Bishop Gregory (hgr) wrote,
Bishop Gregory

охота на Китовраса--2

The situation with Kitovras is additionally complicated by the fact that we do not know the earliest legends where he appears. Apart from our cycle of Solomon, there were the legends where Kitovras is another son of David, brother of Solomon. A Russian scribe of the late 15th century, Efrosin (Euphrosynos) informs us about such legend(s)[1]. It is this tradition that is attested in the earliest Russian document concerning Kitovras, the Vasilij gates of the St Sophia cathedral in Novgorod constructed in 1335—1336 by the archbishop of Novgorod, Vasilij (Basil) Kalika (the gates were took as a war booty in 1570 by Ivan the Terrible and placed in his residence Aleksandrovskaja Sloboda, now Aleksandrov).

According to a recent study, these doors were the main gates of the cathedral[2]. Their iconographic program covered the whole important topic of the cathedral cult. The picture on one plate presents a winged centaur with crown taking in hand a figure of Solomon and preparing to throw him over shoulder to a city in the background; the city is in fire. The inscription states: (Ки)товрасъ меце братомъ своимъ Сол(о)монъ на обетованую землю за словъ… “Kitovras throws his brother Solomon to the promised land because of the word...” (a  lacuna at the end prevents from the exact translation of the words за словъ; my translation is conjectural). We do not know a legend where Kitovras throws Solomon to Jerusalem or to the Holy Land from elsewhere; instead, in the known legends, he throws Solomon from Jerusalem. Moreover, we do not know what means the city (Jerusalem?) in fire. However, the general meaning of the picture of Solomon and Kitovras on the main gates of the St Sophia of Novgorod is clear: this is a reference to the Temple of Solomon (constructed by Solomon with the help of Kitovras) whose new avatar the Novgorod cathedral is (after the St Sophia of Kiev and their common pattern the St Sophia of Constantinople[3]).

The picture on the Vasilij gates proves that our present set of the written legends on Kitovras is not representative. Certainly, there were some other, accepted as a part of the Holy Tradition of the Church, and so, transmitted by other channels than the secular literature and folklore. This is why it seems to me very unlikely that the earliest Slavonic texts on Kitovras were translated otherwise than within some Church collection from an authoritative Church source.

Given that the previous and not especially helpful attempts to explain the word kitovras were presuming that the known form is a corruption of some other, it is reasonable to evaluate another possibility, namely, that it is an exact transliteration (except the regular omission of the Greek ending in Slavonic) of a Greek composite word that is not attested in the preserved texts but is grammatically correct. Its first part could be κῆτος “sea monster”. The second component seems to be a derivate of the verb βράσσω (or Middle Greek βράζω) having different meanings with basic values of “throw”, “boil”, and “to be hot”. In the late Jewish Vitae Prophetarum[4] and in many Christian texts this verb (in the form of the passive participle ἐκβρασθείς) is regularly applied to Jonah “thrown up” by the sea monster, κῆτος[5]. Moreover, Lampe gives an example from Gregory of Nazianze where βράσις in the sense of “throwing up” is applied to “Jonah’s ejection from great fish”[6].

In Gregory Nazianzen, βράσις is enumerated within the list of means used by God to make Jonah go to Nineveh: “tempest, lot, beast, womb, throwing up”. The result of such throwing up could be named either βράσις or βραστός. The agent of this throwing up could be named βραστής. All these words are attested in either Ancient or Middle Greek or both, while with other meanings, not connected to “throwing up”[7].

Therefore, we can suppose the Greek prototype of kitovras as a composite word like *κητόβρασις, *κητόβραστος or *κητοβράστης (the latter two cases would presuppose *kitovrast as the genuine Slavonic form).

From the linguistic viewpoint, and taking into account the real usage of the Greek Christian literature, it would be tempting to suppose that Kitovras means either prophet Jonah himself or the sea monster who threw him up, but according to an unknown tradition about Jonah.

The existence of some unknown tradition juxtaposing Jonah and Solomon is out of doubts. This tradition reveals itself in the common background of Jesus’ words in Mt 12:39–42 // Lc 11:29–32 and a prayer in mTaanit II, 4. Unfortunately, we largely ignore its contents[8]. The gospel data allow, however, to note that Jonah is mentioned in the context of his three-day journey within the sea monster, and Solomon is mentioned in the context of his wisdom and the visit of the Queen of Sheba. All this is perfectly fitting the context of our present Courts of Solomon.

Thus, without rejecting definitively the hypothesis that kitovras means “centaur”, we have to consider alternative hypotheses that it is either a nickname of the prophet Jonah or that of the sea monster that swallowed him from some legend connecting Jonah with Solomon. Of course, other possibilities are not to be excluded as well.

[1] J. Luria [= Ya. S. Lur’e],  Une légende inconnue de Salomon et Kitovras dans un manuscrit du XVe siècle, Revue des études slaves 48 (1964) 7–11.

[2] В. В. Кавельмахер, К истории Васильевских дверей Софии Новгородской [V. V. Kavel’maxer, To the History of Vasilij Doors of the Sophia of Novgorod], in: Зубовские чтения. Вып. 2 (Струнино, 2004) 139–152.

[3] See now: K. Kovalchuk, Celebrating the Encaenia of St Sophia in Constantinople: Liturgical Context, Literary Associations, and Ideological Significance of the Byzantine Diegesis. Doctoral dissertation, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Promotor: P. Van Deun (Leuven, 2008), as well as her article in the present volume.

[4] I agree with Anna Marie Schwemer, Studien zu den frühjüdischen Prophetenlegenden. Vitae Prophetarum, 2 Bde (Tübingen, 1995-1996) (TSAJ, 49-50), and disagree with David Satran, Biblical Prophets in Byzantine Palestine. Reassessing the Lives of Prophets (Leiden, 1995) (SVTP, 11) (the latter believes that the Vitae Prophetarum are a 4th century Christian work).

[5] A wildcard search κητ* AND βρασ* (within 3 lines) on the data base of the TLG results in, apart from four different recensions of the Vitae Prophetarum, their fifth recension known as De prophetarum vita et obitu under the name of Epiphanius, and the sixth recension of the Life of Jonah within the Synaxarium of Constantinople (on September 21), the following authors: Josephus (Ant 9:213), Claudius Aelianus (2nd–3rd cent. AD), De natura animalium (with no connection to Jonah), anonymous (7th cen.) Chronicon paschale, George Cedrenus (Compendium historiarum, 11th–12th cent.), George Tornices (12th cent., letters), Gregory Palamas (14th cent., homily).

[6] G. W. H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford, 1961) 304. Gregory Nazianzen, Carmina de se ipso, PG 37, 1414 A: Οὐκ ἠγνόουν Ἰωνᾶν, ὃς Θεοῦ λόγον Ἔφευγεν, ἀλλἐλήφθη Κλύδωνι, κλήρῳ, θηρίῳ, γαστρὶ, βράσει, Ἐξ ὧν κήρυξ, κήρυξ (“I do know Jonah, who fled from the word of God, but was picked up by the tempest, by the lot, by the beast, by the womb, by throwing up, because of whom the preacher (became) preacher”).

[7] Cf. the corresponding lemmas in H. G. Liddell, R. Scott, H. S. Jones, with the assistance of R. McKenzie, A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, 1940) [electronic edition at] and </span></span>Ν. Καζαζης, Τ. Α. Καραναστασης (επιμ.), Επιτομή του Λεξικού της Μεσαιωνικής Ελληνικής Δημώδους Γραμματείας (1100-1669) του Εμμανουήλ Κριαρά, τόμ. A΄, B΄ (Θεσσαλονίκη, 2001–2003) [electronic edition at].

[8] D. Correns, Jona und Salomo, in: W. Haubeck, M. Bachmann, hrsg., Wort in der Zeit: neutestamentliche Studien . Festgabe für Karl Heinrich Rengstorf zum 75. Geburtstag (Leiden, 1980) 86–94.



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