Thursday, October 30, 2008


Notre message pour audjord-hui, c'est la pensée de Balzac sur le pouvoir humain: Tout pouvoir humain est un composé de temps et de patience; les gens puissants veulent et veillent. Je trouve cela fort intéressant parce que c'est la verité. La politique est à propos de pouvoir trouver l'opportunité. Jules César a trouvé sa opportunité en conquérant la Gaule et en traversant le Rubicon quand il a dit Alea iecta est 'Le sort en est jeté.'

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Le Paysan et le serpent

Je suis allé à la bibliothèque ce weekend parce que je m'ennuyais fort, où en chercant quelque chose d'intéressant, j'ai trouvé Les Oeuvres Complètes de Eustache Deschamps publiées en 1878 par la Société des Anciens Textes Français. Dans ce livre, il se trouve beaucoup de chansons et ballades au sujet de la morale, de Paris, et cetera. Une des ballades que j'ai bien aimées, c'était laquelle nommée par l'écrivain Autre Ballade et par l'éditeur Le Paysan et le serpent p. 120-1. La voilà:

J'ay leu et veu une moralité
ou chascuns puet assez advis,
C'uns paisans qui, par necessité
Cavoit terre, trouva un serpent bis
ainsi que mort, et adonques l'a pris
Et l'apporta, en son celier l'estent;
La fut de lui peus, chaufez, nourris;
Mais on rent mal en lieu de bien souvent.

Car li serpens plains de desloyauté,
Roussiaulx et fel, quant il se voit garis,
Au paisan a son venin getté.
Par lui li fut mal pour bien remeris
Par bien faire est li povres homs peris
qui par pitié ot nourri le serpent;
Moult de gens sont, pour bien faire, honnis,
Mais on rent mal en lieu de bien souvent

C'est grant doleur quant l'en fait amisté
A tel qui puis en devient ennemis;
Ingratitude est ce vice appellé
Dont pluseurs gens sont au monde entrepris
Retribuens le mal a leurs amis
Qui leur ont fait le bien communement
Ainsis fait on, s'en perdront paradis;
Mais on rent mal en lieu de bien souvent.

Selon l'éditeur, la fable au dessus n'est pas nouvelle. La fable vient des fables d'Esope, mais ce que j'en trouve admirable, c'est le rime et le dernière ligne:
Mais on rent mal en lieu de bien souvent
Le rime marche bien pour toutes les strophes.

Je pense que je traiduirai ce poème en anglais un de ces jours.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Cross of David Last Emperor of Trebizond

This piece I just finished translating to put here for what it tells of the last emperor of Trebizond, David Komnenos, who was killed by Mehmed II in 1463. I intend later to detail his death in relation to this work and add in more commentary, but for now this will have to suffice. Does anyone know if the cross still exists?

From Sathas Bibliotheca Graeca Medii Aevi III. Venice 1872. pp. ρα΄-ργ΄

Sophronios by the grace of God archbishop and ecumenical patriarch of New Rome and Constantinople may grace, peace, and mercy be to everyone through God Almighty: first kings and princes, magnates and officers, archpriests and bishops, abbots and priests, and finally simply everyone.

Let it be known to all that when the our home city, the queen of cities, the seat of the emperors, the city that is of Constantinople, fell, many holy things of the faith were destroyed shamelessly by the godless Turks including icons of the Virgin Mary and all the saints, as well as holy objects such as vessels and Bibles, precious stones, and other such holy things. Witnessing all of it, we wretched men struck our chests and were dumbfounded crying rivers of tears wearied by gasps due to unbearable grief. Not long after, the city of Trebizond, a great and famous city, the seat of an emperor, was taken itself by the godless Turks and was enslaved most bitterly, while all of its well-born men were brought to the city of Constantine, along with them David emperor of Trebizond. After a few days had passed, the infidel killed him along with his three sons, while all his belongings passed to the lord of the Turks. In this seizure, a cross came into the hands of his head doctor Jacob, who was previously a Jew, though he later became a Turk.

This cross is crafted of pure gold with four parts and on each part five hyacinth stones making the pattern of a cross. Altogether there are twenty stones and on each part besides the stones already mentioned there are two pearls, eight altogether. On the fourth part of the cross in the middle there are four big stones which were sphere-shaped when discovered. In the very middle of the cross there is a very expensive stone, hard to come by as only emperors can possess, it is filled with great grace and colors, of such beauty and intricacy that anyone who sees it is amazed, as we were ourselves astounded seeing it. Below it hangs a sphere-shaped, golden encolpion having within one of the iron nails that nailed into the flesh of Christ. The letter inscribed on the encolpion reveal their faith. On one side of the said stone it reads: This stone shall you much bravery, stranger, if you deem to follow in its very footsteps. The other side bears the name of the great deed doer and emperor Alexios Komnenos, since the said cross was made for him. That it is an iron nai in the encolpion is born witness to from the precious stones. Outside of the cross, there is a silver chest on which the front face is inscribed Christ Conquer, while the back there are four letters letter Epsilons for Euren eurema ek Theou Elene “Helen a discovery made with God.” It is also written on the four faces. In the middle, it has a two headed eagle, which is an imperial insignia, while below the eagle, there are two letters A.K. for Alexios Komnenos.

This infidel had the cross in his hands, when an officer of well-born station, not without his share of supreme virtue, reverent of the divine on high, named George Polos, came to him learning about the cross completely consumed by desire to get it out of lawless hands to get it into the hands of a most Christian lord so that the divine might not be in the hands of the impure. For this reason, he bought it with much effort at great expense from him having now taken possession of it. Having coming to our Moderacy, he begged and asked his to give him our written confirmation over the said cross because it is an imperial item and it precious to emperors quite correctly so. We bear witness to it being truly of Alexios the great emperor, while we have discussed in brief its forms and position in brief above. For the credit of all those who encounter it, the present confirmatory letter was issued by our Moderacy to the well-born officer, sir George Polos in the month of August. Dated August ind. 12 in the year 6982 (1472).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

George Phrantzes: Introduction

George Phrantzes was a Byzantine historian during its final years who has left a brief, short chronicle detailing its final years. As the protovestarios, a high Byzantine court official, he lived through its most tragic events including the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the aftermath of its fall. His chronicle, however, is very brief and almost laconic in its entries which are concerned with the events in the best sense of a chronicle and not the analysis that comes with the typical Byzantine history. It consequently has few literary pretentions like the histories of his contemporaries Laonicus Chalcocondylas and Michael Critobulus who write in a purist form of Attic Greek in comparison with Phrantzes' plain chronicle style. I, personally, however, find it interesting to analyze his introduction, which has been translated below.


It would have been good for me had I not been born or died as a child. Since this did not happen, let it be known that I was born on Tuesday, August 30, in the year 6909 (1401 A.D.) and reborn through the most holy Saint Thomais, about whom we shall narrate truthfully at the appropriate point.

Saint Thomais mentioned above is not to be confused with St. Thomais of Alexandria or another Byzantine saint of that name from Lesbos whose biography is translated in Holy Women in Byzantium by Paul Halsall online at, but the saintly woman Phrantzes knew throughout his life as detailed in Chapter 18.

What is interesting is the melancholy that our former Byzantine officer expresses. It is interesting to note that Phrantzes alludes to Matthew 26. 24, "Woe on that person, by whom the son of God is betrayed, it would have been good for him if that man had not been born." It seems as though Phrantzes implies he is Judas who betrayed Jesus Christ. I think it is a beautiful way of expressing his regrets over his sins and wish that he had died, perhaps, at the fall of Constantinople.