John Skylitzes

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Varangian Guardsmen, an illumination from the 11th century chronicle of John Skylitzes.
Depiction of Greek fire in the Madrid Skylitzes

John Skylitzes, Latinized as Ioannes Scylitzes (Greek: Ἰωάννης Σκυλίτζης, also Σκυλλίτζης/Σκυλίτσης, Iōannēs Skylitzēs/Skyllitzēs/Skylitsēs; early 1040s – d. after 1101[1]), was a Greek historian of the late 11th century.


Very little is known about his life. The title of his work records him as a kouropalatēs and a former droungarios of the Vigla, whereby he is usually identified with a certain John Thrakesios.[2]

His major work is the Synopsis of Histories (Σύνοψις Ἱστοριῶν), which covers the reigns of the Byzantine emperors from the death of Nikephoros I in 811 to the deposition of Michael VI in 1057; it continues the chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor. There is a continuation of this work, known as Scylitzes Continuatus covering 1057 – 1079; some historians hypothesize that it was also written by Skylitzes.[2]

The Madrid Skylitzes

The most famous manuscript of the Synopsis was produced in Sicily in the 12th century, and is now at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid, so is known as the Madrid Skylitzes. It features 574 miniatures, while some 100 have been lost, and is the only surviving Byzantine illuminated chronicle in Greek, providing an invaluable primary source for the visualization of contemporary Byzantium.[2]


  1. ^ Seibt
  2. ^ a b c Kazhdan (1991), p. 1914


  • Text: Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis Historiarum (ed. Hans Thurn, CFHB, 1973; ISBN 978-3110022858). The Thurn edition supersedes the much older one by Migne, below. A popular edition is being prepared for Kanakis books (with parallel Modern Greek "translation") and a facsimile edition of the Madrid is also available from Militos (Μίλητος) Publishers.
  • AHRB Skylitzes Colloquium, Belfast, 21–22 September 2002, Institute for Byzantine Studies, Queen's University, Belfast.[1]
  • John Wortley (trans.), John Scylitzes, a synopsis of histories (811-1057 A.D.): a provisional translation, Centre for Hellenic Civilization, University of Manitoba, 2000.
  • B. Flusin (trans.), J.-C. Cheynet (ed.), Jean Skylitzès: Empereurs de Constantinople, Ed. Lethielleux, 2004, ISBN 2-283-60459-1.
  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991). Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press. p. 1914. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6. 
  • W. Seibt: Johannes Skylitzes: Zur Person des Chronisten, Jahrb. Österr. Byz. 25 (1976) 81-85.
  • Eirini-Sophia Kiapidou, Ἡ Σύνοψη Ἱστοριῶν τοῦ Ἰωάννη Σκυλίτζη καὶ οἱ πηγές της (811‐1057). Συμβολὴ στὴ βυζαντινὴ ἱστοριογραφία κατὰ τὸν ΙΑ΄ αἰώνα, Αthens 2010

External links

  • Notes by Paul Stephenson
  • Biography of Basil II with notes on Scylitzes by Catherine Holmes
  • Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Graeca with analytical indexes
  • Synopsis of Histories (Σύνοψις Ἱστοριῶν)
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