A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity
Christian communities flourished during late antiquity in a Zoroastrian political system, known as the Iranian Empire, that integrated culturally and geographically disparate territories from Arabia to Afghanistan into its institutions and networks. Whereas previous studies have regarded Christians as marginal, insular, and often persecuted participants in this empire, Richard Payne demonstrates their integration into elite networks, adoption of Iranian political practices and imaginaries, and participation in imperial institutions.
The rise of Christianity in Iran depended on the Zoroastrian theory and practice of hierarchical, differentiated inclusion, according to which Christians, Jews, and others occupied legitimate places in Iranian political culture in positions subordinate to the imperial religion. Christians, for their part, positioned themselves in a political culture not of their own making, with recourse to their own ideological and institutional resources, ranging from the writing of saints’ lives to the judicial arbitration of bishops. In placing the social history of East Syrian Christians at the center of the Iranian imperial story, A State of Mixture helps explain the endurance of a culturally diverse empire across four centuries.
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Aba’s accounts Adiabene Adurohrmazd agdēn Ahreman Anahid ancient apostasy apostates Arbela aristocratic houses Armenian ascetic Avesta Beit bishops Bisutun canons chapter Chris Christian communities Christian elites Christians and Zoroastrians Chronicle of Seert Church converts cosmological courtly Dēnkard East Syrian East Syrian authors ecclesiastical leaders emperor empire’s episcopal Ērānšahr feasts fire temples Gyselen hagiographical historiographical History of Karka History of Mar Husraw Ibid II’s imperial institutions Iran Iranian court Iranian Empire Jullien Karka d-Beit Slok Khuzestan king of kings land late antiquity late Sasanian period lineage literary Macuch Mar Aba Mar Qardagh marriage Martyrdom of Pethion martyrs Mesopotamia Middle Persian mowbed narrative nian Nisibis northern Mesopotamia Nowruz Ohrmazd one’s patriarch polemics practice region religion ritual Roman royal ruler Sabrisho saints scholars Seleucia-Ctesiphon Shapur Shapur II shrine Simeon sixth century social and political Synodicon Orientale texts tian tion tradition violence Wahram Walashfarr wehdēn worldly Yasna Yazdgird Zoroastrian Zurwan