Category Archives: Articles

Ioudaios before and after “Religion”

Reed’s insightful reflections on the Greek term ioudaios and how modern assumptions about the concept of ‘religion’ shape our understanding of ancient texts. This piece was published in the Marginalia Review of Books online forum Jews and Judeans.

Yoshiko Reed, Annette. 2014. Ioudaios before and after “Religion”.

Read the article here.

Textuality and memory

Reed, Annette Yoshiko. 2014. Textuality between death and memory: The prehistory and formation of the parabiblical Testament. Jewish Quarterly Review 104(3). 381–412.

This essay revisits testamentary texts and traditions from the Second Temple period in relation to themes of death, memory, and writing. Rather than debating the classification or morphology of the parabiblical testament, it focuses upon its determinative feature—the framing of texts as the first-person teachings of ancient biblical heroes near death. It traces some precedents for this literary choice, and speculates about the cultural worlds in which such a choice made sense. To do so, it surveys the representation and modeling of the written word as a technology of memory, first within Aramaic works with testamentary features from the Hellenistic period (esp., Aramaic Levi, Testament of Qahat, Visions of Amram) and then within some of full-fledged testaments preserved in Greek from the early Roman period (esp., Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs, Testament of Job). In both sets of works, the narrative setting of near-death teaching is used to address challenges of continuity and succession. Representations of textual practices, however, differ; in some, writing and reading are presented as necessary complement to remembered speech and ethical emulation, while in others, books function as safeguard or stand-in. In each, moreover, the intersections of death, memory, and writing are articulated in distinctive ways, often resonating with broader cultural concerns—ranging from Hellenistic ideals of “authorship” to the early Roman interest in wills.

Read the article here.

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.

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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.

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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.