CHRONICLE OF EDESSA, a short local history of Edessa (modern Urfa), written in Syriac by an anonymous author and covering chiefly the period from 201-540 c.e. The author of the chronicle, which is preserved in a single 7th-century manuscript, devoted particular attention to damage caused by flooding of the local river in 201, 303, 413, and 525. On the other hand, such external events as incursions by the Huns (403-04, 531) and relations be­tween the Byzantine and Sasanian empires (Kavād’s siege and capture of Amida [modern Diyarbakır] and his unsuccessful siege of Edessa in 502-03; the peace treaty of 532; Ḵosrow I Anōšīravān’s invasion of Byzantine territory in 540) are noted only briefly.

According to L. Hallier, one of the sources of the Chronicle of Edessa was the Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite, which covers the history of northern Mesopotamia in the years between 497 and 506-07, including a detailed account of the siege of Amida in 502 (Wright). This work was incorporated into an 8th-century Syriac chronicle mistakenly attributed to Dionysius of Tellmaḥrē.

The extant manuscript of the Chronicle of Edessa may have been based on a longer chronicle that is now lost; that work, rather than this abridgment, may have been the source for several later Syriac chronicles (Witakowski). The focus on local floods may have been connected with the emperor Justinian’s plans to divert the river, so that it would flow around, rather than through, the town (Procopius of Caesarea, De aedificiis 2.7); according to A. N. Palmer, this scheme was accomplished soon after 540.

The standard edition of the Chronicle, with a Latin translation, is by I. Guidi. There are also translations in English (Cowper), German (Hallier, with commentary), and Russian (Pigulevskaya).



B. Cowper, “The Chronicle of Edessa,” Journal of Sacred Literature, N.S. 5, 1865, pp. 28-45.

I. Guidi, “Chronicon Edessenum,” in Chronica Minora I, CSCO I-II, Scriptores Syri 1-2, Louvain, 1903, text pp. 1-11, tr. pp. 1-13 (Figure 1).

F. Haase, “Die Abfassungszeit der Edessenischen Chronik,” Oriens Christianus, N.S. 7/8, 1918, pp. 88-96.

L. Hallier, Untersuchungen über die Edessenische Chronik, Texte und Untersuchungen zur altchristlichen Literatur 9/1, Leipzig, 1892.

A. N. Palmer, “Who Wrote the Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite?” in Aegypten und altes Orient 20, forthcoming.

N. Pigulevskaya, “Èdesskaya khronika,” Palestinskiĭ Sbornik 4/67, 1959, pp. 79-96.

Procopius of Caesarea, De Aedificiis, ed. J. Haury, Leipzig, 1913; repr. with addenda by G. Wirth, 1964.

W. Witakowski, “Chronicles of Edessa,” Orientalia Suecana 33-35, 1984-86, pp. 487­-98.

W. Wright, The Chronicle of Joshua the Stylite, Cambridge, 1882.

(Sebastian P. Brock)

Originally Published: December 15, 1991

Last Updated: October 18, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 5, pp. 449-550