John Malalas

John Malalas or Ioannes Malalas (or Malelas) (Syriac word for "rhetor", "orator") (Greek: Ἰωάννης Μαλάλας) (c. 491 – 578), Byzantine chronicler, was born at Antioch.

He wrote a Chronographia (Χρονογραφία) in 18 books, the beginning and the end of which are lost. In its present state it begins with the mythical history of Egypt and ends with the expedition to Africa under Marcianus, the nephew of Justinian. Except for the history of Justinian and his immediate predecessors, it possesses little historical value; it is written without any idea of proportion and contains astonishing blunders. He was educated in Antioch and probably was a civil servant there, but at some point early in Justinian's reign, he moved to Constantinople. Perhaps for that reason, the eighteenth book dealing with Justinian's reign (527-565) well acquainted with official propaganda and is colored by it. The writer is a supporter of Church and State, an upholder of monarchical principles.

The work is rather a chronicle written round Antioch, which he regarded as the centre of the world, and (in the later books) round Constantinople. It is, however, important as the first specimen of a chronicle written not for the learned but for the instruction of the monks and the common people, in the language of the vulgar, with an admixture of Latin and Oriental words. It obtained great popularity, and was conscientiously exploited by various writers until the ninth century, being translated even into the Slavonic languages. It is preserved in an abridged form in a single manuscript now at Oxford.

For the authorities consulted by Malalas, the influence of his work on Slavonic and Oriental literature, the state of the text, the original form and extent of the work, the date of its composition, the relation of the concluding part to the whole, and the literature of the subject, see Karl Krumbacher's Geschichte der byzantinischen Litteratur (1897). See also the editio princeps, by Edmund Chilmead (Oxford, 1691), containing an essay by Humphrey Hody and Bentley's well-known letter to Mill; other editions in the Bonn Corpus scriptorum hist. byz., by L. Dindorf (1831), and in J.P. Migne Patrologia Graeca, xcvii.

Modern editions

  • Text:
    • Johannes Thurn (ed.) 2000, Ioannis Malalae Chronographia, Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae (CFHB) 35 (Berlin, New York: Walter de Gruyter) ISBN 3-11-008800-2
  • Translation:
    • Elizabeth Jeffreys, Michael Jeffreys, Roger Scott et al. 1986, The Chronicle of John Malalas: A Translation, Byzantina Australiensia 4 (Melbourne: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies) ISBN 0959362622


  • E. Jeffreys, B. Croke, and R. Scott (eds.), Studies in John Malalas (Sydney: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 1990) (Byzantina Australiensia, 6).
  • David Woods, "Malalas, Constantius, and a Church-inscription from Antioch," Vigiliae Christianae, 59,1 (2005), pp. 54-62.
  • J. H. W. G. Liebeschuetz, "Malalas on Antioch," in Idem, Decline and Change in Late Antiquity: Religion, Barbarians and their Historiography (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2006) (Variorum Collected Studies).


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