Thursday, January 31, 2019

Abgar VIII: Turin Shroud Encyclopedia

Turin Shroud Encyclopedia
Copyright © Stephen E. Jones

Abgar VIII #3

This is "Abgar VIII," part #3 of my new Turin Shroud Encyclopedia. For information about this series, see part #1 and part #2. Emphases are mine unless otherwise indicated.

[Index #1] [Previous: Abgar V #2] [Next: Accetta, A. #4]

Abgar VIII Abgar VIII, the Great (r. 177–212) was, like Abgar V [see

[Above (enlarge): Abgar VIII coin depicting a Christian cross on his head-dress, probably issued during the tolerant reign of Roman Emperor Commodus (r. 177-192)[2]. While there probably were previous Christian kings of Edessa, e.g. Abgar V, Abgar VIII was the world's first overtly Christian king. See "177".]

"Abgar V"] a king of Osroene, in today's eastern Turkey, the capital of which was Edessa [see future "Edessa"], today's Urfa. The two Abgars may have been no relation, there being 127 years between the AD 50 end of Abgar V's reign and the AD 177 start of Abgar VIII's, and "Abgar" may have been a generic name for the kings of Edessa[3].

Osroene had been absorbed into the Roman Empire in 114 as a semi-autonomous vassal state, after a period of rule by the Parthian Empire.

In 163 Osroene's king Ma'nu VIII bar Ma'nu (139–163, 165–167)[4]was deposed by the Parthians but he was reinstated by the Romans in 165, when the Roman general Gaius Avidius Cassius (c.130–175) besieged Edessa and its citizens killed the Parthian garrison and admitted the Romans into the city[5].

In 177 Abgar VIII (177–212), the Great, became king of Osroene and therefore of Edessa, its capital.

In about 180, during the tolerant reign of Roman Emperor Commodus (r. 177-192), Abgar VIII asked Pope Eleutherus (r.174-189) to send missionaries to Edessa. In Abgar VIII's reign Edessa became the world's first Christian city as evidenced by this stone Christian cross over a former fountain based on lion's head in modern Sanliurfa (ancient Edessa) [Right (enlarge)[6].], which has survived the almost complete eradication of Edessa's Christian history since the Muslim conquest in 1144. The lion was the symbol of the Abgar dynasty, which ceased with Abgar IX's death in 213 (see below)

Abgar VIII supported Parthia in its 194 war against Rome, which Parthia lost. So Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193-211) took Edessa's rule from Abgar VIII and gave it to a procurator (Roman governor), until 197-198 when Abgar VIII assisted Rome in its defeat of Parthia.

In 201 a major flood of its river Daisan devastated Edessa, thousands died, and the "church of the Christians" was damaged. This is the first mention anywhere of a Christian church building and is further evidence that Edessa had become a Christian city.

As a reward for assisting Rome in its war with Parthia in 194, Abgar VIII was invited to Rome in 202, which he visited after 204.

In 205 Abgar VIII built on higher ground within the walls of the old Edessa, a new walled Citadel (below), called Birtha in Syriac, and Britium in Latin.

[Above (enlarge)[7]: The ruins of Edessa's citadel, within the modern city of Sanliurfa, Turkey.]

The early church father Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215), in his Outlines, listed the burial places of Jesus' disciples, including that Thaddaeus/Addai was with that of the Apostle Thomas "in the Britio of the Edessans." That is Edessa's birtha, or citadel (see below).

In 212 Abgar VIII died, and was succeeded by his son Abgar IX (r. 212-213).

Abgar IX was a reprobate, who ill-treated his subjects and killed Aggai, the aged Bishop of Edessa by breaking his legs[8]. He was summoned to Rome in 213 and executed on the orders of Roman Emperor Caracalla (r.211–217).. In 214 Caracalla ended the independence of Osroene and incorporated it as a province of the Roman Empire.

The English monk, the Venerable Bede (c.673–735), was told that in the Liber Pontificalis (Book of the Popes) in Rome that Pope Eleutherus (r.174-189) had received a letter from Lucio Britannio rege (King Lucius [Abgar VIII] of the [Edessa] Citadel), asking for Christian missionaries to be sent [to Edessa] that he might become a Christian and to help convert those within his lands to Christianity. Bede wrongly interpreted this to have been a previously unknown British King Lucius, and wrote in his influential Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in 731, that Lucius was a British king and that Christianity had commenced in Britain in the second century!

[Above (enlarge)[9]: "King Lucius (middle) from the East Window in York Minster." But there there never was an English King Lucius: he was in fact Edessa's King Lucius Septimius Severus, aka. Abgar VIII (r. 177-212)!]

Because of Bede's misunderstanding the French creators of the Holy Grail [see future "Grail"] legends located their stories not in France but in England, and the legend arose that Joseph of Arimathea had visited England!

Continued in the next part #4 of this series.

1. This post is copyright. I grant permission to quote from any part of this post (but not the whole post), provided it includes a reference citing my name, its subject heading, its date and a hyperlink back to this page. [return]
2. Wilson, I., 2010, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved," Bantam Press: London, plate 15a. [return]
3. Segal, J.B., 2001, "Edessa: The Blessed City," [1970], Gorgias Press: Piscataway NJ, Second edition, Reprinted, 2005, p.13. [return]
4. Segal, 2001, p.13. [return]
5. Segal, 2001, p.13. [return]
6. Wilson, 2010, p.146G. [return]
7. Extract from "Edessa citadel in Urfa, Turkey (Google Maps)," Virtual Globetrotting, 2016. [return]
8. Segal, 2001, pp.14, 18. [return]
9. "File:King Lucius and two other Kings, East Window, York Minster.jpg," Wikimedia Commons, 27 May 2018. [return]

Posted: 31 January 2019. Updated: 18 April 2019.

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