Sasanian Elements in Byzantine, Caucasian and Islamic Art and Culture

Sasanian Elements in Byzantine, Caucasian and Islamic Art and Culture

International Conference of the Leibniz-WissenschaftsCampus Mainz: Byzantium between Orient and Occident.

October 18–20, 2017, Mainz/Germany

Organized by Prof. Dr. Falko Daim (General Director, RGZM) and Prof. Dr. Neslihan Asutay-Effenberger (Johannes Gutenberg- Universität, Mainz)

Cultural exchanges between Christianity and Islam, especially between Byzantium and its Islamic Neighbours, but also in the Caucasian region, have been an attractive topic for historians, art historians and archaeologists in recent years. Scholarly interest focuses on diplomatic gift exchange, trade, the mobility of artists and the common motifs in both Christian and Islamic objects. The stage extends from Spain to Afghanistan and justifies the necessity of this debate. Yet, unfortunately, the role of one of the important protagonists of this exchange, namely the Persian Sasanians, is less well researched, although many important artistic and cultural phenomena in Byzantium, Armenia, and Georgia as well as in the Islamic countries can only be understood when this culture is included.

The Sasanian Empire (224-651 A.D.) extended over a large territory. In Late Antiquity and the early Medieval Era, it ruled the whole area of modern Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Caucasian region was exposed to its political influence. Until the middle of the 7th century, Sasanians were the major rival of the Late Roman and Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and exported art and culture into these civilizations through various means and on different levels. The cultural connections ended after the fall of the Sasanian Empire, which was replaced mainly by Arab Muslims, and a new era began: the new owners of the territory then adapted Sasanian elements into their own culture.

From the10th century onwards, the Turkish dynasties such as the Ghaznawids (963-1186) or the Great Seljuks (1019-1157 / de facto until the 13th century) settled in Persia and styled themselves as the successors of the Sasanians as well as as Turks; hence, they were called “Persians” in Byzantine sources. The Sasanian artistic and architectural tradition continued to exist in these cultures. The same phenomenon also applies to the Turkish Rum-Seljuks, who founded their empire in Anatolia: Persian was the court language, the sultans were named after Sassanian heroes from the Shahname (Keykubad, Keyhusrev, Keykavus), and despite the religious prohibition, drinking scenes were depicted in the artworks and wine played an important role at the ceremonies and celebrations according to the Sasanian model.

As can be clearly seen, the Sasanian Empire had not only ‘transfused’ its art and culture to its neighbourhood during its prime time, but also influenced the successor states after its decline. Just as Ancient Greek and Roman culture played an important role in the formation of Western Europe, the Sasanian Empire bequeathed, a remarkably rich cultural heritage to the Christian and Islamic East.

The conference “Sasanian Elements in Byzantine, Caucasian and Islamic Art and Culture” succeeds “Der Doppeladler. Byzanz und die Seldschuken in Anatolien vom späten 11. bis zum 13. Jahrhundert”, which was held at the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz in October 2010. The first event dealt with the cultural relations between Islam, particularly Turkish Islam, Byzantium and the Caucasus. At the forthcoming conference, we aim to discuss the role of the Sasanian Empire in the process of cultural exchange before and after its decline.

See here the Conference Programme

  • Khodadad Rezakhani: “The Roman Caesar and the Phrom Kesar: Hrōm, Eranshahr and Kushanshar in Interaction and Competition”
  • Johannes Preiser-Kapeller: “From one edge of the (post)Sasanian world to the other. Mobility and migration between the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Indian Ocean in the 4th to 9th centuries CE”
  • Rustam Shukurov: “The Image of Byzantium in Persian Epics: from Firdawsi to Nizami”
  • Matteo Compareti: “The Representation of Composite Creatures in Sasanian Art. From Early Coinage to Late Rock Reliefs”
  • Neslihan Asutay-Effenberger: “Senmurv – Beschützer von Konstantinopel?”
  • Thomas Dittelbach: “Kalīla wa-Dimna – Der Löwe als symbolische Form”
  • Rainer Warland: “Das Eigene und das Fremde. Hellenistische Selbstvergewisserung, sassanidische Konfrontation und apokalyptische Endzeit als Lesarten der frühbyzantinischen Kunst (500–630 n. Chr.)”
  • Arne Effenberger: “Sassanidischer Baudekor in Byzanz: der Fall der Polyeuktoskirche in Konstantinopel”
  • Nikolaus Schindel: “Sassanidische Münzprägung im Kaukasus”
  • Nina Iamanidze: “Georgian Reception of Sasanian Art”
  • Armen Azaryan: “Architectural Decorations of the Armenian Churches of the 7th and the 10th–11th Centuries, and their Presumably Sasanian Sources”
  • Shervin Farridnejad: “Continued Existence of the Imagery Repertoire of Sasanian Court Ceremonies and Rituals in the Islamic Art”
  • Markus Ritter: “Umayyadische Rezeption sasanidischer Architektur”
  • Osman Eravşar: “Sasanid Influence on Seljuk Art and Architecture”

Sponsorship

Research Unit Historical Cultural Sciences

Organization

Prof. Dr. Falko Daim (Mainz)
Prof. Dr. Neslihan Asutay-Effenberger (Mainz)

A manual for Iranian Studies (Handbuch der Iranistik, Vol. 2)

Paul, Ludwig (ed.). 2017. Handbuch der Iranistik. Vol. 2. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.
The second volume of the Handbook of Iranian Studies  follows the concept of the first volume and develops it further. It follows the division of the first volume (for the first Volume see here) into eight discipline-defined sections and completes the research overview of the first volume in a comprehensive way with about 50 articles. Thus, in the second part, the few gaps of the first volume are closed in eight sections, and the “Iranian Philosophy and Sciences” are added in a ninth section. The view is also directed increasingly at the geographical periphery of the Iranian world. Several articles deal with the history, culture and present of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kurdistan and other regions. The second volume of the handbook of Iranian Studies, in addition to the first volume, also provides research reports. In the second volume, specialized research reports on certain areas are added in the second volume, such as “Persian Literature”: Contributions to Iranian exile and travel literature, current innovative topics such as gender, bio-ethics, the Internet and new media.
You can see the table of the contents of this volume here.
About the Editor:
Ludwig Paul is professor of Iranian Studies at the Asien-Afrika-Institut, Universität Hamburg. He is a scholar of Iranian Linguistic, dialektology as well as Iranian modern history.

Arabs and Iranians in the Islamic Conquest Narrative

Savran, Scott. 2018. Arabs and Iranians in the Islamic conquest narrative: memory and identity construction in Islamic historiography, 750-1050. (Culture and Civilization in the Middle East 57). London; New York: Routledge.

Arabs and Iranians in the Islamic Conquest Narrative analyzes how early Muslim historians merged the pre-Islamic histories of the Arab and Iranian peoples into a didactic narrative culminating with the Arab conquest of Iran.

This book provides an in-depth examination of Islamic historical accounts of the encounters between representatives of these two peoples that took place in the centuries prior to the coming of Islam. By doing this, it uncovers anachronistic projections of dynamic identity and political discourses within the contemporaneous Islamic world.  It shows how the formulaic placement of such embellishment within the context of the narrative served to justify the Arabs’ rise to power, whilst also explaining the fall of the Iranian Sasanian empire. The objective of this book is not simply to mine Islamic historical chronicles for the factual data they contain about the pre-Islamic period, but rather to understand how the authors of these works thought about this era.

By investigating the intersection between early Islamic memory, identity construction, and power discourses, this book will benefit researchers and students of Islamic history and literature and Middle Eastern Studies.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Shifting Patterns of Identity and Early Islamic Historiography in Context
  • 3. The Opening of the Drama: Shāpūr and the Sheikh
  • 4. Bahrām V Gūr, the Lakhmids, and the Hephthalite Disaster
  • 5. The Twilight of Sasanian Power: Khusraw I Anūshirvān and the Saga of Ḥimyar
  • 6. The Buildup to the Confrontation: Khusraw II Parvīz and the Rise of the Arabs
  • 7. The Climax: The Islamic Victory over the Sasanians
  • 8. Conclusion

Scott Savran obtained his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 2011. His research focuses on identity-based discourses in early Islamic historiography.

Herodotus and the Persian Empire

The latest issue of Phoenix, the journal of the society Ex Oriente Lux, has been just published. Here is R.J. (Bert) van der Spek‘s summary of this special issue, ‘Herodotus en het Perzische Rijk’, Phoenix 63.2 (2017):

Focus is on Near Eastern information that puts Herodotus in a more balanced perspective. Wouter Henkelman presents Egyptological (and other) information on the famous story of Cambyses and the Apis (III 27-9; 33; 64). He shows how early researchers of the Apis burials were deceived by taking Herodotus’ story at face value. It is better not to, rather to consider Herodotus’ agenda of defamation of Cambyses, which Henkelman defines as ‘character assassination’. He places the story in an Egyptian tradition of defamation of foreigners, of ‘Chaosbeschreibung’. Olaf Kaper discusses the excavations in the Dakhlah oasis, which was once a settlement of revolting king Petubastis IV. The mysterious story of an army sent by Cambyses to the Ammonians, that disappeared in the desert (III 25), might well simply reflect an annihilation by that army by Petubastis, followed by a damnatio memoriae by the Persians. CAROLINE WAERZEGGERS discusses the modern prejudices on Xerxes, exemplified by the film ‘300’. Western knowledge and interpretation of Xerxes is based on Herodotus, who has a very biased picture of Xerxes. Herodotus suggests to have visited Babylon, but who is not very reliable. He does not know anything about an important revolt in the second year of Xerxes’ reign, i.e. about the year of birth of Herodotus. Karel van der Toorn discusses ‘the long arm of Artaxerxes II’ by recognizing the Jewish community in Elephantine in Egypt, which caused tensions. In the fifth century, the time of Herodotus, this setting apart of the Jewish community was not yet so much clear, so that for Herodotus the Jews (in Elephantine and in Palestine” simply counted as “Syrians” (all spoke Aramaic).

 

A gold four-horse model chariot from the Oxus Treasure in the British Museum

Mongiatti, Anudu, Neegel Meeks & John Simpson. 2017. A gold four-horse model chariot from the Oxus Treasure in the British Museum, Bulletin of the National Museum of Tajikistan 2, 105-123.

The Oxus Treasure is one of the greatest collections of Achaemenid-period precious metal to survive. It was bequeathed to the British Museum by A. W. Franks in 1897 and been on almost continuous display at the Briti sh Museum since 1900/1901. It was catalogued by Dalton and the first edition published in 1905, and the collection contjnues to attract scholarly attention as well as public interest. In recent years a number of scientific analyses have been carried out on areas of this collection in order to better understand the composition and details of working on particular classes or individual objects. This paper outlines the results of the first scientific study of the outstanding gold model of a four-horse chariot, complete with its driver and passenger. Microscopic examination, X-radiography and scanning electron microscopy combined with energy dispersive X-ray analysis have revealed undocumented evidence for the skill of the Persian goldsmith in creating an intricate artefact produced using a variety of techniques, such as repoussé and chasing on gold sheets, granulation, wire twisting and hammering.

The second issue of Iran 55

The second issue of  Iran 55 (2017) has been published:

Lions in Ancient Iran

Curtis, John. 2017. “Lions in Ancient Iran“, in Parviz Tanavoli and the Lions of Iran, 158-224, Tehran: Nazar Art Publication.

This is a survey of lions in Iranian art from c. 3000 BC to the end of the Sasanian period (7th century AD). It appeared in a catalogue to accompany the exhibition ‘Parviz Tanavoli and the Lions of Iran’ that opened at Museum of Contemporary Art in Tehran on 2nd July 2017.

Darius I and Divinity

Greater Glory: Darius I and Divinity in Achaemenid Royal Ideology

A lecture by Matthew Waters (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)
Organised by the Pourdavoud Center

For more information, click on the photo above or follow this link.

Continue reading Darius I and Divinity

Iranian Mithra vs. Roman Mithras

Mithra, detail from the investiture-relief of Šābuhr II, Tāq-e Bostān, Kermānšāh, Iran

Lahe, Jaan. 2017. Zu möglichen Verbindungen zwischen römischem Mithras und iranischem Mithra. Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft 25(2). 233–262.

From the end of 19th century, when the Roman Mithras cult was first studied, a discussion about the cult’s links to the Mithra cult in the Iranian religion has been on-going. Positions regarding the links between the Mithras cult and the Mithra cult can be divided into three groups: 1 the Roman Mithras cult is identical to the Iranian Mithra cult and thus the Mithras cult is an import from the Iranian cultural space; 2 the Roman Mithras cult is new and developed during the time of the Roman Empire and also integrated certain elements of Iranian religious heritage; 3 radical standpoint that views the Mithras cult as a cult that developed during the era of the new empire, but denies any associations between the Mithras cult and the Iranian Mithra cult, except the name of the god. The author of this article is convinced that both the first and third positions have weak justifications. The author thus demonstrates, by relying on sources from Iranian and Roman culture, that the personality of Mithras in the Roman cult is very strongly associated with the personality of Mithra in Iranian religious heritage, which allows one to draw the conclusion that the Iranian Mithra served as the main prototype for the Roman Mithras.

Dabir Journal – Issue 04

Issue 04 of DABIR (Digital Archive of Brief notes & Iran Review)

Issue 04 of Dabir, an open access on-line journal for Iranian Studies, is out now. Dabir is published by the Jordan Center for Persian Studies.

Continue reading Dabir Journal – Issue 04

A predominantly bibliographic blog for Iranian Studies