Demographic and Religious Changes in Sixth and Seventh Century Romano-Byzantine Edessa / Merle Eisenberg

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Recommended Citation Eisenberg, Merle, “Demographic and Religious Changes in Sixth and Seventh Century Romano- Byzantine Edessa” (2007). Honors Theses. Paper 265. http://digitalcommons.colby.edu/honorstheses/265
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Demographic and Religious Changes in Sixth and Seventh Century Romano-Byzantine Edessa
Merle Eisenberg History Honors Project Advisors: John Turner and Larissa Taylor April 30, 2007
Contents
Author’s Preface i
Introduction 1
1. The Emergence of a Separate Monophysite Hierarchy 8
2. The Sasanid Capture of Edessa and Religious Instability, 23 602-628 AD
3. The Effect of the Muslim Conquest on Edessene Christianity 32
4. A Transformation in Christian Perception: Edessene Jews in the Late Fifth and Sixth Centuries 39
5. Jewish Edessene Reactions to the Invasions of the 52 Early Seventh Century
6. Weapons, Military Strategy, and the Sieges of Edessa 63
7. Appendices A. The Demographic Effect of the Plague of 541-4 80 B. Edessene Problems with Sasanid Rule 82 C. Demographic Changes following the Sasanid 85 and Muslim Occupations of Edessa
Conclusion 89
The original idea for this thesis began several years ago when I questioned the role of the people living under Romano-Byzantine rule during the Sasanid and Muslim invasions of the early sixth and seventh century. I wanted to examine ethnic and demographic transformations that might have caused these people to alter their view of their Romano-Byzantine rulers and support invading armies. These changes might then explain the “inevitable” Sasanid and Muslim conquests.
The resulting work is extremely different. I have focused primarily on religious transformations, rather than ethnic or demographic changes. The reason is simple. The writers of this period did not write about ethnic or demographic changes. Instead, most writers concentrated on religion and on the different Christian creeds and the Jews in the empire. I have included several examples of demographic changes, but the sources do not concentrate on them and, therefore, these changes are largely secondary. In addition, these transformations occurred primarily during the sixth, rather than the seventh century.
The large volume of information on these changes forced me to focus the thesis as well. I have chosen to examine these changes in the Mesopotamian city of Edessa. Edessa serves as a good case study because it had significant numbers of different religious, each of which attainted control of the city a period of time. Further, the most important Syriac writers were from Edessa, providing vital primary sources from a period that has few. This thesis focuses primarily on the period from 502-639 AD. The former date coincides with the beginning of the first Roman-Persian War of the sixth century, while the latter date marks the Muslim conquest of the city. I have, however, examined a few critical events from before and after this period.
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This work is vital because it examines the reaction of the Edessene people, of all religions, to the numerous invasions of the sixth and early seventh centuries. It seeks to determine how, and more importantly why, the Edessene people responded to the crises of this period as they did. Examining the reaction of the Edessene people to these tumultuous events provides insight into how subjects of Romano-Byzantine rule viewed the empire.
For names of historical figures, I have generally followed the Latinized spelling. However, when a person is more commonly known by another spelling, I have used that instead. A debate exists over when the empire ceased being Roman and became Byzantine. Historians have proposed various dates, from the division of the empire under Theodosius I in 395 to the death of Heraclius in 641. I have followed the idea that Maurice was the final Roman emperor and Phokas was the first Byzantine emperor. Thus, I use the term Roman when referring to the period before the ascension of Phokas in 602. The term Byzantine refers to events after the ascension of Phokas and, finally, Romano-Byzantine refers to events or ideas that encompass the entire period.
I would like to thank Professors John Turner and Larissa Taylor for their invaluable advice. Their suggestions have greatly helped me at every stage of this project and this work would not be possible without them. Thanks especially to Professor Turner for suggesting Edessa as the focus for my project. I would also like to thank Professor Howard Lupovitch for advice on the Jewish section. Thanks to all those people whom I have harassed into reading and editing sections of my paper including: Caitlin Gallagher, Josh Handelman, Lucy Hitz, Bridge Mellichamp, Katie Renwick and anyone else I have forgotten. I would like to thank Alison McArdle for lending me her lap desk, which has
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made it possible for me to write with a fractured collarbone. Thanks to Chris Appel for showing me YouTube videos, talking politics, and otherwise distracting me in our study carrel. Finally, thanks to Frank M. Donovan for donating money for my great study carrel.
Merle Eisenberg April 2007 Miller Library, Study Carrel O
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Introduction
The period from 502-639 AD was one of significant change in the Romano- Byzantine Empire. In 502, Emperor Anastasius (r. 491-518) ruled a financially sound, militarily strong, and mostly religiously unified state. By 639, the empire’s finances had been spent in countless wars, the military was shattered, and religious dissension ripped the empire apart. During this period, the empire defeated several Sasanian invasions, re- conquered North Africa, Italy, and Spain, lost the eastern provinces of Mesopotamia, Syria, Palestine and Egypt to a Sasanian invasion, regained them, and then lost the eastern provinces forever.
These chaotic events occurred on a micro level as well, exemplified through a case study of the city of Edessa. Edessa is located in the southeastern part of modern Turkey. Under Romano-Byzantine control it was in the province of Osrhoene, situated in the vital Mesopotamian region of the empire. The Romans annexed Edessa in 214 AD and it became a vital city near the Roman-Persian frontier thereafter.1 Throughout the next several hundred years Edessa continued to grow and prosper, since it lay on east- west trade routes from Persia to the Roman Empire.
The empire, meanwhile, transformed during the same period, and eventually was reduced to the Eastern Roman Empire alone. By the beginning of Anastasius’ reign in 491, the empire had transformed into an eastern focused, Christianized, and gradually Hellenized empire. The Persian rulers on the frontier had changed as well and the Sasanids ruled Persia. The Roman and Sasanian Empires, despite their problems did not
1 I have used the term Persian, rather than Parthian or Sasanian, since it encompasses both of the Parthian and the Sasanian empires. When discusseding the Sasanian Empire, I will use that term rather than the more generic, and less accurate, Persian. For the annexation of Edessa see briefly: J.B. Segal, Edessa “The Blessed City” (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 14
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engage in a significant war for over fifty years prior to Anastasius ascension.2 In 503, however, the Sasanian emperor, Kawad, invaded the Roman Empire. This began a series of wars that lasted, with a few truces, until 628. These invasions profoundly affected Edessa, and its surrounding regions.
Religious dissension transformed Edessa as well. Religion formed the central basis for an individual, and especially the clergy’s, view of the Romano-Byzantine Empire. Constantine I had established Christianity as the predominant religion and subsequent emperors strongly supported different sects. Divisions occurred, both within the empire and inside Edessa, based on adherence to particular religious creeds.
The predominant religious division in Edessa occurred over Christ’s nature, whether it was “out of two natures” or “in two natures.” The conflict began following the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon, which decided that Christ was “in two natures,” beginning the division between Monophysites – those who believed Christ was “out of two natures” – and the Chalcedonians (i.e. those who followed the decrees of Chalcedon.). The division occurred along regional lines as well, with the eastern provinces supporting Monophysitism and Anatolia, Constantinople, and Rome following the Chalcedonian creed. Anastasius strongly supported Monophysitism and, under his rule, the empire officially adopted its tenants. Every subsequent emperor, however, promoted the Chalcedonian creed – religiously separating the eastern provinces from the rest of the empire.
Throughout the early part of the sixth century, Monophysite evangelists converted many clergy and civilians in the eastern provinces to their creed, further separating the
2 For a brief history of the fifth century see: A.A. Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1952), 96-109
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two parts of the empire. Eventually, the Monophysite clergy created a separate church hierarchy, with their own ordinations. Several emperors sporadically persecuted the Monophysites, in an attempt to return them to the “orthodox” creed, but these efforts largely failed and, by the end of the sixth century, the two creeds could not be reconciled. Traditional sources said that this division occurred because “it encountered a spirit of nationality” or because “Monophysitism became a symbol of the separatist movements in Syria, Egypt and Armenia.”3 These views, however, are greatly exaggerated, although there was a significant religious divide.
Edessa, naturally, fell into Monophysite camps, although significant divisions existed within the city as well. This religious divide increased as the sixth century progressed and, by the end of the century, had reached acute proportions. Following Phokas’ (r. 602-10) successful revolt against Maurice (r. 582-602), a general, Narses, seized Edessa in 603 – exacerbating the religions tension. He attempted to appease the Edessenes by ordering the Chalcedonian bishop stoned, killing him. An army loyal to Phokas, however, recaptured Edessa and restored Chalcedonian control over the church’s hierarchy. In 609, the Sasanians captured Edessa, installed a Monophysite bishop for the city, and expelled the Chalcedonian clergy. For the entirely of the Sasanian occupation, from 609 to 628, the Monophysite clergy controlled the church hierarchy without Chalcedonian influence. This created a sense of dominance for the Monophysites, one they were reluctant to relinquish.
The Byzantine re-conquest of Edessa in 628 returned the Chalcedonian creed to preeminence. Emperor Heraclius (r. 610-41), however, attempted to solve the division
3 W. A. Wigram, The Separation of the Monophysites (London: The Faith Press, LTD., 1923), 3; Andreas N. Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602-634, trans. Marc Ogilvie-Grant, vol. 1, 5 vols. (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1968), 4
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and proclaimed a Monothelete creed – two natures, but one will. This attempt failed, since neither side accepted it and the Muslims captured the eastern provinces only a few years later. The Muslim conquest did not displease the Monophysite church, as the Muslims allowed them to become an autonomous and equal creed, protected under the jizya (the Muslim tax for religions of the book). The two creeds, and eventually a third creed that supported Monothelete doctrine even after its widespread condemnation, continued to argue Christology. Chalcedonians even wrote apocalyptic narratives in which the Byzantine emperor would re-conquer the eastern provinces, restore the true faith, and bring about the end of days.
This discussion begs the question: did these changes in Edessene religion affect the populace’s view, and support for, the Romano-Byzantine state? And, if it did, to what extent did the Edessenes defend the city? Did the growing religious problem undermine support for the Byzantine state and allow the Sasanians, and later the Muslims, to capture Edessa?
The second major religious change in Edessa occurred among the Jewish population. Although the Jewish population was never large, it played a significant role in the events of this period. Romano-Byzantine law recognized the Jewish community an inferior religion, but nonetheless protected it. Two events of this period substantially transformed the position of Edessene Jews. First, a war occurred between Christians and Jews in Arabia, with both antagonists committing atrocities. The Christian Edessenes, not surprisingly, depicted the Jews as the culprits in the war. Second, several major Samaritan and Jewish revolts altered the Christian Edessene trust in the Jewish Edessene
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community. Before their revolts, the Christian Edessenes saw the Jews as an inferior religious group, but now were viewed as threatening the people’s security.
The Sasanian conquest exacerbated the tension between Jews and Christians. For example, the Jews helped the Sasanians capture Jerusalem, during which thousands of Christians were massacred. In Edessa, the Jews gained significant autonomy. Sasanian Emperor Khusrau II (r. 592-628)4 allowed most religious sects to worship without persecution and once Sasanian rule ended, the Jews would return to their former lower status. Thus, when the Byzantines returned to reoccupy Edessa, Jews defended the city along with the Sasanian garrison. This completely failed and the Byzantines recaptured the city, although Heraclius ordered the Jews not to be punished. Further, Heraclius ordered a forced baptism of the Jews, although the Edessenes largely ignored this and the decree only lasted for a few years before the Muslim conquest.
Thus, the Muslim conquest of the city benefited the Jews in addition to the Monophysites, since they also paid the jizya and regained their autonomy. The same questions arise. Did the Jews help the Sasanians and Muslims capture Edessa? Was dissatisfaction with Byzantine rule so pronounced that Jews actively undermined the Byzantines supported the Sasanians or Muslims?
These transformations were obviously significant. The Jews and Monophysites in Edessa were displeased with either the lack of imperial toleration or support for their respective religions. However, this was not sufficient to cause the various persecuted elements in Edessa to revolt. In fact, Romano-Byzantine law and rule made the possibility of a city’s rebellion almost impossible and the discontented elements in Edessa realized this dilemma.
4 Hereafter referred to as “Khusrau.”
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The law was the first boundary for Edessenes who wanted to undermine Romano- Byzantine rule. Romano-Byzantine law had long made it illegal for a person, other than a soldier, to buy or own a weapon.5 It issued stern punishments to anyone caught with a weapon, another disincentive to carry one. The state controlled the manufacturing and refurbishing of all arms as well. Edessa had a state sponsored arms factory, a fabrica, which meant that all weapons manufacturing could be easily regulated in the city. Thus, a civilian Edessene could not easily buy a weapon. This largely negated the possibility of Edessenes revolting against Romano-Byzantine authority. However, it also made it impossible for Edessenes to defend their city without aid from a significant military force. If only a small garrison defended Edessa, the Edessene civilians could not provide enough help to ensure the city’s defense.
Further, Romano-Byzantine military strategy emphasized fluid movements, a defense in depth, and avoiding battles when possible. Almost every city, therefore, was expendable, if it meant that Romano-Byzantine defenses could be strengthened and rebuilt further into Romano-Byzantine territory. The state sought to defend every city, but military forces were withdrawn to cities that were less exposed. Finally, Romano- Byzantine armies defended cities that had the possibility of a relief force arriving.
During the sieges of 503 and 544, large armies defended Edessa – ensuring that the city would not fall. Some cities closer to the Sasanian border than Edessa were surrendered or left lightly defended. During the Sasanian and Muslim captures of Edessa, there were no large armies left to defend the city – since they had been destroyed. Thus, a small garrison was left in Edessa, with no hope of relief, to defend against a large
5 As we shall see, the state broadly defined a weapon, so that it included anything which could be used as a projectile or as a club.
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invading army. The soldiers and Edessenes had only one other choice other than surrender – slaughter. Without the protection of a large Romano-Byzantine army, the fall of Edessa – and more poignantly the non-resistance of the city – was inevitable
Significant religious and demographic changes occurred during the sixth and early seventh centuries, which significantly influenced the Edessene populace’s support for the state. Nevertheless, Edessenes defended the city when a strong Romano-Byzantine military presence enabled the city to withstand a siege and, conversely, they quickly surrendered Edessa when no major military force existed. The majority of the Edessene population, therefore, supported the Romano-Byzantine Empire when the state could, in return, defend the city. However, once the state could not provide sufficient military resources, Edessa fell easily. The overwhelming objective of the majority of the Edessene population was to survive, regardless of which religion or empire controlled the city. Therefore, most Edessenes cared less about the macro-political events that occurred around them than about surviving.
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1. The Emergence of a Separate Monophysite Hierarchy
Christianity both divided and united the Late Roman and Byzantine Empire. Emperors and theologians continually sought to define a single orthodox faith that encompassed the empire and its people. From the second half of the fifth century through the end of the seventh century, a religious debate ensued over whether Christ had a single or double nature. Monophysitism, the belief in a single nature of Christ, primarily existed in the empire’s eastern provinces – especially in Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia. Meanwhile, Dyophysitism, the belief in the dual nature of Christ, was strong in the Balkans, Asia Minor, Palestine, and Western Europe. As each region solidified its religious majority, successive emperors slowly lost the prospect of a single creed for the entire empire. The underlying religious view of a region, or province, combined with its economic and/or military importance at a specific time altered each emperor’s religious ideology.6
Edessa experienced an identical change in its religious adherence and its ecclesiastical leaders accelerated this process. Edessene, and other Monophysite chroniclers, documented this change through their assignment of culpability for the persecutions – which shifted from a misinformed to a heretical emperor. Before this separation the Monophysites sought to control the imperial throne religiously. This failed, however, and they moved toward a separate hierarchy. The movement toward a distinct hierarchy separated the Monophysites from the imperial church. During the sixth century successive emperors, especially Justinian, increasingly allowed the Monophysite
6 Many of the emperor’s undoubtedly had strong religious beliefs, but it is practically impossible to separate an emperor’s personal religious belief from his political imbued religious pronouncements. We do know that Emperor Anastasius was a candidate for the patriarchal see of Antioch, a strong Monophysite center, before attaining the throne. See: Theophanes, The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor, trans. Cyril and Roger Scott Mango (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), AM 5983, 208
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creed to strengthen in the eastern provinces, thereby creating a permanent division according to underlying religious adherence.
The original difference between the Monophysites and the Dyophysites7 was over the exact nature of Christ and, more specifically, the relationship between Christ’s humanity and divinity. The Chalcedonian definition stated “for our salvation from Mary, the virgin God-bearer, as regards his humanity; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only- begotten, acknowledged in two natures.”8 Although the two schools differed over a single letter, en versus ek, they fundamentally disagreed over Christ’s role in the world. The Monophysites equated Christ more strongly with God, the Father, than the Dyophysites. Further, the Dyophysites emphasized the need for a stronger priesthood since God, through Christ, could not influence men’s actions as greatly.
These differences began to coalesce along regional lines before Chalcedon, as during the council clergy from the Antiochene and Alexandrine sees aligned themselves with the Monophysite position, while the Papal and Constantinopolitan sees followed the Dyophysite creed.9 Notably, “both Monophysites and Chalcedonians were happy to enjoy imperial support,”10 buwt when this was not available they continued to proselytize and preach without it. Further, each emperor considered both his personal beliefs and,
7 I have chosen to separate the two interpretations of Christ’s nature as they existed before the acceptance of the Council of Chalcedon here. Following the acceptance of Chalcedon, the Dyophysites become “Chalcedonians” and later “Neo-Chalcedonians.” For a discussion of the various changes between these two sects in the century following Chalcedon, see John Meyendorff, “Justinian, the Empire and the Church,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 22 (1968) 54-57. For a more complete analysis of this transformation see: W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972).
8 Emphasis added. Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner, vol. 1, 2 vols. (Washington D.C.: Sheed & Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990), 86. For a further explanation see: Frend, Rise of the Monophysite, 2-3 9 Frend has a longer discussion of these differences at: Ibid., 1-7. Wigram believes that the differences were negligible, but this view must be tempered by both Wigram’s theological position as a reverend and his thesis. He wants to show that the two positions should have reconciled and still can at the time of his writing. Wigram, Separation, 10-12
10 Meyendorff, “Justinian, the Empire and the Church,” 47 9
more importantly, significant events in the empire as a basis for supporting a specific creed or attempting to find a compromise.11
Emperor Anastasius I promoted a pro-Monophysite religious policy because of his personal beliefs and because his foreign and domestic policy concentrated on the eastern provinces. Anastasius initially followed a moderate position and accepted both Chalcedon and Zeno’s Henotikon – as an attempt at compromise.12 However, the two sects drifted further apart during his reign – especially as each side solidified their respective beliefs. As early as 498, Anastasius ordered Patriarch Macedonius to resolve the division, but Macedonius was “unable to do this.” Theophanes Confessor praised Macedonius for allowing each monastery to continue in its own beliefs “rather than instigate persecution against them.”13 Meanwhile, Severus of Antioch and Philoxenus of Hierapolis moved to support the Henotikon and simultaneously condemn Chalcedon. Anastasius faced the choice of deciding which position to follow and chose Severus’.14 The emperor arrested and banished Patriarch Macedonius and then “bribed the monks and clergy who shared his beliefs to elect another bishop.”15
Syriac sources, especially those from Edessa, had an extremely favorable opinion of Emperor Anastasius because of his Monophysite beliefs. Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-
11 See for example Emperor Zeno’s (r. 474-91) attempted this through the publication of the Henotikon. This avoided any discussion of Christ’s nature. Theophanes did not support it and noted that a later patriarch of Constantinople, Macedonius, wrongly “put his signature to Zeno’s Henotikon.” Theophanes, Theoph., AM 5988, 215 Later, Theophanes attributed miracles to those who refused to sign. Theophanes, Theoph., AM 5991, 218
12 Frend provided an analysis of Anastasius’ position on religion through 510 at: Frend, Rise of the Monophysite, 190-201. Pseudo-Joshua, who is a strong Monophysite, does not have a significant position on Anastasius early in his reign calling him only by his imperial title “faithful.” The Chronicle of Pseudo- Joshua the Stylite, trans. Frank R. and John W. Watt Trombley (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), 17 13 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 5991, 218 14 For Anastasius’ movement toward Monophysitism see: Frend, Rise of the Monophysite, 217. 15 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6004, 236
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Mahre called him “a Christian and a believer.”16 Similarly, the Chronicle of Pseudo- Joshua the Stylite held Anastasius in a positive light. Pseudo-Joshua’s optitmism is even more remarkable because the years in which he wrote coincided with a devastating famine. Pseudo-Joshua regarded these events as consequences of divine wrath for non- Christian practices. As he wrote:
many villages and hamlets were emptied of people, but (the people) did not [escape] punishment, not even those who went to distant regions. What is written of the Israelite people, ‘Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil,’ similarly applied to them.17
These two chroniclers demonstrated a continued belief in the imperial religion at the beginning of the sixth century.
The Edessene people aided Roman soldiers during their campaigns in the Roman- Persian War of 502-6. During the campaign preceding the siege of Edessa, the hyparch,18 Appion, ordered the Edessenes to produce bread. Pseudo-Joshua noted that “since the bakers could not make enough bread, he gave orders for wheat to be supplied to all the households in Edessa and for them to make the boukellaton [army biscuits] at their own expense.”19 In the nearby city of Tella (Tella-Constantine), which the Sasanians besieged earlier in 503, the bishop of the city, Bar-Hadad, “would go round visiting them [the city’s defenders], praying for them and blessing them. He praised their diligence, gave them encouragement, and sprinkled holy water on them and on the city
16Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, trans. Witold Witakowski (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1996), 3. See the introduction of Pseudo-Dionysius for an account of this work’s origins and its use of sources. In brief, Pseudo-Dionysius used material from the second part of the history of John of Ephesus written in the latter half of the sixth century, which has been lost except for parts that later chroniclers, like Pseudo-Dionysius, copied. 17 Pseudo-Joshua., 26-42. For an account of the famine from and its causes. 18 This is the Greek name for the praetorian prefect. See: Ibid., 65 n311. 19 Ibid., 66
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wall.”20 The empire depended on the church to secure the loyalty of the people in this, and later, wars against the Sasanids.21 In 503, the Edessene clergy strongly supported Anastasius and, therefore, the people did as well.
In the final few years of Anastasius’ reign, the Monophysites continued to gain power in Edessa – especially after Severus’ appointment as patriarch of Antioch. Severus anathematized the Council of Chalcedon and forced others to as well. If Severus believed someone followed the Chalcedonian creed, he would force them to repudiate it in front of the entire congregation. Pseudo-Dionysius re-created the scene saying: “if there was anybody who was believed to be a follower of Flavian [Severus’ predecessor as patriarch and a Chalcedonian] he would hear his own name (being called), ‘So and so, anathematize the synod!’ – which was what happened.” 22 In 514, the Edessene bishop Paul attended, and played a large role at, a synod in Tyre that proclaimed the Henotikon as the religious creed of the empire.23 Thus, Edessa remained strongly in the Monophysite camp.
Anastasius’ reign marked the height of imperial sanctioned Monophysitism. Ironically, the appointment of strong Monophysites, especially Severus of Antioch, ended any possibility of the Monophysites accepting a compromise. They accepted only the Henotikon, which the Chalcedonians rejected. In Constantinople the people rioted against the Monophysites and Anastasius barely held his throne.24 The Monophysite
20 Ibid.,74 21 For detail on this relationship see for example Segal, Edessa., 127-9. 22Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III,14 23 Ibid., 15. For more detail on this synod see: Frend, Rise of the Monophysite, 225-6. 24 Theophanes noted that Anastasius had to flee and hide in a suburban estate. Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6005, 240. Similarly, the Chronicon Paschale said that the people of Constantinople proclaimed “Areobindus as emperor for Romania,” although he fled rather than accepting the title. Chronicon Paschale: 284-628 AD, trans. Michael Whitby and Mary Whitby (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1989), 102
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Patriarch Timothy died in April 518 and the new patriarch, John, was a moderate.25 Thus, following Anastasius death in July 518, the empire returned to the Chalcedonian creed.
Justin I (r. 518-27), whom Theophanes in his typical praise for a pro-Chalcedon emperor called “an ardent champion of the orthodox faith” changed the ecclesiastical policy.26 Notably, Justin sought to reconcile the empire’s religious policy with Rome, while simultaneously rebuking Severus and the Monophysites in the East. Justin warmly received the papal legates upon their arrival in Constantinople and agreed to several papal proposals.27 Meanwhile, Justin remained lenient toward the Monophysites, although he gradually replaced many of the Monophysite bishops in the Eastern provinces.28 Notably, no subsequent emperors refuted Chalcedon, ensuring that the Monophysites would never again gain imperial ecclesiastical support.
Following Anastasius’ death and Justin’s replacement of Severus with Paul the Jew,29 as patriarch of Antioch, religious problems intensified in Edessa. Paul the Jew was a Chalcedonian and began to persecute the Monophysites in the Antiochene see, under which Edessa fell.30 Pseudo-Dionysius wrote that “the persecution went so far that
25 Frend, Rise of the Monophysite., 233 or Wigram, Separation., 63 26 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6011, 249 27 The Book of Pontiffs provided an account of the meeting between Justin and the papal legates sent by Pope Hormisdas. The Book of Pontiffs, trans. Raymond Davis (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1989), 47-48. For a full account of the agreement between Justin and Hormisdas see Frend, Rise of the Monophysite., 233-9. 28 Theophanes provided one such example when Ephraim is ordained bishop of Amida and “showed divine zeal against the schismatics.” Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6019, 265 29 Pseudo-Dionysius referred to him as this, which derived from the belief that Nestorianism (as the Monophysites often called the Chalcedonians) was close to Judaism. See: Segal, Edessa., 102. I will continue to call Paul this, as it makes it easier to differentiate him from other clergymen with the same name and because it shows an important reflection of Christian thought about Jews (which will be detailed later). 30 Theophanes provided a short account of Paul’s appointment as patriarch, but did not provide any further information on him aside from mentioning his episcopal years in his annual headings. Theophanes,
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they [Monophysites] were expelled from their monasteries and (had to) descend from their columns and leave their hermitages. Also, they were dragged away from (their monastic) stations.”31 The effect in Edessa was equally bad, as Paul the Jew temporarily replaced the pro-Monophysite bishop, Paul of Edessa, until Paul of Edessa agreed to accept Chalcedon. According to Pseudo-Dionysius, Paul of Edessa initially did not proclaim Chalcedon because “he trembled before the keen ardour of the Edessenes.”32 After Paul of Edessa repeatedly refused to attend Paul the Jew in Antioch to explain his rejection of Chalcedon, Paul the Jew dispatched the magister militium (i.e. a general) Patricius to bring him to Antioch. However,
then the inhabitants of the city and all the monks from its neighbourhood gathered, burning with lively ardour for the truth, and carrying stones, ran at the palace where Patricus was staying; (there) they hurled stones at him and all his men . . . so that they might be unable to carry Paul off.33
The soldiers then attacked the Edessenes and “started to slay them with swords, especially those who wore monk’s attire.”34 Paul the Jew eventually allowed Paul to return as bishop of Edessa, but Paul of Edessa again renounced Chalcedon and was replaced.35
Paul’s replacement as bishop of Edessa, Asclepius, instigated severe persecutions against the monks of Edessa – leading to their exile from the city. Pseudo-Dionysius wrote that:
Theoph., AM 6011, 250. Pseudo-Dionysisus provided a longer account of Paul’s appointment in: Pseudo- Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 21. 31 Ibid., 22-4 32 Ibid., .25
33 Ibid. 34 Ibid., It is impossible to determine how much of Edessa’s populace actually participated in this riot against Patricius’ soldiers. Pseudo-Dionysius had a pro-Monophysite view and should be viewed with caution, but his position has substantial merit nonetheless. Pseudo-Dionysius singles out the soldiers’ attack on monks, which most likely derived from monks strong zealotry on religious matters and, therefore, it is probable that they were at the forefront of the mob and sustained the highest casualties. 35 Ibid., 26. For an overall view of this situation see Segal, Edessa, 96
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as the city learned about their departure, all men and women, old and young, adolescents and children ran to see them and to be blessed by them. When they saw them leaving, being pushed and driven out, they wailed, raising their voices in bitter weeping.36
Eventually these monks gathered with other exiled Monophysite monks to form a separate community near Mardin.37 However, this remained the extent of the persecutions in Edessa, which Paul the Jew’s successors limited to the clergy and especially the monastic orders. Instead, the Chalcedonian clergy attempted to convert the Edessenes by influencing them with pro-Chalcedon clergy.
Notably, Pseudo-Dionysius did not condemn Justin I for imposing the Chalcedonian creed, but rather blames others who deceived him. As the chronicle said “he was a simple man and was not educated in the divine dogmas, he was seduced with words into introducing the Council of Chalcedon.”38 Justin also replaced Paul the Jew as bishop, following the reaction to Paul’s persecution of the Monophysites.39 Pseudo- Dionysius noted that a Chalcedonian bishop, who had burned a Monophysite priest for refusing to take communion with him, wrote to Justin and lied about the priest’s actions. The bishop “wrote falsely and informed (the emperor) that a certain priest had trampled the Eucharist with his feet, and because of this has been burned. Thus, he managed to deceive (the emperor) and to cause the murder to pass (without consequences).”40 Even a contemporary biased Monophysite writer remained loyal to Justin.
36 Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 28 37 For the exile of the monks from the Monastery of the Orientals see: Ibid., 27-35. Notably, even though Pseudo-Dionysius provided greater detail on the exile of these monks he said little about persecutions against non-clergy Monophysites. The lack of specifics indicated that the persecutions were not that great, as otherwise he would have provided similar details. 38 Ibid., 17 39 Ibid., 24. As noted above, Theophanes was silent on the removal of Paul from his patriarchal see. See also Frend, Rise of the Monophysite., 241-2. 40 Ibid., 34-5
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Justin’s nephew and successor, Justinian I (r. 527-65), is well known for his re- conquest of Vandal North Africa and Ostrogothic Italy and this does not need to be recounted here.41 Notably, the re-conquest of these provinces forced the empire to mollify papal religious views. Pope Agapitus had a strong religious influence on Justinian’s early years as well. 42 Further, early in his reign Justinian continued Justin’s religious policy and promoted the Chalcedonian creed. 43 Theophanes noted this explicitly and provided notable examples of Justinian’s orthodoxy.44
The Nika riots from January 14-19, 532 confirmed the continued existence of strong support for the Monophysites in Constantinople.45 The following year the people of Constantinople gathered to chant “‘Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, who was crucified on our account, have mercy on us,’” a Monophysite prayer.46 Justinian attempted to find a compromise between the two creeds by issuing a moderate edict, but this failed.47 Empress Theodora’s attempt to impose Monophysite control over
41 For the political and military history of Justinian’s reign see: George Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, trans. Joan Hussey (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1969), 68-79. 42 On a visit to Constantinople in March 536, Agapitus attacked the Patriarch of Constantinople, Anthimus, for refusing to accept the two natures. The Liber Pontificalis recorded Agapitus as saying to Justinian “‘just to show you how inadequate you are in Christian religion, try getting your bishop to admit that there are two natures in Christ.’” Pontiffs, 53. This is probably an exaggeration since it is unlikely that the pope would address the emperor is this blunt and rude manner – especially when Justinian could easily replace him as he controlled Rome. However, Agapitus likely rebuked Justinian for placing Anthimus on the patriarchal throne. Theophanes confirmed that Anthimus was deposed, although he credits this to a synod in addition to Agapitus’ admonishment. Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6029, 315. 43 This is hardly surprising since Justinian helped Justin with his ecclesiastical policy as well. See for example, Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, 71. 44 One event occurred in 527 when “the emperor Justinian took away all of the churches of the heretics and gave them to the orthodox Christians.” Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6020, 267. Another occurred two years later when Justinian “decreed that pagans and heretics could not hold civic office, but only orthodox Christians.” Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6022, 274. 45 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6024, 277. Notably, the rioters crowned Hypatios, nephew of the Anastasius, as emperor in an attempt to return to a Monophysite religious policy. During a discussion between Justinian’s herald and one circus faction the faction yelled “get baptized in one [God]” (i.e. one nature of God). 46 Chron. Pasch., 128 47 For the text of this edict see: Ibid.129-130.
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the ecclesiastical hierarchy by appointing Vigilius to the papal throne failed as well.48 With Theodora’s death in 548, imperial support for Monophysites in Constantinople waned.49
The early events of Justinian’s reign, however, exhibited the continued separation of the Chalcedonians and the Monophysites in Edessa. In 525 a huge flood occurred at Edessa, which destroyed a significant portion of the city.50 Pseudo-Dionysius provided a divine reason for the flood and, not surprisingly given his pro-Monophysite bias, blamed it on the Chalcedonian bishop, Asclepius’, persecution and torture of Monophysite monks. Following the divine wrath of the flood, “all who had survived took stones and rushed to the bishop’s house to stone [him].” However, Asclepius escaped to Antioch where he eventually died, while the monks whom he had tortured escaped.51 Similarly, the following year, in Antioch, a huge earthquake occurred and the Chalcedonian patriarch, Euphrasius, was killed – hideously if we believe Pseudo-Dionysius.52 The Syriac chronicles thus slowly began to attribute divine wrath for disasters because of imperial support for Chalcedon.
The most significant change for the Monophysites of Edessa occurred between 536 and 538. Justinian and the imperial church condemned Severus and firmly
48 Vigilius had previously agreed to follow Monophysite ideas in exchange for his appointment as pope. See: Frend, Rise of the Monophysite., 276-7. 49 The result was the rise of a separate Monophysite ecumenical hierarchy, which well be examined later. 50 Justin I reigned until 527, but Justinian exerted an increasing amount of influence on his reign. See: Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, 69. Segal has Justinian personally supervising the rebuilding of the city. Segal, Edessa., 187.
51 Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 43. For the full account of the flood see: Ibid., 41-4. Theophanes did not provide a divine explanation for the flood, but rather noted the occurrence. Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6017, 262. 52 Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 44-7 or Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6019, 264
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established Chalcedonianism. Monophysitism now became a schismatic movement.53 Despite the anti-Chalcedonian rhetoric, the Monophysites did not yet reject imperial religious authority. In 542, Justinian commissioned John of Ephesus, even though he was a Monophysite, to travel through Asia Minor and the surrounding areas to convert pagans to Christianity.54 Further, the Monophysite account of the plague that devastated the empire from 541-4 does not differentiate between God’s wrath against Monophysites and Chalcedonians. In the 540s, religious unity still existed over the need to convert pagans and sorrow over the devastating plague. Further, during the Sasanian siege of 544, the Edessenes defended the city.55 Thus, the two creeds still believed in imperial rule.
The Monophysites reacted to the change in imperial policy by performing their own conversions and slowly forming a separate religious hierarchy. John of Tella had previously converted many people to Monophysitism in the eastern provinces, especially Osrhoene.56 Jacob Baradaeus, whom Empress Theodora had consecrated as bishop of Edessa, played the largest role in the separation of the Monophysites in Edessa and the surrounding region.57 Jacob traveled around the eastern provinces from 542-78 and converted thousands to Monophysitism.58 Jacob’s ordination of clergy and his proselytizing created a de facto separate church.
53 Pseudo-Dionysius did not say anything about these events. He did not discuss the arrival of Ephrem, as Euphrasius’ replacement as patriarch of Antioch, and his persecutions, but this dated to directly after the earthquake at Antioch. Ibid., 37-8. He seems to think that this change is temporary and that either Justinian, or subsequent emperors, would revert to the true faith. Thus, at this point in Justinian’s reign he was not yet ready to accept an outright schism with imperial Chalcedonian beliefs. Theophanes agrees with Pseudo-Dionysius’ date and his persecutions. Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6019, 265. An account of this change is also in: Frend, Rise of the Monophysite., 272-6.
54 Ibid., 72. 55 See Chapter 6 on the siege of 544 56 Pseudo-Dionysius only mentioned him as bishop of Tella, but nothing else. Ibid., 6. Frend noted that he converted people in the eastern provinces. Frend, Rise of the Monophysite., 283-4. 57 For a description of him from John of Ephesus’ Lives of the Eastern Saints see: Segal, Edessa., 97. 58 For more detail on his work see: Frend, Rise of the Monophysite., 285-7
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Pseudo-Dionysius provided only anecdotal evidence for this change. He blamed Justinian for religious failings after the division, especially his attempt to institute aphthartodocetism.59 Pseudo-Dionysius noted that “he [Justinian] fell into the fanciful error” and that every bishop who “would not subscribe and agree should be mercilessly sent off into exile.”60 Pseudo-Dionysius dismissed the Fifth Ecumenical Council of 553 as well.61 The final division occurred with the ordination of separate Monophysite and Chalcedonian bishops for each see. This created a Chalcedonian bishop, who preached from urban churches, and a Monophysite bishop, who preached from the surrounding countryside. Pseudo-Dionysius, acknowledging the separation between the two sects, provided a separate listing of each creed’s bishops.62
Justinian’s final attempt to reconcile the two creeds, only a year before his death in 565, was rejected by both groups. Theophanes, not surprisingly, condemned this attempt.63 Justinian attempted to reconcile the two creeds and force the Monophysites to accept Chalcedon by adding new theological ideas to the debate. By 564, however, the possibility of reconciliation without a radical change by either side proved impossible.64
59 Julian of Halicarnassos developed this idea, which was a debate over the corruptibility of Christ’s flesh. Julian believed that Christ’s flesh was incorruptible from conception, while Severus maintained that it was incorruptible only after the resurrection. For more detail see: Ibid., 253-4. 60 Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 128. Compare this with his earlier view of Justin, whom others led into promoting a heretical creed. This condemnation of Justinian’s is notable because John of Ephesus sought reconciliation between the different Monophysite sects, corruptible and incorruptible nature of Christ.
61 Ibid., 123-4. He did mention the religious policy that it promoted and which ecclesiastical members attended. However, he noted only in conclusion that “it was not accepted by everybody” even though it was called the fifthEcumenical Council. 62 In 544 following the plague, Pseudo-Dionysius provided a list of bishops with one from each city under a single listing. See: Ibid., 99. By 550, he gave two lists, one for the “believers” (Monophysites) and the other for the Chalcedonians with overlapping patriarchal sees. See: Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 113-4. He repeated the separation in the next list in 570/1, see: Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 127.
63 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6057, 354. For another analysis of Justinian’s later theology see: William G Holmes, The Age of Justinian and Theodora (London: G. Bell and Sons, LTD., 1912), 702-5. 64 Meyendorff provided a great explanation of this new compromise and the reasons for its failure. Meyendorff, “Justinian, the Empire and the Church.,” 59-60
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Emperor Justin II (r. 565-78) continued many of Justinian’s policies upon the latter’s death and attempted to reach another compromise with the Monophysites. Theophanes noted that Justin was “thoroughly Orthodox,” but he said little else about his religious policy until the last year of his reign.65 A gathering of Monophysite clergy with Patrician John of Callinicus, who spoke directly for Justin and Empress Sophia, recognized Christ of two natures (the Monophysite creed). However, the more radical Monophysites refused to accept anything less than a complete rejection of Chalcedon, which John and Justin, refused to agree. The separation between the two groups was so strong that there was no hope of reconciliation.66
Justin responded to this latest failure by instituting, through Patriarch John Scholasticus of Constantinople, a persecution of the Monophysites that he hoped would force them to reunite. However, this effort backfired and resulted in the continued separation of the two creeds.67 A Chalcedonian Syriac chronicler noted that the Monophysites “would not consent to cease (from controversy) . . . and once again Severus and those who shared his ideas were anathematized.”68 Despite the Chalcedonian anathemas, little changed for the Edessene people and they retained their own independent Monophysite churches outside the city.
Emperor Tiberius II (r. 578-82) remained strongly attached to the Chalcedonian creed. Romano-Byzantine sources say little about Tiberius’ religious views, although his
65 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6058, 355 66 For the results of this meeting and its failure to reach a compromise see: Frend, Rise of the Monophysite., 316-320 or Wigram, Separation., 143-5. 67 For a discussion of this persecution see Wigram, Separation.164-7. His persecutions were localized and sporadic in most places. 68 “The Melkite Chonicle,” trans. Andrew Palmer, The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chronicles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993), 27. Even though this account was written in approximately 664 AD it still retains a basic truth.
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reign was brief.69 The final emperor of the sixth century, Maurice (r. 582-602), continued the Chalcedonian policies of his predecessor, while persecuting the Monophysites as well. Theophanes commented very favorably on his orthodoxy saying that Maurice “judged that it was better to atone for his sin in this life rather than in the next.”70 Maurice, however, was more pragmatic than either Justin or Tiberius and, having served as a general on the eastern frontier before his ascension, realized the need to include the Monophysites in the political sphere to protect the eastern provinces. Thus, he persecuted the Monophysites at the beginning of his reign, but allowed them to worship freely for the remainder.71
Edessenes regarded Maurice’s actions with almost as little concern as Justin II or Tiberius. Maurice did order his nephew, the bishop of Melitene, to force the Edessene monks to convert to the Chalcedonan creed, but this failed. Pseudo-Dionysius wrote:
he summoned the monks from the Abbey of the Orientals and did his utmost to deflect them from Orthodoxy [Monophysitism] by playing on their emotions, but they would have nothing of it. He tried threats, but they were impervious to fear. So he ordered the commander of the troops . . . to take them out to the ditch outside the southern gate . . . and he slaughtered them all in a single pool of blood. In number they were four hundred men.72
69 Theophanes noted that Tiberius named a church after Justin II’s wife, Sophia. Further, he did not have a religious view of Tiberius death, as he often did with many emperors, and said only that he ate spoiled mulberries and “fell into consumption.” Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6070-4, 369-374 The Chronicon Paschale only mentioned Tiberius’ ascension and his death. Chron. Pasch., 138-9.
70 This is a reference to his overthrow and the killing of his entire family. See: Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6094, 410 71 For Maurice’s early persecutions see: Michael Whitby, The Emperor Maurice and His Historian: Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 21. For more detail on Maurice’s religious policies and the Chalcedonian reaction see: Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602-634, 12-3,40.
72 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” trans. Andrew Palmer, The Seventh Century in West- Syrian Chronicles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993), 118. Michael the Syrian noted this as well and said also that “many of the Orthodox stood their ground sturdily in this combat and did not consent to accept the evil heresy of the Dyophysites . . . many people were expelled from their churches.” “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre.” n270. Michael appeared to say that many more people were persecuted, but the figure “many” is obscure as is expelling people from their churches. This would be a lenient and ineffective punishment, since many of the Monophysites could then practice their creed in the churches of the Edessene countryside. See also: Frend, Rise of the Monophysite., 334 or Segal, Edessa., 98.
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The Persian War, during Maurice’s reign, neither enticed the Monophysites to rebel against the imperial Chalcedonians nor to help the Sasanids. Sasanid raiders again reached the vicinity of Edessa in 581, but could not capture the city.73 One of the few revolts against imperial authority occurred in 589, when the garrison commander at Matryropolis, Sittas, helped the Sasanids capture the city. Theophylact noted that “this man after deserting to the Persians, persuaded four hundred barbarians to arm themselves . . . [and] persuaded the townsmen to admit the barbarians.”74 Even with the creation of a separate hierarchy, the Edessene Monophysites did not rebel.
This one hundred year period played a crucial role in Edessa’s transformation from a single imperial religious authority into two separate ecclesiastical hierarchies – one of which believed that the emperor was a heretic. Nevertheless, no revolts occurred because the Monophysites, once they had established a separate hierarchy, were largely satisfied with Roman rule. The separate hierarchy did not provide them with central urban churches, but they were largely left alone in the countryside. Thus, despite their many religious differences the Monophysites had no inclination or reason to rebel.
73 Whitby, Emperor Maurice., 273 74 Theophylact Simocatta, The History of Theophylact Simocatta, trans. Michael Whitby and Mary Whitby (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), III.5.11-13, 79 or Whitby, Emperor Maurice., 289. Sittas was later turned over the Romans, tortured, and killed. See: Simocatta, The History of Theophylact Simocatta., IV.15.13-6, 127.
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2. The Sasanid Capture of Edessa and Religious Instability, 602-628 AD
The relationship between the Monophysite and the Chalcedonian hierarchies changed little during the end of Maurice’s reign, although each solidified control over its respective area. Although many of the Monophysite clergy continued to condemn Maurice for his Chalcedonian faith, he permitted the Edessenes to follow either creed. During the latter half of his reign, from 590-602, he was primarily concerned with regaining control of the Balkans, which experienced invasions from the Avar kingdom and migrations of Slavic people south of the Danube.75 The empire experienced twelve years of peace with the Sasanids because Maurice had restored the Sasanid emperor, Khusrau, to his throne. In the east, he focused only on integrating Armenia, of which he had gained a larger portion as a reward for helping Khusrau, into the empire. Edessene writers say little about this period. However, events in the east rapidly changed following Phokas’ overthrow of Maurice in November 602. The Sasanids captured Edessa in 609, altering political control over the city’s ecclesiastical policy – modifying the balance of power. Edessa remained under Sasanid control for the duration of the war, which lasted until 628. The tumultuous events from 602-628 transformed the Monophysite position in Edessa’s ecclesiastical governance and provided them with greater autonomy.
Following the overthrow of Maurice and the ascension of Phokas, Khusrau had a causus belli to recover the territory he had relinquished to Maurice as a concession for regaining the throne. 76 Khusrau began his invasion of the empire through Mesopotamia
75 For a detailed source on Maurice’s campaigns see: Simocatta, The History of Theophylact Simocatta. For an overall explanation see: Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, 75-8. 76 A complete explanation of the Maurice’s last years is not necessary here, but I will provide a brief summary. Maurice, after restoring Khusrau’s to the throne, concentrated on securing the Danube River as Roman border in the Balkans. He launched a number of campaigns against the Avars from 590-602 and, in 602, succeeded in driving them north of the Danube. Maurice then ordered his soldiers to winter north of the Danube River because of insufficient funds to supply them and because he refused to relinquish the
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in 604, starting the next and, ultimately, the final Roman-Persian war.77 A Roman general, Narses, revolted against Phokas and seized Edessa later that year.78 Upon securing control of the city, several Edessenes denounced the Chalcedonian bishop, Severus, to Narses as a friend of Phokas.79 Narses
had him brought to the palace of Marinus . . . and interrogated. Then Narseh [Narses] made them take him out of the city by a postern and gave his sentence from the Cave-Tombs, so as to avoid causing a riot in the city when he was executed. They stoned him near the head of the spring.80
Narses ordered this secretly “to avoid causing a riot in the city when he was executed” and the Edessenes “did not realize he was being stoned until it was over.”81
territorial and military advances of the previous summer’s campaign. Not surprisingly, the soldiers revolted and chose Phokas, a centurion, as their commander and marched on Constantinople where the populace opened the city’s gates and let the Danubian soldiers depose Maurice. See: Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, 80-4. See Stratos’ detailed account: Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602- 634, 40-6. 77 Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602-634, 58-60 78 It is unclear why Narses revolted against Phokas. Maurice placed Narses in the East after restoring Khusrau to the throne to ensure that Narses’ did not gain enough power to revolt. For Narses’ role in restoring Khusrau to the throne see: Whitby, Emperor Maurice., 297-306. Three explanations exist of why he revolted. First, he might have wanted to ascend the throne. Maurice had placed him in the east because he was threatened by his power. Second, Narses might have revolted to avenge Maurice. Third, Maurice’s son, Theodosius, might have survived and fled to Narses. Stratos rejected the possibility that Narses rebelled to avenge Maurice, but instead proposed that he revolted because Theodosius had survived and presented himself to Narses. See: Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602-634, 59-60. The chronicles disagree over whether Theodosius did escape. Sebeos and Theophanes present his survival as a rumor, which Khusrau spread as well. The Armenian History Attributed to Sebeos, trans. R. W. Thomson, vol. 1, 2 vols. (Liverpool Liverpool University Press, 1999), 57 and Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6095, 419. The Chronicon Paschale provided either explanation. Chron. Pasch., 143. Commentators on Sebeos conclude that it is probably impossible to determine if Theodosius survived. James and Tim Greenwood Howard-Johnston, The Armenian History Attributed to Sebeos, vol. 2, 2 vols. (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1999), 197-8. It is odd that, if Theodosius survived, none of the sources subsequently mentioned him. This leads me to conclude that there are two possibilities. Either that Theodosius did survive, but Khusrau subsequently killed him once his successes later in the war made him believe he could retain the captured provinces without a puppet emperor. More likely, however, Theodosius disappears from the historical record because Phokas executed him with his father and brothers and Khusrau used a puppet. 79 Three separate Syriac texts note this event. James of Edessa, “Fragment of the Charts of James of Edessa,” trans. Andrew Palmer, The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chronicles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993), 37, “Extract from the Chronicle of Zunquin (Ad 775),” trans. Andrew Palmer, The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chonicles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993), AG 914, 55, and the most in-depth is “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 120-1. 80 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 121 81 Ibid.
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Aside from the statement that Severus was a friend of Phokas, was there another reason for some Edessenes to denounce Severus? Narses might have been a Monophysite, since we know little of his religious affiliation, but what does exist makes this highly unlikely.82 Chalcedonians would not have condoned the execution of their own bishop either. The Edessenes denouncing Severus were, therefore, Monophysites, who realized that Severus’ execution strengthened their position in Edessa. Further, for Narses to rebel successfully against Phokas, he would have needed the support of the eastern cities. Executing the rival bishop would solidify Monophysite support for him. Severus could have plotted against Narses in support of Phokas as well, providing him, and the Edessene Monophysites, with another reason to execute him. Narses still had to be wary of the Chalcedonian Edessenes, hence the secrecy. Regardless, Narses’ execution of Severus increased the Monophysites’ position in Edessa.
This initial increase in Monophysite power was brief, as forces loyal to Phokas regained control of the area. Phokas sent two armies to Mesopotamia – one to retake Edessa and the other to defeat a Persian army besieging Dara. Khusrau decisively defeated the army sent against him, allowing the Persians to solidify their control around the Byzantine-Persian border.83 The army sent against Edessa forced Narses to flee to Hierapolis, where he eventually surrendered, and was subsequently executed in Constantinople.84 Meanwhile, the situation in the city returned to the status quo.85 The
82 Stratos said that Narses helped build two churches in Constantinople and it would be impossible for a Monophysite to erect churches in the capital at the end of the sixth century. Narses could have built these churches to conceal his Monophysite position, but this is impossible to prove. Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602-634, 59.
83 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6096, 420, Sebeos 1., 58 or see Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602-634., 61-4 for an account of the Persian advances during the reign of Phokas. 84 Theophanes said that Phokas, disregarding the safe conduct that one of his general’s (he names him as Domentziolos, Phokas’ nephew) gave Narses had Narses burned alive. Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6097, 421. Pseudo-Dionysius simply said that Narses was captured “by a cunning trick.” “The Secular History
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Chalcedonians regained control of the urban Edessene churches as well, after Theodosius appointment as bishop.86
The Sasanid invasion of Mesopotamia and Osrhoene continued for the next several years and Byzantine armies failed to stem their advance. Edessa surrendered to the Sasanids in 609.87 Thus, we arrive at one of the primary questions – did the Edessenes surrender to the Persians in 609 because they were dissatisfied with imperial Chalcedonian rule? Monophysite Edessenes clearly resented Chalcedonian control over the city’s churches. The tone of Syriac Monophysite chroniclers and the Monophysite reaction, or rather lack thereof, to Severus’ stoning made this clear. Despite the separation between the Edessene Monophysites and Chalcedonians, however, the Monophysites were not so dissatisfied with imperial ecclesiastical control that they undermined Romano-Byzantine rule and surrendered for only religious reasons.88 The Monophysites accepted their position in the countryside and, furthermore, acted independently of the imperial ecclesiastical hierarchy. This was sufficient for them, since persecutions had mostly ceased as well.
Initially the Sasanids installed a Nestorian bishop in Edessa, since Nestorianism was the accepted Christian creed in Persia. However, the Edessenes refused to accept the
of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre, “121 Finally, Sebeos said that he was put to death in Edessa. Sebeos 1., 58. Theophanes and Pseudo-Dionysius mostly agree on the details and are the most plausible for that reason. 85 Sebeos disagrees and said that the army captured Narses and Edessa and “shed blood” (which the translator describes as “a general slaughter”). Sebeos 1., 58 Both Theophanes and Pseudo-Dionysius agree that there was no slaughter, although Pseudo-Dionysius does say that one Edessene was executed. Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6096, 420. “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 121 Sebeos’ account is highly dubious.
86 James of Edessa, “Fragment of the Charts of James of Edessa,” 38. This event occurred before Edessa fell to the Sasanids, as the next entry in the chronology noted the flight of bishops to Egypt to escape the Sasanid invasions. 87 The Chronicon Paschale provided 609 as the date. Chron. Pasch., 149. Theophanes only said that all of Mesopotamia was captured in 607 (although this took five years 606-610). Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6098, 422. Sebeos agrees with Chronicon Paschale on 609. Sebeos 1., 201-2 Stratos provided an explanation for why 609 should be accepted. Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602-634, 63
88 See Chapter 6
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Nestorian creed any more than the Chalcedonian one.89 The Sasanids then provided a Monophysite bishop, Isaiah, from Persia for Edessa.90 Khusrau subsequently expelled the Chalcedonian bishop of Edessa, and “the Synod of Chalcedon was utterly abolished east of the Euphrates.” 91 These Sasanid actions solidified Monophysite control over the Edessene churches, while forcing the Chalcedonian church underground. Sebeos noted that Khusrau even convened a council in Persia to proclaim both the truth of the Monophysite position and his support for its doctrines. Khusrau supposedly asked “but the Godhead, if it is not one every place and cannot be or cause what it wishes, what sort of divinity is it?”92 This astute act partially settled the religious problem in the conquered Monophysite eastern provinces.
The Monophysites remained in control of the Edessene churches during the Sasanid occupation of the city, which lasted until 628. Heraclius’ campaigns against the Sasanids were in the north, through the Caucuses and Armenia. Edessa, and the Mesopotamian invasion route, remained peaceful during those years.93 Heraclius himself entered Edessa after the Sasanids left and used it as a base from which to regain
89 Michael the Syrian said “to Edessa came at first the Nestorian, Ashimo; but he was not accepted by the faithful.” “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,”126, n283 90 Ibid., 125 and James of Edessa, “Fragment of the Charts of James of Edessa,” 39. Segal noted that the Persians first sent Yunan as bishop of Edessa and then Isaiah. Segal, Edessa., 98-9. Michael the Syrian called Yunan “Jonah,” but never referred to him again. “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 126, n283
91 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,”125. James of Edessa is fragmented here and noted that the Chalcedonian bishops “are expelled [by] the Persians from [the east?]” (the brackets are the translator’s). Edessa, “Fragment of the Charts of James of Edessa,” 38. Similarly, Michael the Syrian included not only Byzantine Mesopotamia but “the whole land of Mesopotamia and Syria.” “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,”126, n283. It is likely that Khusrau expelled the Chalcedonian bishops from the entire Antiochene see, otherwise the expulsion of Chalcedonians from Mesopotamia and Osrhoene would have been a half measure and illogical.
92 Sebeos 1., 117. Sebeos’ commentators note that Sebeos’ description of this council was greatly exaggerated. However, Khusrau did publicly pronounce his support for the Monophysite doctrine. Howard-Johnston, Sebeos 2., 263 93 For an account of Heraclius’ Persian campaigns in detail see: Walter E. Kaegi, Heraclius Emperor of Byzantium (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 100-191. Kaegi’s account combines information from the various primary sources to create an accurate portrait of these campaigns.
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Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine. The Edessenes, even the Monophysites, cordially received Heraclius.94 Bishop Isaiah, however, refused to give Heraclius communion saying,
‘Unless you first anathematize the Synod of Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo in writing, I will not give you communion.’ At this the King flared up in anger and expelled the bishop from his church, handing it over instead to his own co- religionaries, the Chalcedonians.95
Although Pseudo-Dionysius believed that Isaiah “was zealous to a fault or rather, to tell the truth an uneducated idiot,” two possibilities, rather than calling him an “idiot,” exist.96 First, Isaiah remained loyal, in some capacity, to the Sasanids who had appointed him bishop. Second, he expressed the religious position of some portion of the Monophysite population – at least those who were strongly against any accommodation with the Chalcedonians. Isaiah’s actions likely represented a middle ground between the two possibilities. Isaiah had some loyalty to the Sasanids, as they would not have appointed him bishop otherwise, but the Monophysite Edessenes must have partially accepted his religious views as well. The Edessenes had displayed their displeasure with a Nestorian bishop and, therefore, Isaiah represented a portion of the population who disagreed with Heraclius’ Chalcedonian creed.97
94 Stratos went so far as to say that he was “received with great honour at Edessa. People, clergy and monks who were very numerous had all turned out to welcome him and accompany him with cheering and psalms.” Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602-634, 248. Michael the Syrian said that these people came out to “greet him” and that Heraclius “admired and praised the great multitude of monks.” Heraclius then said “‘How can it be right to exclude so admirable a group of people from our company?’” “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,”140, n323. Although Heraclius was pleased with the response of the Monophysite monks, they were not as happy with him. Michael later noted that Heraclius “distributed great largesse to the whole people,” which would certainly make a person of any religious creed favor him. 95 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,”140. 96 Ibid. Michael the Syrian, similarly, said that Isaiah “in the fervour of his zeal, prevented the king from taking the Sacrament.” “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre.”140, n323 97 Stratos rejected this story as “very improbable.” His only evidence was that Heraclius attempted to later reconcile the two churches. Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602-634, 248. Heraclius’ other
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Following Isaiah’s refusal, Heraclius returned the Edessene churches to the Chalcedonians – the status quo ante bellum. Pseudo-Dionysius noted that:
on this occasion they [several rich and powerful families] were unable to oppose the King’s command. Nevertheless they expected to return with their bishop to the church and to repossess it after the King had gone back to the heartlands of Byzantium.98
Theophanes wrote concerning Heraclius’ return of the urban churches to the Chalcedonians as well saying “and when he had reached Edessa, he restored the church to the orthodox; for, since the days of Chosroes [Khusrau], it had been held by the Nestorians.”99 Heraclius’ restoration of the church to the Chalcedonians could not, and did not, delight the Monophysites – especially since they were now accustomed to controlling the church.
However, soon after this decision Heraclius attempted to reconcile the Monophysite and Chalcedonian churches by instituting two possible religious compromises – monoenergism and Monotheletism. Heraclius initially attempted a compromise with the belief that Christ had two natures and a single energy, but the Monophysites rejected this because it originated from a Chalcedonian Christological view.100 Heraclius and the Monophysites then agreed upon a second compromise, Monotheletism, which united Christ’s two natures in “one will,” and on which both
actions in regard to the Monophysites, which will be discussed below, refutes this logic and for this reason cannot be disregarded. 98 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre.”140-1. Pseudo-Dionysius noted these families because among them were the Tel-Mahroyo family. It is unclear to whom he referred by “their bishop,” but likely he meant a Monophysite bishop in general – rather than Isaiah or any other specific person.
99 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6120, 429. Theophanes confused the Monophysites with the Nestorians, but is otherwise correct. 100 Theophanes said the Monophysite bishop of Antioch, Anastasius, tricked Heraclius into accepting monoenergism. He blames Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople, as well because he was of “Syrian origin, the son of Jacobite parents.” Theophanes, however, was never critical of Heraclius – as the sources from which he compiled his information wrote during the Heracliad dynasty – and, therefore, could not be critical of its founder. Ibid., AM 6121, 460-1
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church hierarchies, or at least their patriarchs, agreed. Notably, a single will derived from the Monophysite creed and, therefore, was a significant accommodation to them.101 The Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680 eventually reversed this Monophysite leaning creed saying “we proclaim equally two natural volitions or wills in him [Christ].”102
Stratos believed that both creeds agreed upon Monotheletism,103 but this contrasts with Michael the Syrian. Michael noted that Isaiah, since the initial discussion occurred before his expulsion, rejected Monotheletism as well. This could have been another explanation for Isaiah refusing Heraclius communion (as noted above).104 Some of the Monophysites accepted the new formula, but Michael listed those who did, none of which included Edessene clergy, signifying that Monothelete clergy in Edessa were in the minority.105 Ultimately, the fanaticism of the Monophysite clergy in Edessa and the limited time Heraclius had to solidify the Monothelete creed condemned it to failure among the majority of the Edessene Monophysites. Nevertheless, Monotheletism represented a significant attempt to solve the differences between the creeds – in favor of the Monophysites
In Edessa, the years from 602-628 showed that compromise was no longer possible and provided the Edessene Monophysite church with significantly more independent power. The Edessenes reacted strongly against Heraclius’ intrusion into
101 For an overview of both creeds see: J.F. Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Century: The Transformation of a Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 300-3. 102 Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, 28 103 Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, 602-634, 286-297
104 Michael the Syrian has Isaiah present after Heraclius’ expelled him. “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre.”142, n332. 105 Michael the Syrian listed those who accepted it as “the House of Maron, of Mabbugh, of Emesa and (of) the southern region.” Ibid. None of these was in or near Edessa and the House of Maron became the strongest supporters of Monotheletism after the Arab conquest. We know that they were in the minority because Michael wrote that the groups “by accepting the Synod [Chalcedon], unjustly obtained possession of . . . the majority of churches and monasteries.” Meaning that to seize the majority of the churches they formerly must have been in the minority.
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their religious affairs. They did not revolt at the return of the urban church to Chalcedonian control, but they refused to accept further changes in their creed. Monophysite Edessenes had now rejected the imperial church, a cornerstone of Late Roman and Byzantine religious and political authority.106 Despite this rejection, the Edessenes never contemplated revolting against the state. Instead, they wanted to retain their ecclesiastical hierarchy’s independence.
106 See for example: Haldon, Byzantium., 282-3. Justinian had united the two powers, imperial and ecclesiastical together. Haldon noted this change best saying that “the combination of perceived threats to imperial authority in the changed political, military, and social climate of the times, together with the lack of any clear demarcation of spheres of influence and authority between church and state which lay at the root of further development of both the Byzantine Church and of the state itself.” Ibid., 285-6
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3. The Effect of the Muslim Conquest on Edessene Christianity
The Eastern provinces had barely recovered from the Sasanid occupation when the initial Muslim conquests began. Heraclius attempted to stem the Muslim advances in Palestine and southern Syria, but failed and withdrew Byzantine forces across the Taurus Mountains and into Anatolia. The Muslims peacefully occupied Edessa in 639. The Monophysite Edessenes neither supported nor undermined the Byzantine state, since they had no idea if the Muslims would provide them with greater autonomy or return the urban churches to them. The Muslim occupation did not initially affect the religious status of either the Monophysites or the Chalcedonians and both sects continued to control their respective churches. Muslims, instead, sought to mollify both groups to ensure political stability, although later the Muslims began to favor the Monophysites. Both sects reacted differently to Muslim control, especially the Chalcedonians who, for the first time since Anastasius’ reign, had lost imperial favor. Further, the Chalcedonians divided between adherents of Monotheletism, who accepted Christ’s single will, and those who believed in his dual will.
Following Heraclius’ withdrawal from Syria, Muslim soldiers quickly and easily occupied Byzantine Mesopotamia, including Edessa.107 Syriac chronicles differed over the initial Muslim reaction to the two creeds. Michael the Syrian said that “Cyrus, the Chalcedonian bishop, was expelled from Edessa, and all the Orthodox bishops returned to
107 I will discussed the capture of Edessa in more detail below. For a detailed historical summary of the events during the Muslim conquest see: Fred M Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981). Kaegi provided an in-depth analysis and explanation for these events in: Walter E. Kaegi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). For any early account of the Battle of Yarmuk see: “A Record of the Arab Conquest of Syria, Ad 637,” trans. Andrew Palmer, The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chronicles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993), Lines 19-23, 3.
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their sees throughout the kingdom of the Arabs.”108 Pseudo-Dionysius, in contrast, noted that the Edessene churches “have continued to languish in their [Chalcedonian] possession until the present day.”109 Pseudo-Dionysius’ explanation appears more plausible. Although Heraclius had expelled bishop Isaiah of Edessa, he allowed most other Monophysites to remain and, therefore, Michael’s statement that “all of the Orthodox bishops returned” refers to those few who had been expelled. Further, Pseudo- Dionysius provided a compelling reason why the Muslims allowed the Chalcedonian bishops to remain – retaining the religious status quo in Edessa. As he wrote:
for at the time when they [the Mesopotamian cities] were conquered and made subject to the Arabs the cities agreed to terms of surrender, under which each confession had assigned to it those temples which were found in its possession. In this way the Orthodox were robbed of the Great Church of Edessa.110
Thus, the Monophysites did not receive the churches they wanted. The Monophysites continued to exercise religious autonomous. Syriac
chroniclers began to concentrate, and wrote about, eastern bishops alone.111 During the reign of Caliph Abd al-Malik (r. 685-705), Athanasius Bar Gumoye of Edessa became rich and Abd al-Malik appointed him guardian of his younger brother Abd al Aziz, who was later emir of Egypt. Pseudo-Dionysius said “he [Abd al-Aziz] commanded that Athanasius should be not only his scribe, but the manager of his affairs and that authority and administrative direction should be his while Abd al-Aziz should have the nominal power.”112 Athanasius, according to both Pseudo-Dionysius and Michael the Syrian, was
108 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 153, n364 109 Ibid, 141 110 Ibid. 111 See for example: “Extract from the Chronicle of Zunquin (Ad 775),” AG 914-1024, 55-61 112 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,”202. Athanasius eventually ruled through Abd al- Aziz.
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a devout Monophysite as well and donated money to the Edessene church.113 Michael the Syrian noted that Athanasius attained the image of Christ, the mandylion, as well.114 The Chalcedonians had held the image “from the time of the Greek kings [meaning Tiberius II (r. 578-82) and his successors] until it was taken away from them by Athanasius bar Gumoye.”115 The Monophysite church steadily gained more power under Muslim rule, since they were in the countryside and, therefore, physically separated from the urban mosques. A hundred years of established Monophysite independent ecclesiastical rule, coupled with a hierarchy established in the countryside that did not conflict with Islamic institutions, allowed the Monophysite Church to continue unchanged for much of early Muslim rule.
Heraclius’ attempt to institute the Monothelete creed caused a division among the Chalcedonians. Those who refused to adopt Monothelete ideas became known as Melkites, which derives from malkoyo meaning “imperial.”116 Initially the Muslims, unlike the Sasanids, allowed the Melkites to retain substantial autonomy in their religious rule, though they feared possible Melkite loyalty to their former Byzantine rulers.117
Despite Muslim apprehension toward the Melkites, the Monothelete controversy severely divided the Christian community. The controversy was more than a religious struggle over the single or double will of Christ and became a political struggle because
113 Pseudo-Dionysius said “he had great respect for the hierarchy of the Church and he built new churches and renovated old ones.” Ibid, 203 114 Segal gives a description of the image with some background on it, although in reference to a siege of the city in 943. Segal, Edessa., 215
115 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre.,” 204-5 n307 116 “The Melkite Chonicle,” 25. Palmer noted that the Melkites followed the doctrine established at the sixth Ecumenical Council in 680 AD. The name was applied to them after the Byzantine church rejected Monothelete doctrine. 117 For more detail on initial Melkite reactions see: Hugh Kennedy, “The Melkite Church from the Islamic Conquest to the Crusades: Continuity and Adaption in the Byzantine Legacy,” The 1seventh International Byzantine Conference (Dumbarton Oaks/Georgetown University: Aristide D. Caratzas, 1986)
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Heraclius’ successors tied his religious policy to imperial power and prestige.118 The Sixth Ecumenical Council of 680 “solved” the Monothelete controversy by anathematizing all those who had promulgated and professed it.119 The papal account of the council blamed Macarius, bishop of Antioch, for following Monotheletism, anathematized, and expelled him.120 The ecumenical council caused a significant division in the former eastern provinces and later condemned the eastern bishops at the Council. The council was remarkable for what it did not do. It did not specifically condemn the Monophysites, and this absence of a denunciation, recognized the independence of the Monophysite hierarchy and the lack of Byzantine authority.121 The Byzantine government had finally accepted the division in the church, but it required a loss of political control to recognize it.
From Heraclius’ pronouncement of Monotheletism until its formal anathematization in 680, the Melkites found themselves in an unusual position. They supported Chalcedon, but imperial religious policy did not agree with them. Thus, even when early Islamic leaders worried about underlying Melkite loyalty to Byzantium, the Melkites vehemently disagreed with imperial religious policy causing the Muslims to exaggerate possible threats.122 The Melkites continued to exist in Edessa throughout the
118 Haldon, Byzantium., 309-313 provided an explanation of this transformation and the religious policy of Constans II as it relates to imperial power. 119 For primary sources on the sixth Ecumenical Council see: Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6171, 500. Theophanes mistakenly placed it in 678-9. Nikephoros provided another explanation, although he said that Constantine IV called the council because the Monotheletes were “gaining in strength.” Nikephoros, Nikephoros Patriarch of Constantinople, Short History, trans. Cyril Mango (Washington: Dumbarton Oaks, 1990), 37, P. 93. For a short explanation see: Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, 127-8 or for a detailed one see: Haldon, Byzantium., 313-7. The Council did not, however, anathematize Heraclius, Constantine III or Constans II for promoting Monotheletism, since doing so would have been a rebuke of the entire Heracliad dynasty.
120 Pontiffs., 74-9 for the papal account of the Council including specifics on Macarius. 121 Haldon, Byzantium., 316 122 See: Kennedy, “The Melkite Church from the Islamic Conquest to the Crusades: Continuity and Adaption in the Byzantine Legacy.”
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seventh century, but the initial period of imperial Monotheletism greatly weakened their connection with Byzantium.123
The Maronites, who embraced and followed Monotheletism, were the final significant Christian sect in Edessa. Initially the Maronites strongly favored Byzantium, as they had similar religious beliefs.124 A Maronite Chronicle provided lengthy descriptions of Byzantine triumphs, while simultaneously downplaying Arab triumphs – a clear example of both the author’s and his potential audience’s loyalty. He discussed a small Byzantine victory at Lake Scutarium (?) in detail saying “the Arabs have not attacked that lake up to the present day.”125 In contrast, the Arab raid on the important city of Amorium was dismissed in two sentences.126 The Maronite Chronicle also attempted to prove that Caliph Mu’awiya (r. 661-80) favored the Maronites, rather than the Monophysites. Notably he says that the Monophysites pay Mu’awiya 20,000 denarii every year “so that he would not withdraw his protection and let them be persecuted by the members of the (Orthodox) [Maronite] Church.”127 The Maronites altered their view of Byzantium following the Sixth Ecumenical Council, however, which they rejected. They completely broke with the Chalcedonian church in 727.128
The Muslim reaction to the Monophysite and Chalcedonian churches provides several conclusions about the religious division in Edessa following the Muslim
123 Segal noted that there was a Melkite bishop in Edessa for most of this period. Segal, Edessa., 207-8 124 Palmer provided a summary of their pro-Byzantine ideas at: “The Maronite Chronicle ” trans. Andrew Palmer, The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chronicles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993). 125 Ibid., 33-4 126 Ibid. It said that “Ibn Khalid then set off from there [Lake Scutarium] and came to the city of Amorium and gave it word [that he would not harm them if they surrendered]. When they opened (their gates) to him he stationed an Arab garrison there and left that place.” The victory at Lake Scutarium must have been insignificant if the Arabs captured Amorium afterward. DATE OF RAID 127 Ibid., 30. He left out that the Maronites had to pay a similar amount every year. Nevertheless, it still serves as an example of the Maronites trying to gain favor from the Muslims while favoring Byzantine rule. 128 For Palmer’s noted on this see: Ibid., 29
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conquests. First, the Chalcedonians, both Monotheletes and Melkites, remained in the city, although the percentages of each creed are unknown. Second, a sizable contingent of Chalcedonians remained – as otherwise the Muslims would not have allowed them to retain their urban churches. Finally, the Edessene Monothelete and Melkite reaction to the initial Muslim rule is unknown. However, they retained their churches and, therefore, it is unlikely that many of them were very upset.
Although both the Maronites and the Melkites had substantial problems with the Byzantine Chalcedonian creed, they continued to believe in the return of the Byzantine emperor as their savior. An Edessene apocalyptic narrative, likely written in 683 AD,129 proclaimed that the Byzantines will eventually vanquish the Muslims and bring about the end of days. The Byzantine emperor, whom the author refers to as the Greek king, will return and “the Children of Ishmael will flee . . . to the town of Mecca, where their kingdom shall come to an end; and the king of the Greeks will rule the entire earth.”130 This kingdom will endure for 208 years, the anti-Christ will come, and he will spread across the land.131 Finally, the king of the Greeks will climb Golgotha and bring about the end of days – whereupon he shall die and ascend, followed by all other living things.132 The role the author prescribed for the Byzantine emperor showed a continued belief that the Byzantines would eventually return to Edessa and the eastern provinces.
129 Palmer said that a definite date is hard to determine, but that 683 AD was the most likely. For my purpose, however, it is enough to accept a date sometime around 700 AD. “The Edessene Apocalyptic Fragment,” trans. Andrew Palmer, The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chronicles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993), 243
130 Ibid., 245 131 Ibid., 246-8. The author provided his Edessene background at this point saying “he [the anti-Christ] will reign over the whole earth; however he will not enter the city of Edessa, for God has blessed and protected her.” 132 Ibid., 248-9
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The Byzantines and the Edessenes might have religious differences, but at the end of days, he served as the figure who saved the Christians.
The Christian sects in Edessa increasingly grew independent of the Byzantine ecclesiastical hierarchy. Following the Sixth Ecumenical Council in 680, the Monophysites were completely disregarded, the Maronites were anathematized, and although the Melkites now agreed with imperial religious policy, their forty year disagreement had weakened ties with the state. The two Chalcedonian sects, however, generally agreed with the Byzantines on the end of days. The overall trend for all three sects, however, is apparent. They gradually became independent hierarchies that ranged from complete autonomy to loose adherence with Byzantine religious policy. It became increasingly hard for Christians under a separate political authority to follow imperial religious policy, especially as Byzantine ecclesiastical and political power became ever more entwined. The underlying social and economic transformations created by the political separation of the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim Caliphate caused significant, and lasting, religious divisions between the Monophysites, Maronites, Melkites, and Byzantines.
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4. A Transformation in Christian Perception: Edessene Jews in the Late Fifth and Sixth Centuries
The sixth and seventh centuries altered the social and economic position of the Edessene Jews and their affiliation with the Romano-Byzantine Empire as well. During the sixth century, the Jews retained the freedom to worship, but simultaneously accepted their inferior status. Jewish attitude toward the Byzantine state, unlike the Monophysite relationship, did not significantly change during the early sixth century. The Edessene Jews continued to enjoy limited freedoms and participated in the Byzantine political sphere, though subject to frequent anti-Jewish riots. They likely composed a small percentage of the Edessene population and also differed from the more numerous Jews of Palestine. During the middle of the sixth century, the Jews began to renounce total Romano-Byzantine control, but never completely rejected the state’s rule. Christians, similarly, began to regard the Jews as a larger problem, because of external Jewish threats and internal rebellions.
The exact date of the Jewish arrival in Edessa is unknown.133 The earliest story of Jews in Edessa, from the first century BC, mentioned a Hebrew woman who saved a prominent Edessene from his enemies, although the historical truth behind this story is dubious.134 Abgar IX, in 202 AD, converted to Christianity – the first king to become
133 Baron noted that there were significant numbers of Jews and Christians in Edessa by AD 117. Salo W Baron, Christian Era: The First Five Centuries, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, vol. 2, 8 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952), 164-5. Graetz noted that the Romans captured Edessa and killed many Jews in 117 and, therefore, a significant Jewish population existed at the time. However, their precise arrival is unknown. Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, vol. 2, 6 vols. (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1893), 398.
134 Segal quoted a source that said “‘the people of Mesopotamia also worshipped the Hebrew [woman] Kuthbi, who saved Bakru the patrician of Edessa from his enemies.’” Segal, Edessa, 43. Archaeological research reveals that Kutbab was likely a deity with Jewish origins. Thus, the story appears fictional, but does show the early presence of a Jewish community in Edessa. See: J.T. Milik & J. Teixidor, “New
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openly Christian. Thus, Edessene Jews had the earliest interaction with a Christian kingdom.135 The Edessene Jews had three hundred years to develop a relationship with their Christian rulers and, therefore, they had long accepted their social position with regard to the Christians. However, once Christian imperial rule was removed, following the Sasanid invasions, this social structure changed as the Jews now occupied a superior position. The Edessene Jews thus had more to gain from Sasanid rule than most other Jewish populations.
Saint Augustine writings provided the basis for the treatment of the Jews. In City of God, Augustine wrote that “the Jews, who killed him [Christ] and would not believe in him . . . were utterly uprooted from their kingdom.”136 Thus, Augustine blamed the Jews for killing Christ, condemning them to a reduced status. Despite their enforced lower status, the state protected them. As he noted:
for we see and know that it is in order to bear this witness, – which they [Jews] involuntarily supply on our behalf by possessing and preserving these same books, – that they themselves are scattered among all the peoples, in whatever direction the church of Christ expands.137
The Romano-Byzantine state thus protected Jews, although it could reduce their socio- political status, since they witnessed the prophesies and life of Christ.
Romano-Byzantine law created a special category for the Jews, but did not exclude them from the state’s protection. One proclamation stated that “no Jew who is innocent shall be oppressed, nor shall any person of any creed cause him to be exposed to
Evidence on the North-Arabic Deity Aktab-Kutba,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 1961. 135 Baron, Christian Era: The First Five Centuries, 165. This early conversion to Christianity supports evidence that there was a strong early Jewish presence in the city, since the Jews were some of the earliest converts. For more information see: Segal, Edessa., 41-3
136 Saint Augustine, The City of God against the Pagans, trans. William Chase Greene, vol. 6 7vols. (Cambridge: Havard University Press, 1955), 18.46, 49 137 Ibid. 18.46, 51
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insult.”138 The law did, however, prohibit Jews from holding public offices because “strengthened by the authority of the office which they have obtained, they may have the power of judging or promulgating decrees against Christians.”139 The state thus protected Jews religiously and politically, but simultaneously reduced their status. Procopius did record that Justinian “did his best to abolish the laws reverence by the Hebrews” and that if Passover fell before Easter “he would not permit the Jews to celebrate this at the proper time.”140 Thus, the state allowed the Jews to worship, but in a limited fashion.
Finally, the Late Roman Empire needed the Jews for economic reasons as well. It required Jewish merchants and a decrease in their ability to trade would have endangered commerce with non-Jews.141 Many Jews spoke Greek as well, which allowed them to integrate into the merchant economy.142 As Sharf concluded: “It was clearly inadvisable to withdraw the protection of the state from any community which had an economic contribution to make.”143
The total Jewish population of Edessa during this period, however, is impossible to determine. The best guess for their numbers, throughout the entire empire, is between
138 The Civil Law, trans. S. P. Scott, vol. 6, 7 vols. (Cincinnati: The Central Trust Company, 1973), 1.9.13, 77 139 Ibid. 1.9.17, 78 140 Procopius, The Secret History, trans. G.A. Williamson (London: The Folio Society, 1990), 130. Procopius often exaggerated in The Secret History, but these statements undoubtedly – if the nothing else – reflected Justinian’s influence over the Jews.
141 Romano-Byzantine Jews had contact with Jews living in Persia, through whom trade, especially in silk, was conducted. 142 Procopius said that “the vast majority of Justinian’s Jewish subjects were Greek-speaking” because most read the Torah in the Septuagint form. Ibid., 24. Although the Jews used the Septuagint, this does not mean that all of them could read and study it nor did they necessarily conduct local transactions in Edessa in Greek. Jews who traveled extensively through the empire probably knew Greek, but many of those who stayed in Edessa (or other Mesopotamian cities) might easily have spoken Aramaic. I have therefore chosen to use “many” instead.
143 Ibid., 36
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two and ten percent.144 A significant proportion of Jews lived in Palestine, especially near Jerusalem. Regardless of the exact number, we can assume that Jews existed as a visible minority of Edessa’s population and likely between two and ten percent.
The Jews in Palestine, unlike those in Edessa or in other locations never under Jewish political control, rather than being satisfied with religious freedom sought political control as well. In Palestine, the Jews had partially independent political authority until Roman law abolished the legislative body, the Sanhedrin, in 429.145 Thus, a shift occurred in Jewish authority – from a political entity based in Palestine to a religious body based in the various Diaspora communities. Further, the Jews who remained in Palestine followed various leaders, rather than the political-religious control of the rabbis.146 Finally, there were more Jews in Palestine – numbering between ten and fifteen percent of the population.147
The papacy treated the Jews under its jurisdiction similarly to the Edessene Jews and, following Justinian’s re-conquest of Italy, ecclesiastical policies became analogous. Pope Leo I148 continued St. Augustine’s idea and asked “O Jews, when the judgment of
144 Sharf provided two calculations for Jewish numbers. A census during Emperor Claudius’ reign in 42 AD counted 6,944,000 Jews, which was approximately ten percent of the empire’s total population. There have been discussions about the accuracy of such a high percentage, but I accept it as the highest possible number. He then gave the next available number, taken in 1168 by Benjamin of Tudela, from whose numbers Sharf extrapolated to calculate that the Jewish population composed a minimum of two percent. Sharf, Andrew Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade (New York: Schocken Books, 1971), 3-4 145 For the reduced role of the Sanhedrin see: Avi-Yonah, M. The Jews under Roman and Byzantine Rule (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press, 1984), 228. 146 For more on this see: Ibid., 237-40. 147 This estimate is based on the assumption that 20,000 Jewish soldiers, as noted by Eutychius, helped the Sasanids capture various towns in Palestine. Avi-Yonah extrapolated and estimates that this corresponded to 150-200,000 people, which was between approximately ten and fifteen percent of the population. This number was likely exaggerated, since this 20,000 soldiers was too night. Nevertheless, if we use ten to fifteen percent as the maximum for Jews in any location, then the percentage of Jews in Edessa was certainly less. Ibid., 241 148 He wrote the famous Tome of Leo and reigned during the Council of Chalcedon in 451. He was one of the most important of the early popes.
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the universe went against you, and your wickedness could not be recalled . . . what torment seized your heart.”149 Despite the idea of Jews’ alleged killing of Christ, Leo noted that “He Who came to save sinners did not refuse mercy even to His murderers, but changed the evil of the wicked into the goodness of the believing.”150 The church thus and sought to convert the Jews who remained.
Pope Gregory I wrote and issued similar pronouncements about the Jews in his jurisdiction. Jews could neither own Christian slaves nor convert them, both concepts that Justinian promoted as well, “lest (which God forbid) the Christian religion should be polluted by being subjected to Jews.”151 Gregory, however, provided economic compensation for Jewish owners if a slave became Christian and the Jew had to manumit the slave.152 Thus, the church ensured that the Jews did not lose property. Western ecclesiastical law followed Romano-Byzantine imperial law, both because it was under physical imperial jurisdiction and because both followed St. Augustine’s theology.
The imperial and Edessene authorities treated the Jews according to their above noted status during the troubled years from 494-506. During the famine in Edessa, which reached its height in 499, the Edessenes provided the Jews with wheat to make bread.153 There are two conclusions to be drawn from this. First, the authorities helped the Edessene Jews who could not obtain the minimum amount of bread to survive. In other words, the Christian Edessenes, during this famine, helped the Jews like they aided their
149 “The Letters and Sermons of Leo the Great,” trans. Charles Lett Feltoe, A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmands Publishing Company, 1956), Sermon 50.4, 168. 150 Ibid., Sermon 67.3, 178
151 “The Book of Pastoral Rule and Selected Epistles of Gregory the Great,” trans. James Barmby, A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. 12 (Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmands Publishing Company, 1956), Book 3, Epistle 38, 131-2 152 See: Ibid., Book, 6 Epistle 32, 199
153 Pseudo-Joshua, 41-2
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poor.154 Second, despite the widespread disregard for the Jews, the Edessenes nevertheless helped the Jews survive. The Jews occupied an extremely low social status, but one that the Christian Edessenes protected.
Despite the low socio-political status of the Edessene Jews, they did not actively aid the Sasanids during the 502-6 war. In Edessa for example, the Jews did not undermine the Roman defense of the city during the siege of 503.155 The Jews of nearby Tella, however, did attempt to surrender the city to the Sasanians by tunneling under their synagogue which was built against the city wall.156 When the Roman defenders found the Jewish tunnel they went through the city “slaughtering all the Jews they could find, men and women, old and young.”157 The bishop of Tella finally ended the slaughter, which the Romans indiscriminately engaged in for several days. The Romans defended Edessa with more men, making treachery less likely to succeed. This was an early example of Jews, in a nearby city, preferring Sasanian to Romano-Byzantine rule. Jews in a similar socio-political situation acknowledged that Sasanian rule would benefit them.158
154 Ibid. Pseudo-Joshua made this apparent and his wording made it almost impossible to differentiate between the Jews and the poor who had no bread. In fact, his statement on the Jews suffering was included in the same sentence as the poor suffering. 155 Ibid. He never mentioned the Jews providing help to the Sassanian army besieging the city. There is no evidence to contradict his silence. 156 Ibid., 72-3. He provided a detailed description of this attempt along with how the Romans discovered it. The detail of the plot and its discovery make the story almost certainly true. 157 Ibid., 73-4 158 There is no other evidence for why the Jews of Tella revolted, but they must have believed that Sasanid rule benefited them. Maybe the Sasanids contacted the Jews of Tella and offered to increase their socio- political status in the city, but the sources are silent on this possibility. Although Jews were nominally loyal to the ruling state, they must have believed that the Sasanids would be better rulers. The small size of Tella’s garrison likely played a large role in inducing them to revolt, since the Roman garrison would not have sufficient soldiers to prevent their tunneling. Baron wrote that “the Jews of Tella offered stout resistance to the Sassanian armies” and then supported this using Pseudo-Joshua. See: Baron, Christian Era: The First Five Centuries, 179. I have quoted Pseudo-Joshua above, which contradicted Baron and, therefore, Baron must be discounted for this reason. The primary reason for the Jews of Tella undermining the Roman garrison is, however, impossible to determine.
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What altered the accepted relationship between the Jews and the Christians of Edessa? The chronicles alluded to two principal causes for the transformation in the Christian-Jewish relationship, one outside the empire and the other internal. Pseudo- Dionysius, John Malalas, Theophanes, and Procopius all provided the first explanation of this changing relationship through an account of a war between the Ethiopians and the Himyarites.159
The Himyarites lived on the western part of Arabia, near the Red Sea. Judaism in Arabia, as in Edessa, arrived at an unknown time, although its influence expanded throughout the early sixth century. Josephus noted the first movement of Jews into Arabia, as part of an ultimately unsuccessful expedition force under Aelius Gallus.160 The conversion of Arabs to Judaism, however, cannot be dated to this expedition. Throughout the fourth and fifth centuries Judaism continued to strengthen in Arabia, but its full acceptance occurred after 516, when the Himyarite king, Dhu Nuwas, adopted it as the state religion.161 The Himyarite kings primarily espoused Judaism for political, rather than religious reasons, as they it enabled them to confront the expansion of Ethiopian and Roman influence in Arabia.162
This caused a confrontation between the two religions, although the immediate causes of the war were political and economic. Pseudo-Dionysius, Malalas, Theophanes, and Procopius noted that the different religions of the antagonists, the Ethiopians were
159 Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 50. Pseudo-Dionysius used the term “Indian” to describe all of the people who lived in Arabia, India, and Africa – including both the Ethiopians and the Himyarites. Witakowski noted that these two groups were both lived between the Nile and the Horn of Africa.
160 Josephus, Josephus, trans. Allen Wikgren, ed. Ralph Marcus, vol. 8, 9 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963), 15.317, 151 161 Salo W Baron, High Middle Ages: 500-1200, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, vol. 3, 8 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1957), 66-9. 162 Avi-Yonah, The Jews under Roman and Byzantine Rule, 251-3
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Christian and the Himyarites were Jewish, in an economic context, caused the war.163 Further, three sources, Pseudo-Dionysius, Malalas, and Theophanes, all equate the eventual Ethiopian victory with a Constantine type conversion story.164 According to Pseudo-Dionysius, Andug, the Ethiopian king, reportedly said “‘if it be granted to me that I defeat this torturer, the king of the Himyarites, I will become Christian. For it is the blood of Christians I intend to avenge on him.’”165 Andug and the Ethiopians were eventually victorious and placed a Christian on the Himyartie throne.
At this point in the narrative, however, Pseudo-Dionysius discussed the war in Africa and Arabia while Malalas and Theophanes did not. Pseudo-Dionysius, or rather the sixth century information he compiled, became interested in the oppressive actions of the Jewish Himyarites against Christians. First, the Himyarite Jews regained power and “in a bitter wrath slew and destroyed all the Christian people there, men, women, young people and little children, poor and rich.”166 Second, Pseudo-Dionysius copied an entire letter, from the Jewish Himyarite king to the Arab al-Mundhir, on the martyrdom of Christian Himyarites. The king wrote:
First I seized all the Christians who confess Christ, if they would not become Jews like us. I killed two hundred and eighty priests. . . Of their church of theirs I
163 Pseudo-Dionysius, John Malalas, and Theophanes all wrote that the Himyarite king, Dimnos, killed Christian merchants in response to his belief that Christians in various lands harassed Jews. See: Pseudo- Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 51; John Malalas, The Chronicle of John Malalas, trans. Elizabeth Jeffreys, Michael Jeffreys & Roger Scott (Melbourne: Australian Association for Byzantine Studies, 1986),, 433-4, 251; Theophanes, Theoph, AM 6035, 323. All three sources used almost exactly the same wording and, therefore, derive from a common source – John Malalas. Procopius alone did not provide this economic context, Procopius, The Persian War trans. H.B. Dewing, Procopius in Seven Volumes, ed. H.B. Dewing, vol. 1, 7 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), I, XX 1, P. 189 164 i.e. Constantine’s conversion before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. This makes the possibility of this actually occurring somewhat dubious though.
165 Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 51. Malalas and Theophanes are identical. See: Malalas, The Chronicle of John Malalas, 433-4, 251; Theophanes, Theoph.,. AM 6035, 323. Procopius noted that the Ethiopians placed a Christian king on the Himyarite throne, which the three other sources hint at as well, but did not mention this conversion.
166 Ibid., 52
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made a synagogue for ourselves. . . (then) I ordered that all of their nobles be put to death.167
According to the letter, even a three-year-old boy rejected converting when the king confronted him. When offered nuts, almonds and figs, tempting delicacies for a child, the boy responded “‘No, by Christ, I shall not eat Jewish nuts.’”168
The Jewish persecutions finally ended after Roman intervention and Ethiopian victories. First, the Romans seized prominent Jews in the Palestinian city of Tiberius and forced them to send messages to the Himyarites asking to end the persecutions.169 Second, and more importantly, the Ethiopian king attacked the Himyarites again and “seized and killed him [the Himyarite king] and routed his troops and all the Jews in the country of the Himyarites altogether.”170 The Ethiopian king then placed a zealous Christian on the Himyarite throne, ending the Jewish persecutions.171 Pseudo-Dionysius and his Edessene sources were considerably more interested in this than their Roman contemporaries. It is unknown why the Roman sources do not include as much information, likely they were less aware of the situation, but Pseudo-Dionysius’ inclusion of the material is significant. The Jewish Himyarite persecutions were closer, had a greater effect, and provided a reason for the disintegration of Christian-Jewish relations in Edessa. Further, the Jewish Himyarite king attempted to induce al-Mundhir, who lived in Roman territory, to persecute Christians under his control. Thus, the Edessene Christians became increasingly wary of external Jewish threats.
167 Ibid., 54-5. The Himyarite king’s letter is significantly longer and I have excerpted parts. 168 Ibid., 61 169 Ibid., 62. He mentioned this, however, only very briefly. 170 Ibid., 63
171 Ibid.. Procopius noted this as well, see: Procopius, The Persian War I, XX 1-2, 189 47
The second change in the Jewish-Christian relationship occurred because of internal Jewish threats to the Romano-Byzantine Empire. The Samaritans revolted in 529 and 555 and Jews joined them – leading many Christians to distrust their Jewish populations. These revolts occurred in Palestine, but they had lasting effects on Edessene writers and the Christian population. Three principal sources detailed the 529 revolt, John Malalas, Theophanes, and Procopius. In Malalas’ account the Samaritans revolted alone, although the Jews helped them to an uncertain extent.172 Procopius cited Justinian’s forced conversion of the Samaritans as their reason to revolt and did not mention the Jews.173 Theophanes extended the revolt to the Jews as well saying “the Samaritans and the Jews in Palestine crowned a certain Julian as emperor and took up arms against the Christians, against whom they committed robbery, murder, and arson.”174 Theophanes’ account is less probable because he was not a contemporary and, therefore, confused the Jews and the Samaritans, which was not uncommon. Theophanes expanded Malalas’ account, since he drew directly from Malalas to form his own chronicle here.175
Nevertheless, there were two significant consequences of this first revolt. First, Malalas, and Theophanes, noted that the survivors of the revolt fled to the Sasanians, influencing them to reject peace with the Romans and invade the empire. Malalas noted:
the Persian emperor had withdrawn from the peace agreement . . . for news had come that the Samaritans in Roman territory, incurring the anger of the emperor Justinian [for revolting] . . . had fled and gone over to Koades [Kawad] . . . . and
172 Malalas, The Chronicle of John Malalas, 446-7, 260-1 173 Justinian did persecute the Samaritans in his new law code. See: Procopius, The Secret History, 54 174 See: Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6021, 271. Several sources provide the name “Julianus” for the king the Samaritan’s crowned. He is not to be confused with the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate (r. 361-3). 175 See the editors noted on this at: Ibid.. Sharf explained the Romano-Byzantine view of the Samaritans and the Jews. He noted that there was separate legislation for the Samaritans, but that many Romans/Byzantines believed that the two groups were closely connected. Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 29-30
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had promised to fight for him. They numbered 50,000. They promised to hand over to the Persian emperor their own land.176
Although the Samaritans did not live in Edessa (the sources never mention them), Kawad used them as a pretext for the next Roman-Sasanian war. Further, the Sasanians had to first capture Roman Mesopotamia, including Edessa, to gain Palestine and Jerusalem. The Samaritans, and to a lesser extent the Jews, caused the Sasanians to invade Mesopotamia and wreak havoc. Second, the revolt caused massive economic destruction in Palestine. The substantial loss of income dissatisfied many of the Jews and later provided them with a reason to revolt again.177 Justinian forced the Christians “to pay in perpetuity annual taxes on a crippling scale,” regardless of their losses during the revolt.178
The Samaritan-Jewish revolt of 555 was no less devastating than the revolt of 529. Malalas mentioned that the Jews revolted with the Samaritans in Caesarea, confirming the Jewish involvement.179 Pseudo-Dionysius chronicled this revolt as well, which he did not do for the revolt of 529. He described the revolt as follows:
when the emperor Justinian learned about these matters [the revolt and the destruction it caused] he became very angry and gave an order to Amantius, a stratelates [general] in the East, who was a Christian and zealous in the Christian faith, and he went to Caesarea and throughout the whole country of Palestine.180
Pseudo-Dionysius followed Malalas and two significant points emerge. First, the revolt was widespread enough that the statelates and his soldiers from the Mesopotamian
176 Malalas, The Chronicle of John Malalas, 455, 267. Theophanes included Jews in addition to Samaritans. See: Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6021, 271 177 The revolt caused severe economic problems for the Christians in Palestine as well. 178 Procopius, The Secret History, 54-5
179 Malalas, The Chronicle of John Malalas, 487-8, 294-5. Theophanes copied Malalas and repeated that the Jews were involved, see: Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6048, 337 180 Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 114. Palmer noted that Amantius was magister militium per Orientem after 555 and renown for his persecution of pagans and heretics. Pseudo-Dinysius uses the term stratelates because it is the seventh and eighth century term that replaced the term magister militium. Both titles have roughly the same meaning.
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frontier were needed to quell it.181 The revolt created a lasting impression on the soldiers who returned to the Mesopotamian frontier, including the Edessene garrison. Second, the tension between Christians and Jews included both Christian creeds and was more significant than intra-Christian arguments. Pseudo-Dionysius called Amantius “a Christian and zealous in the Christian faith,” which he would not use unless Amantius was a Monophysite.182 These two revolts, in 529 and 555, altered the relationship between Christians, both the imperial rulers and the local populations, and the Jews.
These two events, one external and the other internal, caused a shift in the relationship between Jews and Christians. Problems between the two religious communities existed before trhis, notably the Jewish undermining of Tella’s defenses, but this was an isolated event. Edessene Christians, in contrast, provided food and aid to the Jews during the Sasanian siege of 503. The two large revolts and the Himyarite Jewish king’s persecutions, however, caused a rethinking of the state’s attitude toward its Jewish subjects. As Sharf noted “the Jews under Justinian had amply justified their frequent denunciation.”183 These changes occurred in the imperial reaction to Jews, since sources from Constantinople (e.g. Procopius, Malalas, Theophanes, etc.) discussed them. Using Pseudo-Dionysius, we can also examine the reaction of the Edessene Christians. Pseudo- Dionysius alone discussed the Himyarite threat in greater detail, likely because of his access to local sources, but its inclusion was noteworthy. The Jewish Himyarite danger altered the psyche of the Edessene Christians. The Samaritan-Jewish revolts, especially the revolt of 555, caused Roman soldiers in Mesopotamia to react strongly against any
181 Sharf noted that soldiers were called from North Africa as well. Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 30. 182 See above for Pseudo-Dionysius’ use of words like “pious” and “zealous” toward Monophysites alone. 183 Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 35. He discussed this again in Sharf, Andrew, Jews and Other Minorities in Byzantium (Jerusalem: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1995), 98.
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possible later Jewish revolts. The Edessene Jews neither helped the Himyarites nor the rebels, but remained quiet throughout this period.184 Nevertheless, the Edessene Christians realized that the Jews could rebel in the future and Jews realized that other rulers treated them better than the Romano-Byzantine state. The seventh century thus began with this inherent tension coupled with the destabilizing events of Maurice’s overthrow and the subsequent Sasanian invasion.
184 The lack of any discussion in Pseudo-Dionysius or elsewhere about the Edessene Jewish forces me to assume that they remained quiet. No Jewish or Christian sources exist that argue otherwise.
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5. Jewish Edessene Reactions to the Invasions of the Early Seventh Century
The tension between Edessene Jews and Edessene Christians, which became pronounced during the middle of the sixth century, reached a climax during the Sasanian conquest and Byzantine re-conquest. Justin II, Tiberius, and Maurice continued the Justinian’s Jewish policies, but they recognized the possibility of Jewish revolts. A series of smaller incidents occurred during the last decades of the sixth century and the first decade of the seventh century, but they were local riots.
The tumultuous period from 609 to 638 complicated the relationship between the Jews and the Byzantine state. The Sasanian invasions during Phokas’ and Heraclius’ reigns created an entirely new situation for the Jews. Although it is unknown whether the Edessene Jews helped the Sasanians capture the city, Jews in other places – especially Jerusalem – were pivotal in helping Sasanian armies. The reaction of the Sasanians toward the Edessene Jews, during their control, is unclear as well. However, Khusrau’s support for previously non-imperial religions predisposed him toward a conciliatory policy to Jews as well. The period culminated in the Jewish garrisoning of Edessa with Sasanian soldiers following the end of the Byzantine-Sasanian War in 628. This Jewish refusal provides evidence that the Jews favored Sasanian to Byzantine rule.
The Sasanian occupation from 609-628 altered the Jewish relationship with the state and provided them with greater autonomy, which they were reluctant to relinquish, and the Byzantines could not provide them. Finally, in 632 Heraclius issued a decree to baptize all Jews, which largely failed, but created Jewish animosity toward the state. The Muslim capture of Edessa only solidified existing Jewish discontent with Byzantine rule – as the Jews became an equal and protected religion submitting to the jizyah, rather than
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a completely subservient religion. Muslim control of Edessa provided the Jews with a status they had during the Sasanian occupation, as a protected equal religion – a status the Byzantine state did not provide them even before the many problems of the sixth century.
The Christian-Jewish interaction in Edessa during the reigns of Justin II, Tiberius, and Maurice differed little from that under Justinian, although there were no large revolts. Neither the Syriac (Pseudo-Dionysius) nor the Byzantine (Theophylact and Theophanes) authors mention any significant events during this period – whether in Edessa or throughout the empire. The Edessene Christians followed imperial edicts to allow Jews to worship without persecution.185 Several smaller incidents did occur, but these occurred primarily between the two circus factions, which included Jewish supporters and sources often interrelate anti-Jewish and circus faction fighting.186 One riot against the Jews occurred in Antioch in 592.187 Another riot in Antioch, in 608,188 resulted in rioters who killed, mutilated, and dragged the Chalcedonian patriarch Anastasius through the streets. Theophanes wrote “the Jews of Antioch, becoming disorderly, staged an uprising against the Christians and murdered Anastasios, the great patriarch of Antioch . . . and they killed many landowners and burnt them.”189 Only after Phokas dispatched soldiers were the Jews put down and the rioting stopped. The Chronicon Paschale, a contemporary source, recorded the incident differently and said only “it was announced
185 See Sharf’s explanation and discussion of this in detail at: Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 46. Another example of this continued protection for Jewish communities is from John of Ephesus’ Lives of the Eastern Saints. Selections concerning Christian-Jewish interactions are at: Susan A Harvey, Asceticism and Society in Crisis: John of Ephesus and the Lives of the Eastern Saints (Berkeley and Los Angelos: University of California Press, 1990), 53-4.
186 For more on the circus factions see: Alan Cameron, Circus Factions (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976), 187 See Sharf for this riot and the Roman response to it at: Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 45-6 Sharf also discussedthis at: Sharf, Jews and Other Minorities in Byzantium, 98 188 Theophanes provided this date, while the Chronicon Paschale gave September 610. I have followed Theophanes here based on the translators’ reasoning. Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6101, 427, n3.
189 Ibid., AM 6101 425
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that Anastasius . . . had been killed by soldiers.”190 Although the Jews rioted, they formed only a portion of the mob.191 Nevertheless, these were isolated incidents and did not occur in Edessa.
The initial Jewish reaction to the Sasanian conquest of Edessa is unknown. It cannot be determined if they supported the Sasanian conquest or if they, like many others, accepted the change in rulers. The fall of Jerusalem, however, presented a very different result. Two accounts, Sebeos and Pseudo-Dionysius, provided an account of Jerusalem’s fall. Jerusalem had originally surrendered peacefully, but some of the zealous Christians believed that they could regain control of the city and rioted. Thereafter, as Sebeos wrote:
there was warfare between the inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem, Jewish and Christian. The larger number of Christians had the upper hand and slew many Jews. The surviving Jews jumped from the walls and went to the Persian army.192
After joining the Sasanians, the Jews and Sasanians captured the city and killed many of the inhabitants. Pseudo-Dionysius combined the two captures of Jerusalem into one and said “Shahrvaraz [the Sasanian general] battered at the walls of Jerusalem and took it by the sword slaughtering 90,000 Christians in it. The Jews in their hatred actually bought Christians at a low price for the privilege of killing them.”193 Jerusalem, however, was unique because it had a much higher percentage of Jews and was symbolic for them as well. The Jews in most of the empire, including Edessa, neither supported nor hindered the Sasanian invasion.
190 Chron. Pasch., 150 191 Sharf said that the circus factions fighting caused the rioting and they were entirely to blame. Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 47. The factions had a large role in the fighting, but the Jews were part of the factions and had a distinct role in the rioting – although somewhere between Theophanes and the Chronicon Paschale. 192 Sebeos 1, 69 193 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 128. 90,000 is a highly exaggerated number.
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The Sasanians, despite the help they received from the Jews in re-capturing Jerusalem, maintained a delicate balance between Christians and Jews. In Jerusalem Khusrau “ordered the Jews to be expelled from the city.”194 They did not completely ban Jews from Jerusalem, but only those who tried to move there.195 The status of the Edessene Jews, however, remained unclear, as did the position of other Mesopotamian Jews.196 One of two scenarios occurred. First, Khusrau could have suppressed the Jews, but this was unlikely given his support for previously persecuted religions (e.g. Monophysites). Second, Khusrau could have allowed the Jews to retain, or strengthen, their status as a protected minority and thereby reinforce Jewish merchant trade between formerly Byzantine and Sasanian Mesopotamia. Furthermore, the Jews no longer feared indiscriminate imperial supported Christian rioting or persecutions, since the Sasanian state was not Christian. Given Khusrau’s pragmatic attitude toward the Monophysites and the sources’ lack of information to the contrary, Khusrau did not persecute the Jews in a systematic manner.197 The Jews, therefore, might not have loved the Sasanians but they lost nothing, and had everything to gain, under Sasanian rule.
Following the defeat of the Sasanians and the signing of a peace treaty, the borders returned to the status quo ante bellum – returning Edessa to Byzantine control. The Sasanian garrison of Edessa, however, refused to accept the peace treaty and continued to garrison the city, even when a Byzantine army surrounded it. Two sources, Sebeos and Pseudo-Dionysius, discussed the role of the Jews in helping the Sasanian
194 Sebeos 1., 116, 70 195 See the commentary on Sebeos at: Howard-Johnston, Sebeos 2, 208-9. 196 This is far from unusual, as most of the sources discussed little about the occupation other than references to a few events. 197 Sharf discussedthe attitude of the Jews toward the Sasanians, but he cannot conclude anything specific. He did note that the Sasanians persecuted the Jews in 581 and 590, but that these stopped during Khusrau’s reign. Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 49-50
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garrison defend the city.198 Sebeos had the Jews acting alone in defending the city and, moreover, the Jews from across all Byzantine territory moved there. He wrote:
Then the twelve tribes of all the clans of the Jews went and gathered at the city of Edessa . . . they did not allow the army of the Roman empire to enter among them. Then the Greek king Heraclius ordered it to be besieged. When they realized that they were unable to resist him in battle, they parlayed for peace with him.199
Pseudo-Dionysius, in contrast, had the Jews of Edessa helping the Sasanian garrison. As he noted:
The Jews of Edessa were standing there on the wall with the Persians. Partly out of hatred for the Christians, but also in order to ingratiate themselves with the Persians, they began to insult the Romans . . . This provoked him [Theodore, Heraclius’ brother and the general commanding the siege] to an all-out attack on the city . . . The Persian resistance was crushed and they accepted an amnesty to return to their country.200
Sebeos’ account has significant problems. First, it was impossible for the Jews of Palestine, Syria, and Mesopotamia to move to Edessa. The Jews of the empire could neither logistically move to Edessa nor could they obtain sufficient supplies to survive once there.201 Second, the Jews lacked sufficient weapons to hold Edessa. Romano- Byzantine law neither allowed private citizens to possess weapons nor to drill.202 The Jews, therefore, did not have access to any arms with which to withstand a siege.203 Third, the Jews, as noted above, comprised fewer than ten percent of Edessa’s total
198 It is interesting that Sharf almost entirely ignores the account of Edessa’s re-conquest. 199 Sebeos 1., 95 200 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 139 201 The logistical nightmare of moving hundreds of thousands of people into Edessa, which undoubtedly could not hold that many people, and supplying them would be extremely onerous at the very least, if not completely impossible.
202 For a brief discussion of prohibitions on non-soldiers possessing arms and drilling see: Kaegi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests, 50. See Chapter 6 for more information. 203 The withdrawing Sasanians could have left arms, but this was unlikely as well – since the garrison would gain nothing from providing arms to Jews. The garrison would only lose its own arms, which any military force would be reluctant to do. Further, if the garrison did withdraw and, therefore, accept the terms of peace with Byzantium they would not want to anger the Byzantine by leaving an armed and fortified city. This would only have provoked a Byzantine attack on the withdrawing garrison.
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population – an insufficient number to garrison the city and enforce their will on the larger number of Christians. Finally, Sebeos’ account had a separate goal in mind. He wanted to explain the role of the Jews in the subsequent Muslim invasion.204 Thus, the Jews alone could not have defended Edessa.
Pseudo-Dionysius’ account is far more probable; as the Edessene Jews could have helped the Sasanian garrison defend the city. This would solve two of Sebeos’ problems – a lack of weapons, which the Sasanians could have provided them, and the Jews’ lack of sufficient manpower to garrison the city, since they helped the Sasanians. In addition, Pseudo-Dionysius provided a plausible explanation of what occurred next. After the garrison surrendered:
a certain Jew called Joseph, anticipating a pogrom, scaled down the wall and sped off to find Heraclius at Tella . . . he urged the King to forgive his fellow-Jews the insults to which they had subjected Theodoric [Theodore] and to send an envoy to restrain his brother from exacting vengeance.205
This was necessary because Theodoric “had already begun to kill them [the Jews] and to plunder their houses, when Joseph arrived with a letter from the King, by which he forbade his brother to harm them.”206 Despite the Jewish support for the Sasanians, Heraclius promoted a return to the status quo.207 At this point, Heraclius continued to support the Jews as a protected minority religion, though he was undoubtedly wary of their loyalty.
Pseudo-Dionysius’ account is more likely as well, if Heraclius’ actions after his pardon in 628 are examined. In 632, he issued a decree ordering the forced baptism of all
204 See below for more detail on this. 205 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 139 206 Ibid. 139-140 207 Heraclius sought to promote imperial unity by accepting all people in Sasanid occupied territory back into the empire, often without punishing them at all. For this policy see: Walter E. Kaegi, Heraclius Emperor of Byzantium (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003),
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Jews in the empire.208 The decree, however, was limited in its effect and in most places officials did not actively adopt its regulations.209 Michael the Syrian recorded that the Jews “came first of all to Edessa, but when they were assaulted there as well, they fled to Persia. A great number of them received baptism and became Christian”210 Undoubtedly, the decree affected some Jewish communities. Some Jews in Edessa converted and others fled, as Michael the Syrian noted, but the extent of its effect in Edessa, other than these two sentences, cannot be determined.
The decree sought to achieve religious unity among all Byzantine subjects, similar to Heraclius’ promotion of a Monothelete doctrine as a compromise between Chalcedonians and Monophysites.211 The forced baptism of Jews failed, just as Monotheletism did, because it had little time to affect those regions which had significant Jewish populations. The decree was not effective in Constantinople either by 641, as Nicephoros wrote.212 Even as the decree became effective, the Muslims began their attacks on Byzantine territory. Heraclius’ actions, both his protection of the Jews in 628 and his decree of 632, had the same goal – re-establishing a peaceful and unified empire. Both acts examined together, therefore, agree with one another, though they ostensibly differ. Heraclius interaction with Jews had not changed significantly from Justinian’s.
208 Ibid. 147, n347. The Chronicle of Zunquin provided an account as well, but placed it incorrectly under Phokas’ reign. “Extract from the Chronicle of Zunquin (AD 775),” AG 928, 55. Sharf discussed why the forced conversion occurred under Heraclius and not Phokas at: Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 48. This begs the question, why would Heraclius need to baptize the Edessene Jews if they had been expelled? Thus, the expulsion either did not occur or did not succeed.
209 Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 53-4 and Sharf, Jews and Other Minorities in Byzantium, 102-3 210 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 147, n347 211 Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 53-4
212 Nicephorus wrote that the people of Constantinople rioted against the Patriarch Pyrrhus “accompanied by a group of Jews and other unbelievers.” His demarcation between Jews and the Christians of Constantinople makes it clear that both were involved. Nikephoros, Short History, 83.
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They were a protected minority, but one that must eventually conform to the empire’s interests.
The Muslim invasions created a new crisis for the Byzantine Empire and a new role of the Jews. Sebeos’ account, noted above, continued: “Taking desert roads, they [the Jews] went to Tachkastan, to the sons of Ismael, summoned them to their aid and informed them of their blood relationship through the testament of scripture.”213 Although the two religions were unable to solve their religious differences, Sebeos wrote that the Jews helped the Muslims in their conquest of the eastern provinces. This aid culminated when the Jews and Muslims, according the Sebeos, formed a large army together, demanded Palestine back from the Byzantines, and then defeated a Byzantine army in battle.214 The Jews came from Edessa and, therefore, all the Edessene Jews left Byzantine territory. However, this explanation, like his earlier discussion of the Jewish defense of Edessa, is not feasible. Aside from significant theological differences and further logistical impossibilities, Sebeos believed that the Muslims represented the fourth and final kingdom of Daniel’s prophecy.215 The unity between the Jews and Muslims, examined in this context, makes Sebeos’ entire account largely implausible, since it existed to fulfill a specific objective.
The role of the Jews in the Muslim conquest of Edessa is unclear. The Muslims did not always support the Jews and Muhammad had expelled the Jewish Hijazi tribes, who had refused to recognize his rule.216 Theophanes recognized the differences
213 Sebeos 1., 95 214 Ibid. 215 For a longer discussion see: Howard-Johnston, Sebeos 2., 238-240 216 Sharf, Byzantine Jewry from Justinian to the Fourth Crusade, 52
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between the two religions as well.217 Finally, some Samaritan soldiers in Palestine, with a small Byzantine force, fought one of the first Muslim raids, but were crushed. One account noted that Byzantine general “assembled his own forces and sent for 5,000 Samaritan foot-soldiers to strengthen his arm in the coming encounter with the Arabs.”218 A second Syriac account expanded this to include “Christians, Jews, and Samaritans.”219 Even Theophanes mentioned the Jewish and Samaritan soldiers, although he left the reader to infer their involvement.220 Thus, a contradictory image emerged – Jews both aided the Muslims and defended Byzantine territory. Nevertheless, the Edessene Jews did not react differently from the Edessene Christian to the Muslim capture of the city – they took little, if any, active role.
The Edessene Jews under Muslim control had the status of any other non-Muslim religion of the book. The Jews submitted to Muslim authority and paid the jizyah and thereby gained the freedom to worship. Edessene Syriac sources mentioned few specifics about Jewish actions under Muslim control and nothing about Edessene Jews. The lack of information about Edessene Jews does not, however, make Sebeos’ view on the complete expulsion of Jews more likely. Pseudo-Dionysius’ description of the Jews fleeing to Persia or converting was not necessarily true for all Edessene Jews. Heraclius’ decree only affected Edessa, if it had any effect at all, for seven years – the last five of which Heraclius was more concerned with the Muslim military threat than converting
217 See his short discussion at: Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6122, 464 218 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 146 219 “Extract from a Chonicle Composed About Ad 640,” trans. Andrew Palmer, The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chronicles
(Liverpool: Liverpool University Press 1993), AG 945, 19 220 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6124, 467
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Jews. Finally, many of the Jews likely converted back, since they were forced to become Christians only for a short period of time.
Pseudo-Dionysius, noted in Theophanes as well, wrote two stories about Jews after the Muslim conquest. In the first, the Muslims wanted to know why a mosque they were constructing would not stand. To which “the filthy Jews told them: ‘Unless you take down that cross on the Mount of Olives . . . you will never succeed in building it.’”221 Similarly, in Damascus Mu’awiya forbade the cross to be shown and “the Jewish people were overjoyed.”222 He eventually reversed this decree and ordered only those crosses that could be seen from the street removed, which pleased the Christians.223 These examples exhibit the fundamental transformation in Christian-Jewish relations under Muslim occupation, as the Muslims reduced Christian status to a level equivalent with the Jews. The Jews likely had to remove their religious symbols as well, but this was not a change for them since they had submitted to Christian religious control for centuries. Thus, the Edessene Jews held, at a minimum, the same social status under Muslim control as they had under Christian control and likely had a substantially greater position.
During the Sasanian occupation of the eastern provinces the Jews regained considerable autonomy and, during the conquest, some Jewish communities helped the Sasanians. The Sasanians did not treat the Jews significantly better than various Byzantine Christians rulers, but they were no longer subject to mob violence. In Edessa, the Jews helped the Sasanian garrison temporarily hold the city. Heraclius refrained from punishing the Edessene Jews afterward and his decree of forced conversion was largely
221 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 167. See also: Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6135, 476 222 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 169 223 Ibid., 170
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ineffective. The Jews, therefore, neither supported Romano-Byzantine rule nor completely rejected it. Although they had long wanted a re-creation of their own state in Palestine, they experienced a continuation of mostly benign Romano-Byzantine occupation. The Sasanians acted more benevolently toward them, hence their support for the Sasanian garrison in 628. The short period of Byzantine rule from 628-639 did little to endear them to the empire, especially following Heraclius’ decree of baptism in 632. Thus, the Muslim conquest offered the Jews a return to the status they had achieved under Sasanian rule – an equal and protected religion without mob incited violence against them. The Jews had nothing to lose, and everything to gain, if Sasanians or Muslims controlled Edessa.
6. Weapons, Military Strategy, and the Sieges of Edessa
The reaction of the Edessenes to the Romano-Byzantine Empire undoubtedly transformed during the sixth and early seventh centuries. Despite these changes, the Edessenes had similar views of the numerous invasions and sieges – principally a reluctance to defend the city unless the Romano-Byzantine military aided them. The Edessenes had practical reasons for this reaction. First, Roman law prohibited non- soldiers from carrying or using a weapon, with significant penalties if civilians broke the law. Second, the empire controlled state weapons manufactories, one of which was in Edessa, and had supervision over all private weapons manufacturers. Finally, Romano-
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Byzantine military defense depended upon “soft” defensive frontiers, which stressed strategic campaigns without climactic battles. Romano-Byzantine armies would withdraw from indefensible territory and, therefore, would protect cities, including Edessa, only when the city had sufficient defenses. When the state provided an adequate garrison, the soldiers provided the Edessenes with a role in defending their city, thereby ensuring that the populace helped protect the city as well. Nevertheless, when the military chose not to provide soldiers to defend Edessa, the Edessenes could not hold the city.
The sieges or captures of Edessa during this period – 503, 544, 603, 609, 628, and 639 – exemplified this situation. The Edessenes, who might otherwise have rejected their rulers because of religious changes that occurred, could not successfully defend their city, or revolt, because they lacked the means. Romano-Byzantine law made it difficult for the Edessene populace to help defend the city. More significantly, successful defensive military strategies depended on a strong military presence to defend Edessa adequately – which, when lacking, significantly undermined any defense by the Edessene populace alone.
Romano-Byzantine law was explicit on the carrying and use of weapons and had been for hundreds of years. Justinian’s Codex, containing pronouncements from previous emperors, had a law titled “The Use of Arms without the Knowledge of the Emperor is Forbidden.”224 Emperors Valentinian and Valens, in 364 AD, issued it which said “no one shall, hereafter, without Our knowledge and consent, have the right to bear arms of any description whatever.”225 Justinian, in his novels, detailed banned weapons
224 The Civil Law, 11. 46.1, 200 225 Ibid.
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including – bows and arrows, all types of swords, hunting knives, spears, shields, and helmets.226 The state, therefore, carefully controlled the bearing of arms and most Edessenes did not have weapons.
The state controlled the manufacturing of weapons as well, easily regulating the buying or selling of arms. The same law that prohibited civilians from buying or owning weapons also prohibited arms manufactures from selling weapons. The law stated that:
no private person shall engage in the manufacture of weapons, and that only those shall be authorized to do so who are employed in public arsenals, or are called armorers; and also that manufacturers of arms should not sell them to any private individual.227
This included a prohibition on refurbishing weapons that a person already had in their possession.228 In addition, fifteen state controlled manufacturers existed – with one in Edessa. The state organized these manufacturers, called fabricae, similarly to the army. All of the workers held military ranks, they were branded to prevent desertion, and a military style hierarchy existed.229 The state supplied them with the necessary raw materials to create weapons as well, ensuring that they did not require private funding or support.230
The state placed strict punishments on any person, soldier or civilian breaking these laws. The state, since it provided arms to its soldiers, emplaced strict measures to ensure that soldiers did not misuse weapons. The state required retiring or dismissed
226 Ibid. Constitutions 6.14.4, 316 227 Ibid. Constitutions 6.14.1, 316 228 Ibid. 229 For a brief discussion see: Haldon, Byzantium, 239. For a longer discussion see: A. H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire 284-602, vol. 2, 2 vols. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), 834- 6. Both of these rely on the Notitia Dignitatum Orientalis, which unfortunately has not been translated from Latin.
230 Jones, LRE. 834-6
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soldiers to return their arms, which it often reissued to newly recruited soldiers.231 Further, “a soldier who has lost or disposed of his weapons in wartime suffers capital punishment.”232 Not surprisingly, the penalty during war was harsher, but it still focused on the state’s control of weapons. Finally, the state did not allow individuals to employ soldiers privately, since the state had trained and issued weapons to the soldiers.233 The state punished civilians for having weapons as well, especially criminal actions in which a person used a weapon violently. These weapons included “anything flung from the hand. So it includes missiles of stone, wood, or iron.”234 The state, therefore, severely punished an individual who used any weapon – whether it was a traditional weapon, like a sword, or a makeshift weapon, like a wooden club.
In Edessa, these laws were likely enforced like anywhere else, but the military fabrica in the city added an additional disincentive for private manufacturers to exist. For many soldiers transportation of arms across large distances was costly and, therefore, they often sought other places from which to attain arms.235 The soldiers in Edessa, however, could attain arms directly from the fabrica in the city and would not need to find other manufacturers. Edessa thus likely had fewer non-state sponsored manufacturers, since soldiers did not need these unofficial manufactures. Civilians, since they could not legally buy arms from the fabrica, had few, if any, other manufacturers
231 J.F. Haldon, Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World, 565-1204 (London: UCL Press, 1999), 258 232 The Digest of Justinian, trans. Alan Watson, vol. 2, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), 49.16.13
233 The Civil Law, trans. S. P. Scott, vol. 7, 7 vols. (Cincinnati: The Central Trust Company, 1973), Constitutions 8.17, 48-9 234 Justinian’s Institutes trans. Peter Birks & Grant McLeod (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987), 4.18.5, 145
235 See for example: Warren Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army, 284-1081 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), 179-180.
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from which to buy weapons. Fewer civilian Edessenes, therefore, could buy or own a weapon, making it harder to defend the city without significant military help.
Romano-Byzantine military strategy during the sixth and seventh centuries created a second significant problem for civilians attempting to defend cities. Maurice’s236 Strategikon, along with a few other military treatises, codified the various Romano-Byzantine strategies during this period. The Strategikon proscribed a military theory in which campaign strategy, rather than battle tactics, was preeminent. The Strategikon repeatedly noted this concept stating “the leader must take advantage of favorable times and places in fighting against the enemy” and, most notably, “a general should never have to say: ‘I did not expect it.’”237 If an enemy army invaded, Romano- Byzantine armies “must be sure not to engage it in a pitched battle.”238 As a result, borders were not hard defensive lines, which the military sought to protect at all costs, but rather long frontiers zones from which the army withdrew to more defensible territory.239
This strategy caused Romano-Byzantine armies to protect only defensible cities, while withdrawing from exposed ones. The state’s primary goal remained, however, to defend its subjects. An anonymous military treatise from the sixth century advocated protecting “not only the security of the army but of the cities and the entire country, so that the people who live there may suffer no harm at all from the enemy.”240 Overall
236 The Strategikon was written between 592 and 610, either by Maurice or another senior military commander. A debate exists on who wrote it and when, but for the purpose of this paper I will assume Maurice wrote it. For a brief discussion of this argument see: Maurice’s Strategikon, trans. George T. Dennis (Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984), XVI-XVIII.
237 Ibid. 61, 81 238 Ibid. 107 239 Haldon, Warfare, State and Society, 60-3 240 “The Anonymous Byzantine Treatise on Stategy,” trans. George T. Dennis, Three Byzantine Military Treatises (Washington D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1985), 21
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military strategy, nonetheless, dictated whether the military chose to defend a city and, when a city fell outside the defensive sphere, the state often chose to withdraw its soldiers. The Strategikon stated this explicitly saying “preparations should be made to transfer the inhabitants of weaker places to more strongly fortified ones.”241 The state defended cities, if a large mobile relief force were nearby, which could then threaten the besieging army’s supplies and communication lines.242 Cities, therefore, were important defensive fortifications, but were not protected unless a sufficient army, with a specific strategic objective, chose to defend it. The state followed this strategic idea when defending Edessa or other cities in Mesopotamia.
Romano-Byzantine strategy provided a negligible role for urban inhabitants during a war or siege. The anonymous treatise noted that “provision for food and water for the army and for the civilian population is both the beginning and the end of any plan of defense.”243 The Strategikon provided a direct role for civilians saying “if the civil population stays in the city, they too must join with the men distributed along the wall to help the soldiers.”244 However, both manuals do not believe that civilians were very useful in a siege. The Strategikon explicitly stated that civilians, or others who promised to fight for the state, should not be provided with arms.245 Further, the primary reason to have civilians defend the city was because it “makes them ashamed to rebel.”246 The anonymous treatise went further and blamed civilians if counter-tactics against a besieging army failed.247 Thus, the army formed the strongest defense against a
241 The Strategikon meant soldiers when using the term “inhabitants” here. Maurice’s Strategikon, 108 242 See a brief discussion of this in: Haldon, Warfare, State and Society, 69-71. 243 “The Anonymous Byzantine Treatise on Stategy,” 23 244 Maurice’s Strategikon, 109
245 Ibid., 82 246 Ibid., 109 247 “The Anonymous Byzantine Treatise on Stategy,” 43
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besieging army and the state assumed that civilians would not significantly help defend a city.
The state defended cities that it had a strategic reason to protect; otherwise it withdrew to a more defensible position. Romano-Byzantine strategy defended no city, except for Constantinople, at all costs. The state calculated the risk and cost of defending cities and chose to defend those which had strong defenses and a significant military presence. Every besieged city expected a relief force to arrive as well, which would force the enemy to retreat and then, if possible, engage them in battle with a superior army. Further, the state did not provide urban residents with a significant role in a siege, but rather sought to prevent them from aiding the enemy or becoming discontent. Civilians did not have the ability, since they lacked arms and training, to defend their city without help from the military. Edessenes followed this approach as well, which explains their actions in the various sieges of the sixth and early seventh centuries.
The first major siege of Edessa during this period occurred in 503 AD. Following the Sasanian invasion of Mesopotamia, Emperor Anastasius sent a substantial army to defend the region under the command of a general named Aereobindus. The Roman army tried to defend the frontier through a series of counter-offensives, but eventually withdrew. As Procopius related:
Aereobindus, when he ascertained that Cabades [Sasanid Emperor Kawad] was coming upon them with his whole army, abandoned his camp, and, in company with all his men turned to flight and retired on the run to Constantina. And the enemy . . . captured the camp without a man in it.248
Aereobindus’ withdrawal followed Romano-Byzantine defensive strategy perfectly – retreat to a fortified position when confronted with a superior enemy force. Kawad then
248 Procopius, The Persian War, 1.8.11, 65
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moved his army and besieged Edessa. Inside Edessa, however, were Aereobindus and his 12,000 man army.249 Pseudo-Joshua explained that Edessa did not surrender, after Kawad’s two short investments of the city in 503, because Christ protected the city.250 However, Kawad’s siege largely failed for two reasons, both of which followed Romano- Byzantine strategy. First, Aereobindus’ army was substantial in size and would have repulsed an assault on the city.251 Second, Anastaius, after receiving word of the Sasanian invasion and siege, dispatched a second army to relieve any sieges. Edessa was held – not because of Christ’s promise, since it fell to the Sasanians later – but because of a strong military presence.
The civilian Edessenes participated in the defense of the city, but only in an ad hoc manner, since they had no weapons or training. The women “carried water and took it outside the wall for the fighters to drink,” which was their tactical role. 252 A few villagers “went out against him [Kawad’s army] with slings and felled many of his mailed men.”253 Although slings were projectile weapons that the state nominally prohibited, villagers required them to defend their flocks from wild animals. The state, therefore, likely ignored their use. It is notable, however, that they only used these weapons. Finally, Pseudo-Joshua did not discuss Aereobindus, or any other Roman army official, providing civilians with weapons to fight the Sasanians. Civilians aided in the
249 He and his army had moved there from Tella-Constantine. For a summary of the events before, during, and after the siege of 503 see: Pseudo-Joshua., 75-82. 250 Supposedly, Christ wrote a letter to Adgar, the king of Edessa, saying that Edessa would never fall to the enemy. This idea was widespread, since the Sasanid allied Arab Lakhmid King Nu’man, discussed it as a reason not to besiege Edessa. For Nu’man’s knowledge and discussion with Kawad see: Ibid., 71. For the promise as it relates to the siege see: Ibid., 78.
251 For the size of his army see: Pseudo-Joshua., 65. For a longer explanation of why an assault would have failed see: Pseudo-Joshua.,78, n375. 252 Pseudo-Joshua., 78 253 Ibid., 80
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defense, but only a few of them and only with weapons that the state did not prohibit them from using.
The siege of 544 was longer and more difficult, since the Romans lacked a significant field army to relieve the city. Procopius’ account of this siege was detailed, although it did not mention the number of soldiers defending Edessa. The Sasanians besieged Edessa with a large army, since Emperor Khusrau I (r. 531-79) was present during the siege.254 The Edessenes again partially helped defend the city. Procopius noted this several times saying:
as the conflict advanced the city became full of confusion and tumult, and the whole population, even women and little children, were going up on the wall. Now those who were of military age together with the soldiers were repelling the enemy most vigorously.255
The Edessenes aided the defense because the Roman garrison had no intention of surrendering the city, as they had enough men to mount an adequate defense.256 Khusrau eventually withdrew, after failing to capture the city, and the Roman authorities paid him a tribute.257 Similar to the siege of 503, the Edessenes defended the city in 544 because a large Roman garrison would not surrender. Khusrau had no expectation of capturing the city, but instead sought to force the Romans to pay tribute. As Procopius noted, almost immediately after surrounding Edessa Khusrau had a vision and “decided to sell his withdrawal to the citizens of Edessa for a great sum of money.”258 The city held in 544
254 It would be unlikely that the Sasanian emperor would accompany anything other than a large army. For a full account of the siege see: Procopius, The Persian War, 2.26-7, 489-515. 255 Ibid., 2.27.32-5, 511 256 Procopius never provided a figure for the size of the Edessene garrison. However, there are short passages that reveal that the garrison was large. For example, Procopius wrote that the reason civilian Edessenes defended the wall was because the Sasanians “were great in numbers and fighting against a very small force, since most of the Romans had not heard what was going on.” Ibid., 2.27.31, 511
257 Ibid., 2.27.46, 515 258Ibid., 2.26.13-4, 493
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because of a strong military presence, but had to pay a tribute because the emperor did not dispatch a relief force.
Narses’ revolt and capture of Edessa in 603, and its subsequent re-capture by an army loyal to Phokas, occurred because the defenders in Edessa were inadequate to hold the city. Narses seized Edessa in 603 easily because he commanded the main army on the Sasanian frontier. A number of different sources related this event. One Syriac chronicle noted that “Narseh entered Edessa” while Theophanes wrote that “Narses, who was a Roman general, rose up against the usurper and seized Edessa.”259 What is clear was that Narses had no problem controlling Edessa. The few garrison soldiers in Edessa, if there were any, quickly surrendered. Phokas responded by dispatching armies from the Balkans and other areas loyal to him, which greatly outnumbered Narses and besieged Edessa.260
Narses experienced a considerable problem. Phokas’ loyal army greatly outnumbered his own and he had no hope of relief.261 Further, Phokas’ army commander, Domentziolos, promised Narses that he would not be severely punished if he surrendered, which greatly induced Narses to capitulate.262 It was possible that Narses retreated to Hierapolis as well, thereby negating any reason for soldiers in Edessa to continue his rebellion.263 Domentziolos then “pardoned the Edessenes for their share in
259 “Extracts from the Chronicles of AD 819 and AD 846,” trans. Andrew Palmer, The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chonicles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993), AG 912, 76; Theophanes, Theoph, AM 6095, 419. For a secondary source’s view of this see: Walter E. Kaegi, Byzantine Military Unrest: 471-843 (Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1981), 140-1.
260 For an approximation of the army’s numbers in the various provinces see: Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army, 284-1081, 59-64. 261 The Sasanian army under Khusrau, which according to Sebeos, had allied with Narses was currently besieging the vital border city of Dara. Thus, Khusrau could not relieve Narses. See for example: Sebeos 1, 58 or Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6096, 420.
262 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6097, 421 263 Theophanes believed that this occurred. Ibid., AM 6096, 420
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the rebellion” and returned Edessa to Byzantine rule.264 Thus, Narses’ rebellion failed because he had no outside support. Only the soldiers stationed around the Sasanian frontier revolted with him and, furthermore, many of them were in Dara attempting to hold the city against a Sasanian army. Domentziolos did pardon almost all the Edessenes, but the people in the city could hardly be expected to have fought off either Narses’ soldiers or Domentziolos’.265 Narses rebellion and the subsequent re-capture of Edessa followed Romano-Byzantine military strategy, rather than Edessene loyalty or disloyalty to the state for religious reasons.
Edessa finally fell to the Sasanians in 609 because a Byzantine army did not garrison Edessa and most other soldiers were involved in the civil war between Heraclius and Phokas. Sebeos’ account, the most lengthy, was as follows:
they besieged the city of Urha, and attacked it. But the [Edessenes], because of the multitude of the [Persian] troops and the victory in the engagements, and since they had no expectation of salvation from anywhere, parlayed for peace, and requested an oath that they would not destroy the city. Then, having opened the city gate, they submitted.266
Sebeos’ account explained perfectly the military situation in and around Edessa. The Sasanians had defeated all of the Byzantine armies on the eastern frontier, any other army was occupied in the civil war, and the city only had a small garrison. For the Edessene people and the Byzantine garrison, surrender was the only viable alternative. Edessa’s fall was almost an afterthought. The Sasanians already controlled the Mesopotamian frontier and the countryside around Edessa. Further, the Edessenes, even if they wanted
264 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 121 265 He did execute one prominent Edessene, Thomas Bardoyo. Pseudo-Dionysius was concerned with this family, since they were prominently mentioned several other times in his narrative. A member of this family provided a source for his history. For this see: Ibid. 266 Sebeos 1., 63. Several other sources briefly discussed the surrender of Edessa. See for example: Chron. Pasch., 149 or Edessa, “Fragment of the Charts of James of Edessa,” 38.
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to continue fighting, still lacked sufficient weapons or training to withstand a siege. During the previous two Sasanian sieges, in 503 and 544, the Edessenes helped defend the city, when a large Romano-Byzantine army was there as well. Ordinary Edessenes were not going to defend the city when they could not win.
The Muslims captured Edessa in 639 under similar circumstances to the Sasanians in 609.267 The Byzantine army was substantially reduced following its victory in the Persian war and did not expect a threat from Muslim Arab tribes in the south. The Byzantines defended the empire from the Muslim invasion, but their armies were completely destroyed at the battle of Yarmuk in 636.268 Following this devastating defeat, Heraclius ordered the withdrawal of most remaining Byzantine soldiers north of the Taurus mountains – the next geographically defensible position.269 Edessa likely had its normal garrison from 628-39. Heraclius did, however, set up his headquarters there before, during, and after the battle of Yarmuk – undoubtedly increasing the military contingent of the city.270 Once Heraclius withdrew he likely brought the garrison and all valuable military stores with him. His withdrawal, therefore, left Edessa less defended than in 609, since it now had few soldiers or weapons to withstand a siege.
Edessa, and the rest of Mesopotamia, did not surrender immediately following Heraclius’ withdrawal. Theophanes recorded that the governor of Osrhoene, John Kataias, collected 100,000 solidi as tribute for a one year truce. After the Muslims
267 I have already discussed the intervening Byzantine recapture of the city in 628 and the Jewish resistance above. As noted there, this followed similar military logic. 268 For the earliest primary source about the battle of Yarmuk see: “A Record of the Arab Conquest of Syria, AD 637,” 3-4. For a secondary source see for example Kaegi, Heraclius, 240-4.
269 For Heraclius’ actions after the defeat at Yarmuk see: Kaegi, Heraclius, 243-259. 270 Al-Tabari mentioned his withdrawal from Edessa. al-Tabari, The Battle of Al-Qadisiyyah and the Conquest of Syria and Palestine, trans. Yohanan Friedmann, The History of Al-Tabari, ed. Ehsan Yar- Shater, vol. 12, 38 vols. (Albany: State University of New York, 1992), 181. A sizable bodyguard or contingent of soldiers would accompany an emperor when he traveled.
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agreed to the tribute “John returned to Edessa and, having collected the annual tax, sent it to Iad.”271 Heraclius, however, refused to accept this agreement and dismissed John Kataias from his office and, once again, Edessa was left unprotected from Muslim armies.
Three types of sources discussed the fall of Edessa in 639 – Byzantine, Syriac/Armenian, and Muslim. Each provided a slightly different account, but all three noted that the Muslims captured Edessa peacefully. Theophanes’ account, the only Byzantine notice of Edessa’s fall, wrote “Iad crossed the Euphrates with his whole army and reached Edessa. The Edessenes opened their gates and were given terms, including their territory, their military commander, and the Romans who were with him.”272 Pseudo-Dionysius’ wrote:
when Ptolemy [John Kataias’ replacement as governor] refused to pay the tribute to the Arabs, they crossed over the Euphrates and made for Edessa. The Edessenes went out and secured assurances and a covenant . . . The Edessenes had also received an assurance with regard to Ptolemy and his Romans, so they returned to their country.273
Other Syriac chroniclers provided briefer descriptions of Edessa’s capture.274 Sebeos was unusually brief saying “on the other side of the river [they occupied] Urha and all the cities of Mesopotamia.”275
Al-Tabari’s account was similar and he repeated it several times. Initially he wrote that “the first man to cause the dogs of al-Ruha [Edessa] to bark and its fowls to be
271 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6128, 472 272 Ibid., AM 6130, 473 273 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 163 274 The Chronicle of Zunquin said only “Iyad entered Edessa.” “Extract from the Chronicle of Zunquin (AD 775),” AG 948, 57. Another chronicle said only “the first of their leaders to enter Edessa and Harran was Abu Badr.” “Extracts from the Chronicles of AD 819 and AD 846,” AG 947, 77 275 Sebeos 1., 98
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scared was Ziyad b. Hanzalah.”276 He repeated the same story later saying “Iyad marched on al-Jazirah [Mesopotamia] and descended with his troops on al-Ruha, whose inhabitants concluded a peace treaty with him on the condition that they pay the jizyah.”277 Al-Tabari repeated the story of Edessa from another different source a little later as well.278 A second Muslim account, al-Baladhuri, noted
Iyad advanced to ar-Ruha whose people gathered against and shot at the Moslems for an hour. The fighters made a sally, but the Moslems put them to flight and forced them to seek refuge in the city. No sooner had that taken place than they offered to capitulate and make peace.279
The Muslim sources accord with the Byzantine and Syriac chronicles. All the sources were, remarkably, in almost complete agreement and several
conclusions can be deduced. First, a military garrison remained in Edessa after Heraclius’ departure. This military contingent, however, was extremely small and, as al- Baladhuri wrote, resisted for a very brief time. Second, their resistance was a demonstration, rather than an actual defense, since the garrison wanted to lightly resist – otherwise the Muslims might have been tempted to sack the city if there was no resistance at all. Third, the Muslims allowed the Byzantine garrison to withdraw to the north. All of the sources differentiate between the Edessenes and the garrison, thereby confirming the difference between ordinary Edessenes and Byzantine soldiers.280 The soldiers attempted to resist, but were defeated and then sent north – while the Muslims left the Edessenes alone. Fourth, the Muslims refrained from imposing any harsh
276 i.e. the first Muslim to enter Edessa. al-Tabari, Battle of Al-Qadisiyyah., 181 277 al-Tabari, The Conquest of Iraq, Southwestern Persia, and Egypt, trans. Gautier H A Juynboll, The History of Al-Tabari, ed. Ehsan Yar-Shater, vol. 13, 38 vols. (Albany: State University of New York, 1989), 86 278 Ibid., 88 279 Ahmad ibn-Jabir al-Baladhuri, The Origins of the Islamic State, trans. Philip Khuri Hitti (New York: AMS Press, 1968), 272 280 Haldon discussed the differences between soldiers and civilians. He noted that they were in completely different social classes. Haldon, Warfare, State and Society, 256-7
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penalties on Edessa, but rather asked for tribute. This payment was little different than what the Edessenes might otherwise have paid to the Byzantine state in taxes. Finally, the Muslims applied Edessa’s surrender terms to many of the nearby Mesopotamian cities, demonstrating that cities in similar situations liked the terms.281 Edessa peacefully surrendered because, just as during the Sasanians capture in 609, the military garrison was small, the Edessenes could not defend the city, and the remnants of the Byzantine field armies had withdrawn.
The fortress city of Dara presented an important contrast to Edessa’s peaceful surrender. Anastasius built Dara at the conclusion of the Roman-Persian War of 502- 6.282 Its primary purpose was to be the significant military base closest to the Sasanian border. Therefore, the Romano-Byzantine state almost always defended it. Its capture in 573 had “plunged [Justin II] into a deranged state” because he realized its importance.283 A Syriac chronicle noted its capture and the subsequent Sasanian sack as well.284 A Byzantine military presence always garrisoned Dara, since it was a principal fortification.
Thus, even though no army could relieve Dara, it attempted to withstand a Muslim siege because it had a large number of soldiers. Theophanes wrote that “they [the Muslim forces] went on to Daras, which they also took by war and slew many people therein.”285 Pseudo-Dionysius noted this as well saying “next he [Iyad] went to Dara, assaulted it likewise, took it and killed every Roman in the city.”286 Pseudo-Dionysius’ account differentiated between the Byzantine garrison, all of whom were killed, and the
281 See for example: al-Baladhuri, The Origins of the Islamic State, 272 & 275 282 For the building of Dara in 506 see: Procopius, The Persian War, 1.10.13-8, 81-2. 283 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6066, 366 284 See: “Extract from a Chonicle Composed About AD 640,” trans. Andrew Palmer, The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chronicles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993), AG 884, 16 285 Theophanes, Theoph., AM 6130, 473 286 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 163
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civilian population, which survived its capture. Another Syriac source noted that a siege occurred, but “in the end they made an agreement and they conquered the city.”287 Finally, the two Muslim sources differed on its capture. Al-Tabari noted that “Sa’d himself moved with the remainder of the Muslim warriors to Dara and went against it until he conquered it.”288 Al-Baladhuri differed from all other sources and noted only that the Muslims peacefully captured Dara.289
All of the sources, with the exception of al-Baladhuri agree that some type of resistance occurred, but they are divided on the extent of Dara’s defense. If both extreme accounts are discounted, Theophanes’ story that many people were killed and al- Baladhuri’s chronicle that no one died, then the other sources mostly agree. The garrison must have known that aid would not arrive, yet chose, unlike the Edessene garrison, to resist. A number of unknown local factors could have influenced their refusal (e.g. a stubborn local commander), but the garrison followed Romano-Byzantine military strategy. Even if no help was forthcoming, the garrison was strong enough to resist an attack. Unlike Edessa, which the Romano-Byzantine state chose to defend when necessary, Dara was the key defensive fortress in Mesopotamia. It had the necessary weapons and garrison to withstand a siege, which it did both successfully and unsuccessfully throughout the sixth and early seventh centuries.
When the Romano-Byzantine military, with some help from the civilian Edessene population, defended the city resistance could succeed. The Romano-Byzantine state successfully defended Edessa in 503 and 544 because a large army garrisoned the city, while in 609 and 639 there was none. The defenders in 503 had hope of a strong relief
287 “Extract from the Chronicle of Zunquin (AD 775),” AG 952, 57 288 al-Tabari, The Conquest of Iraq,. 86 289 al-Baladhuri, The Origins of the Islamic State, 275
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force as well, which outside events made impossible in 609 and 639. Romano-Byzantine law and military strategy denied Edessene civilians the ability to help defend their city or rebel against Romano-Byzantine forces. These five case studies show why Edessenes fought or surrendered – Romano-Byzantine strategy depended upon large garrisons or armies to defend cities, not the populace. When there was neither sufficient weapons or training for the populace nor enough soldiers to defend the city, the people surrendered. The Edessenes might have had differing levels of support for the state, especially once they were predominantly Monophysite rather than Chalcedonian. Specific Edessenes might also have supported the Romano-Byzantine state, the Sasanians or the Muslims for various personal reasons. Nevertheless, the overwhelming factor in determining control of Edessa was the military prospect of successfully defending the city.
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7. Appendices A. The Demographic Effect of the Plague of 541-4
The plague which devastated the Near East starting in 541 caused a significant decrease in the overall Roman population. Several primary sources provided lengthy accounts of its devastating effect. Procopius began his account saying “during these times there was a pestilence, by which the whole human race came near to being annihilated.”290 His account provided a quasi-scientific examination of the plague, although he denied this.291 He described its effect as follows:
and when it came about that all the tombs which had existed previously were filled with the dead, then they dug up all the places about the city one after the other, laid the dead there, each one as he could, and departed; but later on those who were making these trenches, no longer able to keep up with the number of dying . . . filled practically all the towers with corpses, and then covered them again with their roofs.292
290 Procopius, The Persian War 2.22.1, 451 291 Ibid., 2.22.1-3, 451-3 292 Ibid. ,2.23.9-11, 467-9
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Pseudo-Dionysius’ account, derived completely from John of Ephesus, utilized biblical quotations and apocalyptic ideas. He concentrated on the devastation in Constantinople and provided allusions to the correct moral actions during this tumultuous period.293 Finally, he briefly alluded to the devastation in the eastern provinces as well, but did not provide references to a specific city.294
The plague devastated the empire. Procopius provided the only figure on the number of deaths, which he stated was fifty percent of the total population.295 Modern scholars have estimated that the plague killed close to one third of the Byzantine population, rather than half.296 The population in 540, directly before the plague, has been estimated at 26 million, while 25 years later – at Justinian’s death – it was approximately 19.5 million. This significant decrease in population occurred during Justinian’s re-conquest of the Italy, North Africa, and Spain. Thus, the plague devastated the empire, especially since the overall population in this period should have grown substantially with the addition of new territories.
The plague almost certainly had the same effect in Edessa, although the exact population cannot be determined. Nevertheless, this certainly caused a significant crisis in the city, since many of the farmers could no longer be depended upon to supply food to Edessa. Further, the second significant siege, in 544, occurred directly after the plague had finally began to slow. The defenders would have required fewer supplies to hold the city, since many of the urban residents were dead, but fewer civilians could help defend
293 For this lengthy account see: Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, 74-98 294 Ibid., 80 295 Procopius, The Secret History, trans. H.B. Dewing, Procopius in Seven Volumes, ed. H.B. Dewing, vol. 6, 7 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969), 18.44, 227. I have used this version rather than the other version here, since the translation is better here. 296 For population figures see: Treadgold, Byzantium and Its Army, 284-1081, 159-63.
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the city for the same reason. The plague had a devastating effect on Edessa and its effect on the demographics of the city cannot be overlooked.
B. Edessene Problems with Sasanid Rule
During the Sasanian occupation of Edessa, Khusrau became angered at the Edessenes for the populace’s animosity toward the Sasanid governor, Cyrus. Khusrau, in response, ordered a serious of punitive measures against the Edessenes – beginning with the seizure of valuables from the church and culminating with an order expelling all Edessenes. Despite Khusrau’s order, however, most Edessenes remained in the city. Further, the expulsion was an isolated – which had no significant long term effect on Edessene-Sasanian relations, since Sasanian rule ended shortly thereafter.
Khusrau initially ordered the Edessene churches stripped of all of their valuables, which were then sent to Persia. Khusrau ordered this “because of the enmity which had arisen between Cyrus, the governor of Edessa, and the people of the city.” Pseudo- Dionysius blamed this on “certain uncouth citizens who envied him denounced him with
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characteristic baseness to Chosroes [Khusrau].”297 Pseudo-Dionysius then detailed the exact weight and type of gold, silver, and other valuables taken from the Edessene churches.298
Michael the Syrian’s account of the same event is different. In his, the Edessenes accused Cyrus of various misdeeds, but Khusrau ignored them. Then the Edessenes pretended to favor Cyrus and “asked him to go to Chosroes [Khusrau] to petition him for a diminution of their tribute. This he did and he obtained the desired edict in their favour.”299 Instead of thanking Cyrus, the Edessenes sent their own emissaries to Khusrau to slander Cyrus again – but Cyrus intercepted them, told Khusrau the Edessenes were wealthy, and was ordered to take the valuables from the churches.300 The two accounts are similar in their overall theme – the Edessenes dislike Cyrus and Khusrau ordered Cyrus to take the church’s wealth. Michael the Syrian’s account, however, is more plausible. Michael the Syrian detailed the exact circumstances under which the Edessenes changed their opinion of Cyrus, while Pseudo-Dionysius did not. Nevertheless, the outcome was the same – the Sasanians removed the valuables from Edessene churches.
The second event during the Sasanian occupation was Khusrau’s order to expel all Edessenes. Pseudo-Dionysius provided this account:
Chosroes [Khusrau] commanded that the inhabitants of Edessa be deported to Persia. The letter he wrote to the governor in charge of Edessa urged him to act swiftly; but the governor, who was a mild and pleasant man of a humane disposition, decided not to have us deported all at once, but little by little, because
297 “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 133 298 Ibid., 133-4. Pseudo-Dionysius did not differentiate between Monophysite and Chalcedonian churches. 299 Ibid., 134, n303 300 Ibid.
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he expected a reprieve to come from the King. So he started to send them off street by street.301
Because of the governor’s kindness, therefore, only two streets of people were deported. Another source noted that later “as many of the Edessenes as had survived returned from [captivity].”302
Several conclusions can be deduced from this event. First, the governor strongly believed that Khusrau’s order was temporary.303 The Edessenes either greatly displeased Khusrau or he had ordered their expulsion without cause. In either case, expelling an entire city’s inhabitants was not a normal, or logical, response to problems with the populace. Second, this occurred toward the end of Sasanian occupation of Edessa. Pseudo-Dionysius provided the date as Heraclius’ eighteenth regnal year, which coincided with 628 – about the time of the Byzantine re-occupation.304 Further, Pseudo- Dionysius noted that few people had left when the Byzantines returned. This event, therefore, responded to an extreme provocation by the Edessene people for an unknown act, but, more importantly, it was a temporary measure.
These two events show that the Edessenes and the Sasanians could disagree. Both events significantly devastated the city – through either the loss of valuable religious objects or the expulsion of the population. Thus, the Edessenes did not always support
301 Ibid., 134 302 Edessa, “Fragment of the Charts of James of Edessa,” 40 303 The governor could have been Cyrus, but this is unclear. There are two explanations for this apparent contradiction in the Edessene reaction to the governor. Pseudo-Dionysius collected various works to write his chronicle and, therefore, one source might have disliked Cyrus, while another supported him. Second, the first line of these two events said “at this time,” while the precise date is only given before the expulsion. “At this time” is an extremely imprecise date, which means that Pseudo-Dionysius was unclear about the exact date. The nearest date before “at this time” is 622. Thus, Cyrus could have been governor in 622 and Khusrau ordered the new governor to expel the Edessenes in 628. Either explanation is possible. See: “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 129, 133-4. 304 n304 Palmer gaves the date as Heraclius’ 18th year. Ibid., 134. Palmer also discussed Pseudo-Dionysius dating in detail in Appendix 1. The Seventh Century in West-Syrian Chronicles, trans. Andrew Palmer (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1993), 255-6
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their Sasanian rulers. It is also clear, however, that the Edessenes could react strongly against either loss. They responded to an “oppressive” governor by dispatching enjoys to Khusrau, to accuse him of misdeeds. The Edessenes accepted their Sasanian rulers, whether they liked them more than their Byzantine rulers is impossible to know, and could not revolt. They still lacked both the weapons and training to successfully rebel. If anything could have caused a revolt it would have been the taking of over 100,000305 pounds of valuables or the expulsion of their fellow Edessenes. Instead, they remained acquiescent toward Sasanian rule.
C. Demographic Changes during the Sasanid and Muslim Captures of Edessa
The question arises whether any significant demographic changes occurred in Edessa during the Sasanian and Muslim conquests. No significant portion of the Edessene population returned to Byzantine territory during the Sasanian conquest. This likely occurred because the territory under Sasanian or Byzantine control was never solidified, but continually changed during military campaigns. Following the Muslim conquest, however, the two antagonists made a truce, thereby providing time for some people to move to areas under Byzantine control. Further, a large number of Christian Arabs attempted to flee to Anatolia. Most Edessenes, regardless of their religion or other affiliation with the Byzantine state, remained under Sasanian and, later, Muslim rule, since moving to Byzantine territory would have been difficult and costly.
305 Pseudo-Dionysius said 112,000 pounds, while Michael said 120,000 pounds. The exact amount is unimportant, but shows that an immense amount of wealth was taken. For Pseudo-Dionysius see: “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 134. For Michael the Syrian see: “The Secular History of Dionysius of Tel-Mahre,” 134 n303.
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The final Roman-Persian war from 604-628 occurred throughout Mesopotamia, Armenia, Palestine, Egypt, and Anatolia. Both empires continually had armies on campaign. The full extent of these campaigns engulfed many of the Byzantine provinces and made travel between areas in the east extremely difficult.306 There was never a truce and, therefore, travel was almost impossible. Some people might have left, but no source indicated this and an argument from silence cannot be trusted here. Thus, no significant demographic changes occurred following the Sasanian occupation of Edessa in 609.
Several small accounts exist about demographic changes following the Muslim capture of Edessa. However, they are short, lack specific numbers, and exist only in Muslim histories. Al-Tabri provided a story directly related to Edessa. He wrote that:
when Heraclius set out from al-Ruha and asked its inhabitants to follow him [back to Byzantine territory], they said: ‘We are better off here than with you,” and they refused to follow him and separated themselves both from him and from the Muslims.307
This account is significant for several reasons. First, most Edessenes did not follow Heraclius to Byzantine territory because they were satisfied in the city. Second, they purposefully did not ally with either the Byzantine or the Muslims, but rather remained neutral in the conflict. The Edessenes thus accepted either state, as they only sought to survive. The Edessenes did not have the ability to defend their city alone and intelligently allied with neither side, so that regardless of the conflict’s outcome neither antagonist would persecute them. This was the same role they always held, support for the state when adequate defenses existed to ensure victory, but neutrality when none did.
306 For a detailed account of the war see for example: Kaegi, Heraclius, 58-128. 307 al-Tabari, The Conquest of Iraq, 181
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The Muslims likely provided some of the Edessenes who remained in the city with the land and property of the few people who had fled, but the extent of this is unknown.308
Heraclius did take some civilians with him over the Taurus Mountains. Al- Baladhuri wrote that “it is said that when Heraclius left Antioch, he joined to himself the people of these towns, so that the Moslems might not be able to go between Antioch and the land of the Byzantines through a cultivated land.”309 Heraclius’ objective was to create a new frontier, in northern Syria and southern Anatolia, which would protect the remaining Byzantine provinces.310 His goal was not to help people loyal to the Byzantine state move north, but rather to protect remaining Byzantine territory. Although he probably would have allowed anyone who wished to travel north, move with him.311
Many of the Christian Arabs, however, refused to accept Muslim rule and fled to Byzantine territory. These Christian Arabs, who were Monophysites, present a contradiction to the belief that the Monophysites were disloyal to the Byzantine Empire. Al-Tabari noted that Umar wrote to the Byzantine emperor saying
‘It has come to my notice that a certain group of Arab tribesmen has left our territory and has sought residence in your territory; by God, if you do not drive them back, we will surely dissolve our covenants with the Christians living under
308 In Damascus al-Tabari noted that those who remained “were allowed to take over the area which their rulers had abandoned.” al-Tabari, Battle of Al-Qadisiyyag, 177. As noted above, however, the church property still remained in control of the Chalcedonians. 309 al-Baladhuri, The Origins of the Islamic State, 253. This was not in Mesopotamia, but rather northern Syria.
310 This policy worked extremely well and was fundamental in protecting Anatolia from conquest. This border existed between the two states, although it often shifted, until the beginning of the Byzantine re- conquests in the late 9th century. For the creation of this frontier see: Kaegi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests, 277-8. For a more positive view of Heraclius’ influence on Byzantine history and his ability to stabilize the state see: Kaegi, Heraclius., 311-317
311 Kaegi noted that “those who departed with the Byzantine armies from those provinces . . . have plausibly been assumed to include primarily individuals whose careers and prospects were closest connected with the Orthodox (Melkite) church and the Byzantine government, and possibly a few other ethnic Greeks and wealthy merchants and craftsmen.” Kaegi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests, 175. This is very logical, but the departure of these types of people from Edessa is not discusseded in primary sources. Therefore, it could, and likely did occur, but nothing specific is known.
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Arab sovereignty, and expel them.’ Hereupon the emperor of Byzantium expelled the Arabs who duly left Byzantine territory.312
Further, the Muslims sought to convert the Monophysite Arabs or, at least, prevent them from baptizing their children.313 The Muslims’ primary goal was to unify the remaining Arab tribes politically, as those outside of Muslim control could otherwise challenge them.314 The Monophysite Christians realized this outcome and fled to Byzantine territory, where they might continue to exercise some political autonomy. This attempt, however, failed and the Monophysite Arabs were sent back. Thus, the only significant group who wanted to continue living under Byzantine control was Monophysite Arabs, who did this for political reasons.
With the exception of the brief passage in al-Tabari, the sources did not discuss any demographic changes in Edessa. The few Edessenes who left had little effect on the economic situation in Edessa, since they comprised such a small percentage of the population.315 Three factors contributed to why the vast majority of Edessenes remained in the city. First, moving north would cost a substantial amount of money, both in traveling expenses and in the loss of immovable property. Second, Edessenes would lose any business and personal connections that they had created in Edessa and, therefore, be forced to start their lives completely anew – a dubious proposition for most people. Finally, the Muslim terms of surrender were relatively benevolent and Muslim rule did not significantly change the relationship most Edessenes had with their rulers. Edessenes
312 al-Tabari, The Conquest of Iraq., 89. For a summary of this see: Kaegi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests, 171-5 313 al-Tabari, The Conquest of Iraq, 90-2 314 Thanks to John Turner for providing me with this explanation of why the Muslims reacted so strongly against the Monophysite Arabs fleeing to Byzantine territory.
315 See: Kaegi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests, 175-6 87
instead surrendered the city, since they had nothing to gain by stubbornly resisting, and continued on with their lives, almost uninterrupted.
Conclusion
Religious changes significantly affected the relationship between the Edessenes and the Romano-Byzantine Empire. The Edessenes, especially the Monophysite Christians and Jews, experienced increasing problems with the Romano-Byzantine state. The empire’s religion, which formed a core of the late Roman and early Byzantine state, steadily diverged from that of most Edessenes. Edessenes, and other Monophysites in the eastern provinces, solved this problem by creating a separate ecclesiastical hierarchy – thereby attaining greater autonomy. This separation was successful during the last few decades before the Sasanian capture of Edessa. Thus, the two religious creeds existed independently. Notably, the last few decades before the Sasanian conquest were some of the most harmonious since the two creeds were completely separated. The Monophysites
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did not control the major urban churches, but they had accepted their separate hierarchy in the surrounding countryside. They were no longer so unhappy that they wished to undermine the state.
The Sasanians transformed this autonomous, but accommodating, relationship into a religious policy that supported only the Monophysites and expelled the Chalcedonian clergy. This was an important change from the previous status quo, as for twenty years only Monophysites could explicitly practice their creed. During this period an entire generation grew up and adjusted to this newly redefined status quo. Further, the disassociation with the Byzantine state created an acceptance of the Sasanians as their rulers.
The return of Byzantine rule undoubtedly surprised the Monophysite Edessenes, but did not anger them. The Sasanians had antagonized all Christian Edessenes, regardless of their creed, by stealing over 100,000 pounds of valuables from the church and deporting parts of the populace. The Edessenes Monophysites were, therefore, likely pleased that the Byzantines returned – since the deportations, which had just begun, immediately stopped. Heraclius did, however, return the principle urban churches to the Chalcedonians, which displeased the Monophysites. Despite the Edessene Monophysites discontent that the Chalcedonians had regained the principal churches, Heraclius attempted to find a compromise between the two creeds. Remarkably, the Monothelete doctrine followed Monophysite ideas more than Chalcedonian one – showing the lengths to which Heraclius would go for a compromise to succeed.
Thus, on the eve of the Muslim conquests the Edessene Monophysites were certainly displeased that the Chalcedonians held their churches. They definitely wanted
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to regain them and a significant portion of the population (i.e. those under 20) likely wanted a return to their status quo. However, several questions arise. Did the Monophysite Edessenes know enough about the Muslims to make them believe they would regain this power under new rulers? Did they expect to have more religious power than a Monothelete compromise gave them? And, finally, were affirmative answers to these questions a guarantee that they would actively support the Muslim conquests?
The evidence does not support affirmative answers to any of these questions. The Monophysite Edessenes did not have enough information to conclude that the Muslims would support their religious creed. In fact, their surprise and dismay that the Muslims kept the status quo of 639, i.e. the Chalcedonians retaining all major urban churches, shows that Monophysites would have been wrong to support the Muslims. The Muslims later supported the Monophysites in religious disputes, but at the time of the city’s capture in 639 the Muslims were neutral.
The division between Monophysites and Chalcedonians was important, but at the two key moments, in 609 and 639, both sides had accepted their respective position in the city. The Monophysites had no reason to support the invaders openly, as they had solved many of the irproblems with the Chalcedonians. It is possible that if the Sasanians had not invaded, then life in Edessa would have continued as it had for the last few decades of the sixth century – with each creed having its own hierarchy. Similarly, given time, Heraclius’ Monothelete formula might have succeeded. These hypothetical situations are, however, largely useless, with one exception. It does show that both the Monophysites and the Chalcedonians had accepted their situation in Edessa. Even though the Monophysites had gained predominance for twenty years, they did not seek to
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undermine Byzantine rule. The Monophysites had accepted their reduced status and the Chalcedonian Byzantine Empire later attempted to compromise in their favor. During the Sasanian and Muslim conquests, the religious controversy in Edessa aggravated the Edessene Monophysites, but it was not a reason to undermine the Byzantine state in favor of new rulers, whom they either feared or about whom they knew almost nothing.
The Jews in Edessa underwent significant, and lasting, changes as well. Internal and external factors definitively transformed the relationship between the increasingly Christian Romano-Byzantine Empire and its Jewish subjects. The state ceased to trust its Jews. The relationship between the two religions, which the state had formalized in the preceding centuries, began to disintegrate until the Jews were increasingly an unprotected socio-religious class.
The Sasanian capture of Edessa transformed the Jewish relationship with their rulers, since they attained equal religious status. Twenty years of Sasanian rule benefited the Jews far more than the Monophysites and, furthermore, the Sasanians did not confiscate Jewish valuables from their synagogues. The Sasanian-Jewish attempt to defend the city in 628 exemplified the Jews’ negative view of the return of the Romano- Byzantine state. Whereas the Monophysites lost urban churches but retained their position in the countryside, the Jews faced the prospect of returning to their severely reduced social status. They engaged in a cost-benefit analysis and concluded that helping the Sasanian garrison would gain them the most. Heraclius did not persecute them for their support of the Sasanian garrison, but it is unlikely that the Jews believed that they would emerge unharmed after supporting the Sasanians. The Jews benefited from
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Heraclius’ clemency policy – one which they could not have foreseen. It is not surprising, therefore, that they supported continued Sasanian control of Edessa.
Heraclius did pardon the Jews after their attempt to defend the city, but only because he sought a return to the status quo ante bellum. Once Heraclius changed this goal and sought to create a religiously unified empire, the Jews were again at risk. The state now compelled them to convert to Christianity or face expulsion, although local officials did not enforce the edict and, therefore, its effects were limited. This might have made Jews undermine the state during the Muslim invasions and, therefore, Jews were in a position, because of their discontent over their lost equal status, to support the Muslim invasions.
However, they did not. Once again the reasons were similar to the Monophysites. The Jews did not know enough about the Muslims to understand what their policy would be toward the Jews. Further, the Jews, as in 609, comprised a small percentage of the population and, therefore, a revolt in support of the Muslims would not have succeeded. Edessene Jews, who least favored the Romano-Byzantine Empire, did not explicitly support the foreign capture of Edessa because they could not determine how the new rulers would treat them.
The unknown quantity of the Sasanian and Muslim invaders coupled with the material inability of the Edessenes to revolt successfully forced Edessa’s populace to wait for the states, and their respective militaries, to decide the city’s fate. Monophysite and Jewish Edessenes had no incentive to participate actively in either supporting or not supporting the Romano-Byzantine Empire. The state heavily defended Edessa during the sieges in 503 and 544 and, therefore, undermining the garrison would, almost certainly,
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have led to a mass slaughter. If they had vigorously supported either the Romano- Byzantine Empire or the Sasanian/Muslim invaders, the Edessenes would have been susceptible to reprisals if they had lost.
The Edessenes could not predict how the new invaders would treat them and, therefore, declined to become involved in supporting or undermining the state. This was especially true because the Edessenes had no other options – since they had neither tge weapons nor the training to defend the city. Any Edessene response, therefore, would have required a citywide uprising, which was unlikely and, given the significant religious divisions over these issues, practically impossible. The Edessenes chose the practical response. They quietly waited and accepted the final outcome of events that they could not control.
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