Eusebius: Chronicle

Eusebius' Chronicle was written in about 325 A.D. It contained Chronological Tables from the earliest times down to the reign of the emperor Constantine. These tables were widely copied, and are best known through the Latin translation of St. Jerome.   Eusebius also published the evidence for some of the dates in the tables, mostly in the form of excerpts from earlier writers. The so-called "first book" of the Chronicle, containing the evidence, is translated here.

Most of the original Greek text of the Chronicle has been lost. This translation is based on a Latin translation of the Armenian translation of the Greek original, in the Schoene-Petermann edition. However it is not intended to be a literal translation of the Armenian text. For instance, it attempts to make use of the Greek text, where evidence for it exists, especially in the spelling of proper names, which may be hard to recognise in their Armenian form. The Armenian text was translated very accurately into German by Josef Karst; a copy of Karst's translation has been put on the web by Roger Pearse (this English translation owes much to Roger's help and encouragement). For anyone who wants to compare passages in Karst's translation and this English translation, there is a concordance of page numbers.

The references in red are the page numbers from the Schoene-Petermann edition.


The Story of the Armenian Translation
  - a summary of the account in "The Chronicle of Eusebius and Greek Chronographic Tradition" by Alden A. Mosshammer, which is recommended reading for anyone who wants to learn more about the Chronicle.

The Chronicle of Eusebius was translated from Greek into Armenian before 600 A.D., but the oldest manuscript which has survived was written in the twelfth or thirteenth century A.D. For a long time European scholars were unaware of the translation, and because the original Greek text of Eusebius' Chronicle had perished, they could only guess at what the chronicle had contained. The only part which was well known was the Chronological Tables, which had been translated into Latin by St.Jerome. But in 1787 the Lector Georg Johannesian informed the Mechitarist community in Venice that a manuscript of an Armenian translation had been discovered at Jerusalem and taken to Constantinople. Two copies of the manuscript were made and sent to Venice, where I.B.Aucher prepared a Latin translation in 1795. Because he hoped to correct his translation by consulting the original manuscript, Aucher delayed publication for so long that eventually I.Zohrab lost patience with the delay and stole the first copy of the manuscript. He took it from Venice to Milan, where he and Angelo Mai quickly published a Latin translation in 1818. At this point, Aucher was forced to publish his own translation, but it was too late and he was even accused of plagiarising from his rivals.

Forty years later, Alfred Schoene decided that it was time to publish a new edition of all the evidence for the contents of Eusebius' Chronicle, including the summaries and translations. He asked H.Petermann to prepare a new Latin version of the Armenian translation. In 1864, Petermann travelled to Constantinople to inspect the original manuscript, but to his dismay the Armenian patriarch of Constantinople told him that the manuscript had been returned to Jerusalem. Instead of continuing with what he thought would be a fruitless journey to Jerusalem, Petermann returned to Venice, where he found that as well as the copy which Aucher had used, another manuscript (explicitly dated to 1696) had been acquired by P.Nerses. It was these manuscripts which Petermann used for his translation, which was published in Schoene's edition in 1875.

Petermann was aware that another manuscript of the Armenian translation existed, at the Etschmiadzin library near the Armenian capital, but he was unable to gain access to it. A few years later, Theodor Mommsen managed to obtain a partial transcript of the Etschmiadzin manuscript, and in 1895 he reported that this was the archetype from which all the other surviving manuscripts had been copied, and which had been found at Jerusalem a hundred years earlier.

In 1911, over 120 years after the announcement of the discovery of the manuscript, Josef Karst published an accurate German translation based on a photographic facsimile of the Etschmiadzin manuscript. He rejected suggestions that it should be translated into Greek ("misleading") or Latin ("syntax too restricted to preserve the style and colour of the Armenian language").

Scholars continue to debate how accurately the Armenian translation preserves the exact format of Eusebius' Greek text, especially in the Chronological Tables, where there are clear differences between the Armenian and St.Jerome. For instance, the Olympic dates differ by one year; the Armenian version sets the first Olympiad against year 1240, counting from Abraham, while in St.Jerome's version the first year of the first Olympiad is year 1241 from Abraham. But in general, the Armenian translation appears to be a reliable guide, and in the "first book" it has preserved much unique information about the reigns of the Hellenistic kings. It is certainly one of the most important documents to have survived in an Armenian translation.

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