Administration in the Achaemenid Empire

Jacobs, Bruno, Wouter F. M. Henkelman & Matthew W. Stolper (eds.). 2017. Die Verwaltung im Achämenidenreich – Imperiale Muster und Strukturen. Administration in the Achaemenid Empire – Tracing the Imperial Signature. Akten des 6. Internationalen Kolloquiums zum Thema »Vorderasien im Spannungsfeld klassischer und altorientalischer Überlieferungen« aus Anlass der 80-Jahr-Feier der Entdeckung des Festungsarchivs von Persepolis,. Landgut Castelen bei Basel, 14.-17. Mai 20. (Classica et Orientalia 17). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
In recent decades, a number of local archives and other primary sources for the history of the Achaemenid empire have been made available for the first time, or have received new treatment. Foremost among these are the Persepolis Fortification archive and the correspondence between the satraps of Bactria and Egypt and their respective staffs. Several contributors to this volume try to analyze the events and transactions documented by these sources in terms of bureaucratic and administrative protocols and to interpret them within an empire-wide network. Recurring patterns reveal a system of administrative hierarchies and structures. Among other things, the Achaemenid administration managed supplying official travelers, assuring regular communication between the empire’s core and the provinces, and it used some of the same methods and institutions to manage supply, assignment and logistics of workers sent from the provinces to do labor service in the center of Persia.
Another approach represented in this volume confronts these primary sources with information about Achaemenid imperial administration in classical sources, the primary material serving both as corrective and as analytical tool. Combined, these complementary approaches lead to a similar assessment: the imperial administration was not characterized by rupture and ad hoc responses to crises but rather by continuity and stability, and these long-term factors were important reasons for the unprecedented scope and endurance of this first world empire.

The Mysteries of Mithras: A Different Account

Mastrocinque, Attilio. 2017. The Mysteries of Mithras: A Different Account. (Orientalische Religionen in Der Antike). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
In this work, Attilio Mastrocinque cautions against an approach to Mithraism based on the belief that this mystic cult resembles Christianity. While both Christian and pagan authors testified that Mithraic elements were indeed borrowed, according to Attilio Mastrocinque this was only done by some gnostic Christians. He counters that Roman Empire ideology and religion provide better clues on how to approach the matter, contending too that Virgil proves to be more important than the Avesta in understanding Mithraic iconography. The meaning of the central scene – the Tauroctony – thus becomes clear when the Roman triumph’s central act of bull sacrifice is thought of as just that, with Mithras playing the role of victor as author of this success. The episodes depicted on many reliefs relate to a prophecy known to Firmicus Maternus and other Christian polemists, and which foretold the coming of a saviour, i.e. the first emperor, when Saturn returns and Apollo-Mithras will rule.
Attilio Mastrocinque Born 1952; 1975 Master; since 2002 Full Professor of Roman History at the University of Verona; 2008–10 president of Cultural Heritage courses at the University of Verona; 2005–15 Director of the Archaeological Mission at Grumentum (Lucania).

HISTORIA I ŚWIAT

The sixth issue of Historia i Świat (2017) has been published. Many papers of this issue are related to our interest:

  • Svyatoslav V. SMIRNOV: Notes on Timarchos’ Iconography: Dioscuri Type
  • Mozhgan KHANMORADI & Kamal Aldin NIKNAMI: An Analytical Approach to Investigate the Parthians Painted Stuccoes from Qal‘eh-i Yazdigird, Western Iran
  • Ilkka SYVÄNNE: Parthian Cataphract vs. the Roman Army 53 BC-AD 224
  • Morteza KHANIPOOR, Hosseinali KAVOSH & Reza NASERI: The reliefs of Naqš-e Rostam and a reflection on a forgotten relief, Iran
  • Gholamreza KARAMIAN & Kaveh FARROKH: Sassanian stucco decorations from the Ramavand (Barz Qawaleh) excavations in the Lorestan Province of Iran
  • Katarzyna MAKSYMIUK: The capture Ḥaṭrā in light of military and political activities of Ardašīr I
  • Michael Richard JACKSON BONNER: A Brief Military History of the Later Reign of Šapur II
  • Patryk SKUPNIEWICZ: The bullae of the spahbedan. Some iconographic remarks
  • Joan ZOUBERI: The role of religion in the foreign affairs of Sasanian Iran and the Later Roman Empire (330-630 A.D.)
  • Tomasz SIŃCZAK: New Russian view on Sassanid Empire. Polemic with book: М. Мочалов, Д. Полежаев, Держава Сасанидов 224 – 653 годы, Москва 2016

The Coinage of the “Iranian” Huns and Western Turks

Alram, Michael. 2016. Das Antlitz des Fremden: die Münzprägung der Hunnen und Westtürken in Zentralasien und Indien. (Schriften des Kunsthistorischen Museums 17). Wien: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

The coinage of the “Iranian” Huns and Western Turks is a unique testimony to the history of Central Asia and Northwest India in late antiquity. It illustrates the self-understanding of the Hunnic and Turkish masters and shows how diverse political, economic and cultural influences affect them. The core zone of their domination ranged from today’s Uzbekistan through Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central India; The chronological framework stretches from the fourth to the 10th century AD.

This book summarizes the latest research regarding the “Iranian” Huns and Western Turks. By the aid of selected archaeological evidence as well as coinage, it gives an exciting insights into the history and culture of an era, which today is once again the focal point of international politics and debate.

Table of Contents:

  • Historischer Überblick
  • Das Reich der Sasaniden in Persien (224–651 n. Chr.)
  • Die Kidariten in Baktrien (um 370–467 n. Chr.)
  • Die Kidariten in Gandhara und Uddiyana (letztes Viertel 4. bis erste Hälfte 5. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Die Kidariten in Taxila (letztes Viertel 4. bis Mitte 5. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Alchan: Von den anonymen Clanchefs zu König Khingila (Ende 4. bis Mitte 5. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Alchan: König Khingila (um 430/440–495 n. Chr.) und die
  • Festigung der hunnischen Macht in Nordwest-Indien
  • Alchan: Die Zeitgenossen des Khingila (um 440–500 n. Chr.)
  • Toramana und Mihirakula – Aufstieg und Fall der Alchan in Indien
    (1. Hälfte 6. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Die Hephthaliten in Baktrien (um 484–560 n. Chr.)
  • Die Nezak-Könige in Zabulistan und Kabulistan (um 480 bis nach 560 n. Chr.)
  • Zabulistan: Von der Alchan-Nezak-Mischgruppe zu den Türken (Ende 6. bis Mitte 7. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Die Turk-Schahis in Kabulistan (2. Hälfte 7. bis Mitte 8. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Kabulistan und Baktrien zur Zeit von »Tegin, König des Ostens« (Ende 7. bis erstes Viertel 8. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Die Rutbils von Zabulistan und der »Kaiser von Rom« (Ende 7. bis zweite Hälfte 8. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Die Hindu-Schahis in Kabulistan und Gandha

Frederick E. Brenk on Plutarch, Religious Thinker and Biographer

Lanzillotta, Lautaro Roig with the collaboration of Luisa Lesage (eds.). 2017. Frederick E. Brenk on Plutarch, Religious Thinker and Biographer. Leiden: Brill.

Revolt and Resistance in the Ancient Classical World and the Near East

Collins, John & J.G. Manning. 2016. Revolt and Resistance in the Ancient Classical World and the Near East: In the Crucible of Empire. Leiden: Brill.

This collection of essays contains a state of the field discussion about the nature of revolt and resistance in the ancient world. While it does not cover the entire ancient world, it does focus in on the key revolts of the pre-Roman imperial world. Regardless of the exact sequence, it was an undeniable fact that the area we now call the Middle East witnessed a sequence of extensive empires in the second half of the last millennium BCE. At first, these spread from East to West (Assyria, Babylon, Persia). Then after the campaigns of Alexander, the direction of conquest was reversed. Despite the sense of inevitability, or of divinely ordained destiny, that one might get from the passages that speak of a sequence of world-empires, imperial rule was always contested. The essays in this volume consider some of the ways in which imperial rule was resisted and challenged, in the Assyrian, Persian, and Hellenistic (Seleucid and Ptolemaic) empires. Not every uprising considered in this volume would qualify as a revolution by this definition. Revolution indeed was on the far end of a spectrum of social responses to empire building, from resistance to unrest, to grain riots and peasant rebellions. The editors offer the volume as a means of furthering discussions on the nature and the drivers of resistance and revolution, the motivations for them as well as a summary of the events that have left their mark on our historical sources long after the dust had settled.

Table of contents

Preface
List of Abbreviations
Contributors
Introduction. John J. Collins and J. G. Manning
When is a Revolt not a Revolt? A Case for Contingency. Erich S. Gruen
Assyria and Babylonia
Revolts in the Assyrian Empire. Succession Wars, Rebellions against a False King, and Independence Movements. Karen Radner
Assyria’s Demise as Recompense: A Note on Narratives of Resistance in Babylonia and Judah Peter R. Bedford
Revolts in the Neo-Assyrian Empire: A Preliminary Discourse Analysis. Eckart Frahm
The Persian Empire
Xerxes and the Oathbreakers: Empire and Rebellion on the Northwestern Front. Matt Waters
Cyrus the Younger and Artaxerxes II, 401 BC. An Achaemenid Civil War Reconsidered. John Lee
Resistance, Revolt and Revolution in Achaemenid Persia. A Response. E. R. M. Dusinberre
The Ptolemaic Kingdom
Revolting Subjects. Empires and Insurrection, Ancient and Modern. Brian McGing
Revolts under the Ptolemies. A Paleoclimatological Perspective. Francis Ludlow and J. G. Manning
The Seleucid Empire
Resistance and Revolt. The Case of the Maccabees. Robert Doran
Temple or Taxes? What Sparked the Maccabean Revolt? John J. Collins
The Roman Empire
The Importance of Perspective. The Jewish-Roman Conflict of 66-70 CE as a Revolution James McLaren and Martin Goodman
Josephus, Jewish Resistance and the Masada Myth. Tessa Rajak
The Impact of the Jewish Rebellions, 66 – 135 CE. Destruction or Provincialization? Seth Schwartz
Bibliography
Index

Studies on the Seleukid Empire between East and West

Engels, David. 2017. Benefactors, Kings, Rulers. Studies on the Seleukid Empire between East and West (Studia Hellenistica 57). Leuven: Peeters.

The present volume contains a series of critical studies devoted to the political, institutional and ideological construction of the Seleukid empire, with particular focus on the complex interplay between the Seleukids’ Graeco-Macedonian background and their Achaimenid heritage. In order to explore to what extent the Seleukids can be considered heirs to the Achaimenids and precursors of the Parthians, and to what extent they simply ‘imported’ cultural and political behavioural patterns developed in Greece and Macedonia, the studies collected here adopt a decidedly interdisciplinary and diachronic approach. They investigate diverse fields, including the construction of the Seleukid royal court; the title of ‘Great King’; the prosopography of early Seleukid Iran; the integration of the ‘Upper Satrapies’ into the new Seleukid empire; the continued importance of the Iranian religions under the early Seleukids; the reign of the Persian Frataraka; the ‘feudalisation’ of the Seleukid empire under Antiochos III; the construction of a Hellenistic gymnasion in Seleukid Jerusalem; the importance of the Seleukid kingdom as a model for Eunous’ Sicilian slave-state; the evolution of the Syrian civic elite; and the potential influence of Seleukos’ royal propaganda on the religious self-legitimation of Augustus. Finally, a general comparison is proposed between the Seleukid empire and 19th century European colonialism.

Household and Family Religion in Persian-Period Judah

Gallarreta, Jose E. Balcells. 2017. Household and Family Religion in Persian-Period Judah: An Archaeological Approach (Ancient Near East Monographs 18), SBL Press.

Balcells Gallarreta investigates the ritual artifacts from Persian period Tell en-Nasbeh in their original contexts, as a case study that provides a deeper understanding of the religious ideas and practices of households in Persian period Judah. Unlike previous scholarship that focused on official or state religion, he utilizes archaeology of religion and domestic contexts to reveal the existence of household religion and rituals in Persian period Tell en-Nasbeh, along with other contemporary sites in Yehud. Archaeological data from Tell en-Nasbeh and other sites in the Shephelah region of Yehud demonstrate that family and household rituals and religion were practiced in Persian period Judah.

José E. Balcells Gallarreta is Assistant Professor at Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, where he focuses on Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern archaeology.

Arsacids, Romans and Local Elites

Schlude, Jason & Benjamin Rubin (eds.). 2017. Arsacids, Romans and local elites: Cross-cultural interactions of the Parthian Empire. Oxbow Books.

For almost 500 years (247 BCE–224 CE), the Arsacid kings of Parthia ruled over a vast multi-cultural empire, which encompassed much of central Asia and the Near East. The inhabitants of this empire included a complex patchwork of Hellenized Greek-speaking elites, Iranian nobility, and semi-nomadic Asian tribesman, all of whom had their own competing cultural and economic interests. Ruling over such a diverse group of subjects required a strong military and careful diplomacy on the part of the Arsacids, who faced the added challenge of competing with the Roman empire for control of the Near East. This collection of new papers examines the cross-cultural interactions among the Arsacids, Romans, and local elites from a variety of scholarly perspectives. Contributors include experts in the fields of ancient history, archaeology, classics, Near Eastern studies, and art history, all of whom participated in a multi-year panel at the annual conference of the American Schools of Oriental Research between 2012 and 2014. The seven chapters investigate different aspects of war, diplomacy, trade, and artistic production as mechanisms of cross-cultural communication and exchange in the Parthian empire. Arsacids, Romans, and Local Elites will prove significant for those interested in the legacy of Hellenistic and Achaemenid art and ideology in the Parthian empire, the sometimes under-appreciated role of diplomacy in creating and maintaining peace in the ancient Middle East, and the importance of local dynasts in kingdoms like Judaea, Osrhoene, and Hatra in shaping the geopolitical landscape of the Near East, alongside the imperial powerhouses of Rome and Parthia.

Sasanian Persia

Sauer, Eberhard. 2017. Sasanian Persia: Between Rome and the steppes of Eurasia. Edinburgh University Press.

The Sasanian Empire (3rd-7th centuries) was one of the largest empires of antiquity, stretching from Mesopotamia to modern Pakistan and from Central Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. This mega-empire withstood powerful opponents in the steppe and expanded further in Late Antiquity, whilst the Roman world shrunk in size. Recent research has revealed the reasons for this success: notably population growth in some key territories, economic prosperity, and urban development, made possible through investment in agriculture and military infrastructure on a scale unparalleled in the late antique world.

The author: Eberhard Sauer is Professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, having previously taught at the Universities of Leicester and Oxford.

A predominantly bibliographic blog for Iranian Studies