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E. W. Brooks, "The Chronological Canon of James of Edessa",
Zeitschrift für deutschen morgenlandischen Gesellschaft
, vol. 53 (1899) pp.261-327; Introduction (pp.261-265)

The Chronological Canon of James of Edessa.
[E. W. Brooks]

In Brit Mus. Add. MS 14,685, dating from the 10th or 11th century 1, are contained fragments of a chronicle by a certain   ܥܩܘܒ ܪܚܡ ܥܡܠܐ  or James Philoponos. On fol. 1 the title is given as 'A Chronicle in continuation of that of Eusebius of Kaisareia' composed by James ܪܚܡ ܥܡܠܐ". This title is howeverpreceded by a few lines recording the deaths of Licinius and Martin, which must be supposed to form the conclusion of a version of the Chronicle of Eusebius; but whether this is by the same author as the chronicle following there is nothing in the MS to show. The chronicle begins with a long introduction, which is published in full in Wright's Catalogue of the Syriac MSS p. 1062 ff., followed by a discussion of an error of 3 years in the reckoning of Eusebius and a list of dynasties contemporary with the Roman Empire (Wright CBM p. 1064) 2. After this introductory matter, which occupies 9 folios, we have the chronicle proper, which begins on fol. 10 with the 21st year of Constantine (326), and extends with several gaps down to the year 630, where it breaks off. In the middle of each page is a chronological canon, in which the years from the beginning of the chronicle are equated with the Olympic years and the years of the Roman, Persian, and Arabic sovereigns. It would appear also that originally an equation with the Seleucid reckoning was given every ten years; but in our MS only a few of these remain, and of these a large proportion are incorrect 3. At each side of the canon, and sometimes also above and below it, historical notices are inserted. It is probable that originally each notice was written against a particular year in the canon; but such juxtaposition is easily lost in copying, |262 and little confidence can be placed in the dates derived from the position of the notices in our MS 4. In a few cases however a consulate or a Seleucid or regnal year is given in the text.

As the fragments are at present bound up, several of them are in the wrong order: thus a little examination makes it clear that the fragments on fols. 11 and 13 belong to the same folio, while other corrections may be made by simply observing the years in the canon: such corrections are mentioned in the notes on the text below.

As to the author, the same name ܥܩܘܒ ܪܚܡ ܥܡܠܐ occurs also as that of the scribe of Add. MS 17,134, written in 675 (Wright CBM p. 336). Wright in both cases identifies the writer with. James of Edessa, and in the case of 17,134 supports the identification by arguments given on p. 338; and I may here add that the careful transliteration of Greek names noted by Wright in 17,134 is found also in 14,685, but, as is natural in the case of a copy, with less perfect accuracy.

M. Nau however in an article in the Journal Asiatique 1898 contests the identification on the following grounds.

1. James of Edessa is never called  ܪܚܡ ܥܡܠܐ; and, as his chronicle was written after his elevation to the bishopric, he must necessarily have given his episcopal designation, or at any rate it must have been added by a scribe; and even in 17,134 it would have been added afterwards.

To this it may be answered that James resigned his see in 688 after an episcopate of 4 years and was not restored till 4 months before his death in 708; hence, if the chronicle was written during these 20 years, he could scarcely have used the episcopal title; and, though a scribe might have been expected to supply it, we can hardly affirm that such must necessarily have been the case. In 17,134, written before his elevation, the title could not possibly have been given, and it is surely unreasonable to say that some reader must have added it in the margin. The reason that ܪܚܡ ܥܡܠܐ is not elsewhere found applied to James of Edessa may be sought in the practice of transcribers of giving the titles of works in their own words. If we had the beginning of the chronicle, we should perhaps find the author described as ܥܩܘܒ ܐܘܪܗܝܐ5.

2. Our chronicle is too short to be the celebrated work of James of Edessa, and the citations from James in Michael [the Syrian] are not found in it. Moreover our chronicle is a continuation of Eusebius, whereas Gregory [Bar Hebraeus] quotes James as supporting Eusebius, and the Bibliothèque |263 Nationale possesses a MS 6 which contains extracts from the chronicle of James, dealing with a period anterior to Constantine.

To this I answer that our chronicle is not the full work of James but only a series of extracts from it. This may be proved from the existing fragments; for on fol. 21 v we find the following statements "And, when he soon died, John came in, the predecessor of Felix, of whom it has been previously stated that he had been expelled", whereas the succession of Felix to John is mentioned on the same page, where there is no gap in the MS, without any mention of an expulsion. Other passages which point to the same conclusion are mentioned in the notes. As to Michael [the Syrian]'s citations, I have examined the MS of Michael [the Syrian] 7 for quotations from James not contained in our text, and the only one which I can find relates to a period long after the point where our MS breaks off; but, even if I have missed any, the fact that our text contains only extracts is a sufficient explanation of their absence.

In the period covered by our MS I find the following citations, from James in Elijah of Nisibis 8; (i) Building of Amida AS 660, (ii) Appearance of a cross AS 664, (iii) Death of Ephraim AS 684, (iv) Death of Maurice AS 914, (v) Eclipse of the moon AS 915. Of these (i) occurs word for word, (iii) with only verbal differences, (iv) with some details omitted, in our text: (v) is absent, while; as to (ii), it is not in our present text, but, since something has been lost at the bottom of fol. 11v, we cannot be sure that it was not originally contained in the MS. Besides these Elijah gives a reference to James under AS 698, but through an oversight no historical notice is written there. There can be little doubt that the notice intended was the death of Eulogius of Edessa, which the Edessene Chronicle records under that year. This is not mentioned in our MS, but the accession of Cyrus, which must have formed part of the same notice, is recorded opposite the year 60 (385). This state of things is just what we should expect to find, if the MS contains, as I suppose, a series of extracts from the chronicle of James.

As to the passages which show that the chronicle of James began before the time of Constantine, I have already mentioned that the continuation of Eusebius is preceded by a chronicle dealing with earlier events, and it appears to me most probable that this was the work of the same author. I may add that Michael [the Syrian] 9 expressly states that James of Edessa wrote a translation as well as a continuation of the Chronicle of Eusebius.

3. A hymn of James of Edessa, which is found in the Paris 10 and Vatican MSS 11 which contain the revision of Paul's translation |264 of the hymns of Severus and others by James of Edessa, is not found in Brit Mus. Add. 17,134, which contains the revision of the same translation by James ܪܚܡ ܥܡܠܐ; and in the case of a hymn of Severus which is found both in the Paris and in the London MS the corrections of James found in the latter are absent in the former.

This is easily explained by supposing that the hymn of James was not written in 675, the date of the London MS, but belonged to a later recension, and that in the hymn of Severus the scribe of the Paris MS did not trouble himself to add the corrections. If James did not make any corrections, the collection would not be a revision at all, which it is expressly stated to be 12.

On the other hand the canon of Michael [the Syrian], which is with very few exceptions identical with that of our author, is expressly stated in notes on fol. 81v and fol. 264r to be taken from the canon of James of Edessa from 326, where our author's canon in fact begins, down to 710 13. Yet more, in the former of these passages Michael [the Syrian] also informs us that James made a correction of 3 years in the chronology of Eusebius and gave lists of dynasties omitted by him, both of which we find in our MS. Accordingly, if James of Edessa and James ܪܚܡ ܥܡܠܐ are different persons, we must suppose that between 675 and 708 there lived two men who were both named James, both wrote chronological canons beginning in 326, both made a correction in 3 years in Eusebius, both gave lists of dynasties omitted by him, both revised Paul's translation of the hymns of Severus, and were both learned Greek scholars.

I am unable therefore to feel the least doubt as to the identification and have no hesitation in entitling the work "The Chronological Canon of James of Edessa".

It is not possible to reproduce in print the exact relation between the canon proper and the historical notices; but in the translation I have placed before each notice the year of the era of James (beginning in 326) to which it appears to correspond; but it must be understood that in many instances it is impossible to say with certainty to which year the scribe meant to refer a notice. I have not thought it necessary to reproduce the canon proper in the translation, but have contented myself with giving the term assigned to each sovereign and the equation for the first year of each together with the equations for the Seleucid years, wherever such are given in the MS. I have added the citations from James in Elijah of Nisibis, which are not contained in our MS: of these those which relate to the period after 622 have |265 already been published by Dr. Baethgen in his edition of the later portion of the chronicle of Elijah (Abh. für die Kunde des Morgenlandes Bd. 8); but for the sake of completeness I repeat them here. I have also added a citation in Michael [the Syrian], which, as it relates to a period after the death of James, must be taken from the continuator. The introductory portion of the chronicle (fols. 1-9) does not appear to be worth publication, and I have therefore confined myself to the chronological canon which begins on fol. 10.

As the MS unfortunately breaks off before the Arab invasion, the fragments are: valuable rather for the light which they throw on the works of Theophanes, Michael [the Syrian], and other authors who drew directly or indirectly from James than for any direct historical information which they supply. The MS gives us however more detailed information as to the length of the reigns of the Persian kings, Ardashir II; Shahpuhr III, and Warahran IV, than is provided by any other authority, and it adds several names to our list of the bishops of Edessa in the 6th and 7th centuries. Among these occurs the name of Paul, whose accession is assigned to the year 604; and, since under the year 606 14 we are told that the bishops of the East fled to Egypt before the Persians, and we know from other sources that after the conquest of Egypt the patriarch and other Egyptians fled to Cyprus, there can be little doubt that this is the Paul, bishop of Edessa, who, while seeking refuge from the Persians in Cyprus 15, translated the hymns of Severus, John, son of Aphthonia, and John Psaltes, whose identity has hitherto been a matter of considerable doubt.

Words and letters supplied from conjecture to fill gaps in the MS are enclosed in square brackets, but no alteration has been made in the text.

In the translation I have placed all the notices on the right of the canon proper on each page before those on the left. This of course violates the chronological order and sometimes causes awkwardness, as on fol. 21v, where the reference to the notice of the succession of Pope Felix appears to precede the notice itself; but on the other hand to arrange the notices chronologically would often separate notices which are clearly meant to be read together, and, seeing how very doubtful the dates are, it would be an unsatisfactory plan to arrange the notices in accordance with them.


At the end of the article, p.327, Brooks adds these notes:

p. 262. According to Elias of Nisibis (fol. 88 r) the chronicle of James was written in AS 1003 (= 692 AD).

p. 263. Elias of Nisibis also cites James for the death of Phocas and accession of Heraclius (AS 921), where his sentence is in a somewhat different form from that in our MS.

1. 1) Wright CBM p. 1062.

2. 2) It also contains a fragment of a list of Emperors (fol. 6v) extending from Augustus to Maximinus Thrax. This seems to have formed part of the discussion of the error in Eusebius.

3. 3) The Seleucid years, being placed not in the canon proper but in notes at the side, are easily misplaced.

4. 1) In some instances a mark of reference is Inserted to show to which year the notice belongs. 

5. 2) That is if the lost earlier portion of the MS was also the work of James: see below.

6. 1) Syr. 306. 

7. 2) Brit. Mus. Or. 4402. 

8. 3) Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 7,197. 

9. 4) fol. 81v. 

10. 5) Syr. 337.

11. 6) Assem. BO 1. p. 487.

12. 1) ܒܗ ܒܬܘܪܨܐ ܚܕܬܐ ܕܥܩܘܒ ܐܘܪܗܝܐ 

13. 2) James died in 708, but the note on fol. 264r explains that the canon was continued by one of his pupils down to 710.

14. 1) The date is clearly too early, but this docs not affect the accuracy of the fact. That the chronology is here confused is shown by the fact that the ordination of Cyrus of Alexandria, which did not take place till 631/32, is assigned to 610.

15. 2) Wright CBM p. 336. Moreover Paul, the translator of Gregory, was in Cyprus in 624 (id. p. 423).

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