By Richard E. Payne
Christian groups flourished in the course of overdue antiquity in a Zoroastrian political approach, referred to as the Iranian Empire, that built-in culturally and geographically disparate territories from Arabia to Afghanistan into its associations and networks. while prior experiences have appeared Christians as marginal, insular, and infrequently persecuted contributors during this empire, Richard Payne demonstrates their integration into elite networks, adoption of Iranian political practices and imaginaries, and participation in imperial associations. the increase of Christianity in Iran trusted the Zoroastrian concept and perform of hierarchical, differentiated inclusion, in response to which Christians, Jews, and others occupied valid areas in Iranian political tradition in positions subordinate to the imperial faith. Christians, for his or her half, situated themselves in a political tradition no longer in their personal making, with recourse to their very own ideological and institutional assets, starting from the writing of saints’ lives to the judicial arbitration of bishops. In putting the social background of East Syrian Christians on the heart of the Iranian imperial tale, A nation of mix is helping clarify the persistence of a culturally diversified empire throughout 4 centuries.
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Extra resources for A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity (Transformation of the Classical Heritage, Volume 56)
The contemporaneous development of Christian and Zoroastrian institutions under the Sasanians precipitated the mixing of cultures rather than their insulation from one another. It is against the backdrop of such institutional complexity that the sometimes strident voices of Christian and Zoroastrian authors insisting on the superiority of their respective religious identities should be heard. C H R I ST IA N A N D Z O R OA ST R IA N TEXTS AND THEIR CONTEXTS The study of Iranian society in late antiquity requires engagement with literatures of a highly sectarian nature.
27 What the diffusion of bishoprics and churches reveals is the success of East Syrian secular and ecclesiastical leaders at acquiring wealth, forming relationships with imperial authorities, and establishing religious institutions that transmitted their sources of economic and political capital across generations. 29 Iran’s campaigns into Roman territory in the third and fourth centuries also inadvertently enlarged the Christian population of the empire. 31 The notion that Christianity expanded at the expense of Zoroastrianism is, on this account, unsubstantiated, as well as implausible in the context of Iranian political culture.
What follows questions whether Zoroastrian religious authorities were inherently persecutory, beginning with the most articulate member of their ranks. At first glance, Kerdir’s inscription seems to lump together “the doctrine of Ahreman,” idolatry, and the deviant religions as equivalently evil institutions that Zoroastrians should work to eliminate. Closer inspection, however, suggests important distinctions among these institutions that could have provided a basis for preserving certain religious groups within a Zoroastrian empire.