The Chronicle of John, Bishop of Nikiu: Translated from Zotenberg's Ethiopic Text (Christian Roman Empire) Hardcover – 15 Mar 2007
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Bishop John was a Monophysite churchman and this conditions his understanding of history. The early part of the text is a strange attempt to mix biblical and mythological figures, like Abraham and Kronos, into history. The sections on Roman history are entertaining as the text has lots of apocryphal information about many famous figures, such as Julius Caesar and Nero. With the advent of the Council of Chalcedon (451), the text shows its colours. Each emperor thereafter is judged mostly on whether they accepted the council, or rejected/ignored it. The value of the history lay in its excellent coverage of the reign of Phocas (602-610) and of the revolution which overthrew him. Unfortunately, there is a large lacuna for the years 610-640). Thus we miss most of the history of reign of Heraclius (610-641) and of the early Muslim conquests.
Fortunately, the last part of the text, from 640-642 does survive and we get a detailed look at the conquest of Egypt and the ongoing crisis in Constantinople following the death of Heraclius. So, it is a primary source for the 7th century, but not very much of it.
Despite the annalistic format, it is rife with great stories including Emperor Nero's supposed pregnancy. Because Nero has married a young boy (as a woman) he is cursed by God with a disease that caused his stomach to swell. His doctors though he was pregnant so they cut him open and he died. John of Nikiu is appealing to a body of anti-pagan conceptions of bodily disease and disgust to characterized what Medieval and Late Antique writers considered the first persecutor of Christians. This is a fascinating history, mainly for its section on the Muslim conquest, and a very worthwhile purchase for the medieval or Late Antique specialist even in this 1916 re-print edition (somewhat lacking in notes and introduction).
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