Tag Archives: Achaemenid 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.

Ctesias’ Persica and its Near Eastern Context

Waters, Matt. 2017. Ctesias’ Persica and its Near Eastern context (Wisconsin Studies in Classics). University of Wisconsin Press.

The Persica is an extensive history of Assyria and Persia written by the Greek historian Ctesias, who served as a doctor to the Persian king Artaxerxes II around 400 BCE. Written for a Greek readership, the Persica influenced the development of both historiographic and literary traditions in Greece. It also, contends Matt Waters, is an essential but often misunderstood source for the history of the Achaemenid Persian Empire.

Matt Waters is a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. He is the author of Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE and A Survey of Neo-Elamite History.

Source: UW Press: Ctesias’ Persica and Its Near Eastern Context

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.

Arrian, the Second Sophistic, Xerxes, and the Statues of Harmodios and Aristogeiton

Müller, Sabine. 2016. Arrian, the second Sophistic, Xerxes, and the statues of Harmodios and Aristogeiton. In Svärd, Saana & Robert Rollinger (eds.), Cross-cultural Studies in Near Eastern History and Literature, 173–202. Münster.

Alexander: Exegesis of common images

alexandreBriant, Pierre. 2016. Alexandre. Exégèse des lieux communs.  Éditions Gallimard.

As a well-known historian who has been dealing with Achaemenid history for decades, Pierre Briant has published several books and articles on Alexander the Great. In his newest book, Briant focuses on the exegesis of  extant images of Alexander from eastern to western sources. His work is not limited to ancient sources but also deals with contemporary images such as Alexandre d’Hollywood.

The critical analysis of the images we observe in ancient Roman, Iranian  and modern sources is the main goal of the author and completes his previous research.

To see the table of contents, click here.

Greek perspectives on the Achaemenid Empire

Morgan, Janett. 2016. Greek perspectives on the Achaemenid Empire: Persia through the looking glass. Edinburgh University Press.

The Greek’s view of Persia and the Persians changed radically throughout the archaic and classical period as the Persians turned from noble warriors to peacock-loving cross-dressers. This book traces the development of a range of responses to the Achaemenids and their empire through a study of ancient texts and material evidence from the archaic and classical periods. Janett Morgan investigates the historical, political and social factors that inspired and manipulated different identities for Persia and the Persians within Greece. She offers unique insights into the role of Greek social elites and political communities in creating different representations of the Achaemenid Persians and their empire.

About the author: Janett Morgan is an interdisciplinary ancient Greek historian. Her research focuses on material culture and its representation in ancient texts, investigating the ways in which individuals, groups and communities in Greece and Achaemenid Iran used architecture and artefacts to create religious, social and political identities and to express differences. She is the author of The Classical Greek House (Bristol Phoenix Press, 2010).

Diodorus and his Library

Michael, Rathmann. 2016. Diodor und seine “Bibliotheke”: Weltgeschichte aus der Provinz. Berlin: De Gruyter

Previous research saw Diodorus as an author with modest intellect and a working technique of equal mediocrity, just capable enough of reconstructing forgotten historical works from the Hellenistic period. This study reveals a serious historiographer who brought an entirely original perspective to his “universal history,” based on his own background, talent, and training, especially as he presented heroic figures, such as Alexander the Great.

See the table of contents here.

Achaemenids and Greeks

omslagDahlén, Ashk (ed.). 2016. Antikens Persien. Umeå: H:ström Text & Kultur.

The  Achaemenian Empire was the first of the Persian Empires to become an important political and economic power in the ancient world for more than two hundred years. It transformed the entire area from the Greek islands in the west to Central Asia in the east to a continuous trading with efficient infrastructure and monetary economics. However Greco-Persian Wars, also often called the Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between the Achaemenid Empire of Persia and Greek city-states that started in 499 BC and lasted until 449 BC. , and as long overshadowed the western image of the Ancient Persia.

This volume is the first introduction to the Achaemenid Empire in Swedish. It is dedicated to Swedish archeologist, professor Carl Nylander and is a tribute to his pioneering work in the field of early Achaemenid archeology.

“Antikens Persien” covers a range of interrelated topics such as political history, multiculturalism, architecture, language, and literature. Its aim is provide a general introduction to ancient Persia for Swedish readers and also to highlight the diverse and flourishing interactions between Persians and Greeks in various fields.

Table of Contents:

  • Förord
  • Lennart Lind: “Persien och Grekland”
  • Johan Mårtelius: “Arkitektur och konst”
  • Bo Utas: “Språk och litteratur”
  • Ashk Dahlén: “Kosmopolitism och mångkultur”
  • Vidare läsning
  • Appendix: Bilder

About the Editor:

Ashk Dahlén (PhD 2002) is Associate Professor in Iranian Languages at Uppsala University and founding president of the Scandinavian Society for Iranian Studies. Among his research interests are classical Persian literature, Iranian cultural history, mythology, religions, and historical continuities between ancient and medieval Iran.

A Political History of the Achaemenid Empire, new edition

Dandamaev, M. A. 2015. A political history of the Achaemenid Empire (Historical Library). Saint Petersburg: Academy of Cultural Studies. 3rd (2nd Russian) Edition.

The first edition of this book was published in 1985 in Russian. It was translated into English in 1989. The second Russian edition of this classic work deals with the political history of the Achaemenid Empire in a chronological manner. The volume draws on the main primary sources and secondary literature in its attempt to offer a comprehensive discussion of the political history of the Achaemenid Empire, which arose in the sixth century BC and lasted more than two centuries.  The book’s English translation received eight reviews, including Briant’s critical article, which Dandamaev discusses in the preface. The author has updated his book, considering the reviews and the scholarship that have been published in the past two decades.

The table of contents and preface are here.

In general:

М.А. Дандамаев. Политическая история Ахеменидской державы. 3-е (2-е русское) изд. СПб: «Академия Исследования Культуры». 2015 (Историческая библиотека).

Levantine Epigraphy from the Achaemenid Period

Papyrus with an Aramaic translation of the Behistun inscription's text
Papyrus with an Aramaic translation of the Behistun inscription’s text

Lemaire, André. 2015. Levantine epigraphy and history in the Achaemenid period (539-332 BCE). First edition. (Schweich Lectures on Biblical Archaeology 2013). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Inscriptions discovered since 1980 and fresh epigraph research have revealed much about the Archaeminid period in the Levant (533-332 BCE). André Lemaire concentrates on three areas where new data has shed light on the societies living in the largest empire that the world had known to that date.

Phoenicia played a vital political and economic role in the empire because Persian kings had to rely on the Phoenician navy in their wars against Greece and Egypt in the Eastern Mediterranean. Newly discovered inscriptions from Byblos, Sidon and Tyre, as well as the results of research into coins, have illuminated the chronology, history and extent of the Phoenician kingdoms, as well as their influence in Palestine.

New inscriptions have added to our knowledge of the Judean Diaspora in Babylonia, Egypt and Cyprus. The main indirect information about the Exiles previously available to us was in the book of Ezekiel. Now, epigraphic data has revealed not only many names of Exiles but how and where they lived and more about their relationship with Jerusalem.

The third region described is the Persian provinces of Samaria, Judaea and Idumaea, especially during the 4th century BCE. The publication of various, mainly Aramaic, contemporary inscriptions on papyri, ostraca, seals, seal-impressions and coins, sheds new light on the daily life and religion of these provinces. The insciptions help us to understand something of the chronology, society and culture of these three different provinces as well as several Biblical texts in their historical and economic contexts.

With over 90 inscriptions illustrated and fully transcribed, this book provides new insight into a period that has proved difficult to study.

Table of Contents:

  • Levantine epigraphy and Phoenicia: the kingdoms of Aradus, Byblos, Sidon and Tyre during the Achaemenid period
  • West Semitic epigraphy and the Judean Diaspora during the Achaemenid period: Babylonia, Egypt, Cyprus
  • Levantine epigraphy and Samaria, Judaea and Idumaea during the Achaemenid period

About the Author:

André Lemaire (Sorbonne, Paris) has worked, first as a researcher in the French National Center for Scientific Research and later as “directeur d’études ” in the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Sorbonne, Paris), in the field of West Semitic epigraphy, Levantine history and Hebrew Bible in the first millennium BCE, for more than forty years. He has published many new Hebrew, Aramaic and Phoenician inscriptions as well as new historical interpretations. He is especially interested in the connection between West Semitic epigraphy and the Biblical tradition and was a member of the Editorial board of Vetus Testamentum for 36 years.