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The Life of Bar Hebraeus
From the Introduction to Budge, E.A.W. (1932). (Trans.) The Chronography of Gregory Abu'l Faraj, The Son of Aaron, The Hebrew Physician Commonly Known as Bar Hebraeus Being the First Part of His Political History of the World. London: Oxford University Press.

The comparatively limited number of facts about the life of BAR HEBRAEUS which we possess are derived from the statements concerning his career which he himself made in his Makhtebhânûth Zabhnê, which is written in Syriac and contains a History of the World from the Creation to his own time, and in his Al-Mukhtasar Fi 'd-Dawal, a recension of political history written in Arabic shortly before his death.1 The oldest and best summary of these facts is found in ASSEMANI, Bibliotheca Orientalis Clementino Vaticana, Rome, 1719-28, tom. ii, pp. 244-463. A tolerably full account of his work from the time when he succeeded IGNATIUS, that is to say, SALIBHA, the son of JACOB, is given by BAR HEBRAEUS in his Chronicon Ecclesiasticum, ed. ABBELOOS and LAMY, Paris, 1872-7, tom. ii, cols. 431-68. Shorter summaries of the life of BAR HEBRAEUS have been published by POCOCKE, Historia compendosia dynastiarum, Oxford, 1663; CARDAHI, Liber thesauri de arte poetica Syrorum, Rome, 1875, p. 63; NÖLDEKE, Orientalische Skizzen, Berlin, 1892, pp. 233-73; WRIGHT, Syriac Literature, which first appeared in the Encyclopaedia Brittanica 9th edition, vol. xxii, and was reprinted, with notes by DUVAL NESTLE and ROBERTSON SMITH, under the title of A Short History of Syriac Literature, London, 1894; RUBENS DUVAL, La Littérature Syriaque, Paris, 1899, pp. 409 f.; and ANTON BAUMSTARK, Geschichte der Syrischen Literatur, Bonn, 1922, p. 313.

BAR HEBRAEUS was born in MALATIYAH, the Melitene2 of the Greeks, and the chief town of the eastern province on the EUPHRATES boundary in the year 1225-6 (Anno Graec. 1537). He was the son of 'AHRON (AARON), a distinguished physician of Hebrew descent, and was therefore commonly known as BAR 'EBHRÅYÅ, i.e. the 'Son of the Hebrew', or in Arabic IBN AL-'IBRI. The name which his father gave him at birth was YOHANNÅN or JOHN. How or why he came to adopt the name of GRIGHOR or GREGORY is not known; some think that he adopted it when he was consecrated a bishop some twenty years after his birth. It is interesting to note that in the Karshûnî inscription (i.e. Arabic written in Syriac letters) which is found over his grave in Bêth Kaddîshê or Sanctuary in the Church of the Monastery of MÅTTAI on MOUNT ELPEPH (see Plate V) near MÅWSIL (MOSUL), we find both names JOHN and GREGORY together thus:

'This is the grave of MÅR GREGORY JOHN, and of MÄR BÅR SÅWMÅ his brother, the children of the Hebrew on Mount Elpheph.'3

But BAR HEBRAEUS had another name, viz. ABU'L FARAG (Faraj), which is clearly Arabic. There is nothing in any of his writings, or for the matter of that in those of other Syrian writers, to show why he adopted this name or why it is applied to him, and no satisfactory explanation of its meaning has been given. BERNSTEIN wrote in his Chronici syriaci specimine (Leipzig, 1823, p. 3): 'Abu'lfaragius, h.e. pater Faragii dictus est, cognomento ex Arabum more ab ipsiuis filio, Faragio, sumpto.' But this view is from the nature of the case wholly untenable, and it has been dealt with satisfactorily.4 There is no good reason for doubting the AARON his father was a genuine Jew, and that he was a physician like many of his co-religionists, but his wife may have been an Arab woman, or of Arab extraction; the fact that GREGORY calls himself by an Arab name, or perhaps nickname, seems to suggest that something of the kind was the case. To assign a meaning to the name is difficult, but it may mean 'Father of what is pleasing'. It will be remembered that one of the gates of ALEPPO was called BÅB AL-FARAJ because on looking through it from the city the eye fell upon beautiful gardens and pleasing plantations. Certainly no other Syrian writer possessed to such a wonderful degree the knowledge of the history, traditions, and spirit of the Christian and Mohammedan religions.

When still very young he devoted himself to the study of Syriac and Arabic, and, presumably, of Hebrew. ASSEMÅNI (B.O. ii. 244) says that he worked at Greek, but NÖLDEKE believed this to be incorrect; see his Orientalische Skizzen, p. 254. Later he studied diligently Philosophy and Theology, and he acquired a considerable knowledge of Medicine, under the direction of his father and other distinguished physicians of the day, and treated patients. In 1243, the news of the doings of the TÅTÅRS under the Mongol HULÅGU (HULÅBU) in all the countries of WESTERN ASIA from PERSIA to PALESTINE, and accounts of the destruction of whole towns and their inhabitants, reached MILITENE, and large numbers of the people of that region became terrified and panic-stricken and fled to ALEPPO. AARON the physician determined to go there also, and made preparations for departure, but was prevented from doing so by a curious accident. Whilst his servants were loading up the pack animals, and were pulling the ropes tight over the load of a certain mule, the animal lashed out with his hooves and scattered the mule men, and made it impossible for the party to leave. The loads were thrown about and the idlers at the gate of the city rushed out with idea of plundering the little caravan. AARON returned to the city and visited the Archbishop DIONYSIUS, and CHRISTIANS and MUSLIMS alike took counsel together in the great church and decided upon a course of action. All was well, for the MONGOLS did not attack the city.5

In the following year SHÅWER NÅWIN, a Mongol general, invaded MELITENE, and laid waste the country and destroyed all the crops. When he was about to leave and continue his conquests he fell sick and asked for a physician to treat his ailment. By some means AARON, the father of BAR HEBRAEUS, was summoned, and he accompanied the Mongol to KHARTABIRT, where he recovered. SHÅWER NÅWIN returned to MELITENE with his physician and stayed there for a few days, and then both he and AARON, who took his family with him, went to ANTIOCH.6 There BAR HEBRAEUS continued with his studies and received a visit from the Jacobite Patriarch IGNATIUS SABA, or DAVID, and when he was about seventeen years of age he became a monk and began to lead the life of the hermit.7

From ANTIOCH he went to TRIPOLI of PHOENICIA, and he and SALIBHÅ BAR YA'KUB WAGIH8 were instructed in rhetoric and medicine by a Nestorian rhetorician YA 'KUB. The Patriarch IGNATIUS II sent for them, and had them brought that he might consecrate one of them bishop of 'AKKO and the other bishop of GUBOS (GUBBAS). And when they came he ordained ABU 'L-FARAG bishop of GUBOS on the day of the Festival of the day of the Redeeming Cross, on the 14th day of the month of 'ILUL (September), A.Gr. 1557 = A.D. 1246.9

In the following year 'AHRON of LAKABHIN10 left his flock (or, diocese) and went and made for himself a retreat in JERUSALEM. The Patriarch IGNATIUS II promptly transferred BAR HEBRAEUS from GUBOS to the vacant see, and BAR SÅWMÅ, the son of the brother of LAZARUS, who had formerly been bishop of GUBOS, was ordained bishop of GUBOS (B.O. ii, p. 246; Chron. Eccles. i, p. 685). BAR HEBRAEUS remained at LAKABHIN for six or seven years. On the death of the Patriarch schism broke out among the JACOBITES, for one party wished JOHN BAR MA 'DÅNI to succeed him, and the other wanted DIONYSIUS ('AHRON 'ANQUR) to rule over them. BAR HEBRAEUS took the part of DIONYSIUS, and this candidate for the Patriarchate being elected, he was transferred by him from LAKABHIN to ALEPPO in 1253 (B.O. ii, p. 246; Chron. Eccles. i, p. 721). But he did not remain there for very long undisturbed. For when he had been in ALEPPO for a short time, his old friend and fellow student at TRIPOLI, the Maphrian SALIBHÅ, came from the East, and he sat down in ALEPPO for one winter. And he made himself ready and went to DAMASCUS, and he undertook to pay as much gold as DIONYSIUS had undertaken to pay, and he obtained a patent (i.e. authority from the government) for the deposition of DIONYSIUS and for the proclamation of MÅR JOHN BAR MA 'DANI. And he turned and came to ALEPPO, and sat down (i.e. lived) in the church there. Now GREGORY [BAR HEBRAEUS] dwelt in the house of his father who had recently come from MELITENE and taken up abode in ALEPPO; and after a short time he went up to the monastery, to the Patriarch.

And the Maphrian sent to JOHN BAR MA 'DANI to come to SYRIA and to pay the gold which he had undertaken to provide; and MÅR JOHN excused himself from coming and from [the payment of] the gold. And he did not render thanks to the Maphrian for what he had done. And the Maphrian being urged by those who demanded [the gold], sent [again] to MÅR JOHN to come and pay [the gold], and added that if he did not do so, he would support DIONYSIUS, and come to terms with him. And, moreover, the Maphrian himself rose up to go and say these things to BAR MA 'DANI and to hear his answer. And when the Maphrian arrived at the city of BÅLÅSH by the side of EUPHRATES, BAR MA 'DANI, who was on his way to SYRIA, met him and he went back with him to ALEPPO. And MÅR JOHN made ready the gold through a loan from certain Kushite (i.e. Ethiopian) merchant, a friend of his whose name was MITHKÅL, and he paid what he had undertaken to pay (Chron. Eccles. i, col. 722).

And at that time there came an envoy from the TÅTÅRS, a NESTORIAN whose name was AMIN AD-DIN MUBARAK. And in going to SYRIA he made his way by the monastery of BAR SÅWMÅ, and he met DIONYSIUS, and he promised to go to MÅLIK AN-NÅSIR and to arrange his business with him. And BAR MA 'DANI heard [of this], and did not wish to dwell in SYRIA, lest the strong hand of the TÅTÅRS should have power over him, but he went to CILICIA, and was well received by King HAITUM, and a village was also given to him. And he lived in a little monastery by the side of SIS. And that envoy came to MÅLIK AN-NÅSIR, and he was unable to annul the proclamation of BAR MA 'DANI, and he left and departed. And after a year KIR MIKHÅ 'IL, a physician, the son of GABRIEL, came to HÄRRÅN, and he sent a message to DIONYSIUS [saying], 'Behold, I am going as an envoy to MÅLIK AN-NÅSIR, therefore send one of thy holy men to come with me that he may be careful on thy behalf.' When DIONYSIUS heard [this], he sent GREGORY [BAR HEBRAEUS] of Aleppo, whom his diocese having been taken away from him, had come to the monastery of [DIONYSIUS]. And GREGORY the bishop went, and he came to the physician-envoy on the road, and he went with him to DAMASCUS. And KIR MIKHÅ 'IL received new patent of authority for DIONYSIUS, and he gave it to GREGORY, who took it and came to ALEPPO. And he went into the church and dwelt there and ruled the diocese. And as soon as the Maphrian IGNATIUS heard that the matter of DIONYSIUS was settled, he departed from ALEPPO and went to TRIPOLI. And he promulgated a report concerning himself that he was never again going to minister in the chief office of priesthood, neither in the East or in the West, but was going to make a living by healing the sick, and wellnigh become an object of contempt, God removed him from this temporary life by means of an acute disease which attacked him. He died on the fourth day, and he was buried with honour by the monks, and the Frankish elders and our own community in the church of MÅR BEHNAM (Chron. Eccles. i, col. 726 f.; ii, col. 427). BAR HEBRAEUS was restored to the diocese of ALEPPO in 1258.

In 1264 BAR HEBRAEUS was elected Maphrian of the East, and in the Chron. Eccles. i, col. 749, ii. col. 423, he describes the event thus:

At the time when IGNATIUS10[III], that is SALIBHÅ the Maphrian, died, the countries were in a disturbed state, BAGHDÅD was laid waste, and after it there were laid waste ALEPPO, and the whole of SYRIA, and BETH NAHRIN. Moreover, thereupon the ARABS of 'ATHOR (ASSYRIA) and NINEVEH rose up against the Christians who were there and destroyed them. And after a little while the TÅTÅRS came and killed the ARABS, and thus there was general destruction in all countries. Thus the wasted Church of the East remained a widow for the space of six years. Moreover, for three years before the death of SÅLIBHÅ the Maphrian, the Church had been deprived of a Father-General. Therefore the Synod of the pious bishops having assembled in CILICIA, they appointed to be Patriarch MÅR IGNATIUS or RABBAN ISHO', the Archimandrite of Gawikhath, and they also proceeded to the election of the Maphrian. And a few days after the consecration of the Patriarch the pious bishops and the Patriarch assembled in SIS of CILICIA, and they summoned GREGORY, that is 'ABU'L-FARAG, the son of 'AHRON. And on the first day of the week, on the 19th day of the month of the LATTER KÅNON (i.e. January) of the fifteen hundred and seventy-fifth year of the Greeks (i.e. A.D. 1264), they proclaimed him Maphrian of TÅGRITH and the East. For MÅR JOHN the Patriarch, BAR MA 'DANI wished to proclaim him, and he had also made known to the Eastern churchmen concerning him, that he was fitting to rise up as a head for them; but owing to the disturbed state of the countries the laying on of hands (i.e. consecration of him) had been delayed.

In Part I of the Chron. Eccles., col. 749, we read: And after the consecration of the Patriarch had been accomplished, the Patriarch himself and the bishops of East also, who had been deprived for a long time [of a Father General], were anxious to appoint a Maphrian. And because they knew that the deceased BAR MA 'DANI had aforetime chose MÅR GREGORY of ALEPPO to be the Maphrian, and had made know to those who were in the East concerning him, and in many of his epistles had called him the elect of the East, and they had sent to him their consent, and because his dispatch had been delayed through the disturbed state of 'ATHOR through the troops of MONGOLS, they did not change their election, and they committed to him the headship of the East. And the Patriarch together with the bishops came to SIS, and there were present also King HAYTUM and his sons, and his nobles, and certain bishops and doctors of the ARMENIANS, and a great crowd of people, in the catholic church of the Mother of God, and GREGORY was proclaimed 'Maphrian of the East'. And on that same day the Maphrian himself preached on the headship of the priesthood from the text "Thou has fashioned me and hast laid thine hand upon me'. And THEODORE of SMAKRIAH translated [the discourse] into Armenian. And that day was a very famous day.

The life and activities of BAR HEBRAEUS from the time of appointment as Maphrian to his last illness are described by him (Chron. Eccles. ii. Cols. 432 f.; B.O ii, pp. 248-63) thus:

At the time when IGNATIUS, the Maphrian, that to say SALIBHÅ, died (i.e. A.Gr. 1576 = A.D. 1265), the countries were in a disturbed state. BAGHDAD was destroyed, and after it ALEPPO, and the whole of SYRIA, and BETH NAHRIN were laid waste. And after this the ARABS of 'ATHOR and NINEVEH rose up against the Christians who were there and massacred them. And after a short time the TÅTÅRS came and killed the ARABS, and thus they were all involved in a general state of ruin. And the wasted Church of the East remained a widow for the space of six years. Now before the death of SÅLIBHÅ the Maphrian, the Church had been deprived of a Father-General for three more years. Therefore when the Synod of the holy bishops assembled in CILICIA, and had appointed MÅR IGNATIUS Patriarch, that is RABBAN ISHO', the head of the monastery of of Gawikhath, they elected a Maphrian also. And a few days after the appointment of the Patriarch in the city of SIS, they summoned GREGORY, that is 'ABU'L-FARAG, the son of 'AHRON (AARON). And on Sunday, on the 16th day of the LATTER KÅNON of the year of the GREEKS 1575 (A.D. 1264), they proclaimed him Maphrian of TÅGRITH and the East. For MÅR JOHN the Patriarch, BAR MA 'DANI wished them to proclaim him, and he had made known to the Orientals concerning him, that he was fit to stand up for them. And through the disturbed state of the countries his ordination was delayed. And on the day when the Maphrian was ordained there present the King of CILCIA, and his sons, and his brothers, and the remainder of his nobles, and other Armenian bishops in the Church of the Mother of God. And the Patriarch with the Maphrian and the rest of the bishops made ready and went to tender homage to the king of kings (i.e. HULÅGU, the King of the TÅTÅRS), and [one] Patent was written for the Patriarch, and another for the Maphrian. And whilst the Patrairch removed to the territory of RUMÅYE, the Maphrian came to MOSUL. And the people of the palace and all Christians went forth to meet him, and they brought him in with [the] singing of hymns and psalms. And from there he went up to the monastery, and he was received with love by the dwellers in the monastery and by the men of the country. And he ordained BEHNAM, the monk, who was known as BAR SUMMÅNAK, bishop of BETH NUHADHRE, in the church of BETH DANIEL the Upper, on the fourth day of the half of the Fast of our Lord (i.e. Mid-Lent), in the year 1576 (A.D. 1265).

And he also came down to BAGHDAD, and the Archdeacon and the other honourables went forth to meet him. MÅR MAKHIKHA, the Catholicus of the Nestorians, perceiving this, sent the son of his brother and the son of his sister and other natives of BAGHDAD to meet him, and they brought him to him with honour. And when he went forth from the cell of the Catholicus to go to his church which is in the gate of MUHUL, he sent with him those who had gone forth to meet him, and with them was a white silk dalamatic, and they came and put it on the Maphrian, and they left and departed. And the Maphrian also sent to him valuable gifts, and the believing men rejoiced greatly in the Maphrian. And, moreover, crowds of Nestorians gathered together every day in that church of ours, and they also prepared muron oil for consecration, and saw a wonderful sign. For when the vessel was unfilled to a depth of four fingers, as soon as the consecration thereof was completed, the muron oil swelled up in the vessel and would have run over the top to waste if they had not poured it off into a small flask.

And again certain men of the NESTORIANS heard that the JACOBITES were proclaiming the Maphrian Catholicus in the Diptychs, and they went and told the Catholicus. And he was smitten with envy and schemed to discover an opportunity for stirring up strife. Then God, glory be to his grace! Prevented him from giving offence to any man. And in the days which came after the festival he felt pain in the colon at the ninth hour of the sixth day of the week (i.e. Friday), and he died in the morning of the Sabbath which followed the Sabbath of the White, on the 18th day of NISAN, in the year 1576 (A.D. 1265), and was buried in the new church which he had built.

And the Maphrian was in BAGHDAD the whole of that summer, and he ordained many deacons and bishops. And he also ordained to BAGHDAD ISHO' the monk, from the monastery of MÅR HANANYÅ, and he was called TIMOTHY. And he also ordained DENHÅ, that is BAR-HAMZAH, of the monastery of MAR MATTAI, bishop of 'ÅDHORBIJÅN, and he was called JOANNES. When this man had been ordained and had set out to go to his diocese, he arrived at BETH SAIDHÅ, a village in the district of 'ARBIL, and there he died, and he was buried in the new church which had been built in the village.

And in the later months of the year the Maphrian returned to NINEVEH. And in the year 1577 (A.D. 1266) he ordained bishop of GÅZARTÅ of KARDO WAHAB, a monk from the monastery of MAR MATTAI, and he was called JOHN. And in those days he also ordained bishop of ÅDHORBIJÅN ISHO', the monk from the monastery which is called SAWIRA. And in this year (1577 = A.D. 1266) MÅR DENHÅ, who was metropolitan of 'ARBIL, was ordained Catholicus. For he was the first and he went to the CAMP of the King of Kings. And it happened that HULÅGU departed, and MÅKHIKHÅ the Catholicus also died. And his story was told to the believing Queen DÅKUZ KHATUN, saying, 'Some time ago he was fitted to be the Catholicus, but MAKHIKHA overcame him by bribery and calumny.' And the Queen commanded that he should be the Catholicus, and a YARLIKH (i.e. Patent) was given to him and he came to 'ARBIL. And he assembled the bishops and came down to BAGHDÅD, and he was ordained in SELEUCIA in the LATTER TEHSRIN, on the first day of the week of the third Sunday of the consecration of the Church.

And in the year 1579 (A.D. 1268) the Maphrian went to the West to see his kinsfolk. And on the road he met the Patriarch, in the city of 'ARGISH, which is on Lake ARKESTIA, who was going to make a charge against SIMON the elder and physician, concerning the affair of the monastery of MÅR BAR-SÅWMÅ. And the Maphrian did not wish to hold converse with the Patriarch, because the Maphrian advised him that it was not seemly to engage in quarrels before the barbarian Huns, and to lower our dignity in their eyes, but that we should settle among ourselves the dispute between the Elder and the Patriarch. But the Catholicus did not accept his advice with love, because he thought that the Maphrian was supporting the Elder. And when the Patriarch saw that the Maphrian was not disposed to meet him, he sent three bishops who were with him to persuade the Maphrian to meet him, and the Maphrian bowed before their words and went to the Patriarch, where he was lodged and saw him; and he departed and went to CILICIA. And the Patriarch went to the King of Kings, and settled his affairs and returned to the monastery.

And at that time a severe illness due to dysentery caused by the liver attacked the Maphrian in SIS of CILICIA, and he came to death's door, but God had compassion upon him and he recovered. And when the Patriarch heard of his restoration to health, he sent an affectionate letter to him, and in it gave thanks to God for his recovery. And when the Maphrian was strong enough he went to the Patriarch in the monastery of BAR-SÅWMÅ. And in [those] days also there came SIMON the Elder, and he brougth a PURDÅNÅ which abrogated that document which the Patriarch had, and thus that which the Maphrian has said actually came to pass.

And the Maphrian left and went to TABRIZ, and from ther to MARÅGHÅ and he sat down in the new monastery there. And he finished the Book of EUCLID, and then he went to NINEVEH in the latter months of the years.

And in the year 1583 (A.D. 1272), in the days of winter, BASIL [bishop] of TARBIZ died; with the help of certain blessed merchants he had restored our church which was therein. And when certain monks from the monastery of MAR MATTAI drew nigh and offered the Maphrian money to ordain them to the diocese, he refused to do so because they were lacking in learning and possessed the habits and manners of young men. But he committed to the monastery of SEVERUS, who when he went there in the days of the Great Festival of Ressurection was well received, and when he began to take charge of the finishing of the buildings of the new church at TABRIZ.

And in the days of summer also the Maphrian went to MARÅGHÅ a second time, and he built a cell and a house of prayer in the new church which was there. And when he had been there one year, and had finished the Book of MIGISTI of PTOLEMY, there came to him YA 'KUB the Elder, the brother of SIMON the Elder and physician, after the Festival of Ressurection of the year 1584 (A.D. 1273), and he entreated him to go with him to the monastery, and from there he went to CILICIA, to the Patriarch, and he took with him NIMRUD the deacon, the son of the brother of the Elders, and he ordained him Elder and Metropolitan of MELITENE, and he confirmed the peace. And the Maphrian returned to MELITENE, and from there [he came] to NINEVEH.

And in the year 1585 (A.D. 1274) the church of our people which was in the city of BAGHDÅD, near the palace of the Khalifah, was restored by the help of the chief of lawyers, SAFI AD-DÅWLÅH SULIMÅN BAR GAMÅLÅ.

And in the year 1588 (A.D. 1277) SEVERUS, bishop of TABRIZ, died and the believers mourned his death greatly, and they gave a general agreement to JOSEPH the monk, his nephew. And he came and was ordained in the monastery of MAR MATTAI by the Maphrian in the days of the Fast of Forty Days; and he went and sat in the Church of TARBIZ and named DIONYSIUS. And in the year, in the days of the Festival of the Resurrection, the Maphrian went to BAGHDAD and kept the festival there. And he ordained SHAMS AD-DÅWLÅH MÅRI, the son of AMIN AD-DÅWLÅH TAOMÅ, a deacon, and with him others of the sons of noblemen. And he also consecrated muron oil in the church of the Catholicus of MÅR THOMAS the Apostle, which was in the gate of MUHUL, and he ordained other deacons in another church of the Mother of God in BAGHDAD.

Now before the Maphrian went into BAGHDAD he sent and informed Archdeacon THOMAS [of his coming], and he informed the Catholicus MAR DENHA, and he sent bishops and many BAGHDAD noblemen to meet the Maphrian, and when he went into him he honoured him greatly on the roadside. And he turned to the great crowd of JACOBITES and NESTORIANS and said unto them, 'Blessed are the people whom he thus hath.' And having remained there the whole summer, in the latter months of the year 1588 (A.D. 1277), he went up to TAGRITH and sojourned in the famous churches which are therein. And all the nobles of TAGRITH in every place rejoiced at this, for during the whole period of sixty years since the time when IGNATIUS, who became Patriarch, went forth from the town the Maphrian had never entered it. And having stayed there for about two months, he went back to NINEVEH and ordained three bishops, the first being MICHAEL, who is MUKHLES for BETH RAMAN, the second BASIL for the monastery of MAR MATTAI over the diocese of BETH TAKHSHUR, and the third DENHA, that is JOHN over the monastery of MU'ALLAK.

And on the Sabbath of the Great Fast of the year 1590 (A.D. 1279), whilst the Maphrian was in the city of MARAGHA, ATHANASIUS, bishop of BETH NUHADHRA, that is BAR-SUMMANAH, died in BARTALLI--a capable and excellent man--and he was carried to the monastery of MAR MATTAI. And in this year SIMON, the man who was known as BAR-KALIGH, who was the bishop of the city of TUS in KHORASAN, and DENHA, the Catholicus, had ordained him Metropolitan of the CHINESE, began to magnify himself over the Catholicus before he went to CHINA. And he sent and had him brought to him to the city of 'ASHNA in 'ADHORBIJAN. And he stripped him of everything he had, and he shut him up in the Monastery of MAR BEHNAM, which is in the city of LAKHAH. And when he fled from there to the mountains, certain of the men of the mountains seized him and brought him to the Catholicus, and he shut him up in his own cell. And after a few days SIMON and the bishops and monks who were with him died but how this took place many people hold many and various opinions.

And in the year 1591 (A.D. 1280), on the fourth day of the Sabbath of the Passion, JOHN, bishop of GAZARTA of KARDO, died. And because of his very long illness he had long ago spent everything which he had. He had freed the captive and he had sent to the monastery and the Maphrian everything which he possibly could, and he did not leave behind him a single coin.

And in the year 1592 (A.D. 1281) MAR DENHA, the Catholicus, having set out to go to BAGHDAD, was taken ill on the road. And after he reached the city he lingered on for a few days. Then on the night of the second day of the week which lighteneth the Great Fast, he departed this life on the 24th day of SHEBAT of that year. Whilst MAR DENHA was still alive two UIGUR monks came from CHINA11, by the command of KUBLAI, the Great Khan, to go and worship in JERUSALEM. And when they arrived in these countries they could neither find a road nor the means of travelling [further]. And they tarried with MAR DENHA, and so that his enemy BAR-KALIGH might not go to CHINA, MAR DENHA ordained one of these two Uigur, that is to say Turkish, monks Metropolitan of China, and gave him the name of 'YAHBH 'ALLAHA'. And whilst they were preparing to go back to their country MAR DENHA died. Then the Amir 'ASHMUT, who was a kinsman of theirs, spake concerning YAHBH 'ALLAHA to the King of Kings, saying, 'The Christians wish him to their Catholicus. And the people of BAGHDAD also wish for him because by reason of his affinity with the MONGOLS both in race and in language, they will be helped by him.' However, the matter was a Royal Pukdana went forth that YAHBH 'ALLAHA was to be the Catholicus. And he collected about four and twenty bishops, and they went down to SELEUCIA and CTESIPHON, and they ordained him Catholicus. Now although this MAR YAHBH 'ALLAHA was weak in the Syrian doctrine and literature, he was by nature a good man, and the fear of God was found in him, and he displayed much affection for us and the children of our nation.

And in the year 1593 (A.D. 1282), in the days of spring, the Maphrian set his face to go to the city of TABRIZ, and to complete the building of the new churh which was there, for there were very many things lacking in its house of prayer (oratory). And he was travelling along he joined the caravan of the daughter of king MANGALUN in order to be in her retinue, and the report arrived of the departure (i.e. death) of 'ABAKA, the King of Kings. Therefore he left the TABRIZ road, and journeyed directly to the TAK (Mongol Palace), where the new king was about to rise up (or succeed). And when he arrived there, and the valiant 'AHMAD had been elected and was seated on the royal throne, the nobles introduced the Maphrian into his presence. And he recited prayers and blessings according to custom. And 'AHMAD commanded, and a marvellous Patent was written for the churches of 'ADHORBIJAN, and 'ATHOR and BETH NAHRIN. And he left and came and dwelt in the church of TABRIZ, and he completed the building of the house of prayer which is therein. And he crowned it with a gate of sculptured (i.e. hewn) stones. And he also built cells above the oratory for the pilgrims, and a cemetry for the dead. And because with the exception of the sardab which is under the temple there was no place for the throne of the bishop, he built a summer-house and a winter chamber of the fire-place (or furnace), and he completed everything according to his utmost ability. But in truth it was his brother BAR-SAWMA who managed and carried out all these things.

At the beginning of the year 1594 (A.D. 1283), after the death of the Patriarch MAR IGNATIUS, envoys came from the monastery, and with them were letters of submission and apology for the haste which they had been obliged to submit in establishing the new Patriarch, and the Maphrian would not receive them. Afterwards RABBAN SIMON, the physician himself, came to the Maphrian, and with many words [tried to] coax him into receiving his brother's son. And the Maphrian would not be coaxed, and replied 'From ancient times the holy fathers laid it down that a Maphrian cannot be established without a Patriarch, and a Patriarch cannot be established without a Maphrian. And since these [men] have transgressed the law and the canons of the Fathers, I have no part with them, neither will I associate myself with them in their transgression of the law.' Thereupon the physician left and went away offended. And the Maphrian set out with the caravan and the daughter of the king to come to NINEVEH. And whilst he was on the road TAJ AD-DAWLAH, the son of RABBAN SHIMON, came to him about this matter. And because the Maphrian had brought up this man and educated him, and loved him like a son, he received him and the gifts which were with him.

And the Maphrian wrote a letter of agreement to PHILOXENUS and said unto him, 'Peradventure thou wilt think of me that I myself had the desire to rise up [as Patriarch], and that because of this I am angry. God Himself, who trieth hearts, knoweth that there is not in me one member that wisheth this. [And I do not do so] for many reasons. For one reason, for nearly forty years I had been entrusted with the rank of high-priesthood, twenty years in the West, and twenty years in the East, and I am sated with this authority. Therefore I desire rest, and relaxation, and a life of peace (or, tranquillity), and the conclusion and the good end which is reserved for men of peace. Another reason is that in this my eastern diocese, by the grace of God, I live in great content, and I lack nothing therein. Am I to flee from it and go to another like my predecessors? For although our time is in a disturbed state, the quiet which I have in the East existeth for no other [man]. The third reason is this. Even if I had the longing for the Patriarchate like other men, inasmuch as the dioceses of the West are laid waste, in this case for which could any desire remain in me?. Supposing I had a desire for ANTIOCH; it is in a state of lamentation and tears. Or for the priestly diocese of GUMYA wherein remaineth not a man or micturate against a wall; or ALEPPO, or MABBUGH, or CALONICUS, or EDESSA and HARRAN, all of which are laid waste; or the seven dioceses which are round about MELITENE, in none of which doth a single house remain [standing], viz. LAKABHIN, and 'ARKA, and KALLISURA, and GUBBOS, and SAMHA, and CLAUDIA and GARGAR. And from these [reasons]it is manifest that the cause of my complaining was your action which cannot be praised, and is to be condemned, for ye have done what ye have done without the consent of the Westerners and the Easterners. Therefore ye know [it], and your Lord, who is no acceptor of persons, also knoweth [it].'

And at this time the Maphrian joined in matrimony two physicians who were his disciples in the city of TABRIZ; and he made ABU'L'KAIRMAN dwell in TABRIZ, and JOHN in MARAGHA. And when he came to NINEVEH in the days of the Lord's Fast of the year 1595 (A.D. 1284), he elected JOB the monk, an Elder, to BETH KUDIDHA, and he laid upon the hand of episcopacy upon him, and called him JOANNES, and named him to the diocese of BETH NUHADHRA. And he was the twelfth of the bishops whom the Maphrian ordained in the East.

And in that year the village of BETH 'AKRE, in which was a sanctuary of MAR JOHN BAR NAGGARE was destroyed. And the thieves laid ambushes therein, and they robbed the Elders and Deacons who used to go there. And the Maphrian began to build a monastery in the name of the martyr in the north-west [quarter]of BARTALLI, a fortress of the country of NINEVEH. And the clergy had great content thereat.

And in the year 1596 (A.D. 1285) the building of the renowned monastery which was in the fortress of BARTALLI, and which the Maphrian built in the name of the martyr MAR JOHN BAR NAGGARE, was completed. And since the believing queen DHESBINA KHATUN had brought two marvellously skilled painters from CONSTANTINOPLE, from the king her father, to paint pictures for the church of the GREEKS in the city of TABRIZ, the Maphrian sent and brought one of them, and he began to paint pictures for the new church of BAR NAGGARE. And before this year the Maphrian had sent many monks and elders to bring portions (i.e. relics) of saints to the old church. And having gone, they dug and made excavations and they found nothing. And the holy martyr appeared unto certain believing men in a dream and said, 'If the Maphrian doth not come no relics will be found.' Now the Maphrian did not place any confidence in the words of these lay folk. He made a pretence of being sick, and he shut the door of the chamber in his cell, wherein he passed the night, upon himself, and he fasted and prayed, and spoke to no one from the night Friday until the night of the first day of the week following, the 23rd day of the month of the LATTER TESHRIN of this year. And after the Office of the night [was said], and he was partly awake and partly asleep, he saw a splendid young man who said, 'There are relics under the old throne (i.e. altar).' And when the Maphrian heard this he cried out to his brother and said, 'I myself wish to go and seek for relics.' And they brought horses for him and the two holy bishops. And they mounted their beasts and went to the old church. And the Maphrian told the diggers to dig in the place where in former times the altar had stood. And when they had gone down in the ground nearly as far as the height of a man, they found a funerary chest, and above it was a bowl filled with dust (or ashes), and below it, in the middle of the chest was a coffer [made] of alabaster. And when they had opened it by force, they found in it portions of bones which had been treated with sweet-smelling unguents; and they rejoiced with great joy. And they sent and informed BARTALLI, and the Elders and the Deacons and all the clergy went out to meet them, and with hymns and psalms they brought of the coffer into the haikal of the new church and placed it in the martyrium which was therein. And on the first day of the week after the discovery of these relics the Maphrian ordained GABRIEL, a monk of BARTALLI, [and] MATTAI, bishop of GAZARTA, a city of KARDO, and he called him DIONYSIUS. This man was the architect of this monastery which the Maphrina built, and he built it over the relics of the holy man BAR NAGGARE, after the diocese had remained a widow for a period of five years.

And in the year 1597 (A.D. 1286), which was the sixtieth year of the birth of the Maphrian, he feared death and he expected it. For he said, 'In that year in which KRONOS and ZEUS were in conjunction in the Zodiacal Sign of AQUARIUS I was born. And twenty years after, when they were in conjunction in the Zodiacal sign of LIBRA, I was ordained bishop. And twenty years after, when they were in conjunction in Zodiacal sign of GEMINI, I undertook the office of Maphrian. And after another twenty years, when they will be again in conjunction in the Zodiacal sign of AQUARIUS, I think that I shall go out of this world.' And he used to say, O net of the worlds, in the year 1537 (A.D. 1226) thy snare seized me, and I think that in the year 1597 (A.D. 1286) I shall not be in thee.'

[The Death of Bar Hebraeus]
From this point and onwards, BAR-SÅWMÅ, the brother of the writer, setteth on record the narrative of his death, [showing] when and where and how it took place.
Now in this year, when he was continually brooding on this evil thing, and it was wholly impossible to make him escape from it, he was living in the region of NINEVEH. And because the thieves and robbers from SYRIA were in the habit of raiding it every year in the summer, and they plundered and looted, and killed and carried off into slavery the people of the country of MOSUL, his brother, disturbed by the sate of affairs, thought and said, 'Peradventure, they might accidently fall into the hands of the robbers, and the words of the Maphrian [as to his death] actually be fulfilled.' And BAR-SÅWMÅ began to urge the Maphrian, and to importune him, and to press him incessantly concerning departure to MARÅGHÅ, a city of 'ÅDHORBIJÅN, so that perchance the Maphrian might be saved from this death upon which he was brooding continually. And being pestered by his brother, he consented at length and departed thither. And when he was living there, honoured by both great and small, the foremost men among the ARABS asked him to turn the Chronography which he had composed in Syriac into the Sarcenic language so that they also might read and enjoy it. To this the Maphrian agreed, and straightaway he began to turn the [book into Arabic] in noble and exceedingly eloquent language. [He worked] for a month of days, until he had very nearly finished it, and there remained of it [untranslated] perhaps three folios.

But in the night of the Sabbath of the 28th day of TAMMUZ (July), he felt somewhat feverish, and he was burnt up with the heat thereof the whole of that night. And on the first day of the week the physicians came, and they contended that he must drink a root (or drug) and physic his body. But he would not agree to this, for, said he, 'The drug will not do any good, for [my] time hath come'. Although he was like a lion, and that year his body was stronger, and his constitution healthier than it had been in former years. But to speak briefly in these three days he had become so weak that when on the [following] SUNDAY he asked for a reed and paper that he might write and bequeath his cell to his disciples, he was unable to hold the reed and to write at all. But in every hour once and twice he smote his left hand with his right, saying, 'My strength has come to an end and is exhausted. Thou hast wronged me, my brother, in that thou didst not let me die and be surrounded by the bishops, and monks, and elders and deacons, at the head of whom I have this day stood for two-and-twenty years. My brother, thou didst make me flee from death, and behold my flight has not profited me. Nevertheless, be strong and of good courage, and thou shalt neither weep nor mourn excessively as if [my death] was something new in the world. Certainly not.' These encouragements and others like thereunto he uttered throughout that day, and he was cheerful, and laughed, and he did not dread and fear death like other men. And forthwith he called SA'ID, the deacon and physician, and said unto him, 'Write down what I am going to say unto thee.' And he made the beginning of his discourse thus 'Man, his days are like grass, and he springeth up like the flower of the field.' Then after he had finished the Confession of his Faith, as was fitting, he brought forth two orders, one concerning the throne of the Patriarch, and the other the throne of the Maphrian and the administration of his cell. And he delivered them into the hands of his brother. And he began to lay commands on his disciples, and said, 'Dwell ye in love, and separate not yourselves from each other, for every time in which ye shall be gathered together in love I shall be in your midst.'

Then those miserable men rent their garments, and poured dust on their heads, and wept until about three hours of the night had passed; meanwhile he never ceased from telling stories with laughter and a cheerful face. [Suddenly] he went out like a lamp. I ought not to say 'like a lamp', but like a glorious and brilliant beacon, and the great pillar [of fire] of the few and feeble Jacobites. And he went to his Lord on the third [day of the week], on the 30th day of the month of TAMMUZ (July), in the year 1597 (A.D. 1286) of the GREEKS.

And because MÅR YAHB 'ALLÅHÅ, the praiseworthy Catholicus, was at that time in the city of MARÅGHÅ, he commanded that no man should go to business in the bazaar, and that no man should open [his] shop. And he sent out a beater of a board (i.e. bell-ringer), and all the people gathered together at the cell of the Maphrian. And the Catholicus sent the bishops who were with him, and many large candles, and a whole crowd of ARMENIANS and GREEKS were there, but of our own community only four Elders were present. About two hundred souls were gathered together, and they stood in prayer from dawn until the ninth hour. O what a day of perdition and a morning without mercy! O what a day of wrath and night of death which burst upon the brother of this saint who was joined unto the angels and left the poor and miserabl ones in suffering, and weeping, and sadness, and tears and sighs. And when the NESTORIANS, and the GREEKS, and the ARMENIANS had finished their prayers, and prepared him for burial in a fittig manner, they deposited his holy blood in a little altar whereat a man might pray and make an offering whensoever he was in MARÅGHÅ.

Who is there that will not weep for the excellent people of the JACOBITES when he seeth that they were left as orphans by this man who stood alone, and was a marvellous philosopher. And there remained not among them any one who could inform a stranger by any answer to any question, whether it concerned the Church or some profane matter, whether it was difficult or easy, or who could write a discreet, or courteous, or an admonitory letter, as could this man whom God adorned with every kind of learning both of those who are in (i.e. natives) and those who are out (i.e. foreigners). And from the time when he was twenty years old until [he drew] the last breath he never ceased from reading and writing. And he composed and wrote many books, and he could translate from one language into another.

[Here BAR-SÅWMÅ gives a list of the one and thirty books which his brother wrote or translated, but in order not to break his narrative they are enumerated on p. xxii f.]

And though during the whole period of his life the Maphrian was occupied with books, he never ceased to build new churches and restore those that were overthrown from the beginning of his episcopate. He began in ALEPPO and he built a huge khan (i.e. inn or guest house) by the side of the church which was therein, [which entailed] sundry and divers expenses, for at that period Arabdom was in a sound and flourishing condition. And those (i.e. the churches) which were in MARÅGHÅ, and TABRIZ, and BARTALLI are manifest to everybody. And whensoever he passed a day in any place he never ceased from restoring some [sacred] building, and he spared no expense nor considered the losses which he suffered. I do not say these things in the way of laudation-indeed it would not be right for me to praise, lest it might be thought that I have written these things as if I had been conquered by a defeat-but for me to hide a lamp under bushel would not be just. And behold, I leave on one side the story of the excellent and chosen Orientals who saw his manner of life, and his diligence, and the power of his writings and his humility. If he is worthy of praise they would praise, and if he is worthy of blame they would blame, I shall not be blamed when I say a very little about his excellent mode of life, and his marvellous qualities because they were revealed to me more than to strangers. For during forty years I never saw him receive in his hand a daric (i.e. gold coin) or a zuza (i.e. copper coin). And when the believers brought to him bags of money as for a blessing, they crowded together that might put them into his hand; and when he was unable to grasp them they set them down before him. And thus [the money] remained here until one of the disciples went into the place where he was, when he would say straightaway, 'Take this away from in front of me.' Certain men when they were kissing his hands were in the habit of placing the bag of money under a covering cloth (or carpet). And of this we have knowledge from the fact that when he moved from one place to another, and they were lifting up that cloth many bags (i.e. purses) of money were found beneath it. And when he learned (or got the knowledge) that a few zuzi were collected in the cell, he schemed and thought out a plan whereby he might spend them. As for his goodness, and his humility, and his gentleness, and his pleasantness of his conversation, and his great-heartedness, I have not the power to define them or set them down in writing, for I am too uneducated and feeble, and I lack the power of speech (i.e. eloquence) to do so. It is better for me to hold my peace, for I am confident that the nobles, and the brethren, and the chosen doctors with whom he was in the habit of holding frequent intercourse will, according to their powers, assign to him the true measure of his excellencies. And that is sufficient as far as I myself am concerned.



1 See p. xxxix. Return

2 Melitene became an important city under the early Roman emperors and a great market centre in which many caravan roads met. It stood on the bank of a tributary of the Euphrates called Melas by the Greeks, Kubâkib by the Arabs, and Tukhmah Sû by the Turks. The town was rebuilt by the Khalifah Mansûr in A.D. 756 and a strong garrison held the bridge over the river, which was about three miles from the great fortress, or citadel. In the time of Bar Hebraeus the town, or city, was exceedingly prosperous, and crops of grain of all kinds and fruit grew in the fertile lands round about it in great abundance. And its climate is said to have been very salubrious. The inhabitants of the districts suffered greatly by the raids of the Greeks and Arabs, and later by the Mongols. For descriptions of it by the Arab geographers see G. Le Strange, Lands of the Eastern Caliphate, p. 120. Return

3 Read by Badger (Nestorians and their Rituals, vol. i, p. 97). Return

4 Fallitur Benrsteinius. Nam quod Barhebraeus... See Abbeloos and Lamy, Chronicon Eccelsisaticum, tom. i, p. viii. Return

5 For the Arabic text see B.O. ii, pp. 245, 245. Return

6 B.O. ii, p. 245. Return

7 See the poem in Codex Vat. No. CLXXIV (Catal. iii, p. 356), No. 29. Return

8 Salibha was transferred from 'Akko to Aleppo, where he took the name of Basil, and in December 1252 he was made Maphrian under the name Ignatius by John bar Ma'dani. He died six years later. B.O. ii, pp. 375, 377, and 455. Return

9 B.O. ii, pp. 245, 246. Abbeloos and Lamy, Chron. Eccles., sect I, pp. 667, 669. Return

10 One of the seven dioceses of Melitene which was in ruins in the days of Bar Hebraeus. B.O. ii, p. 260. Return

11 The full story is told by Mar Yahbh-Allaha, who was one of the two monks in my Monks of Kublai Khan, London, 1928. Return

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