1. why would Shapur I have commissioned an inscription in three languages?
2. why are records of this type especially important for our knowledge of the Roman Empire?
Traditions and even promoted them. The emperors spoke Aryan languages of Iran (Parthian and Middle Persian), which they used for official inscriptions often carved on rock surfaces and written in alphabetic scripts derived from Aramaic (see Reading the Past: A Sasanid Account of the Wars with Rome). They also used Greek as an official language, often on coins and also for translations of the rock inscriptions. The Semitic Aramaic language, written in its own script, was very important for administration. The use of a variety of Semitic (for example, Hebrew) and Indo-European (for example, Bactrian, Armenian) languages persisted throughout the entire period. Besides administrative and official records, a great variety of writings appeared, including literature translated from Greek and Indian originals.
Although the kings relied on Zoroastrianism (see Chapter 4) to support their rule, the variety of religions in the empire was equally great. A Zoroastrian priest wrote in the third century c. E. that the empire housed “Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Nazarenes, Christians, Baptists, and Manicheans,”6 that is, followers of the various religions from India and the Eastern Roman Empire, including various Christian sects.
A new religion that originated in Iran perfectly illustrates a coalescence of various spiritual influences. Its founder, Mani (MAH-nee), was born in 216 c. E. in the Babylonian part of the then Parthian Empire. At age twenty-four, Mani started to preach a religion he hoped would appeal universally. He saw Buddha, Zoroaster, and Jesus as his precursors in a long line of prophets and borrowed from all their teachings. Like Zoroaster, Mani saw a strict opposition between soul and body, good and evil, and light and dark. To him life was painful, and the human soul had succumbed to evil. Only true knowledge would free the soul and return it to its original state of goodness, which it would share with God. Mani urged people to live an ascetic life, but realized that few people could do so at the desired level.
Mani traveled widely to spread his ideas, and he encouraged his followers to do the same. His teachings were so flexible that they could easily merge with existing religions,
Such as Buddhism, Daoism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. In the west they inspired many Christians of the Roman Empire, including Augustine, who followed Manichaean teachings for nine years, but the church hierarchy saw them as heresy. In Iran, too, the original toleration of Manichaeism gave way to persecutions. Mani himself died in prison sometime between 274 and 277 c. E., and his severed head was impaled on a pole for public display. His followers likened his death to Jesus’s crucifixion. His religion survived, however, until persecutions in the Roman Empire in the fifth century and in the Middle East in the tenth century almost extinguished it.