Sunday, June 19, 2011

Solving One Piece of the Mar Saba Mystery on Father's Day

My wife told me I could have anything I wanted because it was Father's Day and you know the truth, folks? I just wanted to tell you all how I solved the 'mystery of Mar Saba.' Of course that wasn't one of the options. I think we will all go to a French restaurant to have breakfast. I think I will have a Croque Monsieur, I never cared too much for cassoulet.

In any event it is all solved pretty much. I can't prove that Callinicus had a stroke at Sinai yet but that's coming once I get accurate translations of his letters and present them to a doctor who knows how to interpret ancient documents. Any suggestions out there?

The basic idea goes something like this. There was a man named Ιωάννης Πρίγκος (= 'John Priggos' 1725 -1789) who started off impoverished but somehow made it big as a merchant trader, moving from Alexandria to Smyrna and ultimately Amsterdam. As Kōnstantinos Dēmaras notes in his History of Greek Literature:

The Amsterdam that [he] knew in 1771 was not only a great commercial center but also the crossroads for all the ideas that circulated throughout Europe. A liberal state and tolerant in matters of religion, Holland served as a refuge for free thought. All books forbidden publication elsewhere were printed in Holland. The Greek colony in Amsterdam apparently had few members and was composed principally of merchants, but it followed the intellectual line of the land wherein it resided. An cultured merchant, John Priggos lived there during those years and kept a journal. We read in it that he hoped for the liberation of the Greek race. "Raise up, my God, another Alexander." And at another point, he wrote: "See to what superstitions Ignorance makes men stoop." He collected books and sent them to his villagers, writing to them in the meantime, "These are philosophical works, essential to the education of the young, as they are taught in the schools of Europe."

John Priggos keeps in touch with another homeboy from Zagora named Κωνσταντίνος Κυπαρίσσης who eventually takes on the name Καλλίνικος (= Callinicus) when he becomes an important bishop in the Orthodox Church. Callinicus becomes the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in 1757, the 'top dog' as it were of the religious community.

Both Priggos and Callinicus are wealthy, educated, enlightened men. They represent forward thinking idealists who want to make Greece a modern European nation. Yet there are strong factions in the Church who want to keep away outside influences. They are embodied by Callinicus's predecessor on the Patriarchal throne, Cyril V, who passes a law to force Christians of other faiths to undergo baptism as if they were uncultured heathens.

Priggos and Callinicus are not only opposed to this sort of backwards xenophobia, they remain such could relations with one another that Callinicus gets Priggos to send him books from Amsterdam to keep sending him all the latest books that are being published in the free city. After six months on the throne, a popular revolt against his rule forces the Turkish rulers of Greece to banish him into exile in Sinai. In 1761 he escapes and makes his way to Alexandria where he spends a while writing letters and reading books.

By the time Callinicus re-establishes himself in Zagora again, Priggos decide to open an academy of learning. In April 1762, he starts sending virtually ever book ever published in Amsterdam to his new library. These books were philosophical, historical, theological, geographical, ancient Greek writers, church fathers and other younger scientists. By the time Priggos leaves Amsterdam he has sent over one thousand books to his hometown. Callinicus also donates over three hundred books that he has collected over the years.

Among this large body of books mostly purchased in Amsterdam is certainly Isaac Voss's 1646 critical edition of the letters of Ignatius. The library in Zagora is going through the original list of books sent by Priggos. Yet it is virtually certain that the Voss edition, which was after all published in Amsterdam was included in one of those shipments either to Callinicus or the library.

As it turns out Linaritakis discovered that Callicus used to write on every available free page that he could find in those books. There are many of his annotations on some incunabula. During a voyage to Cairo on the Nile River the boat on which Callinicus had embarked sunk and a lot of his books and manuscripts were lost. Nevertheless there is enough surviving that we can do a handwriting analysis to compare the material with what is in the Mar Saba document and determine if they are by the same hand.

One more thing which might explain how the books at the Zagora library ended up at Mar Saba years later. I stumbled upon the official website of the existing Library of Zagora and it describes its illustrious past as:

Επιμελήθηκε και ανασυγκρότησε τη σχολή που ήδη λειτουργούσε από τις αρχές του 18ου αιώνα(1712) στη συνοικία του Αγίου Γεωργίου Ζαγοράς, στην οποία και έδωσε την ονομασία «Ελληνομουσείο». Εκεί στεγάστηκαν τα βιβλία που κατά καιρούς έστελνε ο Ι. Πρίγκος από την Ολλανδία( και τα οποία έφτασαν συνολικά τον αριθμό των 1000 τόμων περίπου), τα βιβλία του Πατριάρχου Καλλίνικου (35 χειρόγραφοι κώδικες και 326 έντυπα βιβλία) καθώς και αυτά που δώρισαν άλλοι επώνυμοι Ζαγοριανοί που κατείχαν υψηλές θέσεις στη Κωνσταντινούπολη, στη Ρωσία, στις παραδουνάβιες ηγεμονίες και αλλού. Οι παραπάνω δωρεές σπάνιες και σπουδαίες αποτελούνταν, από εκδόσεις της Βενετίας, Μεδιολάνου, Τεργέστης, Βιέννης, Χάγης, Άμστερνταμ, Λονδίνου, Παρισίων, Λειψίας και γενικά των μεγάλων πνευματικών κέντρων της Ευρώπης. Όλες έχουν τυπωθεί σε τυπογραφία επιφανών ακαδημιών, βασιλικών κολεγίων, και ονομαστών τυπογράφων όπως του Άλδου Μανούτου, Εράσμου Σμίτ κ.α. περιέχουν δε έργα κλασσικής ελληνικής γραμματείας, θρησκευτικά, ιστορικά γεωγραφικά, όπως του φημισμένου Ολλανδού κοσμογράφου Αβραάμ Ορτέλλιου, και πολλά άλλα.

Designed and reconstructed the faculty already operated from the early 18th century (1712) in the district of St. George, Zagora, in which he [Priggos] gave the name "Greek Museum."There were housed books occasionally send J. Principality from Holland (and which totaled the number of about 1000 volumes), books of Patriarch Kallinikos (35 manuscripts and 326 printed books) and those who donated other celebrities Zagorian held high positions in Istanbul, Russia, the Danube and elsewhere.These rare and important donations were made by versions of Venice, Milan, Trieste, Vienna, Hague, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Leipzig and generally the major spiritual centers of Europe.All are printed in typography leading academies, royal colleges, and renowned printers like Aldus Manutius, Erasmus Schmidt, etc.containing the works of classical Greek literature, religion, historical geography, like the famous Dutch cosmography Ortelliou Abraham, and many others.

But it goes on to describe a great fire that ravaged the building during the war for Greek independence:

Μετά τη παύση της λειτουργίας του «Ελληνομουσείου», ο χώρος στον οποίο στεγαζόταν η βιβλιοθήκη, γκρεμίστηκε και τα βιβλία αλλάζοντας κατά καιρούς διάφορα μέρη υπέστησαν πολλές φθορές ενώ πάμπολλα είναι αυτά που χάθηκαν.

I asked my friend Harry Tzalas to help translate the passage. He first demonstrated a literal 'word by word' translation:

Following the closure of "Ellinomouseiou" (= 'Greek museum') the space in which housed the library, the books down and changing from time to time various parties have been extensively damaged, while numerous are those who perished.

And then a more natural version of the same material in English:

After the Ellinomouseio stop operating the space where the library was sheltered was put down and the books changing from time to time location suffered great damages while some were lost.

Which he explains as follows:

My understanding is that books were damaged and dispersed. That is the meaning of lost.

If the books from the original Callinicus collection were dispersed and then lost in the late nineteenth century they could have ended up anywhere in the Greek speaking monastic world including Mar Saba. More to follow ...

Happy Father's Day

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Stephan Huller's Observations by Stephan Huller
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