Issues in the study of Egyptian toponyms in the Chronicle of John of Nikiu

Saveleva D. I. Issues in the study of Egyptian toponyms in the Chronicle of John of Nikiu, in: Proslogion: Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Social History and Culture, 2023. Vol. 7(1). P. 189–198.

Daria Igorevna Saveleva,Research Engineer, Institute of History, Saint Petersburg State University (199034, Russia, Saint Petersburg, Mendeleevskaya liniya, 5)

Language: Russian

The Chronicle, compiled by John of Nikiu, the Coptic bishop of the Egyptian city of Nikiu in the late 7th century, is a unique source within the Late Byzantine historiography that contains singular information related to the Egypt toponymics. The research on toponyms in the source studied makes a localization a number of historical events possible, considering both those events that were described in other historical works without a sufficient description of the area, as well as the unique ones that could not be found in other sources. The study of the toponymy of Egypt within the Chronicle of John of Nikiu involves a set of particular features, including several significant difficulties that complicate the work with the source studied. Thus, the Chronicle apparently was first written in Greek, then to be translated into Arabic in the period of the 12–13th centuries and then into Ge’ez in 1601 CE, which led to a distortion of the topographical designations, affecting their spelling twice. Furthermore, the Chronicle contains unique toponyms not mentioned in any of the sources currently known to us. The Coptic bishop could probably have relied on them while compiling his work. The unique naming of several locations may be reasoned by the fact that John of Nikiu used appellations relevant to him and his contemporaries, of which there is little evidence. At the same time, a number of toponyms can be localized based on the text of the Chronicle itself, while the others can be acknowledged from earlier sources, such as the Chronographia of John Malalas (6th century), which served as a work to rely on for John of Nikiu when he was creating his Chronicle. For these reasons, it is not always possible to identify the nature of the misinterpretation of toponyms cited in the Chronicle with precision.

Keywords: foreign literature in Ethiopic translation, John of Nikiu, the Geʽez language, Egypt, Egyptian toponyms, Byzantine historiography, the geography of Egypt


DOI: 10.24412/2500-0926-2023-71-189-198

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