The “Chronicle of Alexandria” – a will o’ the wisp?

Reading Jomard’s description of Antinoe, among the authors he lists a “Chronique d’Alexandrie” as an ancient work.  His reference is only “Chronic. Alexandrin. p.598″, which is less than helpful.  But what on earth is this work?

A google search reveals little for “Chronicle of Alexandria”.  But the French version took me to this link which read:

Chronique d’Alexandrie, compilation d’auteurs grecs faite sous l’empereur Héraclius, au règne duquel elle s’arrête. Le manuscrit, découvert en Sicile vers le milieu du XVIe siècle, portait en tête le nom de Pierre d’Alexandrie. Il a été imprimé en 1615 par les soins du jésuite Raderus.

I.e. “Chronicle of Alexandria”, compilation of Greek authors made under the emperor Heraclius, in whose reign it stops.  The manuscript, discovered in Sicily around the middle of the 16th century, bears at the head the name of Peter of Alexandria.  It was printed in 1615 by the efforts of the Jesuit Raderus.

That doesn’t ring any bells at all either.

Searching for “Peter of Alexandria” led me down a false trail.  It seems that there was an otherwise unknown 10th century Middle Byzantine author of this name.  I am indebted to Warren Treadgold, The Middle Byzantine Historians, (2013), p.123, for information about him (I have omitted all but the first footnote).  Although he is not our man, let us by all means learn more:

Among authentic histories, around 900 an otherwise unknown Peter of Alexandria wrote a short chronicle entitled Brief Survey of the Times from Adam to the Present.6 It concludes with the reign of Leo VI, but, after recording the corulers and lengths of reigns of previous emperors, it fails to mention either Leo’s son Constantine VII or the length of Leo’s reign. Peter seems therefore to have composed his Brief Survey between Leo’s accession, in 886, and Constantine’s coronation, in 908. In his title Peter describes himself as “Christian and orthodox, of Alexandria,” without mentioning his profession or any rank in the Church or bureaucracy. He was a Chalcedonian iconophile, because he calls Michael III and Theodora orthodox. Yet if Peter had been writing for the few Greek readers in Alexandria’s small and isolated Melkite community, he would scarcely have needed to describe himself as “of Alexandria” and would probably have written in Arabic and concentrated on Egypt. Especially because he seems to have been well informed about Byzantine history up to 886, Peter was probably a young man who left his home for Constantinople to seek his fortune by writing history, just as George Syncellus had come from Palestine and Theognostus the Grammarian had probably come from Sicily. Whether Peter was rewarded for his work in some way we cannot say.

Peter’s text fills thirty-one and a half pages in our sole remaining manuscript. More than half, about sixteen pages, deals with the time of the Book of Genesis, of which about six and a half pages list the peoples descended from the three sons of Noah. Peter covers the rest of the time up to Augustus in about seven pages, the Roman empire up to Diocletian in about three and a half pages, and the Byzantine empire from Constantine I to Leo VI in about five pages. Consisting largely of tables, the Brief Survey differs somewhat from other Greek histories that survive today. Besides the Bible, Peter cites Aristobulus of Cassandria, Josephus, Julius Africanus, Eusebius of Caesarea, Socrates of Constantinople, and Evagrius; but, as often happens in Byzantine chronicles, these citations may be borrowed, and in the case of the long-lost works of Aristobulus and Africanus they doubtless are. Here Peter, like George Syncellus and George the Monk, seems to have made direct or indirect use of the lost chronicle of Panodorus of Alexandria, because Peter adopts Panodorus’ date of 5493 B.C. for the Creation instead of the more common date of Annianus. Although Peter appears not to have used the chronicles of George Syncellus and Theophanes, he does seem to have used Nicephorus’ Concise Chronography, probably in one of its later versions.

Peter consulted at least one more source, however, apart from contemporaries he met at Constantinople. Unlike other known Greek chroniclers, he records not just how many years each emperor reigned but how many times each one assumed the consulship. Like Peter’s lengths of imperial reigns, his numbers of imperial consulships are often wrong but not so inaccurate that he could simply have made them up. Since the “Paschal Chronicle” records consuls’ names, it could have been used to compute the numbers of the emperors’ consulships until its original ending date of 630; but it seems not to have been Peter’s source, because its errors differ from his. Peter appears to be our only source for the numbers of imperial consulships from 630 to 886, which he presumably took from official records, since he would hardly have risked the scorn of informed contemporaries by making needless fabrications. Perhaps he became interested in the consulship when Leo VI abolished it, sometime before 899. Though a minor work, Peter’s Brief Survey preserves unique evidence for imperial consulships, and probably some unique material from the lost chronicle of Panodorus, apparently still to be found at Constantinople in Peter’s time.

6. See Hunger, Hochsprachliche profane Literatur I, p. 360, Kazhdan et al., ODB III, p. 1638, Samodurova, “Хроника” (with the Greek text), and PmbZ I, Prolegomena, pp. 26–27.

Sadly “Samodurova” does not seem to be accessible, so I don’t know how any of us can read this work.  Anyway, it did not seem to be our source.

In the end, I searched instead for the editor, “Raderus”.  This proved to be Matthaus Rader.  When I looked at works by him in the OCLC, I found this:

Chronicon Alexandrinum idemque astronomicum et ecclesiasticum : (vulgò Siculum seu Fasti Siculi)

Author: Chronicon Paschale; Georgius, Pisida.; Matthaus Rader

Publisher: Monachii. : Ex formis Annæ Bergiæ viduæ., M. DC. XV. [1615]

In other words … the “Chronicon Alexandrinum” of 1615 is actually the work generally known today as the Chronicon Paschale!

Rader’s edition of 1615 can be found here.  And, on p.598 of the Greek text of the Chronicle, with facing Latin, we find:

Olympiad 225

Ind. III.  Hadrian for the 5th time, Severus for the 2nd and Augurinus were consuls.

Ind. IV. Hadrian for the 5th time, Abiola and Pansa were consuls.

When these were consuls, Hadrian travelled in Egypt and founded Antinoe of the Thebaid on 3rd day before the Kalends of November.


8 thoughts on “The “Chronicle of Alexandria” – a will o’ the wisp?

  1. The Paschal Chronicle was written in Constantinople circa 630. It uses the Alexandrian Date for the creation of the world, which is slightly different to the Byzantine date, for its chronology.

  2. The Russian article is indeed available,
    you can find a PDF here :
    The complete reference reads like this :
    Zinaida Gavrilovna Samodurova, “Неизданная греческая хроника из рукописи Государственного исторического музея”
    (Unpublished Chronicle of Greek manuscripts of the State Historical Museum), Vizantijskij Vremennik (Byzantina Chronika) Volume 39 (1978), Pag. 201-226.
    I hope this will be useful.

  3. No, the Golenischev Chronicle – fascinating as it is – isn’t the one in question here. I remember that one; it has ancient pictures depicting the Serapeum and its idol, and Theophilus of Alexandria standing triumphantly on top of it!

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