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Mani (c. 216–276 AD) was the founder of Manichaeism, an ancient gnostic religion that was once widespread but is now defunct. Mani was born of Assyrian parentage in Asuristan, located in Mesopotamia, modern-day Iraq, which was a part of the Persian Empire during Mani's life. Mani's father, Fatik or Pattig, was from Hamadan, in present day Iran, and his mother, Maryam, was of the family of the Kamsaragan, who claimed kinship with the Parthian royal house, but the names of his father and mother are both Assyrian/Syriac. It is more than likely #### that Mani was Assyrian rather than Persian. Although Mani's original writings have been lost, portions were preserved in Egyptian Coptic and in later Chinese Manichaean writings.
According to biographical accounts by Biruni, preserved in the tenth century encyclopedia the Fihrist of Ibn al-Nadim, Mani received a revelation in his youth from a spirit whom he later called the Twin, who taught him the divine truths of the religion. In his mid-twenties, Mani decided that salvation is possible through education, self-denial, vegetarianism, fasting and chastity. Mani claimed to be the Paraclete promised in the New Testament, the Last Prophet or Seal of the Prophets. The other prophets included Seth, Noah, Abraham, Shem, Nikotheos, Enoch, Zoroaster, Buddha and Jesus. Mani presented himself as a savior and an apostle of Jesus Christ. Mani wrote his seven holy books in Syriac,. Mani's most important book was called Arjang. Mani is thought to have been an extraordinary painter who illustrated Arjang with colorful objects. During this period, the large existing religious groups, including Christianity and Zoroastrianism, were competing for political and social power. Manichaeism had fewer adherents than Zoroastrianism, but won the support of high ranking political figures. With the aid of the Persian Empire, Mani would initiate several missionary excursions. Mani's earliest missionaries were active in Turkestan, India, Mesopotamia, Persia, Palestine, Syria and Egypt. Mani's first excursion was to the Kushan Empire in northwestern India. Mani is believed to have lived and taught in India for some time, and several religious paintings in Bamiyan are attributed to him. Mani failed to win the favor of the next generation. The disapproval of the Zoroastrian clergy resulted in Mani being sent to prison, where he is reported to have died after several months. The Manichean religion survived and flourished until the Arab Islamic conquest of the middle east, north Africa and much of Asia. After this, Manicheans suffered a series of violent persecutions, massacres and forced conversions, the religion gradually disappeared over the two centuries following the Islamic conquest. Aramaic speaking Manicheans in Mesopotamia and Persia often converted to the Eastern Rite Christianity of their Assyrian brethren to avoid persecution.
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