In the caliphate and beyond two cases

The Church of the East and its missions The Church of the East was chiefly established in Upper and Middle Mesopotamia, and it was there that it was also able to offer the most effective resistance to Islam.28 The East Syrians were upholders of the ancient medical tradition of Gundeshapur and served numerous caliphs as physicians. This essential role played by the East Syrians at the courts of the caliphs was one of the reasons for the privileged position enjoyed by their catholicoi. Under the first Umayyads, the East Syrians were able to found several new monasteries, an exceptional accomplishment for other Christian communities. The size of the East Syrian population in the Baghdad region, where the Abbasids established their new capital, as well as their importance in the social life of the city, conferred on them an influential position in the new administration and enabled Catholicos Timothy I to transfer the seat of the catholicosate to the capital. As a result the East Syrian catholicoi, the only Christian prelates allowed to reside in Baghdad, often functioned as general representatives at the court of the caliphs for all the Christian communities.29

28 Baum, "Zeitalter der Araber," 43-74.

29 Fiey Chretiens syriaques.

For several centuries following the Arab conquest, Gundeshapur, Nisibis, and Merv continued as intellectual centers of the Church of the East, where a notable and varied literature was produced. Inheritors of the exegetical school of Antioch, the East Syrians bequeathed to posterity important exegetical works, among which a particular place is occupied by the biblical commentary of Isu'dad of Merv. The writings of Isaac of Nineveh (second half of the seventh century), a hermit in the Khuzistan mountains, were to cross the confessional frontiers and to be translated into Greek, Georgian, Ge'ez, and Slavonic. The works of John of Dalyatha (mid-eighth century), a monk of the Qardu mountains, were popular not only among East Syrians, but also among the Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopian miaphysites despite their author havingbeen accused of Sabellianism and Messalianism.

Three features of the Church of the East conditioned the dynamism of its missions: its internal life was not bound to any state structure and its members were used to living among non-Christians, while its theology was the least formulaic and the most flexible of the Christian confessions. Between the fourth and seventh centuries, the East Syrians spread Christianity southeastward, to Arabia, Socotra, the Maldive Islands, India, Ceylon, and Malaysia, and northeastward, to Bactria, Sogdia, Choresmia, and Turkestan, by the eighth century reaching as far as Tibet, Lake Balkash, and, by the eleventh century, Lake Baikal. This missionary activity was supported by the translation of numerous texts into Pahlavi, Sogdian, and Turkic languages. In 635 the missionaries of Catholicos Ko'yahb II reached China where two metropolitan sees were established. Catholicos Saliba (714-28) appointed metropolitans for Media, SIstan, and Sogdiana, and Catholicos Timothy I for the southern Caspian provinces, Makran, Tibet, China, and eastern Turkestan. In China, the Imperial Edict of 638 allowed the preaching of the "Persian religion," that is, Christianity.30 By the turn of the millennium more than five hundred writings had been translated from Syriac and Sogdian into Chinese. Nevertheless, Christianity was never able to achieve in the Far East the success of Manicheism or Zoroastrianism. Chinese persecutions against monks of all foreign religions began in 843-45. Without exterior support, foreign religions in China and Tibet were bound to decline, yet the eastern dyophysite communities survived in the steppes of western China under Tibetan domination, reemerging in the late tenth century under the Liao dynasty.

30 Riboud, "Tang."

The churches of Transcaucasia Although the first Arab invasions into Armenia began in 640, and in 693 direct control over Transcaucasia was established, the countries ofthis region maintained considerable autonomy until c. 699-701, when the province of Arminiya was created, incorporating Armenia, eastern Georgia, and Aiuank1 into the caliphate. Thereafter the Arabs attempted several times to suppress the traditional Armenian aristocracy, yet they never succeeded in creating a coordinated administrative system in the area. Georgia, on account of its remote position, was generally spared the repression that was to befall Armenia. The caliphate failed to achieve firm control beyond the Kura, and this allowed Georgia to continue the Christianization of the isolated mountainous regions of the Great Caucasus where Christianity had been unknown until the seventh century.31

The Armenian and Georgian princes had never completely lost their political importance, and in the first half of the ninth century, when the power of Baghdad began to weaken, they were able to restore the semi-autonomous principalities which, in the course of several decades, acquired ever greater independence. In 885 the caliphate recognized the royal title of the Armenian Bagratide Prince Asot and in 888, ofthe Georgian Bagratide Prince Adarnarseh. The Transcaucasian princes promoted cenobitic monastic foundations on their estates by offering them protection and generous gifts.32 The Armenian and Georgian monasteries attracted the population of the surrounding regions, becoming nuclei for the repopulation of deserted territories, and for economic development and learning. The erudite Anania of Narek (tenth century) worked in the monastic school of Narek close to the southern shore of Lake Van, as did his disciple, the poet Gregory of Narek (c. 945-1010), whose Book of Lamentations has left a particularly profound stamp on Armenian spirituality.

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