The 18th-century Latin Vita

According to the preface to the Königsberg edition, pp. a 3-4, this brief biography of Zoernikav was based on his own incomplete account of his life, which had been rediscovered some eighty years after his death (i.e., in the early 1770s, around the time of the Tractatus’ first publication) in a damaged manuscript held in the library of the Metropolitan of Kiev, near the Church of St. Sophia.[1]

The Latin of the vita is Classicizing, more noticeably so than Zoernikav’s own, and, though occasionally obscure, it can usually be rendered with fair literalism into decently smooth English. I have omitted one typographic feature: the use of small capitals, still customary in some German academic journals, for names. I have, however, retained a more striking stylistic quirk. Almost without exception, the biographer uses Zoernikav’s first name in place of the surname. His protagonist is thus Adamus, rather than Zoernikav. He is, by contrast, regularly dubbed Auctor (noster), “(Our) Author,” in the preface.

The Life of Adam Zoernikav, a most learned man, taken from that account which Adam had written with his own hand, collated in more succinct words and (at any rate) outlined.

Adam Zoernikav’s native land was Prussia, specifically, the capital of Prussia, Königsberg.[2] His father was Christian Zoernikav, by profession a goldsmith, by country a Holsatian. Adam’s mother was Maria, daughter of a Königsberger goldsmith named Thamm. Adam’s birthday fell on 21 September, in the year of Our Lord 1652. Adam’s parents saw to it that he was washed as an infant in the laver of regeneration, as their ancestral forms handed down.[3] They sent him to school as a small boy, where he first learned the elements of Latin letters, then, when he had advanced more deeply in the study of the Latin language, devoted his efforts to the study of logic, and to the rites of the Lutherans.[4]

After a span of time, Adam progressed from among the youths,[5] and was deprived of both parents. Though as a young man he was pulled into contrary pursuits,[6] he, answering the persuasion and exhortation of his teachers, continued to attend school, as he had begun to do, and devoted diligent effort to all the disciplines that are customarily taught there.

When he had so prepared his mind for the superior sciences, he contemplated frequenting the Academies, where he could apply his labors to Theology or Roman law or civil jurisprudence or even the art of medicine. At first, therefore, he went to the Academy of Königsberg that is called the Albertine after its founder, Albert, Duke of Prussia. Here he began first to labor at Philosophy, stirred by the authority of its well-known doctors[7]; then afterward he applied all his thoughts and all his studies to understanding the divine matters handled in the Theological schools.

In this Albertine Academy, he attended the lectures of the most learned men, the Professors of Theology Dreier and Sedler,[8] who, though they did call themselves by the name of Protestants, dissented from the rest, both Lutherans and the other Westerners, so that they seemed by rights to profess a form of religion peculiar to themselves. Sedler would even dispute against the Lutherans at as great a length as anyone.[9] Taught by these men Dreier and Sedler, Adam first began to believe that the Lutherans among whom he had been born and educated were not the only ones who had wisdom: they opined that one must stand not on the authority of Luther or the Lutherans, but of the Catholic Church, and the consensus of the holy Fathers and the Councils. On this account they confessed of their own accord that the Protestants and Latins erred at many points.

In the meantime,[10] Adam came upon Metrophanes Critopulos’ Confession of the Eastern Church,[11] which he had in fact written down at Helmstedt. So much, therefore, did this Confession of the Eastern Church please Adam, that he was driven by a kind of singular inclination of the will to be well disposed toward the Eastern Church.

When he had spent four years at the Academy of Königsberg in study of Theology and Philosophy,[12] Adam thought to abandon the study of Theology and, in its place, to exercise his mind in study of Roman law. Therefore, he left Königsberg for Jena, where he thought that he could more easily satisfy his desire. And when he arrived, he devoted himself completely to the study of Roman law, but as the year drew to its close, he came upon Boxhorn’s Dissertations on the Roman Empire,[13] to which Strigelius had added commentaries.[14] While he was reading these commentaries, he came upon a certain passage that offered the following teaching: It brings much benefit to have chosen a suitable place to live after you have left your youth; quite often, after all, things are judged of great worth by foreigners that are not even respected in one’s fatherland; you are going, therefore, to obtain greater honors[15] and riches, if you have chosen a place in which the things that you profess avail much.

Persuaded by this disquisition, Adam surveyed all the republics and kingdoms of the Christians in his mind, concluding with[16] the Empire of the Russians, favorable to the arts and sciences. He weighed Russia in his mind, therefore, as a region suitable to his purposes, but still, he was convinced, the diverse rites and forms of the Russians[17] prevented him from being able to move to Russia; the chief obstacle being, as he believed, that, in the Russians’ opinion, all Westerners who did in fact cross over to the Russians had to be baptized again. For this reason he resolved, as soon as he could, to examine the books of the Councils and the Holy Fathers with care, and deemed that eternal blessedness was to be put before any worldly happiness.[18] While Adam was considering these things, he did not, however, find an occasion to examine the records as he desired[19]: he devoted himself completely to the study[20] of civil affairs, toward which end he had previously collected books on statesmanship,[21] and so for a full year and more he most studiously expended his industry in acquiring (p. 14) knowledge of matters pertinent to the state.[22] Not long afterward, he became familiar with the men who held and taught the mathematical sciences; and, since he judged that they would be to his purpose, he decided to make a thorough study of geometry, astronomy, military architecture, and especially astrology, so that he could make that much the more certain a judgment about it.

While he attended to this labor, he came upon various books written against the Eastern Church, read them avidly, and noted down all the things that the Westerners argued against the Easterners and that the Easterners advanced on behalf of their opinion. Meanwhile, by a turn of fortune, he acquired, through the aid of a certain Lutheran Pastor, the books of the most prominent Fathers. In reading these, he fastened (as the saying goes) in his mind with large nails[23] all that the holy Fathers taught about the procession of the Holy Spirit, about the need to be baptized by immersion, about giving the Eucharist to infants, and about all the things that the Westerners raised in objection and the Easterners said in reply.

Although, in truth, he had been granted the ability only to read the Fathers in a rather antiquated edition,[24] he seemed to have cast the die with good fortune,[25] because he began to hope that would be able to establish what was the sense of Holy Scripture and the faith of the Holy Catholic Church. It happened afterward that he who had given Adam a wealth of these books refused to give them more abundantly, a deed by which he struck him with great sorrow. Therefore, since Adam was driven by every impulse of his mind to read the books of the holy Fathers, the Councils, and the other doctors,[26] which he was not able to procure at Jena, he decided to set out for Oxford in England to use the public library there. Having spent three years in Jena, therefore, he began to make a journey to England, and, having passed through various regions and cities on his way, he was brought to London and thence to Oxford. Here, as he had conceived the desire in his mind, he daily visited the Bodleian Library—especially well-furnished (p. 15) with all manner of books—and with all attention examined, in a far from perfunctory fashion, the books of the holy Fathers, the Councils, the Church Historians, and the other writers who had written things relevant to his concern. When he had sweated much and long in extending this labor, he finally discovered for certain under which Church’s banners, the Eastern or the Western, the truth did battle; and he was so far from refusing to assent to the Easterners, that he thought himself rather to be condemned, if he did not, as they say, grasp the truth that he had recognized with both hands.[27] And this was the reason why Adam afterward no longer proposed to himself temporary, passing, and empty things, but, on the contrary, preferred to be the lowliest servant in that camp, in which he knew that the truth did battle, than to spend a life of, perhaps, the most honorable distinction in another place.  He therefore made firm his intention never to return to his homeland, even if he were to experience every adversity.[28]

Having at last left Oxford, he betook himself to Cambridge, where, using the public library in like manner, he read through the remaining books, both those pertaining to the Theological Tractates and those pertinent to other disciplines, and enlarged his commentaries at many points.

Leaving Cambridge in turn he went again to London, to slake his thirst for study in the Cottonian Library,[29] distinguished for its immense multitude of manuscripts.

From London he crossed over to Paris, where he enlarged and perfected in various ways his knowledge of civil, military, and other affairs. But after he finished everything that seemed meet to be handled at Paris, he girded himself to make the journey into Italy, both for the sake of study and because he thought he could find certain men from the East in Italy, with whose labor and recommendation he would be sent to Russia.

And so he left Paris and wandered through Lyon, Turin, Milan, Bologna, Ferrara, Venice, and Padua, in which places he learned whatever he could learn as the occasion presented itself. When he had spent some time in Italy and not met any of the Russian ambassadors or of the other men of the sort who had commerce with the Russians, he was drawn into divers reflections,[30] and, in his mind, flew now around Austria, now Bohemia, now Poland, now other domains where the hope of meeting Russian ambassadors or merchants might be presented. At last he decided to go into Poland, which bordered on the Russian Empire, and made his way to Warsaw, the capital of the kingdom. Here he found by chance a certain man originating from Lithuania; and when the man set out from Warsaw for Vilnius, Adam received the opportunity to go to Vilnius with the same man.

While he sojourned in Vilnius, he came to the notice of a certain Russian Priest,[31] a man aged and venerable in rank; and when he had explained his purpose to him and indicated his desires, he easily obtained a token of goodwill before the same, and got from the same a letter of recommendation to the Archbishop of Chernihiv[32] (as one might suspect, Lazarus Baranovich).

A few days later, having said farewell to Vilnius, he went to Chernihiv; and, when he had come thither after passing through various cities of Lithuania and Russia, he presented himself to the Archbishop and offered to him that letter of recommendation.

The Archbishop, since he was himself a man outstandingly praiseworthy for his virtue and learning, when he understood that this foreigner was thoroughly polished and smoothed by every kind of discipline,[33] and when, furthermore, he learned that the same man wished truly and seriously to be admitted into the assembly of the Greek religion, he treated the wayfarer with every sort of kindness and saw to it that he lacked nothing that pertained to the necessary usages of life.

Then after a span of time, at the Archbishop’s advice, Adam wrote a confession of his faith with his own hand and refuted all the dogmas of the Lutherans that were at variance with the understanding of the Greek Church, and handed his writing over to the Archbishop.

And without delay it came to pass that, in accordance with the fixed ceremonies received by the Greek Church, Adam was anointed by the Archbishop with sacred ceroma,[34] in the church dedicated to Emperors Romanus and David of the Russians in the same city of Chernihiv, and bound to the Eastern Church by the sacrament of confirmation.

Placed by this means, therefore, in the bosom of the Eastern Church, Adam hastened to go to Kyiv,[35] both out of his zeal to behold the sacred places, to treat with honor the relics of the Saints, and to praise God in his holy things,[36] and so that he might be able to converse with the archimandrite of the monastery—that is, Pechersk Lavra—of whose learning and humanity he had heard. Having gone, therefore, to Kyiv, he was received most humanely, venerated the bodies of the saints in the crypts, spoke with the archimandrite, and received as a gift from the same a portion of the relics, and likewise a holy cross.

From there he returned to Chernihiv. While Adam stayed at Chernihiv, an Abbot (or Hegumen) of the monastery of Baturyn (vulg. Krupice) came thither at the Archbishop’s summons.

When, therefore, just before the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, which was going to follow shortly thereafter, Adam ardently desired to use the sacred Eucharist, so that he might thereby restore and enlarge his wavering spiritual strength, he went down into that monastery in Baturyn with the self-same Hegumen, so that, when he had conducted a just self-examination[37] and laid open and accused the offences of his former life and the wounds of his conscience to the same Hegumen, he might be able not unworthily to approach this sacred table as one of its guests.[38] When he had spent some time in this monastery at Baturyn, he prepared himself by rite for the salutary use of the sacred Eucharist, and, to the same Hegumen of Baturyn, exposed, accused, and with pious tears washed away all the stains of conscience which he had contracted throughout his entire preceding life. And when he had so done these things on the 25th day of December (in the old calendar), which was the natal day of Christ the Lord, he was now for the first time fed and refreshed in the Eastern Church with spiritual food and drink, that is, with the body and blood of Our Savior Jesus Christ, in the same monastery of Baturyn.

While Adam was tending to these duties of piety, he became known, as the report who he and whence he was spread through the crossroads,[39] to the Supreme Duke of Little Russia,[40] who at that time had his seat and domicile in the city of Baturyn.

And so it happened rather often that he was honorably summoned to the Duke, as well, and that the two exchanged many words. Meanwhile, Adam let it be known in no obscure fashion that it pleased him to seek Moscow and devote his labor to the service of Caesar.[41]

The Duke, therefore, disapproved of this plan of Adam’s, and persuaded him rather to stick to him and be bound to his services; he would add also that he would have no more noble a province[42] at Moscow than with him, no doubt because he thought that it was to his benefit to nourish and foster a man of this kind, who would have some usefulness in the camp.

Many things stirred Adam to think that he should do according to the Duke’s judgment; and for this reason, thinking every other consideration of less merit, he acquiesced to the Duke’s authority, and did not think that he should depart rashly from his side.

He journeyed back, therefore, to Chernihiv, whence had come to Baturyn with the Hegumen, and reported to the Archbishop the things he had done with the Duke. The Archbishop bestowed favorable omens on his plan[43] and, having given Adam a letter for the Duke, commended him to his trust as diligently as he could. Then Adam, when he had set in order the luggage that he had left at Chernihiv, said farewell to the Archbishop, made his way to Baturyn, and so committed himself to the patronage and trust of the Duke.[44]

From that time on, Adam exercised his industry in various occupations, and, no less sedulously than he had been accustomed before, pursued the study of letters, and, to use the words of Pliny, this was his business, this his leisure, this his labor, this his rest, to these were his vigils, to these also was his sleep reserved, that he should fashion something that would be his own perpetually.[45] We now pass by those labors of Adam’s that he performed so as to be able to please the Duke most greatly, in adorning various ground-plans pertinent to the science of the military and of the camp, which he commemorates everywhere in his diary. Of how much moment and weight these labors were, we do not judge, since we have not seen them, nor, if we had seen them, would we have been able to judge. Let it suffice, therefore, to have made known two Tractates completed by Adam’s vigilance: one On the Procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father Alone, the other, in which he confuted the book of Theophilus Rutca the Jesuit on the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son also.

Each of these tractates, however, was so prepared that it was rightly commended by the most meritorious Theophanes Procopovich, aforetime the most learned and celebrated Archbishop of Great Novgorod, in this fashion: Adam Zoernikav published an immense writing against the Latins, and another in which he confuted the book of Theophilus Rutca the Jesuit, each stuffed with such great learning that nothing seems left over on other point, nor, surely, to be desired.

That earlier tractate is now for the first time rescued from the dust, and sent out into public light; but the later one still molders away.[46]

Now at last one ought perhaps to move on to a summary and selective survey of the remaining moments of Zoernikav’s life,[47] and to explain the following: how long Adam remained here with his Duke; to what age he advanced; in what manner of life he whiled his remaining days; when, where, and in what fashion he completed the course of his life; however, since Adam commemorated nothing at all about all these matters in that account which he wrote himself; nor did he take that narration, as they say, from egg to apples,[48] or was he able to take it, it so happens that we have nothing certain to say and write about these moments of his life.

Unless it is displeasing to grant credence to authorless rumors, Adam entered the monastic way of living at the end of his life (just as we also said about this matter in the preface), as some have it, in the monastery of Baturyn (that is, Krupice), as others have it, in the great monastery of Kyiv, renowned in all the world for the crypts of the Saints, and so finally flew from the bonds of the body as if from a prison.[49]

[1] Brief comments in Edward Kasinec and J. Robert Wright, “A Manuscript Copy of Adam Zernikaw’s ‘De Processione’ (Baturyn, 1682) at the New York Public Library,” Україна 15 (2005-2006): 353-62, at 354-5, who note a 19th-century Russian translation of extracts.

[2] “Prussia,” in this case, is the Duchy of Prussia, the later East Prussia; the Kingdom of Prussia, with its capital at Berlin, was not formed until the merger with the Margravate of Brandenburg in 1701, a few years after Zoernikav’s death.

[3] ut patrii ritus ferebant. Possibly, “as their ancestral rites held it to be,” thus calling into question the validity of Lutheran baptism, but Zoernikav, as becomes clear later on, was received into the Orthodox church via chrismation only.

[4] Lutheranorum sacris: a Classicizing reference to catechetical instruction. That is properly a matter of theology rather than rituals, but Roman religion, and so Classical Latin, is more at home with the latter.

[5] Ex ephebis excedit, a reminiscence of Terence, Andria 51, quoted also at Cicero, De oratore 2.326.

[6] Cum igitur adolescens in contraria studia scinderetur. Cf. Vergil, Aeneid 2.39, scinditur incertum studia in contraria vulgus. The Vergilian line describes the debate over the wooden horse at Troy, and so sheds no real light on the meaning of the line in the vita, which might rather suggest devotion to incompatible (though legitimate) studies than distraction from schoolwork. The Latin quite literally suggests being “torn in different directions,” which would remain true of Zoernikav throughout his life.

[7] Not yet, of course, the man who would become the most famous of all teachers to spring from the Albertus-Universität Königsberg in its four centuries of existence (1544-1945). Immanuel Kant matriculated in 1740, some seventy years after Zoernikav will have begun his studies.

[8] The latter perhaps a printer’s error for Melchior Zeidler (1630-1686), colleague at Königsberg of Christian Dreier (1610-1688). In answer to staunch Lutherans insistent on the unique possession of Christian truth by their communion and to Roman Catholics who claimed to represent the sole true church, Dreier and Zeidler appealed to the the proliferation of churches united in basic sacramental practice and creedal profession throughout vast parts of the world, including the Orthodox churches distributed from Ethiopia to Russia. See pp. 14-15 of Dreier’s arguments on behalf of ecclesial unity (so-called ‘syncretism’), presented in an oration on the inauguration of a new university rector in 1661, and pp. 4-5 of Zeidler’s posthumously published (1688) refutation of the Tuba pacis written by Matthäus Prätorius, once a Lutheran clergyman and later a convert to the Roman church.

[9] Perhaps an over-translation, but ‘especially copiously’ suggests a particular animus against Lutheran theology, whereas cum primis copiosius suggests rather that Seidler was as prolix in questioning Lutheranism as were his foremost non-Lutheran contemporaries.

[10] interea temporis, a pleonastic equivalent to the simple interea.

[11] Italics added in the translation.

[12] What I render as “in the study” is inter studia. The vita speaks ordinarily of “studies” rather than “study” even of single subjects, but some sense of the distribution of his time between the two pursuits may be intended, as in the English “between his studies of theology and philosophy.”

[13] Italics are again mine. No doubt Zoernikav was reading an edition of Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn’s De imperio Romanorum dissertationes politicae, though the vita quite clearly spells the name as “Bokhorn,” Bokhornii.

[14] This certainly cannot be Victorinus Strigelius, the 16th-century Lutheran theologian, since his death preceded van Boxhorn’s birth. I have been unable to find any trace of a commentary on van Boxhorn’s De imperio Romanorum by a Strigelius, and suspect that the name is in fact an error for Johann Schmidel, whose annotated text of van Boxhorn is held even now by the Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Jena. Zoernikav may have been inspired by a passage, based ultimately on Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiquitates Romanae 3.47, that comments on the emigration of Lucumo from Tarquinii in Etruria to Rome, the city he would rule as its fifth legendary king, Tarquinius Priscus (see pp. 287-94).

[15] Honores, possibly signifying political offices.

[16] “Concluding with” is my attempt to render in his denique (“among these, finally”). The meaning cannot be “lastly,” except that Russia was the last one left as Zoernikav deliberated.

[17] diversa Russorum sacra, ritusque.

[18] Here is a distinct non sequitur. Zoernikav wanted earthly advancement, found that the prevalence of the Orthodox communion in Russia stood in his way, and so he turned back to theological study, out of a desire not for earthly but for heavenly blessedness. Entanglement of higher and lower motivations is of course far from unparalleled in stories of conversion.

[19] desiderata monumenta, “the desired monuments.”

[20] Here singular.

[21] politicos libros, perhaps “books pertaining to politics.”

[22] civitatem.

[23] omnia clavis, quod dicitur, trabalibus in animo figit. The idiom had already been established by Cicero’s youth: In Verrem 2.5.53, Et ut hoc beneficium, quem ad modum dicitur, trabali clavo figeret.

[24] The construction is peculiar: Quamquam vero nonnisi vetustioris editionis Patres evolvendi facultas ei data esset. Patres must be a metonym for the writings of the Fathers, considered as a book or books.

[25] An allusion to the famous saying of Julius Caesar on the crossing of the Rubicon (Suetonius, Divus Julius 32).

[26] Or “learned men,” doctorum being genitive plural either of doctor or of doctus.

[27] ambabus, ut ajunt, non amplecteretur ulnis, “did not embrace, as they say, with both elbows.” The phrase can be paralleled readily in early modern works, but I can find no ancient precedent on the Brepols Library of Latin Texts and Electronic Monumenta Germaniae Historica databases.

[28] etiamsi omnia adversa experiatur, perhaps “find all things adverse to him.”

[29] An antecedent to the modern British Library, whose collections were damaged in a fire in 1731. A brief account may be found here.

[30] In varias cogitationes trahitur: the idiom suggests indecision, not just cogitation..

[31] Possibly a bishop: sacerdos refers to the higher churchly rank in Patristic Latin.

[32] In Russian, Chernigov. As with Wilna (Vilnius), I render Czernigovia into what I perceive to the more common name in contemporary English.

[33] omni disciplinarum genere politum limatumque. This is not, seemingly, an ancient idiom, but cf. Cicero, Epistulae ad familiares 7.33.2, opus est huc limatulo et polito tuo iudicio, and Jerome’s Galatians commentary, book 3, on Gal. 5:6, oratio autem … nisi auctoris sui manu limata fuerit et polita, non est nitida.

[34] A word rare both in its original Greek (κήρωμα) and in Latin. I find no parallel to the usage here, where it is evidently a learned equivalent for “oil.”

[35] Kijoviam. For consistency, I again use the Ukrainian form.

[36] Or perhaps “saints,” again, but this instance of the word, unlike the first, is not capitalized. The Latin runs thus: cum studio loca sacra visendi, Sanctorumque exuvias honore adficiendi, Deumque in sanctis suis concelebrandi.

[37] justa sui ipsius exploratione instituta, lit. “had instituted a just exploration of his own self.”

[38] The word is singular, but conviva implies a fellow-partaker, a “tablemate.”

[39] Cf. Horace, Sermo 2.6.50, frigidus a rostris manat per compita rumor.

[40] The Cossack hetman Ivan Samoilovych.

[41] I.e., the “Tsar,” but the Latin is in no way Russified.

[42] Probably metaphorical, “a duty.”

[43] Cf. Suetonius, Divus Augustus 57, on the honors bestowed on Augustus: revertentem ex provincia non solum faustis ominibus, sed et modulatis carminibus prosequebantur.

[44] in Ducis clientelam fidemque sese committit. For the idiom, cf. Livy, 26.32.7, et in fidem et clientelam se urbemque Syracusas acciperet, 37.54.17; Cicero, Pro Sexto Roscio Amerino, 93, quaere in cuius fide sint et clientela, 106, se in Chrysogoni fidem et clientelam contulerunt.

[45] At Pliny the Younger, Ep. 1.3.3, the words are an exhortation, with verbs in the subjunctive: hoc sit negotium tuum, hoc otium, hic labor, haec quies; in his vigilia, in his etiam somnus reponatur! effinge aliquid et excude, quod sit perpetuo tuum!

[46] The Latin is more florid: adhuc lurido colore mucescit, “still molders with lurid color.” The Classical model, Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia 18.23.98-9, sesamam … exporrigi in sole super lintea, quod nisi festinato peragatur, lurido colore mucescere, is a description of the correct method for grinding sesame seeds, drawn from the Carthaginian agricultural writer Mago.

[47] vitae Zoernikavianae: perhaps “the biography of Zoernikav.”

[48] A reminiscence of Horace, Sermo 1.3.6-7.

[49] A reminiscence of the famous “Dream of Scipio,” Cicero, De re publica 6.14 (= 6.18 in the Oxford Classical Texts edition by J.G.F. Powell).


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