(Sarmatian gold plaque of fight between a lion and a griffin,
Syrian Missions Among the
of Central Asia
A great number of people deviated from the path of truth, and became Nestorians, on account of the severity of the persecution and oppression. And the Nestorians had for head an ungodly Catholicos, called Akak, from whose time dates the Nestorian Catholicate in Ctesiphon.
At that time some men from the Turks who are Christians came to Ctesiphon from the remote countries in order to elect a Metropolitan for themselves, and have him ordained, as was their wont; because it was in Ctesiphon that the consecration of their Metropolitans used to take place. Each one of their countries had one Metropolitan, after the ordination pf whom they repaired to their land. And the above Catholicos of Ctesiphon used to receive ordination from (the Patriarch) of Antioch. And at that time when, those Christian Turks came to receive ordination according to their habit, they discovered that Akak was not under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Antioch, but that he had rebelled against him and was a heretic; thereupon they became angry with him, refused to receive ordination from him, and returned to their country in great grief.
After a time they were in great distress, because they had no Metropolitan, and so they came back and repaired as far as Ctesiphon, having it meantime in their mind to reach Antioch and have an interview with the Patriarch. On the score of the length of the journey, however, and because of strifes, conflicts, and wars, that raged at that time between Powers they found themselves unable to proceed to, Antioch, but remained five years in Ctesiphon, in the hope that there would be peace and the roads would be open again for traffic. At the end they lost heart and courage, and not willing to return to their country empty-handed as on the first occasion, and noticing that it was too late in the season to dally, they went to Akak, the Catholicos of the Nestorians, and discussed with him the reason of his revolt against the authority of the Patriarch of Antioch.
Then the heretic Akak, in conjunction with those who followed his perverse opinions, deceived with their cunning those simple and unsophisticated folk and answered them, "It is not on account of faith that we have separated ourselves from the Patriarch of Antioch and raised a Catholicos, but it is because of the peril to all the Christians of the East, that will ensue from a visit to Antioch, which will be interpreted as an act of disloyalty to the temporal rulers, that we did not go there. Further, we established a Catholicos for ourselves on account of wars, conflicts, and strifes that are raging in our countries; and because we did that we live now in peace and security." By such crooked words those simple and unsophisticated folk were deceived, and received ordination from the Nestorians, and they were given a Metropolitan from the Nestorians by false pretences, while they were unaware of their deception, and of the falsehood of their abominable beliefs. And this habit is handed down to them to the present day, because any time their Bishop dies they come to the Nestorians, and take another one to replace him from Ctesiphon. The see of the Catholicos is in the pagan town (Baghdad?) which we have mentioned above, and it is he who ordains for them priests and deacons.
These Christian Turks eat meat and drink milk. They do not put any difference between lawful and unlawful food, but eat everything in good and pure conscience. By such acts they are believed by outsiders to be unclean, while in reality they are not. All their habits are clean, and their beliefs are orthodox and true like our own. Although they receive their ordination from the Nestorians, they do it in good faith, while unaware of their falsehood, and wickedness. They believe in one glorious nature . in the Holy Trinity, and like us they hold to three adorable Persons, and profess that the Divine Word, one of these three Persons of the Holy Trinity suffered, died, and was crucified, and by His death and His resurrection He saved us. This is their true faith.
Any one they see circumcised like pagans (Muslims) they kill immediately, and they carry with them their sanctuaries anywhere they depart after their halts. Their feasts they celebrate with great pomp, and they love more than any other people the commemorations of saints and martyrs. They do not learn, nor do they accept any other script besides our own, and in the language of us Syrians they write and read the Books of the two Testaments: the Old and the New, and the writings of the Orthodox Fathers. In their gatherings they translate the above Books into their Turkish language, while they never venture to change into the Turkish language the adorable name of our Divine Lord Jesus Christ nor that of Mary, the Mother of God, but they pronounce them as they are in our Syriac language. As to the rest of the words and names they render them into the Turkish language, in order that all their congregation may understand what is read.
In the days of the holy Lent they do not eat fresh and new meat, but meat that is dry like wood; and they fast from evening till evening, and they make the bread of the Holy and Divine Sacrament from bread of pure wheat. They bring from other countries, with great care and diligence, pure flour from pure wheat, and they store it up for the purpose; so also they fetch from remote regions the raisins from which they make the wine used for the Holy Communion. In their dress they do not differ from the Turks who are pagan. All the people of the town speak another language called Yabatai, and their script is in their own language.
From there eastwards, to the distance of two months' journey, there are many towns that contain pagan Turks who worship idols, and have script in their own language. The border town is called Karakoram and the name of its King is Idi-Kut. Five days' journey from there lies the habitat of the Turks who are Christians and of whom we spoke above. They are true believers and God-fearing folk, and they dwell under tents, and have no towns, no villages, and no houses; but they are divided into powerful and great clans who journey from place to place. They have many possessions: sheep, cattle, camels, and horses. Each camel of theirs has two humps. They have four great and powerful kings, each one living farther from the other, whose names are the first Gawirk, the, second Girk, the third Tasahz, and the fourth Langu (corresponding to the four major divisions of Turkic tribes at the time). They have a name common to all: Tatar, and the name of their country is Sericon. It is said that each one of these kings has with him four hundred thousand families, when they congregate at the time of their halts. Their country is broad and reaches as far as Magog (Mongolia?), the city of the pagans, and beyond them everybody is heathen. But the Christian Turks of whom we have spoken receive ordination from the Bishop whose see is in that large town of the pagans which has five big churches (Baghdad?).
These Christian Turks dwell under tents and pavilions, and have from themselves priests, deacons, and monks. They have many places of worship with them in their pavilions, and they ring the sacred bells and read the Books in our Syriac tongue. They celebrate like us all the Festivals of the Dispensation of our Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. They do not practice circumcision like pagans, but are baptised like us with the holy baptism and the holy chrism. They believe that Mary is the Mother of God, and profess that Christ is God. They keep the Festivals and the Sundays like all other Christians. No bread at all is found in their country, no wheat-field, no vineyard, no wine, and no raisins; and all their food consists of meat and milk of sheep; and they have a great quantity of flocks.