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Representation of Theophanes

Theophanes the Confessor (also in Latin Theophanes Confessor or Theophanes Homologetes , Middle Greek Θεοφάνης Ομολογητής ; * around 760 in Constantinople ; † March 12, 818 in Samothrace ) was an important Byzantine chronicler . He is venerated as a saint in both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches . The Orthodox Prologue and the Martyrologium Romanum mention him on March 12th.


Theophanes came from a respected, noble family. His parents were called Isaacios and Theodote. He lost his father at a young age. Theophanes served as a strator in imperial services and was also married. However, he eventually became a clergyman (780/781) and lived in various monasteries , for which he spent considerable funds. In 787 he took part in the 2nd Council of Nikaia . Theologically, Theophanes was a staunch opponent of iconoclasm (see Byzantine Iconoclasm ). In 815 he was imprisoned for two years and finally exiled to Samothrace, where he also died.

Theophanes' Chronicle

Theophanes continued the world chronicle of Georgios Synkellos , which lasted until the end of the 3rd century. In recent research, however, it is partly assumed that Georgios 'contribution to Theophanes' Chronicle is much higher than previously assumed. Cyril Mango assumes that Georgios, who was more learned and well-read than Theophanes, had already collected numerous material for the period after 284, but could no longer publish it. Theophanes then took over this task, who only ended the work of Georgios. This hypothesis is controversial, although Mango has received a lot of support for it.

In any case, the Chronicle of Theophanes deals with the years 284/285 to 813 with entries of very different lengths. Theophanes proceeded in a strictly annalistic way (i.e. historical news were listed for each individual year) and relied on numerous good sources . Although most of the texts on which the report is based up to the death of Emperor Maurikios in 602 are well known in the original ( e.g. Prokopios of Caesarea ), Theophanes also provides some detailed information about the late ancient history that cannot be found anywhere else are. Theophanes drew, among other things, church histories, chronicles (including not preserved local chronicles, such as from Alexandria ) and profane historical works. The details of some late antique works (including Priskos ) were probably accessible to Theophanes through an intermediate source; it was probably the now lost historical work of Eustathios of Epiphaneia . The particular importance of the chronicle then lies in the depiction of the years 602 to 813, for which Theophanes is a very important and sometimes even the only source. Due to the loss of Arabic and Syrian sources, the Chronicle of Theophanes is therefore of inestimable value for dealing with the events in Eastern Rome and Byzantium from the 7th century onwards. This includes the last "great war of antiquity" (James Howard-Johnston), the Persian War at the time of Herakleios , as well as the time of the Arab conquests and the subsequent defensive struggle of Byzantium in the Balkans (against the Bulgarians ) and in the Middle East (against the caliphate), which from the Byzantine point of view seemed like a world crisis.

It is very difficult to say which sources Theophanes used for the period from the early 7th century. Regarding the Persian War of Herakleios, he probably also used the poems of George of Pisidia . For the second half of the 7th century he evidently used a Syrian template in a Greek translation, which Georgios Synkellos had probably obtained for him. According to recent research, the Syrian work is very likely to be the Chronicle of Theophilos of Edessa , which extended to around 755 and contained important information that was also used in other (Syrian) works. Theophanes probably also used the chronicle of Traianos Patrikios (which probably extended to 713). At least Theophanes had access to Byzantine sources, the details of which cannot be found in the oriental tradition. More recently, Maria Conterno has tried to prove that the Chronicle of Theophilos was not the assumed main source of Theophanes for the period in question. Text comparisons therefore suggested that Theophanes processed several sources and that the source situation was therefore much more complex. However, it is not clear how much of the presentation is ultimately based on which source thread. The common Syrian source (and thus very likely the Chronicle of Theophilos) will have played a not unimportant role.

In research it is controversial whether he only adopted the material from his sources or also arranged it according to his views, but speaks more for the latter assumption, whereby Theophanes made mistakes in the interpretation. Not infrequently he also let his own opinion flow into it. He is extremely biased towards iconoclasts and accordingly judges the respective emperors according to their religious policy. Therefore militarily successful emperors like Leon III are wrongly declared . or his son Constantine V, depicted in a bad light by Theophanes. Another problem is the fact that the chronicle is primarily geared towards the “big events”. Nevertheless, it is undisputed that Theophanes provides important information without which a reconstruction of many events in the Byzantine East from the 7th to the early 9th centuries would hardly be possible.

The style of the Chronicle, which is not particularly appealing, was based on the vernacular, although Theophanes himself was quite educated, although one should not overestimate his education; apparently he could not rival the literacy or stylistic talent of the more learned Georgios Synkellos. He does not date to the Christian era, but counts the years after the alleged creation of the world (AM, see Annus Mundi ). The information about the reigns of various rulers that precede the entries are often very inaccurate or simply wrong. This also applies to the other dates of events, which should always be adopted with caution.

The chronicle was also translated into Latin by Anastasius Bibliothecarius in the second half of the 9th century , although his rather inadequate knowledge of Greek made itself felt. The Chronicle of Nikephorus mostly draws on the same sources as Theophanes, but also offers partly independent news.


  • Carl de Boor (Ed.): Theophanis chronographia. 2 vols. Leipzig 1883/1885.


  • The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor. Byzantine and Near Eastern history AD 284-813. Translated and commented by Cyril Mango and Roger Scott. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1997, ISBN 0-19-822568-7 [complete and extensively annotated translation recognized as an important contribution in research].
  • The Chronicle of Theophanes. An English translation of anni mundi 6095-6305 (AD 602-813). Translated and commented by Harry Turtledove . University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia PA 1982, ISBN 0-8122-7842-9 [translation of the Chronicle from 602].
  • Iconoclasm and the Arab storm in Byzantium. The 8th century (717–813) from the world chronicle of Theophanes (= Byzantine historians . Vol. 6, ZDB -ID 532553-5 ). Translated, introduced and explained by Leopold Breyer. 2nd, improved edition. Styria, Graz et al. 1964 [translation of the chronicle from 717].


  • Wolfram Brandes : Early Islam in Byzantine Historiography. Notes on the source problem of the Chronographia des Theophanes. In: Andreas Goltz, Hartmut Leppin , Heinrich Schlange-Schöningen (eds.): Beyond the borders. Contributions to late antique and early medieval historiography (= Millennium Studies. Vol. 25). de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-020646-3 , pp. 313–343.
  • James Howard-Johnston : Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford University Press, Oxford et al. 2010, ISBN 978-0-19-920859-3 , pp. 268ff.
  • Herbert Hunger : The high-level profane literature of the Byzantines. Volume 1: Philosophy, rhetoric, epistolography, historiography, geography (= Handbook of Ancient Studies. Division 12: Byzantine Handbook. Part 5). Beck, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-406-01427-5 , pp. 334ff.
  • Marek Jankowiak, Federico Montinaro (Ed.): Studies in Theophanes. Association des Amis du Center d'Histoire et Civilization de Byzance, Paris 2015.
  • Ann S. Proudfoot: The Sources of Theophanes for the Heraclian Dynasty. In: Byzantion. Vol. 44, 1974, ISSN  0378-2506 , pp. 367-439.
  • Ilse Rochow: Byzantium in the 8th century as seen by Theophanes. Source-critical historical commentary on the years 715–813 (= Berlin Byzantine works. Vol. 57). Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-05-000700-1 .
  • Paul Speck : The shared dossier. Observations on the news about the government of the emperor Herakleios and that of his sons with Theophanes and Nikephoros (= Poikila Byzantina. Vol. 9). Habelt, Bonn 1988, ISBN 3-7749-2362-0 .
  • Warren Treadgold : The Middle Byzantine Historians . Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke 2013, pp. 63ff.

Web links

Wikisource: Theophanes  - Sources and full texts


  1. The year 817 was often considered as the date of death, but this is probably due to an error. See Mango / Scott (1997), SL
  2. Mango / Scott (1997), p. LIIff.
  3. Howard-Johnston (2010).
  4. ↑ On this in detail Mango / Scott (1997), p. LXXIVff.
  5. See Robert G. Hoyland (Ed.): Theophilus of Edessa's Chronicle and the Circulation of Historical Knowledge in Late Antiquity and Early Islam. ( Translated Texts for Historians , Vol. 57). Liverpool University Press, Liverpool 2011, ISBN 978-1-8463-1698-2 . See also Howard-Johnston (2010), p. 192ff.
  6. For the sources cf. also Howard-Johnston (2010), pp. 274ff.
  7. ^ Maria Conterno: La "descrizione dei tempi" all'alba dell'espansione islamica. Un'indagine sulla storiografia greca, siriaca e araba fra VII e VIII secolo. Berlin 2014.
  8. For the current status see the articles in Marek Jankowiak, Federico Montinaro (Ed.): Studies in Theophanes. Paris 2015.
  9. Mango / Scott (1997), pp. XCI-XCV.
  10. Mango / Scott (1997), p. LVf.