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Witnesses to a World CrisisHistorians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century$
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James Howard-Johnston

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199208593

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199208593.001.0001

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Later Historians: The West Syrian Tradition

Later Historians: The West Syrian Tradition

(p.192) 7 Later Historians: The West Syrian Tradition
Witnesses to a World Crisis

James Howard‐Johnston

Oxford University Press

A west Syrian strand of history, originating with Theophilus, a Chalcedonian Christian from Edessa who became chief astrologer to the Caliph Mahdi (775–85), can be picked out in four later works, one Byzantine, one Arab, and two Syrian. The field of vision includes the author's homeland, Syria, the east Mediterranean, and Asia Minor. Transcaucasia is largely excluded. For the early seventh century, little is added to what can be extracted from contemporary and near‐contemporary sources, save for anecdotal material. But Theophilus is shown to make a valuable contribution to knowledge about the Arab conquest of Palestine and Syria, the battle for the Mediterranean between the caliphate and Byzantium (649–98), and subsequent campaigns which culminated in the siege of Constantinople 717–18. There is enough independent corroborative material to justify placing confidence in his account.

Keywords:   Theophilus, Edessa, Arabs, Palestine, Syria, Mediterranean, Byzantium, Constantinople

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