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Time Immemorial

Archaic History and Its Sources in Christian Chronography from Julius Africanus to George Syncellus

William Adler

Dumbarton Oaks Studies

Byzantine Studies, Byzantine History


At the beginning of the ninth century, George Syncellus, a Byzantine monk and chronographer, composed a chronicle of universal history commencing with the first day of creation. Syncellus cites abundantly from a great variety of ancient sources, especially in his treatment of antediluvian history. His sources include excerpts from the histories and chronicles of Egypt and the Ancient Near East, Hermetic literature, as well as Jewish and Christian pseudepigrapha. Supplementing Syncellus with fragments from these same sources in other Christian chronicles, this work examines how Christian chronographers integrated non-biblical sources into their treatment of archaic chronology and traces the transmission and interpretation of these sources by four Christian chronographers whom Syncellus expressly identifies as his chief authorities: Julius Africanus, Eusebius of Caesarea, and two fifth-century Alexandrian monks, Pandorus and Annianus.

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