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Syriac Iconography of Forty Martyrs of Sebaste with the story Mor Behnam and Sarah

Christianization of the Roman Empire accelerated in the course of the 4th and 5th centuries. In this period and even before, already from the second century onwards, the cult of the martyrs was spreading with an increasing effect on daily life of the faithful.

In this study the origins of the story/legend of Forty Martyrs of Sebaste and the presence of Mor Behnam and Sara in their iconography is discussed. In art this peculiar iconography has many variations, with little or no differences at all. Importantly, however, these two subjects, given together, are found in many Syriac manuscripts. Further this early iconography is attested in the works of Sımmeshındi family, a contemporary Syriac family living in Mardin. Sımmeshındi family interprets and reverberates the theme with a different iconography. It seems that the legend in question still continue to have a special place in the repertoire of religious artworks of contemporary Syriac societies.

Within the scope of this study the iconographic features of the legend are analysed and their existence today is illustrated.

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