Tag Archives: Central Asia

Space, territory, and ideology in the Seleucid Empire

Kosmin, Paul J. 2014. The land of the elephant Kings: Space, territory, and ideology in the Seleucid Empire. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

The Seleucid Empire (311–64 BCE) was unlike anything the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds had seen. Stretching from present-day Bulgaria to Tajikistan—the bulk of Alexander the Great’s Asian conquests—the kingdom encompassed a territory of remarkable ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity; yet it did not include Macedonia, the ancestral homeland of the dynasty. The Land of the Elephant Kings investigates how the Seleucid kings, ruling over lands to which they had no historic claim, attempted to transform this territory into a coherent and meaningful space.

Based on recent archaeological evidence and ancient primary sources, Paul J. Kosmin’s multidisciplinary approach treats the Seleucid Empire not as a mosaic of regions but as a land unified in imperial ideology and articulated by spatial practices. Kosmin uncovers how Seleucid geographers and ethnographers worked to naturalize the kingdom’s borders with India and Central Asia in ways that shaped Roman and later medieval understandings of “the East.” In the West, Seleucid rulers turned their backs on Macedonia, shifting their sense of homeland to Syria. By mapping the Seleucid kings’ travels and studying the cities they founded—an ambitious colonial policy that has influenced the Near East to this day—Kosmin shows how the empire’s territorial identity was constructed on the ground. In the empire’s final century, with enemies pressing harder and central power disintegrating, we see that the very modes by which Seleucid territory had been formed determined the way in which it fell apart.

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Wine culture in Iran and neighbouring countries

Fragner, Bert G., Ralph Kauz & Florian Schwarz (eds.). 2014. Wine culture in Iran and beyond (Sitzungsberichte der phil.-hist. Klasse. Veröffentlichungen zur Iranistik 75). Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Starting from important new archaeological findings and insights that have led to a rethinking of the history of viticulture in Iran and its wider Asian context, this volume explores various aspects of the cultural, social and political significance of grape wine in the Iranian cultural sphere. It assembles specialized studies and interpretative essays ranging from the question of the origins of viticulture and winemaking and the trade of wine between the Iranian plateau and China to viticulture and wine consumption in 20th-century Kafiristan, from the place of intoxicating beverages in hadith to the nature and function of wine in classical Persian poetry and Iranian architecture, from the ambiguities of alcohol in pre-modern Persia to the challenges of modernity and colonial encounters.
Table of Contents (ToC):
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Life along the Silk Road

Silk RoadWhitfield, Susan. 2015. Life along the Silk Road. University of California Press.

In this long-awaited second edition, Susan Whitfield broadens her exploration of the Silk Road and expands her rich and varied portrait of life along the great pre-modern trade routes of Eurasia. This new edition is comprehensively updated to support further understanding of themes relevant to global and comparative history and remains the only history of the Silk Road to reconstruct the route through the personal experiences of travelers.

In the first 1,000 years after Christ, merchants, missionaries, monks, mendicants, and military men traveled the vast network of Central Asian tracks that became known as the Silk Road. Whitfield recounts the lives of twelve individuals who lived at different times during this period, including two characters new to this edition: an African shipmaster and a Persian traveler and writer during the Arab caliphate. With these additional tales, Whitfield extends both geographical and chronological scope, bringing into view the maritime links across the Indian Ocean and depicting the network of north-south routes from the Baltic to the Gulf.

Susan Whitfield runs the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library, which provides online access to hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, paintings, and archaeological artifacts from the eastern Silk Road. The author of numerous books and articles on the Silk Road and China, Whitfield travels widely in the region and curates relevant exhibitions. She lectures and teaches worldwide.

Carpets in ancient Central Asia

He, Zhang. 2015. The terminology for carpets in ancient Central Asia. Sino-Platonic Papers 257. 1–35.

This study seeks to gather and clarify the terminology for carpets used by peoples of Central Asia from about 300 BCE to 1000 CE time, including terms in Kharoṣṭhi, Khotanese, Sanskrit and its relatives, plus Persian, Sogdian, Chinese, and Turkic.

Sociedad de Estudios Iranios y Turanios

Alberto Cantera and his team have launched a new journal, entitled Sociedad de Estudios Iranios y Turanios, with the aim to promote the study of Iran and Central Asia in Spain. The first volume has already been published and is available from academia.edu. A dedicated website is under construction.

The original announcement: Continue reading Sociedad de Estudios Iranios y Turanios