Bardaiṣan (154–222)

Earliest known Syriac author. He was active at the court of Abgar VIII (177–212) in Edessa, where the chronicler Julius Africanus met him in 195 (Kestoi I.20), and recorded his skill at archery. Bardaiṣan’s name derives from that of the river Daiṣan (Greek Skirtos ‘Leaper’) which in his day flowed through Edessa. His own writings, which included works against Marcion and the Chaldeans (that is, astrologers), are unfortunately lost, since his views on cosmology were later considered unorthodox. What survives is a philosophical dialogue on fate and freewill in which Bardaiṣan is the protagonist; this work, probably by his pupil Philip, is generally known as the ‘Book of the Laws of the Countries’, due to a section on ethnography (whose accuracy in the passage on Ḥaṭra is now confirmed by a Ḥaṭran inscription, no. 281). The work was translated into Greek, and quotations from it are given in Eusebius’s ‘Preparation for the Gospel’ (VI.10.1–48) and the ‘Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions’ (IX.19–29). His teaching, some of which was conveyed in verse as well as in prose, has to be reconstructed from later hostile sources (above all, Ephrem); it was evidently syncretistic in character, with elements drawn from Greek philosophy and Iranian and Gnostic cosmology; it may have served Mani as a partial model. The teaching on freewill in the ‘Book of the Laws of the Countries’ has been shown to be largely dependent on Alexander of Aphrodisias.

    Primary Sources

    • H. J. W.  Drijvers, The Book of the Laws of Countries (1965; repr. 2007). (Syr. with ET)
    • T.  Krannich and P. Stein, ‘Das “Buch der Gesetze der Länder” des Bardesanes von Edessa’, in ZAC 8 (2004), 203–29. (GT)
    • J. A.  Lund, The Book of the Laws of Countries. A Key-Word-in-Context Concordance (2007).
    • F. Nau, Bardesanes. Liber legum regionum (PS I.2; 1907), 490–697. (Syr. with LT)

    Secondary Sources

    • E.  Beck, ‘Bardaisan und seine Schule bei Ephräm’, LM 91 (1978), 271–333.
    • A. Camplani, ‘Rivisitando Bardesane’, Cristianesmo nella Storia 19 (1998), 519–96.
    • A. Camplani, ‘Bardesane et les bardesanites’, Annuaire, École Pratique des Hautes Études 112 (2003–4), 29–50.
    • H. J. W. Drijvers, Bardaisan of Edessa (1965).
    • H. J. W. Drijvers, in TRE , vol. 5 (1979), 206–12.
    • F. J. A.  Hort, ‘Bardaisan’, in DCB , vol. 1 (1911), 250–60. (still useful, even though outdated in several respects)
    • T.  Jansma, Natuur, lot en vrijheid. Bardesanes, de filosoof der Arameeërs en zijn images (1969).
    • G.  Levi Della Vida (ed. R. Contini), Pitagora, Bardesane e altri studi siriaci (1989).
    • P. O. Skjaervo, in EIr , vol. 3 (1989), 780–5.
    • P.  Poirier and E. Crégheur, ‘Foi et persuasion dans le Livre des Lois des Pays’, LM 116 (2003), 329–42.
    • U.  Possekel, ‘Bardaisan of Edessa on the resurrection’, OC 88 (2004), 1–28.
    • eadem, ‘Bardaisan of Edessa, philosopher or theologian?’, ZAC 10 (2006), 442–61.
    • eadem, ‘Die Schöpfungstheologie des Bardaisan von Edessa’, in Edessa in hellenistisch-römischer Zeit. Religion, Kultur und Politik zwischen Ost und West, ed. L. Greisiger et al. (BTS 116; 2009), 219–229.
    • J.  Teixidor, Bardésane d’Édesse. La première philosophie syriaque (1992).
    • J.  Teixidor, in Dictionnaire des philosophes antiques, ed. R. Goulet, vol. 2 (1994), 54–63. (incl. further references)
    • F. Winter, Bardesanes von Edessa über Indien (1999).

How to Cite This Entry

Sebastian P. Brock , “Bardaiṣan,” in Bardaiṣan, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Sebastian P. Brock , “Bardaiṣan,” in Bardaiṣan, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Brock, Sebastian P. “Bardaiṣan.” In Bardaiṣan. 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.

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