Did the traditional Magi, Gaspar, have connections to northern Iran?

We have already discussed the three traditional names of the Magi (Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspar) and many of the connections.  Gaspar, especially, has strong connections to India and the Gondaphares dynasty.  This also lines up with the Gospel of Saint Thomas who also has strong connections in India due to his missionary journeys there.  In fact, to this day there is a strain of Christians there who call themselves Saint Thomas Christians.

But, in digging through the list of Magi in the recently released document, REVELATION OF THE MAGI, I found an interesting connection again possibly to the Kings named Gondaphares, India and, therefore, Gaspar.

I have found that most of the King names whose sons make up the twelve magi who visited the Christ child (So far at least) have coincided with the time of the early Sassanid rulers and their conquests of the Parthian kings.  Artaban, who was killed by Ardashir in 224 CE, and Santatruq, who was destroyed with his city, HATRA, in 240 CE are both mentioned in the list along with Merian and Khosrov who were kings in Iberia and Armenia.  Among these men is a king named Gudaphar which is, at least, connected to the Gondaphares line.

The Magi Princely son is named Austazp which is rendered Gusnasp by Theodorus bar Koni.  Amazingly enough, there is a King by that name and he and is people have connections to the Gondapharian dynasty.  But he didn’t reign in India.

The Kushan Empire had done major damage to the kingdom Gondaphares left his descendants about 79 AD.  Northern India had been taken from his current successor, Pacores, and most of what was left of that empire was driven deeper south.  However, there were holding further north that stayed intact but were separated from their southern brothers.

mazandaran

Mazandaran is the mountainous region north of Tehran and the ancient city of Ray!

Gusnasp reigned in the land called Mazandaran which included parts of the kingdoms of Tabaristan and Padashkhwargar.  It was from these lands that Artaban V drew troops to meet Ardashir on the day he fell.  The people of Mazandaran were a rugged, independent people and are know to have held off the Islamic invasion longer than most of their neighbors.  They were known to be available and able warriors and were called upon almost like mercenaries.  After the failure of Artaban V to stop the agression of Ardashir, Gusnasp was recorded via a letter to the Sassanian King weighing his options.

In the end, Gusnasp and his people agreed to turn on the Parthians and become a Sassanian vassal state, therefore keeping control of their lands and staving off an obviously tragic war.

 

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Earliest names of the Magi and Sassanian Kings

You will find many entries on the names of the legendary Magi here in this blog.  They vary from nation to nation and tongue to tongue.  But one of the earliest renditions of the three came from a 6th century Syrian source, one Zoroastrian scholar, Dariush Jahanian.

He listed the three Magi as follows:

Hormizdah, King of Persia

Yazdegerd, King of Saba

Perozadh, King of Sheba

Now, these names are not Sabaean or Arab, as one would expect, but Persian.

yazdegerd__I

But the real astonishing thing is that during the fourth through sixth centuries the Sassanian Empire, began by Ardishir I back in the 3rd Century, had kings of similar names!

YAZDEGERD I (399-420)

Yazdegerd II (438-457)

Peroz I (457-484)

Hormizd IV (579-590)

YAZDEGERD III (632-651)

sassanian_empire_621_a-d

(Notice that the Sasanian Empire reached to Yemen also called Saba or Sheba and parts of Atabia)

Was the writers intent to honor these Sassanian Kings in some way?  Why not?  I see similarities in the twelve names given in REVELATION OF THE MAGI to Parthian Kings of the 3rd Century.  It is not far to go to believe that the kings list and the Syrian Jahanian’s list were not also so influenced.

 

Original Home of the Magi?

One of the seven great houses of the Parthian Empire (which ruled parts of Persia from 247 BC–224 AD) was the House of Mihran. I believe the blood line of the magi can be traced through these houses and especially Mihran due to their coming from the city of Ray in modern Iran; also called Rhaga.

This city was the ancient home of the Median Empire of old. According to the Histories of Herodotus, there were six Median tribes:

Thus Deioces collected the Medes into a nation, and ruled over them alone. Now these are the tribes of which they consist: the Busae, theParetaceni, the Struchates, the Arizanti, the Budii, and the Magi.

The Median Tribes resided in the area in the triangle of between Ecbatana, Rhagae and Aspadana.

The Torah (Jewish holy book) claimed Ray is one door of the Earth and the people of the world go there for their commercial affairs.  According to the Avesta (sacred book of the Zoroastrians), Ray was a famous base of the Zoroastrian priests and the religious center of Zoroastrians before Islam. It was considered their holy city for some historians believed Zoroaster’s mother was a native of Ray; called Reyeh in the Avesta. It is interesting that the mother of Zoroaster, the patriarch of the Zoroastrian religion, claimed an area of which the Magi factored prominently.

What is even more interesting is the fact that the city of Ray is today known as the Iranian capital of Tehran.

Magi and ‘Fire Temples’

Zoroastrian Magi have always had a connection with fire.

But through the first 500 years of modern history, Magi were in a phase that rejected the idea of a place of worship and were radically against a temple of any sort.  They were thought of as folly.

This would mean that the Magi who worshiped the Christ child were of the same ilk, probably.

However, around 500 AD, the thought seemed to shift and small open aired ‘fire temples’ began to pop up all over the middle east and much of the near east also.

There were four simple walls representing the four directions  and, at its center an open flame.  These began to pop up in Armenia and up through Azerbaijani and may leave a trail to follow the descendants of the Magi.

The Lion of Namrut and the 8 point stars

Just a curiosity really.  The only connection, SO FAR, with our Magi studies is the ‘magi star’ or the 8 pointed stars that are scattered across the relief.  But it’s position in Armenia both before the rise and fall of the Parthian empire and after make it impossible to ignore!

The relief is said to be the constellation Leo and also is considered to be frozen in time.  A particular time, really.  According to most experts, it points to 109 BC; the time of the crowning of King Mithradates.  Named after the pagan god, Mithra, who was very popular with the assimilating Zoroastrians.

The statue was actually erected by Mithradates son, King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene.  Other scholars point to the fact that the three planets shown and labeled above the lion/leo star chart actually passed through the constellation about 62 BC.  This could have possibly coincided with Anticuhus’ crowning by the Roman, general Pompey.

Whichever it was commemorating, we know that Antichus was a ‘helenized Zoroastrian’.  This and the eight point stars on his greatest commissioned work of art make him suspect of being a grand part of the legacy of the Magi.

FINDING GASPAR

One of the easiest historical connections that we can make to the Biblical Magi takes us to India of all places.


Now, of course, the Magi probably came from Persia ; although there are strong arguments for any land on the east side of the Jordan.  There have been theories of Magi coming from Ethiopia and Yemen as well as Arabia, Persia and even China.  But one connection most gravitate to in this kind of study is the search for the Magi, Gaspar.

Gaspar (also spelled Caspar) has been linked to a king in India named Gudaphares or Gondaphares.  Gondaphares I was a representative of the Parthian house of SUREN and the founder of the Indo-Parthian Kingdom.  He was a vassal of the ruling powers in Seistan.  Most believe he ruled from 20-10 BC. although one king calling himself Gondophares is recorded on a rock inscription around 20 -46 AD.  What we have found through modern research is that the name ‘Gondophares’ was a title held by many kings in the area.

“The name Gondophares is a latinization of Greek ΥΝΔΟΦΕΡΡΗΣ with gen. -ΟΥ, from Old Persian Vindafarna ‘May he find glory.’   Gondophares is ‘Gastaphar’ in Armenian. “Gundaparnah” was apparently the Eastern Iranian (Sistani) form of the name. In Pashto, the most widely spoken Eastern Iranian language, it is Gandapur, a surname and one denoting a certain tribal lineage amongst the Pashtoons of Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/gondophares#ixzz3NtkK9lCT

Saint Thomas of India_thumb[2]
The Apocryphal ACTS OF THOMAS names a king in INDIA,  Gudnaphar who the apostle was sold to in slavery as a carpenter.   The King’s brother Gad, thought dead, plead Thomas’ case when he used funds he was given charge over to build a palace to take care of the poor.  Thomas departed to Madras where he is commemorated as the founder of a South Indian Christian community.  There is a church there named in his honor.

Strangely enough, Gondophares is thought through legend to be a descendant of King David, a ‘Phares’ or ‘Perez’.  

On top of this, there are direct connections between the Magi and India.  Magadha is a state in India that has a reportedly deep history with the Magi.  

“The term Maga or Magha, still used for some of the local people, particularly Magha Brahmanas, is thought by some to be derived from MAGI, a class of early Zoroastrian priests.  This has led to the theory that Zoroastrians once settled here and were absorbed into Hinduism.”
The Religions of India by Roshen Dalal

Especially after the fall of the Parthian Empire and the onslaught of Ardishir I and the Sassanian Empire in the mid to late 3rd century AD,  many of the traditional Magi who did not serve their new masters were scattered across the globe.  It is not beyond the realm of possibilities that some fled to family ties in India.

There also seems to be a lot of scholastic research concerning connections between the Magi of India and Hebrews who were brought to Babylon in the Disporia as a part of their conquest.  Here’s a sample:

“It was in that part of the Gangetic Valley now called Behar and anciently Magadha that these people who were the sons of the mother MAGA, the Persian Magi, became the Maghada, sons of the wonder-working mother of fire…  But these people had started from Armenia, not only as the conquering sons of shelah, the magic wand, but also as the offspring of his son EBER, father of the Iberians, sons of the rivers, and of the HEBREW race.  “

The Westminster Review
Volume 143
P 14

StThomasTomb

Where is the final resting place of the Magi?

The Wise Men are shrouded in so much mystery, tradition and folklore.  And no more than in their final resting place.    The early church up till  and continuing the reign of Roman Catholicism were all caught up with relics of every type.  The chance to house even one bone of one of the disciples of Christ enthralled the leaders of every church.  People would gather near and far for a chance to catch a glimpse of the holy relic; some in hopes of benefiting from their healing and blessing properties.  This was especially true of the remains of the Magi.  For the Church  was never more enamored with the exotic stories of the Magi as they were at that time.

The earliest story of the death of the Magi came from the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas.

Gospel-of-Thomas
Now, to be honest, the so-called ‘Gospel of Thomas’ was discovered in 1945 in a group of writings deemed to be Gnostic in nature although this ‘Gospel’ never proved or disproved any Gnostic beliefs.  But like most of the sources for the lives and deaths of the Magi, they are questionable traditions and near myths.  But I believe that even in most myths there are shreds of history.

In this legend, it is said that St. Thomas was reluctant to go to his chosen mission field in India.  He ended up going into Persia around Edessa where he is celebrated.  From there, he met up with the three Magi whom he witnessed to and baptized.  It is said that they spread the good news of Jesus all over the region before they died within the same 24 hour period and were buried.  Where they were buried is a question for the ages although important historical figures are reported as to finding them in different places.

In 326 AD, the mother of Emperor Constantine, Helena, traveled to the holy lands and gathered many relics, the most famous was supposed to be the cross of Christ itself.  Another of her famous finds was the burial place of the Magi while on her pilgrimage to Palestine.  She not only found them, but, according to historical tradition, she took the mummified remains to Constantinople to the church of Hagia Sophia ie. the Church of the Holy Wisdom.  They stayed there for years.  But, as time moved on, it proved to be an unstable land with the coming of the Islamic hoard.

In the late 4th century, the remains were moved to Milan, Italy as a gift to the new Bishop, Eustorgius I.   The presence of the remains of the Wise Men spawned a celebration,  the Feast of the Epiphany, that became a mainstay in the city.

In AD 1164, the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick, known as’the Red’, took the relics of the Magi from Milan to Cologne to find their final resting place in the Cathedral there.  In 1225, the gold sarcophagus was designed by goldsmith, Nicholas of Verdun, which still is on display to this day.

Other legends were told of the resting place which include the writings of the renown traveller, Marco Polo, who was said to have been shown the tomb of the Magi south of Tehran in the late thirteenth century.

Where did they end up?  I can’t say.  Like so many facts about these men, it is not so much about what is history or true about their wanderings after the visit to the Christ child, but who these men actually were and what motivated them to do what they did in responding to the call of God himself that becomes most important.