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Monday, December 31, 2012

A Romanian Book on Bishop Wulfila

source: Erbiceanu family archive
no copyright infringement intended

(click here for the Romanian version)

I would love to have access to this book, only it is very hard to find it: a book published in Bucharest in 1898, and carrying a pretty long title, Ulfila, Viata si Doctrina lui, sau Starea Crestinismului in Dacia Traiana si Aureliana in Seculul al IV [Ulfila, His Life and Doctrine, or The State of Christianity in Dacia of Trajan and Aurelius in the Fourth Century]. At first view, it seems that the author intended to tackle together two very different subjects. Wulfila was the bishop of Goths and translated the Bible in their language (the manuscript is kept today in Sweden, at Uppsala University). As for the Romanized Dacia of the fourth century, the native populations were everything but Goths.

Actually there was a connection between the two subjects, and the author considered important to stress it out with an annotation on the book cover, on the copy that remained in his family archive: Carte foarte importanta pentru existenta Crestinismului la Romani, C. Erbiceanu [A very important book for the existence of Christianity at Romanians, C. Erbiceanu]. You can see it in the image above, a hand written phrase.

A few details about the author. Constantin Erbiceanu, who lived from 1838 to 1913, was a historian, theologian and Hellenist. He was a member of Junimea, the famous literary circle from Iassy, also he was a member of two scholarly associations from Constantinople, Hellenikos Philologikos Syllogos and Hetairia Mesaionikon Spoudon. He also was a member of the Romanian Academy. The title of one of his books explains very well the main area of his preoccupations: Cronicarii greci care au scris despre romani în epoca fanariota [Greek Chroniclers Who Wrote About Romanians in the Phanariote Epoch]. He dedicated most of his life to the study of Greek manuscripts from the Phanariote epoch, looking there for any information relevant for the Romanian history. He was the road opener (wiki) in the systematic approach of the Phanariote epoch in the Romanian countries, also in the Romanian church history.

Constantin Erbiceannu (1838-1913)
no copyright infringement intended

A comparison comes to mind, with one of his fellows at the Romanian Academy, the philologist Ioan Bogdan. What Erbiceanu did in the field of Hellenistic studies, did Bogdan in Slavistics - search of Slavonic manuscripts to find there information relevant for the history of Romanian language. Both of them realized the paramount importance of situating the studies of Romanian history (language and culture, church and society) in the regional context: a national space is not closed, it is evolving in conjunction with its neighbors, there are continuous influences, and all that happens in the history of each of them echoes in the whole region.

So, coming now back to Erbiceanu's book on Wulfila and the Christianity in Dacia of the fourth century, the connection becomes obvious, I think. Bishop Wulfila lived many years in Nicopolis ad Istrum, in the South of Danube, and the Goths were the rulers of the region for some time. It was at Nicopolis ad Istrum that Wulfila worked on his translation of the Bible. Dacia had been modeled by the epoch of Roman rule, from Trajan to Marcus Aurelius. It was, as Erbiceanu named it, Dacia of Trajan and Aurelius. It was the fourth century, Wulfila was translating the Bible in the Gothic language on the South of Danube, the Romanized population on both sides of the river was in some stage of becoming Christian, all this was happening in the same regional context. Studying one of the subjects brings lights on the other one.

And there is another important thing: after the Tristia and the Epistolae created by Ovid during his exile at Tomis, there was no other literary work produced in this region, till Wulfila's translation of the Bible.

More I cannot say on the book of Constantin Erbiceanu. Could it be today a bit outdated? Well, the science of history is evolving and some of yesteryear's ideas do not hold any more, that's the way with any science. It would keep in any case the importance of a road opener. I have to find it, then I'll come back.

(on the life of Consatntin Erbiceanu, see also Istoria Familiei Erbiceanu, pagina din Crestin Ortodox consacrata lui Erbiceanu, articolul din Dictionarul Teologilor Romani, Vieţa şi activitatea literară a protosinghelului Naum Rîmniceanu: Discurs de receptiune la Academia Romana, rostit la 17 (30) martie 1900)

(Bishop Wulfila)

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