Tag Archives: Sasanian

The Sinicization of Indo-Iranian Astrology in Medieval China

Kotyk, Jeffrey. 2018. The sinicization of Indo-Iranian astrology in medieval China (Sino-Platonic Papers 282). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

This study explores the introduction and development of foreign systems of astrology in medieval China (Tang to Ming periods), in particular the practice of horoscopy, and how such models were implemented within a Chinese astronomical framework. It is argued that the basic character of such horoscopy was in large part Dorothean, rather than Ptolemaic. It is furthermore demonstrated that Chinese horoscopy was as much an heir to Persian systems of horoscopy as was the Islamicate, a point that has yet to be recognized. The paper also demonstrates the enduring impact of horoscopy within the culture of Chinese divination.

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 des Mittelalters (Das Mittelalter. Perspektiven mediävistischer Forschung. Beihefte 8), 23–42. 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.

Persian Martyrs Mar Behnam and Sarah

Saint-Laurent, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon & Kyle Smith (eds.). 2018. The history of Mar Behnam and Sarah. Martyrdom and monasticism in medieval Iraq (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 7). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.

The History of Mar Behnam and Sarah tells the story of two siblings who convert to Christianity under the tutelage of Mar Mattai, a monastic leader and wonderworker from the Roman Empire. After the children refuse to worship pagan gods, they are killed by their own father, the Persian king. Strangely, he is identified as Sennacherib the Assyrian, a pre-Christian ruler better known from the biblical Book of Kings. This is not the only chronological oddity with the text. Although Behnam and Sarah is set in the fourth century, during the golden age of martyrdom in the Sasanian Empire, the text was not composed until hundreds of years later. The composition of the narrative about the two martyrs seems to have coincided with the construction of a twelfth-century shrine that was built in their honor by Syrian Orthodox monks on the Nineveh Plain, near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The beautiful martyrium, which housed intricate relief sculptures and inscriptions in several languages, was an important pilgrimage site for Christians, Muslims, and Yezidis until it was destroyed in 2015.

In this volume of the “Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac” series, Jeanne-Nicole Mellon Saint-Laurent and Kyle Smith provide the first critical edition and English translation of this fascinating martyrdom narrative, a text that was once widely popular among numerous communities throughout the Middle East.

Historia I Świat

Issue seven of Historia i Świat (2018) has been published. A number of the contributions relate to Iranian Studies.

A Watchtower of the late Sasanian Period on the outskirts of Veh Ardashir

Messina, Vito. 2018. A watchtower of the late Sasanian period on the outskirts of Veh Ardashir (Coche). In Paolo de Vingo (ed.), Le archeologie di Marilli. Studi in memoria di Mariamaddalena Negro Ponzi Mancini (Mnème. Documenti, culture, storia del mediterraneo e dell’oriente antico 12), 95–104. Torino: Edizioni dell’Orso.
In 1964 the Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino per il Medio Oriente e l’Asia started field research at Seleucia on the Tigris, the Babylonian capital of Seleucid Asia, built in an area where other important capitals such as Parthian Ctesiphon and Sasanian Veh Ardashir were founded, and which is still called in Arabic al- Madā’in (the cities). The city, founded at the end of the 4th century BC, appears to have been the main centre of inner Asia in the Seleucid period and maintained its pivotal role even during the Parthian age (half of the 2nd century BC – beginning of the 3rd century AD), being progressively abandoned from the last quarter of the 2nd century AD, for the nearby bourg of Ctesiphon, grown in importance in the AD centuries as the Parthian capital of the region. Afterwards, during the reign of Ardashir I (AD 224-241), the new Sasanian capital, Veh Ardashir (Coche), vied with Ctesiphon for regional dominance and finally prevailed.

Sasanian Iran in the context of Late Anitquity

Daryaee, Touraj (ed.). 2018. Sasanian Iran in the context of Late Anitquity: The Bahari lecture series at the Oxford University (Ancient Iran Series VI). Irvine: Jordan Center for Persian Studies.
The essays in this volume discuss various aspects of the Sasanian Empire, presented on the occasion of the inauguration of the Bahari Chair in Sasanian Studies at Oxford University in 2014.
  • Michael Alram: “The Numismatic Legacy of the Sasanians in the East”
  • Matthew P. Canepa and Johnathan W. Hardy: “Persian Palace Architecture, Garden Design and Digital Archaeology”
  • Touraj Daryaee: “The Tripartite Sasanian Vision of the World”
  • Antonio Panaino: “Books without Ritual – Ritual without Books”
  • Giusto Traina: “The Rise of the Sasanians”
  • Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina: “A Father, a Daughter, and a Son-in-Law in Zoroastrian Hermeneutics”
  • Arash Zeini: “The King in the Mirror of the Zand

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.

Ram horns as sacral royal regalia of Šāpūr II

Maksymiuk, Katarzyna. 2018. Ram horns as sacral royal regalia of Šāpūr II. Istorìâ relìgìj v Ukraïnì: Naukovij šorìčnik 28(1). 17–29.

The work of Ammianus Marcellinus preserved valuable information on ancient Iran. Ammianus describes the arrival of šāhānšāh Šāpūr II (r. 309-379) under the walls of Amida, besieged by the Iranians. He informing that the king of Iran wore specific crown/helmet decorated with the ram’s horn. It seems that the helmet of the Sasanian monarch is associated with the person of Alexander of Macedon. In Iranian tradition the heroic picture of Alexander is based on the so-called Alexander Romance, also the Syriac legend of Alexander of Macedon, was written in the 6th century A.D. or in the first half of the 7th century A.D. The article analyzes the picture of Alexander in Pahlavi literature chronologically closer to the reign of Šāpūr II. The subject of research are also representations of Iranian kings with the ram’s horn. It must be accepted that teh specific decoartion of the helmet of Šāpūr II, described by Ammianus Marcelinus canot be anyhow associated with the person of Alexander but results from Iranian ideology of royal power.

Falcons and falconry in pre-modern Persia

Falcon with spread wings. Square tile from Persepolis.

Daryaee, Touraj & Soodabeh Malekzadeh. 2018. Falcons and falconry in pre-modern Persia, in Karl-Heinz Gersmann & Oliver Grimm (eds.), Raptor and human: falconry and bird symbolism throughout the millennia on a global scale, 243-258, Wachholtz Verlag.

Falcons and falconry have been part of the religious and ideological tradition of the Persianate world from remote antiquity to the pre-modern period. The falcon has been important as a symbol of royal ideology and political legitimation. Already from the earliest Zoroastrian hymns, the Avesta, to manuals on falconry in the nineteenth century, the importance of this bird and the sport is detailed. The earliest evidence of falconry in Persia dates back to the Sasanian era (3rd c. CE). In this article, the association of this sport with the nobility in both pre-Islamic and Islamic literature, art, and history is made clear.

A Proposal for the Identification of the Sasanian commander Mermeróēs

Maksymiuk, Katarzyna. 2017. A new proposal for the identification of the Sasanian commander Mermeróēs of Byzantine sources: Šāpur of Ray from Mehrān. In Mitko Panov (ed.), The Byzantine missionary activity and its legacy in Europe, 93–98. Skopje: Euro-Balkan University.

Šāpur of Ray, known also as Mermeroes in Procopius’ and Agathias’ narratives, was the spāhbed in the battles of Dara (June 530) and Satala (summer 530). In 542 he was dispatched by Xusrō I Anōšīrvān (r. 531–579) against the Byzantine fortress of Dara. In 548 Šāpur of Ray was sent at the head of a large army to relieve the fortress of Petra in Lazica, which was under siege by a combined Byzantine-Lazic force. He died of his illness at Mtskheta in the summer of 555. According to Ṭabarī at the time of Sukhrā’s fall, Šāpur of Ray was supreme Commander of the land (iṣbahbadh al-bilād). If we allow identification of Sukhrā and Siāwoš, the last commander of Iranian army with the title of Artēštārān sālār, then we must state that, after removing Sukhrā, Šāpur of Ray also held a high military rank until the military reforms of Xusrō I Anōšīrvān.