Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Parthian Kingdom

“The Gardens of Light” by Amin Maalouf (Reviewed in April 19, 2007 and posted in 2008)

“The gardens of light” is translated from French. Amin  Maalouf is currently a French Academician from Lebanese origin who immigrated during the civil war. I read all his books

In the middle of 200 AC, Mani set about spreading his Message and he preached for over thirty years a new religion, a mixture of Christianity (Nazarene), Buddhism and Ahura Mazda (Zoroastrianism and whose priests were called Magi).

Mani was born around AD 216 in Mardinu (Mardin, a town east of present Turkey on the North of the Tigris River, a Syrian region that French mandated power offered to Turkey in 1937).

Mani called himself the “son of Babel“. He experienced the unyielding faith, the teachings and the rigorous life style of the White clad Brethren or monks of a Nazarene sect on the Euphrates River banks, where his father Patek was a member and who adopted the doctrines and teachings of this Christian Nazarene sect..

This sect was called “Halle Haware” or white garment in the Aramaic language.

The members of the sect did Not eat meat or drink wine or leavened bread; the disciples wore white from top to bottom.

This sect was scared of fire, a counter faith to the most common Zaradust faith in the region at the time, and thus would eat only raw fruits and vegetables grown by the community.

Food from outside the community was prohibited and considered “female” food because women were banished from the community and the female names in the scriptures were not mentioned unless the names represented calamities and bad augurs.

(I told my young nephew William, who insists on wearing white garment and who spent three weeks in India at a meditation center in Mount Abu, about this novel and he sounded interested but he claimed that his sect (which he would not give it this label as if it is a bad connotation like cult) is far ancient and going back many thousands of years. William is no longer into these “fashionable” trends)

Mani is now a very close advisor to the Divine King of Kings, the Sassanian monarch Shapur, and managed for 3 years to delay a resumption of war with the Roman Empire.

The Roman Emperor Philip the Arab (Born in Syria) had struck a deal with Shapur to cede Armenia to the Persian Empire and to deliver a tribute of 100,000 sacs of gold every year by a caravan of bedouins of his tribe. 

Philip needed badly a truce in order to celebrate the 1000 years of the creation of Rome.

After Philip was assassinated, his successor resumed paying the tribute but was assassinated two years later and four generals were vying for the throne of Rome and the tribute could not arrive.

Shapur succeeded his father Ardashir, the founder of the Sassanid Dynasty, who defeated the powerful Parthian king Artabanus in AD 226, who had previously defeated the Emperor Caracalla in AD 217.

The Parthian Empire was located in Northern Iran and was comprised of the current Kurdistan territory, part of Anatolia (in current Turkey) and the central Iraqi plains and including Babylon.

The Roman Empire had the Western parts of current Turkey with Cappadocia as the main city and all of Syria (Aram) and Egypt. 

The Sassanid Dynasty had Ctesiphon as its Capital, near Babylon, but on the Eastern shore of the Tigris and which used to be the Capital of the defeated Parthian Empire. The Sassanid Empire expanded to include Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Shapur could have installed his capital anywhere he wanted further to the East but he wanted to be close to the Roman Empire, his arch-enemy.  Shapur succeeded twice more in defeating the Romans and captured Emperor Valerian and made him prisoner in AD 259.

Shapur begged Mani to join him on one of his war expeditions so that he may promote his religion to the conquered territories but Mani declined the offer saying: “My words shall shed no blood. My hands shall bless no blade. My hands shall neither bless the knives of sacrificing priests, nor even a woodcutter’s axe.”

While the Magi were destroying the Gods in the conquered territories of Armenia, Cappadocia, and Syria Mani and his followers “The Sons of Lights” were preaching peace and contempt for all swords and the hands which wield them. 

Mani and his followers prayed at the tomb of his father Patek and his mother Mariam and he felt weak in the natural surrounding of his village.

Patek, the father of Mani, was from a Parthian warrior class and Sittai, and the leader of the White-clad sect had ordered him to go home and bring his son to live within the community after he is weaned.

Mani was 4 years old when he was baptized in the river and lived in the community without knowing who was his father or mother since Patek was not allowed or cared to show affection for his son.

Mani was used to isolate himself and discovered a favorite place for seclusion in a peninsula by the Tigris River surrounded by palm trees. By the age of twelve Mani must have gathered from bits of conversation how he was conceived and his origins and he liked to paint. 

It is at that age that he saw on the surface of the river the image of his “Twin” or “Double” who told him: “Draw what seems right to thee, Mani.  He who sends me knows no rival.  All beauty is the reflection of His beauty”. 

Mani told his close friend Malchos in the community: “Tread lightly on this earth, avoid sudden movements, and do not kill trees or flowers. Pretend to plow the soil, but do not wound it. When others scream and yell, move only your lips.”

When he was 24, Mani’s “twin” told him that it was time for him to get out to the world and spread the Message of tolerance to all religions and bring down the walls among casts and races. 

Mani shed his white garment and wore colorful cloth and walked to Ctesiphon to find his friend Malchos.  Malchos was originally from Tyre (south current Lebanon) and stayed in the community when his father drowned there and then was excommunicated at the age of fifteen.

Patek joined his son in order to bring him back to the community and ended up becoming his first disciple. 

Mani started teaching that every person or object is a mix of light and darkness and it is through the five senses that individuals need to differentiate the good and beautiful in the world and increase their knowledge, sense of beauty and tolerance.

Mani left for Deb by sea, on the estuary of the Indus River (in current Pakistan). This city was where all the ships from West to East stopped and the Kushan princes and kings were tolerant to all religious beliefs and it is said that Thomas, the twin brother of Jesus, was the apostle who spread Christ’s teachings there and in India.

It used to be a treacherous voyage and took a month under the best monsoon conditions around the month of May.

Deb is no more, and the emplacement of Karachi is very close; Ctesiphone is no more, but current Baghdad was built close by.

Hormisdas, the grandchild of Ardashir, had defeated the Kushan princes and was ready to enter Deb.  Mani met him with a delegation, saved Hormisdas favorite daughter from death, and saved Deb from destruction. 

Instead of gold, Mani asked Hormisdas to give him Denagh, a 13- year old daughter of a martyred officer that Hormisdas has taken under his protection. Denagh has stayed near Mani the whole night healing the little girl.

When later Patek wanted to know the kind of relationship Mani had with Denagh he replied: “Her garments trace the boundaries of my nomadic realm“. 

He indirectly answered the implicit question by stating: “What merit would there be in depriving oneself of a pleasure which one had never enjoyed?”

Back to Ctesiphon, Mani met the Divine King Shapur and secured permission to spread his Message under his protection.  Mani was 26 then and his speech was: “I respect all creeds. The religious sects do not want to listen to the good in the other sects but they assemble the flocks of the faithful around hatred because it is only in confrontation that they show their solidarity. 

When men are tired of rites, myths and curses, they will remember that, one day, during the reign of the great Shapur, a humble mortal sent a cry resounding across the world.”

Mani had a special relationship with King Shapur and the latter was ready to adopt Mani’s Message if he agreed to stay close to him at the court. 

Mani declined the deal and the Magi gave Mani hard times because his message was a threat to their cast.  Hormisdas, Shapur’s younger son and King of Armenia and a follower of Mani’s Message, succeeded in the throne for a short period because the Magi poisoned him.

The next king was Bahram who tortured Mani for 30 days and exposed him shackled for everyone in Beth-Lapat to see. Mani remains were hanged naked for three days at the entrance of the city and no one was to know where he was buried. But the wall became a place of pilgrimage.  

The disciples of Mani wrote everywhere “Mani Hayye” (Mani is alive) which was transformed into “Manichean“.

The Magi and the Catholic Church did their best to annihilate his books, paintings, and any icon of Mani.

The Western and Eastern religions succeeded in deforming Mani teachings and casting him as “The Devil”, the “lying demon” and the “pestilential heresy”. 

For a thousand years, he was called “The Apostle of Jesus” in Egypt and “The Buddha of Light” in China.

It is unfortunate that Shapur was dying when the Romans invaded Palmira (Tadmor) and captured Zenobia prisoner. Zenobia had managed to rule over Syria and Egypt from Tadmor.

Note: Mani message was the predominant religion in North Africa when St. Augustine lived in Tunisia

Short history of Eastern Christian sects: Assyrian, Chaldean, Jacobite

The Christian Assyrian Church or Athurian, also know as the Nestorian and the Persian Christian Church, was originally the Syriac Oriental Church. The message started in the city of Orfa (Ruha) in north Syria by the Euphrates River, and spread to the Parthian Kingdom during the Roman Empire) on the Tiger River.

The Syriac Oriental Church claims the disciple of Jesus Thomas as patron Saint. It consolidated its headquarters in the twin cities of Slik and Ctesiphon (ancient Capital of Persia), and 35 kilometers south of the newly built city of Baghdad around 762 by the Abbassid Calif Al Mansour.

The Assyrians refer to people who settled north Iraq 5,000 years ago, and the Arab historian Hassan Ben Bahlul defined the Assyrians as those inhabiting the city of Mosul and the neighboring provinces in current Kurdish region.

The Persian Empire vanquished the Parthians in the 3rd century and relocated to the Capital Ctesiphon, Consequently, the Assyrian Church was part and parcel of this Persian Empire. Their Patriarch was called Jathlic.

The Persian King Bahram II decided to institute Zarathustra as the religion of the Empire. Coincidentally, the Roman Emperor Constantin decided around 315 to recognize Christianity as one of the official religions in the Empire. King Bahram got suspicious and considered the Assyrian Christians as potential enemies and persecuted them harshly.

In the 5th century, the Syriac Church split from the Catholic Church.  In 431, the conclave of Ephesus (Afassus) condemned the doctrine of the Patriarch of Antioch Nestor as heretic. Thus, the Syriac Church was known as the Nestorian Church and located East of the Euphrates River in the Persian Kingdom.

In 451, the conclave of Chalcedon (Khalkhedonia) condemned the dogma of the priest Otikhus as heretic, and the followers were known as the Jacobite (Yaakibat) in reference to Bishop Jacob Baradei. This church settled on the west shores of the Euphrates River.

The main oriental “Catholic” Church in that period was named the Melkite Church, referring to the Church of the King or the Roman Emperor.

More than 5 decades before the birth of Islam, the Nestorian Church had reached China and translated its Bible into the Chinese language. The preaching activities followed the Silk Trade Road, and Nestorian churches and communities were established in Tibet, and Eastern Turkmenistan, and in India (the coastal province of Melbar)

During the Arab Empire, particularly during the Abbassid dynasty, the Nestorian Church members counted 8 million when the world population barely reached 300 million. The Abbassid dynasty made good use of the Nestorian scientists, mathematicians, medical profession, accounting, translation of Greek works in the “House of the Wise” (Beit el Hekmat) established by the Calif Al Maamoun.

For example, Patriarch Tiothius I reigned during a period that witnessed the coming to power of 5 caliphs: Mahdi, Hadi, Harun Rashid, Amin, and Maamoun.

In 1251, the Moguls ransacked Baghdad and established an Empire in the Middle-East that lasted two centuries before settling in India. During the Mogul Empire period, the Nestorian Church, Moguls and Turks joined the Church of the Orient and transformed it into an Asian Christian Church.

The warlord Tamerlane persecuted the Nestorian Church in around the year 1400 and forced them to flee to the Kurdistan region in north Iraq and East Turkey.

In mid 15th century, a sect of the Syriac Oriental Church split and recognized the Pope Eugene IV who called them Chaldeans, in reference to the ancient city of Chaldo.

The Nestorians in India were forced to affiliate with Rome Catholicism, revolted, and split in schisms in modern time. The Nestorians in north Syria and Turkey were persecuted and suffered the genocide alongside the Armenians between 1915-18.

The Syriac Orient Church was subjugated to several massive persecution, the two worst genocides were done at the hand of Tamerlane (Timorlenk) and in modern time by the Ottoman Empire and the Kurds.  For 16 centuries, the Syriac Orient Church struggled against powerful religions such as the Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, and Protestantism…

During Saddam Hussein reign on Iraq, the Chaldean Bishop Louis Sako summarized the conditions as: “We were not free but we enjoyed security. Currently, (after the US invasion of 2003 and the radicalization of Islam in Iraq) we are supposedly free but we lack security…”

It numbers around 400,000 members, when it was 8 million ten century ago.  In 1994, Patriarch Danhka IV signed the “Common Christian Declaration” with Pope John-Paul II. Unfortunately, Egypt Copt Church is putting the pressure on the Syriac Jacobite to recognize the Assyrian Church…

Note 1: The Swiss Christoph Bomer published in 2006 “Orient Church: The Illustrated history of the Assyrian Christians…”.  Azziz Amanueel Al Zibawi published a short Arabic review in the Lebanese daily Al Nahar.  The book is of 400 pages and divided in 12 chapters.

Note 2: Plenty of stories would like you to believe that the religious schisms in the Churches of the Orient were based on divergences on the “nature of Jesus“. History demonstrates that every Byzantium Emperor since 325 who “usurped power” tried to establish his own Church, even reverting to paganism.

Note 3: Before 325 and the official recognition of Emperor Constantin of the Christians as religions, the Near-East witnessed the mushrooming of particular Christian sects, each sect reading from its own Bible and living in isolation and going about according to particular life-styles along the Orontes (Al Assy) and the Euphrates rivers.




March 2023

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