Manichean apostle, outstanding figure in the missionary history of Manicheism during the 3rd century CE.


AMMŌ, MĀR (Mid. Ir. mry ‘mw), Manichean apostle, outstanding figure in the missionary history of Manicheism during the 3rd century A.D. Exact biographical details are not known, but his name (from ʿAmmānūēl) may indicate Aramaean origin (H. H. Schaeder, “Iranica,” Abh. Gött. Gesell. Wiss., phil-hist. Kl. 3, 10, Berlin, 1934, p. 71, n. 3). He was closely associated with Mani and was with him during his last days in prison, when he entrusted him with a message to the Church and with his last epistle, the Seal Letter (C. Schmidt and H. J. Polotsky, “Ein Mani-Fund in Ägypten. Originalschriften des Mani und seiner Schüler,” SPAW, 1933, p. 28; Mir. Man. III, p. 891 for the Mid. Pers. text M 454; O. Klima, Manis Zeit und Leben, Prague, 1962, pp. 377, 427); in it Mani calls Ammō “my dearest son” (W. B. Henning, Ein Manichäisches Bet- und Beichtbuch, Berlin, 1937, p. 18). Although Mār Ammō was also, in all probability, composer of the Parthian hymn-cycles (M. Boyce, The Manichaean Hymn Cycles in Parthian, Oxford, 1954, pp. 7, 43; Henning, “Mitteliranisch,” p.94), he is primarily renowned as the apostle of the east and the founder of eastern Manicheism. Well acquainted with Parthian (pahlawānīg), he made it the official language of the eastern Church, where it maintained this status until its replacement by Sogdian in Transoxiana in the 6th century (Henning, “Two Manichaean Magical Texts with an Excursus on the Parthian Ending -ēndēh,” BSOAS 12, 1947, p. 49). From Ḥolwān (on the main road between Baghdad and Hamadān) Mani sent Mār Ammo, together with Prince Ardawān and other persons, to Abaršahr (i.e., either Nīšābūr or, more generally, the eastern half of the Sasanian empire—“the Upper Regions,” “Regna superiora” [Pliny, Nat. Hist. 6.29, 112]) and Marv. He later went further east into the former Kushan territory and reached districts around Balḵ (Henning, “Waručān-Šāh,” Journal of the Greater India Society 11, 2, 1944, pp. 85ff.; idem, “Two Manichean,” p. 49; idem, “Mitteliranisch,” pp. 94ff; Mid. Pers. texts of the Manichean missionary history, M 2 and 216a, in Andreas-Henning, Mir. Man. II, pp. 302ff.). Much later, after Mani’s death, Mār Ammo went to Zamb on the Oxus; but that journey had no immediate connection with what is described in the missionary history (Henning, “Neue Materialien zur Geschichte des Manichäismus,” ZDMG 90, 1936, p. 8; idem, “Waručān,” p. 87; idem, “Mitteliranisch,” p. 94; W. Sundermann, "Zur frühen missionarischen Wirksamkeit Manis,” Acta Orientalia Hungarica 24, 1971, p. 99; the Parthian text T II D II 134 [M 5815] in Mir. Man. III, p. 858). The Mid. Pers. M 273 is a hymn on the death of Mār Ammō: “Our beneficent father Mār Ammō, the light father, passed away, (went) up to the Gods” (Mir. Man. II, pp. 302-03, n. 6). A vivid testimony to the great importance of and respect for Mār Ammō among the Manicheans is the legendary literature on him in both east and west. (See, e.g., for Uighur evidence on “Mār Ammō the Teacher” [mr amu možag], A. von Le Coq, Türkische Manichaica aus Chotscho I, 1911, pp. 32ff.; reedited W. Bang, “Manichäische Erzähler,” Le Muséon 44, 1931, pp. 17ff. For Coptic [where he is called Ammos], see Polotsky, Manichäische Homilien, Manichäische Handschriften der Sammlung A. Chester Beatty I, Stuttgart, 1934, p. 91ff.) In an aetiological legend the schismatic eastern Manicheans, the Dēnāwars (Mir. Man. II, p. 303ff.), chose his name more than 300 years after his death to legitimate their unconstitutional (but not undoctrinal) decisions (Schaeder, “Iranica,” pp. 74ff., on M 2).

Bibliography: Given in the text.

(J. P. Asmussen)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: August 3, 2011

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