From the Pre-face
From the Preface, page X to XII
The want of a translation into some European language of the
ETHIOPIC SYNAXARIUM (MASHAFA SENKESÅR) has been
long felt by students of the Literatures of Oriental Christianity.
For none of the extracts printed in Ethiopic, and none of the
general descriptions of that work in German or English that are
found in the published accounts of Ethiopic Literature, have
succeeded in giving a true idea of the nature and scope and
variety of the contents of that voluminous work. For some
years Bruce's incorrect and contemptuous description of the
"Synaxar" (see p. xxxiii) prevented students from examining the
manuscripts of the MASHAFA SENKESÅR for themselves, and
it was not until Dillmann and Professor William Wright of
Cambridge had published lists of the contents of the Codices
in the British Museum and Bodleian Library, that the historian
and theologian regarded the work as worthy of serious study.
Wright was no sentimental admirer of the literature of miracles,
whether Ethiopian or European, but he certainly did regard
the MASHAFA SENKESÅR as a work of very considerable
historical and religious value. On many occasions in 1882 and
1883, when reading with him the extracts from it in the section
"De viris sanctis" in Dillmann's Chrestomathia Aethiopica, he
impressed upon me the importance of reading the whole work
for the sake of the historical facts which were to be found in
it throughout. As Wright had read through, for cataloguing
purposes, the whole of the 350 manuscripts which the British
Army brought back from Makdalå, I regarded and, having
read through the book, still regard his opinion as incontro-
The translation printed in the following pages has been made
from the famous Codex in the British Museum (Orient. Nos.
660 and 661) which was copied by the scribe Takla Hâymânôt
in one year and one month. It was begun in the 21st year of the
reign of Fåsiladas, King of Abyssinia (A.M. 7111=A.D. 1654-55).
The manuscript is well written, and Takla Hâymânôt was
evidently a competent scribe; here and there he omits words,
and even whole lines, but the manuscript is one of the best
examples of the Second Recension of the MASHAFA SENKESÅR
to which it belongs. The few passages which contain faulty or
defective readings are indicated by dots ….. The translation
has been made as literal as possible, and the Ethiopic text of
the manuscripts is so good that only a few passages have
needed paraphrasing. The proper names are a subject of con-
siderable difficulty. The Ethiopian scribe made his translations
of them from the Arabic version of the Jacobite Synaxarium,
in which many Greek and Roman names appear in corrupt
forms. In some of the sections two or three, and even four,
different forms of the same name will be found. And many of
the saints who are commemorated I have found it impossible
The MASHAFA SENKESÅR is a vast storehouse of Christian
legends and traditions and popular folk-lore, and as a whole it
illustrates clearly the history of Egyptian, Nubian and Ethio-
pian Christianity for a period of about thirteen hundred years.
Some of the historical statements made in it are incorrect,
facts are distorted, the actions of religious opponents are mis-
represented, the sufferings and numbers of the martyrs are
exaggerated, and the miracles out-miracle those recorded in the
Old and New Testaments; but in spite of all this the work is
full of interesting information, much of which is found nowhere
else. The esteem in which the book was held in Abyssinia is
proved by the existence of the large number of copies of it
which are now preserved in the great libraries on the Continent
and in England. The full history of its origin and growth and
development has yet to be written, but this can hardly be done
until the whole of the Ethiopic text has been printed.
In the Introduction to this translation the reader will find
sections in which the compilation and the general contents of
the MASHAFA SENKESÅR are described, and the lists of the
Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Constantinople, and
the Popes of Rome, with their dates, which have been drawn
up and checked with the aid of the invaluable work of M.
Chaine, will be found useful for chronological purposes. The
Index of proper names and things has been made tolerably
full, for to a work of such miscellaneous contents an Index of
this kind is absolutely necessary. The reading of the proofs has
been a laborious task, but I have been greatly helped by the
readers of the Cambridge Press, whose skill and accuracy are
well known, and I am grateful for their suggestions and help.
And my thanks are due also to Mr S.C. Roberts, Secretary
to the Syndics of the Press, and to their printer, Mr Lewis, for
the care they have shown in the production of this book.
E. A. W ALLIS BUDGE
48 Bloomsbury Street,
Bedford Square, W.C. I.
November 2Ist, I927.