Sunday, May 14, 2017

England and Edessa

On another blog the other day I did a post theorizing that the early traditions of Mary Magdalene going to Ephesus and the later ones taking her to southern France are perhaps explained by the first Christians of Lyon coming from Ephesus.

Since making that, I decided to look into traditions about the early Briton Church again, which as usual lead me to Simon Zelotes, the only one of the Twelve that I think could have come to Britain.  Of other traditions about where he went, I totally reject ones making him the same as Simon the Half Brother of Jesus, or the Simon who was the second Bishop of Jerusalem.  For reasons explained in my post on the Brothers and Sisters of Jesus.  Other aspects of that post may be relevant later.

He's said to have spent some time in Egypt but no claims that Egypt is where he died.  The same Disciple being linked to both Briton and Egypt could be interesting in light of my England and Egypt post.  (My calling this post England and Edsessa is kinda misleading since it's mostly about pre Anglo-Saxon Britons, but I wanted to repeat that previous double E phonetic effect.)

What's most interesting is Simon's link to Edessa, many traditions seem to also pair him with Jude//Thadeus, who is even more strongly linked to Edessa.  The associations with Aremnia/Ibera of the Caucus could have to do with Moses of Khorene treating Agbar of Edessa as part of Armenia's history.  And them being said to go to Persia may have to do with Edessa being a Parthian client kingdom during much of the first century.

The key thing is that as soon as I realized Simon Zelotes who I'd long knew was sometimes said to come to Britannia had also been associated with Edessa.  I immediately thought of how King Abgar the IX and/or X of Edessa is theorized to be who the Liber Pontificals actually meant by King Lucius of Britain.

This is more complicated then the Ephesus to Lyon connection for three reasons.

1. That a group of Christians came to Lyon from Ephesus in the Second Century is a known fact independent of thinking the development of traditions about Mary Magdelene had anything to do with it.  While here I admittedly have little to go on to prove anyone ever came from Edessa/Osroene to Britain during the time frame in question.

2. I don't necessarily think this migration is the sole or even primary origin of Briton Christianity, as the Ephesus to Lyon connection seems to be.  Tertulian and I think also Irenaus have quotes showing Christians were in Britain already before the time of Abgar IX.  And I still think Aristobulus of Romans 16 came to Britain as there are no alternate traditions for him.

3. Simon Zelotes like all of the Twelve I think did more traveling around then Mary Magdalene did, who traditions take only to Ephesus and much later France.  So maybe he individually did go to both places, (especially since he's said to have come to Britannia twice, in the early 40s and in 60), while I'm certain Mary was never actually in France.  But there are some reasons in the New Testament to think the Twelve went mainly to places with a very strong Jewish presence, which Edessa had in the first century, but Britannia did not.  Acts 2:9-11 mentions Mesopotamia and Arabians (Osroene was an Arabian kingdom in Mesopotamia) present at Pentecost, but not Britain or Gaul.  I think Paul lead the way West while the Twelve focused mainly on the East (I've already shown that Peter didn't go to Rome). I'm interested in theories of Paul coming to Britain but haven't looked that deep into it yet, the main book on it is pretty expensive.

Much of ancient Osroene was in modern Syria (but all of it East/North of the Euphrates).  But it had chunks of Iraq and modern Turkey, including Edessa itself and the city possibly responsible for the Lucius in Britain scribal Error, Birtha aka Birecik.

Bede added to the Lucius of Britain story that under him the whole country converted and remained Christian at least until the Diocletian Persecution. Elsewhere that persecution is not known to have had any notable incidents in Britain, in fact it seems it wasn't enforced in The West much at all.  But major focal points of much of it were in Turkey and in the East.  Logically, this may have been a time when many Christians in the East migrated West.

Another figure controversially associated with both Turkey and Britain is Empress Helena, but in this case it's her beginning not end that is being disputed.  The source for her being born in Nicodemia is not till the 6th Century, and seems to be based on her and Constantine's later connections to Nicodemia.  So I'm inclined to doubt she was born there.  But the problem with the much later traditions of her being born a Briton princess is that Constantius Chlorus didn't come to Britain til within a year before he died there, and Constantine was already an adult.

I think maybe an overlooked clue to Helena's origin is her name.  Before her the only royal families Helena would have been a dynastic name for are Osroene and Adiabene, who intermarried with each other.  Helen of Adiabene married Abgar V of Edessa after her first husband died.  I think the two later kings of Osroene called Bar Ezad were sons of Helena's son Izates II of Adiabene.  So just as mythical Welsh genealogies make Empress Helena a descendant of Lucius of Britain, I think she may really have been a descendant of Lucius Abgar of Birecik.

Regardless of Constantine's ancestry, his descendants I think include many monarchs of the British Isles right down to the present.... but first.

Both the other wife of Constantius, and the only wife of Constanine who is ancestral to his successors, Fausta, were daughters of Eutropia.  A woman of seemingly noble origin in Roman Syria.  And so I think very likely to descend from the Near Eastern Roman aristocracy that descended from Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Commagene and thus from the Seleucid Dynasty.  And also from daughters of the Ptolemaic Dynasty like Cleopatra Thea, Tryphenea and Cleopatra Selene.  So this post is again further backing for making British Royalty descendants of Egyptian Royalty.

Flavia Maxima Constantia, was a granddaughter of Constantine, and a descendant of both daughters of Eutropia.  She married the Western Emperor Gratian.  They are in mainstream history presumed to have had no children, but they were married for long enough, and there's a lot of time that Constantia isn't mentioned.  How she died at only 21 max isn't known, maybe she died in child birth.  If Gratian had any "legitimate" children it was by her, he died before he could even have consummated his second marriage.

Welsh traditions say that Magnus Maximus was married to a daughter of Gratian named either Helena or Ellen.  Welsh genealogies sometimes say he had two wives, one named Helena and one Ellen.  One a daughter of Gratian and the other of a mysterious Eudaf.  Eudaf is a name used in other welsh texts to refer to Octavian Caesar Augustus, whether the name actually comes from Octavian or Augustus is hard to tell, but this is why the Eudaf who is a father in law of Maximus is sometimes given as a King Octavius of Britain.  Gratian's full name as Emperor was Flavius Gratainus Augustus, so I think his daughter was the only wife of Magnus Maximus.

Welsh genealogies put Magnus Maximus in the ancestry of a lot of people.  There may be a route to put him in the ancestry of the Kings of Gwynedd from whom came the Medieval princes of Wales from whom came The Tudors.  But I want to focus on the Scottish connection here.

Rigrawst was the wife of King Brychan of Brycheiniog.  Born 468 AD, she was the daughter of Gwrtheyrn ap Gwidol (Vortigern) and Severa Ferch Mascsen, the daughter of Magnus Maximus. [ Brian Daniel Starr, The Life of Saint Brychan: King of Brycheiniog and Family (Google eBook) (Brian Daniel Starr, 2008) page 59.]  Brychan himself may through his mother descend from Maximus's daughter Gratiana who is said to have married Tudwall of Galloway.

Dyfnwal Hen was a King of Strathclyde.  The Bonedd Gwŷr y Gogledd, a later genealogy of northern kings, gives a modified version of Dyfnwal's family tree.[Bromwich, pp. 256–257] Here, he is the son of Idnyued and the grandson of Magnus Maximus.  There are also genealogies making Dyfnwal an ancestor of Gabran mac Domangairt, father of Aeden mac Gabran, from whom descends most later royalty of Scotland, from Malcolm and Duncan of Macbeth (possibly Macbeth himself) down to the Davids and Alexanders, then to Robert The Bruce and eventually the Stuarts including James I ancestor of all Kings of Britain since.  Brychan I've also seen listed as an ancestor of Gabran.

I did a post in the past on Adiabene where I theorized that Izates II or Monobaz II or both could have married Half-Sisters of Jesus.  I also have a post on Arthruain Legend and Grail Romances where I draw on that post and my Half Brothers of Jesus post and theorize that King Kalafes of Grail Legend may be based on Abgar of Edessa.  And maybe Bron was actually Izatez or Monobaz.  A daughter of Kalafes married a son of Bron who inherited his Kingdom.  I've already suggested that the Davidic Exilarchs of the Jewish Community in Mesopotamia could also descent from Abgar and Izates.  And also the Bagratid Dynasty. 

I don't think Joseph of Arimathea actually came to Britain.  But some things about the Grail legend are geographically contradictory.  For example Sarras is said to be both an island they stopped at on the way to Britain, and "on the road from Jerusalem to the Euphrates and Babylon", which makes me wonder if it could be meant to be Sura, which was linked by a roman road to Palmyra in antiquity.

If Josephus is correct that the Tadmor of Solomon was Palmyra, then maybe it's allegorically what the Grail lore meant by the "Ship of Solomon", while also bringing in Celtic Pagan ideas.  When Wikipedia attempts to cast doubt on this identification, it says the Tadmor of 1 Kings 9:18 was built in Judea, that is demonstrably wrong because that verse clearly says Tadmor and Baalath were built "In the Wilderness" a term that refers to the deserts of Arabia, Jordan and Syria.  The "in the Land" phrase just means within what was was promised to Abraham which extended all the way to the Euphrates.  We know from Assyrian inscriptions that Palmyra was called Tadmor/Tadmar.

According to the Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal and Estoire del Saint Graal, Galahad is of the Lineage of Solomon via his descent from the Fisher Kings, and that is why the "Ship of Solomon" is important.  The Grail saga ends with Galahad and the Grail being taken to heaven at Sarras, and then Sir Bors lives on to tell the tale.

If Sarras is Sura then Corbenic could be identified with a city of Osroene or Adiabene.  And Castle Mortal would be another city of the same area.

The traditional timeline for King Arthur is 516-537 based on the Annals Cambrie, but Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Brute Tyslo place his death in 542.  The Exilarch at that time was Mar Ahunai, but he never operated publicly due to the fall out of his predecessor Mar Zutra II's failed rebellion (496-502 AD).  Mar Zutra II also had a son, Mar Zutra III, who became head of an academy.

The Bagratid descent would at this time be represented by the father, or grandfather or maybe even great-grandfather of Guaram I, the first Prince of Iberia.  This Guaram was the son of a Solomon son of Dahn son of Isaac son of Aser.

But perhaps the real forgotten inspiration of this was that via Empress Helena the descendants of the Agbars of Edessa becomes kings in the British Isles.


  1. Fascinating post. I don't know the details of everything you've written about but I love to play with these ideas and have in my The Children of Arthur novels. In my book "Arthur's Legacy" I talk about Joseph of Arimathea coming to Britain with Jesus, and in the fifth and final book, "Arthur's Bosom" which will be released in June, I talk about the Empress Helena as being British and bringing the True Cross back to Britain. I almost don't want to know the truth on these matters because the speculating is so much fun. Keep up the posts.

    Tyler Tichelaar

    1. Jesus Himself I tend to believe never left Israel.