John Malalas Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

John Malalas (muh-LAY-las) wrote the Greek Chronographia (n.d.; The Chronicle of John Malalas, 1986), a chronicle of world history in eighteen volumes covering the period from creation to 563 c.e. His aims were to make accessible to common people an account of the course of sacred Christian history from Adam to the present and to provide a summary of political events under the current and recent emperors. Malalas had access to the city archives of Antioch because of his mid-level job in the imperial bureaucracy. Some time before the sack of Antioch by the Sāsānians in 540 c.e., Malalas moved to Constantinople. He continued his chronicle down through much of the reign of Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565 c.e.). Malalas’s chronicle seeks to give a year-by-year account of interesting political or religious events, natural disasters, military hostilities, and occurrences he thought would be interesting to his readers. Malalas recorded a wide variety of events without trying to draw connections between them.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Despite the loose and seemingly disorganized arrangement of his material, Malalas’s chronicle is important because of the numerous citations of now lost historical works that are included verbatim in the text. Also important is Malalas’s use of oral sources in accounts of events during his own time period. Malalas’s chronicle was used as an authoritative source by later historians well into the Middle Ages.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Jeffreys, Elizabeth. Studies in John Malalas. Sydney: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 1990.

Jeffreys, Elizabeth, Michael Jeffreys, and Roger Scott. The Chronicle of John Malalas. Melbourne: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 1986.