Tag Archives: Sasanian History

The Sasanian Navy revisited

Dmitriev, Vladimir. 2017. The Sasanian navy revisited: An unwritten chapter in Iran’s military history. International Journal of Maritime History 29(4), 727-737.

In modern historiography, Sasanian Iran is commonly perceived as a land power. However, various primary sources indicate that the Sasanian navy played an important role in the military efforts of the Persians in late antiquity. The Sasanian navy was established to ensure the external security of the Persian state by exerting control over the sea lanes in the Persian Gulf region, and based on the aspiration of the Sasanid authorities to enhance their military and political, as well as commercial, influence in the northern part of the Indian Ocean. The most dynamic phase of the Persian navy’s activities occurred during the reign of Khosrow Anushirwan (531–579 CE), when fleet operations enabled the Persians to conquer Yemen and there was an attempt to establish the navy in the Black Sea basin. The last phase of Sasanian naval activity took place during the Byzantine–Persian war of 602–628 CE. In this conflict, the Persian fleet initially achieved some success in the Mediterranean Sea, but eventually it was completely defeated by the more skillful Byzantine navy. The main areas of the Persian navy’s activities were the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. The Sasanids’ attempts to establish fleets in the Black Sea in the 540s and Mediterranean in the 620s were ended by Byzantium. After the fall of the Sasanian Empire, Persian ships became part of the Arabian armed forces and for some time continued to participate in wars on the side of the Arabs, whose victories over the Byzantines were, to some extent, due to the naval experience of the Persians.

The Dynasty of Šahrwarāz in Egypt and Syria in the early 7th century

Sárközy, Miklós. 2017. “Šahrwarāz dinasztiája Szíriában és Egyiptomban a 7. század elején“, Világtörténet, 7. (39.) évfolyam, 2017. 2. 235-248.

The present paper discusses the foundation of the Syrian–Egyptian kingdom of Šahrwarāz. A well-known military leader of the Sasanian Empire who played a key-role in the Sasanian–Eastern Roman wars in the early decades of the 7th century AD, Šahrwarāz successfully conquered Syria and Egypt by 619 and became the military governor of these provinces. Being of obscure origin of the Northern Caucasus, Šahrwarāz started as a staunch supporter of Khusraw II but gradually distanced from his patron after some military failures and due to his own policy which soon resulted in a semi-independent Syrian-Egyptian kingdom ruled by Šahrwarāz by 626. His secret dealings with Eastern Roman forces in Syria soon led to his rising popularity in the eyes of emperor Heraclius who promised him the throne of Sasanian Iran. Eventually Šahrwarāz succeeded in usurping the Sasanian realm for a short period, therefore the vast resources at his disposal might have contributed to the spectacular downfall of the Sasanians.

Arabs and Iranians in the Islamic Conquest Narrative

Savran, Scott. 2018. Arabs and Iranians in the Islamic conquest narrative: memory and identity construction in Islamic historiography, 750-1050. (Culture and Civilization in the Middle East 57). London; New York: Routledge.

Arabs and Iranians in the Islamic Conquest Narrative analyzes how early Muslim historians merged the pre-Islamic histories of the Arab and Iranian peoples into a didactic narrative culminating with the Arab conquest of Iran.

This book provides an in-depth examination of Islamic historical accounts of the encounters between representatives of these two peoples that took place in the centuries prior to the coming of Islam. By doing this, it uncovers anachronistic projections of dynamic identity and political discourses within the contemporaneous Islamic world.  It shows how the formulaic placement of such embellishment within the context of the narrative served to justify the Arabs’ rise to power, whilst also explaining the fall of the Iranian Sasanian empire. The objective of this book is not simply to mine Islamic historical chronicles for the factual data they contain about the pre-Islamic period, but rather to understand how the authors of these works thought about this era.

By investigating the intersection between early Islamic memory, identity construction, and power discourses, this book will benefit researchers and students of Islamic history and literature and Middle Eastern Studies.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Shifting Patterns of Identity and Early Islamic Historiography in Context
  • 3. The Opening of the Drama: Shāpūr and the Sheikh
  • 4. Bahrām V Gūr, the Lakhmids, and the Hephthalite Disaster
  • 5. The Twilight of Sasanian Power: Khusraw I Anūshirvān and the Saga of Ḥimyar
  • 6. The Buildup to the Confrontation: Khusraw II Parvīz and the Rise of the Arabs
  • 7. The Climax: The Islamic Victory over the Sasanians
  • 8. Conclusion

Scott Savran obtained his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 2011. His research focuses on identity-based discourses in early Islamic historiography.

A Review of Christian Arab sources for the Sasanian Period

Amiri Bavandpour, Sajad. 2017. “A Review of Christian Arab sources for the Sasanian Period“, e-Sasanika 19.

This article in Persian reviews all the important Christian Arab sources for the study of Sasanian history. The author studies each of the Syriac and Arabic texts produced by the Christians from the third to the thirteenth century CE which provide important information on the Sasanian Empire.

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

Territorializing Iran in Late Antiquity

Payne, Richard. 2017. “Territorializing Iran in Late Antiquity“, In Ando, Cifford and Seth Richardson (eds.), Ancient States and Infrastructural: Europe, Asia, and America, 179-217, Power Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

In late antiquity,the architects of the Iranian Empire superimposed a mythical gepgraphy on the Near East that gave away, over the four centuries of its existence, to partially terriotorialized, infrastructural powers that far surpassed those of their ancient Near Eastern predecessors. More frequently known as the Sasanian Empire after its ruling dynasty, replacing the adjective “Sasanian” with “Iranian” foregrounds the centrality of a mythical conception of time and space to its organization of the empire, and also gives preference to the self-designation of its elites over scholary convention.

The Captive Emperor: Valerian, Persia and the Defeat of Edessa

Coloru, Omar. 2017. L’imperatore prigioniero. Valeriano, la Persia e la disfatta di Edessa. Editori Laterza.

 

In 260 AD, the emperor Valerian is made prisoner by the “King of kings” Shapur I: he will end his days in Persia as a prisoner of war. For the Romans, this is an unprecedented military catastrophe, even more terrible than the defeat of Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BC. Rome is going to face the worst phase of the crisis affecting the Roman empire in the 3rd century AD: the Sasanians are making incursions in Anatolia and Syria, the Renan and Danubian borders are under the pressure of the barbarians, while the Christians are persecuted all over the empire because the emperor sees in this religion a political and ideological threat for the Roman state and its traditions. What is more, the capture of Valerian generates separatist movements which allow the usurper Postumus to create the Gallic Empire. The book aims to present a biography of Valerian to a general audience but it also tries to investigate some controversial events of his reign.

via Omar Coloru.

King of the Seven Climes

Daryaee, Touraj (ed.). 2017. King of the Seven Climes: A History of the Ancient Iranian World (3000 BCE – 651 CE). UCI Jordan Center for Persian Studies.

 

In a Middle Persian text known as “Khusro and the Page,” one of the most famous kings of the ancient Iranian world, Khusro I Anusheruwan, is called haft kišwar xawadāy “the King of the Seven Climes.” This title harkens back to at least the Achaemenid period when it was in fact used, and even further back to a Zoroastrian/Avestan world view. From the earliest Iranian hymns, those of the Gāthās of Zarathushtra, through the Younger Avesta and later Pahlavi writings, it is known that the ancient Iranians divided the world into seven climes or regions. Indeed, at some point there was even an aspiration that this world should be ruled by a single king. Consequently, the title of the King of the Seven Climes, used by Khusro I in the sixth century CE, suggests the most ambitious imperial vision that one would find in the literary tradition of the ancient Iranian world. Taking this as a point of departure, the present book aims to be a survey of the dynasties and rulers who thought of going beyond their own surroundings to forge larger polities within the Iranian realm.

Thus far, in similar discussions of ancient Iranian history, it has been the convention to set the beginnings of a specifically Iranian world at the rise of Cyrus the Great and the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire. But in fact, this notion is only a recent paradigm, which became popular in Iran in the late 1960s owing to traditions of Classical and European historiography. At the same time, there are other narratives that can be given for the history of the Iranian World, including those that take us to 5000 BCE to sites such as Sialk, near Kashan, or other similar archaeological localities. As attractive as an archaeologically based narrative of local powers can be, however, the aim of the present work is to focus on political entities who aimed at the control of a larger domain beyond their own local contexts. As a result, this book starts its narrative with Elam, the influential civilization and kingdom that existed long before the Achaemenids came to power. Elam boasted a writing system and a complex culture and political organization contemporaneous with that of Mesopotamia, and was made up of cities such as Susa and Anshan. As Kamyar Abdi shows in his chapter, the Iranian civilization owes much to the Elamites and their worldview and conception of rulership. Thus, we do not start the present narrative with 550 BCE and Cyrus, but with 3000 BCE, in the proto-Elamite Period, when signs of a long lasting civilization on the Iranian Plateau first appeared.

Table of Contents:

The Middle Persian words xwarrah and farr

Shavarebi, Ehsan & Ahmad Reza Qaemmaqami. 2016. Les mots moyen-perses xwarrah et farr: un nouvel argument onomastique. Folia Orientalia 53. 261–274.

This article analyses Ardašīr-Farr, the honorary title attributed to Abarsām, a high-ranking dignitary at the reign of Ardašīr I, and its similarity to the name of the city of Ardašīr-Xwarrah.

Iranian cosmopolitanism: World religions at the Sasanian court

Payne, Richard. 2016. Iranian cosmopolitanism: World religions at the Sasanian court, in Myles Lavan, Richard Payne & John Weisweiler (eds.), Cosmopolitanism and empire: Universal rulers, local elites, and cultural integration in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean, 209–230. Oxford University Press.

Payne examines how the Iranian empire developed cosmopolitan techniques through which to overcome the religious contradictions of its elite. The imperial elite of Iranians cohered through Zoroastrian institutions that provided its shared self-conception and normative framework, while the local elites they subordinated frequently practiced other religions- notably Christianity whose cosmologies were incompatible with the ruling religion. Imagining their mythical-historical lineage as the source of all human knowledge, however, the Iranians considered themselves capable of integrating-by means of subordination – even potentially contradictory cultures. The late Sasanian court adopted the cosmopolitan practice of the dialectical disputation from the Roman empire to manage difference, showcasing the banal commonalities of all religious and philosophical traditions without jeopardizing the superior position of Zoroastrianism. In acting as the authorities in intra-Christian disputations, the Iranians even became the arbiters for competing Christian claims to doctrinal truths. Iranian cosmopolitanism thus reveals the subordinating mode in action, as Christian sub-elites acknowledged their superiors as the source of their cultural legitimacy and authority as well as of imperial perquisites
and privileges.