All posts by Yazdan Safaee

The Historiography of Alexander the Great

Nawotka, Krzysztof, Robert Rollinger, Josef Wiesehöfer & Agnieszka Wojciechowska (eds.). 2019. The Historiography of Alexander the Great (Classica et Orientalia 20). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.


This volume tries to tackle the most serious problem facing modern Alexander the Great studies: that of inadequate sources. Its principal interest is in surviving ancient continuous accounts (Diodorus, Curtius Rufus, Plutarch, Arrian, and Justin), which are at least three hundred years younger than Alexander and in many ways one-sided in their Greek bias, often promoting the view of Alexander within the narrow bounds of a Western conqueror. The papers in this volume deconstruct these accounts and search for sources used by their authors, principally in narrative of eye-witnesses and other authors of the first generation after Alexander, including his court historian Callisthenes and his companions Onesicritus, Aristobulus, and Ptolemy. They search for fragments of ancient literary works known from papyri and for shadowy accounts created on the Persian side like the “mercenaries’ source”. Some papers look into propaganda patterns of the age of Alexander and their connections with clichés of Egyptian literature. Some investigate a parallel tradition on the last will of Alexander, enshrined in I Maccabees, and best known from the Alexander Romance. Finally, papers in this volume examine post-classical rendition of Alexander: Jewish from the Talmud to Josippon and Byzantine, composed of separate textual traditions of various ancient authors, with Plutarch taking pride of place.

Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore

Shayegan, Rahim M (ed.). 2019. Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore. Boston: Ilex Foundation.

The edited volume Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore re-contextualizes Cyrus’s foundational act and epoch in light of recent scholarship, while examining his later reception in antiquity and beyond. Among the many themes addressed in the volume are: the complex dossier of Elamo-Persian acculturation; the Mesopotamian antecedents of Cyrus’s edict and religious policy; Cyrus’s Baupolitik at Pasargadae, and the idiosyncratic genesis of Persian imperial art; the Babylonian exile, the Bible, and the First Return; Cyrus’s exalted but conflicted image in the later Greco-Roman world; his reception and programmatic function in genealogical constructs of the Hellenistic and Arsacid periods; and finally Cyrus’s conspicuous and enigmatic evanescence in the Sasanian and Muslim traditions.

The sum of these wide-ranging contributions assembled in one volume, as well as a new critical edition and English translation of the Cyrus Cylinder, allow for a more adequate evaluation of Cyrus’s impact on his own age, as well as his imprint on posterity.

Table of contents:

  • preface
  • M. Rahim Shayegan: Introduction
  • Matt Waters: Cyrus Rising: Reflections on Word Choice, Ancient and Modern
  • David Stronach: Cyrus, Anshan, and Assyria
  • Hanspeter Schaudig: The Magnanimous Heart of Cyrus: The Cyrus Cylinder and its Literary Models
  • Beate Pongratz-Leisten: “Ich bin ein Babylonier”: The Political-Relligious Message of the Cyrus Cylinder
  • William Schniedewind: Cyrus and Post-Collapse Yehud
  • Marvin A. Sweeney: Contrasting Portrayals of the Achaemenid Monarchy in Isaiah And Zecharia
  • Rémy Boucharlat: Cyrus and Pasargadae: Forging an Empire – Fashioning “Paradise”
  • Daniel Beckman: Cyrus the Great and Ancient Propaganda
  • Maria Brosius: Cyrus the Great: A Hero’s Tale
  • Jason M. Schlude: Cyrus the Great and Roman views of Ancient Iran
  • Marek Jan Olbrycht: The Shapinf od Political Memory: Cyrus and the Achaemenids in the Royal Ideologies of the Seleucid and Parthian Periods
  • Touraj Daryaee: On Forgetting Cyrus and Remembering the Achaemenids in Late Antique Iran
  • Olga M. Davidson: traces of the Poetic Traditions about Cyrus the Great and his Dynasty in the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi and the Cyrus Cylinder

Cyprus in the Achaemenid Rosters of Subject Peoples and Lands

Zournatzi, Antigoni . 2018. Cyprus in the Achaemenid rosters of subject peoples and lands. In A. Cannavò and L. Thély (eds.), Les royaumes de Chypre à l’épreuve de l’histoire Transitions et ruptures de la fin de l’âge du Bronze au début de l’époque hellénistique (BCH.Suppl. 60), 189–200. École française d’Athènes.

To date references to Cyprus, as a possession, remain difficult to recognize in the Achaemenid record. The present discussion focuses on the testimony of the rosters of subject peoples and lands that are featured in surviving Achaemenid monumental inscriptions. It supports the view that, though Cyprus as such is not mentioned in these rosters, it is nonetheless evoked as the (western) maritime holding par excellence of the Persian kings. Indications in support of this interpretation derive from geographical and historical parameters that arguably determined the order of entries in the various rosters, references in Classical Greek texts, and certain telling convergences between the Achaemenid and earlier Mesopotamian imperialist ideology and conquest vocabulary.

DNf: A New Inscription Emerges from the Shadow

Delshad, Soheil, and Mojtaba Doroodi. 2019. DNf: A new inscription emerges from the shadow. Arta 2019.001.

DNf is a recently-discovered trilingual inscription on the tomb of Darius I at Naqsh-e Rostam. This article presents images, a first edition of the texts, observations on why the inscription was not recognized earlier, and comments on the relationship between the inscription and the sculptured figures below it.

Polygamy in Greek Views of Persians

Lenfant , Dominique. 2019. Polygamy in Greek views of Persians. Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 59(1). 15–37.

Polygamy, rather than being invoked by Greek authors as a disparaging stereotype of Persians universally, was ascribed by Greeks only to certain kings, with most Persians portrayed as monogamous.

Studies in Honor of Professor Shaul Shaked

Friedmann, Yohanan & Etan Kohlberg (eds.). (2019). Studies in honor of Professor Shaul Shaked. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences.

The present volume is based on lectures delivered at a symposium organized by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities on the occasion of the eightieth birthday of Professor Shaul Shaked, who became a Member of the Academy in 1986.

Table of contents:

  • Michael Shenkar: The Scholarly Oeuvre of Shaul Shaked, 1: Shaul Shaked and the Study of Zoroastrianism
  • Ofir Haim: The Scholarly Oeuvre of Shaul Shaked, 2: Shaul Shaked and the Study of Judeo-Persian
  • Yuval Harari: The Scholarly Oeuvre of Shaul Shaked, 3: Shaul Shaked on Jewish Magic
  • Moshe Idel: From Iran to Qumran and Beyond: On the Evil Thought of God
  • Gideon Bohak: Babylonian Jewish Magic in Late Antiquity: Beyond the Incantation Bowls
  • Geoffrey Herman: Holy Relics in Mata Meḥasya: Christians and Jews after the Muslim Conquest of Babylonia
  • Geoffrey Herman: Holy Relics in Mata Meḥasya: Christians and Jews after the Muslim Conquest of Babylonia
  • Julia Rubanovich: The Medieval Persian Author on Guard: In Defense of Authorship

The Coronation of the Early Sasanians

Shenkar, Michael. 2019. The coronation of the early Sasanians, Ctesiphon, and the great diadem of Paikuli. Journal of Persianate Studies 28(2).

The article discusses the venue and the nature of the coronation ceremony of the Sasanian kings in the third century. It is argued that the coronation of the early Sasanians was a continuation of a Hellenistic ceremony, which was essentially the act of binding a diadem around one’s head. It seems that the common practice was for the king to bind the diadem himself in the presence of a select circle of courtiers or only in the presence of the gods. Furthermore, the article will demonstrate that Ctesiphon was neither the “capital” nor even the most important residence of the early Sasanians and no ceremony of coronation took place there in the third century.

Manches de miroirs égyptiens de Suse

Qaheri, Sepideh & Julien Cuny. 2018. Manches de miroirs égyptiens de Suse. Revue d’égyptologie 68: 253-259.


This paper proposes a new function for a group of Egyptian objects from the Achaemenid city of Susa. These objects, which were previously known as architectural elements or ritual vessels, are in fact the handles of massive mirrors attested in Egypt from the Late Period onwards. They are more probably related to the chronological context of the Second Persian Period: they would reveal the Egyptian religious practices and reflect the diversity of the cults rendered in the heartland of the Persian Empire.

On the invention of the Old Persian Cuneiform

Albino, Marcos. 2017 [2018]. Zur Erfindung der altpersischen Schrift. MSS: Munich Studies on Linguistics Issue 71(2): 181-200.

In diesem Aufsatz stelle ich die Hypothese zur Diskussion, dass die altpersische Schrift unter Darius I. erfunden wurde, und zwar auf folgende Weise: ein Gelehrter („der Erfinder“) schrieb erst in aramäischer Schrift den Name des Darius, seines Vaters, seiner Vorfahren und die der anderen persischen Könige. Dann erfand er willkürlich das Zeichen für den ersten Buchstaben in Darius’ Namen und modifizierte dieses Zeichen für die anderen Buchstaben dieses und der anderen Namen: (fast) jedes neue Zeichen ist das Ergebnis der Modifizierung des Vorangehenden oder eines in seiner Nähe in der aramäischen Vorlage.

Profiling Death

Wicks, Yasmina. 2019. Profiling Death. Neo-Elamite Mortuary Practices, Afterlife Beliefs, and Entanglements with Ancestors (Culture and History of the Ancient Near East 98). Leiden: Brill.

Recent scholarship has begun to unveil the culturally rich and dynamic landscape of southwest Iran during the first half of the first millennium BCE (aka the Neo-Elamite period) and its significance as the incubation ground for the Persian Empire. In Profiling Death. Neo-Elamite Mortuary Practices, Afterlife Beliefs, and Entanglements with Ancestors, Yasmina Wicks continues the investigation of this critical epoch from the perspective of the mortuary record, bringing forth fascinating clues as to the ritual practices, beliefs, social structures and individual identities of Elam’s lowland and highland inhabitants. Enmeshed with its neighbours, yet in many ways culturally distinct, Elam receives its due treatment here as a core component of the ancient Near East.