THE SYRIAC WORLD: ON THE ROADS OF AN UNKNOWN CHRISTIANITY
Françoise Briquel Chatonnet and Muriel Debié
(Les Belle Lettres, 270 pages, 2017)
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*** WINNER OF THE GRAND PRIX DES RENDEZ-VOUS DE L’HISTOIRE DU MONDE ARABE 2018 ***
A seminal work. —Codex
The introductory monograph that will render the Syriac world accessible to all readers. The first book of its kind.
Syriac Christianity is the third point in the triangle of ancient Christianity alongside the Greek and Latin traditions. The authors of this short historical monograph set out, as the title indicates, to throw light on this egregiously understudied area in the history of Christianity. Beginning with Syriac Christianity’s Mesopotamian and Aramaean origins of the pre-Christian era, Briquel Chatonnet and Debié chart the tradition’s development all the way through the twentieth century and the little-known 1915 Assyrian Genocide, known within the community as Sayfo.
"A prize-winning comprehensive history of the Syriac world."
The authors insist on Syriac as a “culture of contact” and thus eschew any concern with exact origins or purity of development. Rather, they emphasize the influences of various empires, other Christian traditions, Asiatic religions, and, of course, Islam. In explaining Syriac’s seeming universality, Briquel Chatonnet and Debié make the important observation that Syriac was never the official language of a state nor of a particular people. This feature of Syriac gives coherence to a work of great temporal scope. Rather than treat Syriac as simply another variant of Christianity, the authors consider it variously as a religion, a written culture, and a historical tradition. This alternation conveys the complexity of a historical subject that appears to defy categorization.
The first attempt to lay a coherent narrative on the entirety of Syriac history, the book connects, for instance, Ottoman and modern Syriac history to the earlier classical period. Briquel Chatonnet and Debié move seamlessly between different topics such as the place of women, ecclesiastical conflict, and scientific production.
With over one hundred illustrations, eleven color maps, a chronology, and numerous excerpts from original texts in boxed inserts, this unprecedented work invites us to discover over two thousand years of Syriac history and culture.
Françoise Briquel Chatonnet has a Ph.D. in history and is a research director at the CNRS, where she directs the collection “Semitic Worlds.” In addition she is deputy director of the Laboratory for Oriental and Mediterranean Studies. She is the recipient of the 2016 Irène Joliot-Curie prize for scientific woman of the year.
Muriel Debié is a professor at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, where she is chair of Oriental Christianity studies.