The Chronicle of Zuqnin, part IV — another chunk

I translated here the start of part IV of the Chronicle of ps.Dionysius of Tell-Mahre, also known as the Chronicle of Zuqnin.  I thought I would do a little more.  Chabot prints a footnote on most lines, but I have omitted these.  He does say that the poll-tax imposed by the Moslems was actually brought in by `Umar, not by `Abd al-Malik, and references Bar Hebraeus (Chron. Syr. p. 103), Cedrenus and Theophanes for this.

Here is the next chunk of the Chronicle of Zuqnin.  As before, dates are in Anno Graecorum, the Seleucid Era, but Chabot has added dates AD after them.

In the year 943 (631-632), the king of the Arabs, Abubekr, died and was succeeded by Umar who reigned twelve years.

 [7] In the year 944 (632-633), the Roman emperor, Heraclius, went to Edessa. A battle took place at Gabita and the Persians withdrew in disorder from Mesopotamia.

In the year 948 (636-637), the Arabs invaded Mesopotamia and, after they had cut the Romans to pieces, their leader Yâdh reached Edessa.

In the year 952 (640-641), the Arabs besieged Dara and attacked the city. There were many dead on both sides, but especially the Arabs. Finally, a treaty was concluded, the city opened its doors and thereafter nobody else was killed.

That same year, they besieged Adabin, where a great multitude was put to death : up to twelve thousand Armenians [perished].

In the year 953 (641-642), the Arabs took possession of Caesarea in Palestine.

In the year 955 (643-644), the patrician Valentinus, general of the Romans, came to fight the Arabs. He was seized with fear in their presence and fled, leaving all the riches he had with him, which the Arabs seized.

That same year, Procopius and Theodore made an impetuous excursion to Batna-Sarug. They plundered and devastated the city and, having taken possession of everything they wanted, they returned to their country.

The Patriarch Athanasius was succeeded by John, his disciple.

At that time holy John, patriarch of Antioch; John, Bishop of the Arabs; Simeon [bishop] of Edessa, Matthew, Bishop of Aleppo, from the holy monastery of Zuqnin, and Mar Thomas, bishop of Amida, from the same monastery, became renowned.

 [8] In the year 956 (643-644), `Umar, King of the Arabs, died. His successor was `Uthman who reigned twelve years.

In the year 960 (648-649), Mo `awia invaded Cyprus, and the same year, Aradus was taken.

In the year 961 (649-650), Mar John, the patriarch of Antioch, died. He was buried in Amida in the church of Saint-Mar-Zo`ara.

The same year, holy Mar John, bishop of the Arabs died, who was buried at Amida in the church of St. John the Baptist.

That same year, also at Amida died holy Mar Simeon, Bishop of Edessa, who was also buried in the church of Mar-Zo `ara.

In the year 962 (650-651), Mar Theodore became patriarch of Antioch.  Edessa had as bishop [Cyriacus].

In the year 963 (651-652), the Arabs and the Romans fought a battle at Tripoli.

In the year 964 (652-653), Habib invaded Mesopotamia, and Procopius came to make peace with the Arabs.

In the year 965 (653-654), the Roman emperor, Heraclius, died after a reign of thirty-one years; and he was succeeded by Constantine the Younger, who reigned one year.

In the year 966 (654-655), this Constantine died and was replaced by another Constantine who reigned twenty-seven.

In the year 967 (655-656), `Uthman, King of the Arabs, died.

Discord arose between them, the region was disturbed, and the Arab people full of confusion. Misery multiplied on the earth, there was plenty of bloodshed among them and by them, because they did not want to submit to a single prince, but each one seized power, all wishing to reign. A general named Mo`awia, who was in the western region, was ambitious of power. The West loved him, picked him [9] and submitted to him, but the eastern region of Mesopotamia rejected him and elected another general called `Abbas, whom they established as king. Thus struggles and bloodshed began among them. They each watered the land with their blood. They fought many battles in all places, and a period of about five years passed in the midst of these discords and these struggles.

In the year 968 (656-657), a great battle was fought at Sofa between `Abbas and Mo`awia, and blood flowed freely on both sides.

In the year 973 (661-665), `Abbas was treacherously slain by his own nobles, on a Friday, while he was kneeling in prayer. Thereafter Mo`awia held sole power and reigned twenty-one years, including the five years that the discord and struggle between him and `Abbas lasted.

In the year 976 (664-665), died holy Mar Theodore, Patriarch of Antioch. He was succeeded by holy Mar Severus Bar-Mashka.

 [At Edessa, Bishop Mar Jacob succeeded Cyriacus.]

At that time shone the Persian Aaron, nicknamed the Persian interpreter.

In the year 988 (676-677), Mo`awia, king of the Arabs, died and was succeeded by Yazid who reigned three and a half years.

 [10] In the year 990 (678-679), on the third Sunday in the month of Nisan (April) there was a great and violent earthquake that toppled Batna-Saroug, and also the ancient church of Edessa, in which a large crowd perished.

In the year 992 (680-681), Yazid, King of the Arabs, died and Merwan reigned in his place for one year.

In the same year Constantine, Emperor of the Romans, died, to whom succeeded another Constantine for sixteen years.

In the year 993 (682-683), died Merwan, King of the Arabs.  He was succeeded by `Abd al-Malik, who reigned twenty-one years. In this reign occurred a dissension which lasted nine years during which the Arabs, refusing to obey a single ruler, never ceased to make war and spread misery.

In the year 994 (682 683), holy Mar Severus Bar-Mashka died and the Patriarchate remained vacant for five years because of the disagreements of the bishops.

In the year 999 (687-688), holy Athanasius was elected patriarch.

In the year 1002 (690-691), peace reigned, and, the entire region being willing to recognize `Abd al-Malik as sovereign, he ascended the throne.

In the year 1003 (691-692), `Abd al-Malik invented the Ta`dil, that is to say, he impose dit on the Syrians. He issued a stern edict that everyone should go to his own country to his home village, to register his name, his father, his vineyards, olive trees, his property, his children and all that possessed. Such was the origin of the poll-tax; such was the origin [11] of all the ills common to the Christians. Hitherto, indeed, the kings took tribute from the land, but not from men. Since then the children of Hagar have begun to impose the Egyptian bondage on the sons of Aram. But, woe to us! because we have sinned, slaves rule over us. — This was the first census that the Arabs made.

In the year 1014 (702-703), died `Abd el-Malik, King of the Arabs, after a reign of twenty-one years, including nine years of discord. Walid reigned in his place for nine years.

In the year 1015 (703-704), died holy Athanasius, patriarch of Antioch, who was succeeded by holy Mar Julian.

In the year 1016 (704-705), there was a great and violent plague on the earth, so that men were unable to bury all the dead. It occurred mainly in the region of Sarug. In this scourge seventy-two men died in the monastery of Mar Silas alone.

2 thoughts on “The Chronicle of Zuqnin, part IV — another chunk

  1. Thanks, Roger, for this. Apart from the paragraph before the last, which is still in French, it is very clear translation.

    The dates are not consistent with the chronology given by Muslim chronicles and histories.

    I was interested in Pseudo-Dionysius’s comment on how the “poll tax”, which I think he meant by it the Muslim jizya has come about: he says “Since then (the year 1003 AG = 691-692 AD) the children of Hagar have begun to impose the Egyptian bondage on the sons of Aram. But, woe to us! because we have sinned, slaves rule over us.” These explanations, “our sins”, were often given by Christians in these days when trying to understand why they lost their countries to the barbarian Arabs. Of course they were wrong – the indigenous population of these lands came under the oppressive rule of the hateful Muslims not because they sinned against God but because they were not able or willing to mount military resistance and defend themselves. They were not cowards, for they were quick to lay down their lives as martyrs – no, dying for them or being killed by the savages was not a problem; what was a problem for them was, however, bringing themselves to believe in the legitimacy of killing their attackers, and actually doing it. I think unless these nations learn that violence is legitimate in self-defence they will always be subjects to their violent and aggressive neighbours.

  2. Oops. I left one of the French lines in — removed it.

    It is certainly a cop-out to seek a spiritual explanation for military weakness. But the Copts could certainly have resisted the Arabs… if they had not been disarmed for centuries by the Romans. The same applies in the west. It was not barbarian strength that occupied Gaul. The Goths were not militarily all that strong. But a society that reduces its own people to passive weakness will always be the prey of outsiders. In both cases the ruling class found it convenient to weaken every sense of initiative and power among the ordinary people. Then, when the ruling class itself was weak, there was nothing else to resist the invaders, and the ordinary people, Romans and Copts alike, became slaves.

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