John of Nikiou
JOHN OF NIKIOU
Bishop of Nikiou (Abshai), called John al-Mudabbir. Wrote a Greek Universal History, most important for the [p. 31] time of the Arabic conquest of Egypt, which has been preserved in the Ethiopian version of an Arabic translation.
Ed.: H. Zotenberg, La Chronique de Jean de Nikiou, Paris 1883 (1935), with French translation. English translation: R.H. Charles, London 1916.
T.: Zotenberg C:1
Ch. XXVIII ... [Melchisedec] descended from the family of Sidus, son of the king of Egypt and Nubia. (Zotenberg, La Chronique, p. 253).
Ch. LI: Elkad, having received the news of his father's death, fled and went to Nubia. Then Cambyses pillaged the town of 'Ōn' and Upper Egypt as far as Ashmunein (Eshmūn). Then they [the inhabitants of Ashmunein] sent a message to Elkad, son of Mūjāb, in Nubia, and invited him to come to them, because they wanted to make him their king in place of his father, for he [Elkad] had in the past fought wars in the provinces of Assyria. Elkad gathered a numerous army of Ethiopians (Salimān) and Nubians (Nōbā) and marched against the army of Cambyses following the eastern bank of the river Gehōn. The Ethiopians were unable to cross the river. Then the Persians, full of guilt, drew away and began to march as if they were fleeing; then, by nightfall, they cautiously [p. 32] crossed the river, stormed the town of Ashmunein and advanced into Upper Egypt. They devastated the town of Aswan, crossed the river in front of the town of Ahīf and sacked Philae in the same manner as they did to other towns. Then they turned to the remaining towns and villages, pillaging and burning them down in such a way that the whole of Egypt became a desert: no living creature, whether man or even bird of the sky, could be found. (p. 273 - 274).
Ch. LXXXIX [XC]: ... About the baptism of the people of the Lazes (Aryūsāwiyān), and of the kings of Indians (Hend) and Homerites (Elmārītes) who are the Nubians (Nōbā); about the religion of these, before their conversion to Christianity. (p. 234 - 235).
Ch. XC: ... Under the reign of Emperor Justinian, a war broke out between the Indians and the Ethiopians. The king of the Indians was named ʿEndās; he worshipped the star called Saturn. The country of the Ethiopians was not far from Egypt: it comprised three kingdoms of Indians and four kingdoms of Abyssinians, situated on the littoral of Ocean to the east. The Christian merchants who crossed the land of the worshippers of stars and the [country of the] Jews which we have mentioned above, were subject to great vexations. Whenever the Christian merchants entered his state, Damnus (Dhū Nuwās), the king of the Jews, killed them and took their goods, saying: [p. 33] "As the Romans oppress the Jews, I shall, in my turn, kill all the Christians who fall into my hands". Therefore, all trade stopped and vanished from Inner India.
The king of the Nubians, on learning of these incidents, sent the king of the Jews this message: "By killing the Christian merchants, you have done wrong and have harmed my state and the states of the other [kings] those who are near me and those who are far from me". After he received this message, [the king of the Jews] set out against him. When the two adversaries were facing each other, the king of the Nubians exclaimed: "If God gives me victory over this Jew Damnus, I shall become a Christian". Then, having attacked the Jews, he overcame their king, slew him and took his country and his towns. Then he sent messengers to Alexandria, to the Jews and to the Pagans (Hanefawiyān), asking, at the same time, the Roman governors to send him a bishop from the Roman empire to baptize them and to teach the holy Christian mysteries to all the Nubians and also to those Jews who had survived. The Emperor Justinian, after being informed about this request, ordered that the king [p. 34] should receive, according to his wishes, some priests and a bishop to be chosen from among the clergy of the holy Patriarch John. He was a chaste and pious man. This was the origin of the conversion of the Ethiopians under the reign of Emperor Justinian, (pp. 391 - 393).
Ch. XCII: ... After the venerable father Timothy died, the people elected Theodosius, the deacon, who had been his secretary. While he was going to be enthroned, an Ethiopian made am attempt on his life. (pp. 395 - 396).
Ch. XCV: Aristomachos defeats the Mārīkōs. Shortly afterwards, as no charge was proved against Aristomachos, [emperor Tiberius] restored him to his office and sent him to Alexandria where he was beloved by all. He defeated the Barbarians (barbar) of the province of Nubia and Africa who are called Mauritanians (Mōritānes) and other barbarians called Mārīkōs, cut them to pieces, plundered, pillaged their country, carried off their property and took them prisoner, in chains, to Egypt by way [p. 35] of the Nile (Gehōn) as the encounter had taken place on this river and Chroniclers have recorded this victory. (p. 404)
Ch. XCVIX: John [the Prefect of Alexandria], after the emperor conferred great honour upon him, left the Court and went back to Alexandria. The leader of the rebels of Aykelah knew his arrival. John then gathered troops from Alexandria, Egypt and Nubia to march against Aykelah. Theodore, son of Zacharias, a general who had previously been in the expedition of Aristomachos, immediately set out against them and secretly wrote to John asking for a company of well-trained bowmen. (p. 411).
About this same time, a leader of brigands, by name Azarias, arose in the district of Akhmin. He had gathered around him a great number of Ethiopians (tsalimān), slaves and brigands, levied public taxes, while the authorities of the district were unaware. The population was terrorised by the acts of violence, of those slaves and barbarians, and sent information to the Emperor.
The Emperor sent a high ranking officer with a numerous army of Egyptian and Nubian soldiers against Azarias. Azarias took to flight without waiting for the attack, and sought refuge on a mountain, barren and steep like a citadel. The troops besieged the mountain for a long time, until the rebels and their companions, being deprived of all water and food supply, died of starvation and thirst, after they had abandoned their horses (pp. 412 - 413).
- Sidus is said to have founded Sidon in Phenicia
- In the same chapter he is called Nabuchodonosor II, [Nebuchadnezzar]
- This quotation is taken from the Index of Chapters, at the beginning of the book.
- Zotenberg translated "Lazes", but noted that this is a distorted form of some other name. The original has "Ariūsāwiyān" (Arians), but the Arians are out of question here.
- Malalas [q.v.] reporting this same episode, wrote "King of Aksum" instead of "King of the Nubians". The event here referred to seems to be the Ethiopian campaign against Yemen in 525, in the time of the Aksumite King Caleb. As the kings of Aksum had been converted to Christianity since the 4th century, it seems that the vow of the Aksumite king might have been for his retirement to monastic life. John of Nikiou, or his Ethiopian translator, probably unaware of this detail and feeling embarassed at placing the conversion of Ethiopia to Christianity at a very late date, may have distorted the fact and substituted the "King of the Nubians" for the "King of the Ethiopians". Another explanation - less plausible - is that the Aksumite king in question might be Ezanas who fought the Nūba sometime about 325-350 A.D. In the latter assumption the event would have taken place not in the time of Justinian
- "Hanefawiyān", a word of Syriac origin ("pagans"), seems to be out of place here.
- There was no patriarch of this name at Alexandria at this time. This John was the rector of one of the churches at which the [Ethiopian] delegation took lodging. Cf. Malalas [q.v.].
- The text goes on to say that Patriarch Theodosius withdrew from Alexandria to a monastery and one Gaianus was elected by the populace to be patriarch in his place; eventually the population of Alexandria was divided into two parties, i.e. the Monophysites anti-Chalcedonian supporters of Theodosius, and the Gaianites, who were pro-Chalcedonians
- Zotenberg suggests that "Mārīkōs" should probably read "Markoris" i.e. Macurites; Monneret (Storia della Nubia Cristiana, p. 70) suggests "Mazicos" i.e. the Mazices.