Vol. I: The Ancient Aramaic Heritage (By S. P. Brock and David Taylor)
The Assyrian and Babylonian civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia and the Arabic world of the modern Middle East are widely familiar, but between the two there is a period of over a thousand years when Aramaic was the main cultural language of this area - and Aramaic was, of course, the language of Jesus of Nazareth. The earliest inscriptions in Aramaic belong to the time of the Aramaen city states of Syria in the early first millennium BC. Although these city states eventually became swallowed up by the Assyrian Empire, the use of their language, Aramaic, gradually spread all over the Middle East. During the time of the Achaemenid Persian Empire it became the official language of the state, and was in use from western Iran to the Mediterranean and down to the south of Egypt, where it was also used by a local Jewish community with their own temple. In the Hellenistic period (3rd to 1st cent. BC), after the conquests of Alexander the Great, Aramaic continued in use alongside Greek. It flourished especially in the east, and was used by the Indian king Asoka in a series of religious inscriptions found in the twentieth century in Afghanistan. In the early period of Roman domination in the Middle East, a number of small desert kingdoms came into being (1st century BC to the 3rd century AD), all of which use Aramaic (in different scripts) as their written language; these were based on Palmyra (with its famous queen, Zenobia), Petra and Hatra.
Vol. II: The Heirs of the Ancient Aramaic Heritage (By S.P. Brock and David Taylor)
Although Hebrew had been the language of the ancient Israelite kingdom, after their return from exile the Jews turned more and more to Aramaic, using it for parts of the books of Ezra and Daniel in the Bible. By the time of Jesus, Aramaic was the main language of Palestine, and a number of texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in Aramaic. Aramaic continued to be an important language for Jews and and is one of the languages found in the Talmud. After the Arab conquests of the seventh century, Arabic quickly replaced Aramaic as the main language of those who converted to Islam, although in remote places Aramaic continued as a vernacular language of Muslims. Aramaic, however, enjoyed its greatest success in Christianity. Although the New Testament was written in Greek, Christianity had come into existence in an Aramaic-speaking region, and it was the Aramaic dialect of Edessa, now known as Syriac, that became the literary language of a large number of Christians living in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire and in the Persian Empire, further east. Over the course of the centuries the influence of the Syriac Churches spread east to China (in Xian, in western China, a Chinese-Syriac inscription dated 781 is still extant), to southern India where the state of Kerala can boast more Christians of Syriac liturgical tradition than anywhere else in the world.
Vol. III: At the Turn of the Third Millennium; The Syrian Orthodox Witness (By S. P. Brock and Witold Witakowski)
Testimony to the artistic creativity of the Syriac Churches in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages is provided above all by the survival of numerous churches and monasteries, as well as by frescoes and manuscripts, many of which are considered works of art for their calligraphy and illustrations. Until the present century Syriac Christianity was limited almost entirely to the Middle East and southwestern India. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were traumatic times for almost all the Middle Eastern Christian communities, with large-scale massacres and forced migration. In recent decades too, emigration to the West has been increasing, with the result that there are now large diaspora communities from the Syriac Churches in various European countries (Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden in particular), the Americas and Australia. In many of these a keen awareness of their Syriac and Aramaic heritage is maintained in various ways.
Videos 1-3 (Each corresponding to a volume)
This fascinating and challenging program traces the historical routes of the Aramaic-speaking peoples and investigates, by means of ancient inscriptions, the distant origins of their language. We will revisit their first settlements, which at various times in history linked the common Aramaic Heritage. This historical excursion will take us first to the heart of the Middle East (Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel), then further afield to the regions of Kerala in Southern India, to Asia, Europe (Switzerland, Holland, Great Britain, Germany, Sweden) and finally to various parts of the United States. Involved with the filming were 14 countries, 34 museums and 11 universities; 160 historical findings were filmed.
Sebastian P. Brock. Before joining the University of Oxford in 1974 Professor Brock taught at the University of Birmingham (1964-1967) and at the University of Cambridge (1967-1974). He is a fellow of the British Academy and a Corresponding Member of the Syriac Section of the Iraqi Academy. He has an Honorary Doctorate from the Pontificio Istituto Orientate (1992), and was nominated to the Order of St. Silvester by the Maronite Diocese of St. Maron, USA (1989). He has published many works in his field.
Giacomo Pezzali. Producer Pezzali brings 30 years of film experience to The Hidden Pearl. He developed The Hidden Pearl as an ethnographic film, bringing the language and the face of the descendants of the ancient Aramaic peoples to the screen.