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The Chronicle of John Malalas

 

The Chronicle of John Malalas, who lived in the town of Antioch in the Byzantine province of Syria in the sixth century, also became known in Russia not later than the eleventh century. Unlike Georgios Hamartolos, John Malalas wrote in simple, plain language, intending his work not for learned monks but for the broad mass of readers, and sought to make his narrative exciting. The Chronicle consists of 18 books. Four of them (Books One, Two, Four and Five) contain classical myths and the history of the Trojan War. Then follows an account of the Oriental rulers, the history of Rome and, finally, the history of Byzantium right up to the reign of the Emperor Justinian (sixth century).

The Chronicle of John Malalas was valuable for Old Russian historiographers and writers primarily because it provided an important addition to the Chronicle of Georgios Hamartolos. It is Malalas who provides detailed and fascinating stories about the Persian kings, a fuller account of the story of Romulus and Remus, the early Roman emperors, and the reigns of some Byzantine emperors. Therefore in Old Russian chronographical compilations, Malalas’ text was used not only to complement but also in part to replace the somewhat dry account of the Chronicle of Georgios Hamartolos.

Moreover, as already mentioned, the Chronicle of John Malalas retold (albeit very briefly) some of the ancient myths. These accounts were used by Russian annalists and chroniclers. The Chronicle was first used in the compilation of The Great Narrative Chronicle in the eleventh century.

The full text of the Slavonic translation of the Chronicle of John Malalas has not survived. We can reconstruct it only from extracts in Russian chronographical compilations. The Slavonic translation of Malalas is of great importance for reconstructing the Greek text of which all that survives is one defective manuscript and a few fragments.24

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