Re-assembling the past. Dionysius of Tel-Mahre, early Syriac historiography, and its Byzantine and Arab context, 582-842

Start - End 
2018 - 2021 (ongoing)



The crucial importance of Syriac historiography for the general history of the Mediƫval Middle East has recently been highlighted (e.g. early history of Islam; crusades). Even if the genre has hence received attention beyond a small circle of specialists, there is still much work to be done to create the tools that make thorough and critical use of Syriac historiographical texts possible. This project takes one major step in that direction. It focuses on early West-Syrian historiography (6-9th c.), with a particular focus on the most important fragmentary Syriac historian, Dionysius of Tel-Mahre (d. 845). He is a unique source for the history of the Middle East from 582 until 843, including relations with the Byzantines and the Arabs. His history was also highly personal and innovative in its forms.

The project seeks to make extant fragments of Dionysius and his predecessors available through an edition, translation and commentary, to contextualise his work by studying its ties with Syriac, Byzantine and Muslim Arabic historiography, and to provide a close analysis of its value for the political, cultural, religious history of the Middle East in the Early Middle Ages. It seeks to do so by introducing methodologies common in Classical and Mediƫval Studies. Shedding new light on the intercultural make-up of Middle-Eastern society in this period, this project contributes to Byzantine history, Arabic history, Syriac Studies and the history of historiography.