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Author: Philip Abbott


Ancient philosophers sought to tune the soul and society to the musica universalis, the celestial harmony generated by the rational wheelworks of the cosmos. For Romans, this overarching rationality was associated with the rational speech of elite masculinity. Augustine subverts this discourse, however. Maintaining that the musica universalis is tuned to the love of God rather than rationality, Augustine depicts Roman history as chaotic dissonance that is out of tune with cosmic harmony. He effects a cosmic key change which idealizes behavior that Roman elites would have viewed absurd. Instead of selling a traditional type of speech (rhetoric) that according to Augustine leads to chaos, he teaches Christians to embrace activities in which the uneducated can participate – singing Psalms, and bursting into sudden, incomprehensible eruptions of divine joy, which he terms jubilus. In short, Augustine preaches a radically new sonority to undergird a new society.

In: Vigiliae Christianae


Scholars have traditionally categorised early Syriac manuscripts as either Estrangela or Serto. The same categories dominate the prevailing narrative of how Syriac script is thought to have developed. Most see Estrangela as the earliest strata of Syriac and Serto as a later development. More recent scholarship explores how early manuscripts support neither this stark division between script styles nor a sequential development. Of particular challenge to this paradigm are a series of securely dated colophons and notes which use a script style different than the main part of the text. But previous work has looked at only five examples of this phenomenon. By expanding this investigation to 30 examples and drawing upon a recent compiled digital corpus of over 100,000 early Syriac letter forms, the present article explores how large data sets, digital analysis, and visual analytics can help one better understand the development of Aramaic scripts.

In: Aramaic Studies