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State of the Paulicians

Author(s) : Makripoulias Christos (1/30/2007)
Translation : Koutras Nikolaos

For citation: Makripoulias Christos, "State of the Paulicians",
Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World, Asia Minor
URL: <http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=9146>

Παυλικιανών Κράτος (3/7/2007 v.1) State of the Paulicians (2/15/2007 v.1) 

1. Anthropogeography

The state of the Paulicians was geographically located in the mountain region of northeastern Cappadocia, to the west of the Euphrates river, occupying a strategic position between the Arab state of Melitene and the Byzantine territory to the south and the south-east of the Pontus. Its most important cities were Tephrike (or Tibrike, modern Divriği), which was founded between 844 and 856, and the older cities Argaoun (or Argaous, modern Arguran) and Amara (or Avara, modern Çakırsu), situated approximately 30-50 km north and north-west of Melitene. The written sources also mention a number of fortresses within the Paulician state's territory (Koptos, Spathe, Koutakion, Stephanos, Rachat). We have no precise information on the composition of its population; however, since most of its people were Paulicians that had fled Byzantium following persecutions against them, we may well assume that the majority of its inhabitants were Greek-speaking of byzantine origin. On the other hand, we cannot exclude the existence of Armenians among its population, for the Paulician state was close to the Armenian region, and the Paulician religious community included a large number of Armenians.

2. History

2.1. The foundation of the Paulician state

The foundation of the Paulician state dates to the years between 813 and 820, when the emperors Michael I Rangabe and Leo V the Armenian conducted extensive persecutions against the Paulicians in Asia Minor. The leader of the Paulicians was Sergios Tychikos, founder of the ‘Church of Laodicea’, i.e. the Paulician community in Kynochorion or Koinochorion (ancient Kainochorion, modern Mahala Kalesi), a town in the Pontus, close to Neocaesarea (modern Niksar). The reaction of Sergios Tychikos' disciples to the persecutions was violent, as the inhabitants of Kynochorion, cooperating with an armed group of Sergios’ followers, the so-called «astatoi» (mean. «the waywards»), murdered their main persecutors in that region. Following these murders Sergios and his astatoi fled the Byzantine lands and sought refuge at the state of Amr al-Aqta‘, emir of Melitene. The latter granted the Paulicians Argaoun and Amara, where they settled; Sergios Tychikos organized a new community of Paulicians there, which he called «Church of the Colossians». At the same time, the Paulician refugees, cooperating with the Arabs, started launching raids into the Byzantine territory of Asia Minor. Sergios Tychikos remained the leader of the Paulician state until 834/835.

2.2. Armed confrontation with Byzantium

Following the murder of Sergios Tychikos,1 a group of his disciples took over the administration of the state. In 843/844,2 during a persecution initiated against the remaining Paulicians by the empress Theodora, Karbeas, protomandator of Theodote Melissenos, strategos of the Anatolikon theme, fled Byzantium leading a group of 5,000 persecuted heretics and found refuge in the Paulician state, of which he became the leader. Circa 844 he defeated the Byzantine forces in a battle and captured Kallistos, doux of Koloneia and a fervent persecutor of the Paulicians. The Paulicians continued their raids, cooperating with the Arab emirs of Melitene and Tarsus. According to the sources, between 851 and 853 Karbeas cooperated with the emir of Tarsus, ‘Alī ibn Yahya al-Armanī, raiding every year the Byzantine territory of Asia Minor.

In the meantime, the forced cohabitation of the Paulicians with the Arabs gradually became difficult. Karbeas decided to found a new capital, Tephrike, at some distance from Melitene, so as to be independent of it, at a strategic location close to the Byzantine frontier, which would serve as a base for Paulician raids into the Byzantine lands of Asia Minor, and as a safe harbour for persecuted Paulicians. The Byzantines quickly realized the strategic importance of the new Paulician capital. In 856 the general Petronas, the domestikos ton Scholon, launched an attack against it, plundered the precincts of the city, but failed to capture the capital itself.

In spring of 859, Karbeas hastened to aid Samosata, a city facing a large-scale attack by the Byzantines. The Paulicians were distinguished for their bravery, capturing a large number of Byzantine troops. In 860 they made a new successful raid into the areas of the Pontus, probably in cooperation with the emirs Amr and ‘Alī.

2.3. Chrysocheir as leader of the Paulician state

Karbeas died of natural causes (an illness according to the sources) in 863 at Tephrike.3 Leader of the state of the Paulicians became his nephew and son in law, Chrysocheir. In the following years, Chrysocheir raided several times against the Byzantines. The most important of these raids targeted Bithynia (the themes of Opsikion and Optimaton), where Chrysocheir pillaged the region of Nicaea and Nicomedia. Even greater destruction was visited by his incursion into the lands of the Thrakesion theme in 869.4 During the rule of Chrysocheir, the state of the Paulicians reached the apogee of its power.

Following Chrysocheir’s destructive raids, emperor Basil I (867-886) decided to commence negotiations with the Paulician state in order to conclude a peace treaty and exchange prisoners. For this reason he sent in Tephrike the monk Peter of Sicily in 869.5 Chrysocheir, however, refused to make peace with the Byzantines, and so nine months later, in 870, Peter left having accomplished nothing. The failure of these negotiations led to the renewal of military operations.

In the spring of 8716 the emperor Basil I, leading a large expeditionary force, campaigned against the Paulicians. Chrysocheir managed to repel the Byzantine attack and forced them to break the siege of Tephrike, but during this campaign Basil sacked the city of Amara and the fortresses of Spathe and Koptos.

In 8727 Chrysocheir led a large raid into the interior of Asia Minor and pillaged the regions of Ankyra and Kommata in Galatia, carrying off many spoils. The emperor Basil dispatched forces under Christophoros, the domestikos ton Scholon, against the raiders. Christophoros surrounded Chrysocheir’s forces in the area of Bathys Ryax (modern passage Kalınırmak) and, during the same night, launched a surprise attack against the Paulicians sending them into flight. Chrysocheir lost his life while trying to escape.

2.4 The end of the Paulician state

The defeat of their military forces in Bathys Ryax and the death of their leader weakened the state of the Paulicians, which now lacked the military strength and the strong leadership it needed to survive. Furthermore, their Arab allies were no longer able to succor the Paulicians. In 873 Basil I, returning from a campaign against the Arabs of Melitene, invaded the territory of the Paulician state and plundered it, capturing and sacking the city of Argaoun and many fortresses of that region. Now, Tephrike, their capital, was the sole city still under Paulician control. In 878 Byzantine forces under the domestikos ton Scholon Christophoros captured Tephrike following a siege, and destroyed it. A large part of its population was enslaved and forced to move to Byzantine lands, while some of them were incorporated into the Byzantine army and sent to Southern Italy. The fall of Tephrike signalled the end of the Paulician state, which for six decades was a dangerous enemy of Byzantium on its eastern border.

3. Economy

Although there is no evidence on the area’s economy, we may assume that its most important source of income were the spoils taken during the raids into the Byzantine lands, as well as the money from the selling of captives into slavery or their ransoming. We should not also overlook the fact that, at least during the new state’s first years, the financial aid from the emir of Melitene must have been essential. At the same time, the constant Byzantine references to the pillaging of the lands and the trees of the Paulician domain indicate that the agrarian economy of that state must have been relatively developed. Finally, the existence of artisans and other professionals in the Paulician cities is very likely: Sergios Tychikos, the first statesman and spiritual leader of the Paulician state during the 820s, was working in Argaoun as a carpenter.

4. Society - institutions - polity

As one would expect, the society of the Paulician state revolved around the religious community («Church of the Colossians») established after their settlement in Argaoun and Amara. Initially, political and ecclesiastical power were indistinguishable in the Paulician state, as both were yielded by Sergios Tychikos, seventh and last didaskalos (teacher) of the Paulicians. The sources mention Michael, Kanakares and Ioannes Aoratos as his disciples and close associates, as well as Theodotos, Basileios and Zosimos. These men were known as «synekdemoi» (mean. the companions in the wanderings), for they had followed Sergios in his missionary journeys in Asia Minor between 802 and 811. Although a schism had occurred among the ranks of the Paulicians, as some of the heretics, the so-called «Baniotes» or «Banites», remained faithful to Baanes, the sixth «teacher» and opponent of Sergios Sergios’ rule was, however, indisputable, since it was his followers who controlled the astatoi, the community’s armed forces.

After the murder of Sergios, his disciples assumed power. According to the sources, it appears that there was some internal hierarchy, as only Michael, Kanakares, and Ioannes Aoratos had received the title of «hiereas» (mean. priest), although the decisions were taken jointly. For making the state bureaucracy more functional, the «synekdemoi» appointed a number of lower officials, the «notarioi» (mean. secretaries).

The council of Sergios Tychikos' disciples remained in power in the Paulician state until 844, when the newly arrived Karbeas was elected leader, a person possessing military experience and valour. As the sources are not particularly illuminating on this subject, we do not know whether he was an absolute ruler or he shared his power with the synekdemoi. At any rate, there are no reports of internal conflicts for that period in the state of the Paulicians. Karbeas’ position must have been rather secure, as his heir, Chrysocheir, all but inherited the office, being his predecessor’s blood relative and son-in-law. The relations of the last leader if the Paulician state with Basileios and Zosimos, the sole original disciples of Sergios still alive in 863, are unknown.

5. Religion

As one would expect, the society of the Paulician state revolved around the religious community (‘Church of the Colossians’) that Sergios Tychikos had established after their settlement in Argaoun and Amara. The missionary work of Sergios had also expanded in Mopsuestia of Cilicia, where he had established the so-called ‘Church of the Ephesians’. The heresy of the Paulicians, as it had been shaped during the previous centuries, was the state’s only religious dogma. The sources taken into account, we may well assume that, at least up to 843-844, the rulers of the state were also the religious community’s spiritual leaders. This is also supported by the fact that, although the Paulicians did not elect another didaskalos (teacher) after the death of Sergios Tychikos, his successors to power were called hiereis (priests), while the notarioi, apart from state officials, were responsible for the smooth operation of the Paulician Church. Perhaps the hiereis continued to perform their religious duties after 844, when the Paulician rulers where military and not spiritual leaders.

There is no further information of the ecclesiastical organization of the Paulician state, apart from some indications on the possible adoption of certain Islamic customs, a result of the close cooperation and constant contact with the Arabs of Melitene. The Paulician refugees were probably forced to adopt Islam at some point, when they fled to the Melitene territory, although such a conversion, a result of political pressures, would have certainly been completely superficial.

The only ecclesiastical (although not dogmatic) dispute within the Church of the Paulicians in Argaoun occurred after the death of Sergios Tychikos (834/5), when a large scale persecution of Baanes’ followers was conducted by Sergios’ followers, who murdered many people. The bloodshed came to an end after the intervention of Theodotos, one of the synekdemoi, who averted the killing of more «Baniotes».

6. Education

We have no information on the educational system of the Paulician state, as the sources are silent on this subject.

7. Culture

There is no evidence on the intellectual and artistic output of the Paulician state. We can only suppose that it was minimal, as the Paulicians were almost exclusively engaged with waging their war against the Byzantines; at any rate, any remnants of it would have been obliterated following the dissolution of their state and the submission of the heretics to Byzantium.

8. Buildings

The written sources do not mention any important buildings within the Paulician state’s territory, apart, that is, from Tephrike’s defensive enclosure, which is described as very well-built. The ruins that survive in the site of Tephrike belong to the Byzantine fortifications of the city (late 9th - early 10th century), when the city had become seat of a Byzantine military commander.

1. The heresiarch had gone to the mountain close to Argaoun in order to procure timber, as he was a carpenter by occupation. A certain Byzantine called Tzanion met him there, and after a short fight, he took the tool Sergios was holding and murdered him with it. Πέτρος Σικελιώτης, Ιστορία, in Astruc, Ch. et. al. (ed.), “Les sources grecques pour l’histoire des Pauliciens d’Asie Mineure”, Travaux et Mémoires 4 (1970), pp. 65, 26-67, 9.

2. Nina Garsoïan, The Paulician Heresy (The Hague - Paris 1967), pp. 126-127, believes Karbeas fled in 843 or 844, considering the earlier views about his flight dating before 842 to be erroneous.

3. Runciman, S., The Medieval Manichee. A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (Cambridge 1947, reprinted 1955), p. 41, and Nina Garsoïan, The Paulician Heresy (The Hague - Paris 1967), p. 128, give credence to certain Byzantine sources which suppose that Karbeas followed the emir of Melitene in his raid into Asia Minor in 863. As a result, the two scholars believe that Karbeas was killed on the 3rd of September of the same year, during the crushing defeat of the Arabs by the Byzantines in Lalacaona. P. Lemerle, “L’histoire des Pauliciens d’Asie Mineure d’après les sources grecques”, Travaux et Mémoires 5 (1973), pp. 39-40, relies on the more trustworthy Arab sources and Petrus Siculus, where it is expressly said that Karbeas passed away in 863 at Tephrike, succumbing to an ilness.

4. During this raid, Chrysocheir captured and sacked Ephesus, where he desecrated the church of St John the Theologian. Runciman, S., The Medieval Manichee. A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (Cambridge 1947, reprinted 1955), p. 42, dates the raid of Chrysocheir in the Thracesian theme and Ephesus to 867 or 868.

5. According to Grégoire, H., “Sur l’histoire des Pauliciens”, Académie royale de Belgique. Bulletin de la Classe des Lettres et des Sciences morales et politiques 22 (1936), pp. 224-226, and Loos, M., “Deux contributions à l’histoire des Pauliciens, I, A propos des sources grecques reflétant des Pauliciens”, Byzantinoslavica 17 (1956), pp. 19-57, Peter of Sicily is identified with Peter Hegoumenos, author of a historical work on the Paulicians which bears great similarity to the treatise of Peter of Sicily. As Grégoire argues, Peter Hegoumenos’ text is a synopsis of the Iστορία των Παυλικιανών by Peter of Sicily, a view rejected by Loos, who believes that the historical work of Peter Hegoumenos predates the Iστορία των Παυλικιανών.

6. Runciman, S., The Medieval Manichee. A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (Cambridge 1947, reprinted 1955), p. 42, dates Basil I’ campaign to the year 870.

7. Runciman, S., The Medieval Manichee. A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (Cambridge 1947, reprinted 1955), p. 43, dates Chrysocheir’s raid into Ankyra to 871. Nina Garsoïan, The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium 1 (New York - Oxford 1991), p. 452-453, entry “Chrysocheir”, erroneously dates Chrysocheir’s death to 878-879, as does Haldon, J. F., The Byzantine Wars (Stroud 2001), p. 85.


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