A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian by Richard E. Payne

By Richard E. Payne

Christian groups flourished in the course of overdue antiquity in a Zoroastrian political procedure, often called the Iranian Empire, that built-in culturally and geographically disparate territories from Arabia to Afghanistan into its associations and networks. while past experiences have seemed 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 accordance with 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 now not 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 heritage of East Syrian Christians on the heart of the Iranian imperial tale, A country of blend is helping clarify the patience of a culturally various 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)

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Introduction 19 Hagiographers were the anonymous architects of Christian communities in Iran. To speak of authors as undertaking constructive work is to evoke a generation of scholarship on religion and society in late antiquity. The argument that holy men played crucial roles in the transformation of late Roman society helped to rejuvenate the field. 59 Scholars have turned from extracting historical details from hagiographical texts toward analyzing their narrative structures, signs, symbols, and, in a word, discourses, with the goal of uncovering the shifting self-understandings and self-representations of Christian communities.

69 Their accounts of the Iranian court and its relations with outside powers are the main sources available, alongside the Roman and Armenian historiographical traditions, for the reconstruction of the political history of the Sasanian period. Research has therefore centered on untangling the various strands of narrative with which the authors of the early Islamic period constructed their accounts, in pursuit of the original Xwadāy-nāmag. 70 But the contradictions of accounts purporting to have been drawn from the Xwadāy-nāmag should not be discounted as mere interpolations.

This aspect of the historiographical traditions—as sources of political self-representation and legitimacy—is of greatest interest for this book’s study of the court’s negotiation of religious difference. The religious literatures produced in the Iranian Empire should therefore be interpreted in the context of their corresponding institutions. Hagiographers composed accounts of martyrs primarily as transcripts to be narrated in the course of the annual commemorations that gathered Christians at sacred sites.

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