26 June 2010

The Doctor: Part Two

1431, Pseudo-Apuleius, Bodleian Library

I wrote here earlier about Dr. Pepagomenos' treatment for gout, and I also wrote up what is known about him, including the fact that he attended Cleofe Malatesta Palaiologina in childbirth and was one of the speakers at her memorial service.  I recently came across a small Italian publication of his notes on medicine, a collection of mostly short paragraphs on drug treatments for specific conditions.

Some of these are copied from Dioscorides, or Galen, or Paul of Aigina, and some appear to be notes he collected from informants.  The first two notes of the book, printed here in Greek and my translation, are what Pepagomenos included on childbirth.
Ἰατρικόν. Παρασημειώσεων τοῦ μακαρί του Πεπαγομένου ἐκείνου.
1. Πρὸς τὸ γεννῆσαι ταχέως γυναῖκα: κολίανδρον κουκκία ια’ δήσας εἰς πηνίον δίδου παρθένῳ κόρῃ, καὶ δησάτω ταύτην εἰς τὸν μυρὸν τῆς τικτούσης, καὶ μετὰ τὸ γεννῆσαι εὐθέως λυσάτω. ‒ ἐκ σμιλακίων ποιήσας στέφανον ἐπίθες ἐπὶ τὴν κεφαλὴν τῆς τικτούσης καὶ εὐθέως τέξεται.

2. Πρὸς δεύτερα γυναικός: παγούρους ποταμίους θὲς ἐπ´ ἀνθράκων καὶ ὑποκάπνισον αὐτήν, ἀγριοκαννάβου ῥίου δίδου πίνειν νῆστις.
Medicine. Notes of the blessed [late] Pepagomenos.
1. For a woman to give birth quickly: bind 11 coriander seeds on a spool; give it to a young virgin girl [who] should bind it on the thigh of the woman in labor. After she gives birth, unbind it quickly -- put a crown of smilax cuttings on the head of the woman in labor and she will give birth immediately.

2. For a woman’s seconds [afterbirth]: put river crabs on charcoal and smoke her, give [her] fasting a drink with grated cinnamon wood.
These notes say nothing about what he actually did in his own medical practice and if any readers know of crabs in the river Eurotas, I would appreciate being informed.  The two prescriptions here are harmless and non-invasive. There are vague, associative, reasons for the use of each of the herbs, but possibly not in the forms prescribed.

Coriander, of which there is a contemporary image above, was considered stimulating, and was used for inducing menstrual cycles and reducing pain.  Smilax, taken internally, was an analgesic for painful menstruation, and for urinary tract infections. Cinnamon was used for nausea, menstrual cramps and heavy menstruation, among other things.  I can imagine that the crown of smilax had some association to crowning.

The book is Demetrio Pepagomeno, Prontuario Medico, ed. Maria Capone Ciollaro. Hellenica et Byzantina Neapolitana Collana di Studi e Testi. Naples, 2003.

23 June 2010


Biblioteca Geral, Coimbra, Portugal

A gift: this wonderful collection of photographs of the most beautiful rooms in the world, cathedrals of the human mind.

22 June 2010

Andronikos Palaiologos

About the ceremony to create a despot, Pseudo-Kodinos says:
The triklinos is prepared: one readies the throne of the emperor where a curtain of gold silk separates the throne from the audience. Among the archons, they wear their insignia, that is the skaranikion and others; those the emperor has designated dress the despot in the interior of the triklinos, at the last moment, in the bi-colored shoes and a violet or red kavvadion embroidered with pearls. The emperor comes out of his chamber with the crown and other insignia to his throne. The curtain is opened, everyone cries out "Chronia polla!" (πολυχρονίζουσι); then the two most important archons lead the proposed despot before the emperor. The emperor standing addresses him: "My Majesty raises you to Despot," and immediately everyone again cries out"Chronia polla!"

One should know that not only when the emperor raises up a despost, but when he confers any office, even the most insignificant, he stands.

The despot kneels and kisses the emperor’s foot. Once he is standing, the emperor puts on his head, with his own hand, a crown ornamented with precious stones and pearls which has four small arcs, in front, behind, and on each side, on which he is named son of the emperor; if it is a relative, there is only an arc in front; this crown is called the stemmatogyrion.  
      * * * * *

This is Andronikos Palaiologos in 1403 or so, when he would have been about four years old.  The inscription over his head identifies him as αὐθεντόπουλος - "Andronikos authentopoulos Palaiologos his son" which indicates that Manuel has officially recognized him as a "true son."  By 1408, when he was eight years old, he had gone through the despot-making ceremony and was installed in Thessalonike as Despot there, under the fortunate guidance of Demetrios Laskaris Leontaris, military hero of the last Palaiologan naval success in the battle of the Sporades.  But that came later.  In 1408 Leontaris was responsible for trying to hold on to Thessalonike for Andronikos.

Like Theodoros the year before, Andronikos was separated from childhood and sent out to put an imperial face on a very fragile imperial city.  The city of Thessalonike was an island surrounded by Ottomans, and for a number of years it had barely been part of the Eastern Empire.  Reports tell of the diminishing population, abandoned houses, and areas within the wall used for farmland.  Unlike Theodoros, Andronikos was given a house in the lower city, and he seems to have been less restricted by his handlers than Theodoros, despite the tremendous insecurity of the city and what must have been constant anxiety about what to do. At least, he was in a real city and not perched up on a mountainside under a bell jar.

Somewhere between 1408 and 1423, Andronikos contracted leprosy.  I had said he had the family disease of gout, in resistance to the various names the chronicles gave his illness
-- leprosy, elephantiasis, and the "holy sickness," which is translated as epilepsy. Tim Miller, authority on Byzantine medicine, kindly explained away my problem with the chronicle sources.  He says that the holy sickness hadn't been the name for epilepsy since the 4th century; the medical people knew leprosy was not generally contagious and a person so affected did not have to be isolated.   A major historian says Andronikos "was prematurely wasted and destroyed by disease" but we don't know when it developed.

We know less about Andronikos than any other Palaiologos.  He was born in Monemvasia in 1400, while his father was visiting Venice, Paris, and London, in search of aid for Constantinople. Two sisters and a brother died there. His uncle, Theodoros I, had sold the major cities of the Morea to the Knights of Rhodes who might be better able to defend them than the Greeks, and had withdrawn to Monemvasia.  Then there were a few years in Constantinople  during which three brothers were born -- Constantine, Michael, and Demetrios -- and Michael died in the palace of plague.

Andronikos had fifteen years in Thessalonike, and much of that time the city was beset by Ottoman raids, and finally the siege of 1423.  He was apparently fairly debilitated from his illness by this time.  After Andronikos handed over Thessalonike to the Venetians on 19 September 1423 -- all of this was done with messengers back and forth to Constantinople for advice and approval -- he traveled, along with his son John, to the Morea on a Venetian galley. 

One of the less-reliable chronicles reports that his friends advised him to sell Thessalonike, and that the Venetians paid him 50,000 ducats, which sounds about right if you consider that they paid 10,000 for Nauplion. [Late correction: I have found the document of the payment and they only paid 2,000 for Nauplion.]  It also says that some of the money he wasted "in a sorry manner" and some he gave to his banqueting companions. I hope he did get some fun out of his life in Thessalonike, but I don't have any confidence in any of that. Venetian documents report letters and emissaries from Andronikos asking them to take the city. [The previous year Theodoros had asked them to take over the Morea -- more on that in another entry.] A letter of 27 July says Thessalonike was a gift, and directs the new Venetian administration to arrange to pay him 20,000 to 40,000 aspers a year out of whatever was left over from the taxes after the necessary administrative expenditures.  That is something like 350 - 700 ducats a year, a comfortable living if he had a small entourage, but hardly imperial.  (It is interesting that they mention Ottoman coinage -- had that become the common currency of Thessalonike and northern Greece?)

The galley left Andronikos off in Nauplion and he went over the mountains to Mantinea for a while. It is difficult to know why: the Google aerial view is extremely interesting, especially if you have been there, but it doesn't explain anything about Andronikos. I don't know where he could have done much spending on that high, austerely beautiful, nearly empty plateau. We don't know if he visited Cleofe and Theodoros at Mistra, or if anxieties about illness on the part of Theodoros kept him away.

He died at the age of 28 or so on 4 March 1429, either in Mantinea, or in Constantinople where he took vows as the monk Akakios ("sinless") in the Pantokrator, and died and was buried there.  Just like his father. A chronicle that gets a lot wrong says that he joined a monastery on Mt. Athos where he died. One source says that when Constantine became Despot -- 1443 -- he made Andronikos' son John governor at the castle of Navarino.  John disappears after that, and he may not even have existed, but some of those wisps of evidence suggest that Constantine made deliberate efforts to be in touch with John, and with Theodoros' daughter Helena, and you don't see that kind of thoughtfulness from anyone else in the family.

We have information about each of his brothers that lets us construct some sort of personality: for Andronikos, we have nothing.  It is easy to make assumptions based on early childhood separation, illness, too much responsibility, and too many threats, but we don't really know who he was.

Tim Miller has a forthcoming book on Byzantine leprosy.  The most useful sources for Thessalonike are the books by John Melville Jones:  Venice and Thessalonica 1423-1430: The Venetian Documents, and Venice and Thessalonica 1423-1430: The Greek Accounts, Archivio del Litorale Adriatico, Unipress, Padua, Italy.

16 June 2010

Evliya in Nauplion

Evliya Çelebi visited Nauplion -- Anapli -- in 1668, at the end of his tour of the Morea.  He loved travel, but he hated travel on boats and he had been putting off attending the siege of Crete which had now been going on for twenty years.  He was not in best reporting form by the time he got to Anapli -- possibly because he did not have time to finish out the notes he took there -- but some of what he says is interesting, and there are a few details not found elsewhere.  There is such a discrepancy between his extensive accounts of the history of Anapli, and his brief notes on everything else, that I suspect he lifted the history from other writers.
One of the first things he did after he arrived was to go up the sixty-five steps of the minaret on Akro-Nauplion in order to see the whole city. While up there, he  made a sketch of "the appearance and the principal buildings of the entire city on a piece of paper."  This has not survived, but he was quite taken with the views in Anapli:
"Outside the city gate that leads in from the lower suburb to the citadel, there is a porch, or loggia, looking out over the harbor. From here, the harbor and the lower city are spread out beneath your feet." (This "porch," by which everyone now enters Akro-Nauplion by foot, is nicely shown there by the round tower on the Schaeffer archaeological map.)
He reported the icy-cold water in the huge cistern on Akro-Nauplion. (I was able to look into this cistern in 1977, when I did not know what I was seeing, but it was fairly extensive and had unmatched columns with unmatched capitals. It was then incorporated into the modern city water storage system, and I have no idea if anyone ever took any photographs. It is behind the rectangle indicated as Zisterne near the bottom of the Schaeffer map .)
He also mentioned the cannon mounted behind wicker shields which are included here in the nearly contemporary view of Nauplion published in Bernard Randolph.  Evliya is the only traveler who mentions the amazing fish invasion:
Every year the grey mullet pay a visit to a magical charm and come into the harbor, at which time they are caught. . . there is a magical fish charm in front of the Castelli (Bourdzi), and the mullet come in under its influence and fall into nets in the hands of the fishermen. This brings a great wealth of fish to the people of Anapli.
(We saw this fish invasion in October 1977 -- Evliya was in Nauplion in October 1668 -- for a couple of days you could almost walk across the harbor on the backs of the fish, and the old men were pulling them out with unbaited hooks.)
Nauplion has long had a Saturday market. In the fifteenth century, it was outside the  walls.  Thirty years ago, it was almost in the same position. Now it occupies the lower end of the long park that divides the old city from the new. In Evliya's time it was a Sunday market, attended by villagers from all the nearby villages and estates. He reported the many mosques, shrines, and tekkes. He said the lower city had three gates. This is one of the rare occasions when his numbers are too small: there were actually four. He reported the "gentlemen of quality" and the boys. Evliya liked boys:
The heart-stopping boys are very famous. These beauties are circumspect and honorable, angel-faced, elegant in form and appearance, and exquisite in delicacy and sensitivity. . . All the fresh youth wear crimson Algerian clothing in colored broadcloth, for they are all young hearties . . ..
The ladies "wear mantles of colored broadcloth and have broad-brimmed hats bound on with ribbons around the cheeks," and he noted the names of Adawiyye's three veiled daughters: Mevzune Kadu, Rabiye Kadu, and Amise Kadu. The slaves were mostly of European origin "with names like Perviz, Shehban, Behzad, Muli, Bali, and Feroz. These were males. The female slaves "have names such as Reproof, Secretary, Dispossession, Elevated, Amber, Soul's Ransom, Passionate." Evliya said little about the Greeks. They lived in the western section of Akro-Nauplion, the part that has been called "castle of the Greeks" since the 13th century. He said there were "seven monastic and patriarchal churches" though that is unlikely. He said that "most of the populace are sailors or naval carpenters . . . and there is an entire class of watchmen and castle sentries." There were also three Greek doctors -- Benefşeli, Mihalaki, and Manolaki, a slave.
Evliya's numbers are always tricky. He writes about the numerous public baths -- you can see the last remaining bath just below the Byron Hotel -- and seventy private baths, amd the many fountains, and while the private baths may be a bit much, the Venetians who arrived twenty years later did find 37 fountains. The water for these fountains came from two sources. "That from Kasim Paşa (Agia Moni) is sweet. The other sources is from Old Anapli. (Tiryns) It is flat and bitter." (Thirty-some years ago the same comparison was still being made, and in fact, the two springs have very different flavors.
The Ottomans who took over in 1540 had built an aqueduct into the city, and the remnants of their fountains are popular targets for tourist photographs, although most of what is seen now comes from Ottoman reconstruction after 1715. (I found ten fountains last year. Both of these fountains here belong to houses I think date originally from Evliya's time.) The cisterns for Anapli's fountains are quite remarkable and several survive. One serves as the crypt-chapel for the Catholic Church. Another, immediately across from Ag. Spyridon, is a luxurious bathroom for the Amfitriti Hotel.
Evliya reported 200 shops. The Venetians found 113, so he was not outlandishly far off. He said there were 1,600 great mansions, and the Venetians listed 795 houses in all, so these numbers suggest that it might be possible to come close on occasion by dividing Evliya by two. At the harbor, the numbers really begin to wander: "A thousand ships can lie here if they are moored so close together that the gunwales crack against one another, but if they lie loosely at anchor . . . it is a safe harbor for three hundred ships." (Maybe two hundred fishing boats squeezed together?)
While he was based in Nauplion, he went down into the Argolid peninsula to Avgo, Methana, Poros,Thermissi and Kastri, then up to Kazarma, Kutzi, Corinth, and back to Nauplion, staying at the great estates where he seemed to know all the landlords. He finally was not able to avoid going to Crete, and in fact, the fleet with which he sailed tipped the military balance and forced the Venetian surrender the next year. The grand admiral of the Ottoman navy arrived in Nauplion with his ships, and interrupted Evliya at dinner:
Welcome back, Evliya my lad . . . Quick now, Bre, jump into my galley and let me take you across to Crete. . . . so I sent six of my horses, three of my slaves and two loads of heavy baggage off to Zekeriya Efendi's tenant-farm estate at Kutsi. (On the road to Argos, this was one of the largest private landholdings the Venetians identified twenty years later.) For my humble self, I kep one horse, one trunk of clothing and three slaves, and thus lightly and simply equipped . . . I went with Zekeriya Efendi and boarded Abdi Paşa-zade Hasan Bey's dark-colored war-galley, taking along my horse and slaves. That evening your humble servant spent in the stern cabin with Hasan Paşa, in pleasant conversation and in readings from the Koran.
The quotations are from Pierre A. MacKay's translation of Evliya's travels in the Morea. This post is in support of the Evliya Celebi conference that began Thursday in Istanbul.

09 June 2010

PS, Part Four: About Distinctions

Large Spotted Cats
In working on the entries for the Leopard Wranglers, I read five different books on Gozzoli and the frescos in the Medici Chapel. Not one of the authors in those books -- all art historians and so presumably trained to look at details -- managed to make the distinction between leopards and cheetahs that Gozzoli did in the frescos, although one did use a shotgun-technique of referring arbitrarily to "leopards," "cheetahs," and "hunting leopards." [Late note: Joan Lloyd in African Animals in Renaissance Literature and Art makes the distinction.] Gozzoli paints both cats together here.
 The cheetah -- the hunting leopard -- is on the horse.  The leopard is on the ground.  Cheetah spots are single, like thumb-prints.  Leopard spots come in clusters, as if printed by your fingertips bunched together.   Gozzoli makes the animals different colors, though they are actually about the same, and shows clusters of four spots for the leopard: it is much more likely to be five. The spot distinction is really all one needs for the cheetah-leopard issue.  If you bring in other species of spotted cats, which we will not do here, you may need more help.  If you are concerned with hunting any of them them, you have no business here at all. The medievals did not help the distinction by calling cheetahs "hunting leopards," except that it indicated that they were well-aware that there was a distinction. For them, the essential difference was that cheetahs are easily trained to hunt with humans.  They are magnificent fast animals, perfectly designed for Art Deco imagery, with exaggeratedly small heads and large haunches. A leopard of the same body length as a cheetah is, but with a larger, proportionately broader skull.  They are over all heavier, bulkier, and highly resistant to training. They are killers, tracking and pouncing over comparatively short distances, but they are not good over long distances.  Leopards were collected for their beauty and exotic qualities, along with lions, ostriches, and cheetahs -- and that is why two of them are shown in the Medici frescos -- but serious hunters wanted the cheetahs. The painters, frankly, did not pay much attention to the head and skeletal distinctions between the animals, but they were very clear about the spots. In the entry (link above) I wrote about Nick Nicholas' exhaustive article on the topic of nomenclature.  Knowing the differences between the names and animals is not a major life skill necessary for most people: knowing that there are differences and how to look for them is. [Late note: that may not be a leopard.  Please read the comments at the end of this.]         
I have read too many comments this year identifying the imperial Palaiologan hat as a skiadion, a shade-hat. Interestingly, it is almost impossible to find a contemporary Greek representation.  The only one I know, I have used here before, but it has nice detail. 
Pseudo-Kodinos, who told us about the Leopard-Wranglers, has a lot of entries on the skiadion. "The skiadion of the despot is entirely covered with pearls, on his aer (see the tails on Manuel's hat below) is his name in gold embroidery. . . . If [the despot is a young boy] he is on horseback, he wears the skiadion. When he becomes an adolescent, he wears the skiadion in the palace. . . the skiadia of the relatives of the emperor, who are despots, are red and gold, embroidered with gold thread, and have a cross embroidered with pearls. . . The skiadion of the sebastokrator is red and gold, embroidered with gold thread.  His aer is like that of the despot."   Headgear is not enough to distinguish rank at the Palaiologan court.  You need the full description of robes and colors, embroidery on robes, and colors of shoes to have any sense of security, but it does let you know that however poor the empire had become, there was full employment for the gold-embroiderers. The skiadion has been repurposed in the witch hat.
Update: one of my most faithful readers sent me another late 15th C image of skiadia, from the Istituto Ellenico in Venice. Emperors might have worn the skiadion in private, but in public performance -- at least in the West because that is where the images come from -- they wore the kamelaukion.  I don't know if the name refers to a camel's hump.  It is rounded and sectioned, rather like a melon, and is sometimes called a melon hat.  John's had jewels on top that could be changed.  To my knowledge, there is no Byzantine image of an Emperor in a kamelaukion, but the Westerners loved it and made images of Manuel II, John VIII, and Thomas Palaiologos.  This is Manuel, more or less -- his beard was white -- from the Tres Riches Heures of the Duc du Berry.
John's hats are more familiar, and he was more concerned about his personal style.
It is difficult to get good photographs of images of Thomas, but he is shown here from the tomb of Pius II who made a feeble effort to make him Emperor:
Western artists, when not painting visiting Palaiologoi, used the kamelaukion to represent "exotic person from Eastern country where they have better hats than us." 
There is only one Byzantine representation of a kamelaukion that I have been able to find, and I have given it an entry of its own, the portrait of Manuel Laskaris Chatzikis at Mistra.  There are, I think, exceptional reasons for this portrait, but you will have to read about them there.
Further update: the same reader found a miniature image of kamelaukia in the 14th-C manuscript of the Tale of Alexander in the Istituto Ellenico of Venice.  Here, even though by a Greek artist, they are used to identify exotic foreigners.  So it may not indicate Palaiologan use.

07 June 2010

The Emperor in Pain: Part Two

I wrote earlier about the physical pain suffered by John VIII. This entry is going to be about John's salad and why his brother Theodoros wouldn't go to bed with his wife. 

Look at this picture of John's right ear, made in Florence 1439, when we know he was in severe pain:

I didn't see it at first, but Dr. Tom Morgan, with whom I was consulting about the reported incidences of gout among the Palaiologoi,wrote me about the earlobe:  "Several people to whom I have shown the images believe that there is a round swelling in the posterior, lower earlobe. What this may be is a gouty tophus, that is, a collection of uric acid crystals with surrounding inflamed, swollen tissue."    

Dr. Morgan summarizes gout this way: "Gout is due to abnormal production of uric acid from the diet and thus to increased amounts of uric acid in the bloodstream. The uric acid forms needle-like crystals especially in the joints and kidneys.  When the needles occur in the joints - especially in the great toe [podagra] - pain, often severe, and swelling occurs. The slightest movement induces severe pain; not only in the feet but also in the hands, wrists and elbows. The pain is episodic and debilitating and may be accompanied by fever and malaise. Ingestion of meat (especially kidney, brain, pancreas) and alcohol leads to high levels of uric acid and precipitates attacks."  

The same feature can be seen on the earlobe of the bust Pisanello made of John the same year, 1439. John was diagnosed by contemporaries as having gout, as was his uncle Theodoros I of Mistra, and his younger brother Andronikos who died of it in his twenties. 

On July 27 of that year, John -- with quite a large entourage -- was returning to Florence from a religious pilgrimage, which is shown on the reverse of the medal Pisanello also designed.  They stopped in Pistoia and asked Giovanni di Pigli for a place where John could rest and get something to eat.  Giovanni wrote down what happened that day, commenting that John had difficulty walking:

"And note, the first food the Emperor ate was a salad of purslain and parsley, with some onions, which he himself wished to clean. After that there were chickens and pigeons . . . As the dishes came, they were all placed before him, and he took what he wanted, and sent them along to the others. His last dish was eggs thrown on hot bricks where the other things were cooked."  

You may be asking just what the salad and the gout report of 1439 have to do with Theodoros' private life which centers on 1421.  John's earliest reported episode of gout was in 1432 so he can be discounted for a while. Recall that Theodoros was sent to Mistra in 1407 at the age of 10.  His uncle Theodoros I, Despot of Mistra, was dying in extreme pain from gout so the child was able to watch the sores, the smells, the excruciating pain, and know that this is what happened to people in his family. His brother, Andronikos, despot of Thessalonike, suffered extremely from gout.   Andronikos had a son, although we don't know how old he was when that happened, but in 1421 he was 21 years old.  [Late correction:  Andronikos actually didn't have gout.  Read this.]

In 1415, their father Manuel had visited Andronikos in Thessalonike, and then Theodoros in Mistra.  Traveling with him was the doctor Demetrios Papagomenos, a specialist in gout, and respected enough that his treatise on gout -- written at Manuel's request -- was continually printed, first in Greek and Latin in Venice in 1517, and then steadily afterwards in various translations for the next 250 years.  Manuel left Pepagomenos in Mistra to be court physician for Theodoros.

We can be absolutely positive that two of the books Theodoros owned and read thoroughly were Pepagomenos on gout, and his father on marriage. The combination would have been anything but encouraging to a young man. This is where the salad and Theodoros' marriage come together.

Pepagomenos' treatise on gout is about prevention and probable cure.   Cure consisted of planned vomiting, purging, and bleeding -- getting the bad humors out of the body.  Prevention consisted of a light diet, with a lot of green leafy vegetables and avoidance of meat and wine.  Eggs were fine.  (See what John was eating above.) And avoidance of excess sexual activity because -- I love this -- the motion required in sexual activity shook up the little particles in the body and precipitated them into the legs and joints.  Pepagomenos didn't specify what excess might mean, but he himself was married and had two adult sons, so the average intuitive person might have drawn reasonable conclusions from that.

But Theodoros, on the other hand, who was raised by clerics and intellectuals in an all-male environment -- except for  the cleaning women and laundresses -- learned nothing of marriage but a great deal about how to be a hyper-intellectual.  The poor man was set up to make the decision in 1421 -- perfectly rational from what he knew from books -- that sex, even in marriage, was something he could not do, if he was to avoid his uncle's fate. There is no doubt that he was encouraged in this by his religious advisors, particularly John Eugenikos who for reasons unclear to me is highly regarded even today as an intellectual but who totally opposed any Union of the churches, and who -- after Theodoros had married Cleofe and had a child -- was still encouraging him to take monastic vows.   (All wrong.  I have learned too much about Eugenikos.)

Sometimes these Mistra people are enough to make you want to forego the intellectual thing altogether.

We also have a letter from Battista (#3) reporting that Theodoros had said he would not have sex with Cleofe and he would not eat meat.  She seemed to have learned this at least second-hand, and by word-of-mouth, so the reasons might not have filtered through, or been understood.  But Theodoros who as a lonely child had watched the extremes of gout was desperately afraid.  This is, to be sure, another reading of the not-eating-meat statement which is conventionally interpreted to suggest that meat inflames sensual passions, but I have come to think that too simple an explanation.

The writing of history depends on survivals, coincidences, intuition, likelihood -- and faith that all of those can, together, make sense.

My gratitude to Vittorio Volpi, incomparable librarian in Iseo-Brescia, for tracking down those Pepagomenos PDFs for me.

03 June 2010

Pure Pleasure: Peacocks

Villa of Poppaea, 1st C.

It is time for pleasure, and few things are more pleasurable than peacocks.

S.ta Costanza, Rome, 4th C.

Dioscorides manuscript of Anicia Juliana, 6th C.

--> -->
Rotunda, Thessalonike, 4th C.

I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud with ivy cirlced round
I saw a sturdy oak creep on the ground
I saw a pismire swallow up a whale
I saw a raging sea brim full of ale
I saw a Venice glass sixteen foot deep
I saw a well full of men's tears that weep
I saw their eyes all in a flame of fire
I saw a house as big as the moon and higher
I saw the sun even in the midst of night
I saw the Man that saw this wondrous sight.

Rotunda, Thessalonike, 4th C.

Identification  misplaced.

Mark you how the peacock's eye
Winks away its ring of green,
Barter'd for an azure dye.
And the piece that's like a bean,
The pupil, plays its liquid jet
To win a look of violet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Al Jazari's model for a drinking fountain, Topkapi Museum, ca. 1000?

Benozzo Gozzolo, Medici Chapel, Florence, 1460

Domination of Black

At night, by the fire,
The colors of the bushes
And of the fallen leaves,
Repeating themselves,
Turned in the room,
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
Yes: but the color of the heavy hemlocks
Came striding.
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.

The colors of their tails
Were like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
In the twilight wind.
They swept over the room,
Just as they flew from the boughs of the hemlocks
Down to the ground.
I heard them cry -- the peacocks.
Was it a cry against the twilight
Or against the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind,
Turning as the flames
Turned in the fire
Turning as the tails of the peacocks
Turned in the loud fire
Loud as the hemlocks
Full of the cry of the peacocks?
Or was is a cry against the hemlocks?

Out of the window,
I saw how the planets gathered
Like the leaves themselves
Turning in the wind.
I saw how the night came,
Came striding like the color of the heavy hemlocks
I felt afraid.
And I remembered the cry of the peacocks.

Wallace Stevens