Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Carolingian Revival Of Classical Latin Literature

I became something resembling in some ways an historian because over and over, I've read books on historical subjects, and I'm full of questions on the historical subject at hand which the book at hand does not address, let alone answer.

A wonderful exception to this rule is Texts and Transmission: A Survey of the Latin Classics, edited by LD Reynolds, which consists of 134 entries by 14 authors including Reynolds, MD Reeve, RJ Tarrant and M Winterbottom, each entry succinctly describing what was known, in the early 1980's when the volume was prepared, about the manuscripts and editions of each of 134 Classical Latin authors and anonymous Classical Latin texts. "Classical" means pre-Christian poems, fiction, history, philosophy, rhetoric and technical and scientific writing. In the case of Latin, Classical means things written for the most part between the 3rd century BC, when the earliest Latin poems, plays and historical writings which have survived were written, and the fifth century AD, when Christians came to dominate not just the governments of Latin-speaking Western Europe, but its literature as well. Reynolds admits that not everyone will agree completely about which authors and texts belong to Classical Latin. However, few if any experts would add or subtract more than a half-dozen authors and texts to or from Reynold's list.

Texts and Transmission is chock-full of things I wanted to know. Particularly wonderful and informative is Reynolds' Introduction to the volume on pages xiii through xliii, an extremely succinct summing up of the entire subject of the transmission of Classical Latin texts. On pages xvii through xxxii, Reynolds writes a much better summary of the Carolingian Renaissance than I ever will.

The Carolingian Renaissance is the renewed study of the Latin Classics done with the support of Charlemagne and his heirs in the 9th and 10th centuries AD. In the midst of Reynolds' description of this renewal, on page xxviii, is a list of 68 Classical authors and anonymous texts, just over half of the total of 134 discussed in the entire book. For each of these 68 authors or texts, there are one or more 9th-century manuscripts known to scholars today.

The Dark Ages is the era from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in AD 476 until the rise of Charlemagne, who was crowned Emperor in Rome by the Pope in AD 800. It's called "dark" in part because the written records of that time are quite sparse. This scarcity of written records in turn makes it possible to speculate about just exactly how bad or good things were in the Dark Ages. And hey, what a coincidence: historians who are Christians tended, by and large, to portray the era as having been much more pleasant and productive and learned and so forth, than historians who are not Christians. Almost everyone on all sides is biased.

But if we're only talking about the survival of and interest in classical Latin literature, then there is no doubt that "dark" is a fitting adjective. There are dozens of surviving Classical Latin manuscripts made before the Dark Ages. From the 7th century, the middle of the Dark Ages, there is 1, a manuscript of Lucan. C Hosius, whose edition of the 2nd-century Roman author Aulus Gellius appeared in 1903, described one manuscript of Gellius as "s vii(?)," meaning he was guessing it was from the 7th century. In Texts and Transmission, PK Marshall describes the same manuscript as 4th-century, with no ?.

Of course, the numbers of manuscripts surviving today from a certain century are not the same as the total numbers of manuscripts made in that century. Manuscripts have been thrown away, used to make covers for other books, burned in furnaces for warmth, destroyed in wars. As recently as the Renaissance, writers described many manuscripts which are gone today. In the meantime, the efforts to preserve them have become more energetic. We don't know how many Classical Latin manuscripts were made altogether in the 7th century, or the 9th. But the fact that we can locate exactly 1 from 7th century (or just possibly 2, but probably 1), and manuscripts for 68 different authors and texts from the 9th, is a very strong indication that some things changed in the 9th century, and that a lot of things were rescued in the 9th century which were on the verge of disappearing altogether. It also fits with what contemporaries wrote about Charlemagne and his activities, how he built schools everywhere and whatnot, and also with what we know about powerful Dark Age figures such as Pope Gregory the Great, and their disdain for non-Christian literature.

(Today, we have hundreds of 7th-century Latin manuscripts from the Bible and other Christian texts, and dozens of 7th-century Latin texts having to do with law, medicine, grammar and surveying.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

There Were Gangs In New York In 1928

I don't know what should surprise me more: Herbert Asbury's assertion in his Introduction to his book The Gangs of New York, first published in 1928, that "there are now no gangs in New York" (Thunder's Mouth Press edition, no date given, but with a copyright 1998 translation of a text by Borges serving as a Foreword, and a blurb on the front cover claiming that Scorsese' 2002 movie is based on Asbury's book, p xiii), or that I can't find anyone who has described this assertion as astonishingly ignorant, asinine and so forth.

Once again, I must do everything myself. Asbury's assertion is astonishingly ignorant. It would be astonishingly ignorant if it had been said by any American in 1928, let alone someone like Asbury who had written an entire book about organized crime in NYC. No gangs in New York in 1928? That's an incredibly asinine thing to say.

No gangs in New York City in 1928? Who, exactly, did Asbury think had furnished the Prohibition liquor he was drunk off his ass on when he wrote that whopper? He concedes (ibid, p xiv) that there are, in 1928, entities known as mobs, but he claims that gangs and mobs are two very different things. I've never heard anyone else claim that gangs and mobs are two different things. Asbury says that gangs had relied on the co-operation of corrupt politicians (p xiv), and seems to imply that political corruption, like gangs, are now, in 1928, a thing of the past.

(I refer the reader to any written account at all of Jimmy Walker, Mayor of New York in 1928. Walker does not appear in the index of The Gangs of New York. But Asbury does mention Tammany Hall -- a sort of huge factory which produced political corruption on an extremely efficient basis in NYC from no later than the 1790's until at least the 1960's, for whom Walker worked -- several times in his account of things which he says disappeared by 1928. It's not clear whether he realizes that Tammany Hall was still in operation in 1928.)

He says (pp xiv-xv) that mobs seldom consist of more than 6 or 8 members, that they are temporarily formed for a series of "robberies or other crimes," that they have no special allegiance to their leaders, and that they don't have rivalries with other gangs or fight with them over turf.

Martin Short, not the guy who's famous for saying hilarious things on purpose, but a British author described on Wikipedia as "best known for his exposés on the Mafia and on Freemasonry," notes that Asbury's assertion that gangs were absent from NYC in 1928, and that mobs were not gangs, is in error, but still says, in his modestly-entitled The Rise of the Mafia: The Definitive Story of Organized Crime, that Asbury is an "excellent [...] popular historian."

It gets sillier: In the New York Times in 1998, a columnist named Joe Sharkey wrote that Asbury was right about the absence of gangs in New York in 1928 -- more precisely, he quotes Asbury to that effect and gives no sign that anyone shouldn't take Asbury's word for everything -- and goes him one better by saying that the Mafia appeared after 1928, and now, in 1998, was completely gone.

Sharkey is just a prominent case, one case of many, of people taking Asbury's word for it. Short is one case of many of people not calling Asbury an idiot for saying there were no gangs in New York in 1928.

Perhaps in 1928 Asbury had spoken with J Edgar Hoover, and Hoover had told him that mobs were not gangs and that gangs no longer existed in New York, and Asbury had taken Hoover's word for it. Hoover said many times over the course of several decades that the Mafia didn't exist, and a lot of people took Hoover's word for a lot of things they shouldn't have.

Perhaps there are reasons why people can take Asbury's word about some things. I don't know.

Friday, January 13, 2017

So, I Finally Googled jessica chastain bryce dallas howard

And I found out I'm not the only one who thinks they look alike.

They're constantly mistaken for each other, it seems.

They're friends and they joke about it all the time.

There have been music videos made on the subject.

It wasn't just me.

Sorry, I don't know which one is which in those pictures.

Wasn't just me.

In fact, I went through the first couple of dozen hits from that Google search, and there wasn't one which was about anything else other than how much they resemble one another.

You're Not Always As Young As You Feel

"Okay, we're getting ready for the 4th quarter of this barn-burner between the Boston Celtics and the Phoenix Suns, and we've had a lot of good guesses to our trivia question: Who is the oldest player in the history of the NBA? but no correct guesses. And I'm really not surprised, because this was a tough one."

"Well, you know, age is just a number anyway."

"No, age is more than just a number."

"You're as young as you feel."

"Again -- untrue. Sometimes some people feel young who are in fact very old. The same way that sometimes some people feel pretty who are not."

"Oh, come on!"

"I'm just being real here."

"Well, if we're being really real here, I've got to call you on that one, because because beauty is irreductably subjective."

"Well played, Sir, you are absolutely correct. But age is irreducably objective."

"I grudgiungly concede the point."

"Anyway, people guessed Robert Parrish, Kevin Willis and Dikembe Mutombo, and those are all very good guesses. Those guys are all in the top 5."

"I guessed Nat Hickey."

"Yes, and so did a few of our callers. Hickey was the head coach of the Providence Steamrollers in 1947-48, in the very early days of the NBA, and he put himself in in 2 games, and he was nearly 46 years old at the time, and, until, let's see, until about 10 years ago he was the oldest player in the history of the league."

"So somebody broke Hickey's record in 2007 --"


"2006. I'm trying to think of guys who'd been in the league for a long time in 2006. You already siad it wasn't Willis or Mutombo."

"This is a tricky one.'





"Grant Hill?"

"No. Okay, I'm going to end your suffering soon. One reason why this is so difficult is because most of the oldest players in the NBA, or the oldest players in most major league sports, have been All-Stars, superstars. This is a solid player, no doubt, or they wouldn't keep hiring him. He's solid, but he hasn't started very many games. As a matter of fact, over the course of his career, he hasn't even appeared in as many regular-season games as he's sat on the bench. Not injured reserve, but active and sitting out the games on the bench."

"You mean?"

"And he's played in this game, tonight."

"You mean Steven Bollinger?"

"That's correct. Steven Bollinger is the all-time oldest player in the history of the NBA."

"I didn't realize he was that old. I mean, yeah, he's got a few grey hairs, he's obviously not a kid -- wait a minute. Wait just a minute. You said Hickey had the record until 10 years ago?"

"I did say that."

"Has Bollinger held the record for 10 years?"

"Yes he has."

"That means he's -- holy shit!"

"Careful, we're on the air!"

"I apologize, ladies and gentlemen. You're trying to tell me that Steven Bollinger, journeyman reserve point guard for the Phoenix Suns, is 56 years old?!"

"Yes. Except, someone who's been in the league as long as he has, I think you refer to him as 'veteran' instead of 'journeyman.'"

"I stand corrected. 56! Wow, no wonder his knees and elbows and wrists are all taped up so often."

"I was talking to him before the game and he said he wished there were some way they could also wrap a hip. Says it might be a trick hip that finally ends his career."

"Did he say that he hurts all over most of the time?"

"As a matter of fact, he did. Not in a whiny way. He wasn't complaining, we were just talking about what it's like to be 56 and trying to keep up with all of these -- kids, from Bollinger's point of view. He actually called me 'Kid,' too. I didn't mind that, because -- well, because he's freakin' old!"

"So, he was drafted -- when, along around the mid-80's? Where did he play in college?"

"He didn't play college basketball, and he wasn't drafted. He declared for the 1979 draft out of high school. 10 rounds came and went and he wasn't drafted, but he managed to get himself a tryout with the LA Lakers, made the practice squad, and by the time the 1979 regular season started, he was on the roster. And he's been either on an NBA roster or an NBA injured reserve, not just every season, but every day of every NBA season since."

"Wait a minute -- he's not the oldest and also the youngest player in NBA history, is he?"

"4th-youngest. And he's also been very outspoken about how he thinks college athletics are a bad deal for athletes. He's called it a brilliant scam to keep from paying professional athletes. And if you look at other countries and how they tend to have a number of different professional leagues for each sport -- very much like how there used to be very many different minor leagues in baseball before college baseball eliminated a lot of them --"

"-- Except that in other countries, instead of minor leagues belonging to a major league franchise, all the teams are independent of one another..."

"-- And teams move up and down from one league to another based on their season records. Exactly."

"Right. So... Steven Bollinger. My goodness. He does not look 56 years old from the neck down. Good for him. 1979 to 2007... So he's in his 38th season in the NBA. I'm guessing his lead in the record category of longest career as a player in the NBA is rather substantial."

"He is nowhere near the lead in most games played, but in number of seasons played, he is 17 years ahead of Robert Parrish and Kevin Garnett."

"17 years and counting."

"Yes. You are correct. You are incorrect when you say that age is just a number and that you're as pretty as you feel, but when you're right, you're right."

Reich Und Beruehmt

(Das DTV-Woerterbuch der deutschen Sprache, Muenchen: 1978, enthaelt einen Fehler: S 642: "Ruhm: durch hervorragende Taten errungenes hohes Ansehen in der Oeffentlichkeit [...]" Hervorragende Taten bedarf das gar nicht. Im Gegenteil, ein ganz ordinaerer Esel, der 'hervorragende Taten' nicht einmal buchstabieren koennte, geschwiege denn verstehen, was eine solche Tat waere, kann so sehr beruehmt sein dass er aus keiner vernuenftigen Ursache zum Praesident der US gewaehlt wird.)

Ich stelle Schrift, und traume davon, so erfolgreich dabei zu sein dass die Buecher stapelhochweise taeglich bei mir erscheinen, Stapel so gross, wie sie bei grossen Zeitungen, und Publisher's Weekly, und ganz hohen Tieren unter den erfolgreichen Schriftstellern erscheinen. Die meisten davon interessieren mich gar nicht, natuerlich, und so sehr oft schleppe ich riesige Menge von Buechern zum Salvation Army-Ramschladen. Die Maenner, die dort Gueter akzeptieren, gewoehnen sich sehr schnell an mich als den Mann, der Riesenmenen von Buechern bringt, und fast so schnell wissen sie auch, dass ich der sehr, sehr beruehmte Steven Bollinger, aka The Wrong Monkey, bin:

"Pass auf, Kerl, wusstest Du denn wirklich nicht? Dies hier ist Steven Bollinger, oder: Der Wrong Monkey, der sehr, sehr beruehmter Steller von Schrift!"

"Warte mal -- ja, ich habe Sie doch vor einigen Tagen auf Stephen Colbert gesehen! Wow, der wohnt wirklich hier in unserer kleinen Stadt? Tut mir leid, mein Herr!"

"Bitte, fuer nichts. und bitte hoere auch auf mit dem 'mein Herr,' bin nicht der Queen von England. Und vor sechs Monaten war ich noch aermer als Euch. Duzen ist von mor aus ganz okay. Nenn mich lieber Steven, oder Monkey, oder sowas. Und auch, sollste wissen -- unsere kleine Stadt ist ein sehr feiner Ort, und viele ganz fabelhaft reiche und beruehmte Leute wohnen hier!"

"In Ordnung, Mr Monkey! Sie -- aetsch. Du hast ganz recht, diese ist eine feine Stadt!"

"Keine Sorge, Steve, ich setzte ihn zurecht!"

"Neu hier, ist er?"

"Ziemlich neu, ja."

"Sorgfaeltig zugehen. Lieber vorsichtig und sanft, denn wer weiss: vielleicht in sechs Monaten wird er noch reicher und beruehmter sein, als ich!"

Kann sein, Mr Monkey. Kann sein. Du hast ganz recht, ich sollte aufpassen und sorgfaeltig sein."

Ich traume auch davon, dass es einen 56-jehriger Mann gibt, der Steven Bollinger heisst und Basketball in der NBA spielt. Dieser Steven Bollinger ist ein anderer Mann, nicht ich, der nur zufaelligerweise 1 Meter 91 hoch steht so wie ich, und graue Haare unter seinen braunen Haaren hat, so wie ich. Aber der ist gar nicht ich. Ich bin erst 55 Jahre alt.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

How Many Of Trump's Supporters Are Hard-Core?

By "hard-core" I mean the idiots who will always believe that he can do no wrong.

The thing is, not all of the people who are currently behind Trump are those hard-core supporters. I see stories about people regretting voting for Trump, but they're anecdotal: so far I haven't seen any estimates of the number of the people who voted for Trump, out of the 3 million less than voted for Hillary, who already regret it.

However, I have seen reports that approval ratings for Trump have already fallen into the 30's. That's low. For a President-elect who hasn't taken office yet, I'm pretty sure it's unprecedented. The hard-core supporters make a lot of noise and grab a lot of attention, but they're not the whole story. In the country as a whole people seem to be backing away from him. How about the fact that just about all of Trump's nominees for Cabinet positions seem to contradict him on some major policy position or another? Not just Congress, not just Congressional Republicans, but his own Cabinet nominees.

Paul Krugman has already mournfully declared that American democracy is over with, that it has ended because Trump has successfully pulled off a totalitarian coup-d'etat. Well, as I've often said on this blog: screw Paul Krugman! The President-elect looks weak to me, and I just can't imagine any way that his hold on power won't get very rapidly weaker as soon as he takes office and starts officially screwing up. The Breitbart crowd will continue to adore him no matter what he does or says, but they're not a majority of Republicans, let alone a majority of the country. For everybody else he will become more unbearable by the day.

And that will be that: impeachment, ejection from office, bring in the next right-wing asshole, Mike Pence, and we'll deal with him for the better part of 4 years.

Assuming Trump doesn't actually resign before his inauguration, because of this or that Russian entanglement, or because somebody finally leaks that "Apprentice" video which is, we're assured, far worse than the "Access Hollywood" clip, or because one of the many other time-bombs all around Trump suddenly goes off.

Approval ratings in the 30's before inauguration. Cheer up, my fellow Democrats.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Manuscripts Of Ancient Texts: Quantity & Quality

Beginning in this Wrong Monkey blog post and then in several others, I've had some things to say about how many manuscripts there are of this or that ancient text -- manuscripts of the Bible, for example, or of ab urbe condita, Livy's history of Rome. I wrote that first post back in 2009 because I'd seen some figures which I suspected, rightly, as it turned out, were way off.

And all along I've realized that the number of manuscripts, by itself, is far from a comprehensive statement about how well the text has survived from ancient times down to our own time. So why have I become so fascinated with learning numbers of this or that sort of manuscript? Maybe because I'm autistic and have an autistic relationship to numbers. However, it has occurred to me that I may have been misleading my reading by giving them such numbers without other information which is very important to understanding the significance of those numbers.

For one thing, sometimes one manuscript of a text is much more significant than many other manuscripts of parts of that text, simply by virtue of length. I was thinking for example of the 4th-century Codex Sinaiticus, which contains the Greek New Testament plus about half of the Greek Old Testament. Still, it's counted as one Biblical manuscript, since it all originally belonged to one copy of the Bible between one set of covers. Over the centuries, many Biblical manuscripts have been made which never contained the entire Bible: some contained the Old Testament, some contained the New Testament, some contained only the Old Testament Book of Psalms, some contained only the four canonical Net Testament Gospels, some contained some other book or a few other books, still others contained just passages from this book and that. Yet, each one is counted as one Biblical manuscript, because each one originally was one bookmaking project, 1 volume which stood alone. When we say "a manuscript of an ancient text," we are referring to a manuscript which contains the entire text, or a tiny fragment of the text, or anything in between.

Actually, the Codex Sinaiticus was not discovered all at once, but in several pieces. But those pieces are all counted together as one manuscript, because originally they were all one huge volume. If any pieces of the rest of that original volume are found, they plus what we now have will still be counted as just 1 manuscript.

When the Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in the 19th century, it was by far the oldest manuscript of any part of the Bible then known. Since its discovery, more Biblical manuscripts have been found which are as only and in some cases even older. But many of these manuscripts are just scraps of papyrus or parchment with only a few words on them. Sometimes it the writing is so brief and faint that it has only been with difficulty that someone has determined that it contains a text from the Bible. But that little scrap, if it can't be shown to have originally been part of the same book as some other little scrap, is counted as 1 manuscript. The Codex Sinaiticus, containing most of the Bible; a 12th-century Psalter (a volume containing just the Psalms is called a Psalter); and a little 4th-century piece of papyrus containing about a dozen words from the Bible: each one is counted as one Biblical manuscript.

But if two or more such little scraps can be shown to have originally been part of the same manuscript, then, just the same as with the pages of the Codex Sinaiticus found separately, those little scraps will now be counted together as 1 manuscript. The same way, if it is proven that a book containing the Psalms and another containing the Gospels were originally made as 1 book, then what used to be counted as 2 manuscripts is now counted as 1. The same way if different pieces of parchment or some other material with writing on them are demonstrated to have originally all been parts of a one-volume Bible.

Another consideration, when we talk about Biblical manuscripts, is that not everyone agrees what is or isn't a part of the Bible. From ancient times down to the present, different groups have included different books in the Bible. And then in the past couple of centuries, manuscripts of books which were rejected by those who eventually became the dominant churches and have been missing since ancient times have been found by archaeologists and others: the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, etc.

Now let's move from the Bible to ab urbe condita, the history of Rome written in the first century BC by Livy. In the case of the Bible, many manuscripts contain an entire Bible, both Old and New Testament, and the Codex Sinaiticus and some other very old manuscripts contain most of it. Of the 142 books of the ab urbe condita, all of the manuscripts currently known, all put together, add up to 35 of those 142 books, books 1-10 and 21-45, plus a couple pages from book 91 and a couple of sentences from book 11. And as far as I know, no single manuscript contains more than 10 books. So, although the total number of manuscripts of Livy is impressively large, the number of manuscripts which contain ALL of his work is 0 -- as compared to however many manuscripts contain the entire Bible, dozens or hundreds or however many it may be.

Another thing: often the greatest specialists in a certain ancient text not only don't know the total number of manuscripts of that text, or even a close guess about how many there are -- often times they don't particularly care how many there are. And they're being more sensible about this than I am, with my hunger to know exactly how many known manuscripts there are of Caesar's Gallic War or Lucan's Civil War. Why? Because every single manuscript doesn't always matter that much when it comes to editing the texts: coming up with the most accurate possible version of the text along with a reasonable number of guesses about variations, given in the footnotes. And editing texts is what a lot of these experts do all day long every day, while I flutter around the fringes of their profession being a weirdo.

Why doesn't every single manuscript always matter all that much? Well, for instance, let's take Ammianus Marcellinus, who in the late 4th century AD wrote a history which he may have considered to be a continuation of the history of the 1st-century-AD history of Tacitus, who may have considered his work to be a continuation of Livy's. Ammianus' history was 31 books long; today we have books 14 through 31 on 2 9th-century manuscripts and 14 15th-century manuscripts. However, it has been shown that all 14 of those 15th-century manuscripts come from 1 of the 9th-century manuscripts, that 4 of them are copied directly from it, and that all 10 of the remaining manuscripts are copied directly or indirectly from 1 of those 4. One page from that 9th-century manuscript is now missing, giving the 15th-century manuscripts most of the scholarly value they now have.

Sometimes an ancient text is known to us from only 1 manuscript. Sometimes an ancient text is known to us from no manuscripts at all. How can this be? It happens if early printed copies of the work survive, but all of its manuscripts have gone missing since they were first printed. That has happened a couple of times. Somewhat more common is that manuscripts survives, but an early printed version still contains some passages which are now missing from all known manuscripts.

And let's not forget Phillip Patterson, who recently spent 4 years' worth of his spare time copying out the King James Bible by hand. That means there's at least one more manuscript of the entire Bible than there were before Patterson started, because a text written with a pen on paper is a manuscript.

The numbers of manuscripts of ancient texts such as the Bible and Livy and Marcellinus tend to drop off sharply after the 15th century, because of the spread of printing, but occasionally a more recent manuscript plays a large role in establishing an ancient text.