Category Archives: Books

Mountain Peoples in the Ancient Near East

Balatti, Silvia. 2017. Mountain Peoples in the Ancient Near East The Case of the Zagros in the First Millennium BC (Classica et Orientalia 18), Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.

Since Prehistory, communities principally engaged in herding activities have occupied the intermontane valleys and plains of the Zagros (Western Iran). Relations, tensions and cultural exchange between the inhabitants of the mountains and the Mesopotamian plains already occurred during the Bronze Age. These contacts increased in the course of the 1st millennium BCE, as is suggested by Near Eastern and subsequently by Greek and Latin sources which provide us with numerous new names of peoples living in the Zagros. The present volume investigates the social organisation and life style of the peoples of the Zagros Mountains in the 1st millennium BCE and deals with their relationships with the surrounding environment and with the political authorities on the plains.

Among these peoples, for example, were the ‘fierce’ Medes, breeders and purveyors of fine horses, the Manneans, who inhabited a large territory enclosed between the two contending powers of Assyria and Urartu, and the ‘warlike’ Cosseans, who bravely attempted to resist the attack of Alexander the Great’s army. The Southern Zagros Mountains, inhabited by mixed groups of Elamite and Iranian farmers and pastoralists, were also of key importance as the home of the Persians and the core area of their empire. Starting from Fārs, the Persians were able to build up the largest empire in the history of the ancient Near East before Alexander.

The interdisciplinary approach adopted in this study, which juxtaposes historical records with archaeological, zooarchaeological, palaeobotanical and ethnographic data, provides a new, holistic and multifaceted view on an otherwise little-known topic in ancient history.

 

Kings, Countries, Peoples: Selected Studies on the Achaemenid Empire

Amélie Kuhrt’s translation of Pierre Briant’s selected papers has just been published:
Briant, Pierre. 2017. Kings, Countries, Peoples: Selected Studies on the Achaemenid Empire. Steiner Franz Verlag.

Pierre Briant’s work focuses particularly on the Achaemenid Empire, Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Kingdoms. For the first time a selection of articles, originally published between 1979 and 2008, is now available in an English translation. The essays, translated by Amelie Kuhrt, deal with a wide range of topics, from regional studies to more universal subjects. A thought-provoking introduction gives a deeper understanding of his thinking by sometimes adopting his conclusions and by occasionally questioning his ideas and presenting an alternative line of thought. Thus, Kings, Countries, Peoples gives us an insight into the evolution of Pierre Briant’s work.

Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition

Omarkhali, Khanna. 2017. The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition: From Oral to Written. Categories, Transmission, Scripturalisation and Canonisation of the Yezidi Oral Religious Texts with Samples of Oral and Written Religious Texts and with Audio and Video Samples on CD-ROM. (Studies in Oriental Religions 72). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Public and academic interest in the Yezidis, their religion and culture, has increased greatly in recent years. The study of Yezidism has also made considerable progress in recent decades. Still, several lacunae in our knowledge remain, notably concerning many concrete aspects of the textual tradition. This book is a comprehensive study of the Yezidi religious textual tradition, containing descriptions of many hitherto unknown aspects of the oral transmission of Yezidi religious knowledge. It presents a detailed account of the ‘mechanisms’ underlying various aspects of the tradition. It shows how the religious textual tradition functioned – and to a certain degree still does – in its pre-modern way, and also describes the transformations it is currently undergoing, including the issues and processes involved in the increasing trend to commit religious knowledge to writing, and indeed to create a written Canon. The work contains several hitherto unpublished texts and the most comprehensive survey to date of the extant Yezidi sacred texts. It includes four maps, a glossary of terms and a list of Yezidi lineages, and is accompanied by a CD with an extensive collection of recordings of texts (208 minutes).
See here the Table of the Contents of this volume.

The Coinage Reforms of Khusru II and the Revolt of Vistāhm

Tyler-Smith, Susan. 2017. The Coinage Reforms (600-603) of Khusru II and the Revolt of Vistāhm. (Royal Numismatic Society Special Publication 54). London: Royal Numismatic Society.

One of the most intriguing literary passages relating to Sasanian coins is in al-Tabari’s, famous History. A number of questions about his ‘evil conduct’ are put to the former king of kings, Khusru II, shortly after his overthrow in 628. One concerns Khusru’s methods of tax gathering and his harsh treatment of his subjects. Khusru’s reply is important to numismatists as it contains the comment that he ordered ‘the engraving of new dies for coins, so that we might give our orders for beginning the minting of new silver [drachms] with them’. Khusru adds that he gave this order ‘at the end of year thirteen [602/3] of our reign’. The meaning of this passage and the remarkable coinage reforms of the early seventh century are explored in depth.

Khusru II’s long reign and the numerous mints operating under him ensure that his drachms are the commonest in the Sasanian series. Over 90% of the enormous ‘Shiraz’ or ‘Year 12’ hoard was probably formed of Khusru’s coins dating between 591 and 602. A parcel of 562 coins from this hoard forms the springboard for the current study. This establishes the precise sequence of the types, the date of the introduction of the enigmatic apd legend and discusses the subsequent hoarding of Khusru’s coins. The latest mint attributions are discussed.

By contrast the coinage of Khusru’s contemporary and rival, the usurper Vistahm, is scarce. Its numerous varieties, from two mints, contrast with Khusru’s centralised minting system which produced a highly standardised, tightly controlled, coinage. Vistahm’s coins are the subject of a special study with all the known dies illustrated.

The Persian Gulf: Khark

Floor, Willem, & D. T. Potts. 2017. The Persian Gulf: Khark: The Island’s Untold Story. Mage Publishers.

 

The island of Khark was an important link in Persian Gulf navigation, supplying passing ships with water, victuals, and pilots for ships sailing to and from Basra. This was why the Arabs called Khark the Mother of Skippers (Umm al-Rubbaniyan). Through the ages, Khark has also been a place of pilgrimage: in Sasanian times, due to the presence of an early Christian church and monastery, and in Islamic times, because of the presence of the tomb of Mohammad al-Hanafiyya. In the eighteenth century, the Dutch made the island their center of trade in the Persian Gulf, and by the nineteenth century the island was dubbed the most important strategic point in the Persian Gulf, reason why the British occupied it twice. Although by 1900 the island had lost its strategic importance, it acquired it again after the 1950s, when the National Iranian Oil Company decided to make Khark its main terminal for the export of crude oil. Later, chemical factories were added to the island’s economic make-up. As a result, Khark s name is now better known around the world than it was ever previously, but the history has remained untold. This book tells the whole story, from the early archeological evidence and the Islamic and Safavid periods, to the Dutch projects in the eighteenth century and the British in the nineteenth century. And in the end, how the traditional way of life ended and industrialization began.

The Captive Emperor: Valerian, Persia and the Defeat of Edessa

Coloru, Omar. 2017. L’imperatore prigioniero. Valeriano, la Persia e la disfatta di Edessa. Editori Laterza.

 

In 260 AD, the emperor Valerian is made prisoner by the “King of kings” Shapur I: he will end his days in Persia as a prisoner of war. For the Romans, this is an unprecedented military catastrophe, even more terrible than the defeat of Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BC. Rome is going to face the worst phase of the crisis affecting the Roman empire in the 3rd century AD: the Sasanians are making incursions in Anatolia and Syria, the Renan and Danubian borders are under the pressure of the barbarians, while the Christians are persecuted all over the empire because the emperor sees in this religion a political and ideological threat for the Roman state and its traditions. What is more, the capture of Valerian generates separatist movements which allow the usurper Postumus to create the Gallic Empire. The book aims to present a biography of Valerian to a general audience but it also tries to investigate some controversial events of his reign.

via Omar Coloru.

A Journal of Three Months’ Walk in Persia in 1884

Harris, Russell & Marjan Afsharian (eds.). 2017. A Journal of Three Months’ Walk in Persia in 1884 by Captain John Compton Pyne. Leiden University Press.

 

In 1884 an obscure British soldier, having finished his tour of duty in India, decided to make a detour on his trip home in order to spend three months crossing Persia unaccompanied except for the local muleteers. Among his accoutrements he packed a small leather-bound sketchbook in which he not only wrote a journal but in which he also added accomplished and charming water-colour illustrations. The authors’ introduction contextualises this trip made in 1884 against the background of Persianate influence in British culture, and the general cultural background of late Victorian Britain is presented as the subliminal driver behind a young man’s desire to explore, and illustrate, an already discovered country – Persia.

Marjan Afsharian gained her MA in the History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS. She currently works for the Encyclopaedia Islamica project at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London.

Russell Harris holds an MA in Oriental Studies from Balliol College, Oxford, and is an established translator of literary works from French and Arabic. He is a contributor to the The Routledge Encyclopedia of 19th Century Photography and The Encyclopaedia Islamica.

With Alexander in India and Central Asia

Antonetti, Claudia, & Paolo Biagi (ed.). 2017. With Alexander in India and Central Asia: Moving east and back to west. Oxbow Books.

Alexander conquered most parts of the Western World, but there is a great deal of controversy over his invasion of India, the least known of his campaigns. In BC 327 Alexander came to India, and tried to cross the Jhelum river for the invasion, but was then confronted by King Porus who ruled an area in what is now the Punjab. According to Indian history he was stopped by Porus at his entry into the country, but most of the world still believes that Alexander won the battle. Fearing the prospect of facing other large armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, Alexander’s army mutinied at the Hyphasis River, refusing to march farther east. This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander’s conquests.
Twelve papers in this volume examine aspects of Alexander’s Indian campaign, the relationship between him and his generals, the potential to use Indian sources, and evidence for the influence of policies of Alexander in neighbouring areas such as Iran and Russia.

 

The Parsis of Singapore

Kanga, Suna & Subina Aurora Khaneja. 2017. The Parsis of Singapore: History, culture, cuisine. Epigram Books.

When Suna first moved to Singapore, there were barely forty Parsis; today there are well-over 350 Parsis in the country. During her four decade-long stay in Singapore, she was often asked, “Who are the Parsis?” This sparked the idea for a book to highlight the distinctive culture and cuisine of a notable but diminishing Indian community that settled in Singapore in the 1800s. The Parsis of Singapore: Heritage, Culture, Cuisine documents the history and heritage of this unique community.

Source: The Parsis of Singapore – Epigram Books

The Routledge Companion to Strabo

Dueck, Daniela (ed.). 2017. The Routledge Companion to Strabo. The Routledge.

The Routledge Companion to Strabo explores the works of Strabo of Amasia (c. 64 BCE – c. CE 24), a Greek author writing at the prime of Roman expansion and political empowerment. While his earlier historiographical composition is almost entirely lost, his major opus of the Geography includes an encyclopaedic look at the entire world known at the time: numerous ethnographic, topographic, historical, mythological, botanical, and zoological details, and much more.

To see table of contents click here.