Category Archives: BiblioIranica

Iranian Mithra vs. Roman Mithras

Mithra, detail from the investiture-relief of Šābuhr II, Tāq-e Bostān, Kermānšāh, Iran

Lahe, Jaan. 2017. Zu möglichen Verbindungen zwischen römischem Mithras und iranischem Mithra. Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft 25(2). 233–262.

From the end of 19th century, when the Roman Mithras cult was first studied, a discussion about the cult’s links to the Mithra cult in the Iranian religion has been on-going. Positions regarding the links between the Mithras cult and the Mithra cult can be divided into three groups: 1 the Roman Mithras cult is identical to the Iranian Mithra cult and thus the Mithras cult is an import from the Iranian cultural space; 2 the Roman Mithras cult is new and developed during the time of the Roman Empire and also integrated certain elements of Iranian religious heritage; 3 radical standpoint that views the Mithras cult as a cult that developed during the era of the new empire, but denies any associations between the Mithras cult and the Iranian Mithra cult, except the name of the god. The author of this article is convinced that both the first and third positions have weak justifications. The author thus demonstrates, by relying on sources from Iranian and Roman culture, that the personality of Mithras in the Roman cult is very strongly associated with the personality of Mithra in Iranian religious heritage, which allows one to draw the conclusion that the Iranian Mithra served as the main prototype for the Roman Mithras.

Dadabhai Naoroji and Orientalist scholarship on Zoroastrianism

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917)
NPG x128698, Dadabhai Naoroji

Patel, Dinyar. 2017. Our own religion in ancient Persia: Dadabhai Naoroji and Orientalist scholarship on Zoroastrianism. Global Intellectual History. 1–18.

Dadabhai Naoroji (1825–1917) is today best known as an economic thinker and an early leader in the Indian nationalist movement. Between the 1860s and 1890s, however, he was also recognized as a scholar of Zoroastrianism, sharing his ideas on Parsi religious reform and ‘authentic’ Zoroastrian belief and practice. Aside from corresponding with some of the leading European Orientalists of his day, Naoroji authored papers on Parsi religious belief and religious reform that were widely distributed and cited in Europe and North America. Over time, he began to function as an interlocutor between European Orientalists and the Parsis in India, disseminating European scholarship amongst his co-religionists while also facilitating scholars’ patronage of the wealthy Parsi community. Naoroji’s correspondence with the Oxford philologist Lawrence H. Mills, in particular, demonstrates this dynamic at work. These activities point to the oftentimes complex and collaborative relationships that existed between non-Europeans and European Orientalists, illustrating the degree to which European scholars could be dependent on the intellectual, financial, and logistical assistance of their objects of study.
Dinyar Patel is a scholar of Modern Indian history and the Indian nationalist movement at the Department of History, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA.

Displaying Royal Tribute Animals in Ancient Persia and the Near East

Persepolis: The Audience Hall of Darius and Xerxes

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2017. Keeping and Displaying Royal Tribute Animals in Ancient Persia and the Near East. In Thorsten Fögen & Edmund Thomas (eds.), Interactions between Animals and Humans in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.

The Achaemenid dynasty (559-331 B.C.) ruled the biggest empire the ancient world had ever seen. Commanding lands from India to Ethiopia and Libya to Afghanistan, the Great Kings of Persia demanded loyalty and tribute from the conquered peoples who made up their vast realm, and the walls of their ceremonial capital at Persepolis in the heart of Iran abound with images of foreign delegations carrying tribute to their monarch. Amidst the gold, silver, textiles and precious stones brought to the ruler is a rich abundance of exotic wildlife: Asiatic lions, Bactrian camels, zebu, wild asses, and Arabian horses. Textual evidence alerts us to the presence of parrots, peacocks, and wild jungle fowl at the Iranian court as well as the probability that the Achaemenid Persians were familiar with rhinoceroses, tigers, and even okapi. The exotic fauna were living offerings from the four quarters of the empire, breathing symbols of the Great King’s power and his control of his vast dominions. By examining a variety of Near Eastern and Greek sources, this paper explores the rich variety of exotic species imported into Persia to satisfy the monarch’s pleasure and his public image; it explores evidence for royal menageries in the Near East, as well as offering some cross-temporal comparisons with the Chinese Ming Dynasty, in order to question how the ancient Iranians interacted with exotic animals and to question how they were displayed and treated by their human captors and owners.
Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones is a professor in Ancient History at the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University.

Apostasy and Repentance in Early Medieval Zoroastrianism

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

Kiel, Yishai & Prods Oktor Skjærvø. 2017. Apostasy and Repentance in Early Medieval Zoroastrianism. Journal of the American Oriental Society 137(2). 221–243.

The Middle Persian (Pahlavi) literature from the early Islamic centuries frequently deals with practical theological issues faced by the Zoroastrian communities under foreign domination. Here, we present a number of questions regarding a Zoroas- trian’s conversion to Islam and his subsequent repentance and desire to return to Zoroastrianism and answers given by ninth- and tenth-century Zoroastrian priestly authorities. It is shown how the priests cite ancient traditions found in the Pahlavi versions of Avestan texts to justify their answers, and then apply them to the contemporary social reality.

The Mysteries of Mithras: A Different Account

Mastrocinque, Attilio. 2017. The Mysteries of Mithras: A Different Account. (Orientalische Religionen in Der Antike). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
In this work, Attilio Mastrocinque cautions against an approach to Mithraism based on the belief that this mystic cult resembles Christianity. While both Christian and pagan authors testified that Mithraic elements were indeed borrowed, according to Attilio Mastrocinque this was only done by some gnostic Christians. He counters that Roman Empire ideology and religion provide better clues on how to approach the matter, contending too that Virgil proves to be more important than the Avesta in understanding Mithraic iconography. The meaning of the central scene – the Tauroctony – thus becomes clear when the Roman triumph’s central act of bull sacrifice is thought of as just that, with Mithras playing the role of victor as author of this success. The episodes depicted on many reliefs relate to a prophecy known to Firmicus Maternus and other Christian polemists, and which foretold the coming of a saviour, i.e. the first emperor, when Saturn returns and Apollo-Mithras will rule.
Attilio Mastrocinque Born 1952; 1975 Master; since 2002 Full Professor of Roman History at the University of Verona; 2008–10 president of Cultural Heritage courses at the University of Verona; 2005–15 Director of the Archaeological Mission at Grumentum (Lucania).

Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum Iran: A late Sasanian Hoard from Orumiyeh

Akbarzadegh, Daryoosh & Schindel, Nikolaus. 2017. Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum Iran: A late Sasanian Hoard from Orumiyeh. (Veröffentlichungen zur Numismatik 60). Wien: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

The present volume from series “Sylloge Nummorum Sasanidarum” (SNS) deals with a treasure found in the region of Piran-Shahr in the north-west of Iran in 2007 and is one of the largest and most important collections of coins from Sasanian era which includes a quantity of 1267 drachmas. The collection informs us about not only the history of the coin and money in Iran during the Late Antiquity, but also about the economic history of the Sasanid empire, for which there are hardly any sources. The publication is prepared by a cooperation of the Austrian Academy of Sciences with RICHTO, the Research Institute of ICH (Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization).

Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period

Squitieri, Andrea . 2017. Stone Vessels in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian Period. (Archaeopress Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology 2). Oxford: Archaeopress.

This book focuses on the characteristics and the development of the stone vessel industry in the Near East during the Iron Age and the Persian period (c. 1200 – 330 BCE). Three main aspects of this industry are investigated. First, the technology behind the manufacture of stone vessels, the tools and techniques, and how these changed across time. Second, the mechanisms of exchange of stone vessels and how these were affected by the changing political landscape through time. Third, the consumption patterns of stone vessels in both elite and non-elite contexts, and how these patterns changed through time. The aim is to evaluate how the formation of new regional states, occurred in the Iron Age I-II, and their subsequent inclusion within large-scale empires, in the Iron Age III and Persian period, transformed the Near Eastern societies by exploring how the stone vessel industry was affected by these transformations. For the period and area under analysis, such a comprehensive study of stone vessels, covering a wide area and connecting this industry to the broader socioeconomic and political landscapes, has never been attempted before.

The Architecture of the Persian Period in the Levant

Khries, Hashem. 2017. The Architecture of the Persian Period in the Levant. Scholar Press.

This book is a comprehensive study of the Levantine architecture in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.E. The current book is unprecedented in its contents and the manner in which it addresses the subject since it contains all Persian-period sites in the whole Levant -as an integrated entity- that contains building remains. It also handles the Achaemenid impacts – both the direct and indirect ones- on the tradition of the Levantine architecture through conducting a descriptive, analytical and interpretative study of the buildings under consideration. Another perspective adopted here is that of functionally characterizing each excavated context, thus reaching assessments which are not only typologically based. This has resulted in a better understanding of the nature of the social, economic, political, and religious life in the entire Levant.

 

The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’

Butts, Aaron Michael &  Gross, Simcha. 2017. The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’: From Jewish Child to Christian Martyr. ( Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 6). New Jersey: Gorgias Press LLC .

The first critical editions and English translations of the two Syriac recensions of a fascinating text which narrates the story of a young Jewish child, Asher. After converting to Christianity and taking the name ʿAḇdā da-Mšiḥā (‘slave of Christ’), he is martyred by his father. In a detailed introduction, Butts and Gross challenge the use of this text by previous scholars as evidence for historical interactions between Jews and Christians, reevaluating its purpose and situating the story in its Late Antique Babylonian context.

 

Regional History and the Coin Finds from Assur: From the Achaemenids to the Nineteenth Century

Butcher, Kevin & Heidemann, Stefan. 2017. Regional History and the Coin Finds from Assur: From the Achaemenids to the Nineteenth Century. (Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 148). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

In July 1914, the excavation of one of the most significant capitals in human history, Assur, ended successfully. After a division of finds, the objects were dispatched to Berlin on the eve of the First World War. Assur is currently the most important reference site for coin finds in northern Iraq. They constitute an independent source for the history of the settlement, the Tigris region, and for coin circulation after the fall of the Assyrian empire in 614 BC, from the Achaemenid to the late Ottoman empire. These coin finds fill an important gap in the history of Assur, whose name in the post-Assyrian period is hardly attested to. For the Arsacid period, the coin finds highlight the surprising permeability of the border from the Roman provinces to Arsacid north-eastern Mesopotamia.

With the Sasanian conquest in about 240/1, life in Assur apparently stopped. For the following 1,600 years we can distinguish at least three separate settlement phases, and almost each phase corresponds to changing names for the city. While we do not know what the settlement between the 7th and 8th century was called, in the 12th and 14th centuries it was referred to as al-‘Aqr. For this period, we have more literary references to its history, at least compared with the preceding 1,800 years. The coin finds, together with the textual references, allow for an insight into the political and economic development of “a large village”. For the 17th and 18th centuries, the coins point to a revived settlement, now under the name of Qal’at Shirqat.