Category Archives: Articles

Approaches to the study of ‘time’

Although not newly published, I mention this article by Stausberg as it relates to Rezania’s work on the concept of time in Zoroastrianism.

Stausberg, Michael. 2004. Approaches to the study of ‘time’ in the history of religions. Temenos 39/40. 247–268.

Rezania, Kianoosh. 2010. Die zoroastrische Zeitvorstellung. Eine Untersuchung über Zeit- und Ewigkeitskonzepte und die Frage des Zurvanismus (Göttinger Orientforschungen III.
Reihe Iranica, Neue Folge 7). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Building a new vision of the past in the Sasanian Empire

Canepa, Matthew. 2013. Building a new vision of the past in the Sasanian Empire: The sanctuaries of Kayānsīh and the great fires of Iran. Journal of Persianate Studies 6. 64–90.

This article analyzes how Zoroastrian holy sites as celebrated in the Avesta or elaborated in later, related traditions, emerged as important architectural and ritual centers in late antiquity. Instead of ancient foundations whose details were lost in the depths of time, this paper argues that some of the holiest sanctuaries of the Zoroastrian religion, including Ādur Gušnasp, Ādur Farnbāg, Ādur Burzēn-Mihr, Ādur Karkōy and Lake Kayānsīh, emerged no earlier than the Arsacid era, and were actively manipulated and augmented by the Sasanian dynasty.

Read the article here.

The ethics and praxis of Mehr and Mithras

Pourshariati, Parvaneh. 2013. The ethics and praxis of Mehr and Mithras and the social institution of the ʿayyārs in the epic romance of Samak-e ʿayyār*. Journal of Persianate Studies 6. 15–38.

Giving a very brief and introductory summary of the many avatars of the Iranian god, Mithra, throughout Eurasia, as well as the primordial functions of the god, this article proceeds to discuss the Iranian Mithraic world-view, as seen in the ethics and practices of the “chivalrous” brother-hoods and sisterhoods of the ʿayyārs. Through a preliminary examination of the Parthian epic romance of Samak-e ʿayyār, we shall argue here that this literary epic provides us with a fascinating template for decoding not only; 1) the ethics, “ideal” social mores and praxes and the ideo-logical super-structures of the “chivalrous” brotherhood, or ʿayyars, of Iran, but also; 2) what was in effect the ethics of Mithraic brotherhoods and sisterhoods of the Iranian world.

Read the article here.

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To convert a Persian

Kiperwasser, Reuven. 2014. To convert a Persian and to teach him the holy scriptures: A Zoroastrian proselyte in Rabbinic and Syriac Christian narratives. In Geoffrey Herman (ed.), Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians: Religious dynamics in a Sasanian context, 91–127. Gorgias Press.

Read the article here.

A good indological problem

Not strictly related to Iranian Studies, but this article by Dominik Wujastyk contains an insightful discussion of what constitutes a good indological problem:

Wujastyk, Dominik. 2014. How to choose a good indological problem. In Joe Pellegrino (ed.), Open pages in South Asian studies, 173–192. California: South Asian Studies Association.

Read the article here.

A Sasanian taxation list or an early Islamic booty?

Sárközy, Miklós. 2014. A Sasanian taxation list or an early Islamic booty? A Medieval Persian source and the Sasanian taxation system. In Zoltán Csabai (ed.), Studies in economic and social history of the Ancient Near East in memory of Péter Vargyas, 701–714. Budapest: L’Harmattan.

 The present paper aims at throwing light on a less known Islamic source, containing important materials on the taxation of the Sasanian Empire. This brief but hitherto lesser known source belongs to the Tārīkh-i Ṭabaristān  of Ibn Isfandyār, an important  medieval source of Ṭabaristān.

Read the article here.

Graffito from Dura-Europos

Wójcikowski, Robert S. 2013. The graffito from Dura-Europos: Hybrid armor in Parthian-Sasanian Iran. Anabasis 4. 233–248.

Read the article here. Abstract:

The graffito from Dura-Europos depicting a heavily armored cavalryman is one of the most important sources used to reconstruct the armament of Iranian cavalry units seen in the middle of the third century A.D. The graffito presents a hybrid cuirass that is composed of mail and lamellas. It was probably originally an Iranian construction. The use of hybrid armor should be connected with the process of the adaptation of mail in the Parthian empire and then adjusting this new type of body armor to the realities of cavalry combat. The new hybrid cuirass served its purpose well. It not only survived the Parthian era but also the Arabic conquest of Sasanian Iran in the middle of the seventh century A.D., which is evidently demonstrated by the fact that it was present in the military equipment of Muslim armies in the 16th and 17th centuries A.D.

Der Zoroastrismus als iranische Religion

Stausberg, Michael. 2011. Der Zoroastrismus als iranische Religion und die Semantik von ‚Iran’ in der zoroastrischen Religionsgeschichte. Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 63(4). 331–331.

Read the article here or here.

Zoroastrianism, one of the three recognized religious minorities in the Islamic Republic, can claim a specific linkage with Iran since the Avestan Vendidād and its other primary religious documents were written in Iranian languages and its history has for the most part unfolded in Iran (in a larger geographical sense). The term Aryan is used in inscriptions by the Achaemenian king Darius I as a way to gloss the name of the deity Ahura Mazdā (the ‘God of the Aryans’). In the Sasanian period, Iran became the name of the empire. Zoroastrian literature written under Islamic rule, reaffirms the idea of a unity between kingship and (Zoroastrian) religion, but transposes its realization into the eschatological future. After centuries of decline and discrimination, twentieth-century modernization entailed the prospect of societal reintegration for Zoroastrians; an unachieved hope under the Pahlavis, this prospect has become even more remote under the political conditions imposed by the Islamic Republic, where Zoroastrians now use the vocabulary of martyrdom to express their commitment to their homeland.

Zoroastrian exegetical parables

A thorough examination of the structure of one of the parables in the ŠGW. Sam’s comparison with examples from the Rabbinic literature is illuminating.

Thrope, Samuel. 2013. Zoroastrian exegetical parables in the Škand Gumānīg Wizār. Iran and the Caucasus 17. 253-274.

Read the article here. Abstract:

The parable has received little attention as a form in Zoroastrian Pahlavi literature. Taking a first step to correct this deficit, this article examines an extended parable that appears in the Škand Gumānīg Wizār, the ninth century theological and political treatise. The parable likens Ohramzd’s conflict with Ahriman and his creation of the world to a gardener’s attempt to keep hungry vermin from his garden by means of a trap. Borrowing tools developed in the study of rabbinic exegetical parables and poetics, the article argues that the garden parable not only aims to make a theological point as part of its immediate context in the Škand Gumānīg Wizār, but also it itself is an interpretation of the Zoroastrian account of creation. The article shows how the parable reinterprets inconsistencies and contradictions in that cosmogony, relating to the account of creation just as rabbinic parables relate to the gaps in canonical, biblical narratives.

Monotheism the Zoroastrian way

Hintze, Almut. 2014. Monotheism the Zoroastrian Way. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 24(2). 225–249.

Read the article here. Abstract:

This article examines seemingly monotheistic, polytheistic and dualistic features of Zoroastrianism from the point of view of the Zoroastrian creation myth. Exploring the personality of the principal deity, Ahura Mazdā, the origin of the spiritual and material worlds and the worship of the Yazatas, it is argued that Zoroastrianism has its own particular form of monotheism.