John Malalas

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In Syriac Malel, or "rhetorician, " Byzantine historian; fl. mid-sixth century. Nothing definite is known of his life, but he seems to have been a native of Antioch, and was probably of Syrian origin. He may be identical with the Patriarch john iii Scholasticus (565577). His Chronicle recounts the history of the world from creation to 565 a.d. and embraces Biblical history, Greek mythology, and the history of Eastern peoples, as well as the political history of Greece, Rome, and the early Byzantine Empire. Malalas was an uncritical compiler, with a taste for the anecdotal and trivial, e.g., his description of the personal appearance of the heroes of the Trojan War. But he had access to many sources now lost, in particular a history of his native Antioch, on which he supplies much priceless information. His tone is one of extremely naïve Christian apologetic. Used with critical discrimination, his Chronicle is a valuable source for the history of his own time. He wrote a simple, unclassical Greek, with no literary pretensions, but he could tell a good story well. The Greek text survives in a slightly abbreviated form in a single manuscript, but an Old Slavonic translation made in the 10th or 11th century preserves a fuller version. His Chronicle was copied or excerpted, directly or indirectly, by all subsequent Byzantine writers of universal history.

Bibliography: Ioannis Malalae chronographia, ed. l. dindorf (Bonn 1831). The Chronicle of J. M., bks. VIIIXVIII, trs., m. spinka and g. downey (Chicago 1940). Die römische Kaisergeschichte bei Malalas, ed. a. schenk von stauffenberg (Stuttgart 1931), critical text of bks. 912. g. moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica, 2 v. (2d ed. Berlin 1958) 1:329334, full bibliog. k. weierholt, Studien im Sprachgebrauch des Malalas (Oslo 1963).

[r. browning]