Syriac Timeline
3rd Century

Syriac Timeline (201-300 A.D.)




201 AD

Emperor Septimius Severus, (d. York, UK 4/2/211) started a persecution of Christians whilst traveling in Palestine. This persecution was intense, but it was confined to the East, [1] and northern Africa, [49]. The persecution lasted until the second year of his son Caracalla, but background systematic persecution continued until 313 AD.

[49], pp. 98, 141, 172

201 AD

Edessa is badly damaged by a serious flood as recorded in surviving city archives written in Syriac (read a revised and corrected translation here). This was the first of three devastating floods which are recorded in [41]. This fascinating archive from the city records demonstrates, amongst other things, that a Church building existed in Edessa at this time.

[27], part 2, vol 1, p. 23

202 AD

King Abgar IX builds a new palace near the site of the springs of water in Edessa, (a site destroyed during the flood- see translation given above).
Date of a pagan Syriac inscription at Kirk Magara outside Edessa, (Urfa); Translation: 'I G'W, daughter of Barshuma, made for myself this burial place. I ask of you who come after [and] who may enter here, move not my bones from the sarcophagus. He that shall move my bones - may he have no latter end, and may he be accursed to Marilaha.' Beside this is another Syriac inscription: 'Remembered be Barshuma bar Wa'el'

[27], part 2, vol 1, p. 23
[29], p. 118
Inscription: [33], pp. 59 & plate 29b

203 AD

Clement bishop of Alexandria flees Alexandria as the persecution breaks out ordered by the emperor, Septimus Severus. Perpetua and others are martyred in Cathage.

[49], pp. 98, 141, 172

c. 204 AD

Abgar IX adopts Christianity (though he may not have converted to Christianity himself) as the religion of the ruling house at Edessa. Bardaisan who also lived at this time, was the king's friend. Bardaisan had been converted to Christianity earlier during the see of bishop Hystasp. Bardaisan wrote polemics against the heresies of Marcion. Later Bardaisan was excommunicated by 'Aqi (who was bishop after Hystasp) because Bardaisan did not believe in a bodily resurrection. Nevertheless, Bardaisan is credited with founding the theological School of Edessa where he had many disciples, [60]. Famous pupils who trained in the early days of the School of Edessa included Lucian the Martyr and Paul of Samosata bishop of Antioch, who were both martyred in AD 303, (which see).

[29], p. 118-9
[33], p. 36
[60], p. 27

fl. c. 210 AD

Hippolytus, a great Roman theologian and writer who lived c. AD 170 – 236. He and a writings were mentioned by Eusebius rather grudgingly, (H.E. 6.20, 22) because Hippolytus was not too keen on the Popes.

[35], p. 51

Early 3rd century AD

Arabs of the Tanukh tribe settled a few miles south of Kufa, west of the Euphrates river. This tent settlement grew to become a permanent settlement called Al-Hira and then a small vassal Arab kingdom ruled by the Lakhmids who were allies of the Sassanid rulers of Persia. This Arab tribe converted to Christianity sometime long before AD 380 and was represented by a bishop at the Synod of Isaac, (see under AD 411), [60].

[60], p. 43

211 AD

Caracalla or Antoninus son of Septimius Severus became Roman emperor on the death of his father.

[49], p. 144

212 AD
([49] has AD 214)

Caracalla wrote a decree conferring Roman citizenship upon all free inhabitants of the Roman empire, (this was so that he could tax more people!).

[49], p. 130

214 AD
(212 or 213 according to [29])

Death of Abgar IX, king of Osrhoene at Edessa. He was succeeded by his son Abgar X Severus.

[8], p. 200.

215 AD

Origen, visits Palestine and is asked to preach in church, even though he had not been ordained.

[49], p. 186 f.

216 AD

King Abgar X Severus was deposed in the reign of the Roman emperor Caracalla. Osrhoene with the capital city Edessa (Urhoy) became part of the Roman Empire, (but the kingdom of Osrhoene continued as a Roman client kingdom until AD 241).

[7], p. 58, 152
[35], p. 32

216 AD
[17] has AD 217 or 218.
[35] has 217 AD

In the reign of the Roman emperor Caracalla, Osrhoene and the capital city of Edessa (Urhoy) became a colony within the Roman Empire, (but the kingdom of Osrhoene continued as a Roman client kingdom). King Abgar X Severus was deposed, (killed?) and replaced by his son Ma’nu IX.
Sextus Julius Africanus visited Osrhoene at this time and made copies of the archives of Edessa

[7], p. 58 & p. 152.
[17], p. 142
[35], pp. 27, 32

October 1st AD 217 to 2nd May 218 AD
([41] has 239 or 240 AD and [49] has 216 AD)

Birth of Mani who later founded his own religion, (see below under AD 242). Mani's religion was only very loosely based upon Christianity and was a vigorous competitor to orthodox Christianity, particularly in the 4th century. Manicheism became particularly widespread, extending from western Europe to China.

[49], p. 177 ff.

8th April
217 AD

Roman emperor Caracalla or Antoninus was assassinated during his attack on Parthia, [35], [49]. His 'cubiculo Augusti' or Chamberlain was a Christian called Marcus Aurelius Prosenes who died shortly afterwards on 3rd May in the same year. His tombstone inscription survives, [49].

[35], p. 27
[49], p. 142 f.

218 AD

Elagabalus became Roman emperor. He reigned until AD 222.

[49], p. 145

222 AD

Death of Bardaisan.
First year of the reign of the emperor Alexander Severus, 222 - 235 AD who had many Christians amongst his courtiers including Sextus Julius Africanus.

[33], p. 36.
[35], p. 56
[38], p. 21
[49], pp. 107, 144

200 - 250 AD

Origen visited the Roman province of Arabia several times and records that there were Christian congregations and 'overseers' in most towns. On his second visit, he met Beryllus, bishop of Bostra in Arabia between 233 and 250 AD, who was a prolific and respected author, (it is greatly to be regretted that none of his works survive).

[35], pp. 51, 57, p. 97:map

224 AD

The Arsacid or Parthian dynasty in Persia was replaced by the Sassanid or Persian dynasty. However, the Arsacid dynasty retained control of Armenia until AD 428.

[44], p. 3
[60], p. 10

By 225 AD

There were Christian bishops of Qatar and monasteries were built there before AD 300

[60], p. 44

226 – 229 AD

Origen quotes from what he calls a ‘Gospel According to the Hebrews‘ in his ‘Commentary in Matthew’ at Mt19v16ff. And again in his ‘Commentary in John,’ book 5, which was written in Alexandria between 226 and 229 AD; ‘..and the gospel is, in truth, one in the midst of four.’ The phrase, 'One in the midst of four' in Origen's Greek text is ‘dia tessaron’ i.e. "Diatessaron". This comment is somewhat ambiguous, but it may be the earliest reference to the Diatessaron gospel harmony by this title.

Petersen, “Diatessaron”, pp. 37 note 9, 259

227 or 226 AD

Ardeshir son of Pabqan became king of Persia and founder of the Sassanian dynasty. He and his descendants were Zoroastrians (fire worshippers) by religion.

[7], p. 152.
[35], p. 27
[37], p. xi

230 AD

Ardeshir beseiged Nisibis.

[35], p. 60, note 40

231 AD

Council of Alexandria. Origen, in the course of a journey in this or the following year was ordained as an Presbyter (Elder) by Bishop Theoctistus in Caesarea with the support of Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem. On his return to Alexandria, Origen was asked to leave town, [49] or more likely, he left because Demetrius bishop of Alexandria condemned him at the council of Alexandria, [35]. Anyway, shocked by this, Origen left Alexandria and made his home in Caesarea (Palestine).

[35], p. 57
[49], p. 186 f.

232 AD

A house church has been excavated at Dura Europus Mesopotamia dated to 232 AD.

[35], p. 75

233 AD

Ardeshir captures Nisibis and Harran which were later recaptured by emperor Gordian in 243 AD.

[33], p. 111

235 AD

Died Roman emperor Alexander Severus. He was succeeded by emperor Maximinus Thrax who reigned until AD 238. Emperor Maximinus purged all of the imperial household, presumably removing many Christians who had been present in the previous reign.

[49], p. 144

236 AD

Fabian became bishop of Rome. He sat until his martyrdom during the Decian persecution, see below.

[49], p. 142

238 or 239 AD

The Persian king Ardeshir takes control of Armenia from the Romans. There was a successful Roman counter attack later in AD 243 led by the young Roman emperor Gordian III who reigned from AD 238 until his murder in AD 244.

[49], p. 129

240 - 243 AD

Three legal documents written in Syriac from the third century (dated 28 Dec 240, 1 Sept 242 and 243, respectively) have been found. These were discovered in the Euphrates valley (Brock 1991, Drijvers 1972).


c. 2nd May
242 AD

Shabor (or Shapur) I son of Ardeshir became king of Persia.

According to his own writings quoted in [49], Mani was 24 years old in the year that Ardeshir took the city of Hatra. In the same year, on or shortly before the 8th of the month Pharmouthi = 2nd May, [49] in AG 553 = 2nd May 242, [37] Shabor son Ardeshir became king of Persia. Mani wrote seven Aramaic books for his own religion and another apology called 'Sabuhragon' written in middle Persian for king Shabor I. One of the seven Aramaic books he wrote was called, 'The living gospel'. Mani's Aramaic gospel must have borrowed large amounts of narrative from the Old Syriac gospel. We know this because Augustine of Hippo, who was a Manichee before he was a Catholic, quotes the gospel from a Latin translation of Mani's edition. When Augustine quotes the Manichean gospel in his writings they often show Old Syriac variants which Mani must have carried over into his own version. Thus, in addition to Marcionite Luke, there was another Old Syriac gospel text type, the Manichean living gospel.

[37] p. xi
[49], p 178

242 AD

Abgar XI Farhat son of Ma’nu IX became (presumably Persian client) king of Osrhoene and reigned 2 years. In the same year, Udhainat II became king of Palmyra.

[35], p. 61, note 40.

243 AD

Emperor Gordian III recaptures Harran and Nisibis from the Persians in the battle of Resaina.

[33], p. 111

244 AD
(or 241 AD, [7])

The client kingdom of Osrhoene with the capital city at Edessa is abolished, the king Abgar XI Farhat is deposed and the region is absorbed into the Roman empire.

[7], p. 58

244 – 249 AD

Reign of Roman emperor Marcus Julius Philipus the Arabian who was a Christian, (or perhaps he revered Christ as part of a pantheon).

The emperor Philip made significant territorial concessions to Shabor I king of Persia in return for a truce, [49]. Shabor I enforced his 'fire worship' religion (Zoroastrianism) in the newly annexed territories with extreme violence, through his servant Kartir. According to an important Persian inscription, this Kartir attacked and persecuted all the other faith groups including; the Roman pagan religion, Jews, Buddhists, the Brahmins, Nazarenes (i.e. Aramaic speaking Christians), Christians (i.e. Christians who spoke Greek), Baptizers (probably a reference to the Mandean cult) and the Manicheans, [49], p. 129 f.

In the west, during the reign of Philip, there was a brief, 5 year respite from Christian persecution.

[35], p. 58
[49], pp. 107, 129 f.

247 - 249 AD

Origen's third visit to Arabia.

[35], pp. 57-58

248 AD

The Romans who had abolished the kingdom of Edessa, (Osrhoene) installed a Governor, Aurelianus son of Haphsai, son of Bar Kalba (a freedman of Antonius Caesar). He is mentioned in pagan Syriac inscriptions attributed to Bar Nahar (or Bar Nahad) son of Rinai ruler of the Arabs, (Parthia).
Michael the Syrian mentions Aurelianus son of Haphsai in his Chronicle.


249 - 251 AD

Short tyranny of the Roman emperor Decius, who died in the summer of AD 251 whilst he was fighting the Goths.

[35], p. 60
[49], p. 133

250 - 251 AD

In January AD 250, the emperor Decius issued an edict which began a major persecution of Christians. Fabian bishop of Rome was martyred on 20th January AD 250, [49]. The persecution was particularly bad in Alexandria and in Cathage. Babylas, (or Babola) bishop of Antioch was martyred on 24th January AD 250, [49] and Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem died in prison during torture. Origen was injured by torture but survived for a while.
Pionius was martyred in Smyrna for celebrating the anniversary of Polycarp's martyrdom. (This Pionius was probably the transcriber of the account of Polycarp's martyrdom.)
Sylvanus, bishop of Emesa, (Homs) was martyred in the city's arena. He was Aramaic speaking and had been bishop of Emesa since AD 210.

[35], pp. 60, 63
[6], p. 134
[7], p. 33
[49], pp. 131, 142

251 AD

There was a synod in Rome and another in Cathage.

[7], p. 31

252 AD

Antioch was taken by the Persian king Shabur I.

[49], p. 134

252 AD

Persecution starts again under the new Emperor Gallus during a plague that swept across the entire Roman empire at that time.


253 AD

Valerian becomes Roman Emperor

[49], p. 133

253 AD - 268 AD

Unusually severe natural and man-made disasters followed in the Mediterranean world, disease, wars, drought, earthquakes and even a tidal wave. Half the population of Alexandria was destroyed, (Christians were usually blamed for these disasters and attacked).


254 AD

Tyre, Palestine. Origen a prominent Christian theologian, eventually dies at the age of 69 from his wounds after being stretched on a rack, 'to the fourth hole' during Decius' persecution a few years before.

[7], p. 33
[49], p. 187

255 AD
([38] has 256 AD)

Ardeshir (really king Shabor I of Persia) captures Dura Europus, Nisibis and Carrhae (i.e. Harran) from the Romans but fails to capture Edessa and fails to take Palmyra from king Udhainat, ([13] has 256 - 257 AD). Nevertheless, he took many prisoners including many Christians whom he deported back to Persia. According to the Nestorian Chronicle, (see [42]) they built churches all over the orient including two at Ranshahr or Rev-Ardeshir, where the bishops resided. One was called the church of the Romans where the services were spoken in Greek and the other was called Karmanum where the services were spoken in Syriac. This is the first of two large deportations, see also later under 260 AD. Further evidence of the parallel Syriac and Greek bishoprics in Persia appears later in AD 340 and in AD 424, (see below).

[35], p. 61 note 40.
[38], p. 28
[42], p. 59

256 AD

Synod of Carthage

[7], p. 31

August 257 AD

Valerian's first edict of Christian persecution.

[49], p. 134

258 AD

Valerian's second and worst edict of Christian persecution. This was particularly bad in North Africa where Cyprian, bishop of Carthage was martyred. Cyprian was beheaded on 14th September AD 258, [49]. In a letter Cyprian wrote sometime between 6th August and his death, he says that Valerian had purged all Christians from the imperial household, confiscated their property and sent them to do hard labour on the imperial estates, [49]. The persecution during which Cyprian was martyred lasted until the death of Valerian in AD 260.

[7], pp. 33, 34
[49], pp. 134, 146

259 AD

Dionysius became bishop of Rome. He sat until AD 268.

[49], p. 218

260 AD, (according to [33], [35], [38] and [49])

The Roman emperor Valerian was defeated in the East by king Shahpuhr or Shabor I king of Persia. King Shabor I captured emperor Valerian and humiliated him before killing him. He then recaptured Edessa and Syria. He sacked Antioch and took Syria from the Romans.

After King Shabor I of Persia had captured Antioch, he again deported large populations from Antioch, Cappadocia, Cilicia and Syria including many Christians to Persia. The deportees included Demetrianus bishop of Antioch, [49] who later became bishop of Beth Lapat, also known as Gundeshapur in Persia, [60]. This is the second of two large deportations, see under 255 AD for the first. According to Sassanian inscriptions cited in [49], the Aramaic speaking believers deported by Shabor I were called 'N'sl'y', a word derived from 'Nazarenes' whilst the Greek speaking believers were called, 'Klystyd'n', a word derived from the Greek noun 'Christians'. This gives us important independent information about the bilingual nature of the Christianity which existed in Antioch and the names of the two cultural groups. The term 'Nazarene' first occurs in Acts 24v5, and it reoccurs at the end of the 4th century in the writings of Jerome who tells us that the Nazarenes had their own Aramaic version of the gospel. This Sassanian inscription identifies the Nazarene group unambiguously as the term used to describe Aramaic speaking Christians deported from Antioch.

After a few months, a successful Roman counter attack was launched by Roman troops under Callistus with the army of Odainath (Aramaic name: Udhainat II) who was prince, (really king) of Palmyra. Afterwards, Palmyra controlled Mesopotamia for 12 years as a Roman client.

[7], 152
[33], pp. 110 - 111
[35], pp. 6-7, 60, 61:note
[38], p. 28
[49], p. 50
[60], p. 30 but the date is given as AD 253

260 AD
(sources have 259 AD)

Valerian's son Gallienus becomes emperor and decrees Christianity legal for the first time in AD 261, [49]. Emperor Gallienus gave orders to king Udhainat of Palmyra, to attack and destroy the Roman general Callistus at Emesa or Homs in Syria because he had rebelled, (he had probably tried to take the throne when Valerian was killed).

[35], p. 61:note
[49], p. 145

260 AD

King Udhainat II of Palmyra, takes control of Antioch and appoints Paul of Samosata as bishop of Antioch. Paul had been trained in Christianity at Edessa. The training of Paul of Samosata demonstrates that Edessa had a Christian school at the beginning of the third century AD. The ruins of Palmyra contain the remains of many churches built at this time. This points to the official favour that Christianity enjoyed in the east at this early time.

[35], p. 62

261 AD

The emperor Gallienus orders the return of church property which had confiscated by Valerian.

[49], p. 218

262 AD

The Palmyrene king Udhainat II (Roman name Odenathus) defeats the Persians and beats them back to the capital Ctesiphon recapturing Nisibis and Dura Europus as he went. The emperor Gallienus proclaimed king Udhainat Imperator, (a designation given to victorious Roman generals) and put him in charge of the Roman legions in the east.

[35], pp. 6-7, 23:map, 60, 61:note

264 AD

Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch was censured for his doctrine and extravagant lifestyle by the council of Antioch held in this year.

[35], p. 62
[49], p. 218

267 AD

The Palmyrene king Udhainat II again defeated the Persians in a second campaign, again all the way to the the Persian capital Ctesiphon but was then assassinated. He was succeeded by his son Wahb-Allat, (Roman name Vaballathus) in whose name the government was taken over by his mother, Queen Bath-Zebinah, (Roman name Zenobia). At this time her domain and the control of Palmyra included Cilicia, Mesopotamia, Syria, Phoenicia, Palestine and Arabia.

[35], p. 61 &note

268 AD

Died Dionysius bishop of Rome.

[49], p. 218

268 AD

A synod at Antioch, attended by 80 bishops including Maximus of Bostra. The synod formally deposed Paul of Samosata bishop of Antioch and elected in his place Domnus son of Demetrianus, (probably the Demetrianus bishop of Antioch who had been deported to Persia in AD 260). They could not evict Paul however, because he enjoyed the protection of Zenobia, queen of Palmyra.

[35], p. 62

c. 268 AD

General Zabdas of Palmyra occupied Egypt and started to conquer Asia Minor in a direct challenge to Roman power.

[35], p. 61

270 AD

Aurelian became Roman emperor, reigning until AD 275. This emperor is said to have given a legal ruling in favour of Domnus, bishop of Antioch against his predecessor, Paul of Samosata.

[49], p. 107

c. 270 AD

Anthony of Egypt, (d. AD 356) after listening to the NT being read, sells his possessions and moves out of his village to live as a hermit, (AD 305). Others followed his example. The network of hermits associated occasionally. This was essentially the beginning of the monastic movement, 270 AD - 300 AD in Nitria Egypt (where some spoke Coptic) and in Palestine. The nascent monasteries were anti-Arian in theology and initially separate to the Arian hierarchical church system.

[7], pp. 43 - 44
[35], p. 101
[49], p. 228

272 AD

Hormezed son of Shabor I became king of Persia.

[37] p. xi

273 or 274 AD

Bahram I or Wurharen son of Hormezed became king of Persia.

[37] p. xi

273 AD
[33], [35] and [49] have 272 AD

The emperor Aurelian defeats Queen Zenobia and destroys Palmyra. He thus recaptured Antioch. Paul of Samosata who had already been formally deposed from his see as bishop of Antioch in AD 268, was expelled after losing the protection of Queen Zenobia.

[33], p. 110
[35], p. 62
[49], p. 220

276 or 277 AD

Bahram II son of Wurharen with Bahram III Sunganshar became joint kings of Persia.

[37] p. xi

279 AD

St. Sargis and St. Bakhos martyred

Syrian Orthodox Church website

286 AD

Zoroastrianism was adopted by the Sassanid dynasty of kings as the official religion in Persia. This happened due to the influence of the Zoroastrian high priest Kartir. After this date, apostasy from the newly recognized religion became punishable by death.

[60], pp. 12, 29

286 AD
17th September
Year 1 anno Diocletiani
Year 1 'Era of the Martyrs'

Accession of Diocletian.
This date is year 1, of the anno Diocletiani dating system used in 6th century Rome and still used today by the Coptic Church. This system, like all ancient calendars, had no year zero. The Coptic dating system uses this reference date but says, for example, the year 400 in the 'Era of the Martyrs' connecting this base date with the sufferings of many Christians during Diocletian's reign. 286 AD is based on 532 AD as the benchmark date for the AD dating system, because the AD dating system was invented in 532 AD, (the AD system has no year zero either).

Other commentators place Diocletian's accession in AD 284, [49].

[5], p. 100 – 101
[49], pp. 147, 221

c. 289 AD

Qone became bishop of Edessa according to The Chronicle of Edessa. He sat until AD 313.

Via [38], p. 40

291 AD - 371 AD

Hilarion, a monk was born in the village of Tabatha, five miles south of Gaza. He went to school in Alexandria, became a Christian and joined Anthony and his Anchorite sect in the Egyptian desert. (For more details on Anthony of Egypt, see under AD 270 above.)

[35], p. 106

293 or 294 AD

Narsai Garmanshar became king of Persia.

[37] p. xi

294 AD

In the ninth year of Diocletian, Abgar of Edessa was referred to, not as king, but as Praetor.

[17], p. 142

296 – 297 AD

David bishop of Basra in Iraq visited the Christians in Kerala India.

[60], p. 42

296 AD

The Roman general and Caesar Galerius was defeated by the Persians near Harran.

Galerius was one of four rulers set up by Diocletian Augustus including himself. This tetrarchy consisted of Diocletian Augustus then Maximian Augustus then Caesar Constantius I and finally Caesar Galerius.

[33], p. 111
[49], p. 222

297 - 298 AD

Diocletian successfully attacks Persia and resides in Antioch during the campaign

[33], p. 111

297 - 298 AD
(609 AG)

The Romans conquered Nisibis.

[28], p. 6

299 AD

Birth of Ephrem Syrus in Nisibis, though C. McCarthy in her edition of his Diatessaron commentary gives his approximate birth date as 306 AD.