The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu is an important source for the history of the turbulent 6th and 7th centuries. Focusing on Egypt where he was a Monophysite bishop, John is one of the few contemporary historians who describes the conquest of this formerly Roman province by the Muslims.
Though his Chronicle follows closely that of John Malalas and the anonymous Paschal Chronicle, John includes numerous unique points of local interest. He is among our best sources for the rebellion of the Roman armies in Thrace against the Emperor Maurice in AD 602 and the degenerate reign of the Emperor Phocas. John also provides our best account of the subsequent rebellion of Heraclius against Phocas in AD 609 and covers in detail the battles which took place between the partisans of each in Egypt. He records natural disasters, plagues, and strange portentious events that occured throughout Egypt—such as the appearance of a merman and mermaid in the Nile. He focuses on the turmoil in the churches and comments on the numerous quarrels and frequent violence that erupted between the Monophysites and Chalcedonian factions. As a Monophysite himself, John offers a rarely seen glimpse into the controversy that was still simmering even 250 years after the Council of Chalcedon.
The most noteworthy section of the Chronicle is John's description of the conquest of Roman Egypt by the Muslims under the General Amr. John credits the triumphant Muslims for not destroying Christian churches, but he also records the atrocities perpetrated and the onerous tax burden laid upon the conquered Egyptians by their new rulers.
Out of print for nearly a century, this volume represents the only English translation of the work, made from an Ethiopic manuscript of 1602. The Ethiopic text was made from an Arabic translation of the original Greek—both the original Greek and Arabic versions were subsequently lost. The translator, R. H. Charles, has provided an introduction to the text, detailing the manuscript history and offering insight into the often confused proper names and spots where his own interpretation of the text is at odds with that of Zotenberg. Despite several lacunae and some obvious corruptions introduced across the translations, this edition of The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu offers a wealth of insight into a very poorly understood era.
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