Assyrian continuity

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is part of the series on the

History of the
Assyrian people

medieval icon depicting Ephrem the Syrian.

Early history

Old Assyrian period (20th–15th c. BC)
Aramaeans (14th–9th c. BC)
Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–612 BC)
Achaemenid Assyria (539–330 BC)

Classical Antiquity

Seleucid Empire (312–63 BC)
Osroene (132 BC – 244 AD)
Syrian Wars (66 BC – 217 AD)
Roman Syria (64 BC – 637 AD)
Adiabene (15–116 AD)
Roman Assyria (116–118)
Christianization (1st to 3rd c.)
Nestorian Schism (5th c.)
Asuristan (226–651)
Byzantine–Sasanian wars (502–628)

Middle Ages

Muslim conquest of Syria (630s)
Abbasid rule (750–1258)
Emirs of Mosul (905–1383)
Buyid amirate of Iraq (945–1055)
Principality of Antioch (1098–1268)
Ilkhanate Empire (1258–1335)
Jalayirid Sultanate (1335–1432)
Kara Koyunlu (1375–1468)
Aq Qoyunlu (1453–1501)

Modern History

Safavid Empire (1508-1555)
Ottoman Empire (1555–1917)
Schism of 1552 (16th c.)
Massacres of Badr Khan (1840s)
Massacres of Diyarbakir (1895)
Rise of nationalism (19th c.)
Adana massacre (1909)
Assyrian genocide (1914–1920)
Independence movement (since 1919)
Simele massacre (1933)
Post-Saddam Iraq (since 2003)

See also

Assyrian continuity
Assyrian diaspora

The Assyrian continuity claim deals with the assertion made by the modern Eastern Aramaic speaking Pre-Arab and Pre-Islamic Assyrian Christian Semites of northern Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeast Syria and northwest Iran, members of the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Ancient Church of the East, Assyrian Pentecostal Church and Assyrian Evangelical Church, that they are at root the direct descendants of the Semitic Akkadian inhabitants of ancient Assyria/Athura/Assuristan.

These ancestral claims have seen considerable support among prominent historians, Orientalists and Assyriologists such as Simo Parpola, Richard N. Frye, H.W.F. Saggs, Robert D. Biggs, Giorgi Tsereteli, Eden Naby, Mordechai Nisan, J.A. Brinkman and Geoffrey Khan. Nineteenth-century Orientalists such as Austen Henry Layard, Horatio Southgate, George Percy Badger and Hormuzd Rassam (himself an Assyrian) also supported this view. Geneticists such as Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza and Dr. Joel J. Elias and physical anthropologists such as Carleton S. Coon, together with linguists such as Geoffrey Khan,[1] also clearly endorse this position. Other scholars such as J.F. Coakley, Jean Maurice Fiey, John Joseph and David Wilmshurst have voiced their various degrees of criticism against this claim.

The discovery of ancient Assyrian sites in regions mainly inhabited by indisputably indigenous pre-Arab and pre-Kurdish Semitic Eastern Aramaic speaking followers of various denominations of Syriac Christianity was one important factor in reinforcing their already extant identification with ancient Assyria. Assyrian national identity has also gained further prominence at the beginnings of Assyrian nationalism and following the Assyrian Genocide, and it was warmly endorsed by a number of leading figures such as Naum Faiq and Freydun Atturaya.

Other claims of a Chaldean ethnic ancestry (in other words an attempt to assert a Chaldean continuity linking modern Chaldean Catholics from northern Mesopotamia to the ancient Chaldeans of south eastern Mesopotamia) that have emerged only in very recent years, made by a small and mainly United-States-based minority within the Chaldean Catholic Church, have not been taken seriously by any reputable historians, orientalists, academics, theologians, anthropologists, ethnologists, linguists and archaeologists, as they are not supported in any way by historical, written, archaeological, genetic, linguistic or geographic evidence whatsoever. These people are long indigenous to Upper Mesopotamia (what was Assyria between the 25th century BC and 7th century AD), all are north Mesopotamian former members of the Assyrian Church, and are exactly the same people as the Assyrians, hailing from the same towns and villages, bearing the same family names and speaking the same language. The name Chaldean, extinct for over 2250 years, was only revived and applied to Assyrian converts to Catholicism as recently as 1683 AD by Rome, 130 years after this new Catholic church had originally pointedly been called The Church of Assyria and Mosul in 1553 AD. Most members of this church still espouse their traditional Assyrian ethnic heritage.

Historical claims

Proponents of continuity point to the fact that Assyria existed as a nation state, and at times a powerful empire, for almost two thousand years, from the 25th Century BC until the end of the 7th Century BC.

Furthermore, they note that Assyria (together with its native inhabitants) continued to exist as a distinct geo-political region named "Assyria", including Achaemenid Assyria-Athura (546-324 BC), Seleucid Syria/Assyria (323-150 BC), Parthian Athura (150 BC-114 AD) Assyria Provincia (115-118 AD), second Parthian Athura (119-255 AD), Sassanid Assuristan (256-650 AD) only ceasing to exist as an entity some time after the Arab Islamic invasion and conquest of the second half of the 7th century AD. Between the 2nd century BC and late 3rd century AD a number of small Assyrian states arose in the region, such as Assur, Adiabene, Osroene and the partly Assyrian state of Hatra. They point out that its inhabitants regarded themselves and were regarded by their neighbours as Assyrians throughout these periods, and have always continued to do so afterwards, maintaining a distinct Assyrian culture.[2]

The question of the synonymity of Suria vs. Assuria was already discussed by classical authors: Herodotus, writing in the 5th century BC, makes a clear reference to the existence of Assyrians and the meaning of the term Syrian, stating that Those we call Syrians, are called by themselves and the barbarians, Assyrians.[3]

The late 5th century BC Greek historian Thucydides calls the Imperial Aramaic of the Neo Assyrian Empire and Achaemenid Empire the Assyrian language.

In the first century prior to the dawn of Christianity, the geographer Strabo (64 BC-21 AD) confirms Herodotus’ statement by writing that;

When those who have written histories about the Syrian empire say that the Medes were overthrown by the Persians and the Syrians by the Medes, they mean by the Syrians no other people than those who built the royal palaces in Ninus (Nineveh); and of these Syrians, Ninus was the man who founded Ninus, in Aturia (Assyria) and his wife, Semiramis, was the woman who succeeded her husband... Now, the city of Ninus was wiped out immediately after the overthrow of the Syrians. It was much greater than Babylon, and was situated in the plain of Aturia. Although the mention of Ninus as having founded Assyria is inaccurate, as is the claim that Semiramis was his wife, the salient point in Strabo's statement is the recognition that the Greek term Syria historically meant Assyria.[4]

Strabo also lists several of the traditional cities (including Nineveh and 'Calachene' Kalhu) in the Assyrian heartland, which he calls Aturia.

Flavius Josephus, writing in the 1st century AD describes the inhabitants of the state of Adiabene as Assyrians.[5] Similarly, Osroene and Hatra were Syriac speaking states, although both had a mixed population.[6]

The 2nd-century AD writer and theologian Tatian states clearly that he is an Assyrian, as does the satirist Lucian during the same period.

Justinus, the Roman historian wrote in 300 AD: The Assyrians, who are afterwards called Syrians, held their empire thirteen hundred years.[7]

In the 380s AD, the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus during his travels in Upper Mesopotamia with Jovian states that; "Within this circuit is Adiabene, which was formerly called Assyria;" Ammianus Marcellinus also refers to an extant region called Assyria located between the Tigris and Euphrates.[8]

Armenian histories from the 5th century AD refer to the Christians of Northern Mesopotamia as Assyrians, this was a period when northern Mesopotamia was also still called Assuristan.[9]

Medieval Arab, Syriac Christian, and Assyrian historians support continuity also;

The 10th-century AD Arab scholar Ibn al-Nadim, while describing the books and scripture of many people defines the word Ashuriyun (Arabic for Assyrians) as "a sect of Jesus" inhabiting northern Mesopotamia.[10]

Native Assyrian religion, specific to the indigenous people (including the worship of the Assyrian national god Ashur), remained strong until the 4th century AD, and survived alongside Christianity in small pockets until the 10th century AD, with the final traces disappearing only in the 17th century AD.

In the mid 16th century AD Pope Julius III initially named the church of converts from the Assyrian Church to Catholicism as The Church of Athura (Assyria) and Mosul, and its first Patriarch Yohannan Sulaqa as Patriarch of the Eastern Assyrians. This was only later changed to The Chaldean Catholic Church.

During the 16th century AD, according to the "Chronicle of the Carmelites in Persia", Pope Paul V shall, in a letter to the Persian Shah Abbas I (1571-1629) of 3 November 1612 mention that the Jacobites endorsed an "Assyrian" identity.[11]

... Those in particular who are called Assyrians or Jacobites and inhabit Isfahan will be compelled to sell their very children in order to pay the heavy tax you have imposed on them, unless You take pity on their misfortune.

John Selden, writing in 1617 AD suggested that the term Syrian actually derived from Assyrian and concluded that those called Syrians were actually Assyrians.

Modern scholarly claims and views

19th and early 20th century views

A number of 19th-century Assyriologists - such as Austen Henry Layard, the ethnic Assyrian archaeologist Hormuzd Rassam and George Percy Badger - supported Assyrian continuity.

George Percy Badger writes in the mid 19th century that the Syriac appellation had not really changed. Badger in early nineteenth century noted that the oldest and the most important Chaldean Catholic community in Diyarbakir still called themselves ‘Sooraya’ (Assyrian) and ‘Nestoraya’ despite being converts to the Chaldean Catholic Church.[12]

Henry Burgess, writing in the early 1850s states that Upper Mesopotamia was still known as Assyria/Athura by the Semitic Christian population of the region.[13]

Hormuzd Rassam, himself an Assyrian of the Chaldean Catholic Church, notes of local Chaldean Catholics circa 1900 AD that, “the peasantry do certainly call themselves ‘Sooraya’ (Assyrian) and ‘Msheehaya’…”[14]

E.B. Soane wrote in 1892, The Mosul people, especially the Christians are very proud of their city and the antiquity of its surroundings. The Christians, regard themselves as direct descendants of the great rulers of Assyria[15]

Anglican missionary, Rev. W. A. Wigram, in his book The Assyrians and Their Neighbours (1929), writes, “The Assyrian stock, still resident in the provinces about the ruins of Nineveh, Mosul, Arbela, and Kirkuk, and seem to have been left to their own customs in the same way.”[16]

R. S. Stafford in 1935 describes the Assyrians as descending from their ancient namesakes, surviving the various periods of foreign rule intact, and until WWI of having worn items of clothing much like the ancient Assyrians.[17]

Historical continuity of Assyria after the fall of the Assyrian Empire

A major criticism against Assyrian continuity in past times centered on the Biblical assertion that Assyria was devastated, destroyed and depopulated after its fall. For many centuries Europe and the general Western World only had a dim awareness of the Ancient Near East, being able to rely only on sketchy and questionable references from The Bible and sparse Greek Histories. In addition, Europeans had almost no direct contact with the indigenous minorities in the region that had been Assyria until the 19th century AD.

However the vast amount of archaeological evidence and written records discovered and deciphered in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries has lifted the veil on the history and civilisations of the region. These discoveries very clearly disprove the historicity of these Biblical commentaries. It is now generally accepted that Achaemenid Assyria flourished economically, agriculturally politically, culturally and militarily, and that both Assyria and an Assyrian identity continued to endure long after this also.

J. A. Brinkman points out that there is absolutely no historical evidence or proof to suggest the population of Assyria was wiped out, bred out of existence or removed at any time following the destruction of its empire. He puts the burden of proof upon those denying Assyrian continuity to prove their case with evidence.[Note 1] Brinkman goes on to mention that all of the gods of the Assyrian Pantheon were still being worshipped 900 years after the fall of the Assyrian Empire, and that Assur and Calah, among other cities, were prosperous and still occupied by Assyrians, indicating a clear continuity of Assyrian identity and culture well into the Syriac Christian period.[19]

The Assyriologist Simo Parpola says that there is strong evidence that Assyrian identity and culture continued after the fall of the Assyrian Empire and into the present day.[20] Parpola further points out that traditional Assyrian religion remained strong until the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, surviving among small communities of Assyrians up to at least the 10th century AD in Upper Mesopotamia, and as late as the 18th century AD in Mardin.[21] Parpola asserts that the Neo-Assyrian Upper Mesopotamian kingdoms of Adiabene, Assur, Osrhoene and to some degree Hatra which existed between the 1st century BC and 5th century AD in Assyria, were distinctly Assyrian linguistically and to a great degree culturally and ethnically.

H. W. F. Saggs in his The Might That Was Assyria clearly supports ethnic and cultural continuity, pointing out that the Assyrian population was never wiped out or deported after the fall of its empire, and that after Christianisation the Assyrians have continued to keep alive their identity and heritage.[Note 2] However, Saggs disputes an extreme racial purity, he points out that even at its mightiest, Assyria deported populations of Jews, Elamites, Arameans, Neo-Hittites, Urartians and others into Assyria, and that these peoples became Assyrianised and were absorbed and blended into the native population.

Sidney Smith accepts small, poor communities have continued to perpetuate some basic Assyrian identity after the fall of the empire through to the present[Note 3] Efram Yildiz echoes this view also.

Georges Roux notes that Assyrian culture and national religion were still very much alive into the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, with the city of Ashur possibly being independent for a while in the 3rd century AD, and that the Neo-Assyrian kingdom of Adiabene was a virtual resurrection of Assyria, but he does state that it had become culturally somewhat different.[24] Roux also states that After the fall of Assyria, however, its actual name was gradually changed to Syria. Thus, in the Babylonian version of Darius I inscriptions, Eber-nari ("across-the-river," i.e. Syria, Palestine and Phoenicia) corresponds to the Persian and Elamite Athura (Assyria). Besides, in the Behistun inscription, Izalla, the region of Syria renowned for its wine, is assigned to Athura.

The noted Iranologist Richard Nelson Frye also clearly accepts ethnic continuity from ancient times to the present. Frye points out that the term 'Syrian' actually meant 'Assyrian', particularly when applied to the Semites (and the Syriac Christians they would become) in northern Mesopotamia and its surrounds.

Patricia Crone and Michael Cook assert that Assyrian identity never died out after the fall of its empire, evidenced by a major revival of Assyrian consciousness that was evident between the 2nd century BC and 4th century AD.[25]

Similarly, Robert D. Biggs accepts genealogical continuity without prejudicing cultural continuity, pointing out that the modern Assyrians are the ethnic descendants of their ancient ancestors but became culturally different from them with the advent of Christianity.[Note 4]

John Curtis strongly disputes the biblical assertions that Assyria became an uninhabited wasteland after its fall, pointing out its wealth and influence during the various periods of Persian rule.[27] This view is now strongly accepted by most historians today, including by Roux, Oppenheim, Parpola, Saggs, Biggs, Brinkman and many others.

J.B Segal states that "Although the Assyrian empire had fallen, the Assyrians continued to retain the Assyrian culture in Edessa, Urhay and Upper Mesopotamia, with gods such as Sin, Shamash, Ashur, Hadad and Ishtar of Nineveh being worshipped until Eastern Rite Christianity took hold. He also states that Within the Abgar dynasty, there were kings named Mannu, the Akkadian name that was found in the Assyrian inscriptions from the assyrian city of Tushan(southeastern Turkey).[Note 5]

Stephanie Dalley points out that within Syriac Christianity of the region, northern Iraq in general, and particularly Mosul and its surrounds, continued to be referred to as Athour in Syriac literature from the early Christian period through to modern times.[29]

A report by Reuters from 1987, states that, “The new evidence shows that rather than dispersing after the fall of their empire, the Assyrians formed small societies some distance away from their main cities.”[30]

Continuity of the name Assyria, and derivatives thereof

Other arguments involving modern scholars center on whether Assyria and Assyrians continued to be referred to as such (or by clear synonymous derivatives such as Syrian) after the fall of the Assyrian Empire. It is now accepted that Assyria existed as a geo-political entity for over 13 centuries after its fall until the mid 7th century AD as; Athura, Seleucid Syria, Assuristan, Assyria Provincia, Athor/Ator and Atouria. This position is supported by Simo Parpola, Richard Nelson Frye, John Curtis, Robert D. Biggs, H. W. F. Saggs, J. A. Brinkman, Georges Roux, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, among others.

As has been mentioned, figures well known in the Greco-Roman world between the 5th century BC and 5th century AD, acknowledged Assyria and acknowledged Syria meant Assyria when in reference to northern Mesopotamia, such as Herodotus, Xenophon, Strabo, Justinus, Tatian and Lucian, and in the cases of the latter two, an espousing of an Assyrian identity.

In the 12th century AD Michael the Syrian mentions that the Christians of Mesopotamia - known as "Syrians" in the west - are in fact known as "Assyrians"' by themselves and in the east, echoing exactly the same distinction made 1600 years earlier by Herodotus, and later by Strabo.

In the mid 16th century AD Pope Julius III initially named the church of converts from the Assyrian Church to Catholicism as The Church of Athura (Assyria) and Mosul, and its first Patriarch Yohannan Sulaqa as Patriarch of the Eastern Assyrians. This was only later changed to The Chaldean Catholic Church.

Pope Paul V (in office 1605-1621) also used the term Assyrian when describing the Semitic Christians of north-western Iran and north-eastern Mesopotamia, this being a period when some Assyrians had already adopted Catholicism.

Theodor Nöldeke, writing in 1881 AD gave philological support to the assumption that Syria and Assyria have the same etymology, and that historically Syria meant Assyria.[31]

J. F. Coakley disagrees, stating that those he describes as Syrians began to adopt an Assyrian identity only at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, subsequent to Anglican contact with the Assyrians.[32]

Giorgi Tsereteli points out that the term Assyrian continued to be used to describe the Christian Eastern Aramaic speaking people in and around northern Mesopotamia in Georgian, Armenian (known as Assouri), Russian, Arab and Persian records from ancient times, the Middle Ages and through to the present day.

Robert Rollinger states that there is conclusive proof that Cilician, Cappadocian and Greek subjects of the Assyrian Empire were referring to Assyria as Syria, and the Assyrians as Syrians as long ago as the 9th and 8th centuries BC. This was a period when Assyria was at the height of its power, and a period six centuries before The Levant (Modern Syria) was also labelled Syria by the Seleucid Empire. The Levant at this time was still called Aramea and Eber Nari.

Aziz Suryal Atiya notes that Syriac Christianity in fact means Assyrian Christianity, as it evolved in Assyria in the very earliest days of the faith, and that Syriac in fact meant Assyrian in an ethnic, linguistic and geographic context. He mentions that this form of Christianity evolved with a specific reference to Assyrian antiquity.[33] This is a confirmation of the observations made by H. W. F. Saggs who also believes that the Syriac Christians of the region kept alive the memory of their Assyrian predecessors but also combined them with traditions from the Bible.

Poutrus Nasri, an Egyptian theologian states that The Church of the East had many adherents who espoused an Assyrian identity during the Parthian and Sassanid periods.[34]

Even into the 18th and 19th centuries, the region around Mosul was still known as Athura by the native Christian population.

Horatio Southgate points out that in the early 19th century, the Semitic Christians called themselves Assyrians, as did their Armenian neighbours.

Jean Maurice Fiey and John Joseph disagree, citing the lack of ancient Mesopotamian names among Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox Church and Chaldean Catholic Church priests and bishops as evidence that an Assyrian identity or consciousness in the region was lost.

Adam H. Becker of New York University[35] regards the continuity claims as "hogwash" and writes that the special continuity claims "must be understood as a modern invention worthy of the study of a Benedict Anderson or an Eric Hobsbawm rather than an ancient historian." Becker describes Assyrians as East Syrians in his writings.[36]

However, Robert Rollinger and Richard Nelson Frye among others point out that the 9th century BC Indo-Anatolian term Suria and its derivatives (Syrians, Syriacs, East Syrians etc.) in actuality originally meant and specifically referred only to Assyria and the Assyrians, only coming to erroneously also include the Arameans of the Levant many centuries later, during the Seleucid Empire, and it was this misapplication that caused the later Assyrian vs Syrian naming confusion in the western world.[3][31]

David Wilmshurst, a historian of the Church of the East, accepts only limited and insignificant continuity, and argues that a strong consciousness of Assyrian identity only emerged in the final decades of the 19th Century, as a consequence of the earlier archaeological discovery of the ruins of Nineveh in 1845.[37]

However, the observations made by Horatio Southgate whilst travelling in northern Mesopotamia in the early 1840s in the period prior to these Assyrian archaeological discoveries[38] show that the Armenians of southeastern Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia were at that period clearly using the term 'Assyrian' in preference to the term 'Syrian', and that the Assyrians in these regions clearly regarded themselves as Assyrians descendant from their ancient namesakes.[Note 6]

Southgate also states that "The common language in the district is Turkish, in which language it is that the Athour of the Syriac and Arabic is converted into Asour, and the Athouri of the Arabic, (Syriac, Othoroyo,) into Asouri, the common name of the Syrians."[39]

The Political Dictionary of the Modern Middle East lists the Assyrians as Remnants of the people of ancient Mesopotamia, succeeding the Sumero-Akkadians and the Babylonians as one continuous civilization.[40]

Mainstream modern academic opinion now strongly supports the assertion that Syria/Syriac/East Syrian and other later derivatives do indeed originate from Assyria, and originally meant one and the same thing, that being Assyria/Assyrian.

Dr. Arian Ishaya states that Assyrian continuity claims are historically and factually no less reasonable or valid than French, German, Anglo-Saxon, Persian, Greek or Egyptian continuity, and in fact more valid than many other accepted or unquestioned continuity claims in the world, and in light of this, denials of Assyrian continuity are in fact illogical and hypocritical, or borne out of racial prejudice or political motivation.[41]

Differences between Assyrians and neighbouring peoples

Other arguments focus on whether the Assyrians were and are a people distinct from their neighbours in an historic, ethnic, cultural, linguistic and genetic sense.

Kevin B. MacDonald asserts that Assyrians have survived as an ethnic, linguistic, religious and political minority from the fall of the Assyrian Empire through to the present day. He points out that maintaining a language, religion, identity and customs distinct from their neighbours has aided their survival.[Note 7]

Silvio Zaorani differentiates between Levantine and Mesopotamian populations, stating that; "even if "Syrian" were derived from "Assyrian", it does not mean that the people and culture of geographical Syria are identical to those of geographical Assyria."[42]

Eden Naby asserts that the Assyrians are clearly linguistically, genetically, culturally and historically distinct from all other peoples in the Near East, and that they are descendants of their ancestors based upon genetic, linguistic, cultural and historical proof.[43]

Philip Hitti states that Syrian and Syriac Christian are simply vague generic terms encompassing a number of different peoples, and that the Semitic Christians of northern Mesopotamia are most appropriately described as Assyrians.[44]

The United Nations organization, Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) recognises Assyrians as the Indigenous people of northern Iraq.[45]

The BBC in 2004 listed the Assyrian Christian population of Iraq as descendants of the ancient Assyrians.[46]

Genetic continuity

A series of modern Genetic Studies have shown that the modern Assyrians from Northern Iraq, Southeastern Turkey, Northwestern Iran and Northeastern Syria are in a genetic sense one homogenous people, regardless of which church they belong to (e.g. Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Assyrian Protestant). Furthermore, their collective genetic profile differs from neighbouring Syrians, Levantine Syriac Christians, Kurds, Iranians, Arabs, Turks, Armenians, Jews, Yezidis, Shabakis, Greeks, Georgians, Circassians, Turcomans, Maronite Christians, Egyptians and Mandeans.[47][48][49][50][51]

Late 20th century DNA analysis conducted on Assyrian members of the Assyrian Church of the East, Chaldean Catholic Church and Syriac Orthodox Church by Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi and Alberto Piazza, "shows that Assyrians have a distinct genetic profile that distinguishes their population from any other population."[47] Genetic analysis of the Assyrians of Persia demonstrated that they were "closed" with little "intermixture" with the Muslim Persian population and that an individual Assyrian's genetic makeup is relatively close to that of the Assyrian population as a whole.[48] Cavalli-Sforza et al. state in addition, "[T]he Assyrians are a fairly homogeneous group of people, believed to originate from the land of old Assyria in northern Iraq", and "they are Christians and are probably bona fide descendants of their namesakes."[49] "The genetic data are compatible with historical data that religion played a major role in maintaining the Assyrian population's separate identity during the Christian era".[47]

A 2008 study on the genetics of "old ethnic groups in Mesopotamia," including 340 subjects from seven ethnic communities (Assyrian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Armenian, Turkmen and Arab peoples of Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait) found that Assyrians were homogeneous with respect to all other ethnic groups sampled in the study, regardless of each Assyrians religious affiliation.[Note 8]

A study by Dr Joel J. Elias found that Assyrians of all denominations were a homogenous group, and genetically distinct from all other Near Eastern ethnicities.[47]

In a 2006 study of the Y-chromosome DNA of six regional populations, including, for comparison, Assyrians and Syrians, researchers found that "the Semitic populations (Assyrians and Syrians) are very distinct from each other according to both [comparative] axes. This difference supported also by other methods of comparison points out the weak genetic affinity between the two populations with different historical destinies."[51]

In 2008 Fox News in the United States ran a feature called "Know your Roots. As part of the feature, an Assyrian reporter, Nineveh Dinha was tested by Gene Her DNA profile was traced back to the region of Harran in south-eastern Anatolia in 1400 BC, which was a part of ancient Assyria.[52]

In a 2011 study focusing on the genetics of Marsh Arabs of Iraq, researchers identified Y chromosome haplotypes shared by Marsh Arabs, Arabic speaking Iraqis, Mandeans and Assyrians, "supporting a common local background."[Note 9]

Political issues

Mordechai Nisan, the Israeli Orientalist, also supports the view that Assyrians should be named specifically as such in an ethnic and national sense, are the descendants of their ancient namesakes, and denied self-expression for political, ethnic and religious reasons.[54]

Dr. Arian Ishaya a historian and Anthropologist of UCLA states that the confusion of names applied to the Assyrians, and a denial of Assyrian identity and continuity, is on one hand borne out of 19th and early 20th century imperialistic, condescending and arrogant meddling by westerners, rather than by historical fact, and on the other hand by long held Islamic, Arab, Kurdish, Turkish and Iranian policies, whose purpose is to, divide the Assyrian people along false lines and deny their singular identity, with the aim of preventing the Assyrians having any chance of unity, self-expression and potential statehood.[41]

Linguistic continuity

The issue of the gradual transfer from Assyrian-Akkadian to Eastern Aramaic has also been a bone of contention.

It is accepted that this was a gradual process, evolving over many centuries and one that was significantly instigated by the Assyrians themselves, rather than as a result of the destruction of the Assyrian people and their wholesale replacement by Arameans, for which there appears to be no historical evidence whatsoever. This is evidenced by the fact that in the mid 8th century BC the king of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser II, himself introduced Imperial Aramaic as the lingua franca of Assyria and its empire, and that the Akkadian influenced and infused dialects of this language were common in Assyria at the very height of Assyrian nationhood, culture and nationalism, their direct descendant dialects surviving to this day.

J. A Brinkman theorises that the Aramaic language took over because of its simple alphabet and structure as opposed to the 600-700 syllables of the unwieldy Assyro-Babylonian language.[citation needed]

Simo Parpola asserts that Eastern Aramaic had become so entrenched in Assyrian identity that the Greeks regarded the Imperial Aramaic of the Achaemenid Empire during the 5th and 4th centuries BC as The Assyrian Language.[Note 10]

Paropla also states that; And so it becomes evident that, just as Aramaic was the Imperial Assyrian language, the very similar Syriac (or if one agrees with the Greek historians - Assyrian) also later became the ecclesiastical language of the Assyrian Eastern Churches. He notes that The 5th century Greek historian Thucydides calls Imperial Aramaic Assyrian. He goes on to mention that the term Oromoyo meaning Aramean has never been applied to the Assyrians by themselves, but only to Levantine Syriacs, and that terms now accepted by academic majority as entymologically derivative from Assyrian/Assurayu such as Atorayeh, Suryoyo, Turyoyo, Sooraya were in fact used.

By the 3rd century AD at the very latest, Akkadian was extinct, although significantly some loaned vocabulary still survives in Assyrian Eastern Aramaic dialects to this day.[55][56]

The distinct Akkadian influenced Eastern Aramaic dialects spoken by Assyrians today emerged from the varieties of Assyrian Akkadian influenced Aramaic that developed specifically in and around Upper Mesopotamia and Assyria (modern northern Iraq, southeast Turkey, northeast Syria and northwest Iran) from the 8th century BC onwards, as opposed to the very different western varieties of the Levant (modern Levantine Syria, Lebanon and northern Jordan).

Among ethnic Assyrians, numbers of fluent speakers range from approximately 600,000 to 1,000,000, with the main dialects being Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (250,000 speakers), Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (216,000 speakers) and Surayt/Turoyo (112,000 to 450,000 speakers), together with a number of smaller closely related dialects with no more than 10,000 speakers between them. Contrary to what their names somewhat misleadingly suggest, these mutually intelligible dialects are in fact not divided upon Assyrian Church of the East/Chaldean Catholic church/Syriac Orthodox church lines.[57][Note 7]

In addition, a number of vocabulary and grammatical features in the colloquial modern neo-Aramaic dialects spoken by the Assyrians shows similarities with the ancient Akkadian language, whereas significantly, the now near extinct Western Aramaic dialects of the Arameans (Oromoyo), Phoenicians, Nabateans, Jews and Levantine Syriacs of Syria and the Levant do not. This indicates strongly that the Assyrian Eastern Aramaic dialects gradually replaced Akkadian among the Assyrian populace, and that they were clearly both influenced by and overlaid the earlier Assyrian Akkadian tongue of the region.[1]

One example is the use of the prefixed article k- or other variants of it such as ki- and či- which does not appear in classical Syriac.[59] Evidence of the existence of an earlier language which differs from Classical Syriac can be found in other medieval texts such as an Arabic medical book that was composed by Ibn Baklarish in Spain. The book lists a number of medical elements in a variety of languages including one designated as al-suryāniyya which would presumably correspond with Syriac. The words listed under it are not Classical Syriac however, but correspond to forms found only in the modern Assyrian dialects spoken to the east of the Tigris.[60]

Another distinguishing grammatical feature of modern Assyrian which differs from Syriac is the inflection of past verbs by a series of suffixes that contain the preposition l-, e.g. grišle 'he pulled' and grišli 'I pulled' compared with the Syriac graš and gerešt respectively. The use of this suffix has been attested to Aramaic documents dating back to the 5th century B.C.[60] This verbal form is originally a passive construction consisting of a passive participle and an agentive phrase. Examples of this passive construction has been later found in Mandaic and Babylonian Talmudic Aramaic and even in Syriac. All these forms of Aramaic are however far more frequently expressed by the active verbal form graš, and the passive types are likely to be reflections of the contemporary spoken vernacular that have infiltrated the standard literary language.[61]

There is also a number of Akkadian words mostly connected with agriculture that have been preserved in modern Syriac vernaculars. One example is the word miššara 'rice paddy field' which is a direct descendant of the Akkadian mušāru. A number of words in the dialect of Bakhdida (Qaraqosh) shows the same origin, e.g. baxšimə 'storeroom (for grain)' from Akkadian bīt ḫašīmi 'storehouse' and raxiṣa 'pile of straw' from raḫīṣu 'pile of harvest produce'.[62]

Some grammatical features that are found in the modern Assyrian dialects are typologically more archaic than the corresponding features in classical Syriac. In the dialect of Qaraqosh, for example, the infinitive of all verbal stems does not have an initial m-, by contrast with Syriac infinitives, which have acquired this prefix by analogy with the participles.[62]

A number of Assyrian family names, such as Ashur, Hadad, Shamash, Ramsin, Shinu, Dayan and Akkad, together with tribal names such as Bit-Shamasha, Bit Tyareh, Bit-Kasrani and Bit-Eshtazin have clear reference to Ancient Mesopotamian origin.

Scarcity of Assyrian names in the Christian Era

One of the main arguments against the continuity hypothesis is the scarcity of Assyrian and Mesopotamian (East Semitic) pagan personal names among the Assyrian Christian priests, bishops and other religious figures. This argument has been put forward by John Joseph, Jean Maurice Fiey and David Wilmshurst. Fiey comments, 'I have made indices of my Assyrie chretienne, and have had to align some 50 pages of proper names of people; there is not a single writer who has an 'Assyrian' name.' Wilmshurst comments, 'The names of thousands of Assyrian and Chaldean Catholic bishops, priests, deacons and scribes between the third and nineteenth centuries are known, and there is not a Sennacherib or Ashurbanipal among them.'[63][64]

Defenders of the continuity hypothesis have argued that it is usual and common for peoples to adopt Biblical names after undergoing Christianisation, particularly as names such as Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal have clear pagan connotations, and thus unlikely to be used by Christian priests, and many were in fact throne names or eponyms. Fred Aprim has asserted that distinct Assyrian names did indeed continue in an unbroken line from ancient times to the present, giving a number of examples.[65] Simo Parpola also gives evidence of the continuation of ancient Assyrian names, and shows that they, together with native Assyrian religion, remained common into the 4th century AD, only reducing with the advent of Christianity, this position is supported by Richard Nelson Frye also.

Odisho Gewargis explained the general scarcity (but not total absence) of autochthonous personal names as a process taking place only after Christianization. The reduction in ethnic naming is of course common in most peoples that adopt a monotheistic religion,and they are generally replaced with Biblical Names; an example of this would be the scarcity of traditional English names such as Wolfstan, Redwald, Aethelred, Offa and Wystan among modern Englishmen, compared to the commonality of non English biblical names such as John, Mark, David, Paul, Thomas, Daniel and Matthew.[Note 11]

Syria versus Assyria naming controversy

Main article: Name of Syria

Another argument concerns the controversy between the terms Syrian/Syriac vs Assyrian. In the past, some sceptics had long pointed out, and a few continue to do so despite strong evidence to the contrary, that the prevalence of the term Syrian/Syriac was a strong argument against the idea of Assyrian identity.

The question was addressed from the Early Classical period through to the Renaissance Era by the likes of Herodotus, Strabo, Justinus, Michael the Syrian and John Selden, with each of these stating that Syrian was synonymous and derivative of Assyrian. Acknowledgments being made as early as the 5th century BC in the Hellenistic world that the Indo-European term Syrian was a derived from the much earlier Assyrian, and that Syrians were actually Assyrians in relation to northern Mesopotamia and its immediate surrounds. Similarly, distinctions between those dubbed Syrians/East Syrians/West Syrians were made as early as the 9th century AD, with the observation that those called Syrian in Upper Mesopotamia and its surrounds were in fact Assyrians, and those called Syrians in The Levant were in fact Arameans.

In modern times, supporters of the Assyrian continuity hypothesis have argued very successfully that the terms Syrian, East Syrian and Syriac are indeed 9th century BC derivatives of Assyrian, and in past times (for at least five or six centuries until the Seleucid period in the late 4th or early 3rd century BC) these terms actually meant specifically and only Assyria and Assyrian, particularly when referring to the inhabitants of the northern half of Mesopotamia and its immediate surrounds. Cilician, Commagene Cappadocian, Neo-Hittite, Lydian and Luwian subject peoples of the Neo Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC) used the abbreviated term Syria when clearly and specifically referring only to Assyria their Assyrian overlords.

Significantly, the region now encompassing Modern Syria, excluding the historically Assyrian northeastern corner, was not known as Syria/Assyria during this time. Historically, it had initially been known as The land of the Amurru (Amorites), then as Aramea and Eber Nari, with the appellation Syria only being applied to it (as well as Assyria itself) in the late 4th or early 3rd century BC.

The Encyclopedia Americana states, under the entry Syria, “It is now certain that the name “Syria” is derived from the older “Assyria”[67]

Majority mainstream scholarly opinion now strongly supports the already dominant position that 'Syrian' and 'Syriac' indeed derived from 'Assyrian', and the 21st Century discovery of the Çineköy inscription seems to clearly confirm that Syria is ultimately derived from the Assyrian term 𒀸𒋗𒁺 𐎹 Aššūrāyu.[68]

Other naming controversies

Other scholars note that religious terms with no ethnic meaning such as Syriac Christians, Jacobites, Chaldeans, Nestorians and the generic Middle Eastern Christians/Iraqi Christians were imposed at a much later date upon a people always historically known as Assyrians by themselves and neighbouring peoples by external, largely Western and Theological sources.[44][69]

The term Nestorian was applied not just to the eastern Aramaic speaking Assyrians, but to any member of an eastern rite church, regardless of geography, ethnicity and language, and included such diverse peoples as Assyrians, Arameans, Nabateans, Phoenicians, Arabs, Armenians, Greeks, Anatolians, Indians, Iranians, Mongols, Turkic peoples and Chinese, spanning a region stretching from Cyprus in the west to China in the east, thus it is clearly purely a doctrinal rather than an ethnic, cultural, linguistic historical or geographic label. The name simply means a member of the Nestorian Church, and this has no more ethnic or geographical connotation than being a member of the Baptist Church or LDS churches.

Assyrians also often reject this label even in a theological sense, pointing out that the Church of the East was both four centuries older and also doctrinally distinct from Nestorius and his teachings, and also because they are a Multi-denominational people with a distinct and specific ethnicity, language, culture, genetic profile and are from a distinct and specific historical and geographic homeland. Philip Hitti states that it is an inaccurate term both chronologically and theologically and has no ethnic meaning.[44]

Hannibal Travis states that later erroneous names which served to confuse Assyrian identity in the Western World, such as Nestorians, Syrians, Syriacs, and Chaldeans, were names imposed by Western Missionaries such as the Catholics and Protestants on the Ottoman, Persian and Mesopotamian Assyrians. The Greek, Persian, and Arab rulers of occupied Assyria, as well as Assyrian Church, Chaldean Catholic and Syriac Orthodox patriarchs and clergy, together with Armenian, Georgian, Arab, Kurdish, Turkish, Russian, British, and French laypeople, called them Assyrians.[69]

Artur Boháč asserts that Assyrians are an ethnically, linguistically and religiously distinct minority in the Near East, descendant from the ancient Semitic Assyrians, and unrelated on ethnic, linguistic, cultural and genetic levels to Arabs, Kurds, Iranians, Armenians and Levantine Syriacs. Boháč ehoes Hannibal Travis in pointing out that the confusion of later names applied to the Assyrian ethnic group were introduced by Western theologians and missionaries, and others arose out of doctrinal rather than ethnic divisions.[70]

Chaldean continuity

In recent times, a small and mainly United States-based minority within the Chaldean Catholic Church have begun to espouse a separate Chaldean ethnic identity, asserting that they are a different and separate race to the Assyrians, and are actually the direct descendents of the Chaldeans of southeast Mesopotamia, and not descendants of the Semitic people of Assyria and Upper Mesopotamia. This is only a minority viewpoint among Chaldean Catholics, which has no support in academic circles.

However, the terms Chaldean, Chaldo-Assyrian and Chaldean Catholic are only historically recent terms that refer to those traditionally known as Assurayu-Assyrians, and later ethnic derivatives such as Athurai, Assouri, Atorayeh, Ashuriyun, Assuristani, East Assyrians, Syriacs, Sorayeh and East Syrians, as well as by the theological terms Syriac Christians, Nestorians and Jacobites. All were in fact North Mesopotamian former members of the Assyrian Church of the East, who entered into communion with the Roman Catholic Church between the 16th and 18th centuries, after failing to gain acceptance into the Syriac Orthodox Church. Again, this is properly taken as purely a theological and doctrinal term, the name of a church only, and has no meaning in an ethnic sense. Even geographically, the term is wholly inaccurate, the Chaldean Catholic Church itself being founded and followed by people in northern Mesopotamia, and not in the extreme southeast corner bordering the Persian Gulf where Chaldea had once been.[71]

It was noted throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, even in strong Catholic regions in Upper Mesopotamia that members of this church regarded themselves as Assyrians in an ethnic and historical sense.[14][72]

The Chaldean Catholic Church was pointedly originally named the Church of Assyria and Mosul and its first leader Patriarch of the Eastern Assyrians circa 1550 AD, and was changed to distinguish its members from the Assyrian Church of the East in 1683 AD, with the modern Chaldean Catholic Church only coming into being in 1830 AD. Its founders and members were all from the Assyrian Homeland in northern Mesopotamia (what was Assyria), rather than the far south east of Mesopotamia where the Ancient Chaldeans migrated to in the 9th century BC, and where they also disappeared from history in the 6th century BC, and no link has been provided linking these people to the Chaldea or Chaldeans of old.

In an interview with Raphael I Bidawid, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church between 1989 and 2003, published in 2003, he commented on the Assyrian name dispute and distinguished between what is merely the name of a church and an actual ethnicity:

I personally think that these different names serve to add confusion. The original name of our Church was the ‘Church of the East’ ... When a portion of the Church of the East became Catholic, the name given was ‘Chaldean’ based on the Magi kings who came from the land of the Chaldean, to Bethlehem. The name ‘Chaldean’ does not represent an ethnicity... We have to separate what is ethnicity and what is religion... I myself, my sect is Chaldean, but ethnically, I am Assyrian.[71]

In an interview with the Assyrian Star in the September–October 1974 issue, he was quoted as saying:

Before I became a priest I was an Assyrian, before I became a bishop I was an Assyrian, I am an Assyrian today, tomorrow, forever, and I am proud of it.[73]

Unlike the Assyrian continuity hypothesis, no serious, respected or accredited academic, historical, archaeological, linguistic, genetic, anthropological, ethnological, theological, geo-political or geographical arguments whatsoever have been put forth supporting a Chaldean continuity. Modern Chaldean Catholics originate from exactly the same region, towns and villages as those long before called Assyrians, and bear exactly the same family and personal names, speak the same language, have the same cultural practices, were for fifteen centuries members of exactly the same church, and have exactly the same genetic profile as Assyrians.

There has been no serious or accredited academic study which provides any credible evidence whatsoever, let alone proof, that there is a historical, cultural, ethnic, geographical, genetic or linguistic Chaldean continuity linking modern north Mesopotamian members of the Chaldean Catholic Church to the Chaldeans of south eastern Mesopotamia. The consensus among scholars is that the real Chaldeans, who were late 10th or early 9th century BC West Semitic Levantine Immigrants to Southern Babylonia, quickly became Akkadianised, adopting Assyro-Babylonian language, religion, names and culture, and that they were wholly subsumed, disappearing into the much older native population of Babylonia, as fellow migrants such as the Amorites, Kassites, Suteans and Arameans before them had been. It is highly significant that the Achaemenids, Seleucids, Arsacids, Romans, Parthians, Sassanids, Arabs, Savavids, Mongols, Seljuks or early Ottomans did not retain a province or land called Chaldea within their empires, nor make mention of a Chaldean race or language in their written records, this in stark contrast to Assyria which continued to endure until the mid 7th century AD.

Furthermore, there is no historical evidence, including written proof, archaeological finds etc., that record a Chaldean presence in Assyria/Northern Mesopotamia, or any sense of a Chaldean identity or culture being extant at any time in that region, nor a valid explanation of how Chaldea and Chaldeans disappeared during the 6th century BC, and then simply reappeared in the late 17th century AD, after a total absence from history of over 2300 years, at the opposite end of Mesopotamia.

Proponents of a Chaldean continuity or separateness from Assyrians sometimes claim that they are separate because they speak Chaldean Neo Aramaic rather than Assyrian Neo- Aramaic, however in addition to both of these appellations being only 20th century labels applied by modern linguists to regions where one church was more prevalent than another for convenience, with no historical continuity or ethnic context, they are also wholly inaccurate; many speakers of Chaldean Neo Aramaic are in fact members of the Assyrian Church of the East, Assyrian Pentecostal, Evangelical Churches or Syriac Orthodox Church,[74] and equally, many speakers of Assyrian Neo Aramaic are members of the Chaldean Catholic Church or Syriac Orthodox Church. This is also true of the Surayt/Turoyo dialect, and minority dialects such as Hértevin, Koy Sanjaq Surat, Bohtan Neo-Aramaic and Senaya. Furthermore, each of these dialects originated in Assyria, evolving from the 8th century BC Imperial Aramaic of the Assyrian Empire and 5th century BC Syriac of Achaemenid Assyria.

The term Chaldeans already had a history of being used in an ethnically and geographically inaccurate sense by Rome prior to being applied to Assyrian converts, having been previously officially used by the Council of Florence in 1445 as a new name for a group of Greek Christians of Cyprus who entered in Full Communion with the Catholic Church.[75] Rome followed to use the term Chaldeans to indicate the members of the Church of the East in Communion with Rome, mainly not to use the terms Assyrian, Syrian and Nestorian that had connotations to theologically unacceptable doctrines. Rome had also previously misapplied the name to Chaldia,[76] a people and region in Anatolia utterly unrelated ethnically, geographically or historically to Chaldea.

Historical continuity

Following the destruction of the Neo Assyrian Empire by 605 BC, the population of the Assyria came under the control of their Babylonian relatives until 539 BC. Ironically, Nabonidus, the last king of Babylonia, was himself from Assyria. From that time, Assyria as a political and named entity was under Persian Achaemenid, Macedonian, Seleucid, Parthian Arascid, Roman and Sassanid rule for seven centuries undergoing Christianisation during this time.

Assyria flourished during the Achaemenid period from 539-323 BC (see Achaemenid Assyria), becoming a major source of manpower for the Achaemenid armies and a breadbasket for the empire, with Assyrians also attested as having important administrative posts within the empire, disproving the Biblical assertion that Assyria was both depopulated and devastated.[77][78] Assyria was even powerful enough to raise two full-scale rebellions against the Achamenids.

The Seleucid empire succeeded that of the Achaemenids in 323 BC; from that point Greek became the official language of the empire at the expense of Mesopotamian Aramaic. The general populace of Assyria were not Hellenised however, as is attested by the survival of native language and religion long after the destruction of the Seleucid Empire itself had been destroyed. The province flourished much as it had under the Achaemenids for the next century, however by the late 3rd century BC Assyria became a battleground between the Seleucid Greeks and the Parthians but remained largely in Greek hands until the reign of Mithridates I when it fell to the Parthians.

During the Seleucid period, the term Assyria was altered to read Syria, a Mediterranean form of the original name that had been in use since the 8th or 9th century BC among some western colonies of the Assyrian Empire (see Çineköy inscription). The Seleucid Greeks used this term to name Aramea to the west Syria (read Assyria) as it had been an Assyrian colony for centuries. When they lost control of Assyria proper (which is northern Mesopotamia, north east Syria and part of south east Anatolia), they retained the name but applied it only to the former Assyrian colony of Aramea (i.e. The Levant). This created a situation where both the actual Assyrians of Mesopotamia and the Arameans to the west were referred to as Syrians by the Greco-Roman civilisations and western world, causing the later Syrian vs. Assyrian naming controversy.

Archaeological evidence from the late 20th century shows that Nineveh still had some small level of occupation until 50 BC.[79]

The region was pointedly renamed Assyria (Assuristan) during the Parthian era. The Parthians appeared to have exercised only loose control at times, leading to the virtual resurrection of Assyria with the native kingdom of Adiabene 15 B.C. to 117 A.D. centered in modern Arbil.[80] Its rulers were converts from Mesopotamian religion to Judaism and later Christianity, and it retained Mesopotamian Eastern Aramaic as its spoken tongue.[80]

Adiabene, like the rest of northern Mesopotamia, was conquered by Trajan in 117 AD, and the land was still named Assyria by the Romans.

Christianity, as well as Gnostic sects such as the Sabians and Manicheanism, took hold between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD. Assyria became the center of the distinct Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Christianity and of Syriac literature.

The Parthians regained control of the region a few years later, and pointedly retained the name Assyria (Assuristan). Other small kingdoms had also sprung up in the region as well as Adiabene, namely Osrhoene and Hatra, which were Aramaic/Syriac speaking and at least partly Assyrian. Assyrian identity appears to have remained strong, with the 2nd-century writer and theologian Tatian stating clearly that he is an Assyrian, as does the satirist Lucian in the same period.

Assur itself also appears to have been independent or largely autonomous, with temples being dedicated to the national god of the Assyrians (Ashur), as well as other distinctly Mesopotamian deities, into the second half of the 3rd century AD, before it was once again destroyed by the invading Sassanids in 256 AD. In addition, a sanctuary for the Assyrian moon god Sin with Syriac inscriptions invoking his name dating to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD was found at Sumatar Harabesi not far from Harran and Edessa.[81]

The Sassanids recognised the land as Assyria, retaining the name Assuristan.

It has been claimed that Assyrians retained a distinct identity and a degree of local autonomy in the Sassanid period; according to the legend of Mar Behnam, the region around Nineveh was governed in the 4th century A.D. by a certain local Assyrian king, pointedly named Sennacherib, who established the Mar Behnam monastery in memory of his son.[82]

Assyria remained recognised as such by its inhabitants, Sassanid rulers and neighbouring peoples until after the Arab Islamic conquest of the second half of the 7th century AD. Even after that event, and under the pressure of Arabization and Islamification, Assyrian identity remained; a plaque found in northern Mesopotamia dating from the late 7th century AD mentions a man by the name of Otal Bar Sargon, "Sargon" being a very distinct Assyrian name.

During the 12th century AD, well into the Arab Islamic period, the Arab Muslims were still referring to the indigenous population as Ashuriyun, and Assyrian religion survived in the region amongst the Assyrians until as late as the 10th Century AD.

Similarly the city of Ashur was occuped by Assyrians as late as the 14th Century AD, only being abandoned after the massacres of Assyrian Christians by Tamurlane, significantly the abandonment of Ashur coincides with the massacres of Assyrians.

Some evidence also exists that the last remnants of Mesopotamian religion existed in small pockets into the 18th century.[21]

A number of eastern Medieval scholars and theologians (such as Michael the Syrian), as well as a number of neighbouring peoples such as the Arabs, Armenians and Georgians, still recognised the Semitic Christian population of northern Mesopotamia as Assyrians.

European travellers in Mesopotamia in the first part of the 19th century came upon Eastern Aramaic speaking Christians who still identified themselves as Assyrians, bearing Assyrian names, and who were identified by their neighbours as such.[39]

See also


  1. ^ From a lecture by J. A. Brinkman: "There is no reason to believe that there would be no racial or cultural continuity in Assyria, since there is no evidence that the population of Assyria was removed."[18]
  2. ^ "The destruction of the Assyrian Empire did not wipe out its population. They were predominantly peasant farmers, and since Assyria contains some of the best wheat land in the Near East, descendants of the Assyrian peasants would, as opportunity permitted, build new villages over the old cities and carried on with agricultural life, remembering traditions of the former cities. After seven or eight centuries and after various vicissitudes, these people became Christians. These Christians, and the Jewish communities scattered amongst them, not only kept alive the memory of their Assyrian predecessors but also combined them with traditions from the Bible."[22]
  3. ^ "In Achaemenian times there was an Assyrian detachment in the Persian army, but they could only have been a remnant. That remnant persisted through the centuries to the Christian era and beyond, and continued to use in their personal names appellations of their pagan deities. This continuance of an Assyrian tradition is significant for two reasons; the miserable conditions of these late Assyrians is attested to by the excavations at Ashur, and it is clear that they were reduced to extreme poverty by the time of Parthian rule."[23]
  4. ^ "Especially in view of the very early establishment of Christianity in Assyria and its continuity to the present and the continuity of the population, I think there is every likelihood that ancient Assyrians are among the ancestors of modern Assyrians of the area."[26]
  5. ^ "Although the Assyrian empire had fell, the Assyrians retained the Assyrian culture alive. In his book "Edessa: The Blessed City" JB Segal confirms just that. Before Abgar Dynasty in Urhoy received Christianity, Urhoy was a city of Assyrian gods Nabu, Sin, Shamash, Ashur, Bel and Ishtar of Nineveh. Within the Abgar dynasty, there were kings named Mannu, the Akkadian name that was found in the Assyrian inscriptions from the assyrian city of Tushan(southeastern Turkey). This demonstrates that the people of Urhoy and in northern Mesopotamia retained its Assyrian identity and culture long after the Assyrian empire ceased to exist."[28]
  6. ^ "I began to make inquiries for the Syrians. The people informed me that there were about one hundred families of them in the town of Kharpout, and a village inhabited by them on the plain. I observed that the Armenians did not know them under the name which I used, Syriani; but called them Assouri, which struck me the more at the moment from its resemblance to our English name Assyrians, from whom they claim their origin, being sons, as they say, of Assour who 'out of the land of Shinar went forth, and build Nineveh, and the city Rehoboth, and Calah, and Resin between Nineveh and Calah." [39]
  7. ^ a b "Based on interviews with community informants, this paper explores socialization for ingroup identity and endogamy among Assyrians in the United States. The Assyrians descent from the population of ancient Assyria (founded in the 24th century BC), and have lived as a linguistic, political, religious, and ethnic minority in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey since the fall of the Assyrian Empire in 608 BC. Practices that maintain ethnic and cultural continuity in the Near East, the United States and elsewhere include language and residential patterns, ethnically based Christian churches characterized by unique holidays and rites, and culturally specific practices related to life-cycle events and food preparation. The interviews probe parental attitudes and practices related to ethnic identity and encouragement of endogamy. Results are being analyzed."[58]
  8. ^ "The relationship probability was lowest between Assyrians and other communities. Endogamy was found to be high for this population through determination of the heterogeneity coefficient (+0,6867), Our study supports earlier findings indicating the relatively closed nature of the Assyrian community as a whole, which as a result of their religious and cultural traditions, have had little intermixture with other populations."[50]
  9. ^ "In the less frequent J1-M267* clade, only marginally affected by events of expansion, Marsh Arabs shared haplotypes with other Iraqi and Assyrian samples, supporting a common local background."[53]
  10. ^ 'The Greek historian Thucydides reports that during the Peloponnesian wars (ca. 410 BC) the Athenians intercepted a Persian who was carrying a message from the Great King to Sparta. The man was taken prisoner, brought to Athens, and the letters he was carrying were translated “from the Assyrian language”, which of course was Aramaic…'
  11. ^ "If the children of Sennacherib were, for centuries, taught to pray and damn Babylon and Assyria, how does the researcher expect from people who wholeheartedly accepted the Christian faith to name their children Ashur and Esarhaddon?"[66]


  1. ^ a b Khan 2008, p. 6
  2. ^[dead link]
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ P. 195 (16. I. 2-3) of Strabo, translated by Horace Jones (1917), The Geography of Strabo London : W. Heinemann ; New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons
  5. ^ Crone & Cook 1977
  6. ^ "Amir Harrak". Journal of Near Eastern Studies 51 (3): 209–214. 1992. JSTOR 545546. 
  7. ^ The Origins of Syrian Nationhood: Histories, Pioneers and Identity Adel Beshara
  8. ^ Ammianus Marcellinus XXIII.6.20 and XXXIII.3.1, from
  9. ^ Armenian Books V and VI from 420 AD. Todd B. Krause, John A.C. Greppin, and Jonathan Slocum
  10. ^ The Fihrist (Catalog): A Tench Century Survey of Islamic Culture. Abu 'l Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq al Nadim. Great Books of the Islamic World, Kazi Publications. Translator: Bayard Dodge.
  11. ^ H. Chick: A Chronicle of the Carmelites in Persia. London 1939, S. 100.
  12. ^ Wilmshurst 2011, p. 180
  13. ^ Burgess, Henry The Repentance of Nineveh Sampson Low: Son and Co., London, (1853) p.36
  14. ^ a b Rassam, H. (1897), Asshur and the Land of Nimrod London
  15. ^ Soane, E.B. To Mesopotamia and Kurdistan in Disguise John Murray: London, 1912 p. 92
  16. ^ Rev. W.A. Wigram (1929), The Assyrians and Their Neighbours London
  17. ^ The Tragedy of the Assyrians BY LT. COL. R. S. Stafford D.S.O., M. C.
  18. ^ Efram Yildiz's "The Assyrians" Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies, 13.1, pp. 22, ref 24
  19. ^
  20. ^ Assyrians After Assyria, Parpola
  21. ^ a b
  22. ^ Saggs, pp. 290
  23. ^ S. Smith, "Notes on the Assyrian Tree," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, (1926): 69.
  24. ^ Georges Roux - Ancient Iraq
  25. ^ Crone & Cook 1977, p. 55
  26. ^ Biggs, pp. 10[citation needed]
  27. ^ Curtis, John (November 2003). "The Achaemenid Period in Northern Iraq" (PDF). L’archéologie de l’empire achéménide (Paris, France). 
  28. ^ "Edessa: The Blessed City", JB Segal
  29. ^ Dalley, Stephanie (1993) Nineveh After 612 BC Alt-Orientanlische Forshchungen 20 p.134
  30. ^ Printed in Nabu Magazine, Vol. 3, Issue 1 (1997)
  31. ^ a b Rollinger, Robert (2006). "The terms "Assyria" and "Syria" again". Assyriology. Journal of Near Eastern Studies, 65(4). pp. 284–287.
  32. ^ The Church of the East and the Church of England: A History of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Assyrian Mission J. F. Coakley p366
  33. ^ Aziz Suryal Atiya (1968), A History of Eastern Christianity London: Methuen
  34. ^ Read Poutrus Nasri (1974), History of Syriac Literature Cairo
  35. ^
  36. ^ Adam H. Becker, The Ancient Near East in the Late Antique Near East: Syriac Christian Appropriation of the Biblical East in Gregg Gardner, Kevin Lee Osterloh (eds.) Antiquity in antiquity: Jewish and Christian pasts in the Greco-Roman world, p. 396, 2008, Mohr Siebeck, ISBN 978-3-16-149411-6
  37. ^ Wilmshurst 2011, pp. 413–416
  38. ^ Nineveh and its Remains: with an Account of a Visit to the Chaldaean Christians of Kurdistan, and the Yezidis, and an Inquiry into the Manners and Arts of the Ancient Assyrians (2 vols., 1848–1849).
  39. ^ a b c Horatio Southgate (1843): Horatio Southgate, "Narrative of a Visit to the Syrian Church", 1844 p. 80 [1]
  40. ^ Korbani, Agnes G. (1995), The Political Dictionary of the Modern Middle East, Lanham, Md.: University Press of America
  41. ^ a b Intellectual Domination and the Assyrians, Nineveh Magazine, Vol. 6 No. 4 (Fourth Quarter 1983), published in Berkeley, California.
  42. ^ Silvio Zaorani (Turin, 1993) under the chapter entitled "The Modern Assyrians - Name and Nation", pp. 106-107)
  43. ^
  44. ^ a b c Hitti, Philip Khuri (1957), History of Syria, including Lebanon and Palestine Macmillan; St. Martin's P.: London, New York
  45. ^ Unrepresented Nations and People Organization | UNPO, Assyrians the Indigenous People of Iraq [1]
  46. ^
  47. ^ a b c d Joel J. Elias (20 July 2000). "The Genetics of Modern Assyrians and their Relationship to Other People of the Middle East". 
  48. ^ a b M.T. Akbari, Sunder S. Papiha, D.F. Roberts, and Daryoush D. Farhud, ‘‘Genetic Differentiation among Iranian Christian Communities,’’ American Journal of Human Genetics 38 (1986): 84–98
  49. ^ a b Cavalli-Sforza et al. (1994), p. 243
  50. ^ a b Mohammad Medhi Banoei, Morteza Hashemzadeh Chaleshtori, Mohammad Hossein Sanati & Parvin Shariati (2008). "Variation of DAT1 VNTR alleles and genotypes among old ethnic groups in Mesopotamia to the Oxus region". Human Biology 80 (1): 73–81. PMID 18505046. 
  51. ^ a b Levon Yepiskoposian, Ashot Harutyunian & Armine Khudoyan (2006). "Genetic testing of language replacement hypothesis in southwest Asia" (PDF). Iran and the Caucasus 10 (2): 191–208. 
  52. ^ Video on YouTube
  53. ^ Nadia Al-Zahery, Maria Pala, Vincenza Battaglia, Viola Grugni, Mohammed A. Hamod, Baharak Hooshiar Kashani, Anna Olivieri, Antonio Torroni, Augusta S. Santachiara-Benerecetti & Ornella Semino (2011). "In search of the genetic footprints of Sumerians: a survey of Y-chromosome and mtDNA variation in the Marsh Arabs of Iraq". BMC Evolutionary Biology 11: 288. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-11-288. PMID 21970613. 
  54. ^ Nisan, M. 2002. Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle for Self Expression .Jefferson: McFarland & Company.
  55. ^ Akkadian Words in Modern Assyrian
  56. ^ Kaufman, Stephen A. (1974),The Akkadian influences on Aramaic. University of Chicago Press
  57. ^ Turoyo at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  58. ^ MacDonald, Kevin (2004-07-29). "Socialization for Ingroup Identity among Assyrians in the United States". Paper presented at a symposium on socialization for ingroup identity at the meetings of the International Society for Human Ethology, Ghent, Belgium. 
  59. ^ Khan 2008, p. 2
  60. ^ a b Khan 2008, p. 3
  61. ^ Khan 2008, p. 4
  62. ^ a b Khan 2008, p. 5
  63. ^ Fiey, 'Assyrians ou Arameens?', L'Orient Syrien, 10 (1965), 146–48; Joseph, 'The Bible and the Assyrians: It Kept Their Memory Alive', JAAS, 12, 1 (1998), 70–76
  64. ^ Wilmshurst 2011, p. 415
  65. ^
  66. ^ Odisho, We Are Assyrians, pp. 89.
  67. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana, International ed. (c1986) Danbury, Conn.: Grolier
  68. ^ Frye, R. N. (October 1992). "Assyria and Syria: Synonyms" (PDF). Journal of Near Eastern Studies 51 (4): 281–285. doi:10.1086/373570. 
  69. ^ a b Travis, Hannibal. Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2010, 2007, pp. 237-77, 293–294
  70. ^
  71. ^ a b Parpola, Simo (2004). "National and Ethnic Identity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire and Assyrian Identity in Post-Empire Times" (PDF). Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies (JAAS) 18 (2): 22. 
  72. ^ Southgate, H. (1844) Narrative of a Visit to the Syrian [Jacobite] Church of Mesopotamia : With Statements and Reflections Upon the Present State of Christianity in Turkey and the
  73. ^ Mar Raphael J Bidawid. The Assyrian Star. September–October, 1974:5.
  74. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Northeastern Neo-Aramaic". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
  75. ^ Council of Florence, Bull of union with the Chaldeans and the Maronites of Cyprus Session 14, 7 August 1445 [2]
  76. ^ Anthony Bryer, "Greeks and Türkmens: The Pontic Exception", Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 29 (1975), p.
  77. ^ Bertman, Stephen (2005). Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 244. ISBN 0-8160-4346-9. 
  78. ^ Arrian, Anabasis, III.7.3.
  79. ^ Barag, D., 1985. "Catalogue of Western Asiatic Glass in the British Museum I", p. 108–9. London.
  80. ^ a b George Roux- Ancient Iraq
  81. ^
  82. ^ Wolff, Joseph. Missionary Journal and Memoir. p. 279.