Assyrians: Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the Assyrians?

A semitic peoples indigenous to North Iraq; builders of the great Mesopotamian civilizations; ethnically distinct from Arabs and Jews (the other semitic peoples of the region).

What language do they speak?

They currently speak modern Assyrian (also known as neo-Syriac), which is the oldest extant language, and was the lingua franca of the Middle East until 900 A.D., when it was supplanted by Arabic (except among Assyrians). Before this they spoke Akkadian and Assyrian Aramaic (which co-existed until circa 500 B.C. Aramaic was made the second official language of the Empire in 752 B.C.). Modern Assyrian (neo-Syriac) is derived from Assyrian Aramaic, is written right to left, and has a lot of Akkadian vocabulary and influence in it.

What is their religion?

Assyrians are Christians. They belong to three main Assyrian churches: 1) The Assyrian Church of the East ("Nestorian"), established in 33 A.D. by Theodos, Thomas, and Bartholomew; 2) the Syriac Orthodox Church ("Jacobite"), established in 450 A.D.; 3) the Chaldean Church of Babylon (Roman Catholic), established in 1552 A.D.

Where do they live?

The majority of Assyrians live in their ancestral homeland, which is now part of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. Here is a geographical breakdown

World Assyrian Population
Country Population
click on a column name to sort

What are important dates for Assyrians?

.

A Brief History of the Assyrian Churches

For a brief history of Assyrians, see here.

Introduction

Assyrians of today belong to three major churches: the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East ("Nestorian"), The Assyrian Orthodox Church ("Jacobite") and the Chaldean Church of Babylon ("Chaldeans", who are Roman catholic uniates). Precise numbers are difficult to estimate, but there are about 800,000 members in the Church of the East, 1,500,000 members in the Chaldean Church, and about 900,000 members in the Assyrian Orthodox Church.

Beginnings

The Assyrian Church of the East (hence forth ACE), whose official name is the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, was established in 33 A.D. by the apostles Thomas (Toma in Assyrian), Theodos (Addai in Assyrian), and Bartholomew (Bar Tulmay in Assyrian). The first Patriarch of ACE was Addai, although Thomas and Bartholomew are also officially listed as the first Patriarchs (see Table of Apostolic Succession below).

ACE spread from the Assyrian city Arbela (in North Iraq; Arbela means "Four Gods" in Assyrian) to the surrounding areas of Persia, Syria, and Iraq, and later became centered in Seleucia-Ctesiphon (just south of Baghdad). Through an incredible missionary enterprise, ACE became the largest Church in the world by the 12th century, extending from Syria to China, Korea, Japan, and the Phillipines. ACE was overwhelmed by the Mongol Timurlane and after the thirteenth century could never recover its past glory. It was reduced to a small church in the Assyrian heartland in North Iraq.

The significant achievements of ACE include the first University in the world (Nisibis), and the incredible translation movement of its clergy and laity, which saw the translation of all the major Greek works of science, philosophy and religion into Assyrian (then into Arabic), and which produced original Assyrian thinkers who wrote extensively and diversely in various fields.

The First Division

ACE was centered in the Sassanid empire, which was rival to the Byzantine empire to the west. Political tension between the two empires separated Eastern from Western Christians, and doctrinal disputes over the nature of Christ (monophysites/diophysites) further distanced the Christian communities. The monophysitic movement gained a stronghold in the Byzantine realm and the Church of the East divided along these geopolitical/doctrinal lines by 450 A.D. -- The Syriac Orthodox Church (SOC) was born. The term "monophysite", although widely used,  is incorrect; the correct term is henophysite.

The Second Division

In 780 A.D. there occurred a division in SOC, and Mar Maron took his followers from Syria and settled in Mount Lebanon, founding the Maronite Church. The Christians of Lebanon are known as "Maronites", after Mar Maron. The Maronite Church has since become a Roman Catholic Uniate.

The Third Division

In 1552 A.D. there arose a debate over how the Patriarch of ACE should be chosen. The Patriarch had been elected, but a faction in the Church desired that the Patriarchate become hereditary. The Hereditary faction lost its dispute and as a result sough allegiance with the Catholic Church of Rome. The Roman church made the hereditary faction Roman Catholic Uniates and called the new church the Chaldean Church of Babylon (CCB), to distinguish it from ACE. But in an interesting reversal, the hereditary faction returned fifty years later and took control of ACE, and the election faction took control of CCB.

The Assyrian Kings List
B.C.
Early Period
"Kings who lived in tents"

From
To
Reign

Tudiya



Adamu



Yangi



Kitlamu



Harharu



Mandaru



Imsu



Harsu



Didanu



Hanu



Zuabu



Nuabu



Abazu



Belu



Azarah



Zariqum


(Beginning of the Assyrian independence)
Puzur-Ashur I



Shalim-Ahu



Ilu-Shuma


(Raids into southern Mesoptamia)
Erishum I



B: During Akkadian Domination
Sargon I 2334 2279 55 years United Mesopotamia (Sumer & Akkad)
Rimush 2278 2270 8 Conquers Elam and Marhashi (Central Iran)
Manishtushu 2269 2255 14 Renovates Temple of Ishtar
Naram-Sin 2254 2218 36 Arrogates god-like status to himself
Shar-Kali-Shari 2217 2193 24 Akkadian kingship begins to weaken
Igigi 2192


Nanium



Imi



Elul-dan 2190


Dudu 2189 2169 20
Shu-Turul 2168 2154 14 Akkadian empire collapses
C: Neo-Sumerian Domination
Ur-Nammu 2112 2095 17 Establishes the Third Dynasty of Ur
Shulgi 2094 2047 47 Extends father's empire to all of Assyria
Amar-Sin 2046 2038 8
Shu-Sin 2037 2029 8
Ibbi-Sin 2028 2004 24 Amorites weaken Sumerian power
D: Assyrian kings during the Akkadian Domination
Ushpiya


May have succeeded ollowed king Azarah
Apiashal


Ushpiya & Apiashal are also considered tent kings
E: "Kings who were ancestors"
Hale


Chief of an Amorite tribe
Samanu



Hayani



Ilu-Mer



Yakmesi



Yakmeni



Yazkur-ilu



Ilu-Kabkabi



Aminu



F: Historic Period (written history)
Erishum II 1920 1900 20
Shamshi-Adad I 1813 1781 32 Unites all independent Assyrian city-states
Ishme-Dagan I 1780 1741 39 Contemporary with Hammurabi of Babylon
Ashur-Dugul



5 Unknown Rulers



Adasi



Several Minor Rulers



Erishum III



Shamshi-Adad II



Ishme-Dagan II



Shamshi-Adad III



Ashur-Nirari I



Puzur-Ashur III 1520


Enlil-Nasir I




Ashur-Nirar IIi



Ashur-Bel-Nisheshu 1417 1409 8
Ashur-Rim-Nisheshu



Ashur-Nadin-Ahhe II



Eriba-Adad I



Middle Period



Ashur-Uballit I 1363 1328 35 Gains Assyrian Independecne from Mittani
Enlil-Nirari 1327 1318 9
Arik-Den-Ili 1317 1306 11
Adad-Nirari I 1305 1274 31 Mittani falls to Assyria
Shalmaneser I 1273 1244 29 Urartu falls to Assyria
Tukulti-Ninurta I 1243 1207 36 Sacks Babylon, killed by his own son
Ashur-Nadin-Apli 1206 1203 3 Assyrian power is weakened
Ashur-Nirari III 1202 1197 5
Enlil-Kudurri-Usur 1196 1191 12
Ninurta-Apal-Ekur 1191 1179 5
Ashur-Dan I 1178 1133 45 Elam captures Babylonia
Ashur-Resha-Ishi I 1132 1115 17 Nebuchadnezzar I of Babylon captures Elam
Ninurta-Tukulti-Ashur 1115 1114 1
Mutakkil-Nusku 1115 1114 1
Tiglath-Pileser I 1114 1076 38 In defending Assyria, defeats Nebuchadnezzar
Asharid-Pal-Ekur II


Limited to Nineveh,Irbil, & Ashur province
Ashur-Bel-Kala 1076 1057 19
? 1057 1053 4
Shamshi-Adad IV
1053 1049
4

5 Unknown Rulers 1049 1010 39
Ashur-Rabi II 1010 970 40 Isreal & Judah under David & Solomon
Ashur-Resh-Ishi II 969 967 2
Tiglath-Pilasar II 966 935 31
Ashur-Dan II 934 912 22
Late Period
Adad-Nirari II 911 891 20 Captures Babylonia, Anatolia, & Syrian plain
Tukulti-Ninurta II 890 884 6 Peace with Babylon, no tributes required
Ashurnasirpal II 883 859 24 Assyrian empire reaches Mediterranean Sea
Shalmaneser III 858 824 34 Defeats Arameans, captures Babylon & Persia
Shamshi-Adad V 823 811 12
Shamiram 811 806 5 Ruler of Assyria while her son was a minor
Adad-Nirari III 806 783 23 Assyrian rule weakens
Shalmaneser IV 782 773 9
Ashur-Dan III 772 755 17 Rebelions against Assyria
Ashur-Nirari V 754 745 9
Tiglath-Pileser III 744 727 17 Re-gains Assyrian might greater than before
Shalmaneser V 726 722 4 Captures Samaria, deports Isrealites
Sargon II 721 705 16 Captures Egypt, Urartu, Babylon, Dies in a battle
Sennacherib 704 681 23 Faught rebellions, destroyed Babylon
Esarhaddon 680 669 11 Rebuilt Babylon, defeated Scythians, Cimmerians
Ashurbanipal 668 627 41 Defeats Egypt, Lydia, & Elam
Ashur-Etel-Ilani 627 624 3 Babylonians attack Assyria
Sin-Shar-Ishkun 623 612 11 Medes sack Nineveh
Ashur-Uballit II 612 609
3
Flees to Harran, supported by Egyptians

Table of Apostolic Succession for the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East

  1. 33 Toma (Thomas)
  2. 33 Bar Tulmay (Bartholomew)
  3. 33 - 45 Addai (Thaddeus)
  4. 45 - 81 Agai, disciple of Addai (from the Seventy Disciples)
  5. 48 - 81 Mari, disciple of Addai (from the Seventy Disciples)
  6. 90 - 107 Abris, relative of the Virgin Mary
  7. 130 - 152 Oraham I
  8. 172 - 190 Yacob I, relative of Joseph the Carpenter
  9. 191 - 203 Ebid M'shikha
  10. 205 - 220 Akhu d'Awu
  11. 224 - 244 Shakhlupa of Kashkar
  12. 247 - 326 Papa Bar Gaggai
  13. 328 - 341 Shimun Bar Sabbai
  14. 345 - 347 Shahdost
  15. 350 - 358 Bar Bashmin
  16. 383 - 393 Tumarsa
  17. 393 - 399 Qaiyuma
  18. 399 - 411 Eskhaq
  19. 411 - 415 Akhkhi
  20. 415 - 420 Yoalaha I
  21. 420 Maana
  22. 421 Qarabukht
  23. 421 - 456 Dadishu
  24. 457 - 484 Bawai or Babu
  25. 484 - 496 Aqaq
  26. 496 - 502 Bawai
  27. 505 - 523 Sheela
  28. 524 - 535 Narsai
  29. 524 - 538 Elisha (dual Patriarchate)
  30. 539 - 540 Polos
  31. 552 - 567 Yosip
  32. 570 - 581 Khazqiyil
  33. 581 - 595 Eshuyow I, Arzunaya
  34. 596 - 604 Soreshu I Garmaqaya
  35. 605 - 608 Greghor, Partaya
  36. 628 - 644 Eshuyow II (Gdalaya or Arab)
  37. 647 - 650 Mar Immeh
  38. 650 - 660 Eshuyow III, Kdayawaya
  39. 681 - 684 Gewargis I
  40. 684 - 692 Yokhannan I, Bar Marta
  41. 686 - 693 Khnaishu I (dual Patriarchate)
  42. 693 - 694 Yokhannan II, Garba
  43. 714 - 728 Sliwazkha
  44. 731 - 740 Pethyon
  45. 741 - 751 Awa
  46. 752 - 754 Surin
  47. 754 - 773 Yacob II
  48. 774 - 778 Khnanishu II (the Assyrian monument in China was erected during his reign)
  49. 780 - 820 Timotheus I
  50. 820 - 824 Esho-barnon
  51. 825 - 832 Gewargis II
  52. 832 - 836 Soreshu II
  53. 837 - 850 Oraham II, Margaya
  54. 850 - 852 Teadasis (Theodoros)
  55. 860 - 872 Sargis, Suwaya
  56. 873 - 884 Annush d'beth Garmay
  57. 884 - 892 Yokhannan III, Bar Narsai
  58. 892 - 898 Yokhannan IV
  59. 900 - 905 Yokhannan V
  60. 906 - 937 Oraham III, Abraza
  61. 937 - 949 Ammanoel I
  62. 961 - 962 Esrail Karkhaya
  63. 963 - 986 Odishu Garmaqaya
  64. 967 - 1000 Mari Aturaya
  65. 1001 - 1012 Yokhannan VI
  66. 1013 - 1022 Yokhannan VII
  67. 1023 - 1027 Eshuyow IV
  68. 1028 - 1049 Elia I
  69. 1049 - 1057 Yokhannan VIII
  70. 1057 - 1072 Soreshu III (Bar Zanbur)
  71. 1072 - 1090 Odishu II (Bar Ars) Aturaya
  72. 1092 - 1109 Makkikha I (Bar Shlemon)
  73. 1111 - 1132 Elia II
  74. 1133 - 1135 Bar Soma (Of Suwa)
  75. 1135 - 1136 Bar Gabbara
  76. 1138 - 1147 Odishu III (nephew of Elia II)
  77. 1148 - 1175 Eshuyow V (from Beth Zodai, Baladaya)
  78. 1176 - 1190 Elia III (Abukhalim)
  79. 1191 - 1222 Yoalaha II (Bar Qaiyuma)
  80. 1222 - 1226 Soreshu IV
  81. 1226 - 1256 Soreshu V (from Baghdad)
  82. 1257 - 1265 Makkikha II
  83. 1265 - 1281 Dinkha I, Arbilaya (from Arbil)
  84. 1281 - 1318 Yoalaha III, Bar Turkaye (Turkish by race)
  85. 1318 - 1328 Timotheus II, Arbilaya
  86. 1329 - 1359 Dinkha II
  87. 1359 - 1368 Dinkha III
  88. 1369 - 1392 Shimun III
  89. 1403 - 1407 Shimun IV
  90. 1407 - 1420 Elia III
  91. 1420 - 1447 Shimun V
  92. 1448 - 1490 Shimun VI
  93. 1491 - 1504 Elia V
  94. 1505 - 1538 Shimun VII
  95. 1538 - 1551 Eshuyow Shimun VIII
  96. 1552 - 1558 Dinkha Shimun IX (Bar Mama)
  97. 1558 - 1580 Yoalaha Shimun X
  98. 1580 - 1600 Dinkha Shimun XI
  99. 1600 - 1653 Elia Shimun XI
  100. 1653 - 1690 Eshuyow Shimun XIII
  101. 1690 - 1692 Yoalaha Shimun XIV
  102. 1692 - 1700 Dinkha Shimun XV
  103. 1700 - 1740 Shlemon (Sulaiman) shimun XVI
  104. 1740 - 1741 Mikhail (Muukhattis) Shimun XVII
  105. 1740 - 1820 Yonan (Yuna) Shimun XVIII
  106. 1820 - 1860 Oraham Shimun XIX
  107. 1860 - 1903 Ruwil Shimun XX
  108. 1903 - 1918 Binyamin Shimun XXI
  109. 1918 - 1920 Polos Shimun XXII
  110. 1920 - 1975 Eshai Shimun XXIII
  111. 1975 - current Dinkha IV
Table of Apostolic Succession for the Syriac Orthodox Church
  1. St. Peter 37
  2. Euodius 67
  3. Ignatius 68
  4. Heros 107
  5. Cornelius 127
  6. Heros II 154
  7. Theophilus 169
  8. Maximianus 182
  9. Serapion 191
  10. Asclipiades 211
  11. Philetus 220
  12. Zebinus 231
  13. Babylas 237
  14. Fabius 251
  15. Demetrianus 254
  16. Paul 260
  17. Domnus I 268
  18. Timaeus 273
  19. Cyril 283
  20. Arannus 304
  21. Vitalius 314
  22. Philogonius 320
  23. Paulinus 323
  24. Eustathius 324
  25. Meletius 360
  26. Flavian I 381
  27. Porphyrius 404
  28. Alexander 412
  29. Theodotus 417
  30. John I 428
  31. Domnus 442
  32. Maximus 449
  33. Peter II 468
  34. Palladius 488
  35. Flavian II 498
  36. Severus 512
  37. Sergius 544
  38. Paul II 550
  39. Peter III 581
  40. Julian I 591
  41. Athanasius 595
  42. John II 631
  43. Theodore 649
  44. Severus II 667
  45. Athanasius 683
  46. Julian 11 686
  47. Elias I 709
  48. Athanasius 724
  49. Iwannis I 740
  50. George I 758
  51. Joseph 790
  52. Kyriakos 793
  53. Dionysius 817
  54. John III 846
  55. Ignatius II 878
  56. Theodosius 887
  57. Dionysius 897
  58. John IV 910
  59. Basil I 923
  60. John V 936
  61. Iwannis II 954
  62. Dionysius III 958
  63. Abraham 962
  64. John VI 963
  65. Athanasius 986
  66. John VII 1004
  67. Dionysius 1034
  68. John VIII 1049
  69. Athanasius 1058
  70. John IX 1063
  71. Basil II 1074
  72. Dionysius V 1077
  73. Iwannis III 1080
  74. Dionysius VI 1088
  75. Athanasius 1091
  76. John X 1129
  77. Athanasius 1138
  78. Michael 1166
  79. Athanasius 1200
  80. John XI 1208
  81. Ignatius III 1222
  82. John XII 1263
  83. Ignatius IV 1264
  84. Philoxenus 1283
  85. Michael II 1292
  86. Michael 11 1312
  87. Basil HI 1387
  88. Philoxenus 1394
  89. Basil IV 1421
  90. Behnam 1445
  91. Khalaf 1455
  92. John XIII 1483
  93. Noah 1493
  94. Yeshue I 1509
  95. Jacob I 1512
  96. David I 1517
  97. Abdullah I 1520
  98. Ne'matallah 1557
  99. David II 1576
  100. Pilate 1591
  101. Hadayatallah 1597
  102. Simon 1640
  103. Yeshue II 1659
  104. Abdulmassih 1662
  105. George II 1687
  106. Isaac Azar 1709
  107. Shukrallah 1722
  108. George III 1745
  109. George IV 1768
  110. Matthew 1782
  111. Jonah 1817
  112. George V 1819
  113. Elias II 1838
  114. Jacob II 1847
  115. Peter IV 1872
  116. Abdulmassih 1895
  117. Abdullah II 1906
  118. Elias III 1917
  119. Ephrem I 1933
  120. Jacob III 1957
  121. Zakka I 1980 (current)
Table of Apostolic Succession for the Chaldean Church of Babylon
Patriarchs 1 to 96 (33 A.D. to 1552 A.D.) are the same as the Church of the East.
  1. 1552-1558 Yukhanan Sulaqa
  2. 1558-1576 Eliyya VI
  3. 1576-1591 Eliyya VII
  4. 1591-1617 Eliyya VIII
  5. 1617-1660 Eliyya IX
  6. 1660-1700 Eliyya X Yohannan Marogin
  7. 1700-1722 Eliyya XI Marogin
  8. 1772-1778 Elyya XII Denha
  9. 1778-1804 Eliyya XIII Isho-Yab
  10. 1830-1838 Yohannan VII Hormez
  11. 1840-1848 Nicolas Zaya
  12. 1848-1878 Joseph VI Audo
  13. 1879-1894 Elie XIV Abo-Alyonan
  14. 1894-1899 Abdisho V Khayat
  15. 1900-1947 Joseph Emmanuel II Toma
  16. 1947-1958 Joseph VII Ghanima
  17. 1958-1989 Paul II Cheikho
  18. 1989-2003 Raphael I BeDaweed
  19. 2003-2013 Emmanuel-Karim Daley
  20. 2013-current Louis RaphaŽl I Sako
References

The Might That Was Assyria; H.W.F. Saggs; Sidgwick and Jackson; 1984.

History of Assyria; A.T. Olmstead.

Hagarism: the Making of the Islamic World; Patricia Crone, Michael Cook; Cambridge University Press; 1977.

History of Christianity in Asia: Volume One, Beginnings to 1500; Samuel Moffet; Harper Collins; 1994.

Cambridge Ancient History: The Roman Republic, 133-44 B.C.; W. W. Tarn; Cambridge University Press; 1985; pp 597.

By Foot to China: Mission of the Church of the East, to 1400; John M. L. Young; Grey Pilgrim Publications; Lookout Mountain, GA; 1991.

The Nestorians and their Rituals; George Percy Badger.

A Short History of Syriac Christianity; W. Stewart McCullough.

Patriarch, Shah, and Caliph; William G. Young.

An Introduction to the History of the Assyrian Church; W. A. Wigram.

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