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Symeon of Durham

Symeon (or Simeon) of Durham (d. after 1129), English chronicler, embraced the monastic life before the year 1083 in the monastery of Jarrow; but only made his profession at a later date, after he had removed with the rest of his community to Durham.

He was author of two historical works which are particularly valuable for northern affairs. He composed his Historia ecclesiae Dunelinensis, extending to the year 1096, at some date between 1104 and 1108. The original manuscript is at Durham in the library of Bishop Cosin. It is divided into four books, which are subdivided into chapters; the order of the narrative is chronological. There are two continuations, both anonymous. The first carries the history from 1096 to the death of Ranulf Flambard (1129); the second extends from 1133 to 1144. A Cambridge manuscript contains a third continuation covering the years 1145-1154.

About 1129 Symeon undertook to write a Historia regum Anglorum et Dacorum. This begins at the point where the Ecclesiastical History of Bede ends. Up to 957 Simeon merely copies some old Durham annals, not otherwise preserved, which are of value for northern history; from that point to 1119 he copies Florence of Worcester with certain interpolations. The section dealing with the years 1119-1129 is, however, an independent and practically contemporaneous narrative. Symeon writes, for his time, with ease and perspicuity; but his chief merit is that of a diligent collector and copyist.

Other writings have been attributed to his pen, but on no good authority. They are printed, along with his undoubted works, in the Scriptores decem of Roger Twysden (1652). The most complete modern edition is that of Thomas Arnold ("Rolls" series, 2 vols., 1882-1885). The value of the "Northumbrian Annals," which Simeon used for the Historia regum, has been discussed by JH Hinde in the preface to his Symeonis Dunelmensis opera, vol. i. pp. xiv. If. (1868); by R Pauli in Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte, xii. pp. 137 sqq. (Göttingen, 1872).

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.