New Perspectives on Late Antique Iran and Iraq

Pregill, Michael (ed.). 2018. New perspectives on late antique Iran and Iraq. Mizan. Journal for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations 3(1).

Aramaic incantation bowl from Sasanian Babylonia, 4th-7th c., currently held in the collection of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (B2945; courtesy Penn Museum Blog)

This volume of the peer-reviewed, open access Mizan: Journal for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations presents several articles (and a provocative postscript) centering on the theme of “New Perspectives on Late Antique Iran and Iraq.” The articles featured here originated with a pair of conference panels convened in 2016. The first was held during the summer of 2016 at the Eleventh Biennial Iranian Studies Conference at the University of Vienna, August 2–5, 2016; the second followed in the fall of that year, convened during the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association held in Boston, November 17–20, 2016.

ToC
– Touraj Daryaee: “How the Sasanians Saw the Late Antique World: A Persianate View of the Interconnectedness of Eurasia”
– Isabel Toral-Niehoff: “Al-Ḥīra: An Arab Late Antique Metropolis in Sasanian Iraq”
– Shai Secunda: “East LA: Margin and Center in Late Antiquity Studies and the New Irano-Talmudica”
– Teresa Bernheimer: “The Revolt of Qaṭarī b. al-Fujāʿa (d. 79/698) and the Kharijite Revolts of Early Islamic Iran: Social Change between Late Antiquity and Early Islam”
– Rahim Shayegan: “On Diachrony in Sasanian Studies”
– Jason Mokhtarian: “Religious Polemics in Sasanian Writings”
– Thomas Carlson: “The Long Shadow of Sasanian Christianity: The Limits of Iraqi Islamization to 950”
– Mimi Hanaoka: “Authority and Identity in Early Medieval Persianate Islamic Historiography: Methologies for Reading Hybrid Identities and Imagined Histories”

Islamic Transformations of the Classical Past

Casagrande-Kim, Roberta, Samuel Thrope & Julia Rubanovich (eds.). 2018. Romance and reason: Islamic transformations of the classical past. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Within a century of the Arab Muslim conquest of vast territories in the Middle East and North Africa, Islam became the inheritor of the intellectual legacy of classical antiquity. In an epochal cultural transformation between the eighth and tenth centuries CE, most of what survived in classical Greek literature and thought was translated from Greek into Arabic. This translation movement, sponsored by the ruling Abbasid dynasty, swiftly blossomed into the creative expansion and reimagining of classical ideas that were now integral parts of the Islamic tradition.

Romance and Reason, a lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanying the exhibition of the same name at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, explores the breadth and depth of Islamic engagement with ancient Greek thought. Drawing on manuscripts and artifacts from the collections of the National Library of Israel and prominent American institutions, the catalogue’s essays focus on the portrayal of Alexander the Great as ideal ruler, mystic, lover, and philosopher in Persian poetry and art, and how Islamic medicine, philosophy, and science contended with and developed the classical tradition.

Contributors include Roberta Casagrande-Kim, Leigh Chipman, Steven Harvey, Y. Tzvi Langermann, Rachel Milstein, Julia Rubanovich, Samuel Thrope, and Raquel Ukeles.

Trends in Iranian and Persian Linguistics

Korangy, Alireza & Corey Miller (eds.). 2018. Trends in Iranian and Persian linguistics (Trends in Linguistics. Studies and Monographs 313). Berlin: De Gruyter.
This set of essays highlights the state of the art in the linguistics of Iranian languages. The contributions span the full range of linguistic inquiry, including pragmatics, syntax, semantics, phonology/phonetics, lexicography, historical linguistics and poetics and covering a wide set of Iranian languages including Persian, Balochi, Kurdish and Ossetian. This book will engage both the active scholar in the field as well as linguists from other fields seeking to assess the latest developments in Iranian linguistics.
See the table of contents here.
  • Toon van Hal: “The alleged Persian-Germanic connection: A remarkable chapter in the study of Persian from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries”
  • Shinji Ido: “Huihuiguan zazi: A New Persian glossary compiled in Ming China”
  • Adriano V. Rossi: “Glimpses of Balochi lexicography: Some iconyms for the landscape and their motivation”
  • Martin Schwartz: “On some Iranian secret vocabularies, as evidenced by a fourteenth-century Persian manuscript”
  • Agnès Lenepveu-Hotz: “Specialization of an ancient object marker in the New Persian of the fifteenth century”
  • Lutz Rzehak: “Fillers, emphasizers, and other adjuncts in spoken Dari and Pashto”
  • Youli Ioannesyan: “The historically unmotivated majhul vowel as a significant areal dialectological feature”
  • Zohreh R. Eslami, Mohammad Abdolhosseini, and Shadi Dini: Variability in Persian forms of address as represented in the works of Iranian playwrights”
  • Hooman Saeli and Corey Miller: “Some linguistic indicators of sociocultural formality in Persian”
  • Behrooz Mahmoodi-Bakhtiari: WSpoken vs. written Persian: Is Persian diglossic?”
  • Lewis Gebhardt: “Accounting for *yek ta in Persian”
  • Jila Ghomeshi: “The associative plural and related constructions in Persian”
  • Shahrzad Mahootian and Lewis Gebhardt: “Revisiting the status of -eš in Persian”
  • Arseniy Vydrin: “‘Difficult’ and ‘easy’ in Ossetic”
  • Z. A. Yusupova: “Possessive construction in Kurdish”
  • Carina Jahani: “To bring the distant near: On deixis in Iranian oral literature”
  • Katarzyna Marszalek-Kowalewska: “Extracting semantic similarity from Persian texts”

The Persianate World: Rethinking a Shared Sphere

Amanat, Abbas & Assef Ashraf (eds.). 2018. The Persianate world: Rethinking a shared sphere (Iranian Studies 18). Leiden: Brill.
The Persianate World: Rethinking a Shared Sphere is among the first books to explore the pre-modern and early modern historical ties among such diverse regions as Anatolia, the Iranian plateau, Central Asia, Western Xinjiang, the Indian subcontinent, and southeast Asia, as well as the circumstances that reoriented these regions and helped break up the Persianate ecumene in modern times. Essays explore the modalities of Persianate culture, the defining features of the Persianate cosmopolis, religious practice and networks, the diffusion of literature across space, subaltern social groups, and the impact of technological advances on language. Taken together, the essays reflect the current scholarship in Persianate studies, and offer pathways for future research.

The Reception of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s Works in the Islamicate World

Hubert, Thibaut d’ & Alexandre Papas (eds.). 2018. Jāmī in regional contexts. The reception of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s works in the Islamicate world, ca. 9th/15th-14th/20th Century (Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section One, the Near and Middle East 128). Leiden; Boston: Brill.
Jāmī in Regional Contexts: The Reception of ʿAbd Al-Raḥmān Jāmī’s Works in the Islamicate World is the first attempt to present in a comprehensive manner how ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī (d. 898/1492), a most influential figure in the Persian-speaking world, reshaped the canons of Islamic mysticism, literature and poetry and how, in turn, this new canon prompted the formation of regional traditions. As a result, a renewed geography of intellectual practices emerges as well as questions surrounding authorship and authority in the making of vernacular cultures. Specialists of Persian, Arabic, Chinese, Georgian, Malay, Pashto, Sanskrit, Urdu, Turkish, and Bengali thus provide a unique connected account of the conception and reception of Jāmī’s works throughout the Eurasian continent and maritime Southeast Asia.

Iconographic Exegesis of Anthropomorphic Zoroastrian Deities

Farridnejad, Shervin. 2018. Die Sprache der Bilder: Eine Studie zur ikonographischen Exegese der anthropomorphen Götterbilder im Zoroastrismus (Iranica 27). Harrassowitz-verlag.

Einer in der Forschung weit verbreiteten Meinung zufolge existierte im Alten Iran keine zoroastrische Kunst. In Sprache der Bilder nun untersucht Shervin Farridnejad Darstellungen altiranischer anthropomorpher Gottheiten und deren Erscheinung im zoroastrischen Pantheon mit der methodischen Herangehensweise einer exegetischen Ikonographie.
Farridnejad zeichnet die Darstellungsweise und Entwicklung der zoroastrischen Götterbilder nach und analysiert den Ursprung ihrer Ikonographie innerhalb der iranischen religiösen Bildsprache, insbesondere im Wechselspiel mit den in der schriftlich überlieferten Tradition bewahrten religiösen Ideen. Der Autor widmet sich in seiner umfassenden und reich bebilderten Studie den teilweise komplex aufgebauten Götterbildern, die als vielschichtige Bedeutungsträger im religiösen Leben der alten Zoroastrier eine große Rolle spielten. Darüber hinaus ermittelt er allgemeine formale Strukturen, beleuchtet ihre Genese und erforscht den „Sitz im Leben“ der Götterbilder, indem er vor allem die literarische Überlieferung des zoroastrischen Corpus im Avestischen und Mittelpersischen berücksichtigt. Farridnejad bietet so erstmals einen umfassenden, methodisch fundierten Überblick über die zoroastrische Bildersprache im Kontext von Religion und Kultur des vorislamischen Iran.

The Reception of Alexander the Great

Moore, Kenneth Royce (ed.). 2018. Brill’s companion to the reception of Alexander the Great. Leiden & Boston: Brill.

Brill’s Companion to the Reception of Alexander the Great offers a considerable range of topics, of interest to students and academics alike, in the long tradition of this subject’s significant impact, across a sometimes surprising and comprehensive variety of areas. Arguably no other historical figure has cast such a long shadow for so long a time. Every civilisation touched by the Macedonian Conqueror, along with many more that he never imagined, has scrambled to “own” some part of his legacy. This volume canvasses a comprehensive array of these receptions, beginning from Alexander’s own era and journeying up to the present, in order to come to grips with the impact left by this influential but elusive figure.

The Iron Age in southern Central Asia

Lhuillier, Johanna & Nikolaus Boroffka (eds.). 2018. A millennium of history. The Iron Age in southern Central Asia (2nd and 1st millennia BC). Proceedings of the conference held in Berlin (June 23–25, 2014). Dedicated to the memory of Viktor Ivanovich Sarianidi (Archeology in Iran and Turan 17). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag.

The volume gives a comprehensive insight into the Iron Age in southern Central Asia, whose beginning and end are marked by two major cultural changes: the end of Bronze Age urban societies with their large burial grounds and the conquest of Central Asia by Alexander the Great. Central to this is the incorporation of this region into the Achaemenid-Persian empire. Profound social changes in settlement, technology, and spiritual life can be linked to the emergence of the Avesta and the Zoroastrian religion, which became the official religion of the Persian Empire. A new look at texts and archaeological research demonstrates the complete incorporation of Bactria and Sogdia into the Achaemenid Empire during the 6th century BC.

Continue reading The Iron Age in southern Central Asia

Sogdian Christianity

A Sogdian silk brocade textile fragment, dated c. 700 AD

Ashurov, Barakatullo. 2018. ‘Sogdian Christianity’: Evidence from architecture and material culture. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1–42.

This article aims to discuss the question of the inculturation of Syriac Christianity in Central Asia, based on archaeological examples including architectural evidence from a particular ethnocultural area: Sogdiana. It questions to what extent the Eastern Syriac Church has become rooted in local culture, thus enabling Christian communities to express their faith in both material and artistic ways. This article is divided into two sections which present a comprehensive study of the medieval sources relevant to the spread and establishment of Christianity in the Central Asian landmass by considering and analyzing existing tangible evidence. In doing so, it provides assessment of comparable evidence, which demonstrates both the “extended” and an “immediate” context in which Eastern Syriac Christianity was accepted, adapted and transformed into a localised expression of Christian faith.

The Cult of Mithras in Late Antiquity

Walsh, David. 2018. The cult of Mithras in late antiquity: Development, decline and demise ca. A.D. 270-430. Leiden: Brill.

In The Cult of Mithras in Late Antiquity David Walsh explores how the cult of Mithras developed across the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. and why by the early 5th century the cult had completely disappeared. Contrary to the traditional narrative that the cult was violently persecuted out of existence by Christians, Walsh demonstrates that the cult’s decline was a far more gradual process that resulted from a variety of factors. He also challenges the popular image of the cult as a monolithic entity, highlighting how by the 4th century Mithras had come to mean different things to different people in different places.

David Walsh, Ph.D. (2016), University of Kent, is a lecturer in Classical and Archaeological Studies at that university. He has published articles on the cult of Mithras and on the fate of temples in the Roman provinces of Noricum and Pannonia.

A predominantly bibliographic blog for Iranian Studies