Category Archives: Books

How Did the Persian King of Kings Get his Wine

Comfort, Anthony & Michal Marciak. 2018. How Did the Persian King of Kings Get His Wine?: The Upper Tigris in Antiquity (C.700 Bce to 636 Ce). Archaeopress Archaeology.

How did the Persian King of Kings Get His Wine? the upper Tigris in antiquity (c.700 BCE to 636 CE) explores the upper valley of the Tigris during antiquity. The area is little known to scholarship, and study is currently handicapped by the security situation in southeast Turkey and by the completion during 2018 of the Ilısu dam. The reservoir being created will drown a large part of the valley and will destroy many archaeological sites, some of which have not been investigated. The course of the upper Tigris discussed here is the section from Mosul up to its source north of Diyarbakır; the monograph describes the history of the river valley from the end of the Late Assyrian empire through to the Arab conquests, thus including the conflicts between Rome and Persia. It considers the transport network by river and road and provides an assessment of the damage to cultural heritage caused both by the Saddam dam (also known as the Eski Mosul dam) in Iraq and by the Ilısu dam in south-east Turkey. A catalogue describes the sites important during the long period under review in and around the valley. During the period reviewed this area was strategically important for Assyria’s relations with its northern neighbours, for the Hellenistic world’s relations with Persia and for Roman relations with first the kingdom of Parthia and then with Sassanian Persia.

Two Centuries of Silenc

“Two Centuries of Silence” is an English translation of “Do Qarn Sokut,” Dr. Zarrinkub’s celebrated work on the history of Iran in the lead-up to and after the Arab conquest in the mid 7th century. The author begins with a question that puzzles many: How was a world civilization with all of its achievements in art and architecture, religion and law, agriculture and engineering, and civil and military organization, overthrown by a nomadic people with limited literacy and few accomplishments? The title refers to the two-hundred-year period when Persian virtually went mute, when almost all traces of Iran’s rich literary heritage were erased, and when Zoroastrianism gave way to Islam. Zarrinkub’s history is not an unmitigated tale of draconian cultural change, however. He speaks of how Iranian identity went underground, occasionally surfacing in open rebellion against Arab and Muslim supremacy. Drawing on a variety of original sources, Zarrinkub looks into the “savage darkness” of nearly two hundred years and detects glimmers of Persian resurgence in various parts of Iran and Muslim Central Asia. In fits and starts forms of the indigenous language broke their long silence, and Iranians began to speak about and for themselves.

Although written almost sixty years ago, “Two Centuries of Silence” is oddly topical. In delving into the long history of Arab domination it contextualizes attitudes commonly held today. Readers will understand, for example, why being called “Arab” can infuriate many Iranians. The book traces the deep roots of the current fashion of proclaiming Persian nationality with Zoroastrian imagery. Zarrinkub’s study tells the ways Iranians of the 8th and 9th centuries resisted the imposition of a “pure” Islam on every aspect of their lives. The parallels between the defiance of the sweeping cultural change and the imposed religious conformity of that era and the reactions to the return to Islam demanded by the Iranian Revolutionaries of today are striking. At the same time, Zarrinkub’s secular treatment of the sanctities of Islam—the belief in the oneness of God, the sacrosanct nature of Muhammad and the divine origin of his message, etc.—makes the book controversial today. Although “Do Qarn Sokut” gained a certificate of publication in 1999, the Iranian publisher (Sokhan) found it necessary to include in a preface excerpts from a book that refutes Zarrinkub (Khadamat-e Motaqabel-e Iran va Islam, “The Reciprocal Services of Islam and Iran”). The author of the refutation, the noted religious scholar Morteza Motahhari, asks: How could Zarrinkub call the period silent? After all, hadn’t the Persians had gained a new language, full of poetry, the medium of the clear and simple message God gave His Prophet? Rather than an age of silence it was a time of awakening to the sound of God’s very voice. Thus did Do Qarn-e Sokut become embroiled in the on-going dispute between those wishing to restore Islam in Iran and secularists who want to lessen the authority and power of the clergy.

Collected Writings of Dastur Firoze M. Kotwal

Kotwal, Firoze M. 2018. The Collected Scholarly Writings of Dastur Firoze M. Kotwal. (Ed.) Firoza Punthakey Mistree & Cashmira Vatcha Bengalli. Vol. 1. Mumbai: Parzor Foundation.
For over a thousand years, Zoroastrian priests in India have sustained their belief system and the ritual infrastructure of their faith, by the constant enactment of rituals with exactitude in their religious life.
It is this exactness of practice that High Priest Dastur (Dr.) Firoze M. Kotwal has strived throughout his life to support through his writings. His knowledge of priestly history and of ritual practice is unparallel. His historical insights take one to the core of a tradition well kept and sometimes hidden from even its community members.
His familiarity with Avestan, Pahlavi and old Gujarati, has enabled an understanding of the classical theology and the practices of the faith. His work has helped to sustain the relevance of the ritual tradition in modern times, and his essays illustrate patterns of differences in priestly expressions in rituals, among the priesthood in India. In doing so, he has not shied away from explaining the changes which have taken place and the influence of those who determined these changes.
His work has been published in academic journals, and he is sought after internationally, by scholars wanting to understand the traditions and comprehend the ancient manuscripts of the faith.
ervad Firoze M. Kotwal, after his initiation as a Zoroastrian Priest

The biographical note in the volume covers his life as a pious priest and reveals his early childhood, immersed in the warmth of priestly life in Navsari. His rise as a learned high priest, his position in the world of academia and the value his guidance and directives have brought to disputes and controversies that have mired the community over the last forty years, form part of the biography. As one of the foremost Bhagaria priest in Mumbai, his declarations on issues that matter within the community, have shaped decision making and have illumined the core of what the Parsis consider sacred and inviolable.

For priests, lay-people and academics, this volume provides a resource for the future study of the faith. Its exploration both in time span and in its detail reveals the choices that lie ahead for the community, which Zarathushtra so pertinently articulated in the Gathas, three thousand five hundred years ago – the clear choice which is to be made between good and evil and between the better and the best.
List of Contents of Vol. 1:
  • Zoroastrian Bāj and Drōn-I, co-author Mary Boyce
  • Zoroastrian Bāj and Drōn-II, co-author Mary Boyce
  • Some Notes on the Parsi Bāj of Mihragān, co-author James W. Boyd
  • The Zoroastrian Paragnā Ritual, co-author James W. Boyd
  • To Praise the Souls of the Deceased and the Immortal Spirits of the Righteous Ones: The Staomi or Stūm Ritual’s History and Functions, co-author Jamsheed K. Choksy
  • A Link with the Spiritual World: The Stum Ritual
  • The Jashan and its Main Religious Service: The Āfrīnagān
  • The Zoroastrian Nirangdin Ritual and an Old Pahlavi Text with Transcription and Translation
  • Initiation into the Zoroastrian Priesthood: Present Parsi Practice and An Old Pahlavi Text
  • The Parsi Dakhma : Its History and Consecration
  • Two Ritual Terms in Pahlavi: The datuš and the frāgām
  • Some Notes on the Pahlavi Visperad
  • Select Ritual Aspects of the Gāthās and their Continuity in the Later Tradition
  • Prayer, co-author Philip G. Kreyenbroek
  • Continuity, Controversy and Change: A Study of the Ritual Practice of the Bhagariā Priests of Navsari
  • The Divine and Exalted Status of the Consecrated Fire in Zoroastrianism
  • An Ancient Irani Ritual for tending Fire
  • Gãthũ Bhārvānī Kriyā: The Ritual of Preserving a Burning Knotted Billet below the Fire-Ash
  • The Ritual of Shifting the Sacred  tash Bahrām Fire from the Qibla to its Temporary Qibla

Armenian Christians in Iran

Barry, James. 2019. Armenian Christians in Iran: Ethnicity, religion, and identity in the Islamic Republic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Since the 1979 revolution, Iran has promoted a Shi’a Islamic identity aimed at transcending ethnic and national boundaries. During the same period, Iran’s Armenian community, once a prominent Christian minority in Tehran, has declined by more than eighty percent. Although the Armenian community is recognised by the constitution and granted specific privileges under Iranian law, they do not share equal rights with their Shi’i Muslim compatriots. Drawing upon interviews conducted with members of the Armenian community and using sources in both Persian and Armenian languages, this book questions whether the Islamic Republic has failed or succeeded in fostering a cohesive identity which enables non-Muslims to feel a sense of belonging in this Islamic Republic. As state identities are also often key in exacerbating ethnic conflict, this book probes into the potential cleavage points for future social conflict in Iran.
  • Table of Contents

Introduction
1. Iranism, Islam and Armenian-ness in Iran
2. Education and the construction of Armenian Iran
3. Discrimination, status and response
4. Stereotyping and identity
5. Performing Armenian-ness in Tehran
6. Identity and emigration
Conclusion.

  • Autor

James Barry is an Associate Research Fellow in Anthropology at Deakin University, Victoria specialising in religious and ethnic minorities. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Monash University, Melbourne. His research focuses on the role of Islam in Iranian foreign policy and supports the work of the Chair of Islamic Studies. In addition to Iran, Barry has carried out fieldwork in Australia, Indonesia and the United States.

The Qalandar in the Persianate World

Portrait of a Qalandar wearing a primitive fur. Inscription in Persian. First quarter of the 17th century, Deccan. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Dahlén, Ashk P. 2018. The Qalandar in the Persianate world: The case of Fakhrod-din ʿAraqi. In Albrecht Berger & Sergey Ivanov (eds.), Holy fools and divine madmen: Sacred insanity through ages and cultures (Münchener Arbeiten zur Byzantinstik 2), 125–153. Neuried: Ars Una.

The mystical poetry of Fakhrod-din ʿAraqi (d. 1289) has been considered to be unparalleled and he has been celebrated as the most eloquent spokesman of divine love in the history of Persian literature. His literary production is above all distinguished by the depth and audacity of its unbridled esoteric speculations and the intensity and brilliant color of its religious expression. The aim the present article is to examine the Qalandari phenomenon, its spiritual doctrine and practice, in the context of medieval Persia with specific reference to ‛Araqi’s lyrical poetry.

On the evidence of his biography and religious teachings, there can be no doubt about the importance of the Qalandari doctrine for ‛Araqi himself. Reliable information concerning his life reveals that he considered social respect as one of the most dangerous pitfalls on the spiritual path. The quintessence of his notion of piety is man’s absolute nothingness before God and ultimate annihilation in the divine attributes. ‛Araqi’s criticism of conventional piety and excuse of scandalous behavior constitute the central tenet of antinomian Qalandari mysticism: outwardly he behaved in a foolish manner according to the conventional standards of society, but inwardly he pursued a religious ideal, inspired by experience of God’s beauty and majesty. In fact, he is probably the most outspoken poet of the qalandariyāt genre and his poetry is traversed through and through by its paradoxes. Marked by a unique blend of antinomian thematic features and a rich symbolic imagery, his poems preserve a subtle harmony between the possibilities of transcendental and profane allusions. In this respect, he became a perfect model for Persian literature, influencing Hāfez and Sa‛di, undisputed masters of the ghazal, and inspiring many other writers of the following centuries.

Persian Martyrs Mar Behnam and Sarah

Saint-Laurent, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon & Kyle Smith (eds.). 2018. The history of Mar Behnam and Sarah. Martyrdom and monasticism in medieval Iraq (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 7). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.

The History of Mar Behnam and Sarah tells the story of two siblings who convert to Christianity under the tutelage of Mar Mattai, a monastic leader and wonderworker from the Roman Empire. After the children refuse to worship pagan gods, they are killed by their own father, the Persian king. Strangely, he is identified as Sennacherib the Assyrian, a pre-Christian ruler better known from the biblical Book of Kings. This is not the only chronological oddity with the text. Although Behnam and Sarah is set in the fourth century, during the golden age of martyrdom in the Sasanian Empire, the text was not composed until hundreds of years later. The composition of the narrative about the two martyrs seems to have coincided with the construction of a twelfth-century shrine that was built in their honor by Syrian Orthodox monks on the Nineveh Plain, near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The beautiful martyrium, which housed intricate relief sculptures and inscriptions in several languages, was an important pilgrimage site for Christians, Muslims, and Yezidis until it was destroyed in 2015.

In this volume of the “Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac” series, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent and Kyle Smith provide the first critical edition and English translation of this fascinating martyrdom narrative, a text that was once widely popular among numerous communities throughout the Middle East.

Silk, Slaves, and Stupas

Whitfield, Susan. 2018. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas: Material Culture of the Silk Road. University of California Press.

Following her bestselling Life Along the Silk Road, Susan Whitfield widens her exploration of the great cultural highway with a new captivating portrait focusing on material things. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas tells the stories of ten very different objects, considering their interaction with the peoples and cultures of the Silk Road—those who made them, carried them, received them, used them, sold them, worshipped them, and, in more recent times, bought them, conserved them, and curated them. From a delicate pair of earrings from a steppe tomb to a massive stupa deep in Central Asia, a hoard of Kushan coins stored in an Ethiopian monastery to a Hellenistic glass bowl from a southern Chinese tomb, and a fragment of Byzantine silk wrapping the bones of a French saint to a Bactrian ewer depicting episodes from the Trojan War, these objects show us something of the cultural diversity and interaction along these trading routes of Afro-Eurasia.

Exploring the labor, tools, materials, and rituals behind these various objects, Whitfield infuses her narrative with delightful details as the objects journey through time, space, and meaning. Silk, Slaves, and Stupas is a lively, visual, and tangible way to understand the Silk Road and the cultural, economic, and technical changes of the late antique and medieval worlds.

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Eastern Manicheism as Reflected in its Book and Manuscript Culture

Özertural, Zekine & Gökhan Silfeler (eds.). 2018. Der östliche Manichäismus im Spiegel seiner Buch- und Schriftkultur. Vorträge des Göttinger Symposiums vom 11./12. März 2015 (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Neue Folge 47). Berlin: De Gruyter.

This volume examines the gnostic-syncretic religion of Eastern Manicheism in China, Iran, and Turkish central Asia. After a scholarly introduction to the religious theory of Manicheism, the essays probe questions of its transmission and cultural interactions with Latin, Coptic, and Arabic Manicheism.

Civilization of Iran: Past, Present, Future

Callieri, Pierfrancesco & Adriano Valerio Rossi (eds.). 2018. Civiltà dell’Iran: passato, presente, futuro (atti del Convegno Internazionale Roma, 22-23 febbraio 2013); (Il novissimo Ramusio 6). Roma: Scienze e lettere.
This book is a collection of papers presented at the international conference “Civiltà dell’Iran: passato, presente, futuro” took place in 2013 at Sapienza Università di Roma and Museo Nazionale d’Arte Orientale ‘Giuseppe Tucci’.

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Zoroastrian and Iranian Studies from Ravenna

Panaino, Antonio, Andrea Piras & Paolo Ognibene (eds.). 2018. Studi iranici ravennati II (Indo-Iranica et Orientalia). Milano: Mimesis Edizioni.
This Conference Proceedings volume contains 15  contributions which were presented at the second international conference of Iranian Studies in Ravenna, Italy.
Table of Contents:
  • Amir Ahmadi: “An Indo-Iranian Initiation-Based Masculine Society?
  • Fabio Eugenio Betti: “Tradizione classica e cultura sudarabica. Osservazioni sulla statua bronzea di Lady Bar’at”
  • Stefano Buscherini: “Chess and geometric progressions: a link between Dante and the Persian tradition”
  • Davlatkhoja Dovudi: “Nachodki bucharchudatskich, sasanidskich i omejjadskich monet v Tadžikistane i istorija ich izučenija”
  • Anna Michieletto: “La comunità diasporica curda del Monte Amiata: rapporto con le origini e col territorio”
  • Paolo Ognibene: “Studi sull’epos dei Narti. Il ruolo dell’elemento magico nella struttura fantastica del racconto”
  • Martina Palladino: “Alcuni spunti di riflessione sui Maga Brāhmana”
  • Antonio Panaino: “Vecchie e Nuove Considerazioni sul Millenarismo iranico-mesopotamico ed il Chiliasmo giudaico-cristiano”
  • Andrea Piras: “Spandyād’s lance and message. Some Remarks about the Imagery of Shooting Weapons”
  • Céline Redard: “La tentation de Zarathuštra”
  • Micol Scrignoli: “duruj-, drauga-, draujana-: dallo studio delle valenze semantiche attestate all’individuazione della triade iranica nella lingua antico persiana”
  • Galina N. Vol’naja: “K voprosu ob iranskich vlijanijach na Central’nom i Severo-Vostočnom Kavkaze (na primere bronzovych pticevidnych prjažek «tipa Isti-Su»)
  • Antonio Panaino: “The Souls of women in the Zoroastrian Afterlife”
  • Paolo Delaini: “Conoscenze mediche sulla fisiologia della gravidanza nel mondo iranico di età tardoantica”
  • Andrea Gariboldi: “La dottrina di Mazdak tra influssi “occidentali” e religioni orientali