The Assyrians from History to Myth: the creation of a politico-religious concept in the self-definition of Syriac Christian communities

Muriel Debie, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)

Although Syriac-speaking Churches developed in the very geographical areas that were once part of the Assyrian Empire, the huge chronological gap leaves room for the past to be reinterpreted. The local Christian populations living under Byzantine and Sasanian and then Islamic states thus fantasized about their origins, moving from an utter rejection of the Assyrians who were viewed, according to biblical models, as a type of completely evil people (including, from their perspective, the Muslim Arabs), to their adoption as revered ancestors in modern times. It is the story of this vision and acculturation of the very distant local past of the Near East that can be read through the Syriac historical texts.

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