On Weights and Measures (Epiphanius)
On Weights and Measures is a historical, lexical, metrological, and geographical treatise compiled in 392 CE in Constantia by Epiphanius of Salamis (c. 315–403). The greater part of the work is devoted to a discussion on ancient Greek and Roman weights and measures.
The composition was written at the request of a Persian priest, sent to Epiphanius by letter from the Roman emperor in Constantinople. Although five fragments of an early Greek version are known to exist, with one entitled περί μέτρων καί στάθμων On Weights & Measures, added by a later hand, this Syriac version is the only complete copy that has survived. Partial translations in Armenian and Georgian are also known to exist. Its modern title belies its content, as the work also contains important historical anecdotes about people and places not written about elsewhere.
Two manuscripts of On Weights and Measures, written in Syriac on parchment, are preserved at the British Museum in London. The older was found in Egypt and, according to the colophon, was written in the Seleucid era, in "nine-hundred and sixty-[...]" (with the last digit effaced, meaning, that it was written between the years 649 CE–659 CE). The younger manuscript is designated "Or. Add. 14620".
The first to attempt a modern publication of Epiphanius' work was Paul de Lagarde in 1880, who reconstructed the original Syriac text by exchanging it with Hebrew characters, and who had earlier published excerpts from several of the Greek fragments treating on weights and measures in his Symmicta. In 1973, a critical edition of the Greek text was published by E.D. Moutsoulas in Theologia.
- Part One
In folios [47a–49a]; [51d–52a]; [56d–57b] Epiphanius names four major translations of the Hebrew Bible, made in the Greek tongue: the LXX made by the seventy-two translators, another by Aquila of Pontus, one by Theodotion, and yet another by Symmachus. A fifth Greek translation was discovered in wine jars in Jericho, and a sixth in Nicopolis near Actium. Afterwards, Origen arranged six columns of the extant Greek translations and two of the Hebrew side by side, naming it the Hexapla. Epiphanius expands his description of the translation of the seventy-two translators (known as the Septuagint) and how they were assigned thirty-six cells, two to each cell, on the Pharian island. Two translators translated the Book of Genesis, another two the Book of Exodus, another two the Book of Leviticus, and so forth, until the entire 22 canonical books of the Hebrew Bible had all been translated into the Greek tongue. The seventy-two translators were drawn from the twelve tribes of Israel, six men to each tribe who were skilled in the Greek language.
In folios [49a–50a] Epiphanius brings down a description of the canonical books of the Hebrew Bible and translations made of the same. In his day, he notes that the Scroll of Ruth and the Book of Judges were joined together, and considered as one book. So, too, the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah were joined, and considered as one book, as were First and Second Chronicles (Paraleipomena) considered as one book, as were the First and Second Samuel (Book of First and Second Kingdoms) considered as one book, and the First and Second Kings (Book of Third and Fourth Kingdoms) considered as one book.
- Part Two
- Prominent figures
In spite of Epiphanius' interest in Jewish themes, his narrative often takes on a distorted and stereotypical view of Judaism, based on the dogmas of his persuasion. Still, he is an invaluable source on the lives of people and places that figure highly in Jewish lore. In folios [54a–55c]; [55c–55d] Epiphanius treats on the lives of two prominent persons who became proselytes to the Jewish religion; the one Aquila (known also as Onkelos) who was a relation of Hadrian, and whom he made the overseer of Jerusalem's rebuilding around 115 CE. The other person of interest who is described by him is Symmachus, also known as Sūmkos (Hebrew: סומכוס) in rabbinic literature. Symmachus is mentioned as belonging originally to the Samaritan nation, and is said to have converted to Judaism during the reign of Verus. He subsequently underwent a second circumcision and became a disciple of Rabbi Meir. Symmachus belonged to the fifth generation (165–200 CE) of Rabbinical teachers referred to in the text of the Mishnah. The Emperor Hadrian is said to have passed through Palestine while en route to Egypt, some 47 years after the destruction of Jerusalem.
- Part Three
- Weights and Measures
Folios [61d–73b] contain a treatise on the known weights and measures used in his day, among the Hebrews, the Greeks and the Romans. He brings down the equivalent weights for the kab (cab), kor, the lethekh (Lethek), homer, bath, modius (Hebrew: seah = lit. "measure"), and mina (Hebrew: maneh), among others. In folios [62b–62c] Epiphanius distinguishes between "a handful" (Hebrew: מְלֹא כַף) in I Kings 17:12 and "a handful" (Hebrew: מְלֹא חֹפֶן) in Exodus 9:8 and Leviticus 16:12; in the former case it refers to only one handful, but in latter cases it refers to "a measure of two handfuls."
- Part Four
In folios [73b–75a] Epiphanius brings down the names of several cities and places of renown, both in his time and in ancient times, such as: Mount Ararat (§ 61), Aṭaṭ (§ 62), or what is known as the "threshing floor of the thorn bush" (Hebrew: גרן האטד), and whose description echoes that of Rashi's commentary on Genesis 50:10, Abarim (§ 63), Carmel (§ 77), Carmel of the sea (§ 78), Akko (§ 76), Anathoth (§ 66), Azekah (§ 64) - a city in whose time was called Ḥǝwarta, Bethel (§ 73), Ophrah (§ 67), Carthage (§ 79) - where the Canaanites had migrated from Phoenicia and who were called in his day Bizakanoi (scattered people), Eben-Ezer (§ 68), Rekem (§ 71), Jaffa (§ 75), Jerusalem (§ 74), et al.
Chronology of the PtolemiesEdit
- Ptolemy, also called Soter (of the Rabbit [Lagos]) = reign: 40 years
- Ptolemy Philadelphus = reign: 38 years
- Ptolemy the Well-Doer (Euergetes) = reign: 24 years
- Ptolemy Philopator = reign: 21 years
- Ptolemy Epiphanes = reign: 22 years
- Ptolemy Philometor = reign: 34 years
- Ptolemy the Lover of Learning and the Well-Doer = reign: 29 years
- Ptolemy the Savior (Soter) = reign: 15 years
- Ptolemy who is also Alexas = reign: 12 years
- Ptolemy, the brother of Alexas = reign: 8 years
- Ptolemy Dionysius = reign: 31 years
- Cleopatra, the daughter of Ptolemy = reign: 32 years
Chronology of the Roman emperorsEdit
- Augustus = reign: 56 years, 6 months
- Tiberius = reign: 23 years
- Gaius = reign: 3 years, 9 months, 29 days
- Claudius = reign: 13 years, 1 month, 28 days
- Nero = reign: 13 years, 7 months, 27 days
- Galba = reign: 7 months, 26 days
- Otho = reign: 3 months, 5 days
- Vitellius = reign: 8 months, 12 days
- Vespasian = reign: 9 years, 7 months, 12 days
- Titus = reign: 2 years, 2 months, 2 days
- Domitian = reign: 15 years, 5 months
- Nerva = reign: 1 year, 4 months
- Trajan = reign: 19 years
- Hadrian = reign: 21 years
- Antoninus, surnamed Pius = reign: 22 years
- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (otherwise known as Verus, as also known as Commodus Lucius) = reign: 19 years Of these years, 7 years he ruled jointly with Lucius Aurelius Commodus
- Commodus II = reign: 13 years
- Pertinax = reign: 6 months
- Severus (reigned jointly with his son, Antoninus) = reign: 18 years
- Caracalla, also called Geta, who is also Antoninus = reign: 7 years (ruled jointly with Lucius Aurelius Commodus)
- Macrinus = reign: 1 year
- Antoninus II = reign: 4 years
- Alexander, the son of Mammaea = reign: 13 years
- Maximian = reign: 3 years
- Gordian = reign: 6 years
- Philip = reign: 7 years
- Decius = reign: 1 year, 3 months
- Gallienus (Gallus), who ruled jointly with Volusianus = reign: 2 years, 4 months
- Valerian, who ruled jointly with Gallienus, also known as Gallus = reign: 12 years
- Claudius = reign: 1 year, 9 months
- Aurelian = reign: 5 years, 6 months
- Tacitus = reign: 6 months
- Probus = reign: 6 years, 4 months
- Carus, who ruled jointly with his sons, Carinus and Numerian = reign: 2 years
- Diocletian, who ruled jointly with Maximian, Constantine and Maxentius = reign: 20 years
- Maximian, Licinius and Constantine, who ruled in succession one after the other = reign: 32 years
- Constans, Constantine and Constantius, followed by Julian, Jovian, Valentinian the Great, Valens, Gratian the son of Valentinian, Valentinian the younger (son of Valentinian), Theodosius, Arcadius the son of Theodosius, Honorius the Illustrious, who was the son of Theodosius, as far as the time of Epiphanius, during the second consulship of Arcadius Augustus and Rufus = years collected altogether: 57 years
The regnal years of the Caesars as brought down by Epiphanius differ slightly in some places from the extant Greek versions. With respect to events in Rome after the reign of Pertinax, both Epiphanius and Jerome do not mention the ascension of Didius Julianus after the assassination of Pertinax, but write only that Severus succeeded him. This may have been because they did not consider his 9-week reign to be legitimate, which he obtained through usurpation. Similarly, Epiphanius does not mention the ascension of Aemilian. It can be adduced from Jerome's Chronicon that Aemilian, who "caused a revolt in Moesia," was never officially confirmed by the Senate in Rome. Epiphanius' method of recording the regnal years from Augustus to Hadrian, with his pinpoint recollection of the number of months and days to each reign, can be said to be accurate, based on Josephus' own testimony about himself, saying that he was aged 56 in the 13th year of the reign of Caesar Domitian, and that he (Josephus) was born in the 1st year of Caesar Gaius. Using Epiphanius' chronology, the years are indeed collected as 56. By comparison, the span of years brought down in Suetonius' De vita Caesarum (Lives of the Caesars), who gives 14 years for Claudius and 15 years for Nero, the same time frame would span a period of some 58 years!
- Allen A. Shaw, On Measures and Weights by Epiphanius, National Mathematics Magazine 11.1 (October 1936: 3–7).
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, p. 11 (note 3). The letter was apparently signed jointly by Valentinian II, emperor of the West, and Theodosius, emperor of the East, as well as Theodosius' two sons, Arcadius and Honorius.
- The Codex Parisinus Graecus 835, as noted by J.E. Dean (ed.), in Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures: The Syriac Version, (Chicago 1935), Introduction p. 2
- Found in the “Shatberd codex” MS. 1141, in the library of the Obshchestvo rasprostranenifa gramotnosti sredi gruzin, Tiflis
- William Wright, Catalogue of Syriac manuscripts in the British Museum 2 756 (pp. 717–718)
- Paul de Lagarde, Veteris Testamenti ab Origene recensiti fragmenta apud Syros servata quinque. Praemittitur Epiphanii de mensuris et ponderibus liber nunc primum integer et ipse syriacus, Gootingae 1880
- Paul de Largarde, Symmicta I, Göttingen 1877, pp. 210–225
- E.D. Moutsoulas, ed., "Epiphanius of Salamis, Concerning Weights and Measures" (Introduction, Commentary, Text and Notes), Theologia, 44 (1973), pp. 157–198
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, pp. 33–34, 36
- Excluding Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon, which books had only later been added to the canon, according to Jewish tradition.
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, pp. 18-19
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, p. 30
- See: Mishnah Eruvin 3:1; Baba Metzia 6:5; Ḥullin 5:3 in The Mishnah (ed. Herbert Danby), Oxford University Press, 1974; the Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 13b, Baba Bathra 73a, Baba Kamma 46a, et. al
- According to Epiphanius, Marcus Aurelius was also called Verus.
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, p. 32
- Babylonian Talmud Eruvin 13b
- The Mishnah (ed. Herbert Danby), Oxford University Press: Oxford 1977, Appendix III, pp. 799–800 ISBN 0 19 815402 X
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, p. 30
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, p. 68
- A measure of capacity equal to 30 modii (seahs). v. Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, p. 12 (folio 45d). The same is defined in the Talmud (Baba Bathra 86b, 105a) as equal to thirty seahs, a capacity equal to about 395.533 cubic centimeters.
- A measure of capacity equivalent to the volume of 144 medium-sized eggs (9.6 litres); Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (2nd edition), Massachusetts 2006, s.v. מודיא p. 738.
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, pp. 60 (§ 51), 65; a weight in silver that was equal to 100 denaria.
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, p. 47
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, pp. 28–29
- J.E. Dean (ed.), in Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures: The Syriac Version, (Chicago 1935), pp. 28–29; the chronology of the Caesars resuming on pp. 32, 34–35, and again on pp. 37–39
- Epiphanius' Treatise on Weights and Measures - The Syriac Version (ed. James Elmer Dean), University of Chicago Press 1935, p. 35 (top)
- Modern chroniclers put Gordian's reign at no more than 21 days. Perhaps Epiphanius simply consolidated the reigns of Gordian I, Gordian II and Gordian III, since they were of the same family.
- According to Gildas Sapiens’ De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, Maximian, Licinius and Constantine ruled jointly over the Roman Empire, lasting altogether for 32 years.
- Cf. Chronicon of Jerome, 2005 online edition (tertullian.org), year 193. Epiphanius, by his own admittance (On Weights and Measures, p. 66 [folio 71c]), was familiar with Eusebius' Chronicle from which Jerome had based his Chronicon and may have used it to construct his own chronologies.
- Chronicon of Jerome, 2005 online edition (tertullian.org), year 254
- Josephus, Antiquities (20.11.3)
- Josephus, Vita § 1
- Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars (the Loeb Classical Library series), vol. ii, book v, paragraph xlv
- Epiphanius’ Treatise on Weights and Measures: The Syriac Version, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization (SAOC)
- PDF format of Epiphanius' On Weights and Measures