Tag Archives: Sasanian History

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:

  • Kamyar Abdi: The kingdom of Elām
  • Hilary Copnik: The Median Confederacy
  • Lloyd LLewellyn-Jones: The Achaemenid Empire
  • Omar Coloru: Seleucid Iran
  • Leonardo Gregoratti: The Arsacid Empire
  • Touraj Daryaee and Khodadad Rezakhani: The Sasanian Empire
  • Khodadad Rezakhani: From the Kushans to the Western Turks

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.

The making of Turan

Payne, Richard. 2016. The making of Turan: The fall and transformation of the Iranian east in late antiquity. Journal of Late Antiquity 9(1). 4–41.

Contemporaneously with the fall and transformation of the Roman West, the Iranian Empire yielded its East to Hun—and later Turk—conquerors. This article traces the development of post-Iranian regimes through the dynamic interplay of nomadic and sedentary political institutions in the fourth through early seventh centuries. The conquerors adopted Iranian institutions, integrated the Iranian aristocracy, and presented themselves as the legitimate heirs of the kings of kings in a manner reminiscent of post-Roman rulers. At the same time, however, the Huns and the Turks retained the superior military resources of nomadic imperialism, included the Ira-nian East in trans-Eurasian networks, and distinguished themselves as rul-ing ethno-classes tied to the steppe. The resulting hybrid political culture came to be known as Turan.

The article is also available from the authors’s academia.edu page here.

The Parthian nobility in Xusrō I Anōšīrvān court

Maksymiuk, Katarzyna. 2015. The Parthian nobility in Xusrō I Anōšīrvān court. In Piotr Briks (ed.), Elites in the Ancient World (Szczecińskie Studia nad Starożytnością II), 189–198. Wydawnictwo Naukowe.

Sources rewritten by order of Persian rulers (Pārsīg) in 6th century diminish the role of the Parthians (Pahlav) in the official history of Iran. In Xwadāy Nāmag a method of the Parthian reign recalculation to half of its actual duration was applied. Propaganda forgery of Xusrō I (531–579) so called Nāma-ye Tansar, shows Iran before power takeover by the Sasanian dynasty as a decentralized and corrupted state but even as “heretical” one. Contrast to the weak power of the Arsacid royal house had to be kingship of Šāhānšāh Ardašīr (224–242) who centralized administration relying on the Mazdean.
This paper is aimed at showing dominant role of the Parthian nobility in Persian government system. This is also attempt to answer the question whether administrative reforms initiated by Kawād I (488–496,498–531) and continued by his son Xusrō I Anōšīrvān were directed against status of the Parthian noblemen in Iran.

The Pahlav-Mehrān family faithful allies of Xusrō I Anōšīrvān

Maksymiuk, Katarzyna. 2015. The Pahlav-Mehrān family faithful allies of Xusrō I AnōšīrvānМетаморфозы истории 6, 163-179.

The article describes the role of the members of the Parthian Mehrān played from the second half of the 5th century on Sasanian courts. It must be assumed that the Sasanian kings ruled their coun-try with the help of Parthian aristocracy. The reforms of the 6th cen-tury could not be directed against the status of the Parthian noblemen in Iran, because neither Kawād nor Xusrō could carry them without the assistance of Parthian wuzurgān.

Along the Sasanian Tradition

Gyselen, Rika (ed.). 2014. Documents, argenterie et monnaies de tradition sassanide. (Res Orientales 22). Bures-sur-Yvette: Groupe pour l’Étude de la Civilisation du Moyen-Orient.
 This volume consists of four articles, studying most notably some objects, many of which can be defined as being part of the Sasanian “tradition”; that is to say they share the elements and spirit of Sasanian objects, without having made directly during the Sassanid era.
  • Maryse Blet-Lemarquand; Rika Gyselen; Florian Duval: “Sur la composition élémentaire de quelques monnaies de cuivre arabo-sassanides”
  • Philippe Gignoux: “Une archive post-sassanide du Tabaristān (II)”
  • Rika Gyselen: “Inscriptions en moyen-perse sur la vaisselle d’argent sassanide: quelques nouvelles données”
  • Dieter Weber: “Arabic Activities Reflected in the Documents of the ‘Pahlavi Archive’ (late 7th and early 8th centuries)”

Zoroastrians and Christians in Sasanian Iran

Gignoux, Philippe. 2014. Mazdéens et chrétiens en terre d’Iran à l’époque sassanide. (Ed.) Matteo De Chiara & Enrico G. Raffaelli. (Serie orientale Roma 3). Roma: Scienze e Lettere.
The volume edited by M.D. Chiara and E.G. Raffaelli brings together forty-two articles by Philippe Gignoux on Zoroastrianism and Christianity in Sasanian Iran. The collection represents the Gignoux’s most important  contributions on those subject, written over a period of more than 40 years.
The papers are divided in three cathegories: 1. Epigraphy, Onomastics Toponymy, 2. Comparative history of Zoroastrianism and 3. Syriac Christianity, each include articles with different subjects.
This volume is a valuable collection of articles for the scholars of Zoroastrianism and Chistianity in Sasanian Era.
Table of Contents:

Continue reading Zoroastrians and Christians in Sasanian Iran

Husraw I: Reconstruction of a Reign. Sources and Documents

Jullien, Christelle (ed). 2015. Husraw Ier: Reconstruction d’un règne. Sources et documents (Cahiers de Studia Iranica 53). Paris. Peeters.

The reign of Husraw I Anosirwan / Chosroes (531-579), the most remarkable one during the Sasanian dynasty, was pivotal in the history of Iran. During that period, far-reaching projects to restructure the state affected all strata of society, royal power was strengthened and the country experienced significant cultural development. No major scientific gathering was devoted to this subject, and here are published the proceedings of a symposium organized in Paris. Its aim was to bring together international scholars from various fields who work on often difficult-to-access or hitherto unpublished source material in several languages. The resulting interactions and intersecting perspectives help to piece together many facets of that reign, thus providing a rich contribution to the history of the East in the 6th century.

For more information, see the Table of Contents of this volume.