I have made this preliminary English translation of the original Dutch text, in order to make the information on Jonitus accessible to a larger audience I would like to apologize in advance for any spelling errors, grammatical errors or just bad & awkward English that can still be found. Please feel free to educate me.

Looking for Jonitus

by C.J. Verduin


  1. Who is Jonitus?
  2. Visting Jonitus in Florence
  3. First clues: Jacob van Maerlant and Petrus Comestor
  4. New leads from the orient
    1. The Revelations of Pseudo-Methodius
    2. The The Book of the Cave of Treasures
    3. The Chronicle of Michael Syrus
  5. Some thoughts on the different names of Jonitus
  6. Jonitus a Roman god?
    1. The Chronicon Bohemorum of Giovanni di Marignola <~~
    2. Earlier sources: Mirabilia Urbis Romae and Chronica Pontificum et Imperatorum
    3. The problem of Escodius~~>
  7. Is Zoroaster a brother of Jonitus?
  8. Addenda and loose ends
    1. From John Gill's Expositor on Gen 19:19.
    2. From Thorndike II, pag 321-322. On the Preface of Michael Scot's Liber Introductorius
    3. More on MSS Vatic. Pal. Lat. 1417 and Ashmole 191. mentioned in the previous item
    4. A reference to Jonitus in Seder HaDoros
    5. From Haynes, Steve (1999) Curing the Curse?: Ham as Victim
    6. A reference to Gerö, S. 1980 "The Legend of the Fourth Son of Noah."
    7. Godfrey of Viterbo on Jonitus

I. Who is Jonitus?

When walking around on the Piazza del Duomo in Florence you can easily get overwhelmed by many impressions.You might therefore tend to overlook the hexagonal reliefs that like a girdle are wrapped around the base of the Giotto's campanile. With some difficulty you can discern at the south wall of this bell tower a panel in which an old man is sitting at a desk and is gazing up towards the heavens with a quadrant (not an astrolabe as I assumed before).
This old man is the subject of the following story which describes a search that started when I was preparing for a short trip to Florence in november 1996. I read in Florence, Art Treasures & Buildings by G. Kaufmann a description of the fore mentioned reliefs. They were made by Pisano and represent the various activities of man.
Jonitus (opera del duomo, florence), from
a photograph by the author
One of the panels represents the invention of astronomy and without further explanation the name Gionitus was mentioned by Kaufmann. When discussing another panel about law he mentioned the name of Phoroneus, who after some browsing appeared to be a Greek mythical legislator. The Blue Guide of Florence also mentioned the name Gionitus, but again without any further explanation about who it might be.
Working my way through works of reference learned me nothing new and I left for Florence, without a clue about the identity of Gionitus.

II. Visiting Jonitus in Florence

I visited the bell tower and the museum of the duomo (l'opera del duomo). In a separate room you can see the original reliefs, that are replaced in the mid sixties by replicas. Behind the quadrant and the celestial sphere on the panel, the signs of pisces, aquarius and capricorn are visible. The English guidebook to the collection spelled the name as Jonitus.

III. First clues: Jacob van Maerlant and Petrus Comestor

On january 2, 1997, I went to the university library in Leiden to look at a text of the Spieghel Historiael (Mirror of History) (1285) by Jacob van Maerlant about the crimes of Cain. I also checked an edition of Maerlants Rijmbijbel (Bible in rhyme) (1271), which however didn't contain the story of Cain's crimes. Both the Spieghel Historiael as well as the Rijmbijbel however made a reference to Jonitus, the fourth son of Noah who, according to Methodius (a martyr), was born after the deluge and who was supposedly the inventor of astronomy.
Some time later I discovered that Petrus Comestor's Historia Scholastica (1160), on which Maerlant's Rijmbijbel is based, also mentions Jonitus in Genesis, Caput 37: De dispersione filiorum Noe, et Nemrod

NB My translations of the latin texts on this web page are only meant to give an idea of what these texts are about. As such I consider these translations to be correct. The translations are however not allways literal, frequently condensed and some non essential parts of the latin text are not translated at all. As I am no classical scholar errors will have probably found their way into this webpage. Notification of any translation errors will be greatly appreciated

Historia libri Genesis: Cap. 37: De dispersione filiorum Noe, et Nemrod
According to Methodius Jonitus is born in the 2100th year after the creation ...Hoc ideo diximus, quia Methodius dicit hunc fuisse de filiis Hirom filii Sem. Quare vero primus coeperit dominari ostendit, agens de quodam filio Noe, de quo non egit Moyses, sic dicens: Centesimo anno tertiae chiliadis natus est Noe filius in similitudinem ejus, et dixit eum Jonithum [**] .
Noah gave Jonitus his share and send him to Ethan Trecentesimo anno dedit Noe donationes filio suo Jonitho, et dimisit eum in terram Ethan, et intravit eam Jonithus usque ad mare orientis, quod dicitur Elioschora, id est solis regio,
Jonitus accepted the gift of wisdom from the Lord and invented astronomy hic accepit a Domino donum sapientiae, et invenit astronomiam.
Jonitus instructed the giant Nimrod and predicted the rise and fall of four empires. When Nimrod returned, inflamed by a love for ruling, he stirred up his kind to let him reign others, but they refused. He went over to Cham, who assented and he reigned among them in Babylon and is then said to be of the sons of Cham Ad quem veniens Nemrod, Gigas decem cubitorum, eruditus [1088C] est ab eo, et accepit ab eo consilium, in quibus locis regnare coepisset. Jonithus iste futuros quosdam eventus praevidit, et maxime de ortu quatuor regnorum, et occasu eorum per successionem. Quam etiam plane prophetavit Daniel. Et praedixit discipulo suo Nemrod, quod primi regnarent de Cham, de quo Belus descendit, post de Sem Medi, et Persae, et Graeci, post, de Japheth Romani. A quo rediens Nemrod accensus amore dominandi, sollicitavit genus suum de Sem, ut imperaret aliis, quasi primogenitus, sed noluerunt; et ideo transivit ad Cham, qui acquievit, et regnavit inter eos in Babylone, et exinde dictus est de filiis Cham...
Doubts about the existence of Jonitus Apparatus
[** 1089A] Additio 2. Objicitur secundum Methodium de Jonitho, quia non genuerat eum Noe ante diluvium, quia non fuit in arca, cum non fuerit mortuus ante, quia post instruxit Nemrod, nunc post diluvium. Forte non est vera ratio Methodii.

After reading the Comestor text I went looking for the reference to Methodius, but I couldn't find anything in Methodius' work (in Migne's Patrologia Graeca and the 'Church Fathers') that was related to the reference by Comestor.
Apart from finding a few references in Lynn Thorndike's History of Magic and Experimental Science of manuscripts mentioning Jonitus (see
addenda 2), I made little progress and I let Jonitus rest for over three years...

IV. New leads from the orient

until in august 2000, I happened to come across a book called Boek van de Wraak Gods (Book of the Wrath of God). In this translation of a fourteenth century Dutch apocalyptic work by Jan van Boendale, the name of Jonitus was mentioned several times. The explanatory notes also solved the mystery concerning the puzzling reference to Methodius.

IV.1 The Revelations of Pseudo-Methodius

It appeared that the Comestor reference was actually to a booklet called Revelationes Methodii (Revelations of Methodius) that was formerly ascribed to Methodius of Patara. As later on, its origin was found out to be a sixth century Syriac text, it became known as the Revelations of Pseudo-Methodius.
I borrowed from the university library Sackur's Sibyllinische Texte und Forschungen, which contained the text of the Revelations, and was happy to recognize it as the origin of Comestor's reference.

In the 100th year of the third chiliad (2100) a son is born to Noah in his own likeness and he called him Ionitus CAPUT 3. ... C. autem anno de terciam chiliadam natus est Noe filius secundum ipsius similitudinem et vocavit nomen eius Ionitum.
In the 300th year of the third chiliad (2300) Noah gave Ionitus gifts and send him to Eoa. The tower of Babel is build in 2690. The confusion of tongues. CCCmo vero tempore de trium milium annorum dedit Noe donationes filio suo Ionito et demisit eum in terram Eoam et post obitum Noe DC et XC. anno in eosdem trium milium annorum ascenderunt filii Noe de terra Eoam et aedificaverunt sibi turrem in terra Sennahar, et illuc divise sunt linguae et disperse sunt super faciem totius terrae.
Ionitus went into the region of the sun and lived there. He accepts the gift of wisdom from God, [he] who not only [gets] this much, but is also made inventor of the whole branch of astronomy. Ionitus autem, filius Noe, introivit in Eoam usque ad mare, qui vocatur hiliu chora, id est regio solis, in quo solis ortum fit et habitavit ibidem. Ionitus accipit a Deo donum sapientiae, qui non solum hoc tantum, sed et omnem astronomiae articulum factusque inventor.
The giant Nimrod, descendant from Sem (! should be Cham) and the first king, went to Ionitus, was educated by him and took his advice. Babylon is build in 2790. The sons of Cham choose Pontipus as their king. Ad hunc discendens Nebroth, qui fuit gigans, et eruditus ab eo accipit ab illo consilium, in quibus regnare coepissent. Hi autem Nebroth ex filiis discendebat hiroum; qui fuit filius Sem ei ipse primus regnavit super terram. DCC vero et XC tertiae chiliadem, quod agebatur trium milium annorum, aedificata est Babillon magna, et regnavit in ea Nebroth. Et post haec fecerunt sibi filii Cham regem ex ipsis, cui nomen est Pontipus.
In 2799 a city called Ionitus was build by the sons of Japheth Et iam DCCXC et nono anno temporis trium milium, anno tertio regni Nebroth, miserunt viros potentes ex filiis Iapheth, sapientes et artifices arte tectonicam constructores et discenderunt in eoam terram ad Ionitum, filium Noe, et aedificaverunt ei civitatem, quam nuncupaverunt Ionitum iuxta nominis illios nuncupationem.
And there was a great peace. An upraising. Ionitus writes to Nimrod about troubles. The beginning of empires. Et pax multa erat in regno Ioniti et Nebroth usque in praesentem diem. In regno autem Nebroth filii Sem, et Pontipum filii Cham et Iapheth contra invicem rebellabant. Scripsit ergo Ionitus epistolam ad Nebroth ita, quia regnum filiorum Iapheth hic incipiet delere regnum filiorum Cham. Haec autem regna primo apparuerunt in terra et post haec dedicerunt omnes gentes constituere sibi regnum post regnum.

Notice that this Revelation text gives some additional information on Jonitus (the city, te letter) compared to Comestor's Historia Scholastica but it omits the description of the predictions to Nimrod by Jonitus concerning the four empires.

IV.2 The Book of the Cave of Treasures

Sackur also mentions The Book of the Cave of Treasures, a work of Syriac origin which tells of Jonitus. Budge's 1927 translation goes as follows

Nimrod the fire-worshipper, and Yôntôn, son of Noah, Budge, p 143-144
Fol. 24a
col. 2
And in the days of Nimrod, the mighty man (or giant), a fire appeared which ascended from the earth, and Nimrod went down, and looked at it, and worshipped it, and he established priests to minister there, and to cast incense into it. From that day the Persians began to worship fire, [and they do so] to this day. And Sîsân, the king, found a spring of water in Drôghîn and he made a white horse and set it over it, and those who bathed in the water used to worship the horse
Fol. 24b
col. 1
And from that time the Persians began to worship that (sic) horse. [According to the Book of Adam (iii. 25), the horse was made of gold.] And Nimrod went to Yôkdôrâ of Nôdh, and when he arrived at the Lake (or Sea) of Atrâs, he found there Yôntôn, the son of Noah. [A marginal note in the Syriac MS, adds, “Noah begot this Yôntôn after the Flood, and he honoured him in many things, and sent him to the east to dwell there.”] And Nimrod went down and bathed in the Lake, and he came to Yôntôn and did homage unto him. And Yôntôn said, “Thou art a king; doest thou homage unto me ?” And Nimrod said unto him, “It is because of thee that I have come down here” and he remained with him for three years. And Yôntôn taught Nimrod wisdom, and the art of revelation (divining ?), and he said unto him, “Come not back again to me.” And when Nimrod went up from the east, and began to practise the art of divining, very many men marvelled at him. And when Idhâshîr (Ardeshir?), the priest who ministered to the fire that ascended from the earth, saw that Nimrod was practising these exalted courses, he entreated the devil, who appeared in connection with that fire, to teach him
Fol. 24b
col. 2
the wisdom of Nimrod. And as the devils were in the habit of destroying those who came nigh unto them by sin, the Devil said unto the priest, “A man cannot become a priest and a Magian until he hath known carnally his mother, and his daughter and his sister.” And Îdhâshîr the priest did this and from that time the priests, and the Magians, and the Persians take their mothers, and their sisters, and their daughters [to wife]. And this Îdhâshîr, the Magian, was the first to begin to study the Signs of the Zodiac, and [omens concerning] luck, and fate, and happenings, and motions of the eyes and eyelids, as well as all the other arts of the learning of the Chaldees. Now, all this learning is the error of devils, and those who practise it shall receive, together with the devils, the doom of the Judgment. And because this art of divination, which was employed by Nimrod, was taught to him
Fol. 25a
col. 2
by Yôntôn, none of the orthodox doctors have suppressed it; nay, they have even practised it. Now the Persians call it “Gelyânâ” (i.e. “Revelation”) and the Romans “Estromion” (i.e. “Astronomy”). But that [knowledge] which the Magians have, viz. astrology, is sorcery and the teaching of devils. There are some who say that it doth indeed [teach concerning] luck, and happenings (i.e. future events), and fate, but these are in error. Now Nimrod builded strong cities in the east, Babel, and Nineveh, and Râsân (Râs ‘Ain), and Selîk (Seleucia), and Ctesiphon, and Âdhôrbaighân; and he made three fortresses.

IV.3 The Chronicle of Michael Syrus

It was march 2002 and I was somewhat puzzled by the Janus-Jonitus connection (see
below), that was suggested by di Marignola and the Mirabilia texts. I reread the introduction of Sackur's Sibyllinische Texte und Forschungen, were I read about a third version presented by Michael Syrus (1126-1199) in his Chronicle (1196). I used the 1868 translation of Victor Langlois Chronique de Michel le Grand: patriarche des Syriens jacobite.

Noah lived 350 years after the flood, fathered a son called Maniton and divided the earth among his children... p. 26 Noé vécut 350 ans après le déluge, engendra un fils nommé Maniton et partagea la terre entre ses enfants...
In this division, Maniton receives the land across the sea. He asks his father for a part of the bones of Adam, that are kept in the arch. Noach gives him the kneecaps of Adam and sends him westward. Maniton develops p. 27 Maniton reçut en partage la terre située au delà de la mer. Il demanda a son père une partie des ossements d'Adam que l'on gardait dans l'arche; celui-ci lui donna les genoux et l'envoya ensuite en occident. Maniton developpa
the astrological sciences, and those of augury and the magical secrets of the phenomena(?). Others believe that the Madianites (=Midianites) descend from him. p. 28 les sciences astrologiques, et celle des augures et les secrets magiques des phénomènes. D'autres croient que les Madianites descendent de lui

In contrast to the texts of Pseudo-Methodius and of the Cave of treasures, this texts explicitly mentions that Jonitus was send by Noah to the land in the west across the sea. This might be a possible explanation why less than a century later we meet Jonitus again in Italy, only now as the Roman god Janus.

V. Some thoughts on the different names of Jonitus

As I read more on Jonitus I was puzzled by the various names that were used for this one person. It then struck me that the main difference between most of the versions of the name (Gionitus, Jonitus, Jonithus, Jonitho, Jonithon and Yôntôn) was in the vowels and that the suffix -us is probably introduced during the Latinizing of what originally was a name from the middle east (Israel, Syria).
Thus a template with only consonants for the original Hebrew or Syriac name would be something like JNTN or JNTHN. With this template it is easy to imagine how for example the name of Jonathan fits in as well as Joniton or Yonton. As an additional bonus the name Jonathan () means "Gift of God", which might bear some relation to the constant references to the fact that he received his wisdom as a gift of God. It therefore seems to me a feasible hypothesis that the original name of Noah's fourth son was Jonathan. For the remainder of the text however I will stick to Jonitus.

VI. Jonitus a Roman god?

VI.1 The Chronicon Bohemorum of Giovanni di Marignola

December 2000, I came across a Czechian internet repository of historical sources pertaining to the origin of Bohemian royalty. There I found the Chronicon Bohemorum (1354/1355) of Giovanni di Marignola (before 1290-1360?). He was a Florentine franciscan who, as an papal envoy, traveled to China, Indonesia and India. The first part of this chronicle contains a history of the world compiled from various sources and it is a veritable hotchpotch of biblical and mythological stories, enriched with details from his own travels.
The chronicle shows a strong euhemerist tendency to downsize pagan gods to the level of human kings and heroes, that is already apparent in Comestor's Historia Scholastica (especially in the Incidentiae). This tendency is linked with a need synchronize mythological stories with the biblical chronology. Even Nimrod loses 2 cubits of his height in this downsizing process, which would leave him with still enough stature I guess, but it all seems a bit odd. Di Marignola adds a new ingredient to the story of Jonitus by identifying him as none other than Janus, the ancient god of the Romans.

Noah goes to Cyprus and fathers Janus Venit autem Noe in Cyprum et ibi generacioni operam dantes et agriculture filios genuerunt. Noe genuit Janum...
Janus, son of Noah, father of Italy and called Janan in Genesis, practiced astrology, went to Italy and made himself two camps, the first on the spot of 'St. Mary on the Janiculus', the second one at the sea shore Janus, filius Noe, pater Ytalie, iste in Genesi dicitur Janan; hic dedit se astrologie et venit in Ytaliam, ubi nunc est Roma, et sibi edificavit castrum. Et usque hodie in Roma est ecclesia, que dicitur sancta Maria ad Janiculum, ubi fuit castrum Jani. Aliud eciam castrum edificavit in ripa maris nepoti suo eodem nomine appellato et Janum vocavit, ubi nunc est Janua civitas, quam Troyani postmodum acreverunt.
The giant Nimrod, from the line of Cham and 8 cubits heigh, desired to reign and not knowing how, asked Janus, a wise man and astrologer, to teach him and by his counsel he wanted to rule over the sons of Sem, who scorned him altogether Inter quos de filio quodam Cham nomine Cus natus est quidam gygas nomine Nemprot, statura cubitorum octo, pulcher et fortis valde. Hic appetivit dominari et nesciens modum, rogavit Janum, filium Noe, natum post diluvium, virum prudentissimum et astrologum, ut doceret eum de modo regendi, cuius consilio voluit filiis Sem dominari, qui omnino sprevit eum.
After the division of languages Janus went to Italy with a large 'crowd', The building of the two camps. Japheth and his people lived in other parts. Among the others, who were deified, Janus has been less bad according to Austin (City of God, book 7 chapt. 4) Post divisionem li[n]guarum Janus, filius Noe, navibus venit in Europam cum multitudine magna versus Ytaliam, ubi nunc est Roma, et ibi finxit tentoria et fecit castrum, ubi nunc est sancta Maria ad Janiculum, et nepos eius eodem nomine edificavit castrum Jani, ubi nunc Janua. Japhet cum suis populavit partes alias. Janus fuit inter alios minus malus, qui dii facti sunt, secundum Augustinum.
The exiled Saturn is received most gladly by Janus for his wisdom and made co-ruler. Saturn taught the art of coining money, sowing grain, using sails, saddles for horses and many miraculous things. He founded Saturniam. On his advice Janus decreed that frankincense instead of oxen was sacrificed to the gods like this: Appease the god with frankincense, let the calf be, that it may grow up for the plough. When Saturn died, Janus buried him with frankincense, deified him and instituted the Saturnalian plays
From Augustine, La Cité de Dieu c. 1475-1480,
MMW, 10 A 11, © Dutch Royal Library
Saturnus navi fugit in Europam, quem Janus libentissime suscepit propter eius sapienciam et consortem regni fecit. Hic Saturnus docuit formare monetas; ideo in antiquis denariis Ytalie, in monetis, que inveniuntur in agris, ex una parte est Janus, et ex alia parte navis, scilicet cum qua venit Saturnus in Sutrium prope Romam. Frumentum primus in Europa seminavit, navigare cum velo docuit, sellas equis invenit, unde dicuntur esse homines medii equi illi primi, quia firmiter equitabant, et multa mira docuit, civitatem edificavit, usque hodie Saturniam nominatam in territorio maritimo et calida balnea adinvenit, ubi fui post. Thus non boves sacrificandum diis eius consilio Janus decrevit juxta illud: Thure deum placa, vitulum sine, crescat aratro. Unde a thure Thuscia dicta est. Unde versus: Thuscia thure deis legitur nunc edere primum. Quo Saturno defuncto Janus cum thure eum sepelivit et deum fecit et ludos instituit, et Saturnalia nuncupantur.
The next king was the very wise Numa Pomfilius. He added two months to a year, distinguished that there were twelve and ordered the first to be january from Janus, named as the second february from Februa, mother of the gods. The rest remained as before. Huic successit Numa Pomfilius, homo sagacissimus, qui duos menses addidit anno et duodecim esse distinxit et ordinavit et primum a Jano Januarium, secundum a Februa, matre deorum, nominavit Februarium, reliquos autem ut prius.


VI.2 Earlier sources: Mirabilia Urbis Romae and Chronica Pontificum et Imperatorum

In November 2001 I read the English translation by F.M. Nichols of the Mirabilia Urbis Romae (1889) and I recognized the first chapter as a probable source for de Marignola's story about Janus. The Mirabilia Urbis Romae was written around 1150 but the first chapter was probably added in the 13th century. This still would predate the history of de Marignola. April 23 2002 I borrowed Codex Urbis Romae Topographicus (1871) by K.L. Urlichs wich contained the Latin text (Graphia aureae urbis Romae), that Nichols had used for his translation
Some time before november 2001, I had stumbled upon Gasapino Antegnati's Note cronistiche edited by
Gabriele Zanella that also contained a latin text quite similar to the text of Nichols first chapter. In March 2002 I learned from Zanelli's notes that Antegnati's Janus fragment is based on the popular Chronica Pontificum et Imperatorum of the Dominican friar Martinus Oppaviensis (or Polonus) aka Martin von Troppau (1203?-1278). It now seems to me that Martins Chronicle is the source of both the Mirabilia and de Marignola, so my next question is: What source was used by Martin?

F.M. Nichols Graphia aureae urbis RomaeMartin von TroppauGasapino Antegnati
p.1 Of the foundations of the city of Rome.
After the sons of Noah build the Tower of Confusion, Noah with his sons entered into a ship, as Hescodius writeth, and came unto Italy. And not far from the place where now is Rome, he founded a city of his own name (=Arca Noe); wherein he brought his travail and his work to an end. Then his son Janus, with Janus his son, Japhet his grandson, and Camese a man of the country, building a city, Janiculum, in the Palatine mountain, succeeded to the kingdom;...
The same with the aforesaid Camese, did build him a place in Transtiberium, that he called Janiculum, to wit, in that place where the church of Saint John of Janiculum now standeth...
Moreover at that time Nembroth, which is the same as Saturnus that was shamefully entreated of his son Jupiter, came to the said realm of Janus, and upholden by his aid, founded a city in the Capitol...
p.113 Incipit graphia auree urbis.
Postquam filii noe edificaverunt confusionis turrem, noe cum filiis suis ratem ingressus, ut hescodius* scribit venit ytaliam. Et non longe ab eo loco ubi nunc roma est civitatem nominis sui construxit, in qua et laboris et vite terminum dedit. Janus vero filius una cum iano filio japheth, nepote suo, et camese indigena in monte palatino civitatem janiculum construens regnum accepit. Camese vero carnis universo via ingresso, ad ianum solum regnum relatum est. hic cum jam dicto camese apud transtiberim palatium construxit quod ianiculum appellavit, in eo scilicet loco ubi nunc ecclesia sci Johannis ad ianiculum sita est. Ipse vero in palatio
p. 114 se in palatino monte contsructo regni sedem habebat. In quo omnes postea imperatores et cesares filiciter habitaverunt. Eo etiam tempore nerotth qui et saturnus a Jove filio suo eunuchizatus ad jam dictum iani regnum devenit, eiusque iuvamine fultus construxit civitatem in capitolio, quam de suo nomine saturnam appelavit.

* Hesiodus coni. O; at cronicis Escodii sive Methodii se usum esse ait Martinus Polonus in prooemio; eundem Estodium vocat Caballinus. Methodium passim excerpsit Marianus Scotus, ac Mechodii nescio quem librum contineat cod. Reg. 219
p.399 Modum autem constructionis et dispositionis Romane urbis demonstrat Escodius sic dicens: Postquam filii Noe edificaverunt turrim confusionis, Noe cum aliquibus ratem ingressus venit in Ytaliam et non longe ab eo loco
p.400 ubi nunc est Roma civitatem construxit nominis sui, in qua laboris et vite terminum dedit. Ianus vero filius una cum Iano filio Japheth, nepote suo, et Camese indigena civitatem Ianiculum construens regnum accepit. Hic cum iam dicto Camese apud Transtyberim palacium construxit, quod Ianiculum appellavit, in eo loco ubi nunc ecclesia sancti Iohannis ad Ianiculum sita est. Eodem tempore Nemroth qui et Saturnus, a Jove filio suo eunuchizatus, ad predicti Jani regnum pervenit eiusque iuvamine fultus construxit civitatem ubi nunc est Capitolium.
27. Modum autem constructionis et disposicionis Romane urbis demonstrat Oscidius sic dicens: Postquam filii Noe edificaverunt turim confussionis, Noe cum aliquibus ratem, scilicet navim parvam, ingressus venit in Ytaliam et non longe a loco ubi nunc est Roma civitatem construxit nominis sui, in qua et laboris et vite terminum dedit.
28. Janus vero filius [Noe] una cum Jano filio Japheth nepote suo, et Camese indigena civitatem Januculum construens regnum accepit. Hic autem cum Camese iam dicto apud Transtyberim palatium construxit, quod Janiculum appellavit, in eo loco ubi nunc est ecclesia Sancti Johannis ad Janiculum sita.
29. Eo tempore Nemroth qui et Saturnus, a Jove filio suo eunuchitatus fuit, ad predicti Jani regnum pervenit eiusque iuvamine fultus construxit civitatem ubi nunc est Capitolium.

VI.3 The problem of Escodius

In the text of the Mirabilia Urbis Romae the name of an author Hescodius (English translation) or Oscidius or Escodius (Latin text) is mentioned as the source for the first part of the Janus story. After some browsing I found the name Esicius in the Historia Scholastica of Petrus Comestor, which would push back the source of origin for this story to a date before 1160. (In march 2002 I discovered that the name Esicius, a name mentioned by the theologian Walafrid Strabo (808-849), probably stood for Hesychius. Three men of that name are known but the reference was probably to Hesychius of Jerusalem, a 5th century priest-monk and biblical commentator.)
I was not yet hindered by any knowledge of Hesychius and it was a reference to Flavius Josephus that made me look up Whiston's translation of Antiquities of the Jews.
While I was doing some other work on Josephus it occured to me that It was very unlikely that Comestor had read Josephus in Greek. I therefor add the socalled Old Latin Josephus translation, which was probaly produced under Cassiodorus

Flavius Josephus (Whiston trans) Old Latin JosephusPetrus Comestor
But as to the plain of Shinar, in the country of Babylonia, Hestiaeus mentions it, when he says thus: "Such of the priests as were saved, took the sacred vessels of Jupiter Enyalius, and came to Shinar of Babylonia."
1. AFTER this they were dispersed abroad, on account of their languages, and went out by colonies every where; and each colony took possession of that land which they light upon, and unto which God led them; so that the whole continent was filled with them, both the inland and the maritime countries.
(Book I, chap 4 & 5)
De campo quoque qui vocatur sennar in regione babylonis: meminit estius ita dicens. Qui de sacerdotibus sunt erepti: iovis sacre sumentes in sennar babylonis venerunt. Divisit autem post haec diversitate linquarum migrationes agentes ubique: & terra appraehendentes unusquisque soelicem: & ad quam eos deus deduceret: ita ut omnis terra per eos compleret: De campo vero Sennaar in regione Babylonis meminit Esicius dicens: Qui de sacerdotibus sunt erepti: Jovis sacra sumentes, in Sennaar Babylonis venerunt, divisique sunt post haec, diversitate linguarum migrationes agentes, apprehendentes mediterranea simul, et maritima. (Lib. Gen cap. 38)

Hestiæus or is a Phoenician historian according to Lempriere's Dictionary and John Gill's Expositor on Genesis 11. When looking at the Greek version of the name, it is easy to imagine, how a small error by a copyist of a manuscript can lead to various corruptions of a name.

Weiland who edited the Chronica Pontificum et Imperatorum, mentioned the chronicles of Escodius in his preface when he discussed the various sources used by Martinus.
Weiland, MGH SS, tom 22, p. 392
9 The Chronicles of Escodius. Martin praises this imaginary author even in the preface of the longer version C:...
The following story and the index of buildings of Rome is taken from that wonderful book called The Wonders of Rome or in other versions Writings of the golden city of Rome. ...
Undoubtedly Martin made use of that book of Wonders under the name Escodius. ...
Not only in the preface, but also in the cronicles themselves he draws from the 'Wonders' on three occasions. First the story of the vision of Augustus, that also can be read in almost the same words at Gervasius II, 16. Secondly of Agrippa and the building of the Pantheon under imperor Domitian. Thirdly the conversion of the Pantheon into the Santa Maria Rotunda under pope Boniface IV. ...
9 Chronica Escodii. Auctorem istum fabulosum Martinus laudat etiam in praefatione prolixiore rec. C: Modum autem constructionis et dispositionis Romane urbis demonstrat Escodius sic dicens: Postquam filii Noe etc. Sequens narratio autem et index aedificiorum Urbis desumptus est e libro illo mirabili qui inscribetur Mirabilia Romae seu in alia eius recensione Graphia aureae urbis Romae. Cum autem Graphia sic ordiantur: Postquam filii Noe edificaverunt confusionis turrim, Noe cum filiis suis ratem ingressus, ut Hescodius scribit, venit Ytaliam et -- nil dubii esse potest quin Martinus sub nomine Escodii libro illo Mirabilium usus sit. Quod ad Escodium, fontem Mirabilium, videat de eo futurus libri isti editor. Non solum in praefatione, set etiam in ipso chronico Martinus e Mirabilibus hausit tribus locis. Primo narrationem de visione Octaviani Augusti inde desumpsit, quae iisdem fere verbis apud Gervasium II, 16 quoque legitur; secundo narrationem de Agrippa et de constructione Panthei sub Domitiano imperatore; tertio narrationem de immutatione Panthei in ecclesiam S. Mariae rotundam sub Bonifacio IV. papa. Recte igitur etiam in rec. A et B sub fontibus laudatur Escodius. Cum Martinus textum Graphia et Mirabilia coniugentem adhibuerit, quae autem ratio intercedat inter duas istas eiusdem operis recensiones nondum arte critica indagatum sit, ideoque Martini tenor codicis quasi Mirabilium valorem obtineat, rei aptum esse duximus, ut et varias nominum propriorum lectiones, quales dabant codices octo a nobis adhibiti; quam accuratissime adnotaremus et typis maioribus illam partem operis insigniremus.

More to come~~>

VII. Is Zoroaster a brother of Jonitus?

Robert de Bury finished his Philobiblon or The Love of Books just a few months before he died in april 1345. It is about de Bury's attitude to (collecting) books and it contains the following text.

...The secrets of the heavens, which Jonithus learnt not from man or through man but received by divine inspiration; what his brother Zoroaster, the servant of unclean spirits, taught the Bactrians;...(transl. E. C. Thomas (1888)) ...Arcana caelorum, quae Jonithus non ab homine neque per hominem didicit sed divinitus inspiratus accepit; quaeque Zoroastes germanus ejusdem, immundorum servitor spirituum, Bactrianis disseruit;...

Does this mean that Zoroaster was supposed to be a fifth son of Noah? Well, not neccessarily. This remark was probably based on Comestor's Historia Scholastica

Historia libri Genesis: Cap. 39: Primum incidens
Ninus Conquered Cham who untill then lived and reigned in Bactria and was called Zoroaster inventor of the magical art and who wrote down the seven free arts on fourteen columns, seven bronze ones and seven made of bricks, against both judgements. Ninus has burned his books. From these the idols originate.. ...Ninus vicit Cham, qui adhuc vivebat, et regnabat in Bractia, [al. Thracia], et dicebatur Zoroastres inventor magicae artis, qui et septem liberales artes, in quatuordecim columnis scripsit, septem aeneis, et septem lateritiis, contra utrumque judicium [al. diluvium]. Ninus vero libros ejus combussit. Ab eisdem orta sunt idola sic...

or on Beauvais' Speculum Historiale (lib II, cap 101) who quotes both Comestor and (pseudo) Clemens' Recognitiones (lib 4, cap 27 & 28).

One of these, by name Ham, unhappily discovered the magical act, and handed down the instruction of it to one of his sons, who was called Mesraim, from whom the race of the Egyptians and Babylonians and Persians are descended. Him the nations who then existed called Zoroaster,[3] admiring him as the first author of the magic art; trader whose name also many books on this subject exist. He therefore, being much and frequently intent upon the stars, and wishing to be esteemed a god among them, began to draw forth, as it were, certain sparks from the stars, and to show them to men, in order that the rude and ignorant might be astonished, as with a miracle; and desiring to increase this estimation of him, he attempted these things again and again, until he was set on fire, and consumed by the demon himself, whom he accosted with too great importunity... For raising a sepulchre to his honour, they went so far as to adore him as a friend of God, and one who had been removed to heaven in a chariot of lightning, and to worship him as if he were a living star. Hence also his name was called Zoroaster after his death--that is, living star--... (transl. Early Church Fathers vol VIII) ...*Cham filius *Noe filio suo *Stram a quo *Egiptiorum et *Babyloniorum et *Persarum ducitur genus, male compertam magice artis tradidit disciplinam. Hunc gentes que tunc erant *Zoroastrem appellaverunt, cuius nomine libri super hoc plurimi habentur. Hic volens apud homines videri deus, multum et frequenter astris intentus velut scintillas quasdam ex stellis producebat, ut rudes in stuporem miraculi traherentur. Tandem ab ipso demone quem importunius frequentabat, succensus est. Cui extruxerunt sepulcrum tanquam amico dei, vehiculo fulminis ad celum sublevato, unde et post mortem hoc nomen sortitus est *Zoroastres tanquam vivens astrum. ...

Comestor equated Cham to Zoroaster, which explains why de Bury called Jonitus and Zoroaster brothers. It seems however that this is a wrong interpretation/translation of the Clemens text, in which Zoroaster is supposedly a son of Cham called Mesraim, who was educated by his father in the magical arts.
Thomas Browne summarized these various versions in the first chapter of his Garden of Cyrus (1658) when he wrote: 'And if Zoroaster were either Cham, Chus, or Mizraim,...', adding Chus as yet another candidate for Zoroaster in the process.

VIII. Addenda and loose ends

This section is an unsorted collection of miscelaneous pieces of information on Jonitus, gathered from the internet and other sources.
  1. From John Gill's Expositor on Gen 19:19. "These are the three sons of Noah", &c.]
    And his only ones; and if he had any more, they left no posterity behind them, since it follows, "and of them was the whole earth overspread", with inhabitants, by them and their posterity only: Berozus {z} indeed says, that Noah, after the flood, begat more sons, and giants; and his commentator, Annius, talks of seventeen of them, among whom was Tuiscon, the father of the Germans; and the author of Juchasin {a} ascribes a fourth son to Noah, whose name he calls Joniko, who taught astronomy in the world, and taught Nimrod the art of war; but these are fabulous stories, and contrary to the sacred Scriptures, which speak of three sons of Noah, and no more, and say that by these the earth was replenished after the flood: hence, among the Heathen writers, we read of Saturn and his three children, who by many circumstances appears to be the same with Noah, as Bochart {b} hath proved at large.

    {z} Antiqu. l. 2. fol. 13. 2.
    {a} Fol. 135. 1.
    {b} Phaleg. l. 1. c. 1.

  2. From Thorndike II, pag 321-322. On the Preface of Michael Scot's Liber Introductorius
    ...The preface closes with a rather long and very confused account of the history of astronomy and astrology. While Zoroaster of the lineage of Shem was the inventor of magic, the arts of divination began with Cham, the son of Noah, who was both of most subtle genius and trained in the schools of demons. He tested by experience what they taught him and having proved what was true, indited the same on to columns and taught it to his son Canaan, who soon outstripped his father therein and wrote thirty volumes on the art of divination and instructed his son Nemroth in the same. When Canaan was slain in war and his books were burned, Nemroth revived the art of astronomy from memory and, was like his father, deemed a god by many because of his great lore. He composed a work on the subject for his son Ionicon
    *, whose son Abraham also became an adept in the art and came from Africa to Jerusalem and taught Demetrius and Alexander of Alexandria, who in turn instructed Ptolemy, king of Egypt, who invented astronomical canons and table and the astrolabe and the quadrant. The giant Atlas brought the art to Spain before Moses received the two tablets containing the ten commandments. If this chronology surprises us, there is something more amazing to follow. At this point in the manuscript the copyist has either omitted a great deal** or Atlas was extremely long-lived, since we next read about his showing the astrolabe to two “clerks of France.” Gilbertus (presumably Gerbert) borrowed the instrument for a while, conjured up demons - for he was the best nigromancer in France, made them explain its construction, uses and operation to him, and furthermore all the rest of astronomy. Later he reformed and had no more dealing with demons and became bishop of Ravenna and Pope. Having thus got rather ahead of time, Michael mentions various other learned astronomers, most of whom really lived before Gerbert, such as Thebit ben Corat, Messahalla, Dorotheus, Hermes, Boethius, Averroes, John of Spain, Isidore, Zahel and Alcabitius...
    * What purported to be this work is listed in the Speculum astronomiae of Albertus Magnus, and Haskins, “Nimrod the Astronomer”, Romanic Review, V. (1914), 203-212 has called the attention to the following MSS: S. Marco VIII, 22; Vatic. Pal. Lat. 1417; and an extract in Ashmole 191. Haskins notes various mentions of Nimrod as an astronomer in medieval authors, but not the above passage of Michael Scot. Although Latin writers make Ioathon or Ionaton (and various other spellings) the disciple of Nimrod, in Syrian writing Ionitus is the fourth son of Noah and himself the discoverer of astronomy and teacher of Nimrod (Haskins, op. cit. 210-211

    ** The word Explicit is written across the knees of a figure of the giant Anthalax or Caclon, who supports the heavens on his head at fol. 25r, col. 1, but the passage concerning “Gilbertus” follows and the proper Explicit of the preface does not occur until fol. 25v, col 1. See Haskins op. cit. p. 207 for pictures in the MSS of Atlas and Nimrod side by side, the one standing on the Pyrenees and supporting the starry firmament; the other on the mount of the Amorites bearing the starless heavens

  3. More on MSS Vatic. Pal. Lat. 1417 and Ashmole 191. mentioned in the previous notes:
    • From http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/r14310/Ptolemy/Day.html (found dec 2001)
      ...See also the astrological text mentioned by Saxl, Vatican, Biblioteca apostolica, Ms Pal. lat. 1417,Diologus inter Nemroth et Joathon de astronomia, which contains an illustration of two globe-bearing astronomers: Atlas, who is describeed in the didascalia as "Atlas, the great astrologer, King of Spain, who carries on his bent shoulders the heavens covered with stars" and Nembrod (Nimrud?) "the observer of the heavens and the King of the Chaldeans, who holds the globe on his bent back, but without the stars" (the illumination apears on fol. 1r of the manuscript)...

    • from http://personal.mia.bellsouth.net/rdu/m/o/moswell/thesis2.doc (on song texts in the fourth part of the manuscript; found dec 2001)
      MS ashomole 191(Ash 191) in the Bodleian Library at Oxford is a compendium of four separate manuscripts bound together at some point before it was donated by Elias Ashmole in 1682 or 83 (see Table 1).
      The first manuscript (fols. 1-78v, with fols.79-82v separating it from the next manuscript) is a compilation of studies and tables on astronomy and astrology from various English scholars, including William Reede, Bishop of Chicester in the years 1368-85. It contains a reference on f. 46 to Nimrod en Jonitus: In libro responsorium Magistri Nemroth ad discipulum Joaton. There is also an incomplete volvelle on f. 54 which is similar to another fragmentary one at the end of the fourth manuscript. The second manuscript (fols. 83-159v, with blank fols. 160-163v separating it from the third) is a miscellany consisting mostly of astronomical treatises, but with some interesting additions, including a remedy for hemorrhoids.  The third manuscript, which is from the sixteenth century around the time of the reign of Edward VI, is considerably shorter than the previous two, taking up a little over 20 folios (fols. 164-186v); it is another manuscript containing astronomical information with quotations from Ptolemy.  The last manuscript in Ash 191 (fols. 191-210) contains six songs with Middle English texts and then calendars and tables with descriptions also in Middle English.  Like the other three, this manuscript contains astronomical and astrological charts and information, which likely explains why they were bound together.

  4. From: Newsgroups: uk.religion.jewish
    From: mglick@xilcs.demon.co.uk (M Glickman)
    Subject: Re: Names of the poeple wh survived Noah's flood?
    Date: Mon, 5 Mar 2001 21:27:54 UTC (found may 2001)
    ...And here's one for your quiz master - who was the fourth son of Noach? According to one opinion quoted in Seder HaDoros (although there are Medrashim that disagree), Noach had a son called Yuniku after the Flood...

  5. From Haynes, Steve (1999) Curing the Curse?: Ham as Victim http://www.emory.edu/COLLEGE/RELIGION/affiliate/COVR/Haynes.html (found may 2001)
    This is a reference to a fourth son of Noah, called Jonathan, that drowned in the flood. This is also mentioned in the holy Qur'an, in the 11th Surah, called Hûd, verses 42-43. A relation with Jonitus might exist, but is as yet not clear to me
    ...The legend of the mysterious fourth son of Noah - the mythical Jonathan - offers a provocative answer to this question. According to legend, the youngest of Noah’s sons drowned in the flood. Perhaps this legend contains a trace of historical and religious truth. Did Jonathan became a sacrificial victim while what was left of the human community languished on the ark for weeks and months unsure of how to appease the angry God who was purging the earth? If Jonathan became a victim of the very violence that precipitated the flood, this might explain why animal sacrifice was resorted to immediately after flood. Why else slaughter rescued animals immediately upon arrival in the new world, unless a sacrificial crisis has occurred in transit?...

  6. Probably related with the previous addendum is Gerö, S. 1980 "The Legend of the Fourth Son of Noah." Harvard Theological Review. 73: 321-330 (found may 2001). But I still have to check it.

  7. (added dec 2003) Godfrey of Viterbo wrote on Jonitus, in which he added new some new elements like Jonitus' stay in Paradise and his planting of shoots from the tree of Paradise on Mount Libanon, from which came the wood for the Cross.:
    [1v] <secundum Ebreorum istoriographos magnos>, quos imitamur et sequimur sunt hii: Moyses, Iosue, Esdras, Iosephus, Isidorus, Dionius et Strabus et Egesippus et Orosius et Suetonius et Solinus de mirabilibus mundi. Qui nobis non tantum historias Ebraicas, set om- nium regum et regnorum antiquorum nomina et gesta et annos et tempora lucide et ordinate resignant. <<Ante tempora vero Ebreorum immo ante diluvium ab ipso Adam sunt antiquitatum notarii et istoriografi. Adam primo loco illa, quae de mundi constitutione cognovit, scripsit et Seth, filio suo, reliquid. Seth scripsit et reliquit filio suo Enos. Enos reliquit filio suo Cainan. Et Cainan reliquit Malalehel. Qui scripsit et reliquit filio suo Enoc. Qui scripta reliquit Matudalam, qui reliquit filio suo Lamec. Lamec scripsit filio suo Noe. Noe dixit et scripsit filiis suis Cham, Sem et Iaffet. Cham factus est astrologus et vixit et regnavit usque ad tempora Beli, patris Nini regis, et scripsit vii artes liberales et gesta preteritorum. Item Sem, filius Noe, qui natus est c annis ante diluvium et vixit d annis et xxxv post diluvium, videlicet usque ad tempora Abrahe et trigintaquinque annis ultra tempora Abrahe, qui fuit rex Salem, id est Ierusalem, qui etiam vocatus est Melchisedec; - ille idem Sem, filius Noe, multa scripsit et ea posteris reliquit et morem sacrificandi in pane et vino instituit, qui usque ad tempora Moysi et Aaron perduravit. Abraham Chaldeus artes Chaldeorum et Egiptiorum similiter novit et posteros docuit. Moyses etiam artibus Egiptiorum per studium filie Faraonis eruditus fuit et a posteros docuit. Novit etiam omnia per spiritum Dei, quecumque in mundo et ante mundum fuerant. Preterea Ihonitus, Noe filius, quem genuit post diluvium, astrologus fuit et iustus ante Deum, qui legitur raptus fuisse in paradisum et ibi omnia didicisse, que erant ante mundi constitutionem et arborem illam de paradiso portasse et in monte Libani plantasse; in qua Christus postea est crucifixus, sicut in corpore libri istius plenius continetur, ubi de Christi passione tractamus. Sunt et alii barbari sive gentiles istoriografi secundum libros annales antiquorum regum, qui omnia que contigerant integraliter descripserunt nec aliquid non scriptum reliquerunt. Quo- rum nomina aliqua hic dicemus: Mamenot, qui descriptionem fecit Egiptiorum. Berosus, qui defloravit omnia scripta Chaldeorum. Mochus et Estius et Ieronimus Egiptius. Et quidam Jeronimus et alii multi barbari sive gentiles istoriografi concordant istoriis et cronicis nostris. Ad hec christianos et catholicos doctores, quos imitamur in supposito titulo contemplare. Sub hoc signo respice sursum.>>
    from page178 of Killgus, O (2001) Studien Zum Liber Universalis Gottfrieds Von Viterbo thesis, Augsburg
    This text can also be found in the Memoria Seculorum Gotefredi Viterbiensis Opera, ed G. Waitz, in MGH SS 2, Hannover 1872, page 96.
    Notice the reference to Estius. Waitz suggests that Gottfried probably used another source for this version of the Jonitus story besides Comestor.
    I still have to check Migne's edition of the Pantheon.
Other biblical candidates for the title of 'founder of astronomy' are (the offspring of) Seth (according to Flavius Josephus' Jewish Antiquities) and Enoch (in Book of Enoch).

Because of the informal nature of this text I have for the time being refrained from giving detailed references.
NB quotations are sometimes typed manually and may contain errors

The translation of this web page from an earlier Dutch version and the addition of new material was done in response to a request by Robert Derome, who maintains the
Iconography of Ptolemy's Portrait website

Last update: dec 14, 2003
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