Renaissance, Syriac

A term probably first used by A. Baumstark to denote a period in Syriac literature (11th–13th cent.) of great productivity, characterized by a growing acceptance of Arabic science and of Arabic and Muslim cultural and religious patterns. Examples include translations/adaptations of Arabic scientific works, the introduction of rhymed and rhythmic prose (sajʿ, for instance, by ʿAbdishoʿ bar Brikha) as well as Arabic verse meters (rajaz, ṭawīl), a new explanation of Syriac grammar based on theories borrowed from Arabic grammarians (Bar ʿEbroyo, Ishoʿyahb bar Malkon), and the creation of new literary genres (e.g., wine poetry, khamriyyāt). In the field of historiography, one witnesses an increasing use of Muslim sources in Persian and Arabic. The same applies to philosophy, where the study of authors like Ibn Sinā, Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī, Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, and Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī contributed to new developments, e.g., in the works of Yaʿqub bar Shakko, Bar Malkon, and Bar ʿEbroyo. This Muslim influence can be felt even in the domains of theology, spirituality, and canon law. Some modern authors such as J.-B. Chabot have a negative appreciation of this period on account of the loss of original Syriac themes, styles, and patterns.

A second characteristic of the Syriac Renaissance seems to be a certain awareness (not shared by all authors belonging to this period) that the traditional Christological differences between Chalcedonians and E.-Syrians and W.-Syrians were a matter of terminology rather than of substance. This development also explains the good contacts with European Christians through the Crusader presence in the Middle East.

The idea of a Renaissance has also been used by scholars in the fields of architecture and visual arts, which in the same period were characterized by a greater openness to Islamic styles and to influences from the European (Crusaders) and Byzantine world.


  • Baumstark, Literatur, 285–86, 290, 295, 326.
  • J.-B.  Chabot, Littérature syriaque (1934), esp. 114.
  • A. Juckel, ‘La réception des Pères grecs pendant la “Renaissance” syriaque: Renaissance – Inculturation – Identité’, in Les Pères grecs dans la tradition syriaque, ed. A. Schmidt and D. Gonnet (ÉtSyr 4; 2007), 89–125.
  • P.  Kawerau, Die jakobitische Kirche im Zeitalter der syrischen Renaissance: Idee und Wirklichkeit (2nd ed. 1960).
  • J.  Leroy, ‘La renaissance de l’église syriaque aux XIIe– XIIIe siècles’, Cahiers de civilisation médiévale 14 (1971), 131–48, 239–55.
  • H.  Teule et al. (ed.), The Syriac Renaissance (ECS 9; 2010). (with contributions discussing various aspects of both the literature and art produced in this period)
  • H.  Teule, ‘The interaction of Syriac Christianity and the Muslim world in the period of the Syriac Renaissance’, in Acts of the First Pro Oriente Colloquium Syriacum Salzburg 2007, ed. D. Winkler (forthcoming).

| Renaissance, Syriac |


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