Matthew of Edessa was an Armenian historian in the 12th century born in the city of Edessa.
Matthew was the superior abbot of Karmir Vanq (Red Convent), near the town of Kessoun, east of Marash (Germanicia), the former seat of Baldwin of Boulogne.
The literary and historical knowledge of Matthew was limited; however, the accuracy of his work has not been disputed. He remains the only primary source of certain information about the political and ecclesiastical events of his time and area. A man of strong convictions, he was a determined opponent of the Greek church and as well as the Latin church, he was especially bitter against Frankish settlers, whose avaricious and imperious rule and ingratitude he condemned. He was a fervent Armenian patriot, lamenting the martyrdom of his people and exalting their heroic deeds. To him we are indebted for the record of two documents of importance — a letter from the Byzantine Emperor Tzimisces, to King Ashot III Bagratuni and a discourse delivered in the cathedral of Hagia Sophia, Constantinople, in the presence of the Emperor Constantine X Ducas by Gagik II, the exiled Bagratid king, concerning the doctrinal divergence between the Greek and Armenian churches.
Matthew's work is rather chronological, covering two centuries from the second half of the tenth through the second half of the twelfth. He relates much about the early Crusades, and the battles between Byzantines and Arabs for the possession of parts of northern Syria and eastern Asia Minor. Byzantine authors such as John Zonaras and Anna Comnena were well versed in their particular spheres, but uninformed regarding Edessa and neighboring lands which are treated by Matthew. Some of his chronological data is disputed by modern scholars.
Matthew, was intolerant towards both Greeks and Latins, as well as unsympathetic towards Syrians, judging by allusions made by Abul-Faraj at a later date. Matthew is said to have been slain during the Siege of Edessa by Zengi, atabeg of Mosul in 1144.
Notes and references
- (This article incorporates text from History of Armenia by Vahan M. Kurkjian, a publication in the public domain.)