World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Theophilus of Edessa

Article Id: WHEBN0005802277
Reproduction Date:

Title: Theophilus of Edessa  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Categories for discussion/Log/2015 January 25, 695 births, Agapius of Hierapolis, 785 deaths, Theophilus
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Theophilus of Edessa

Theophilus of Edessa (695–785 CE), also known as Theophilus ibn Tuma and Thawafil, was a Greek medieval astrologer and scholar in Mesopotamia.[1] In the later part of his life he was the court astrologer to the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mahdi.

He translated numerous books from Greek to Syriac, including the Iliad.[2]


  • Life 1
  • Works on astrology (in Greek) 2
  • Influence 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5


His life is described in the Syriac Chronicle of Bar-Hebraeus (1226–1286):

Theophilus served the Caliph al-Mahdî, who esteemed him very much because of his superiority in the art of astrology. It is said that one day the Caliph wanted to take a trip into one of his provinces and to take his court with him. The Caliph's wife sent someone to say to Theophilus: "It is you who have advised the Caliph to take this trip, thereby imposing upon us the fatigue and boredom of the journey, which we don't need. I hope therefore that God will make you perish and disappear from this world, so that, rid of you, we may find some peace." Theophilus replied to the servant who had brought him this message: "Return to your mistress and say to her: "It is not I who have advised the king to take this trip; he travels when it pleases him to do so. As for the curse that you have cast upon me for God to hasten my death, the decision about it has already been taken and affirmed by God; I shall die soon; but do not suppose that I shall have died so that your prayer might be fulfilled; it is the will of my Creator that will accomplish it. But you, O Queen, I say to you: "Prepare a lot of dust for yourself; and when you learn that I am dead, pile all that dust on your head." When the Queen had heard these words, she was seized with a great fear, and she wondered apprehensively what the result would be. A little while afterward, Theophilus died and twenty days after him the Caliph al-Mahdî also died. That which Theophilus had determined came to pass.

Theophilus was a Maronite Christian. Among other works he translated the Iliad into Arabic.[3] He also wrote a lost historical (syriac) chronicle.

Works on astrology (in Greek)

  • Works on Elections for Wars and Campaigns and Sovereignty
  • Astrological Effects
  • Various Elections
  • Collection on Cosmic Beginnings

These books have been preserved more or less intact, along with fragments of their Arabic versions.


Theophilus's lost history was used by a number of later writers. The Jacobite patriarch Dionysius of Tel Mahre (818–45) cited it on several occasions in his own world history, the Annals. The tenth-century Melkite historian Agapius of Hierapolis also used material from Theophilus.


  1. ^ A History of Horoscopic Astrology By James H. Holden, p. 104
  2. ^ Brown, Peter. The Rise of Western Christendom (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 2003) p. 311
  3. ^ Moffett, Samuel Hugh. A History of Christianity in Asia, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1998, p. 354

Further reading

  • Robert G. Hoyland (Ed.): Theophilus of Edessa's Chronicle and the Circulation of Historical Knowledge in Late Antiquity and Early Islam. Liverpool 2011.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.