Meier, Mischa [Editor]; Radtki, Christine [Editor]; Schulz, Fabian [Editor]; Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften [Editor]
Malalas-Studien: Schriften zur Chronik des Johannes Malalas (Band 1): Die Weltchronik des Johannes Malalas: Autor - Werk - Überlieferung — Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016

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The Historiographical Position
of John Malalas. Genre in Late Antiquity
and the Byzantine Middle Ages
R. W. Burgess and Michael Kulikovoski

Abstract This article attempts to set out consistent generic features that can be used to define
the chronicle over a very long period of time, from its origins in the Ancient Near East to the
European Middle Ages. These features include a longer timeframe than narrative histories,
preference for chronographic framework and reckoning of time over content, brevity of that
content, and a paratactic style of recording suited to these strictures. The authors sketch the
history of this genre, arguing that Byzantinists’ definitions of chronicle must begin from this
ancient prehistory, rather than working backwards from late Byzantine genres and definitions. In
the last part of the article, the authors examine the work of Malalas on the basis of its manuscript
heading, its historical context, and the previous development of the genre and conclude that by
any measure save scholarly inertia, Malalas’work cannot be considered a chronicle.
It is conventional to speak of John Malalas as the author of a “chronicle,” irrespective
of what one means by that very slippery word. The authors of this paper, having re-
cently devoted the first of several forthcoming volumes to the history of chronicles as
a genre, and especially to the late antique chronicle tradition in Latin, were asked to
consider the question of whether or not Malalas did in fact write a chronicle, accor-
ding to what we (and, we would argue, ancient and late antique authors) understand
the chronicle genre to require. Both authors, whether as philologists or historians,
come to the field of Byzantine studies as outsiders but, insofar as it is a priori likely
that Byzantine genres should bear some relationship to (indeed have developed from)
their Greco-Roman forebears, that may be no bad thing. In what follows, we shall
sketch what we understand to characterize the chronicle genre in antiquity, and then
ask to what degree Malalas represents conformity to that genre. We should make it
clear, here at the outset, that we believe the ancient world to have had a very clear sense
of genre as such - that even where no technical term corresponding to observable
stylistic features has been transmitted to us, it remains not just possible, but actually
imperative, to recognize generic restrictions that the ancients observed in practice.
Where Modernist practice favored the introduction of generically unsanctioned ma-
terial into well-defined genres, and where post-Modern and our contemporary mash-
up cultures favor the expunction of genre as a category of analysis or composition, to
the ancient world these standpoints were unthinkable. Genres existed for the ancients,
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