Eastern Roman Manichaeism Matsangou, Rea
Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, was born in third-century Mesopotamia (April 14, 216 AD), which, since 226 AD, was a part of the Sassanian Empire. Living in the pluralistic environment of Mesopotamia, the religion he instituted contains elements of many religious traditions with which he was familiar, such as Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Christianity. Actually, Mani regarded himself as the last prophet in a long chain of prophets, which included Zoroaster, Buddha, and Christ. The most notable feature of Manichaeism is its dualism. At the foundation of the Manichaean religion lies the doctrine of the two principles (also called roots or natures), which correspond to light and darkness, good and evil, spirit and matter. The Manichaean community itself consisted of two classes: the hearers or catechumens (the lay believers), and the highest echelons of the Manichaean Church, the Elect. Mani envisioned that his religion would surpass preceding ones by creating an ecumenical religion that would spread and unite the world. Indeed, Manichaeism spread very rapidly through land and sea transportation networks, first in the Greco-Roman world (within a century) and later to the east, as far as China. In China, Manichaean communities continued to exist until the seventeenth century. In contrast, to the Roman West, it is argued that (at least as a distinct religious community) Manichaeism did not survive after the 6th century. The current entry focuses on aspects of the religious and social identity and daily life of East-Roman Manichaeans.
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