Persian imperial policy and local sanctuaries

Achenbach, Reinhard (ed.). 2019. Persische Reichspolitik und lokale Heiligtümer. Beiträge einer Tagung des Exzellenzclusters «Religion und Politik in Vormoderne und Moderne» vom 24.–26. Februar 2016 in Münster. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Der Sammelband präsentiert die Beiträge der internationalen Tagung des Exzellenzclusters „Religion und Politik in Vormoderne und Moderne“ 2016 in Münster zur Religionspolitik der Achaimeniden und der Rolle ihrer Lokalheiligtümer. In welchem Maße dienten die Lokalreligionen zur Stabilisierung der politischen Verhältnisse bzw. trugen sie zur Destabilisierung bei? In welcher Weise unterstützten die Heiligtümer eine Wahrung lokaler Identität und wie weit waren sie aufgrund ökonomischer und äußerer Machtverhältnisse auf das Wohlwollen der Perser angewiesen? Welchen Einfluss hatten die Eidesrituale der Symmachien auf die Stellung der Heiligtümer der gewährleistenden Gottheiten? Wie wirkte sich die wachsende Kenntnis über die Vielfalt der Religionen
im Perserreich auf die Politik aus und wie reagierten unterschiedliche Ethnien hierauf? Wie kann man Konvergenzen und Divergenzen kultureller Entwicklungen und weltanschaulicher
Vorstellungen in der Achaimenidenzeit besser erfassen und beschreiben?

To see ToC click here.

Ancient Knowledge Networks

Robson, Eleanor. 2019. Ancient knowledge networks: A social geography of cuneiform scholarship in first-millennium Assyria and Babylonia. London: UCL Press.

This book is currently available as open access from the publisher's website.

Ancient Knowledge Networks is a book about how knowledge travels, in minds and bodies as well as in writings. It explores the forms knowledge takes and the meanings it accrues, and how these meanings are shaped by the peoples who use it.

Addressing the relationships between political power, family ties, religious commitments and literate scholarship in the ancient Middle East of the first millennium BC, Eleanor Robson focuses on two regions where cuneiform script was the predominant writing medium: Assyria in the north of modern-day Syria and Iraq, and Babylonia to the south of modern-day Baghdad. She investigates how networks of knowledge enabled cuneiform intellectual culture to endure and adapt over the course of five world empires until its eventual demise in the mid-first century BC. In doing so, she also studies Assyriological and historical method, both now and over the past two centuries, asking how the field has shaped and been shaped by the academic concerns and fashions of the day. Above all, Ancient Knowledge Networks is an experiment in writing about ‘Mesopotamian science’, as it has often been known, using geographical and social approaches to bring new insights into the intellectual history of the world’s first empires.

Eleanor Robson is Professor of Ancient Middle Eastern History at UCL.

Persian Royal–Judaean Elite Engagements

Silverman, Jason. 2019. Persian Royal–Judaean Elite Engagements in the Early Teispid and Achaemenid Empire: The King’s Acolytes (The Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies). T&T Clark.

Jason Silverman presents a timely and necessary study, advancing the understanding of Achaemenid ideology and Persian Period Judaism. While the Achaemenid Persian Empire (c. 550–330 BCE) dwarfed all previous empires of the Ancient Near East in both size and longevity, the royal system that forged and preserved this civilisation remains only rudimentarily understood, as is the imperial and religious legacy bequeathed to future generations. In response to this deficit, Silverman provides a critically sophisticated and interdisciplinary model for comparative studies.
While the Achaemenids rebuilt the Jerusalem temple, Judaean literature of the period reflects tensions over its Persian re-establishment, demonstrating colliding religious perspectives. Although both First Zechariah (1–8) and Second Isaiah (40–55) are controversial, the greater imperial context is rarely dealt with in depth; both books deal directly with the temple’s legitimacy, and this ties them intimately to kings’ engagements with cults. Silverman explores how the Achaemenid kings portrayed their rule to subject minorities, the ways in which minority elites reshaped this ideology, and how long this impact lasted, as revealed through the Judaean reactions to the restoration of the Jerusalem temple.

Table of contents
List of Figures
Into the Woods: Judaean Engagements with the Early Persian Empire
Part I.
Second Isaiah
Old Persian Creation Theology
Part II.
First Zechariah, the Temple, and the Great King
The Phenomenology of Dreams and Visions
Part III
The Great King, Local Elites, Priests, Temples, and Priests in the early Empire
The Great King and Local Elites in Early Persian Discourse
Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Appendix: Table of Dates

Among Digitized Manuscripts

Lit, L. W. Cornelius van. 2019. Among digitized manuscripts. Philology, codicology, paleography in a digital world (Handbuch Der Orientalistik 137). Leiden: Brill.

Working with manuscripts has become a digital affair. But, are there downsides to digital photos? And how can you take advantage of the incredible computing power you have literally at your fingertips? Cornelis van Lit explains in detail what happens when manuscript studies meets digital humanities. In Among Digitized Manuscripts you will learn why it is important to include a note on the photo quality in your codicological description, how to draw, collect, and publish glyphs of paleographic interest, what standards (such as TEI and IIIF) to abide by when transcribing a text, how to write custom software for image recognition, and much more. The leading principle is that learning a little about computers will already be of great benefit.

Brill | Among Digitized Manuscripts

This book is open access, and you can download it from Some more information is available from the author’s website. The author has also tweeted about this book, which I unrolled here.

Archaeology of Empire in Achaemenid Egypt

Colburn, Henry P. 2019. Archaeology of Empire in Achaemenid Egypt. Edinburgh University Press.

A study of the material culture of Egypt during the period of Achaemenid Persian rule, c. 526-404 BCE

  • Provides a clear overview of the archaeological evidence for Achaemenid Egypt, including temples, tombs, irrigation works, statues, stelae, seals and coins
  • Demonstrates how different types of evidence, both textual and archaeological – including material of uncertain provenance – can be used to address a single historical question
  • Offers critical discussion of the dating criteria used by archaeologists for Egyptian Late Period material
  • Elucidates strategies used by the Persians to establish and maintain control of Egypt
  • Examines how these strategies may have affected the lives of people living in Egypt during the 27th Dynasty
  • Creates a new explanatory model for the introduction of coinage to ancient Egypt

Previous studies have characterised Achaemenid rule of Egypt either as ephemeral and weak or oppressive and harsh. These characterisations, however, are based on the perceived lack of evidence for this period, filtered through ancient and modern preconceptions about the Persians.

Henry Colburn challenges these views by assembling and analyzing the archaeological remains from this period, including temples, tombs, irrigation works, statues, stelae, sealings, drinking vessels and coins. By looking at the decisions made about material culture – by Egyptians, Persians and others – it becomes possible to see both how the Persians integrated Egypt into their empire and the full range of experiences people had as a result.

Volume in Honour of Professor Anna Krasnowolska

Volume 14 of Studia Litteraria Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis, an special issue in Honour of Professor Anna Krasnowolska, has been published, and the articles seem to be freely available at the above link. The issue contains a number of relevant and interesting articles among which one relates to Zoroastrianism:

Daryaee, Touraj. 2019. Honey: A Demonic Food in Zoroastrian Iran? Studia Litteraria Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis 14. 53–57.

Lucan’s Parthians in Nero’s Rome

Nabel, Jake. 2019. Lucan’s Parthians in Nero’s Rome. Classical Philology 114(4). 604–625.

For an epic that recounts the horrors of civil war, Lucan’s poem refers with surprising frequency to an enemy far removed from the realm of Roman power: the eastern kingdom of the Parthians, a vast empire beyond the Euphrates ruled by the Arsacid royal family. No other foreign polity figures so prominently. The Parthians are said to have unleashed the strife between Caesar and Pompey by killing Crassus, the only man capable of suppressing the rivalry between the two commanders (1.98–108). They escape vengeance …

Alexander III, Darius I and the land acquired by spears

Degen, Julian. 2019. Alexander III, Darius I and the Spear-Derived Land (Diode 17, 17, 2). Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History 6(1): 53–95.

This article aims to shed new light on Diodorus’ episode about Alexander’s crossing of the Hellespont by bringing ancient Near Eastern evidence into discussion. I assume that Diodorus’ “report” is a nesting of three different narrative-elements woven to a composition which provides a purposeful view ex post facto on the event in 334 BCE. By showing that Alexander adapted Achaemenid strategies to legitimize his power over the new won empire as well his awareness of older Mesopotamian geographical ideas, this article argues that the Argead ruler exposed himself with predominant concepts of ancient Near Eastern kingship. The argumentation underlines for the most part that Diod. 17, 17, 2 is an intentional episode containing Greek-Macedonian propaganda and Persian elements. Especially the famous scene of Alexander hurling a spear in the coast of Asia Minor and the belief that the Persian empire is a gift of the gods root in Teispid and Achaemenid royal ideology. However, Diodorus’ portrayal of Alexander as the first of the Macedons who landed on the coast is an element of his propaganda used during the early phase of his conquest. Finally, this article aims to bring new insights into the discussion about Alexander being the “last Achaemenid”.

Empires of the sea

Wijk, Roy van. 2019. Contested hegemonies: Thebes, Athens and Persia in the Aegean of the 360s. In Rolf Strootman, Floris van den Eijnde & Roy van Wijk (eds.), Empires of the sea: Maritime power networks in world history (Cultural Interactions in the Mediterranean 4), 81–112. Leiden: Brill.

Empires of the Sea brings together studies of maritime empires from the Bronze Age to the Eighteenth Century. The volume aims to establish maritime empires as a category for the (comparative) study of premodern empires, and from a partly ‘non-western’ perspective. The book includes contributions on Mycenaean sea power, Classical Athens, the ancient Thebans, Ptolemaic Egypt, The Genoese Empire, power networks of the Vikings, the medieval Danish Empire, the Baltic empire of Ancien Régime Sweden, the early modern Indian Ocean, the Melaka Empire, the (non-European aspects of the) Portuguese Empire and Dutch East India Company, and the Pirates of Caribbean.

Source: Empires of the sea | Brill

The Archaeology of Afghanistan

Allchin, Raymond, Warwick Ball & Norman Hammond (eds.). 2019. The archaeology of Afghanistan from earliest times to the Timurid period. Edinburgh University Press.

Afghanistan is at the cultural crossroads of Asia, where the great civilisations of Mesopotamia and Iran, South Asia and Central Asia overlapped and sometimes conflicted. Its landscape embraces environments from the high mountains of the Hindu Kush to the Oxus basin and the great deserts of Sistan; trade routes from China to the Mediterranean, and from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea cross the country. It has seen the development of early agriculture, the spread of Bronze Age civilisation of Central Asia, the conquests of the Persians and of Alexander of Macedon, the spread of Buddhism and then Islam, and the empires of the Kushans, Ghaznavids, Ghurids and Timurids centred there, with ramifications across southern Asia. All of which has resulted in some of the most important, diverse and spectacular historical remains in Asia.

First published in 1978, this was the first book in English to provide a complete survey of the immensely rich archaeological remains of Afghanistan. The contributors, all acknowledged scholars in their field, have worked in the country, on projects ranging from prehistoric surveys to the study of Islamic architecture. It has now been thoroughly revised and brought up to date to incorporate the latest discoveries and research.

Table of contents

  • Notes on Contributors
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword, Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, Kabul Museum
  • Preface, Norman Hammond
  • Introduction to the first edition, Norman Hammond and Raymond Allchin
  • Introduction to the new edition, Warwick Ball
  • The Geographical Background, Sophia R. Bowlby and Kevin H. White
  • The Palaeolithic, Richard S. Davies
  • The development of the Oxus Civilisation north of the Hindu Kush, Henri-Paul Francfort, Bertille Lyonnet, Cameron Petrie and Jim G. Shaffer
  • The development of a ‘Helmand Civilisation’ south of the Hindu Kush, Jim G. Shaffer and Cameron Petrie
  • The Iron Age, Achaemenid and Hellenistic periods, Warwick Ball, Simon Glenn, Bertille Lyonnet, David W. Mac Dowall and Maurizio Taddei
  • From the Kushans to the Shahis, Warwick Ball, Olivier Bordeaux, David W. Mac Dowall, Nicholas Sims-Williams and Maurizio Taddei
  • From the Rise of Islam to the Mongol Invasion, Warwick Ball and Klaus Fischer
  • From the Mongols to the Mughals, Warwick Ball and Klaus Fischer
  • Conclusion, Raymond Allchin and Norman Hammond
  • Bibliography

A predominantly bibliographic blog for Iranian Studies