"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Theophilus of Edessa

Thanks to the work of such as Sidney Griffith and others, we are increasingly aware of how influential Christians, especially Christian scholars, were in the opening centuries of the new Islamic empire, and how much of Islamic culture is in fact derivative of an aboriginal Christian culture. Along comes a new translation of an ancient scholar's works that furthers our understanding of all this: Robert G. Hoyland, trans, Theophilus of Edessa's Chronicle: And the Circulation of Historical Knowledge in Late Antiquity and Early Islam (Liverpool University Press, 2011), 224pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
Theophilus of Edessa was a Greek astrologer and scholar in the court of the Muslim caliphs in the eighth century. Making use of his fluency in Greek, Syriac, and Arabic, he brought together historical sources from each language to comprise a single chronicle that charted world-changing events in the Near East from 590–750 CE, among them the Arab conquests, the rise to power of a Muslim Arab dynasty, and the last great war of antiquity, between Byzantium and Iran. Though no longer extant, Theophilus’s work is known from extensive citations by later historians, and Robert Hoyland has here collected and translated these citations to present the scope of the original text. Included are translations of four chronicles, several of which are being made available here for the first time to the English-language reader.

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