Asuristan or Ašuristan (Middle Persian: 𐭠𐭮𐭥𐭥𐭮𐭲𐭭 Asōrestān) was the province of Assyria under the Sassanid Empire (226–640 AD). It corresponds to the Babylonia province under the Parthian Empire.
The province for the most part stretched from Mosul to Adiabene. While the official religion of the Sassanid empire as a whole was Zoroastrianism, the religion of the Assyrians of Assyria-Assuristan was, from the 1st and 2nd centuries onwards, Church of the East Christianity, although some also still worshiped the old Mesopotamian Religion, with Ashur still worshiped in his home city until at least the late 3rd or early 4th century. Judaism also flourished in Asuristan, with some of its most important works being produced there. Assyrians were the indigenous inhabitants, and outnumbered the Persians in the Asuristan province. The main language spoken was Mesopotamian Eastern Middle Aramaic, with the Syriac dialect becoming an important vehicle for Christianity. Its inhabitants were mostly working in agriculture or as traders and merchants. The city of Ctesiphon served as the capital of both the Parthian and Sassanid empires, and was at this time the largest city in the world.
Unique Cultural Contributions 
The Sassanid province of Asuristan produced several unique cultural contributions to the world (all using varieties of Mesopotamian Eastern Middle Aramaic for their original scriptures):
- It was the center for the Church of the East, which at times (partially due to the vast areas the Sassanid empire covered) was the most widespread Christian church in the world, reaching well into Central Asia, China and India. It sees as its founders the apostle Thomas (Mar Toma), and Saint Thaddeus (Mar Addai), and uses the Syriac version of Aramaic for its scriptures. One of the central scriptures of the Church of the East, the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari, is one of the oldest Eucharistic prayers in the Christianity, composed around the year 200 AD. The Church of the East went through major consolidation and expansion in 410 during the Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, held at the Sassanid capital (in Asuristan). Selucia-Ctesiphon remained the location of the Patriarchate of the Church of the East for over 600 years. (The Church of the East has been sometimes erroneously referred to as Nestorian, although a proportion of the Semitic followers of Nestorius, 386-451, actually only relocated into the Persian Empire from the Roman Empire in the 5th century, after the Nestorian Schism.)
- The religion of Manichaeism (founded by Mani, 216–276), another Assyrian phenomenon, originated in 3rd century Asuristan, shortly after the Church of the East, and also spread across vast geographical distances. In some instances, Manicheaism even surpassed the Church of the East in its reach, as it was for a time also widespread in the Roman Empire. While none of the six original Syriac scriptures of the Manichaeans have survived in their entirety, a long Syriac section of one of their works detailing key beliefs was preserved by Theodore Bar Konai (a Church of the East author from Beth Garmaï), in his book "Ketba Deskolion" written in about 792. Like the Church of the East, the traditional center of the Manichaean church was in Seleucia-Ctesiphon (with Abū Hilāl al-Dayhūri sitting there as its head in the late 8th century).
- The Mandaean religion, who according to their traditions are the original followers of John the Baptist, and who are considered to be the only surviving Gnostic group in the world, also originated in Assyria at this time (or slightly earlier, perhaps during Parthian ruled Assyria). Their language and script was the Mandaic form of Aramaic (closely related to the Aramaic of the Babylonian Talmud). Two of their central works, both written within the 2nd and 3rd centuries, are the Ginza Rabba and the Mandaean Book of John (preserving original traditions about John the Baptist).
The second king of the Sassanid Empire, Shapur I (215-272), personally knew both Mani (216–276), the founder of Manichaeism, and Shmuel (165-257), another famous contributor to the Babylonian Talmud (head of the academy at Nehardea). Mani dedicated his only Middle Persian writing, the Shāpuragān, to Shapur I. Shapur I is mentioned many times in the Babylonian Talmud, as "King Shabur".
Aside from the original writings of these groups which exist today, archaeological examples of all three of these Mesopotamian Aramaic dialects and scripts can be found in the collections of thousands of Aramaic incantation bowls, ceramic artifacts from the time period of Asuristan. While the Jewish Aramaic script retained the original "square" or "block" form of the Aramaic alphabet used in Imperial Aramaic (the "Ashuri alphabet"), the Syriac alphabet and the Mandaic alphabet developed when cursive styles of Aramaic began to appear. The Mandaic script itself developed from the Parthian chancellery script.
Later History 
After 640, the area was taken over by the Arab Islamic conquest and a proportion of the Assyrians gradually became a minority in the region which saw a large influx of Arabs, Kurds and later also Turkic peoples. The area became the capital of the Islamic Caliphate and the centre of Islamic civilization for five hundred years; from the 8th to the 13th centuries. However, a Christian culture, Eastern Aramaic language and Assyrian/Mesopotamian identity persisted among a sizeable proportion of Assyrians (possibly still forming a majority into the 11th century), and they remained a significant part of the population until suffering savage massacres at the hands of the Mongols in the 13th and 14th centuries. However, an Assyrian presence still remains in the region to this day, with a number of Assyrian towns, villages and settlements extant, and Assyrian populations remain in and around cities such as Mosul, Kirkuk, Erbil, Dohuk and Amadia.
See also 
External links 
- ^ The Decline of Iranshahr: Irrigation and Environments in the History of the Middle East, By Peter Christensen. Page 291-292
- ^ The Fire, the Star and the Cross: Minority Religions in Medieval and Early Modern Iran, By Aptin Khanbaghi, page 6. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
- ^ The Cambridge History of Iran edited by W.B. Fischer, Ilya Gershevitch, Ehsan Yarshster. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
- ^ Rosenberg, Matt T. (2007). "Largest Cities Through History". New York: about.com.
- ^ Gardner, Iain & Samuel N.C. Lieu (eds.) Manichaean Texts from the Roman Empire. Page 43. Cambridge University Press, 2004.
- ^ "The Assyrian Church in the Mongolian Empire" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-12-17.
- ^ "Friends of the Church of the East by Mar Eshai Shimun XXIII". Anglicanhistory.org. 1940-08-30. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
- ^ "Theater, Language and Inter-Ethnic Exchange: Assyrian Performance before World War I by Eden Naby" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-12-17.