Asōristān

Asōristān (Middle Persian: 𐭠𐭮𐭥𐭥𐭮𐭲𐭭Asōrestān, Āsūrestān) was the name of the Sasanian province of Babylonia from 226 to 637.[1][2]

Asōristān
Province of the Sasanian Empire

226–637
Location of Babylonia
Map of Asoristan and its surrounding provinces
Capital Ctesiphon
Historical era Late Antiquity
 •  Sasanian conquest 226
 •  First Muslim campaign 633
 •  Second Muslim campaign 637
Today part of  Iraq

Name

The Parthian name Asōristān (𐭀𐭎𐭅𐭓𐭎𐭕𐭍; also spelled Asoristan, Asuristan, Asurestan, Assuristan) is known from Shapur I's inscription on the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht, and from the inscription of Narseh at Paikuli.[1] The adjective āsōrīg in Middle Persian accordingly means “Assyrian”.[1] The region was also called several other names: Assyria, Athura Bēṯ Aramāyē (Classical Syriac: ܒܝܬ ܐܪܡܝܐ‎), Bābēl / Bābil, and Erech / Erāq. After the mid-6th century it was also called Khvārvarān in Persian.

The name Asōristān is a compound of Asōr ("Assyria") and the Iranian suffix -istān ("land of"). The name Assyria, in the form Asōristān, was shifted to include ancient Babylonia by the Parthians, and this continued under the Sasanians.[3] The historical country of Assyria (Athura), however, lay to the north of Babylonian Asoristan, in the independent frontier province of Osroene.[4]

History

During the Achaemenid (550–330 BCE) and Parthian Empires (150 BCE – 225 CE), this region had been known by the Old Persian name Athura. Asōristān, Middle Persian "land of Assyria", was the capital province of the Sasanian Empire and was called Dil-ī Ērānshahr, meaning "Heart of Iran".[2] The city of Ctesiphon served as the capital of both the Parthian and Sasanian Empire, and was for some time the largest city in the world.[5] The main language spoken by the Assyrian people was Eastern Aramaic, with the local Syriac language becoming an important vehicle for Syriac Christianity. The Church of the East was founded in Asōristān.[6] Asōristān was largely identical with ancient Mesopotamia.[1] The northern border is somewhat uncertain but probably went along a line from Anta to Takrīt. Ḥīra was probably the southernmost point, the border then following the northern part of the swamps of Wasit.[1]

The Parthians had exercised only loose control at times, allowing for a number of Syriac-speaking Assyrian kingdoms to flourish in Upper Mesopotamia, the independent Osroene, as well as the districts of Adiabene and the partly Assyrian state of Hatra. The Sasanian Empire conquered Assyria and Mesopotamia from the Parthians during the 220s, and by 260 had abolished these city-states, with the 3000-year-old city of Assur being sacked in 256. Some regions appear to have remained partly autonomous as late as the latter part of the fourth century, with an Assyrian king named Sinharib reputedly ruling a part of Assyria in the 370s.

Between 633-8, the region was invaded by the Arabs during the Muslim conquest of Persia; together with Meshan, it became the province of al-ʿIrāq. Asōristān was devolved by 639, bringing an end to over 3000 years of Assyria as a geopolitical entity. A century later, the area became the capital province of the Abbasid Caliphate and the centre of Islamic Golden Age for five hundred years, from the 8th to the 13th centuries.

After the Muslim conquest, Asōristān saw a gradual but large influx of Muslim peoples; at first Arabs, but later also including Iranian and Turkic peoples.

The Assyrian peoples continued to endure, rejecting Arabization and Islamization, and continued to form the majority population of the north as late as the 14th century, until the religiously-motivated massacres of Timur drastically reduced their numbers and led to the city of Assur being finally abandoned. After this period, the Assyrians became the ethnic, linguistic and religious minority in their homeland that they are to this day.

Population

The population of Asorestan was a mixed one, the north was composed mostly of indigenous Assyrians, while the ethnically and linguistically identical Babylonians lived in the south, Arameans and Nabateans dwelt in the far southwestern deserts, and Persians, Armenians, Jews and Mandeans lived throughout Mesopotamia.[1] The Greek element in the southern cities, still strong in the Parthian period, was absorbed by the Semites in Sasanian times.[1] The majority of the population were Assyrian people, speaking Eastern Aramaic dialects. As the breadbasket of the Sasanian Empire, most of the population were engaged in agriculture or worked as soldiers, traders and merchants. The Persians lived in various parts of the province; Persian garrison soldiers lived along the outer fringe of southern and western Asoristan, Persian noble families lived in the major cities, whilst some Persian peasants lived in the villages in the southern part.[7] They played a very active role in the province, and were found in the administrative class of society, as army officers, civil servants, and feudal lords.[1]

Language

At least three dialects of Eastern Aramaic were in spoken and liturgical use: Syriac mainly in the north and among Assyrian Christians (the terms Syrian and Syriac originally being Indo-European derivatives of Assyrian), Mandaic in the north and then south and among the Mandaeans, and a dialect in the central region, of which the Judaic subvariety is known as Jewish Babylonian Aramaic. In addition, the native population spoke colloquial dialects of Akkadian infused and influenced Mesopotamian Eastern Aramaic, descended from the Imperial Aramaic introduced by Tiglath-pileser III as the lingua franca of Assyria and the Neo Assyrian Empire in the 8th century BC. These dialects survive to this day among the modern Assyrians, with estimates ranging from 577,000 to 1,000,000 fluent speakers, with a far smaller number of speakers of Mandaic still extant.

Aside from the liturgical scriptures of these religions which exist today, archaeological examples of all three of these dialects can be found in the collections of thousands of Aramaic incantation bowls—ceramic artifacts dated to this era—discovered in Iraq. While the Jewish Aramaic script retained the original "square" or "block" form of the Aramaic alphabet used in Imperial Aramaic (the Ashuri alphabet), the Syriac alphabet and the Mandaic alphabet developed when cursive styles of Aramaic began to appear. The Mandaic script itself developed from the Parthian chancellery script.

Religion

The religious demography of Mesopotamia was very diverse during Late Antiquity. From the 1st and 2nd centuries Syriac Christianity became the primary religion, while other groups practiced Mandaeism, Judaism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism, and the ancient Assyro-Babylonian Mesopotamian religion.[8] Assyrian Christians were probably the most numerous group in the province.[8]

Mesopotamian religion

The old Mesopotamian religion of the indigenous Assyrians and Babylonians remained strong in places, particularly in the north, in Assyria proper. Temples were still being dedicated to Ashur, Shamash, Ishtar, Sin, Hadad and Ninurta in Assur, Arbela, Edessa, Amid, Nohadra and Harran among other places, during the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, and traces would survive into the 10th century in remote parts of Assyria.[9]

Christianity

Asorestan, and particularly Assyria proper, were the centers for the Church of the East (now split into the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church), which at one time extended far beyond the confines of the by then defunct Sasanian empire and was the most widespread Christian church in the world, reaching well into Central Asia, China, Mongolia Tibet and India. It sees as its founders the apostle Thomas (Mar Toma), and Saint Thaddeus (Mar Addai), and used the distinctly Syriac version of Eastern Aramaic for its scriptures and liturgy. The Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari is one of the oldest Eucharistic prayers in Christianity, composed around the year 200 AD. The Church of the East was consolidated in 410 at the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, held at the Sasanian capital, Selucia-Ctesiphon, which remained the seat of the Patriarchate of the Church of the East for over 600 years.

Mandaeism

The Mandaean religion, whose adherents according to their traditions are the original followers of John the Baptist, and who are considered to be the only surviving Gnostic group in the world, also originated in the region at this time (or slightly earlier during the Parthian era). Their language and script was the Mandaic form of Aramaic. Two of their central works, both written within the 2nd and 3rd centuries, are the Ginza Rabba and the Mandaean Book of John (preserving original traditions about John the Baptist). The Mandean population numbers no more than 50,000 to 75,000 today.

Manichaeism

The religion of Manichaeism, founded by Mani (216–276), originated in 3rd century Asorestan, and spread across a vast geographical area. In some instances, Manichaeism even surpassed the Church of the East in its reach, as it was for a time also widespread in the Roman Empire. While none of the six original Syriac scriptures of the Manichaeans have survived in their entirety, a long Syriac section of one of their works detailing key beliefs was preserved by Theodore Bar Konai (a Church of the East author from Beth Garmaï), in his book Ketba Deskolion written in about 792. Like the Church of the East, the traditional center of the Manichaean church was in Seleucia-Ctesiphon.[10] Mani dedicated his only Middle Persian writing, the Shāpuragān, to Shapur I.

Judaism

Babylonia remained the center of Judaism in the world. The major book defining Rabbinic Judaism, the Babylonian Talmud, was written in Jewish Babylonian Aramaic in Asorestan between the 3rd and 5th centuries. The Babylonian Talmudic academies were all established relatively near to Seleucia-Ctesiphon. The first Talmudic academy was founded in Sura by Rav (175–247) in about 220. One of the most influential Talmudic teachers, Rava (270–350), who was influenced by both Manichaean polemic and Zoroastrian theology, studied in another Talmudic academy at Pumbedita.

Zoroastrianism

The Sasanian state religion, Zoroastrianism, was largely confined to the Iranian administrative class, and did not filter down to the Assyrian population.[8]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "ĀSŌRISTĀN". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 15 July 2013. ĀSŌRISTĀN, name of the Sasanian province of Babylonia.
  2. ^ a b Buck, Christopher (1999). Paradise and Paradigm: Key Symbols in Persian Christianity and the Baháí̕ Faith. SUNY Press. p. 69. ISBN 9780791497944.
  3. ^ Panaino, Antonio C.D.; Pettinato, Giovanni (2002). Ideologies as Intercultural Phenomena. Melammu Project. p. 76. ISBN 9788884831071.
  4. ^ The Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 B.C. to the Present, Part 25. Richard Ernest Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt Dupuy. Harper & Row, 1970. Page 115.
  5. ^ Rosenberg, Matt T. (2007). "Largest Cities Through History". New York: About.com.
  6. ^ Khanbaghi, Aptin. The Fire, the Star and the Cross: Minority Religions in Medieval and Early Modern Iran. I.B. Tauris. p. 6. ISBN 9781845110567.
  7. ^ Morony 2005, p. 181.
  8. ^ a b c Etheredge, Laura (2011). Iraq. Rosen Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 9781615303045.
  9. ^ Georges Roux - Ancient Iraq
  10. ^ Gardner, Iain; Lieu, Samuel N.C. (2004). Manichaean Texts from the Roman Empire. Cambridge University Press. p. 43. ISBN 9780521568227.

Sources

Achaemenid Assyria

Athura (Old Persian: 𐎠𐎰𐎢𐎼𐎠 Aθurā), also called Assyria Babylonia, was a geographical area within the Achaemenid Empire in Upper Mesopotamia from 539 to 330 BC as a military protectorate state. Although sometimes regarded as a satrapy,Achaemenid royal inscriptions list it as a dahyu (plural dahyāva), a concept generally interpreted as meaning either a group of people or both a country and its people, without any administrative implication.It mostly incorporated the territories of Neo-Assyrian Empire corresponding to what is now northern Iraq in the upper Tigris, the middle and upper Euphrates, modern-day northeastern Syria (Eber-Nari) and part of south-east Anatolia (now Turkey). However, Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula were separate Achaemenid territories. The Neo-Assyrian Empire collapsed after a period of violent civil wars, followed by an invasion by a coalition of some of its former subject peoples, the Iranian peoples (Medes, Persians and Scythians), Babylonians and Cimmerians in the late seventh century BC, culminating in the Battle of Nineveh, and Assyria had fallen completely by 609 BC.

Between 609 and 559 BC, former Assyrian territories were divided between the Median Empire to the east and the Neo-Babylonian Empire to the west. Both parts were subsumed into the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC, and it has been argued that they constituted the satrapies of Media and Aθurā, respectively. In Herodotus' account the Ninth Tributary District comprised "Babylonia and the rest of Assyria" and excluded Eber-Nari.Despite a few rebellions, Aθurā functioned as an important part of the Achaemenid Empire and its inhabitants were given the right to govern themselves throughout Achaemenid rule and Old Aramaic was used diplomatically by the Achaemenids.Known for their combat skills, Assyrian soldiers (along with the Lydians) constituted the main heavy infantry of the Achaemenid military. Due to the major destruction of Assyria during the fall of its empire, some early scholars described the area as an "uninhabited wasteland." Other Assyriologists, however, such as John Curtis and Simo Parpola, have strongly disputed this claim, citing how Assyria would eventually become one of the wealthiest regions among the Achaemenid Empire. This wealth was due to the land's great prosperity for agriculture that the Achaemenids used effectively for almost 200 years.

In contrast to the policy of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the Achaemenid Persians did not intervene in the internal affairs of their ruling satrapies as long as they continued the flow of tribute and taxes back to Persia.

Adiabene

Adiabene (from the Ancient Greek Ἀδιαβηνή, Adiabene, itself derived from Classical Syriac: ܚܕܝܐܒ‎, Ḥaḏy’aḇ or Ḥḏay’aḇ, Middle Persian: Nodshēragān, Armenian: Նոր Շիրական, Nor Shirakan) was an ancient kingdom in Assyria, with its capital at Arbela (modern-day Erbil.

Adiabenian rulers converted to Judaism from paganism in the 1st century. Queen Helena of Adiabene (known in Jewish sources as Heleni HaMalka) moved to Jerusalem, where she built palaces for herself and her sons, Izates bar Monobaz and Monobaz II at the northern part of the city of David, south of the Temple Mount, and aided Israel in their war with Rome. According to the Talmud, both Helena and Monobaz donated large funds for the Temple of Jerusalem. After 115 CE, there are no historic traces of Jewish royalty in Adiabene.

Anbar (town)

Anbar (Arabic: الأنبار‎) was a town in Iraq, at lat. 33 deg. 22' N., long. 43 deg. 49' E, on the east bank of the Euphrates, just south of the Nahr 'Isa, or Sakhlawieh canal, the northernmost of the canals connecting that river with the Tigris.

Aphrahat

Aphrahat (c. 280–c. 345; Syriac: ܐܦܪܗܛ‎ Ap̄rahaṭ, Persian: فرهاد‎, Ancient Greek: Ἀφραάτης, and Latin Aphraates) was a Syriac Christian author of the third century from the Assyrian state of Adiabene in the Asōristān (Assyria) province of the Sasanian Empire who composed a series of twenty-three expositions or homilies on points of Christian doctrine and practice. All his known works, the Demonstrations, come from later on in his life. He was an ascetic and celibate, and was almost definitely a son of the covenant (an early Syriac form of communal monasticism). He may have been a bishop, and later Syriac tradition places him at the head of Mar Mattai monastery near Mosul in what is now Iraqi Kurdistan. He was a near contemporary to the slightly younger Ephrem the Syrian, but the latter lived within the sphere of the Roman Empire. Called the Persian Sage (Syriac: ܚܟܝܡܐ ܦܪܣܝܐ‎, Ḥakkimā Pārsāyā), Aphrahat witnesses to the concerns of the early church beyond the eastern boundaries of the Roman Empire.

Arbayistan

Arbāyistān (Parthian: 𐭀𐭓𐭁𐭉𐭎𐭈𐭍 [ʾrb]ystn, Zoroastrian Middle Persian: Arwāstān, Syriac: Bēṯ ʿArbāyē, Armenian: Arvastan) was a Sasanian province in Late Antiquity. Due to its situation and its road systems, the province was a source of income from commercial traffic, as well as a constant area of contention during the Roman-Persian wars.The province reached across Upper Mesopotamia toward the Khabur and north to the lower districts of Armenia; it bordered Adiabene in the east, Armenia in the north and Asōristān in the south.

Assyria

Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamian kingdom and empire of the ancient Near East and the Levant. It existed as a state from perhaps as early as the 25th century BC (in the form of the Assur city-state) until its collapse between 612 BC and 609 BC - spanning the periods of the Early to Middle Bronze Age through to the late Iron Age. From the end of the seventh century BC (when the Neo-Assyrian state fell) to the mid-seventh century AD, it survived as a geopolitical entity, for the most part ruled by foreign powers such as the Parthian and early Sasanian Empires between the mid-second century BC and late third century AD, the final part of which period saw Mesopotamia become a major centre of Syriac Christianity and the birthplace of the Church of the East.A largely Semitic-speaking realm, Assyria was centred on the Tigris in Upper Mesopotamia (modern northern Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and the northwestern fringes of Iran). The Assyrians came to rule powerful empires in several periods. Making up a substantial part of the greater Mesopotamian "cradle of civilization", which included Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, and Babylonia, Assyria reached the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements for its time. At its peak, the Neo-Assyrian Empire of 911 to 609 BC stretched from Cyprus and the East Mediterranean to Iran, and from present-day Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus to the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt and eastern Libya.The name "Assyria" originates with the Assyrian state's original capital, the ancient city of Aššur, which dates to c. 2600 BC - originally one of a number of Akkadian-speaking city states in Mesopotamia. In the 25th and 24th centuries BC, Assyrian kings were pastoral leaders. From the late 24th century BC, the Assyrians became subject to Sargon of Akkad, who united all the Akkadian- and Sumerian-speaking peoples of Mesopotamia under the Akkadian Empire, which lasted from c. 2334 BC to 2154 BC. After the Assyrian Empire fell from power, the greater remaining part of Assyria formed a geopolitical region and province of other empires, although between the mid-2nd century BC and late 3rd century AD a patchwork of small independent Assyrian kingdoms arose in the form of Assur, Adiabene, Osroene, Beth Nuhadra, Beth Garmai and Hatra.

The region of Assyria fell under the successive control of the Median Empire of 678 to 549 BC, the Achaemenid Empire of 550 to 330 BC, the Macedonian Empire (late 4th century BC), the Seleucid Empire of 312 to 63 BC, the Parthian Empire of 247 BC to 224 AD, the Roman Empire (from 116 to 118 AD) and the Sasanian Empire of 224 to 651 AD. The Arab Islamic conquest of the area in the mid-seventh century finally dissolved Assyria (Assuristan) as a single entity, after which the remnants of the Assyrian people (by now Christians) gradually became an ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious minority in the Assyrian homeland, surviving there to this day as an indigenous people of the region.

Assyrian nationalism

Assyrian nationalism or Assyrianism increased in popularity in the late 19th century in a climate of increasing ethnic and religious persecution of the indigenous Assyrians of what is today northern Iraq, south-east Turkey and north-west Iran (Upper Mesopotamia).

Assyrian nationalism – the ideology of a united Assyrian people – is to a great degree based on a common and specific historic, ethnic, religious, linguistic, cultural and geographic background and heritage. It is espoused by almost all Mesopotamian East Aramaic-speaking Assyrians. They are exclusively Christians, with most Assyrians following the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Syriac Catholic Church, Ancient Church of the East and Protestant groups like the Assyrian Pentecostal Church and Assyrian Evangelical Church, as well as those that are irreligious.

Geographically they are the native and indigenous people of Mesopotamia, in effect a region corresponding with what was ancient Assyria (Upper Mesopotamia) from perhaps as early as the 25th century BC until its dissolution in the 7th century AD. Assyrian nationalism is also common in the diaspora communities that left these areas for Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Lebanon, Jordan and Azerbaijan and migrant Assyrians from all these lands now residing in the European Union, United States, Canada and Australia.

The United Nations Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) recognises the modern Assyrians as an indigenous people of south-east Turkey, north-east Syria and the fringes of north-west Iran, as does the Political Dictionary of the Modern Middle East.

Babylonia

Babylonia () was an ancient Akkadian-speaking state and cultural area based in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq). A small Amorite-ruled state emerged in 1894 BC, which contained the minor administrative town of Babylon. It was merely a small provincial town during the Akkadian Empire (2335–2154 BC) but greatly expanded during the reign of Hammurabi in the first half of the 18th century BC and became a major capital city. During the reign of Hammurabi and afterwards, Babylonia was called "the country of Akkad" (Māt Akkadī in Akkadian).It was often involved in rivalry with the older state of Assyria to the north and Elam to the east in Ancient Iran. Babylonia briefly became the major power in the region after Hammurabi (fl. c. 1792–1752 BC middle chronology, or c. 1696–1654 BC, short chronology) created a short-lived empire, succeeding the earlier Akkadian Empire, Third Dynasty of Ur, and Old Assyrian Empire. The Babylonian empire, however, rapidly fell apart after the death of Hammurabi and reverted to a small kingdom.

Like Assyria, the Babylonian state retained the written Akkadian language (the language of its native populace) for official use, despite its Northwest Semitic-speaking Amorite founders and Kassite successors, who spoke a language isolate, not being native Mesopotamians. It retained the Sumerian language for religious use (as did Assyria), but already by the time Babylon was founded, this was no longer a spoken language, having been wholly subsumed by Akkadian. The earlier Akkadian and Sumerian traditions played a major role in Babylonian and Assyrian culture, and the region would remain an important cultural center, even under its protracted periods of outside rule.

The earliest mention of the city of Babylon can be found in a clay tablet from the reign of Sargon of Akkad (2334–2279 BC), dating back to the 23rd century BC. Babylon was merely a religious and cultural centre at this point and neither an independent state nor a large city; like the rest of Mesopotamia, it was subject to the Akkadian Empire which united all the Akkadian and Sumerian speakers under one rule. After the collapse of the Akkadian empire, the south Mesopotamian region was dominated by the Gutian people for a few decades before the rise of the Third Dynasty of Ur, which restored order to the region and which, apart from northern Assyria, encompassed the whole of Mesopotamia, including the town of Babylon.

Elcesaites

The Elcesaites, Elkasaites, Elkesaites or Elchasaites were an ancient Jewish Christian sect in Lower Mesopotamia, then the province of Asōristān in the Sasanian Empire.

The name of the sect derives from the alleged founder: Elkhasaí (Koine Greek: Ἠλχασαΐ in Hippolytus), Elksai (Ἠλξαί) in Epiphanius), or Elkesai (Ελκεσαΐ in Eusebius, and Theodoret). The sect is believed to be a faction of the Ebionites and was identified by early writers with the Sabians.

Erbil

Erbil, also spelt Arbil (Kurdish: ھەولێر / Hewlêr‎), locally called Hawler by the Kurds, is the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan and the most populated city in the Kurdish inhabited areas. It is located approximately in the center of Iraqi Kurdistan region and north of Iraq. It has about 850,000 inhabitants, and Erbil governorate has a permanent population of 2,009,367 as of 2015.Human settlement at Erbil can be dated back to possibly 5th millennium BC, and it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in the world. At the heart of the city is the ancient Citadel of Erbil. The earliest historical reference to the region dates to the Third Dynasty of Ur of Sumer, when King Shulgi mentioned the city of Urbilum. The city was later conquered by the Assyrians.Erbil became an integral part of the kingdom of Assyria by at least the 21st century BC through to the end of the seventh century BC, after it was captured by the Gutians, and it was known in Assyrian annals variously as Urbilim, Arbela and Arba-ilu. After this it was part of the geopolitical province of Assyria under several empires in turn, including the Median Empire, the Achaemenid Empire (Achaemenid Assyria), Macedonian Empire, Seleucid Empire, Parthian Empire, Roman Assyria and Sasanian Empire (Asōristān), as well as being the capital of the tributary state of Adiabene between the mid-second century BC and early second century AD.

Following the Muslim conquest of Persia, it no longer remained a unitary region, and during the Middle Ages, the city came to be ruled by the Seljuk and Ottoman empires.Erbil's archaeological museum houses a large collection of pre-Islamic artefacts, particularly the art of Mesopotamia, and is a center for archaeological projects in the area. The city was designated as Arab Tourism Capital 2014 by the Arab Council of Tourism. In July 2014, the Citadel of Arbil was inscribed as a World Heritage site.

The city has an ethnically diverse population of Kurds (the majority ethnic group), Armenians, Assyrians, Arabs, Iraqi Turkmens, Yezidis, Shabakis and Mandaeans. It is equally religiously diverse, with believers of Sunni Islam, Shia Islam, Christianity (mainly followed by Assyrians and Armenians), Yezidism, Yarsanism, Shabakism and Mandaeism extant in and around Erbil.

Fallujah

Fallujah (Arabic: الفلوجة‎, al-Fallūjah Iraqi pronunciation: [el.fɐl.ˈluː.dʒɐ]) is a city in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar, located roughly 69 kilometers (43 mi) west of Baghdad on the Euphrates. Fallujah dates from Babylonian times and was host to important Jewish academies for many centuries.

The city grew from a small town in 1947 to a population of 275,128 inhabitants in 2011. Within Iraq, it is known as the "city of mosques" for the more than 200 mosques found in the city and the surrounding villages.

In January 2014, the city was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS; sometimes called ISIL) and suffered major population loss. On 23 May 2016, Iraqi forces announced the beginning of their attempt to retake Fallujah from ISIS. On 26 June 2016 the city was declared fully liberated by the Iraqi army.

Islam in Iran

The Islamic conquest of Persia (637–651) led to the end of the Sasanian Empire and the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion in Persia. However, the achievements of the previous Persian civilizations were not lost, but were to a great extent absorbed by the new Islamic polity. Islam has been the official religion of Iran since then, except for a short duration after the Mongol raids and establishment of Ilkhanate. Iran became an Islamic republic after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Before the Islamic conquest, the Persians had been mainly Zoroastrian; however, there were also large and thriving Christian and Jewish communities, especially in the territories of at that time northwestern, western, and southern Iran, mainly Caucasian Albania, Asōristān, Persian Armenia, and Caucasian Iberia. There was a slow but steady movement of the population toward Islam. When Islam was introduced to Iranians, the nobility and city-dwellers were the first to convert, Islam spread more slowly among the peasantry and the dehqans, or landed gentry. By the late 11th century, the majority of Persians had become Muslim, at least nominally.

Iran's population is about 82,000,000 people, and Islam is the religion of 99.4% of Iranians. Nearly 90% of Iranians are Shi'a and about 10% are Sunni. Most Sunnis in Iran are Kurds, Larestani people (from Larestan), Turkomen, and Baluchs, living in the northwest, northeast, south, and southeast. Almost all of Iranian Shi'as are Twelvers.

Though Iran is known today as a stronghold of the Shi'a Muslim faith, it did not become so until much later, around the 15th century. The Safavid dynasty made Shi'a Islam the official state religion in the early sixteenth century and aggressively proselytized on its behalf. It is also believed that by the mid-seventeenth century most people in Iran and the territory of the contemporary neighboring Republic of Azerbaijan had become Shi'as, an affiliation that has continued. Over the following centuries, with the state-fostered rise of a Persian-based Shi'ite clergy, a synthesis was formed between Persian culture and Shi'ite Islam that marked each indelibly with the tincture of the other.

Mosul

Mosul (Arabic: الموصل‎ al-Mawṣil, Kurdish: مووسڵ‎, Syriac: ܡܘܨܠ‎, translit. Māwṣil) is a major city in northern Iraq. Located some 400 km (250 mi) north of Baghdad, Mosul stands on the west bank of the Tigris, opposite the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh on the east bank. The metropolitan area has grown to encompass substantial areas on both the "Left Bank" (east side) and the "Right Bank" (west side), as the two banks are described by the locals compared to the flow direction of Tigris.

At the start of the 21st century, Mosul and its surroundings had an ethnically and religiously diverse population; the majority of Mosul's population were Arabs, with Assyrians, Armenians, Turkmens, Kurds, Yazidis, Shabakis, Mandaeans, Kawliya, Circassians in addition to other, smaller ethnic minorities. In religious terms, mainstream Sunni Islam was the largest religion, but with a significant number of followers of the Salafi movement and Christianity (the latter followed by the Assyrians and Armenians), as well as Shia Islam, Sufism, Yazidism, Shabakism, Yarsanism and Mandaeism.

Mosul's population grew rapidly around the turn of the millennium and by 2004, the city's population was estimated to be 1,846,500. In 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized control of the city. The Iraqi government recaptured it in the Battle of Mosul three years later.

Historically, important products of the area include Mosul marble and oil. The city of Mosul is home to the University of Mosul and its renowned Medical College, which together was one of the largest educational and research centers in Iraq and the Middle East.

Mosul, together with the nearby Nineveh plains, is one of the historic centers for the Assyrian people and their churches; the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, and the Assyrian Church of the East, containing the tombs of several Old Testament prophets such as Jonah, some of which were destroyed by ISIL in July 2014.

Muslim conquest of Persia

The Muslim conquest of Persia, also known as the Arab conquest of Iran, led to the end of the Sasanian Empire of Persia in 651 and the eventual decline of the Zoroastrian religion.

The rise of Muslims coincided with an unprecedented political, social, economic, and military weakness in Persia. Once a major world power, the Sasanian Empire had exhausted its human and material resources after decades of warfare against the Byzantine Empire. The internal political situation quickly deteriorated after the execution of King Khosrow II in 628 AD. Subsequently, ten new claimants were enthroned within the next four years. With civil war erupting between different factions, the empire was no longer centralized.

Arab Muslims first attacked the Sassanid territory in 633, when general Khalid ibn Walid invaded Mesopotamia (Sassanid province of Asōristān; what is now Iraq), which was the political and economic center of the Sassanid state. Following the transfer of Khalid to the Byzantine front in the Levant, the Muslims eventually lost their holdings to Sassanian counterattacks. The second invasion began in 636 under Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas, when a key victory at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah led to the permanent end of Sasanian control west of Iran. The Zagros mountains then became a natural barrier and border between the Rashidun Caliphate and the Sassanid Empire. Due to continuous raids by Persians into the area, Caliph Umar ordered a full invasion of the Sasanian empire in 642, which led to the complete conquest of the Sasanians around 651. Directing from Medina, a few thousand kilometres from the battlefields of Iran, Caliph Umar's quick conquest of Iran in a series of well-coordinated, multi-pronged attacks became his greatest triumph, contributing to his reputation as a great military and political strategist.Iranian historians have defended their forebears vis a vis Arab sources to illustrate that "contrary to the claims of some historians, Iranians, in fact, fought long and hard against the invading Arabs." By 651, most of the urban centers in Iranian lands, with the notable exception of the Caspian provinces (Tabaristan) and Transoxiana, had come under the domination of the Arab armies. Many localities fought against the invaders; ultimately, none were successful. In fact, although Arabs had established hegemony over most of the country, many cities rose in rebellion by killing the Arab governor or attacking their garrisons. Eventually, military reinforcements quashed the insurgency and imposed Islamic control. The violent subjugation of Bukhara is a case in point: Conversion to Islam was gradual, partially as the result of this violent resistance; however, Zoroastrian scriptures were burnt and many priests were executed. However, the Persians began to reassert themselves by maintaining Persian language and culture. Islam would become the dominant religion late in the medieval ages.

Name of Syria

The name Syria is latinized from the (Greek Συρία Suría).

Herodotus used it loosely to refer to Cappadocia.

In Greek usage, Συρία Suría and Ασσυρία Assuría were used almost interchangeably, but in the Roman Empire, Syria and Assyria came to be used as distinct geographical terms. "Syria" in the Roman Empire period referred to the region of Syria (the western Levant, "those parts of the Empire situated between Asia Minor and Egypt"), while Asōristān was part of the Sasanian Empire and only very briefly came under Roman control (AD 116–118, marking the historical peak of Roman expansion).

Etymologically, the name Syria is connected to Assyria, ultimately from the Akkadian Aššur. Theodor Nöldeke in 1881 was the first to give philological support to the assumption that Syria and Assyria have the same etymology, a suggestion going back to John Selden (1617). Current academic opinion favours the connection.

Modern Syria (Arabic: الجمهورية العربية السورية‎ "Syrian Arab Republic", since 1961) inherits its name from the Ottoman Syria Vilayet, established in 1865. The choice of the ancient Latin name for the Ottoman province reflects a growing historical consciousness among the local intellectuals at the time.

The Classical Arabic name for the region is بلاد اَلشَّأم‎ bilād aš-ša'm ("land to the north", Modern Standard Arabic اَلشَّام‎ aš-šām) from شأم‎ š'm "left hand; northern".In contrast, Baalshamin or Ba'al Šamem (Aramaic: ܒܥܠ ܫܡܝܢ‎, translit. Lord of Heaven(s)), was a Semitic sky-god in Canaan/Phoenicia and ancient Palmyra. Hence, Sham refers to (heaven or sky).

Old Assyrian Empire

The Old Assyrian Empire is one of four periods in which the history of Assyria is divided, the other three being the Early Assyrian Period (2600-2025 BCE), the Middle Assyrian Empire (1392-934 BCE), and the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-609 BCE). Assyria was a major Mesopotamian East Semitic-speaking kingdom and empire of the ancient Near East. Centered on the Tigris–Euphrates river system in Upper Mesopotamia, the Assyrian people came to rule powerful empires at several times. Making up a substantial part of the "cradle of civilization", which included Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, and Babylonia, Assyria was at the height of technological, scientific and cultural achievements at its peak.

At its peak, the Assyrian empire ruled over what the ancient Mesopotamian religion referred to as the "four corners of the world": as far north as the Caucasus Mountains within the lands of what is today called Armenia and Azerbaijan, as far east as the Zagros Mountains within the territory of present-day Iran, as far south as the Arabian Desert of today's Saudi Arabia, as far west as the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea, and even further to the west in Egypt and eastern Libya.Assyria is named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur, which dates to c. 2600 BC, originally one of a number of Akkadian city states in Mesopotamia. Assyria was also sometimes known as Subartu and Azuhinum prior to the rise of the city-state of Assur, and during the Sasanian Empire as Asōristān.

Sinharib

Sinharib or Sanharib, Classical Syriac: ܣܢܚܪܝܒ‎ was, according to the Hagiography of Mar Behnam, an Assyrian client king of Nineveh in the fourth century AD. Nineveh was at the time within the Asōristān province of the Sasanian Empire. Much like Julian the Apostate of the Roman Empire, Sanharib disliked Christianity and tried to persuade his son Behnam to reject Christianity. Although greatly influenced by the Persian Zoroastrian religion at first, he later became Christian.

Talmudic Academies in Babylonia

The Talmudic Academies in Babylonia, also known as the Geonic Academies, were the center for Jewish scholarship and the development of Halakha from roughly 589 to 1038 CE (Hebrew dates: 4349 AM to 4798 AM) in what is called "Babylonia" in Jewish sources, at the time otherwise known as Asōristān (under the Sasanian Empire) or Iraq (under the Muslim caliphate until the 11th century). It is neither geopolitically, nor geographically identical with the ancient empires of Babylonia, since the Jewish focus of interest has to do with the Jewish religious academies, which were mainly situated in an area between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates and primarily between Pumbedita (modern Fallujah, a town west of Baghdad), and Sura, a town farther south down the Euphrates.

The key work of these academies was the compilation of the Babylonian Talmud, started by Rav Ashi and Ravina, two leaders of the Babylonian Jewish community, around the year 550. Editorial work by the Savoraim or Rabbanan Savoraei (post-Talmudic rabbis), continued on this text for the next 250 years. In fact, much of the text did not reach its final form until around 700. The two most famous academies were located at Sura and Pumbedita; the Sura Academy was originally dominant, but its authority waned towards the end of the Geonic period and the Pumbedita Academy's Geonate gained ascendancy. Major yeshivot were also located at Nehardea and Mahuza (al-Mada'in).

For the Jews of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the yeshivot of Babylonia served much the same function as the ancient Sanhedrin, i.e., as a council of Jewish religious authorities. The academies were founded in pre-Islamic Babylonia under the Zoroastrian Sasanians and were located not far from the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon, which at that time was the largest city in the world. After the Muslim conquest of Persia in the seventh century, the academies subsequently operated for four hundred years under the Islamic caliphate.

The first gaon of Sura, according to Sherira Gaon, was Mar Rab Mar, who assumed office in 609. The last gaon of Sura was Samuel ben Hofni, who died in 1034; the last gaon of Pumbedita was Hezekiah Gaon, who was tortured to death in 1040; hence the activity of the Geonim covers a period of nearly 450 years. The Geonim (Hebrew: גאונים‎) were the presidents of the two great rabbinical colleges of Sura and Pumbedita, and were the generally accepted spiritual leaders of the worldwide Jewish community in the early Middle Ages, in contrast to the Resh Galuta (Exilarch) who wielded secular authority over the Jews in Islamic lands.

The three centuries in the course of which the Babylonian Talmud was developed in the academies founded by Rav and Samuel were followed by five centuries during which it was zealously preserved, studied, expounded in the schools, and, through their influence, recognized by the whole diaspora. Sura and Pumbedita were considered the only important seats of learning: their heads and sages were the undisputed authorities, whose decisions were sought from all sides and were accepted wherever Jewish communal life existed.

Timothy I (Nestorian patriarch)

Timothy I, (Syriac: ܛܝܡܬܐܘܣ ܩܕܡܝܐ‎; ṭimāṯaos qadmāyā, c. 740 – 9 January 823, traditional date of birth 727/728) Patriarch of the Church of the East from 780 to 823, is widely considered to be one of the most impressive patriarchs in the long history of the Church of the East as well as a Father of the Church.

Respected both as an author, a church leader and a diplomat, Timothy was also an excellent administrator. During his reign he reformed the metropolitan administration of the Church of the East, granting greater independence to the metropolitan bishops of the mission field (the 'exterior' provinces) but excluding them from participation in patriarchal elections. These reforms laid the foundations for the later success of Church of the East missions in Central Asia.

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