Madrid Skylitzes


The Madrid Skylitzes is a richly illustrated illuminated manuscript of the Synopsis of Histories (Greek: Σύνοψις Ἱστοριῶν, Byzantine Greek[ˈsy̜.nop.sisˈon]), by John Skylitzes, which covers the reigns of the Byzantine emperors from the death of Nicephorus I in 811 to the deposition of Michael VI in 1057. The manuscript was produced in Sicily in the 12th century, and is now at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid, with the shelfmark MS Graecus Vitr. 26–2. Other names for it include the Latin: Codex Græcus Matritensis Ioannis Skyllitzes (Medieval Latin[ˈkɔː.d̪ɛks ˈɡrɛː.kus ma.t̪riˈt̪ɛn.sis jɔˈan.nis sk̟ilˈlit̪.d͡ze̝s]), or Skyllitzes Matritensis ([sk̟ilˈlit̪.d͡ze̝s ma.t̪riˈt̪ɛn.sis]).

Depiction of Greek fire in the Madrid Skylitzes
Depiction of Boris I of Bulgaria baptism

Apart from the very fragmentary 6th-century Alexandrian World Chronicle, it is the only surviving illustrated manuscript of a Greek chronicle, and includes 574 miniatures.

Meeting between Emperor John Tzimiskes and Sviatoslav I of Kiev
Serbs massacre the Byzantines in the mountain passes.

It is unclear whether these illustrations are copies of earlier Byzantine images or were newly created specifically for this copy.


  • Color facsimile edition by Militos (Μίλητος) Publishers, ISBN 960-8460-16-6.
  • Vasiliki Tsamakda, The Illustrated Chronicle of Ioannes Skylitzes, Leiden 2002.
  • Bente Bjørnholt and J. Burke, eds. "The Cultures and Contexts of the Madrid Skylitzes" International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 13 July 2004 (pub. 2005).

Further readingEdit

  • Evans, Helen C. & Wixom, William D., The glory of Byzantium: art and culture of the Middle Byzantine era, A.D. 843–1261, no. 338, 1997, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, ISBN 9780810965072; full text available online from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries

External linksEdit

  • Biography of Basil II with notes on Scylitzes by Catherine Holmes
  • World Digital Library page, and PDF download of the Madrid Skylitzes