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‘Sogdian Christianity’: Evidence from architecture and material culture

  • BARAKATULLO ASHUROV (a1)
Abstract

This article aims to discuss the question of the inculturation of Syriac Christianity in Central Asia, based on archaeological examples including architectural evidence from a particular ethnocultural area: Sogdiana. It questions to what extent the Eastern Syriac Church has become rooted in local culture, thus enabling Christian communities to express their faith in both material and artistic ways. This article is divided into two sections which present a comprehensive study of the medieval sources relevant to the spread and establishment of Christianity in the Central Asian landmass by considering and analyzing existing tangible evidence. In doing so, it provides assessment of comparable evidence, which demonstrates both the “extended” and an “immediate” context in which Eastern Syriac Christianity was accepted, adapted and transformed into a localised expression of Christian faith.

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1 For the analysis of the textual evidence see Ashurov. Sogdian Christian texts: socio-cultural observations” In: Archiv Orientalni: Journal of African and Asian Studies 83.1 (2015), pp. 5370; Sogdian Christian text: manifestation of ‘Sogdian Christianity’” In: Manuscripta Orientalia: International Journal for Oriental Manuscript Research 21 no. 1 (2015), pp. 317; «Согдийские Христианские тексты: комплексный Кодикологический обзор» Паёми донишгоҳи миллии Тоҷикистон (бахши илмҳои филологӣ) 2016 4/7, стр. 21–26; «Текст и рукопись: о преемственности и сохранении сирийской литературы в согдийских христианских текстах». Ученые записки. Худжандского государственного университета им. Академика Б. Гафурова», серии гуманитарно-общественных наук, 1/2017. стр. 137–143. For examination of the archaeological evidence in the context of the Central Asian Christain archaeology see Ashurov, “Inculturation matérielle de l’Église d'Orient en Asie Centrale: témoignages archéologiques” In P. G. Borbone & P. Marsone (éds.), Le christianisme syriaque en Asie Centrale et en Chine (Études syriaques 12), Paris, 2015, pp. 161–183. For the examination of the numismatic evidence see Ashurov, “Coins convey a message: numismatic evidence for ‘Sogdian Christianity’” In Central Asiatic Journal (forthcoming).

2 English translation reproduced after Savchenko, A., “Urgut Revisited”, Aram, 8 (1996), p. 333. A French translation of this passage is cited in Kramers, J. H. and Wiet, G., Configuration de la Terre (Kitāb Şūrat al-arḍ) (Paris, 1964), p. 478. Savchenko, A. and Dickens, M., “Prester John's Realm: New Light on Christianity Between Merv and Turfan”, in The Christian Heritage of Iraq: Collected Papers from the Christianity of Iraq I-V Seminar Days, (ed.) Hunter, E. C. D. (Piscataway, 2009) pp. 126127, provide a slightly different translation of this passage. A similar reference to Šāwdār is found in Ibn Hawqal's younger contemporary, al-Istakhri, who relied on the former for this information.

3 V. Barthold, “Otchjot o komadirovke v Srednuyu Aziyu”, Trudy, 4, 1966, p. 110.

4 Savchenko, “Urgut Revisited”, p. 334.

5 Frye, R. (translation), The History of Bukhara [Tarikhi Buklhoro by Narshakhi] (Cambridge, MA, 1954; new edition: Princeton, NJ, 2007), p. 53.

6 However, in light of the ongoing archaeological excavation at the oasis of Bukhara it is probable that the archaeological evidence for this site will emerge at some point in the future. This situation is similar to that in Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the Middle East where examples of ecclesiastical architecture were discovered gradually as excavations by various institutions were undertaken.

7 Umniakov, I., “K voprosu istoricheskoj topografii sredenevekovoj Bukhary”, in Sbornik Turkestanskogo vostochnogo instituta v chest’ A. E. Shmidt'a (Tashkent, 1923), p. 149; [4] Belenitskiy, A., Bentovich, I. and Bol'shakov, O., Srednevekovij gorod Sredney Azii (Leningrad, 1973), p. 238.

8 A. Naymark, “Sogdiana, its Christians and Byzantium: A Study of Artistic and Cultural Connections in Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages”, PhD thesis, Indiana University, 2001, pp. 293.

9 Frye, The History of Bukhara, pp. 54–55; on p. 58 he mentions of the following Arab tribes: Banī Hanzala, Banī Asad, Banī Sa'd and Banī Quraish.

10 Ibid., p. 87, p. 150.

11 Gaibov, V. and Koshelenko, G., “Khristianskie arkheologicheskie pamyatniki na Vostoke (pervoe tysyacheletie n.e)”, Khristianskij Vostok, 4 (2006), pp. 136177, provide a comprehensive survey of the archaeological evidence relevant to the question of the history of Christianity in Persia, Central Asia and Chinese Turkestan.

12 There has been one other architectural site discovered in the Urgut region that has been interpreted as a Christian church, which is known as “Koshtepa 1”. For a ground plan and discussion, see Iskhakov, M. M., Tashkhodzhaev, Sh. S. and Khodzhajov, T. K., “Raskopki Koshtepa”, IMK, XIII (1977), pp. 8897 (reproduced in Comneno, Maria Adelaide Lala, “Nestorianism in Central Asia During the First Millennium: Archaeological Evidence”, Journal of the Assyrian Academic Society, 11, 1 (1997), pp. 3445). Some authors base their interpretation on the ground plan, which resembles Byzantine church plans; however, they do not provide any specific parallels. Further, on interpreting the function of this site they rely on the semantics of a depiction found on the rim of a khum (large ceramic vessel shred found in situ). The image displays two male figures both in elaborate clothing: one is depicted standing, holding a book in one hand and a cross in the other; the second is shown kneeling down and seems to be wearing a crown. It is believed that this depicts a baptismal ceremony. This evidence, however, cannot be located. Despite the fact that this site has been identified and accepted as Christian in much of the literature, I would question whether or not this is, in fact, a church. First of all, one shard showing a Christian scene is not compelling evidence that the building had a Christian ritual use—a larger assemblage of items with a Christian provenance is needed to confirm this attribution. Second, taken together with Christian architecture's unusual floor plan and the lack of other architectural and material evidence pointing to Christian ritual use, I am inclined to think that this was not a church.

13 In present scholarship, the best comparative studies on the history of Central Asian architecture are: Khmelnitskiĭ, S., Mezhdu Arabami i Turkami. Arkhitektura Srednej Azii 9–10 vv. (Berlin, Riga, 1992); Khmelnitskiĭ, S., Mezhdu Samanidami i Mongolami. Arkhitektura Srednej Azii 11–13 vv. (Berlin, Riga, 1996); and S. Khmelnitskiĭ, Mezhdu Kushanami i Arabami. Arkhitektura Srednej Azii 5–8 vv.: revised and enlarged edition of Chemelnizkij, S., Zwischen Kuschanen und Arabern: die Architektur Mittelasiens im V.-VIII.Jh.: ein Rückblick in die Kulturgeschichte der Sowjetunion (Berlin, 2000). These works systematically address the historical development of various architectural patterns in extant evidence from Central Asia. The author's classification of sites takes into account all kinds of architectural remains, such as houses, castles, forts, palaces, and public and memorial buildings. In particular, his study of “cult” architecture, including places of worship, shrines and burials, is most relevant as it includes discussions of Christian architecture in Central Asia (based on remains found in Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). A concise discussion, including comprehensive relevant bibliographic references, on the genesis of the Sogdian indigenous religions and on Zoroastrian architecture, using the example of Panjikent temples, is found in Shkoda, V., Pendzhikentskie khramy i problem religii Sogda (5–8 vv.) (St Petersburg, 2009), pp. 6068. Naymark, “Sogdiana, its Christians and Byzantium”, pp. 299–308, discusses the Christian architecture of Central Asia as well as known architecture in Sogdiana.

14 Dresvjanskaya, G. Ja., “‘Ovalnyj khram’ khristianskoj obshini v Merve”, in TYuTAKE 15 (Turkmenistan, 1974), pp. 155181.

15 G. A. Pugačenkova, “Kharoba-Koshuk”, IAN TSSR, 4 (1954).

16 Kyzlasov, L., “Arheologičeskie issledovanija na gorodišče Ak-Bešim v 1953–1954 gg”, in Trudy kirgizckoj arheologo-etnograficheskoj ekspedicii 2 (Moskva, 1959), pp. 55227. The term used in Russian excavation reports is “объект—object”. Since it refers to architecture here, it is designated “building”. Semenov, G., “Istorija arkheologicheskogo izuchenija Ak-Beshima”, in Sūyāb. Aq-Beshim, Arkheologicheskogo ekspeditsiya gosudarstvennogo Ermitazha, (St Petersburg, 2002) pp. 410, provides a comprehensive survey of the history of research in Aq-Beshim.

17 Semenov, G. and Tashbaeva, K., “Raskopki v Aq-Beshime v 1996 gody”, in Sūyāb. Aq-Beshim, Arkheologicheskogo ekspeditsiya gosudarstvennogo Ermitazha (St Petersburg, 1997) pp. 4851; Semenov, G., “Raskopki 1996–1998 g.”, in Sūyāb. Aq-Beshim, Arkheologicheskogo ekspeditsiya gosudarstvennogo Ermitazha (St Petersburg, 2002) pp. 11115. The term used in Russian excavation reports is “объект—object”. Since it refers to architecture here, it is designated “building”.

18 Albaum, L., “Khristianskij khram v starom Termeze”, in Iz istorii drevnykh kul'tov Srednei Azii: Khristianstvo, (ed.) Zhukova, L. (Tashkent, 1994) pp. 3441.

19 Khmelnitskiĭ, Mezhdu Kushanami i Arabami, p. 241. He found it problematic that, on the one hand, the literary sources tell of the continuous presence of Christianity from as early as the 3rd century, but that, on the other hand, archaeology has not yielded much material evidence, especially architectural.

20 Latham, R., The Travels of Marco Polo (London, 1981), pp. 6162.

21 Ryan, J., “Preaching Christianity Along the Silk Road: Missionary Outposts in the Tartar “Middle Kingdom” in the Fourteenth Century”, Journal of Early Modern History, 2 (1998), p. 366.

22 Buryakova, E. and Buryakov, Yu., “Novye arkheologicheskie materialy k stratigrafii srednevekovogo Samarkanda (po raskopkam ploshadi Registana v 1969–1971)”, in Afrasiab vypusk. 2 (Tashkent, 1972), pp. 174223. During my field work in Uzbekistan, I met with Yuri Buryakov, who was the lead archaeologist, and surveyed the materials uncovered during the project at the Samarqand Museum's warehouse at Afrasiab, but could not find these items in the collection. According to Buryakov, the photographs that were taken have been lost and no other material proof exists, so all we have is his testimony as an eyewitness.

23 I have been informed by Mark Dickens that archaeological material from Urgut, including epigraphic evidence, will appear in the Journal of Semitic Studies in due course.

24 For relevant reports concerning the excavation of this site, see http://www.exploration-eurasia.com/EurAsia/inhalt_english/projekt_2.htm, [accessed 28 March 2018].

25 On the historical background of this monument, including a wide range of bibliographical references and images from excavations, see Savchenko, “Urgut Revisited”, pp. 333–354; Savchenko, “Po sledam arabskykh geografov”, pp. 333–338; Savchenko, A., “Po povodu hristianskogo selenija Urgut”, Zapiski vostočnogo otdelenija rossijskogo arheologičeskogo obščestva, 2, 37 (2006), pp. 551555; Savchenko and Dickens, “Prester John's Realm”, pp. 121–135; Savchenko, A., “Östliche Urkirche in Usbekistan”, Antike Welt, 2, 10 (2010), pp. 7482.

26 Savchenko, “Po sledam arabskykh geografov”, p. 335.

27 Ibid., pp. 336–337. The available archaeological reports do not explicitly explain whether this variation of fired bricks used in construction of the church (Samanid (819–999 ce) and Qarakhanid era (999–1211 ce)) implies that the building was constructed in different phases or whether it was subsequently repaired. However, considering that the edifice was not very big, I am inclined to the explanation of subsequent repairs, which is logical based on the supposition that the church was continually functioning.

28 Ibid., pp. 336–337.

29 Savchenko and Dickens, “Prester John's Realm”, p. 128.

30 A. Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: June–July 2006 Progress Report”: http://www.exploration-eurasia.com/EurAsia/inhalt_english/projekt_2.htm#2006, [accessed 30 March 2018].

31 Savchenko and M. Dickens, “Prester John's Realm”, pp. 128–130, made an assumption that the northern nave was probably the main chapel, because it had an entrance on the western wall of the church. However, given the fact that the southern nave was longer and wider in size, I wonder if this assumption can be qualified in some other manner. In addition, the northern nave had two doorways, although the dating of the closing of these doorways is not known. Considering this fact in relation to the size of the nave, it may be that the northern nave was the main hall and thus required two entrances/exits.

32 Savchenko, “Po sledam arabskykh geografov”, pp. 336–337.

33 Discussion of this liturgical architectural element of the East Syriac church is found in Loosley, E., The Architecture and Liturgy of the Bema in Fourth-to-sixth-century Syrian Churches (Leiden, 2012), p. 9. She describes it as “the sacred pathway”, similar to the solea known in Greek-speaking areas of Syria. “Whilst the solea appears to have fulfilled a practical function in linking the sanctuary to the ambon, the bet-šqāqone appears to have had a more mystical dimension as the bridge between the heavenly and the earthly Jerusalem. This phenomenon of the bet-šqāqone seems to have been exclusively linked to Mesopotamia and we cannot immediately extend this concept to the bemata of Syria or Tur ‘Abdin”.

34 A. Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: August–October 2005 Progress Report”: http://www.exploration-eurasia.com/EurAsia/inhalt_english/projekt_2.htm, [accessed 30 March 2018].

35 A. Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: June–July 2007 Progress Report”: http://www.exploration-eurasia.com/EurAsia/inhalt_english/projekt_2.htm#2007, [accessed 30 March 2018].

36 Savchenko, “Östliche Urkirche in Usbekistan”, pp. 77–79. However, Savchenko does not discuss the basis of his view about the existence of a tower in the Urgut church. The ground plan provided and the foundations of the church do not suggest it included a tower.

37 Savchenko and Dickens, “Prester John's Realm”, p. 128.

38 A bema is a raised platform usually set in the centre of the haykla (nave) facing east; however, current archaeological examples display different positionings of the bema. From a liturgical perspective, the bema is an important component in the structure of the ecclesiastical architecture of Church of the East and is used for performing liturgical celebrations. A more recent comprehensive study of the bema, based on surveying archaeological evidence from North Syria and Tur ‘Abdin, including a thorough examination of primary sources, is found in Loosley, E., The Architecture and Liturgy of the Bema in Fourth-to-sixth-century Syrian Churches (Kaslik, Liban, 2003).

39 Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: August–October 2005 Progress Report”.

40 Savchenko, “Po sledam arabskykh geografov”, pp. 336–337.

41 Ibid., p. 337.

42 A. Savchenko, “Excavations 2004: Brief Report: http://www.exploration-eurasia.com/EurAsia/inhalt_english/projekt_2.htm, [accessed 30 March 2018]”.

43 Savchenko and Dickens, “Prester John's Realm”, p. 129 Although the author here refers to “a great many oil-lamps typical of the area [that] were found during the excavations throughout the site”, the material culture objects referred to in the reports include one sample of a half-preserved stone lantern and one well-preserved ceramic lantern typical of the 13th century.

44 Savchenko, “Excavations 2004”. The excavation report mentions the thickness of the outer wall of the southern nave only. Here this measurement is applied to the entire outer wall, assuming uniformity in construction. However, it is possible that the wall dividing the “northern” nave and the refectory was of a different thickness, as it was an inner, not an outer, wall. Again, however, if the refectory happened to be later addition to the church building and was not covered by the church roof, then it could be that this dividing wall was an outer wall and had the same dimensions. But without the availability of proper measurements, it is hard to decide.

45 Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: August–October 2005 Progress Report”.

46 Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: June–July 2006 Progress Report”.

47 For a history of the archaeological research at Aq-Beshim and results of the most recent excavations, including relevant bibliographic references, see Semenov, “Raskopki 1996–1998 g.”, pp. 4–114.

48 A relevant bibliography and ground plans of the churches is found in Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: June-July 2006 Progress Report”.

49 Ibid. This church (church 7) was identified as Mar Awraha by Dauphin, C., “Rediscovery of the Nestorian Churches of the Hakkari (South Eastern Turkey)”, Eastern Churches Review, VIII (1976), pp. 5667. Savchenko, “Po sledam arabskykh geografov”, p. 337, also includes Sir Bani Yas in his list of the “prototypes”. “Исходя из планировки помещения, строительных техник и материалов, ближайшими параллелями являются христианские монастыри того же времени на острове Сир Бани Йас у побережья Абу Даби”.

50 The excavation reports, including existing publications, do not provide detailed synchronic examination of the structure with its so-called prototypes. Only as visual examples of the ground plan are given. Further, the place of this edifice within the framework of the development of the architecture of the Church of the East is not also taken into account.

51 The various phases of the occupation of the church, however, are not satisfactory explained. The only evidence of these in the reports is that certain doorways were filled with rubble. However, an architectural analysis might be another possible way to examine this, by, for example, analysing the use of different shapes or sizes of bricks, which differ from the original brickwork and could well indicate repair works or an additional building phase.

52 Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: June–July 2006: Progress Report”. However, Turghar's reign was not in the first quarter of the 8th century, as suggested by Savchenko. As established by Smirnova, O., Svodnyii katalog Sogdijskikh monet (bronza) (Moscow, 1981), pp. 4445, the Turghar type 2 coins were issued in “40-м годам VIII в., последние—к 755 г”, that is circa 740–755 ce. Accordingly, the Urgut Church functioned from the 8th to 13th centuries.

53 Tardieu, M., “Un site chrétien dans la Sogdiane des Sâmânides”, Le Monde de la Bible, 119 (1999), p. 42.

54 A relevant bibliography and ground plans of the churches is found in Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: June–July 2006 Progress Report”.

55 For a comprehensive survey of the Christian architecture of Mesopotamia and its related architectural models in Central Asia, including a relevant bibliography, see Hunter, E. C. D. and Horn, C., “Christianity in the Late Antique Near East”, in A Companion to the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World), (ed.) Potts, D. (Oxford, 2012), pp. 10941112.

56 Excavations were carried out at the mound of Qasr bint al-Qadi by the German Oriental Society in 1928–29. As pointed out in Fiey, Jean-Maurice, Assyrie chrétienne contribution à l'étude de l'histoire et de la géographie ecclésiastiques et monastiques du nord de l'Irak (Beirut, 1964), p. 3, the excavations in the twin cities of Seleucia and Ctesiphon were carried out between 1927 and 1932 by German and American teams. The reports and examinations of these excavations are found in Reuther, O., “The German Excavations at Ctesiphon”, Antiquity, 3 (1929), pp. 434451, and Meyer, E., “Seleukia und Ktesiphon”, Mitteilungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft zu Berlin, 67 (1929), pp. 126. Fiey, Assyrie chrétienne, p. 18, poses the question of whether the Qasr bint al-Qadi was the “great” patriarchal church of Seleucia or not. So far this question remains open.

57 Reuther, “The German Excavations at Ctesiphon”, p. 449.

58 According to the description of church architecture provided in the Apostolic Constitutions (2.57.1) “pastophoria” refers to two rooms, one on either side of the apse. Among other purposes, they were used to store the unused portion of the Eucharist (8.13). However, archaeological scholarship has designated one of these two chambers flanking the sanctuary or apse as a “prosthesis” (on the north side of the sanctuary), thought to be used for the preparation of the Eucharist; and the other (on the south side), a “diaconicon”. In Syrian Christian architecture these two architectural elements probably evolved from the late 4th century, assuming a distinctive form in the 5th century. Thus the prosthesis and diaconicon are typologically a characteristic of the architecture of eastern churches. However, as Descoeudres, J., Die Pastophorien im syro-byzantinischen Osten (Wiesbaden, 1983), pp. 130132, has shown, the special rite of preparation of the Eucharist—called prosthesis (in the Byzantine East tradition)—did not exist until the last part of the 11th century. The Eucharist before than was prepared at the entrance of the church or even outside it in a room known as the scevophilacion. In the existing early medieval literary sources the diaconicon was not assigned a function. Accordingly, pastophoria is perhaps a better term for the two chambers that are often found in Syrian Christian architecture. More discussion on these particular architectural elements is found in Hopfner, T., “Pastophoroi”, in Real-encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, Vol. 18 (Stuttgart, 1949), pp. 21072109.

59 Reuther, “The German Excavations at Ctesiphon”, p. 449.

60 Ibid., pp. 449, Fig. 2.

61 Hunter, E. C. D., “A Syriac Ostracon from Ctesiphon”, al-Rafidan, 18 (1997), pp. 361367; the discussion about dating found on p. 366.

62 Rice, T., “Hira”, JRCAS, 19 (1932), pp. 254268; Rice, T., “The Oxford Excavations at Hira, 1931”, Antiquity, 6 (1932), pp. 276291; Rice, T., “The Oxford Excavations at Ḥīra”, Ars Islamica, 1 (1934), pp. 5173. For a comparative study of the architectural features of these churches, see Okada, Y., “Early Christian Architecture in the Iraqi South-Western Desert”, al-Rafidan, 12 (1991), pp. 7183, and Okada, Y., “Ain Sha'ia and the Early Gulf Churches: An Architectural Analogy”, al-Rafidan, 13 (1992), pp. 8793.

63 Rice, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira, 1931”, p. 280.

64 Rice, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira, 1931”, pp. 283–284. A useful comparative study of the crosses from the Gulf churches is Potts, D., “Nestorian Crosses from Jabal Berri”, Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 5 (1994), pp. 6165, which also provides bibliographical references to other relevant works.

65 A more recent discussion of Hira and its Christian heritage is found in Hunter, E. C. D., “The Christian Matrix of al-Hira”, in Chrétiens en terre d'Iran: Controverses des Chretiens dans l'Iran Sassanide (Studia Iranica, 36), (ed.) Jullien, Ch. (Leuven, 2008), pp. 4156.

66 Bowman, J., “The Sasanian Church in the Kharg Island”, in Commémoration Cyrus. Hommage universel, Acta Iranica 1 (Tehran and Liège, 1974) pp. 217220; Bowman, J., “Christian Monastery on the Island of Kharg”, Australian Journal of Biblical Archaeology, 2/3 (1975), pp. 4964; Ghirshman, R., The Island of Kharg (Tehran, 1971), pp. 1114, 17–22; Haerinck, E., “Quelques monuments funéraires de l’Île de Kharg”, Iranica Antiqua, 11 (1975), pp. 159166.

67 Ghirshman, The Island of Kharg, pp. 13–14.

68 Ibid., p. 14.

69 Bowman, “Christian Monastery on the Island of Kharg”, pp. 49–64. Ghirshman, The Island of Kharg, pp. 11–14, considers the monument to be from the middle or late 5th century. The dating of many of the known Christian sites in the Gulf and Mesopotamian region has been debated recently, primarily as the result of ceramic studies. Many of these monastic complexes are now thought to date to the 8th or 9th centuries, which is two or three centuries later than previously suggested (6th or 7th centuries). This shift in dating, however, as Carter, R., “Christianity in the Gulf During the First Centuries of Islam”, Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 19 (2008), p. 103, indicates, does not “reflect the introduction of Christianity but simply a change in the quantity or disposition of resources, evident as a burst of building activity”.

70 Fujii, H. et al. (eds), “Excavations at Ain Sha'ia Ruins and Dukakin Caves”, Al-Rafidan, 10 (1989), pp. 2788.

71 Okada, “Early Christian Architecture”, pp. 71–83. The church outline is given in Fig. 1 and details on measurements are found on pp. 73–74.

72 H. Shibata, “Topography”, in Fuji et al. (ed.), “Excavations at Ain Sha'ia Ruins”, pp. 33–34.

73 K. Matsumoto, “Dukakin caves”, in ibid., p. 84.

74 Ibid., p. 85.

75 Okada, “Early Christian Architecture”, p. 74.

76 A discussion of the cross plaques from Ain Sha'ia is found Okada, Y., “Reconsideration of Plaque-type Crosses from Ain Sha'ia near Najaf”, al-Rafidan, 11 (1990), pp. 103112, especially p. 105. For an examination of the inscriptions found at Ain Sha'ia, see Hunter, E. C. D., “Report and Catalogue of Inscribed Fragments: Ain Sha'ia and Dukakin Caves Near Najaf, Iraq”, Al-Rāfidān, 10 (1989), pp. 89108.

77 Okada, “Reconsideration of Plaque-type Crosses”, p. 104.

78 Ibid., p. 109. On p. 104, the author describes cross nos. 8 and 10 being found from “upper filling”.

79 A survey of the archaeological expedition and its preliminary findings and their interpretation is found in King, G., Dunlop, D., Elders, J., Stephenson, A. and Tonghini, C., “A Report on the Abu Dhabi Islands Archaeological Survey (1993–4)”, Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 25 (1995), pp. 6374; King, G., “A Nestorian Monastic Settlement on the Island of Sir Bani Yas, Abu Dhabi: A Preliminary Report”, Bulletin of SOAS, 60, 2 (1997), pp. 221235.

80 Elders, J., “The Lost Churches of the Arabian Gulf: Recent Discoveries on the Islands of Sir Bani Yas and Marawah, Abu Dhabi Emirate, United Arab Emirates”, Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 31 (2001), pp. 4758, pp. 54–55, Fig. 5. The identification of the building in Marwah as a church is tentative, however, as only the southeastern corner was excavated. Nevertheless, as shown by the excavated section, the layout and size of the building is nearly identical to the corresponding sections of the church at Sīr Banī Yās, in particular, the division of the pastophoria into two small chambers by a north–south wall.

81 Elders, “The Lost Churches of the Arabian Gulf”, p. 49, p. 56. In particular Elders has identified three development phases for the Sīr Banī Yās complex: “1) the beginning of construction of the church; 2-a) the “provisional” church with its unfinished north aisle and rough floors; 2-b) the finished church with narthex; and 3) post-monastic occupation” (p. 49). More recently, Carter, “Christianity in the Gulf”, pp. 71–208, has provided a more refined approach to the dating and chronology issues of these sites. In particular, based on the study of the ceramics of these sites, he concluded that 1) the monastic settlements discovered at both Sīr Banī Yās and Kharg could have been constructed no earlier than the late 7th century; 2) both of these monasteries flourished between the late 7th century and the middle of the 8th century; and 3) while the Sīr Banī Yās monastery was abandoned at some point in the middle of the 8th century, the monastic site at Kharg apparently lasted until the 9th century.

82 A detailed report on the excavation is found in V. Bernard, O. Callot and J. F. Salles, “L'église d'al-Qousour Failaka, État de Koweit”, Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, (1991), pp. 145–181. A shorter account of the excavation, with an overview of the material culture finds and a plan of the edifies, is Bernard, V. and Salles, J. F., “Discovery of a Christian Church at al-Qusur, Failaka (Kuwait)”, Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 21 (1991), pp. 721; the church plan can be seen in Fig. 1.

83 Bernard and Salles, “Discovery of a Christian Church”, pp. 9–10.

84 Ibid., p. 12. The entire complex has seen several phases of occupation and at certain points was used for other purposes. The dates were primarily established from the pottery collected from the site.

85 Ibid., pp. 9–10, Fig. 2.

86 Langfeldt, J., “Recently Discovered Early Christian Monuments in North-eastern Arabia”, Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy, 5 (1994), pp. 3260.

87 Potts, “Nestorian Crosses from Jabal Berri”, pp. 61–65.

88 Discussions of individual features are found in the above-mentioned works. A comparative architectural examination of these sites is in Okada, “Ain Sha'ia and the Early Gulf Churches”, pp. 87–93.

89 Detailed discussion and assessment is found in Langfeldt, “Recently Discovered Early Christian Monuments”, pp. 33–60.

90 Ibid., p. 35.

91 Finster, B. and Schmidt, J., Sasanidische and frühislamische Ruinen im Iraq (Berlin, 1976).

92 Ibid., p. 30.

93 Ibid., p. 35.

94 Ibid., p. 42, Fig. 13. The authors have suggested that the subsidiary rooms functioned as a martyrium, hermitage, or both.

95 Ibid., p. 43.

96 Kharoba-Koshuk is located 15 kilometres to the north of Marv, along the ancient road, next to a fortified hill known as Due Chakyn. For a study of this monument, see Pugačenkova, “Kharoba-Koshuk”. Recently, Pusching has offered a new date of the 11th-12th century for this monument on the basis of a study of ceramics and bricks. See Pusching, G., “Kharoba Koshuk: An Early Church”, in Monuments of Merv: Traditional Buildings of the Karakum, (ed.) Herrmann, G. (London, 1999), pp. 8081. However, as Naymark, “Sogdiana, its Christians and Byzantium”, p. 299, has demonstrated, this suggested later date is not convincing, especially in light of surface numismatic evidence (coins of Hormizd II (579–590 ce)).

97 Pugačenkova, G. A., “Puti razvitija arhitektury Južnogo Turkmenistana v pory rabovladenija i feodalizma”, TYuTAKE, 6 (1958), pp. 126130.

98 Ibid., p. 128.

99 Kyzlasov, “Arheologičeskie issledovanija na gorodišče Ak-Bešim”, pp. 155–227/ Semenov, “Istorija arkheologicheskogo izuchenija Ak-Beshima”, pp. 4–10, provides a comprehensive survey of the history of research in Aq-Beshim. Semenov and Tashbaeva, “Raskopki v Aq-Beshime v 1996 gody”, pp. 48–51. Semenov, “Raskopki 1996–1998 g.”, pp. 11–115, is a detailed archaeological study of the second church complex unearthed at Aq-Beshim.

100 Semenov and Tashbaeva, “Raskopki v Aq-Beshime v 1996 gody”, pp. 48–51.

101 Āyatollāhi, H., The Book of Iran. The History of Iranian Art (Tehran, 2003), pp. 9698, has argued that the ivan was the original feature of eastern Iranian architecture, spread under the Parthians and later developed under the Sassanids in Western Iran. It then became a distinguishing architectural feature of Persian architecture. Okada, “Early Christian Architecture”, p. 81, pointed out that “for Syrian churches there is a hypothetical view that firstly appeared a kind of house church with courtyard, as exemplified by the renowned remains disclosed at Dura Europos, and subsequently a primitive single-aisle chapel entered from the portico and the longer side as is seen in the case with Qirk Bizze. These two, however, seem to have developed from different styles of local house from the outset, even though the dates of two are far apart”.

102 Rice, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira, 1931”, pp. 276–291; a discussion on the similarity between Babylonian temple structure and the church at Hira is found on pp. 279–280. Most recently, Thierry, M., “Monuments chrétiens inédits de Haute-Mésopotamie”, Syria, 70, 1–2 (1993), pp. 179204, in his description of the church remains in “Upper Mesopotamia”, refers to this architectural type (the square chamber at the east end accessed by a narrow passage) as being of the cella type of church architecture.

103 Voronina, V., “Doislmaskie kultovye sooruzhenija Srednei Azii”, SA, 2 (1960), p. 54. The architectural feature of having a “nave replace by an open yard” is attested to in Kharoba-Koshuk and in both building IV and building VIII at Aq-Beshim.

104 Khmelnitskiĭ, Mezhdu Kushanami i Arabami. Arkhitektura Srednej Azii 5–8 vv., p. 243. In particular, the ground plan of the church at Kharoba-Koshuk demonstrates great similarity with the Church of the East architecture of the Rahiliya, located 110 km southwest of Baghdad and Qusair, near Kerbala. These churches (one at Rahiliya and two at Qusair) have unique long naves in excess of 30 metres). For further details, see Finster and Schmidt, Sasanidische and frühislamische Ruinen. For an architectural cross-examination of the churches in north and south Iraq, see Okada, “Early Christian Architecture”, pp. 71–83.

105 Khmelnitskiĭ, Mezhdu Kushanami i Arabami. Arkhitektura Srednej Azii 5–8 vv., p. 245.

106 Ibid.

107 Kyzlasov, “Arheologičeskie issledovanija na gorodišče Ak-Bešim v 1953–1954 gg”, p. 238.

108 Ibid., p. 233.

109 Semenov, 2002b.

110 Okada, “Early Christian Architecture”, pp. 71–83.

111 It is worth mentioning that cases of bema acting as a barrier between or partition of the naves is observed mostly in the churches of north Syria, such as a small church at Qirq Bizeh, located near Qalb Lozeh. Another example where the bema is so large that it forms a barrier across the front (eastern) half of the nave is that of the church in Resafa. For further details, see Loosley, The Architecture and Liturgy of the Bema, pp. 42–45, 53.

112 Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: June-July 2007 Progress Report”.

113 Pilipko, V., “Plitka potverdivshaya predaniya”, Pamjatniki Turkmenistana, 1,5 (1968), p. 25.

114 Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: June–July 2007 Progress Report”.

115 Savchenko, “Urgut Revisited”, p. 337. The Syriac word stems from the root meaning “living in the sense of dwelling, inhabiting” and could signify either an abstract or objective meaning (e.g. a space occupied by a monastery, inhabited by monks, or a monastic life, a lifestyle followed by monks): Smith, J. Payne, A Compendious Syriac Dictionary, Founded Upon the Thesaurus of R. Payne Smith (Oxford, 1903), p. 405. The word in Arabic means “a land or house inhabited, peopled, well peopled, well stocked with people and the like, in flourishing state, in a state the contrary of desolate or waste or ruined” as well as “a structure; an edifice; or perhaps the act of building”: Lane, E., Arabic-English Lexicon. (London, 1863), pp. 21552156.

116 The dictionary entry for this word includes its application as the designation of the Patriarch's residence.

117 Savchenko, “Urgut Revisited”, p. 333. Compare the Arabic text de Goeje 1927, p. 372, “Wa bi'l-sawdār ‘umra li'l-na ārī fīhi majm‘a lahum. Wa lahum fīhi qillāyāt”.

118 Savchenko, “Urgut Revisited”, p. 333, where مجمع is translated as “they gather”.

119 Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: August–October 2005 Progress Report”, p. 555.

120 Savchenko, “Urgut Revisited”, p. 334, says that these inscriptions were observed in 1920 by a group of students from Turkestan Oriental Institute, who made a wax offprint of some of them. These inscriptions were then reported by Barthold, V., “Otchjot o komadirovke v Srednuyu Aziyu”, Trudy, 4, 1966, pp. 258259 (who visited Central Asia between 1916 and 1920), which resulted in the misperception that Barthold had discovered the inscriptions. In a subsequent visit to the site in 1938 two samples were sawn off and given to the Samarkand Museum. In 1981, the site was surveyed by both archaeologists and Syriac language experts, resulting in a short publication by Meshcherskaya, E. and Paykova, A., “Siro-tiyrkskie naska'nyie nadpisi is Urguta”, in Kul'turnie vzaimosvjai narodov Sredeny Azii i Kavkaza s okruzhayushim mirom v drevnosti i sredenevekovye (tezisy dokladov) (Moscow, 1981), pp. 109110.

121 A discussion of these caves is found in Savchenko, “Urgut Revisited”, pp. 333–354; Savchenko, “Po sledam arabskykh geografov”, pp. 333–338; Savchenko, “Po povodu hristianskogo selenija Urgut”, pp. 551–555; Savchenko and Dickens, “Prester John's Realm”, pp. 121–302; Savchenko, “Östliche Urkirche in Usbekistan”, pp. 74–82.

122 Dickens, forthcoming.

123 Mark Dickens, personal communication (email dated 28 December 2011).

124 For the Arabic text see de Goeje 1927, p. 372.

125 Savchenko, “Urgut Revisited”, p. 333.

126 Dickens, forthcoming. The inscription in the upper cliff of Cave 3. Another inscription from the same cave has “Vigil with Yuhannan”.

127 Smith, A Compendious Syriac Dictionary, p. 40.

128 Dickens, forthcoming. The images of these inscriptions can be seen in in Savchenko, “Urgut Revisited”, p. 335, Fig. 1.

129 Ghirshman, R., The Island of Kharg. An Iranian Oil Operating Companies Publication (Tehran, 1960). A recent detailed examination of the site is found in in Steve, M-J., L'île de Kharg. Une page de l'histoire du Golfe Persique et du monachisme oriental (Civilisations du Proche-Orient. Série I. Archéologie et environnement, Vol. 1) (Neuchâtel, 2003). He bases his study on an assessment of the pottery and, as a result, suggests a new date for both the site in Kharg and other monastic sites in the Gulf. Carter, “Christianity in the Gulf”, pp. 71–108, also includes a useful survey of the Gulf churches, including a discussion on dating the known edifices.

130 King, “A Nestorian Monastic Settlement”, pp. 221–225; Elders, “The Lost Churches of the Arabian Gulf”, pp. 47–57.

131 King, “A Nestorian Monastic Settlement”; information of the cells at pp. 224–225. The church building at Sīr Banī Yās was also decorated with stucco reliefs representing Christian imagery (vegetal and crosses).

132 Y. Okada and H. Numoto, “Fortified Building-site F”, in Fuji et al. (eds), Excavations at Ain Sha'ia Ruins, pp. 35–61; Okada, “Early Christian Architecture in the Iraqi South-Western Desert”, pp. 71–83.

133 Matsumoto, “Dukakin Caves”, pp. 81–88.

134 Loosley, The Architecture and Liturgy of the Bema, pp. 43–44.

135 A discussion of the bema in the East Syriac church tradition in relation to both liturgical texts and archaeological material is found in Cassis, M., “The Bema in the East Syriac Church in Light of New Archaeological Evidence”, Hugoye: Journal of Syriac Studies, 5, 2 (July 2002), pp. 195211.

136 Rice, “The Oxford Excavations at Hira, 1931”, p. 280.

137 A detailed discussion and assessment is found in Langfeldt, “Recently Discovered Early Christian Monuments”, pp. 33–60.

138 Loosley, The Architecture and Liturgy of the Bema, pp. 43–44.

139 Krautheimer, R., Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture (Pelican History of Art 24) (Harmondsworth, 1965).

140 A Roman basilica usually functioned as an administrative building for court hearings and public meetings, and featured a rectangular apsidal hall.

141 Fiey, Assyrie chrétienne, pp. 17–18.

142 Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: August-October 2005 Progress Report”. According to the report the owners agreed to donate the object to Samarqand Museum.

143 Ibid.,

144 From the Panjikent excavations there are a group of items of pottery that had crosses applied using red agnobe. On the semantics of the use of the cross on various objects of material culture from Central Asia, see N. Kukharenko and Yu, Mal'tsev, “K siмvolike izobrazhenij kresta v Srednei Azii”, in III vsesoyuznyaja konferentsiya vostokovedob “Vzaimodeistvie i vzaimovliyanie kul'tur na Vostoke”, Dushanbe, 16–18 Mai 1988, pp. 26–27, who opined that this practice was introduced by Christians who used the cross for marking their property, as a protective symbol. On the other hand, a glazed plate from 11th-century Khujand is undoubtedly of Christian provenance. It has a stylised Arabic inscription in the shape of the letter taw, read as ‘Īsā Maryam—“Jesus and Mary”. See T. Beljaeva, “Khristianskij pamjatnik iz Khodzhenta”, in Iz istorii drevnykh kul'tov Srednei Azii, (ed.) Zhukova, pp. 79–81.

145 Savchenko, “Excavations in Urgut: August–October 2005 Progress Report”.

146 A relevant discussion is found in Klein, W. and Reck, Ch., “Ein Kreuz mit sogdischer Inschrift aus Ak-Bešim/Kyrgyzstan”, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 154 (2004), pp. 147156, where the author, in connection with a pendant cross bearing a Sogdian inscription discovered at Aq-Beshim, also examines comparable available evidence.

147 Book 7824, pp. 104–105.

148 V. Zalesskaya, “Sirijskoe brozovoe kadilo iz Urguta”, CAI, 1972, pp. 57–60; Dresvjanskya, G. Ja., “Bronzovoe kadylo iz Urguta”, in Colloque sur l'art de l'Ouzbékistan: Antiquité, Moyen Age, Époque contemporaine. Résumés des communications (Tashkent, 1995), pp. 5760.

149 Nikitin, A., “Khristianstvo v Centralnoj Azii (drevnost i srednevekovye)”, in Vostochniy Turkestan i Srednya Aziya: Istoriya, Kultura, Svyazi (Moscow, 1984), pp. 121137; G. Bogomolov, Yu. Buryakov, L. Zhukova, A. Muskaeva and G. Shishkina, “Khristinastvo v Srednej Azii”, in Iz istorii drevnykh kul'tov Srednei Azii, (ed.) Zhukova, pp. 6–18.

150 Zalesskaya, “Sirijskoe brozovoe kadilo iz Urguta”, pp. 57.

151 Ibid.,

152 Ibid., p. 59. With reference to Barthold, the author particularly highlights that this period was the height of missionary activity in the region and coincided with the patriarchate of Timothy I.

153 Dresvjanskya, “Bronzovoe kadylo iz Urguta”, p. 60.

154 Ibid., p. 58.

155 Ibid., p. 60.

156 For a survey of the subject and relevant literature see Marshak, 1971.

157 Staviskiy, B., “Ampuly sv. Miny iz Samarkanda”, Ksiimk, 80 (1960), p. 101.

158 Ibid.,

159 For primary sources on Abū Mīnā, see Budge, E. A.W., Texts Relating to Saint Mêna of Egypt and Canons of Nicaea in a Nubian Dialect (London, British Museum, 1909); Jaritz, F., Die arabischen Quellen zum Heiligen Menas (Heidelberg, 1993). A discussion is found in Wittt, J., Menasampullen (Wiesbaden, 2000).

160 Kaufmann, C., Zur ikonographie der Menas ampullen (Cairo, 1910).

161 Grossman, P., “The Pilgrimage Center of Abu Mina”, in Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt, (ed.) D. Frankfurter (Leiden, 1998), pp. 281302, indicates that the shrine was located in an area identified as a large colonnaded square located north of the saint's basilica, which was also a commercial space where people traded various pilgrim artefacts. Archaeological finds of this object at the residential district of Kom-el-Dikka in Alexandria between 1961 and 1981, recorded by Kiss, “Les ampoules de Saint Menas decouvertes a Kôm el-Dikka, 1961–1981”, in Alexandrie 5 (Varsovie, 1989), also demonstrate its popularity among Egyptian Christian communities. It can be concluded, then, that it was not only part the commerce associated with pilgrims, but also had local consumers. Davis, “Pilgrimage and the Cult of Saint Thecla in Late Antique Egypt”, in Pilgrimage and Holy Space, (ed.) Frankfurter, pp. 303–339. observes that the local finds of this object indicate that, prior to becoming a long-distance pilgrimage object, the ampulla was a local pilgrimage and religious identity object. Other types of pilgrim flasks are are associated with other saints. For example, Anderson, “An Archaeology of Late Antique Pilgrim Flasks”, pp.79–93, is a valuable study on pilgrim flasks found in Turkey which are very different from St Mina's in their design and iconography.

162 A more recent, comprehensive study on the distribution of St Mina's ampullae, including references to relevant research, is found in Anderson, W., “Menas Flasks in the West: Pilgrimage and Trade at the End of Antiquity”, Ancient West and East, 6 (2007), pp. 221243.

163 Staviskiy, “Ampuly sv. Miny iz Samarkanda”, p. 102.

164 Although not directly concerned with pilgrim flasks, or with St Mina's flask in particular, Finlay, R., Pilgrim Art: Cultures of Porcelain in World History (Berkeley, 2010) is a very useful study. In particular, Finlay points out that “[s]ilk road merchants took pilgrim flasks to Central Asia, where they became conflated with leather saddle flasks since the shapes are much alike. Persian earthenware and metallic flasks entered China in the Tang period, often bearing Hellenistic decoration, including acanthus patterns, dancing girls, and piping boys. Chinese artisans simulated the flask in porcelain, and, embellished with designs from Greece and Persia, they became prestige items as funerary goods in the Song period. In the Yuan and Ming periods, pilgrim flasks were made for export to Southwest Asia, often with Islamic-style floral decoration in the centre. Comparable flasks made in the reigns of the Yongle and Xuande emperors [1402–1435] are decorated on both sides with brocade patterns, floral scrolls, and Southwest Asian geometric patterns” (p. 300). Anderson, “An Archaeology of Late Antique Pilgrim Flasks”, pp. 79–93, on the other hand, discusses local types of pilgrim flasks in Turkey and shows that both typologically and ichnographically they can be distinguished as either local or imported.

165 Rott, P., “Christian Crosses from Central Asia”, in Jingjiao: The Church of the East in China and Central Asia, Collectanea Serica, (eds) Malek, R. and Hofrichter, P. (Sankt Augustin, 2006), pp. 395401, provides a useful discussion on Christian crosses found in Central Asia. He concludes that “crosses (of various functions) were found mostly in historical-cultural areas of Central Asia. If Sogdiana, Fergana and Čač are known only for sporadic finds, Semirechye has many more finds. The main part of the considered crosses is pectoral … Their chronological range in Central Asia is determined presumably by the period from the 7th-14th centuries”. Klimkeit, Hans Joachim, “Das Kreuzessymbol in der zentralasiatischen Religionsbegegnung. Zum Verhältnis von Christologie und Buddhologie in der zentralasiatischen Kunst”, Zeitschrift für Religions und Geistesgeschichte, 32 (1979), pp. 99115; W. Klein and P. Rott, “Einige problematische Funde von der Siedenstrasse”, in Jingjiao, (eds) Malek and Hofrichter, pp. 403–424, also provide a useful discussion on the symbolism, typology, and functionality of the cross in the material culture of the Central Asian region.

166 A discussion of the periodisation of the different cultural layers of Afrāsiāiab and Samarqand, and their correlation with Qaunchi and Tali Barzu cultures, is given in Trenozhkin, A., “Sogd i Chach”, Ksiimk, 33 (1950), pp. 152169; specifically p. 161, on the definition of the Tali Barzu V period; an image of the cross is found on p. 166, no. 2.

167 A. Belenitskiy, B. Marshak, V. Raspapova and A. Isakov, “Novye raskopki v Pendzhikente”, AO 1976 (1977), p. 559.

168 G. Shishkina, “Nestorianskoe pogrebenie v Sogde Samarkandskom”, in Iz istorii drevnykh kul'tov Srednei Azii, (ed.) Zhukova, pp. 56–63.

169 Ibid., pp. 56–57.

170 Ibid.,

171 The burial in Durman is part of the larger burial site. In the course of the excavation of the site, a burial of a sacrificial horse was also found, a tradition of the animal husbandry cultures. In some graves, the attendant artefacts included cups and plates, which were used to provide food for the deceased. Accordingly, only one person in these group burial sites may be identified as Christian, and the religious identity of the remaining bodies cannot be confirmed for certain. Shishkina seems to have been incorrect in interpreting the burial as Christian, as the majority of the attendant objects contradict Christian burial practices.

172 Savchenko and Dickens, “Prester John's Realm”, p. 297, Fig. 6.

173 Simpson, St J., “Ceramics and Small Finds from MEK: 1”, The International Merv Project Preliminary Report on the Second Season, (eds) Herrmann, G. and Kurbansakhatov, K., Iran, 32,1 (1994), pp. 6768. The mould is 1. 5 cm and was made “by shaving down the edges of a ceramic jar strap handle and incising one surface to allow the simultaneous casting of two stylistically different pendant crosses. One of these (1 × 1.9 cm.) appears to have a central leaf shape with small, plain equal-length arm crosses (“Greek crosses”) at the terminals. The second was a cross (2.1 × 1.7 cm.) with equal-length, splayed arms, a pair of small blobs on the tip of each arm and a further five blobs on the cross itself”.

174 Schlereth, T., Material Culture Studies in America (Nashville, TN, 1982), p. 3.

175 Young, W., Patriarch, Shah and Caliph; A Study of the Relationship of the Church of the East with the Sassanid Empire and the Early Caliphates up to 820 AD (Pakistan, 1974), p. 21; Moffett, Samuel H., A History of the Christianity in Asia. 1, Beginnings to 1500 (San Francisco, 1992), pp. 91254. The Sassanid Empire, as Young observes, stressed centralisation of power coupled with nationalism and patriotism “and Zoroastrianism, as the state religion, was the symbol of this” (p. 17). However, for the first decade of Sassanid rule, Christianity was neither recognised nor in danger of annihilation, which contributed to its peaceful growth. In addition, no record exists of persecution of the church by the Persian state prior to the time of Šāpūr II (309–379). The nature of the persecutions after this was mainly political—motivated by suspicions about the loyalty of Christians to the Roman Empire, which announced Christianity as its state religion—and religious, stemming from the zeal of the Zoroastrian clergy who desired the widespread triumph of their faith. A detailed discussion of persecution in the Persian Empire is found in Young, Patriarch, Shah and Caliph, pp. 21–26; Brock, S., “Christians in the Sasanian Empire: A Case of Divided Loyalties”, Studies in Church History, 18 (1982), pp. 119. The most recent treatment of the subject as “imagined experience” is found in Payne, R., “The Emergence of Martyrs’ Shrines in Late Antique Iran: Conflict, Consensus and Communal Institutions”, in An Age of Saints: Power, Conflict and Dissent in Early Medieval Christianity, (eds) Sarris, P. et al. (Leiden, 2011), pp. 89113.

176 For a discussion of this, see Scher, 1908, pp. 221–222; Fiey, Jean-Maurice, “Chrètientès syriaques du Horasan et du Sagestan”, La Musèon, LXXXVI, (1973), pp. 75104; Chaumont, M., La christianisation de l'empire iranien des origines aux grandes persécutions du IVe siècle (CSCO, 499) (Louvain, 1988), p. 158.

177 The significance of these “deported” Christian communities within the Persian Empire, as highlighted by Fiey, Jean-Maurice, “Diocèses syriens orientaux du Golfe persique”, Mémorial Mgr. Gabriel Khouri-Sarkis (1898–1968) (Louvain, 1969), p. 238, is indicated by the fact that three out of the five bishops of Ḵūzestān attending the synod of Isaac in 410 ce were from cities settled by the Roman prisoners. Furthermore, the council of Mar Dādīšo in 424 ce consecrated the Rēw-Ardašīr, where Šāpūr I had resettled many of the Roman prisoners, at the metropolitan see of the ecclesiastical province of Fārs: Chabot, Jean-Baptiste (ed. and translation), Synodicon orientale: Synodicon orientale ou recueil de synodes nestoriens (Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1902), p. 681). In addition, the acts of the synod name a bishopric by the name of Šḇīṯā ḏə Bəlašparr. Its location is indicated in Fiey, Jean-Maurice, “Topography of al-Mada'in”, Sumer, 23 (1968), pp. 338. I. If the town of Šḇīṯā was identical to that of Šwīta, as pointed by Fiey, Jean-Maurice, Jalons pourune histoire de l’église en Iraq (CSCO, 310) (Louvain, 1970), p. 382, then it is also possible that Roman captives were scattered in Gorgān. At any rate, it is clear from toponyms used in the Synodical acts that these bishoprics were established to meet the need of resettled Christian people from the Roman territories. It is even more interesting to consider the effect that these non-Iranian Christian populations may have had on their Iranian neighbours.

178 A more recent study of the Pahlavi Psalter, including relevant bibliography references, is found in Durkin-Meisterernst, D., “The Pahlavi Psalter Fragment in Relation to its Source”, Studies in the Inner Asian Languages, XXI (2006), pp. 119.

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