Yeshuʿ the Stylite Joshua the Stylite (after 506) [W. Syr.]

Author, possibly pseudonymous, of an important anonymous historical text bearing the title ‘A historical narrative of the period of distress which occurred in Edessa, Amid, and all Mesopotamia’. The period in question is the years 494–506, during which Edessa suffered famine and plague (494–502) and the region experienced a Persian invasion and a Roman-Persian war (502–506). The work was almost certainly written, in Edessa, shortly after the end of this war. A single sentence before the epilogue alludes to the last years of the emperor Anastasius (d. 518), but this is generally thought to be a later scribal insertion.

The manner of the text’s transmission is responsible for the uncertainty regarding the author’s identity. It is not preserved by itself in any ms., but only as a section of the much larger Chronicle of Zuqnin, also known as the Chronicle of (Pseudo-) Dionysios of Tel Maḥre, itself preserved in a single ms. (Vat. Syr. 162). One folio in this section of the ms. is from a later scribe, who identified himself as Elishaʿ, from the monastery of Zuqnin, and requested God’s mercy not only for himself, but also for ‘the priest Mar Yeshuʿ the stylite, from the convent of Zuqnin, who wrote ktobo hono d-ʿuhdono hono of the bad times which have passed and of the calamities and troubles which that tyrant inflicted among men’. From this scribal note, which has been translated and understood in several different ways, Yeshuʿ has been variously interpreted as the scribe of the ms., the author of the entire Chronicle of Zuqnin (or both scribe and author), or the author (or an early scribe) of the discreet section devoted to the period 494–506. If the Yeshuʿ referred to here is in reality the author or scribe of the whole Chronicle of Zuqnin, he must have lived sometime after 775 (the date at which it ends); in that case ‘the calamities and troubles which that tyrant inflicted among men’ cannot refer to the Persian king Kawad who invaded Roman territory in 502, but must be related to events in the 8th cent. Irrespective of the resolution of this problem, however, references to ‘Yeshuʿ the stylite’ in scholarly literature are invariably directed to the narrative of 494–506, although for this reason such references are sometimes given as ‘Pseudo-Yeshuʿ’.

The narrative of 494–506 is the earliest extant work of Syriac historiography. Usually designated ‘The Chronicle of (Pseudo-) Yeshuʿ the stylite’, it falls into different sections, and to some extent different genres. While the first main section is indeed a chronicle, giving a year-by-year account of the locust plague, famine and epidemic in Edessa in 494–502, the other main section, a narrative of the Roman-Persian war of 502–6, is more akin to the genre of a political history, as is the account of Persian-Roman relations preceding the war, placed by the author in front of the chronicle of plague in Edessa. There is a highly rhetorical prologue and epilogue addressed to a (real or fictitious) abbot named Sergios. The work is an astonishingly rich source for the historian of late antiquity. Conditions of life in Edessa, including economic conditions, are described in great detail, and it is the fullest and most accurate account in any language of the war with which it deals.

Sources

  • J. B.  Chabot, Incerti auctoris chronicon pseudo-Dionysianum vulgo dictum, vol. 1 (CSCO 91, 121; 1927, 1949).
  • A.  Harrak, The chronicle of Zuqnin parts III and IV, A.D. 488–775 (Mediaeval Sources in Translation 36; 1999).
  • A.  Luther, Die syrische Chronik des Josua Stylites (Untersuchungen zur antiken Literatur und Geschichte 49; 1997).
  • A. N.  Palmer, ‘Who wrote the chronicle of Joshua the stylite?’, in Lingua restituta orientalis. Festgabe für Julius Assfalg (Ägypten und Altes Testament 20; 1990), 272–84.
  • E. Riad, Studies in the Syriac preface (Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Studia Semitica Upsaliensia 11; 1988).
  • F. R.  Trombley and J. W.  Watt, The chronicle of pseudo-Joshua the stylite (TTH 32; 2000).
  • J. W.  Watt, ‘Greek historiography and the “Chronicle of Joshua the stylite” ’, in After Bardaisan, ed. Reinink and Klugkist, 317–27.
  • J. W.  Watt, ‘Two Syriac writers from the reign of Anastasius: Philoxenus of Mabbug and Joshua the Stylite’, Harp 20 (2006), 275–93.
  • W.  Witakowski, Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre. Chronicle (known also as the Chronicle of Zuqnin). Part III (TTH 22; 1996).
  • W.  Wright, The chronicle of Joshua the stylite (1882; repr. Gorgias Historical Texts 8; 2003).


How to Cite This Entry

John W. Watt, “Yeshuʿ the Stylite,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay, https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Yeshu-the-Stylite.

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

John W. Watt, “Yeshuʿ the Stylite,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Yeshu-the-Stylite.

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Watt, John W. “Yeshuʿ the Stylite.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Yeshu-the-Stylite.

A TEI-XML record with complete metadata is available at https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Yeshu-the-Stylite/tei.

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