EUTYCHIUS of Alexandria


EUTYCHIUS of Alexandria (Saʿīd b. Beṭrīq), Christian physician and historian whose Annales (written in Arabic and called Ketāb al-tārīḵ al-majmūʿ ʿalā’l-taḥqīq wa’l-taṣdīq or Naẓm al-jawhar) is a rich repository of much otherwise unobtainable information about the history of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, especially in the periods of Persian occupation in the seventh century and in Islamic times up to the early tenth century.

Saʿīd b. Beṭrīq was born in Fusṭāṭ on 27 Ḏu’l-Ḥejja 263/10 September 877 C. E., (Cheiko et al., eds, II, pp. 69-70; Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, II, p. 86; but cf. Breydy, p. 5 who argues for 3 Ḏu’l-Ḥejja/17 August). According to the Annales, Saʿīd b. Beṭrīq was a practicing physician; when he was sixty years old he was made the Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt and given the name Abbā Eutychius (Cheiko et al., eds, II, pp. 69-70, 86-88). Since Ebn Beṭrīq was a physician, a notice of him also appears in the collection of biographies of famous physicians by Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa (d. 668/1270). There it is said that in addition to being a skilled physician Saʿīd b. Beṭrīq had a comprehensive knowledge of the sciences of the Christians and of their doctrinal systems. Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa goes on to mention Ebn Beṭrīq’s elevation to the patriarchate, the dissension in the Christian community during his tenure in office, and his death on Monday, 30 Rajab 328/12 May 940 (II, pp. 86-87). All of this information was available to Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa from Eutychius’ annals in the form in which they were circulating in the Arabic-speaking world of his day, and from the remarks of Yaḥyā Anṭāqī, who continued the historical narrative of the annals from Eutychius’ day to the year 1028 C. E. In fact, Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa even mistakenly reported that Yaḥyā was a relative of Eutychius, a misconception that continues to appear in print.

Ebn Abī Oṣaybīʿa (II, pp. 86-87) ascribes three major works to Ebn Beṭrīq: a book on medicine, Konnāš fi’l-ṯebb; an apologetic work, al-Jadal bayn al-moḵālef wa’l-naṣrānī; and the history, Naẓm al-jawhar (as Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa gives the title). A manuscript of the Konnāš has been identified in Aleppo (Sezgin, GAS, III, p. 297). As for the Jadal, there is a reference to it in the Annales (Cheiko et al., I, p. 176), but so far the work has not been identified independently among surviving Christian Arabic manuscripts. Another work, not mentioned by Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, has been wrongly attributed to Eutychius of Alexandria: the Ketāb al-borhān, an apologetic tract of composite character that in its present form was actually put together in the tenth century by a monk of the Palestinian monastery of Saint Chariton.

The Annales, Eutychius’ most enduring work, has survived in two recensions: the Alexandrian recension, which is in all probability Eutychius’ own work, and the Antiochian recension, which is a considerably expanded work, composed by now unknown Melkite chroniclers and apologists between the eleventh and the fourteenth centuries. While later hands have considerably enhanced it, the kernel of the Annales certainly belongs to Saʿīd b. Beṭrīq, who began work on it even before he became Eutychius, the patriarch of Alexandria. He dedicated it to his brother, ʿĪsā b. Beṭrīq, a fellow physician and member of the Arabophone Christian intelligentsia in Egypt. In conception, the Annales is a universal chronicle, written in Arabic, of the sort that Greek and Syriac Christian writers from well before Eutychius’ day were wont to compose. It begins with an account of creation and continues with Biblical history, drawn from the Old and New Testaments, complemented by abstracts from other sources. The history of the Church then follows the Biblical history, and it marks the course of time with reference to the reigns of patriarchs, emperors, and caliphs. For the portion of the Annales that covers Islamic times it is clear that the compiler drew on Muslim sources. The compiler’s confessional allegiance clearly emerges in the account he renders of the succession of bishops and patriarchs, and this confessional profile then serves to commend the orthodoxy of Eutychius’ own Melkite Christian community in the Islamic milieu.

Eutychius, who may have used Ebn Moqaffaʿ’s lost Ḵoday-nāma as a source, provides much useful information on the pre-Islamic history of Persia, especially during the Sasanian period from the reign of Bahrām V. Gōr to that of Yazdegerd III (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. xix, xxi ff.; Breydy, pp. v-vi, 18-19



Editions and translations. M. Breydy, ed. and tr., Das Annalenwerk des Eutychios von Alexandrien; ausgewählte Geschichten und Legenden kompiliert von Saʿīd ibn Baṭrīq um 935 AD, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 471-72, 2 vols., Louvain, 1985.

P. Cachia and W. M. Watt, eds. and trs., Eutychius of Alexandria: The Book of the Demonstration (Kitāb al-burhān), Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 192-93 (Scriptores arabici 20, 23), 2 vols., Louvain, 1960-61.

L. Cheikho, B. Carra de Vaux, and H. Zayyat, eds., Eutychii Patriarchae Alexandrini Annales, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 50-51 (Scriptores Arabici ser. 3 nos. 6-7), 2 vols., Paris, 1906-9.

B. Pirone, tr., Eutichio, Patriarcha de Alessandria: Gli Annali, Studia Orientalia Christiana Monographiae 1, Cairo and Jerusalem, 1987.

J. Selden and E. Pococke, eds. and trs., Contextia Gemmarum sive Eutychii Patriarchae Alexandrini Annales, 2 vols., Oxford, 1658-59; tr. repr. in J. P. Migne, ed., Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca, 161 vols., Paris, 1857-66, CXI, cols. 889-1232.

Other works. Ebn Abī Oṣaybeʿa, ʿOyūn al-anbāʾ fī ṭabaqāt al-aṭebbāʾ, ed. A. Müller, 2 vols., Königsberg, 1884.

M. Breydy, Études sur Saʿīd ibm Batrīq et ses sources, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 450, Louvain, 1983.

E. Michaelidis, “Eutychios Alexandreias,” Ekklesiastikos Pharos 33, 1934, pp. 7-27, 209-38, 344-65.

(Sidney H. Griffith and EIr)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: January 20, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. IX, Fasc. 1, pp. 77-78