From Encyclopedia of Syriac Literature
Revision as of 23:19, 31 March 2006 by (talk)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigationJump to search

Bardaisan (Bardesanes) (154-222 AD) is the only author writing in Syriac at this period of whom we have some personal details. He lived in Edessa and was known at the court of King Abgar VIII (the Great). Although he must have been highly educated in Greek literature, he wrote only in Syriac. He was known as the "Aramean philosopher."

None of his works have survived, although he wrote both prose and verse. A fragment of an astronomical work by Bardesanes was preserved by George, bishop of the Arab tribes, and republished by Nau in "Bardesane l'astrologue" etc. (Paris, 1899).

Bardaisan was a heretic, and the founder of his own sect, against which subsequent authors write. His ideas on cosmology in particular were not orthodox.

The Book of the Laws of the Countries is a work that is often attributed to him, but is probably by one of his pupils, a certain Philip. The work is a philosophical dialogue on Fate, where Bardaisan discusses his ideas with various pupils, in the Greek manner. It contains a discussion of the various customs of different races, from which the modern title derives. It was also translated into Greek, where it was known as On Fate and is thus quoted in the Clementine Recognitions (IX.19-29) and in Eusebius of Caesarea, Praeparatio Evangelica (VI.10.1-48).


  • William Cureton, Spicilegium Syriacum. (1855), p.3-34. Syriac text and English translation.
  • H.J.W. Drijvers, The book of the laws of countries : dialogue on fate of Bardaisan of Edessa. Assen : Van Gorcum (1965). Series: Semitic texts with translations, vol. 3. 67pp. Syriac text, English translation.