Tag Archives: Ancient History

König und Gefolgschaft im Sasanidenreich

Börm, Henning. 2018. König und Gefolgschaft im Sasanidenreich. Zum Verhältnis zwischen Monarch und imperialer Elite im spätantiken Persien. In Wolfram Drews (ed.), Die Interaktion von Herrschern und Eliten in imperialen Ordnungen (Das Mittelalter. Perspektiven mediävistischer Forschung. Beihefte 8), 23–42. Boston/Berlin: De Gruyter.

This article examines the relationships between rulers and imperial elites in late antique Sasanian Iran, focusing on the significance and implications of complex groups of followers. Not unlike their Parthian predecessors, the Sasanian kings of the pre-Islamic empire relied on a network of personal relationships with the imperial elite. The magnates (vuzurgān), in turn, had many followers (bandagān) of their own; they were, apparently, often rather independent when residing in their own lands. Still, this does not imply that the late antique Persian monarchy was weak, because the Sasanian kings managed to turn the court into a central location of aristocratic competition where the imperial elite struggled for offices, honors and influence. This allowed the monarch to play off rival individuals and groups against each other – one is tempted here to speak of a “Königsmechanismus” (Norbert Elias), even though the weaknesses of this model are certainly well known. In general, this strategy became problematic only if infighting escalated into civil war. However, the later Sasanians tried to curtail the influence of the vuzurgān by imposing a tax reform, establishing a standing royal army, and creating a new lower nobility (dehgānān) in order to strengthen the power of the central government. The paper demonstrates that, in spite of short-term success, these measures seem to have led to a long-term erosion of loyalty within the kingdom, thus contributing to the triumph of the Arab conquerors in the seventh century CE.

The Parthians at the margins of the empire

In this issue of L’Histoire, entitled Les mondes d’Alix and dedicated to the graphic novel series Les voyages d’Alix, specialists of antique history explore various aspects relating to the world and time of the novels. The historian Giusto Traina writes on the Parthians.

Traina, Giusto. 2018. Les Parthes aux marges de l’empire. L’Histoire 6. 66–71.

Bulletin of the Asia Institute 27

Issue 27 of the Bulletin of the Asia Institute will be published this December. The information on this issue is not yet available on the journal’s website, but the content has been circulated, which we are publishing here.

Bulletin of the Asia Institute 27

December 2017

Articles

  • Frantz Grenet, “More Zoroastrian Scenes on the Wirkak (Shi Jun) Sarcophagus”
  • Yaakov Elman and Mahnaz Moazami, “PV 5.1–4 in the Context of Late Antique Intellectual History”
  • Harry Falk, “The Ashes of the Buddha”
  • Peter Skilling, “Śrāvakas, Buddhas, and the Buddha’s Father: Inscribed Artefacts in the U Thong National Museum”
  • V. H. Sonowane, “Rock Paintings Depicting Stupas in Gujarat, India”
  • Domenico Agostini and Shaul Shaked, “Sasanian Seals of Priests”
  • Nicholas Sims-Williams, “A Bactrian Document of the Fifth Century c.e.”
  • Salman Aliyari Babolghani, “Achaemenid Elamite dayāuš (~ Old Persian dahyāu̯-š)”
  • Dieter Weber, “Accountancy of a Zoroastrian Craftsman in Early Islamic Times (662–664 CE)”
  • Stefan Zimmer, “The Etymology of Avestan 2čiqra- ‘Descent, Progeny'”
  • Zhang Zhan, “Kings of Khotan During the Tang Dynasty”

Reviews

  • Lieu and Mikkelsen, eds. Between Rome and China (Albert E. Dien)
  • Hansen. The Silk Road: A New History with Documents(Jenny Rose)
  • Mair and Hickman, eds. Reconfiguring the Silk Road: (Jenny Rose)

v + 170 pp.

Individual orders $80 + shipping or pdf online $50

Bridging Times and Spaces

Avetisyan, Pavel & Yervand Grekyan (eds.). 2017. Bridging times and spaces. Papers in ancient Near Eastern, Mediterranean and Armenian Studies. Honouring Gregory E. Areshian on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday. Oxford: Archaeopress.

Bridging Times and Spaces is composed of papers written by colleagues of Professor Gregory E. Areshian on the occasion his 65th birthday reflecting the breadth and diversity of his scholarly contributions. The range of presented papers covers topics in Near Eastern, Mediterranean and Armenian archaeology, theory of interpretation in archaeology and art history, interdisciplinary history, historical linguistics, art history, and comparative mythology. The volume opens with an extensive interview given by Gregory Areshian, in which Gregory outlines the pathways of his academic career, archaeological discoveries, different intellectual quests, and the organic connections between research questions that he explored across different social sciences and the humanities, stressing the importance of periodizations in interdisciplinary history as well as his views on holism and interdisciplinary studies.

The table of contents is available here.  Five papers relate directly to Iranian Studies:

  • Touraj Daryaee: A Note on the ‘Great King of Armenia’
  • Michael Herles: Achaemenids and the Southern Caucasus
  • Ernst Stephan Kroll: Fortified Kura Arax Settlements in North-Western Iran
  • Daniel Potts: The Sale and Lease of Vineyards in Media Atropatene
  • David Stronach: Notes on the Representation of the Face of Cyrus the Great

The Garden of Pasargadae

Grob, Helge Bert. 2017. Die Gartenlandschaft von Pasargadai und ihre Wasseranlagen Topographischer Befund, Rekonstruktion und achaimenidischer Kontext. (Oriens et Occidens 28). Stuttgart: Franz-Steiner-Verlag.

After defeating the Medes and Lydern in the middle of the 6th century BC, Cyrus the Great, layed the foundations for the rise of the Achaemenids to the “world power”. His first large building and garden project is the Pasargadae residence – a world heritage site of the UNESCO. Against this background, the question arises not only about the underlying design, but also about a possible role model for later stablishements.

Helge Bert Grob, for the first time, subjected the available plans as well as travel and research reports to a systematic, critical evaluation of the Pasargadae residence and its garden. Basied on partially unpublished sources, together with the archaeological findings, topographical maps as well as aerial and satellite images, as the basis of this new study, the focus of this volume lies on the water structures – basins, canals and watercourses as well as on the analysis of the development of the garden design in Ancient Iran. By comparison with Susa, Persepolis, Babylon and other important sites, Pasargadae is placed and examined in its achaimenid context.

Ancient States and Infrastructural Power

Ando, Clifford & Seth Richardson (eds.). 2017. Ancient states and infrastructural power: Europe, Asia, and America (Empire and After). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

While ancient states are often characterized in terms of the powers that they claimed to possess, the contributors to this book argue that they were in fact fundamentally weak, both in the exercise of force outside of war and in the infrastructural and regulatory powers that such force would, in theory, defend. In Ancient States and Infrastructural Power a distinguished group of scholars examines the ways in which early states built their territorial, legal, and political powers before they had the capabilities to enforce them.

The volume brings Greek and Roman historians together with specialists on early Mesopotamia, late antique Persia, ancient China, Visigothic Iberia, and the Inca empire to compare various models of state power across regional and disciplinary divisions. How did the polis become the body that regulates property rights? Why did Chinese and Persian states maintain aristocracies that sometimes challenged their autocracies? How did Babylon and Rome promote the state as the custodian of moral goods? In worlds without clear borders, how did societies from Rome to Byzantium come to share legal and social identities rooted in concepts of territory? From the Inca empire to Visigothic Iberia, why did tributary practices reinforce territorial ideas about membership?

Source: Ancient States and Infrastructural Power | Clifford Ando, Seth Richardson

Parthian Great King’s rule over vassal Kingdoms

Gregoratti, Leonardo. 2017. “Sinews of the other Empire: Parthian Great King’s rule over vassal Kingdoms” in H. Teigen and E. Seland (eds.), Sinews of Empire: Networks in the Roman Near East and Beyond, 95-104. Oxford, Oxbow Books.

The Great Kings of Parthia, belonging to the Arsacid dynasty, ruled a large empire in south-western Asia, from India to the Euphrates, for more than three centuries (first century BC–third century AD). Within the large geographical area controlled by the Arsacids, next to the satrapies directly controlled by royal officers, a series of autonomous kingdoms existed, ruled by local dynasties, which in some cases existed before the coming of the Parthians, and whose authority over their territories was acknowledged by the Great King. Unlike the Roman ones, the Parthian vassal kingdoms never ceased to be one of the most important means the Great King had at his disposal to control key areas of his vast dominions. This paper investigates the different solutions the Arsacids conceived and put into action in order to keep control over those political subjects. The employment of three main forms of action: maintaining a local dynasty, temporary direct occupation and the creation of a client kingdom ruled by an Arsacid monarch, over the whole spectrum of client states will be the subject of the investigation.

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.

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.

 

Greek and Roman Authors’ Views of the Arsacid Empire

Wiesehöfer, Josef & Sabine Müller (eds.). 2017. Parthika. Greek and Roman authors’ views of the Arsacid Empire (Classica et Orientalia 15). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Established in the third century BC, the multi-cultural and multi-lingual Arsacid Empire became Rome’s major opponent in the East from the first century BC to its end in the third century AD. According to a Roman idea, the orbis was evenly divided between the Parthians and the Romans. However, in the Arsacid Empire oral tradition prevailed and, for a long time, there was no Arsacid historiography concerning perception, reception and interpretation. Therefore, Greco-Roman views and images of the Parthians, Arsacids and their Empire predominated.
Focusing on literary depictions in ancient Greek and Roman literature and examining stereotypes, this volume brings together twelve papers on Greco-Roman perceptions and images of the Arsacid Empire. Part I consists of eight papers primarily concerned with re-assessments of Apollodorus of Artemita and Isidorus of Charax regarding their value as source of information on the Arsacid Empire. Part II contains four papers dealing with the images of the Arsacid Empire in the works of Josephus, Trogus-Justin, Tacitus and Arrian, viewed against their respective socio-political and cultural background.