From Coptic to Arabic, from "Isauria" to "the city of treasures"

Anthony the Great, Pachomius the Great, Shenoute
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Shenoute
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From Coptic to Arabic, from "Isauria" to "the city of treasures"

Post by Shenoute »

I am currently reading Ugo Zanetti's translation of an Arabic manuscript containing a series of miracles performed by Saint Coluthus (available here). Some of these come from the encomium by Isaac of Antinoe I mentioned in the other thread. It is interesting to compare the Coptic and Arabic versions, and the editor mentions some of the differences in the footnotes.

One of them I found interesting. The last Coptic miracle in the encomium begins as follows (tr. Johnson, p. 61):
There was a man in this city, Antinoe, who was from the foreign country of Isauria.
While the Arabic (3rd miracle, tr. Zanetti, p. 92) has:
Il y avait un commerçant dans la ville d'Antinoe ‒ il était de la ville des trésors (مدينة الكنوز).
[There was a trader in the city of Antinoe ‒ he was from the city of treasures.]
Zanetti doesn't say much about this discrepancy:
Le copte dit que ce commerçant était originaire d'Isaurie, et Thompson remarque que, selon Diodore (18: 22), la capitale d'Isaurie regorgeait de richesses (cf. Thompson, note 65 à la traduction [§ 98], CSCO 545, p. 61).
[The Coptic text says that this trader was from Isauria, and Thompson notes that, according to Diodorus (18:22), Isauria's capital city abounded in riches (cf. Thompson, note 65 to the translation [§ 98], CSCO 545, p. 61).]
This explanation sort of supposes two things:
- that the capital city of Isauria, or Isauria itself, was widely known as a place full of riches. Diodorus' text doesn't really seem to be enough to support this (οὗτοι δὲ τὴν φλόγα κατασβέσαντες πολὺν ἄργυρόν τε καὶ χρυσὸν εὗρον, ὡς ἂν πόλεως γεγενημένης εὐδαίμονος ἐκ πολλῶν χρόνων.)
- that this fame, even if we accept it existed at the time of Diodorus, was still around when the Coptic text was translated into Arabic (probably sometime between the 11th and the 16th c.), enough anyway for the translator to readily translate "Isauria" as "the city of treasures".

As I see it, there is a simpler explanation. The Coptic texts here reads:
ⲛⲉⲩⲛ ⲟⲩⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲇⲉ ϩⲛ ⲧⲉⲓⲡⲟⲗⲓⲥ ⲁⲛⲧⲓⲛⲟⲟⲩ ⲉⲩⲣⲙⲧⲉⲭⲱⲣⲁ ⲙⲡⲥⲁ ⲛⲃⲟⲗ ⲡⲉ ⲛⲧⲉⲑⲓⲥⲁⲩⲣⲓⲁ
There was a man in this city, Antinoe, who was a foreigner of Isauria.
It seems more likely that the Arabic translator, unfamiliar with the name "Isauria" or simply absent minded, took ⲑⲓⲥⲁⲩⲣⲓⲁ (<ⲧ.ϩⲓⲥⲁⲩⲣⲓⲁ "the-Isauria") for the word ⲑⲏⲥⲁⲩⲣⲓⲁ, linking it to Greco-Coptic ⲑⲏⲥⲁⲩⲣⲟⲥ "treasure". It's all the more easy since the letters ⲏ, ⲩ, and ⲓ are often used one for another in Greco-Coptic words.

anphph
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Re: From Coptic to Arabic, from "Isauria" to "the city of treasures"

Post by anphph »

That seems to me to be an elegant explanation. A fun note on the Arabic word for treasure, kanz (here in the plural form kunūz). It comes from Middle Persian ganz(ā), meaning hoard. I recently heard an Ahmed El-Shamsy lecture where he said that the word had been imported into Arabic twice, both as كنز (kanz) as well as as جنازة (janāza) - the latter was already the root meaning burial, so janāza is burial in Arabic - but that this explains such concepts as the geniza (Hb.) as a store/hoard/treasure of books (not, as we would have it, a cemetery).

Shenoute
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Re: From Coptic to Arabic, from "Isauria" to "the city of treasures"

Post by Shenoute »

Interesting, thanks, anphph!

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