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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. “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).

  7. 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…

  8. 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.

  9. “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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

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

  13. 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)

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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

  24. 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).

  25. “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.

  26. 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.

  27. “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…

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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

  37. 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”.

  38. 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..

  39. 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!

  40. 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?

  41. 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.

Leave a Reply