This study of the Chronicle of Seert grew out a series of interests that developed while researching my doctorate. While my DPhil was concerned with the eastern Roman Empire, my eyes were increasingly drawn across the frontier, to the reception of the ideas, narratives, and institutional structures of the eastern Roman world in the Sasanian Empire. The Chronicle of Seert stood out in particular as a text that scholars sometimes mentioned in passing, but never treated as a whole, let alone situating it into its Sasanian and Abbasid contexts.
My study of the Chronicle was aided by the opportunity to use a closely related text, the Mukhtaṣar al-’akhbār al-biʿīya. This was discovered by Father Butrus Haddad in Baghdad immediately before the second Iraq war, and students of Iraqi history should be most indebted to him for bringing this text to the light of day. Following the custom of calling the Khuzistan Chronicle after its discoverer, Ignazio Guidi, I have used the term Haddad Chronicle, as a shorthand reference. In addition, I am personally very grateful to Robert Hoyland for allowing me to photocopy his copy of the chronicle.
I was very fortunate to be funded by a British Academy postdoctoral fellowship, which allowed me time to work on this project. I am also very grateful to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, for providing such a wonderful base for my Junior Research Fellowship and for the membership of the Corpus Classics centre. They were very happy years. My fellowship also allowed me to start work on Arabic, which I pursued in Damascus, and to spend time in the Syrian orthodox patriarchal monastery at Maʿarat Seidnaya. The book was completed at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, to whom I also owe a debt of gratitude.
I have accumulated a great many debts in the course of this project. My very great thanks go to Averil Cameron, my doctoral supervisor, who read the whole text in draft and made many highly pertinent observations. James Howard-Johnston was my British Academy mentor for the fellowship and was assiduous in offering advice on the text and urging me to remember the geography of my subject. David Taylor has been helpful and humorous in equal measure, and guided me out of several pitfalls, and Mazan Rabiʿa taught me Arabic for several summers, sitting under the fig tree in his garden in Damascus: both have the patience of saints.
My thanks also goes to Richard Payne and Elizabeth Campbell, who were travelling companions for trips to Iran, Iraq, and Turkey and offered much valuable advice. I must also thank the various poor souls who I persuaded to read sections of the text in various stages of preparation, especially Rosamond McKitterick, Daniel Hadas, Harry Munt, Phil Booth, Adam Becker, Khodadad (p.x) Rezakhani, Greg Fisher, and Sarah Savant. John Watt offered invaluable suggestions in his role as OUP’s external reader. Mat Dalton prepared the map. Father Mikael Oez gave great help with the Syriac, and Haydar al-Lami with the Arabic. The late Tom Sizgorich was also kind enough to share with me a chapter from an unpublished manuscript. I remain in their debt. Finally, my greatest thanks goes to Katherine, Charlotte, and all my family, for all their love and kindness.