The blessed Simeon bar Sabba’e

Smith, Kyle. 2014. The martyrdom and history of blessed Simeon bar Sabba’e (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 3). Gorgias Press.

Around the year 339 CE, Simeon bar Sabbae (the bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon on the Tigris) was killed by the Persian king Shapur II. Simeon was arrested for refusing to collect taxes from his flock, and he was beheaded for disobeying the king’s order to worship the sun. The bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon was no minor figure. In fact, Simeon’s martyr acts proclaim that he was the leader of the Christians of Persia and the protomartyr of Shapur’s forty-year persecution. Curiously, however, two very different versions of Simeon’s death exist. Each is presented here with an accompanying translation and notes.

Simeon’s Martyrdom and History are fundamental sources for chronicling the history of Christianity in Sasanian Persia. Together, these texts testify to the centrality of martyrdom literature in late ancient Syriac Christianity, and they show how Persian Christians forged their own political and religious identities amidst the ongoing Christianization of the Roman Empire.

The story of Mar Pinhas

McCollum, Adam Carter. 2013. The story of Mar Pinhas (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 2). Gorgias Press.

The Sasanian world through Georgian eyes

Rapp, Stephen. 2014. The Sasanian world through Georgian eyes. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.

Georgian literary sources for Late Antiquity are commonly held to be later productions devoid of historical value. As a result, scholarship outside the Republic of Georgia has privileged Graeco-Roman and even Armenian narratives. However, when investigated within the dual contexts of a regional literary canon and the active participation of Caucasia’s diverse peoples in the Iranian Commonwealth, early Georgian texts emerge as a rich repository of late antique attitudes and outlooks. Georgian hagiographical and historiographical compositions open a unique window onto a northern part of the Sasanian world that, while sharing striking affinities with the Iranian heartland, was home to vibrant, cosmopolitan cultures that developed along their own trajectories.

The author’s website is here.

Yarshater Lectures at SOAS

‘In the rays of light of imperial favour’: The visual arts of early fifteenth-century Timurid Herat.

Four lectures by Professor David J. Roxburgh of the Department of History of Art and Architecture and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Islamic Art History, Harvard University:

  • 15 January Timurid Herat: The City as a Setting for Art and Literature
  • 16 January The Timurid-Ming Embassy of 1419-22: Art after China
  • 19 January Modelling Artistic Process: The Kitābkhāna and ΄Arzadāsht
  • 20 January Baysunghur’s Books: Codifying Form and Aesthetic Value

For more information, see the series’ SOAS webpage or the poster.

Darius in the shadow of Alexander

Jane Marie Todd’s translation of Briant’s 2003 Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre has just been published:

Briant, Pierre. 2015. Darius in the Shadow of Alexander. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

The last of Cyrus the Great’s dynastic inheritors and the legendary enemy of Alexander the Great, Darius III ruled over a Persian Empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Indus River. Yet, despite being the most powerful king of his time, Darius remains an obscure figure. […] While Darius seems doomed to be a footnote in the chronicle of Alexander’s conquests, in one respect it is Darius who has the last laugh. For after Darius’s defeat in 331 BCE, Alexander is described by historians as becoming ever more like his vanquished opponent: a Darius-like sybarite prone to unmanly excess.

Jan P. Stronk, University of Amsterdam, reviewed the original for the Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR). Other reviews include:

  • Brosius, M.2006. Review of Pierre Briant: Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre. Gnomon 78(5). 426–430.
  • Stoneman, R. 2006. Darius III and Alexander: Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre by P. Briant. The Classical Review 56(2). 415–417.
  • معماران کاشی، مهرداد. ۱۳۸۴. نقد و بررسی کتاب: داریوش در سایه اسکندر. بخارا ۴۶. ۳۵۸–۳۶۴.

Early Islamic Balkh

Early Islamic Balkh: History, landscape and material culture
16th–17th January 2015, Wolfson College, Oxford
The Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project (2011-2015) has been investigating the early Islamic history and archaeology of the city of Balkh, in Northern Afghanistan. Synonymous with ancient Bactra, the “Mother of Cities” continued to flourish after the coming of Islam, becoming one of the  most important urban centres of the eastern Islamic world, at the junction of India, China and Transoxiana. This conference presents the interdisciplinary research of the Project’s international collaborative team, and hosts a discussion of the state of research on Balkh in the 7th-12th centuries C.E.
For more information, see here.

Imagining Xerxes

Bridges, Emma. 2014. Imagining Xerxes: Ancient perspectives on a Persian king. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Imagining Xerxes is a transhistorical analysis that explores the richness and variety of Xerxes’ afterlives within the ancient literary tradition. It examines the earliest representations of the king, in Aeschylus’ tragic play Persians and Herodotus’ historiographical account of the Persian Wars, before tracing the ways in which the image of Xerxes was revisited and adapted in later Greek and Latin texts. The author also looks beyond the Hellenocentric viewpoint to consider the construction of Xerxes’ image in the Persian epigraphic record and the alternative perspectives on the king found in the Jewish written tradition.

Textiles and elite tastes

Canepa, Matthew. 2014. Textiles and elite tastes between the Mediterranean, Iran and Asia at the end of antiquity. In Marie-Louise Nosch, Zhao Feng & Lotika Varadarajan (eds.), Global textile encounters (Ancient Textiles Series 20), 1–14. Oxford and Havertown, PA: Oxbow Books.

Read the article here.

Religious trends in late ancient and early Islamic Iran

The latest issue  of the journal Iranian Studies 48(1), dated 2015 and entitled Religious trends in late ancient and early Islamic Iran, is a treasure trove of highly recommended articles. This special issue has been edited by Jason Mokhtarian & David Bennett.

Read the editors’ introduction here.

Continue reading Religious trends in late ancient and early Islamic Iran

The big and beautiful women of Asia

A slightly older but important article by Llewellyn-Jones dealing with the imagery of Achaemenid period seals and gemstones:

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2010. The big and beautiful women of Asia: Ethnic conceptions of ideal beauty in Achaemenid period seals and gemstones. In Hales, Shelley & Tamar Hodos (eds.), Material culture and social identities in the ancient world. Cambridge: CUP.

Read the article here.

A predominantly bibliographic blog for Iranian Studies