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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV:
Writings in Connection with the Manichæan Controversy.: Chapter X

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter X.—Outline of Manichæan History. 19

In the East Mani’s followers were involved in the persecution that resulted in his death, and many of them fled to Transoxiania.  Their headquarters and the residence of the chief of the sect continued to be Babylon.  They returned to Persia in 661, but were driven back, 908–32.  They seem to have become very numerous in the Transoxiania.  Albîrûnî, 973–1048, speaks of the Manichæans as still existing in large numbers throughout all Mohammedan lands, and especially in the region of Samarkand, where they were known as Sabeans.  He also relates that they were prevalent among the Eastern Turks, in China, Thibet and India.  In Armenia and Cappadocia they gained many followers, and thence made their way into Europe.  The Paulicians are commonly represented as a Manichæan party, but the descriptions that have come down to us would seem to indicate Marcionitic rather than Manichæan elements.  Yet contemporary Catholic writers such as Peter Siculus and Photius constantly assail them as Manichæans.

In the West we have traces of their existence from 287 onwards.  Diocletian, according to a somewhat doubtful tradition, condemned its leaders to the stake, and its adherents to decapitation with confiscation of goods.  The edict is supposed to have been directed to the pro-consul of Africa where Manichæans were making great progress.  According to an early account, Mani sent a special envoy to Africa.  Valentinian (372) and Theodosius (381) issued bloody edicts against them, yet we find them still aggressive in the time of Augustin.  From Africa Manichæism spread into Spain, Gaul and Aquitaine.  Leo the Great and Valentinian III. took measures against them in Italy (440 sq.).  They appear, however, to have continued their work, for Gregory the Great mentions them (590 sq.).  From this time onwards their influence is to be traced in such parties as the Euchites, Enthusiasts, Bogomiles, Catharists, Beghards, etc.  But it is not safe to attach too much importance to the mere fact that these parties were stigmatized as Manichæans by their enemies.  Even in the Reformation time and since, individuals and small parties have appeared which in some features strongly resembled the ancient Manichæans.  Manichæism was a product of the East, and in the East it met with most acceptance.  To the spirit of the West it was altogether foreign, and only in a greatly modified form could it ever have flourished there.  It might persist for centuries as a secret society, but it could not endure the light.



Compare Professor George T. Stokes’ excellent article Manichæans, in Smith and WaceDict. of Chr. Biography, vol. III. p. 798 sq.

Next: Preface to the Anti-Manichæan Writings.

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