1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Joshua the Stylite

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JOSHUA THE STYLITE, the reputed author of a chronicle which narrates the history of the war between the Greeks and Persians in 502–506, and which is one of the earliest and best historical documents preserved to us in Syriac. The work owes its preservation to having been incorporated in the third part of the history of pseudo-Dionysius of Tell-Maḥrē, and may probably have had a place in the second part of the Ecclesiastical History of John of Asia, from whom (as Nau has shown) pseudo-Dionysius copied all or most of the matter contained in his third part. The chronicle in question is anonymous, and Nau has shown that the note of a copyist, which was thought to assign it to the monk Joshua of Zuḳnīn near Āmid, more probably refers to the compiler of the whole work in which it was incorporated. Anyhow the author was an eyewitness of many of the events which he describes, and must have been living at Edessa during the years when it suffered so severely from the Persian War. His view of events is everywhere characterized by his belief in overruling Providence; and as he eulogizes Flavian II., the Chalcedonian patriarch of Antioch, in warmer terms than those in which he praises his great Monophysite contemporaries, Jacob of Sĕrūgh and Philoxenus of Mabbōg, he was probably an orthodox Catholic.

The chronicle was first made known by Assemani’s abridged Latin version (B. O. i. 260–283) and was edited in 1876 by the abbé Martin and (with an English translation) by W. Wright in 1882. After an elaborate dedication to a friend—the “priest and abbot” Sergius—a brief recapitulation of events from the death of Julian in 363 and a fuller account of the reigns of the Persian kings Pērōz (457–484) and Balāsh (484–488), the writer enters upon his main theme—the history of the disturbed relations between the Persian and Greek Empires from the beginning of the reign of Kawād I. (489–531), which culminated in the great war of 502–506. From October 494 to the conclusion of peace near the end of 506, the author gives an annalistic account, with careful specification of dates, of the main events in Mesopotamia, the theatre of conflict—such as the siege and capture of Āmid by the Persians (502–503), their unsuccessful siege of Edessa (503), and the abortive attempt of the Greeks to recover Āmid (504–505). The work was probably written a few years after the conclusion of the war. The style is graphic and straightforward, and the author was evidently a man of good education and of a simple, honest mind.  (N. M.)