Tag Archives: Ancient Iran

Das Weltreich der Perser

Rollinger, Robert & Kai Ruffing (eds.). 2018. Das Weltreich der Perser – Rezeption, Aneignung und Verargumentierung von der Antike bis in die Gegenwart. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

The above book is supposed to be published by Harrassowitz. However, my pre scheduled notice got published before the actual publication. I am leaving the entry in place to maintain consistency across our other media. The below article, part of the above volume, is available from the author's Academia page.

In this volume:

Börm, Henning. 2018. Barbaren als Tyrannen. Das Perserbild in der klassizistischen griechischen Historiographie. In Robert Rollinger & K. Ruffing (eds.), Das Weltreich der Perser – Rezeption, Aneignung und Verargumentierung von der Antike bis in die Gegenwart. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Two Centuries of Silence

“Two Centuries of Silence” is an English translation of “Do Qarn Sokut,” Dr. Zarrinkub’s celebrated work on the history of Iran in the lead-up to and after the Arab conquest in the mid 7th century. The author begins with a question that puzzles many: How was a world civilization with all of its achievements in art and architecture, religion and law, agriculture and engineering, and civil and military organization, overthrown by a nomadic people with limited literacy and few accomplishments? The title refers to the two-hundred-year period when Persian virtually went mute, when almost all traces of Iran’s rich literary heritage were erased, and when Zoroastrianism gave way to Islam. Zarrinkub’s history is not an unmitigated tale of draconian cultural change, however. He speaks of how Iranian identity went underground, occasionally surfacing in open rebellion against Arab and Muslim supremacy. Drawing on a variety of original sources, Zarrinkub looks into the “savage darkness” of nearly two hundred years and detects glimmers of Persian resurgence in various parts of Iran and Muslim Central Asia. In fits and starts forms of the indigenous language broke their long silence, and Iranians began to speak about and for themselves.

Although written almost sixty years ago, “Two Centuries of Silence” is oddly topical. In delving into the long history of Arab domination it contextualizes attitudes commonly held today. Readers will understand, for example, why being called “Arab” can infuriate many Iranians. The book traces the deep roots of the current fashion of proclaiming Persian nationality with Zoroastrian imagery. Zarrinkub’s study tells the ways Iranians of the 8th and 9th centuries resisted the imposition of a “pure” Islam on every aspect of their lives. The parallels between the defiance of the sweeping cultural change and the imposed religious conformity of that era and the reactions to the return to Islam demanded by the Iranian Revolutionaries of today are striking. At the same time, Zarrinkub’s secular treatment of the sanctities of Islam—the belief in the oneness of God, the sacrosanct nature of Muhammad and the divine origin of his message, etc.—makes the book controversial today. Although “Do Qarn Sokut” gained a certificate of publication in 1999, the Iranian publisher (Sokhan) found it necessary to include in a preface excerpts from a book that refutes Zarrinkub (Khadamat-e Motaqabel-e Iran va Islam, “The Reciprocal Services of Islam and Iran”). The author of the refutation, the noted religious scholar Morteza Motahhari, asks: How could Zarrinkub call the period silent? After all, hadn’t the Persians had gained a new language, full of poetry, the medium of the clear and simple message God gave His Prophet? Rather than an age of silence it was a time of awakening to the sound of God’s very voice. Thus did Do Qarn-e Sokut become embroiled in the on-going dispute between those wishing to restore Islam in Iran and secularists who want to lessen the authority and power of the clergy.

Studies on the History of Rationality in Ancient Iran

König, Götz. 2018. Studien zur Rationalitätsgeschichte im älteren Iran. Ein Beitrag zur Achsenzeitdiskussion (Iranica 26). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
Although the idea of ​​a Euro-Asiatic Axial Age can be traced back to the pioneer Iranian philologist Anquetil Duperron, ancient Iran plays in the 20th-century axle-time theory founded by Karl Jaspers, which revolves around the comprehension and explanation of ‘rationality’ usually only a minor role.
In his investigations of the ancient Iranian history of rationality, Götz König firtsly points out which theory-immanent factors in Jaspers’ basic text On the Origin and Aim of History (1949) may have favored this forgetting. Sample analyzes show how, through minimal changes in the ritual, a change in the constellation of mental faculties, or the replacement of a metaphysical concept with a legal concept of order, ways (in the ancient East as well as then in Western Iran) are opened up Align center categories. A concluding study of the dialectics of the Axial Age shows how the period of the Achaemenids (6th-4th century BC) may in various ways be regarded as the actual Axis time of Iran, but ultimately fails to meet its own rational standards and wrong.
See the table of contents and the introduction of the volume here.
Table of Contents
  • Zur Einleitung
  • Besichtigung der Jaspers’schen Elemente einer Theorie der Achsenzeit
  • Die minime Abweichung Zu einer indo-iranischen Ritualdifferenz und ihren Folgen
  • Daēnā, Xratu und das Moment des Schauens Wissenserwerb im älteren und mittleren Zoroastrismus
  • Gefügtes – Gesetztes. Überlegungen zur Genese von Darius’ manā dāta– „mein Gesetz“
  • Die Dialektik der Achsenzeit Von der Objektwerdung des Subjektes im achämenidischen Iran

History of the Kings of the Persians’ in Three Arabic Chronicles

Hoyland, Robert G. 2018. History of the kings of the Persians’ in three Arabic chronicles: The transmission of the Iranian past from late antiquity to early Islam. (Translated Texts for Historians 69). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.
This book translates the sections on pre-Islamic Persia in three Muslim Arabic chronicles, those of Ahmad al-Ya‘qubi (d. ca. 910), ‘Ali al-Mas‘udi (d. ca. 960) and Hamza al-Isfahani (d. ca. 960s). Their accounts, like those of many other Muslim historians on this topic, draw on texts that were composed in the period 750-850 bearing the title ‘The History of the Kings of the Persians’. These works served a growing audience of well-to-do Muslim bureaucrats and scholars of Persian ancestry, who were interested in their heritage and wished to make it part of the historical outlook of the new civilization that was emerging in the Middle East, namely Islamic civilization. This book explores the question of how knowledge about ancient Iran was transmitted to Muslim historians, in what forms it circulated and how it was shaped and refashioned for the new Perso-Muslim elite that served the early Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad, a city that was built only a short distance away from the old Persian capital of Seleucia-Ctesiphon.
About the Author:
Robert G. Hoyland is Professor of Late Antique and Early Islamic Middle East History at the Institute for Study of the Ancient World of New York University. Previous publications include ‘Theophilus of Edessa’s Chronicle and the Circulation of Historical Knowledge in Late Antiquity and Early Islam’ (LUP, 2011).

Dabir Journal – Issue 05

Issue 05 of DABIR (Digital Archive of Brief notes & Iran Review)

Issue 05 of DABIR (Digital Archive of Brief notes & Iran Review), an open access on-line journal for published by the Jordan Center for Persian Studies, is out now.


Continue reading Dabir Journal – Issue 05

Kings, Whores and Children

Daryaee. 2018. Kings, Whores and Children: Passing Notes on Ancient Iran & the World that We Live In. Mehri Publication.

These short texts are a collection of notes and commentaries that I have made in the past few years about history and my experience and interaction with some intelligent, and some not so bright people on the social media. I firmly believe that we as historians and university professors must write not only for the few colleagues in esoteric journals to prove our intellectual ability, but also communicate and write for the people who are inquisitive and would like to learn about what we do and its significance. I have written these short pieces to peak the interest of the people in what we do and provide relevance to the present through past events. Many of the essays are in response to events in recent times such as the war in Syria and the destruction of historical sites, or notes on my travels through Iran. A few others are review of important topics and people who have left deep impressions on me and my work.

These are not deep writings with many footnotes and with a heavy dose of theoretical dressing. Rather, they are written from the heart about issues that preoccupy us today, but are also belong to the ancient past. I live in the US, where the past is the past. US is a forward looking nation with little regard anything before the eighteenth century. But even ancient history in the US, mainly deals with Greece and Rome, although beside the Greek columns in the US Congress, there isn’t much real or continuous connections. If one was to talk about ancient history on this content, it must be the history of the Olmecs and the Toltecs and the Mayans and the Incas and the Aztecs. Knowledge about the history of the native inhabitants of the American continent is as important as understanding the history that I present in this little book. The events in the past in the Middle East are as relevant as the events today and tied in many ways to the lives of the people living in the US and Europe and the rest of the world. I hope by reading these short essays which in many ways are meant to entertain and educate, the reader understands the experience of a historian who relates his own experience with texts, monuments, and people who work on the past.

Pre-Islamic Iran from the Creation to the Parthians

Hameen-Anttila, Jaakko (ed.). 2017. Al-Maqrīzī’s al-Ḫabar ʻan al-bašar. vol. V, section 4: Persia and its kings, part I (Bibliotheca Maqriziana 5). Leiden: Brill.

Al-Maqrīzī’s (d. 845/1442) last work, al-Ḫabar ʿan al-bašar, was completed a year before his death. This volume, edited by Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, covers the history of pre-Islamic Iran from the Creation to the Parthians. Al-Maqrīzī’s work shows how Arab historians integrated Iran into world history and how they harmonized various currents of historiography (Middle Persian historiography, Islamic sacred history, Greek and Latin historiography).

Among al-Ḫabar’s sources is Kitāb Hurūšiyūš, the Arabic translation of Paulus Orosius’ Historiarum adversum paganos libri vii. This source has only been preserved in one defective copy, and al-Maqrīzī’s text helps to fill in some of its lacunae.

Continue reading Pre-Islamic Iran from the Creation to the Parthians

Displaying Royal Tribute Animals in Ancient Persia and the Near East

Persepolis: The Audience Hall of Darius and Xerxes

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2017. Keeping and Displaying Royal Tribute Animals in Ancient Persia and the Near East. In Thorsten Fögen & Edmund Thomas (eds.), Interactions between Animals and Humans in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.

The Achaemenid dynasty (559-331 B.C.) ruled the biggest empire the ancient world had ever seen. Commanding lands from India to Ethiopia and Libya to Afghanistan, the Great Kings of Persia demanded loyalty and tribute from the conquered peoples who made up their vast realm, and the walls of their ceremonial capital at Persepolis in the heart of Iran abound with images of foreign delegations carrying tribute to their monarch. Amidst the gold, silver, textiles and precious stones brought to the ruler is a rich abundance of exotic wildlife: Asiatic lions, Bactrian camels, zebu, wild asses, and Arabian horses. Textual evidence alerts us to the presence of parrots, peacocks, and wild jungle fowl at the Iranian court as well as the probability that the Achaemenid Persians were familiar with rhinoceroses, tigers, and even okapi. The exotic fauna were living offerings from the four quarters of the empire, breathing symbols of the Great King’s power and his control of his vast dominions. By examining a variety of Near Eastern and Greek sources, this paper explores the rich variety of exotic species imported into Persia to satisfy the monarch’s pleasure and his public image; it explores evidence for royal menageries in the Near East, as well as offering some cross-temporal comparisons with the Chinese Ming Dynasty, in order to question how the ancient Iranians interacted with exotic animals and to question how they were displayed and treated by their human captors and owners.
Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones is a professor in Ancient History at the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University.

The Sarmatians: Some Thoughts on the Historiographical Invention of a West Iranian Migration

Dan, Anca. 2017. “The Sarmatians: Some thoughts on the historiographical invention of a West Iranian migration“. In Felix Wiedemann, Kerstin P. Hofmann and Hans-Joachim Gehrke (eds.), Vom Wandern der Völker. Migrationserzählungen in den Altertumswissenschaften. 97-134. Berlin: Edition Topoi.

The continuous migration of the Sarmatians from East to West is still considered an historical fact. The fundaments of this theory, however, are tricky: the Iranian tie of all the populations on the northeastern edge of the ancient world is too weak to support the existence of one ancient ethnos; our current image of the Sarmatians is the result of loose readings of texts and archaeological evidence, nourished by nationalistic convictions. This paper de-constructs the currently accepted Sarmatian migrations and proposes a new history of the invention of the Sarmatians, through the critical re-examination of the linguistic and archaeological data as well as of the historiographical theses of the last years.

Cross-Cultural Communication in the Hellenistic Mediterranean, and Western and South Asia

Canepa, Matthew P. 2017. “Cross-Cultural Communication in the Hellenistic Mediterranean, and Western and South Asia,” In Richard J. A. Talbert & Fred S. Naiden (eds.), Mercury’s Wings: Exploring Modes of Communication in the Ancient World, 249-272, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This chapter explores the dynamics of cross-cultural communication, primarily among the kingdoms and empires of Western and South Asia after Alexander the Great. This period witnessed the rise, conflict, coexistence and fall of a succession of cross-continental empires, including that of the Seleucids (312-64 BCE) and Mauryas (321-185), as well as powerful regional powers with larger ambitions such as the Ptolemies of Egypt, the Diodotids and Euthymids of Bactria (ca. 25o–ca. 145), Sungas (185-73), and a variety of Indo-Greek kingdoms (ca. 185 BCE–ca. 10 CE). Several new Iranian-speaking elites, including the Parni, Saka, and Yuezhi, descended from the Central Asian steppes and eventually formed the Arsacid, Indo-Scythian, and Kusana empires, respectively. These Macedonian, Indian, and Iranian powers engendered an intensive period of diplomatic interaction and cultural exchange. While this chapter focuses first on peer-polity diplomatic communication, it also explores the relationship between direct, intentional communicative acts and the wider contexts of cross-cultural interaction in which they took place and to which they often contributed.