Matthew of Edessa

Matthew of Edessa (Armenian: Մատթեոս Ուռհայեցի, Matteos Uṛhayetsi; born in the second half of the 11th century – 1144) was an Armenian historian in the 12th century from the city of Edessa (Armenian: Ուռհա, Uṛha). Matthew was the superior abbot of Karmir Vank' (Red Convent), near the town of Kessoun, east of Marash (Germanicia), the former seat of Baldwin of Boulogne. He relates much about the Bagratuni Kingdom of Armenia, the early Crusades, and the battles between Byzantines and Arabs for the possession of parts of northern Syria and eastern Asia Minor.[1] Byzantine authors such as Joannes Zonaras and Anna Comnena were well versed in their particular spheres, but uninformed regarding Edessa and neighboring lands which are treated by Matthew.

Matthew of Edessa
BornSecond half of 11th century
Known forChronicle


A man of strong convictions, Matthew was born in Edessa sometime in the second half of the 11th century and was a member of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He was a determined opponent of the Greek church and as well as the Latin church. Matthew was especially bitter against Frankish settlers, whose avaricious and imperious rule and ingratitude he condemns in his work.[1] He was probably slain during the siege of Edessa by Zengi, atabeg of Mosul in 1144.[1]


Matthew's work, Zhamanakagrutyun (Armenian: Ժամանակագրություն), or Chronicle, which he probably began writing in 1113 and completed before 1140,[2] is written in a dialect of Western Armenian and is rather chronological, covering two centuries from the second half of the tenth through the second half of the twelfth.[3] In an article published in 1971 by Armenian academician Levon Khachikyan, the author established that one of the sources Matthew used to write his work was that of an 11th-century vardapet named Hakob Sanahnetsi (Hakob of Sanahin).[4]

He remains the only primary source of certain information about the political and ecclesiastical events of his time and area. The literary and historical knowledge of Matthew was limited, and some of his chronological data is disputed by modern scholars. Matthew was also a fervent Armenian patriot, lamenting the martyrdom of his people and exalting their heroic deeds. To him, scholars and readers are indebted for the record of two documents of importance — a letter from the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimisces, to King Ashot III Bagratuni and a discourse delivered in the cathedral of Hagia Sophia, Constantinople, in the presence of the Emperor Constantine X Ducas by Gagik II, the exiled Bagratuni king, concerning the doctrinal divergence between the Greek and Armenian churches.

According to some scholars, Matthew was intolerant towards both Greeks and Latins,[5] as well as unsympathetic towards Syrians, judging by allusions made by Abul-Faraj at a later date.


  1. ^ a b c (in Armenian) Bartikyan, Hrach. «Մատթեոս Ուռհայեցի» (Matteos Urhayetsi). Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia. vol. vii. Yerevan, Armenian SSR: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1981, p. 289.
  2. ^ Runciman, Steven (1951). A History of the Crusades: Volume 1, The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 334. ISBN 0-521-06161-X.
  3. ^ (in Armenian) Bartikyan, Hrach. "Matthew of Edessa: His Times and the Chronicle" in Մատթեոս Ուռհայեցի`Ժամանակնագրություն (The Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa). Translation and commentary by Hrach Bartikyan. Yerevan: Armenian SSR: Hayastan Publishing, 1973, p. xxviii.
  4. ^ See (in Armenian) Khachikyan, Levon. "Հակոբ Սանահնեցի՝ Ժամանակագիր 11-րդ դարի" ("Hakob Sanhnetsi, an 11th Century Chronicler"). Banber Yerevani Hamalsarani,№ 1, 1971, pp. 22-48.
  5. ^ See Runciman. History of the Crusades, p. 334.

External links

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Thoros of Edessa

Thoros (short in Armenian for Theodoros; Թորոս կուրապաղատ, T'oros the Curopalates; d. March 9, 1098) was an Armenian ruler of Edessa at the time of the First Crusade. Thoros was a former officer (curopalates) in the Byzantine Empire and a lieutenant of Philaretos Brachamios. He was Armenian but practiced the Greek Orthodox faith.

The Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa records that "Thoros son of Hethum" was installed as governor of Edessa by Tutush, who had defeated and killed emir Bouzan in the year 543 of the Armenia era (26 Feb. 1094 - 25 Feb. 1095). According to Sturdza, Hethum [I] was descended from the Pahlavouni, an important family in Caucasian Armenia. He conquered land to the east of that conquered by his fellow Armenian Rupen. Steven Runciman calls Thoros the "son-in-law" of Gabriel of Melitene.Around 1094, the Seljuk emir of Damascus, Tutush I, captured Edessa and established Thoros as governor. Thoros immediately tried to take control of the city for himself; when Yaghi-Siyan, emir of Antioch, and Ridwan, emir of Aleppo, took refuge in Edessa after being defeated by Malik Shah I, Thoros tried to take them captive and ransom them. The other Edessan nobles did not agree with this and they were freed. Thoros then fortified Edessa and cut off the citadel, garrisoned by Turkish and Armenian troops. The Turks and Ortoqids besieged the city for two months, but were unable to capture it even after breaking through the walls. The Turks withdrew and Thoros was recognized as lord of the city.

As a Greek Orthodox Christian, he was not well loved by his Armenian subjects in Edessa. He resisted attacks from the Seljuks, but in 1098 had to ask for help from the crusaders, who were occupied at the siege of Antioch.

Baldwin of Boulogne had come to Edessa rather than participate in the siege, probably looking to carve out some territory for himself, and had captured Turbessel. Thoros invited him to Edessa and made an alliance with him in February 1098. Baldwin gradually convinced Thoros to adopt him as his son and heir, but having done this, Baldwin attacked Thoros' officers and besieged him in the citadel. Thoros agreed to let him have the city and made plans to flee with his family to Melitene, but shortly afterwards, on March 9, Thoros was assassinated by the Armenian inhabitants of the city, possibly at Baldwin's command, and Baldwin became the first count of Edessa.

Ukhtanes of Sebastia

Ukhtanes of Sebastia (Armenian: Ուխտանես Սեբաստացի, Ukhtanes Sebastatsi) (c. 935-1000) was an Armenian historian and prelate.

Educated at the Monastery of Narek under the tutelage of its founder Anania, he eventually attained to the bishopric of Sebastia (c. 970-85) and probably also of Urha (post-985). Ukhtanes is principally known for his History in Three Parts, which consists of History of the Patriarchs and Kings of Armenia, History of the Severance of the Georgians and Armenians, and On the Baptism of the Nation Called Tzad.

Medieval Armenian historians and chroniclers
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