Abstract Simon Samuel Ford
“ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURES, CONCEPTS, APPROACHES, AND COMPARISONS”
Nov. 27-29, 2014, Universität Hamburg
"Continuity and Change among post-Sasanian Religious Elites"
By the end of the Sasanian period, the Church of the East had become a visible and increasingly well integrated institution within the social and political structures of the Sasanian Empire. Evidence from the late sixth and early seventh centuries points to complex patterns of interaction between Sasanian officials and recognized Christian leaders, as well as frequent and often sophisticated interventions by the Sasanian court in the internal politics of the church. The level of cooperation between the Church of the East and the Sasanian state, however, did not approach the level of social and political integration enjoyed by the imperial church in the Roman Empire. Nevertheless it provided numerous points of structural influence that helped to shape the role of Christian religious elites in the Sasanian Empire.
In contribution to the workshop's discussion of the transformation of administrative structures in the early Islamic Empire, this paper will seek to understand how the structures of ecclesiastical administration, which evolved during the course of the Sasanian period, continued to evolve under the caliphate by adducing evidence of change and continuity in the institutional framework of the Church of the East. Specifically, the paper will focus on the changing nature of structural authority within the church by examining its episcopal hierarchy. As the recognized leaders of their individual religious communities, bishops served as the most prominent and likely points of contact between the church and the Sasanian and later Islamic states; a better understanding of changes in these internal structures will, it is hoped, provide a basis for better understanding of the administrative interactions between the church and caliphate. It will – time and space permitting – also attempt to draw comparisons between the development of the institutional church and that of the Zoroastrian "ecclesia" in post-Sasanian period.