Mani (called Manes by the Greeks and Romans) was born near Baghdad, probably of Persian parents; his father may have been a member of the Mandaeans. After wandering for several years as a meditative ascetic he came forward (c.240) as the inspired prophet of a new religion. He went to Bactria in NW India, where he came in contact with Buddhism.
He returned to Persia after the coronation (241) of Shapur I, who was tolerant of new religious movements; at the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon he began preaching (c.242) the doctrine that was to become Manichaeism, a great synthesis of elements from Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, other Persian religions, Christianity, Buddhism, and Taoism, as well as from the teachings of Marcion. Rejecting all of the Old Testament and parts of the New Testament, Mani claimed Buddha, Zoroaster, Hermes, and Plato as his predecessors. He always called himself "Mani, Apostle of Jesus Christ" and held that he was the Paraclete promised by Jesus.
During the long reign of Shapur I (d. 272), Mani was free to travel about the realm making converts. However, the accession of Bahram I brought a reaction against the Manichaeans (or Manichees) from orthodox Zoroastrian religious circles, and, after 272, Mani and his followers met with increasing persecution. He died while imprisoned (c.276) in SW Persia.