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 Responses to “Michael the Syrian vol. 3 has arrived”

  1. Daniel R. Jennings

    Thank you Roger.

  2. Dioscorus Boles

    When this particular book is online in a good English translation, and in its entirety, we should have a very good occasion to celebrate. Thanks for your efforts.

  3. Roger Pearse

    It would be nice if someone did produce an English translation. But it’s too long a work for me.

  4. Andy

    As part of his thesis Michael Dickens translated Book XIV of the Chronicle into English. AFAIK this is the only available English translation of (part of) the Chronicle to this day. If i’m allowed to start a doctorate (one can hope), an English translation of (part of) the Chronicle might be something to incorporate into the assignment. :)

    As a matter of fact, one of the Armenian versions (the long one) also exists only in a French translation from the 19th century. So this also needs some updating, preferably in English. At this moment, in preparation of my thesis, I’m translating the part that relates to Book XIV in the Syriac original.

  5. Andy

    Mark Dickens, Medieval Syriac Historians’ Perceptions of the Turks, MPhil dissertation in Aramaic and Syriac Studies, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Cambridge, 2004.

    Available online at: http://www.oxuscom.com/Medieval_Syriac_Historians_on_the_Turks.pdf

    Unfortunately he does not provide the coherent translation, but only produces quotes of it.

  6. Roger Pearse

    Thank you for this! Very interesting stuff, and thanks for the link. Did Mark translate the whole book, or just bits? Or did he do the lot, but only include parts? I do feel for anyone who had to work with the horrible Syriac in that volume; really tiny text.

    I didn’t quite follow part of your comment. Are you translating the Armenian version of book XIV? Well done, if so!

    The French of the start of vol. 3 seems very easy. I read a couple of pages without difficulty. The only problem is where the text splits into parallel passages. I don’t quite understand this, or how to handle it. Any thoughts?

  7. Dioscorus Boles

    It is important to remember that this great chronicle has not been translated from its original Syriac into French only. It has been translated, too, to Arabic.

    It has been translated into Arabic by Mar Gregorios Saliba Shamoun, Metropolitan of Mosul (edited and introduced by Yohanna Ibrahim, Metropolitan of Aleppo; published by Mardin Publishing House, Aleppo, 1996). Prior to this another Arabic translation existed, completed in 1759 by Hanna As-Sadadi, Bishop of Damascus. Other than this, several Garshuni versions seem to exist, but none of them helped in understanding the chronicle (Ibrahim, Introduction, GCMS-AT, 1996).

    Ibrahim says that of As-Sadadi’s translation in the 18th century, five copies exist at the following locations: Library of Deyr-ul-Zafaran, Sadad (Palestina), Amid, Deyr Mar Marcus, and in London.

    I understand that the copy in London is in the British Library.

    I hope that somebody will scan it and make it available on the internet. May be it will be translated into English from the Arabic version.

  8. Roger Pearse

    Thank you for these details of the Arabic versions, Dioscorus; this is all useful since few of us know much about it.

    Presumably the As-Sadadi translation exists only in manuscript? Someone told me that all the Arabic manuscripts of the British Library were microfiched (paid for by some Arab princeling). But I have never investigated this, and don’t know anything about it.

    It would be nice if someone got hold of this and transcribed it, I agree. However it’s a bit beyond me!

  9. Andy

    “Did Mark translate the whole book, or just bits? Or did he do the lot, but only include parts?”

    He translated it completely, but does not comment on every single line. Footnote 168 says: “[….] but quotations are from my translation, with numbers in square brackets referring to paragraphs in that translation.” His English translation can be (partially) reconstructed from the quotations. Some sentences are left out.

    I didn’t quite follow part of your comment. Are you translating the Armenian version of book XIV? Well done, if so!

    I am comparing the Syriac text with the Armenian text of book XIV. Only two french translations (of the 19th century) exist of one of the two Armenian versions. I am translating the text from an imprinted Jerusalem-edition of 1870 (or 1871, I am not sure) again, because I do not know how accurate the French translations were and they are a bit out of date anyway (and I can use a bit of exercise during the summer holidays).

    “The French of the start of vol. 3 seems very easy. I read a couple of pages without difficulty. The only problem is where the text splits into parallel passages. I don’t quite understand this, or how to handle it. Any thoughts?”

    For a complete explanation you might have to consult (if you can read German): D. Weltecke, Die “Beschreibung der Zeiten” von Mar Michael dem Grossen (1126-1199), Leuven, 2003. (especially page 166).
    In short, generally the subject matter is divided into two or three (sometimes four) columns. The main divisions are church history (CH) and world history (WH), the other one is a mixed column (MC) with miracles and natural disasters.

    Generally, if you open the book, you have before you six columns (three per page). The division is then as follows:


    The ecclesiastical history can always be found on the ‘outside’ of the page of the manuscript, or as Michael himself calls it: “the upper column”

    Concerning the Arabic version: it seems to be a copy of the 1598 manuscript, the only ‘authentic’ copy in existence (except of course the Rahmani and Chabot copies). So in my (narrow-minded) view, another translation of the Arabic version won’t provide much new information regarding the Syriac Chronicle. (For an overview of the versions and editions of the Chronicle, see: A. Schmidt, Die Zweifache Armenische Rezension der Syrischen Chronik Michaels des Grossen, in: Le Muséon 109 (1996), p. 299-315 (I’m not sure of the final page number).

  10. Andy

    Ah, a more recent Arabic translation! An English translation of that translation might be interesting to found out what solutions Mar Gregorios Saliba Shamoun gave for some problems concerning some passages/missing words/etc…

  11. Roger Pearse

    Thank you very much indeed, Andy, for explaining the layout. I found it baffling, I must admit. Do you recall where Michael discusses this?

    I will see if I can obtain those references, for which many thanks! My German isn’t that great but should certainly be equal to those.

    I’m unclear about the mss of Michael. I know there is an ms. in Aleppo — is that 1598, then? I don’t know what the Rahmani and Chabot mss are.

    Are the Armenian versions with French translation online anywhere? Thanks for the explanation of this, btw!

    And interesting that Mark Dickens has a complete version of a book somewhere. Someone, somewhere, has a complete translation by Sebastian Brock of half of Bar Hebraeus’ “Chronicon Ecclesiasticum”, but I don’t know who. There seem to be far too many unpublished and inaccessible translations around.

    I’ve started scanning part 3, which will go onto Archive.org in PDF form when I’m done. But it’s 400 pages; I’ve only done 40 so far! Too much urgent but unimportant-once-done stuff today. I’ll attack it some more on Monday.

  12. Andy

    “Thank you very much indeed, Andy, for explaining the layout. I found it baffling, I must admit. Do you recall where Michael discusses this?”

    Weltecke refers to a marginal note in volume 1, p. 162:

    Sache, lecteur, que maintenant et désormais, toutes les fois que reviendra le commencement d’un chapitre, soit de ce côté, soit de Vautre, nous écrivons, c’est-à-dire j’écris le chapitre concernant les Apôtres et les Pères dans la colonne’supérieure; car il n’est pas convenable que les Pères et leur histoire soient dans la colonne inférieure.

    “I’m unclear about the mss of Michael. I know there is an ms. in Aleppo — is that 1598, then?”

    That is the (only) ‘original’ one. It was copied in 1598 in Edessa from another copy (ca 1560, by Moses of Mardin) of the original autograph by Michael himself.

    “I don’t know what the Rahmani and Chabot mss are.”

    Both Rahmani and Chabot respectively made and had made a copy of the 1598 ms. for translating the text. Long story short, it seems Chabot ‘stole’ the manuscript for the sake of having it copied, it was done in a very short time span, hence the bad condition and many mistakes.

    “Are the Armenian versions with French translation online anywhere?”

    Only the long version has been translated. A partial French translation is online. This translation appeared in “Recueil des Historiens des Croisades, Documents arméniens”. The extract starts with Book XIV, but I don’t know how far it goes on.

    There is only one complete (French) translation of the long Armenian version and to my knowledge it is not online.

    A short explanation of the Armenian versions:

    The original manuscript of Michael’s Chronicle was translated and abbreviated by the Armenian historian Vardan Arewelc’i and a Syrian priest Isho in 1246 in Hromkla. This version is the long version. In 1248 Vardan finished a revision of their translation on his own (Isho had died somewhere in 1247). A text of the long version was printed in 1870, a text of the short in 1871, both in Jerusalem.

    The references are:
    the partial translation online:

    complete translation of the long version:
    V. Langlois, Chronique de Michel le Grand, Venise, 1868.

    text of the long version:
    Tearn Mixayeli Patriark’i Asorwoy zamanakgrut’iwn, Jerusalem, 1870.

    text of the short version: zamankagrut’iwn tearn mixayeli asorwoy patriark’i haneal i hnagoyn grc’agre, Jerusalem, 1871.

  13. Dioscorus Boles

    I would like to ask bloggers why they think this chronicle is particularly important. What do they think is there in it that is not already known in other chronicles? Does it provide us with unique insight into the history of the period (or prior to it)?

    From a Coptic perspective, part of this chronicle are invaluable in shedding light on the great Coptic uprising of the Bashmurites against the Muslim rule in 832 AD. St Michael the Great visited Egypt with Caliph Al-Mamun (813-833) who came to Egypt to suppress the Bashmurites. St Michael accompanied him to talk to the Coptic Patriarch, Yousab (Joseph) (831-848) in order to induce him to use his influence with the Bashmurites.

    There are details about that great Coptic uprising which are only found in St Michael’s chronicle. Bat Ye-or has translated in her books part of St Michel’s version, and I found it intriguing and extremely important.

    Since then I have tried hard to find the Arabic translation of the chronicle. I wrote a few times to the Syrian Patriarchate in Syria, but I got no answer whatsoever. For some reason they seem either over protective of the text or afraid that something in it may put them in trouble with the masters in Syria.

  14. Daniel R. Jennings

    Hi Dioscorus, I think it is important because it contains (to my knowledge) the only known reference to what happened to the remains of Montanus (the founder of Montanism) and his two females assistants.

  15. Andy

    And it contains fragments of chronicles that have been lost, like that of Jacob of Edessa.

  16. Robert Bedrosian

    I’ve translated 200 of the 630 pages of the long Armenian version (1870). It will probably be at least a year before it’s done and ready to go online. I’m doing lots of other things at present and can only translate a few pages a day.

    Langlois’ excellent French translation of the Armenian, with invaluable footnotes, is available from Google Books


    Or from my website (use a download manager)

  17. Roger Pearse

    Michael is using earlier Syriac writers who are now lost, often doing so word-for-word. Andy mentions James of Edessa, of whose Chronicle we otherwise have only scraps; Michael quotes pretty much the lot.

  18. Roger Pearse

    Wow! Thank you so much, Robert. That is wonderful, and will make this far more accessible. As I have remarked before, it is incredibly useful to everyone to have someone who knows Classical Armenian working to make its riches available.

  19. Andy

    That is indeed excellent news. After that it’s time for the short version. I have no access to it and I am a bit curious as to where the differences lie, except for the shortness of coursen but we’ll have to see.

    Are you using the Jerusalem edition? I know there are a lot of manuscripts containing the two versions and that there is still no real critical edition available… That will be something for the future.

  20. Robert Bedrosian

    Yes, it’s the Jerusalem edition of 1870. Langlois’s translation (1868) seems to be a composite of several manuscripts. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the 1871 edition. But if Langlois was translating from that, one thing is for sure: it’s not “shorter”–at least so far.

    His footnotes are wonderful, since he tried to identify where every piece of Michael’s information came from. A real goldmine.

  21. Dioscorus Boles

    Given the importance of this chronicle I am surprised that no one has translated it in the past to English, from any of the Syrian or Armenian or Arabic versions. Robert Bedrosian will do a great favour to knowledge by his translation. May God bless his efforts; amen. I cannot wait to read his translated work.

    The Syrian, from which an Arabic translation derived, may be a bit different though, and it is important that somebody compares it with the Arminian version. If it is different, it would be great to have it translated into English. Who would do that?

    Dioscorus Boles

  22. Dioscorus Boles

    Not related to this but I take the occasion of Robert Bedrosian’s visit to ask: does anyone have documents that cover the history of the Armenians who were “imported” by Al-Mustansir Biallah (1035-1094 AD) to Egypt in the second half of the 11th century to save his rule, and proved to be strong and good wazirs. They managed to extend the life of the Fatimid Dynasty by over a hundred years. Their rule in Medieval Egypt was the greatest. Many of them remained Christian. The Copts benefited from their enlightened rule, and flourished under them.

    Dioscorus Boles

  23. Robert Bedrosian

    Dioscorus Boles,

    My friend and colleague Seta B. Dadoyan has collected, translated, and analysed those sources in her book The Fatimid Armenians: Cultural & Political Interaction in the Near East published by Brill, 1997. It is an engrossing book.

  24. Roger Pearse

    Fatimid Armenians – now that is a subject about which I knew nothing. Thank you both for these interesting snippets!

    Robert, thanks for your comments on Langlois – very useful. Evidently a good book to have access to.

  25. Andy

    Thanks about that Q and A about the Fatimid Armenians! Never heard of that fact, so I’m definitely going to find that book in my library the day after tomorrow!

    “The Syrian, from which an Arabic translation derived, may be a bit different though, and it is important that somebody compares it with the Arminian version. If it is different, it would be great to have it translated into English. Who would do that?”

    Well, I finally started today with the comparison of the Syriac and Armenian version of book XIV. I did not get very far, but it seems that – apart from the obvious tendency to simplify and shorten certain parts – some passages have been changed significantly. The Turkic peoples descendants from the same grandson of Noah as the Armenians, now there is a strange thing to find in an Armenian chronicle, no?

    Updates will definitely follow.

  26. Dioscorus Boles

    Thanks, Bedrosian. Dadoyan’s book is a bit hard to find, but I will make a double effort to get it asap.

    An important source for the history of the Armenians in the Fatimid period, though mainly of their Christian section, is to be found in the Churches and Monasteries of Egypt and Some Neighbouring Countries, attributed to Abū Ṡāliḣ al-Armanī (Abu Salih, The Armenian), but was actually written by a Coptic priest of Al Mu’aalakka Church in Misr (Coptic Cairo), called Al-Mu’taman Abu al-Makarim Sa’d Allah Jirjis ibn Mas’ud, in the thirteen century. It was translated and published by Evetts (you can find it in Internet Archive at: http://www.archive.org/details/churchesandmona00maqrgoog), who attributed it wrongly to Abū Ṡāliḣ al-Armanī. It is important to note that Evett did not translate all parts – he did not find the first part which deals with churches and monasteries of Lower Egypt. This has recently been published in Arabic in Egypt (published by the late Bishop Samuel). This important part awaits translation into English to complete Evetts’ other parts.

    Andy, if the Armenian version is significantly different, and it is a translation, then we are definitely in need of the Syriac original translated. Don’t we? I hope you would one day do that. But I think Bedrosian’s work will still be invaluable, and constitutes a historic event if he succeeds in bringing St Michael’s Chronicle, though a translated version, to English readers across the globe for the first time.

    Dioscorus Boles

  27. Roger Pearse

    Andy, thanks for doing the comparison, even on a small sample. Most interesting to learn of the differences! It looks as if Robert’s work on translating the Armenian version really will be valuable, then, regardless of what the Syriac version says. I wonder when the Armenian version was made?

    Dioscorus, thanks for the stuff on Abu Salih. I had no idea either that Evetts version was online, or that it was incomplete (drat the man).

  28. Discussion on Armenian version of Michael the Syrian at Roger Pearse

    […] note that the comments on this post of mine have wandered into the very interesting area of Armenian versions of Michael the Syrian, […]

  29. Robert Bedrosian

    I wish someone would English Chabot’s French translation of the Syriac text of Michael. How handy that would be, especially for me!

  30. Andy

    “I wonder when the Armenian version was made?”

    The long Armenian version was made in 1246 by Vardan Arewelc’i and Isho and the short version, a revision of the long one, was finished in 1248 by Vardan alone.

  31. Andy

    And interestingly, the oldest manuscript of an Armenian version dates to 1273 (unfortunately the short one), so it is more than 300 years older than the Syriac manuscript we have now.

  32. Andy

    “I wish someone would English Chabot’s French translation of the Syriac text of Michael. How handy that would be, especially for me!”

    Maybe some day, I hope…

  33. Dioscorus Boles

    Andy, thanks for alerting me to the fact that the extant Syriac version of Michael the Great, available in Allepo, was written in 1598. I hope it is an honest and accurate copy of the original written by Michael in the 12th century.

  34. Andy

    Well, it is a copy of the second generation, so it should be quite truthful. But all depends on the copy that was used in 1598. The only thing I know about it by heart is that the original manuscript was copied by Moses of Mardin in c.1560. But for a history of the manuscripts, I suggest you consult the article of Andrea Schmidt (my promotor) in Le Muséon of 1996. It contains a (kind of) stemma of the Syriac, Armenian and Arabic versions, but the article primarily discusses the two Armenian versions. Very interesting material.

  35. Roger Pearse

    I agree that it would be nice if someone would turn the French of Chabot into English. Of course if the French was online, say at Remacle.org, then a machine translator like Google Translate would allow us a lot of use of it, even without one.

    The main reason why I shy away from Michael is the sheer length.

  36. Christopher Ecclestone


    Here we have some aspersions cast upon the authorship of the original Monasteries of Egypt in a version by a Father Samuel that has been published in recent times.

    It also relates the history of the manuscript and refers to some other volumes.

  37. Roger Pearse

    Chris, thank you for this. This is most interesting, although my preview didn’t include 189-190.

    It seems that Evetts published the text from the only known manuscript of “Abu Salih”, which is in the BNF in Paris, shelfmark Arabe 307, bought in Egypt in 1672-3 by J.M.Wansleben.

    But in 1925, at a congress in Cairo, the existence of another manuscript was announced. This was in private hands. In 1984 Fr. Samuel published an edition in 4 volumes, in which Evetts’ text was vol. 2, sandwiched between two other volumes, neither known before. The vol. IV contains essays and related material, including one by the owner of the ms. in 1925. A copy of the Paris ms. is in the Coptic Museum, so could be used by people in Egypt.

    But… it looks as if it is unclear just where this ms. is now. Who but Fr. Samuel has seen it? At this point the preview breaks off, infuriatingly. Can anyone else read the next bit?

    Is there any question of a fraud in this, I wonder? A copy really should be obtained of the ms.

  38. Dioscorus Boles

    My understanding is that the complete manuscript is in the Coptic Patriarchate in Cairo. There are treasures there that are still waiting for somebody to discover, edit and publish them. Those who want to know something of the real author could read Aziz Suryal Atiya, the entry Abu al-Makarim; Coptic Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 23 and p. 1462. You can get what Atiya wrote in page 23 at http://www.dacb.org/stories/egypt/abu-makarim.html

    Those who had the opportunity to read Churches and Monasteries of Egypt in both its Evetts’ incomplete version of 1895 (translated from the manuscript obtained by Vansleb in 1674) in two volumes, and the complete version of Fr Samuel of 1984 in four volumes will not fail to observe the organic unity of all the four volumes, the similarity in their composition, and the same language used in all volumes. But the most striking thing is that the author of the work (in Arabic Tārīkh al-Kanā’is wa-al-Adyirah), Al-Shaykh al-Mu’taman Abū al-Makārim Sa’d-Allāh Jirjis ibn Mas’ūd, clearly mentions his name a few times in the book, and tells of his job – he was qummus (Hegumenos) of the Church of Ma’alaqa in Old Cairo. It was clear that he wrote his book between 1177-1204 in the first part of the Ayyubid Period (1171-1250). This was an important period in the history of the Copts and their Church. Armenians, who had flourished during the preceding Fatimid Period, were destroyed by Saladin. Their role in Egyptian life had actually practically finished a few decades before Saladin seized power in Egypt in 1169.
    There is no doubt that this great book was written by a Copt, and even though he mentions Armenians in his book, the bulk of it is about Copts, and their Church.

  39. Roger Pearse

    Dioscorus, thank you very much for these details, and the link to Atiya’s article.

    I think microfilms of all the Coptic Museum mss exist, and the Brigham Young University in the US has them. Kristian Heal is in charge there. But they remain inaccessible to people like you and I.

    It doesn’t seem as clear as might be, from Atiya’s article, just where the ms. comes from.

    It sounds like a text that ought to be translated into English, tho. I wonder where a copy of that Arabic publication could be obtained. Is there one in the UK? Would you mind looking in http://www.copac.ac.uk and seeing? (You probably have some idea how it might be transliterated for that catalogue). Is it in print, perhaps? I have no idea how to get books from Egypt.

  40. Dioscorus Boles

    Hi Roger, I have a copy which I bought from Al-Ma’alaka Church in Old Cairo a few years ago. It could be obtained from Maktabat Al-Mahabba, 30 Sari’ Shobra, Cairo. They give two fax no. (202) 5777448 and 5759244. They also give an email address: Mahabba5@hotmail.com. I could not find anything about SAmuel’s book in the link you gave.

    One important place where many manuscripts could be found, other than the Coptic Museum, is the Institute for Higher Coptic Studies which is attached to the Coptic Patriarchate in Al Abbasia, Cairo.

  41. Roger Pearse

    Thank you for these details! Can I ask; is it a big book? How many pages?

    May impose on you a little further? I doubt that the bookshop will speak English. Would you email them for me and ask if they have any copies, and how much? And whether they could post it to England. Without committing me to anything, that is! I might be interested in getting one.

  42. Dioscorus Boles

    I have already emailed them and hope they check their email!

    The first volume, which is missing from Evett’s version (titled Tarikh Abu Al Makarim, Tarikh Al Kana’is Wal Adiurra Fil Garn 12 In Upper Egypt)* is some 146 pages, but I think it is in 14 points letters size.

    I will try to get you a copy, Roger, and post it to you.

    * Translates into: The History of Abu Al-Makarim: History of The Churches and Monasteries in Lower Egypt in the Twelvth Century.

    Dioscorus Boles

  43. Dioscorus Boles

    Correction: “Tarikh Abu Al Makarim, Tarikh Al Kana’is Wal Adiurra Fil Garn 12 In Upper Egypt” should read “Tarikh Abu Al Makarim, Tarikh Al Kana’is Wal Adiurra Fil Garn Al Thani Ashar Fil Wagh Al Bahri”.

  44. Roger Pearse

    Thanks! But don’t agree to buy one until we know how much it is.

  45. Dioscorus Boles

    It will be a matter of pennies. Don’t worry about that.

  46. Christopher Ecclestone

    I have most of the rest of Clara Ten Hacken’s article. I can get all of it though… she draws parallels with the Vatican MSS 286 and the various versions of it (de Lebedew, Guidi and Stinespring .. which you have).. she claims large chunks of the text of the Anticoh part of the MSS that Father Samuel used seemed to be sourced out of Vatican text (or a common ancestor text). Having read her translation and the various translations of the Vatican ones, the similarity is obvious..

  47. Roger Pearse

    So is she aware of the ms. used by Fr. Samuel for “Abu Salih”?

  48. Dioscorus Boles

    It is amazing how Michel the Syrian (and his Chronicle)has led us to a lengthy discussion about the Fatimid Armenians and then Abu Al-Makarem’s book, The Churches and Monasteries of Egypt!

  49. Roger Pearse

    But very interesting anyway, since the “Abu Salih” (which I suppose we must get used to calling Abu Al-Makarem) is such an important historical source.

    Christopher, which is the article of Ten Hacken to which you refer? Have I heard of this before?

  50. Dioscorus Boles

    I totally agree. Abu Al-Makarim himself is interesting. He had an interest, and a heart, for the Franks, the Syrians and the Armenians who were all available in Egypt of that time in aconsiderable number. I may translate a passage from his book (not available in Evett’s edition) in which he showed sympathy with the lot of the Franks who were captured by the Muslim rulers and treated them badly. During that period of Coptic history, the previous animosity between Chalcedonians and non-Chacedonians (Franks and non-Franks)largely disappeared. The Copts often shed many tears for the prisoner Franks, admired their courage and good rule and actually freed many of them, after having paid their ransom, and then helped them to return back to Europe. Not too many know that.

  51. Roger Pearse

    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.

  52. Dioscorus Boles

    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

  53. Roger Pearse

    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.

  54. Dioscorus Boles

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

  55. Roger Pearse

    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!

  56. Dioscorus Boles

    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

  57. How the Moslems handled the defeated Franks at Roger Pearse

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  58. Roger Pearse

    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.

  59. Andy

    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.

  60. Roger Pearse

    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.

  61. Dioscorus Boles

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

  62. Peter Thornber

    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?

  63. Roger Pearse

    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.

  64. Thomas Barrett

    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.


  65. Roger Pearse

    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.

  66. Dioscorus Boles

    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.

  67. Roger Pearse

    I think George Kiraz of Gorgias Press has an English translation in the works. It is, I agree, a very important source.

  68. John C. Lamoreaux


    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.


  69. Roger Pearse

    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?

  70. Armenian versions of Michael the Syrian at Roger Pearse

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