Persian Martyrs Mar Behnam and Sarah

Saint-Laurent, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon, and Kyle Smith, eds., The History of Mar Behnam and Sarah. Martyrdom and Monasticism in Medieval Iraq, Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation, 7 (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2018).

The History of Mar Behnam and Sarah tells the story of two siblings who convert to Christianity under the tutelage of Mar Mattai, a monastic leader and wonderworker from the Roman Empire. After the children refuse to worship pagan gods, they are killed by their own father, the Persian king. Strangely, he is identified as Sennacherib the Assyrian, a pre-Christian ruler better known from the biblical Book of Kings. This is not the only chronological oddity with the text. Although Behnam and Sarah is set in the fourth century, during the golden age of martyrdom in the Sasanian Empire, the text was not composed until hundreds of years later. The composition of the narrative about the two martyrs seems to have coincided with the construction of a twelfth-century shrine that was built in their honor by Syrian Orthodox monks on the Nineveh Plain, near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The beautiful martyrium, which housed intricate relief sculptures and inscriptions in several languages, was an important pilgrimage site for Christians, Muslims, and Yezidis until it was destroyed in 2015.

In this volume of the “Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac” series, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent and Kyle Smith provide the first critical edition and English translation of this fascinating martyrdom narrative, a text that was once widely popular among numerous communities throughout the Middle East.

Silk, Slaves, and Stupas

Whitfield, Susan. 2018. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas: Material Culture of the Silk Road. University of California Press.

Following her bestselling Life Along the Silk Road, Susan Whitfield widens her exploration of the great cultural highway with a new captivating portrait focusing on material things. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas tells the stories of ten very different objects, considering their interaction with the peoples and cultures of the Silk Road—those who made them, carried them, received them, used them, sold them, worshipped them, and, in more recent times, bought them, conserved them, and curated them. From a delicate pair of earrings from a steppe tomb to a massive stupa deep in Central Asia, a hoard of Kushan coins stored in an Ethiopian monastery to a Hellenistic glass bowl from a southern Chinese tomb, and a fragment of Byzantine silk wrapping the bones of a French saint to a Bactrian ewer depicting episodes from the Trojan War, these objects show us something of the cultural diversity and interaction along these trading routes of Afro-Eurasia.

Exploring the labor, tools, materials, and rituals behind these various objects, Whitfield infuses her narrative with delightful details as the objects journey through time, space, and meaning. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas is a lively, visual, and tangible way to understand the Silk Road and the cultural, economic, and technical changes of the late antique and medieval worlds.

Continue reading Silk, Slaves, and Stupas

Eastern Manicheism as Reflected in its Book and Manuscript Culture

Özertural, Zekine & Gökhan Silfeler (eds.). 2018. Der östliche Manichäismus im Spiegel seiner Buch- und Schriftkultur. Vorträge des Göttinger Symposiums vom 11./12. März 2015 (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Neue Folge 47). Berlin: De Gruyter.

This volume examines the gnostic-syncretic religion of Eastern Manicheism in China, Iran, and Turkish central Asia. After a scholarly introduction to the religious theory of Manicheism, the essays probe questions of its transmission and cultural interactions with Latin, Coptic, and Arabic Manicheism.

Civilization of Iran: Past, Present, Future

Callieri, Pierfrancesco & Adriano Valerio Rossi (eds.). 2018. Civiltà dell’Iran: passato, presente, futuro (atti del Convegno Internazionale Roma, 22-23 febbraio 2013); (Il novissimo Ramusio 6). Roma: Scienze e lettere.
This book is a collection of papers presented at the international conference “Civiltà dell’Iran: passato, presente, futuro” took place in 2013 at Sapienza Università di Roma and Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale ‘Giuseppe Tucci’.
  • L. Costantini & M. Delle Donne: “Agricoltura e ambiente dell’Iran
    orientale durante la protostoria”
  • M. Vidale: “Irrigation and Canals in Ancient Iran. Resurrecting Wittfogel?”
  • R. Biscione: “L’Iran nord-occidentale nell’altopiano armeno: la complessità sociale fra il Bronzo Antico ed il periodo urarteo”
  • S.M.S. Sajjadi: “Funzioni delle catacombe nella necropoli di Shahr-i Sokhta, Sistan”
  • P. Callieri: “Terra e pietra nell’architettura dell’Iran degli imperi preislamici”
  • A. Invernizzi: “L’Iran arsacide tra Achemenidi e Sasanidi”
  • B. Kaim: “Architecture of Zoroastrian Fire Temples”
  • V. Messina: “I rilievi rupestri d’Elimaide”
  • G. Curatola: “Decorazione architettonica nell’Iran di epoca islamica”
  • L. Korn: “Between Architectural Design and Religious Politics: Aspects of Iranian Mosque Architecture of the Saljuq Period”
  • E. Mokhtari Taleghani: “The Contemporary Architecture of Iran”
  • G. Scarcia: “Iran e Turan nella cultura persiana. Status quaestionis, anzi quaestionum”
  • A. Ventura: “Sufismo e letteratura in Iran”
  • M. Casari: “Idee dei giardini del mondo: privilegiati scambi letterari tra Italia e Iran”
  • B.M. Filippini: “Alcune considerazioni sui rapporti tra cinema e letteratura nell’Iran d’epoca pahlavi”
  • A.M. Piemontese: “Contatti culturali d’Italia e Iran in epoca medievale e moderna”
  • G. Lombardo: “L’Iran protostorico nelle collezioni del Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale “Giuseppe Tucci”
  • P. D’Amore: “Le collezioni iraniche del Periodo del Ferro del Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale “Giuseppe Tucci”
  • P. Piacentini: “Dagli Achemenidi ai Sasanidi. Arte imperiale nelle collezioni del Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale “Giuseppe Tucci”
  • M. Jung: “Le collezioni e le attività del settore islamico dell’Iran del Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale”

The Macedonian Expeditionary Corps in Asia Minor (336–335 BC)

Kholod, Maxim. 2018. The Macedonian Expeditionary Corps in Asia Minor (336–335 BC)Klio. Beiträge zur Alten Geschichte. 100 (2), 407-446.

The article deals with a complex of issues connected with the campaign waged by the Macedonian expeditionary corps in Asia Minor in 336–335 BC. The author clears up the aims set for the advance-guard, its command structure, strength and composition. He also describes the relevant military operations and reveals the reasons both for the Macedonians’ successes in 336 and their failures in 335. The idea is argued that despite the final failures, it is hardly possible to say that the campaign the expeditionary corps conducted ended in its total defeat. Besides, it is noted that those military operations had major significance for Alex-ander’s campaign in Asia Minor in 334, because a number of preconditions for its full success had been created right in their course.

Zoroastrian and Ancient Iranian Astral Science

Brown, David. 2018. The Interactions of Ancient Astral Science. with contributions by : Jonathon Ben-Dov, Harry Falk, Geoffrey Lloyd, Raymond Mercier, Antonio Panaino, Joachim Quack, Alexandra von Lieven, and Michio Yano. Bremen: Hempen Verlag.

Why and when did ancient scholars make the enormous effort to understand the principles and master the mathematics of foreign astral sciences? This work provides a detailed analysis of the invention, development and transmission of astronomy, astrology, astral religion, magic and medicine, cosmology and cosmography, astral mapping, geography and calendrics and their related mathematics and instrumentation in and between Mesopotamia, Egypt, the West Semitic areas, Greece and Rome, Iran, India and China. It considers the available textual evidence from the most ancient times to the seventh century CE. The author has worked the contributions of eight internationally renowned scholars into what amounts to a new history of the oldest sciences. The result is a challenging read for the layperson and a resource for the expert and includes an extensive index to the entire volume. It provides a new typology of cultural interactions and, by describing their socio-political backdrop, offers a cultural history of the region. In particular, astral science in the Hellenistic period west of the Tigris is completely re-evaluated and a new model of the interactions of Western and Indian and Iranian astral sciences is provided.
Two chapters of this book deal with different aspects of Ancient Iranian Astrology and Astronomy. The chapter Iranian Astral Science (P. 456-481) by the main autor himself, which refers to the following subjects:
  • The Elamites
  • The Persians
    • Persian Astral Science (other than the Calendar)
  • The Seleucids
  • Seleucid-Iranian Astral Science
  • The Parthians
    • Parthian Astral Science
    • The Sasanians
And the next chapter:
Panaino, Antonio. 2018. On Iran’s Role in the Transmission of Ancient Astral Science and the Ramifications thereof. Pp. 482–514.
This chapter discusses following subjects:
  • The Problem
  • The Iranian astral divinities and their astronomical role
  • The Stars and the Peg of the Sky
  • The Planets and the Astral Cords of Wind
  • The multicultural legacy of Sasanian astronomy and astrology

Historia I Świat

Issue seven of Historia i Świat (2018) has been published. A number of the contributions relate to Iranian Studies.

Achaemenid Seal and Monumental Art

Drawing of a lenticular seal from Tomb 33, Prosymna. Athens (after Sakellarakis 1982, no. 27)

The recent volume Friedhelm Pedde & Nathanael Shelley (eds.), Assyromania and More. In Memory of Samuel M. Paley (Marru. Studien Zur Vorderasiatischen Archäologie 4), . Münster: Zaphon. contains two chapters of hight interest for Iranian and Achaemenid Studies:

Zoroastrian and Iranian Studies from Ravenna

Panaino, Antonio, Andrea Piras & Paolo Ognibene (eds.). 2018. Studi iranici ravennati II (Indo-Iranica et Orientalia). Milano: Mimesis Edizioni.
This Conference Proceedings volume contains 15  contributions which were presented at the second international conference of Iranian Studies in Ravenna, Italy.
Table of Contents:
  • Amir Ahmadi: “An Indo-Iranian Initiation-Based Masculine Society?
  • Fabio Eugenio Betti: “Tradizione classica e cultura sudarabica. Osservazioni sulla statua bronzea di Lady Bar’at”
  • Stefano Buscherini: “Chess and geometric progressions: a link between Dante and the Persian tradition”
  • Davlatkhoja Dovudi: “Nachodki bucharchudatskich, sasanidskich i omejjadskich monet v Tadžikistane i istorija ich izučenija”
  • Anna Michieletto: “La comunità diasporica curda del Monte Amiata: rapporto con le origini e col territorio”
  • Paolo Ognibene: “Studi sull’epos dei Narti. Il ruolo dell’elemento magico nella struttura fantastica del racconto”
  • Martina Palladino: “Alcuni spunti di riflessione sui Maga Brāhmana”
  • Antonio Panaino: “Vecchie e Nuove Considerazioni sul Millenarismo iranico-mesopotamico ed il Chiliasmo giudaico-cristiano”
  • Andrea Piras: “Spandyād’s lance and message. Some Remarks about the Imagery of Shooting Weapons”
  • Céline Redard: “La tentation de Zarathuštra”
  • Micol Scrignoli: “duruj-, drauga-, draujana-: dallo studio delle valenze semantiche attestate all’individuazione della triade iranica nella lingua antico persiana”
  • Galina N. Vol’naja: “K voprosu ob iranskich vlijanijach na Central’nom i Severo-Vostočnom Kavkaze (na primere bronzovych pticevidnych prjažek «tipa Isti-Su»)
  • Antonio Panaino: “The Souls of women in the Zoroastrian Afterlife”
  • Paolo Delaini: “Conoscenze mediche sulla fisiologia della gravidanza nel mondo iranico di età tardoantica”
  • Andrea Gariboldi: “La dottrina di Mazdak tra influssi “occidentali” e religioni orientali

Literacy and Orality in Achaemenid Iran

Kolb, Anne (ed.). 2018. Literacy in ancient everyday life. Berlin ; Boston: Walter de Gruyter.
The purpose of the conference proceedings is to investigate the importance of literacy in the daily lives of ancient people. In addition to the intended utilization of writing and written material, the circumstances of usage as well as various types of users are the focus of the analyzes. The concept of a diversified literacy of different levels of literacy, literacy and numeracy makes it possible to differentiate the usage of everyday writing according to types or categories of uses and to recognize different functions of literacy.
Two chapters from the first part are of special interests for Iranian and Achaemenian Studies:
The contribution aims at pointing out the impact of language(s) and writing system(s), not least of Elamite, Old Persian and Aramaic, in Teispid-Achaemenid Iran in the context of royal pronouncements and administration, and at putting them in relation to those of the neighbouring cultures. In this context, it is also trying to find out which forms of language acquisition and communication can be proven and whether there has been such a thing as a Persian language policy. On the other hand, the fact that Iran has seen decidingly oral cultures up to Late Antiquity and even beyond, apart from the official contexts, raises the question of the media of communication and the afterlife of Teispids and Achaemenids in Iran’s ‘historical’ traditions.
The article examines the place of female literacy within general everyday literacy in the Achaemenid period. Whereas the Achaemenid heartland lacks of sources written by women, we have abundant private correspondence from the other satrapies of the empire (Babylonia, Egypt, Bactria etc.). Therefore the lacuna from the Persis-region is not coincidental but resulting from the specific social structure of the empire with its dominant hegemonic manliness. This prevented a wider spread of literacy and the Achaemenid heartland remained an orally dominated culture with a functional literacy limited to the elite and higher levels of society.

A predominantly bibliographic blog for Iranian Studies