Zuqnin Chronicle

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The Zuqnin Chronicle is a chronicle written in Syriac concerning the events from Creation to c. 775 CE. The fourth part of the chronicle provides a detailed account of life of non-Muslim Dhimmis in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Palestine and during Muslim conquest of Syria. It derives from the monastery of Zuqnin near Amida (the modern Turkish city of Diyarbakır) on the upper Tigris, but it was taken to Egypt where Western Orientalists uncovered and published it.[1] The work is preserved in a single handwritten manuscript, Cod. Vat. 162. This is now in the Vatican (shelf mark Vatican Syriac 162).

It exists in four parts. The first part[2] reaches to the epoch of Constantine the Great, and is in the main an epitome of the Eusebian Chronicle. The second part reaches to Theodosius II and follows closely the Ecclesiastical History of Socrates of Constantinople; while the third, extending to Justin II, reproduces the second part of the History of John of Ephesus (of interest because this part is lost elsewhere).[3] The fourth part is not, like the others, a compilation but the original work of the author and reaches to the year 774-775, apparently the date when he was writing.

Middle East historian Bat Ye'or describes the content of that last part:

At that time, the dhimmis formed the majority of the rural population: small landowners, artisans, or share-croppers farming the fiefs allotted to Arabs; a numerous Jewish peasantry lived alongside Christian villagers: Copts, Syrians, and Nestorians. This chronicle reveals the mechanisms which destroyed the social structure of a flourishing dhimmi peasantry in the whole Islamized Orient. The continuous process of the confiscation of lands by the infiltration of Bedouin tribes with their flocks or by Arabs who settled at the time of the first wave of Islamization was aggravated by the [ Abbasid ] government's damaging fiscal oppression.[4]

Originally Assemani ascribed it to Dionysius of Tel Mahre, another Syrian chronologist of the late eighth century (hence, "Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysius"; a name now deprecated).[5] On the publication of this fourth part by M Chabot, it was discovered and clearly proved by Theodor Nöldeke,[6] and Nau,[7] who independently reached the same conclusion, that Assemani's opinion was a mistake, and that the chronicle in question was the work instead of an earlier writer. This was a stylite monk named Joshua, at Zuqnin.[8]

The author was an amateur, not a historian by trade. His aim was moral instruction, not history as such; and he has been accused of plagiarism. However he was honest, or tried to be honest, in what he recounted.[9]

Cod. Vat. 162 is the autograph, and in fact the first draft of the manuscript. No further recension, or copy, is known.[10]


  1. ^ Harrak
  2. ^ edited by Tullberg, Upsala, 1850
  3. ^ Harrak, 18-9
  4. ^ Bat Ye'or, Decline of Eastern Christianity: From Jihad to Dhimmitude Seventh-Twentieth Century. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
  5. ^ Harrak
  6. ^ Vienna Oriental Journal X. 160-170
  7. ^ Bulletin critique, xvii. 321-327
  8. ^ Harrak
  9. ^ Amir Harrak (1999), 23-24
  10. ^ Harrak, 12f.
  • Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre: Chronicle, Part III. Tr. by Witold Witakowski. Liverpool, 1997 (Liverpool University Press - Translated Texts for Historians).
  • Witold Witakowski, Syriac Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre: A Study in the History of Historiography. Uppsala, 1987 (Studia Semitica Upsaliensia).
  • Amir Harrak, "The Chronicle of Zuqnin, Parts III and IV : A.D. 488-775" Toronto, 1999.