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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


PSEUDO-ZENO: The Anonymous Philosophical Treatise edited by Michael E. Stone and Manea E. Shirinian ($88.50, 254 pages, hardcover, Philosophia Antiqua, 83; Brill Academic Publishers; ISBN: 9004115242)

PSEUDO-ZENO: The Anonymous Philosophical Treatise is here presented to the western world for the first time. It is a philosophical treatise of the Late Antique period, written in about the sixth century C.E. The author was a Christian, but he utilized pagan philosophical sources. Thus this is one of the latest writings of ancient philosophy, and as such is of very considerable interest and importance.

PSEUDO-ZENO: The Anonymous Philosophical Treatise was preserved only in Armenian. It was published in Armenian and in Russian translation by S.S Arevsatyan in 1950 but is barely known to western scholarship because of the rarity of known philosophical works from this period and a bias against Armenia’s role in the preservation of late antique philosophy.

In this new edition of the original text has been reexamined and prepared on computer, together with critical apparatuses, translation and commentary. A variety of tools for the study of the text are included: a concordance, a word list of the English translation, triliteral tables of Armenian, Greek, and English technical terminology and other key reference tools. The translation presented a major problem. The text is particularly difficult and knowledge both of Armenian and of ancient philosophy is required.PSEUDO-ZENO: The Anonymous Philosophical Treatise is a truly difficult text demanding repeated investigation; not only is every other word a technical term, but a philosophical theory hides behind almost each sentences. The collaboration with several scholars helped with the pioneering effort to begin to recover the philosophical content.

According to the editors the text, apparatuses and other Armenological aspects of the work are definitive, but this is not the case for the translation. There are many points that remain obscure, many statements remain puzzling. However it does offer hope for greater recognition to the treasure-trove of documents in Armenian of philosophical interest that could widen the scope of our understanding not only of Armenian civilization but of early Christian philosophy. The Armenian philosophical tradition has been little utilized by students of ancient philosophy.

Generally philosophical writings in Armenian remain relatively unknown to the specialists in Greek philosophy. For example, it is regrettable that certain critical editions of Greek texts do not even mention the existence of an Armenian version, which is often older than the most ancient preserved Greek manuscripts. One wonders how a new edition of Porphyry’s Isagoge, containing a substantial discussion of its reception in Latin West and Arabic East, says not a single word about the early Armenian translation of this work and the rich tradition of commentaries on it in Armenian. A repertory of published Armenian translations of Greek works was recently published by Constantine Zuckerman, but the current fact remains that many works stay unstudied in manuscript form.

Publication of this work then may herald a new era in the study of the Armenian philosophical tradition.

About translators and editors: Michael E. Stone is Professor of Armenian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Manea E. Shirinian is a Senior Researcher at the Mashtotz Matenadaran Institute of Ancient Manuscripts in Erevan, Armenia. Prof. Dr. Jaap Mansfeld (Utrecht) and Prof. Dr. David Th. Runia (Leiden) cooperated with Stone and Shirinian in the preparation of the book, particularly on the commentary and translation.

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