78170 - History of Manichaeism and of the Iranian Gnosis (1) (LM)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Docente: Andrea Piras
  • Credits: 6
  • SSD: L-OR/14
  • Language: Italian
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in History and Oriental Studies (cod. 8845)

Learning outcomes

The student is expected to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the historical and religious problems concerning the Manichaeism and Gnosticism, within the Iranian milieu and connected areas of Near East and Central Asia. The learning outcomes also entail an appropriate skillfulness in talking and writing to present his acquaintance of the due bibliography

Course contents

The swallowed Light. Asceticism, purifications and food rituals of salvation

The course will be focusing on the prophet Mani (3rd century A.D.) and the religion founded by him, which was spread from the Mediterranean to Central Asia and China.

The course will particularly be dealing with the dualism between the two principles, the Ligth and the Darkness/Wisdom and Ignorance, and will approach many doctrinal texts (myths, hagiographic stories, homilies, parables, sermons) in order to understand the basic ethical tenets of this religion and its teachings of knowledge and salvation.

Any topic will be examined by means of a critical bibliography and of reading of original Manichaeans texts. The basic features of this missionary and universal religion will also be envisaged in relationship with the general theme of Gnosticism (Nag Hammadi Coptic texts and Greek-Latin Gnostic texts) and the cultural interactions with other religious systems (Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism).

Deepening: the holy meal of the Elects and the delivery of light.



1. For a general introduction, one volume among this list:

A. Piras, Manicheismo, ed. La Scuola, Brescia 2015 [the book is available for free at the Library G.R. Franci, via Zamboni 33]

M. Tardieu, Il manicheismo, ed. Lionello Giordano, Cosenza 1988.


2. Didactical tools of Manichaeans texts (Greek, Latin, Coptic, Iranian, Chinese, Turkic) will be uploaded on the web-site of this teaching, to be read and commented during the lessons. Students from abroad could arrange a different bibliography (English, French), if they prefer.

3. A general introduction on the Gnosticism (facultatively) is K. Rudolph, La Gnosi, ed. Paideia, Brescia 2000 (or English editions of the same book).

4. The student interested in changes of bibliography, integrations or substitutions, can arrange an agreement with the teacher. The interdisciplinary feature of the course entails this possibility, especially for these teachings: Roman History (Late Antiquity); Byzantine History; Medieval History (Christian dualisms); Modern History (haeretical movements); Contemporary History (Gnosis and politics). History of Christianity; Ancient Christian Literature; History of Religions. Oriental studies: Hebraistic, Iranology, Islamistic, Indology, Sinology

Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending.

Bibliography for not attending: the above quoted A. Piras' book; the pages 99-123 of Kurt Rudolph's book and a choice of didactic readings included in Virtuale platform


Teaching methods

conventional lessons and visual implements (power point and projector)

Assessment methods

The exam consists in an oral interview. During the interview the methodological and critical skills acquired by the student will be evaluated and the student will be invited to discuss the texts covered during the course and to move within the sources and bibliographical material in order to be able to identify in them the useful information that will enable to illustrate the cultural aspects of the discipline. The achievement of an organic vision of the issues addressed during the classes and their critical use, which demonstrate ownership of a mastery of expression and specific language, will be assessed with marks of excellence. Mechanical and/or mnemonical knowledge of matter, synthesis and analysis of non-articulating and/or correct language but not always appropriate will lead to discrete assessments. Training gaps and/or inappropriate language - although in a context of minimal knowledge of the material - will lead to votes that will not exceed the sufficiency. Training gaps, inappropriate language, lack of guidance within the reference materials offered during the course wil lead to failed assessments.

Teaching tools

Didactic tools of uploaded pdf, power points and projectors

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Andrea Piras


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