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This webpage reproduces part of
The Months (de Mensibus)

of
John Lydus

translated by Andrew Eastbourne for Roger Pearse, 2013

The translation has been placed in the public domain by Roger Pearse.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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IV • October

Johannes Lydus
de Mensibus

p158 September

121 [link to original Greek text] What we said was true, that the Romans set the month of March as the beginning of the year, and this can be grasped from the designation of the current month. For they named it September, as being the "seventh" from the "spring" — for "seven" is septem and "spring" is ver1 — that is, from the month of March, on the 24th day of which the sun, entering Aries, allows p159the nature of spring to begin. After that, it will not be necessary to go into the names of the following months at length; for October is the eighth from the "Waxing of the Light,"2 and so forth for November and December.

122 [link to original Greek text] The number nine is divine, being composed of three threes, and preserving the perfections of theology according to the Chaldaean philosophy, as Porphyry says.

123 [link to original Greek text] Metrodorus says that at the new moon, Andromeda rises, and with the other winds ceasing, the East Wind prevails.

124 [link to original Greek text] On the day before the Nones of September,3 Augustus defeated the Egyptians with Antony and Cleopatra at Leucate. And for this reason, he introduced the reckoning of the cycle of the so-called "indiction" from the beginning of the month of September.4 On this day, Democritus says there occurs a change of winds and a predominance of rain.

125 [link to original Greek text] The various distinctions of flavors are quite numerous, according to Apollonius, but the there are nine principal types: sweet, bitter, sharp [i.e., acidic], pungent, brinchos5, harsh/astringent, slimy [?],6 severe/rugged,7 and salty. Hence also in this ninth month the Romans would pray for good health.

126 [link to original Greek text] p160On the Ides of September,8 Eudoxius indicates that the Horse [i.e., the constellation Pegasus] sets, and the West — or Bright — Wind blows.

127 [link to original Greek text] We know that on cabbage a kind of "worm" grows, called "Curvy" [i.e., the caterpillar]. This animal, when the cabbage dries out in the spring, naturally turns into a winged "worm" like an ant, and somewhat larger, supported by white triangular wings; and it flies around in gardens in a way that is low to the ground and makes it easy to catch it. And it turns out that this sort of "worm" is called "Psychê" [i.e., the butterfly, lit. "soul"].9

128 [link to original Greek text] Ten days before the Kalends of October,10 Dositheus indicates that Arcturus rises. On the 12th day before the Kalends of October, Caesar says that the swallows leave.

129 [link to original Greek text] . . . of Nicomedes the tyrant of Bithynia.

130 [link to original Greek text] When there has been an excess of fire, a fever occurs; when air [has been excessive], a quotidian fever; when water, a tertian fever, when earth, a quartan fever. And shivering tends to be the first stage of [all] these. For whenever the aforementioned fluids are made thick by the cold — since this is a characteristic of both water and earth — at that time, as they travel through the pores they are not able to expel the thicker substances, but come into locations of these and produce a compression and crushing action; this of p161necessity causes turmoil and quaking — which experience is called "trembling and cold."

131 [link to original Greek text] The Romans, after defeating the Africans, conveyed the wild beasts from there to Rome and slaughtered them in the arena, so that not even the wild beasts from that region would remain unenslaved.

132 [link to original Greek text] The column [stêlê] of Tyche which stands in Byzantium was erected by Pompey the Great. For after enclosing Mithridates there with the Goths, and dispersing them, he captured Byzantium. And this is attested by the epigram in Latin letters on the base of the pillar, which says the following:

To Tyche Safe-Returner, on account of the defeat of the Goths.11

The place later became a tavern. The Goths are Getae.

133 [link to original Greek text] . . . but the common people call it delphax ["pig"].12

134 [link to original Greek text] And the oracle recommends drinking milk for the sake of good health all through the month of September.


The Translator's Notes:

1 Transliterated here as βέρ.

2 Gk. Auxiphôtia. Elsewhere (de Mensibus 4.135, 162), John Lydus uses this term for the winter solstice (or just afterwards), but here, by inclusive counting, October would be the eighth after March, i.e., perhaps John is intending a reference to the spring equinox?

3 4 Sept.

4 The "indiction" system of 15‑year cycles was used in the Byzantine empire, as well as in medieval Western Europe; the cycles were calculated from the beginning of September in Byzantium, as John Lydus says, but the system was not used until the late Empire.

5 LSJ: "between . . . pungent . . . and astringent" (citing this passage)

6 Gk. blennôdês.

7 Gk. austêros.

8 13 Sept.

9 John Lydus continues to use the term "worm" (skôlêx) in reference to the animal, even though strictly speaking it should only have been used for one stage in its development. On the development of the butterfly ("Psychê"), cf. Aristotle, Historia Animalium 5.19 (551A); Plutarch, Quaestiones Conviviales 2.3 (636C) . The odd reference to the ant does not appear in either of these.

10 22 Sept.

11 For the still-extant "Gothic column" and its interpretation, see B. Croke, "Poetry and Propaganda: Anastasius I as Pompey," Greek Roman and Byzantine Studies 48 (2008), pp462-3; C. Mango, "The Triumphal Way of Constantinople and the Golden Gate," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 54 (2000), p177. It is likely to be connected with 3rd‑ or 4th‑century victories over Goths (Claudius Gothicus or Constantine), not with Pompey the Great. The Latin inscription on the column base, now barely legible, agrees with John Lydus' account; it reads: Fortunae Reduci ob devictos Gothos.

12 This may be a reference to a part of the imperial palace at Constantinople; cf. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, de Cerimoniis 1.86 (p391 Reiske), etc.


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