Michael the Syrian vol. 3 has arrived

I scanned volume 1 and volume 2 of the French translation of the Chronicle of Michael the Syrian, the big 12th century Syriac Chronicle and placed them on Archive.org.  I learned today that after a very long wait, volume 3 has appeared at the local library via ILL.  I shall go and get it tomorrow, and fire up my scanner.

70 thoughts on “Michael the Syrian vol. 3 has arrived”

  1. Very few know anything about this, so it would be most interesting to see. I’d like to know about it.

    But translating from one’s own language into another is very hard! Even if you know the other language well, it’s not so easy to find the right words for something.

  2. I agree but it is I guess the case, Roger, with all translations. When somebody translates Anton Chekhov’s The Orchard, for example, to English, the translation cannot convey to us what the Russian play conveys to the Russian. I am not bothered about that – what I find difficult is the problem that the Arabic text is not very clear having been copied and recopied several times, which rendered the text a bit difficult in certain areas.

    Dioscorus Boles

  3. I can translate French to English easily. I cannot translate English to French easily, even though I have fairly good French. That is the problem.

  4. I will give it a go any way. I promise it will not be worse than google’s work!

  5. Yes, have a go. It’s the only way to do these things. I expect everyone can offer suggestions on polishing the English anyway, so long as the sense is clear. Best way to do this is to hand it to a native English-speaker friend, once it is done, who speaks no Arabic, and ask them to read it!

  6. I have promised to translate[1] a passage from Churches and Monasteries of Egypt by Abu Al-Makarim[2], the Coptic writer, which was published by Fr Samuel in Egypt in 1984, and contained the missing part from Evett’s edition, which covers Lower Egypt. The passage is from Fol. 12B and 13A: it shows how the writer felt for the sufferings of the Frankish prisoners at that time, and how he rejoiced at their liberation. There was no hint that he suspected their Christianity or heroism. Here is the translated passage, with some endnotes of mine:

    Harat Al-Atofiya: This harrat[3] was called after Atouf, the ustaz[4] and servant. There radd (?)[5] and weapons were made; hanging mills made fine flour for the caliph’s household; …; and timber and paints were stored; etc. In it lived Frankish prisoners who were made to work there; some were married and with families and others were single. They had two churches in that harat to worship in; a large church by the name of the Virgin Mary, the Pure, and another one, built above their houses, named after St George. When they held prayers and liturgies, large crowds from many Christian peoples and the Franks from the industrial area of Misr[6] used to join them, carrying candles … and … there would be much joy and happiness. But these two churches were destroyed during the current troubles.

    There was a man called Abu Al-Karam Al-Tanissi,[7] who was responsible for Diwan Al Nathar[8] during the Caliphate of Al-Hafiz,[9] and Satan put in his heart the love of inflicting harm on all sorts of peoples, and his harm now reached these Frankish prisoners, who were poor and used to earn their livelihood from weaving cotton, while other made shoes or farmed poultry, thereby benefiting from their manual work and the sales of eggs. And this unjust, Abu Al-Karam came to Al Manakh,[10] and summoned their foreman, and announced to them: “Your Master will return you to your countries, but you will have to buy your souls from him. You must get him the money; or else, convert to Islam.” They protested, and said, “We are ready to shed our blood by the sword and not abandon the religion of Christ.” He asked money from each of them to preserve his religion and soul (neck). They protested to him their situation; the poverty they were reduced to; their inability to get money; and their impossible lot. But he did not have mercy on them; did not feel sorry for them; and did not depart from them until every one of them brought him whatever he had in his possession, and was able to collect. And he (Abu Al-Karam) collected from them large sums of money, and brought the money to Al-Hafiz who took it; but he did not release any of them, for it was all a deceptive device by which they were cheated.

    They remained in captivity until Shawar Al-Saadi[11] (invited) the King of the Franks, Amaury,[12] to come with his army to Cairo, and (Amaury) ended their captivity, repatriating them to their countries, and so what was prophesied came to be fulfilled in them: “Blessed is God who has ended His people’s captivity, and saved them from the hands of the enemy, and did not leave them in darkness forever.”[13] And as the Catholicon, also, says, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.”[14]


    1. This is amateur translation. I can’t claim that it is perfect, but I have tried my best! Others can improve on it.
    2. Tarikh Abu Al-Makarim: Tarikh Al-Kana’is Wal Adiura’a Fil Garn Al Thani Ashar Bil WAgh Al Bahri; published by Anba Samuel; 1984; Part I: pp. 12-13.
    3. Harat is a section, or quarter, of a town.
    4. Ustaz is a title of respect in Egypt, equivalent to the word “master”.
    5. This word “radd” is unfamiliar to me.
    6. Misr is the area known now as Old Cairo, or Coptic Cairo. It was older than Cairo proper which was built only at the beginning of the Fatimid Period in the 970s. The industrial area (Sinaat Misr) was where boats and ships were built, and the Frankish prisoners were used in the building up of such boats and ships.
    7. This was Mahammad ibn Ma’asoum Al-Tanissi (the Tanisite), nicknamed Al-Mouaffak Abu Al-Karam; a judge who was appointed at the head of Diwan Al Nathar (see footnote below) by Caliph Al-Hafiz, between 540-542 AH (1145-1147 AD). Our story most probably happened at the beginning of his employment; possibly in 1145 (for more on him, see A F Sayyid; Al Dawla Al Fatimiyya Fi Masr – Tafseer Gadid; Cairo; 1992; p. 351.
    8. Supervision Diwan or Department of Finance.
    9. Abd Al-Majid Al-Ḥafiz (1130-1149). He was the 8th in the line of the Fatimid caliphs who ruled Egypt, and his reign is considered the beginning of the weakening of the Fatimid rule, witnessing internal and external power struggles.
    10. Al Manakh is the area where the flour mills for the caliphs’ households were (see Makrizi; Khitat; Part II; p. 442 – published by Mktabat Madbouli; Cairo; 1998).
    11. Shawar was vizier during the reign of the 11th, and last, Fatimid caliph, Al-Adid (1160-1171). During that period internal power struggle between army leaders was at its worse, and foreign powers (mainly the Ayyubid Nour Al-Din in Syria and King Amaury of Jerusalem) were often invited to help one Fatimid group against the other. He was vizier twice, first in 1163, and second in 1164-1169.
    12. Amaury (Amalric I) of Jerusalem was King of Jerusalem 1162–1174. He got involved in the politics of Egypt at the invitation of Shawar, and in 1168 he invaded Egypt. His campaign failed, and in 1169 he returned home but not after taking with him 12,000 prisoners, between men, women and children (see A F Sayyid; Al Dawla Al Fatimiyya Fi Masr; p. 298. Sayyid quotes both Ibn Al-Athir (Al-Kamil; 11:338) and Al-Makrizi (Iti’aaz; 3: 299). These prisoners I believe are the ones that our author Abu Al-Makarim, the Copt, talks about in this passage.
    13. I am not sure where this verse is from, but it sounds to me Old Testament.
    14. King James Version; Peter II: 9. The Arabic could literally be translated into: “The Lord saves the faithful from all troubles and tribulations, and keeps the unjust in everlasting torture”

    Dioscorus Boles

  7. Dioscorus, this is marvellous, and very well done. Thank you! The notes are very helpful too, since most of us don’t know the places and people involved. You should do more of this, you know; you clearly have the talent.

  8. I find it a shame that so little Coptic historiographical works exist. Not that I do not appreciate all the Coptic texts that have come down to us (of which very often the (Greek) original has been lost), but it’s too bad.

  9. Well I don’t know. We’ve got the massive “History of the Patriarchs”; we have Abu al-Makarem, albeit unpublished. There’s probably more, if we knew about it.

  10. Roger, thank you very much for your commendation and kind words. I really appreciate it. I am glad that it has secured your approval.

  11. This is an excellent site; your enterprise and endeavour in
    exploring, translating and making available texts of various Church Fathers is a worthy and most useful ministry
    for these times.

    Could any of your output transfer over time into printed book form?

    Presumably you know of the 10 volume edition of Patriarch Michael’s Chronicle which is in course of publication?

  12. Glad to help! It would certainly be possible to produce these things in book form; but who would want them? I do intend that the translations of Eusebius and Origen that I have commissioned — of previously untranslated works — be printed first, because I hope to recover some of the costs of translation thus.

    The Gorgias Press enterprise to do a proper version of Michael is a very worthy thing, of course, and will be far better than the Chabot edition. The Syriac in the latter is pretty much unreadable.

  13. In 2008, HMML made a complete digitized copy of the actual 1598 manuscript in Aleppo. It is being published by Gorgias Press in a forthcoming edition. The web citation below also outlines various editions and translations that will published in different volumes. Helpful as an overview and a source for a comprehensive library on the Chronicle and its translations.


  14. Thank you for this note! Yes, I was aware of the Gorgias volumes, which will be far, far better than the Chabot edition. The Syriac in vol. 4 of the Chabot (which I have never had the courage to scan) is unreadable.

  15. Roger, I have recently been studying the history of the Crusades and Michael the Syrian is often quoted. He tells us in his history how the Franks treated the Christians of the East well, and how these in response harboured no animosity towards them. The reason that the availability of this important Chronicle in Syria is extremely difficult may be because of this. I am not sure, but I am suspicious! As you know it is available in French but so far no full English translation of it has been made. I pray to God that the Arabic version, accompanied by English translation, is soon made available. The Chronicle is not important just because of what it tells us about the Crusades – it is full of stories of all sorts of events, related to so many nationalities, religions, sects and countries that are not available in other resources.

  16. Roger,

    Sorry for late addition, but…. I’d like a copy of the new Michael. Could I interest you in the purchase of one of my kids?

    I finally got my sweaty paws on Abu Makarim’s volume on Syria and Palestine. It is full of treasures — even more valuable what with the paucity of Melkite sources.

    Hope all’s well.


  17. Ha! Yes, the new Michael is ferociously expensive. I wonder how many people will buy it.

    I am deeply envious of you for locating that volume of Abu’l Makarim. Have you ever come across anyone who encountered the English translation said to exist?

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