Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Sassanide Dynasty

“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

The barbaric Catholic Church; (October 13, 2009)

 

            There is a resurgence of Islamophobia in France couched under the pretext of discovering the origins of European civilization as a combination of Greek and Christian cultures. It would be worthwhile to set the historical facts straight for any meaningful reply.

            Since 325 AC to around 700 AC there was a Christian Empire dominated by Byzantium with Capital in Constantinople. This empire was to the east of the Euphrates River, crossing Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, all the way to England and including North Africa. It was basically a Mediterranean Sea Empire.  To the west of the Euphrates River there was a Persian Empire, mostly under the Sassanide Dynasty.  The Arabic Empire did not conquer the western part of Turkey which remained with the Byzantium Empire until 1450 when the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad 2 entered Constantinople and spread all the way to the borders of Vienna in Austria.

            In around 1000 a major schism in Christianity split the Catholic Church of Rome with the Christian Orthodox Church of Constantinople. Actually, the initial Crusade campaigns had for objective to conquer Constantinople and coerce the Orthodox Church into uniting with Rome. That is what took place and Constantinople was ransacked and burned before the Crusading forces marched on toward Jerusalem. The other successive Crusading incursions had for objective to capture Egypt and free the spice routes directly to Europe without paying taxes to the Moslem Kingdoms along the maritime and land caravan routes.

            Thus, from 325 to 1450 Europe was Christian.  Why Greek civilization, if Europe insists on taking the source of its culture from antique Greece, was not prevalent during over 11 centuries?  Why Europe remained barbaric till the 15th century?  Is it because the Christian dogma of Rome was barbaric and refused other civilizations and cultures to infiltrate Europe?  Certainly the Christian clerics were at least bilingual, mostly Latin and Greek, and consequently, if Greece had any culture it would have been translated into Latin. Some would give the lame excuse that the scholars in Europe, mostly the clerics, could read the Greek manuscripts in their original forms and had no need to translate any manuscripts into Latin or other live languages; this would be another proof that the Catholic Church of Rome was barbaric and refused philosophical and scientific disciplines to penetrate into Europe.

            Europe experienced a demographic surge around 1000 AC; it is after getting in contact with the Near East culture and civilization (under Arabic/Islamic kingdoms) during the Crusading campaigns that culture entered Europe from the open door.  Even after the total defeat of the Crusaders in 1200 the Near East culture permeation would continue via Andalusia in southern Spain. The Arabic/Moslem civilization in Spain was the main source for the transfer of sciences into Europe until the “Christian” Spanish monarchs conquered completely Spain in around 1400 and chased out Moslems and Jews from its territory.

            Greece after Aristotle did not produced much in culture.  It was just a brilliant century for the City-State of Athens during Pericles period, as so many glorious periods for a dozen other City-States that dotted the Mediterranean shores and the Euphrates River, from Mary, Harran, Edessee, Ugharite, Tripoli, Byblos, Beirut, Sidon, Tyr, and much later Alexandria, Antiochus, and Ephesus, and on that scholars and archeologists have to start focusing on for the origins of civilizations.  The proof is that the Byzantium Empire that was established in Greece for over 11 centuries is no where mentioned as source for any worthwhile civilization.

            Macedonian warriors under Alexander conquered the Near East; it is not because the Near East people, from Alexandria, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and coastal Turkey, who assimilated the Greek language and spread their own culture and civilization in the Greek language that Europe has to claim its civilization to Greece. Europe should not. It is the Near East culture and civilization that assimilated the languages of the various conquerors (Mesopotamians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs from the Arabic Peninsula, Ottomans from the Turkish Plateau, French colonialism, and English colonialism) that absorbed and disseminated the fundamental cultures and civilizations to its neighboring environment.  

            It is not because of the invasion of nomadic warriors from the Arabic Peninsula that Arabic civilization should be labeled Arab.  Why the Mogul Empires that lasted longer than many Empires and stretched much further than many are not given any civilization?  It is a shame that Europe still feels the urge to attribute civilization to military conquering warriors.

 

Note: The title was meant to be catchy to drive through the purpose of the topic. I have no zeal to dwell into religions of any kinds. I would like readers to refer to my recent post “Damascus saved the Greek culture”.

Part 5. Persia during the Arab Caliphate Empire (651 to 1500 AC)

The Moslem Arabs, bolstered by a new religious belief, defeated the Byzantium Emperor Heracles in Yarmouk (Syria) and they extended their land to Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt.  Five years later, they defeated the Sassanid army in Qadisya in 636 and totally captured the Persia Empire in 651. 

The vast majority of the Persian elites adopted Islam to safeguard their social positions.

In the first century of the Omayyad Dynasty, with the Capital based in Damascus, the elites, learned people, and intellectuals of the administration were hired from the Near Eastern population (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine).   The Abbasid Dynasty settled in Kufa as capital and then built Baghdad in 762. Slowly but surely, the Persians elites dominated when the Caliphate turned over to the Abbasid Dynasty in 750.  Iraq was dominated by the Persians in population and in skills. The viziers were Persians such as the Baramikas tribe, originating from Khorassan, as well as the key posts in the administration because the Persians were famous for their political acumen. 

The manuscripts and scientific books were written by Persians in the Arabic language, simply because of the richness of scientific vocabulary that the Arabs accumulated by translating Greek manuscripts. For example, we know of Ibn Mukafaa, Ibn Khurdadbeh, Ibn Rusteh, Istakhri, Khawarazmi, Farghani, and Sibawe (the famous grammarian of the Arab language).  Obviously, it was the Persians who needed to learn the Arab grammar and not the bedwins (nomads).

Even though the Persians spoke and wrote in Arabic and were Moslems, they were lumped as Shuubiya or “gentiles”. As the Caliphate authority in Baghdad lost hold on the administration of his Empire then the Arab Empire was divided into fiefdoms of princes under the nominal umbrella of the Caliphate.

In Aleppo (Syria) the Hamadan Dynasty was having skirmishes with Byzantium. In the east, the Samanid dynasty (820 to 1000) reigns in actual Uzbekistan in Central Asia to be replaced by the Ghaznevide Dynasty (998-1186) that occupied most of eastern Iran, Afghanistan and the Punjab in India.

In Egypt,the Fatimid dynasty, with origin in Tunisia, established the first Shiia Moslem sect Empire. In the Caspian region the Bouyide dynasty or Seljuk occupies the plateau of Turkey and then Baghdad in 945.  This new powerful dynasty the Seljuk expanded eastward toward Persia and Central Asia. The Seljuk dynasty fought the Crusaders for two centuries and they started defeating the Crusaders by 1150.  As the multiple Crusaders’ waves to occupy Egypt, which was the main objective to secure commercial routes, failed then there was no purpose left for the European barons to invest more money in further campaigns.

Although most of the dynasties that reigned in Persia were Turks by origins they adopted the Persian language as the official language for the administration and culture. Persian intellectuals started writing in Farisi that adopted the Arabic alphabet.  For example, Ferdowsi, Al Biruni, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Nasr al Din Tusi, and later Al Kayyam, Atar, Rumi, Saadi, and Hafez have written in Farisi. The main worry of the previous dynasties was to contain the successive waves of invaders coming from the Mongolia and Central Asia steppes.  Finally, Genghis Khan’s hordes swept over the entire Middle East region, destroyed Baghdad in 1258, and brought in the plague cholera. 

A century and a half later, Tamerlane (Timor-i-lenk  or Timor the lame,1330-1405), the “devout” Moslem from current Turkmenistan repeated the same genocides of Genghis Khan and built hundreds of minarets out of heads of decapitated citizens and transferred the artisans and skilled workers from Damascus and the important cities in Persia to his Capital Samarqand

The prosperous city of Isfahan, of over 400,000 inhabitants, suffered 70,000 decapitated civilians; the city of Delhi in India suffered the same kinds of massacre  Tamerlane would not even sleep within the city limit of Samarqand but in tents outside the city.  Tamerlane devastated Moscow and the major cities on the Volga River in his pursuit of the leader of the Golden Horde Toqtamish (a descendant of Genghis Khan). 

This long and devastating incursion against the Tatars facilitated the victory of Ivan the Terrible half a century later and the establishment of a Russian kingdom.  Tamerlane died while on his way to invade China.(To be continued)

Persia/Iran civilizations: Sassanide Dynasty (Part 3, February 27, 2009)

Note:  There is a follow up chapter to the Sassanide period because it had considerable consequences to the Arab’s civilization.

 

The Sassanide Dynasty reigned from 224 to 651 AC.  As usual, it started in the South East region of Iran.  The ancestor of this dynasty is Sassan who was the administrator of the Immaculate Goddess Anahita; the head of a tribe was the guardian of their particular idol God.  Most of the written accounts are due to the Romans, Byzantium, and Armenians who were the enemies of this dynasty; the remaining information can be found on monuments and current archeological finds.

            Ardashir vanquished the Parthian King Artaban IV in 224 and inherit an Empire extending from current Iraq to the Indus River in current Pakistan.  The Parthian Empire was a formidable adversary to the Roman Empire and checked and defeated the Romans on several occasions due to their heavy cavalry.  The small horses of the cavalry were the ancestors of the Arab stallions.

            “Shapur I” crushes three Roman Emperors’ attacks.  Emperor Gordien dies in the battlefield.  Emperor Philip the Arab or Syrian had to sign a humiliating treaty by which Rome had to pay a yearly tribute.  Emperor Philip was born in Damascus of an Arab tribe that settled in that vicinity. It happened that Emperor Philip was engaged in the preparation for the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the establishment of Rome and badly needed peace in the Roman Empire. After the assassination of Philip the Syrian, two successive short lived Roman Emperors resumed paying the tribute to Shapur.  Emperor Valerian broke the treaty and was defeated and made prisoner in 260 for 20 years before another Roman Emperor decided to pay for his release and the thousands of other Roman soldiers.  Thus, Shapur expanded his territories to include Syria, Antioch, and Doura Europa in 253 where the secretaries of the Sassanide Empire visited the Jewish synagogues. . 

It was during Shapur reign that the “prophet” Mani preached his new brand of religion that swept Persia, to the Indus and reached North Africa; Saint Augustine attended lectures in Tunisia on that religion. You may read my review of “The Gardens of Light” by Amin Maaluf.

            In the following century, nomadic tribes from Central Asia harass the Sasanide Empire as well as Byzantium in the Caucasus. Emperor Theodose I of Byzantium pays Shapur III to contain those nomadic hordes called Chionites, Kidarites, and especially the Hephtalites “white Huns”.  The Sassanide Dynasty will finally contain the Central Asian attacks by the year 560 thanks to the succor of the western Turks and the Sasanide Dynasty will control Afghanistan.

            Khosro I signed a treaty of peace in 562 with Emperor Justinian for 50 years.  Thirty years later, Khosro II captures Syria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Gaza, Babylon, and most of current Turkey.  Emperor Heraclius would counter attack and enter one of the Sassanide Capitals of Ctesiphon, close to present Baghdad.  The two arch enemies would be vanquished by the new Moslem Arab armies coming from the Arab Peninsula.  In 637, Ctesiphon falls in the hand of the Moslems.  After the defeat in Nahawand in 642, the last Sassanide monarch Yazdgerd III flee to Merv and then to Balkh (north of Afghanistan) and was assassinated in 651.  This Persian Dynasty lasted over 400 years.


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