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Walter Berschin  

From the Middle of the Eleven Century to the Latin Conquest of Constantinople

From: Greek Letters and the Latin Middle Ages.
From Jerome to Nicholas of Cusa.
Translated by Jerold C. Frakes.
Revised and expanded edition.
The Catholic University of America Press,  http://cuapress.cua.edu/


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6. Pisa

Interpreting and translating are associated with urban culture. Ιn the monastery, village, and citadel there was rarely if ever the need for someone who knew a language other than the native language or that of the religion. On the other hand the large city provided the opportunity for many languages to come into contact. It was not by chance that translating and interpreting decreased drastically in late antiquity with the depopulation of the great commercial urban centers. They revived when the cities began to blossom -most rapidly among the firstborn of modern Europeans, the Italians.  

The most important home of Western translators during the high Middle Ages -next to the Greek capital, Constantinople- as the city of Pisa. This city at the mouth of the Arno had built a sea empire for itself through daring expeditions against the Saracens in Sardinia and the Balearic Islands, and its horizons stretched from the empire in the north to Sicily, from the islands off the coast of Spain to Constantinople and Jerusalem. The translators of Pisa participated "in litteris" in the extension of the "ancient magnificence" of the Pisan generations that designed cathedrals, baptisteries, and city towers on the green plain before the old city in revived classical form as a new focal point of sovereign authority.79

The scholarly ambitions of Pisa seem to have been aroused by the school of Salerno and were initially concerned with Arabic. Valentin Rose drew the information from the manuscript tradition that Johannes Agarenus (Sarracenus) or Afflatius, the student of Constantinus Africanus, continued the translation of the Liber Pantegni with a Pisan physician named Rusticus. This translation is supposed to have been executed during the military expediton of the Pisans against Arabic Majorca in 1114-15.80 

Ιn 1127, a certain Stephanus, philosophiae discipulus, had begun working on a new translation of the Liber Pantegni in Syrian Antioch, which had become a Latin city as a result of the first crusade.81 While the first section of the medical work of Ali ben Abbas, the Theorica Pantegni, was primarily circulated in Constantinus Africanus' translation, the second section became known in the translation by Stephan of Antioch: Practica Pantegni et Stephanonis.82 Both men translated from the Arabic. According to a reliable tradition, this Stephan was a Pisan; the Pisan quarter of Antioch, which had existed since 1108, had the same causal relationship with this translator from Arabic as did the Pisan quarter in Constantinople with the later translators from Greek. Stephan added a trilingual (Arabic-Greek-Latin) list of technical terms to his Liber Pantegni or Liber regalis (after the Arabic al-Malaki), Medicaminum omnium breviarium or Synonymus according to Dioscorides, and noted that "there were experts in Greek and Arabic to be found in Sicily and Salerno (where one could especially find scholars of this discipline), whom anyone could consult who so desired.83 This passage is usually interpreted as a reference to the years of apprenticeship served by Stephan the Pisan-Antiochian translator in Salerno and Sicily.84

With the triple star of Burgundio, Hugh Etherianus, and Leo Tuscus, Pisan translation turned from Arabic entirely to Greek. Burgundio of Pisa (d. 1193) served his native city as iudex his whole life -not as a legal scholar, as they appeared at that time in Bologna, but rather as "a practicing judge in an Italian commune."85 He must have been a young man when he took part in the disputation in Constantinople in 1136, mentioned above. It is possible and even probable that he obtained his knowledge of Greek in the Greek capital; since 1111 there had been a Pisan quarter there, in the best possible location for foreigners. Merely in order to retain this important foothold (against the Genoese, for instance, who would gladly have appropriated it from the Pisans), Pisa required men who knew Greek and were experienced in legal matters, and Burgundio was obviously the first choice of his countrymen for this position.

Burgundio was one of the three Pisans who led the important embassy to Ragusa and Constantinople, which lasted for three years (1168-71). Burgundio's son died during the journey, which became the motivation for one last great work of translation. The small, but in the development of Roman law during the Middle Ages important, translation of the Greek passages in the Digesta of the Corpus Iuris Civilis is also related to Burgundio's career as iudex. Perhaps he finished it right after the famous codex of digests, even today simply called the "Codex Pisanus," a pandect written soon after the promulgation of the 1aw code (16 Dec. 533), probably in Constantinople; the text fills more than nine hundred folios. Ιn the early Middle Ages, this valuable book was in southern Italy, perhaps in Amalfi, from which the Pisans are supposed to have taken it as booty. From the twelfth century on it was in Pisa, where it was preserved as a treasure until Florence, as the victor over Pisa, seized the work in 1406. Florence, Biblioteca Laurenziana, "Codex Pisanus"; facsimile ed., Iustiniani Augusti Digestorum seu Pandectorum codex Florentinus olim Pisanus (Rome, 1902-10); CLA, ΙΙΙ, 295. The most important codex for the Greek passages which Burgundio translated into Latin is Leiden, d'Ablaing 1; see H.Fitting, "Bernardus Cremonensis und die lateinische Übersetzung des Griechischen in den Digesten," SB Berlin (1894), pp. 813-20; Classen, Burgundio, pp. 45-50 (bibliog.).

Burgundio owed the impetus for his first great translation enterprise to his countryman Pope Eugenius ΙΙΙ (Bernhard of Pisa, pope from 1145-1153), the same pope who prompted Anselm of Havelberg to write an account of his disputation. Ιn 1148, he began to translate the ΕΕCΙC ΑΚΡΙΒΗC THC OPΘOΔOΞOΥ ΠΙCΤΕΩC of John of Damascus, the third and most important part of the ΠΗΓΗ ΓΝΩCΕΩC, for the pope.86

Ιn 1151, Burgundio translated John Chrysostom's ninety homilies on

Matthew for Eugenius ΙΙΙ. Ιn the preface, he describes how he came to the translation:87

Since there were two versions of the commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew by the blessed John Chrysostom, both of which go back to him and neither of which was completely finished, Pope Eugenius ΙΙΙ, the most scrupulous man in all respects, mindful of his role as the father of all for the general benefit of the entire world, took pains to bring the aforementioned commentaries to a proper conclusion. But since this task was not to be accomplished on this side of the sea, due to a lack of copies of the text, he turned to lands across the sea. And so he wrote to the patriarch of Antioch so that he might urge some translator to finish that which was lacking in these commentaries. He did not comply with this wish, due either to the laziness or to the ignorance of the translator, and sent the pope the commentary on the Evangelist by this same blessed John in a Greek text. When the bishop [of Rome] received it, he entrusted it to me, his iudex, Burgundio the Pisan, so that my translation could complete the work. When he found out that my version differed in all respects from the two versions mentioned above, he commanded me to publish this third edition.  

And since Ι thought that this far surpassed my capabilities -not only because of the enormous length of the volume, but also due to its level of style and the profundity of its thought [sententiarum profunditate]- I was at first hesitant to subject myself to this task and felt that my back was against the wall, until, trusting in the merit of his request and supported by his promise to go through the entire work critically, Ι undertook to obey his orders with my best efforts. And, more quickly than expected, in the space of seven months, I have faithfully translated this work from Greek into Latin.  

Ιn so doing, Ι did not think that it was appropriate to alter the order [of words] of such a man; Ι translated word for word and preserved not only the sense, but also the order of the words as far as I could without any change [verbum de verbo reddidi, non sensum solum, sed et ordinem verborum, in quantum potui, sine alteritate conservans], so that it might be believed without question, because of the gracefulness of his thoughts no less than because of the peculiarity of his wording of the text, that this is a work of the blessed John, and so that this third edition might be preferred to the other two in the judgment of the studious reader, since it presents the tradition of the orthodox faith in more complete form.

Ιn one further section of the preface, Burgundio introduced John Chrysostom's work itself -its origin as a succession of Sunday sermons, its "serial" character, and its method of commentary, which aimed more at moralitas (not "moral," but rather more like "sens moral") than allegory; with this last observation, Burgundio associated John Chrysostom's homilies on Matthew with Gregory the Great's Moralia in Iob, the work which was read in the high Middle Ages in the West, as it had been during the previous five centuries, with undiminished zeal as a guide to human self-knowledge. With this indication that the reader could also hope to profit spiritually from the work, Burgundio had given Chrysostom's book a good recommendation, and thus he could conclude on a confident note:

Ι offer this sort of book, which was completed as a result of my efforts, to your Majesty, Holy Father, so that, harmonized by the revisions of your eminence and resting on your authority, it might spread through and illuminate the entire world. ... 

Ιn the seventh decade of the twelfth century, Burgundio established relations with the Hohenstaufen court. "Since Milan had been defeated and Italy conquered," he dedicated and sent a new translation of the ΠΕΡΙ ΦΥCEΩC ΑΝΘPΩΠOΥ (De natura hominis) of Nemesius of Emesa to Emperor Frederick Ι. Burgundio was seeking a new patron and protector of his translation work:88

Your Highness, the Emperor, since Ι noted in conversation with you that Your Majesty wishes to understand the nature of things and know their causes, Ι took it upon myself to translate this book, of the blessed Bishop Gregory of Nyssa, brother of St.Basil, in your name, from Greek into Latin. It treats in a philosophical manner the subject of the nature of man, of body and soul, the union of the two, the powers of imagination, discrimination, and memory, and the irrational. ... Ι have the feeling that you are training yourself in this subject, and thus Ι wish to translate something more advanced for you, on the substance of the firmament, its form and movement, and on all natural movements [passionibus] below the firmament, such as those of the Milky Way, the comets, winds, lightning, thunder, rainbows, rain, hail, frost, why the sea is salty and does not increase in volume through the inflow of so many rivers and does not turn into fresh water, and on the cause of earthquakes.

If all this could be brought into the illumination of the Latin 1anguage, by your order and in your time, then Your Majesty would acquire infinite glory and eternal fame, and your state [vestra res publica] would have great profit. ...

Did the scholarly judge from Pisa, which was constant in its Hohenstaufen sympathies, want to encourage the war hero to try to match the Normans with the weapons of the intellect as well? At precisely this time at the court school of William Ι (1154-66) in Palermo, exactly the same sort of scientifico-philosophical translations from Greek were being executed which Burgundio here suggested to Emperor Frederick. ... But Barbarossa was not the rex philosophus which Burgundio wished him to be: nothing more is known of the translations which he offered.89

 Burgundio undertook a great new work of translation in the years 1171-73: in two years of work, he translated the eighty-eight homilies of John Chrysostom on St.John. After he had served the pope and the emperor with his translations, now a personal and religious motive moved him to this translation:90

When Ι was in Constantinople as a legate sent by my fellow citizens to deal with affairs of state with Emperor Manuel, and my son Hugolinus, whom Ι had taken along, died along the way, snatched away by a disease, Ι decided that for the salvation of his soul Ι would translate from Greek into Latin the commentary on the Gospel of John the

holy evangelist, which the blessed patriarch John Chrysostom of Constantinople wondrously wrote -first of all because Ι had already translated the commentary of this same holy father, John Chrysostom, on the Gospel of Matthew the holy evangelist and given it to the late pope Eugenius ΙΙΙ, and also because the Latins sorely needed this commentary on the Gospel of John. Ι discovered, namely, that no one besides St. Augustine had written a continuous commentary on it.91 When Ι could not do this there [in Constantinople] because of pressing community business ... and could nowhere find a copy of the book to buy, which Ι could have then brought back to Pisa with me, ... Ι borrowed two copies from two monasteries and gave them to two scribes to copy, one of whom began at the beginning, the other in the middle, and thus Ι had [the work] in a short time and faithfully revised it day and night in my free time by careful listening. When the business affairs of my city had been brought to a conclusion, Ι received the emperor's permission to return home, came to Messina, stayed on there, and began to translate the book, writing with my own hand, and thus Ι translated continually along the whole way, in Naples and Gaeta, and wherever Ι stayed and could salvage some free time. And finally, against all hope and with the help of God, Ι translated the entire book word for word from Greek into Latin in the space of two full years.

Burgundio still had twenty years to live as he wrote these words; he nevertheless wrote the prologue as if his life were ready to be summed up; the death of his son may have admonished him to do so. Ιn the course of the long prologue, he dealt in great detail with the very literal method of translation, which he thought the right one. Burgundio showed by means of numerous examples, especially from theology (Jerome), jurisprudence (Justinian), philosophy (Boethius), and medicine, and also by referring to John Scottus' Areopagitica, that his translation de verbo ad verbum was the proper one for the subject.92

Ιn recent years there have been two attempts to approach the phenomenon of Burgundio by seeking out the working copies of his translations. Μ. Morani, "ΙΙ manoscritto Chigiano di Nemesio," Rendiconti dell'Istituto Lombardo 105 (1871), 621-35, identified the glosses in the Vatican manuscript Chigi R.IV. 13 (Nemesius of Emesa) as entries by Burgundio the translator. By means of paleographical expertise, V. G. Wilson illuminated the Greek background of Burgundio's translation work in "A Mysterious Byzantine Scriptorium: Ioannikios and His Colleagues," Scrittura e Civilità 7 (1983), 161-76. It is a group of manuscripts that go back to Ioannikios the grammarian, as the Florentine librarian Bandini had recognized in the eighteenth century. Byzantine studies earlier dated the group, to the fourteenth century; Wilson places it in the twelfth. Ioannikios' primary collaborator is identified as a scribe who first learned the Roman script and sometimes retained his Roman scribal habits, such as numbering signatures in Roman numerals, in his Greek work. Ιn addition, marginal notes in Latin occur in two of Ioannikios' manuscripts: Florence, Laur. Plut. LXXIV 5 (Galen, De complexionibus) and LXXIV 18 (Galen, De pulsibus). Since we know that in the last years of his life, after about 1178, Burgundio translated nothing besides Galen and used the above-named Florentine manuscript or a closely related one for De complexionibus (R.J. Durling, Galenus latinus, vol. I: Burgundio of Pisa's Translation of Galen's ΠΕΡΙ ΚPACΕΩΝ "De complexionibus" [Berlin/New York 1976]), we have come full circle: the annotator is Burgundio, who made preparations for his translation by means of notes in his Greek source text.  

One question is solved; others arise. Where was the scriptorium of Ioannikios, in Constantinople or southern Italy? Not just the existence of Ioannikios' collaborator, the trained Latin scribe, speaks for the location of the scriptorium in the West, but also the use of paper, some of which was produced in Spain (Wilson, p. 172). Who were Ioannikios' patrons? Remarkably, his collection of manuscripts has remained together and, since the Renaissance, has been in Florence. Ιn the final analysis, is that which the Florentines snatched from the archenemy  Pisa (just as they did the "Codex Pisanus" of the Digests), also to be a legacy of Burgundio?  

Burgundio died in 1193 at an advanced age and was buried by the Pisans in an ancient sarcophagus in the church of St.Pau1 on the bank of the Arno; they celebrated him in his epitaph, engraved in marble, as a translator, scholar, teacher and commentator of sacred texts.93 He also remained in the memories of his fellow citizens as an authority on medical science,94 and finally also as an irreproachable and indefatigable person, whose constitution so closely corresponded to that of the maritime city that they could condense the memory of him into the distich:


[If you who read this inscription wish so to be praised, go, take to his example on the high seas!]