Eliya of al-Anbār (first half of the 10th cent.) [Ch. of E.]

Bp. of al-Anbār and composer of didactic poetry in the first half of the 10th cent. There are three sources about his life and writings: 1. The ‘Chronology’ of Eliya of Nisibis (d. 1046) notes that Eliya was in (probably dogmatic) conflict with the Cath. Abraham III al-Abrāzā (906–37) in the year 1233 of the Greeks (= AD 921–22); 2. According to the ‘Book of the Tower’ (Kitāb al-Majdal, ed. H. Gismondi) Eliya was ‘unique in his time by knowledge and virtue’ and elected cath. in 938. But the Caliph’s approval was withdrawn after his secretary was offended by Eliya shortly before the inthronisation; 3. ʿAbdishoʿ bar Brikha (d. 1318) in his ‘Catalogue’ of Syriac writers attributes to Eliya metrical discourses in three volumes, homilies, letters, and an apology. Moreover, Eliya of Nisibis claims that his ‘Chronology’ is a continuation of the one by Eliya, which he cites twice (286 and 287 A.H.).

Only the discourses survived, a voluminous collection of didactic (heptasyllabic) poetry known as Ktābā d-Durrāšā ‘Book of Exercise’ or by its popular name Ktābā d-Maʾwātā ‘Book of Centuries’. The book is divided into three parts with a total of ten memre and 3,000 stanzas, organized in 30 centuries. It is a manual of ‘theoria’ based on scripture (typology), tradition (doctrine, heresies), and nature (profane knowledge), directing the reader to the Trinity, the world to come, and salvation history by unfolding symbols (rāze, ṭupse) and their explanations (theoriai). The elaborate structure of the book reflects the celestial hierarchy of Dionysius the Areopagite, enlarged by a tenth rank of the human beings. Purification, illumination, and perfection by participating in the knowledge of the angelic ranks is the mystical idea behind this symbolism.

There was a second E.-Syr. bp. of al-Anbār by the name of Eliya during the reign of Patr. Mari bar Ṭobi (987–99).


  • Baumstark, Literatur, 237–8.
  • A.  Juckel, Der Ktābā d-Durrāšā (Ktābā d-Maʾwātā) des Elijā von Anbār. Mēmrā, I–III (CSCO 559–60; 1996).
  • H.  Gismondi, Maris, Amri et Slibae De Patriarchis Nestorianorum Commentaria, pars altera (1896/1897), 85.
  • Wright, Short History of Syriac Literature, 230.

| Eliya of al-Anbār |


Front Matter A (73) B (53) C (26) D (36) E (27) F (5) G (30) H (22) I (31) J (15) K (11) L (12) M (56) N (19) O (3) P (28) Q (11) R (8) S (71) T (39) U (1) V (5) W (3) X (1) Y (41) Z (4) Back Matter
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