Decorative Arch, Resafa, Syria. Copyright, Daniel Schwartz.

About The Syriac Reference Portal

Online Reference Works

The publications of combine emerging methods in the field of digital humanities with the rigour of traditional scholarship in history and philology. Four digital reference works have been published and more are in preparation:

  • The Syriac Gazetteer (Thomas A. Carlson and David A. Michelson, eds.) is a geographical reference work of all places relevant to Syriac Studies, with no temporal or spatial restrictions.
  • The Syriac Biographical Dictionary (David A. Michelson, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent, Nathan P. Gibson, and Daniel L. Schwartz, general eds.) is a multi-volume guide to persons related to Syriac culture or history. This resource serves as an authority file or standard reference system for use in cataloguing persons of interest to Syriac studies.
    • Volume 1: Qadishe: A Guide to the Syriac Saints (Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent and David A. Michelson, eds.) is a digital catalogue of saints venerated in the Syriac tradition.
    • Volume 2: A Guide to Syriac Authors (David A. Michelson and Nathan P. Gibson, eds.) is a handbook of persons who wrote in Syriac or otherwise had an influence on Syriac literature.
    • Volume 3: Miscellaneous Syriac Persons (David A. Michelson, Nathan P. Gibson, and Daniel L. Schwartz, eds.) is a biographical guide to persons relevant to the study of Syriac history, literature, and culture.
    • Volume 4: Anonymous Syriac Persons (Daniel L. Schwartz, David A. Michelson, and Nathan P. Gibson) is a biographical guide to persons relevant to the study of Syriac history, literature, and culture.
    • [Notabene: At present, volumes 3 and 4 are accessible directly through the main SBD search page].
  • A New Handbook of Syriac Literature is a multi-volume reference guide to Syriac literature from antiquity to the modern period. The first volume has been published and several more are in process. This resources is intended to serve as a title authority file for use in cataloguing Syriac manuscripts.
    • Volume 1: Bibliotheca Hagiographica Syriaca Electronica (Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent, David A. Michelson, Ugo Zanetti and Claude Detienne, eds.) is a database of Syriac hagiographic literature covering not only saints indigenous to the Syriac traditions but also hagiographic literature and cults appropriated by the Syriac churches from Greek and other traditions.
  • Gateway to the Syriac Saints (Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent, general editor) uses linked open data architecture to Qadishe: A Guide to the Syriac Saints and Bibliotheca Hagiographica Syriaca Electronica into a joint resource specifically for the study of Syriac saints. At present this resource links data throughed a system of shared URIs. An RDF instance is also in preparation.
  • Works Cited is a shared feference list of modern scholarship cited in all publications.

The following publications are in preparation:

All publications of are made available online in a free and open format using the Creative Commons licenses.

Prepublication draft data for all in-process publications is currently available in a public Github repository.

For the completed publications listed above, we invite collaborative augmentation and annotation by scholars. Please contact the editors to submit revisions and additions. These reference works are designed to increase their coverage over time.

What are the Objectives of Syriaca.or?

The Syriac Reference Portal project was conceived to produce tools and reference resources that will overcome some of the access and discovery problems which currently impede scholarly research on Syriac language, cultures, and history. The principle objectives are threefold:

  • to compile and organize core data related to the study of Syriac sources
  • to create digital tools for widely disseminating this data and facilitating further research
  • to create an online hub (cyberinfrastructure) to assist future research in the field of Syriac studies

Who are the indended users?

The publications have been created to benefit a diverse group of users. For students and the interested public, we provide access to basic reference information about the historical, cultural, and religious diversity of the Middle East. For academics in general, we seek to generate new scholarly interest in Syriac sources by making research on Syriac accessible without the need for extensive linguistic facility in Syriac. Finally, by opening new levels of access to the sources through new discovery tools, the Syriac Reference Portal project not only supports the current research aims of specialists in the field, but even offers new ways of conceptualizing the historical evidence through digital approaches.

Use Cases

User Scenario One: Researcher, Syriac Specialist

A researcher working with an unpublished Syriac manuscript encounters a homiletic text attributed to a minor author she cannot identify. She consults the A Guide to Syriac Authors for an encyclopedia entry on the author that links to a listing of known works and citations for published works. Consulting these texts, she determines that her text has not previously been documented. Following the standards and protocols established for collaboration with, the researcher submits information about the text and the manuscript citation to the Portal for inclusion in A New Handbook of Syriac Literature and A Union Catalogue of Syriac Manuscripts (forthcoming). Later, another researcher who has come across a text with the same title but without attribution to an author consults A New Handbook of Syriac Literature for text titles (or incipits) and discovers that the text’s author has been identified through another manuscript. This second scholar then submits his manuscript citation to the evidence field in the entry for that author.

User Scenario Two: Researcher, Non-Specialist

An historian of philosophy working on an Islamic philosophical text comes across a reference to Aristotle’s Analytica Priora in its Arabic translation. A search on Google Scholar pulls up a reference from to the same work in Syriac. The researcher then consults A New Handbook of Syriac Literature for a list of the works of Aristotle extant in Syriac. By using the classified bibliography, the researcher learns of Syriac commentaries on the Analytica and is able to incorporate them into his study. Following suggestions generated by the semantic links in the Portal’s bibliography, he also discovers an unpublished master’s thesis on Syriac translation technique which provides an explanation of some terminological issues he has found confusing about the text.

User Scenario Three: Educational and Public Users

A teacher in an introductory college course on the history of the Middle East wants students to do an independent study project that will challenge assumptions about the cultural divide between Middle Eastern and European civilizations. The teacher assigns students to use the online resources of including the Works Cited page to find documents in English translation from Syriac authors. Links between the The Syriac Gazetteer and the Works Cited allow the students to place their reading in a geographical context. Links between The Syriac Gazetteer and other ancient world geographic resources such as The Pleiades Online Gazetteer allow the students to trace these geographic connections broadly.