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Query Details


Query Subject:   Aramaic Translations of 'Soter'
Author:   Aaron Shakow
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Linguistic LingField(s):  Historical Linguistics

Query:   I'm completing a study of the pharmaceuticals trade in the medieval and
early-modern Mediterranean, with a particular focus on its political
iconography. I've been struck by the apparently sudden appearance of the
epithet ''al-faruq'' (allegedly derived from the Aram. 'paroqa') to
describe Galenic theriaca in the late 9th/early 10th century Arabic medical
literature. It occurred to me that these terms might be renderings of the
Hellenistic --> Christian 'soter' (or vice versa).

When discussed at all (c.f. Crone and Cook's Hagarism) ''al-faruq'' is
always rendered unproblematically in millenarian terms. If the association
with 'soter' is sound, this seems potentially unwarranted. Although
Walafrid Strabo, for example, does equate the epithet with 'salvator' and
'messiah,' he adds, ''id est, rex sacerdos'' [''Glossa ordinaria,'' PL 114,
Col.179A]. Back in the day, Cicero was even more equivocal: describing the
offenses of Verres in Sicily, he noted inscriptions to the governor as
'soter' and judged the word -- ''qui salutem dedit'' -- nearly
untranslatable [Cic. Verr. 2.2.63/154] Whether this meant in principle
eschatological salvation or 'health-bringing' is debatable, but in context
it's clearly garden-variety political marketing borrowed (at a less exalted
level) from the Seleucids and Ptolemies.

In any case, while usages shift over time, a putative historical
association between the Arabic medicinal ''theriaca of the 'faruq''' and
Hellenistic --> Roman legitimation strategies seemed like an interesting
footnote. It bears mentioning, at least, that tiryaq was almost invariably
a monopoly of state and was prominent both in diplomatic gift exchange with
European states and popular donations to the local populace.

Is there a historically minded participant who can refer me to any
Hellenistic or Byzantine-era translations of official Greek decrees into
Aramaic or the like which might cement an association of 'soter' and
'faruq/paroqa' as political usages? Or failing that, perhaps you can TURF
me to a specialized list dealing with the dustier lexicographical questions.

Many thanks for your consideration.

Aaron Shakow
LL Issue: 17.1550
Date posted: 19-May-2006



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