92935 - Syrian Christian Literature (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Daniele Tripaldi

  • Credits 6

  • SSD L-FIL-LET/06

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Philology, Literature and Classical Tradition (cod. 9070)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale

  • Course Timetable from Mar 21, 2022 to May 06, 2022


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Upon a successful completion of this course, students will achieve basic skills in reading Syriac writing systems and translating simple sentences. They will also acquire first-hand knowledge of the history and development of ancient Christian Syriac literature, between re-readings and re-writings of the Bible and the reception of the Greek Christian tradition, on the one side, and the transmission and re-interpretation of the classical legacy (from Plato to alchemic texts) in Late Antique Near East, on the other.

Course contents

Ps.-Aristoteles' De mundo Between East and West: Towards a Reappraisal of the Syriac Translation.

Syriac speaking Christan élites were omnivorous readers. Such wide cultural interests sparked an intense translation activity, ranging from Old and New Testament 'apocrypha' to Porphyry, from the Hippocratic corpus to Ps.-Dionysius the Areopagite. Quite obviously, a philosophical 'classic' dating probably to the turn of the era, the cosmological treatise attributed to Aristotle and circulating under the title of De mundo, could not escape their attention. In a first step, the course will provide students with the basic knowledge of what was probably the most widespread writing system of the Syriac language: the serto (20 hours). The last 10 hours of the course will be then devoted to read and investigate selected passages from the Syriac translation of the De mundo in close parallel to their Greek original, both in its direct and indirect transmission, and to the Latin re-writing of the treatise, traditionally attributed to Apuleius of Madaura.


a) Grammar:

T.H. Robinson, Paradigms and Exercises in Syriac Grammar, Oxford University Press 1915 (5th ed. thoroughly revised by J.F. Oakley, 2003).

b) English Translation and Commentary:

A.C. McCollum, The Syriac De mundo. Translation, Commentary, and Analysis of Translation Technique, Diss. Hebrew Union College, 2009.

c) Studies

1. Literary Outlines

P. Bettiolo, Lineamenti di patrologia siriaca, in Complementi interdisciplinari di patrologia, a cura di A. Quacquarelli, Città Nuova 1969, 503-603;

Syriac Literature, in Patrology: The Eastern Fathers from the Council of Chalcedon (451) to John of Damascus (750), ed. by A. Di Berardino, A. Walford, and J. Quasten, vol. 5, James Clarke 2006, 407-490;

S.P. Brock, A Brief Outline of Syriac Literature, St. Ephrem Ecumenical Research Institute 1987.

2. Short Essays

Cosmic Order and Divine Power: Pseudo-Aristotle, On the Cosmos, ed. by J.C. Thom, Mohr Siebeck 2014 (in particular, section "C. Essays");

H. Hugonnard-Roche, Note sur Sergius de Reš Aina, traducteur du grec en syriaque et commentateur d'Aristote, in The Ancient Tradition in Christian and Islamic Hellenism, ed. by G. Endress et al., Brill 1997, pp. 121-143;

J.W. Watt, Syriac Philosophy, in The Syriac World, ed. by. D. King, Routledge 2019, pp. 422-437.

Teaching methods

Lectures; analysis of literary texts in Syriac, Greek and Latin; use of bibliographic and electronic databases; audio- and video resources.

Assessment methods

Oral exam. Students will have to prove their abilities

  • to fluently read a simple sentence in Syriac;
  • to interpret the De mundo as a complex cultural, historical and literary artifact, supplementing and integrating class notes with the commentary quoted supra in Bibliography under the entry English Translation and Commentary;
  • to rapidly sketch the main trajectories and debates as well as to discuss the most relevant works and authors in the development of ancient Christian literature in Syriac, with the help of one critical introduction of their choice to be selected from those enlisted supra in Bibliography, under the entry Studies, section 1. Literary Outlines;

Additionally, students who cannot attend the lessons will substitute class notes with two articles of their choice to be selected from those listed supra in Bibliography under the entry Studies, section 2. Short Essays.

 Skills will be assessed according to the following guidelines:

- failing grade (< 18): inability to read continuously simple phrases in Syriac; inability to provide correct interpretation of texts; lack of knowledge of literary history.

- passing grade (between 18 and 24): elementary ability to read continuously simple phrases in Syriac; interpretation of texts is partially correct, but lacks accuracy and autonomy; schematic knowledge of literary history.

- positive grade (between 24 and 30): fluent reading of simple phrases in Syriac; interpretation of texts is correct, but mostly superficial and not entirely autonomous; average knowledge of literary history.

- excellent grade (30L): fluent reading of simple phrases in Syriac; ability to interpret, contextualize, critically compare texts in detail and in full autonomy; in-depth knowledge of literary history.

Teaching tools

Computer and projector; bibliographic and electronic databases; fotocopies; texts and segments of texts in PDF format uploaded by the teacher as teaching materials (downloadable from https://iol.unibo.it).

Office hours

See the website of Daniele Tripaldi