Yazdandukht and Mar Qardagh: From the Persian martyr acts in Syriac to Sureth poetry on YouTube, via a historical novel in Arabic

  • Alessandro Mengozzi


Videos posted on YouTube show how stories of East-Syriac saints have found their way to a popular web platform, where they are re-told combining traditional genres with a culturally hybrid visual representation. The sketchy female characters Yazdandukht and Yazdui/Christine and the fully developed epos of Mar Qardagh, who belong to the narrative cycle of the Persian martyrs of Erbil and Kirkuk, inspired an Arabic illustrated historical novel, published in 1934 by the Chaldean bishop Sulaymān Ṣā’igh. A few years after the publication of the novel, a new cult of Mar Qardagh was established in Alqosh, in northern Iraq, including the building of a shrine, the painting of an icon, public and private rites, and the composition of hymns. In 1969 the Chaldean priest Yoḥannan Cholagh adapted Ṣā’igh’s Arabic novel to a traditional long stanzaic poem in the Aramaic dialect of Alqosh. The poem On Yazdandukht, as chanted by the poet himself, became the soundtrack of a video published on YouTube in 2014.


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Author Biography

Alessandro Mengozzi

Alessandro Mengozzi, PhD Leiden University, is professor of Semitics at the University of Turin, where he teaches Semitic Philology and Syriac Language and Literature. His main research interests are Neo-Aramaic languages and literatures and Syriac poetry of the Mongol period.

He can be reached at: alessandro.mengozzi@unito.it