Charting the Hellenization of a Literary Culture: The Case of Syriac

in Intellectual History of the Islamicate World
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Syriac literary culture became increasingly hellenized over the course of the fourth to seventh century AD. The paper sets out to indicate some of the ways by which the advance of this process can be charted. Special attention is given to two specific areas which prove to be particularly illuminating:

1. The changing attitudes to translation practice, clearly observable in successive translations of the Gospel and of certain patristic and philosophical texts, with a movement from reader-oriented to text-oriented translations, culminating in the seventh century, and a return to reader-oriented ones in the new context of the ʿAbbāsid translation movement.

2. The growing number of Greek loanwords taken over into Syriac and the dramatic increase in new adjectival forms. The marked growth in both of these can be charted diachronically, thanks to the existence of sufficient dated or datable texts.

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References

16

Van Rompay, “Jacob of Edessa,” and Brock, “Jacob the Annotator,” pp. 5–6.

18

See Géhin, “Manuscrits sinaïtiques,” pp. 37–38.

19

Hornus, “Le corpus dionysien en syriaque,” pp. 92–93.

24

Chabot, Documenta, p. 40.

25

See Brock, “Towards a History,” p. 9.

35

Translation in Brock, “Two Letters of the Patriarch Timothy,” p. 236.

36

Rosenthal, The Classical Heritage in Islam, p. 17.

47

For details, see Brock, “Greek Words in Ephrem and Narsai,” pp. 444–446.

50

Isaac of Nineveh, De perfectione religiosa, pp. 105, 317.

54

Ephrem the Syrian, Hymni de Fide, 2:24.

55

Dolapönu, Egrātēh, p. 77.

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