John Malalas or Ioannes Malalas (or Malelas) (Greek: Ἰωάννης Μαλάλας) (c. 491578) was a Byzantine chronicler from Antioch. Malalas is probably a Syriac word for "rhetor", "orator"; it is first applied to him by John of Damascus (the form Malelas is later, first appearing in Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus).[1]

Malalas was educated in Antioch and probably was a jurist there, but moved to Constantinople at some point in Justinian's reign (perhaps after the Persian sack of Antioch in 540[2]); all we know of his travels from his own hand are visits to Thessalonica and Paneas.[3] 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 Roman Africa under the tribune Marcianus, Justinian's nephew, in 563 (his editor Thurn believes it originally ended with Justinian's death[4]); it is focused largely on Antioch and (in the later books) Constantinople. Except for the history of Justinian and his immediate predecessors, it possesses little historical value; the author, "relying on Eusebius of Caesaria and other compilers, confidently strung together myths, biblical stories, and real history."[5] The eighteenth book, dealing with Justinian's reign, is well acquainted with, and colored by, official propaganda. The writer is a supporter of Church and State, an upholder of monarchical principles. (However, the theory identifying him with the patriarch John Scholasticus is almost certainly incorrect.[6])

The work is important as the first surviving example of a chronicle written not for the learned but for the instruction of the monks and the common people, and its language shows a compromise with the spoken language of the day, although "it is still very much a written style. In particular, he employs technical terminology and bureaucratic clichés incessantly, and, in a period of transition from Latin to Greek governmental terminology, still uses the Latin loanwords alongside their Greek replacements.... The overall impression created by Malálas's style is one of simplicity, reflecting a desire for the straightforward communication of information in the written language of everyday business as it had evolved under the influence of spoken Greek."[7] It obtained great popularity, and was used by various writers until the ninth century; it was translated into Slavic probably in the tenth century, and parts of it were used for the Old Russian Primary Chronicle.[8] It is preserved in an abridged form in a single manuscript now at Oxford, as well as in various fragments.

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition article "Malalas, John", a publication now in the public domain.


  1. ^ Thurn, Ioannis Malalae Chronographia, p. 1.
  2. ^ Geoffrey Horrocks, Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers (Longman Linguistics Library, 1997: ISBN 0582307090), p. 180.
  3. ^ Thurn, Ioannis Malalae Chronographia, p. 1.
  4. ^ Thurn, Ioannis Malalae Chronographia, p. 2.
  5. ^ Warren Treadgold, A History of Byzantine State and Society (Stanford University Press, 1997: ISBN 0-8047-2421-0), p. 267.
  6. ^ Thurn, Ioannis Malalae Chronographia, p. 2.
  7. ^ Horrocks, Greek, pp. 179-81, q.v. for details of lexical and syntactic usage; see also pp. 181-82 for a passage of Malalas with interlinear translation and transcription showing how Horrocks believes it would have sounded in the spoken Greek of the day.
  8. ^ Oleg Tvorogov, Хроника Иоанна Малалы.

Modern editionsEdit

  • 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

Further readingEdit

  • E. Jeffreys, B. Croke, and R. Scott (eds.), Studies in John Malalas (Sydney: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 1990) (Byzantina Australiensia, 6), pp. 1-25.
  • 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).

External links Edit

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