Claiming Seleucid Origins in the Seventh Century AD: The Case of Edessa in Northern Mesopotamia (Chiara Grigolin, Università degli Studi di Padova)

1:00pm - 2:00pm / Thursday 21st November 2019
Type: Seminar / Category: Department
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This paper looks at the foundation myth of Edessa as we read it in the extant fragments of the Syriac Chronicle by Jacob of Edessa (638-708), a founding father within the Syrian Orthodox Church. Jacob claims that Seleucus I, presented as the founder of the empire of the Greeks of Syria who had accompanied Alexander the Great from Macedonia, re-founded Orhoë and called it Edessa (“dear”). While Debié argued that this story was used by Jacob to define the ethnic and cultural identity of his community in relation to the Greek Byzantine Christians, I read the myth in the context of the rivalry between the Syrian Orthodox Church and the Church of the East that followed the division of Syriac Christianity during the fifth and sixth centuries Christological controversies. In this paper, I contend that the claim of Seleucus as a founder and his association with Syria, Macedonia and Alexander was made by Jacob to assert the cultural distinctiveness of his community from his East Syrian Christian rivals, who were claiming similar foundation narratives for their main religious centres (e.g. Karka de Beth Selok), but were associating the image of Seleucus with those of the Assyrian and Achaemenid kings.This event is part of the Work in Progress seminar series