The myth of Arabian paganism, and the Jewish-Christian origins of the Umayyads


Today on Twitter there was something interesting and edifying posted. The account above reported the finding that 6th-century inscriptions of a religious character in Arabia seem to invariably be Christian, rather than pagan. This is interesting and surprising because Islamic tradition, and works such as the 8th-century Book of Idols, allude to a 6th-century Arabia which was aggressively pagan. Islamic tradition speaks of the city of Mecca as a center of public elite paganism; a pilgrimage site for Arabian pagans. This was the paganism that the prophet Muhammad rebuked and destroyed. The conventional narrative is that these newly converted Arabs burst out upon the world, conquering much of Byzantium, and swallowing Persia in toto, in their zeal.

Muslims believe that their religion is the primordial religion, the monotheism of Adam, the first man. Traditionally groups such as Christians and Jews were seen as reflecting some of that primordial religion, while beyond them were “polytheists,” whose religion was totally debased (modern liberal Muslims have adopted and expanded the idea attributed to Christians and Jews, and argue that religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism also contain fragments of the divine revelation). In contrast, most non-Muslims see in Islam an appropriation and refashioning of the monotheism of the Christians and Jews. Therefore, most non-Muslims accept that Muhammad converted pagan Arabs to a new religion, but it was a religion he and his followers invented from preexisting ideas borrowed and adapted from Christianity and Judaism.

Call this the “traditional” model. Whether you think Muhammad was divinely inspired, or a fabricator, the thesis is that the pagan Arabs adopt a new religion called Islam, and led by their prophet unify into a powerful military force. After his death, led by their leaders, these Muslims conquered the lands of the Near East. I do not believe this traditional model is correct. Rather, I hold to a revisionist model, which has been extended and outlined by a heterodox group of scholars over the past few decades, that Islam as we understand it was a relatively late development, and in fact the conquest of the Near East was an Arab conquest, not a Muslim one, and that a new religion came later.

This model explains rather easily why archaeological evidence in the 6th century does not comport with the traditional historiography. Forms of Christianity and Judaism were already the dominant elite religions in the towns of Arabia during that period. And it is from these towns, reflected in the urbane and mercantile nature of the Mecca of legend, that the Arabs emerged.  The Arab conquest of the Near East was actually the victory of liminal and heterodox Christians. Over the decades of the 7th century these Arab Christians, who had imposed themselves as an elite on top of the older societies of the Near East, evolved so that their sect become its own religion. Muhammad was likely real, but the legends which accrued to him, and the pagan Mecca, were creations which allowed these Arab Christians to distinguish themselves from the people whom they conquered. They transformed their origins into something legendary an fantastical. Only in the last decades of the 7th century did Islam as a sharp and crisp identity develop. This is when Arabs and non-Arabs in Damascus began worshipping in different buildings, and indubitably Muslim architecture begins to be laid down.

So were Arabian pagans invented out of whole cloth? I don’t believe so. The book Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms refers to another book, dating to 900 AD, Nabataean Agriculture, which records evidence of organized rural paganism with clear genealogical connections to ancient Mesopotamian religious practices. During the early Islamic period, there was also an elite pagan tradition in the city of Haran, which had remained pagan due to the protection afforded it by its proximity to the Sassanian Empire. But, the Fertile Crescent, whether under Roman or Persian rule, had become broadly Christian by 600 AD. At least that is what the literary sources make clear.

But there is no reason that the hinterlands need to be impacted by the elite urban centers. We underestimate how autarkic local economies in the pre-modern world were. In fact, even during the early modern Ottoman period, there are records of Muslims stumbling upon isolated valleys in the Zagros where ancient astral worship continued to be the dominant form of religion. Before the early modern period, elite institutional religion was a thin skein wrapped around rural society, which remains “dark” to us. The persistence of “folk paganism” may surprise us. As I have noted before, the people of the Mani peninsula in southern Greece remained practitioners of the old pagan religion down to 1000 AD. The reason had to do with the fact that the region was almost inaccessible by land, and there was little usage of its ports except as transits. The isolation resulted in neglect by the East Roman authorities. The villagers of the Mani region kept doing what their ancestors had always done.

Before modern transportation and communication, institutional religions such as Christianity and Islam were heavily focused on urban locales. The world depicted in early Muslim traditions is an urban one, connected to the other cities of the Near East and Ethiopia. Though I am partial to the thesis that the locus of the early proto-Muslim movement was in the cities of north Arabia, and not Mecca, the detail of where the Arabs coalesced into a revolutionary force is irrelevant. The reality is the idea of Islam as being founded by an illiterate who rallied the desert bedouin to his cause seems to be an anachronism and a misimpression. If Muhammad was a merchant, he was likely literate. And, the role of mounted soldiers in the early Arab conquests seems to be overdone. The nomadic rural bedouin were latecomers to Islam, not the early core. It is from these people, nomads outside of the Christianized cities, that the idea of a pagan Arabia of darkness, comes, because they were pagans!

At this point, some of you may be confused. How can it be that the early Arab conquests were by Christians than Muslims? The reality is that there’s surprisingly little contemporary corroboration of a new religion on the scene from other sources (these would be mostly Christian since we don’t have records from the Persians that are preserved). The Arabs are viewed as Arabs, and perhaps heretics, not as a new religion. The early Umayyads in fact left much of the infrastructure of the Byzantines in place when they took over much of the Near East. Greek remained the administrative language until the end of the 7th century, and there is evidence that the Umayyads continued to patronize figurative art in a manner befitting Late Antique potentates, rather than iconoclastic Muslims.

At some point, this changed. The identity of Islam as the religion of the Arabs, the Umayyads, distinct from that of their Christian subjects, crystallized just before 700 AD. But identity, believing yourself to be distinct, is only part of the full answer. There are plenty of records of poor Christian and Muslim peasants who identify and believe themselves to be Christian and Muslim, but their religious practice and belief remain operationally pagan. One of the major projects of reformist religious preachers and teachers is to align the belief and practice of the people with those of the elite. Similarly, I believe that though the Umayyads began cultivating a distinct religion of Islam amongst the Arab elite by 700 AD, it would not truly be Islam as we understand it in its beliefs and practices. They had the label of Islam, but not a substance we’d recognize.

One of the reasons that the Umayyads have a bad reputation is that their successors, the Abbasids, wrote the histories after 750 AD. The Abbasids continued to be the Caliphs of Islam in a practical sense until 1200 AD, and symbolically until 1500 AD (they were moved to Egypt by the Mamlukes). A major feature of the evolution of Islam during the Abbasid period is that it turned eastward in its focus. While the Umayyads were based in Damascus and cultivated a Greco-Levantine elite, the Abbasids were based in Baghdad, and their elite culture was heavily Iranian. Islamic thinkers during the Abbasid period dismiss the Umayyads as the corrupt “Arab kingdom,” because they were seen to be bad Muslims, Arab chauvanists (remember, many of the Abbasid thinkers were of Iranian background; Arab ethnic prejudice rankled for them). I think this is correct because the measure of a “good Muslim” was developed during the Abbasid period. Though some aspects of the mythology of Islam was already in place during the Umayyad period, in particular, those that gave pride of place to the Arabs, many of the nuts and bolts of Muslim belief and practice can be attributed to the Abbasids.

It was under the Abbasids that Islam became a potentially universal religion, expanding out from the core Arab population of the ruling caste. The Abbasids and their Iranian oriented court brought Zoroastrian and Buddhist influences into Islam, with the flourishing of the legal and orthopraxic aspect in what became Sunni Islam dating to the influx of Turanian converts. Institutions such as the ulema, and the madrassa, both date to this period.

The traditional story is that Arab Muslims conquered a sophisticated multicultural landscape. I believe the true story is that Islam is the product of the Arab conquest of a sophisticated multicultural landscape.

Addendum: The origins of groups like the Mandaeans and Yezidis makes more sense in light of this complex and inchoate, and to our eye unformed, religious landscape of the early “Islamic” period.

11+

24 thoughts on “The myth of Arabian paganism, and the Jewish-Christian origins of the Umayyads

  1. Lots of interesting ideas here, Razib. A few somewhat connected thoughts in response:

    1. One of Russell (Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms) main points is that religious minorities have persisted in the Islamic world to an extent that is hard for the European-Christian world to really fathom. My take on the argument was that Islam is new enough, or dispersed enough, and possibly tolerant enough of “pop-syncretism” (at least until recently) that the presence of heathens wasn’t seen as a huge problem.

    2. Along those lines, Dalrymple (in From the Holy Mountain) paints some vivid scenes of syncretistic worship, where Muslim pilgrims visit Eastern Christian shrines, pray to the saints, leave offerings, etc. and (importantly) tell their own slightly variant legends about said saints.

    3. I’ve always found it fascinating that the world of Islam has its own internal explanations about its variant readings of nominally Jewish stories — the Jews allowed their texts to be corrupted, Ezra (or whoever Uzair is) re-wrote them, etc.

    On various Jewish forums you can often find non-Jews coming to ask questions ostensibly about Jewish concepts or texts, but from perspectives so deeply enmeshed in their own religions’ variant reworkings that they don’t realize that they are, in fact, reworkings. With Muslims the Ezra thing comes up a lot (“why do you guys think Ezra was the son of God?”). The retelling becomes the view of the canonical belief.

    At the same time, there are bits in the Koran and Hadith that AFAIK are pretty straight adaptations of Rabbinic maxims (proverbs and wisdom literature that are not theologically threatening and so didn’t have to be adapted)

  2. Why did the Arabs create a new religion when other heterodox barbarians who conquered Roman territory, such as the Lombards or Goths assimilated into Chalcedonian Christianity? Is it because the Arabs conquered Zoroastrian Persia? Meaning they couldn’t adopt the religion of the Romans, the historical enemies of Persia, and thus had to create a new religion.

  3. harry, i don’t know if it was zoroastrian persia as such. but the sitch in italy and spain and north africa is that the overwhelming majority were chalcedonian christians. the arabs, in contrast, conquered a diverse set of peoples with different religions (monophysites, nestorians, melkites, zoroastrians, buddhists, pagans). perhaps it was more convenient to create a new religion rather than ‘picking a side’?

  4. The revisionist stuff (in terms of early Muslims being hetero Christians and later inventing Islam to suit their new empire) only works if you discard the Quran as a primary (or near primary) source. Most scholars don’t do that, for good reason imo.

    I also wouldn’t be surprised if most of the surviving material from Arabia is non-Pagan. Paganism was wiped from the region quite early, while Christianity was allowed to remain for centuries. Paganism having a much more severe stigma attached to it would naturally result in both its adherents and artifacts not surviving as long as its Christian/Jewish counterparts; does not mean paganism wasn’t more prevalent during Muhammad’s time.

  5. Razib,

    I agree with the general thrust of your argument but I do think the Arabs did have a much more self-conscious religious identity even in the 7th century that was recognized by both themselves and conquered peoples as being distinctive.

    From John of Nikiu, late-7th century Coptic bishop:

    “And now many of the Egyptians who had been false Christians denied the holy orthodox faith and lifegiving baptism, and embraced the religion of the Moslem, the enemies of God, and accepted the detestable doctrine of the beast, this is, Mohammed, and they erred together with those idolaters, and took arms in their hands and fought against the Christians. 11. And one of them, named John, the Chalcedonian of the Convent of Sinai, embraced the faith of Islam, and quitting his monk’s habit he took up the sword, and persecuted the Christians who were faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/nikiu2_chronicle.htm, CHAPTER CXXI.

    Isho’yahb III, Nestorian Patriarch, mid-7th century:

    “As for the Arabs, to whom God has at this time given rule (shultana) over the world, you know well how they act towards us. Not only do they not oppose Christianity, but they praise our faith, honour the priests and saints of our Lord, and give aid to the churches and monasteries. Why then do your Mazonaye [Omanis] reject their faith on a pretext of theirs? And this when the Mazonaye themselves admit that the Arabs have not compelled them to abandon their faith, but only asked them to give up half of their possessions in order to keep their faith. Yet they forsook their faith, which is forever, and retained the half of their wealth, which is for a short time.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishoyahb_III

    Here we have examples of a Christian Egyptian and Syriac, writing within a generation or two of the conquests of their respective countries, directly referring to instances of their co-religionists “converting” to the Arabs’ religion. John in particular makes it explicit “…many of the Egyptians…embraced the religion of the Moslem…and accepted the detestable doctrine of the beast Mohammad…John, the Chalcedonian of the Convent of Sinai, embraced the faith of Islam…” And Isho’yahb castigating the Omanis for “reject[ing] their faith on pretext of theirs [the Arabs].”

    Obviously as you state, normative Islam (the madhabs, ulema, hadiths, even the Qu’ran) didn’t emerge until well after the time these chronicles were written, but to me that just begs the question – what did it actually mean to “convert to Islam” at this earliest stage of Islamic history, within the first generation or two after the initial conquests? Maybe one day we’ll get lucky and an eye witness testimony of an early “conversion” will turn up, or some sort of early catechism, but I doubt it.

  6. “At the same time, there are bits in the Koran and Hadith that AFAIK are pretty straight adaptations of Rabbinic maxims (proverbs and wisdom literature that are not theologically threatening and so didn’t have to be adapted)”

    Even further, much of Sharia is a straight steal from Talmudic sources.

  7. Mick,

    It’s interesting that John writing in late 7th century has a negative view of “Islam” while Ishoyahb writing in the mid 7th century has a positive view. Maybe this shows the chronological development of the Arab religion from a heretical sect of Christianity to recognizably different religion.

    In my opinion though the religion of the early Arab conquerors in the 630s was heretical (Ebionite based?) Christianity. They most likely rejected the divinity of Jesus and were strict monotheists. This is what John and Ishoyahb probably meant by converting to “Islam”. To reject the divinity of Jesus and all the theological doctrine that goes along with it. Overtime the importance of the warrior founder figure Muhammad surpassed that of Jesus, which resulted in separation from Christianity. This process probably took a few decades to complete. I think if Muhammad had remained secondary to Jesus, Islam would probably still have been considered a heterodox branch of Christianity like Mormonism. Quran could be the equivalent of the Book of Mormon. Of course this ignores the 1200 more years that Islam had to develop and separate but the gist remains the same.

  8. The over-simplified and perhaps exaggerated story I recall of pre-Islamic Arab religiosity is that there were at least two prominent tribes, Ghassanids who were monophysite Christians allied with the “Romans”, and Lachmids, who were pagans allied with the Persians, and known for sacrificing Christians to the their goddess.

  9. Is that really new? I mean even if going by the Koran it is clear that Christians and Jews were major players within the Arabian communities. After all, Muhammad made deals with and fought Jews and Christians on various occasions.

    My personal impression is that we deal with a fairly well established Islam latest at the time of the battle of Yarmouk.

    That non-Arabs were first treated somewhat as foreigners, even when they already converted, is just a natural thing for an Arab movement, which Islam was. We should not forget that the same was true for early Christianity even, when non-Jews became sometimes proselytes just to be “real Christians”. The turn of Paulus too, was a revolutionary act by stating that Christians are a new, different kind of religion and not bound to (all) the Jewish laws.

    My impression is that Muhammed started an Arabian revolution so to say, with already universal claims. But since he started among Arabians and for Arabians, it was used for their advantage. In a way the Abbasids and their scholars seem to have hijacked what should have been especially favourable for the Arab people to become more strictly universalistic and fanatic, because they needed the support for their usurpation and were influenced by Eastern (mostly Persian) scholars and administrators.

    That however doesn’t mean Islam wasn’t itself before, it was just closer to and better connected to the more exclusively Arab roots. Since Islam is an Arab religion, from the concept to the execution in the first decades, this is not surprising. The basic rules seem to have been established and practised, that’s what matters for a religion being established?
    All kinds of sects and religions can be more ethnocentric in their outlook or chauvinist. Religion is there to help a people to survive and thrive, that’s the original, nondiscriminatory universalism is the copy and not vice versa.
    Its the more radical universalism which leads to even more religious fanatism, because the transnational and total worldview transcending any regional and ethnic tradition and identity needs to be justified by even stricter, even less natural and functional rules, which make religion THE absolutely central element of every aspect of life.

    The Umayyads seem to have been just more relaxed and opportunistic in in their approach, while still just trying to spread Islam and Arab influence at the same time. In my humble opinion is no coincidence that some of the most rational and prospering forms of Islam came form the Umayyad tradition. They didn’t let relgious fanatism trample down every non-orthodox kind of study and knowledge.

    To me what we see in the 7th century already are conflicts about the interpretation of Islam rather than its true foundation. But looking at Christianity, such infights even from within a by most standards already established religion can mean a lot of course. For its application in practise.

  10. As I recall, Nicolas Wade’s 2009 The Faith Instinct: How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures argued that Islam came from Judaism, and from well west of Mecca and Medina.

  11. @Walter Sobchak

    “Even further, much of Sharia is a straight steal from Talmudic sources.”

    Can you elaborate on this? I find it a little hard to believe.

  12. “Why did the Arabs create a new religion when other heterodox barbarians who conquered Roman territory, such as the Lombards or Goths assimilated into Chalcedonian Christianity?”

    The Arab conquests were much grander and less barbaric than anything that happened with the Germanic chiefdoms, who continued to be fireflies around the much more civilized, more powerful Byzantine Empire, which turned into a mere Romano-Greek Empire as a result of the Arab conquests. Also, it easily took over a hundred years for the Lombards and Goths to assimilate into Chalcedonian Christianity. The Caliphate left by Umar was the second most powerful empire in the world; the barbarian kingdoms were mere kingdoms. Also, the East had long been more syncretistic and heterodox than the West.

  13. @Harding: Rather the Goths and Lombards came under the direct Roman influence long before they could get into power. I think the best comparison would be a prophet who united most Germanic tribes, under a new religious ideology FIRST and then attacked Rome SECOND.

    That’s what Muhammad did: He first united most Arab tribes under one banner and them made it their new mission to use this united force to conquer the world, to convert the world under the Arab banners.

    Rome first evangelised the Germanics and then fell in parts to one Germanic tribe after another. The people coming closest to what the Arabs under Muhammad did were, without a doubt, the Franks. And the Franks did indeed change the Western Christian religion and formed new empire with the pope. In the long they created occidental, Catholic Christianity, in a way which was not present before. They too did convert late, formed an empire and chose an at least altered religious fundament for it.

    For the Goths and Lombards you are right, they were never big and influential enough to really make that big of a difference, but rather had to adapt to the denomination of the majority.

  14. It’s an interesting revisionist theory, and the jury is still out. However, I must admit that the traditional story of forging of a vast Arab empire by Meccan Arabs sound a bit imcomplte. Like something doesn’t add up.

    In the traditional story you have a bunch of Qureish tribesmen whose are merchants by profession. Most of their life is spent plying the trade caravans along the west coast of Arabian peninsula. And suddenly within a single lifetime they transform into world class military leaders and statesmen. For e.g. Muawiyya, son of a prominent merchant of Mecca Abu Sufiyan, is seen building a navy and defeating the Byzantine fleets in Mediterranean sea as far away as Sicily. Umar bin Khattab, supposedly a failed businessman, is depicted as directing his armies far away in Persia while sitting on the steps of a mosque in Medina. Obviously, something is amiss here. There are gaps in the story.

    That does not make the revisionist theory right by default of course. Just that more research can bring out interesting details of the story of the Arab empire.

  15. Obs, the differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy are minor compared to those between Orthodoxy and Islam. You can’t say the Franks and the Arabs are at all similar. It took centuries for the Catholics and Orthodox to break, and they still fought together in the crusades shortly after, against the Islamic forces arrayed against them.

  16. The Qoran itself is mostly about retelling Bible stories (with some big mistakes, like putting two people that lived 1000 years apart together) and says very little about Muhammad, and that if you accept the traditional interpretation because according to others, some of the passages about him are in fact about Moses or other figures of the Bible. So the Qoran is not exactly a Primary source about the birth of Islam like the Hebrew Bible or the Gospels are, because it says very little about it.

  17. @Hyperion: I know that Christian Catholicism and Orthodoxy are far more similar to each other than to Islam, but the Franks are what comes cloest to what happened in the Near East and Catholicism is in some very important ways different from Orthodox Christianity. Remind you, the Crusades largely faild also because of the differences and disputes that started between the Christian denominations and were even started primarily because the Catholic side wanted to reunite, or even subject Orthodox Christianity to its rule.

    Islam was also more similar to Judaism and local Christian sects of the time. Obviously Islam had no close ties with Roman Catholics, but with sects which themselves deviated quite significantly even from Byzantine orthodoxy. Like the Monophysites. Its no coincidence that Islam was most successful in places, which were split or not that clearly Christian to begin with. Like in Europe in Bosnia, where the Bogomils were a strong force before and which were not clearly Catholic nor Orthodox in their borderzone between the West and the East.

    Even the ban of images of god and humans was seen before in the Christian Near East. The orthodox Iconoclasm of later periods is another event which unites Islam and Byzantine orthodoxy, but makes Catholicism more different, especially for the Islam and Byzantine orthodoxy in the 6th to 8th century.

    As for the Koran, some chapters which rely quite obviously on the Jewish and Christian bible sources seem to be incomplete, shortened and altered. Like if a writer didn’t know or did not care enough for the original story to transfer it correctly and completely. The most likely explanation to me seems that the author did not fully read the original or dictated from the memory, without looking at the scripture again, while just distilling what seems appropriate for the (new) purpose. Because for some changes I see no other logical explanation than that the author didn’t look at the original sources while writing down because of the stochastic nature.

    To me that makes the authenticity of the Koran directly from Muhammad or at least his time even more convincing, because if in a later period some learned scholars would have written down the text, the rather stochastic nature of the alterations would make no sense.

    @Scorpion: The most logical explanation seems that there were persons involved in the spread of early Arab rule, especially in the military field, probably no converted muslims, but just fighting for the Caliphate, which were later erased from historical remembrance.
    This would be no historical lie, since the supreme command would have most likely being in the hands of muslim Arabs, but just an ommission.

  18. As a total noob, is the revisionist idea that certain Arab tribes had already begun to become heretical Christians by the 6th century (pre dating Muhammad) and Muhammad was part of that trend, accelerating it in the 7th century? Rather than Muhammad representing a clean, radical break with the past. Am I understanding the revisionist view correctly?

  19. I find this theory interesting but ultimately weak, why wold Arabs create a clearly universalist religion that ultimately would make their converted subjects unhappy with their situation? Or did Islam only become universal with the Abbassid?

    If Islam was fabricated so late, what is the nature of the Shia-Sunni conflict? How could both groups agree on myths?

  20. Or did Islam only become universal with the Abbassid?

    that’s pretty clear in my post. did you read it?

    , what is the nature of the Shia-Sunni conflict? How could both groups agree on myths?

    the conflict is more of the alids vs. those against. the abbasids were initially pro-alid, pro-shia. the ‘sunni’ position didn’t really cohere until relatively late in any substantive way. the shia vs sunni division was more fluid and inchoate until relatively late (say perhaps 850 or later).

  21. I have been reading razib for a long time, and this is certainly the most fantastical post from him I have read.

    “Over the decades of the 7th century these Arab Christians, who had imposed themselves as an elite on top of the older societies of the Near East, evolved so that their sect become its own religion.”

    So, what was the motive? cui bono? I mean, doesn’t it make the life of a a conquering people easy if the subject population already belongs to their own religion. Why would they risk rebellion from their subjects by forging a new identity under a new religion?

    Also, it would require an astonishing amount of forgery. Hadiths record an almost day to day account of Muhammad’s life. There is an Islamic science of reading Hadith literature where they research the entire chain of transmission of Hadiths. Most of the hadiths come from multiple independent sources. It will require multiple authors to concoct identical fiction.

    Also very importantly, shia sunni schism had taken hold right at the death of Muhammad. As someone noted earlier, why would two sects who are forever at the throat of each other agree to a central creation myth.

  22. Also very importantly, shia sunni schism had taken hold right at the death of Muhammad. As someone noted earlier, why would two sects who are forever at the throat of each other agree to a central creation myth.

    i addressed this. the leadership of the Arabs was Alid vs. Ummayad. what does this have to do with religion? the reality is lots of what we think as ‘shia’ and ‘sunni’ as religious beliefs/practice postdate by centuries the initial fracture. sunni in particular is reactionary, while twelver shia have become more Sunni.

    Also, it would require an astonishing amount of forgery. Hadiths record an almost day to day account of Muhammad’s life. There is an Islamic science of reading Hadith literature where they research the entire chain of transmission of Hadiths. Most of the hadiths come from multiple independent sources. It will require multiple authors to concoct identical fiction.

    yeah i don’t believe a lot of the hadith literature. and neither do lots of Muslims since a lot are assumed to be fake (depends on which school you belong to).

    So, what was the motive? cui bono? I mean, doesn’t it make the life of a a conquering people easy if the subject population already belongs to their own religion. Why would they risk rebellion from their subjects by forging a new identity under a new religion?

    again, i addressed this. which of their subjects’ religions what they pick??? persian Christianity? melkite Christianity? monophysite Christianity? Zoroastrianism? manichaeanism? Judaism? samaritanism? Buddhism?

Comments are closed.