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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Malalas and Procopius
Geoffrey Greatrex

Abstract This paper argues that caution must be exercised in using the surviving text of Malalas
as a witness to sixth-century attitudes, given the alterations it underwent before reaching us in
a twelfth-century manuscript. Much may have dropped out, as surviving excerpts from earlier
sources indicate. It notes also the use of official sources by both Malalas and Procopius and seeks
to explain the omission of certain episodes in the latter through their presence in the former.
It concludes by emphasising the similarity between the works of the two writers, who were
probably writing, albeit in different styles, for a broadly similar public.
Both Malalas and Procopius are now enjoying a significant revival of interest. It is su-
rely no coincidence that the first two months of 2014 have seen two-day international
conferences devoted to each author, first in Oxford, now in Tübingen.1 This paper
aims to connect the work going on in Procopian studies with recent research on Ma-
lalas. To that end, we propose to start by underlining the degree to which aspects of
their works that had seemed clear now appear uncertain, as orthodoxies are scrutinised
and challenged; we shall then proceed to consider common points between the works,
both in what they cover and what they omit.
i. The ‘Chronicle’ of‘Malalas’?
Just as the identity of Procopius remains enigmatic - whether he was a crypto-pagan
or a conventional Christian, an admirer of Justinian’s reconquests or a fierce oppo-
nent - so too John Malalas, already a shadowier figure than Procopius, is becoming
more elusive. It remains unclear, for instance, whether Procopius genuinely admired
the horse-archers of his own day, whose qualities he praises in his preface, or rather
sought by his praise to make ironic criticisms.2 There is no need immediately to en-
ter the debate as to the genre of Malalas’ work, which Richard Burgess and Michael
Kulikowski have recently argued should be categorised as an epitome rather than a
1 We shall refer from time to time to papers presented at the conference, some of which will be published
in a volume of proceedings, while others will appear in Meier, A Companion to Procopius. Thanks are due
to Roger Scott, Ian Colvin and Phil Booth for comments and help in the preparation of this paper.
2 See Greatrex/Basso, “How to interpret Procopius’ preface to the Wars”, Greatrex, “Perceptions of Pro-
copius”, p. 94.
© Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften