With comment – postscript to Aethicus

characters from Aethius AND.





The explanation which has become more-or-less standard in the commentaries is well set out in a book presently online through g/gle books,

Gábor Hosszú, Heritage of Scribes: The Relation of Rovas Scripts to Eurasian Writing Systems, Budapest (2011, 2012, 21013)  see p.144-147.


One finds a great deal of strongly nationalist writings from central Europe. some of which have an unconscious and largely un-enunciated circular argument which runs: If [as is my theory] this ….. is the product of my homeland and its ancestors… then I need only explain the items in it by reference to my own homeland and its ancestry… in which case the only items I need compare with are those which appear to support the conclusion reached a priori.

As a general rule, it is best to cast a critical eye on arguments about the “nationality” of works written before the development of national states and churches in Europe.  I’d look at how wide the range of comparative evidence is considered – and presented to the reader – to support these arguments.  Sometimes the range can be far too narrow.

We have seen something of the sort in Voynich studies, where it did not occur to anyone to look beyond European Christian forms, and as a result we had an argument that looked as if it were to become set habit, by which two motifs which in the larger world announce influence from the eastern Mediterranean, were going to be taken as some sort of proof that the work originated in central Europe (i.e. Germany, or perhaps Bohemia). These were (i) the motif I describe as the “welkin band” which is universally known to originate in Persia, and (ii) use of a standing archer figure to represent Sagittarius.  The second originates (as an astronomical figure) among the Scythians, we think. It is recorded in formal astronomical works long before the days of Claudius Ptolemy (who scarcely knew it), then turns up within the 12-figure Roman-era zodiac in Beth Shean and other centres of the eastern and central Mediterranean before finally arriving on the fringes of the Carolingian empire (chiefly in France and Spain), by around the ninth century.

I’ve written up the ‘Standing Archer’ before; I think the best and shortest treatment is in the series of posts entitled ‘The Standing Archer’ at my summary blog ‘Voynich retro’, with the Aratea imagery included here, in the second of three posts.

But the short message is…

So do treat Hosszú‘s explanation of Aethicus’ letters with the same caution as the work of Wiener in 1921.

Nationalism of the sort which infused much nineteenth and early twentieth century historical, archaeological and ethnographic writing has made much of it in need of revision today. Caution is in order.(30/03/2015)


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