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George Syncellus

George the Syncellus (died after 810) was a Byzantine chronicler and ecclesiastic. He had lived many years in Palestine as a monk, and came to Constantinople to fill the important post of syncellus to Tarasius, patriarch of Constantinople. The syncellus served as the patriarch's private secretary, was generally a bishop, and was the most important ecclesiastical person in the capital after the patriarch himself, and often the patriarch's successor. However George did not succeed Tarasius, and he retired to a monastery where he wrote his "Extract of Chronography" (Ekloge chronographias), which covered events of the world from Adam to the beginning of Diocletian's reign.

His chronicle, as its title implies, is more of a chronological table with notes than a history. George continued the chronological structure of Sextus Julius Africanus, arranging his events strictly in order of time, and naming them in the year which they happened. The text is continually interrupted by long tables of dates, so markedly that Krumbacher described it as being "rather a great historical list [Geschichtstabelle] with added explanations, than a universal history." George reveals himself as a staunch upholder of orthodoxy, and quotes Greek Fathers such as Gregory Nazianzen and John Chrysostom. But in spite of its religious bias and dry and uninteresting character, the fragments of ancient writers and apocryphal books preserved in it make it especially valuable. For instance, considerable portions of the original text of the Chronicle of Eusebius have been restored by the aid of George's work. His chief authorities were Annianus of Alexandria (5th century AD) and Panodorus (an Egyptian monk who wrote around AD 400), through whom George acquired much of his knowledge of the history of Manetho; George also relied heavily on Eusebius, Dexippus and Julius Africanus.

George Syncellus's chronicle was continued after his death by his friend Theophanes. Anastasius, the Papal Librarian, composed a Historia tripartita in Latin, from the chronicles of Syncellus, Theophanes, and Patriarch Nicephorus. This work, written between 873 and 875, spread Syncellus's preferenced dates for historical events through the West. Meanwhile, in the East George's fame was gradually overshadowed by that of Theophanes.

Editio princeps by J. Goar (1652); in Bonn Corpus scriptorum hist. Byz., by W. Dindorf (1829). See also H. Gelzer, Sextus Julius Africanus, ii. I (1885); C. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinische Litteratur (2nd ed., Munich, 1897).

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