The plague and famine under Hisham – from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

The translation continues:

Of the drought and famine that also took place on the earth in those days.

At that time, God sent us on these most cruel and terrible plagues: the sword, captivity, famine and pestilence, because of our sins and the misdeeds that our hands had engaged in.

“Even if Moses and Samuel stood before me, my soul would not incline towards this people. Send them away from before me, and let them withdraw. What if they say to you: Where shall we go? [You shall tell them:] Thus says the Lord: To death he who [is destined] to death; to the sword he who [is destined] to the sword; [34] to famine he who [is destined] to famine; to captivity he who [is destined] to captivity. I will send four plagues upon them, says the Lord: the sword to kill, the dogs to eat, the birds and beasts of the earth to devour and tear in pieces, and I will deliver them over to the earthquake.” This is what Jeremiah, taught by revelation, has left us. He himself said: “The cry of Jerusalem has gone up before me. The great have sent the small to the water; they have come to the cisterns and have found no water: they have returned with empty vessels, they have been confused and distressed, and they have covered their heads. Because of the works of the earth there has been no rain; the labourers have been confounded, and have covered their heads; the does have given birth in a desert, and they have abandoned their young because there was no grass; the wild asses are keeping to the roads: they have sucked the air like dragons and their eyes are dim because there was no grass.” In truth, all these things which the prophet said were fulfilled in the present time.

This is the carnage that the armies of Arabs have made between them. They have drowned the earth in their blood; the birds, the beasts and even the dogs are filled with their flesh. Men pillage one another. The plague ravages them, so that if someone goes outside the sword stops him; if he stays at home, plague and famine take him. One hears on all sides only sadness and bitterness.

First, the rain that used to descend to earth during the winter has been held back and has not fallen. All the seeds have been dry and nothing has sprouted, so that there has been a great famine throughout the region, so much so that wheat rose to eight or seven qephîzè for a dinar: and yet none is for sale. Some governors sent men who seized wheat wherever they found it, either in houses or in silos, and sent it to him. Men were oppressed to death by the famine, especially the owners of wheat who had not experienced [35] the test of famine and whose corn had been seized by the authorities, so that they died of hunger. Thus the famine was felt even more by the rich than the poor. It also spread throughout the country, so there was no place better preserved than another from its ravages: everywhere was the same oppression. The wild beasts, as well as domestic animals that live on grass, perished because there was no grass. So there was great distress upon men and upon all flesh because of the famine which had not its equal in our time, nor in the time of our fathers. The fountains and streams were empty and the rivers dried up.

Upon the death of Hisham miseries were multiplied upon the earth. All the miseries, and especially the plague and famine, befell us because of our many sins.

 Note how the famine was worsened by seizing grain from those who had it. 

This is why Africa starves.  If what a  man saves will be seized by others, then the poor man has no incentive to save.  Anything he saves will simply be stolen by the local “Big Man” — a concept unknown under the honest colonial administrations.  In consequence everyone does the bare minimum they need to stay alive.  So when drought comes, as it always will, they starve.  Security of property is essential to human life.


More from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

 The story continues:

In the year 1047 (735 736), `Attiq rebelled and embraced the sect of the Harourites.

When he rebelled and embraced the sect of the Harourites, he did as the Arabs used to do when they abandon their women and all they have. He went with twenty companions to Sigara. Hisham heard this, and commanded Qaliu and Zohair, generals of the cavalry at Sigara, to march against him and bring him to battle. These, after receiving the order, assembled a large army and went out in pursuit. They met him in the desert at Sigara itself. He asked them to wait until tomorrow to start the battle. As they had with them a large army and the rebels were few, they despised them even though thirst was felt in their camp, because water was lacking in the desert and, again, the light was fading.

 [31] `Attiq, who looked at them all with contempt, was a brave man as were his companions, and he had made this proposal to them by guile. When night fell and they had eaten and drank, they slept unsuspectingly, while `Attiq and his companions took their weapons, fell upon them in the first watch of the night and killed them all. The Lord turned the sword of each against his neighbour and each of the companions of `Attiq passed among them like the stonemasons and like those who drive the plough. With the exception of a few who mounted their steeds and fled, no one escaped; they all perished by the sword. The army chiefs themselves, Zohair and Qaliu, fell among the dead.

In the year 1052 (740-741), the Emperor of the Romans, Leo, died after a reign of twenty-five years and was succeeded by his son Constantine, who reigned thirty-five years.

At that time, Hisham, king of the Arabs, built a bridge over the Euphrates, opposite Callinicus.

In the year 1053 (741-742), one Sunday there was a great and terrible earthquake. All through the night of this Sunday, the noise it was producing was heard, sound like the bellowing of a bull. When the time came for Mass, all the people ran to the church. But the church of Maraq was overthrown by the violence and force of an earthquake which happened suddenly, and it crushed all the people who were assembled there; no one left alive, except the priest who was at that moment offering the sacrifice. The hill on which the church of Maraq was built shook with rumbles and noises for about thirty days.  [32] In the year 1054 (742-743), the great bridge over the Tigris, near Amida, was overthrown. The winter had been hard; heavy snow fell from the sky and had accumulated on the land for many days, so that all flesh was nearing its end. The animals and especially birds perished. Then came cold and rigorous weather, wind and rain for a long time; the snow melted and the ground was thoroughly soaked by the water as it was covered with melting snow. There were floods in all rivers, especially in the Tigris. On this river the banks broke and violent flooding resulted which destroyed many men and countries. It carried with it a lot of wood and the water pressure was so powerful that large trees piled up against the great bridge and heaped one upon another for five or six miles upstream. Thus, due to the violent impact of the timbers and the strength of the flood, the bridge broke and was overturned by the waters. It was not restored, because when Hisham, after gathering the workers and masons with everything needed to rebuild it, was hastening to rebuild it, he was surprised by death and left the work unfinished.

At the same time Edessa was also flooded. There was in fact a great and violent flooding in the river, which crosses the city and called the Daishan.  The waters came in abundance into the city, so that the storm drains in the eastern wall of the city were blocked. The waters did not manage to knock down the wall and flooded back, rising in an extraordinary way, they spread through the streets of the city and destroyed all the shops. Many houses collapsed; but because it happened during the day, nobody died in the flooding: the inhabitants had fled, abandoning their homes.  [33] The breach of the canal also caused great harm throughout the plain of Edessa and Harran.

In the year 1055 (743-744), Hisham, king of the Arabs, died, and after him, Walid [II] reigned eight months.

The tyrant Yezid, `Abbas and Ibrahim, who were brothers, and their parent `Abd al-Aziz, the son of Haddjadj, rose up against him and killed him with the sword near the town of Qore. Yezid [III] ruled after him for six months, but the country did not obey him and he was unable to send governors into Mesopotamia. On the death of Yezid, his brother Ibrahim took his place. That same year, discord arose throughout the country, because of the tyranny of `Abbas and his brother against Walid, whom they had put to death by the sword. As they reigned although royalty did not belong to them, the Arabs would not obey them, especially those in Mesopotamia. But everyone stayed at home and watched over his own affairs. Dissension and brigandage reigned throughout the country and nobody could leave home.


A note from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

I’m translating the next chunk of the Chronicle of Zuqnin, and was amused by the French of one passage:

At the same time Edessa was also flooded. There was in fact a great and violent flooding in the river, which crosses the city and called the Daishan.  The waters came in abundance into the city, so that the storm drains in the eastern wall of the city were blocked. The waters did not manage to knock down the wall and flooded back, rising in an extraordinary way, they spread through the streets of the city and destroyed all the shops.

Chabot’s French renders “shops” as “boutiques” — the flood destroyed all the boutiques in Edessa.  Very Carnaby Street, hmm?


The conman and the Jews, in the Chronicle of Zuqnin, part 4

Here’s the next chunk of the 8th century anonymous Syriac chronicle, written at the monastery of Zuqnin, just north of Amida (= modern Diyarbekir), and once wrongly attributed to Dionysius of Tell-Mahre.

In the year 1040 (728-729), Neocaesarea was taken by Maslamah [27] who took captive the people of this town and sold them into slavery like animals, except, however, the Jews who had handed over the city. They had traveled secretly to Maslamah and, after receiving his promise, they treacherously made possible his entry into the city. He made them captives, but did not sell them; he took them with him.

In the year 1045 (733-734), Suleiman invaded the Roman territory and captured Polozonium where he took all the inhabitants into captivity. These are the circumstances. Artabas, son of the Roman emperor Constantine, revolted and took control of the city of Constantinople, and he assumed tyrannically the imperial crown. While the Emperor Constantine marched with his army against the multitude of his enemies, he had left in the city, to keep it, this tyrant Artabas with the garrison of Pelozonium. The latter, forgetting the pact concluded before God with Leo, and seeing that he was occupying the town, tried to take control of the Empire. He then occupied the city, and the imperial army, with Constantine himself, was camped outside, while the whole legion of Pelozonium fought inside against the emperor. As Suleiman was approaching, Leo sent to tell him: “Do not come to me; you risk finding it difficult to escape from me;  but go to Pelozonium, devastate it, demolish it, make of it whatever you please, because there no one will resist you.” He went there, sacked it and despoiled it at his pleasure, carrying off a booty like no one before him had ever won. Leo seized the tyrant, blinded him and deprived of pay the army which had taken his side.

 [28] In the year 1043 (734-735), Malik ibn Sebib, Emir of Melitene, and `Abdallah al-Batal besieged city of Synada. While they were encamped in the meadows that surround that place, a huge army gathered against them to revenge what the Arabs had done the previous year at Pelozonium. When the Arabs, who were about fifty thousand, were unsuspectingly within their camp, the Romans suddenly surrounded it on all sides and made them all perish by the sword. Only a few escaped, thanks to the time of day which was late: they fled, defending themselves with the sword, spear and bow, and they marched all night. Of the fifty thousand who had come, just five thousand escaped. The leaders themselves fell in the battle; never did such a misfortune happen to the Arabs.

At that time there was in the western region a seducer who deceived and ruined a great number of the Jews. Satan, who is pernicious and malignant from the outset, always tries to deceive people, not just some but everyone equally, regardless of their race or language, suggesting to each what seems to be agreeable and capable of misleading. He derives his name from his works: Satan, in fact, means “adversary”. He neglects nothing and does not cease to disrupt or deceive all peoples in all generations. He never gets tired, and he never gives up his ancient wickedness, that he once invented against the first of the human race to ruin it.

 [29] In this time, then, he brought out of Mesopotamia, a man from the village of Phalkat in the Mardin region, and he led him into the western country, near to Beit Shammar. This individual had access to the house of one of the principal men among the Jews, but abusing the hospitality given him, he corrupted the daughter of the latter. When the matter came to the Jews, they promised to put him to death. But as he was a Christian, they inflicted on him cruel and long-drawn out punishments during which he found an opportunity to escape from their hands. He decided therefore to subject them to all sorts of misery. Leaving there, he went down to the Aramoyé country where he plunged into every kind of evil incantation. There he devoted himself to magic and devilish artifices. He made progress in all the evil arts and became a master of them. Leaving this place, so he returned to the area of Beit Shammar. He told the Jews: “I am Moses, the very man who formerly brought Israel out of Egypt, who was with them in the sea and the desert for forty years. I am sent again for the salvation of Israel and to lead you into the desert, so that you may once then come into the inheritance of the Promised Land, so that you will possess it as before. Just as God overthrew all the nations who lived there so that your fathers might take ownership, so also he will make them disappear before you so that you can enter, so that you will own it as previously, and so that all the dispersed Israelites may be gathered according to what is written: ‘He will bring together the dispersed of Israel.’” As he spoke such language to them daily and constantly excited their admiration by his incantations, they went astray after him. Sometimes he made them wander in the mountains and threw them from craggy peaks and killed them, sometimes he shut them up in caves and caverns, where they perished. [30] He made them suffer so much misery, in killing and slaying many. He also took from them a lot of gold, persuading them by his incantations that he was leading them in the desert. When he had had his fill of the misery that he made them suffer daily, he deceived them by his tricks, took all the gold and all the property that he had acquired from them and fled to his own country. The Jews, come to themselves and seeing the evil that had made them suffer, chased him across the world, questioning and inquiring about him. Having finally discovered him, they took him before the Emir of the believers, Hisham. The latter abandoned him to them, so they made him suffer tortures and torments in Babylon and finally crucified him. So he died, and God gave him the sort of reward he so deserved.

Note how the term “Christian” refers to a group, not a belief; and how there is a Moslem emir charged with the affairs of the Christians (=”believers”). 


More from the Chronicle of Zuqnin, part 4

Here is the next section of the 8th century anonymous chronicle, written at the monastery of Zuqnin, just north of ancient Amida, now Diarbekir in Eastern Turkey:

Wonders worked by holy Mar Habib, Bishop of Edessa.

“In these days it is good to hide the secret of the king, but it is always right to publish and communicate to everyone the wonders of the Lord.”  (Tobit 12 :7)

It will not seem strange, and the ears of listeners shall not be burdened if I here report a miracle that God’s power worked today through one of his apostles.

There was an Arab in the army, which, when they wanted to invade the territory of the Romans, came to stay at the holy monastery of Mar Habil in the region of Edessa. Finding that the porter of the convent was a God-fearing man, humble, benevolent and adorned with all divine virtues, he gave him a considerable sum of gold, saying: [17]  “Keep this for me; if I return alive, I will want my property back; if you learn that I am dead, distribute it to the needy.” Then he left this place. The monk accepted the deposit, and having taken the treasure, he dug in the earth to bury it, without making the matter known to anybody. The Arabs remained a long time, and after a gap of about three years, it happened by the permission of the Creator, that before the Arabs were to leave the territory of the Romans, the porter departed from this troubled world. But he did not even then make known his secret. However, the owner of the deposit returned and asked for the man. He was told that he was dead. “Give me,” he said, “what I left in his hands.”  —  “We know absolutely nothing of what you speak,” said the monks; he never mentioned it or made any recommendation to any of us saying: I have something that belongs to others.” But this man was powerful and he strongly urged the monks, “Give me my property or I will devastate your monastery.” As this was a considerable sum, they were very embarrassed. The governor forced them to sell everything they had and to deliver the price to the man. And if that sum was not enough to release them, the monks themselves were to be sold until the debt was paid off. All the people of the city and the whole country, learning the severe sentence that had been enacted against the pious monks felt a deep grief to think they would see sold as slaves, their brothers and their children, who from renouncing the world, would have go to servitude among the Gentiles. The bishop of the city, the chaste Mar Habib, felt a great pain in seeing his brothers about to be led into slavery, and after having shed tears of anguish before the Saviour, he mounted his horse and went to the monastery with a great crowd of notables of the city and the country, [18] to intercede with the man. They tried to persuade him for a  long time to wait while the monks tried every means to raise the sum demanded, but he would not consent: “They have my property, he said, let them give me what is mine and I’ll go.” And they, in turn, assured him again and again with oaths and distress that they knew nothing of his gold; but he did not believe them. Holy Mar Habib was embarrassed by both sides, some saying: “We know nothing,” the other refusing to accept it. He then donned the saving armour of the true faith of the Lord and, walking in the footsteps of he who at Bethany sought, speaking of Lazarus: “Where have you put him?” he took the censer with incense, and went to the cemetery of the monastery without allowing anyone to accompany him. So he went there and stopped at the grave in which they had laid the blessed monk. There he knelt and prayed; then rising, he offered the incense and made rise before the Lord, the sweet smell of tears from his heart. Standing at the door of the tomb, with that imperturbable faith that God works miracles, he raised his voice and said: “In the name of Our Lord, get up!” He arose on hearing this word and stood before him with a cheerful face as though he had never experienced the corruption of the tomb. Habib said to him: “My son, tell me if such a master of the Arabs has entrusted you with something when he left to enter the territory of the Romans?”  — “Yes, sir,” said the deceased .–  “How much?” asked the bishop. — “So many thousands of minas;” said the dead man. — “Where are they?” asked Habib. — The dead man replied: “I’ve buried them inside the very gates of the monastery, under such a seat. In fact, if you command it, I will go myself and I will return his property.” The Bishop asked him again: “Is there in the monastery, besides you, anyone who knows where this gold is?”  — “No, sir,” he replied. — The saint [19] said to him them: “The time of the resurrection of the dead is not yet come, rest now until the voice of your Lord commands you to arise.” Immediately he changed and became as he was before. The saint, well informed of the case by the dead man, returned and ordered a hatchet brought. He went to the place that had been designated by the deceased, and stopping there, he commanded them to overthrow the seat, dig and search below. His order was executed, and thus was found the gold which he gave to his landlord, and thus procured the deliverance of the holy monastery.

In the year 1034 (722-723). Omar [II], King of the Arabs, died after a reign of two years and four months. He was succeeded by Yazid [II] who reigned four years.

In the year 1035 (723-724), Yazid ordered the destruction of all images wherever they were to be found, whether in temples or in churches or in homes. That’s why he sent out workers charged with destroying images wherever they were found.

In the year 1036 (724-725) Yazid ordered again the killing of white dogs, pigeons and white cockerels. So a rigorous decree was pronounced and dumb animals who were innocent were destroyed. The squares of cities and villages were infected by the smell of their corpses. And while it is written: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill and occupy the land; let birds fly in the sky; let the animals multiply upon the earth,” they, contrary to the order of creation, were destroyed. They wanted to destroy by their cruelty that which had been formed in the womb according to the principle of creation, and established by the will of the Creator at his pleasure, trying to destroy the order of the Creator and to prevent the world from marching under the laws which were imposed by its author. He even ordered the killing of all fair men [lit. with blue eyes]. [20] But the project was aborted because of the attention of God-fearing men, and it did not cause the death of anyone. He also ordered that the testimony of a Syrian against an Arab should not be accepted. He fixed the price [of blood] of an Arab at twelve thousand [dinars] and that of a Syrian at six thousand. This is the origin of these biased laws. He ordered that thieves should be mutilated at the sleeve instead of the wrist. The Arabs despised him and his teachings.

In the year 1038 (726-727), Yazid died. He had as emirs in Mesopotamia first Abourin, whom he deposed, and then Mardas. The latter was disgraced in turn and Abourin returned.

In the year 1039 (727-728), Hisham, son of `Abd al-Malik, ruled over the Arabs for nineteen years and four months.

In the year 1010 (728-729), holy Mar Habib, Bishop of Edessa, died; Constantine succeeded him.

At this time shone holy Mar Elias the Patriarch, Simeon, Bishop of Harran, Constantine of Edessa, and Theodotus of Amida.

About St. Theodotus, bishop of Amida.

This holy Theodotus, bishop of Amida, had grown up in the solitude and the humble labors of monasticism, to which he had constantly given himself, and which he loved: this was a peaceful and benign man, and adorned with all divine virtues: also he abdicated the episcopate of the city. He then retired from his see and leaving the city, he descended into the countryside of Dara, between Dara and Amida. Following in the footsteps of Mar [21] Thomas of Tela, he built a pillar on which he mounted. He also built in this same place a large monastery, which still exists near the village called Qalouq.  This is where he ended his life.

After him holy Mar Cosmas received  the episcopate.

About holy Mar Cosmas, bishop of Amida.

This holy Mar Cosmas was also a great monk, applying himself to all the virtues: also he did wonders and miracles like Elijah the Tishbite and like the first apostles. But because he was zealous and rebuked both great and poor, he was not liked by the lords of the city, because he vigorously attacked, openly and without respect of persons, the perverse deeds that they carried out continuously; and they feared he might open his mouth to curse them, because he was an austere man. They dared not openly rebel against him; so they stirred up the villagers not to receive him when went  to visit them, so as to have a reason thereby to expel him from their city. But that did not profit them in any way, any more than those who followed their advice. When, therefore, according to the rule established by the elders, he left to visit the region, knowing nothing of the ambush that awaited him, he came to a village called Tell-Dakoum, whose inhabitants were detractors. When he rang the bell, as usual, they met and were unwilling to receive him; they did not even judged him worthy of the word of a man, but sent word to him by a [22] old woman: “Go honorably on your way, otherwise you will not get out of here without having been mistreated.” These perverse men “did not know and did not understand, because they walked in darkness,” that the word of our Lord to the Apostles cannot be without effect: “Whoever receives you, receives me. If someone does not receive you, shake off the dust of your feet in testimony against him. It will be better for Sodom on the day of Judgement, for this place.” The saint, learning of their malice from the old woman, ordered his disciples to change the direction of the car in which he was and to pass south of the village. The prophetic word: “The fool does not know and the fool does not understand,” was fulfilled in these wretches. This first sin was not enough for them; but they went to the door of their church that stood on the height to jeer at the saint and to see what he would do. The brave man, seeing all their contempt, was not disturbed; but dressed in the faith and trust in his Lord, he went on his way and passed on. On reaching the eastern edge of the village, he stopped his car, pulled his shoes, and raising them in the direction of the town, shook them at him, saying: “Since you do not receive your bishop, wait and God’s anger will come upon you soon and without delay.” Then, continuing his way quickly, he went to the village which is to the East and called Tarmil-Raba; he came indeed from the west.That was in the time of the barley harvest and no appearance of a cloud covered the sky that day. The divine wrath suddenly and without delay seized the unfortunate village who had wanted to be an instrument of injustice in the hands of the great in the city, [23] so that it became an object of fear and terror to the country and for all those who dare to despise their bishops, and it should serve as a warning to future generations. He entered Tarmil. And now the clouds gathered over the village. While the inhabitants were running to and fro, a tempest and a rush of winds violent enough to topple mountains rose up against them. It fell like a hail of stones, which struck their vines and fig trees, broke the trees of their territory and destroyed in their fields everything that was green, and reduced their crops to dust, to the point that they did not recognize their place,  and dispersed also their mules, so they could not collect them and all hope of life was lost to them. The critics, seeing what had happened: “Their words were still on their lips and the anger of God came on them.” They understood the anger of God also weighed on them, and they awoke from a deep sleep, like a drunkard who has slept off his wine; they remembered what they had done to their bishop and recognized that this scourge happened because they had despised him. They were all the more confirmed in this opinion that the scourge had not exceeded the limits of their village. That’s why they all left, young and old, and went barefoot, humbly, weeping bitterly, and covered with shame to the village where the bishop was. The saint, seeing them, like once Elisha in the presence of the children whom the bears devoured, was deeply affected, especially because the scourge had destroyed everything they owned. He returned with them and prayed for them. In this way God poured out his fear and terror throughout all the countryside and on the great of the city, so that when the Bishop left the village [24] where he lived, the inhabitants of the other villages all came, great and small, humbly before him.

To holy Mar Elias, Patriarch of Antioch, Athanasius succeeded.

In the year 1042 (730-731), Maslamah crosses the Gate of the Turks. Because the Huns, that is to say the Turks had left their country and caused immense harm to Armenia, and throughout the northern country, Maslamah marched against them with an innumerable army. Every year they sortied out thus and caused great damage. He therefore advanced toward them and they came to meet him. He gave them battle and destroyed a large number of them. They were frightened and came to his feet and asked for peace. He gave it them, thinking they would keep their word.

In the same year, Maslamah destroyed this Gate which was at the entrance to the territory of the Turks, because, locking themselves inside it, they had fought a battle with him; but he feared to venture into the unknown region that belonged to the Turks, lest they come together against them and make them disappear from the earth. They are a nation without God and they are magicians. Because of this, Maslamah was forced to order the destruction of the Gate of the Turks which had been built by Alexander the Macedonian. They removed and brought out first, all the camels and donkeys, then the workers, they finally left themselves, throwing brambles behind them throughout the defile.

In the year 1043 (731-732), Maslamah assembled a great multitude [25] of artisans and labourers, carpenters, made all the necessary preparations for construction, and went to rebuild the Gate of the Turks which he had destroyed the previous year. After rebuilding, he made a treaty with them, confirmed by oath, after which it was agreed that none of them would cross the boundary of their ally. He then returned: but the Turks who know not God, who did not understand that they are his creatures, who do not admit that there is a God in heaven, did not keep their promise. They despised God, mocked the oath, crossed the border and did much evil in the land which was outside their own territory. Hisham sent against them his general Girah with a large number of horsemen. The latter entered the country during harvest and made by his passage a lot of damage in this area, because he was a madman. Feeling himself secure, he was not just; he devastated their crops and caused many other problems to the poor on his way. The people came to complain to him, but nobody met with relief from him; and so, as everyone had to suffer his passage, everyone also prayed for that to happen to him what he deserved. When he fought against the Turks, they killed many of his soldiers and carried off many captives into their country. After that, he sent to Hisham to get help. Maslamah hurried to reach him with an immense army, but before he could get to him, Girah and all his army had been exterminated by the sword; for the Turks gathered on all sides against them in large numbers and gave them all over to the sword. Nobody escaped. The Lord returned to the robber the harm he had done, and punished the wrongs he had done, [26] he and his army, to the peasants on the way. Everything they had committed during the road was accumulated at one time on their heads. Upon the arrival of Maslamah, the Turks were troubled and filled with fear because they feared his reputation more than his appearance. The latter gave them battle, shed their blood like water on the surface of the earth, and filled with their flesh the birds and beasts of the earth. After having cut them to pieces, he set up in Armenia Marwan Ibn Muhammad – the very man who ruled later over the Arabs – and retired, leaving him with a strong army. The latter caused more losses [to the Turks] than all those who had preceded him.

In the year 1029 (717-718), there was a strong and devastating earthquake that toppled in many places the temples, churches and large buildings, including the baptistery and the ancient church of Edessa. Great and large homes were thrown down on their inhabitants; while those which resisted and did not collapsed in the commotion, showed traces of it. So the people were filled with fear in the presence of the Lord every time they consider these remnants of the earthquake. At that time Hisham canalised the Zeitoun, built [on its banks] towns, castles, many villages which he embellished with numerous plantations of every kind.

He also channeled [the River] Beit Balash on which he built a castle, and there he planted plantations of every kind.  He also canalised the Hani, on which he built fortresses and gardens of every kind.

In his turn, Maslamah canalised the Beit Balash and built near the river which he had canalised houses and villas which he decorated with ornaments of every kind.

The story of Mar Habib is a depressing one.  Despite the pious exclamations of the monkish chronicler, it seemed to me that the monks did indeed intend to swindle the Arab, and kept up the pretence as long as they could, with the connivance of the bishop.  The cruelty of the Arabs, prefiguring the methods of Ottoman days, takes us into the Islamic world and away from the ancient world.

The story of holy Mar Cosmas, cursing a village which dares not to give him free lodging, is likewise retailed — by a member of the clerical caste, remember — as a “warning” to others.  Superstition flourished in that soil, it is clear.   More interesting is that the village had a bell which mendicant monks could ring, and the implication that this was standard.  The burden of wandering monastics upon the community must have been considerable.


More from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

I continue translating part IV of ps.Dionysius of Tell-Mahre.  Dates are in AG, but Chabot has added AD to them.

In the year 1008 (696-697), died Constantine, Emperor of the Romans; he was succeeded by Justinian who reigned ten years.

In the year 1017 (705-706), a synod met in the monastery of Mar Silas. The principal members of this synod are known: the Patriarch Julian, Thomas, bishop of Amida, and James [bishop] of Edessa, the Interpreter of books. This holy Mar James, Bishop of Edessa, is famous.

In the year 1018 (706-707), died Justinian, Emperor of the Romans; he was succeeded by Leontius, who reigned three years.

In the year 1019 (707-708), holy Mar Julian, Patriarch of Antioch, died; Mar Elias succeeded him.

 [12] In the year 1020 (from 708 to 709), there took place a new census that was added to the first, which greatly increased the evil.

In the year 1021 (709-710), died holy Mar James, Bishop of Edessa, who was succeeded by Mar Habib.

At that time flourished holy Mar Thomas the Stylite, of Tela.

In the year 1022 (710-711), died Leontius, Emperor of the Romans, in place of whom reigned for seven years, Tiberius Apsimar.

In the year 1023 (711-712), Walid died, King of the Arabs; he was succeeded by Suleiman who reigned two and a half years.

In the year 1024 (712-713), died Mar Thomas Saint, Bishop of Amida; Mar Theodotus succeeded him.

After Apsimar, emperor of the Romans, Justinian reigned six years; after him Philip reigned three years; then Anastasius two years, finally Theodosius-Constantine one year.  The latter was occupying the throne when Maslamah invaded the territory of the Romans. In the years of the reigns of the Roman emperors added together make twelve years; this calculation is made almost to the year, more or less.  The Arabs only count the moons and never the months like the Syrians; most writers even do not make a complete chronology, but counting only the years of the reign, they omit the time of discord between the two kingdoms. As for me, I did the same in this chapter, so that the reader is not disturbed.

[13] In the year 1028 (716-717), Maslamah entered the Roman Empire. The countless troops of the Arabs gathered and began to invade the territory of the Romans. All the countries of Asia and Cappadocia fled before them, as well as the entire coastal region. 

They reached mount Maurus and the Lebanon, as far as Melitene, and on the river Arsanias, and as far as Armenia. This whole area was remarkable for the number of its inhabitants and its abundant vineyards, its grain, and its magnificent trees of all kinds. Since then it is devastated, and these regions are no longer inhabited. When the emperor saw the multitudes that came against him and he learned that his general, Leo, had made a pact with them, his heart grew weak and his hands trembled. He abdicated the throne, laid down the crown and had his head shaved. Indeed, it is the custom, if a Roman emperor abdicates, that he has his head shaved and then lives in his house without going out. So he did this. Leo sent to him: “Take courage and do not fear,” but he was not convinced, and he persisted in abdicating the empire.

Now this Leo was a man of courage, strong and aggressive. He was Syrian by race and originally from these confines. Because of his valour, he had been made general. By his skillfulness, he prevented the earth drinking the blood of men. He made a pact with Maslamah, promising to bring him into Constantinople without a fight. The latter, confident in the promise of Leo, no longer made war, made no prisoners, went to Constantinople and vigorously laid siege to this city. Leo came into [14] the city, and seeing that the Romans were desperate and that the emperor had abdicated, he stirred up their courage. “Fear not,” he said to them. They saw his bravery, and fearing that he would reproach them for what they had done to the previous emperor, made him emperor.

In assuming the imperial crown, he also gave strength and courage. He consolidated the city wall. He sent an army to cut the roads that would let through an army from Syria; he also destroyed the pontoon bridge and cut it.

The Arabs and their whole army were thus shut up as prisoners. Maslamah ordered vines planted, but a great and violent famine broke out among them, so much so that bread was absent from the camp and they ate their pack animals and horses. When Maslamah asked Leo, “Where is the oath that you made to bring me into Constantinople without fighting?” the latter replied calmly: “Wait a few days until the nobles of the Empire have submitted to me.” They remained without fighting in their respective positions, one inside, the other outside, for about three years. The famine grew so much among Arabs that they ate their shoes and the corpses of dead, and they attacked each other, so that nobody dared to go alone.

While Maslamah was constantly putting pressure on Leo: “Keep your promise, or I will attack,” the news came that the king of the Arabs, Suliman, was dead and Omar [II] had succeeded him. However, Omar sent him a letter: “Get out of there, lest you perish with hunger, you and all that are with you,” Maslamah, after having received [15] this letter, asked Leo to allow him to enter the city to visit him. He entered with thirty horsemen, went around for three days and admired the royal works. The Arabs retired from there and returned without having achieved anything. They arrived at a certain town called Tounou [=Tyana]; the prefect of the city seeing them starving, emaciated, weak, conceived a contempt for them and sent a message to Leo, “Send me an army and I will attack them by surprise.” But this design did not escape them. When they learned that an army was behind them, a leader of the Arab troops, one of the principal men among them, called `Abbas said to Maslamah: “Give me an army, to go to face them before they arrive, lest they surround us and make us disappear from the earth, and that our end is worse than anything that happened to us in this way.” – He took a large army and went to meet them. The latter were marching in separate groups, were not yet prepared to fight and knew nothing of this army of Arabs coming to meet them. `Abbas went down before them into a large meadow, in which they themselves had intended to camp that day. He put the whole army in ambush, in ditches and patches of reeds that were there.

The Romans came in their turn, and went down into the meadow, not knowing anything and not perceiving even what had been done by Arabs. They set up their camp and everyone sent his horse to pasture, as is customary in the army. Then the Arabs sortied out of their ambush and from the valleys in which they were standing all around the meadow. At the signal agreed upon between them, they rushed upon the Romans they were surrounding them and put them all to the sword. Not one of them escaped. However the Romans were about sixty thousand. After having stripped the dead, the Arabs returned to their companions. 

[16] Another Roman army who was coming from behind, having learned what had happened to the first, was seized with terror and turned back. The Arabs, after they had plundered and foraged everything that was within their reach, they left this country and came to Syria.

In the year 1032 (720-721), which was the first year of `Omar, King of the Arabs, and the fourth of Leo, emperor of the Romans, Maslamah left the territory of the latter, after having plundered and devastated the entire region, which he changed into a barren desert.

I omit many things that happened in this campaign to avoid prolonging this story.

At this time flourished the patriarch Elias, Mar Habib, [Bishop] of Edessa, Simeon of Harran  and Theodotus of Amida.


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.


A little light dusting and the Chronicle of Zuqnin

I have a tendency to have Word documents on my Windows Desktop.  A couple of these have been staring at me for a while now, and I decided that I needed to do something about them.  What, I wondered, was “denys.doc”?

Well, it related to this post; the opening portion of the fourth part of the Syriac Chronicle of ps.Dionysius of Tell-Mahre, otherwise known as  the Chronicle of Zuqnin from the place where the manuscript was found.  I must have scanned the opening pages — although I don’t seem to have that scan now — and perhaps I worked on them on another PC.  Anyway I have tidied them away.  But the material was certainly interesting, relating to the end of the Roman period and the Moslem invasions.  The French was easy enough, and online.  I may look at this a  bit more this evening.


The evil bishop of Amida, Abraham bar Kaili

My queries about the Chronicle of Zuqnin led me to read the translation of the Third Part of the Chronicle by Witold  Witakowski.  This covers the period from the reign of Anastasius (ca. 500) to the end of the century. 

In the Byzantine empire no political dissent was permitted.  The emperor was absolute, and he made all the decisions.  Dissent was a capital offence.  But a certain amount of religious disagreement was permitted.  Human nature being what it is, this ensured that all the political disagreements of the empire expressed themselves in theological language and debased theology to the service of personal ambition.   Those doing this were mostly Greeks, and they did it in the language of Aristotle.  They also discovered that, while agora-democracy was illegal, they were allowed to get together in church councils and vote each other into exile, much as they had ostracised each other a millenium earlier.

The long disagreements between Alexandria and the rest of the empire came to a head at Chalcedon in 451.  But this merely served to ensure half a century of violent disagreements.  The emperor Zeno had tacitly abandoned the council in his Henotikon, and Anastasius followed him in a policy of supporting the status quo — no Chalcedonians disturbing the peace in monophysite regions, no monophysites doing the same in Chalcedonian regions.  The position was weakened by the fact that Constantinople was Chalcedonian, while the emperor was clearly not.

The succession of Justin, a Chalcedonian, led immediately to persecution of the monophysites, and this continued under Justinian, although the latter’s wife Theodora was a  monophysite and protected them to some extent.  The Chronicle of Zuqnin quotes verbatim from the lost Second Part of the Ecclesiastical History of John of Ephesus, who witnessed what went on.  The story starts in 527 AD, when the Patriarch Ephrem appointed a man named Abraham bar Kaili as bishop of Amida, in the monophysite area.

In Amid a man by the name of Abraham, a cleric of that church, became bishop. He was called Bar Kaili and (although) his family came from Tella he arrived in (Amid) from Antioch. Then Satan possessed him totally, and he devoted himself to violent persecution without mercy, to pillage and the destruction of people’s souls more than his earlier and more recent predecessors. This villain used (all means) including the killing, crucifixion and burning of believers in a barbarous and cruel way, without mercy. Impudently he plotted by every means foul ruses for the destruction of people—tortures, cruel scourging and pernicious confinement in prison, both in the tribunal building and in the deepest pit which was in the prison, into which murderers and others sentenced to death were thrown and where they were executed, after which their bodies were secretly removed and cast in desolate graves, like those of dumb animals.

In order to deceive the Amidenes’ keen ardour for the true faith he pretended to them that he would not preach (the doctrine of) the Council. But during the time of the dux Thomas, a Goth who was the dux at that time, he gave orders to bring and crucify four persons at every single gate. They hung on their crosses till the evening. As next day the commemoration of the blessed Mother of God was to be celebrated outside the northern gate of Amid, the wicked bishop rode out to celebrate it. When he saw the bodies hanging on the crosses he forbade them to be taken down until it was necessary because of the smell of corruption. (Only) then would he let them to be taken down and buried.

Also when he learned that there was an uprising (and the people) were shouting these words, “Behold! the new martyrs by the hand of the Christians have appeared! So why do the Christians blame any longer the pagan judges who did that, when now they themselves, like those, do (the same)”, he tormented men and women because they had stood up against him when he demanded that they should accept the Council of Chalcedon.

And all these things (happened) in our presence and we saw it with our (own) eyes.

First he expelled and ousted (the monks from) all the holy monasteries in the vicinity of the city, and then from the whole country around it. Also he made a list of the quarters, mansions and houses of the city, of men and women, each one by his name. He demanded that they be entered on to the church register and that they receive communion, even babes, and not only those which had been born but also those which had not yet been born. He demanded that the women should be registered so that when they had given birth, they should bring the (babes) to be baptized. If it happened that a new-born child died or (that a babe) was miscarried, unless clergy came to see it, the family of the dead babe which had not been brought to be baptized was in danger. And these evil deeds, that is pillaging and destruction, were done not only in this city but in all the country around it and in the (whole) diocese of Amid.

On the holy martyr Cyrus.

Here is (something) most terrible, grievous and cruel: (the story of) a priest whose name was Cyrus, from the village of Ligin, who was seized and required to receive communion. When he refused, he was brought to the city before the bishop. He violently shouted at him in indignation saying:

“Why do you not receive communion?”

And he answered:

“You make your communion repugnant to me and I cannot partake of it, for communion given by force is not a communion.”

Then (the bishop) swore:

“You will not leave here, but you will take communion.”

(Cyrus also) swore:

“I will never accept the forced communion from you.”

Then the bishop had the Eucharist brought and gave orders to hold the priest, to fill a spoon (with the Eucharist) and to put it into his mouth. (But) as he shut his mouth they could not insert the spoon into it. Then the bishop gave orders to bring a whip, to stick its handle into (the priest’s) mouth and in this way to get the spoon (also) into his mouth. They held his teeth apart (so forcefully) that they were nearly pulled out. With the handle (of the whip) inserted in his mouth he mumbled, not being able to move his tongue nor to speak normally to them. He swore saying:

“By Christ’s truth, if you put the Eucharist into my mouth, I will spit it out upon your faces.”

Thus in bitter wrath and threatening (him) with death they inserted the spoon to one side of the whip and poured the Eucharist into his mouth. But he blew and ejected it from his mouth. Accordingly they called him “the Spitter”.

When Bar Kaili saw what that priest did, he used it as a pretext to kill him which had been his intention (in the first place). As the others perished by his hand so he would cause also (the priest) to perish. Intoxicated with the ferocity and cruelty of Satan, who “was a murderer from the beginning”, he promptly gave orders to carry wood and fire to the tetrapylon (187) in the city and (there) to burn the priest. It was the Wednesday of fasting in Holy Week. So he had the priest put in [the tetrapylon] and wood gathered there from the vicinity. They set him on fire and burned him. (The people of) the city wailed and wept at this horrible and heart-rending sight, as they watched a man burning and dense smoke rising as from dumb and irrational beasts (being burnt). This was a hideous and inhuman deed, which, with all its ferocity, stupidity and obduracy of heart, (only) dumb beasts can inflict on each other. All (the people of) the city were so agitated and shocked at the evil deed of burning that priest in (such) iniquity and wickedness that they thought to burn Bar Kaili, doing to him the same thing that he had displayed by burning that priest. There were (however) some nobles of the city (who) out of fear of the emperor restrained them from doing so. Many people however separated themselves from (Bar Kaili) regarding him as a murderer and a Jew, and they ceased (to receive) communion from him.

(Bar Kaili) being afraid lest the matter become known to the emperor and lest he sentence him to be burnt as he himself had burned (a man), in anticipation he wrote falsely and informed (the emperor) that a certain priest had trampled the Eucharist with his feet, and because of this had been burned. Thus he managed to deceive (the emperor) and to cause the murder to pass (without consequences).

That we have not deviated from the truth, nor misrepresented it in what we have described, the Lord is our witness and all the contemporaries of that wicked and ferocious deed. This evil became known all over the East and West, and everybody was horrified by what was done by people wearing the robes of priesthood but far removed from its virtues.

(187) A monumental gate-like construction with four entrances built in Roman cities on the cross of the main streets. The best example in the East is the Great Tetrapylon in Palmyra (3rd c. A.D.).

Bar Kaili had, of course, no more religion in him than a plank of wood.  He was a hatchet-man, chosen precisely for his lack of conscience and in the knowledge that  his violence would be exercised on the dissenting population, in order to force them to conform.

The wicked bishop is a constant figure down the centuries.  James of Edessa describes such folk very accurately in his damaged Chronicle:

But the bishops who had swerved from [the faith, since] they were [not accepted] by the churches, and they would not endure their [communion], not considering their folly, — — —  — — —  — — — [out of] desire of power made use of worldly authorities and [the sword of tyranny — — — — ] to get possession of churches and sees [and the flock — — — — which] was purchased with the blood of Christ.

It might be supposed that such actions would not happen today.  A look at the accounts of the behaviour of bishops in the Episcopal Church of the USA on VirtueOnline reveals precisely the same behaviour.  In the USA they cannot murder and torture.  But the law allows them to seize churches which they did not build from those who did, expell the congregations, and sell the property for their own profit; and they are doing this all over the USA.  The church is pursuing just such a policy against dissenters now.

Perhaps it is something about episcopacy as an institution.  It is depressing to see, nevertheless.


More from the Chronicle of Zuqnin

A couple of days ago I wrote a post on this 8th century Syriac world chronicle.  Someone was suggesting that it is one of the earlier Christian referrences to Mohammed, although this looks doubtful.

Part IV, which starts just before the Moslem period, is online with French translation here:

although unless you’re in the US, Google show you only the snippet view. p.4-5 of the French mention Mohammed, although this can hardly be an early mention. (p. 51 of the PDF).  Here’s the opening section of part IV of the Chronicle of Zuqnin, from the French of Chabot.  The dates are in Years of the Greeks (Anno Graecorum), but Chabot has added AD to them.

This chronicle begins with the origin of the world and runs until the birth of Abraham and the kingdom of Ninus who founded Nineveh and reigned fifty-two years. But the patriarch Abraham was born in the forty-second year of the reign of Ninus, according to the testimony of Eusebius from whom we have borrowed the materials of this history until the times of the faithful Emperor Constantine.

From that time, until Theodosius the Younger, we followed the Novatian Socrates.

From the Emperor Theodosius to Justinian, that is to say until the year 885 of the Greeks, we have been guided by John, bishop of Asia.

From that time until the year in which we are now, that is to say the year 1086 of Alexander, 158 of the Hegira, we have found no-one who, like the ancient writers, has carefully described the history and the cruel disasters that occurred in the time of our fathers or our own, including the storm of tribulation that we have suffered because of our sins when we were delivered into the hands of the Assyrians and Barbarians.

However, to preserve the memory of those calamitous times and the cruel affliction that the earth has suffered today from the Assyrians – whom the prophet means when he says: “Assyria is the rod of my fury, the stick of my indignation is in their hands, I will send them to a deceiving nation and give them orders affecting the people of my vengeance,”– we have made known the rod, the stick of the Lord, which he has delivered to Assur to punish the earth, and which has even appeared in the sky for several days. Perhaps those who come after us will tremble, will fear the Lord, and walk before him in justice, lest they themselves come as we are into the hands of this rapacious wolf.

It is written: “Tell your son,” and again: “Ask your father and he shall teach you; ask your ancestors and they will tell you.” Now, after we travelled through many countries and did not find an accurate history of events but only the annotation of some particular facts, we formed the plan to unite in order in one book the things we have learned from elderly eyewitnesses or which we have seen ourselves. Whoever finds [this book] and looks with contempt should know that these so various events did not take place in one place or in one kingdom, nor in a single region. If then he meets another chronicle that does not agree with this, let him remember that earlier writers themselves do not agree among themselves, but one minimises, another exaggerates, one writing on ecclesiastical history, another on other topics.

It matters little to wise and God-fearing men [to know] whether an event happened a year or two earlier or later, but it suffices to know the punishments of past generations so as to distance themselves from inequity for fear of attracting the same troubles.

Take care of yourself and fear the Lord your God, lest he send these afflictions on you.

We will begin in the year 898.

Year 898, the emperor Justinian died and Justinian IV reigned with Tiberius Caesar.

Year 901 (589-590), Justinian died and Tiberius reigned alone.

Year 902 (590-591), the holy patriarch of Antioch, Peter, died.

Year 905 (593-594), Tiberius died. He had for successor Maurice, who reigned eight years.

Year 912 (600-601), in the middle of the day there was great darkness: the stars rose and appeared as during the night. They remained around three hours, after which the darkness disappeared and the day shone as before. – This year Maurice died. Another Maurice and Theodosius reigned for twelve years.

Year 914 (602-003), Narses, the general of the Persians, captured Edessa. After entering the city, he had the bishop Severus seized and stoned, who died in his surplice.

Year 915(603-604), holy Athanasius was made patriarch of Antioch.

Year 916 (604•605), Edessa was taken.

Year 923 (611-612), Maurice was put to death with Theodosius, his son, and Phocas reigned eight years.

Year 928 (616-617). The emperor Phocas ordered that all the Jews living under his dominion should receive baptism. He sent the prefect George to Jerusalem and into all of Palestine to constrain them to receive baptism. The latter came down [into the country] and gathered all the Jews of Jerusalem and its environs. The principals among them came into his presence. He challenged them, “Are you the servants of the emperor?” – “Yes”, they replied. He responded, “The lord of the earth has ordered that you should be baptised.” – They kept silent and didn’t reply a word. The prefect demanded of them, “Why don’t you say anything ?” One of the principals among them, named Jonas, replied, “We will consent to do everything that the lord of the earth has ordered ; but the present thing we cannot do, because the time of holy baptism has still not come.” The prefect, hearing these words, went into a violent rage; he got up, struck Jonas in the face, and said to him, “If you are servants, why don’t you obey your master?” Then he ordered them to be baptised and forced them all, willing or not, to receive baptism.

At that time James the Jew, Athanasius, patriarch of Antioch, John, bishop of the Arabs, Simeon, [bishop] of Harran, and Cyriacus [bishop] of Amida, were famous.

Year 932(620-621) The Arabs captured Palestine and [the whole region] as far as the great river Euphrates. The Romans retreated and passed into the eastern region of the Euphrates, of which the Arabs also made themselves masters.

These had as their first king one of them named Mohammed, whom they called the Prophet, because he had diverted them from various religions, had taught the existence of one God, Creator of the Universe and given them laws, when they were addicted to the worship of demons and the worship of idols, especially trees. Because he taught them the unity of God, under his leadership they triumphed over the Romans, and as he gave them laws according to their desires, they called him Prophet and Messenger of God also. The people were very sensual and carnal. They despised and rejected any legislation that did not aim at the satisfaction of their desires, that they had been given by either Mohammad or any other God-fearing man, but they received ones that were to the satisfaction of their will and their desires, even when it was imposed upon them by the vilest of them. They said: “It has been established by the Prophet and Messenger of God,” and even “So God commanded him. ”

Mohammed governed them for seven years.

Year 933 (621-622), the emperor of the Romans, Phocas, died, and Heraclius reigned in his place for thirty-one years.

Year 934 (622-623), Mar Cyriacus, bishop of Amida, died, he had Mar Thomas for successor.

Year 937 (625-626), the stars of the sky spun about and headed northwards, like ????. They gave the Romans a terrible omen of defeat and the invasion of their lands by the Arabs, which in fact came about very shortly afterwards, and without delay.

Year 938 (626-627), the king of the Arabs died, i.e. their prophet, Mohammed, and Abubekr reigned over them for five years.

Year 940 (628), the emperor of the Romans, Heraclius, began to construct the great church of Amida.