A valuable source for this history of the Near East in the 10th – 12th centuries. Matthew’s work describes the period from 952 to 1129. Western scholars have used the Chronicle primarily for its unique information on the Crusades. It contains, additionally, invaluable information on Byzantium, the Arabs, Seljuks, Iranians, and especially the Armenians, both secular and clerical, both lords and louts. Along with this, Matthew describes such diverse phenomena as urban mobs, siege warfare, and confessional disputes, and he presents a welter of remarkable material of interest to many disciplines, including folklore and anthropology.
Volume 1 was written over eight years (1102 to 1110), and covers the period from 952 to 1052. Nothing certain is known about Matthew’s life. Volume 2 was written over fifteen years (1110 to 1125), and covers the period from 1053 to 1102. Volume 3 was written in 1136-1137 and covers the period from 1102 to 1129, and includes the continuation by Gregory the Priest, which describes events from 1137 to 1162.
The city of Edessa, whose medieval history is an important focus of Matthew’s Chronicle, played a major role in the development of Armenian literary culture. It was a cosmopolitan center of Syrian, Armenian, and Jewish culture from remote antiquity, and later was influenced to some extent by Greek Hellenism. At the time Matthew was writing—as well as before and after—Armenians of various faiths and speaking numerous languages, lived in a vast stretch of territory, from Georgia in the north, through eastern, central, and western Asia Minor, western Persia, northern Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt.