Conversion and the Family in the Acts of the Persian Martyrs

Joel Thomas Walker

in The Legend of Mar Qardagh

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780520245785
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520932197 | DOI:
Conversion and the Family in the Acts of the Persian Martyrs

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This chapter examines the rhetoric of family relations in Sasanian martyr literature, focusing on the legend of Mar Qardagh. Familial strife is a critical leitmotif of the Qardagh legend, yet there has been no previous commentary on this aspect of the legend. En route to his martyrdom, Qardagh separates himself from the obligations invoked by his parents, wife, father-in-law, and other “noble relatives,” only to be executed by his own father. Both the historical and the narrative dimensions of these events require explication. The fierce clash between Qardagh and his father assumes a familiarity with the traditions of Sasanian patriarchy, revealed for instance in Zoroastrian law. The hagiographer understood, and expected his audience to recognize, the normative family structures of the Persian (and “Persianized”) elites of late Sasanian Iraq. Identifying and defining these Sasanian elements clarifies the hagiographer's distinctive rendition of the topos of familial renunciation.

Keywords: family relations; Sasanian martyr literature; Mar Qardagh; family strife; Sasanian Iraq

Chapter.  21712 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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