The Historian Poseidonios from Apamea (ca. 135 BC - 51 BC), was a Greek Stoic philosopher, politician, astronomer, geographer, historian, and teacher. He says: "
"The people we Greek call Syrians, they call themselves Arameans"
From: See J.G. Kidd, Posidonius (Cambridge Classical Texts and Commentaries, 1988), vol. 2, pt. 2, pp. 955-956)
Strabo (born 63 BC or 64 BC, died ca. 24 AD), a Greek historian, geographer and philosopher is mostly famous for his Geographika ("Geography")
He says: "Poseidonius conjectures that the names of these nations also are akin; for, says he, the people whom we call Syrians are by the Syrians themselves called Arameans."
(From: The Geography of Strabo, translated by Horace Leonard Jones and published in Vol. I of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1917, Book I, Chapt. 2, 34)
Flavius Josephus (c. 37 – c. 100 AD (or CE)) was a 1st century Jewish historian and apologist of priestly and royal ancestry who survived and recorded the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 and later settled in Rome. He says: ""Aram had the Arameans, which the Greeks called Syrians.""
(From: Antiquities of the Jews, translated by William Whiston in 1737, Book I, Chapt. 6)
Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 275 – May 30, 339), was a bishop of Caesarea in Palestine and is often referred to as the father of church history because of his work in recording the history of the early Christian church. He says: ""and from Aram the Arameans, which are also called Syrians"
(From: Sebastian Brock, "Eusebius and Syriac Christianity," in Harold W. Attridge and Gohei Hata, eds., Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism (Leiden 1992), p. 226)
Abu Al-husayn 'ali Ibn Al-husayn Al-mas'udi, born 895 in Baghdad [Iraq] and died 957 in al- Fustat [Egypt], was a historian and traveler, known as "the Herodotus of the Arabs.” He was the first Arab to combine history and scientific geography in a large-scale work. On Tur Abdin he says: "Tur Abdin is the mountain where remnants of the Aramean Syrians still survive."
(From: Michael Jan de Goeje: Bibliotheca Geographorum Arabicorum III, Leiden 1906, 54, I)
Prof. Dietrich Hermann Hegewisch born Dec. 15, 1746 in Quakenbrück [Germany] and died April 4, 1812 in Kiel, was a prolific german historian at the University of Kiel with a wide span of interests. He says: "Do not the Syrians, as they are usually called, or the Arameans, as they in fact are termed, deserve more attention in world history than they are usually given?"
(From: D.H. Hegewisch: Die Aramäer oder Syrer; ein kleiner Beitrag zur allgemeinen Weltgeschichte, Berlinische Monatschrift, 2, 1794, p. 193)
On Page 197 he says: "The names Syria, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Babylon, etc. stem from the Greeks, who were not familiar with the true geography of these lands when the names first started to be used. Later, partly because of continuing ignorance and partly because of convenience despite having accurate knowledge, they persisted in using them since it would have required something of an effort to give up the old, familiar names and divisions of the countries and switch to the new ones, even if they were more accurate. The old, true, and single name of these lands is Aram; it is mentioned numerous times in the Bible of the Old Testament, and Greek scholars were also familiar with it and probably described the population of these areas as Arameans, though seldom, as they usually continued to use the term Syrian, which had been familiar to the Greeks."
On page 307 he says: "The Syrians or Arameans were not merely a numerous and large people, they were also a much cultivated people."
Prof. Theodor Mommsen born Nov. 30, 1817, Garding, Schleswig [now in Germany] died Nov. 1, 1903, Charlottenburg, near Berlin, was a German historian and writer, famous for his masterpiece about the History of Rome. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1902. He says: "the history of the Aramaean or Syrian nation which occupied the east coast and extended into the interior of Asia as far as the Euphrates and Tigris"
(From: The History of Rome, written between 1854 and 1856, Leipzig, by Theodor Mommsen, Book First, Chapter One)
"the Arameans defended their nationality with the weapons of intellect as well as with their blood against all the allurements of Greek civilization and all the coercive measures of eastern and western despots, and that with an obstinacy which no Indo- Germanic people has ever equalled, and which to us who are Occidentals seems to be sometimes more, sometimes less, than human."
(ibid, Book Third, Chapter One)
Prof. Theodor Nöldeke born March 2, 1836 in Harburg near Hamburg, died December 25, 1930 in Karlsruhe, was the leading german semitic scholar, who studied at Göttingen, Vienna, Leiden and Berlin. He says: "The main body of the population of all these wide landscapes from the Mediterranean Sea to beyond the Tigris belonged to a certain nationality, that of the Arameans."
(From: Th. Nöldeke: Assyrios Syrios Syros, in Zeitschrift für klassische Philologie, Hermes 5, Berlin 1871, p. 460)
On page 461 he says: "It is well understandable that people have started to transfer the name of the country to the most important nationality and so the name 'syrian' was apprehended ethnological and was equated with 'aramaic'."
On page 468 he says: "Since the times of Alexander [the Great], if not already somewhat earlier, people have started to transfer the name of the Syrians exclusively over the prevailing in Syria nationality, and in this way this originally political-geographical term became an ethnological one that was identified with the local Arameans."
"From the time the Greeks came to have a more intimate acquaintance with Asia, they designated by the name of Syrians, the people who called themselves ´Arameans’.” (From: Th. Nöldeke, Kurzgefasste Syrische Grammatik (Leipzig, 1880), p. XXIX)
"Regarding the name of this nation and its language is the original 'Aramean’ in essence also the only one [sic], that for the employment of the present-day scholarship as yet strongly fits.” (From: Th. Nöldeke, "Die Namen der aramäischen Nation und Sprache,” in Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 25 (1871), p. 131)
Karl Eduard Sachau born 20 July 1845 and died 1930 was a German orientalist. He was 1872 professor at the University of Vienna, and in 1876, professor at the University of Berlin, where he was appointed director of the new Seminar of Oriental languages in 1887. He is especially noteworthy for his work on Syriac and other Aramaic dialects. He says: "The nation of the Arameans: This national name later, mainly in consequence of Jewish-Christian literature influences, gave way to the Greek designation Syrians."
(From: Verzeichnis der Syrischen Handschriften der königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin von Eduard Sachau 1. Abteilung, Berlin 1899, Vorrede I)
Aramean people: Aramean people (not to be confused with ‘Armenians’) speak Aramaic, the language spoken by Abraham, Moses and Jesus. They are the indigenous people of what was called in ancient times Aram- Nahrin, in our days it is called ‘Mesopotamia’.
Some Arameans today identify themselves with “Assyrians”, because of the spiritual colonial hate generating activities of the Western missionaries and diplomats in the Middle-East in 16th and 19th centuries. Other Arameans became known as “Chaldeans”. However all of them are Arameans.
Pseudo-Assyrians, Pseudo-Chaldaeans, and the Cultural – National Needs of the Aramaean Nation
By Prof. Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis, Orientalist
Several previous articles on the situation of the Christian Aramaeans of Iraq triggered mails and discussions about the national identity and name of the Aramaeans.
Whereas in a previous article (Syriacs, "Assyrians" and "Chaldaeans" are all Aramaeans - http://www.buzzle.com/articles/syriacs-assyrians-and-chaldaeans-are-all-aramaeans.html), I focused briefly on terms, and their origin, here I want to concentrate on the reasons for which the term "Assyrian", if used to express the national and cultural needs of today’s Aramaeans, is absolutely prejudicial and effectively lethal for this great, ancient and long targeted nation.
As I want to direct this analysis to those who pretend – so unwisely – that they are ‘Assyrians’, whereas they are undisputedly Aramaeans, I will start with one theoretical concession of historical context.
Assuming the Aramaeans are Assyrians……..
Let’s assume for a moment that the Aramaeans of today are of Assyrian ancestry, as the pretenders of the Assyrianist dogma so passionately want. If this assumption is true, to what extent do the supposed Assyrians of today need the name and the historical identity of the Ancient Assyrians to designate themselves?
To what extent do they need the Assyrian Cultural Heritage instead of the Aramaean?
Assyrian Cultural – National Heritage Does not Exist by Any Means.
Assyrian cultural heritage is a very well specified term in the History of Civilizations; it pertains to a Weltanschauung that has been incepted under total Sumerian impact and narrated through myths like Enuma Elish (‘When above’), Gilgamesh, Etana, Descent of Ishtar in the Nether World, Zu, and others.
There was a monotheistic prevalence in the Mesopotamian North (Assyria), in striking contradiction to the culture of the South (Babylonia) where polytheistic practices were overwhelming.
Names of Gods were rather viewed as aspects of God in Assyria whereas in Babylonia they were conceptualized as names of independent divinities. All this led to diametrically opposed political ideologies, and the Assyrian capitals (Assyria, Kalhu, Nineveh, and momentarily Dur Sharrukin) were always the unconditional rival of Babylon, despite the fact that the people were the same and the dialectal differences minimal.
This cultural background took an end with the destruction of Assyria (612 – 608 BCE); its Babylonian interpretation survived until the Late Antiquity (the 1st century BCE and the 1st century CE) when the last Babylonian cuneiform texts were written.
What happened then is very clear through the archeological and epigraphic evidence that we have unearthed. The diffusion of Aramaic had prevailed throughout Mesopotamia as it had triumphed in Syria many centuries earlier.
The Aramaization of Mesopotamia is not an isolated phenomenon; extensive Aramaization took place in the Iranian plateau at the very end of the Achaemenidian times (4th – 3rd centuries BCE) and its extension reached Central Asia and India. The Achaemenid scribes found the Aramaic alphabetic writing far easier than the Old Achaemenidian cuneiform syllabic writing, which had been formed under strong Assyrian impact. Then, they adopted Aramaic characters for Persian and Parthian, the main languages of the Arsacid empire of Iran (250 BCE – 224 CE).
Aramaization at the scriptural and linguistic levels was parallel with religious, ideological and cultural Aramaization, and this was evident in the last centuries of use of Babylonian cuneiform writing. Aramaean polytheistic systems were predominant among the Babylonians of the Arsacid times. The Babylonian cult of Ishtar at those days reminds us very little of the Assyrian – Babylonian cultural system of the times of Shamshi Adad I and Hammurapi, 1900 years earlier; contrarily, they reflect traits of the Aramaean Astarte whose cult was omnipresent in Western Syria 800 years earlier.
Cultural Aramaization is a multi-dimensional affair of the Late Antiquity; it does not pertain to mere diffusion of Aramaean cultural characteristics; as the Aramaeans were the foremost merchants of those days, traveling, establishing communities and trading from NW Africa to Egypt, the Red Sea, India and China, ideas and concepts developed in other places moved to main parts of the Aramaean lands, Mesopotamia and Syria, thanks to the tolerant and cosmopolitan Aramaean merchants.
What the Chaldaean Oracles reveal is neither Zoroasterian doctrine nor Babylonian religion nor Greek philosophy; it’s an Aramaean Gnosticism made of all these elements and diffused throughout the area of the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean.
Without the rise of Aramaic as lingua franca (international language), Manichaeism would not have been diffused from NW Africa and Egypt to Central Asia and China, which made of it the most perilous antagonist of the official Sassanid Iranian religion, which is known as Mazdeism (a late version of Zorosterianism).
Where were gone all the Babylonians in the 3rd century CE? They were there, and their land was selected by the Sassanid dynasty as that of one of their most important capitals, Tesfun (Ctesiphon). But Babylonian was neither written not spoken anymore, as all the Babylonians had been linguistically and culturally aramaized.
Explicit Disregard for the Babylonian and Assyrian Heritage Among the Aramaized Mesopotamians of the Late Antiquity
Where was the entire Assyrian – Babylonian culture, Atrahasis (the Assyrian – Babylonian Noah), Gilgamesh, Marduk, Nabu, Nergal, Adad, Shamash, Sin and Ishtar in the 3rd century CE?
It was totally superseded by the Aramaean cults that we attest in Palmyra (Tadmor), Hatra and elsewhere, as well as by the Gnosticisms that reflected the religious syncretism of that era.
In Northeastern Mesopotamia, the traditional Assyrian heartland, the small state of Adiabene (Hadhyab) had accepted a form of Judaism that the scarcity of sources does not allow us to analytically portray it; but kings and queens like Izates, Monobaz, Eleni and Aphraates bear witness of Aramaean, Persian or Hellenized names.
None of them was reportedly attentive to the Assyrian cultural heritage that had died long before they existed. And none of them found
1) the need for a historical
reference to Assyria or Akkad (Agade),
In fact, Hammurapi was totally "dead" for the Babylonians of the times of Mani, who had been assimilated among the Aramaeans; and similarly, Tukulti Ninurta I was absolutely insignificant for the inhabitants of Adiabene who were mere Aramaeans who accepted Judaism.
Even if today’s Aramaeans were truly Assyrians, nothing of the Assyrian cultural and national heritage was left down to them.
Why "Re-assyrianize" the "De-assyrianized"?
In this case, their effort to identify themselves as Assyrians is effectively meaningless; it would resemble a hypothetical effort of today’s Bulgarians (whose origin is Turco-Mongolian – Uralo-Altaic, despite their Slavic assimilation) to return back to the Turco-Mongolian – Uralo-Altaic culture of which not a single element survived among them. This would be absolutely purposeless, viewed from one standpoint.
Assessed through another viewpoint, it would be truly lethal – which in this case means suicidal, as attempted by the nation concerned. Such an effort does not – and by definition cannot – have one dimension; it has two; it’s
1. first, what you try to find, re-apprehend, reassess, re-habilitate (for reasons of assumed authenticity) and
2. second, what you lose, drop, get dispossessed of, deprived of, disinherited of.
Evident Absence of an Assyrian-Past-Rehabilitating Christian Aramaean Synthesis
The reason for this is due to the fact that few historical cases of conscious historical – cultural synthesis are known to have been carried out under full terms of authenticity. We have some examples; the great Persian poet Ferdowsi is one of them. In his celebrated Shah Nameh, the Book of the Kings, the national poet of Islamic Iran managed to establish an authentic incorporation of Iran’s pre-Islamic past within the Islamic Iranian Cultural and National context. A really genius synthesis!
This meant that:
contrarily to the Yemenite Muslims, for whom the cultural heritage and the royal tradition of Kharibael of Sheba and Himyar meant nothing, contrarily to the Copts of Egypt, for whom the cultural heritage and the royal tradition of Amenhotep III did not mean anything, contrarily to the aramaized Babylonians who adhered to Islam and for whom the cultural heritage and the royal tradition of Marduk-apla-iddina (Merodach Baladan) did not mean anything, and contrarily to the Aramaeans of Damascus who adhered to Christianity (and thence eventually to Islam) and for whom the cultural heritage and the royal tradition of Ben Hadad III or Hadad Ezer of Aram Dimashq did not mean anything,
…. for a Persian who became Muslim, the great Sassanid Emperor, Shahinshah Khusrau Anushirvan (Cosroes I) did still mean much indeed.
Nothing of the sort was undertaken among the hypothetical Assyrians who would have been aramaized at a later date during the Late Antiquity.
Not a single scholar, not a single Assyriologist, not a single specialist of Aramaean studies can prove that, even for a single case, a page of the Assyrian past and cultural heritage mattered, in any possible way, for any hypothetical aramaized Assyrian of the Late Antiquity or during the Christian and Islamic ages.
Speaking beyond typical cases of erudition that we attest even among various foreign authors (from Herodotus to Tabari), we can draw the conclusion that even if a part of today’s Aramaeans were of Assyrian ancestry, the Assyrian Cultural and National Heritage of the Mesopotamian Antiquity is nothing to them, having had no historical continuity and no authenticity.
National and Cultural De-aramaization and Parallel "Re-assyrianization"
We can then ponder, facing today’s Assyrianist group’s abnormal claims, what these hypothetical Assyrians of today who speak Aramaic would gain and what they would lose by insisting on the portentous effort of national and cultural de-aramaization and parallel "re-assyrianization".
The easiest to assess in this case is that they will gain nothing. Contrarily to what happens in Italy where Latin is taught in the Secondary Education, there will never be a single high school where the supposed ‘aramaized Assyrians’ will learn Cuneiform Assyrian.
One should even go ahead and wonder why this great effort of recharging their youth’s batteries has not yet been undertaken by the pioneers of the Assyrianist devious ideology; the answer is very simple.
More their youth study Cuneiform Assyrian, better they will realize how totally unrelated they are – at the religious, artistic, linguistic, cultural, behavioural, ideological and national levels – from the Ancient Assyrians.
Contrarily to the farfetched – and well financed – inaccuracies of Simo Parpola, there is not a single element in the defunct before 2600 years Assyrian Cultural and National Heritage to resemble in anything with the genuinely Aramaean culture of today’s Aramaeans, irrespective of the appellation that they use to designate themselves, Aramaeans, Chaldaeans, Assyrians or Zulu……
As the subject has several dimensions, I will expand on the detrimental consequences of the ill-fated effort to de-aramaize and hypothetically re-assyrianize today’s Aramaeans in a forthcoming article.
Arameans of Syria: http://www.aramnahrin.org/English/Arameans_Of_Syria.htm
Arameans of Iraq: http://www.aramnahrin.org/English/iraqichristians.htm
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Jacob of Urhoy (Urfa, in Turkey)
Professor Dr. John Joseph.
5-7-2008: Assyria and Syria: Synonyms?
In a letter to the author (John Joseph), dated June 11, 1997, Patricia Crone wrote that she and Cook “do not argue that the Nestorians of pre-Islamic Iraq saw themselves as Assyrians or that this is what they called themselves. They called themselves Suryane, which had no greater connotation of Assyrian in their usage than it did in anyone else…. We take it for granted that they got the modern Assyrian label from the West and proceeded to reinvent themselves… Of course the Nestorians were Arameans.”
(Page 27, footnote 94)
Professor Dr. Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis
The deep and hidden reason of the tyrannical oppression practiced throughout the Middle East is the imposition by France and England of pan-Arabic nationalist cliques that intend to dictatorially arabize the various peoples of the Middle East, who are – all – not Arabs
The basic fact is that all these populations are only Arabic – speaking; they are not Arabs. Their ethnic historical identity is Aramaic. Aramaeans are Semitic, but as distant from the Arabs as the Ancient Hebrews were from the Babylonians. For reasons we are going to explain, these Aramaean populations got gradually arabized, but the arabization phenomenon took place at the linguistic level only, not at the ethnic, national, cultural levels
Out of it, colonial missionaries, political agents, and diplomats made a huge lie (namely that these Aramaeans are not Aramaeans but 'Assyrians') with which they disconnected the Nestorian Aramaeans from their Aramaic identity
What is the correct national name of the Modern Aramaeans? Why are there Aramaeans, who despite the fact that they speak Aramaic, insist on calling themselves 'Assyrians'? Why other Aramaeans stick to a third name, 'Chaldaeans'? Is it proper to use the name 'Syriac' that usually describes a late form of Aramaic language and scripture (from which Arabic derived) as national name of the Aramaeans?
Contrarily to the farfetched – and well financed – inaccuracies of Simo Parpola, there is not a single element in the defunct before 2600 years Assyrian Cultural and National Heritage to resemble in anything with the genuinely Aramaean culture of today’s Aramaeans, irrespective of the appellation that they use to designate themselves, Aramaeans, Chaldaeans, Assyrians or Zulu.............
Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly
But this claim has been researched by historians, and concluded that people in middle East mostly refer to people to their region, like someone from Kirkuk, was named Kirkuki whether he was , Kurd, Turkmen or Aramean. So is the case with Assyrians or actually the “Athuris” that is how they are called in the region. That name is been used to label the Nestorian Arameans of Athur(Asur) region at the suburbs of Mosul. The term has no any relation with the ancient Assyrians and the modern Assyrians
As for the terms "Assyrians" and "Chaldaeans," which are used to describe non-Arab Christians (other than Armenians), there is absolutely no historical reference of their association with the Assyrians and Chaldaeans of ancient Mesopotamia
“The Church of the East and the Church of England: A History of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Assyrian Mission “ is the title of the book written by J.F. Coakley and published in 1992.
On page 147 Coackly reports about a dispute between Arthur Maclean, head of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Assyrian Mission from 1886 to 1891, and Hormuzed Rassam, the brother of Christian Antun (Isa) Rassam; a Chaldean family from Mosul. We read: “As he (Maclean) insisted, the ‘Syrians’ called themselves that, never ‘Assyrians’; …… to apply the name ‘Assyrians’ to these Eastern Syrian Christians appears to me either an error, or else pedantry. There is really as far as I know no proof that they had any connection with the Old Assyrians. ....... ..... Why should we invent a name when we have such a very convenient one, used for centuries, at our hand? I can understand that one living close to the ruins of Nineve should have a fit enthusiasm of Old Assyria; but is it common sense to cast aside a name used by the people themselves, and to invent another for them of very doubtful applicability? “