Tag Archives: Late Antiquity

New Perspectives on Late Antique Iran and Iraq

Pregill, Michael (ed.). 2018. New perspectives on late antique Iran and Iraq. Mizan. Journal for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations 3(1).

Aramaic incantation bowl from Sasanian Babylonia, 4th-7th c., currently held in the collection of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (B2945; courtesy Penn Museum Blog)

This volume of the peer-reviewed, open access Mizan: Journal for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations presents several articles (and a provocative postscript) centering on the theme of “New Perspectives on Late Antique Iran and Iraq.” The articles featured here originated with a pair of conference panels convened in 2016. The first was held during the summer of 2016 at the Eleventh Biennial Iranian Studies Conference at the University of Vienna, August 2–5, 2016; the second followed in the fall of that year, convened during the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association held in Boston, November 17–20, 2016.

ToC
– Touraj Daryaee: “How the Sasanians Saw the Late Antique World: A Persianate View of the Interconnectedness of Eurasia”
– Isabel Toral-Niehoff: “Al-Ḥīra: An Arab Late Antique Metropolis in Sasanian Iraq”
– Shai Secunda: “East LA: Margin and Center in Late Antiquity Studies and the New Irano-Talmudica”
– Teresa Bernheimer: “The Revolt of Qaṭarī b. al-Fujāʿa (d. 79/698) and the Kharijite Revolts of Early Islamic Iran: Social Change between Late Antiquity and Early Islam”
– Rahim Shayegan: “On Diachrony in Sasanian Studies”
– Jason Mokhtarian: “Religious Polemics in Sasanian Writings”
– Thomas Carlson: “The Long Shadow of Sasanian Christianity: The Limits of Iraqi Islamization to 950”
– Mimi Hanaoka: “Authority and Identity in Early Medieval Persianate Islamic Historiography: Methologies for Reading Hybrid Identities and Imagined Histories”

Iran, the Silk Road and Political Economy in Late Antiquity

Payne, Richard. 2018. The Silk Road and the Iranian political economy in late antiquity: Iran, the Silk Road, and the problem of aristocratic empire. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 81(2). 227–250.

The Iranian Empire emerged in the third century in the interstices of the Silk Road that increasingly linked the markets of the Mediterranean and the Near East with South, Central, and East Asia. The ensuing four centuries of Iranian rule corresponded with the heyday of trans-Eurasian trade, as the demand of moneyed imperial elites across the continent for one another’s high-value commodities stimulated the development of long-distance networks. Despite its position at the nexus of trans-continental and trans-oceanic commerce, accounts of Iran in late antiquity relegate trade to a marginal role in its political economy. The present article seeks to foreground the contribution of trans-continental mercantile networks to the formation of Iran and to argue that its development depended as much on the political economies of its western and eastern neighbours as on internal Near Eastern factors.

Also available from the author’s Academia page.

Aramaic Magic Bowls

Siam Bhayro, James Nathan Ford, Dan Levene & Ortal-Paz Saar. 2018. Aramaic magic bowls in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin. Descriptive list and edition of selected texts (Magical and Religious Literature of Late Antiquity 7). Lieden: Brill.

The collection of Aramaic magic bowls and related objects in the Vorderasiatisches Museum in Berlin is one of the most important in the world. This book presents a description of each object and its contents, including details of users and other names, biblical quotations, parallel texts, and linguistic features. Combined with the detailed indices, the present volume makes the Berlin collection accessible for further research. Furthermore, sixteen texts, which are representative of the whole collection, are edited. This book results from an impressive collaboration between Siam Bhayro, James Nathan Ford, Dan Levene, and Ortal-Paz Saar, with further contributions by Matthew Morgenstern, Marco Moriggi, and Naama Vilozny, and will be of interest for all those engaged in the study of these fascinating objects.

Continue reading Aramaic Magic Bowls

Empires and exchanges in Eurasian late antiquity

Cosmo, Nicola di & Michael Maas (eds.). 2018. Empires and exchanges in Eurasian late antiquity: Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe, ca. 250-750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Table of Contents is available on the publisher’s website.

Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity offers an integrated picture of Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppes during a formative period of world history. In the half millennium between 250 and 750 CE, settled empires underwent deep structural changes, while various nomadic peoples of the steppes (Huns, Avars, Turks, and others) experienced significant interactions and movements that changed their societies, cultures, and economies. This was a transformational era, a time when Roman, Persian, and Chinese monarchs were mutually aware of court practices, and when Christians and Buddhists criss-crossed the Eurasian lands together with merchants and armies. It was a time of greater circulation of ideas as well as material goods. This volume provides a conceptual frame for locating these developments in the same space and time. Without arguing for uniformity, it illuminates the interconnections and networks that tied countless local cultural expressions to far-reaching inter-regional ones.

Their Evil Rule Must End!

Agostini, Domenico. 2017. Their evil rule must end! A commentary on the Iranian Bundahišn 33:17–28. In Hagit Amirav, Emmanouela Grypeou and Guy Stroumsa (eds.), Apocalypticism and eschatology in late antiquity: Encounters in the Abrahamic religions, 6th–8th Centuries, 21–41. Leuven: Peeters Publishers.

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 Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity

Nicholson, Oliver (ed.). 2018. The Oxford dictionary of late antiquity. Oxford University Press.

The first comprehensive, multi-disciplinary reference work covering every aspect of history, culture, religion, and life in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Near East (including the Persian Empire and Central Asia) between c. AD 250 to 750, the era now generally known as Late Antiquity. This period saw the re-establishment of the Roman Empire, its conversion to Christianity and its replacement in the West by Germanic kingdoms, the continuing Roman Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Persian Sassanian Empire, and the rise of Islam.

Consisting of more than 1.5 million words, drawing on the latest scholarship, and written by more than 400 contributors, it bridges a significant period of history between those covered by the acclaimed Oxford Classical Dictionary and The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages, and aims to establish itself as the essential reference companion to this period.

Trilingual Greek-Aramaic-Middle Persian Pharmaceutical Lexical List

Image from an 18th c. Syriac manuscript from Alqosh. Thomas touching the wounds of Jesus, with Simon Peter looking on. DFM 13, f. 60r. © hmmlorientalia

Müller-Kessler, Christa. 2017. A Trilingual Pharmaceutical Lexical List: Greek – Aramaic – Middle Persian. Le Muséon 130(1–2). 31–69.

This trilingual plant list in Greek, Aramaic, and Middle Persian (Pahlavi) is a late copy in the Aramaic square script from the Cairo Genizah of the ninth or tenth centuries with randomly applied Palestinian vocalisation (T-S K14.22). It is the second example of a trilingual lexical list, containing plant names after Barhebraeus’ plant list in the Menārath Kudhshē. The origin of the Vorlage speaks for Jundishapur as its place of completion, and Syriac used for the Aramaic glosses, since this fragment shows a number of Syriac calques, especially particles, which came in through the translation from one Aramaic dialect into another. This unique text source demonstrates again how closely interlinked Greek, Aramaic, and Middle Iranian were in Late Antiquity, despite the loss of most of the text material from this famous academy of medical studies. What this list makes also so valuable is the application of the grades of the plants’ effect that go back to Galen, as can be found in the remnant Syriac manuscript Mingana Syr. 661.
Christa Müller-Kessler is an scholar of Syriac and Aramaic Studies at the Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena.

The Coinage of the “Iranian” Huns and Western Turks

Alram, Michael. 2016. Das Antlitz des Fremden: die Münzprägung der Hunnen und Westtürken in Zentralasien und Indien. (Schriften des Kunsthistorischen Museums 17). Wien: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

The coinage of the “Iranian” Huns and Western Turks is a unique testimony to the history of Central Asia and Northwest India in late antiquity. It illustrates the self-understanding of the Hunnic and Turkish masters and shows how diverse political, economic and cultural influences affect them. The core zone of their domination ranged from today’s Uzbekistan through Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central India; The chronological framework stretches from the fourth to the 10th century AD.

This book summarizes the latest research regarding the “Iranian” Huns and Western Turks. By the aid of selected archaeological evidence as well as coinage, it gives an exciting insights into the history and culture of an era, which today is once again the focal point of international politics and debate.

Table of Contents:

  • Historischer Überblick
  • Das Reich der Sasaniden in Persien (224–651 n. Chr.)
  • Die Kidariten in Baktrien (um 370–467 n. Chr.)
  • Die Kidariten in Gandhara und Uddiyana (letztes Viertel 4. bis erste Hälfte 5. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Die Kidariten in Taxila (letztes Viertel 4. bis Mitte 5. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Alchan: Von den anonymen Clanchefs zu König Khingila (Ende 4. bis Mitte 5. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Alchan: König Khingila (um 430/440–495 n. Chr.) und die
  • Festigung der hunnischen Macht in Nordwest-Indien
  • Alchan: Die Zeitgenossen des Khingila (um 440–500 n. Chr.)
  • Toramana und Mihirakula – Aufstieg und Fall der Alchan in Indien
    (1. Hälfte 6. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Die Hephthaliten in Baktrien (um 484–560 n. Chr.)
  • Die Nezak-Könige in Zabulistan und Kabulistan (um 480 bis nach 560 n. Chr.)
  • Zabulistan: Von der Alchan-Nezak-Mischgruppe zu den Türken (Ende 6. bis Mitte 7. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Die Turk-Schahis in Kabulistan (2. Hälfte 7. bis Mitte 8. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Kabulistan und Baktrien zur Zeit von »Tegin, König des Ostens« (Ende 7. bis erstes Viertel 8. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Die Rutbils von Zabulistan und der »Kaiser von Rom« (Ende 7. bis zweite Hälfte 8. Jahrhundert n. Chr.)
  • Die Hindu-Schahis in Kabulistan und Gandha

Sasanian Persia

Sauer, Eberhard. 2017. Sasanian Persia: Between Rome and the steppes of Eurasia. Edinburgh University Press.

The Sasanian Empire (3rd-7th centuries) was one of the largest empires of antiquity, stretching from Mesopotamia to modern Pakistan and from Central Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. This mega-empire withstood powerful opponents in the steppe and expanded further in Late Antiquity, whilst the Roman world shrunk in size. Recent research has revealed the reasons for this success: notably population growth in some key territories, economic prosperity, and urban development, made possible through investment in agriculture and military infrastructure on a scale unparalleled in the late antique world.

The author: Eberhard Sauer is Professor of Roman Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, having previously taught at the Universities of Leicester and Oxford.