All posts by Arash Zeini

Linguistic Paradox and Diglossia

Houben, Jan. 2018. Linguistic paradox and diglossia: The emergence of Sanskrit and Sanskritic language in ancient India. Open Linguistics 4(1). 1–18.

What is it about?

“We know that Middle Indian (Middle Indo-Aryan) makes its appearance in epigraphy prior to Sanskrit: this is the great linguistic paradox of India.” In these words Louis Renou (1956: 84) referred to a problem in Sanskrit studies for which so far no satisfactory solution had been found. I will here propose that the perceived “paradox” derives from the lack of acknowledgement of certain parameters in the linguistic situation of Ancient India which were insufficiently appreciated in Renou’s time, but which are at present open to systematic exploration with the help of by now well established sociolinguistic concepts, notably the concept of “diglossia”. Three issues will here be addressed in the light of references to ancient and classical Indian texts, Sanskrit and Sanskritic. A simple genetic model is indadequate, especially when the ‘linguistic area’ applies also to what can be reconstructed for earlier periods. The so-called Sanskrit “Hybrids” in the first millennium CE, including the Prakrits and Epics, are rather to be regarded as emerging “Ausbau” languages of Indo-Aryan with hardly any significant mutual “Abstand” before they will be succesfully “roofed,” in the second half of the first millennium CE, by “classical” Sanskrit.

Why is it important?

The history of (classical) Sanskrit, of Prakrit, of the so-called “hybrid” Sanskrits, of Vedic poetry and prose, and of the related Avestan and old Persian languages is of central importance for the cultural history of ancient India, ancient Iran and Asia.

Two Job offers at the Ruhr-University of Bochum

The Center for Religious Studies (CERES) of the Ruhr-University of Bochum has advertised two positions for postdoctoral or doctoral research associates related but not restricted to Iranian Studies.

Continue reading Two Job offers at the Ruhr-University of Bochum

Ram horns as sacral royal regalia of Šāpūr II

Maksymiuk, Katarzyna. 2018. Ram horns as sacral royal regalia of Šāpūr II. Istorìâ relìgìj v Ukraïnì: Naukovij šorìčnik 28(1). 17–29.

The work of Ammianus Marcellinus preserved valuable information on ancient Iran. Ammianus describes the arrival of šāhānšāh Šāpūr II (r. 309-379) under the walls of Amida, besieged by the Iranians. He informing that the king of Iran wore specific crown/helmet decorated with the ram’s horn. It seems that the helmet of the Sasanian monarch is associated with the person of Alexander of Macedon. In Iranian tradition the heroic picture of Alexander is based on the so-called Alexander Romance, also the Syriac legend of Alexander of Macedon, was written in the 6th century A.D. or in the first half of the 7th century A.D. The article analyzes the picture of Alexander in Pahlavi literature chronologically closer to the reign of Šāpūr II. The subject of research are also representations of Iranian kings with the ram’s horn. It must be accepted that teh specific decoartion of the helmet of Šāpūr II, described by Ammianus Marcelinus canot be anyhow associated with the person of Alexander but results from Iranian ideology of royal power.

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Arash Zeini

Bīsotūn and the French Enlightenment

Potts, Daniel Thomas. 2018. Bīsotūn and the French enlightenment. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 1–32.

This study examines a little-known case of Enlightenment knowledge transmission centred on the rock-cut monument of Darius I at Bīsotūn in western Iran. It discusses a report on the monument published by the cartographer and historian Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville, which originated with the Decalced Carmelite monk Emmanuel de Saint-Albert (born Jean-Claude Ballyet); who transmitted it to Isaac Bellet, a doctor involved in secret negotiations in Constantinople; who in turn sent it to Louis, Duke d’Orléans, in Paris; who passed it on to d’Anville. The collison of scholarly interest, political service and scientific personality offers a fascinating case study of the Enlightenment ‘republic of letters’ in action.

The article is available on academia.edu.

Studien zur Kulturgeschichte des Alten Orients

Kleber, Kristin, Georg Neumann & Susanne Paulus (eds.). 2018. Grenzüberschreitungen. Studien zur Kulturgeschichte des alten Orients. Festschrift für Hans Neumann zum 65. Geburtstag am 9. Mai 2018 (DUBSAR 5). Münster: Zaphon Verlag. Unter Mitarbeit von Christin Möllenbeck.

Vierzig Beiträge in deutscher, englischer und französischer Sprache sind dem Assyriologen Hans Neumann (Universität Münster) gewidmet. Korrespondierend mit den breit gefächerten Forschungen des Jubilars bieten sie einen aktuellen Überblick über Themen der Assyriologie, der Vorderasiatischen Archäologie und der Kulturgeschichte des Alten Orients.

With contributions by Bruno Jacobs and Daniel Potts on Achaemenids and Elamites, respectively.

Continue reading Studien zur Kulturgeschichte des Alten Orients

A Proposal for the Identification of the Sasanian commander Mermeróēs

Maksymiuk, Katarzyna. 2017. A new proposal for the identification of the Sasanian commander Mermeróēs of Byzantine sources: Šāpur of Ray from Mehrān. In Mitko Panov (ed.), The Byzantine missionary activity and its legacy in Europe, 93–98. Skopje: Euro-Balkan University.

Šāpur of Ray, known also as Mermeroes in Procopius’ and Agathias’ narratives, was the spāhbed in the battles of Dara (June 530) and Satala (summer 530). In 542 he was dispatched by Xusrō I Anōšīrvān (r. 531–579) against the Byzantine fortress of Dara. In 548 Šāpur of Ray was sent at the head of a large army to relieve the fortress of Petra in Lazica, which was under siege by a combined Byzantine-Lazic force. He died of his illness at Mtskheta in the summer of 555. According to Ṭabarī at the time of Sukhrā’s fall, Šāpur of Ray was supreme Commander of the land (iṣbahbadh al-bilād). If we allow identification of Sukhrā and Siāwoš, the last commander of Iranian army with the title of Artēštārān sālār, then we must state that, after removing Sukhrā, Šāpur of Ray also held a high military rank until the military reforms of Xusrō I Anōšīrvān.

Their Evil Rule Must End!

Agostini, Domenico. 2017. Their evil rule must end! A commentary on the Iranian Bundahišn 33:17–28. In Hagit Amirav, Emmanouela Grypeou and Guy Stroumsa (eds.), Apocalypticism and eschatology in late antiquity: Encounters in the Abrahamic religions, 6th–8th Centuries, 21–41. Leuven: Peeters Publishers.

König und Gefolgschaft im Sasanidenreich

Börm, Henning. 2018. König und Gefolgschaft im Sasanidenreich. Zum Verhältnis zwischen Monarch und imperialer Elite im spätantiken Persien. In Wolfram Drews (ed.), Die Interaktion von Herrschern und Eliten in imperialen Ordnungen (Das Mittelalter. Perspektiven mediävistischer Forschung. Beihefte 8), 23–42. Boston/Berlin: De Gruyter.

This article examines the relationships between rulers and imperial elites in late antique Sasanian Iran, focusing on the significance and implications of complex groups of followers. Not unlike their Parthian predecessors, the Sasanian kings of the pre-Islamic empire relied on a network of personal relationships with the imperial elite. The magnates (vuzurgān), in turn, had many followers (bandagān) of their own; they were, apparently, often rather independent when residing in their own lands. Still, this does not imply that the late antique Persian monarchy was weak, because the Sasanian kings managed to turn the court into a central location of aristocratic competition where the imperial elite struggled for offices, honors and influence. This allowed the monarch to play off rival individuals and groups against each other – one is tempted here to speak of a “Königsmechanismus” (Norbert Elias), even though the weaknesses of this model are certainly well known. In general, this strategy became problematic only if infighting escalated into civil war. However, the later Sasanians tried to curtail the influence of the vuzurgān by imposing a tax reform, establishing a standing royal army, and creating a new lower nobility (dehgānān) in order to strengthen the power of the central government. The paper demonstrates that, in spite of short-term success, these measures seem to have led to a long-term erosion of loyalty within the kingdom, thus contributing to the triumph of the Arab conquerors in the seventh century CE.

The discovery and decipherment of Sogdian

8th cent. Tang dynasty Chinese clay figurine of a Sogdian © Museum of Oriental Art (Turin)

Sims-Williams, Ursula. 2016. The discovery and decipherment of Sogdian in the early 20th century. In Rong Xinjiang & Luo Feng (eds.), Sogdians in China: New evidence in archaeological finds and unearthed texts, vol 2, 429–435. Beijing: Science Press.

 

 

The above paper is the unpublished English original of “The discovery and decipherment of Sogdian in the early 20th century” (in Chinese). In, Sute ren zai Zhongguo: kao gu fa xian yu chu tu wen xian de xin yin zheng =  Sogdians in China: new evidence in archaeological finds and unearthed texts, eds. Rong Xinjiang and Luo Feng, vol 2 (Beijing: Science Press, 2016):  429-435