Osroene or Osrhoene (/ɒzˈrn/; Greek: Ὀσροηνή) was an ancient region and state in Upper Mesopotamia.[4] The Kingdom of Osroene, also known as the "Kingdom of Edessa" (Classical Syriac: ܡܠܟܘܬܐ ܕܒܝܬ ܐܘܪܗܝ / "Kingdom of Urhay"), according to the name of its capital city (now Şanlıurfa, Turkey), existed from the 2nd century BC, up to the 3rd century AD, and was ruled by the Abgarid dynasty.[5][6][7][8][1][9] Generally allied with the Parthians,[1][10] the Kingdom of Osroene enjoyed semi-autonomy to complete independence from the years of 132 BC to AD 214. Though ruled by a dynasty of Arab origin, the kingdom's population was of mixed culture, being Syriac-speaking[a] from the earliest times.[11] The city's cultural setting was fundamentally Syriac, alongside strong Greek and Parthian influences, though some Arab cults were also attested at Edessa.[10][12][13]

ܡܠܟܘܬܐ ܕܒܝܬ ܐܘܪܗܝ
132 BC–AD 214[1]
Map includes Osroene as a tributary kingdom of the Armenian Empire under Tigranes the Great
Map includes Osroene as a tributary kingdom of the Armenian Empire under Tigranes the Great
StatusKingdom, vassal state, province
(modern-day Şanlıurfa, Turkey)
Common languagesAramaic (official)
Koine Greek
Christianity c. 200 AD (State religion)[2][3]
Historical eraHellenistic Age
• Established
132 BC
• Disestablished
AD 214[1]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Seleucid Empire
Osroene (Roman province)

The ruling Abgarid dynasty was deposed by the Romans during the reign of Roman Emperor Caracalla (r.211–217), probably in 214 or 216, and Osroene was incorporated as a province,[1] but it was briefly reestablished during the reign of Roman emperor Gordianus III (238-244). Christianity came early to Osroene. From 318, Osroene was a part of the Diocese of the East. By the 5th century, Edessa had become a main center of Syriac literature and learning. In 608, the Sasanian emperor, Khosrow II (r.590–628), took Osroene. It was briefly reconquered by the Byzantines, but in 638 it fell to the Arabs as part of the Muslim conquests.

Background and context edit

Roman dependencies, including of Osroene (as of 31 BC)
Anatolia in the early 1st century AD with Osroëne as a client state of the Parthian Empire
Kingdom of Osroene (gray shade) and the surrounding regions during the 1st century AD

Osroene, or Edessa, was one of several states that acquired independence from the collapsing Seleucid Empire through a dynasty of the nomadic Nabataean Arab tribe from Southern Canaan and North Arabia, the Osrhoeni, from 136 BC. Osroene's name either derives from the name of this tribe, or from Orhay (Urhay), the original Aramaic name of Edessa.[14] Arab influence had been strong in the region.[10]

Osroene endured for four centuries, with twenty-eight rulers occasionally named "king" on their coins. Most of the kings of Osroene were called Abgar or Manu and settled in urban centers.[15]

Osroene was generally allied with the Parthian Empire.[1][10] After a period under the rule of the Parthian Empire, it was absorbed into the Roman Empire in 114 as a semiautonomous vassal state, and incorporated as a simple Roman province in 214. There is an apocryphal legend that Osroene was the first state to have accepted Christianity as state religion,[16][17] but there is not enough evidence to support that claim.[18][19][20]

Population and culture edit

Ancient mosaic from Edessa (2nd century AD) with inscriptions in the Aramaic language

Though most of Osroene's rulers were from the Abgarid dynasty of Arab origin, the kingdom's population was of mixed culture, being Syriac-speaking from the earliest times.[11] Though Arab cults were attested at Edessa (the twins Monimos and Azizos), its cultural setting was fundamentally Syriac, alongside strong Greek and Parthian influences.[10][12][13] Thus, according to Maurice Sartre: "It would hence be absurd to regard Edessa as solely an Arab city, for its culture owed very little to the nomadic Arabs of the region".[12] Later, within the Roman Empire, Edessa was the most important center of Syriac Christianity.[21] Under the Nabataean dynasties, Osroëne became increasingly influenced by Syriac Christianity,[22] and was a centre of local reaction against Hellenism.

In his writings, Pliny the Elder refers to the natives of Osroene and Commagene as Arabs and the region as Arabia.[23] Abgar II is called "an Arab phylarch" by Plutarch,[24] while Abgar V is described as "king of the Arabs" by Tacitus.[25]

The Edessene onomastic contains many Arabic names.[26] The most common one in the ruling dynasty of Edessa being Abgar, a well-attested name among Arabic groups of antiquity.[27] Some members of the dynasty bore Iranian names, while others had Arabic names.[1] Judah Segal notes that the names ending in "-u" are "undoubtedly Nabatean".[1] The Abgarid dynasts spoke "a form of Aramaic".[1]

It was in the region in which the legend of Abgar V originated.

In Roman sources edit

The area of the kingdom was perhaps roughly coterminous with that of the Roman province of Osrhoene. The great loop of the Euphrates was a natural frontier to the north and west. In the south Batnae was capital of the semi-autonomous principality of Anthemusias until its annexation by Rome, in AD 115. The eastern boundary is uncertain; it may have extended to Nisibis or even to Adiabene in the first century AD. Ḥarrān, however, only 40 km south of Edessa, always maintained its independent status as a Roman colonia.[1]

Edessa, the capital of the ancient kingdom, was a fortress of considerable strength and a staging post both large and nearest to the Euphrates. It was an important road junction; an ancient highway, along which caravans carried merchandise from China and India to the West, meeting there a north–south road connecting the Armenian Highlands with Antioch. Inevitably, Edessa figured prominently on the international stage.[1]

In 64 BC, as Pompey waged war on the Parthian Empire, Abgar II of Osrhoene had sided with the Romans when Lucius Afranius occupied Upper Mesopotamia. The king was initially an ally of the Roman general Marcus Licinius Crassus in his campaign against the Parthians in 53 BC, but Roman historians allege that he betrayed Crassus by leading him to deviate from his safe route along the river and instead into an open desert, where the troops suffered from the barrenness and thus were vulnerable to cavalry attack. Abgar is said to have met with Surenas, the Parthian general, and informed him of the Roman movements. The enormous and infamous Battle of Carrhae followed and destroyed the entire Roman army. Just prior to the battle, Abgar made a pretext to ride away. However, modern historians have questioned whether Abgar intended to betray the Romans and instead may have simply been leading them along an old Arab trade route.[28] According to a Syriac source, Abgar died later that year.[1]

In the early 2nd century AD, King Abgar VII joined the Emperor Trajan's campaign into Mesopotamia and entertained him at court. The king later rebelled against the Romans, however, which led to the Roman general Lucius Quietus sacking Edessa and putting an end to Osrhoene's independence in 116. In 123, during the reign of Hadrian, the Abgarid dynasty was restored with the installation of Ma'nu VII, and Osroene was established as a client kingdom of the Empire.[29] After the Roman–Parthian War of 161–166 under Marcus Aurelius, forts were built and a Roman garrison was stationed in Nisibis. In 195, following a civil war in which the kingdom had supported his rival Pescennius Niger, Septimius Severus mounted an invasion and annexed the territory as a new province, making Nisibis the capital.[30] However, the emperor did allow the king, Abgar XI, to retain the city of Edessa and a small territory surrounding it.[31] In 213, the reigning king was deposed by Caracalla, and the remaining territory was incorporated into the Roman province of Osroene.[32]

According to legends (without historical justification), by 201 AD or earlier, under King Abgar the Great, Osroene became the first Christian state.[33][34] It is believed that the Gospel of Thomas emanated from Edessa around 140. Prominent early Christian figures have lived in and emerged from the region such as Tatian the Assyrian, who came to Edessa from Hadiab (Adiabene). He made a trip to Rome and returned to Edessa around 172–173. Tatian was the editor of the Diatessaron, which was the primary sacred text of Syriac-speaking Christianity until in the 5th century the bishops Rabbula and Theodoret suppressed it and substituted a revision of the Old Syriac Canonical Gospels (as in the Syriac Sinaiticus and Curetonian Gospels).[35]

Then, Edessa was again brought under Roman control by Decius and it was made a center of Roman operations against the Sasanian Empire. Amru, possibly a descendant of Abgar, is mentioned as king in the Paikuli inscription, recording the victory of Narseh in the Sassanid civil war of 293. Historians identify that Amru as Amru ibn Adi, the fourth king of the Lakhmids, which was then still based in Harran, not yet moved to al-Hirah in southern Mesopotamia.[36]

Many centuries later, Dagalaiphus and Secundinus duke of Osrhoene, accompanied Julian in his war against the Sasanian emperor, Shapur II, in the 4th century.[37]

Roman province edit

Roman province of Osroene, highlighted within the Roman Empire
Map showing the Eastern Roman provinces, including Osroene, in the 5th century

The independence of the state ended probably in c. 214; during Caracalla's reign the monarchy was abolished by the Roman Empire and Osroene was incorporated it as a province (colonia).[1] It was a frontier province, lying close to the Persian empires with which the Romans were repeatedly at war, and was taken and retaken several times. As it was on the frontier it had a Roman legion stationed there. Legio III Parthica and its Castrum (homebase) may have been Rhesaina, but that is uncertain.

Following Emperor Diocletian's tetrarchy reform during his reign (284-305), it was part of the diocese of the East, in the praetorian prefecture of the same name.

According to the late-4th-century Notitia Dignitatum, it was headed by a governor of the rank of praeses, and it was also the seat of the dux Mesopotamiae, who ranked as vir illustris and commanded (c. 400) the following army units:

  • Equites Dalmatae Illyriciani, garrisoned at Ganaba.
  • Equites Promoti Illyriciani, Callinicum.
  • Equites Mauri Illyriciani, Dabana.
  • Equites Promoti indigenae, Banasam
  • Equites Promoti indigenae, Sina Iudaeorum.
  • Equites Sagittarii indigenae, Oraba.
  • Equites Sagittarii indigenae, Thillazamana.
  • Equites Sagittarii indigenae Medianenses, Mediana.
  • Equites Primi Osrhoeni, Rasin.
  • Praefectus legionis quartae Parthicae, Circesium.
  • (an illegible command, possibly Legio III Parthica), Apatna.

as well as, 'on the minor roll', apparently auxiliaries:

  • Ala Septima Valeria Praelectorum, Thillacama.
  • Ala Prima Victoriae, Tovia -contra Bintha.
  • Ala Secunda Paflagonum, Thillafica.
  • Ala Prima Parthorum, Resaia.
  • Ala Prima nova Diocletiana, inter Thannurin et Horobam.
  • Cohors Prima Gaetulorum, Thillaamana.
  • Cohors Prima Eufratensis, Maratha.
  • Ala Prima Salutaria, Duodecimo constituta.

According to Sozomen's Ecclesiastical History, "there were some very learned men who formerly flourished in Osroene, as for instance Bardaisan, who devised a heresy designated by his name, and his son Harmonius. It is related that this latter was deeply versed in Grecian erudition, and was the first to subdue his native tongue to meters and musical laws; these verses he delivered to the choirs" and that Arianism, a more successful heresy, met with opposition there.

Rulers edit

Coin of king Abgar, who ruled in Osroene during the reign of Roman emperor Septimius Severus (193-211)
Coin of king Abgar, who ruled in Osroene during the reign of Roman emperor Gordianus III (238-244)
Kings of Edessa/Osroene
King Reign Comments
Aryu 132–127 BC
Abdu, son of Maz'ur 127–120 BC
Fradasht, son of Gebar'u 120–115 BC
Bakru I, son of Fradasht 115–112 BC
Bakru II, son of Bakru 112–94 BC Ruled alone
Bakru II and Ma'nu I 94 BC Ruled together
Bakru II and Abgar I Piqa 94–92 BC Ruled together
Abgar I 92–68 BC Ruled alone
Abgar II, son of Abgar I 68–53 BC
Interregnum 53–52 BC
Ma'nu II 52–34 BC
Paqor 34–29 BC
Abgar III 29–26 BC
Abgar IV Sumaqa 26–23 BC
Ma'nu III Saflul 23–4 BC
Abgar V Ukkama, son of Ma'nu 4 BC–7 AD 1st tenure
Ma'nu IV, son of Ma'nu 7–13 AD
Abgar V Ukkama 13–50 AD 2nd tenure
Ma'nu V, son of Abgar 50–57 AD
Ma'nu VI, son of Abgar 57–71 AD
Abgar VI, son of Ma'nu 71–91 AD
Interregnum 91–109 AD
Abgar VII, son of Ezad 109–116 AD
Interregnum 116–118 AD
Yalur (Yalud) and Parthamaspates 118–122 AD Ruled together
Parthamaspates 122–123 AD Ruled alone
Ma'nu VII, son of Ezad 123–139 AD
Ma'nu VIII, son of Ma'nu 139–163 AD First tenure
Wa'el, son of Sahru 163–165 AD Installed by the Parthians
Ma'nu VIII, son of Ma'nu 165–177 AD Second tenure
Abgar VIII the Great, son of Ma'nu 177–212 AD
Abgar IX Severus, son of Abgar 212–214 AD Deposed by the Romans; Osroene incorporated as a Roman province (colonia)[38][39]
Ma'nu IX, son of Ma'nu 214–240 AD Ruled only in name
Abgar X Frahad, son of Ma'nu 240–242 AD Ruled only in name

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ The local Aramaic dialect.

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Segal 1982, p. 210-213.
  2. ^ Ball, W (2001). Rome in the East: the transformation of an empire. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-415-24357-5.
  3. ^ Frankfurter, David (1998). Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt. BRILL. p. 383. ISBN 90-04-11127-1.

    It was around 200 CE that Abgar IX adopted Christianity, thus enabling Edessa to become the first Christian state in history whose ruler was officially and openly a Christian.

  4. ^ Dupuy, Richard Ernest; Dupuy, Trevor Nevitt (1970). The Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 B.C. to the Present. Harper & Row. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-06-011139-7.
  5. ^ Bowman, Alan; Garnsey, Peter; Cameron, Averil (2005). The Cambridge Ancient History: Volume 12, The Crisis of Empire, AD 193-337. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521301992.
  6. ^ "Osroëne | ancient kingdom, Mesopotamia, Asia | Britannica".
  7. ^ Skolnik, Fred; Berenbaum, Michael (2007). Encyclopaedia Judaica. Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 9780028659435.
  8. ^ Roberts, John Morris; Westad, Odd Arne (2013). The History of the World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199936762.
  9. ^ Laet, Sigfried J. de; Herrmann, Joachim (1996). History of Humanity: From the seventh century B.C. to the seventh century A.D. UNESCO. ISBN 9789231028120.
  10. ^ a b c d e Lieu 1997, p. 174-175.
  11. ^ a b Healey 2014, p. 394-396.
  12. ^ a b c Sartre 2005, p. 500.
  13. ^ a b Healey 2014, p. 396.
  14. ^ Mango 1991.
  15. ^ Fortescue, Adrian (1923). The uniate Eastern churches: the Byzantine rite in Italy, Sicily, Syria and Egypt. Burns, Oates & Washbourne, ltd. p. 22.
  16. ^ Ball, W (2001). Rome in the East: the transformation of an empire. Routledge. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-415-24357-5.
  17. ^ Frankfurter, David (1998). Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt. BRILL. p. 383. ISBN 90-04-11127-1.

    It was around 200 CE that Abgar IX adopted Christianity, thus enabling Edessa to become the first Christian state in history whose ruler was officially and openly a Christian.

  18. ^ Osroene at Encyclopædia Iranica

    The fame of Edessa in history rests, however, mainly on its claim to have been the first kingdom to adopt Christianity as its official religion. According to the legend current for centuries throughout the civilized world, Abgar Ukkama wrote to Jesus, inviting him to visit him at Edessa to heal him from sickness. In return he received the blessing of Jesus and subsequently was converted by the evangelist Addai. There is, however, no factual evidence for Christianity at Edessa before the reign of Abgar the Great, 150 years later. Scholars are generally agreed that the legend has confused the two Abgars. It cannot be proved that Abgar the Great adopted Christianity; but his friend Bardaiṣan was a heterodox Christian, and there was a church at Edessa in 201. It is testimony to the personality of Abgar the Great that he is credited by tradition with a leading role in the evangelization of Edessa.

  19. ^ Brock, Sebastian (2004). "The earliest Syriac literature". In Young, Frances; Ayres, Lewis; Louth, Andrew; Casiday, Augustine (eds.). The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature. Cambridge University Press. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-521-46083-5.

    Modern scholars have taken basically two very different approaches to this legend (which obviously reflects the general search for apostolic origins, characteristics of the fourth century). Some would dismiss it totally, while others prefer to see it as a retrojection into the first century of the conversion of the local king at the end of the second century. In other words, Abgar (V) the Black of the legend in fact represents Abgar (VIII) the Great (c. 177-212), contemporary of Badaisan. Attractive though this second approach might seem, there are serious objections to it, and the various small supportive evidence that Abgar (VIII) the Great became Christian disappears on closer examination.

  20. ^ Ball, Warwick (2000). Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. Psychology Press. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-415-11376-2.

    More significant than Bardaisan's conversion to Christianity was the conversion -reported by Bardaisan - of Abgar the Great himself." The conversion is controversial, but whether or not he became a Christian, Abgar had the wisdom to recognise the inherent order and stability in Christianity a century before Constantino did. Ho encouraged it as essential for maintaining Edessa's precarious balance between Rome and Iran. Thus, it is Abgar the Great who lays claim to being the world's first Christian monarch and Edessa the first Christian state. More than anything else, a major precedent had been set for the conversion of Rome itself. // The stories of the conversions of both Abgar V and Abgar VIII may not be true, and have been doubted by a number of Western authorities (with more than a hint at unwillingness to relinquish Rome's and St Peter's own primogeniture?). But whether true or not. the stories did establish Edessa as one of the more important centres for early Christendom."

  21. ^ Keser-Kayaalp & Drijvers 2018, p. 516–518.
  22. ^ Harrak 1992, p. 209–214.
  23. ^ H. I. MacAdam, N. J. Munday, "Cicero's Reference to Bostra (AD Q. FRAT. 2. 11. 3)", Classical Philology, pp.131-136, 1983.
  24. ^ Ring, Steven. "History of Syriac texts and Syrian Christianity - Table 1". www.syriac.talktalk.net. Archived from the original on 2018-02-27. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  25. ^ Guscin, Mark (2016). The Tradition of the Image of Edessa. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 13.
  26. ^ Drijvers 1980, p. 153.
  27. ^ Retso, Jan (2013). The Arabs in Antiquity: Their History from the Assyrians to the Umayyads. Routledge. p. 419."Abgar, is a well-known name among Arabic-speaking groups in antiquity, the Nabataeans included."
  28. ^ Sheldon, Mary Rose, "Intelligence Activities in Ancient Rome: Trust in the Gods But Verify", pg. 92
  29. ^ Ball, W (2001). Rome in the East: the transformation of an empire. Routledge. p. 90.
  30. ^ Southern, Pat, "The Empress Zenobia: Palmyra's Rebel Queen", 2009: pg. 36
  31. ^ Birley, Anthony, "Septimius Severus: The African Emperor", 1999: pg. 115
  32. ^ Sinclair, T.A., "Eastern Turkey: An Architectural & Archaeological Survey, Volume IV: pg. 196
  33. ^ Cheetham, Samuel (1905). A History of the Christian Church During the First Six Centuries. Macmillan and Co. p. 58.
  34. ^ Lockyer, Herbert (1988). All the Apostles of the Bible. Zondervan. p. 260. ISBN 0310280117.
  35. ^ L.W. Barnard, The Origins and Emergence of the Church in Edessa during the First Two Centuries A.D., Vigiliae Christianae, pp.161-175, 1968 (see pp. 162,165,167,169).
  36. ^ A. T. Olmstead, "The Mid-Third Century of the Christian Era. II", Classical Philology (1942): 398-420 (see p. 399)
  37. ^ E. Gibbon, The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Vol. I, Chapter XXIV [1] Archived 2007-02-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  38. ^ Sartre 2005, p. 508.
  39. ^ Segal 1982, pp. 210–213.

Sources edit

External links edit

37°09′30″N 38°47′30″E / 37.1583°N 38.7917°E / 37.1583; 38.7917