The 6th century Saint’s life of the Nestorian Patriarch, Mar Aba, is an interesting document in that it contains real insights into the political maneouverings at the court of the later Sassanid kings. The Nestorian patriarch now had a very substantial following in Persia. Earlier Patriarchs were merely seen as the head of an unpopular sect suspected of treacherous preference for the Byzantine emperor. But the hostility of the latter towards the Nestorians had removed this problem, and the King of Kings was beginning to see him instead as a possible counter-balance to the sometimes maleficent power of the Zoroastrian clergy. Keeping the latter busy with theological issues distracted them from plotting.
In chapter 35 we saw that the Magians had induced the King of Kings to imprison the Catholicos again.
36. The Catholicos boldly raised his voice and said, “Once the King of Kings has made such a decision about me, because of the whisperings of my enemies, (further) words are unnecessary. He orders my immediate death, and with great joy do I accept death for the truth of Christ. The Magians persecuted me, an innocent, and imprisoned me for seven years in the power of my persecutors, and sent a renegade to murder me. But God in his invincible power rescued me, after I came to the court of his Majesty the King of Kings, and they did violence on me and the people of God, although they fettered me hand and foot and neck as a malefactor, and God the almighty knows that I was dragged away by them by force. The King of Kings said that he would release me from the fetters, and after he retracted this, and they slandered me before his sublime Majesty, and he finally decided against me, so let him now demand my immediate execution.”
The PSNIK’ went and reported these words to the king. Then the King of Kings left the Saint alone and said to him in a friendly way, “Go and write letters to the Christians of each province, that, if the insurgents do not settle down peaceably, the sword, bow and arrows will be drawn against them, they will be attacked, and any found fighting will be killed, be they Magian, Jew or Christian.” After the PSNIK’ brought the message, he undertook to write it.
After this was done, God worked on the King of Kings, and it was suggested to him that he should release the Saint. And when the King of Kings went into (winter) quarters near the (two) cities, the Saint went with him.
The Magians must have wondered why on earth the monarch kept dithering.