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Chiara Barbati, Vittorio Berti (eds.). Iranianate and Syriac Christianity in Late Antiquity and the Early Islamic Period

Antje Wendtland
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Chiara Barbati, Vittorio Berti (eds.). Iranianate and Syriac Christianity in Late Antiquity and the Early Islamic Period. Vienne: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2021, 399 p. (Veröffentlichungen zur Iranistik 87. Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-historischen Klasse 918)

Texte intégral

1The volume comprises 14 contributions that originated from a series of lectures and seminars held in Vienna, Padua and Rome in 2018-19. They cover a wide range of subjects and are divided into two sections, “Mission, conversion and power”, dedicated to missionary history, politics and the role of minority religion, whereas in the second part, “Languages, texts and concepts”, the focus lies on philological and historical-religious questions.

2The first two articles deal with various political and theological aspects of the position of Christians in the Sasanian Empire. Christelle Jullien discusses the narratives constructed by Christians demonstrating their political and theological impact in “Conversion to Christianity in the Sasanian Empire”. Manfred Hutter elaborates the self-perception of Christians in the Sasanian Empire, the complexity of differences in local and temporal perspectives, and the contrasting standing of original Christians vs. converts from Zoroastrianism at the Sasanian court in “Intersection and Dependency of Christianity as a Minority Religion with and on Zoroastrian Dominance in the Sasanian Empire”. Florence Jullien analyses the development of the role of the catholicos in “The East-Syrian Patriarch: Constructing Identity through a Community Leader”. Vittorio Berti examines the circumstances of the Catholicos of the Church of Persia Mar Aba in Ādurbādagān experienced and the strategies he employed to lead his church during his exile. Alexey Muraviev’s contribution “In search of the lost memoirs of the Persian mobed converted to Christianity in the 4th Century” is dedicated to the supposed history and fate of a lost chronicle of Julian’s war with Persia. Nathanel Andrade focuses on the role of the Persians in “The Arrival of Christianity in the Indian Ocean”, evaluating the evidence that provide information on the period preceding the 7th century. Harald Suermann describes “The Mission of the Church of the East to South India and Sri Lanka”, presenting information from excavations of various harbors and from literary sources in Syriac, Arabic and Greek.

3In the second part, Simon Brelaud presents an extensive analysis of the names of Sasanian Christians in “’The names give forgiveness of inquity’, not a man. Some Outcomes of Sasanian Christians’ Onomastics”. In “On the Iranian Lexicon in the Old Uigur Texts from Central Asia”, Chiara Barbati discusses a number of religious terms borrowed from Sogdian, giving references to other Middle Iranian languages, and their attestation, use and grammaticalisation in Old Uigur Christian texts. Interpreting a passage from Mt. 25, 35-36, which relates to the advent of Jesus, Andrea Piras (“And you gathered me to your houses”) highlights how Mani made use of Gospel quotations in his Šāhbuhragān to adapt and translate them to his religious strategies.

4In “Preliminary Notes on the Syriac Version of Saint George Found in Turfan”, Lijuan Lin compares selected passages of the text with versions in other languages in detail and shows that it exhibits a significant number of elements corresponding to the Greek original, hinting at its being the earliest Syriac translation known so far. Adrian C. Pirtea (“The Sogdian and the Syriac Prefaces to the Six Books on the Dormition of the Virgin Mary”) argues that a reworking of this text must have occurred, which he attributes to Melkite influence. As evidence he draws on the Sogdian text, in which the “Book of Mary” is said to have been found in Constantinople (rather than in Ephesus as per the Syriac, Arabic and Ethiopic versions). Camilla Insom and Gianfilippo Terribili investigate the motif of the “Holy Figures and Prodigious Trees in Late-Antique and Medieval NW Iran and Adjacent Areas” in the article “In the Shadow of a Tree”, taking into account both ancient and late antique sources as well as contemporary evidence. In “Origenism and Manichaeism through the Lens of a Mazdakite Distortion”, Antonio Panaino argues that the Origenist controversy during the time of Justinian should not only be seen as directed against Manichaeism, but might rather take into account a wider perspective that also involved the western branch of the Mazdakite diaspora.

5The volume is completed by an index of personal and geographical names as well as short notes about the contributors.

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Antje Wendtland, « Chiara Barbati, Vittorio Berti (eds.). Iranianate and Syriac Christianity in Late Antiquity and the Early Islamic Period »Abstracta Iranica [En ligne], Volume 44 | 2022, document 4, mis en ligne le 30 décembre 2022, consulté le 01 octobre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

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Antje Wendtland


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