'We have no king but Christ': Christian Political Thought in Greater Syria on the Eve of the Arab Conquest (c.400-585)

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55 Citations (Scopus)


This book examines the effects of Christianization upon regional identity and political thought in the eastern Mediterranean in the fifth and sixth centuries. Itfocuses on the centrifugal effects of foundation myths, especially within the Syriac-speaking world. These myths produced a sense of cultural independence, peculiar to Syria and Mesopotamia, and this in turn provided the basis for a more radical challenge to the Roman emperor, during the turbulent Christological controversies of the sixth century. The book begins by examining how bishops and emperors could use Christianity to manage and control local religious behaviour, before turning to the rich evidence from the city of Edessa, and its Syriac legends of early kings and missionaries, to investigate how the connection between religion and cultural independence worked within the Christian Roman empire. At a time when Jews in the Roman world were increasingly differentiated by religion and custom, this book investigates how far Edessenes and other Syriac-speakers were consciously members of a distinctive group. The argument continues by discussing the transformation of this cultural legacy in the sixth century, when the hagiographies of bishops such as John of Ephesus began to invoke local belief and culture in Mesopotamia as an ancient orthodoxy, that made Edessa or Mesopotamia a chosen land, preserving true belief at a time when the rest of the empire had gone astray. For these authors, the emperor's ruler was conditional on his obedience to Christ, the true ruler of all.

Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages312
ISBN (Electronic)9780191595424
ISBN (Print)9780199588497
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Christology
  • Edessa
  • Foundation Myth
  • Hagiography
  • Mesopotamia
  • Miaphysite
  • Missionary
  • Orthodoxy
  • Syriac


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