History and Geography
Chapter 2 In Arabia and the Persian Gulf
In Arabia and the Persian Gulf
In the North of the Region of Arabia and in the Yemen
Before the Arab conquest (which began in 635), the missionary activity of the Church of the East was orientated in the following two directions: towards the south in the direction of modern Saudi Arabia (the birthplace of Islam) and the Yemen, and towards the south-east in the direction of the Persian Gulf (or Arabo-Persian Gulf) and India.
In Arabia the oldest Christian sources mention Christian missionary activities before the rise of Islam. The region of Arabia consisted of independent kingdoms, of which Hirta (its name in Syriac – Al-Hira in Arabic) lay on the direct route between Persia and Arabia. Hirta was also the ancient capital of the Arab tribe of the Lakhmids, among whom numerous notables in particular had converted to Christianity probably from the fourth century. The city lay to the south-west of Ctesiphon, the capital of the Persian Empire, in the south-west of Mesopotamia bordering the Great Arabian Desert (to the south-east of the modern town of Najaf in Iraq). The Lakhmids were vassal-affiliates of the Sassanid monarchs of Seleucia-Ctesiphon. The city of Hirta was also the seat of a diocese of the Church of the East whose bishop was also responsible for a certain number of Christian communities living in the south of Arabia and in the kingdom of Himyar, in what is today Yemen. To date, very little...
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