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Re: Sakkas a Gnostic Aramaic ClaimRe: [neoplatonism] Re: Ammonius Saccas

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  • Thomas Mether
    Well, Michael s contribution opens up an interesting new wrinkle. I am in a rush but will give the gist that I ll explain more fully later this week.
    Message 1 of 40 , Jul 31, 2011
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      Well, Michael's contribution opens up an interesting new wrinkle. I am in a rush but will give the gist that I'll explain more fully later this week. Musurillio working on the Acts of the Martyrs in the part on Apollonios Sakkeas unsuccessfully attempts to make sense of the name as meaning "man of sackcloth" based on the Armenian word. He claims, partly correctly, that the Armenian word means "ascetic". But that is a somewhat secondary connotation. It can also mean "gnostic". Interestingly enough, it is also applied to a Christian gnostic group in Armenia that revered Justin Martyr and Plato. Briefly, the demiurge is the evil keeper of a prison/underworld/cave that is this world and that they alleged was attested to by Plato's Myth of the Cave in the Republic. They also claimed that Christ was the "righteous man" who was rejected, bound, tortured, and crucified by Glaukon in the same dialog. Even more interestingly, the district where this group was
      found was Sakasen (Sakacene). Sakasen was the name of a people, transferred to a location, and then, subsequently, became applied to a very different population who later lived in that location within Armenia. Sakasen was originally an area in Armenia settled by a Scythian tribe. They were later pushed out and forced en masse into Cappadocian by another people who settled in Sakasen. This group was Thracian. Later, Jews settled in the area. The Assyrians called this Thracian-Jewish population the "Asguzai". The Armenians called them the "Sakaean" but they also called them the "Askanazik". We don't know if Askanazik comes from the Bible or Assyrian or somehow both. The biblical equivalent of the Assyrian Asguzai is Askenaz and it is cognate to the Armenian Askanaz (Askanazik is the plural).

      Something of the religious beliefs of this region (whether or not of this specific gnostic group) are alluded to in Christian and Zoroastrian sources. Particularly in a debate between Gregory the Illuminator and Tiridates III, mocking insults are exchanged back and forth where each refers to the beliefs of the other in derogatory terms that can only be explained, apparently, in terms of the beliefs of the Sakasen district held by both parties in contempt.
      For example, they use the terms sahapet and pahapet in a derogatory manner for each others beliefs. Sahapet is a ruler of the underworld. Pahapet is the guard or guardian of the underworld. Before this debate, sahapet is documented in Zoroastrian contexts as associated with the Ameshaspenta of the Earth, Spandamart (spendaramet in Armenian).
      But in Sakasen and a number of grave sites around the Black Sea, sahapet is clearly in Sarapis or in the Greek sites Satrapes and in Bactria Sarapo as the liberating sahapet that overcomes the evil sahapet who is the pahapet (prison-keeper). In this context, one exchange between Tiridates III and Gregory the Illuminator takes on added nuance where Tiridates mocks Christians as following a sahapet and dev (dev is daeva, cognate to Sanskrit deva or god, but in the post-Zoroastrian mileau, it means devil, and our word devil derives from the terminological effects of this Zoroastrian transformation), meaning, Christ is a demonic ruler in the underworld (false god). Gregory does a reposte by saying yes Christ is a sahapet who died voluntarily to enter and liberate the underworld. But one question is whether this exhange refers to the nongnostic and hellenized (given the widespread attestation of Serapis) beliefs of the Sakasen or to this gnostic group or
      both. Sahapet is used ambivalently in this mileau to mean guardian as entrapper or prison-keeper -- sometimes applied to the demiurge often in tandem with pahapet, Sahapet could also be used as liberator and ruler of the underworld. Sometimes, the ambivalence of sahapet is played out as the bad sahapet of this age as an underworld in contrast to the age to come of ruled over by the true righteous sahapet (which seems to have its origin in one version of Zuranism where the devil rules this world and age and the Good God rules the other world of the age to come).
       
      Anyway, the short point is Sakkeas in the case of Apollonios probably means "gnostic", and maybe, even "gnostic" is also a secondary meaning with the primary referent being a gnostic Askanaz of Sakasen. There were Sakaeans or Askenaz in Alexandria. Whether or not any were gnostic is a question. Whether Apollonios was gnostic also remains a question, and I am not aware of whether or how any of this this links to Ammonius. But since Michael mentioned Goudet's argument, I thought I'd add what some of the Armenian background behind is that emerges after Musurillio tries to give a meaning to Sakkeas based on the Armenian.
       
      Thomas
       
      --- On Sat, 7/30/11, Goya <goya@...> wrote:


      From: Goya <goya@...>
      Subject: Re: Sakkas a Gnostic Aramaic ClaimRe: [neoplatonism] Re: Ammonius Saccas
      To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Saturday, July 30, 2011, 1:30 PM


       



      Richard Goulet pointed out long ago that whatever the linguistic
      explanation of *Sakkas*, it ought to apply also to Apollonios *ho kai
      Sakkeas*, a Christian philosopher condemned to death under Commodus. See
      DPhA I (1989), 165-168.

      Best, Mike
      >
      > Dennis,
      > In some of the recent literature on gnosticism, and gnosticism having
      > Alexandrian origins so it might be Birger Pearson or one of his students,
      > a suggestion was made that Sakkas is a Christian gnostic name derived from
      > a gnostic Aramaic name for God. This would fit the idea that Ammonius was
      > raised Christian and the claim that gnosticism was the normal form of
      > Christianity in Alexandrian before the late arrival of "proto-orthodoxy".
      >  
      > Thomas
      >
      > --- On Sat, 7/30/11, vaeringjar <vaeringjar@...> wrote:
      >
      >
      > From: vaeringjar <vaeringjar@...>
      > Subject: [neoplatonism] Re: Ammonius Saccas
      > To: neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com
      > Date: Saturday, July 30, 2011, 11:16 AM
      >
      >
      >  
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Thomas Mether <t_mether@...> wrote:
      >>
      >> I don't have the references at hand but the last I read on this
      >> question the Egyptologists were claiming they could not make anything
      >> out of Saccas as Egyptian, and suggested that the Indo-European
      >> linguists suggesting an Iranian origin for the name was more probable.
      >
      > Thanks, Thomas - I had read also of the alternative Iranian or Scythian
      > proposal. Be nice to have those references on the egyptological side, but
      > it's not a huge deal. I have a friend who is an egyptologist and I am
      > hoping to ask him at some point.
      >
      > Dennis Clark
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
      >

      Michael Chase
      CNRS UPR 76
      Paris-Villejuif
      France








      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • vaeringjar
      ... Yes, thanks - I am definitely aware of Taylor s, oh yes, read lots of it, but I meant to say a modern one based on the latest modern edition of the Greek
      Message 40 of 40 , Aug 16, 2011
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        --- In neoplatonism@yahoogroups.com, Greg Kramer <gregkramer7@...> wrote:
        >
        > On Mon, Aug 15, 2011 at 3:06 PM, Dennis Clark wrote:
        >
        > > **
        > >
        > > ... So, yes, it would be great to have an English translation at last, and
        > > it is another of those great opportunities still out there for translation
        > > work in Neoplatonism. Such as Proclus' Platonic Theology. Now there is a
        > > major one just waiting - or is someone hard at work on that as well?
        > >
        > >
        > Hi Dennis,
        >
        > See:
        >
        > http://www.prometheustrust.co.uk/html/8_-_theology.html
        >

        Yes, thanks - I am definitely aware of Taylor's, oh yes, read lots of it, but I meant to say a modern one based on the latest modern edition of the Greek text - not to slight in any way at all of Taylor's accomplishment.

        Dennis Clark
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