Learn more about Assyrian people
|Image:Assyrians.jpg Ashurbanipal • Saint Ephrem • Agha Petros • Ammo Baba|
|Regions with significant populations|| Assyrian homeland |
Iraq: 800,000+ <ref name="CIA">CIA World Factbook</ref> (est) </br> Syria: 500,000 <ref name="CIA">CIA World Factbook</ref> (est)</br> Iran: 10,000 <ref name="Encyclopedia of the Orient">Encyclopedia of the Orient: Assyrians</ref> (est) </br> Turkey: 5,000 <ref name="Encyclopedia of the Orient">Encyclopedia of the Orient: Assyrians</ref> (est) </br>
|Language||Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, Turoyo|
|Religion|| Christianity (various Eastern sects) <tr>
<th style="background-color:#fee8ab;">Related ethnic groups</th> <td style="background-color:#fff6d9;">other Semitic peoples</td>
Assyrians are Aramaic-speaking Christians who consider themselves to be indigenous inhabitants of Mesopotamia, and inheritors of the ancient culture of Assyria. They have a culture, language, and religion that is distinct from that of modern-day Arabs, Kurds, Persians, and Turks. <ref> Who Are We? </ref>
They are believed to descend from the ancient Akkadians, who emerged as the ruling class of Assyria, starting with Sargon of Akkad (grandfather of Naram-sin). Babylonia, formerly Sumer & Akkad, was a colony of Assyria. The title of "King of Babylon" was "King of Sumer & Akkad" as translitterated from the Akkadian Šār Mat Šūmerī ū Akkadī. Eventually Aramaean tribes, among them Chaldeans, emigrated en-masse into the region and their language became dominant. These different cultures ultimately merged, to form classic Assyrian culture. <ref>When Every Church Becomes a Nation</ref> Today, in certain areas of the Assyrian homeland, identity within a community is aligned to village of origin or Christian denomination, as with Chaldean for example. <ref>Note on the Modern Assyrians</ref>
Most speak a modern form of Syriac which is an Eastern Aramaic language. Dialects include Assyrian, Chaldean, and Turoyo; all of which, are classified as Neo-Aramaic languages. They are written in Syriac script; a derivative of the ancient Aramaic script. They may also speak the language(s) of their country of residence.
Some believe that the term "Syria(n)" was derived from "Assyria(n)" and others believe that it is synonymous with Aram(aean). <ref>Assyria and Syria: Synonyms</ref> References to Aram(aic) in the Bible are translated "Syria(c)" in some English translations. Kings of Assyria would often take Aramaean wives. Aramaean scribes were usually pictured alongside Akkadian scribes on clay tablets excavated from ancient Assyrian ruins.
Chaldeans were originally an Aramaic-speaking nomadic tribe from the "Arabian" peninsula that ultimately conquered Babylon (see Chaldean Dynasty). Under Nebuchanezzar, Babylonia with aid from the Medes laid siege to and conquered Nineveh. They divided Assyrian territory amongst their empires; thereby indefinitely abolishing Assyrian independence. Empires, in that era would often relocate peoples in order to assimilate them into the dominant culture, thereby making it difficult to prove any modern ethnic group having direct descent from the ancient.
In the late 1500's, a group within the Church of the East separated from it, and united with Rome; forming the Chaldean Catholic Church. In the late 1800's, the Church of the East officially took on the name "Assyrian" Church of the East.
Originally all Syriac Christians referred to themselves as "Syrians" in Syriac. It is believed that "Syria" derives from the Greek designation for northern Mesopotamia; applied in the era of Assyrian governance. Hence, "Assyria(ns)" is favored by many as a label for their people and homeland.
The name "Assyria" derives from its chief deity Ashur, the sky god; known as Anshar to the Sumerians. The Sumerian name meant "sky axle." He was the husband of Kishar (earth axle) according to Mesopotamian Mythology. They were siblings, the children of Lahmu and Lahamu (sea serpents), who in turn; were also siblings, and the children of Tiamat and Apsû (see Enûma Elish). The bible states: Ashur and Aram were brothers, sons of Shem, and grandsons of Noah. <ref> Genesis 10:1-22 </ref>
- Related article: Aramaic history
 Modern and Ancient Assyrians
With ancient peoples, there is not any realistic, definite method to prove direct lineage unless many ancient graves are unearthed, and the remains examined and carbon dated. The DNA samples must be compared to DNA samples of different grave sites, generating a report of the comparative analysis of the ancient people's DNA to that of the modern-day people. There have been DNA analyses conducted finding a common genealogy within the community. All northern Mesopotamian people it turns out, are very closely related genetically.<ref name="Genetics of Modern Assyrians">Genetics of Modern Assyrians</ref>
The arrival of the latest conquerors may have had some influence. Many of the ancestors of the modern-day Arabs, Kurds, Mongols, Persians, and Turks were originally Christian or converts, and the area they ruled remained predominantly Christian with Syriac as the lingua franca prior to the Islamic conquests. Some may have been assimilated into the Syriac Christian culture. However, this is a slight possibility for the majority of Assyrians lived and still live isolated from other groups and are close-knit from village to village.
The ancient Assyrian empire had a policy of deporting the local inhabitants and relocating them to urban areas of the empire in order to assimilate them into Assyro-Babylonian culture. This caused a merger of cultures with some cultural loss. This altered their sense of national identity. This tactic was borrowed and applied by the Persians and many empires that followed. This has been the fate of the modern-day people also. The Ba'ath parties of Iraq, Syria, and to a lesser extent, Syria's influence and interference in Lebanese affairs, forcibly replaced all ethnic identities with an Arab national identity. <ref> Iraqi Assyrians: a Barometer of Pluralism </ref> Assyrians formed about 5% of Iraq's population before the start of the Iraq War, but since then many have emigrated, mostly to Syria.
| Assyrian people |
- Main article: Assyrian culture
Assyrian culture is dictated by religion. The language is also tied to the church as well for it uses the Syriac language in liturgy. Festivals occur during religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas. There are also secular holidays such as Akitu aka the Assyrian New Year. <ref> The Assyrian New Year </ref>
People often greet and bid relatives farewell with a kiss on each cheek and by saying "Peace be upon you." Others are greeted with a handshake with the right hand only. The left hand is associated with evil according to Middle Eastern customs. Shoes may not be left facing up, one may not have their feet facing anyone directly, whistling at night is viewed as a way to waken the evil spirits, many often do the sign of the cross upon witnessing a crucifix nearby, etc.
There are many Assyrian customs that are common in other Middle Eastern cultures. A parent will often place an eye pendant on their baby to prevent "an evil eye being cast upon it." Spitting on anyone or their belongings is seen as a grave insult.
There are Assyrians that are not very religious yet they may be very nationalistic. Assyrians are proud of their heritage, their Christianity, and of speaking the language of Christ. Children are often given Christian or Assyrian names such as Ashur, Sargon, Shamiram, Nineveh, Ninos, Nimrod, etc. Baptism and First Communion are heavily celebrated events similar to how a Bris and a B'nai Mitzvah are in Judaism. When an Assyrian person dies, there is traditionally a seventh day memorial after the funeral, with people gathering in remembrance of the deceased. This ceremony is often followed by a feast.
- Main article: Neo-Aramaic languages
The ancient Assyrian tongue was referred to as the Akkadian language. It was an East Semitic language written in cuneiform script. After the Assyrian Empire expanded westward, Aramaic gradually became the dominant tongue. It was declared an auxiliary language by King Ashur-nirari V in 752 BC. It ultimately became lingua franca under the propagation of the Achaemenid Dynasty of Persia, and Akkadian became extinct by the 1st Century AD. However, it is important to note that modern Syriac shares some vocabulary with Akkadian due to both being Semitic languages. <ref> Akkadian Words in Modern Assyrian </ref>
The modern Assyrian tongue is sometimes referred to as Syriac in English, and "Soureth" to the native speaker. Today, it has a wide variety of dialects including Assyrian, Chaldean, and Turoyo. Being stateless, Assyrians are required to learn a second language at an early age. Traditionally, Arabic, Persian language, and Turkish are first encountered when children begin elementary school. Kurdish is widely spoken by Assyrians in Northern Iraq and Western Iran. Many in the diaspora speak the language(s) of their adopted country as well as that of their homeland.
- main article: Syriac Christianity
- Ancient Church of the East
- Antiochian Orthodox Church
- Assyrian Church of the East
- Assyrian Evangelical Church
- Assyrian Pentecostal Church
- Chaldean Church of Babylon
- Syriac Catholic Church
- Syriac Orthodox Church
- Most (not all) of the members of the aforesaid churches consider themselves Assyrian. Ethnic and national identities are deeply intertwined with religious, which is a heritage of the Millet system.
There are no (known) Assyrian Muslims, but Arabic-speaking Muslims locally named Mhalmoye in Tur Abdin seem to be converts to Islam from the Syriac Orthodox Church in the 16th century (compare with Hamshenis, Greek Muslims, Pomaks, Torbesh, Gorani, etc.). They would have kept many customs from the period in which they were Christian, without being aware of their origins: the Cross frequently finds itself in their work, but is thought of as a decoration based on a flower. <ref>Stephen Griffith, A Fourth Visit to Tur Abdin and SE Turkey</ref> <ref>Stephen Griffith, Tur Abdin - A Report of a Visit to SE Turkey in May 2001, </ref> A Swedish Assyrian website names four other ethnic groups whom it considers as "Assyrian Muslims": Barzanoye (the Barzani Kurdish clan), Tagritoye, Taye (the Tay tribal confederation), and Shammor (the Shammar tribal confederation).<ref>VERKSAMHETSBERÄTTELSE 1997</ref> <ref>Denho Özmen, Shaikh fathullah. The Assyrian "modern" identity, Hujådå, autumn 1997</ref>
- In that day there shall be a way from Egypt to the Assyrians, and the Assyrian shall enter into Egypt, and the Egyptian to the Assyrians, and the Egyptians shall serve the Assyrian. In that day shall Israel be the third to the Egyptian and the Assyrian: a blessing in the midst of the land, Which the Lord of hosts hath blessed, saying: "Blessed be my people of Egypt, and the work of my hands to the Assyrian: but Israel is my inheritance." <ref> Isaiah 19:23-25 </ref>
- main article: Assyrian music
Assyrian music is divided into three main sections or periods, an ancient period that is of music written in (Ur, Babylon and Nineveh), a middle period of tribal and folkloric music, and the modern period.
- main article: Assyrian art
An Assyrian artistic style distinct from that of Babylonian art which was the dominant contemporary art in Mesopotamia, began to emerge c.1500 B.C. and lasted until the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. The characteristic Assyrian art form was the polychrome carved stone relief that decorated imperial monuments.
- main article: Assyrian cuisine
Assyrian cuisine is very closely related to other Middle Eastern cuisines. It predates both Arab and Turkish cuisine in Western Asia. It is also similar to Armenian, Persian, Jewish and Greek cuisine. It is believed that Assyrians invented baklava in the 8th century BCE.
 See also
 External links
|Image:Cristo Velázquez lou2.jpg||Syriac Christianity|
</center>br:Asirianed de:Assyrer (Gegenwart) et:Assüürlased arc:ܐܬܘܪܝܐ fa:آسوری fr:Assyriens ko:아시리아인 he:אשור (עם) ku:Asûrî ms:Orang Assyria nl:Assyriërs (volk) pl:Asyryjczycy (współcześni) ru:Ассирийцы sk:Asýrčania sl:Asirci sv:Assyrier tr:Süryaniler