Bernard Coulie

title.none: Mango and Scott,eds., The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor (Coulie)

identifier.other: baj9928.9805.004 98.05.04

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Bernard Coulie, Universitè Catholique de Louvain,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1998

identifier.citation: Mango, Cyril and Roger Scott, eds. The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History, AD 284-813. New York: Clarendon Press, 1997. Pp. C, 744. $150.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-198-22568-7.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 98.05.04

Mango, Cyril and Roger Scott, eds. The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History, AD 284-813. New York: Clarendon Press, 1997. Pp. C, 744. $150.00. ISBN: ISBN 0-198-22568-7.

Reviewed by:

Bernard Coulie
Universitè Catholique de Louvain

The Chronicle of Theophanes is one of the main sources for the knowledge of Byzantine history from the age of Diocletian to the beginning of the ninth century; the work has been influential on the later Byzantine historiographic tradition, and is among the most quoted and scrutinized by modern scholarship. Surprisingly enough, no full translation of the work in a modern language had ever appeared, neither had a consistent commentary been published, although numerous attempts were made in that direction (e.g. the partial translations by Turtledove [Philadelphia, 1982] and Santoro [Gorham, 1982]). For more than fifteen years, scholars have produced a flow of publications devoted to various aspects of the Chronicle, especially to the question of the identity of the author (see the works by P. Speck) and to his use of sources in the Chronicle. All these analyses reveal, in one way or another, the lack of basic tools for the study of Theophanes: a complete translation, a comprehensive commentary, lexical instruments, etc.

The initiative of C. Mango and R. Scott was therefore badly needed and most welcome: the purpose of their book is to provide a faithful translation of the Chronicle, as edited by C. de Boor (1883), and to add annotations which can facilitate its use by historians (p. v). The book consists of a substantial introduction with bibliography, an English translation of the Chronicle with numerous footnotes, and glossary and indexes.

The introduction, mainly due to C. Mango, focuses on the most debated questions of identity and sources. The biography of Theophanes (chapter 1: pp. xliii-lii) is presented according to the main preserved sources, a panegyric by Theodore the Studite, probably delivered in 822, and a Life by the future patriarch of Constantiople, Methodios, written before 832. Of importance for the purpose of C.M. and R.S. is the fact that in these sources Theophanes is not portrayed as a scholar (p. li). Chapter 2 (pp. lii-lxiii) stresses the peculiar structure of the Chronicle: resting "on a chronological armature that combines the data of both secular and ecclesiastical history, precisely anchored with regard to an absolute computation, namely the annus mundi" (p. lii), a rather old-fashion concept for the ninth century, and without model in the Greek tradition, but in use among contemporary Christian scholars under Arab rule (p. lv). The question is then what the contribution of Theophanes himself was? The author reveals, in some places, his affinities, e.g. with the patriarchs Tarasios and Nikephoros, and against the Studites; elsewhere, he writes (or seems to do so) in the first person (pp. lviii-lx), although the hand of his mentor, Synkellos, also emerges in some places (pp. lx-lxi). The chronological system(s) used by Theophanes is (are) then presented (chapter 3: pp. lxiv-lxxiv): the annus mundi system with indiction -- but according to the Alexandrian system already choosen by Synkellos -- followed by the lists of rulers and bishops (Persian kings, Arab caliphs, Popes of Rome, Patriarchs of Constantinople, Patriarchs of Jerusalem, of Alexandria, of Antioch). C.M. and R.S. seem to attribute to Theophanes himself the insertion of these data in the Chronicle, although at least at one place (the mention of the patriarchate of Nikephoros in Constantinople), it is clear that it must be a later addition (cf. p. lxxii): this still requires further investigation.

The intricate question of the sources of the Chronicle is dealt with in chapter 4 (p. lxxiv-xcv), starting from the assumption that Theophanes' work "can best be viewed as a file of extracts borrowed from earlier sources" (p. lxxiv). The main sources are listed, and the theophanian exploitation of some of them detailed, as follows:

1. Greek lists of rulers, bishops and patriarchs; of eastern origin?

2. The Historia tripartita of Theodore Lector

3. The Breviarium of Eutropius

4. The work On the Discovery of the True Cross by Alexander the Monk: C.M. concludes that Theophanes and Alexander both followed a common tradition (On this source, see also, lately: The Finding of the True Cross. The Judas Kyriakos Legend in Syriac. Introduction, Text and Translation by H.J.W. Drijvers and J.W. Drijvers [ Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, 565; Subsidia, 93, Louvain, 1997])

5. A local chronicle of Alexandria

6. A lost source common to Theophanes and to the Chronicon Paschale

7. John Malalas

8. Prokopios (see also p. xci-xciv; much more was to be said about this topic)

9. Theophylakt Simokatta

10. The continuation of the Chronicle by John of Antioch

11. George of Pisidia

12. An additional source for the Persian campaign of Herakleios

13. A set of 'court announcements'

14. A Greek translation of an eastern (Syriac) chronicle

15. An anti-Monothelete tract

16. A Constantinopolitan chronicle from 668 to c. 720

17. A contemporary biography (?) of Leo III

18. A second Constantinopolitan chronicle of iconophile tendency

19. Some western materials, from the Greek circles of Rome?

20. Archival material.

Considering that some of the sources are now lost, that in some cases the Chronicle appears to be more a sister of the source than a daughter, postulating a lost common source, and so on, this list by C.M. offers many new directions of research. As regards Theophanes' treatment of the sources, C.M., based on examples drawn from Prokopios, concludes that Theophanes "sticks closely to the phraseology of the original" (p. xcii) and does not avoid misinterpretations and bias (pp. xciv-xvc). This is of particular importance, since, due to the compilatory and non-literary nature of the work, what is termed here as the "inconsistency" of the author, e.g. the use of different spellings for the same name, is more a question of the sources compiled by Theophanes than a question of stylistic or graphic consistency.

Two short chapters close the introduction, devoted respectively to the textual transmission (chapter 5: p. xcv-xcviii) and to the language of the Chronicle (chapter 6: p. xcviii-c). Here too, C.M. and R.S. offer a brief status quaestionis, leaving the field open for further studies. The language of the Chronicle has been more deeply analyzed in the recently published -- and therefore unavailable to C.M. and R.S. -- indexes: Thesaurus Theophanis Confessoris. Chronographia, curantibus B. Coulie, P. Yannopoulos and CETEDOC (Corpus Christianorum. Thesaurus Patrum Graecorum), Turnhout, Brepols, 1998.

The translation in English is divided by years, according to the chronological system of the Chronicle; pages of the de Boor edition are indicated in the margins. Each section (i.e. one year) is followed by the relevant notes: it would have been better to have the notes at the bottom of the pages, rather than presenting the Chronicle as a succession of files, although the reader has to admit that this is precisely the thesis of C.M. and R.S.: so that this is not only a translation of Theophanes, but a "theophanian" translation of him! Some inconsistencies appear between text and notes (e.g. p. 11, Veterius in the text, Veturius in the note). Some other minor emendations might be proposed, based on the lexicological analyses made for the Thesaurus: --p. 19 (to AM 7597 [AD 304/5]), what is said by Theophanes about Licinius and Galerius Maximianus closely resembles the statements found in the Armenian chronicle by Moses Khorenatsi, whose identity, chronology and sources are debated among Armenologists as Byzantinists do with Theophanes: see e.g. Moses Khorenatsi, History of the Armenians, Translation and Commentary by R.W. Thomson (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1988, p. 242-244). --pp. 82-83, n. 10, the corruption from 'June' to 'January' reminds one of the same in the title of the Testament of Gregory Nazianzen (PG 37, col. 389). --p. 307, n. 16, concerning Amer/Hoamer/Amergous, see the fuller bibliography in Thesaurus, p. xix. --pp. 316 and 317, n. 3 (de Boor 217, 27), the corrupt text "kai drouggou" is translated "and a troop of cavalry", although the manuscript tradition, the Latin translation by Anastasius the Librarian and other sources point toward the name of a king of the Bulgars, "Drougg": cf. Thesaurus, p. i. --p. 390 (de Boor 266, 19), the toponym "Alexandrines" is falsely interpreted as a genitive, and hence translated "Alexandrina", see Thesaurus, p. xviii. --p. 426, n. 6, the translation opts for the meaning "encampment" for the word "agrarea" (de Boor 297, 13), but see Thesaurus, p. xviii. --p. 497, the Greek word "batan" is translated as a toponym "Batnai", contra Thesaurus, p. xx (based on Moravcsik).

These corrections regard more the Greek text of Theophanes than its English translation, but they also reveal how much those different approaches can be of mutual interest if they want to converge at the same point, namely, a better understanding of the Chronicle in all its aspects. This volume of C. Mango and R. Scott will be a milestone in that process, and the authors must be congratulated on having achieved such a work.