Zachariah of Mitylene, Syriac Chronicle (1899).  Book 1.



THE first chapter, an apology for undertaking the work.

The second chapter, an epistle containing a request with regard to the table of generations in the book of Genesis.

The third chapter, a defence of the table of generations in the matter of the chronological canons, which are set down below.

The fourth chapter, an epistle containing a request with regard to the translation of the Greek book of Asyath, which was found in the library of the house of Beruya, the bishops from the city of Rhesaina.1

The fifth chapter, an answer to the epistle.

The sixth chapter, a translation of the book of Asyath.

The seventh chapter, a translation of "Silvester, Patriarch of Rome," relating the conversion and baptism of Constantine, the believing king, and the disputations of the Jewish doctors.

The eighth chapter, the revelation of the repository of the bones of Stephen and Nicodemus and Gamaliel and Habib his son.

The ninth chapter, about Isaac and Dodo, the Syriac doctors. |12 


MEN who were moved like irrational beasts (and they were merely animal) by foul habits and wicked customs and brutal instincts and earthly life and evil tradition handed down from one to another, in the eager pursuit of passions, in the corruption of the flesh, and in the impure desires of the body, men whom the Scripture named flesh, saying, "My spirit shall not dwell with men for ever, for that they are flesh";2 whom Solomon also calls ungodly, saying, "Ungodly men with their words and with their works called upon death and thought it their friend ; and they melted away and sware and made a covenant with it, because they are worthy to be part of it. For they said in themselves (and they did not reason aright), 'Our life is short and in sorrow, and there is no further remedy at the death of a man, and no man hath appeared who hath been released from Hades. For we were suddenly born, and hereafter we shall return to be as though we had never been : for the breath in our nostrils is as smoke, and reason as a spark stirred in our heart; which being extinguished, our body shall be as ashes, and the breath shall be scattered abroad as thin air, and our name shall be forgotten after a time, and no man shall remember our works, and our life shall pass away as the trace of clouds, and as a mist that |13 is driven away before the beams of the sun, and its heat is heavy upon it. For our life is a shadow that passeth away, and there is no remedy at our death: for it is sealed, and there is none that returneth. Come on therefore, let us enjoy these good things: and let us speedily use the creatures in our youth. Let us fill ourselves with choice wine and ointments : and let no blossom of the air pass by us: let us crown ourselves with the flowers of the rose-tree before it be withered : and let none of us be without voluptuousness until our old age ; and in every place let us leave a token of our voluptuousness : for this is our portion and this is our inheritance' " ;3 these did as Moses bears witness: "The whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, when they removed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Sin'ar ; and they dwelt there. And they said, each man to his fellow, 'Go to, let us cast bricks and burn them with fire.' And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, 'Go to, let us build us a town and a tower whose top may reach unto heaven ; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the earth.'" 4 And they toiled and built zealously, and laboured in vain at the tower.

And 5 yet again the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh, when they turned back from the rest of the tribes of their brethren, who had taken possession of the land of promise, and came to Gilgal by the side of Jordan in the land of Kh'na'an, built there with stones which they |14 collected a great altar to see to by the side of Jordan. And, when the rest of the tribes heard of it, Phineas the son of Eli'azar the priest and the chiefs of the congregation, the captains of the hosts of Israel, came to them and inquired at their hands concerning this; and they returned them answer, "It is that it may be a witness between us and you, that your children may not say to our children in time to come, 'What have ye to do with the Lord God of Israel, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad ? For behold ! the Lord God hath set a border between us and you, even this Jordan.' And we said, 'Let us take us occasion and build us an altar, not for sacrifice, nor for offering, but for a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us.'"

And 6 again Gideon, after he had overthrown the Mid-ianites, spread a garment and asked each man for the earrings of the prey which the men with him had gathered ; and the weight of the earrings that he asked was a thousand and seven hundred measures of weight: and Gideon took them and made thereof a lufro, and put it in his village, even in 'Ofrah : and the children of Israel went astray after it, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his house.

And 7 again the mother of Micah of Mount Ephraim, she also received eleven hundred measures of silver from her son, and made a graven image and a molten image.

And again Abshalom the son of David "in his lifetime reared up for himself an image in the dale of the kings : for he said, 'I have no one to keep my name in remembrance': and he called the image after his name : and it was called 'Abshalom's hand,' unto this day."8 And Methodius also, bishop of Olympus and martyr, in the work which he addressed to Aglaophon concerning the resurrection of the |15 dead, tells a story about Phidias,9 a craftsman and sculptor, who wrought an ivory statue, beautiful to behold, and, in order that it might last a long time and not be destroyed or spoilt, poured oil under its feet and anointed the rest of the sculpture.

And we see images of divers persons in divers places, and we find records written on papyrus concerning divers events which have happened in the world, and statues set up to preserve the memory and extol the merits of those who are dead.

How just and right is it therefore for the discreet and earnest to see that the rest of the events which have occurred from time to time after those chronicled in the three Ecclesiastical Histories of Eusebius, Socrates, and Theodoret, which are scattered about and not collected in one book, are, as far as is possible, collected together from epistles or manuscripts or trustworthy reports and set down for the benefit of the believers and of those who care for right instruction and mental excellence! May the recording of them have the help of Christ our God, to whom we pray that He will give us wisdom and eloquence, that without confusion we may write the true account of the things which have happened !

Now, since in the Syriac manuscripts of the table of generations in Genesis there is a certain variation and divergence from the Greek, and no small deficiency in the number of years, it is right for us and in harmony with our work and reasonable that it should begin with the book of Genesis, and after this should continue with the book of Asyath, and after that with that of Silvester and the conversion of Constantine the king and his baptism, with regard to which Eusebius has failed to give an accurate account and Socrates has missed the truth (for the king was not baptized |16 at the end of his life, as he 10 wrote, since the story of his conversion by Silvester is also preserved in writing and in pictures at Rome in several places, as those who have been there and come to us have seen and tell), and further concerning the revelation of the repository of the bones of Stephen and his companions, and concerning Isaac and Dodo, the Syriac doctors.

And here we will end the first book; and afterwards, from such sources as we can find, we will write about the succeeding events in books and in the chapters contained in them severally, as written below, from the thirty-second year of Theodosius the son of Arcadius to the year 880 of the Greeks.11

Now 12 we beg that the readers or hearers will not blame us, if we do not call the kings victorious and mighty, and the generals valiant and astute, and the bishops pious and blessed, and the monks chaste and of honourable character, because it is our object to relate facts, following in the footsteps of the Holy Scriptures, and it is not our intention on our own account to praise and extol rulers with flattering words, or to revile and insult with rebuke those who believe differently, provided only we do not find something of the kind in the manuscripts and epistles which we are about to translate. |17 

[Note to the online edition: nothing is said here in the printed text, but the introduction indicates that chapters 2-8 have been omitted as containing only derivative material]



ISAAC the teacher, a native of Syria, issued forth from one of the monastic dwellings of the West; and he in his diligence went up to Rome, and he also travelled to other cities. And he had books which were full of profitable teaching, containing all kinds of comments upon the Sacred Scriptures, following Ephraim and his disciples.

And Dodo also was a worthy monk of Samkč, a town belonging to the district of Amida. And on account of the captivity and famine which occurred in his days in that country, he was sent by the chiefs of the people to the king ; and he proved himself very acceptable. And this man also had, as it appears to us, about three hundred works, more or less, upon every matter taken from the Divine Scriptures, and concerning holy men, and hymns.

[Note to the online edition: footnotes have been moved to the end.  Footnotes concerned only with bits of Syriac and Greek have been omitted because of the time it would take to transcribe it.]

1. 1 Cf. ch. 4 (p. 15, 1. 24, L.), "in the library of the memorable bishops who were called the family of the house of Beruya from the city of Rhesaina, in the possession of a lad of their kin named Mor'abdo . . ., I found a little book . . . called the book of Asyath."

2. 5 Gen. vi. 3.

3. 3 Wisd. i. 16-ii. 9. 

4. 5 Gen. xi. 1-4.

5. 7 Josh. xxii. 9-27.

6. 2Judg. viii. 24-27.

7. 5 Judg. xvii. 1-4.

8. 6 2 Sam. xviii. 18.

9. 1 Method. ap. Epiph. Haer. lxiv. 18, Phot. Bibl. Cod. 234.

10. 1 I.e. Eusebius; but perhaps we should read [Syriac], "they wrote".

11. 4 569. The same date is given in ch. 3 ad fin. 

12. 5. Cf. Socr. bk. 6, praef.

This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2002.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

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