Mazdaism and Manichaeism under the Sassanids –

The successors of persian empirethe Sassanidscreated a centralized regime that eclipsed, in many respects, the Roman empire. The two most important religious aspects of the period Sassanid They were, on the one hand, mazdeismand on the other, the Manichaeism.

Representation of Shapur I, king of the Sassanids (Wikimedia Source)

Mazda and Mazdaism

the monarchs Sassanids they legitimized their crown in the will of the god Ahura Mazdawho gave him power and rule.

The mazdeism it was the official religion and the only one allowed, in contrast to the tolerance of the kings in the cultural plane.

The doctrine of Mazda described a world governed by two principles: that of good, Ahura Mazda, and the evil one, Ahriman. Within this framework, man had to consecrate his entire existence to the fight of good against evil.

The main enemies were lies and errors. When good finally won this battle, the dead would rise to be judged.

In Persiathe accession of the Sassanid dynasty coincided with a period of strong religious uncertainty due to the spread of Christianity, Buddhism and Manichaeism.

Investiture of Ardashir, Papakan, by Azhura Mazda.

On this plane, a totally new world emerged that showed the competition of religions with a universal vocation. This prompted the mazdeism to become religion of state, firmly articulated and hierarchical, as well as rigorously persecute rival beliefs.

The monarchy Sassanian made this position his own, while legitimizing his power for coming from the god Ahura Mazda.

The mazdeism was founded by Zarathustra (628 – 551 BC), who claimed to have had a vision of Ahura Mazdafrom whom he received the mission to preach and spread the truth.

According to ZarathustraAhura Mazda was, among many divinities, the main and only worthy of worship.

For centuries, this revision was, although important, one more among those accepted by the Persians. It was the one professed by the Achaemenid monarchs, but it coexisted peacefully with other creeds.

The architect of the consolidation of the mazdeism as the official religion and the only one allowed was Kartyra mobadanmobad, that is, “chief priest of the chief priests.”

Kartir inscription at Naqsh-e-Rajab

Sapor I He granted him the extraordinary political and religious powers that he exercised and, like his successors Ormuzd and Bahram III, he did not cover with honors.

He was raised to the nobility, appointed supreme judge and watchman of the royal fire. He never among Sassanidsa commoner had reached such high dignities.

This fact is explained by the effectiveness of Kartyr by imposing, through blood and fire, a religion that based royal power on a divine mandate.

In addition, the high priest ordered the erection of temples to venerate the monarch; Thus, although the king did not achieve deification, his relationship with Ahura Mazda.

The priestly work of Kartyr it was distinguished by its intolerance against all other beliefs that, until then, had been peacefully accepted in the Parthian kingdom.

Kartyr He focused his attacks, fundamentally, on the Jews, Christians, Buddhists and the Manichaeans, whom he persecuted, and whose temples he ordered to destroy.

Thus, he not only confirmed that only the mazdeismbut also made possible a political irradiation that offered the clergy the opportunity to strengthen their position with the nobility.

This situation of intolerance persisted, although with ups and downs, until the end of the dynasty. It contrasts with the prevailing pluralism in the cultural and artistic field.

Manes and his doctrine

manes either Peanut (216-274 or 277) was the founder of the Manichaeismthe second great religion of the period Sassanianalthough prohibited and severely persecuted.

Representation of Manes

manes was in India to preach his doctrine, which at first, more than a religion, constitutes a philosophy of life. His thought achieved great recognition, to such an extent that Sapor I he called him to his court, made him his adviser, and took him on his expeditions.

According to him ManichaeismIn the world, light, good, and darkness, evil, coexisted and fought each other. The battle between the two began when matter was illuminated and wanted to get closer to the light.

So, to resist the action of darkness, God created human beings. But, man was imprisoned by evil and only true science would free him.

The religious practice of Manichaeism it was characterized by being simple and limited to prayer, chants and fasting.

the teachings of manes They were widely accepted and little by little they acquired a religious character, a fact that marked his destiny: he was assassinated by royal order in 274 or 277.

the tragic death of manes he did not intimidate his disciples, who continued to spread his widely accepted beliefs despite severe official repression.