Tag Archives: Achaemenid Empire

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 http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/persepolis-admin-archive (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.

Achaemenid Visual Representations of Royal Figures

Erica Ehrenberg, “Achaemenid Visual Representations of Royal Figures,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/achaemenid-visual-reps (accessed on 16 May 2017).

Visual representations of Achaemenid kings, while indebted to established Mesopotamian iconographic conventions, betray distinct understandings of sovereignty. Royal reliefs, glyptic and molded bricks are highly modeled, a trait that has been attributed to the influence of Greek carvers but could readily have been a further development of Late Babylonian stylistic precedent.


Picturing Pasargadae: Visual Representation and the Ambiguities of Heritage in Iran

Mozaffari, Ali. 2017. “Picturing Pasargadae: Visual Representation and the Ambiguities of Heritage in Iran“, Iranian Studies 50(4), 601-634.

This paper probes the relationship between visual representations and visitation practices at Pasargadae, a UNESCO World Heritage site in southern Iran. Presenting a systematic analysis of publicly available online images of Pasargadae, the paper examines the complex relationship between the place and its visual representations. Through analysis, the paper elaborates on a sense of intimacy that, while grounding Pasargadae, is also a potential common ground in pre-Islamic heritage in which the Iranian state and society could at once meet and contest versions of identity. Examining this relationship facilitates reflections into both heritage and the peculiarities of its visual representation in the Iranian context.

Treasury Secretary at Persepolis

Stolper, Matthew W. 2017. From the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, 6 The Dossier of Šarbaladda, Treasury Secretary at Persepolis. ARTA: Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology 001. 1–33.

Since Hallock 1969 made available the first large sample of administrative documents from the Persepolis Fortification Archive, efforts to characterize the organization and operations of the institution that produced the Archive have sometimes noticed a man named Šarbaladda, called a ‘treasurer’ and perhaps a ‘scribe in the treasury’ in PF 1947:17 and 19. A growing sample of Elamite Fortification documents, now about
three times as large, allows reconsideration of his name, titles, location, status and work.


King of the Seven Climes

Daryaee, Touraj (ed.). 2017. King of the Seven Climes: A History of the Ancient Iranian World (3000 BCE – 651 CE). UCI Jordan Center for Persian Studies.


In a Middle Persian text known as “Khusro and the Page,” one of the most famous kings of the ancient Iranian world, Khusro I Anusheruwan, is called haft kišwar xawadāy “the King of the Seven Climes.” This title harkens back to at least the Achaemenid period when it was in fact used, and even further back to a Zoroastrian/Avestan world view. From the earliest Iranian hymns, those of the Gāthās of Zarathushtra, through the Younger Avesta and later Pahlavi writings, it is known that the ancient Iranians divided the world into seven climes or regions. Indeed, at some point there was even an aspiration that this world should be ruled by a single king. Consequently, the title of the King of the Seven Climes, used by Khusro I in the sixth century CE, suggests the most ambitious imperial vision that one would find in the literary tradition of the ancient Iranian world. Taking this as a point of departure, the present book aims to be a survey of the dynasties and rulers who thought of going beyond their own surroundings to forge larger polities within the Iranian realm.

Thus far, in similar discussions of ancient Iranian history, it has been the convention to set the beginnings of a specifically Iranian world at the rise of Cyrus the Great and the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire. But in fact, this notion is only a recent paradigm, which became popular in Iran in the late 1960s owing to traditions of Classical and European historiography. At the same time, there are other narratives that can be given for the history of the Iranian World, including those that take us to 5000 BCE to sites such as Sialk, near Kashan, or other similar archaeological localities. As attractive as an archaeologically based narrative of local powers can be, however, the aim of the present work is to focus on political entities who aimed at the control of a larger domain beyond their own local contexts. As a result, this book starts its narrative with Elam, the influential civilization and kingdom that existed long before the Achaemenids came to power. Elam boasted a writing system and a complex culture and political organization contemporaneous with that of Mesopotamia, and was made up of cities such as Susa and Anshan. As Kamyar Abdi shows in his chapter, the Iranian civilization owes much to the Elamites and their worldview and conception of rulership. Thus, we do not start the present narrative with 550 BCE and Cyrus, but with 3000 BCE, in the proto-Elamite Period, when signs of a long lasting civilization on the Iranian Plateau first appeared.

Table of Contents:

The Egypto-Persian king and the presentation of dominion in the Achaemenid era

Wasmuth, Melanie. 2017. Ägypto-persische Herrscher- und Herrschaftspräsentation in der Achämenidenzeit.  Franz Steiner Verlag.

Iconographic and textual treatments are at the centre of Achaemenid studies which identify the Persian Great King as sovereign of Egypt. Melanie Wasmuth declares there are fundamental and  wide-spreading sources in Egypt that one possibly could advantage to investigate Persian rulership over Egypt.
At least for Darius I, considering the sources, one can see, a ruler could play four different roles: as a Persian Great King, as an Egyptian pharaoh, as an Egyptian god and as Egypto-Persian ruler. Notably, the combination of two absolute concept of Persian Great King and Egyptian pharaoh into one notion, Egypto-Persian ruler, sheds the lights on strategies of the presentation of dominion and cross-cultural construction of identity. In Persis, the focus is primarily on the representation of the claim to global power as a Persian Great King. However, an Egypto-Persian kingship is propagated in the Achaemenid empire at least since Xerxes and explicitly in the context of the reintegration of Egypt by Artaxerxes III.

There is also an appendix written by Wouter Henkelman entitled “Egyptians in the Persepolis Archives”, available on his page on academia.edu.

Abstract by Yazdan Safaee, based on the German original.

Latest issue of Iranian Studies

Latest issue of Iranian Studies (Vol 50, No 2) has three papers, related to our website’s interest, as follows:

Ali Bahadori: “Achaemenid Empire, Tribal Confederations of Southwestern Persia and Seven Families

Many tribes lived in southwestern Persia during the Achaemenid period. The region was crucial for the Persian empire in that almost all roads connecting the two capitals of Persepolis and Susa run through it. The policy adopted by the Achaemenids for controlling this tribal region was to establish tribal confederations headed by men loyal to the king such as Madates and Gobryas. The Achaemenid king reinforced these tribal confederations by political marriages. Sisygambis, the mother of Darius III, was presumably an Uxian. This is why she was an ideal person to negotiate with Alexander of Macedon to free the Uxians headed by Madates, also probably an Uxian. Gobryas, the head of the Patischorian tribe, was one of the seven who rebelled against Bardiya/Gaumāta according to the Bisotun inscription and Herodotus. The Persepolis Fortification texts appear to show that the region between modern Bāsht and Ardakān called the Fahliyān region or Shulestān was the territory of this tribe. Irdabama, presumably the daughter of Gobryas born from his marriage with daughter of a local dynast, was married by Darius I in order to maintain Achaemenid control over this tribal region.

Amir Ahmadi: “A Gāthic Rite? A Critique of the Cosmological Interpretation of the Gāthās I

In the last few decades ritual interpretation of the Gāthās has replaced the biblical one as the dominant paradigm. The emphasis on the central role of ritual in the Avesta is well justified. This realization has given rise to the question of the role and meaning of ritual in the Gāthās. Marijan Molé had tried to argue that the Gāthās in fact describe and accompany a rite whose purpose was the preservation/renovation of the cosmic order. Students of the Gāthās working within the new paradigm have taken up Molé’s general frame. They have tried to show that the Gāthās, collectively or individually, is the text of a particular rite that served, among others, to preserve the cosmic order, especially the daily rise of the sun. The article questions the validity of this thesis. Its focus is on the version of the thesis we find in a number of recent publications by Jean Kellens. He tries to show that the first Gāthā (Ahunauuaitī) describes a unitary pre-dawn ritual that comprised a haoma rite and an animal sacrifice, and had cosmological and eschatological pretensions. His textual analyses and arguments are examined in some detail. The article concludes that Kellens’s attempt must be deemed unsuccessful.

D Gershon Lewental: “The Death of Rostam: Literary Representations of Iranian Identity in Early Islam


The death of the Persian dynast Rostam b. Farrokh-Hormozd at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah during the Arab-Islamic conquest of Iran received much attention in both the Islamic conquest literature and the Persian epic tradition canonized in the Shāh-nāmeh. A careful examination of the narratives of early Islamic history teaches us much about the mindset of those living in the first centuries following the momentous events of the seventh century. By removing the layers of literary embellishment and moralistic exegesis, we can understand better the impact of the death of this Sāsānian dynast. In addition, by comparing the narrative traditions, we can uncover valuable testimony regarding the early development of what might later be described as an Islamic Iranian identity.

The Arshama project

The Arshama Project is not new, but since it is a valuable resource for the study of Achaemenid history, we would like to introduce it briefly.

The parchment letters of the Persian prince Arshama to Nakhthor, the steward of his estates in Egypt, are rare survivors from the ancient Achaemenid empire. These fascinating documents offer a vivid snapshot of linguistic, social, economic, cultural, organisational and political aspects of the Achaemenid empire as lived by a member of the elite and his entourage. The letters give unique insight into cultivation and administration, unrest and control, privileged lifestyles and long-distance travel. Arshama’s letters to Nakhthor, two leather bags and clay sealings, entered the Bodleian Library in 1944. These pages are a result of a collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries and scholars from the AHRC funded project Communication, Language and Power in the Achaemenid Empire: The correspondence of the satrap Arshama.

The result of the project, a volume entitled The Arshama Letters from the Bodleian Library, is openly accessible on the Publications tab.

More information can be found here and on the Arshama project website.

Semiramis’ Legacy

Stronk, Jan p. 2016. Semiramis’ Legacy: The History of Persia According to Diodorus of Sicily (Edinburgh Studies in Ancient Persia). Edinburgh University Press.

There are only a few detailed histories of Persia from Ancient Greek historiography that have survived time. Diodorus of Sicily, a first century BC author, is the only one to have written a comprehensive history (the Bibliotheca Historica or Historical Library) in which more than cursory attention is paid to Persia. The Bibliotheca Historica covers the entire period from Persia’s prehistory until the arrival of the Parthians from the East and that of Roman power throughout Asia Minor and beyond from the West, around 750 years after Assyrian rule ended.

Diodorus’ contribution to our knowledge of Persian history is therefore of great value for the modern historian of the Ancient Near East and in this book Jan Stronk provides the first complete translation of Diodorus’ account of the history of Persia. He also examines and evaluates both Diodorus’ account and the sources he used to compose his work, taking into consideration the historical, political and archaeological factors that may have played a role in the transmission of the evidence he used to acquire the raw material underlying his Bibliotheca.

Continue reading Semiramis’ Legacy