Fireside Friday, June 10, 2022

Fireside this week! I expect to lean a bit more on Firesides than in the next few months as I am hoping to use the summer to make progress on my book project, which of course is going to impact the speed with which I can deliver you all the 5000-9000 word essays that tend to make up the big feature Collection posts. Still we’re going to keep working out way through Total Generalship and then from there hit some of the topics that my patrons in the ACOUP Senate have voted for.

And here is Ollie being his normal cute self, at play with one of his toys.

For this week’s musing I wanted to talk a bit about citation systems. In particular, you all have no doubt noticed that I generally cite modern works by the author’s name, their title and date of publication (e.g. G. Parker, The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road (1972)),1 but ancient works get these strange almost code-like citations (Xen. Lac. 5.3; Hdt. 7.234.2; Thuc. 5.68; etc.). And you may ask, “What gives? Why two systems?” So let’s talk about that.

The first thing that needs to be noted here is that systems of citation are for the most part a modern invention. Pre-modern authors will, of course, allude to or reference other works (although ancient Greek and Roman writers have a tendency to flex on the reader by omitting the name of the author, often just alluding to a quote of ‘the poet’ where ‘the poet’ is usually, but not always, Homer), but they did not generally have systems of citation as we do.

Instead most modern citation systems in use for modern books go back at most to the 1800s, though these are often standardizations of systems which might go back a bit further still. Still, the Chicago Manual of Style – the standard style guide and citation system for historians working in the United States – was first published only in 1906. Consequently its citation system is built for the facts of how modern publishing works. In particular, we publish books in codices (that is, books with pages) with numbered pages which are typically kept constant in multiple printings (including being kept constant between soft-cover and hardback versions). Consequently if you can give the book, the edition (where necessary), the publisher and a page number, any reader seeing your citation can notionally go get that edition of the book and open to the very page you were looking at and see exactly what you saw.

Of course this breaks down a little with mass-market fiction books that are often printed in multiple editions with inconsistent pagination (thus the endless frustration with trying to cite anything in A Song of Ice and Fire; the fan-made chapter-based citation system for a work without numbered or uniquely named chapters2 is, I must say, painfully inadequate.) but in a scholarly rather than wiki-context, one can just pick a specific edition, specify it with the facts of publication and use those page numbers.

However the systems for citing ancient works or medieval manuscripts are actually older than consistent page numbers, though they do not reach back into antiquity or even really much into the Middle Ages. As originally published, ancient works couldn’t have static page numbers – had they existed yet, which they didn’t – for a multitude of reasons: for one, being copied by hand, the pagination was likely to always be inconsistent. But for ancient works the broader problem was that while they were written in books (libri) they were not written in books (codices). The book as a physical object – pages, bound together at a spine – is more technically called a codex. After all, that’s not the only way to organize a book. Think of a modern ebook for instance: it is a book, but it isn’t a codex! Well, prior to codex becoming truly common in third and fourth centuries AD, books were typically written on scrolls (the literal meaning of libri, which later came to mean any sort of book), which notably lack pages – it is one continuous scroll of text.

Of course those scrolls do not survive.3 Rather, ancient works were copied onto codices during Late Antiquity or the Middle Ages and those survive. When we are lucky, several different ‘families’ of manuscripts for a given work survive (this is useful because it means we can compare those manuscripts to detect transcription errors; alas in many cases we have only one manuscript or one clearly related family of manuscripts which all share the same errors, though such errors are generally rare and small).

With the emergence of the printing press, it became possible to print lots of copies of these works, but that combined with the manuscript tradition created its own problems: which manuscript should be the authoritative text and how ought it be divided? On the first point, the response was the slow and painstaking work of creating critical editions that incorporate the different manuscript traditions: a main text on the page meant to represent the scholar’s best guess at the correct original text with notes (called an apparatus criticus) marking where other manuscripts differ. On the second point it became necessary to impose some kind of organizing structure on these works.

The good news is that most longer classical works already had a system of larger divisions: books (libri). A long work would be too long for a single scroll and so would need to be broken into several; its quite clear from an early point that authors were aware of this and took advantage of that system of divisions to divide their works into ‘books’ that had thematic or chronological significance. Where such a standard division didn’t exist, ancient libraries, particularly in Alexandria, had imposed them and the influence of those libraries as the standard sources for originals from which to make subsequent copies made those divisions ‘canon.’ Because those book divisions were thus structurally important, they were preserved through the transition from scrolls to codices (as generally clearly marked chapter breaks), so that the various ‘books’ served as ‘super-chapters.’

But sub-divisions were clearly necessary – a single librum is pretty long! The earliest system I am aware of for this was the addition of chapter divisions into the Vulgate – the Latin-language version of the Bible – in the 13th century.4 Versification- breaking the chapters down into verses – in the New Testament followed in the early 16th century (though it seems necessary to note that there were much older systems of text divisions for the Tanakh though these were not always standardized).

The same work of dividing up ancient texts began around the same time as versification for the Bible. One started by preserving the divisions already present – book divisions, but also for poetry line divisions (which could be detected metrically even if they were not actually written out in individual lines). For most poetic works, that was actually sufficient, though for collections of shorter poems it became necessary to put them in a standard order and then number them. For prose works, chapter and section divisions were imposed by modern editors. Because these divisions needed to be understandable to everyone, over time each work developed its standard set of divisions that everyone uses, codified by critical texts like the Oxford Classical Texts or the Bibliotheca Teubneriana (or ‘Teubners’).

Thus one cited these works not by the page numbers in modern editions, but rather by these early-modern systems of divisions. In particular a citation moves from the larger divisions to the smaller ones, separating each with a period. Thus Hdt. 7.234.2 is Herodotus, Book 7, chapter 234, section 2. In an odd quirk, it is worth noting classical citations are separated by periods, but Biblical citations are separated by colons. Thus John 3:16 but Liv. 3.16. I will note that for readers who cannot access these texts in the original language, these divisions can be a bit frustrating because they are often not reproduced in modern translations for the public (and sometimes don’t translate well, where they may split the meaning of a sentence), but I’d argue that this is just a reason for publishers to be sure to include the citation divisions in their translations.5

That leaves the names of authors and their works. The classical corpus is a ‘closed’ corpus – there is a limited number of works and new ones don’t enter very often (occasionally we find something on a papyrus or lost manuscript, but by ‘occasionally’ I mean ‘about once in a lifetime.’) so the full details of an author’s name are rarely necessary. I don’t need to say “Titus Livius of Patavium” because if I say Livy you know I mean Livy. And in citation as in all publishing, there is a desire for maximum brevity, so given a relatively small number of known authors it was perhaps inevitable that we’d end up abbreviating all of their names. Standard abbreviations are helpful here too, because the languages we use today grew up with these author’s names and so many of them have different forms in different languages. For instance, in English we call Titus Livius ‘Livy’ but in French they say Tite-Live, Spanish says Tito Livio (as does Italian) and the Germans say Livius. These days the most common standard abbreviation set used in English are those settled on by the Oxford Classical Dictionary; I am dreadfully inconsistent on here but I try to stick to those. The OCD says ‘Livy,’ by the by, but ‘Liv.’ is also a very common short-form of his name you’ll see in citations, particularly because it abbreviates all of the linguistic variations on his name.

And then there is one final complication: titles. Ancient written works rarely include big obvious titles on the front of them and often were known by informal rather than formal titles. Consequently when standardized titles for these works formed (often being systematized during the printing-press era just like the section divisions) they tended to be in Latin, even when the works were in Greek. Thus most works have common abbreviations for titles too (again the OCD is the standard list) which typically abbreviate their Latin titles, even for works not originally in Latin.

And now you know! And you can use the link above to the OCD to decode classical citations you see.

One final note here: manuscripts. Manuscripts themselves are cited by an entirely different system because providence made every part of paleography to punish paleographers for their sins. A manuscript codex consists of folia – individual leaves of parchment (so two ‘pages’ in modern numbering on either side of the same physical page) – which are numbered. Then each folium is divided into recto and verso – front and back8 Thus a manuscript is going to be cited by its catalog entry wherever it is kept (each one will have its own system, they are not standardized) followed by the folium (‘f.’) and either recto (r) or verso (v). Typically the abbreviation ‘MS’ leads the catalog entry to indicate a manuscript. Thus this picture of two men fighting below is MS Thott.290.2º f.87r (it’s in Det Kongelige Bibliotek in Copenhagen):

MS Thott.290.2º f.87r which can also be found on the inexplicably well maintained Wiktenauer; seriously every type of history should have as dedicated an enthusiast community as arms and armor history.

And there you go.

Onwards to recommendations!

First, for those keeping track of the conflict in the Ukraine, Michael Kofman and Rob Lee’s “No Built for Purpose: The Russian Military’s Ill-Fated Force Design” article in War on the Rocks is required reading. It also serves as a valuable reminder about both the importance of force structure (how units are organized and staffed) and also that just because units exist does not mean they are at full strength. This is a routine problem in dealing with pre-modern armies which were often deeply below strength. This wasn’t always to the same degree – we know, for instance that Roman legions in the Republic were regularly refilled to full strength as part of the annual draft or dilectus (Livy tells us that at various points), though at the same time legions in unimportant theaters were often allowed to fall well below full strength. The ‘paper strength’ of an army is often wholly disconnected from its real strength.9

Also very much worth a listen is the War on the Rocks podcast, “What the Experts Got Wrong (and Right) About Russian Military Power,” which features Michael Kofman again, with Christopher Dougherty, Gian Gentile and Dara Massicot (hosted by Ryan Evans). As in previous weeks, War on the Rocks is one of the best places to go for sophisticated analysis of current military events.

Meanwhile in Classics, Peopling the Past has started the third season of their podcast series. The first episode features Dr. Natalie Swain discussing classical reception in modern comics, in particular the classical roots of Wonder Woman, while the second episode is about midwifery in the Greek and Roman world with Dr. Tara Mulder. I find the second podcast particularly interesting because it pertains to a part of the regular life experience in the ancient world – assisting and giving birth – which I don’t study but which made up an important part of most ancient women’s lives. Always keep in mind that high infant mortality rates pair with high birth rates, so Roman women were giving birth fairly frequently over the course of their adult lives, which would have in turn made the midwife an important (albeit often low-status) figure.

I should also note that the Society for Classical Studies blog did an interview in their series with contingent faculty with Dr. Victoria Austen, who among her other projects runs the social media for Peopling the Past. Another fascinating bit from the SCS blog is this dissertation spotlight on Dr. Fae Amiro’s dissertation discussing the portraiture of the empress Vibia Sabina, wife of the emperor Hadrian. It’s an interesting project because Sabina’s prominent place in the way that Hadrian and the Roman authorities opted to represent themselves is itself unusual.

For this week’s book recommendation, I’m going to reach back a bit and recommend Geoffrey Parker, The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road, 1567-1659: The Logistics of Spanish Victory and Defeat in the Low Countries’ Wars (1972, 2nd ed. 2004). Parker is doubtless better known for his The Military Revolution (1988) and that is certainly the most influential of his books, but I think that the narrower scope of The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road has a lot to recommend (and also a current set of readings on the military revolution would be many books and we’ve discussed that already).

The book focuses on the logistics and finance of the Spanish Habsburg army in the Low Countries, called the Army of Flanders which was at the time one of the most impressive fighting forces in Europe and certainly one of the most expensive. The necessary context here is that much of what is today Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg were in the 1400s possessions of the Dukes of Burgundy; the effective end of that line in 1477 with the death of Charles the Bold caused these possession to enter the possessions of the House of Habsburg (French Burgundy went to France). The division of Habsburg possessions between the Spanish and German lines in 1558 with the death of Charles V left those old Burgundian territories on the Spanish side. That in turn led Spain to face a major revolt of the Dutch part of the Spanish Netherlands, brought on by a mix of Spanish mismanagement and the mismatch between Catholic Spain and the increasingly Protestant Dutch, which led in turn to the Eighty Years War (1568-1648), effectively the Dutch War of Independence.

In all of that, the Army of Flanders was the Spanish army in the Netherlands. Like most early modern armies, it was a composite force, with some troops raised in Spain, others from all over, all notionally paid in cash which was often in short supply. The continuous demand for military activity created by a revolt Spain could never quite get control of placed massive logistical and financial burdens on the Spanish crown and it is that pressure on which Parker is focused.

While popular culture loves to focus on battles, most of the time armies are not fighting battles yet they still must be fed, housed and paid. Parker focuses in on those questions: leadership, organization (especially financial), food, pay, living conditions, the soldier’s use of mutinies and desertion, the difficulty of demobilizing armies that haven’t been fairly paid in years and of course the tremendous peril of having armies that haven’t been fairly paid in years. It is a readable, accessible introduction to these sorts of problems, bolstered by the fact that as an early modern rather than ancient or medieval army there is both a lot more evidence and data for Parker to work with and also the structures of this army are a bit more similar to what we are used to. In short then, this book is an excellent starting point for someone looking to get a handle on the logistics of managing a professional army, especially an expeditionary force operating at distance from the home country.

  1. This is, I should note, a shortened form of an actual citation, since it omits things like place of publication and the name of the publisher, but it works well enough for an informal blog. In my writing, I prefer Chicago-style citation, though I find in classics the Chicago-variants that are most common are ones that move the date of publication to immediately follow the author’s name.
  2. Please note that the numbering on that page for chapters with the same names is not in the books
  3. Except in Egypt! Surprise preview for one of the popular Senate voting topics, why Egypt is the Strangest Roman Province!
  4. It is thus worth noting, good Christian readers, that chapter divisions and also chapter headings are not original to the text but instead modern additions meant to make things easier on the reader. Thus one may well believe that the text is divinely inspired, but not the versification of it, nor the section-headings which are later additions.
  5. More frustrating, to me at least, are modern poetic translations which don’t follow the ancient line-breaks, like the Fagles translations of Homer. It can leave students terribly confused when lines don’t match up.
  6. The translation there is a bit rough. Really it is ‘right’ as in ‘correct’ for recto and then verso is ‘back’6 – with the verso surface in European manuscripts being on the left and the recto on the right.7I am simplifying a bit here. A parchment codex is also divided into gatherings of (usually) two double leaves (bifolia) called quartos because they made four folia when bound through the center. Like I said, paleography exists to punish paleographers.
  7. You can get a real good sense of this in this week’s book recommendation, actually.

94 thoughts on “Fireside Friday, June 10, 2022

  1. Maybe my own biases in what I was educated are showing, thank you for raising the bit about the modern chapter-verse organization not being around at the composition of any of the texts of the Bible. One of my pet peeves is that people don’t realize the parallels in what is commonly cited as Genesis 2:25 and 3:1, where the Masoretic Hebrew uses the same word (except pluralized in the first case) to describe the nakedness of the man and his wife, and the cunning/subtlety/craftiness/what have you of the serpent. These verses are meant to be linked, and the chapter division does an annoying job of separating them.

    1. Do “naked” and “crafty” just coincidently sound the same, or are they somehow actually the same word?

      1. They’re written the same way, aside from the conjugation. I’ve never seen an etymological link that was fully accepted to some earlier proto-word or earlier understanding, that the two meanings branched out from, although I’ve seen some speculation from later sources as to possible relationships between the concepts. My own (gut instinct of an interested amateur) thought is that it’s related to a core concept of something being hidden; nakedness implies nothing being hidden, whereas someone who is cunning or crafty is associated with ideas and designs that are expressly being hidden from the target of those designs.

        While yes, these are complete opposites, you see that sort of construction in a few other Biblical Hebrew words. ברך usually means “to bless”, except in occasional uses where it’s (possibly euphemistically) meant to curse, קלס is usually to mock, except when it’s on occasion meant as to praise, עקר to either root or uproot, etc. Speculation is that ערם has some proto-meaning of either conceal or reveal, which led to the divergent naked and crafty meanings. But again, this is my speculation, I don’t want to advance this as some settled etymology.

        1. The fact that you can use the same words for two literally opposite meaning literally blows my mind.

          1. In English, “cleave” can mean either cutting apart or sticking together.

          2. We were always taught that ברך was an euphemism to avoid using the bad word curse (קלל).

          3. I was taught that ברך was an euphemism to avoid using the word for curse (קלל).

        2. This is intended as a reply to Ed8r “Contronym” is a word that I never knew existed and I’m so glad you exposed me to it.

    2. I don’t read Hebrew, but obviously I do read ancient Greek and there’s a lot in the New Testament where any translation is into English is going to have to make some interpretive decisions. I still use the NIV – that’s what I was brought up with – and I think on the whole the translation is sound. But a reader that can’t access the Greek has got to, in my mind, proceed with some humility because there may be shades of meaning or interpretation being added.

      1. I was always told that the NRSV is best for understanding the original Hebrew/Greek (with Douai-Rheims being a good approximation of the Latin Vulgate used during the Middle Ages).

      2. In The Netherlands we got the “Statenbijbel”, the officially sanctioned translation by the States General, in 1637. It tried to stay as close to the Greek as possible in Dutch, and therefore gave rise to what is called “De Tale Kanaäns” which are very peculiar turns of phrase, almost directly copied from Greek, and only found in that bible, and thus associated with the Holy Land and Jesus. A friend of mine, being a classical Greek teacher in the Gymnasium (highest level Middle and High School in The Netherlands) always referred to the Statenbijbel to point students to “brontaal getrouwe” (truest to the source language) translations

  2. A question that the discussion of citations leaves me is how do we cite medieval works?

    Do they get cited in manuscript format, or are there standardised chapter/subsection citation formats, or does that vary by work (and author and period)?

    The medieval corpus is nothing like as static as the Greco-Roman classical corpus.

    1. My experience is limited to late medieval Belgium and the Netherlands, and bits of France, but: most of the important chronicles have been edited and published in the 19th century, and by now pretty much all of the gaps have been filled as well. Unless you’re writing about the contents of a specific manuscript, it’s always preferential to refer to a published critical edition. Unlike the works of antiquity, where there is an Oxford Classics standard, I’ve never come across a medievalist equivalent for editions or abbreviations. You *always* write down which edition you’re using (even if it’s the only one, which it often is) at the first mention and in your list of sources. So, for example, if you’d want to refer to page 62 of the chronicle of Enguerrand de Monstrelet (a Big Name in the historiography of the Hundred Years War), you could write: Enguerrand de Monstrelet, *La chronique d’Enguerran de Monstrelet en deux livres avec pièces justificatives 1400-1444*, L. Douët-d’Arcq ed., 6 parts (Paris 1857-1862), pt.I, p.62. Subsequent footnotes can simply be written as: Monstrelet, *Chronique*, I, 62. In other words, my (perhaps limited) experience is that there is no division between ‘modern works’ citations and ‘code-like ancient works’ citation for medievalists – it’s all ‘modern works style’ whenever possible and it’s usually possible.

      For texts in prose, you’d refer to the page numbers of the modern edition you’re using. Works in verse can be cited by books and lines, which allows you to be a bit more precise (e.g. *Brabantsche Yeesten*, VII, 6050-6056). (A lot of history was written in verse because it was supposed to be more entertaining and easier to remember, but poetry gained a reputation for being factually unreliable since it was mostly used for fiction). Printed works are only very rarely published in critical editions, because unlike manuscripts, they were considered to be accessible enough in the 19th century (this paradoxically means they are less accessible than manuscript texts today!). The early ones are still numbered in folia rather than pages, but otherwise they can be Chicago’d like any modern book.

    1. So it is the book version of my dissertation – sharpened, trimmed a bit and so on. I examine the cost of equipping and fielding armies in the third and second century BC, the period of initial Roman expansion outside of Italy and conclude that Rome was able to comprehensively outmobilize its rivals due to the particular structure of Rome’s Italian alliance system and the pre-existing social institutions it drew on.

      Working title (which never survive publishers) is Men and Materiel: Why Rome Always Won

      1. Will you try to introduce “Goku model of imperialism” as an academical term to describe the relationship between rome and its italian allies in your book?

  3. “For instance, in English we call Titus Livius ‘Livy’ but in French they say Tite-Live”.

    And that’s how, after more than one year of reading your blog, I discovered that this obscure author you praise so much is actually the very well-known Tite-Live (I’m French).

    1. As French too, it’s the first time I realized that the Tite in Tite-Live stands for Titus, which is interesting as Titus is usually left as is and not translated into Tite (we’re saying “empereur Titus”, not “empereur Tite”.

      Also Bret, you’ve got two footnotes (6 & 7) that are missing from the text (though they appear in footnote 8).

      1. Or rather,, we do not anymore. See Rostand’s Cyrano saying: “J’adore Bérénice : ai-je l’aspect d’un Tite ?”

        The on that floored me was when I found references to philosopher Tulle. AKA Tullius Cicero.

        1. It was common in English during the early modern period to refer to the man you reference as “Tully.” I believe several of the American Founding Fathers habitually referred to him that way. I’m not sure when or why “Cicero” thoroughly displaced “Tully.”

    2. That is funny, I was myself rather surprised that St. Jerome was the same as the Hieronymus knew about. Swedish seems to keep most names to their Latin and Greek forms

  4. There was a strike in the Swedish army of the 30-Years’ War after Johan Banér died. The officers said they wouldn’t order their troops to fight if they didn’t get paid. It was only solved by Lennart Torstensson turning up with money and hanging the most outrageous malcontents.

    1. Cromwell’s turn to the Commonwealth was in part driven by Parliament (Anglican gentry) haggling too hard over the sums needed to pay off the New Model Army (officered by tough Presbyterian colonels).

  5. Re: ASoIaF wiki citations: The system they have is inadequate, but it’s surprisingly close to adequate, considering what they have to work with. There isn’t consistent pagination between editions, so going by page would require picking one “canonical” edition and hoping someone on the wiki made a conversion chart for people with any other edition to figure out roughly where the citation lands.
    The unnumbered chapters are the only division between sections that remains consistent between editions—and of course, the series isn’t old enough for later scholars to impose such sub-chapter divisions onto the text. If it was, though, I’m sure every modern printing of ASoIaF would number the chapters.

    Except in Egypt! Surprise preview for one of the popular Senate voting topics, why Egypt is the Strangest Roman Province!

    Egypt is the Mongols of the Roman Empire.
    That sentence doesn’t feel grammatically valid, but it is!

  6. Obviously everyone should just be using Emily Wilson now, with her line-for-line Odyssey (and, coming next year, Iliad). But my editions of Fagles do include the original line numbers at the top of each page, so you can narrow your search considerably, something that came up frequently when I was younger and doing more cross-referencing between translations and (occasionally) original.

    1. My ex-classicist spouse main complaint wasn’t about finding the right line, but rathers about how one might get excited about a particular word choice in Fagles and find that the whole phrase was the translator’s, so you couldn’t bear down on it.

      I am not a classicist, but I had a similar problem to what the Pedant describes with the version of the Homeric Hymns available on, which punts entirely on putting the hymns in verse form and throws in a bracketed page number every now and then.

      (I was trying to figure out what the heck the Greek adjective that was producing “deep-bosomed women.” It turns out it refers to the tying of the girdle of their robes, which was probably around their *hips.* Which strongly suggests that this turn-of-the-century classicist was just looking for an excuse to spice up his translation with some bosoms).

  7. I’m curious whether Prof. Devereux really believes that he has a lot of readers who think the chapter and verse divisions of the Bible are divinely inspired. I’m also curious whether it would make any difference if someone did believe that: are there theological arguments which hinge on the versification of the scriptural text?

    1. “are there theological arguments which hinge on the versification of the scriptural text?”

      I’ve seen a few, in particular whether given passages are supposed to be part of a unit. For instance, take a look at Deuteronomy 13. Most Christian bibles will start that chapter with the bit about the prophet or dreamer that tries to lead the people astray. Most Jewish bibles will take the immediately preceding verse and start the chapter with that one, the injunction not to add or subtract to all of these commands. Whether or not you should be connecting those two ideas has led to some interfaith arguments I’m aware of as to how much the beginning of Deuteronomy 13 is meant to be about Jesus.

    2. I grew up in a church that was part of a fairly evangelical denomination and I absolutely knew folks who were prepared to make religious arguments based on non-original parts like versification or section headers. I’ve also absolutely met folks making religious arguments that work with the English translation of the New Testament, but not with the Greek original.

        1. I need sarcasm font, in case anyone missed it (my attempt to add an “s” in angle brackets was not recognized by WordPress).

      1. Ditto for English translations of the Tanach, only with the Hebrew original rather than an English translation. And I didn’t grow up with an evangelical church, or any sort of church at all, that phenomenon is far further spread.

      2. It’s a tricky concept to integrate into your mindset, that the version of an ancient document you’re looking at isn’t exactly how it was originally written. The obvious starting point is the language: what we think of as “the” Bible now was originally written in multiple languages over a long period, and then translated (which always loses something) into other languages, and into yet other languages. That part I figured out long ago on my own, but it never occurred to me until today to think about the verse/chapter/book divisions and when those might have been introduced (or how they might have changed over time).

        If you bring these things up to hardcore believers, they inevitably have to retreat into “well it’s the general idea that’s important” goalpost-moving.

        1. Well, basically just two languages, Hebrew and Greek, with a little Aramaic here and there. All current published editions are translated directly from the original languages, and plenty of “hardcore” believers are capable of reading the original texts. The fact is, our knowledge of Jesus is just as reliable as our knowledge of Pericles.

          Now if you think all history, or maybe all ancient history, is bunk, then the Bible shares that same condition.

      3. This has a long history though, since the great schism between eastern and western Christianity is at least partly due to “to proceed” being one verb in latin but two different verbs in Greek.

        1. There is also the artistic convention of depicting Moses with horns that comes from St. Jerome using a word that could mean either “shining” or “horned”.

          1. The ambiguity exists in Biblical Hebrew as well. The same word used in Exodus 34:29, קרן, is used in contexts where it very clearly means a horn, like in Genesis 22:13 (the ram that they sacrifice being caught in a thicket by its horns) or Joshua 6:5 (That the walls of Jericho will collapse from blowing of horns) but also things like a glow or a shine (Habbakuk 3:4, a prayer about the approach of light and glory). And then you have the usage in Lamentations 2:3 where God will withdraw from ” כל קרן ישראל” All the “Keren” of Israel, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

            I don’t think it’s entirely Jerome’s fault, it’s an ambiguous term as far back as it seems to go.

    3. It always amuses me how certain Christian denominations, usually evangelical or fundamentalist, will treat the Bible as some kind of inerrant or infallible document, because it tends to make them look like Muslims, a religious community they usually despise. With Islam treating the Koran as the literal Word of God makes sense and all, because it’s an address from God by the Archangel Gabriel to Muhammad, but the Bible is *clearly* written by humans. Hell, the Bible as we know it doesn’t even exist without ecumenical councils deciding what is and isn’t canonical. If anything dogmatically insisting on the perfection of the Bible makes your argument weaker, not stronger; some thousand years of Western civilization passed by with Christianity the dominant religion, with plenty of perfectly rational believers, and an argument for Jesus can be made very well without relying on the frankly ludicrous assertion that you aren’t wrong because your human text can’t possibly be wrong.

      1. This isn’t a case of those silly fundies/evangelicals missing an obvious fact (Scripture was was written by humans) that undermines their belief in the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, it’s a case of you not understanding what the doctrine of inspiration is. The doctrine of inspiration *is* that God spoke through men to write the Scriptures. Both God and man having a part in it is precisely what is meant by inspiration.

        Jesus Himself recognizes both human and divine attribution when quoting the Psalms; he introduces the quote with “David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declares…” Or, as Peter said, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of men, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

        I find it funny that you think Christians, whose entire belief system is founded upon God miraculously uniting divinity and humanity (Christ taking on human nature, “the Word became flesh”) in order to do what would otherwise be impossible (reconciliation with God), might have a problem with the idea of God miraculously uniting divinity and humanity (God inspiring the Scripture through men) in order to do what would otherwise be impossible (an inerrant book, the word of God in written form).

        1. although my grasp of theology isn’t superb, as I understand not all Christians would agree on the idea of inspiration, at least as you formulate it. form critics, for instance, would seem to regard this as untrue, and I don’t think such a interpretation of Scripture is necessarily incompatible with belief in its truth; plenty of texts cannot (and should not) be taken at face value because of the inevitable biases of their fallible human authors, but that should not lead us to believe that the information they contain is automatically fabulous or untrue. I would not doubt the reality of the Gallic Wars, or of many of its small details, simply because I know Julius Caesar wrote Bellum Gallicum to glorify himself.

          in any case, the comparison of the hypostatic union to divine inspiration for the Bible is apples to oranges. Christ became God and Man in the Incarnation, which is an event entirely unique to all of human and divine history; to suggest that a mere scribe or missionary could achieve a similar state merely by writing about God borders on blasphemy. in any case, even if we assume the doctrine of Biblical inspiration, that doesn’t change the fact that God is only indirectly inspiring human authors, who will inevitably filter the brilliance of His divinity through their own feeble minds. so even with inspiration, the Bible is not, ipso facto, inerrant. the Psalmist may have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, but that does not mean the Holy Spirit did the writing for them.

          1. ” that doesn’t change the fact that God is only indirectly inspiring human authors, who will inevitably filter the brilliance of His divinity through their own feeble minds. so even with inspiration,”

            You assume your conclusion here.

          2. the conclusion can be demonstrated by reason unaided. God is, within the Abrahamic religions, a supreme being, with no corporeal body, of infinite power, benevolence, knowledge, etc. and so, if we, like Christians, Muslims and Jews, assume that this is the definition of the Deity, than God Himself is an infinite noun, which implies that we, as finite creatures, could not possibly hope to ever fully comprehend Him. it would make sense that this is especially true while we are still (if we are really souls that happen to have bodies) on Earth.

          3. And yet you claim to comprehend Him well enough to decree what He can not do in inspiration.

          4. And yet you claim you comprehend Him well enough to declare what He can not inspire.

    4. I’ve met a number of people over the years who claim to be religious (normally Christian as that is what most churches are where I come from), but the evidence is clear: they are worshiping a translations, and don’t care much about what the God they claim to believe in thinks. Mostly it is either King James (I’ve never met any who have any clue about the Oxford vs Cambridge edition, but reports are this is important to some.) or NIV they worship.

      I make it a point to compare multiple translations to avoid this. The vast majority of the time they are all saying the same thing with slightly different words, but the exceptions are interesting places where I learn a lot. Knowing a little Spanish helps too, Spanish translations are sometimes nowhere close to any English meaning. (my favorite has become the Geneva – in part because I love the look on people’s face when they realize I’m serious when I call King James too modern for my tastes)

    5. I’m not sure how the fact that the division in chapter and verses has been added in the middle ages / early modern era influences its being divinely inspired or not: with the bible having been written (and changed) by humans through many centuries I don’t see what’s preventing a mostly innocuous late change from being inspired just like the much more intrusive changes that happened at various points in the first millennium BCE.

      Which is not to say that either or them is inspired or not, just that they could just as well both be, or neither.

      OTOH, I grew up and live in a Catholic country, and here the diatribes on the specific meaning of one single passage of the Bible tend not to be a thing.

  8. Professor Devereaux, I’ve been really enjoying your blog for the past six months or so. I regret to inform you that you have an appearance of ‘understadnable’ that was clearly meant to be ‘understandable.’

  9. I just want to know what the missing footnotes-in-the-footnote were supposed to be.

  10. I had no idea section numbers were added in the early modern period, I just assumed they were ancient/original

    1. I suspect that much ancient scholasticism relied heavily upon memorization and oral recitation, since writing material was precious and there were not so many people in a ‘class’ that if someone referred to a random bit of text, nobody would know what it was, since you would only have a few people studying under an individual tutor/educator/priest/whatever.

      References were mostly a matter of “[quotation], as [such-and-such author] says” and simply expecting people to be familiar with the material. Oftentimes only the quotation! While citations would have been useful at the time, I suspect many would have looked upon it as a crutch for the less-read (“why tell them where it is? They will only look the particular line up! They won’t read the whole book!”).

  11. Some of my fellow students were a bit confused by the citation-system for ancient works when reading my paper on Curtius Rufus’ portrayal of Bagoas

  12. It seems to vary in how much detail ancient authors cite each other. For example Athenaeus is rather thorough in naming both author and work for the many sources he cites

  13. I hadn’t internalized that ASoIaF doesn’t have unique chapter IDs. That seems really annoying. But given that LotR has not only numbered and titled chapters, but an Index, I suppose GRRM succeeded in getting away from “Tolkienesque” fantasy.

    1. (Seriously, people talk about Tolkien dominating fantasy, but do fantasy books tend to have indices? Non-human protagonists? Distance scales on their otherwise ubiquitous maps? No, they do not.)

      More seriously, I hadn’t realized Bible chapters and verse were so late. Even as a lifelong atheist, I find that vaguely unsettling.

      I guess serial numbers really are ‘modern’? I remember reading that numbering his paintings was an innovation of Lawrence Alma-Tadema, for both ease of reference and forgery prevention.

      I am also reminded of an apparently-fantasy anime where an apparently-magical creature using the phrase “serial number” was one of two early clues that it was really science fiction. (Use of “DNA” was a stronger clue, but still.)

      1. Eh, it’s been fading. Time was that fantasy works sold in direct proportion to how like Tolkien they were.

        1. Though the pulps were selling very un-Tolkien-like fantasy content before, during, and after Tolkien’s own publication, and that sort of low fantasy showed up quite early on. Gnome Press was publishing novel-length anthologies of Conan the Barbarian stories in the years immediately before Lord of the Rings hit the shelves, and a new set of reprints was out within ten years after along with additional original Conan content. Leiber was selling Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories from the 1950s clear through the 1970s, likewise.

          1. The great tolkienesque period wasn’t when the trilogy was published. It was when Sword of Shanara was published and proved the feasibility of ripping LOTR of.

  14. I’ve been reading a book about Tudor England, and it really is interesting how early modern warfare is so different from the total war we tend to think of when warfare is brought up. It’s just such a different beast when raising a couple thousand troops for a campaign in a neighboring country is a strenuous effort by the government, and when they might proceed to be absolutely useless to your cause by catching diseases on the way over until they fall below fighting strength, or their commander decides to disobey a direct order because he’s looking for profit, or by the time they arrive where they need to be the military situation has changed completely because some important noble died after falling off his horse, or something like that. We often tend to think of a conflict like World War II proceeding in clearly demarcated stages, where there’s maybe a few back and forth movements, but by the end there is a clear winning side which absolutely dominates the losers, but if you go back to like the French Wars of Religion its just ‘the advantage has shifted for the nth time in ten years, guess we’ll keep fighting’. I’m not even sure how many times in a single war someone in England suggests paying Casimir of the Palatinate to help the Huguenots or the Dutch or whatever, they don’t give him enough money to recruit mercenaries, he wanders around France for a bit, and then goes home without accomplishing anything. And then if you compare the length of, say, the Vietnam War to the Dutch Revolt, it’s not even a competition.

    1. Absolutely yes. Those maps which colour in areas controlled by each side should be populated by dots – the towns and strong places held by each side, with flags for the allegiance of the local magnate. Hundred Years War is like this – you get Plantagenet places within Valois counties, and vice versa.

      One of my favourite bits from Parker is a quote from a Spanish commander in an outpost – company not paid for many years. His force had been reduced from 80-odd to 17 “but we still formed up in the regulation manner: five shot in front, nine pikes next, a boy and two washerwomen behind”.

    2. Yeah many accounts of Early Modern war make it seem completely shambolic.Though I’ve come to the opinion that might just be the base level of how wars are fought 90% of the time. Which is what makes the remaining 10% of good commanders and effective armies so interesting, history defining and worth studying. I think my big criticism of grand strategy games is how resource and statistic orientated they get which leads to a materially based determinism which simply doesn’t get across how things pan-out. Though i suspect its influenced by perspectives over WW2 (which then get applied to other military history by non-specialists) arguing that the allies won because of a superior resource and production base. The ‘well russians and Americans could pump out x amount of weak tanks whereas germans wasted a bazillion deutschmarks on their Tigers’ is powerful and simple argument so it’s gotten around).
      It’s not like EU4 (forgive me if they’ve done this in an update but I haven’t played it in like 3 years) simulates the fact your pay actually has to reach your soldiers by wagon or ship. Instead your pay is just subtracted from your nebulous treasury existing in the platonic plane of Ducats.
      So you can’t do the (historically verifiable) strategy of disrupting Spain’s treasure fleets coming to the Netherlands with England’s fleet. Instead Spain’s likely to just use its manpower and treasure superiority to finance a a successful invasion in one of the many undefendable coastlines of England and clean out England if England dares intervene in a conflict. Historically this would have been easier said than done. The English rebels in the 1569 Northern Rising barely held on to Hartlepool (a small northern port at the time) as it was, and even if it was a staging ground for a Spanish invasion it would have had to be small. But I’m going on a tangent now.

      1. EU4 has treasure fleets coming from the New World which you can pirate. Though I don’t think you can force them to turn back which the Dutch did a number of times to great effect. Gold being late could be just as much as a problem.

    3. @nico What book was this? I’ve been reading Mantel’s Wolf Hall books and wouldn’t mind other recommendations for the era.

  15. That bit about the citation for manuscripts referring to a back-and-front leaf as a “page” and the two sides as “recto” and “verso” is interesting to me from my Jewish religious education. The Talmud is also traditionally cited like this: e.g. (transliterating Hebrew names and converting numerals) b. B. 21b refers to the Babylonian Talmud (first b), tractate Brakhot (second B), leaf 21, the left (i.e. latter in Hebrew) side.

    An interesting variation is that in writing in Hebrew, sometimes the side a/b distinction is abbreviated to period/colon.

    e.g. (in Hebrew)
    ב. ברכות כ’א:

    (That colon should be on the left side, mixed-RTL typing is annoying.)

  16. “providence made every part of paleography to punish paleographers for their sins”

    As someone with an amateur interest in paleography (but not the will to take on more student debt to pursue it professionally…), I raise my glass to you for this spot-on analysis of the field.

    1. The mandatory paleography bit of our history course is *hell* on the visually impaired, like me.

      1. Oh no, that’s awful. Paleography should never be mandatory! It’s not a remotely accessible discipline, and most historians can do their scholarship just fine using the modern editions that result from the paleographers. At most, perhaps a moment of benediction for the paleographer before digging into a modern transcription would suffice, I should think!

    2. Yep, In my 4 years at university, I went to the first-year paleography lectures in the first terms of three of those years and ran away screaming within eight weeks each time. Old Irish is easier.

  17. I don’t log in to twitter but I do occasionally look at your tweets, and I hope this is an acceptable venue to present evidence that may revise your evaluation of the Malenia fight, specifically the prospect of using a shield

    In this fight the player mostly 2 hands the cross naginata but will use a high guard boost shield to block waterfoul dance, the conjured doubles, and the big dive. This is clearly much easier to learn than pure rolling and there’s scope for incremental progress, for example if one stands through the whole waterfoul sequence one of her hits will get behind the shield, but by walking that’s prevented and the end of the sequence doesn’t make contact. The last double can also get around the shield so it’s safer to learn to roll it, and of course rolling when the real Malenia comes in avoids a heal. The price of using block to make surviving waterfoul dance easier is a longer fight, but that seems well worth paying.

  18. I love the fact that the acronym for the guys who read the entire corpus of classical literature and organized it into a hierarchical numbering scheme is “OCD”.

  19. On the topic of citation systems, I actually devised a citation scheme for the Silmarillion a few years back. You cite the chapter, then paragraph, and then the sentence of that paragraph (though I count this as being divided not only by periods but also by colons and semicolons, because Tolkien sometimes writes sentences with lots of clauses; one sentence at the end of the Ainulindalë has 4 semicolons, for example).

    The chapters are abbreviated: the Quenta Silmarillion (the main part of the Silmarillion) has 24 chapters, identified by Roman numerals, and the others can be identified by their first two letters.

    So, for example, Ai 1:1 is the first sentence of the first paragraph of the Ainulindalë: “There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar;” while IX 10:3 would be the third sentence of the tenth paragraph of “Of the Flight of the Noldor” (the 9th chapter of the Quenta Silmarillion): “And he [Fëanor] cursed also the summons of Manwë and the hour in which he came to Taniquetil, thinking in the madness of his rage and grief that had he been at Formenos his strength would have availed more than to be slain also, as Melkor had purposed.”

    It is somewhat cumbersome to use, because you have to count the paragraphs, and then the sentences in the paragraph, but is consistent.

    1. I created this so I could consistently mark out readings for the Silmarillion lectionary I created. I divided it into 52 different readings, one per week, following Tolkien’s New Reckoning (described in Appendix D and simulated here:

      The readings were read on Friday (in Quenya called Valanya, the day of the Valar and the chief day of the week according to Tolkien). I made an extra reading that would be split out when there were 52 Fridays. The lectionary ended on Yestare, the day the ring was destroyed (March 25).

      I actually did follow it for one year (though I kept falling behind). One problem with it was that the length of the readings varied wildly: the longest one is almost ten times the length of the shortest one.

  20. Versification or chapterification is always a common and interesting issue when working with any sort of ancient texts.

    I worked on a lot of early Chinese materials, and in our field the chapter divisions of Tao Te Ching – the holy text of Daoism – is still a matter of debate.

    The most widely accepted version of Tao Te Ching has 81 chapters, divided in two books in a 37-44 division.
    Yet another transmitted version has 72 chapters. Another has 64. Another has 68. There is also one with 78 – all for the exact same contents.
    Even for the 81 chapters division, different editions differs on the “book” division. Standard edition has 37-44, however there are also 47-34, 34-47, and 36-45.

    And that’s not to say we also have 4 versions of excavated Tao Te Ching manuscripts, written two thousand years ago.
    Only one of the 4 has 81 chapters, the other three either do not have any chapter divisions or have completely different divisions.
    Two of the 4 also have the two-book division completely reversed compared to the standard edition, with standard’s Book I being their Book II, Book II being their Book I.
    The other two are much earlier versions of the text, so their chapter divisions resemble very little of the known versions, so as their contents.

    For the record, although I listed a myriad of different possible chapter divisions of the same text, the text itself is only about 5100-5200 characters long. Which means if you print the text out in A4 papers, the entire text will only occupy about 9 pages.

    That’s basically why ancient textual sources are such a beast to work which.

  21. “In an odd quirk, it is worth noting classical citations are separated by periods, but Biblical citations are separated by colons.”
    I never made that connection, that’s rather interesting. On the whole, historical citation sounds a lot more reader-friendly than the citation system in use in the physical sciences*, where if you want to cite something you just…cite the entire paper it occurred in (which could be tens of pages of dense, technical prose). Where exactly in the paper is it (since papers are—generally—already helpfully split into sections and sub-sections by the author[s])? That’s left as an exercise for the reader.

    At least figures, typically the most important part of a paper, are often cited specifically.

    *At least astronomy where my experience is, though I think other fields are similar.

    1. My experience (mathematics, some physics, and aerodynamics) is that equations are also numbered, and that you can cite the page number in the journal the paper was published in.

      1. Right, I forgot about equations being numbered. I don’t recall ever seeing a page number cited in astronomy, though, even in papers before arXiv existed and an increasingly larger fraction of papers were pulled from there rather than read in a journal. Maybe it’s just that exact citations are generally less useful than broad references to results and methodology in the physical sciences.

  22. OT, but I hope other people noticed the quote in today’s WSJ: “A military can’t be better than the social system it grows out of.” A very Devereuxian insight.

  23. “but in a scholarly rather than wiki-context, one can just pick a specific edition, specify it with the facts of publication and use those page numbers”

    This is, to be clear, the same as the wiki-context — if you aren’t specifying what edition you’re using for page numbers in any of Wikipedia’s peer review processes you’re going to be firmly marched towards doing so, and even if an article is just being written for the sake of article-writing inconsistent page numbering will be addressed the same way.

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