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, historiographically important, part of the chronicle provides a detailed account of life of non-Muslims in Upper Mesopotamia, Egypt, Palestine during and after the Muslim conquest of Syria. It was most probably produced in the Zuqnin Monastery near Amida (the modern Turkish city of Diyarbakır) on the upper Tigris. The work is preserved in a single handwritten manuscript, Cod. Vat. 162. This is now in the Vatican (shelf mark Vatican Syriac 162).

It consists of four parts. The first part[1] 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).[2] 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.

The scholar Assemani ascribed it to Dionysius of Tel Mahre, another Syrian chronologist of the late eighth century (hence, "Chronicle of Pseudo-Dionysius"; a name now not generally accepted).[3] On the publication of the fourth part of the chronicle by M Chabot, it was shown by Theodor Nöldeke,[4] and Nau,[5] that Assemani had been mistaken, and that the chronicle in question was the work of an earlier writer. This writer was most probably the stylite monk Joshua, at Zuqnin.[6]

The author was an amateur historian, and his aim was moral instruction, not history "as such". His work most clearly depended on earlier works, and has thus be accused of plagiarism. However all points to him being honest in what he recounted.[7] Partially because of these intentions, the author frequently described the portents in this chronicle. This chronicle involves a drawing of Halley’s Comet in 760 and auroral drawings in 771/772 and 773 June [8].

Cod. Vat. 162 is the autograph, and in fact the first draft of the manuscript. No further recension, or copy, is known.[9]


  1. ^ edited by Tullberg, Upsala, 1850
  2. ^ Harrak, 18-9
  3. ^ Harrak
  4. ^ Vienna Oriental Journal X. 160-170
  5. ^ Bulletin critique, xvii. 321-327
  6. ^ Harrak
  7. ^ Amir Harrak (1999), 23-24
  8. ^ Hayakawa et al. (2017), 1-15
  9. ^ Harrak, 12f.
  • Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre: Chronicle, Part III. Tr. by Andrew Palmer. 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.
  • Hisashi Hayakawa, Yasuyuki Mitsuma, et al., “The earliest drawings of datable auroras and a two-tail comet from the Syriac Chronicle of Zūqnīn”, Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan, 69, 2, 17. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1093/pasj/psw128