Apart from the metaphor of “Amazonian” torsos, which I intended as a nod to my long-term readers concerning the Black Sea and earlier posts about the imagery in the ‘ladies’ folios, (see brief outline as third section of this post) there is one fairly obvious and simple possibility for the ladies’ having been given a single breast.
Stars were often likened to drops of milk.. Most visible stars are single stars… so one breast each. 🙂
galaxy: Middle English (originally referring to the Milky Way): via Old French from medieval Latin galaxia, from Greek galaxias (kuklos) ‘milky (vault)’, from gala, galakt- ‘milk’.
I’ve already explained why I consider the first enunciators of the outer tiers (not the central emblems) in the calendar section to have been a person who thought in Greek:
see e.g. posts ‘Folio 70r: Star-hours & months ~ for the mathematicians’, Voynichimagery‘ October 28th., 2012 and briefly reprised in the summary post ‘Boundaries – the ins and outs’, published at voynichretro.wordpress.com, October September 30th., 2013)
But since we’ve raised the subject of Amazons, let’s go there. I won’t bother you with the whole load of historical and archaeological stuff, but I think a nice introduction, if you have JSTOR is:
E. Baynham, ‘Alexander and the Amazons’, The Classical Quarterly, Vol.51, No.1 (2001) pp. 115-126.
Baynham first refers to the “Amazon” type in legend but quickly moves on to more solid sources such as Arrian.
All ancient and later writers locate Amazons in Scythian lands near the Black Sea around the Thermodon River – the link to the sea making it part of that network which criss-crossed the Black Sea. The Amazons are said to have lived inland from the shore between Sinope and Trebizond – and Trebizond would be where Gregory Chionades later translated for his Byzantine audience the corrections to Ptolemy’s Tables, completing the work c.1295 AD. (see note in third section of this post, below: ‘Persian Syntaxis’).
Trebizond was among the earliest Greek foundations in the Black Sea, though originally ancillary to Sinope. After the Roman period Trebizond would be held by, and remain longest, a Byzantine possession. I’ve written before at some length about these matters in relation to Beinecke MS 408 ( see e.g. the ‘Temple of the Angels’ series of posts at voynichretro.wordpress.com).
Here’s how the region (‘Pontus’) looked as a Christian diocese by 400 AD.
For a neat list of the classical sources, here’s the entry for Thermodon from Smith’s Dictionary of Classical Geography (vol. 2, p.1161).
From the late 6thC BC to the 4thC BC, Amazons were mentioned regularly by Greeks, something which is of interest given that there was an active Greek network into that region. A line of ancient Greek towns and cities: termed ‘colonies’ lined the Black Sea’s coast, and a few Phoenician colonies too.
Perhaps their inhabitants invented the Amazons, but there’s nothing impossible about such group’s having existed, even if more recent writers have attempted to claim that the women were only “lightly-armed auxiliary troops” assisting their men, from the assumption that (a) women couldn’t live without men to tell them what to do and (b) that the society couldn’t possibly have been matriarchal and (c) that women would have had to give up any military activity once they began producing children – except in emergencies. (I won’t add references for those opinions here).
See however the “Greeks of Pontus” map, covering the 8thC BC – 3rdC BC, courtesy of wiki article here.)
Baynham notes – and how could one not – that there is a pronounced hostility expressed in the Greek and the Latin literature towards the Amazons, though their way of life is evocative of the Greeks’ Artemis. One can understand that when any one class of person, and in this case a classical Greek male, finds a universal acceptance in their own world of their being ‘naturally’ one of the dominant class, that offence might be taken when encountering what would appear an inversion of that ‘universal and natural’ order.
Reprise: Astronomical imagery in the ‘Ladies’ Section, the Black Sea High northern road.
I haven’t yet published anything on the line of transmission to Sephardi Jewish communities of the south-west Mediterranean through the Aegean, of astronomical matter gained from the northern road, from the Black Sea, Maragha and other centres once on the Hellenistic and Persian roads – though I am strongly inclined to believe that northern route from the Black Sea was that along which which the ‘ladies’ folios came – still bearing evidence of their Hellenistic origin – to medieval Europe.
The centres’ including the ‘Scales’ would normally date the centres in the calendar series no earlier than the second century AD; other centre-emblems indicate subsequent re-working to suit more contemporary and (I’d argue) specifically Latin ideas.
The inclusion of the apotropaic ‘splash’ on the feline emblem, the form given the two fishes suggests to me a period of about the tenth century for those emblems, at least, while (by contrast) the archer’s present form argues a re-working even later – I’d say about the twelfth-to-early fourteenth centuries. If we had a better idea of when bows with the additional roll-lock were first invented, a more exact date might be posited for its final version. Where the central emblems were first enunciated I have no certainty, but I suspect they might come from some source earlier in Fleury and possibly gained from Syria or southern Asia minor. The outer tiers tell a different story.
As I’ve said in several earlier posts, the ‘ladies’ having an enlarged belly, over-large heads, with exaggerated thighs and yet not rarely – especiall in the ‘bathy-‘ section – shanks made so thin as to be little more than the thickness of a bone offers a set of characteristics so unusual that I have found them together only in imagery from earlier Kiev, in sculptures generally believed to date from before the region’s conversion to Christianity.
However, the Kiev sculptures show the breasts heavy, and the air of heavy ‘guardianship’ which they exude is more akin to the monumental quality of older Egyptian than of any Greek sculpture. Below are some archaeological drawings from the same site.
Other regions where we find a Hellenistic root in combination with Scythian presence and an older Persian culture provides other comparable features to those given the ladies. At the eastern end of that same northern high road, imagery of the Greco-Buddhist, Greco-Bactrian-, and Indo-Scythian periods shows again the enlarged head and very narrow limbs, but now we also see small, pointed breasts. A particularly good example is provided by the coin shown below, which I’ve noted two or three times before (as, subsequently, did Koen Gheuens and perhaps other researchers hunting similar forms, for there are very few to be found).
Astronomical lore and observation across that high northern route, and especially near what was once the eastern boundary of Alexander’s empire, has a history much older than Christianity or Islam, but it was from the observatory of Maragha that there came the information to Trebizond which enabled the Byzantines to update their copies of Ptolemies’ tables.
A separate line of transmission brought astronomical imagery and -tables to the south-western Mediterranean and specifically to the Sephardi or southern Jewish communities.
Thus, one line went via Trebizond and the Byzantine Greeks to finally inform the Latins (early in the early fifteenth century) while an independent one passed via the northern Jews and the Aegean to Iberia and, more widely, to the Sephardi communities.
From that non-Latin tradition we appear to have matter within MS Sassoon 823, now in the University of Pennsylvania’s Schoenberg Collection as LJS 57. That manuscript was unknown to Irwin Panofsky, and it offers us evidence that what he called ‘shapely ladies’ – and as astronomical figures – appears earlier in the west than he thought it did. Their presence led him to suppose they could date from no earlier than the fifteenth century since he knew of no similar forms in Latin Europe before that time. The manuscript LJS 57 (formerely MS Sassoon 823) is dated c.1361 AD.
At some future date, I’ll try to find time for a summary post about this issue of non-Latin transmission of scientific evidence to the south-west but at present I don’t want to go too far from the botanical folios and – to be quite honest – since whatever I have published online for the past eight years has been regularly adopted without acknowledgement, mis-represented as an “idea” and then re-worked or otherwise misused – when it is used at all – I’m not so keen as I was to publish everything for the benefit of others online. These days, having constantly to track back to my first post or mention of some point or other, simply to add a footnote to the work in press to demonstrate that I’m not plagiarising the plagiarists is, frankly, a pain in the neck. Particularly objectionable is the sort of person who reads the original post, picks up the conclusion from the research – sometimes from the extraordinarily egotistical idea that they are entitled to “check and correct” without acknowledgements, and sometimes in order to present it, supposedly as an anonymous “idea”, to some poor third-party fool who is asked to “investigate the idea” and who then unwittingly launders the stolen goods. How the study is supposed to advance in such an environment, I cannot imagine, especially when this sort of thing occurs simultaneously with a mad hunt through Voynich archives to find something – anything – which might be revived in order to claim my work is ‘not original’. Of course, I’m always happy to hear of precedents, whether or not previously aware of them. (And on the matter of letting me know about precedents etc., I once more owe thanks to Nick Pelling for sending me me a copy of his notes to the first mailing-list when he argued the map on f.86v (Beineke foliation 85v-and-86r) to be a city street-map or aerial view, an idea he later set aside).
So that’s why I’m now keeping back part of my “working out”. Sorry. Anyone keen enough will be able to fill those gaps by doing a bit of their own research.
An earlier (though not my first) allusion to the statues from Kiev and the imagery from Indo-Scythian regions:-
Entry in Smith’s Dictionary of classical Geography
On the background to the “Persian Syntaxis” a good place to start might be the following, bfirst published by Springer, now online as a pdf.