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pastor who pastures his flock on the mountains and in the plains ... I saw the plain of Syria and all the villages, Nisibis across the Euphrates. Everywhere I found people with whom to speak . . . the faith preceded me everywhere.'5 Unfortunately this text reveals nothing about the Christian community at Nisibis other than its existence.

Another important text is from the Byzantine emperor Julian (Letter 41), in which he describes the pogroms of his predecessors against Syrian Mar-cionite villages in an effort to eradicate this tradition against which Ephrem wrote during the late fourth century. The details of the Marcionite Christian evangelisation in northern Mesopotamia cannot be known. No Marcionite sources survived. However, these churches became a formidable social force in Western Asia until the establishment of imperial Byzantine Christianity in the region at the end of the fourth century. There is a large anti-Marcionite corpus in early Syriac literature. Among the important anti-Marcionite writers were Bardaisan, the pseudo-Ephremian Commentary on the Lucan parables (pseudo-Ephrem A), Adamantius (The correct faith in God) and the hymns and prose refutations of opponents by Ephrem of Syria.6

Finally, the Chronicle ofArbela, mentioned above, states that the secondbishop of Arbela was martyred during the reign of the Parthian King Xosroes. This would suggest that a leadership structure was developed, at least on a city level, early in the second century.

Other texts are suggestive of the theological and spiritual ethos of early northern Mesopotamian Christianity, but there are no internal chronological markers and scholars are sharply divided as to the date and provenance of the documents. These include the Odes of Solomon, the Gospel of Thomas, the pseudo-Clementine corpus, the Didache, and the Apology attributed to Melito, as well as early Manichaean texts.

During the third century there was significant upheaval in northern Mesopotamia. Roman emperors, seeking to emulate the conquests of Alexander the Great, had already pushed their interests eastward. By the reign of the emperor Lucus Verus (165-6), the empire stretched eastward to envelop Nisibis. However, after 226, when the Sassanid empire replaced Parthian rule, the Persian emperors began to look westward. Shapur I (regn. 240-72) conquered Roman fortifications on the Limes (including Dura Europos, 256), Emesa, parts of Cilicia and even, albeit briefly, Antioch. In an effort to decrease the economic power of Roman northern Mesopotamia and to

5 D. Bundy, 'The life ofAbercius'.

6 H. J. W Drijvers, 'Marcionism in Syria'; D. Bundy, 'The Anti-Marcionite commentary'.

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