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date: 16 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses the history of Syriac and Syrians in Late Antiquity. It reveals the complex and contradictory ways that Syriac-speakers invented and re-invented their own history. The local history of the city of Edessa was closely tied to the prestige the city had earned in Eusebius' use of the Abgar legend, with its Christian presentation of the city's pre-Roman kings and its focus on the city's role as a missionary base. The Doctrina Addai would build on this tradition, first by emphasizing the apostolic authority of local ascetic custom and the Christian heritage of the local notables, and secondly by placing this Edessene history into a Roman imperial framework. Ephrem shares many of the heresiological concerns of the Doctrina, especially in his opposition to Jews and Marcionites—a cultural and religious contest which took place within the boundaries of Syriac Christianity and culture. Yet the struggle against Arianism also shows him becoming ever more involved with the imperial church (which remains on the sidelines in the Doctrina).

Keywords: Late Antiquity, Syriac, history, Doctrina Addai, Ephrem

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