Tag Archives: History

The blessed Simeon bar Sabba’e

Smith, Kyle. 2014. The martyrdom and history of blessed Simeon bar Sabba’e (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 3). Gorgias Press.

Around the year 339 CE, Simeon bar Sabbae (the bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon on the Tigris) was killed by the Persian king Shapur II. Simeon was arrested for refusing to collect taxes from his flock, and he was beheaded for disobeying the king’s order to worship the sun. The bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon was no minor figure. In fact, Simeon’s martyr acts proclaim that he was the leader of the Christians of Persia and the protomartyr of Shapur’s forty-year persecution. Curiously, however, two very different versions of Simeon’s death exist. Each is presented here with an accompanying translation and notes.

Simeon’s Martyrdom and History are fundamental sources for chronicling the history of Christianity in Sasanian Persia. Together, these texts testify to the centrality of martyrdom literature in late ancient Syriac Christianity, and they show how Persian Christians forged their own political and religious identities amidst the ongoing Christianization of the Roman Empire.

The story of Mar Pinhas

McCollum, Adam Carter. 2013. The story of Mar Pinhas (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 2). Gorgias Press.

The Sasanian world through Georgian eyes

Rapp, Stephen. 2014. The Sasanian world through Georgian eyes. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.

Georgian literary sources for Late Antiquity are commonly held to be later productions devoid of historical value. As a result, scholarship outside the Republic of Georgia has privileged Graeco-Roman and even Armenian narratives. However, when investigated within the dual contexts of a regional literary canon and the active participation of Caucasia’s diverse peoples in the Iranian Commonwealth, early Georgian texts emerge as a rich repository of late antique attitudes and outlooks. Georgian hagiographical and historiographical compositions open a unique window onto a northern part of the Sasanian world that, while sharing striking affinities with the Iranian heartland, was home to vibrant, cosmopolitan cultures that developed along their own trajectories.

The author’s website is here.

Darius in the shadow of Alexander

Jane Marie Todd’s translation of Briant’s 2003 Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre has just been published:

Briant, Pierre. 2015. Darius in the Shadow of Alexander. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

The last of Cyrus the Great’s dynastic inheritors and the legendary enemy of Alexander the Great, Darius III ruled over a Persian Empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Indus River. Yet, despite being the most powerful king of his time, Darius remains an obscure figure. […] While Darius seems doomed to be a footnote in the chronicle of Alexander’s conquests, in one respect it is Darius who has the last laugh. For after Darius’s defeat in 331 BCE, Alexander is described by historians as becoming ever more like his vanquished opponent: a Darius-like sybarite prone to unmanly excess.

Jan P. Stronk, University of Amsterdam, reviewed the original for the Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR). Other reviews include:

  • Brosius, M.2006. Review of Pierre Briant: Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre. Gnomon 78(5). 426–430.
  • Stoneman, R. 2006. Darius III and Alexander: Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre by P. Briant. The Classical Review 56(2). 415–417.
  • معماران کاشی، مهرداد. ۱۳۸۴. نقد و بررسی کتاب: داریوش در سایه اسکندر. بخارا ۴۶. ۳۵۸–۳۶۴.

Early Islamic Balkh

Early Islamic Balkh: History, landscape and material culture
16th–17th January 2015, Wolfson College, Oxford
The Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project (2011-2015) has been investigating the early Islamic history and archaeology of the city of Balkh, in Northern Afghanistan. Synonymous with ancient Bactra, the “Mother of Cities” continued to flourish after the coming of Islam, becoming one of the  most important urban centres of the eastern Islamic world, at the junction of India, China and Transoxiana. This conference presents the interdisciplinary research of the Project’s international collaborative team, and hosts a discussion of the state of research on Balkh in the 7th-12th centuries C.E.
For more information, see here.

Imagining Xerxes

Bridges, Emma. 2014. Imagining Xerxes: Ancient perspectives on a Persian king. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Imagining Xerxes is a transhistorical analysis that explores the richness and variety of Xerxes’ afterlives within the ancient literary tradition. It examines the earliest representations of the king, in Aeschylus’ tragic play Persians and Herodotus’ historiographical account of the Persian Wars, before tracing the ways in which the image of Xerxes was revisited and adapted in later Greek and Latin texts. The author also looks beyond the Hellenocentric viewpoint to consider the construction of Xerxes’ image in the Persian epigraphic record and the alternative perspectives on the king found in the Jewish written tradition.

The big and beautiful women of Asia

A slightly older but important article by Llewellyn-Jones dealing with the imagery of Achaemenid period seals and gemstones:

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2010. The big and beautiful women of Asia: Ethnic conceptions of ideal beauty in Achaemenid period seals and gemstones. In Hales, Shelley & Tamar Hodos (eds.), Material culture and social identities in the ancient world. Cambridge: CUP.

Read the article here.

Parthians, Greek culture, and beyond

Olbrycht, Mark Jan. 2014. Parthians, Greek culture, and beyond. In Twardowska, Kamilla, Maciej Salamon, Sławomir Sprawski, Michał Stachura & Stanisław Turlej (eds.), Within the circle of ancient ideas and virtues. Studies in honour of Professor Maria Dzielska, 129–142. Kraków.

The Greeks living east of the Euphrates beParthians, Greek Culture, and Beyond, in: Within the Circle of Ancient Ideas and Virtues. Studies in Honour of Professor Maria Dzielska”, eds. K. Twardowska, m. Salamon, S. Sprawski, M. Stachura, S. Turlej, Kraków 2014, 129-142.came an important component of the population of the Arsacid Empire, but they were certainly not its dominant part. At the same time the Parthians appreciated the vivacity of the Greek culture and many of them were its avid enthusiasts. The Arsacids were superbly adroit in combining the preservation of the main components of the Iranian and nomadic culture that made up the core of their ethos with the political pragmatism which may be observed in their pro‑Hellenic propaganda.

Read the article here.

Inside and out

Dijkstra, Jitse & Greg Fisher (eds.). 2014. Inside and Out: Interactions between Rome and the peoples on the Arabian and Egyptian frontiers in late antiquity (Late Antique History and Religion 8). Leuven: Peeters Publishers.
In recent years, exciting new discoveries of inscriptions and archaeological remains on the Arabian Peninsula have led to a re-evaluation of the peoples on the Arabian frontier, which through their extensive contacts with Rome and Persia are now seen as dynamic participants in the Late Antique world. The present volume contributes to this recent trend by focusing on the contrast between the ‘outside’ sources on the peoples of the frontier – the Roman view – and the ‘inside’ sources, that is, the precious material produced by the Arabs themselves, and by approaching these sources within an anthropological framework of how peripheral peoples face larger powers. For the first time, the situation on the Arabian frontier is also compared with that on the southern Egyptian frontier, where similar sources have been found of peoples such as the Blemmyes and Noubades. Thus, the volume offers a richly-documented examination of the frontier interactions in these two vibrant and critically-important areas of the Late Antique East.
 For more information, see the publisher’s website.

The genealogy of Artabanos II

The last day of 2014 is busier than most other days on this blog:

Olbrycht, Marek Jan. 2014. The genealogy of Artabanos II (AD 8/9–39/40), King of Parthia. Miscellanea Anthropologica et Sociologica 15(3). 92–97.

One of the most controversial issues in the Parthian history of the early 1st century AD is the lineage of Artabanos II. The resolution of this problem determines the image of Parthian history in the 1st century AD, moulded to a large extent by an internecine struggle for the legitimation of rival parties’ claim to power.

Read it here.