Category Archives: Books

Essays on Persian Poetry in Honor of Dick Davis

Seyed-Ghorab, Ali-Asghar (ed.). 2018. The layered heart: Essays on Persian poetry, a celebration in honor of Dick Davis. Washington, D.C: Mage Publishers.
The Layered Heart : Essays on Persian Poetry is published in celebration of the poet and scholar Dick Davis, dubbed “our pre-eminent translator from Persian” by The Washington Post. Edited by Ali-Asghar Seyed-Ghorab, Associate Professor of Persian at Leiden University, the volume includes twenty-one essays about Persian culture and literature, ranging from classical Persian poetry to modern literary topics. Written by foremost scholars in the field, each of the essays is original and ground-breaking either in content or in methodology, while together they encompass a broad sweep of Iranian history, from pre-Islamic times to the present. They offer a fascinating, multi-faceted view of the Persian classics – from poetry in praise of wine, and the portrayal of love in Persian-European medieval romances, to an examination of Ferdowsi’s monumental epic, the Shahnameh, its connection with the Persian oral tradition and its later reception in Iran, Afghanistan, India, and Europe. Modern topics include an analysis of Lahuti’s letter poem to Joseph Stalin, published for the first time in Persian and English, the celebrated novel My Uncle Napoleon, and trends in poetry before and after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
Table of Contents
  • Ehsan Yarshater: “Voyages in Literature”
  • Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak: “Continuity and Creativity: Models of Change in Persian Poetry, Classical and Modern”
  • Saeed Honarmand: “Between the Water and the Wall: The Power of Love in Medieval Persian Romance”
  • Christine van Ruymbeke: “Wretched King Mobad Loses the War of Love”
  • Asghar Seyed-Ghorab: “Of Love and Loyalty: The Middle English Floris and Blancheflour and the Persian Warqa and Golshāh”
  • Kamran Talattof: “What Kind of Wine Did Rudaki Desire? Samanids’ Search for Cultural and National Identity”
  • Paul Losensky: “Song of the Cupbearer by Mohammad Sūfī Māzandarānī”
  • Saghi Gazerani: “Zahhak’s Story and History”
  • H.E. Chehabi: “Wrestling in the Shahnameh and Later Persian Epics”
  • Sunil Sharma: “Heroes, Husbands, and Rhino Hunters: Sekandar and Bahram Gur in the Shahnameh”
  • Abbas Amanat: “Shahnameh-ye Naderi and the Revival of Epic Poetry in Post-Safavid Iran”
  • Reza Shaghaghi Zarghamee: “From Scythia to Sistan: Reconciling the Shahnameh and Herodotus to Discover the Origins of the Rostam Legend”
  • Olga M. Davidson: “On the Sources of the Shahnameh”
  • Franklin Lewis: “Shifting Allegiances: Primordial Relationships and How They Change in the Shahnameh”
  • Charles Melville: “The Shahnameh in India: Tārīkh-i Dilgushā-yi Shamshīr Khānī”
  • Margaret A. Mills:  “Kok Kohzad in Afghanistan: Local Knowledge and Shahnameh Characters”
  • Firuza Melville: “Side-Saddle Tazmin, or, the Post-Shahnameh for Victorian Children”
  • Natalia Chalisova: “Poet and Ruler: The Case of Dāstān-e gol, Lahuti’s Poem for Stalin”
  • Fatemeh Shams: “From Revolution to Silence: The Political and Literary Life of Qaysar Aminpur”
  • Saeedeh Shahnahpur: “Literature Beyond Borders: Modern Persian Novels in English Translation, The Case of Pezeshkzād’s My Uncle Napoleon”
  • John Walbridge: “Astrolabe Hunting in the Punjab”

Farnah: Indo-Iranian and Indo-European Studies in Honor of Sasha Lubotsky

Beek, Lucien, Alwin Kloekhorst, Guus Kroonen, Michaël Peyrot & Tijmen Pronk (eds.). 2018. Farnah. Indo-Iranian and Indo-European studies in honor of Sasha Lubotsky. Ann Arbor; New York: Beech Stave Press.

Over thirty specialists in Indo-European linguistics have contributed this elegant volume in honor of Prof. Sasha Lubotsky of Leiden University. Besides giving an excellent snapshot of the research currently being undertaken by his students and colleagues at that institution, Farnah contains contributions from well-known scholars across the world covering topics in Tocharian, Germanic, Slavic, Indo-Iranian, and Anatolian linguistics, to name a few.

Click here to see a full list of the contributions.

Table of Contents

    • Peter C. Bisschop: Vedic Elements in the Pāśupatasūtra
    • Václav Blažek: The Case of Tocharian ‘silver’: Inherited or Borrowed?
    • Michiel de Vaan: The Noncanonical Use of Instrumental Plurals in Young Avestan
    • Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst: Sogdian Plurals in the Vessantara Jātaka
    • Jost Gippert: A Middle Iranian Word Denoting an Office-Holder
    • Stephanie W. Jamison: The Vedic Perfect Imperative and the Status of Modal Forms to Tense-Aspect Stems
    • Michael Janda: Vedisch dhénā-: Bedeutung und Etymologie
    • Jay H. Jasanoff: The Phonology of Tocharian B okso ‘ox’
    • Jared Klein: Syncretism in Indo-European: A Natural History
    • Alwin Kloekhorst: The Origin of the Hittite ḫi-Conjugation
    • Werner Knobl: Das Demonstrativpronomen ETÁD im Ṛgveda
    • Petr Kocharov: A Comment on the Vocalization of Word-initial
      and Medial Laryngeals in Armenian
    • Frederik Kortlandt: The Indo-European k-Aorist
    • Guus Kroonen: Lachmann’s Law, Thurneysen’s Law, and a New Explanation of the PIE no-Participles
    • Leonid Kulikov: Vedic āhanás– and Its Relatives/Cognates within and outside Indo-Iranian
    • Martin Joachim Kümmel: The Survival of Laryngeals in Iranian
    • Rosemarie Lühr: Prosody in Indo-European Corpora
    • Hrach Martirosyan: Armenian Andndayin ōj and Vedic Áhi-Budhnyà– ‘Abyssal Serpent’
    • Ranko Matasović: Iranian Loanwords in Proto-Slavic: A Fresh Look
    • H. Craig Melchert: Semantics and Etymology of Hittite takš
    • Benedicte Nielsen Whitehead: PIE *gwh3-éu– ‘cow’
      Alan J. Nussbaum, A Dedicatory Thigh: Greek μηρὀς and μῆρα Once Again
    • Norbert Oettinger: Vedisch Vivásvant– und seine avestische Entsprechung
    • Birgit Anette Olsen: The Development of Interconsonantal Laryngeals in Indo-Iranian and Old Avestan ząθā ptā
    • Michaël Peyrot: Tocharian B etswe ‘mule’ and Eastern East Iranian
    • Georges-Jean Pinault: New Look at Vedic śám
    • Tijmen Pronk: Old Church Slavonic (j)utro, Vedic uṣár– ‘daybreak, morning’
    • Velizar Sadovski: Vedic and Avestan Parallels from Ritual Litanies
      and Liturgical Practices I
    • George Starostin: Typological Expectations and Historic Reality: Once Again on the Issue of Lexical Cognates between Indo-European and Uralic
    • Lucien van Beek: Greek πέδιλον ‘sandal’ and the Origin of the e-Grade in PIE ‘foot’
  • Michael Weiss: Veneti or Venetes? Observations on a Widespread Indo-European Tribal Name

Voices from Zoroastrian Iran: Oral Texts and Testimony

Stewart, Sarah. 2018. Voices from Zoroastrian Iran: Oral texts and testimony (Part 1: Urban contexts: Kerman, Tehran, Ahwaz, Esfahan, Shiraz), vol. 1. (Iranica, GOF III/NF 17). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Voices from Zoroastrian Iran (Volumes I and II) is the result of an oral studies research project that maps the remaining Zoroastrian communities in Iran and explores what has happened to their religious lives and social structures since the Revolution of 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic Republic.
Interviews included in Volume 1 are with Zoroastrians from the urban centres of Tehrān, Kermān, Ahvāz, Shirāz and Esfahān. Participants refer to community leaders, historical figures, local events, teachers and religious texts that have shaped their views and understanding of the religion. They also address the impact of recent history upon their lives. The religion itself is presented as understood by those interviewed, drawn largely from the interpretations of Iranian scholars and scholar-priests, as opposed to those of predominantly western scholars. A chapter in the book is devoted to a survey of the main Iranian Zoroastrian religious observances as well as some popular customs. As a result of the new Constitution, the return to shari ‘a and the eight-year war with Iraq that followed the Revolution, the relationship between Zoroastrians and the state changed. The new political environment began to shape the religious and social identities of the next generation through Zoroastrian institutions such as the anjomans (councils) as well as those established by the government of the Islamic Republic.
The interviews for this book span a period of living memory that reflects both pre- and post-revolutionary Iran. The views expressed are informed by the changes that took place during that time and throw light on subjects as diverse as education, emigration, conversion and religious reform. The vol. 2 is planed to come out in 2019.
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 Background and Context: Religion
  • Chapter 2 Devotional Life: Customs and Observances
  • Chapter 3 Background and Context: Society
  • Chapter 4 Kermān
  • Chapter 5 Tehrān
  • Chapter 6 Ahvāz, Shirāz and Esfahān
  • Conclusions

Read the detailed table of contents here.

Empires of Ancient Eurasia

Benjamin, Craig. 2018. Empires of ancient Eurasia: The first Silk Roads era, 100 BCE – 250 CE (New Approaches to Asian History). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Silk Roads are the symbol of the interconnectedness of ancient Eurasian civilizations. Using challenging land and maritime routes, merchants and adventurers, diplomats and missionaries, sailors and soldiers, and camels, horses and ships, carried their commodities, ideas, languages and pathogens enormous distances across Eurasia. The result was an underlying unity that traveled the length of the routes, and which is preserved to this day, expressed in common technologies, artistic styles, cultures and religions, and even disease and immunity patterns. In words and images, Craig Benjamin explores the processes that allowed for the comingling of so many goods, ideas, and diseases around a geographical hub deep in central Eurasia. He argues that the first Silk Roads era was the catalyst for an extraordinary increase in the complexity of human relationships and collective learning, a complexity that helped drive our species inexorably along a path towards modernity.

About the author: Craig Benjamin is Professor of History at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He is the author of several books and numerous chapters and articles on ancient history, including Volume 4 of The Cambridge History of the World (Cambridge, 2015). Craig has filmed programs and courses for the History Channel and The Great Courses. He is a Past President of the World History Association and Vice President of the International Big History Association.

Personal names in Iranian Manichaica

Colditz, Iris. 2018. Iranische Personennamen in manichäischer Überlieferung (Iranisches Personennamenbuch Mitteliranische Personennamen II/Faszikel 1). Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
This volume presents for the first time a full collection of the personal names attested in Iranian sources of Manichaeism, an ancient dualistic and syncretistic world religion (3rd–14th century). This extremely heterogeneous corpus from the Central Asian Turfan oasis (Xinjiang, China) goes back to the golden age of Manichaeism in the Uygur steppe empire and the kingdom of Qočo (8th–11th century) but can be partly traced back to more ancient originals. It comprises ca. 4700 text fragments in Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, Bactrian and New Persian written in Manichaean, Sogdian and Old Turkish runic scripts. The 766 entries contain Iranian, hybrid, and non-Iranian names, which reflect the ethnic and religious diversity of the peoples along the Silk Road. The name bearers are historical persons as well as fictitious characters from myth and literature. Obsolete and differing readings as well as “ghost names” are specifically marked. The presentation of the names follows the guidelines of the Iranisches Personennamenbuch. Each entry lists transliteration, transcription and all references of the name, including spelling variants, text duplicates and versions in other scripts or languages, followed by prosopographical data: titles, designations of offices or professions. Reference is made to indirect transmissions of the name (“Nebenüberlieferung”) in non-Iranian Manichaica, the writings of Arabic historians and in antiheretical Christian and Zoroastrian scriptures. At the end follows the morphological and etymological interpretation of the name. The explored material is displayed in detailed indexes. The volume is of special interest to specialists in Iranian studies, linguistics, religious studies and history.

Alphabet scribes in the land of cuneiform

Bloch, Yigal. 2018. Alphabet scribes in the land of cuneiform: sepiru professionals in Mesopotamia in the neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods (Gorgias Studies in the Ancient Near East 11). Piscataway, NJ, USA: Gorgias Press.
This book discusses the alphabetic scribes (sēpiru) mentioned in Mesopotamian documents of the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods – specifically, of the 6th-5th centuries bce. The period in question saw a wide diffusion of writing in the Northwest Semitic alphabetic script – mostly in Aramaic – in Mesopotamia; yet, alphabetic texts were normally written in ink on perishable materials and did not survive to be discovered by modern archaeologists. In contrast, cuneiform tablets written on clay have been found in large numbers, and they document different aspects of the alphabetic scribes’ activities. This book presents evidence for understanding the Akkadian term sēpiru as a designation for an alphabetic scribe and discusses the functions of these professionals in different administrative and economic spheres. It further considers the question of the ethnic origins of the alphabetic scribes in Mesopotamia, with special attention to the participation of Judeans in Babylonia in this profession. Bloch also provides translations of over 100 cuneiform documents of economic, legal and administrative content.

Jewish histories of twentieth-century Iran

  1. Sternfeld, Lior B. 2019. Between Iran and Zion: Jewish histories of twentieth-century Iran. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Iran is home to the largest Jewish population in the Middle East, outside of Israel. At its peak in the twentieth century, the population numbered around 100,000; today about 25,000 Jews live in Iran. Between Iran and Zion offers the first history of this vibrant community over the course of the last century, from the 1905 Constitutional Revolution through the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Over this period, Iranian Jews grew from a peripheral community into a prominent one that has made clear impacts on daily life in Iran.

Drawing on interviews, newspapers, family stories, autobiographies, and previously untapped archives, Lior B. Sternfeld analyzes how Iranian Jews contributed to Iranian nation-building projects, first under the Pahlavi monarchs and then in the post-revolutionary Islamic Republic. He considers the shifting reactions to Zionism over time, in particular to religious Zionism in the early 1900s and political Zionism after the creation of the state of Israel. And he investigates the various groups that constituted the Iranian Jewish community, notably the Jewish communists who became prominent activists in the left-wing circles in the 1950s and the revolutionary Jewish organization that participated in the 1979 Revolution. The result is a rich account of the vital role of Jews in the social and political fabric of twentieth-century Iran.

Lior B. Sternfeld is Assistant Professor of History and Jewish Studies at Penn State.

Reflections of Armenian Identity in History and Historiography

Berberian, Houri & Touraj Daryaee (eds.). 2018. Reflections of Armenian identity in history and historiography. Jordan Center for Persian Studies.

This volume is the result of a conference held on the UCI campus in April of 2015. The purpose of this international conference was to explore various aspects of Armenian identity from the remote past to the present. Some of the papers that appear in this collection stay true to their original presentations w hile others have been dramatically altered, even in subject in one case.

Table of Contents:

  • Gregory E. Areshian: Historical Dynamics of the Endogenous Armenian, i.e. Hayots, Identity: Some General Observations
  • Touraj Daryaee: The Fall of Urartu and the Rise of Armenia
  • Ani Honarchian: Of God and Letters: A Sociolinguistic Study on the Invention of the Armenian Alphabet in Late Antiquity
  • Khodadad Rezakhani: The Rebellion of Babak and the Historiography of the Southern Caucasus
  • Giusto Traina: Ambigua Gens? Methodological Problems in the Ancient Armenian history
  • Sebouh David Aslanian: The “Great Schism” of 1773: Venice and the Founding of the Armenian Community in Trieste
  • S. Peter Cowe: The Armenian Oikoumene in the Sixteenth Century: Dark Age or Era of Transition?
  • Roman Smbatyan: Some Remarks on the Identity and Historical Role of Artsakhi Meliks in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries CE
  • Myrna Douzjian: Armenianness Reimagined in Atom Egoyan’s Ararat
  • Shushan Karapetian: The Changing Role of Language in the Construction of Armenian Identity among the (American) Diaspora
  • Rubina Peroomian: Effects of the Genocide, Second Generation Voices

 

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 Silence

“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.