Tag Archives: Achaemenid

Archery in Achaemenid and Parthian Kingships

Panaino, Antonio. 2019. Symbolic and Ideological Implications of Archery in Achaemenid and Parthian Kingships. In Federicomaria Muccioli, Alessandro Cristofori & Alice Bencivenni (eds.), Philobiblos: scritti in onore di Giovanni Geraci, 19–66. Roma: Jouvence.

Achaemenid Royal Archers, Coloured glazed terracotta brick panels, Susa, around 510 BC

The present study is a fruit of a larger investigation dedicated to the ideological meaning of archery in Iran in the light of other Eastern civilizations, but also in the framework of the ancient Indo-Iranian epos. This investigation brought to light a number of historical problems.

Over the Mountains and Far Away

Avetisyan, Pavel S., Roberto Dan & Yervand H. Grekyan (eds.). 2019. Over the Mountains and Far Away: Studies in Near Eastern history and archaeology presented to Mirjo Salvini on the occasion of his 80th birthday. Archaeopress.

The publication of Over the Mountains and Far Away: Studies in Near Eastern history and archaeology presented to Mirjo Salvini on the occasion of his 80th birthday was initiated by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, National Academy of Sciences of Armenia, the International Association of Mediterranean and Oriental Studies (Rome, Italy) and the Association for Near Eastern and Caucasian Studies (Yerevan, Armenia) as a tribute to the career of Professor Mirjo Salvini on the occasion his 80th birthday. It is composed of 62 papers written by his colleagues and students from Italy, Germany, France, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, Great Britain, Russian Federation, Israel, Turkey, Islamic Republic of Iran, Georgia, United States and Armenia. The contributions presented here cover numerous topics, a wide geographical area and a long chronological period. However, most of the contributions deal with research in the fields of Urartian and Hittite Studies, the topics that attracted Prof. Salvini during his long and fruitful career most.

For the table of contents click here.

Labour in the Achaemenid heartland

Tamerus, Mark. 2018. Labour in the Achaemenid heartland. In Agnès Garcia-Ventura (ed.), What’s in a name? Terminology related to the work force and job categories in the ancient Near East, 467-493,
Münster: Ugarit Verlag .

This contribution is concerned with labour in the heartland of the Achaemenid Persian Empire (from the end of the sixth until the mid-fifth century BC). Drawing on earlier studies that have touched upon aspects of the organisation and management of labour in the imperial core, special focus is laid upon the diachronic and synchronic contexts of Persepolitan labour and labourers.

Art History and Achaemenid History

Bull’s head on the northern portico of the Throne Hall of Xerxes (5th century BC), Persepolis, Iran

Draycott, Catherine. 2019. Art History and Achaemenid History: or, what you can get out of the back end of a bull. In C. M. Draycott, R. Raja, K. Welch, and W. Wootton (eds.), Visual Histories of the Classical World. Essays in Honour of R.R.R. Smith , 16-33, Turnhout: Brepols Publishers.


In a recent review of a book entitled Critical Approaches to Ancient Near Eastern Art, Daniel T. Potts raises the question of whether, regardless of the fact that one can speak of a discipline of Ancient Near Eastern Art History, one should.  He explains that he is not concerned with denying the necessity of studying art or imagery as a part of Ancient Near Eastern History, but that it is insufficient for ‘a deep understanding of the ancient Near East’.  This worry picks up an ongoing tension between ‘ancient historians’ and ‘art historians’ (or archaeologists who work with imagery) that seemingly survives the pictorial turn and the use of ‘visual culture’ as a term emphasizing the whole visual sphere as historical source material, and revolves around the extent to which the ‘larger historical picture’ is sufficiently seen as an end goal. As Potts notes, dress and ornamentation, the ‘wigs, powder, perfume and silk’ of the French Revolution period, for example, can be considered epiphenomena.  On the other hand, ‘Warfare, fiercely contested battles for hegemony and struggles over access to irrigation water and arable land all formed part of the crucible in which Early Dynastic society and its hyper-competitive city state system were forged.’  Serious stuff, not to mention masculine, giving one pause to consider in the context of this book how the fate and trajectory of ‘art history’ within various sub-disciplines might depend on historically gendered scholarship cultures….

Xerxes and Babylonia

Waerzeggers , Caroline (ed.). 2018. Xerxes and Babylonia: The Cuneiform Evidence. Leuven: Peeters.


In the summer of 484 BCE Babylonia revolted against Xerxes, king of Persia. In recent years, a debate has crystallized around the nature of Xerxes’ response to this challenge. This volume continues and expands this debate. It collects nine essays on the cuneiform text corpus dated to the period before, during and after the revolts. This material enables the authors to evaluate the nature of Xerxes’ policies in the sphere of society, science, religion, law, administration and economy against the long-term history of the region. The contributions are by Paul-Alain Beaulieu, Johannes Hackl, Michael Jursa, Karlheinz Kessler, Mathieu Ossendrijver, Reinhard Pirngruber, Malgorzata Sandowicz and Caroline Waerzeggers.

Alphabet scribes in the land of cuneiform

Bloch, Yigal. 2018. Alphabet scribes in the land of cuneiform: sepiru professionals in Mesopotamia in the neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods (Gorgias Studies in the Ancient Near East 11). Piscataway, NJ, USA: Gorgias Press.
This book discusses the alphabetic scribes (sēpiru) mentioned in Mesopotamian documents of the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods – specifically, of the 6th-5th centuries bce. The period in question saw a wide diffusion of writing in the Northwest Semitic alphabetic script – mostly in Aramaic – in Mesopotamia; yet, alphabetic texts were normally written in ink on perishable materials and did not survive to be discovered by modern archaeologists. In contrast, cuneiform tablets written on clay have been found in large numbers, and they document different aspects of the alphabetic scribes’ activities. This book presents evidence for understanding the Akkadian term sēpiru as a designation for an alphabetic scribe and discusses the functions of these professionals in different administrative and economic spheres. It further considers the question of the ethnic origins of the alphabetic scribes in Mesopotamia, with special attention to the participation of Judeans in Babylonia in this profession. Bloch also provides translations of over 100 cuneiform documents of economic, legal and administrative content.

Revisiting the Location of Pṛga in the Behistun Inscription

Doroodi, Mojtaba & Farrokh Hajiani. 2018. Revisiting the location of Pṛga in the Behistun inscription on the basis of its etymology and an examination of historico-geographical texts. The Journal of Indo-European Studies 46 (3-4), 265–289.

A multitude of geographical names are referred to in the Behistun Inscription. Despite the fact that scholars have put considerable effort in locating the current sites of many of these places, there is a shroud of mystery hanging over some. A mountain called Parga, the battlefield of King Darius with Vahyazdāta, is one of them. Some researchers have identified it with Forg District which seems to be an erroneous assumption. This study, while convincingly refuting the aforementioned assumption, tries to propound and prove a new idea as regards the whereabouts of Prga. In reaching this goal, the authors have benefited from etymological and historical evidence and have examined the original inscription in Old Persian, Elamite, Babylonian, and Aramaic. The results of this study indicate that what is now called Shahrak-e Abarj in the Marvdasht Plain could be the real location of Prga referred to in the Behistun Inscription.

The Worst Revolt of the Bisitun Crisis

Wijnsma, Uzume. 2018. The worst revolt of the Bisitun crisis: A chronological reconstruction of the Egyptian revolt under Petubastis IVJournal of Near Eastern Studies 77 (2), 157–173.

Achaemenid Seal and Monumental Art

Drawing of a lenticular seal from Tomb 33, Prosymna. Athens (after Sakellarakis 1982, no. 27)

The recent volume Friedhelm Pedde & Nathanael Shelley (eds.), Assyromania and More. In Memory of Samuel M. Paley (Marru. Studien Zur Vorderasiatischen Archäologie 4), . Münster: Zaphon. contains two chapters of hight interest for Iranian and Achaemenid Studies:

Literacy and Orality in Achaemenid Iran

Kolb, Anne (ed.). 2018. Literacy in ancient everyday life. Berlin ; Boston: Walter de Gruyter.
The purpose of the conference proceedings is to investigate the importance of literacy in the daily lives of ancient people. In addition to the intended utilization of writing and written material, the circumstances of usage as well as various types of users are the focus of the analyzes. The concept of a diversified literacy of different levels of literacy, literacy and numeracy makes it possible to differentiate the usage of everyday writing according to types or categories of uses and to recognize different functions of literacy.
Two chapters from the first part are of special interests for Iranian and Achaemenian Studies:
The contribution aims at pointing out the impact of language(s) and writing system(s), not least of Elamite, Old Persian and Aramaic, in Teispid-Achaemenid Iran in the context of royal pronouncements and administration, and at putting them in relation to those of the neighbouring cultures. In this context, it is also trying to find out which forms of language acquisition and communication can be proven and whether there has been such a thing as a Persian language policy. On the other hand, the fact that Iran has seen decidingly oral cultures up to Late Antiquity and even beyond, apart from the official contexts, raises the question of the media of communication and the afterlife of Teispids and Achaemenids in Iran’s ‘historical’ traditions.
The article examines the place of female literacy within general everyday literacy in the Achaemenid period. Whereas the Achaemenid heartland lacks of sources written by women, we have abundant private correspondence from the other satrapies of the empire (Babylonia, Egypt, Bactria etc.). Therefore the lacuna from the Persis-region is not coincidental but resulting from the specific social structure of the empire with its dominant hegemonic manliness. This prevented a wider spread of literacy and the Achaemenid heartland remained an orally dominated culture with a functional literacy limited to the elite and higher levels of society.