Category Archives: Books

Kings, Whores and Children

Daryaee. 2018. Kings, Whores and Children: Passing Notes on Ancient Iran & the World that We Live In. Mehri Publication.

These short texts are a collection of notes and commentaries that I have made in the past few years about history and my experience and interaction with some intelligent, and some not so bright people on the social media. I firmly believe that we as historians and university professors must write not only for the few colleagues in esoteric journals to prove our intellectual ability, but also communicate and write for the people who are inquisitive and would like to learn about what we do and its significance. I have written these short pieces to peak the interest of the people in what we do and provide relevance to the present through past events. Many of the essays are in response to events in recent times such as the war in Syria and the destruction of historical sites, or notes on my travels through Iran. A few others are review of important topics and people who have left deep impressions on me and my work.

These are not deep writings with many footnotes and with a heavy dose of theoretical dressing. Rather, they are written from the heart about issues that preoccupy us today, but are also belong to the ancient past. I live in the US, where the past is the past. US is a forward looking nation with little regard anything before the eighteenth century. But even ancient history in the US, mainly deals with Greece and Rome, although beside the Greek columns in the US Congress, there isn’t much real or continuous connections. If one was to talk about ancient history on this content, it must be the history of the Olmecs and the Toltecs and the Mayans and the Incas and the Aztecs. Knowledge about the history of the native inhabitants of the American continent is as important as understanding the history that I present in this little book. The events in the past in the Middle East are as relevant as the events today and tied in many ways to the lives of the people living in the US and Europe and the rest of the world. I hope by reading these short essays which in many ways are meant to entertain and educate, the reader understands the experience of a historian who relates his own experience with texts, monuments, and people who work on the past.

Silk, Slaves, and Stupas

Whitfield, Susan. 2018. Silk, slaves, and stupas: Material culture of the Silk Road. Oakland, California: 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.

Susan Whitfield, author of Life Along the Silk Road, is a scholar, curator, writer, and traveler who has been exploring the history, art, religions, cultures, objects, exploration, and people of the Silk Road for the past three decades.

Alexander the Great in Persian Tradition

Manteghi, Haila. 2018. Alexander the Great in Persian tradition: History, myth and legend in medieval Iran. I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.

Alexander the Great (356-333 BC) was transformed into a legend by all those he met, leaving an enduring tradition of romances across the world. Aside from its penetration into every language of medieval Europe, the Alexander romance arguably had its greatest impact in the Persian language. Haila Manteghi here offers a complete survey of that deep tradition, ranging from analysis of classical Persian poetry to popular romances and medieval Arabic historiography. She explores how the Greek work first entered the Persian literary tradition and traces the development of its influence, before revealing the remarkable way in which Alexander became as central to the Persian tradition as any other hero or king. And, importantly, by focusing on the often-overlooked early medieval Persian period, she also demonstrates that a positive view of Alexander developed in Arabic and Persian literature before the Islamic era. Drawing on an impressive range of sources in various languages – including Persian, Arabic and Greek – Manteghi provides a profound new contribution to the study of the Alexander romances.Beautifully written and with vibrant literary motifs, this book is important reading for all those with an interest in Alexander, classical and medieval Persian history, the early Islamic world and classical reception studies.

About the author:
Haila Manteghi is a lecturer at the University of Munster and recently completed her second PhD on the Persian Alexandrian tradition, at the University of Exeter. Her first PhD, on the same topic, was completed at the University of Alicante, and she has published in peer-reviewed journals and edited collections.

ره‌آورد هند

صادق هدایت. ۱۳۹۶. ره‌آورد هند: برگردان هفت متنِ پهلوی به فارسی. تهران: کتاب کوله پشتی. به‌کوشش: خسرو كيانراد.

سفر صادق هدایت به هند و اقامتش در بمبئی که حدود یک سال (١٣١٥-١٣١٦خ.) به طول انجامید، به‌جز انتشار رمان «بوفکور» دستاورد دیگری نیز برای او به‌همراه داشت و آن فراگیری زبان و خط پهلوی و ترجمه‌ی چند متن از پهلوی به فارسی بود. برخی از این متون در هند و برخی در بازگشت به ایران ترجمه و در قالب کتاب‌ها و مقالات پراکنده‌ای منتشر شدند. چندی از این ترجمه‌ها امروزه نایابند و در دسترس نیستند. از آنجا که سال‌های زیادی از ترجمه‌های هدایت می‌گذرد و در این مدت دانشمندان و زبان‌شناسان دیگری هم به سراغ این متون رفته‌اند، در مقدمه‌ی کتاب حاضر ضمن اشاره به دیگر ترجمه‌ها و پژوهش‌های صورت گرفته، خوانش هدایت در برخی موارد ازجمله اصطلاحات، اسامی خاص جغرافیایی و اشخاص مورد بررسی قرارگرفته و گاه پیشنهادهایی مطرح شده است.
عناوین این متون که در کتاب حاضر برای نخستین‌بار به‌صورت یک‌جا و در مجموعه‌ای مستقل گردآمده‌اند عبارتند از: «گجسته ابالیش»، «زندِ وهومن‌یسن»، «شهرستان‌های ایران»، «کارنامه‌ی اردشیرِپاپکان»، «گزارش گمان‌شکن»، «یادگار جاماسپ»، «آمدن شاه بهرامِ ورجاوند».

Hedayat, Sadeq. 2018. Rahāvard-e Hend. Edited by Khosro Kiyanrad. Tehran: Ketab-e KoolehPoshti.

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Problems of Chronology in Gandhāran Art

Rienjang, Wannaporn & Peter Stewart (eds.). 2018. Problems of chronology in Gandhāran art. Oxford: Archaeopress Publishing.

This volume, being the proceedings of the first international workshop of the Gandhāra Connections Project, which took place 23rd-24th March, 2017, at the University of Oxford, is available as an open access eBook and in print.

Since the beginning of Gandhāran studies in the nineteenth century, chronology has been one of the most significant challenges to the understanding of Gandhāran art. Many other ancient societies, including those of Greece and Rome, have left a wealth of textual sources which have put their fundamental chronological frameworks beyond doubt. In the absence of such sources on a similar scale, even the historical eras cited on inscribed Gandhāran works of art have been hard to place. Few sculptures have such inscriptions and the majority lack any record of find-spot or even general provenance. Those known to have been found at particular sites were sometimes moved and reused in antiquity. Consequently, the provisional dates assigned to extant Gandhāran sculptures have sometimes differed by centuries, while the narrative of artistic development remains doubtful and inconsistent.

Building upon the most recent, cross-disciplinary research, debate and excavation, this volume reinforces a new consensus about the chronology of Gandhāra, bringing the history of Gandhāran art into sharper focus than ever. By considering this tradition in its wider context, alongside contemporary Indian art and subsequent developments in Central Asia, the authors also open up fresh questions and problems which a new phase of research will need to address.

The Hellenistic Court

Erskine, Andrew, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones & Shane Wallace (eds.). 2017. The Hellenistic court: Monarchic power and elite society from Alexander to Cleopatra. Classical Press of Wales.

Hellenistic courts were centres of monarchic power, social prestige and high culture in the kingdoms that emerged after the death of Alexander. They were places of refinement, learning and luxury, and also of corruption, rivalry and murder. Surrounded by courtiers of varying loyalty, Hellenistic royal families played roles in a theatre of spectacle and ceremony. Architecture, art, ritual and scholarship were deployed to defend the existence of their dynasties. The present volume, from a team of international experts, examines royal methods and ideologies. It treats the courts of the Ptolemies, Seleucids, Attalids, Antigonids and of lesser dynasties. It also explores the influence, on Greek-speaking courts, of non- Greek culture, of Achaemenid and other Near Eastern royal institutions. It studies the careers of courtesans, concubines and ‘friends’ of royalty, and the intellectual, ceremonial, and artistic world of the Greek monarchies. The work demonstrates the complexity and motivations of Hellenistic royal civilisation, of courts which governed the transmission of Greek culture to the wider Mediterranean world – and to later ages.

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Studies in the Chronology of the Bactrian Documents from Northern Afghanistan

Sims-Williams, Nicholas & Francois de Blois. 2018. Studies in the Chronology of the Bactrian Documents from Northern Afghanistan (Veröffentlichungen zur Iranistik 83). Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. With contributions by Harry Falk and Dieter Weber.

More than 150 documents in Bactrian, the chief administrative language of pre-Islamic Afghanistan, have come to light during the last twenty-five years. These documents include letters, legal contracts, economic documents and a few Buddhist texts; many of them bear dates in the so-called “Bactrian era”, which is also known from a few inscriptions, such as the Tochi valley inscriptions in Pakistan, but whose starting-point is controversial. The Bactrian documents have the potential to transform our knowledge of the history of the region during the 4th to 8th centuries CE, a period for which we have few contemporary records, but before they can be fully exploited as historical sources it is necessary to establish their relative and absolute chronology. The present volume aims to fulfil this need. In Part 1 we consider the dated documents, discussing the nature of the Bactrian calendar and the epoch of the Bactrian era, and concluding with a conspectus in which all the attested dates are converted to Julian dates on the basis of the facts and arguments presented. In Part 2 we turn to the equally important undated documents, systematically weighing up all types of evidence, whether historical, prosopographical, palaeographical, linguistic or orthographic, which may have a bearing on their dating. Part 3 provides a handy check-list of our conclusions, while the Appendices provide additional and supporting material including editions of the Tochi valley inscriptions and of a Pahlavi letter which was purchased together with the Bactrian documents.
This book will be required reading for scholars and students of the pre-Islamic and early Islamic history of Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia. It will also be a useful resource for those interested in the languages, religions and numismatics of the region.

From Cyrus to Seleukos: Studies in Achaemenid and Hellenistic History

Briant, Pierre. 2018. From Cyrus to Seleukos: Studies in Achaemenid and Hellenistic history (Ancient Iran Series). UCI Jordan Center for Persian Studies.

The present volume is a collection of articles published in English by Professor Pierre Briant of the Collège de France, in various forms over the past three decades. Pierre Briant has been instrumental in the recent revival of Achaemenid history, and the way in which he has achieved this is instructive for the future generations of historians to come. One can state that Briant’s approach to history is very much in the French tradition: it engages with both narration and a thorough historiographical methodology, making his work so distinctively rigorous and compelling at the same time. Another important contribution made by Briant’s work concerns the changing scholarly interpretations of the relations between the Achaemenids and Alexander in the longue durée. Since the major corpus of Pierre Briant’s work was originally composed in French, I thought that it would be beneficial to many English-speaking students, as well as educated readers and experts in the field, to have access to these important essays in a single volume. I have tried to keep articles in their original publication format and style, wherever possible. This volume is a special tribute to an important historian of our time, from which current and future students of Persia will have much to learn.

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The Elamite World

Álvarez-Mon, Javier, Gian Pietro Basello & Yasmina Wicks (eds.). 2018. The Elamite World (Routledge Worlds). London: Routledge.

Amongst the civilizations to participate in the dynamic processes of contact and interchange that gave rise to complex societies in the ancient Near East, Elam has remained one of the most obscure, at times languishing in the background of scholarly inquiry. In recent years, however, an increasing body of academic publications have suggested that the legacy of Elam was more considerable and long-lasting than previously estimated.

The Elamite World assembles a group of forty international scholars to contribute their expertise to the production of a solid, lavishly illustrated, English language treatment of Elamite civilization, covering topics such as its physical setting, historical development, languages and people, material culture, art, science, religion and society. Also treated are the legacy of Elam in the Persian empire and its presence in the modern world.

This comprehensive and ambitious survey seeks for Elam, hardly a household name, a noteworthy place in our shared cultural heritage. It will be both a valuable introductory text for a general audience and a definitive reference source for students and academics.

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Persian Art

Carey, Moya. 2018. Persian art: Collecting the arts of Iran in the nineteenth century. London: V&A Publishing.

Today the Victoria and Albert Museum holds extensive and renowned collections of Iranian art, spanning at least twelve centuries of Iran’s sophisticated cultural history. These objects range from archaeological finds to architectural salvage, from domestic furnishings and drinking vessels to design archives. Most of this diverse material was purchased in the late nineteenth century, over a few decades – roughly between 1873 and 1893 – during a specific period of contact between Victorian Britain and Qajar Iran.

This book investigates that period through four case studies, showing how architects, diplomats, dealers, collectors and craftsmen engaged with Iran’s complex visual traditions, ancient and modern.

Moya Carey is the Iran Heritage Foundation Curator for the Iranian Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.