Chronicles and Historiography

Works Cited

Guides to the Editions

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.

 

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 in the following:

A German translation was done by Eberhard Nestle:

 

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 (ff.22v-65v).  9 folios from Socrates' Ecclesiastical History are also preserved in a Syriac manuscript at the Wellcome Institute in London.  This manuscript 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 (ff. 65v-78v).

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:

 

West Syrian (Miaphysite, Melkite, Maronite)

Joshua the Stylite (early 6th cent.)

Survives as part of the Zuqnin Chronicle below.

 

John of Ephesus (c.508–c.588)

Excerpts from Part 2 of John's Ecclesiastical History begin here.

 

Chronicle of Edessa (mid. 6th cent.)

 

Other editions and translations:

B. H. Cowper, Selections from the Syriac. No. I: The Chronicle of Edessa, The Journal of Sacred Literature and Biblical Record, vol. 5.9, pp. 28-45, 1864 [Online]. Available: https://archive.org/details/journalsacredli17unkngoog

The Syriac text was first published by Assemani:

The text was also edited with German translation and introduction by Ludwig Hallier:

 

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

 

Melkite Chronicle from Sinai Syriac 10

 

Fragment on the Arab Invasions

 

Maronite Chronicle (660s)

 

Jacob of Edessa, Chronological Canon (d. 708)

 

Jacob of Edessa, Chronicle (d. 708)

 

Historical Notices for 712–716

 

Chronicon ad annum 724

 

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

 

Chronicon ad annum 775

 

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

 

Chronicon ad annum 813 

 

Chronicon ad annum 819

 

Chronicon ad annum 846 

 

Dionysios of Tel Mahre

Syrian Orthodox Patriarch from 818–845, he recorded an Ecclesiastical History covering 582–842 CE. While longer excerpts have been incorprated into the works of Michael the Syrian, one fragmant is to be found edited with the works of Pseudo-Zecharias Rhetor.

 

Michael the Syrian (d. 1199)

Drawing on other-lost works (e.g., the chronicles of Dionysios of Tell Mahre, John of Litarba 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.

 

Chronicon ad annum 1234

 

Bar Hebraeus (d. 1286)

Chronicon

 

Ecclesiastical History

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.

 

Earlier Editions:

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 

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:

 

Continuators of Bar Hebraeus

Secular History:

Ecclesiastical History:

 

Related West Syrian Material:

 

 

East Syrian

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

 

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

 

Chronicle of Arbela / Chronicle of Mshiha Zka

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 the following:

 

Khuzistan Chronicle (7th cent.)

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

 

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

 

History of the Monastery of Beth Qoqa

 

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

 

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

 

Chronicle of Seert (1036)

Mukhtasar al-akhbar al-bi'iyya

 

Elias of Nisibis (d. 1046), Opus Chronologicum

 

Book of the Tower / Kitab al-majdal

 

Related Chronicles

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

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:

 

John, Bishop of Nikiu, Chronicle