Post-classical history

Anonymous Syriac Chronicle

A bipartite Syriac chronicle of ecclesiastical and secular history, written by an unknown and enigmatic author who was probably a member of the higher clergy of the Syrian Orthodox (Jacobite) Church, and may have been one of the figures mentioned in the work. If the entire chronicle was indeed written by one person, the author was probably born in the second half of the twelfth century. Many scholars assume an Edessan origin. The chronicle consists of an ecclesiastical history up to the year 1207 and a secular history up to 1234. Both books are mutilated at the end. Rather large lacunae, especially in the ecclesiastical history, have considerably reduced the relevant sections from the year 1098 onward.

The chronicle was inspired by the historiography of the Syrian Orthodox patriarch Dionysius of Tell-Mahre (d. 845). It is generally assumed that the Anonymous did not use the work of Michael I the Great (d. 1199), but his work covers the same horizon, although it reveals more interest in Arabic civilization (both Christian and Muslim) than Michael. Instead of dealing with the high levels of secular or ecclesiastical administration, he concentrates on the repercussions for the population and on regional events in Syria and Mesopotamia, including detailed information about Edessa (mod. Şanlıurfa, Turkey) and environs under Frankish and Zangid rule. The Anonymous admired the urban Arabic intellectual culture shared by Christians and Muslims in Mesopotamia.

Among other Syriac and Arabic sources, the author used the lost work of a well-informed eyewitness, the metropolitan Basil (d. 1169), and largely shared his fierce critique of the Syrian Orthodox clergy of Edessa. In 1187 the author became a witness to the conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin. Later he joined the entourage of Gregory, the maphrian (primate) of the eastern part of the Syrian Orthodox Church.

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