John Malalas

John Malalas

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John Malalas or Ioannes Malalas (or Malelas) (Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: ) (c. 491
491
Year 491 was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Olybrius without colleague...

 – 578
578
Year 578 was a common year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 578 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.- Byzantine Empire :* October 5 – Tiberius II...

) was a Greek chronicler from Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

. Malalas is probably a Syriac word for "rhetor", "orator"; it is first applied to him by John of Damascus
John of Damascus
Saint John of Damascus was a Syrian monk and priest...

 (the form Malelas is later, first appearing in Constantine VII
Constantine VII
Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos or Porphyrogenitus, "the Purple-born" was the fourth Emperor of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, reigning from 913 to 959...

).

Life


Malalas was educated in Antioch, and probably was a jurist
Jurist
A jurist or jurisconsult is a professional who studies, develops, applies, or otherwise deals with the law. The term is widely used in American English, but in the United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries it has only historical and specialist usage...

 there, but moved to Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 at some point in Justinian I
Justinian I
Justinian I ; , ; 483– 13 or 14 November 565), commonly known as Justinian the Great, was Byzantine Emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the Empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the classical Roman Empire.One of the most important figures of...

's reign (perhaps after the Persian sack of Antioch in 540); all we know of his travels from his own hand are visits to Thessalonica and Paneas
Banias
Banias is an archaeological site by the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi, located at the foot of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights...

.

Writing


He wrote a Chronographia in 18 books, the beginning and the end of which are lost. In its present state it begins with the mythical history of Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 and ends with the expedition to Roman Africa
Roman Africa
Roman Africa may mean:*the Roman Africa province*the history of Africa during the Roman era, see North Africa during Antiquity#Roman era...

 under the tribune Marcianus, Justinian's nephew, in 563 (his editor Thurn believes it originally ended with Justinian's death); it is focused largely on Antioch and (in the later books) Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. Except for the history of Justinian and his immediate predecessors, it possesses little historical value; the author, "relying on Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea also called Eusebius Pamphili, was a Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist. He became the Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine about the year 314. Together with Pamphilus, he was a scholar of the Biblical canon...

 and other compilers, confidently strung together myths, biblical stories, and real history." The eighteenth book, dealing with Justinian's reign, is well acquainted with, and colored by, official propaganda. The writer is a supporter of Church and State, an upholder of monarchical principles. (However, the theory identifying him with the patriarch John Scholasticus
John Scholasticus
John Scholasticus was the 32nd patriarch of Constantinople from April 12, 565 until his death in 577. He is also regarded as a saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church....

 is almost certainly incorrect.)

He used several sources (for example Eustathius of Epiphania
Eustathius of Epiphania
Eustathius of Epiphania was a sixth-century Byzantine historian.Eustathius was born in Epiphania . He probably was a Christian and wrote in the time of the emperor Anastasius I a history from the fall of Troy to the 12th year of Anastasius in two parts...

 and other unknown authors).

The work is important as the first surviving example of a chronicle written not for the learned but for the instruction of the monks and the common people, and its language shows a compromise with the spoken language of the day, although "it is still very much a written style. In particular, he employs technical terminology and bureaucratic clichés incessantly, and, in a period of transition from Latin to Greek governmental terminology, still uses the Latin loanwords alongside their Greek replacements.... The overall impression created by Malálas's style is one of simplicity, reflecting a desire for the straightforward communication of information in the written language of everyday business as it had evolved under the influence of spoken Greek."

It obtained great popularity, and was used by various writers until the ninth century; it was translated into Slavic probably in the tenth century, and parts of it were used for the Old Russian Primary Chronicle
Primary Chronicle
The Primary Chronicle , Ruthenian Primary Chronicle or Russian Primary Chronicle, is a history of Kievan Rus' from about 850 to 1110, originally compiled in Kiev about 1113.- Three editions :...

. It is preserved in an abridged form in a single manuscript now at Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

, as well as in various fragments.

Modern editions

  • Text:
    • Johannes Thurn (ed.) 2000, Ioannis Malalae Chronographia, Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae (CFHB) 35 (Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter) ISBN 3-11-008800-2

  • Translation:
    • Elizabeth Jeffreys, Michael Jeffreys, Roger Scott et al. 1986, The Chronicle of John Malalas: A Translation, Byzantina Australiensia 4 (Melbourne: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies) ISBN 0959362622

Further reading

  • E. Jeffreys, B. Croke, and R. Scott (eds.), Studies in John Malalas (Sydney: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 1990) (Byzantina Australiensia, 6), pp. 1-25.

  • David Woods, "Malalas, Constantius, and a Church-inscription from Antioch," Vigiliae Christianae, 59,1 (2005), pp. 54-62.

  • J. H. W. G. Liebeschuetz, "Malalas on Antioch," in Idem, Decline and Change in Late Antiquity: Religion, Barbarians and their Historiography (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2006) (Variorum Collected Studies).

External links