English translation of Michael the Syrian by Matti Moosa now available

A very large and unexpected parcel arrived today.  In it was … the first published English translation of the world history of Michael the Syrian, or Michael Rabo, to give him his proper name.  Matti Moosa, who has translated a number of important Syriac texts, is the translator, and he has kindly sent me a copy, since I learned of his work a couple of years ago.

moosa_michael_raboIt’s a monster volume, not far short of some lectern bibles in size, and 827 pages.  The quality of manufacture of the volume is very high.  Note that the hardback cover is actually black – the picture to the left doesn’t give the correct colour balance – and very, very impressive looking.  The Syrian Orthodox diocese of Antioch have published it, and made a very splendid job of it.

I’ve had no time to read through it.  It is, in the main, the translation, with limited but useful footnotes.

The publisher’s site is here.  You can purchase a copy online here.  The price is $75, and that is actually entirely reasonable for a volume of this size and quality.  (International buyers may need to pay some extra postage – obviously they’re not quite sure what this should be).

This is a very important work indeed.  For a long time scholars have been dependent on Chabot’s French translation, made from an illicit copy of the manuscript.

Michael the Syrian was the patriarch of the monophysite Syrian Orthodox in Syria at the time of the crusades.  His picture of the period is very interesting indeed.  One of the problems that Michael faced was treacherous intrigues by the Byzantines.  The crusader patriarch of Jerusalem had precisely the same problem.  In consequence the two got on extremely well.

But the work is even more valuable to patristics and Syriac scholars.  It begins with a Syriac translation of the Chronicle of Eusebius of Caesarea, then with the continuation by the scholar-bishop, James of Edessa.  It goes on to give verbatim accounts from any number of now lost Syriac histories.

I don’t suppose that the publishers have a lot of contacts with university libraries.  But this book should be in them.  If you do have such a contact, please ask your university library to obtain a copy.

18 Responses to “English translation of Michael the Syrian by Matti Moosa now available”


  1. DW

    The description sounds appealing. Gorgias Press publishes several interesting, but sadly also rather expensive titles (relative to my budget, that is). The local library carries a few of their publications, but only two that are by Moosa’s hand. He also wrote a study concerning the history of the Syrian Church of India that looks interesting.

    Also, my local library has a digital “purchase suggestion” form. Let me check whether it actually works.

  2. Rober Bedrosian

    A big book and a big achievement! Recently, Matti also has completed translating Bar Hebraeus’ Ecclesiastical History, and now is working on an anonymous 13th century chronicle from Edessa.

  3. Daniel R. Jennings

    Always exciting to see new works. I am wondering, are there noticeable differences between the Syriac and Armenian versions?

  4. Roger Pearse

    Really!?! I didn’t know he’d done the EH. That will revolutionise Syriac studies!!!

  5. Roger Pearse

    @DW: That would be great! We ought to support what he is doing – it makes these important texts so much more available.

  6. Roger Pearse

    @Daniel, the Armenian is an abbreviation which alone preserves the preface.

  7. Tom

    Robert, when will the edition of Bar Hebraeus’ Ecclesiastical History be published?

  8. Rober Bedrosian

    Hopefully, the Ecclesiastical History will be published in 2014.

  9. Zimriel

    That anonymous chronicle from Edessa wouldn’t be the Anonymi auctoris Chronicon ad annum Christi 1234 pertinens, would it?

    Bar Hebraeus’ Ecclesiastical History in English would have much more value, to students of early Islam anyway. Since the important bits of 1234 have mostly been translated already – twice (Palmer, then Hoyland).

  10. Roger Pearse

    I think it is the Chronicle of 1234. I believe both now exist in unpublished translation.

  11. Tom

    Roger, does the chronicle of Michael the Syrian have an ISBN number? I am trying to get my library to purchase it, but am getting some pushback because the only way of purchasing it is through a PayPal account on the church website. Perhaps you could send along the e-mail address of the translator (if you have it) to me also? That would help me try to get a copy purchased for the library.

  12. Roger Pearse

    Bibliographic details. “The Syriac chronicle of Michael Rabo (the great): a universal history from the creation”, tr. Matti Moosa, Beth Antioch Press (2014) ISBN 978-1-939682-09-3.

  13. Andrew Palmer

    The following reference may be appreciated.
    Hilkens, Andy. 2014. The anonymous Syriac Chronicle up to the year 1234 and its sources. Ph. D. Dissertation, Ghent. Available at: http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-4381496.
    At the same university Marianna Mazzola is working on a scholarly translation of Barhebraeus Chronicon Ecclesiasticum.

  14. Roger Pearse

    Interesting – thank you!

    I believe David Wilmshurst has completed a translation of Bar Hebraeus’ “Chronicon Ecclesiasticum” and has a publisher lined up. Not sure what to say.

  15. Andrew Palmer

    David Wilmshurst’s translation, forthcoming with Gorgias Press in 2014, was made from the base-text of the Abbeloos-Lamy edition (1872-77). Marianna Mazzola has collated a number of manuscripts, in addition to those at London and Cambridge, which are collated in an appendix by Abbeloos, and will probably end up making a new edition of the text.

    Dorothea Weltecke of the University of Constance is now applying for funds to have Barhebraeus’ entire Chronography properly edited, translated and annotated, including the secular and the ecclesiastical histories.

    Philippe Talon, Brussels, published a three-volume French translation of the Chronography (secular) at Brussels in 2013. Georges Boas, Lyon, and others are preparing another and fully annotated French translation of the last part, about the Mongols, for Sources chre’tiennes. Pier Giorgio Bornone is reediting this part and translating it into Italian. Both these projects are nearing completion, I believe.

    It seems to me that Dorothea is right: what we need is a new edition first and an annotated scholarly translation of that. The same is true of Michael’s Chronicle. People seem to be rushing into print with their translations of these great Syriac chronicles; but it is well known that the existing editions are inadequate.

  16. Roger Pearse

    This is all very encouraging. Thank you so much for these details.

    It is certainly right to translate these things whatever the edition available – they have, after all, remained untranslated and unedited for nearly a century – but it is also certainly better to have improved editions AND translations! So it looks as if, at last, we will get a cornucopia of material.

  17. Chris Vonck

    Madame, Sire, if possible send us a review copy of the book ‘The syriac chronicle of Michael Rabo’ by Matti Moosa. It Will be reviewed in Acta Comparanda (nummer XVI) by myself – friend of Dr. Moosa) or by. Dr. Van Reeth. Many thanks. Dr. Christiaan Vonck, rector FVG. Bist 164. B-2610 Wilrijk-Antwerp. Belgium. http://Www.antwerpfvg.org

  18. Roger Pearse

    Well, I’m not actually the publisher of this book, you know? So I can’t send you, or anyone, review copies. What I have done is to forward your request to Dr Moosa, and he will doubtless pass it to the publisher.



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