Originating from Sassanid Persia, Manichaeism grew to be one of the two dominant dualist Gnostic religions. Founded by the Prophet Mani, the Manichaean religion spread as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire at its high point. Naturally, this growing religion posed a great threat to Christianity, leading to its persecution. Originally, there had been six books written in Syriac Aramaic that were eventually translated to aid the spread of the religion. While there are still translations and fragments of these texts left today, the majority of these original books have been lost.
The founding prophet was raised in the Mandaean faith and resided in Babylon. Mani composed the six original books and an additional book in Middle Persian to give to King Shapur I of Sassanid Persia. It is believed that King Shapur I was a strong supporter of Mani and his new Gnostic religion. Preserved biological accounts hold that the Manichaean religion’s beginnings originate from revelations that Mani had at a very young age. These revelations were supposedly from a divine spirit that taught the young boy divine truths that were to be developed into a religion. Mani called this divine spirit his divine twin. Thus, Mani became a “gnosticus”: someone with divine, liberating knowledge and insight.
Despite its growing popularity, Manichaeanism was doomed. While Mani had gained the friendship and following of King Shapur I and other important political figures, Mani failed to do the same with the subsequent generation of political leaders. Christianity and Zoroastrianism were emerging as two major religions as well, and these religions managed to gain the political backing that Mani had failed to obtain.