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Sunday, November 4, 2018

Who were the Suryōyē/ Suryāyē (Syrians)?

SOAA 00250
Mōr Dīonysīus Tēlmāharōyō (Dionysius of Tēl-Mahrē), Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church (ca. 818-845 CE) informs us "Therefore we can conclude that those west of the Euphrates are the real Suryōyē (lit. Syrians)." [1] Those Syrians living east of the Euphrates are Syrians only in a metaphorical sense, he says, as they also speak the “Syriac language, that is the Aramaic language." What are the implications here for the definition of the Syrians as an ethnos, a 'ạmmā (lit. people)? Should a Syrian identity have been defined, it was not one based on civic or political grounds, as we have seen, rather through the use of a common language— Syriac. By extension, Sūryā (lit. Syria) would be the symbolic homeland of the Syriac language and its speakers, irrespective of their ethnic-origin.

Mōr Mikha'il Rabo (Michael the Great) stresses that the territorial boundary of Syria was geographically situated to the west of the Euphrates river and that the name Syrians was employed within a metaphorical sense to those “who speak our language, the Ōrōmōyē (lit. Arameans), of which the Syrians are only one part.” In the heading of Appendix II, Mōr Mikha'il states "Aramean people, that is, sons of Aram, who are called Syrians, that is people from Syria (i.e. west of the Euphrates)."  [2] The celebrated author and Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church (ca. 1166-1199) goes on to distinguish that the Ōthurōyē (lit. Assyrians) who were also known as Syrians lived “east of the Euphrates, that is from the banks of the Euphrates all the way to Persia” (see SOAA 00250). [3] These Assyrians, as Mōr Mikha'il explains were those from Aššur who founded the city of Nineveh. [4] For Mōr Mikha'il, both the Arameans and Assyrians were Syrians, that is speakers of Syriac. The former (Arameans), nonetheless, were the real Syrians whereas the latter (Assyrians) were Syrians in a metaphorical sense.

With respect to the historic origin and usage of the name Syrian, just like Yaqūb d-Urhōy (Jacob of Edessa) and Mōr Dīonysīus— Mōr Mikha'il stresses that it was the Greeks of antiquity who designated the Arameans and Assyrians by that name. Furthermore, Mōr Mikha'il evidentially demonstrates that the Arameans formed, as he says, “only one part” of the Syrians. These statements suggest that the exonym Syrian held linguistic implications and was employed by a multi-ethnic population who were not all necessarily ethnic Arameans. This can be attested due to the obvious existence of various Syriac-speaking ethnic groups (i.e. Greek Orthodox Christians) who also linguistically designated themselves as Syrians.

BnF 4956, Fol. 10v
By contrast, the Arameans were distinct from the Assyrians in pre-Hellenistic times. The Greeks, nonetheless, complicated this distinction. Since Arameans and Assyrians by Achaemenid Persian rule are considered to have spoken the same language, Greeks increasingly categorised them as one and the same— Syrians. The fifth-century BCE Greek historian Herodotus explains "this people, whom the Greeks call Syrians (in reference to those east of the Euphrates), are called Assyrians by the barbarians (non-Greeks)." (see. Herodoti, Halicarn Assei Historiarum) [5] To complicate these distinctions, Herodotus furthermore informs us that "the Cappadocians are called by the Greeks Syrians." [6] Strabo, citing Posidonius of Apameia (mod. Hama Governorate, Syria.) stated that "the people we Greeks call Syrians (in reference to those west of the Euphrates) were called by the Syrians themselves Arameans." [7] Greeks thereby often defined Arameans and Assyrians to constitute the same society that inhabited a vast landscape. In the fourth-century CE, Latin historian Marcus Junianus Justinus (see. BnF 4956, Fol. 10v) noted "the Assyrians, who were afterwards called Syrians, held their empire thirteen-hundred years." [8] The Seleucids ruled the Syrians as an individual subject population, whether the Greeks called it Aramean or Assyrian. Even as the Seleucids treated Syrians as the "indigenous" population, the premise that Syrians were in fact ethnic Arameans and Assyrians persisted. Remarkably, citizens residing within the Greek cities of Syria or Phoenicia assumed identifications as Greeks and Syrians. [9]
Herodoti, Halicarn Assei Historiarum Lib. IX Editio Secunda
(Excudebat Henricus Stephanus, 1592), 463.

[1] The Chronicle by Mōr Dīonysīus Tēlmāharōyō (Dionysius of Tēl-Mahrē) is lost. See Jean-Baptiste Chabot, Anonymi Auctoris chronicon ad annum Christi 1234 pertinens 1 (CSCO, 81, 109, Syr. 36, 56; Paris, 1916, Leuven, 1937), ed. pp. 112-114; trans. pp.88-90; Chabot, Chronique, ed. Vol. 4, pp. 522-524, trans. Vol. 3, pp. 76-78, where similar excerpts of this passage of his work are extant. Bas ter Haar Romeny, Religious Origins of Nations? The Christian Communities of the Middle East (Boston: BRILL, 2010), 121.
[2] Ibid. 119.
[3] J.-B. Chabot, Chronique de Michael Le Syrien Patriarchae Jacobite D'Antioche (1166-1199) (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1899).
[4] Jean-Baptiste Chabot, De Michel Le Syrien, Patriarche Jacobite D'Antioche (1166-1199) Ed. 3 (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1905), 443.
[5] George Rawlinson, The History of Herodotus (London: John Murray, 1862), 51.
[6] Gabriel Herman et al., Greeks between East and West: essays in Greek literature and history in memory of David Asheri (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 2007), 192.
[7] I.G. Kidd, Posidonius: Volume III, The Translation of the Fragments (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972-1999), 356.
[8] John Selby Watson, Justin, Cornelius Nepos and Eutropius: Literally Translated, with Notes and a General Index (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853), 5.
[9] see. Nathanael J. Andrade, Syrian Identity in the Greco-Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

Monday, October 8, 2018

Who were the ‘Arameans’ of Bēth-Aramāyē?

Copyright © 2018, The Making of Arameans.
Bēth-Armāyē (lit. Land of the Pagans) or Bēth-Aramāyē (lit. Land of the Arameans) is attested in several East-Syriac literary works such as the Acts of Mār Mārī and corresponds to a region geographically situated in southern Mesopotamia.[1] In the so-called ‘Nestorian’ Arabic version of the Chronicle of S'irt (mod. Siirt, Turkey.) this geographical territory is referred to as Balad al-Nabaṭ (lit. Country of the Nabateans) and its inhabitants as Nabaṭ al-Irāq (lit. Nabateans of Iraq).[2] It is noteworthy that to the west of the Euphrates, flourished another community known as Nabaṭ al-Shām (lit. Nabateans of Syria). Collectively, this Nabatean population was referred to as al-Arāmiyyūn (lit. the Arameans). The nomenclature held no ethnic implications whatsoever and was employed within a linguistic sense referring to an ethnic Nabatean populace whom employed the Aramaic-script and practised paganism. This community experienced a process of Christianisation due to the evangelistic efforts of various early Church fathers. Furthermore, the Chronicle of Sīrt informs us: "at that time (fifth-century CE) there was no other monastery in the land of the Nabateans […] He (Rabban Mar 'Abdā) travelled the country incessantly, baptizing Aramaeans (Nabateans)." [3] In light of the fact that the language of Nabatean inscriptions is Aramaic, the first scholars to study them assumed that the Nabateans were of Aramean origin. Then, in 1863, German orientalist Theodor Nöldeke analyzed  the names that had been excavated and, on the basis of the various recognizable Arabisms, concluded that the Nabateans were of Arabian origin.[4] Significantly, one of the earliest historical attestation of the Nabateans occurs in the Library of History composed by Diodorus Siculus (first-century BCE). Diodorus informs us the “Arabs who are called Nabataeans” wrote in “Aramaic characters.” [5]

In the Hidden Pearl, Dr. Sebastian Brock informs us “Although the term "Aramean" originally referred to an ethnic grouping, in due course it often lost that sense, and instead took on the designation of "a speaker of Aramaic." Thus, for example, under the Achaemenid Empire, the members of the Aramaic-speaking Jewish community in southern Egypt are sometimes described as "Aramaeans", that is, speakers of Aramaic." Moving on in time, we find that in Jewish texts of the early centuries BCE and CE the term "Aramaean" takes on yet a third sense, of "non-Jew, Gentile." [6] Josef Waleed Meri, an expert specialising in interfaith relations of the Middle East corroborates Dr. Brock's statement in his work Medieval Islamic Civilization. Meri informs us "In both Jewish Aramaic and Christian Syriac sources, "Aramaean" also took on a new meaning of "Gentile, pagan." In later vocalized texts in both languages, a distinction is made between Aramāyē (Aramaeans) and Armāyē (Gentiles, pagans)." [7] Thus, in the vocalized text of the Peshitta New Testament, Timothy's father and Titus are described as Armāyē, not Greeks (Acts 16:1, 3, Gal 2:3), and several times in the Acts and Epistles Jews and Armāyē, 'Gentiles,' are contrasted. In Luke 4:27 Naaman is described as an Armāyā, that is 'Gentile, pagan.' Later authors are aware of the ambiguity of the term 'Aramean.' Hence Mōr Ephrem speaks of Laban the ܚܢܦܐ, the pagan, instead of Laban the Aramean (Comm.Gen.XXVII.3). [8]

[1] Amir Harrak, The Acts of Mār Mārī the Apostle (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005), 41.
[2] Anthony Alcock, Chronicle of Séert, retrieved 9 October 2018, <https://suciualin.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/chronicle-of-sc3a9ert-ii.pdf>
[3] Ibid. 53
[4] Th. Nöldeke, “Zu den Nabatāischen Inschriften,” ZMDG 17 (1863), 703-708; and 25 (1871), 122ff. See also idem, in the appendix to J. Euting, Nabatāische Inschriften, pp. 73-80.
[5] Diodorus Siculus, Library of History Book XIX, continued, retrieved 9 October 2018, <http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Diodorus_Siculus/19E*.html>
[6] Sebastian P. Brock, The Hidden Pearl: The Ancient Aramaic Heritage (Rome: Trans World Film Italia (Firm), 2001), 10.
[7] Josef W. Meri, Medieval Islamic Civilization: An Encyclopedia Volume 1 A-K Index (New York: Routledge, 2006), 60.
[8] E. Grypeou & H. Spurling, The Exegetical Encounter between Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity (BRILL, 2009), 207.

Further Reading:
[1] http://krc.orient.ox.ac.uk/ociana/index.php/home/155-english/home/aramaic-scripts-of-north-arabia/355-the-aramaic-scripts-of-north-arabia