Assyrian continuity after the fall of the empire:612 BC-1900 AD

The Legend of Mar Qardagh : Joel Walker


A. Salveson, ?The Legacy of Babylon and Nineveh in Aramaic Sources,? in The Legacy of Mesopotamia, ed. S. Dalley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 151?52. The original excavator marveled over this remarkable continuity in cultic architecture. See W. Andrae, Das wiedererstandene Assur (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs Verlag, 1938; 2d rev. ed., Munich: Verlag C. H.Beck, 1977), 254: ?Es ist fast wunderbar, zu sehen, wie genau sich die alte Gestalt dieses [Assyrian temple] offenbar g?nzlich dem Erdboden gleichgemachten Kultbaues wieder erhob.? For the inscriptions to the god Assur and his consort ?Sherua,? see B. Aggoula, Inscriptions et graffites aram?ens d?Assour (Naples: Istituto universitario orientale, 1985), 41?43 (nos. 17?20). Other finds in the Parthian level at Assur also testify to the survival of the ancient Assyrian cults. For the graffito showing a Parthian nobleman sacrificing before a statue of Nanai, ?the daughter of Bel, the master of the gods,? see Aggoula, Inscriptions et graffites aram?ens, 37?41; Andrae, Assur, 259?60 (fig. 239).
Betrachtungen zur Siedlungs und Bev?lkerungsstruktur des Unteren Khabur Gebietes in der neuassyrischen Zeit, in H. K?hne (Hrsg.), Umwelt und Subsistenz der assyrischen Stadt Dur-Katlimmu am Unteren Habur (Syrien), BATSH 8, Wiesbaden, 2008, 189-214.

by Daniele Morandi Bonacossi

The study of the pottery collected during the surface surveys has allowed to assume even if only in a limited number of sites (36%) a substantial continuity in the settlement activity in the region during the decades that immediately followed the downfall of the Assyrian empire (end 7th-mid 6th century). The ensuing picture seems to be one of a general, widespread reduction in settlement, particularly of the rural occupation of the region, and of a possible progressive decay of the canal system. The latter would have been accompanied by a parallel drop in agricultural production, and thus by a falling back on poorer patterns of life and subsistence.

Nevertheless, this general tendency, which confirms in substance, even if not in size, the picture of depopulation and economic depression already postulated in the historical debate on the Assyrian homeland, may be countered by several significant indicators of economic vitality in the region. In other words these clues do not allow us ? at least in this part of Upper Mesopotamia ? to postulate any real desertification of the territory. First of all we may notice the continuity of settlement attested in nearly all the central sites of the region, even if perhaps on smaller areas than in the 7th century (in particular in the site of Sheikh Hamad). Setting this datum vis-?-vis the collapse of the regional hydraulic network and the strong fall in rural settlement we gain the following picture: a rural landscape which previously was unitary and substantially continuous, had been split up in a host of smaller agricultural areas, possibly irrigated by local canals fed by the Khabur; similarly, the region had been divided up in a series of cantonal districts gathered around the major centres.

The reconstruction of the demographic structure of the valley in the Neo-Assyrian period and the regional population patterns and trends of development between the 14th and the 7th centuries BC is the last object of the present article. The reconstruction of the areas occupied by single sites in the region has made it possible to estimate the order of size of the population existing in the lower valley of the Khabur during the Late Assyrian age as around 24,000 inhabitants.
The Provinces of Central Assyria within the Empire

Compared to the rest of the Empire, the Central Assyrian provinces are small in size. This reflects historical developments as the provinces in this oldest part of the state had been established at a much earlier time and survived, in most cases unchanged, sometimes merged with a neighbouring province into a bigger unit (e.g. Assur and Libbi-ali; Nineveh and Halahhu*), from the Middle Assyrian period.

But while the land controlled by these provinces was much more limited than that of the new provinces created in the 9th and especially in the 8th century, it was intensely developed agricultural land without any of the empty space occupied elsewhere in the Empire by desert or mountains.

Halahhu (place)
District in the northwest of the province of Nineveh

THE ASSUR-NINEVEH-ARBELA TRIANGLE : Central Assyria in the Neo-Assyrian Period (2011)

Karen Radner, University College London
George V. Yana

What is sure, Fiey writes, is that the diocese of Ba Nuhadra [the Plain of Nineveh] had existed for a long time when the catholicos Isaac organized the Syrian Church of the East in 410, and placed this diocese among the affiliates of Arbil.

The administrative center of Ba Nuhadra, the seat of the bishop, was most probably at a place presently called Tell Khishaf, six kilometers from Alqosh, and that is where the legend places the first Episcopal seat.

See "A," on the map below:

For reference.  Maps from: Radner, K., 'Provinz: Assyrien', in M. P. Streck et al. (eds.), Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Arch?ologie 11/1-2, Berlin: de Gruyter, 2006, 42-68.



A couple of comments, from Geoffrey Khan, of Cambridge, regarding the East Sureth vernacular. Most of what is stated is not new:

[M]y own conclusions concerning the historical background of the language spoken by the Assyrian communities today is that it is not a direct descendant of the earlier literary forms of Aramaic, such as Syriac. Rather it is a descendant of a vernacular language that was spoken in the Mesopotamian area. This vernacular is related to the literary forms of Aramaic but has also been influenced by other languages, which include, in the ancient period, the spoken ancient Assyrian [Akkadian]. In later periods it has come under increasing influence of non-Semitic languages, especially Kurdish.

Judging by the core morphology of the dialects spoken by Assyrian Christians, the earlier vernacular from which they are historically derived would be classified by most scholars as a variety of Aramaic. The issue, however, is that this was not like any variety of Aramaic that has survived in literary texts, such as Syriac.
A bit more from, "The Legend of Mar Qardagh"

The veneration of Mar Qardagh offers an intriguing case study in the origins and evolution of an East-Syrian martyr cult. This investigation requires looking deep into the pre-Christian history of Melqi, the ancient shrine near Arbela that hosted the annual festival of Mar Qardagh. Qardagh's hagiographer introduces his hero as coming from ?the stock of the kingdom of the Assyrians,? the descendant via his father of the ?renowned lineage of the house of Nimrod,? and via his mother of the ?renowned lineage of the house of Sennacherib.? While this royal ?Assyrian? lineage has attracted the notice of several previous commentators, this chapter introduces new evidence for its significance by demonstrating that the late Sassanian buildings at Melqi stood directly over the ruins of a major Neo-Assyrian temple, the Akitu-shrine of the goddess Ishtar of Arbela.

Not a single iconographic depiction of Mar Qardagh has been published, and the history of the saint's cult after the tenth century remains sketchy. Although veneration of Mar Qardagh has continued into modern times, the location of the saint's original cult site has been lost, perhaps irretrievably. Its disappearance from the literary record coincides with the turmoil that befell the Arbela region in the generation following the Mongol conquest of Iraq in 1258.

The history of Christian settlement at Melqi after ca. 1200 is equally difficult to trace. Although scribes continued to copy the Qardagh legend into the twentieth century, no text after the hymn to the daughter of Ma nyo (twelfth or thirteenth century) mentions the saint's monastery. The disappearance of ?Beth Mar Qardagh? from the literary record mirrors the general turmoil that engulfed the Christians of the Arbela region in the wake of the Mongol conquest of Iraq in 1258.

Few of the Christian villages and monasteries of Adiabene survived these troubled times...It is probable that the monastery of Mar Qardagh at Melqi was also abandoned during this period. Its location, like that of many monasteries and Christian villages in the region, was gradually forgotten.

The reading and copying of the History of Mar Qardagh ensured that veneration of Mar Qardagh endured long after the abandonment of the saint's monastery at Melqi. After ca. 1300, the East-Syrian Christian community explored in this book was reduced to a fraction of its former geographic range...The only substantial evidence for the cult of Mar Qardagh during these centuries comes from manuscripts, such as the large hagiographical collection copied at Alqosh in northern Iraq in 1707.
How to reach the Upper Tigris: The Route through the Tur Abdin.

State Archives of Assyria Bulletin 15 (2006) 273-305.

Professor Karen Radner
Professor of Ancient Near Eastern History

In the 13th century BC, after the military triumph of the Assyrian kings Adad-n?r?r? I (1300-1270) and Shalmaneser I (1269-1241) over their weakened neighbor Mittani (called ?Hanigalbat? by the Assyrians), the former Hurrian kingdom was swiftly integrated into the Assyrian Empire. Hence, the wide plain east of the Euphrates which is traversed by the rivers H?b?r and Bal?h ? the so-called Jezirah ? became Assyrian, as well as the Upper Tigris region.

It was certainly the fact that the mountain range looks rather imposing from a southern perspective which has led to the still widespread opinion that the T?r Abd?n can be taken as Mesopotamia?s northern border, not only geographically but also culturally speaking. Thus, the mountain range is often identified as the northern perimeter of the Mittani empire. However, as has been already stated, new excavations in the Upper Tigris region (especially Giricano, Ziyaret Tepe and also ??tepe / Kurkh5) have proven the Mittani occupation of the area and confirmed the Assyrian presence in the 2nd and 1st millennium BC; it is therefore necessary to consider the T?r Abd?n as an integral part of the Mesopotamian topography, and not as a frontier zone.

Today, the T?r Abd?n, a limestone mountain range with an altitude between 900 and 1400 m, is best known for its numerous monasteries and churches, forming a unique enclave in a region which has been under Islamic rule for the past twelve hundred years. While the buildings remain, the 20th century saw the departure of many Christian families, and today the area is no longer predominantly Syriac, neither in language nor religion.

We will see that place names such as Midy?t, Mardin, Savur / Sawr?, K?vakh, Azakh and Kfart?th? can be identified with Aramaic toponyms already attested in the Assyrian age. Many sites, however, have been renamed by the Turkish authorities in the 20th century and, with the exodus of the Syriac speaking population, begin to be forgotten.

The Assyrians designated the T?r Abd?n as K?si?ri, hence adapting a locally used toponym that is also attested in the Hittite sources as K?si?ri / G?si?ri and refers to an area under Hurrian (Mittani) control. It is therefore well possible that the toponym is derived from the Hurrian language.

The last Assyrian campaign to K?si?ri is recorded for 855 in the inscriptions of Shalmaneser III (858-824): ?In my fifth regnal year, I ascended to K?si?ri and captured eleven fortified cities?. After this, the Assyrian control over the K?si?ri region seems to be firmly established ? there is no more mention of fights (or any other activities for that matter) in the Assyrian royal inscriptions.

It is important to note that beyond the area where the Syriac language and culture has helped to preserve the ancient Aramaic toponymy, going back to the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, the old place names have rarely been retained and identifications on the basis of etymology are generally quite problematic. The changing toponymy is, of course, also an indication that the population has changed again and again ? in contrast to the T?r Abd?n region which, typically for a mountain region, has served as a retreat area.
This next bit has to do with Assyria before it became Assyria (i.e. Subartu), but, I would just like to add it, to tie-in with the immediately preceding post:

[A]s literacy dawns over the horizon of prehistory the first ethnic group whom we know to have inhabited the region [Arbil and its environs] are the Hurrians. This is not to say there were not other groups. There almost certainly were. Texts over these millennia relating to the eastern frontiers of Mesopotamia (for instance Ur III administrative documents and the Shemshara archives) contain a large number of personal names whose linguistic affiliation has not yet been established and it is, in my view, probable that parent languages will one be day be recognised and reconstructed for at least some of them. Be that as it may, the Hurrians are the earliest definable group for whose presence in the region we currently have evidence; followed closely by the Sumerians.

Tell Nader Project/Tell Baqrta Project
Dr. Konstantinos Kopanias
A New Attempt at Reconstructing Proto-Aramaic

Part II (2011)

Sergey Loesov

Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow

The etymology of the -? suffix

How does this evidence square with our ideas about the origin of the -? suffix? There is no consensus about its etymology, except that it was not the masculine-plural-definite nominal ending in Proto-Aramaic (save perhaps for the nisba nouns). Three theories have been enjoying support since the late 19th century: 1) *-ayy?? > -?; 2) generalization of the -? that since prehistoric times had been used to the right of the nisba ?y- in the whole of Aramaic; 3) borrowing of the Assyrian [Akkadian] masculine plural ending -?.

Theory (1), being the weakest claim, is the most appealing one, but it has no phonological justification. A shift ayy? > -? is attested nowhere in historical Aramaic, and the last-syllable stress makes it improbable in prehistoric times as well (Rosenthal 1936:76 fn.6, pace N?ldeke 1904 and Cantineau 1931).

Theory (2) is based on the assumption that ka?d?y? < *ka?d?yayy? should be ?a natural Aramaic development, a simplification of the overly cumbersome *-ayayy? (Kaufman 1974:128 fn. 58). Thus this theory presupposes two unexplained (and to my mind improbable) developments: the ad hoc contraction -ayy? > -? in this particular surrounding and the subsequent generalization of -? to combine with all the relevant nominal bases.

Theory (3), shared by the present writer, is a strong claim, therefore it requires typological and historical justifications. The borrowing hypothesis will look more plausible if we relate it to the fact that the morpheme in question (i.e., the postpositive article of Proto-Aramaic) was going to forfeit its pristine discourse function in the whole of Middle Eastern Aramaic. It is natural to ask whether this shared loss had its beginnings in the immediate common ancestor of the Eastern Aramaic languages.

Aramaic (both Old and Middle) has two productive derivational morphemes almost certainly borrowed from Akkadian: the nominal abstract suffix -?(t) and the causative verbal prefix ?-/s-. The -?(t) suffix is highly expansive, to the degree of becoming ?parasitisch? (Barth 1894:415), while ?-/s- is hardly attested with more than a dozen Aramaic roots (cf. Loesov 2009:490 f., a review of data gleaned from reference tools). Given this evidence and the above typological considerations, the borrowing of the plural nominal ending -? from Akkadian into Proto-Eastern-Aramaic does not look as improbable as it would seem on first sight.
Soon to be published a book by William M. Warda titled Assyrians Beyond the Fall of Nineveh. It provides historical and archaeological evidences that prove the survival of the Assyrians after the fall of Nineveh, and their conversion to Christianity. The evidence include quotes by the early  centuries of Christianity Assyrian writers,  such as Mar Ephraim the great, Mar Nasai, Timothy (780 to 823) the patriarch of the Church of the East, Mar Michael, patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church and others. Evidence also include the surviving elements of the ancient Assyrian culture into Christianity.  :giggle:
"The Assyrian Christians, or Nestorians, of Northern Meso potamia and Kurdistan have a special interest for many ..."

Source: The Spectator - Volume 3 - Page 412 , Year 1792

"Allow me to observe that the term Syrian as here applied is in no way related to modern Syria. At one time it seems to have been synonymous with Assyrian, later it was restricted to tho people who spoke the Syriac language. Subsequently, probably after the Mohammedan invasion, it was used to designate the two Christian communities in Mesopotamia and some of the districts formerly comprised in ancient Assyria who continued to use the Syriac either colloquially or in their rituals.  These communities styled themselves Syrians but by tho so-called orthodox were branded as Jacobites and Nestorians. 

Finally, the Church of Rome, having succeeded in inducing many of both rites to conform to the Papal supremacy, another change supervened the dissidents from tho Jacobites were called Syrian Catholics and those from the Nestorians Chaldeans which nomenclature prevails at the present day and is recognized by the Ottoman authorities. Nevertheless, the older communities still persist in calling themselves Sooraye that is Syrians and those of them who inhabit the Jebel Tor and tho mountains of tho Kurdistan continue to speak Soorith a dialect of the ancient Syriac"

The Chromolithograph: a journal of art, decoration, and the ... - Page 122
Year: 1867
This is amazing: a page that lists the many different terms referred to 'Assyria' and 'Assyrians' following the fall of the empire.

This is very invaluable for anyone doing similar research, on Assyrians post the fall of their empire in 612.

For example, around the year 90 BC, the term Assyria started to change to Syria, popularized by Greek writers. And the rest is history with the whole 'Assyria vs. Syria' name confusion.

Book: Origines: Babylonian empire. Assyrian empire. Empire of Iran. 1824
By Sir William Drummond, Thomas James Matthias

"Herodotus L 7 tells us that the Assyrians were called Syrians by the Greeks and Assyrians by the Barbarians Thus the Greeks not only gave the appellation of Syria to the whole country which extends from Phoenice to Babylon..."


Book: Origines: Babylonian empire. Assyrian empire. Empire of Iran. 1824
By Sir William Drummond, Thomas James Matthias

"It was apparently from their ignorance of both that the Greeks at first gave the name of Syria alike to Aram and to Ashur and that they afterwards made no distinction between Syrians and Assyrians Thus "
Yeah the good old greeks. Its due to that we got this "aramean" problem within our Assyrian Nation. Its always fun to see how some self hating Assyrians say that they are arameans and whenever they want to provide facts they come up with "XY said that those who the Greeks call Syrians, call themselves Arameans". Well thats not a suprise, because those couple of Greeks who made this statement where at those places where the real arameans were from (west of the eurphrates).

And whenever you have someone like Herodotus saying that those he called Syrians, were called by the Barbarians "Assyrians", its nothing then it was real assyrians who lived east of the euphrates i.e. Assyria. The only thing that kind of "brought" the Assyrians and Arameans together was the very similiar language. Which however should be noticed that the Aramaic of the Assyrian Empire was surly somethingelse then what the original Arameans spoke in their homelands west of the euphrates.

Probably it would be something like the situation of the British Island. If I would go across England, Wales and would say ahh they all talk somehow English i.e. they are English men.
I posted about this in our 'Assyrian Books' thread already:

Assyrians post-Nineveh: identity, fragmentation, conflict and survival (672 BC - 1920): A study of Assyrogenous communities [Paperback]
Dr Racho Donef (Author)


Book Description
Publication Date: December 16, 2012

This study examines the distant past to see the connection between Imperial Assyria and the Assyrians in the nineteenth century and the hypothesis that the Assyrians identity is purely a western construct of the nineteenth century. There have been a number of studies, which discuss the Assyrians, continuity of their culture from Ancient times, and identity. However, this study examines a number of sources, which by and large, have not been utilised. Many travellers, missionaries, and explorers, travelled to the East between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries and wrote about the peoples they visited. Furthermore, there are Vatican sources, which up to now have not been used in the study of the religious schisms among the Assyrian communities. These primary accounts in French, Latin, Spanish and English and certain Greek sources shed light to the problematic. Sources in Turkish, often as translated documents from Arabic and Syriac, clarified the extant information.


Commentary upon the first[-fifth] book of Moses ...  By Simon Patrick - written in 1695

"Ashur From whom came the People called at first Assyres and afterward Assyrians. Which was a Name as large as their Empire comprehending even Syria itself which in several authors is the some with Assyria. But in proper speaking it was only that Country whose head was Niniveh called sometimes Adiabene and Aturia or Assyria"

-This clearly shows that Assyria, after the fall of the empire, came to be called many different names, including Adiabene.



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Let us not forget in the New Testament, in the book of 'Acts': 2:9

And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9"Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, (10)Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes...

Those that are referred to as being residents of Mesopotamia' would have included Assyrians, since Assyrians are one of the original people to accept Christianity.


The Nestorians; or, The lost tribes
By Asahel Grant : 1841



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