Post-classical history

Bar Ebroyo (1226-1286)

Gregory (baptismal name John) Bar Ebroyo, known in Arabic as Abu’l-Faraj ibn al-‘Ibrī and in Latin as Bar Hebraeus, was the author of a universal Syriac chronicle, especially illustrative of Syria and Mesopotamia in the thirteenth century.

Bar Ebroyo was born in Melitene (mod. Malatya, Turkey); his alleged Jewish descent has been shown to be a misconception of his name in Syriac. Around 1244 he moved with his family to the principality of Antioch. He later went to Tripoli (mod. Trâblous, Lebanon), where he continued his studies, notably with an East Syrian (Nestorian) rhetor. After serving as a Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) bishop in Muslim Syria he was elected maphrian (primate) of the eastern part of the church in 1264. He moved to Mesopotamia, then under the control of the Mongols, where he died in 1286.

Bar Ebroyo was one of the most learned Syrian Orthodox authors of all times, having mastered theology, philosophy, linguistics, medicine, and natural science. The influence of his numerous writings on Syrian Orthodox societies can hardly be overestimated. His world chronicle divides secular history into a series of eleven dynastic sections, the last two of which deal with Muslim rule, beginning with the years 622 and 1258 respectively. Bar Ebroyo excerpted the chronicle of Michael the Great, patriarch of Antioch, which is why his work partly helps to fill the lacunae of the latter. Bar Ebroyo added material of Muslim origin, and thus (like the author of the Anonymous Syriac Chronicle) renders the battles involving the Franks more often from a Muslim perspective than does Michael. Compared with Michael, Bar Ebroyo’s focus shifts east, leaving Byzantium on the periphery, whereas extensive notes feature Cilicia and Egypt, as well as the rule of the Franks and the Turks. Besides the succession of kings and their conquests, which forms the internal structure of the history, Bar Ebroyo includes information on great scholars such as physicians and philosophers and often relates events of cultural interest. He also wrote an abbreviated Arabic version of his chronicle, for which he drew on different sources.

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