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.
It’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.