Chronicles and Historiography

Guides to the Editions

S.P. Brock, ''Syriac Historical Writing: A Survey of the Main Sources'', Journal of the Iraq Academy, Syriac Corporation 5 (1979-1980): 1–30.

This classic article is the single best survey of and guide to chronicles and historical writing in Syriac. The article we have linked to is taken directly from the original publication and not from the reprint in one of Brock's Variorum volumes. Brock's article should be the starting point for anyone looking for an orientation to what is available in Syriac in terms of historical writing and also for anyone seeking bibliographic guidance.

 

S.P. Brock, ''Syriac Sources for Seventh-Century History'', BMGS 2 (1976): 17–36.

Another classic and foundational article by Brock which is useful and important for the student of Syriac historiography as well as the student of seventh-century history. An excellent compliment to Brock's article on the main sources of Syriac historical writing.


Eusebius

Eusebius of Caesarea's Ecclesiastical History, surviving in a manuscript dated to AD 462, is the oldest extant historical work in Syriac.  The Syriac ms of Eusebius is four or five centuries older than the earliest Greek manuscripts of the same work.

The Syriac text was published by William Wright and Norman McLean

W. Wright and N. McLean, eds. The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius in Syriac Edited from the Manuscripts. (Cambridge, 1898).

A German translation was done by Eberhard Nestle:

E. Nestle, Die Kirchengeschichte des Eusebius aus dem Syrischen übersetzt (Leipzig, 1901).

 

Socrates

Socrates’ Ecclesiastical History was available in Syriac in the medieval period and was used by authors such as Michael the Syrian.

A portion of Socrates’ Ecclesiastical History survives in Vatican Syriac 145.  9 folios from Socrates' Ecclesiastical History are also preserved in a Syriac manuscript at the Wellcome Institute in London.  This mss apparently once contained a copy of the entire work.

Here is Assemani's description of the portions of Socrates contained in Vatican Syriac 145.


Theodoret

The Ecclesiastical History of Theodoret was also available in the medieval period.

A portion of Theodoret's Ecclesiastical History survives in Vatican Syriac 145.

Here is Assemani's description of the portions of Theodoret contained in Vatican Syriac 145.


East Syrian Epitome of Early Church History

There is also an an anonymous East Syrian ('Nestorian') work of early church history, extant in a manuscript dated AD 1703.  It draws on earlier material, especially the ecclesiastical histories of Socrates and Theodoret. 

This text was first edited and translated by Emil Goeller in 1901:

E. Goeller, ''Ein nestorianisches Bruchstück zur Kirchengeschichte des 4 und 5 Jahrhunderts'', Oriens Christianus 1 (1901): 80-97.

 

West Syrian (Miaphysite, Melkite, Maronite)

Joshua the Stylite (early 6th cent.)

W. Wright, ed. and trans., The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite Composed in Syriac A.D. 507 (Cambridge, 1882).

J.P.P. Martin, ed. and trans., Chronique de Josué le Stylite écrite vers l’an 515 (Leipzig, 1876).

Survives as part of the Zuqnin Chronicle below.

 

John of Ephesus (c.508–c.588)

W. Cureton, ed., The Third Part of the Ecclesiastical History of John Bishop of Ephesus (Oxford, 1853).

R. Payne Smith, trans., The Third Part of the Ecclesiastical History of John Bishop of Ephesus (Oxford,1860).

J.P.N. Land, ed., Anecdota Syriaca II: Joannis Episcopi Ephesi monophysitae scripta historica quotquot adhuc inedita supererant(Leiden, 1868). (Excerpts from Part 2 of John's Ecclesiastical History begin here.)

(N.B. Before using the Anecdota Syriaca, you should read the review of Wright and that of Payne-Smith.)

See Brock's discussion here.

 

Chronicle of Edessa (mid. 6th cent.)

I. Guidi, ed. Chronica Minora I, CSCO 1.1, 1–13. (Latin Translation in CSCO 2.2, 1–11)

See also Brock's discussion here.

 

Other editions and translations:

B.H. Cowper, "Selections from the Syriac. No. I: The Chronicle of Edessa", Journal of Sacred Literature and Biblical Record n.s. 5.9 (1864): 28–45.

The Syriac text was first published by Assemani in the Bibliotheca Orientalis. (And here.)

Also edited with German translation and introduction in L. Hallier, ed., Untersuchungen über die Edessenische Chronik, Texte und Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur 9.1 (Leipzig, 1892).

 

Pseudo-Zacharias Rhetor (of Mytilene), Ecclesiastical History (Syr. trans late 6th century)

[Ed. E.W. Brooks, Historia ecclesiastica Zachariae rhetori vulgo adscripta; Accedit fragmentum Historiae ecclesiasticae Dionysii Telmahrensis, CSCO 83–84/38–39 (Paris, 1919–1924). (Volume 1; Volume 2)]

[Latin translation by Brooks in CSCO 87-88/41–42. (Volume 1; Volume 2)]

See also Brock's discussion here.

F.J. Hamilton and E.W. Brooks, trans., The Syriac Chronicle Known as that of Zachariah of Mitylene, (London, 1899).

K. Ahrens and G. Krüger, trans., Die sogennante Kirchengeschichte des Zacharias Rhetor, Bibliotheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, Scriptores Sacri et Profani 3 (Leipzig, 1899).

J.P.N. Land, ed., Anecdota Syriaca III: Zachariae episcopi Mitylenes aliorumque scripta historica graece plerumque deperdita (Leiden, 1870). (Table of Contents)

(N.B. Before using the Anecdota Syriaca, you should read the reviews of Wright and Payne-Smith.)

 

Melkite Chronicle from Sinai Syriac 10

A. de Halleux, ''La chronique melkite abrégée du ms Sinaï syr. 10'', LM 91.1–2 (1978): 5–44.

The Chronicle begins here.

See Brock's discussion here.

 

Fragment on the Arab Invasions

E.W. Brooks, ed., Chronica Minora II, p. 75.

An account of the mid-seventh century Arab invasions, perhaps contemporary, which was written down in a sixth-century Gospel manuscript. See Jack Tannous's English translation here.

Brock's discussion is here.

 

Maronite Chronicle (660s)

E.W. Brooks, ed., Chronica Minora II, pp. 43–74.

See Brock's discussion here.

 

Jacob of Edessa, Chronological Canon (d. 708)

E.W. Brooks, ''The Chronological Canon of James of Edessa'', Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 53 (1899): 261–327; 54 (1900), 100–102.

 

Jacob of Edessa, Chronicle (d. 708)

E.W. Brooks, ed., Chronica Minora III, pp. 261–330.

Here Brooks combined the Chronological Canon of Jacob (which he previously published in ZDMG, in the entry above), with fragments of the work contained in BL Add. 14685 and excerpts from Jacob's Chronicle embedded in the work of Elias of Nisibis and Michael the Syrian.

See Brock's discussion here.

 

Historical Notices for 712–716

Found on pp. 253–256 (Syriac) and pp. 264–267 (FT) in F. Nau, ''Un colloque du patriarche Jean avec l’émir des Agaréens et faits divers des années 712 à 716 d’après le ms. du British Museum Add. 17193, avec un appendice sur le patriarche Jean Ier, sur un colloque d’un patriarche avec le chef des mages et sur un diplôme qui aurait été donné par Omar à l’évêque du'', Journal asiatique XI, 5 (1915): 225-279.

See Brock's discussion here.

 

Chronicon ad annum 724

E.W. Brooks, ed., Chronica Minora II, pp. 77–155

First edited by Land in Anecdota Syriaca I.1–24. It is also known as the Liber Calipharum, or Book of Caliphs, because of a list of Arab rulers, from Muhammad to Yazid II (reg. AD 720–724/AH 101–105), comes at its end. See Jack Tannous's English translation of the list here.

See Brock's discussion here.

Selections from the Chronicle to 724 were translated by B.H. Cowper in his Syriac Miscellanies; or Extracts Relating to the First and Second General Councils, and Various Other Quotations, Theological, Historical, and Classical. London, 1861), pp. 75-92. 

Various Extracts on AD 501/2, 505/6, and 763/4

E.W. Brooks, ed. Chronica Minora III, pp. 331–336.

The first two entries are on Amid and the third is on the rule of Musa b. Mus'ab.

See Brock's description here.

 

Chronicon ad annum 775

E.W. Brooks, ed., Chronica Minora III, pp. 337–349.

Begins with Adam and ends in the eighth century; most of the material offered is BC.

See Brock's description here and here.


Zuqnin Chronicle / Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysios of Tel Mahre (776)

J.-B. Chabot, ed. Chronique de Denys de Tell-Mahré: Quatrième partie, Bibliothèque de l’École des hautes études 4, Sciences historiques et philologiques 112 (Paris, 1895). [French translation of the fourth part only.]

Chabot's edition is available here: Volume 1 (Syriac); Volume 2 (Syriac); Volume 3 (Latin translation).

See Brock's description here and here.

 

Chronicon ad annum 813

E.W. Brooks, ed., Chronica Minora III, pp. 243–260.

The chronicle as it stands is fragmentary and extant material deals with AD 775–813.

Before publishing it in the CSCO, Brooks also published the text of this chronicle, with an ET in the ZDMG:  

E.W. Brooks, ''A Syriac Fragment'', Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 54 (1900): 195-230.

See Brock's discussion here.

 

Chronicon ad annum 819

Ed. Barsoum, pp. 3–22 in J.-B. Chabot, ed. Anonymi auctoris Chronicon ad annum Christi 1234 pertinens, CSCO 81 (Paris, 1920).

The chronicle covers the period from Christ to 819, with a heavy focus on the seventh and eighth centuries.

See Brock, here and here.

 

Chronicon ad annum 846

E.W. Brooks, Chronica Minora II, 157–238.

Before this edition, Brooks published an earlier edition of the Chronicle, along with an English translation of it:

E.W. Brooks, "A Syriac Chronicle of the Year 846'', Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft51 (1897): 569-588. 

See Brock's discussion here and here.


Michael the Syrian (d. 1199)

J.-B. Chabot, ed. and trans., Chronique de Michel le Syrien, patriarche jacobite d’Antioche (1166–1199) (Paris, 1899–1910). Volume 1; Volume 2; Volume 3; Volume 4.

Michael the Syrian in Armenian. (Text published in Jerusalem, 1871; French translation; English translation)

Drawing on other-lost works (e.g., the chronicles of Dionysios of Tell Mahre, John of Litarb and Jacob of Edessa) and at times confusing to use (there are three columns to navigate, each with a different focus), for medieval historians Michael the Syrian represents the most important of all Syriac chronicles.  The Syriac text was published in volume 4 of Chabot's edition and translation; it was a reproduction of a hand-written copy based on an early modern, complete, copy of Michael that is now held in the Church of the Edessenes in Hayy al-Suryan in Aleppo.  The scribe that Chabot had copy out the work did a remarkable job at reproducing this manuscript, but the Syriac text can nevertheless at times be very difficult to make out.  Recently, HMML, Gorgias Press, and the Bishop of Aleppo joined forces to produce a facsimile edition of the Aleppo copy of Michael, the publication of which was a landmark.  Arabic translations of Michael also exist, most importantly perhaps in the Christian village of Sadad in Syria, and it has been suggested that the Aleppo copy of Michael may or may not actually represent the entirety of Michael's original text--there may be sections which have been omitted or lost; studying the Syriac alongside the Arabic (which remains unpublished, but there are plans to put out a facsimile of the Arabic as well) may be able to help resolve this question.

See Brock's discussion here and here.

 

Chronicon ad annum 1234

J.-B. Chabot, ed. Anonymi auctoris Chronicon ad annum Christi 1234 pertinens, CSCO 81, 82, 109; Syr. 36, 37, 56 (Paris, 1916, 1920, 1937). Volume 1 (Syriac); Volume 2 (Syriac); Volume 3 (Latin translation).

Secular history begins in volume 1, here.

Ecclesiastical history begins in volume 2, here.

See Brock's discussion here and here.

 

Bar Hebraeus (d. 1286)

Chronicon

P. Bedjan, ed. Gregorii Barhebræi Chronicon Syriacum e codd. mss. emendatum ac punctis vocalibus adnotationibusque locupletatum (Paris, 1890).

Budge’s English translation is not yet available in the public domain, but it has been transcribed. NB: He translated from Bedjan, but photolithographically reproduced (in reverse negative) a different MS.

See Brock's discussion here and here.


Ecclesiastical History

J.-B. Abbeloos and T.J. Lamy, eds. and trans., Gregorii Barhebræi Chronicon ecclesiasticum, 3 vols. (Paris, 1872–1877). Volume 1; Volume 2; Volume 3.

This edition has typos in it. The edition in the Oriental Institute in Oxford is the personal copy of Mrs. Margoliouth and you can read her emendations in the side margins if you have access to it. (It would be nice to have a scan of those!) UPenn has Nöldeke’s personal copy and you can similarly read his emendations there if you have access to it; somebody, however, rebound the book and, tragically, cut the margins, so some of Nöldeke’s corrections have been lost.

See Brock's discussion here and here.

 

Earlier Editions:

E. Pococke, ed., Specimen historiae Arabum (Oxford, 1650).

J. White, Specimen historiae arabum; auctore Edvardo Pocockio. Accessit Historia veterum arabum ex Abu’l Feda: Cura Antonii I. Sylvestre de Sacy (Oxford, 1806).

P. Bruns and G.W. Kirsch, eds. Bar-Hebraei Chronicon Syriacum, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1789).

It is good to have access to these older editions; if you use the Thesaurus Syriacus or certain older works, they will cite these editions rather than the newer ones. They are useful to know about for the purpose of tracking down references.


Tarikh Mukhtasar al-Duwal--Compendious History of the Dynasties 

A. Salihani, ed., Tarikh mukhtasar al-duwal (Beirut, 1890). 

This is another historical work by Bar Hebraeus which differs from his Syriac ecclesiastical and secular histories and which contains material found in neither of these. (with thanks to Jan van Ginkel).

Earlier edition:

E. Pococke, ed., Historia Compendiosa Dynastarium (Oxford, 1663). 

 

Continuators of Bar Hebraeus

Secular History: Bedjan, Chronicon Syriacum, pp. 557–599.

Ecclesiastical History: Abbeloos and Lamy, Chronicon Ecclesiasticum II, cols. 781–846 (up to 1485).

See Brock's discussion of the Continuators here.

 

Related West Syrian Material:

J.-B. Chabot, Documenta ad origenes monophysitarum illustrandas, CSCO 17, SS 27 (Paris, 1907).

 

 

East Syrian

Barhadbshabba 'Arbaya, Ecclesiastical History (probably late 6th century)

This was published in two parts, only the first of which is out of copyright.

F. Nau, ed. and trans., La seconde partie de l’histoire de Barḥadbešabba ‘Arbaïa et controverse de Théodore de Mopsueste avec les Macédoniens, Patrologia Orientalis 9 (Paris, 1913) 489–632.

idem., ed. and trans., La première partie de l’histoire de Barḥadbešabba ‘Arbaïa, Patrologia Orientalis 23 (Paris, 1932) 177–343.

See Brock's discussion here.

 

History of Karka d-Beth Slokh (6th cent.)

In Bedjan, AMS 2 (1891): 507–535.

See Brock's discussion here.

 

Chronicle of ArbelaChronicle of Mshiha Zka

A. Mingana, ed., Sources syriaques, Vol. 1: Mšiḥa-Zkha (texte et traduction); Bar-Penkayé (texte) (Leipzig, 1908). (Syriac) (French translation)

This is a controversial East Syrian Chronicle; with a somewhat obscure and mysterious manuscript history, Fiey accused Mingana (posthumously) of having fabricated the entire text.  More recent research has taken the edge off of some of Fiey's sharp criticisms and suggested that it be seen as a medieval compilation which has earlier material at its core.  See especially, C. Jullien and F. Jullien, "La Chronique d’Arbèles. Propositions pour la fin d’une controverse," Oriens Christianus 85 (2001) 41–83.

See also Brock's discussion here.

 

Khuzistan Chronicle (7th cent.)

I. Guidi, ed., "Chronicon anonymum" in Chronica Minora I, CSCO 1–2, (Paris 1903; repr. Leuven, 1955–1960),  pp. 15–39 (Syriac text),  pp. 15–32 (Latin translation).

This is also referred to as "Guidi's Chronicle", or "the Anonymous Chronicle".

See Brock's discussion here and here.

 

John of Phenek, Ktaba d-Rish Melle (late 7th cent.)

A. Mingana, ed., Sources syriaques, Vol. 1: Mšiḥa-Zkha (texte et traduction); Bar-Penkayé (texte) (Leipzig, 1908). (Syriac) (French translation).

See Brock's discussion here and here.

 

History of the Monastery of Beth Qoqa

A. Mingana, Sources Syriaques I, pp. 171–220 (Syriac), 221–271 (FT).

See Brock's discussion here.

 

Thomas of Marga, Book of Abbots or Historia Monastica (840)

P. Bedjan, ed., Liber superiorum, seu Historia Monastica, auctore Thoma, Episcopo Margensi; Liber Fundatorum Monasteriorum in regno Persarum et Arabum; Homiliae Mar-Narsetis in Joseph; Documenta Patrum de quibusdam verae fidei dogmatibus (Paris, 1901).

E.A.W. Budge, ed. and trans., The Book of Governors: The Historia Monastica of Thomas, Bishop of Margâ A.D. 840, Edited from Syriac Manuscripts in the British Museum and Other Libraries, 2 vols. (London, 1893). Volume 1; Volume 2.

See Brock's discussion here.


Isho‘dnah of Basra, Liber Castitatis (860s)

J.-B. Chabot, ''Le Livre de la Chasteté, composé par Jésusdenah, évêque de Baçrah'', Mélanges d’archéologie et d’histoire 16.3–4 (1896): 1–80 (Syriac), 225–291 (French translation).

Also in, P. Bedjan, ed., Liber Superiorum, seu Historia Monastica, auctore Thoma, episcopo Margensi ... (Paris, 1901), pp. 439–517.

See Brock's discussion here.

 

Chronicle of Seert (1036)

A. Scher, Histoire nestorienne inédite (Chronique de Séert), 4 fasc., Patrologia Orientalis 4.3, 5.2, 7.2, 13.4 (Paris, 1908, 1910, 1911, 1919). (Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4).  All four fascicles combined into a single file can be found here.

See Brock's discussion of the Chronicle of Seert's relationship to the lost Ecclesiastical History of Daniel Bar Maryam and to the Liber Castitatis.

Mukhtasar al-akhbar al-bi'iyya

In 2000, Fr. Butrus Haddad published a newly-discovered Arabic chronicle, the Mukhtasar al-akhbar al-bi'iyya, which is related to the Chronicle of Seert.  

 

Elias of Nisibis (d. 1046), Opus Chronologicum

J.-B. Chabot, and E.W. Brooks, eds. Eliae metropolitae Nisibeni opus chronologicum. CSCO 62-63, Syr. 21-24. Paris: Secrétariat du CorpusSCO, 1909-1910. (Volume 1Volume 2)

L.-J. Delaporte, La Chronographie d'Élie bar-Šinaya (Paris, 1910). (French translation).

See Brock's discussion here and here.

 

Book of the Tower / Kitab al-majdal

H. Gismondi, ed., Maris Amri et Slibae de patriarchis nestorianorum commentaria ex codicibus vaticanis, 2 Vol. (Rome, 1899). (Volume 1; Volume 2)

 

Related Chronicles

Severos b. al-Muqaffa', History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria

B. Evetts, ed. and trans., History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria. (PO I: part Ipart 2; PO 5: part 3; PO 10: part 4)

C.F. Seybold, ed., Historia Patriarchorum Alexandrinorum (Beirut/Paris, 1904), text.

Though the focus of Severos' history is the leadership of the non-Chalcedonian church of Egypt, it nevertheless contains important information about relations between the Egyptian and Syrian churches and is an important source for students of Syriac literature and history. Roger Pearse has a good overview of Severos' life and work, here.

 

John, Bishop of Nikiu, Chronicle

R.H. Charles, trans., The Chronicle of John (c. 690 A.D.), Coptic Bishop of Nikiu: Being a History of Egypt Before and During the Arab Conquest, Translated from Hermann Zotenberg's Edition of the Ethiopic Version with an Introduction, Critical and Linguistic Notes, and an Index of Names (London/Oxford, 1916).

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