During the reign of Patriarch Timothy I (780–823), the Church of the East continued to expand into Asia. Metropolitans were consecrated for various places to the east of the Patriarchal see in Baghdad. One of these was the enigmatic Metropolitan of the Turks, about whose location scholars have disagreed for decades. This article seeks to answer the question “Which Turks received the Metropolitan appointed by Timothy?” by systematically examining the different Turkic groups living in Central Asia at the time. Textual and archaeological evidence is considered in support of the conclusion and the various motives and external factors that may have played a role in the conversion are discussed.
1 This article is adapted from my doctoral dissertation, ‘Turkāyē: Turkic Peoples in Syriac Literature Prior to the Seljüks’. All translations from Syriac are my own. Abbreviations used for primary sources are listed at the end of the article. Page numbers for text and translation are separated by a slash, with volume numbers indicated by Roman numerals. Text and translation references cited individually are designated T (textus) and V (versio), following the practice of Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium. Where the original book and chapter divisions of the text are referenced in the footnotes, page numbers are given in parentheses: e.g. Governors, IV.20 (238/448). My thanks to Rastin Mehri for the use of his Ardeshir font for Pahlavi words.