The Royal Abgar Dynasty
By: Hanna Hajjar
Urhoy, Left: The tower of 40 martyrs (a clock was added to it later). Center (Bottom): The pool of Sulka (the mother of King Nimrud). Center (Center): School of Mor Afrem. Center (Top): The mount of King Nimrud. Right: Originally a Syriac Church (now turned into a Mosque called Khalil Rahman).
Some writers, look at the surface, see that the names of the Abgar Dynasty kings sound like Arabic names, and immediately they jump into a conclusion that the Abgar-Dynasty kings are Arabs!
First of all, I would like to mention that the founder of the Abgar dynasty was called “Aryu”, and “Aryu” is a pure Syriac name and means “Lion” in English, while the Arabic word for Lion is “Asad”.
When someone studies a culture or history of a kingdom like Osroene he should do his research based on the language spoken in that kingdom at the time period that the Abgar Dynasty ruled Osroene (and not after it was under Arab rule or other foreign rule either). Words have different meanings in different languages (although some languages that belong to the same family have certain words that are somehow similar, or are pronounced in a slightly different variation).
For example: The word “Air” has one meaning in the English language, and another meaning in the Arabic language. So if an English gentleman in London wakes up in the morning and opens the window of his room and takes a deep breath and says “What a beautiful day, I need a breeze of fresh air!” now is the English man using the word “Air” as an English or as an Arabic word? Obviously he is using the word “Air” in an English context!
Now let us take a look at the Kingdom of Osroene, and use our logic:
1. The official language of the Kingdom of Osroene during the resign of the Abgar Dynasty from 132 B.C. to 244 A.D. (i.e. ~375 Years) was Classical Syriac (Not Arabic). So the names of its kings were in Syriac not Arabic. With the exception of couple of Persian and Roman names, but that was due to the influence of both the Persian and Roman Empires where Osroene was right in the middle (the Arabs had no political influence on Osroene then). Currently (in the 21st Century) we have many Suryoye Othuroye people descendants of the kingdom of Osroene who have English names, but that does not mean that they are Anglo-Saxons in origin.
2. The Kings of Osroene were from it’s native people (there was no invasion by the Arabs). The Arab conquest came much later, and long after the Abgar Dynasty lost its political power.
3. Both Syriac and Arabic belong to the family of Semitic languages, so there are many words that are common to both, or very closely related to each other. Example: “Kalbo” in Syriac is “Kalb” in Arabic (meaning “Dog” in English). This doesn’t mean that the people of Osroene never knew the names of “Dogs”, and they waited for the Arabs to tell them what to call that animal. In fact it is the other way around, because the Syriac language is much older than Arabic, (It is Arabic that is derived from Syriac and not the other way around).
Another thing is that if you look at the transformation of words from a very old language which is Akkadian/Assyrian then to Syriac and finally to Arabic, you will notice that the newer the language the more it is dropping letters (or syllables from the end of the word).
Example: “Qarnu, & Kalbu” in Akkadian/Assyrian (the first Semitic language), became “Qarno, & Kalbo” in Syriac, and later became “Qarn, & Kalb” in Arabic (meaning “Horn, & Dog” in English). Notice how the “U” or “O” was dropped from the end of the words in Arabic.
Partial view of one of the two columns of King Nimrud, on which the names of the Kings of Osroene were inscribed in Syriac.
Now let’s get back to the names of kings of the Abgar Dynasty. The following is a list of the Kings of Osroene (Esro-Eyne or Beth-Esro):
A. Nimrod (the founder of Urhoy, Nineveh & Babylon)
B. Council of Ten (Sharireh D’Beth-Esro) (Starting 610 B.C.)
01. Aryu Bar Hawyu (132-127 B.C.)
02. ’Abdu Bar Maz’ur (127-120 B.C.)
03. Fardhasht Bar Geba’u (120-115 B.C.)
04. Bakru (I) Bar Fardhasht (115-112 B.C.)
05. Bakru (II) Bar Bakru (I) (112-94 B.C.)
06. Ma’nu (I) with Bukru (II) (4 months, 94 B.C.)
07. Abgar (I) Fiqo with Bakru (II) (94-92 B.C.)
08. Abgar (I) Fiqo (92-68 B.C.)
09. Abgar (II) Bar Abgar (I) Fiqo (68-53 B.C.)
10. Ma’nu (II) Aloho (52-34 B.C.)
11. Faquri (34-29 B.C.)
12. Abgar (III) (29-26 B.C.)
13. Abgar (IV) Sumoqo (26-23 B.C.)
14. Ma’nu (III) Saflul (23-4 B.C.)
15. Abgar (V) Ukomo Bar Ma’nu (III) (4 B.C.-7 A.D.)
16. Ma’nu (IV) Bar Ma’nu (III) Saflul (7-13 A.D.)
17. Abgar (V) Ukomo (second time) (13-50 A.D.)
18. Ma’nu (V) Bar Abgar (V) Ukomo (50-57 A.D.) *
19. Ma’nu (VI) Bar Abgar (V) Ukomo (57-71 A.D.)
20. Abgar (VI) Bar Ma’nu (VI) (71 -91 A.D.) **
21. Abgar (VII) Bar Ezat (109-116 A. D.) ***
22. Yalud with Frantsafat (Parthamaspat) (118-122 A.D.)
23. Frantsafat (Parthamaspat) (122-123 A. D.)
24. Ma’nu (VII) Bar Ezat (123-139 A.D.)
25. Ma’nu (VIII) Bar Ma'nu (VII) (139-163 A.D.)
26. Wa’el Bar Sahru (163-165 A.D.)
27. Ma’nu (VIII) (second time) (165-167 A.D.)
28. Abgar (VIII) (167-179 A.D.)
29. Abgar (IX) Rabo (The Great) Bar Ma’nu (VIII) (179-214 A.D.)
30. Abgar (X) Severus Bar Abgar (IX) Rabo (214-216 A.D.)
31. Ma’nu (IX) Bar Abgar (X) Severus (216-242 A- D.)
32. Abgar (XI) Farhat Bar Ma’nu (IX) (242-244 A.D.)
C. Bar Sawmo (revolt) (1087 A.D.)
Interruptions: * (53-52 B.C.). ** (91-109A.D.). *** (116-118 A.D.)
The list of kings of the Abgar Dynasty were inscribed on the two colums that still stand in Urhoy/Urfa/Edessa to this date, and they are called the "Columns of King Nimrud", they are located in the citadel of Urfa, which is also called the "Citadel of Nimrud" (Nimrud Kalasi, in Turkish). The columns and Citadel of Nimrud are famous landmarks of Urfa.
The Citadel of Nimrud in Urfa (Nimrud Kalasi), notice the two colums that are still standing to this date, known as the columns of Nimrud.
Take a close look at the list of names. You have to remember that those people spoke Syriac at their homes, and when some child was born to them they gave him a name based on the language that they used in their daily life (i.e. Syriac), they did not travel to Arabia to ask some Arabs what to call their new born! There was no satellites T.V. for instant news and media, nor airplanes for rapid transportation, interactions between different cultures was only possible on direct contact between each other.
King Abgar (V) Ukomo
There were (32) kings in that dynasty, (11) of them bear the name Abgar, (9) Manu, (2) Bukru, Abdu, Aryu...
Let’s start with the most common Abgar and see if it makes sense as an Arab name! The word Abgar means “Lame” in Arabic, it was also the name of Antar’s horse (Antar was a famous Arab warrior). Now let’s evaluate those names, then eliminate the possibilities that don’t make sense:
1. Why would a royal family (who is not Arab) call their son after the name of a “Horse”, that was ridden by an Arab? Was their self esteem that low to do that? Definitely not! You are talking about people who were in control of a kingdom not just any person. So you can forget about this explanation, and the Abgar name was definitely not based on the name of an Arab horse!
2. Why would a royal family (who is not Arab) call their son “Lame” (the Arabic meaning of the word abgar) if their son not lame? Noting that a name is given to a child at birth, when he still an infant and can’t walk, so there was no way that they would know if he will end up laming when he grows up or not. Another thing, let’s assume for the sake of the argument that they called the first Abgar by that name because he was actually lame (which no one can confirm anyway), the puzzling question would be: why would 10 more kings that followed him carry the same handicapped name, were they all lame? Definitely not! And even assuming if they were all lame (which is an unrealistic assumption), then they would have called them by the Syriac word for lame and not the Arabic word for it! So you can forget about this explanation too. Notice also that in the genealogy of the Dynasty the Syriac term "Bar" is used and not the Arabic term "Bin" or "ibn" (meaning "Son" in English), that is another proof that the full name used must have been all in Syriac.
3. To look for the meaning of the name Abgar we need to look at the Syriac language and not the Arabic language, after all it was the language of Osroene and it is normal and natural that it’s people used it to create names for their children. Abgar is a compound name consisting from Ab & Gr. Compound names are formed by attaching two (or more words) together and dropping the vowels, and/or repeated letters. In Syriac the word for arrow is Gero (Gomal, Reesh, Olaf [sometimes there is another Olaf between the Gomal and the Reesh]) so the name Abgar could be derived from: Abo-Gero => Ab-Gr => Abgr. It is a common practice in Middle Eastern culture if someone is famous or an expert in a certain trade or art then they call him that he is the “Father” of that trade, (i.e. it’s master). In other words the name Ab-Gr could be short for Abo-Gero (literarily: the Father of Arrows, i.e. The Master Archer). I am basing this theory on the fact that the kingdom of Osroene was famous for its archers (See “Edessa the Blessed City” by Segal), where it is mentioned that Bardaisan was a famous archer, and even the Roman Empire incorporated Osroenian archers in its crack forces.
Another possibility is that Ab-Gbr comes from (Abo-Gaboro), in this case the meaning of Abgar would be the “Mighty Father”. Either way: “Master Archer” or “Mighty Father” make more sense for a name of a king than the Arabic “Lame” or being named after an Arabian horse.
4. Let us look at the at the original names and see if they are closer to Syriac or Arabic, and see how the Arabic name differ from the Syriac name that were actually used. Noting that any “u”, or “o” at the end of a word is a “Trademark” of our Suryoyo/Othuroyo language and not Arabic (the list below shows the meaning of the words in three columns:
Syriac Arabic English
Aryu Asad Lion
Bar Bin Son
Bar ibn Son
Abdu Abd Slave/Servant
Sahru Qamar Moon
Bakru Bakr First-Born
Hawyu Hayya Snake
Ukomo Aswad Black
Sumoqo Ahmar Red
From the above comparison, It is obvious that all the names of the Osroenean kings match the Syriac column and not the Arabic column!
It is interesting to note that the majority of the names of the kings of Osroene end with Syriac letter (O) (comparable to (U) in English transliteration). Example: Aryu, Ma'nu, Bakru, Sahru, Gebar'u, etc. which in ancient Syriac manuscripts are written with the suffix "Waw" and not "Olaf" although in modern Syriac those words will normally end with the letter Olaf. This shows that the Kings of Urhoy are the continuation of the kings of ancient Assyria, where all the names end with the (U) sound (all you have to do is compare those names with the list of Assyrian kings as written in ancient Akkadian/Assyrian cuneiform). This (U) suffix of the names of many of the Osroenian kings shows how the western Syriac dialect has preserved it in the (O) pronunciation of the Zqofo (on the letter Olaf).
Add to that, the historical facts that “Harrran” and Urhoy/Urfa/Edessa was the place where the king Ashur Uballit (II) retreated to after the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C., and “Hdatu” the western provincial capital of the Assyrians was next door to Urhoy/Urfa/Edessa too. Add it was King Nimrud who founded the city of Uhoy/Urfa/Edessa (this is confirmed by the writings of several Syriac saints). In addition the region of the kingdom of Osroene was the birthplace of the “Subartu” nation the ancestors of the Assyrians.
As for as the Syriac community of Urhoy, when they were still living in the city of Urfa/Urhoy/Edessa our ancestors called themselves “Asori”, and similarly the Armenians and the Turks who lived in that region called them “Asori”.
The Armenians with whom the Syriacs/Suryoye/Assyrians had the longest contact (long before the Arabs came in the picture), always called our people “Asori”, and their history books refers to the fact that they became Christians on the hands of the Asorinere (i.e. Assyrians). Notice that they were talking about the “Syriac Orthodox/Jacobites” not the “Church of the East/Nestorians”, because the Armenian Orthodox Church shares the same theological doctrine as that of the Syria Orthodox Church (the Armenians were never Nestorians), another reason is that geographically the Armenians were located on the side of the Roman Empire and not on the Persian/Parthian side (where the Church of the East flourished).
Right from the heart of the Cradle of Civilization in Beth-Nahreen (Mesopotamia) and thousands of years ago, a great king went forth and founded the city of Urhoy/Edessa (modern Urfa)! The name of this King was Nimrod.
As mentioned in the Bible (Genesis, 10:8-12):
8. Nimrod: He began to be mighty one in the earth. 9. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. 10. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar. 11. Out of that land went forth Asshur, and builded Nineveh, andthe city Rehoboth, and Calah. 12. And Resen between Nineveh and Calah: the same is a great city.
In conclusion: the Royal Dynasty of Osroene were Assyrians in origin