More on Eutychius

I’ve now worked out why the Italian translation is so much longer than the critical edition and translation.  It seems that Louis Cheikho published the text in 1906, and the Italian translation was made from that.  At any rate, it doesn’t mention the 1985 CSCO 471-2 edition.  The editor of this new text, Michael Breydy, introduces it thus:

In the course of the last thousand years there has often been a temptation to attribute to Eutychios of Alexandria – also known as Sa`id ibn Batriq – various works, including a World Chronicle adorned with all sorts of titles: The Annals, The String of Pearls (= Nazm al-Jawhar), Collected Stories (= at-Tarikh al-Magmu`), etc.

Ibn Batriq was a doctor, who lived from 877 to 940 AD in Egypt and was one of the arabic speaking Melkites.

Of the many works attributed to him, the World Chronicle is the only one that can be attributed to him with certainty, albeit with certain qualifications. This world history has been published in the bilingual edition of Selden-Pocock (London, 1642; Oxford, 1654-59) in a form containing many interpolations, material which may not come from the pen of Ibn Batriq. The other anachronisms and historical errors that occur all too often in this world chronicle may, therefore, be attributed only with great reservations to that author.

Until now it was impossible to distinguish Ibn Batriq’s own mistakes from those of the interpolators because we lacked any criteria and touchstone for verifying the authenticity and age of suspicious passages.

With the recognition of the manuscript Sinaiticus Arabicus 582, containing a chronicle previously considered anonymous, I have managed to find a copy of this world history, which is regarded as the starting point of all the other copies.

The Sinaiticus Arab. 582 has, in fact all the characteristics of an autograph by Ibn Batriq and gives us the most important criterion by which we can define the real passages of Ibn Batriq, to delimit precisely later added interpolations, and thus to distinguish from his own mistakes or merits those of subsequent copyists and interpolators.

The current issue [of CSCO] – although also missing the beginning and the end – give us back the bulk of the world chronicle by Ibn Batriq, which he wrote in his own time, or rather copied from older sources.

I give hereafter a summary of his biography with the description of the various manuscripts of his world history that I have taken into account in this edition.

A detailed study of the problems and corrections, which had resulted from the fact, I have carried out in a special volume of “subsidia”.

It looks as if the very popularity of Eutychius’ text led to it being augmented with extra material, to bring it up to date, make it more useful, etc.  No doubt those who added this material merely intended to do for their own use.  Quite possibly the concept of interpolation would have struck them as curious, and their actions undertaken in a spirit more like those today who scribble a note in the margin of a torn-out newspaper article.

Eutychius mentions his own birthday in his chronicle – 877 AD. His chronicle was continued by Yahya ibn Sa’id al-Antaki, in his “Kitab ul-Dayul”, who says that Eutychius died on 11th May 940.

With his elevation to the patriarchate of Alexandria arose a great controversy in the Melkite Church. The chronicle of his successor, Yahya ibn Sa`eed reported that his fellow physicians in his home town of Fustat and the faithful of other Melkite dioceses had rejected him, wanted him to removed from office, and that this attitude continued until his death. It is therefore assumed that his elevation was viewed as illegal because he was raised directly from the laity as patriarch, though he had previously working with everything other than with clerical tasks.

In his Annals he refers to himself in a comment as a “Mutatabbib”, not as a qualified physician, but as a “practitioner”.

 He shows no sign of using Greek sources; but references to Syriac and indeed Syriac words are everywhere.  His base in Fustat and various details in the Chronicle suggest that he may have owed his elevation to the patriarchate to his Moslem contacts.

All the manuscripts other than the Sinai ms. go back to a copy reworked by Yahya ibn Sa`id in Antioch in 1014.  This was at that time in the Byzantine empire, and the text was augmented with a large amount of historical material from other sources.

The appearance of the edition of Pocock around 1655 set an end to the manipulations in the annals work of Ibn Batriq. The rare manuscript, which is found after this date, repeats the typical text version of Aleppo, which had Selden/Pocock published with smaller word variants. In the older handwriting this conformity is absent, and important and considerable excerpts are missing here and there, whose research in the manuscript concerned can lead to a rather exact dating of the questionable interpolation.


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