Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When The Persians Knocked on Jerusalem's Door

Refreshing our history knowledge:

Xusrō II consolidated his power around the Persian Gulf and sent envoys to Arabia, as far as Mecca to inquire about the situation. The last king of al‐Hira, al‐Nu’man III ibn al‐Mundir was killed and the Lakhmid state put under other Persian loyalists in 602 CE. When the Roman emperor, Maurice was removed and Phokas came to the throne, Xusrō II used this event as a pretext for the conquest Syria and beyond. First Roman Armenia was captured by Xusrō II, and in 604 CE with blazing speed, his two generals Šāhin and Šahrwarāz conquered Syria, Palestine in 614 CE, and then Egypt was taken in 619 CE, and the Persians even went as far as Libya, while Anatolia was conquered between 619‐622 CE. We have vivid description by Antiochus Strategos of the conquest of the city of Jerusalem in 614 CE and the taking of he holy cross which resonated in Roman empire and the event was much lamented.
We should remind ourselves that this was an early Christian view of things. The Jewish sources provide us with a more nuanced view of the events in Jerusalem. A Piyyutim or Jewish liturgical poem from the period suggests that the Jews initially saw the Sasanians as their savior.
Indeed the Sasanians allowed the Jews not only to inhabit the city, but also to built an alter and retake the Jewish sacred space (H. Sivan, “Palestine betweenByzantium and Persia (CE 614-618),” La Persia e bisanzio, Roma, 2004, p. 90). But by 618 CE the balance of favor had tipped towards the Christians by the Sasanians. Xusrō II was not anti‐Christian. In fact he had already presided over the election of a new patriarch of the Church of the East in 605 CE which was a sign of royal favor.  The conquest of Jerusalem shocked the Eastern Roman empire which in 610 CE had made Heraclius its emperor. Heraclius was intent on leaving for North Africa, but it is said that his mind was changed by the clergy to remain and with the aid of church funds, he mounted a counterattack. From the Black Sea he entered Armenia and went into the heart of the Persian empire in 624 CE, sacking the sacred Adūr Farrōbāy temple at Ganzak in retaliation for the taking of the “True Cross” by the Sasanains from Jerusalem.

You read how the Temple Mount was the object of Jewish attention.


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