The A to Z of the ancient Chaldeans and their relation to modern Chaldeans
Few points will be presented separately here in order to put things into prospective and avoid confusing the reader, hoping that by the time all the various issues are covered, the reader will acquire a much clearer picture about the ancient and modern Chaldeans.
Before we get into the main subject, we need first to distinguish between the ancient Chaldeans and the Babylonians. The fact that the Chaldean dynasty ruled over Babylon for (87) years only (626-539 BC) should not be interpreted as if that the Babylonians became Chaldeans. The Ottoman Turks ruled Mesopotamia for almost (400) years (1534 – 1921), a rule that ended basically at the end of World War I, and officially with the crowning of Prince Faysal I king on the newly established country Iraq. Is there any confusion today about who the inhabitants of Iraq are? Does anybody call the Iraqis Ottoman Turks?
The Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations existed thousands of years before the Chaldeans were ever mentioned in Mesopotamian history. After their appearance in southern Mesopotamia around the 10th century BC, they began continuous rebellions against the Babylonians. How the Babylonians felt towards the Chaldeans is well documented in many sources. It is a historical known fact that when the Persians entered Babylon in 539 BC, and hence ended the rule of the Chaldean kings, the Babylonians met the Persians with cheers and treated them as liberators, John Curtis tells us.
Mar Ephrem, one of the great fathers of Christianity said in “Hymns against
Julian” / Hymn 2 - 14
The Chaldeans were merely nomadic tribes with little civilization to their name compared to the Babylonians. Oppenheim says; “Of course, it would be rash to liken Sin-muballit to Nabopolassar and Hammurabi to Nebuchadnezzar II” [Sin-muballit and Hammurabi being earlier Babylonian kings and Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar II being Chaldean kings]. The ancient Chaldeans appeared in history around the 10th century BC in southern Mesopotamia living in the marshlands around todays Basrah, Iraq. Their origin is still not clear, few scholars believe that they originated from Elam in Persia, others believe that they are from the Sealand region of the Persian Gulf. While very few have confused them with the Arameans, there are those who say that they came from Arabia. The Chaldeans took advantage of the civil war and the disintegration of the Babylonian political life in 626 BC and attacked Babylon. The Chaldean rule over Babylon began a very rapid decline soon after the rule of their first two kings, Nabupolassar and Nabuchadnezzar II. Interesting to know is that the origin of their last king Nabunaid has not been confirmed, we know that he was the son of a nobleman and of the high priestess of the god Sin at Harran and of the Assyrian royal house.
Historical data dealing with the obscurity of the origin of the ancient Chaldeans, or in a sense being outsiders to Mesopotamia, and being different than the Babylonians, are numerous. The following quotes from learned in the subject attest to that fact.
1. “The Ancient Near East; c. 3000-330 BC” (vol. II) / Amelie Kuhrt
2. “The Penguin Encyclopedia of Ancient Civilization” / Arthur Cotterell
3. “History of the World” / J. M. Roberts
4. “Larned’s History of the World” or (Seventy Centuries of the life of Mankind)
/ J. N. Larned
5. “Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta; Languages and Cultures in contact at the
Crossroads of Civilizations in the Syro-Mesopotamian Realm. (Proceedings of the
42nd RAI)” / I. Sassmannshausen
The Kassite period in Babylon was during 1570-1160 BC, and this scholar who presented his paper in front of the most famous in the field, mentioned some of the ethnic groups in Babylon in that period but did not mention the Chaldeans! Which proves the already known fact that the Chaldeans began to settle in southern Mesopotamia around the 10th century BC coming from the Sea Land perhaps (the Persian Gulf region).
6. "Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History" / J.N.
7. "Babylon" / Joan Oates
8. “Babylonians” / H.W.F. Saggs
9. "The Sealand of Ancient Arabia" / Raymond Philip Dougherty /Yale University /
Vol. XIX, 1932
10. “Ancient Assyria” / C.H.W. Johns
11. “Ancient Mesopotamia” / A. Leo Oppenheim
It is interesting to note that the name Kaldu or Chaldeans has not been mentioned in any of the tablets left during the Neo-Babylonian period. For example throughout the tablets concerning the fall of Assyria Nebupolassar and Nebuchadnezzar are called “the King of Akkad” (shar Akkad) rather than the “Chaldean King”, however, the English translator has labeled these records as the "Chronicles of the Chaldean Kings". Read D.J. Wiseman’s “Chronicles of the Chaldean Kings”.
Now, lets discuss the issue of the existence of the ancient Chaldeans in Assyria. The ancient Chaldeans never settled in Assyria, they always lived in southern Mesopotamia. Here are some historical data attesting to this fact.
1. “The Conquest of Civilization” / James Henry Breasted
2. “Arbil and its Historical Periods” / Dr. Zubair Bilal Ismael
3. “Ancient Iraq” / Georges Roux
And he states:
He continues to refer to southern Mesopotamia as Babylonia even after the Chaldean dynasty took control over it and he calls its kings “The Chaldean kings of Babylon” and not Chaldea. A good reason could be because the Chaldeans’ control over Babylonia was one of the shortest of any other dynasty.
4. “The Babylonians” / H.W.F Saggs
Later he says:
5. “Kinooz al-Matthaf al-Iraqi” (The Treasures of the Iraqi Museum) / Dr. Faraj
6. “Mesopotamia and Iran in the Persian Period” / John Curtis
What can we learn from this paragraph:
This paragraph is very important, because it attests to the fact that the Persians were in control in Assyria (northern Mesopotamia) after the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC. For those who are not familiar with the geography of Iraq, Diyala valley is basically between Assyria and Babylonia. So this proves that there were no Chaldeans in Assyria for the Persians to fight, rather the Persians moved south the Diyala valley to meet Nabonidus.
7. “Assyrian Studies; A History Bypassed by History” / Georgis Fatih Allah
8. “The Ancient Near East; c. 3000-330 BC” / Amelie Kuhrt
So far we have argued based on many facts that the ancient Chaldeans were, in a sense, foreigners to Mesopotamia and showed that they did not settle in Assyria, they rather lived in southern Babylonia. Since history does not mention of any mass migration of Chaldeans from southern Mesopotamia to the north at any time and under any capacity, a question presents itself: who are then the modern Chaldeans who live predominantly in Nineveh (Assyria)? Let’s read from scholars, historians, and notable people in our own society about the present day title ‘Chaldean’.
1. "The political Dictionary of Modern Middle East" / University Press of America, 1995.
2. “Arabs and Christians? Christians in the Middle East” / Antonie Wessels
3. “Aqaliyat shimal al-‘Araq; bayna al-qanoon wa al-siyasa” (Northern Iraq
Minorities; between Law and Politics) / Dr. Jameel Meekha Shi’yooka
4. “Asshur and the Land of Nimrod” / Hormuzd Rassam
5. “The Eastern Christian Churches” / Ronald Roberson
6. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church / F. L. Cross and E. A.
7. “Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World” / Patricia Crone and Michael Cook
8. “Christianity in the Arab World” / El Hassan Bin Talal, Crown Prince of
9. “The Middle East” A Physical, Social and Regional Geography / W. B. Fisher
10. The Catholic Encyclopedia is very clear in defining Chaldeans as a Christian
denomination of the Eastern Church, since it states;
11. “History of Syria” / Dr. Philip Hitti, professor of Semitic literature at
12. “The Assyrians and their Neighbors” / Rev. W. A. Wigram
13. “The Chaldeans of today and their relation to the Chaldeans of yesterday”
14. “The British Betrayal of the Assyrians” / Yousuf Malek, member of the
Chaldean Catholic Church.
15. “Reasons for the backwardness of the Assyrians” / Professor Ashur Yousuf,
member of the Syrian Orthodox Church, published on October 20, 1914.
The above examples should prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the so-called Chaldean title, used today, represents a religious denomination of the Assyrian people, applied by the Vatican on the newly converted Catholics who united with the Roman Catholic Church. It is due to confusion and ignorance of some, and the special interest of the few others, that the Chaldean title has been used as an ethnic appellation.
There remains couple arguments made by the few regarding a so-called migration and so-called deportations of the ancient Chaldeans to Assyria and hence the presence of today’s Christian Chaldeans in Nineveh. Allow me to present few remarks regarding those two issues.
The issue of ancient Chaldeans so-called deportations to Assyria
This argument focuses on the so-called deportation of the ancient Chaldeans to Nineveh by the kings of the Neo-Assyrian dynasty. Those who argue this point claim that (400,000) Chaldeans were deported to Assyria by Assyrian kings during the 8th and 7th centuries BC, which justify the presence of the Chaldeans in Nineveh today! If this is true and since the ancient Chaldeans, as history tells us, in 626 BC captured and ruled Babylon, there should have been then more Chaldeans in the south to accomplish such mission. Therefore, and in reality, those presenting this theory are telling us that the population of the ancient Chaldeans was at least half a million if not more! Half a million or more Chaldeans during the 7th century BC!
It is a well-established fact that the entire population of the mighty capital
of Babylon, which ruled most of what is known today as the Middle East, was
(200,000). This figure, which included of course all the various peoples of
Babylon, was proven by very highly technical, aerial, and scientific studies
undertaken more recently. H.W.F. Saggs in "Everyday Life in Babylonia and
Assyria” attests to this fact, he says:
Something does not add up here, should we believe scientists and historians and their figures about Babylon or those few wishful thinkers who claim the so-called deportation figures. I wonder whom should we believe! In II Samuel 10:18 we read: “And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen, and smote Shõ´bâch the captain of their host, who died there.” Yet in I Chronicles 19:18 we read about the same account the following: “But the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians seven thousand men which fought in chariots, and forty thousand footmen, and killed Shõ´phâch the captain of the host.” How about that for a controversy! Do we really want to mess around with figures mentioned in the ancient days?
Historians tell us that there is no doubt that all the figures relating to war in the days of antiquity were exaggerated. It has been proven that kings in the ancient days did so to achieve the status of greatness by claiming higher figures than the actual to have been killed or taken prisoners. James Wellard in “Babylon” tells us that such numbers were, of course, impossible to assess. He adds “the claim of Sennacherib that he captured (200,000) men in one battle need not be taken literally but rather as an exaggeration typical of a press hand-out in wartime”. Sennacherib’s capture of Babylon lists the following prize of his victory: (208,000) men and women prisoners; (11,073) asses; …etc., an interesting feature of the list is the precise enumeration of the animals—(11,073 asses), and the round figures for the ‘body count’ of the humans. Assyrian kings, for a matter of fact, took as prisoners, whenever alive of course, the defeated king, the royal family, high ranking officers, noted people within the defeated kingdom, it was never like deporting the entire population.
Therefore, such deportation argument has no merit.
The claims of ancient Chaldean so-called migration to Assyria during the Islamic conquest
The Islamic Arab invasion of the middle and southern Bet Nahrain began in AD
637, when the Arabs defeated the Persians in the battle of al-Qadisiya, south of
Babylon. At this time all the Christian inhabitants of southern Mesopotamia were
Nestorians. The conversion of these Nestorians living in Babylonia from
Christianity to Islam happened quickly. Samuel Moffett tells us in “History of
Christianity in Asia”:
This quote confirms indirectly that Christianity did not survive in southern
Mesopotamia soon after the Islamic conquest. Christians in southern Mesopotamia
became a tiny minority compared to the Muslims, contrary to those Christians
living in the northern parts of Mesopotamia. Philip Hitti in “History of the
Arabs” confirms this as he wrote:
These facts are undisputed, therefore, if any migration from the south to the north did occur, it would have been a Muslim migration and not some Christian Chaldeans!
The claims of ancient Chaldean so-called migration to Assyria during the Abbasid Dynasty Few argue that a migration of ancient Chaldeans occurred during the Abbasid Dynasty rule, which started in AD 750, because of the persecution, killing and destruction of Christian properties in Babylonia. True, there have been certain intervals of persecutions during the Abbasid period, but who were the Christians during that period? And did that persecution constitute a migration? In the days of Caliph al-Mutawakkil (847-861), it has been documented that he deposed the Nestorian patriarch, destroyed many churches, and prevented Christians from riding horses and commanded them to wear dyed garments. In addition, the Christians were excluded from military service for reasons of national security. Well, if Christians were not allowed to ride horses, were identified easily by their clothing, and were considered concern for national security, how would a migration of massive numbers of Christians hundreds of miles to the north take place without alerting the authorities? If they were considered concern for notional security how could we explain this so claimed massive migration? The most important question here, yet, should be, who were these Christians? Weren’t they simply known as Nestorians! To hint that those Christians were Chaldeans ethnically is a hoax. On the other hand, since there was so much dislike by ancient Chaldeans towards the Assyrians, why would those ancient Chaldeans then migrate to Assyria? It just does not make sense! The move of the Nestorian Patriarchal See from Seleucia-Ctesiphon (al-Mada-in) to Baghdad in AD 762, only (10) miles away, hardly qualifies to be regarded as "a migration from the south to the north"! The Caliph al-Mansur built Baghdad, moved there and made it his capital and the Nestorian Patriarch simply followed suit.
On the other hand, it has been attested to by the Nestorian patriarch himself
that the Abbasid era was not a situation, which might have caused a serious
migration. Lets read a letter from Patriarch Yeshuyab III (650-660) to the
bishop of Fars (Persia):
The tolerance of the Abbasid Caliphs can be seen in its best picture with the famous debate that brought the Nestorian Patriorch Timothy I (779-823) face to face with the third Caliph al-Mahdi. It was a remarkable display of courtesy, considering the times and the situation. It is this Patriarch Timothy who came to Baghdad from Adiabene (Arbil), moving the other way around, from the north to the south!
Here again, the immigration argument does not make sense.
The claims of ancient Chaldean so-called migration to Assyria during the Mongol invasions
Aubrey Vine in “The Nestorian Churches” tells us that “when Baghdad became unsafe for the Nestorian Patriarch Denkha I (1265-1281) because of the Mongols, he moved to Azerbaijan. Still, his successor Yaballaha III was often in Baghdad, but seems to have spent much of his time at Maragha, east of Lake Urmi in Azerbaijan. Mosul and Urmi were frequent places of residence. There were, however, periods of residence in Baghdad as late as the 15th and 16th centuries.” Does this mean that every time the Patriarch moved between Baghdad, Urmi, and Mosul, the entire Christian population moved with him? In 1401 Tamerlane, who was a Muslim, marched on Baghdad and killed thousands of Christians. The majority of the Christians who did survive though yielded to the forcible acceptance of Islam, which was imposed on the wretched remnants. Those few lucky Nestorians who managed to escape, fled to the mountains of Hakkari.
On the other hand, it will be ludicrous to claim that during the invasion of Tamerlane there was still a distinct Christian Chaldean community in Babylonia, a community that has managed to separate itself from all the other people. It will be down silly to claim that this community alone managed to escape Tamerlane, migrated to Assyria and later established the present day Chaldean community in Mosul (Nineveh). The only accounts, which substantiate this fictitious story, are the claims of the Chaldean Catholic Church clergymen. It is a very well known fact that the Christian community in Babylonia has recognized itself as a Christian Nestorian Community since the 5th century AD. This Babylonian Christian community was a multiethnic society of many peoples who ruled Babylon like the Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Amorites, Hurrians, Kassites, Arameans, Arabs, Chaldeans, Persians, Greeks, among others. No logical person can accept an argument stating that the Chaldeans overshadowed all the other people who ruled Babylon keeping in mind that the Chaldeans had the shortest rule in Babylonia totaling (87) years only. Why is it that we do not hear from some group calling itself Kassites, when they ruled (400) years in Babylonia? Could it be because the Book of Daniel, for example, kept the Chaldean name in the memory of the people and not the Kassites’? Mari Bar Shlemun (1350) in his book "Book of tower" states that by the 14th century the "Church of the East” had only six Metropolitans left, mainly in north Bet Nahrain. The point here is that the Christian had almost no presence in southern Mesopotamia at this time.
Hence, a very weak immigration theory.
The Nestorian Patriarch and his seals
One final theory that has been argued lately is that the Nestorian Patriarch has himself legally legitimized the title Chaldean because he used a seal referring to himself as ‘Patriarch of the Chaldeans’. It is well a known fact that the Kurdish plundering, destruction, and massacres of the Assyrians and their villages in Hakkari Mountains, Turkey, intensified during the 1840's under Badir Khan Beg. The Ottoman Turks authorities supported those horrible events. It was during that difficult period that such a seal was used and only for these two reasons:
Let’s ask ourselves these reasonable questions: Why is it that we cannot find
any ancient Chaldeans in southern Babylonia today, a region where they always
lived? Why are all of the so-called Chaldeans living in the heartland of Assyria
hundreds of miles to the north? If those ancient Chaldeans hated the Assyrians,
as it is known historically, why would they then migrate to Assyria? Does that
make sense to anybody? And if a minority of the ancient Chaldeans were deported
to Assyria, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that they would have assimilated
in the host society? Why do we have to consider that the minority of the ancient
Chaldeans, who were hated by the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians survived in
Assyria, meanwhile, the majority of them has assimilated in the southern
Babylonian society since they are no longer found there! To reach a reasonable
and logical answer to such an important matter, we must then acquire a vision
for the whole picture. This complete picture shows that the ancient Chaldeans
were, in a sense, foreigners to Mesopotamia, they appeared in the 10th century
BC and settled predominantly in southern Babylonia, they ruled (87) years, less
than any other people in the region. The absence of all types of artwork and
lack of documents is noticed clearly in ancient Chaldean society. That fact
could be due to their short history and rule or perhaps due to their nature as
nomads, as the Dictionary of the King James Version of the Bible states: “The
early people of Chaldea were fishermen and small-scale herdsmen and farmers,
opposed to urbanized life.” Exceptions to these facts are of course the
rebuilding of the Babylonian City wall and temple, which were partly destroyed
earlier, and the well-known Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Such projects in fact
were undergone by the Babylonians themselves subjects now to the Chaldean
rulers. There are no historical documents whatsoever attesting to the claim that
the ancient Chaldeans as people migrated to the northern region of Assyria. They
lived in the south as nomads and became part of the Babylonian society, the most
multiethnic society in those days. There is no reason then to doubt that they
assimilated in that society just as all the other peoples, mentioned earlier,
living in Babylonia. Putting all the above arguments and historical data
together, one can reach only one factual and definite conclusion, which should
state clearly that the modern Chaldeans are not related to the ancient
Chaldeans, and that they are simply Catholic Assyrians.
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