George Syncellus
Excerpts from "The Chronography"

The purpose of this page is to make available a couple of extracts from the new and rather excellent English translation which has appeared in 2002.  A small amount of the copious footnote material has been included.  If you want more ... go and get the  book!  (However it isn't cheap).

Note that the bold headings in the text are from the manuscript, siglum B.

Excerpt 1: Thallos and Phlegon

From chapter 391 (p.465 ff.):

To summarize, then, it is AM 5534, the year that inaugurates for the first time the Lord's day, the first Pascha of the Lord on the 25th of the Roman month of March, the 29th of the Egyptian month of Phamenoth; according to the divinely inspired scriptures of the Old and New Testament, it is 1 Nisan, the first-created day of the first-created month. On that day, the new creation begun in Christ ushered from death to life all those with a correct belief in him. [391]

From Africanus concerning the events associated with the passion of the Saviour and the life-bringing Resurrection1

Concerning each of his deeds and his cures, both of bodies and souls, and the secrets of his knowledge, and his Resurrection from the dead, this has been explained with complete adequacy by his disciples and the apostles before us. A most terrible darkness fell over all the world, the rocks were torn apart by an earthquake, and many places both in Judaea and the rest of the world were thrown down.2

[p.466] In the third book of his Histories, Thallos dismisses this darkness as a solar eclipse.1 In my opinion, this is nonsense. For the Hebrews celebrate the Passover on Luna 14, and what happened to the Saviour occurred one day before the Passover.2 But an eclipse of the sun takes place when the moon passes under the sun. The only time when this can happen is in the interval between the first day of the new moon and the last day of the old moon, when they are in conjunction. How then could one believe an eclipse took place when the moon was almost in opposition to the sun? So be it. Let what had happened beguile the masses, and let this wonderful sign to the world be considered a solar eclipse through an optical (illusion).

Phlegon records that during the reign of Tiberius Caesar there was a complete solar eclipse at full moon from the sixth to the ninth hour; it is clear that this is the one.4 But what have eclipses [p.467] to do with an earthquake, rocks breaking apart, resurrection of the dead, and a universal disturbance of this nature?

Certainly an event of such magnitude has not been recalled for a long time. But it was a darkness created by God, because it happened that the Lord experienced his passion at that time. And reason proves that the seventy weeks of years mentioned in Daniel were completed in this time. 

[392] (And after some other remarks:) According to the calculations of the Jews, the seventy weeks of years are completed from Artaxerxes up to the time of Christ. For from Nehemiah, who was sent by Artaxerxes to resettle Jerusalem in the 115 th year of the Persian empire, the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, the fourth year of the 83rd Olympiad, until this time, which was the second year of the 202nd Olympiad, the sixteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, there is a total of 475 years. This represents 490 Hebrew years, since they number their years according to the lunar month, which is commonly said to be 29½ days.  [....etc]


p.465 1 Routh, fr. 50. This excerpt from Africanus comprises three segments: (a) an exposition of the meaning of the miraculous events narrated by Matthew at the time of Jesus' crucifixion (Matt. 27.45-54); see also Kedr. i. 331.9-332.15, (b) an extended chronological interpretation of the 7o-week prophecy of Dan. 9.24-7; see also Eus. DE 8.2.45-54; (c) a summary of Africanus' 5531-year chronology from Adam up to the time of Jesus' crucifixion.

p.465 2 Matt. 27.45, 51. In the discussion that follows, Africanus challenges a widespread effort by Christian chroniclers and apologists to validate Matthew's story of the darkness and the earthquake from pagan historians, chiefly Phlegon's account of a great earthquake and solar eclipse during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius; for proponents of this view, see Origen, Contra Celsum 2.33; Eus. 2.174d (= Synk. 394.1-22); Joh. Mal. 240.17-22; Chron. pasch. 412.7-15; 417.9-15. Africanus' chief argument is that Jesus' crucifixion occurred during the celebration of the Passover, that is around the middle of the month of Nisan, when the sun and moon are in opposition. Since solar eclipses only occur when the sun and moon are in conjunction, the darkness at noon described in Matthew was not a naturally occurring and predictable astronomical phenomenon; it was rather an extraordinary event, 'created by God'. Africanus was not the only Christian writer to express doubts that the darkness over the earth at the time of the crucifixion was a solar eclipse; see Origen, Scholia in Matthaeum (PG I7-309); Joh. Philop. De opif. mundi 2.21.

p.466 n.1 Thallos, FGrH 256 F 1.

p.466 n.2 Exod. 12.6; John 19.31.

p.466 n.4 Phlegon, FGrH 257 F 16. This sentence is full of inconsistencies. It is hard to imagine why, after previously discounting the solar eclipse explanation, Africanus suddenly embraces Phlegon's eclipse as 'clearly' the same one described in Matthew. Phlegon's dating of the eclipse is also at odds with Africanus' own chronology of Jesus' ministry. According to Eusebios (2.174d = Synk. 394.8-15), Phlegon dated the solar eclipse in the '4th year of the 202nd Olympiad (quarto . . . anno CCII olympiadis)', corresponding to 18 Tiberius. Since Jesus' ministry commenced in 15 Tiberius (see Luke 3.1), Eusebios concluded that Phlegon's report established that 'Jesus preached for a period of 3 years'. But as Synk. states repeatedly, Africanus assigned only one year (5530/1) to Jesus' ministry; see below, pp. 471, 472, 473 (= Moss. 393.28-30,- 394.25-7; 395.19-22). That would mean that Jesus' crucifixion occurred in 16, not 18, Tiberius. Finally, the description of the eclipse that Africanus ascribes to Phlegon conflicts with Eusebios'. According to the latter writer, Phlegon stated only that 'there was an eclipse of the sun greater than any previously known, and it became night on the sixth hour of the day.' There is no suggestion here about a three-hour solar eclipse at full moon. Routh (478 n. ad loc.) thus suggests that the above sentence might be an editorial corruption either by Synk. or an intermediary. In any case, the eclipse intended must be that of 24 November 29 = Ol. 202.1; at some point, before or after Phlegon, Α' was corrupted to Δ'.

Excerpt 2: James the Just and Josephus

From cc. 411-413 (pp. 488ff.)

[411] From Hegesippos the disciple of the apostles from the fifth commentary, concerning the holy James, the brother of God3

Together with the apostles, James, the brother of the Lord, took over control of the church. Since many were named James, he was called the Just by everyone, from the time of Christ until now. But he was holy from his mother's womb. He did not drink wine and strong drink, and he did not eat flesh. And no razor went upon his head. And he did not anoint himself with oil and made no use of the baths. It was allowed to him alone to enter into the sanctuary. For he did not wear wool, but linen. And he used to go into the temple alone, and be found kneeling and asking forgiveness for his people, so that his knees became dried up like a camel's, because in worshipping God he was always kneeling and asking forgiveness for the people. Because of his abundant righteousness, he was called the Just and 'oblias', that is 'bastion of the people, justice', as the prophets reveal about him.

Thus some members of the seven heresies previously described by me in this book, the Commentaries, inquired of him, 'What is the gate of Jesus?' And he said that he was the Saviour. From this, some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the aforementioned heresies did not believe either in resurrection or in him who is coming to reward each according to his works. But those who believed did so through James. [p.489]

Now since many even of the leaders believed, there was a clamour of the Jews and Pharisees and scribes saying that all the people were in danger of expecting Jesus as the Christ. So they assembled and said to James, 'We beseech you, restrain the people, since they are going astray after Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We beseech you to persuade all who come for the day of Passover concerning Jesus. For all of us obey you. And we and the entire people testify to you that you are just and that you are not a respecter of persons. [c.412] So then you persuade the mob not to be deceived regarding Jesus. For we and all the people obey you. So stand up on the highest point of the temple, so that you may be up high and your words may be easily heard by all the people. For all the tribes, along with the Gentiles also, have assembled for the Passover.'

So the aforementioned scribes and Pharisees placed James on the highest point of the temple and shouted to him, 'Just one, whom all of us ought to obey, since the people are going astray after the crucified Jesus, tell us what is the gate of Jesus.' And he replied in a loud voice: 'Why do you ask me about the Son of Man, this one who is seated in heaven at the right hand of the great power, and is going to come on the clouds of heaven?' And when many were convinced and were giving praise at the witness of James, saying, 'Hosanna to the son of David', again the same scribes and Pharisees said to one another, 'We did not act well in providing this kind of witness to Jesus. But let us climb up and cast him down, so that, out of fear, they may not believe him.' And they cried out, 'Oh! Oh! Even the just one has gone astray.' And they fulfilled that which was written in the book of Isaiah: 'Let us remove the just one, because he is of no value to us; therefore they shall eat the fruits of their works.' 1

So after they climbed up, they cast down the just one, and they began to stone him. He did not die from the fall, but turned and knelt, saying, 'I beseech you, Lord, God, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'2 And when they were stoning him in this way, one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, son of Rhachaeim, to whom Jeremiah bore witness, cried out: 'Stop! What are you doing? The just one is praying for us.' And someone, one of the fullers, took a club, with which he used to [p.489] beat out clothes, and hit the head of the just one. And this is how he was martyred. And they buried him in the place by the temple, and a monument to him stands by the temple. This man has become a true witness to Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ. And immediately Vespasian set siege to them.

[c.413] The above is the accurate account of Hegesippos, a trustworthy author, one of those who adhere to our orthodox doctrine. Josephos, whose report is also not in disagreement, concurs with him that this was to blame for the conquest of the Jews at the time of Vespasian.

From Josephos, concerning the same events1

This befell the Jews in retribution for James the Just, who was the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, since the Jews had killed him, although he was most righteous.2

The younger Ananos, who as we said acquired the high priesthood, was brash in his manner and exceptionally daring. He belonged to the party of the Sadducees, who are cruel in their judgements in excess of the other Jews, just as we have already explained. Since Ananos had this kind of character, he thought that it was the appropriate time because Festus had died, and Albinus was still in transit. And he convened a council of judges and brought before it the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, whose name was James, as well as certain others, accusing them of having broken the law. And he handed them over to be stoned. But all who were considered to be the most capable of the citizens of the city and strict observers in matters of the law took offence at this and sent secretly to the king, appealing to him to write to Ananos to desist from such conduct—for, they said, he had not even behaved correctly in the first place. Some of them went to meet Albinus, who was journeying from Alexandria and they informed him that it was illegal for Ananos to convene a meeting of the Sanhedrin without his knowledge. [... etc]


p.488 n.3 Eus. HE 2.23.4-18.
p. 489 n.1 Isa. 3.10.
p.489 n.2 Luke 23.34.
p.490 n.1 Eus. HE 2.23.20-4; cf. Jos. Ant. 20.199-203.
p.490 n.2 This sentence is not attested in the preserved text of Josephos' Antiquities.

Excerpt 3: Josephus and the Little Genesis (The Book of Jubilees)

This citation shows material from the Book of Jubilees being attributed to Josephus.

From c.120 (pp.148-9):

Twenty-third generation

The 82 years of Jacob, beginning in AM 3473.

After making little bread cakes, as Josephos says, Rebecca gave them to Jacob. And he brought them, along with other gifts sent through Isaac, to Abraham. And Abraham blessed him and as he was bestowing upon him various blessings and holding him in his bosom, he died; Abraham fell asleep in the 15th year of the life of Jacob.5   [p.149]

When Jacob was 45, Esau, himself also 45 years of age (this was AM 3512), took two wives: Joudein, the daughter of Beer the Hittite, and Basemath, daughter of Ailon the son of Euaios, as scripture states. And they were in dispute with Isaac and Rebecca. Now Isaac was 100 years of age; so it was after Isaac's 100th year that Jacob stole the blessings of Esau in accordance with his mother's advice. But he had received them previously from the patriarch Abraham, as Josephos has confirmed, and his statement is trustworthy.3

Josephos says that when Jacob was 63, he had never had relations with a woman, as he himself declared to his mother Rebecca.4

Africanus says that at age 77 Jacob came to Mesopotamia, as if he were quoting from scripture.5 But it is clear that scripture nowhere says this, besides, if we grant this, Joseph will have been born in the 96th year of Jacob, which is impossible. [...etc]


p.148 n.5 Ps.-Josephos (= Jub. 22.4-23.5). On Jubilees material attributed to Josephos, see Intro. pp. liv, lxi.
p.149 n.3 Ps.-Josephos (= Jub. 22).
p.149 n.4 Ps.-Josephos (= Jub. 25.4), according to which Jacob was 'nine weeks of years' when he made this statement to Rebecca.
p.149 n.5 Routh, fr. 15. Africanus probably arrived at this figure in the following way: Joseph was 30 when he entered the service of Pharaoh (Gen. 41.46). A statement by Joseph in Gen. 45.6 implies that another nine years elapsed before his brothers' appearance in Egypt (seven years of plenty and two years of famine). Jacob and his family then spent 17 years in Egypt before Jacob's death (Gen. 47.28). This would account for 56 years from the birth of Joseph to the death of Jacob (30 + 9 + 17). If one assumes that Joseph's birth occurred in the last year of Jacob's 14-year service to Laban (Gen. 30.22-4,- 31.41), then 70 years elapsed between Jacob's departure to Haran and his death (14 + 30 + 9 + 17 = 70). Since Jacob died at age 147 (Gen. 47.28), he was 77 years when he arrived in Haran (147 - 70 = 77). The Jewish chronographer Demetrios (3rd c. BC) offers the same chronology; see the quotation from him in Eus. PE 9.21.3. On Demetrios' method of reckoning, see Freudenthal, Alexander Polyhistor, 39; also Gelzer i. 87-9. For Synk.'s own chronology, see below, pp. 166-7 (= Moss. 133.23-134.30).

Excerpt 4: Manetho in Julius Africanus and Eusebius

This is material quoted from both Julius Africanus, and from Book 1 of the Chronicon of Eusebius, itself using Africanus as a source.

From cc.61-64 (pp.78- 81):

[c.61] Concerning the dynasties of the Egyptians after the Flood according to Eusebios1

After the spirits of the dead and the demigods, they enumerate the 1st dynasty of eight kings. The first of them was Menes, whose leadership over them was renowned. From him, we shall record the rulers from each hereditary line; the succession of their rule is the following:

1. Menes of This and his 17 descendants (but in another version seven). Herodotos called him Men.3
He reigned for                                                                60 years 
He launched a foreign campaign and was highly esteemed. He was seized by {a horse} a hippopotamus.
2. Athothis, his son, ruled                                          27 years 
He built the palace in Memphis; he practised medicine and composed books on anatomy.
3. Kenkenes, his son                                                    39 years
4. Ouenephes                                                                42 years 
During his reign, famine gripped the land. He also erected the pyramids around Kochome.
5. Ousaphais                                                                 20 years
6. Niebais                                                                       26 years
7. Semempses                                                                18 years 
During his reign, there were many portents and a vast pestilence.
8. Oubienthis                                                                26 years 
Total years of their reign                                          252 years

Second dynasty of nine kings

1. The first was Bochos, during whose reign a chasm opened up at Boubastos, and many perished.
2. A second Choos also succeeded him, in whose time both Apis [p.79] and Mneuis, and the Mendesian goat as well, were deemed to be gods. [c.62]
3. Biophis, during whose reign it was decreed that women might also possess the privilege of royalty. Succeeding them were three others, during whose reigns nothing of note took place.
7. There is a story that during the seventh reign, the Nile flowed mixed with honey for eleven days.
{8. Sesochris                                                                 48 years 
He was five cubits high and three cubits wide. 
9. Cheneres                                                                    30 years 
Total                                                                               302 years 
Total for the 1st and 2nd dynasties after the flood, according to the second edition of Africanus                                                                 555 years} 
<8. After him, Sesochris                                             48 years 
In stature, he is reported to have been five cubits and three palms in height.
9. During the ninth reign, nothing worthy of mention occurred. 
These kings reigned for                                            297 years 
Total for the 1st and 2nd dynasties, according to the edition of Eusebios                                                                                                             549 years>

Third dynasty of nine kings of Memphis [according to Africanus]

1. The first of them is Necherophes                        28 years 
In his reign, the Libyans revolted from the Egyptians; when the moon waxed unexpectedly, they surrendered out of panic.
2. Tosorthros                                                                29 years 
Among the Egyptians, he is considered an Asklepios in recognition of his medical skill. The inventor of the art of building with hewn stone, he also pursued the craft of writing.
3. Tyreis                                                                          7 years
4. Mesochris                                                                 17 years  [p.80]
5.Soyphis                                                                       16 years
6. Tosertasis                                                                 19 years
7. Aches                                                                         42 years
8. Sephouris                                                                 30 years
9. Kerpheres                                                                 26 years 
Total                                                                             214 years 
Total for these three dynasties, according to Africanus                                                                769 years

[c.63] Fourth dynasty of eight kings of Memphis, from another line [according to Africanus]

1. Soris                                                                            29 years
2. Souphis                                                                      63 years 
He erected the Great Pyramid, which Herodotos says was built under Cheops.1 He also became disdainful of the gods, and composed the Sacred Book. This I acquired when I was in Egypt, because it was a great treasure.2
3. Souphis                                                                      66 years
4. Mencheres                                                                 63 years
5. Rhatoises                                                                   25 years
6. Bicheris                                                                      22 years
7. Sebercheres                                                                 7 years
8. Thamphthis                                                                 9 years
Total                                                                              274 years3
Total for the four dynasties after the flood, according to Africanus                                                                1046 years4

{8. After him, Sesochris                                               48 years 
In stature, he is reported to have been five cubits and three palms in height.
9. During the 9th reign, nothing worthy of mention occurred. These kings reigned for                                                     297 years [p.81]
Total for the 1st and 2nd dynasties, according to the edition of Eusebios                                                                               549 years}

Third dynasty of eight kings of Memphis [according to Eusebios]

1. Necherochis, during whose reign the Libyans revolted from the Egyptians; when the sun waxed unexpectedly, they surrendered out of panic.
2. Sesorthos was his successor, who was called Asklepios by the Egyptians because of his medical skill. The inventor of the art of building with hewn stone, he also pursued the craft of writing.
The remaining six accomplished nothing worthy of mention.
These eight reigned a total of                                     198 years
Total for the three dynasties, according to Eusebios                                                                               747 years  [c.64]

Fourth dynasty of seventeen kings of Memphis, from another royal line [according to Eusebios]

The third of them was Souphis, who erected the Great Pyramid, which Herodotos states was built under Cheops. He also became disdainful of the gods. And when he repented, he composed the Sacred Book, which the Egyptians esteem as a great treasure.
Of the rest, nothing worthy of mention has been recorded.
They reigned for                                                                448 years
Total for the four dynasties after the flood, according to Eusebios                                                      1195 years     [...etc]


p.78 n.1 For Eusebios' version of Manetho's Aigyptiaka, see also Eus. 1.65.3-69.29 (= Manetho FGrH 609 F 3).  
p.78 n.3 See Herodot. 2.4, 99, where Min is described as the first human king of Egypt.
p.80 n.1 Herodot. 2.126. Jacoby suggests that the reference from Herodotos, lacking in MS B, might be a later addition.
p80. n.2 This report about the purchase of the Sacred Book is probably a comment by Africanus. According to Eus. HE 6.31.2, in his chronicle Africanus described a journey to Egypt to visit Heraklas, bishop or Alexandria.
p.80 n.3 The sum of the individual items is 284 years.
p.80 n.4 The sum of the years of the first four dynasties comes to 1043; the discrepancy between the totals can be reconciled by emending the 274 years or the 4th dynasty to 277 (following MS B).


William Adler & Paul Tuffin, The Chronography of George Synkellos: A Byzantine Chronicle of Universal History from the Creation.  Oxford University Press (2002).  Checked.  This page is derived from this English translation, which does not include Theophanes.  Available from Amazon.

A.A.Mosshammer (ed.), Georgius Syncellus, Ecloga Chronographica.  Leipzig: Täbner (1984).  Not checked.  Standard modern Greek text.


Constructive feedback is welcomed to Roger Pearse.

Written 28th December 2002.

This page has been online since 28th December 2002.

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