E. W. Brooks and the Chronicle of James of Edessa

Chronica Minora III (CSCO 6, AD 1906) contains Latin translations of a number of Syriac historical texts, each with an introduction.  I thought that I would give the introduction to the Chronicle of James of Edessa here in English, since this text is an important one for the early history of Islam.  Notes by me are in square brackets.

The text was around 340 words of Latin, and took me about 45 minutes, although I read over it last night first, and only had to look up about 3 words. 

II. Chronicle of James of Edessa, translated by E. W. Brooks.

Fragments of this chronicle are preserved in British Museum manuscript Additional 14,685, which according to Wright [the cataloguer of the BM Syriac mss] was written in the 10th or 11th century.  The author given as is James Philoponus, or “lover of work”, who is the same as James of Edessa, in Wright’s opinion, because excerpts from the work of James of Edessa are quoted by Michael the Syrian.  The canon-table itself, which begins on folio 10r, is a continuation of the Chronicle of Eusebius of Caesarea; to it a preface is prefixed in which the work of Eusebius is corrected and supplemented.

 In the manuscript as we now have it, the fragments are wrongly ordered: fol. 12v must be read before fol. 12r, and fol. 18v before 18r [i.e. these pages have been bound in backwards], fol. 11 and 13 come from the same folio, and likewise fol. 19 and 20; and two fragments which contain fol. 19 are stuck together.

The fragments go no further than 942 A. S. [=the Seleucid era, or year of the Greeks], = 631 AD, but the canon, as we learn from Michael the Syrian, was continued to 1021 A.S.  Michael notes that James died two years before this, so that the last two years must be supposed to be the work of a pupil.  But Elias of Nisibis says that James composed the Chronicle in 1003 A.S. = 692 AD; and if this is true, then 18 years must be ascribed to the continuator.  The canon of years was copied by Michael, so portions now missing from the manuscript can easily be restored.  The same author quotes several places from the preface in a complete form which are now mutilated in our manuscript.  We have also edited from Elias of Nisibis material both from the preface, which he calls the Chronicle, and excerpts from the canon itself, to fill up the gaps.

Among the sources for the Chronicle the following must be included: Socrates, Theodoret, the Chronicle of Edessa, John of Ephesus, the history generally ascribed to Zacharias Rhetor, and perhaps lists of emperors, kings and bishops.  In the preface, besides Eusebius, James used certain Alexandrian chronographers, perhaps Anianus and Andronicus, and, as we see, a catalogue of kings of the Persians.

The beginning of the preface was translated [not so; edited] in the Catalogue by the excellent Wright; I myself edited the Canon in 1899 with an English translation and commentary: the complete text of the whole work is now translated for the first time [into Latin].  Many places which in the previous edition of the canon were left lacunose or wrongly filled up I have now restored from Michael and corrected. [Michael was published between 1899 and 1906] I have imitated the layout of the manuscript where possible in both text and translation; in the translation I have restored lacunas in the canon of years, but in the text it did not seem worthwhile to do so.

Bibliographical note:

You can read a description of the manuscript in Wright, Catalogue of Syriac MSS in the British Museum, p. 1062-1064  [online here, vol. 3; the PDF is p.1062 also.  This gives the text of the start of the work, not a translation].
Editions: W. Wright, op. cit., p. 1062, 1063, London, 1872.  Text of the start.
E. W. Brooks, The Chronological Canons of James of Edessa (Zeitschr. d. Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, Bd. LIII, p. 261 ff and p. 550).  Canon with English translation. — Cf. also ibid. p. 534 ff (notes by Sigismund Fränkel) — See also F. Nau, Notice sur un nouveau ms. de l’Octoechus de Severe d’Antioche et sur l’auteur Jacques Philoponus (Journ. asiatique, ser. IX, tom. XI, p. 346 ff).

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From Wright:

DCCCCXXI.  Paper, about 12 in. by 7, consisting of 23 leaves, all of which are more or less stained and torn.  There are from 36 to 40 lines in each page.  This volume is written in a good, regular hand of the 10th or 11th century and contains…


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