Tag Archives: History

Bulletin of the Asia Institute

Volume 28 of the Bulletin of the Asia Institute has been published.

To obtain a copy, please contact Carol Bromberg: bai34@comcast.net

Table of contents

  • Harry Falk, “The Five Yabghus of the Yuezhi”
  • Shai Secunda, “‘Lost Property to the King!’: The Talmudic Laws of Lost Property in the Shadow of Sasanian Bureaucracy”
  • Zhang Zhan,”Secular Khotanese Documents and the Administrative System in Khotan”
  • Salman Aliyari Babolghani,”What Was the Instrument That Zurwān Bestowed on Ahreman in the Wizīdagīhā ī Zādspram 1.29; 34.35?*”
  • Siam Bhayro, “A Jewish Aramaic Magic Bowl Containing the Formula of Ḥanina ben Dosa, and the Problem of Psalm 24:8b in the Magic Bowls”
  • Dieter Weber, “Pahlavi Documents of Windādburzmihrābād, the Estate of a Zoroastrian Entrepreneur in Early Islamic Times (With an Excursus on the Origin of the Fulanabad-Type of Village Names)”
  • Prods Oktor Skjærvø, “The Pahlavi Optative and Some Feminine Forms in īy”
  • Anca Dan, Frantz Grenet and Nicholas Sims-Williams, “Homeric Scenes in Bactria and India: Two Silver Plates with Bactrian and Middle Persian Inscriptions”

Reviews

  • Schrenk. Textilien des Mittelmeerraumes aus spätantiker bis früislamicher Zeit (CAB)
  • Von Fircks and Schorta. Oriental Silks in Medieval Europe (CAB)
  • Wang Bo, Wang Mingang, Minawar Happar, and Lu Lipeng. Textile Treasures of Zaghunluq. Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Museum (CAB)




Cities of Medieval Iran

Cities of medieval Iran, edited by David Durand-Guédy, Roy P. Mottahedeh & Jürgen Paul has been published, as vol. 16, issue 1–2 of the journal Eurasian Studies (2018).

Table of contents

Religious change among the Safavids

Stickel, Farida. 2019. Zwischen Chiliasmus und Staatsraeson: Religiöser Wandel unter den Safaviden (Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten 70). Boston, MA: De Gruyter.

Die Arbeit geht dem religiösen Wandel in Iran unter den Safaviden nach. Dabei wird nicht die Verkündung der Schia als offizieller Religion 1501 in den Mittelpunkt gestellt. Vielmehr werden die Safaviden kontextualisiert, der religiöse Wandel selbst anhand beteiligter Akteure, Auswirkungen auf religiöse Institutionen und Legitimation von Herrschaft sowie der Übersetzung in Architektur und Performanz von Ritualen nachgezeichnet.

Die Grenzen des Großkönigs?

Börm, Henning. 2018. Die Grenzen des Großkönigs? Überlegungen zur arsakidisch-sasanidischen Politik gegenüber Rom. In Frank Schleicher, Timo Stickler & Udo Hartmann (eds.), Iberien zwischen Rom und Iran. Beiträge zur Geschichte und Kultur Transkaukasiens in der Antike (Oriens et Occidens 29). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Dreizehn Jahre lang beherrschte Severus Alexander das Reich in tadelloser Weise, soweit es ihn betraf. Im vierzehnten Jahr aber trafen unerwartet Berichte der Statthalter Syriens und Mesopotamiens ein und enthüllten, dass Artaxerxes, der König der Perser, die Parther besiegt und ihr östliches Reich erobert hatte (…). Er blieb nun aber nicht ruhig auf seiner Seite des Tigris, sondern (…) überrannte Mesopotamien und bedrohte Syrien. Er wollte nämlich die ganze Landmasse, die Europa gegenüberliegt und durch die Ägäis und das Marmarameer von ihm getrennt wird, und das ‚Asien‘ genannte Gebiet für das Persische Reich zurückgewinnen. In dem Glauben, diese Gegenden von seinen Vorfahren geerbt zu haben, erklärte er, alle Länder dieses Gebietes, einschließlich Ionien und Karien, seien einst von persischen Statthaltern regiert worden, von der Herrschaft des Kyros, der als erster das Medische zum Persischen Reich gemacht hatte, bis zu Dareios, dem letzten Perserkönig, dessen Reich Alexander der Makedone zerstört hatte.

About the book:

Die Geschichte und Kultur Transkaukasiens in der Antike steht im Fokus dieses Bandes, der die neuesten Forschungsergebnisse aus der Alten Geschichte, der Archäologie und der Orientalistik vereint. Ziel ist es, das antike Kaukasien stärker in den Fokus der Forschung zu rücken: Die Region liegt zwar an der Peripherie der alten Welt, stellt zugleich aber auch eine zentrale Kontakt- und Konfliktzone zwischen Rom und Iran dar.

Im ersten Teil des Bandes stehen historische Fragen im Vordergrund, die von Problemen der Chronologie und Herrscherlisten über die Machtausdehnung der Römer und Perser bis zu deren Politik gegenüber den kaukasischen Völkern reichen. Im zweiten Teil geht es um Aspekte der religiösen Entwicklung, insbesondere um die Christianisierung Iberiens (heute Georgien) seit dem vierten Jahrhundert und die Rückwirkung dieser Vorgänge auf die beiden spätantiken Imperien. Der dritte Teil ist den neuesten archäologischen Befunden gewidmet.


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.

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.

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 des Mittelalters (Das Mittelalter. Perspektiven mediävistischer Forschung. Beihefte 8), 23–42. 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.

Persian Martyrs Mar Behnam and Sarah

Saint-Laurent, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon & Kyle Smith (eds.). 2018. The history of Mar Behnam and Sarah. Martyrdom and monasticism in medieval Iraq (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 7). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.

The History of Mar Behnam and Sarah tells the story of two siblings who convert to Christianity under the tutelage of Mar Mattai, a monastic leader and wonderworker from the Roman Empire. After the children refuse to worship pagan gods, they are killed by their own father, the Persian king. Strangely, he is identified as Sennacherib the Assyrian, a pre-Christian ruler better known from the biblical Book of Kings. This is not the only chronological oddity with the text. Although Behnam and Sarah is set in the fourth century, during the golden age of martyrdom in the Sasanian Empire, the text was not composed until hundreds of years later. The composition of the narrative about the two martyrs seems to have coincided with the construction of a twelfth-century shrine that was built in their honor by Syrian Orthodox monks on the Nineveh Plain, near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The beautiful martyrium, which housed intricate relief sculptures and inscriptions in several languages, was an important pilgrimage site for Christians, Muslims, and Yezidis until it was destroyed in 2015.

In this volume of the “Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac” series, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent and Kyle Smith provide the first critical edition and English translation of this fascinating martyrdom narrative, a text that was once widely popular among numerous communities throughout the Middle East.

Eastern Manicheism as Reflected in its Book and Manuscript Culture

Özertural, Zekine & Gökhan Silfeler (eds.). 2018. Der östliche Manichäismus im Spiegel seiner Buch- und Schriftkultur. Vorträge des Göttinger Symposiums vom 11./12. März 2015 (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Neue Folge 47). Berlin: De Gruyter.

This volume examines the gnostic-syncretic religion of Eastern Manicheism in China, Iran, and Turkish central Asia. After a scholarly introduction to the religious theory of Manicheism, the essays probe questions of its transmission and cultural interactions with Latin, Coptic, and Arabic Manicheism.