Category Archives: Articles

The wolf in ancient Iran

Azarnouche, Samra. 2016. “Le loup dans l’Iran ancien. Entre mythe, réalité et exégèse zoroastrienne”Anthropology of the Middle East 11(1): 1–19.

How did ancient Iranian religion represent the wolf? Between the mythological data, the realities of the agro-pastoral world, and the symbolism of exegetical tradition, Late Antique Zoroastrianism considered the wolf as primarily a species to kill. In reality, much more than the Canis lupus hides behind the word ‘wolf ’ (Middle Persian gurg), including most nocturnal predators but also devastating illnesses, a monster whom the Savior will destroy at the end of time, and finally heretics who renounce or deform the Good Religion. However, this negative image is nuanced by the recognition of the strong ties between the she-wolf and wolf cubs, both in texts where the protective qualities of this large predator are evoked, and in iconography, namely magic seals, where one finds the image of the nourishing she-wolf, perhaps connected to perinatal magic.

Territorializing Iran in Late Antiquity

Payne, Richard. 2017. “Territorializing Iran in Late Antiquity“, In Ando, Cifford and Seth Richardson (eds.), Ancient States and Infrastructural: Europe, Asia, and America, 179-217, Power Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

In late antiquity,the architects of the Iranian Empire superimposed a mythical gepgraphy on the Near East that gave away, over the four centuries of its existence, to partially terriotorialized, infrastructural powers that far surpassed those of their ancient Near Eastern predecessors. More frequently known as the Sasanian Empire after its ruling dynasty, replacing the adjective “Sasanian” with “Iranian” foregrounds the centrality of a mythical conception of time and space to its organization of the empire, and also gives preference to the self-designation of its elites over scholary convention.

Cross-Cultural Communication in the Hellenistic Mediterranean, and Western and South Asia

Canepa, Matthew P. 2017. “Cross-Cultural Communication in the Hellenistic Mediterranean, and Western and South Asia,” In Richard J. A. Talbert & Fred S. Naiden (eds.), Mercury’s Wings: Exploring Modes of Communication in the Ancient World, 249-272, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This chapter explores the dynamics of cross-cultural communication, primarily among the kingdoms and empires of Western and South Asia after Alexander the Great. This period witnessed the rise, conflict, coexistence and fall of a succession of cross-continental empires, including that of the Seleucids (312-64 BCE) and Mauryas (321-185), as well as powerful regional powers with larger ambitions such as the Ptolemies of Egypt, the Diodotids and Euthymids of Bactria (ca. 25o–ca. 145), Sungas (185-73), and a variety of Indo-Greek kingdoms (ca. 185 BCE–ca. 10 CE). Several new Iranian-speaking elites, including the Parni, Saka, and Yuezhi, descended from the Central Asian steppes and eventually formed the Arsacid, Indo-Scythian, and Kusana empires, respectively. These Macedonian, Indian, and Iranian powers engendered an intensive period of diplomatic interaction and cultural exchange. While this chapter focuses first on peer-polity diplomatic communication, it also explores the relationship between direct, intentional communicative acts and the wider contexts of cross-cultural interaction in which they took place and to which they often contributed.

The Monarchy of Teispid-Achaemenid Great Kings

Rollinger, Robert. 2017. “Monarchische Herrschaft am Beispiel des teispidisch-achaimenidischen Großreichs“, In S. Rebenich (Hg.), Monarchische Herrschaft im Altertum (Schriften des Historischen Kollegs 94), 189-215, Berlin:  De Gruyter.

Review of Semiramis’ Legacy

Safaee, Yazdan. 2017. “[review of] Semiramis’ Legacy: The History of Persia According to Diodorus of Sicily“, Iranian Studies 50:5, 752-754.

This is the most recent work on Diodorus of Sicily, a famous ancient historian who dealt with the history of ancient Iran, translated by an eminent scholar who has previously also translated Ctesias’ Persica. The book under review offers an English translation of the text together with a valuable introduction to Diodorus, his method, his views, and the structure of the Bibliotheca historica, and is also followed by a rich investigation of the extant manuscripts and of some editions of Diodorus’ Bibliotheca.

Parthian Great King’s rule over vassal Kingdoms

Gregoratti, Leonardo. 2017. “Sinews of the other Empire: Parthian Great King’s rule over vassal Kingdoms” in H. Teigen and E. Seland (eds.), Sinews of Empire: Networks in the Roman Near East and Beyond, 95-104. Oxford, Oxbow Books.

The Great Kings of Parthia, belonging to the Arsacid dynasty, ruled a large empire in south-western Asia, from India to the Euphrates, for more than three centuries (first century BC–third century AD). Within the large geographical area controlled by the Arsacids, next to the satrapies directly controlled by royal officers, a series of autonomous kingdoms existed, ruled by local dynasties, which in some cases existed before the coming of the Parthians, and whose authority over their territories was acknowledged by the Great King. Unlike the Roman ones, the Parthian vassal kingdoms never ceased to be one of the most important means the Great King had at his disposal to control key areas of his vast dominions. This paper investigates the different solutions the Arsacids conceived and put into action in order to keep control over those political subjects. The employment of three main forms of action: maintaining a local dynasty, temporary direct occupation and the creation of a client kingdom ruled by an Arsacid monarch, over the whole spectrum of client states will be the subject of the investigation.

Some stamp seals of Achaemenid date

Collon, Dominique & John Curtis. 2017. “Some stamp seals of Achaemenid date“, In Y. Heffron, A. Stone and M. Worthington (eds), At the Dawn of History: Ancient Near Eastern Studies in Honour of J.N. Postgate, 765-780. Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns.

This paper discusses a collection of 17 distinctive bronze stamp seals. They are all plaques or tablets of bronze, more or less flat on both surfaces, and square or rectangular in shape. More than half of them have a distinctive ladder-pattern border around the decorated face of the seal. The designs are usually highly stylized but sometimes more naturalistic. These seals may be compared with a stone seal from Nimrud and a silver ring from Kamid el-Loz. They apparently date from the Achaemenid period, 5th-4th century BC, and probably derive mostly from the western part of the Persian empire.

Persepolis Administrative Archives

Annalisa Azzoni, Elspeth R. M. Dusinberre, Mark B. Garrison, Wouter F. M. Henkelman, Charles E. Jones, and Matthew W. Stolper, “PERSEPOLIS ADMINISTRATIVE ARCHIVES,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017, available at (accessed on 09 June 2017).

Persepolis Administrative Archives, two groups of clay tablets, fragments, and sealings produced and stored by administrative agencies based at Persepolis. The groups are named for their find spots: the Persepolis Fortification Archive  and the Persepolis Treasury Archive. Clay sealings found elsewhere in the fortification wall at Persepolis may stem from other, perhaps related, administrative documents.

Zoroastrian afterlife beliefs and funerary practices

Hintze, Almut. 2017. “Zoroastrian afterlife beliefs and funerary practices“. In: Christopher M Moreman (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Death and Dying86–97, London and New York: Routledge.

Manichaica and Sogdica from Russia

The latest issue of Written Monuments of the Orient (Institute of Oriental Manuscripts; Asiatic Museum; Russian Academy of Sciences), with two articles regarding the Middle Iranian Studies has been published:
Chunakova, Olga Mikhailovna, Federico Dragoni & Enrico Morano. 2017. A forgotten Manichaean Sogdian bifolio in Sogdian script. Written Monuments of the Orient 1(5). 3–25.
The present paper consists of the first edition, translation and commentary of a Manichaean Sogdian bifolio, whose photos are preserved in the Nachlass of Academician Carl H. Salemann at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, RAS (St. Petersburg). The present location of the bifolio is unknown. One joining fragment has been found in the Berlin Turfan collection during the preliminary work on this edition. Two relatively long portions of Manichaean didactic treatises are extant and do not correspond to any known text. The first (I) is a Lehrtext on the duties of Manichaean monks living in a monastery. The second (II) contains the fourth and part of a fifth question, followed by answers, of a catechetical text concerning the fate of the body and of the soul after death.
Benkato, Adam. 2017. Sogdian letter fragments in the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, St. Petersburg. Written Monuments of the Orient 1(5). 26–39.
Among the Sogdian fragments from Turfan preserved in the IOM collections are a handful of epistolary texts. A new edition of these fragments is presented here as part of the author’s ongoing project on Sogdian letters from Turfan.