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Thanks again, Google Books

Digenis AcritasAlthough you may have read with indifference my past post on the book Anthologia Graeca Carminum Christianorum, perhaps this will capture your fancy. Just today I was paging through the Google Books site when I discovered a classic favorite of mine, Digenis Acritas, which is an anonymous Byzantine epic written in Greek. I have read an English translation of it before, but the only full version I could find on Google Books was a side by side Greek poetry and French prose version.

If you know French, that’s great. If you know Greek, that’s even better. For me, I can read Greek a lot better than French, so I think I’ll just read the original this time. If you’d like to give it a shot as well, feel free to download this PDF of the book. All I did was take Google Books’ file and add PDF bookmarks for easier navigation, so here it is for free, only 13.7 MB: Les Exploits de Digénis Akritas

This version of the poem is from the Trabzon manuscript, which is one of the lesser-known manuscripts, though not the oldest. For a free book, I am quite impressed!

Design in Creation

As you look at a very intricately designed computer, does it ever occur to you that through millions of years, simple electric circuits evolved into flashlights, and those simple flashlights over billions of years evolved into simple calculators, and those in turn changed and eventually over billions of years’ time evolved into the computer you see today? Sound ridiculous? Read the next story!

As you look at the intricately designed people who are equipped with intelligence like no animal, does it ever occur to you that through millions of years, simple one-cell creatures evolved into fish, and those fish over billions of years evolved into reptiles, and those in turn changed and eventually over billions of years’ time evolved into the people you see today?

These stories are equally ridiculous. Who ever heard of a flashlight turning into a calculator, or a fish turning into a reptile? Read More

A Latin book about Greek hymns

In a recent project of mine I have been researching early Christian hymns in Greek, and from the book Early Christians Speak by Everett Ferguson, I was referred to an old volume Anthologia Graeca Carminum Christianorum, written by W. Christ and M. Paranikas. The title looked promising (Anthology of Greek Christian Songs for those who aren’t familiar with Lingua Latina), and I knew if it was written in Latin, it must be old.

So where does Benjamin go to find old and obscure books in foreign languages? Straight to the Interlibrary Loan page at the library website! I was surprised to find that quite a few libraries owned it, and I hoped to have better luck than the last time when I asked for an Italian book about Greek verbs (or that course for learning Huastec Nahuatl written in Spanish). I was overjoyed when the UT library agreed to send the book, and the other day I picked it up at the library.

It was all I had imagined. An old book, published in MDCCCLXXI (I’ll let you translate the date, you probably need practice with Roman numerals anyway), and entirely in Latin—except for the great number of Greek hymns from the Byzantine and pre-Byzantine time periods. There is also an unexplicable group of German hymns in the middle of the book, and I haven’t yet figured out how they fit in. Read More


In times past our fathers told
Great stories of serpents which fire breathed.
These dragons in caves dark would lie
Till roused by hunger, or want of sport.
Though by many forgotten, these “fairy tales”
Are echoes of ancient truth.
In days of yore the creatures were killed,
Thus here they are hardly seen.
Yet beyond the sea, across the sand,
There lies a land where dragons still dwell.
A fertile place the creatures found,
A lovely verdant land, and free
Of human population. However, a few men
Since discovered the spot, and now live there.
Should you ever venture thither, you shall find
A mountainous country, yet warm and kind.
The tongue of its people is understood by all
And the whole land is luscious green.
Yet do not expect to discover dragons,
For their very presence few may view.

Economic & Political Precedents in 17th Century Virginia

As the first English colony established in North America, Virginia in many ways set the example which the rest of the colonies would follow. Although the investors of the joint-stock company who initially funded Virginia’s settlement were disappointed at its seeming failure in finding the things they had hoped for, it soon became apparent that a very valuable crop could be cultivated there, that is, tobacco. With John Rolfe’s discovery of a new method of drying the leaves, much profit was made in growing and selling this crop, and as more southern colonies were developed, they too grew tobacco.

One characteristic of this industry was the need to have large amounts of workers to cultivate the tobacco. With the initiation of the headright system, many people came from Europe as indentured servants. These were to work the land of the one who had paid for their voyage across, and after a certain amount of time (usually 6 to 10 years) they could own land of their own. As it happened, though, about 40% of these servants died before they could complete their indenture, and after many of them were gone, there was a need for additional laborers. As did Virginia, so did many of the other colonies, particularly those in the south.

When Virginia was established as a charter colony, it set a political precedent by basing its government on the will of the people. This was drastically different from Britain’s idea of “virtual representation,” and provided the American people with that taste of liberty that eventually led to independence. Read More