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St. Jerome, Chronicle (2004-5). Preface of Jerome; preface of Eusebius

Eusebius Hieronymus to his friends Vincentius and Gallienus, greetings.

There was an old custom of the scholars, that they would reduce Greek books to Latin speech for the purpose of exercizing their wits, and, what has even more difficulty in it, they would translate poems of illustrious men, with the added necessity of correctly rendering the metre.  For the same reason our Cicero translated complete books of Plato word-for-word: and after he had published Aratus in Roman dress, in hexameter verses, he amused himself with Xenophon's Economics.  In this work that golden stream of eloquence is so frequently obstructed by certain rough and turbulent obstacles, so that whoever does not know that they are translations does not believe they were said by Cicero.  

For it is difficult for someone who is following another's lines not to stray outside them from time to time; when things were said well in another language, it is hard to preserve the same elegance in translation.  An idea was captured appropriately by a single word: I do not have my own word to convey it, and while I seek to complete the sentence, in a long detour I hardly advance a brief distance along the road. The twists of hyperbaton 1, the dissimilarities of cases, finally the varieties of figures of speech are added to the sense itself and, so to speak, the native idiom of the language.  If I translate word for word, it sounds absurd; if perforce I alter something in sequence or style, I shall seem to have failed in the duty of a translator.

Therefore, my dearest Vincentius, and you, Gallienus, part of my soul, I beg that you reread whatever in this work is hasty, not with the spirit of judges, but as friends: especially since I dictated as quickly as possible to a secretary, as you know; and also the style 2 of the divine books testifies to the difficulty of the task, which, when published by the LXX translators, did not retain the same flavour in the Greek language.  For this reason Aquila and Symmachus and Theodotion were roused up to produce almost different works from the same work: with the first expressing it word-for-word, and the next preferring to follow the sense, and the third not differing much from the ancients.  However the fifth, sixth and seventh versions 3, although it is unknown from which authors they originate, yet they contain intrinsic variants that are so probably correct, that they have earned authority without having names. 

That's how it comes about that Sacred Literature seems unpolished and harsh sounding, for while scholarly men -- not understanding that they were translated from Hebrew -- look at the outside but not into the kernel, they tend rather to be thoroughly horrified at the mean clothing, so to speak, before they find the fair body of the things within.  

Indeed what is more melodious than the psalter, which like the works of our own Flaccus 4 or the Greek Pindar, now runs along in iambics, now rings out in alcaics, now swells in sapphics, and now walks in semifoot?  What is more beautiful than the Song of Deuteronomy or Isaiah? What is more serious than Solomon? What is more perfect than Job?  All of which compositions circulate among their own people in hexameter and pentameter verses, as Josephus and Origen write.  When we read these in Greek, they sound like something else; when we read them in Latin, they are scarcely coherent.

For if it seems to someone that the grace of a language does not change in translation, let him present Homer word-for-word in Latin, -- let me say something more -- let it be translated into his own language in words of prose; he will see that the word-order has become ridiculous and a most eloquent poet barely readable. 

What is the point of all this?  Obviously so that it does not seem amazing to you, if we offend occasionally, if sluggish speech is either raspy in consonants or divided and split in its sounds, or constrained by the brevity of these matters, since the most learned men have struggled in this same task: and to the general difficulty that we have pleaded in every translation, this in particular is added to us: that the history is multiplex, possessing barbarian names, matters unknown to the Latin-speaking peoples, inexplicable numbers, and columns equally interwoven with events and numbers, so that it is almost more difficult to discern the order in which things must be read, than to arrive at an understanding of the meaning. 

[5 In order that, moreover, it may be understood, with a clear indication of which number any text pertains to, let the reader attend to these inserted distinctions, so that, if the text must be related to the first number of kingdom previously marked out, let him look at the first letter in the explanation of the text: and, if he should see it in bright red, let him know that it must apply to that period or in the year, which the number similarly drawn, that is in bright red, will have suggested: but if he shall perceive that the number (=initial letter?) is not in a pure bright red, but was written after black was mixed in, the text must be related to the number of the second column: if however it must be related to the third column of numbers that has been written down, the middle of the number (initial letter?) will be seen in a pure bright red and the remaining part given solely in black. The fourth column of numbers will have nothing in bright red, but there will be for an indication how the text is bound to it (the column of numbers), when the letter done in bright red at the start of the explanation of the text, that must also be supplied for the signs above, is displayed anyway, (and) they corresponded in category to none of the signs mentioned above.  If on the contrary, the (initial) letter was expressed, not actually in bright red but in mixed black and red, he will be able to turn to the number gleaming with red in the fifth column of numbers; and so the sixth column of numbers will be indicated like the second, the seventh like the third, and the eighth also like the fourth with a two-colour-appearing letter. But when there are none of those signs which we mentioned earlier either in the numbers or in the explanation of history, the ninth column which was annotated is referred to. However, not all of these requirements are needed when the number of columns is less.]

From this I think that it is necessary to warn in advance that, exactly as they have been written, the variety of colours should also be preserved; lest someone suppose that so great an effort has been attempted for a meaningless pleasure of the eyes, and, when he flees from the tedium of writing, inserts a labyrinth of error.  For this has been devised so that the strips of the kingdoms, which had almost been mixed together because of their excessive proximity on the page, might be separated by the distinct indication of bright red, and so that the same hue of colour which earlier parchment pages had used for a kingdom, would also be kept on later ones.  

And I am not unaware that there will be many people who from their customary desire to detract from all things, will sink their fangs into this volume, which cannot be avoided unless one writes nothing at all: they will misrepresent dates, change the order, dispute events, split syllables, and, because it is generally customary that this should happen, they will ascribe the negligence of copyists to authors.  

Although I would be within my right to repel those that it displease, by saying let them not read, in short I prefer to send them away satisfied, so that they can both assign the fidelity of the Greek things to their own author, and what new matters we have inserted, they may recognize that they have been extracted from other very learned men.  And indeed it should be known that I have filled the role of both translator and in part writer, because I have both most faithfully expressed the Greek, and I have added some things which seemed to me to have been omitted, in Roman history especially which Eusebius, the originator of this book, seems to me, not to have been thus ignorant, for he was most learned, but since he was writing in Greek, to have skipped over those things less necessary to his countrymen.

And so from Ninus and from Abraham down to the captivity of Troy is a simple translation from the Greek: from Troy down to the 20th year of Constantine many things are added or modified, which we have carefully excerpted from Tranquillus 6, and the other illustrious historians: but from the aforementioned year of Constantine down to the 6th consulate of the Emperor Valens and second of the Emperor Valentinian, is totally my own.

Contented with this end-point, I have reserved the rest of the time of Gratian and Theodosius for the pen of a broader history; not that I have been afraid to write freely and truly about living persons -- for the fear of God drives out the fear of men -- but because while the barbarians are still raging here in our land, all things are uncertain.

The Translated Preface of Eusebius.7

The most learned men -- Clement, and Africanus, and Tatian from among ourselves, and Josephus and Justus from among the Jews, all while compiling books of ancient history -- have related that Moses, of the Hebrew nation, who first of all the prophets before the advent of the Lord Saviour expounded the divine laws in the sacred texts, lived in the time of Inachus.  Again, Inachus precedes the Trojan War by 500 years: indeed from among the pagans, that impious man Porphyry in the fourth book of his work which he with pointless labour concocted against us, affirms that Semiramis, who reigned over the Assyrians 150 years before Inachus, lived after Moses.  And so, according to him, Moses is discovered to be older than the Trojan War by almost 850 years.  

When these things are taken into consideration, I have considered that it is necessary to search after the truth more diligently, and on account of this in a prior book 8 I have noted in advance for myself, as a sort of source for a future work, all the dates of kings, of the Chaldaeans, Assyrians, Medes, Persians, Lydians, Hebrews, Egyptians, Athenians, Argives, Sicyonians, Lacedaemonians, Corinthians, Thessalians, Macedonians, and Latins who afterwards were called Romans.

In the present book, however, putting each set of dates in turn in a column side by side, and counting the years of each of the nations, in order that this was contemporary with that, I have thus joined them together in careful order.  Nor has it escaped me that differing numbers of years are to be found in the Hebrew books, either more or less, depending on how it seemed to the translators; and I would rather follow that which a great number of copies have guaranteed.  

But let anyone who wishes calculate it: he will find that, in the time of Inachus who they say first ruled at Argos, Israel was patriarch of the Hebrews, from whom the twelve tribes of the Jews drew the name of Israel.  Morever it is clear that Semiramis and Abraham were contemporaries: for Moses, although he might be younger than the aforementioned, nevertheless is understood to be older than all of those whom the Greeks consider most ancient: that is, Homer and Hesiod, and the Trojan War, and much older than Hercules, Musaeus, Linus, Chiron, Orpheus, Castor, Pollux, Aesculapius, Liber, Mercury, Apollo, and all the other gods of the nations, and sacred figures, and oracles, even the deeds of Jupiter, whom Greece placed at the summit of divinity.  I say that all of these whom we have enumerated, we prove that they also lived after Cecrops Diphyes, the first king of Attica.

Moreover the present history shows that Cecrops is coeval with Moses and precedes the Trojan War by 350 years.  Which, lest it should seem doubtful to someone, the following reasoning will thus prove.

Christ was born in the 42th year of the rule of Augustus. He started to preach in the 15th year of Tiberius. If someone therefore, counting backward through the number of years, seeks the second year of Darius, king of the Persians, in whose reign the Temple in Jerusalem which had been destroyed by the Babylonians was rebuilt, he will find 548 years from Tiberius back to Darius.  

Of course the second year of Darius was in the first year of the 45th Olympiad, and the 15th year of Tiberius occurred in the 201st Olympiad.  Therefore there were 137 Olympiads between Darius and Tiberius, 548 years, counting four years in one Olympiad.

Then in the second year of Darius the 70th year from the destruction of the Temple is completed, from which 64 Olympiads, or 256 years, are counted backwards to the first Olympiad; the years are counted similarly backwards, from the aforementioned year of the destruction of the temple to the 50th year of Uzziah, King of the Jews, in whose reign Isaiah and Hosea lived.  

And so, the first olympiad occurred in the age of Isaiah and the rest who prophesied with him.

Again, if you proceed from the first Olympiad to earlier times and until the capture of Troy, you will discover 406 years, which we both set out in an earlier little work, and which the most careful history of the Greeks records.  Likewise according to the Hebrews from the aforementioned year of Uzziah and the times of Isaiah the prophet, back until Samson and the third year of the Judge Labdon, you will count 406 years.  This however is the Samson, whom the descendants of the Jews report was similar to Hercules in bodily strength, and they seem to me to have not much time separating them, if indeed both lived around the time of the capture of Troy.  

After these again go back to earlier things, and, when you have completed 329 years going back, you will find Cecrops Diphyes of the Greeks, and Moses of the Hebrews.  For from the 45th year of Cecrops until the capture of Troy, and from the 80th year of the age of Moses, in which he led the people of Israel from Egypt, until Labdon and Samson, the judges, there are counted 329 years.

And so, without any ambiguity, Moses, and Cecrops who was the first king of the Athenians, lived at the exact same time.

Again this is that Cecrops Diphyes the indigene, in whose reign the first olive tree grew on the summit, and the city of the Athenians drew its name from the name of Minerva.  He first of all of them called upon Jupiter, and discovers idols, set up an altar, burned sacrificial victims; never before had such things been seen in this manner in Greece.  

And then other miraculous things, which are boasted about among the Greeks, are indicated much later than the years of Cecrops;  however if they are later than Cecrops, they are consequently also later than Moses, who existed with Cecrops.

For it was after him that it is written that there was the flood in the time of Deucalion, the fire in the time of Phaethon, Erichthonius the son of Hephaestus and Earth, Dardanus who founded Dardania: about whom Homer said:

Whom Jupiter first fathered in the heavenly citadel; 9

also the abduction of Libera and Europa, the rites of Ceres and Isis, the sanctuary in Eleusis, the corn of Triptolemus, the kingdom of Tros;

Of whom Ganymede was born, who, carried off to the stars, 
The gods wished to pour out the wines of great Jupiter at their meals. 10 

At this time also Tantalus and Tityus lived, and Apollo was born.  For Latona, consort of Jupiter, flees because of Tityus; however of Latona and Jupiter Apollo is the son; and after these events Cadmus comes to Thebes, 

Who fathered Semele, from whom the most beautiful progeny, 
Liber, emerged and brought a wholly deserving delight by his birth. 11 

Again, Liber and the rest whom we will bring in next, lived 200 years after the year of Cecrops; Linus certainly, and Zetus, amd Amphion, Musaeus, Orpheus, Minos, Perseus, Aesculapius, the twin Castors, Hercules, with whom Apollo served Admetus, after which the fall of the Trojan city happened: which Homer follows after a long interval; but Homer is found to have lived long before Solon or Thales of Miletus and the others who together with them have been called the Seven Sages.

Then Pythagoras appeared, who wished it to be said that he was not a Sage, as those earlier, but a philosopher, that is, a lover of wisdom; Socrates followed him, who taught Plato; by whom philosophy was divided into its well-known parts.  We shall put each of these in their place according to the order of the following history.

Therefore Moses preceded all those whom we have recorded above: for it has been shown that he lived in the age of Cecrops.

However, returning to earlier events, from the 80th year of Moses and the exodus of Israel from Egypt, until the first year of Abraham, you will find 505 years, which you will count similarly from the 45th year of Cecrops back to Ninus and Semiramis, leaders of the Assyrians.  Of course Ninus, son of Belus, was the first to reign over all Asia, the Indies excepted.  And so it is clear that Abraham was born in the age of Ninus, at least according to the figure the Hebrew account offers, which is shorter than the usual version.

Indeed, if you do not falter in carefulness and when you have diligently pored over the Divine Scripture, from the birth of Abraham back to the Flood of the whole earth, you will find 942 years, and from the flood back to Adam, 2242, in which no completely Greek, or barbarian or, to speak in general terms, gentile history is found.  

That is why the present little work traces the later years from Abraham and Ninus down to our time; and starts by displaying Abraham of the Jews, Ninus and Semiramis of the Assyrians, because at this time Athens was not a city, nor had the kingdom of the Argives received its name, as the Sicyonians alone were flourishing in Greece: they say that among them, in the days of Abraham and Ninus, Europs was the second to have reigned.  Why we too believe this will be demonstrated in the following.

For if you diligently count out from the distant age of Ninus until the capture of Troy, you will find 834 years: likewise in Sicyon from the 22nd year of King Europs, until the aforementioned period, you will find those same 834 years: among the Hebrews also from the nativity of Abraham until Labdon and Samson the Judges of the Hebrews, who led the people in the times of the Trojans, you will equally count 834 years: likewise among the Egyptians from the age of Ninus and Semiramis, in which time the 16th dynasty of Thebes was already ruling over the Egyptians, until the 20th dynasty, and King Thuorin of Egypt, who is called Polybus by Homer, in whose reign also Troy was captured, the aforementioned 834 years are also computed: therefore, consequently, we place at the head of our little book, at one and the same date, Abraham, Ninus, Europs, and the Theban Egyptians: and as we said earlier, the text following demonstrates that these things are so.  

Now care must be taken to divide the years of the Hebrews into four periods of time; 

Of course, from the nativity of Abraham until Moses and the exodus of Israel from Egypt, there are counted 505 years: from Moses down to Solomon and the first building of the temple, 479 years, according, however, to the smaller number which the third book of Kings contains, -- for according to the volume of Judges 600 years are computed -- from Solomon however down to the restoration of the temple, which happened under Darius, king of the Persians, 512 years are counted: further, from Darius down to the preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, and down to the 15th year of Tiberius the first citizen of the Romans, 548 years are completed.  

And so likewise 2044 years happen from Abraham until the 15th year of Tiberius: 

Likewise there happen from Ninus and Semiramis until the 15th year of Tiberius 2044 years, which we have also shown counted from Abraham until Tiberius: from the 15th year of Tiberius, however, until the fourteenth year of Valens,12 in which he died, there are numbered 351 years. And so there are in all 2395 years of this history.

And, in case the long series of numbers should perhaps cause some confusion, we have separated the whole mass of years into decades, which, gathering together out of the histories of the individual nations in turn, we have placed opposite each other, so as to provide a simple method of discovering in which era, Greek or barbarian, the prophets, kings, and priests of the Hebrews existed, likewise when falsely-believed gods of various nations existed, when demi-gods, when any city was founded, concerning illustrious men, when philosophers, poets, princes, and writers of various works appeared, and any other ancient event, if it was thought deserving of recording. All of which we shall put in their proper places with the greatest brevity.


1. Word-order reversal, for emphasis.

2. instrumenta. Lewis & Short: "II.Trop. A. Of writings... B.Ornament, embellishment: felices ornent haec instrumenta libellos. Ov. Tr. 1,1,9."

3. Jerome is here referring to the parallel translations from Hebrew into Greek in the columns of Origen's Hexapla.  The separate columns circulated separately.

4. Horace.

5. This paragraph is a later interpolation.  One family of the manuscripts was reformatted by a later scribe, who wrote this paragraph as an explanation of the new format.  His system placed all the columns of numbers on the left, and all the text at the right.  Which column of numbers the text related to is controlled by colour coding.  This paragraph describes the system, albeit obscurely.  Manuscript L is of this family, and this translation is provisional, pending a visit to the British Library.

1. number=bright red; first letter of text=bright red
2. number=? (Probably black); first letter of text=mixed red/black
3. number=? (probably bright red); first letter of text=middle bright red , rest black
4. number=black; first letter of text=bright red
5. number=red; first letter of text=mixed red/black
6. Like #2
7. Like #3
8. Like #4, two colour
9. number=black; first letter of text=black
The 'probablies' I get by alternating the colour of the numbers.

6. Suetonius.

7. Translated by St. Jerome from Greek into Latin.  The headings in this page are Jerome's.

8. Eusebius' Chronicle is found in Armenian translation in two books.  Book 1 is the Chronography and consists of lists of kings and how long they reigned, for various kingdoms.  Book 2 is the Chronological Canons, which is the table of dates and events.  Jerome only translated book 2, and the two books seem to have circulated separately.  Even in the manuscripts of the Armenian version there is evidence of this, since the end of book 1 and the start and end of book 2 are missing.  This shows that the 2-book combination is copied from two books which circulated by themselves, since the end of book 1 and start of book 2 should be very well protected in the middle of a volume, if they are together.  This preface by Eusebius to book 2 is otherwise lost, being in the missing portion in the Armenian.

9. Homer, Iliad 20.215

10. Homer, Iliad 20.231-235.

11. Homer, Odyssey 11.576-582.

12. Clearly Jerome has altered something here, since Eusebius ended his text in the reign of Constantine.  Probably this sentence originally referred to the 20th year of Constantine, and Jerome updated it to the end of his own version, the death of Valens.

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