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ABERICUS
ABERICUS
40

Balance of the Sacred Language", "The Book of Purity [of the Language]" are perhaps the most important of his works of this kind. They were written during his life of travel, and they reflect the unsteadiness of his outward circumstances. Taking Aben-Ezra's work as a whole, it consists rather in popularizing Rabbinic Andalusian ideas on Latin and Saxon soil than in producing original thought.

Levesque, in Vig., Dict. de la Bible (Paris 1895); Welte, in Kirchenlex, (Freiburg, 1882); Jewish Encyclopedia, VI, 520 sq. (New York, 1904).

Abercius, Inscription of.—A Greek hagiographical text, which has, however, undergone alterations, and a Greek inscription of the second century have made known to us a certain Abercius, Bishop of Hieropolis, in Phrygia, who, about the middle of the century in question, left his episcopal city and visited Rome. On his way home he travelled through Syria and Mesopotamia, and was received with great honours in various places. He died shortly after his return to Hieropolis, but not before he had composed his own epitaph, conveying a most vivid impression of all he had admired during his stay in Rome. This epitaph may well have inspired the "Life" of Abercius such as it has come down to us, since all its details may be explained by the hints contained in the inscription, or else belong to the common foundation of all legends of saints. The "Life", as a matter of fact, includes a transcription of the epitaph. Tillemont was greatly struck by the ideas therein expressed, and Pitra endeavoured to prove its authenticity and its important bearing on Christian symbolism. Renan regarded both the "Life" and inscription as fanciful compositions, but in 1882 an English traveller, W. Ramsay, discovered at Kelendres, near Synnada, in Phrygia Salutaris (Asia Minor), a Christian stele (inscribed slab) bearing the date of the year 300 of the Phrygian era (a.d. 216). The inscription in question recalled the memory of a certain Alexander, son of Anthony. De Rossi and Duchesne at once recognized in it phrases similar to those in the epitaph of Abercius. On comparison it was found that the inscription in memory of Alexander corresponded, almost word for word, with the first and last verses of the epitaph of the Bishop of Hieropolis; all the middle part was missing. Mr. Ramsay, on a second visit to the site of Hieropolis, in 1883, discovered two new fragments covered with inscriptions, built into the masonry of the public baths. These fragments, which are now in the Vatican Christian Museum, filled out the middle part of the stele inscribed with the epitaph of Abercius. It now became possible, with the help of the text preserved in the Life, to restore the original text of the epitaph with practical certainty. Certain lacunæ, letters effaced or cut off by breaks in the stone, have been the subject of profound discussions, resulting in a text which may henceforth be looked on as settled, and which it may be useful to give here. The capital letters at the beginning and end of the inscription represent the parts found on the inscription of Alexander, the son of Anthony, those of the middle part are the remaining fragments of the epitaph of Abercius, while the small letters give the reading according to the manuscripts of the Life:—

ἐκΛΕΚΤΗΣ ΠΟλεΩΣ Ο ΠΟΛΕΙ
της τΟΥΤ ΕΠΟΙΗσα
ζῶν ΙΝ ΕΧΩ καιρῷ
ΣΩΜΑΤΟΣ ΕΝΘΑ ΘΕΣΙΝ
ΟΥΝΟΜ Ἀβέρκιος ὢν ὁ5
ΜΑΘΗΤΗΣ ΠΟΙΜΕΝΟΣ ΑΓΝΟΥ
ὅ βόσκει προβάτων ἀγέλας
ὅρεσιν πεδίοις τε
ὀφθαλμοὺς ὃς ἔχει μεγάλους
πάντη καθορῶνται10
οὗτος γὰρ μ' ἐδίδαξε
(τὰ ζωῆς) γράμματα πιστά
ΕΙΣ ΡΩΜΗν ὃς ἔπεμψεν
ΕΜΕΝ ΒΑΣΙΛείαν ἁθρῆσαι
ΚΑΙ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣσαν ἰδεῖν Χρυσοσ-15
ΤΟΛΟΝ ΧΡυσοπέδιλον
ΛΑΟΝ Δ ΕΙΔΟΝ ἐκεῖ λαμπρὰν
ΣΦΡΑΓΕΙΔΑΝ Εχοντα
ΚΑΙ ΣΥΡΙΗΣ ΠΕδον εἶδα
ΚΑΙ ΑΣΤΕΑ ΠΑντα Νίσιβιν20
ΕΥΦΡΑΤΗΝ ΔΙΑβὰς παν-
ΤΗ Δ ΕΣΧΟΝ ΣΥΝΟμίλους
ΠΑΥΛΟΝ ΕΧΟΝ ΕΠΟ
ΠΙΣΤΙΣ πάντη δὲ προῆγε
ΚΑΙ ΠΑΡΗΘΗΚΕ τροφὴν25
ΠΑΝΤΗ ΙΧΘΥΝ Απὸ πηγῆς
ΠΑΝ ΜΕΓΕΘΗ ΚΑΘαρὸν ὃν
ΕΔΡΑΞΑΤΟ ΠΑΡΘενὸς ἁγνή
ΚΑΙ ΤΟΥΤΟΝ ΕΠΕδωκε φί-
ΛΟΙΣ ΕΣΘίειν διὰ παντὸς30
οἶνον χρηστὸν ἔχουσα
κέρασμα διδοῦσα μετ' ἄρτου
ταῦτα παρεστὼς εἶπον
Ἀβέκιος ὧδε γραφῆναι
ἑβδομήκοστον ἔτος καὶ35
δεύτερον ἦγον ἀληθῶς
ταῦθ' ὁ νοῶν εὔξαιτο ὑπὲρ
Ἀβερκίου πάς ὁ συνῳδός
ΟΥ ΜΕΝΤΟΙ ΤΥΜΒω ΤΙΣ ΕΜΩ
ΕΤΕΡΟΝ ΤιΝΑ ΘΗΣΕΙ40
ΕΙΔ ΟΥΝ ΡΩΜΑΙΩΝ ΤΑμΕΙΩ
ΘΗΣΕι ΔΙΣΧΕΙΛΙΑ χΡΥΣΑ
ΠΟΛΕΙ ΧΕΙΛΙΑ ΧΡΥΣΑ

—"The citizen of a chosen city, this [monument] I made [while] living, that there I might have in time a resting-place of my body, [I] being by name Abercius, the disciple of a holy shepherd who feeds flocks of sheep [both] on mountains and on plains, who has great eyes that see everywhere. For this [shepherd] taught me [that the] book [of life] is worthy of belief. And to Rome he sent me to contemplate majesty, and to see a queen golden-robed and golden-sandalled; there also I saw a people bearing a shining mark. And I saw the land of Syria and all [its] cities Nisibis [I saw] when I passed over Euphrates. But everywhere I had brethren. I had Paul.… Faith everywhere led me forward, and everywhere provided as my food a fish of exceeding great size, and perfect, which a holy virgin drew with her hands from a fountain and this it [faith] ever gives to its friends to eat, it having wine of great virtue, and giving it mingled with bread. These things I, Abercius, having been a witness [of them] told to be written here. Verily I was passing through my seventy-second year. He that discerneth these things, every fellow-believer [namely], let him pray for Abercius. And no one shall put another grave over my grave; but if he do, then shall he pay to the treasury of [the] Romans two thousand pieces of gold and to my good native city of Hieropolis one thousand pieces of gold."

The interpretation of this inscription has stimulated ingenious efforts and very animated controversies. In 1894 G. Ficker, supported by O. Hirschfeld, strove to prove that Abercius was a priest of Cybele. In 1895 A. Harnack offered an explanation which was sufficiently obscure, making Abercius the representative of an ill-defined religious syncretism arbitrarily combined in such a fashion as to explain all portions of the inscription which were otherwise inexplicable. In 1896, Dieterich made Abercius a priest of Attis. These plausible theories have been refuted by several learned archæologists, especially by De Rossi, Duchesne, and Cumont. Nor is there any further need to enter into the questions raised