothers Simeon, Levi, Issachar and Zebulun follow in a series of roundels which is open to interpretation as a genealogical line of descent since the line is graphically vertical, although in fact it links persons of a single generation. The sons of Zebulun are similarly connected by lines to one another in the vertical, and with their father, in such a way that the arrangement is effectively an ascending one. (JBP translation, hover for German original)
The sketch below shows the situation referred to, with the remainder of the environs omitted, and it must be agreed that the Saint-Sever artist took a very free attitude to his Vorlage when he arrayed Reuben's sons to both the left and right and ran Zebulon's sons up the page instead of downwards:

Now this is not the place to consider whether Kellner's overall characterization of medieval genealogy is correct or not. But the Saint-Sever treatment of the Great Stemma is so original and so untypical of its diagrammatic tradition (list of manuscripts here) that it can hardly be taken as representative of very much other than the artistic sensibility of Stephanus Garsia Placidus, the monk who seems to have been its creative director and principal artist. Yolanta Zaluska has pointed out odd inconsistencies in the diagram which suggest that something went wrong with the project and that someone other than the original director completed the diagram.

The classical arrangement of the sons of Leah in the Great Stemma is in fact severely regular, and it normally embraces all six sons, not five as in the Saint-Sever recension which omits Judah in this position. Here is a schematic of the same group from the Plutei manuscript, which contains pretty well the earliest format we can discover in the diagram's history:
Now it is true that the reading order of grandson 1, grandson 2 and so on is not the order that we in the 21st century could conceive as proper. But it does adhere to a broad logic in the Great Stemma where certain sibling groups which are only supplementary to the broad purpose of the document are always shown in space-saving fashion as vertical series. This is perhaps surprising to our eyes, but it is not chaos.

Following this generalization, Kellner then ventures the hypothesis that the crowded design of the Saint-Sever diagram deliberately establishes a stemmatic tangle, with extensions running every which way, in order to suggest that kinship by its very nature tends to be a network,
... that genealogy is being placed before us as a tapestry of relationships, as a complex structure oriented in multiple directions and not as a unitone line of descent... My hypothesis is that graphics, which are better able to exploit the two-dimensionality of the page, enable this particular form of discourse from the first glance, unlike a purely textual listing of genealogies, which certainly can employ linguistic features to link backwards or forwards and to that extend is capable of catering for genealogical cross-connections, but is ultimately bound by the continuity of script and creates an impression of linearity from the very character of text. (JBP translation, hover for German original)
One already hears an ominous creaking in this structure of ideas, built as it is on evidence that simply does not support it. Rather than building on the august traditions of German text-critical scholarship, on the detailed analysis of the full range of manuscripts, such an interpretation employs the semiotics approach of Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes and Co. which was popular in the late 20th century, spinning creative meaning and significance around supposed "signs", while paying too little attention to verifiable data about what one might describe as the ecology of culture - the structures of the human mind, the evolution of artefacts and the phenomenal experience of human societies.

Kellner is undoubtedly right in her observation that Saint-Sever often lacks diagrammatic coherency, but her analysis is based solely on a single, rather non-representative manuscript in Paris and a series of creative blunders when an artist outran his own talents in a single scriptorium in Gascony, leaving her vulnerable to a whole herd of counter-evidence from nearly 20 other manuscripts.

Older recensions of the Great Stemma are generally more coherent and rational in the way that they map family relationships to a consistent code using connections, alignments and orientiations.

Developing her point, Kellner correctly intuits that the genealogical diagram belongs in a tradition where the expansive roll was the more natural medium than the cramped codex page, but strays into even more unsupported territory with a suggestion that medieval historians felt a 2D visualization to be inherently freer than text in its choices of content and arrangement:
The notion of genealogy as a network of relationships could be conveyed graphically using relatively simple shapes such as lines, strips and circles on codex pages - or doubtless ideally in scroll format - because arrangements of the genealogical elements in planar space - and this is the key objective - were able to be selected and combined with greater freedom. (JBP translation, hover for German original)
Here I both agree and disagree. Planar space is a far more comfortable medium to organize one's genealogical data and snippets of evidence than linear text. Sketching and diagamming often help us to organize our ideas and evidence better. Medieval diagrams do indeed breathe a certain air of nerdish delight at being able to amass the evidence to show some new view of it.

But diagrammatics are rarely a zone of freedom. Keller perhaps extrapolates from the freedom of art in comparison with the literary discipline prevailing over poetry and prose. But the overwhelming trend throughout the history of graphic charts and displays has been to bind them as tightly as possible to the habits of human spatial perception: without such discipline, diagrams simply fail to communicate.

Diagrammers who ignore "programming" principles are not breathing the air of freedom or expressing a view about the complexity of kinship relations and the intricacy of existence. When they discard a coherent system that has been handed down to them, they end up writing bad code. The Saint-Sever diagram is an experiment, probably by Stephanus himself, that went wrong.

Kellner, Beate. Ursprung und Kontinuität: Studien zum genealogischen Wissen im Mittelalter. W. Fink, 2004. Discusses the Great Stemma pp 50-53.

Klapisch-Zuber, Christiane. L’ombre des ancêtres. Paris: Fayard, 2000.

Zaluska, Yolanta. ‘Les Feuillets Liminaires’. In El Beato de Saint-Sever, Ms. Lat. 8878 de La Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, edited by Xavier Barral i Altet. Madrid [Spain]: Edílan, 1984.


Great Minds

Do great minds think alike? Here a couple of striking quotes separated by a millennium and a half. First of all comes Cassiodorus, who seems to have had quite definite ideas about how to employ diagrams:
Duplex quodammodo discendi genus est, quando et linealis descriptio imbuit diligenter aspectum, et post aurium praeparatus intrat auditus. (Institutions 2, praef. 5. Possible translation: Learning is a dual process: the visual mind first acquires the exact context through a drawn figure, so that an attuned aural perception can grasp the subsequent discourse.)
Here are Christopher Chabris and Stephen Kosslyn in 2005:
To be maximally effective, the diagram should be examined before the reader encounters the relevant text, in part because the diagram helps to organize the text, and in part because the reader may try to visualize what the text is describing and the results may not match the diagram.
There is a more thorough discussion of Cassiodorus on my website, including references to Esmeijer's book which first drew attention to this aspect of Cassiodorus's thinking. I have slightly altered the punctuation of Chabris/Kosslyn.

Both passages are onto an important point about thinking through vision: it may not be especially helpful to have access to diagrams after we have discussed topics, but diagrams can be very effective aids, priming the mind to understand things before a more linear form of reasoning commences.
  • Cassiodorus, and R.A.B. Mynors. Cassiodori Senatoris Institutiones. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961.
  • Chabris, Christopher, and Stephen M. Kosslyn. “Representational Correspondence as a Basic Principle of Diagram Design.” Knowledge and Information Visualization (2005): 185–186 (Springer).
  • Esmeijer, Anna Catharina. Divina Quaternitas: a Preliminary Study in the Method and Application of Visual Exegesis. Translated by D.A.S. Reid. Assen: Van Gorcum, 1978.


Timelines Go 3D

It's always interesting to see where fifth-century educational techniques are getting us to, 1,600 years later. A couple of modern items from a single issue of the journal Instructional Science, arguing the agelessness of the timeline technique, caught my eye as I was doing some literature research for the philosophical/psychological section of my book.

Sadly, as one might expect, neither article mentions the origins of this venerable technique in the Great Stemma, its fresh exploitation in the Compendium of Petrus Pictaviensis and its great spread in the nineteenth century.

Prangsma et al. found that kids find it easier to learn history when they have both a timeline and a text, and younger children cope better if there are little pictures on the timeline as well.

Foreman found primary and secondary children learn best with a static series of images, but university undergraduates could also remember the correct order of events with the help of a "fly-through" in a virtual-experience game on a computer screen. For some reason, Foreman does not list this article on his academic publications tally at the University of Trier in Germany but does list a couple of more recent items dealing with virtual reality timelines in 3D.
Foreman, Nigel, Stephen Boyd-Davis, Magnus Moar, Liliya Korallo, and Emma Chappell. ‘Can Virtual Environments Enhance the Learning of Historical Chronology?’ Instructional Science 36, no. 2 (2008): 155–173.
Prangsma, Maaike E., Carla AM Van Boxtel, and Gellof Kanselaar. ‘Developing a “Big Picture”: Effects of Collaborative Construction of Multimodal Representations in History’. Instructional Science 36, no. 2 (2008): 117–136.


Studia Patristica

Amazingly hard-working Markus Vinzent of the University of London has just announced that the proceedings of the 2011 Oxford Patristics Conference are likely to appear in print this summer. This will not be a nice tidy bound book that one can use to press flowers or thump a burglar: it will be an entire bookshelf of "around" twenty volumes, according to the announcement.

Over the past year, Professor Vinzent has edited hundreds of conference papers to create something the size of a major encyclopaedia. This enormous thing will emerge as volumes 53 to 72 of Studia Patristica, a journal that commenced in 1957. The fact that the cumulative run of a journal can increase by 38 per cent as a result of a single conference is alarming confirmation of the fear that we now entering an age when writers may soon outnumber readers. All of this excellent research will no doubt vanish into the shelves of research libraries and will be summoned by the occasional (wealthy) researcher from Peeters Publishers' full-text database, but how many of the articles will achieve a total global readership of even ten or twenty or thirty? A sobering thought.

 My own paper, "The Great Stemma: a Late Antique Diagrammatic Chronicle of Pre-Christian Time", will appear in the Historica volume alongside papers by four eminent historians which I found among the most interesting of the entire conference:
  • Guy Stroumsa's "Jerusalem, Israel, Athens, Jerusalem and Mecca: The Patristic Crucible of the Abrahamic Religions," which was a provocative exploration of how Islam, Judaism and Christianity are equal heirs of Late Antique intellectual debates; 
  • Josef Lössl's "Memory as History? Patristic Perspectives," which was a justification of his revisionist approach in his new textbook, The Early Church;
  • Hervé Inglebert's "La formation des élites chrétiennes d’Augustin à Cassiodore," which told the interesting story of advanced education from the fourth century;
  • Pauline Allen's "Prolegomena to a Study of the Letter-Bearer in Christian Antiquity," which lays the groundwork for an interesting book she is writing about Late Antique travellers who deliver letters.
As far as I can tell, Peeters does not have any kind of open-access arrangement for this journal, which is a pity.

It would appear that Martin Wallraff's discovery that Eusebius of Caesarea wrote another, previously unnoticed set of canon tables, which he made public at the 2011 conference, will not be written up in Studia Patristica, but in the Dumbarton Oaks Papers. The reason, I believe, is that this annual US journal is able to include high-quality colour reproductions of the new-found tables. Presumably that journal's moving firewall will allow the Wallraff paper to be downloaded for free from the year 2023.


Board Game

After searching for some time for any ancient board game on which the Great Stemma might possibly be modelled, I believe the best match would be an Egyptian-devised game-board with 58 holes which has some similarities with our snakes and ladders. Here is a schematic of the game-board, based on a 1952 drawing by Harold Murray in his History of Board Games Other than Chess.

While this is neutrally known among scholars as the Game of Fifty-Eight Holes, in a 2000 article (all references below), Anne-Elizabeth Dunn-Vaturi notes that archaeologists have often called the game Hounds and Jackals. She  proposes her own name for the game, the Monkey Race. According to William Hallo, this game, apparently played with dice, has more than 4,000 years of history.
Such boards are first attested in IXth Dynasty Egypt (ca. 2100 B.C.) and there and in Palestine are made of wood or ivory, elsewhere of stone or clay. Examples of the latter are known from Ras el Ayin and Tell Ajlun in Syria, from Mesopotamia, and from Susa in Elam. Some examples even come from the palace of Esarhaddon and bear his royal inscription. They date from all periods; indeed, their modern counterparts are in use in the Near East to this day. (Hallo, 1996, p. 114)
Hallo does not say who plays the game in modern times, and I can find no one else who claims this to be so. Indeed, the precise rules of the advanced games (one assumes there were many variations) seem to be now lost, and the presentation of the archaeological record suggests the game may have vanished by Roman times.

It is notable that all the boards recovered are much smaller than we would employ for a table-top board game nowadays. In size they are closer to a smartphone or a small tablet computer. For images, one should consult the Louvre website where exquisite variations are assembled into a very impressive interactive page, the best I have found on the internet.

There is a deluxe version of the game (linked picture above) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  Despite appearances, it is not a billiard table, but a tiny toy just 15 centimetres long. The stakes in the picture are the counters, five per player, used during play. The Met has six high-resolution photos where you can zoom in for a closer look.This Egyptian grave offering from Thebes explains the order of play through the 29 holes by each player as follows:

The final curves, converging after running along the perimeter, do bear a remarkable resemblance to the closing stages of the fila as they converge on the right side of the Great Stemma, or of the Amiata Stemma (below). I rotated Murray's drawing (above) 180 degrees so you could see this resemblance more plainly.

I have always considered the diagram's circle-by-circle progress to be inspired by a board game rather than by a topological map. Human problem solving and inventiveness is often a matter of transferring some old and familiar method into a new context, then elaborating this new technique by a cumulative process.

I do not suggest that the Great Stemma copies or evokes the 58-hole board game, but simply that the game, which is said to have been played in an altered version among the Copts of Egypt in Late Antiquity (see an image of the Louvre's Coptic variation), might have been the germ that set off a bright idea in the 5th century.

Richard S. Ellis and Briggs Buchanan provide a detailed scholarly discussion of such 58-hole boards. They group them by outline (the commonest are shaped like an axe-head or fish) and offer many line drawings in their 1966 article dedicated to a single artefact, An Old Babylonian Gameboard with Sculptured Decoration, in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies (JSTOR). For older materials, see French archaeologist Roland de Mecquenem's 1905 report, Offrandes de fondation du Temple de Chouchinak, where there are line drawings of several tiny boards from Iran, generally carved from limestone and less than 10 centimetres long. That report is online at Archive.org. See also Iranica Online. Various enthusiast links on the topic have been collected by Alain Tilmant.

Dunn-Vaturi, whose 2000 bibliography should be consulted, is one of the authors of a current article, Cultural transmission in the ancient Near East: twenty squares and fifty-eight holes (citation below).  It includes the above maps, which I am also linking to with Blogger (without copying) so that you can see them. The left map suggests how the game is likely to have spread out from Egypt: the other map deals with the "royal game of Ur", a similarly popular 20-square board game.

Also available: a February 2012 lecture by Dunn-Vaturi on video (in English), where she suggests (at 1:20) that a Babylonian form of the game board may also have symbolized the human body, and quotes the theories of Carl Schuster that the joints on such a "rebirth" symbol may have been used as a palaeolithic mnemonic system to construct genealogies. The game of 58 holes is among those currently on display at the Musée de Cluny in Paris until March 4. See also Dunn-Vaturi's notice about the game at the Louvre and a November 2012 radio interview (in French).

Dunn-Vaturi, Anne-Elizabeth. ‘“The Monkey Race” – Remarks on Board Games Accessories’. Board Game Studies, no. 3 (2000). http://www.boardgamestudies.info/pdf/issue3/BGS3Vaturi.pdf.

Ellis, Richard S., and Briggs Buchanan. ‘An old Babylonian gameboard with sculptured decoration’. Journal of Near Eastern Studies 25, no. 3 (July 1966): 192–201. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/543265.

Hallo, William W. ‘Games’. In Origins: The Ancient Near Eastern Background of Some Modern Western Institutions. Brill, 1996.

Mecquenem, Roland de. ‘Offrandes de fondation du Temple de Chouchinak’. Mémoires de la Mission Archéologique de Perse 7 (1905): 61–130. http://archive.org/stream/mmoires07franuoft#page/104/mode/2up.

De Voogt, Alex, Anne-Elizabeth Dunn-Vaturi, and Jelmer W. Eerkens. ‘Cultural transmission in the ancient Near East: twenty squares and fifty-eight holes’. Journal of Archaeological Science 40, no. 4 (April 2013): 1715–1730. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0305440312004955.