Tag Archives: Sasanian History

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.

The so-called ‘Thronfolgerprägungen’ of Ardashīr I reconsidered

Shavarebi, Ehsan. 2017. The so-called ‘Thronfolgerprägungen’ of Ardashīr I reconsidered. In Maria Caccamo Caltabiano, et al (eds.), XV International Numismatic Congress Taormina 2015 Proceedings, Vol. 1, 627–630, Roma-Messina: Arbor Sapientiae Editore.

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.

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 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.

Sasanian and Islamic Exports to Japan

Priestman, Seth. 2016. “The Silk Road or the Sea? Sasanian and Islamic Exports to Japan“, Journal of Islamic Archaeology, 3(1).

This article considers the movement of commodities manufactured in southern Iraq during the Sasanian and Early Islamic periods to the furthest eastern extremity of the Old World: to the archipelago of Japan. In particular the focus is on two categories of non-perishable finds that survive within the archaeological record: glass vessels and turquoise blue alkaline glazed ceramic jars. We begin by providing an outline of the definition and dating of what is a commonplace and widely distributed ceramic product within the Middle East and western Indian Ocean area. It is then possible to place these finds within a broader context by reviewing the evidence for the earliest West Asian exports to Japan and what these might tell us about the mechanisms of their transmission and circulation and the role of such imports within an East Asian context. Specifically these include glass vessels dated to the Sasanian period followed some time later by ceramic vessels manufactured at the time of the Abbasid Caliphate. The continued arrival of Islamic glass into this later period is not a subject that will be covered specifically as it does not contribute directly to the main arguments that are developed below. Finally the finds are used to shed light on the broader debate surrounding the development of the Indian Ocean economy and to what extent Japan itself may have been commercially integrated within a wider commodity exchange

Seth Priestman is a research assistant at the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on processes of long-term socio-economic change, commodity exchange networks and craft production within the Middle East and the wider Afro-Eurasian area during the Sasanian (Late Antique) and Islamic periods.