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Joshua the Stylite, Chronicle composed in Syriac in AD 507 (1882).  Preface to the online edition

Wright's classic edition and translation of the Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite needs little introduction.  Often reprinted, it is a classic of Oriental scholarship.  

As Wright tells us in his introduction, the text survived embedded in the surviving Chronicle of Dionysius of Tell-Mahre (or pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre as we must now call him).  Joshua's work forms part I of that text.  The single manuscript of this work is preserved in the Vatican library, shelfmark Vat. Syr. 162.  It contains 173 folios, and was brought there in 1715 by J. S. Assemani. He obtained it from the monastery of Deir al-Suryani (St. Mary Deipara) in the Nitrian desert in Egypt, together with other manuscripts which form the core of the Vatican collection.  The remainder of that library -- or nearly so -- was bought by Archdeacon Henry Tattam a century later and forms the core of the rich collection in the British Library, which the management of that institution keeps determinedly offline and for microfilms of which it charges such unaffordable sums.  Among these manuscripts are the missing folios of Vat. Syr. 162, which are today British Library Ms. Add. 14665, folios 1-7.  Most of the manuscript is a palimpsest, 123 of the Vatican and all the London folios being from a Greek manuscript of the Old Testament written in the 7th-8th century.

The Syriac text of our Chronicle was written in the 9th century, possibly early in the century, in Zuqnin, as the colophon on f.66v given by Wright makes clear.  It was taken to Egypt in 926-932 by the Archimandrite Moses of Nisibis who collected 250 manuscripts from Syria and Mesopotamia and transported them to Egypt.  A copy of fol.44-152 of the Vatican ms. was made in 1867 by Paulin Martin, the first editor, which is now in the Bibliotheque Nationale (ms. Syr. 284, 285).  This is valuable because the Vatican manuscript has deteriorated since then, and is now illegible in passages copied by Martin.

Part III of the Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Mahre (also known as the Chronicle of Zuqnin) has been translated into English by Witold Witakowski, and published by Liverpool University Press in 1996 as Translated Texts for Historians volume 22.  The notes on the manuscript given above have been abbreviated from this.  He also lists translations in other modern languages that exist for parts I, II and IV of Ps.Dionysius.

I have found it necessary to make a few changes in making this text available online.  All the Syriac text has been omitted, the index, and most of the footnotes as these are mainly concerned with details of the Syriac.  The Syriac text is in the West Syriac script (Serto) and unfortunately I lack the ability to transcribe even a letter of this.  I have also omitted any inline Greek or other unnecessary reference to the original language.  So for instance the word 'general' when referring to the Persians is usually followed by '(marzeban)': this I have omitted.

Because I was obliged to interfere so much with the text, I have felt able to interfere a little more, and make two further changes.  Wright translated the Syriac word for 'Romans' as 'Greeks'.  While this might be reasonable five or six centuries later, in 500 AD the word certainly means 'Romans'.  I have therefore replaced the word 'Greeks' with 'Romans' wherever it appears.

The other change is a first for this site: I have modernised the translation. This has involved removing the thee's and thou's, and minor changes of that kind.

The text is very useful for the war between the Romans and Persians in the time of Anastasius I, written in the region of Edessa.  A more modern translation does exist, but I hope that making this one available online will encourage more interest in this period, and indeed in what Syriac sources have to tell us.

9th September 2006


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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2006. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.

Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts