All posts by Shervin Farridnejad

Cosmic, cultic and social spaces in Early Zoroastrianism

Rezania, Kianoosh. 2017. Raumkonzeptionen im früheren Zoroastrismus. Kosmische, kultische und soziale Räume (Iranica, GOF III/NF 14). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Space, like time, is one of the basic categories of our thinking. Their concepts do not remain constant in different cultures or in changing periods, which is why dealing with a historical cultural phenomenon always requires a review of these categories in their specific culture and time. Based on the oldest linguistic and architectural evidence of Iran from the 12th to the 4th century BC, for the first time Kianoosh Rezania offers a comprehensive study of space concepts in Zoroastrianism in ancient Iran.
Based on current and historical theories of space, the Zoroastrian spaces are divided into cosmic, cultic and social spaces. The depiction of the cosmic spaces describes spatial abstractions in ancient Iranian languages as well as Zoroastrian boundary principles. Rezania examines the coordinate systems that ancient Iranians used for orientation in space and how they transformed their cognitive maps into text. This also includes the portrayal of the Zoroastrian worldview according to their older texts. At the intersection of cosmic and cultural spaces, there are transcendent spaces that contain, on the one hand, utopian spaces for communication with gods, some of which are written by poets. Since the study does not rule out dynamics and change processes in the ritual domain, reconstructions of Zoroastrian ritual surfaces in the Avestan period are presented without the inclusion of recent materials. In addition, the spatially represented social structure of the Avestan society and their spatial symbolic orders are presented.
For the table of contents of this volume visit here.

Studies on the History of Rationality in Ancient Iran

König, Götz. 2018. Studien zur Rationalitätsgeschichte im älteren Iran. Ein Beitrag zur Achsenzeitdiskussion (Iranica 26). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Although the idea of ​​a Euro-Asiatic Axial Age can be traced back to the pioneer Iranian philologist Anquetil Duperron, ancient Iran plays in the 20th-century axle-time theory founded by Karl Jaspers, which revolves around the comprehension and explanation of ‘rationality’ usually only a minor role.
In his investigations of the ancient Iranian history of rationality, Götz König firtsly points out which theory-immanent factors in Jaspers’ basic text On the Origin and Aim of History (1949) may have favored this forgetting. Sample analyzes show how, through minimal changes in the ritual, a change in the constellation of mental faculties, or the replacement of a metaphysical concept with a legal concept of order, ways (in the ancient East as well as then in Western Iran) are opened up Align center categories. A concluding study of the dialectics of the Axial Age shows how the period of the Achaemenids (6th-4th century BC) may in various ways be regarded as the actual Axis time of Iran, but ultimately fails to meet its own rational standards and wrong.
See the table of contents and the introduction of the volume here.
Table of Contents
  • Zur Einleitung
  • Besichtigung der Jaspers’schen Elemente einer Theorie der Achsenzeit
  • Die minime Abweichung Zu einer indo-iranischen Ritualdifferenz und ihren Folgen
  • Daēnā, Xratu und das Moment des Schauens Wissenserwerb im älteren und mittleren Zoroastrismus
  • Gefügtes – Gesetztes. Überlegungen zur Genese von Darius’ manā dāta– „mein Gesetz“
  • Die Dialektik der Achsenzeit Von der Objektwerdung des Subjektes im achämenidischen Iran

Sasanian seals: Owners and Reusers

Seal of Weh-dēn-Šābuhr Ērānanbaragbed (Gyselen 2017)

Gyselen, Rika. 2017. Sasanian seals: Owners and reusers. In Ben van den Bercken & Vivian Baan (eds.), Engraved gems: From antiquity to the present (Papers on Archaeology of the Leiden Museum of Antiquities 14), 85–92. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

The majority of Sasanian seals are anonymous and anepigraphic. Some are engraved with an inscription, sometimes a personal name or the name of an institution. This information allows seal owners to be identified. It can be provided by:

A. Sigillographic data, that is, data intrinsic to the seal itself. This can be epigraphic and/or iconographic.

B. Textual data in a document with a sealed clay bulla still attached.

Seals were sometimes reused by subsequent owners; on some seals this reuse can be traced.

Interrelations of Religious Judgments in Zoroastrianism and Islam

Sadeghi, Fatemeh. 2018. Sin of the woman. Interrelations of religious judgments in Zoroastrianism and Islam (Islamkundliche Untersuchungen 336). Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag.

Since the 1920s, the so-called »return to the roots«, has become a hege­monic discourse in Iran. Whereas the Pahlavi regimes (1925–1979) propa­gated the myth of the lost idyll of pre-Islamic Iran repre­sen­ting them­selves as the true inhe­ri­tors of those monar­chies, the Isla­mists adopted a respec­tive approach in regard to Islam.
As a result, a similar fairy­tale was made about the early Islamic community. Such claims, as it were, are not so much about the past as they are about the present. So is this study.
By delving into the past, it ques­tions the wide­s­p­read nost­algic notions cons­i­de­ring the pre-Islamic era as a lost utopia, wherein women were free from the restric­tions »imposed by Islam«. In point of fact such past is a fabri­ca­tion. In the majo­rity of cases, there­fore, the revival projects invent tradi­tions to legiti­mize current political agendas.

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Theory and Practices of Manichaean Asceticism

10th century Manichaean Electae in Gaochang (Khocho), China.

Piras, Andrea. 2018. Sealing the body: Theory and practices of Manichaean asceticism. Religion in the Roman Empire 4(1). 28–44.

The Manichaean conception of asceticism is clearly influenced by the spiritual expe-rience of the founder himself, Mani, whose Baptist-Elchasaite milieu provided him with a Jewish-Christian background of doctrines and behaviours (ritual ablutions, diet, chastity). After the visionary communications with his angel, the Twin (Syzy-gos), Mani stressed the Gnostic aspect of his teaching with ascetical commitments, based on the mastery of body and mind. Guided by wisdom and by means of a strict watchfulness of consciousness, to guard with moral virtues the organs of the five senses, the doctrine aimed at ‘sealing’ the perceptions, thus controlling instincts and passions. A medical approach of the teachings, to pursue a religious science of sal-vation with practical effects – concerning the self-transformation of the believer – is then a distinguishing mark of an original message of redemption, blending different aspects of the relevant religions of its time.

History of the Kings of the Persians’ in Three Arabic Chronicles

Hoyland, Robert G. 2018. History of the kings of the Persians’ in three Arabic chronicles: The transmission of the Iranian past from late antiquity to early Islam. (Translated Texts for Historians 69). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.
This book translates the sections on pre-Islamic Persia in three Muslim Arabic chronicles, those of Ahmad al-Ya‘qubi (d. ca. 910), ‘Ali al-Mas‘udi (d. ca. 960) and Hamza al-Isfahani (d. ca. 960s). Their accounts, like those of many other Muslim historians on this topic, draw on texts that were composed in the period 750-850 bearing the title ‘The History of the Kings of the Persians’. These works served a growing audience of well-to-do Muslim bureaucrats and scholars of Persian ancestry, who were interested in their heritage and wished to make it part of the historical outlook of the new civilization that was emerging in the Middle East, namely Islamic civilization. This book explores the question of how knowledge about ancient Iran was transmitted to Muslim historians, in what forms it circulated and how it was shaped and refashioned for the new Perso-Muslim elite that served the early Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad, a city that was built only a short distance away from the old Persian capital of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.
About the Author:
Robert G. Hoyland is Professor of Late Antique and Early Islamic Middle East History at the Institute for Study of the Ancient World of New York University. Previous publications include ‘Theophilus of Edessa’s Chronicle and the Circulation of Historical Knowledge in Late Antiquity and Early Islam’ (LUP, 2011).

Reinventing Mosaic Torah in the Light of the Law of Ahura Mazdā and Zarathustra

Leningrad Codex text sample, portions of Exodus 15:21-16:3

Kiel, Yishai. 2017. Reinventing Mosaic Torah in Ezra-Nehemiah in the light of the law (dāta) of Ahura Mazda and Zarathustra. Journal of Biblical Literature 136(2). 323–345.

In this study I examine the linguistic and theological contours of the term (tôrâ) in Ezra-Nehemiah—particularly the identification of with the law () of God promulgated by Ezra (Ezra 7:14)—through the lens of Old Persian and Avestan notions of “the law set down (dāta)” by Ahura Mazda and revealed through Zarathustra. While the basic notion of divine revelation of laws through the mediation of Moses emerges already in preexilic biblical texts, I posit that the innovative link drawn by the authors of Ezra-Nehemiah between the Old Persian and Avestan term dāta (via Aramaic ) and the Hebrew reflects a broader and more comprehensive impact of Avestan traditions, mediated by Achaemenid ideology, on the construction and conceptualization of Mosaic in Ezra-Nehemiah. Weighing in on the ongoing debate over the range of imperial authorization of local legislation and cult in Judea, Egypt, and Asia Minor, I argue that the Achaemenids, who were probably involved in certain aspects of the codification and canonization of textual, legal, and theological manifestations of Zoroastrianism, functioned as agents (whether actively or passively) in facilitating and reinforcing the adaptation by the Babylonian-Judean scribes of Avestan notions of divine revelation of the law and scriptural unity linked to personal authority.

The Middle Persian Book of Kings

Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko. 2018. Khwadāynāmag: The Middle Persian Book of Kings (Studies in Persian Cultural History 14). Leiden: Brill.
The Khwadāynāmag is often conceived of as a large book of stories, comparable to Firdawsī’s Shāhnāme, but Hämeen-Anttila convincingly shows that it was a concise and dry chronicle. He also studies the lost Arabic translations of the book, which turn out to be fewer than hitherto thought, as well as the sources of Firdawsī’s Shāhnāme, showing that the latter was only remotely related to the Khwadāynāmag. It also becomes clear that there were no separate “priestly” and “royal” Khwadāynāmags.
TOC

Safavid Occidentalism and Persian Painting

In ʿAli Qoli Jebādār et l’Occidentalism safavide Negar Habibi provides a fresh account of the life and works of ʿAli Qoli Jebādār, a leading painter of the late Safavid period. By collecting several of the artist’s paintings and signatures Habibi brings to light the diversity of ʿAli Qoli Jebādār’s most important works. In addition, the volume offers us new insights into both the artistic and socio-political evolution of Iranian society in the last days of pre-modern Iran. By carefully consulting the historical sources, Negar Habibi demonstrates the possibility of a female and eunuch patronage in the seventeenth-century paintings known as farangi sāzi, while suggesting the use of the term “Occidentalism” for those Safavid paintings that show some exotic and alien details of the Western world.

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Tāq-e Kasrā: Wonder of Architecture

Kasra: Wonder of Architecture

Directed by Pejman Akbarzadeh

7.00pm, Thursday 1 February 2018

Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS University of London
Russell Square WC1H 0XG
Tāq-e Kasrā (Arch of Ctesiphon) in 2017. Photo © Pejman Akbarzadeh

Taq Kasra: Wonder of Architecture is the first-ever documentary film on the world’s largest brickwork vault. The palace was the symbol of the Persian Empire in the Sasanian era (224-651 AD), when a major part of Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) was part of Persia. Taq Kasra was in serious danger of ISIS attacks in 2015-2016 and this was the main motivation for documentary maker Pejman Akbarzadeh, based in Holland, to travel to Iraq twice and film the arch before it was potentially destroyed. (Read more)

Watch the trailer here.

The documentary is produced by the Persian Dutch Network, in association with Toos Foundation, and partially funded by the Soudavar Memorial Foundation.

Following the screening, a Q&A session will be held with the presence of the documentary director Pejman Akbarzadeh and Vesta Sarkhosh-Curis of the British Museum, a scholar of Persian art in Sasanian and Parthian eras.

Admission Free – All Welcome

Organised by: Centre for Iranian Studies

Information: E-mail vp6@soas.ac.uk