Zachariah of Mitylene, Syriac Chronicle (1899).  Introduction



















P. 3, note 5. Omit the second sentence. P. 20, note 3. For fol. iii. read fol. III. P. 23. For Moris read Mori, and again on p. 42.
P. 27, note 2. The latter part of this note refers to the word "voices" higher up on the same page.
P. 40. For Silentarius read Silentiarius.
P. 71, note 2. For vi. read lxxxvi.
P. 168. Transpose notes 2 and 3.
P. 169, note 5. For "Magisterian" read "Magistrian."
P. 318, note 12. For 56 read "56."

[Note to online text: Syriac material, notes etc have been omitted]


IN Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 17,202 there is a historical work in Syriac, which has been published by Dr. Land 1 under the title of Zachariae Ep. Mitylenes aliorumque scripta historica Graece plerumque deperdita. In the MS. the Chronicle bears no author's name, but is simply entitled, A volume of records of events which have happened in the world. Extracts from the same work are contained (also anonymously) in Cod. Syr. Vat. 14.6 2 (formerly 24), fol. 78ff. An account of these extracts, with quotations, was given by Assemani,3 and the whole was published with a Latin translation by Mai in 1838.4 A passage found among these Vatican fragments is quoted by Dionysius Bar Tsalibi as from "Zachariah the Rhetor and bishop of Melitene,"5 whence Assemani entitled the author "Zachariah of Melitene." The name of Zachariah is confirmed by the fact that Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 12,154 contains two extracts from our Chronicle, which it cites as from the "Ecclesiastical History of Zachariah."6 Further, Evagrius, in bks. 2 and 3 of his History, frequently cites a Monophysite writer whom he calls Zachariah the Rhetor, and these citations agree closely with our text. "Zachariah the Rhetor" is also cited by Michael the Syrian 7 (who is copied by Gregory Abu'l |2 Farag) for the first Synod of Ephesus, the story of the Seven Sleepers, events of the reign of Marcian, and the plague in that of Justinian.

On turning, however, to the work as preserved in the London MS. we find that in the appendix to bk. 2 the author states that bk. 3 is drawn "for the most part from the Chronicle of Zachariah, a rhetor, which he wrote in Greek to a man named Eupraxius, who lived at the Court, and was devoted to the service of the king and queen" ; and the first chapter of bk. 3 opens with the preface of Zachariah addressed to Eupraxius. Again, in the appendix to bk. 6 it is stated that that book is derived "from the Greek Chronicle of Zachariah the Rhetor, who wrote down to this point at great length, according to the Greek practice of diffuseness." From this it is clear that the work of Zachariah ended in 491, and that he was only one of the authorities used by the compiler of the work before us, who followed him in bks. 3—6 only, and to whom the name of Zachariah was wrongly attached by later writers. This is confirmed by the facts that each of the bks. 4-6, and no others, is stated in the preface to be taken from Zachariah, that the words "Ecclesiastical History of Zachariah" are found at the top of the page (with two exceptions in bk. i) in bks. 3—6 only, and that the citations in Evagrius are confined to these same books. (See Land, Introd. pp. x—xiii.) 8

As to the identity of Zachariah, the Life of Isaiah the monk, published by Dr. Land9 from Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 12,174, fol. 142, is in the MS. ascribed to "Zachariah the Scholastic, who wrote the Ecclesiastical History," and a Life of Severus by the same author has been published by Dr. Spanuth10 from a MS. at Berlin (Sachau Collection, 321).11 From the |3 latter we learn that Zachariah was a native of Gaza, that he studied law in company with Severus at Alexandria and Berytus in the reign of Zeno, and that he practised as an advocate at Constantinople, where he was living at the time of writing the Life. There can therefore be little hesitation in identifying him with the "Zachariah of Gaza" to whom an ode of John of Gaza is addressed, with the "Zachariah" to whom several letters of Procopius of Gaza are addressed,12 and with the author of the Dialogue, De Mundi Opificio,13 inscribed "Zaxari/ou Sxolastikou~ Xristianou~ tou~ genome/nou meta_ tau~ta e0pisko&pou Mitulh&nhj," who in his preface states that he had studied at Alexandria. The "Melitene" of Dionysius Bar Tsalibi is therefore an error for "Mitylene."

Now Zachariah of Mitylene was present at the Synod of 536, but in 553 the see was occupied by Palladius. Hence we may infer that Zachariah, a rhetor ,or scholastic of Gaza, residing in Constantinople, between 491 and 518 wrote an Ecclesiastical History of the years 450-491, and also between 511 and 518 wrote a Life of Severus,14 at a later time, conforming perhaps to the Chalcedonian faith,15 was made bishop of Mitylene, and died or was deposed between 536 and 553.16 The courtier Eupraxius, to whom the History is dedicated, is mentioned also in the Life of Severus in terms which imply that he was dead,17 from which it seems to follow that the History was written before the Life. He is no doubt the same as Eupraxius the chamberlain, to whom a letter of Severus is addressed.18 |4 

Zachariah's work then forms the basis of our Syriac author's bks. 3-6. The author did not, however, incorporate Zachariah in full, but epitomated him, as is clear from the fact that Evagrius quotes as from Zachariah a statement which is not found in our text.19 On the other hand, the main narrative in these books is so homogeneous that in general we may assume that no other source was used. In 3. 1, however, occur three passages which are found in almost identical words in John of Ephesus,20 and must therefore have been interpolated either from John or from a common source, since the identity of language forbids us to postulate a common use of the Greek Zachariah. To another source also may be ascribed the list of Emperors and short secular chronicle with which bk. 3 concludes, the chronological summary at the end of the preface to bk. 4, for which the authority of a certain xroniko&n is cited,21 and the notice of Zeno's death and the secular events of his reign in 6. 6.

The compilation opens with an introductory chapter containing a general plan of the work, from which it is clear that the whole work, heterogeneous as it is, is the deliberate composition of one man, not a mere collection of extracts. As to the personality of the writer, there are two possible indications, one in 7. 5 (p. 161), where, in speaking of a certain Gadono who took part in the campaign at Amida in 503, he says, "I know him"; and another in 9. 18 (p. 264), where the same expression is used of an Italian named Dominic or Demonicus, who fled to Constantinople during the Gothic rule; but in neither case can we feel certain that the author is not copying the expression of some other writer,—a supposition which is supported in the former instance by the early date of the events related, in the latter by the fact that John of Ephesus, whom |5 our author appears to have used (see below), resided at Constantinople, while our author's interests lay entirely in the East.22 As to the place of writing, in 12. 5 the author speaks of an event which happened at Amida as happening "here," from which it may be inferred that he was living at Amida, or at any rate in Mesopotamia;23 and a connexion with Amida is also rendered probable by his acquaintance with Eustace, the architect of Amida, which may be gathered from 9. 19 (p. 267), the special mention of the Amidene who was appointed to command the guard at Alexandria in 10. 1, and the author's intercourse with the Amidene captives mentioned in 12.7 (p. 329).24 If 7. 3-5 is original, the intimate acquaintance with the history of Amida there shown must further be added.

The date of writing is given in I. 1 and I. 3 as A.S. 880 = A.D. 569. This must have been the date of the completion of the work, of which different parts were written at different times; thus 12. 4 was written in 561, and 12. 7 in 555 ; 10. 12, which I have restored from Michael (see below), would appear, on the prima facie interpretation of the words to have been written in 545 ; but, since the style of the narrative makes it incredible that it was written within a year of the events recorded, "this year 8" must be understood to mean "this year 8, with which we are now dealing."25 Throughout the history of Justinian's reign the author speaks of the Emperor in terms which imply that he was still living.

In respect of the date a difficulty arises from the use of John of Ephesus, which use seems to be proved by the facts |6 concerning the letter of Simeon of Beth Arsham in 8. 3. Of this letter our author and John (preserved in the Chronicle attributed to Dionysius26) have practically the same version, and this version is an abbreviation of the original letter, which is preserved in Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 14,650 and in a MS. in the Museum Borgianum and has been edited by Prof. Guidi.27 Now two men cannot have made the same epitome of the same document; hence one must have copied the other; and that the copyist was our author appears from the fact that in his work the letter stands alone, while in John it is embedded in a narrative of Homerite affairs. Again, our author's account of the bishops of Amida in 8. 5 is so similar to that in Assem., B. O. vol. ii. pp. 48, 49, that, though the divergences show that it is not slavishly copied from it, it is scarcely credible that it is wholly independent.28 The second part of John's History was, however, not completed before 571,29 while our author, as we have seen, finished his work in 569. It is not, however, necessary to suppose that the whole of John's second part was published at one time; indeed we know from his own statement 30 that a narrative of the persecution which began in 518, which, if not a portion of the Ecclesiastical History, must have been afterwards in great measure incorporated with it, and may well have included an account of the persecution of the Homerites, was published by him thirty years before 567. If, indeed, this date is to be taken literally, it is too early for our purpose, since the headings of the lost chs. 2, 3 of our bk. 10, |7 dealing with the persecution of Abraham Bar Khili at Amida in 537-539, correspond with chapters in "Dionysius," 31 who wrote out John, and must therefore be assumed to be derived from the latter's work.32 In one of the fragments of the History,33 however, John mentions an account of this persecution written by him, from which it follows either that the history of the persecution was not written before 539, or that a later work dealing with this second persecution was afterwards added. In either case we have a sufficient explanation of our author's use of John. Our author did not, however, merely copy John of Ephesus, even for events preceding 540. For instance, John's account of the earthquake of Antioch in 526 is preserved,34 and is quite different from our author's, and his account of the persecution at Edessa under Asclepius35 is very hard to combine with the narrative in our text (8. 4). But the true relation between the two can only be solved when the full text of "Dionysius" has been published.

This complication often makes it impossible to determine whether a particular passage of Michael is derived from our author or from John; and therefore, though the references should give only sources and parallels, not derivatives, I have thought it best to give the references to Michael throughout rather than venture on arbitrary decisions,36 which might be misleading. As Michael is not published, I have added references to his copyist Gregory.37 There is, however, one test by which it is sometimes possible to discriminate, and that is the method of dating; for John dates by Seleucid years only, while our author uses also the indictional reckoning, and generally writes the numeral in Greek, a practice found also |8 in the Edessene Chronicle.38 The use of this method in certain passages in Michael has enabled me to restore some lost chapters in bk. 10.

The first book, after the introductory chapter and a discussion of the chronology of Genesis, contains the History of Joseph and Asnath,39 the Acts of Silvester,40 and the narrative of the discovery of the relics of Stephen, Gamaliel, and Nicodemus by the presbyter Lucian,41 concluding with a short account of two early Syriac writers. Bk. 2, ch. 1, contains the Acts of the Seven Sleepers,42 while in ch. 2 the continuous historical narrative opens with the Synod of Constantinople in 448, and at the end of bk. 9 it is brought down to the capture of Rome in 536. Bks. 2—6 are almost wholly ecclesiastical, but bks. 7—9 contain much valuable information on secular matters, particularly on the relations between Rome and Persia. So far the work is practically complete,43 but the |9 remaining books are unfortunately fragmentary. Of bk. 10, in which the history is continued to 548, we have the headings of the chapters complete and portions of the chapters themselves;44 the lost chapters I have been able in part to restore from Michael, Gregory, and the fragments of James of Edessa.45 Bk. 11 is wholly lost: of bk. 12 we have a fragment extending from the middle of ch. 4 to the middle of ch. 7, and dealing with the years 553-556. The original work was, as we are told in the introductory chapter, brought down to 569.

The legendary matter at the beginning, though of great value for comparison with other versions of the same legends, stands quite apart from the rest of the work ; and, as it does not contain anything which does not exist in Greek or Latin, it does not appear worth the space that would be required for translating it, and is therefore omitted. Of the remainder the translation of I. 9, bk. 2 (omitting ch. 1), and bks. 3-7 is the work of Dr. Hamilton,46 while for the introductory chapter, bks. 8 and 9, and the fragments of bks. 10 and 12 47 I am responsible.

Since Dr. Land, as he states in his preface,48 thought it better to spend his time in copying fresh documents than in revising his transcripts, his text is naturally far from accurate, and an examination of the MS. has enabled us in many instances to correct it. The MS. itself, however, is considerably corrupted, and supplies a text inferior to that of the Roman MS., which is later in date. All departures from Land's text on the authority of the MS., or of Cod. Rom. (which I have examined), or by conjecture, are noted, except in the case of (1) punctuation, including plural marks; (2) |10 division of words; (3) final [Syriac] or [Syriac]; (4) foreign proper names and technical terms, where there is no doubt what is meant. In many places assistance has been derived from the work of other writers, of whom mention is made in the notes.


[Note to the online edition: footnotes have been moved to the end.]

1. 1 Anecdota Syriaca, vol. iii., Leyden, 1870.

2. 2 On the cover it is numbered 145.

3. 3 Bibl. Or. vol. ii. p. 54 ff.

4. 4 Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio, tom. x.

5. 5 Assem., B. O. vol. ii. p. 53.

6. 6 Fols. 151, 158. See Land, Introd. p. xiii. Another extract with Zachariah's name is found in Add. 14,620, fol. 28 (ibid. p. xiv).

7. 7 In the Arabic translation in Brit. Mus. MS. Or. 4402, which is far superior to the Armenian epitome (translated into French by Langlois). As the original Syriac is as yet inaccessible, I frequently for brevity's sake write "Michael," where I mean the Arabic translator. [The Syriac text is now being published by M. Chabot.]

8. 1 In spite of these facts Land ascribes bk. 7 to Zachariah. The different character of that book is enough to show that it is derived from another source. It does not, however, follow that it was not taken from another author, distinct from the compiler. The list of bishops in 7. 15 must be drawn from an author who wrote in 518, 519. See Land, Introd. pp. xi, xii. On the other hand, the end of 7. 6 was written after 540.

9. 2 Anecd. Syr. iii. p. 346.

10. 3 Progr. des Gymn. zu Kiel, Göttingen, 1893.

11. 4 Zachariah tells us in this Life that he also wrote a Life of Peter the Iberian ; but the Life contained in this MS. and in Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 12,174, and edited by Dr.Raabe (Leipzig, 1895), is not his (see Raabe's Introduction). The Life of Theodosius, published by Land (Anecd. Syr. iii. p. 341) from Add. 12,174, is ascribed by him to Zachariah ; but the discrepancies with the account in our 3. 9 make this ascription very doubtful. All these lives exist in Syriac only.

12. 1 Mai, op. cit. praef. p. xiv.

13. 2 Migne, Patrol. Graec. vol. lxxxv. p. 1012.

14. 3 The Life of Isaiah is mentioned in that of Severus, and is therefore earlier. Similarly that of Peter.

15. 4 His name is not among the signatures to the decree of the Synod of 536, and he may possibly have been a nominee of Anthimus.

16. 5 There are some notices of Zachariah in the Plerophoriae of John of Majuma, lately published in a translation by M. Nau, chs. 70, 73. From ch. 70 it appears that he gave up his secular career before 519. (Revue de l'Orient Chrétien, 1898, Suppl. trim. pp. 375, 377.)

17. 6 Vit. Sev. p. 28, l. I, 2, "Eupraxius of illustrious memory." 

18. 7 Wright, Cat. Syr. MSS. Brit. Mus. p. 944.

19. 1 Evagr. iii. 18; cf. also ii. 10,

20. 2 Anecd. Syr. iii. p. 120, 1. 6-9 = Anecd. Syr. ii. p. 363, 1. 6-9; Anecd. Syr. iii. p. 123, 1. 11-13 = Anecd. Syr. ii. p. 363, 1. 1-5; Anecd. Syr. iii. p. 119, 1. 11-16 = a passage quoted by M. Nau in his analysis of the second part of Jo. Eph. ap. "Dion." (Revue de l'Orient Chrétien, 1897, Suppl. trim. p. 457).

21. 3 Cited also in ii. 1 (p. 93, 1. 9, Land) for the death of Decius and accession of Gallus, and in the appendix to bk. 2 for the length of the life and reign of Theodosius II.

22. 1 No passage corresponding to this occurs in the analysis of Jo. Eph. given by M. Nau from "Dionysius," but I can hardly believe that the whole of Jo. Eph. is preserved by "Dion.," since the analysis contains no record of the Synod of 536 or of the death of Theodora.

23. 2 In 12. 6 "the cities here" = the cities of Mesopotamia; but, on the other hand, the fact that this somewhat obscure event is recorded makes it probable that the author was a native of Amida. Jo. Eph. was also an Amidene, but the late date of this event makes it unlikely that the narrative was derived from his work (see below). Moreover, at that time he seems to have been living in Constantinople or Asia Minor.

24. 3 On the other hand, Dodo the anchorite, whom he quotes as an informant in 8. 5, seems to have been a native of Emesa.

25. 4 Similarly "this year 4" at the end of 12. 5.

26. 1 Assem., B. O. vol. i. p. 364. It has been shown by M. Nau, in Bulletin Critique, ser. 2, tom. ii. p. 321 ff., and by Prof. Nöldeke, in Vienna Oriental Journal, tom. x. p. 160 ff., that the attribution of this Chronicle to Dionysius is a mere blunder of Assemani; but, as the name is too well established to abandon, I refer to it as "Dionysius." I may here add that from Mich. (fol. 223) it appears that the work of Dionysius, whose preface is there given in full, began at 582, and was a continuation of Cyrus of Batnae.

27. 2 Atti dell' Accademia de' Lincei, ser. 3, tom. vii.

28. 3 See also Hallier, Untersuchungen über die Edessenische Chronik, p. 67. His argument from the list of banished bishops, which Mich. (fol. 161 v.) quotes as from Jo. Eph., is, however, not quite conclusive, since our author's account in 8. 5 is somewhat different, and the correspondence as to Akhs'noyo may be explained if both drew from the letter to which our author refers.

29. 4 Jo. Eph. pt. iii. I. 3.

30. 5 De Beat. Orient. 35 (Anecd. Syr. ii. pp. 203, 212 ; transl. pp. 130, 135).

31. 1 Cod. Syr. Vat. 162, fol. 96. I made a cursory examination of this MS. in 1894, but I owe most of my knowledge of "Dionysius" (apart from Assemani's extracts) to M. Nau's analysis (see p. 4, note).

32. 2 It does not follow that the narrative itself was copied, since our author may have taken his subjects from John, and given his own account of the events.

33. 3 Anecd. Syr. ii. p. 294; transl. p. 221.

34. 4 Anecd. Syr. ii. p. 299 ff.; transl. p. 224 ff.

35. 5 Anecd. Syr. ii. p. 291 ff. ; transl. p. 2i9ff.

36. 6 This does not apply to the Zachariah books, in which there can be no doubt that he copies our author.

37. 7 The references to the Chronicon Syriacum are to the edition of Bedjan.

38. 1 See Hallier, op. cit. p. 41.

39. 2 The translation from the Greek is ascribed to Moses of Ingila. This chapter has been translated into Latin by Oppenheim (Berlin, 1886). Part of the Greek version of this legend and a Latin epitome were published by Fabricius (Cod. Pseudepigr. V. T. vols. i. and ii.), and a complete text in Greek and Latin has now been published from several MSS. by the Abbe Batiffol (Paris, 1889-1890). The Greek text has been again edited by V. M. Istrin (Moscow, 1898).

40. 3 The Greek Acts are published in Combefis, Christi martyrum lecti triumphi. Portions are also given by Cedrenus, and in a shorter form by Geo. Mon. and Zonaras. A Latin version with large additions exists in a book entered in Brit. Mus. Catalogue under "Eusebius," and supposed to have been published at Strassburg in 1470. Another with slight variations is in Mombritius, Sanctuarium, vol. ii., and the Jewish dispute was published by Wicelius (Maintz, 1544). An epitome is in Surius, Act. Sanct., Dec. 31. The Syriac Acts are also in Add. MS. 12,174, but without the Jewish dispute. See article of A. L. Frothingham in Memorie dell' Accademia de' Liucei, 1882.

41. 4 Lucian's letter exists in two Latin versions in Migne, Patr. Lat. vol. xli. p. 807 ff. The Greek original is mentioned by Fabricius (Bibl. Graec. vol. x. p. 327), but is not published. An epitome is given in Photius, Bibl. Cod. 171, which contains a passage found in our author but not in either of the Latin texts. Another Latin version, with slight variations from the first of the two in Migne, is published in Mombritius, Sanctuarium, vol. ii.

42. 5 For the various versions of this legend see Act. Sanct., Jul. vol. vi. p. 375 ff., and Guidi, Testi Orientali Inediti sopra i Sette Dormienti di Efeso (Atti dell' Accademia de' Lincei, ser. 3, tom. xii.). The Greek Acts are in Migne, Patr. Graec. vol. cxv. p. 428. A Syriac version similar to our author's is in Add. MS. 14,641, fol. 150. El. Nis. quotes the legend from "John the Jacobite," i.e. John of Ephesus.

43. 6 Setting aside small tears and obliterations, the only losses are a part of I. 6, where a leaf has been lost, and the end of I. 5, which is also missing. The beginning of I. 6, also contained on this latter leaf or leaves, is supplied by Dr. Land from Add. MS. 7190.

44. 1 10. 16 and a part of 10. 15, missing in Cod. Brit., are found in Cod. Rom.

45. 2 Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 14,685.

46. 3 A translation of bks. 3-6 was privately printed by Dr. Hamilton in 1892. No other continuous translation, except of the Vatican fragments, has as yet appeared.

47. 4 The epitome of Ptolemy's Geography in 12. 7 is omitted. 

48. 5 P. xiv.

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