Tag Archives: Sasanian

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.

Ancient States and Infrastructural Power

Ando, Clifford & Seth Richardson (eds.). 2017. Ancient states and infrastructural power: Europe, Asia, and America (Empire and After). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

While ancient states are often characterized in terms of the powers that they claimed to possess, the contributors to this book argue that they were in fact fundamentally weak, both in the exercise of force outside of war and in the infrastructural and regulatory powers that such force would, in theory, defend. In Ancient States and Infrastructural Power a distinguished group of scholars examines the ways in which early states built their territorial, legal, and political powers before they had the capabilities to enforce them.

The volume brings Greek and Roman historians together with specialists on early Mesopotamia, late antique Persia, ancient China, Visigothic Iberia, and the Inca empire to compare various models of state power across regional and disciplinary divisions. How did the polis become the body that regulates property rights? Why did Chinese and Persian states maintain aristocracies that sometimes challenged their autocracies? How did Babylon and Rome promote the state as the custodian of moral goods? In worlds without clear borders, how did societies from Rome to Byzantium come to share legal and social identities rooted in concepts of territory? From the Inca empire to Visigothic Iberia, why did tributary practices reinforce territorial ideas about membership?

Source: Ancient States and Infrastructural Power | Clifford Ando, Seth Richardson

The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’

Butts, Aaron Michael &  Gross, Simcha. 2017. The History of the ‘Slave of Christ’: From Jewish Child to Christian Martyr. ( Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 6). New Jersey: Gorgias Press LLC .

The first critical editions and English translations of the two Syriac recensions of a fascinating text which narrates the story of a young Jewish child, Asher. After converting to Christianity and taking the name ʿAḇdā da-Mšiḥā (‘slave of Christ’), he is martyred by his father. In a detailed introduction, Butts and Gross challenge the use of this text by previous scholars as evidence for historical interactions between Jews and Christians, reevaluating its purpose and situating the story in its Late Antique Babylonian context.

 

Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Volume 53

Ancient Near Eastern Studies is a refereed journal and accepts original articles devoted to the languages and cultures of the ancient Near East. The geographical area on which we primarily focus includes the modern lands of Egypt, Israel, West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Sheikhdoms. Manuscripts on related languages and cultures in neighbouring regions will also be considered.

Several papers and reviews of Volume 53 of Ancient Near Eastern Studies are related to Iran:

Mithra and the Arrangement of Geographical Lists in the Achaemenid and Sasanid Inscriptions

Tamari, Nazanin. 2017. Mithra and the arrangement of geographical lists in the Achaemenid and Sasanid inscriptions. Journal of Historical Researches 8(4). 111-130.

The division of the world is one of the issues that began with the social life of human in all over the world and still continues. The oldest division has mythical and legendary aspects that shows the geographical knowledge or religious and ethnic beliefs of their predecessors.
Various geographical divisions can be seen in the ancient Iranian traditions. Each of these divisions follow the specific arrangement of listing the geographical areas, which discussed in this paper. The arrangement of geographical areas in Achaemenid and Sasanian inscription and in the Mihr Yašt, the oldest of Avestan hymns (Yašts), are the same. Because of this similarity cannot be accidental, in this paper the cause of the similarities has been investigated.
The arrangement of geographical areas in two lists (inscriptions and Mihr Yašt) shows clockwise (sunwise) fashion, that investigated in religious view in this study. Due to the Mithra’s influence on cultural and religious context of the ancient Iranians, for the first time in present paper investigated the role of this god and his influence on the writing the geographical lists in the Achaemenid and Sasanin inscriptions.

In origianl:

تمری، نازنین. 1395.   ایزد مهر و آرایش فهرست های جغرافیایی در کتیبه های هخامنشی و ساسانی. فصل‌نامه پژوهش‌های تاریخی، 8(4) 111-130

Images of Mithra

Elsner, Jas. 2017. Images of Mithra (Visual Conversations In Art And Archaeology 1). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

With a history of use extending back to Vedic texts of the second millennium BC, derivations of the name Mithra appear in the Roman Empire, across Sasanian Persia, and in the Kushan Empire of southern Afghanistan and northern India during the first millennium AD. Even today, this name has a place in Yazidi and Zoroastrian religion. But what connection have Mihr in Persia, Miiro in Kushan Bactria, and Mithras in the Roman Empire to one another?

Continue reading Images of Mithra

ReOrienting the Sasanians

Rezakhani, Khodadad. 2017. ReOrienting the Sasanians: East Iran in late antiquity (Edinburgh Studies in Ancient Persia). Edinburgh University Press.

Central Asia is commonly imagined as the marginal land on the periphery of Chinese and Middle Eastern civilisations. At best, it is understood as a series of disconnected areas that served as stop-overs along the Silk Road.

However, in the mediaeval period, this region rose to prominence and importance as one of the centres of Persian-Islamic culture, from the Seljuks to the Mongols and Timur.

Khodadad Rezakhani tells the back story of this rise to prominence, the story of the famed Kushans and mysterious ‘Asian Huns’, and their role in shaping both the Sasanian Empire and the rest of the Middle East.

Source: ReOrienting the Sasanians – Edinburgh University Press

From Sasanian Mandaeans to Ṣābians of the Marshes

van Bladel, Kevin. 2017. From Sasanian Mandaeans to Ṣābians of the Marshes. Leiden: Brill.
This historical study argues that the Mandaean religion originated under Sasanid rule in the fifth century, not earlier as has been widely accepted. It analyzes primary sources in Syriac, Mandaic, and Arabic to clarify the early history of Mandaeism. This religion, along with several other, shorter-lived new faiths, such as Kentaeism, began in a period of state-sponsored persecution of Babylonian paganism. The Mandaeans would survive to become one of many groups known as Ṣābians by their Muslim neighbors. Rather than seeking to elucidate the history of Mandaeism in terms of other religions to which it can be related, this study approaches the religion through the history of its social contexts.
Table of Contents
Preface
Introduction
1. Early Contacts between Arab Muslims and Aramaean Mandaeans and the Date of Zazay
2. Theodore bar Konay’s Account of Mandaean Origins (circa 792)
3. Three Sixth-Century References to Mandaeans by Name
4. On the Kentaeans and Their Relationship with the Mandaeans
5. The Account of al-Ḥasan ibn Bahlūl (Bar Bahlul), second half of tenth century
6. Identifying Abū ʿAlī
7. The Marshes of the Ṣābians
8. Other Reports on the Mandaeans after Abū ʿAlī
9. Back to the Question of Origins
10. Pre-Mandaean Nāṣoraeans
11. The Religious Environment of Sasanian Iraq
12. Mandaeism as a Changing Tradition
Appendix 1. Bar Konay on the Kentaeans, Dostaeans, and Nerigaeans, in English
Appendix 2. Ibn Waḥšīya on Aramaic Dialects
Bibliography
Kevin T. van Bladel (Ph.D. 2004, Yale University), is Associate Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at The Ohio State University.

Syriac Polemics Against Zoroastrianism and Christian Controversies under the Sasanians

es-xiii-couv4eRuani, Flavia (ed.). 2016. Les controverses religieuses en syriaque. (Études Syriaques 13). Paris: Geuthner.
The latest volume of the series Études Syriaques, edited by Flavia Ruani is dedicated to the subject of the religious controversies in the “Syriac world”. The volume contents thirteen articles, originally presented at the 13th. symposium of the Society of Syria Studies at the l’Institut protestant de théologie in Paris in 2015. The articles (Table of Contents PDF) aim to give an overview of the debates and relations that the Syriac Christians have maintained over the centuries with other communities, among others Pagans, Jews, Manicheans, Muslims, Zoroastrians, etc. in the areas where they evolved, in order to trace the interreligious relations in the Syriac world. Two contribution from this volume address some aspects of a particular controversy and polemics between Christians in Sasanian Milieu as well as the Syriac polemics against Zoroastrianism in their Sasanian religious, cultural and political contexts:
  • Florence Jullien: “Les controverses entre chrétiens en milieu sassanide: un enjeu identitaire” [Polemics between Christians in Sasanian Milieu: an Identity Issue]
In Sasanian milieu, controversies among Christians have a strong identity dimension which explains the important involvement of Syriac communities in theological debates as a means of positioning strategy. The most significant disputes were organized in public at the court of Seleucia- Ctesiphon, in the sixth and early seventh centuries. These controversies were considered as a royal entertainment; but for the Christians, they involved a very real political issue, especially for the East-Syrians and the Syro-Orthodox, with regard to the consequences for the existence of their Churches. Heresiographical representation, using humour and derision, is part of the polemical discourse so as to deconstruct the image of the opponent. In the Syriac world, controversy was above all an affair of the cultural elite, trained in the ecclesiastical milieu to deal with confrontation—and monasticism played an important role in many respects.
  • Richard Payne: “Les polémiques syro-orientales contre le zoroastrisme et leurs contextes politiques” [East Syriac Polemics Against Zoroastrianism and Their Political Contexts]
The paper provides an account of the evolution of East Syrian polemics against Zoroastrianism from their fitful origins in late fourth- and early fifth-century hagiography to the more complex works of the late Sasanian era. It argues that the chronological correspondence between the beginning of polemical production and the institutionalization of the Church of the East in the Iranian Empire is not accidental. The shift away from Judaism to Zoroastrianism as the primary polemical concern of ecclesiastical leaders took place just as they were becoming dependent on a Zoroastrian court for patronage. With the rise of the Church of the East, East Syrian secular elites and ecclesiastical leaders could participate in the institutions of a Zoroastrian Empire qua Christians, and polemical texts aimed to define relations between Christians and Zoroastrians in the overarching political context of increasing interreligious collaboration. The early East Syrian representation of Zoroastrianism as a peculiarly Iranian form of Greco- Roman polytheism gave way, by circa 500, to more nuanced accounts of Zoroastrian ritual and cosmology—notably in the Martyrdom of Pethion, Adurohrmazd, and Anahid and the History of Mar Qardagh—that outlined political space, practices, and identities that Christians and Zoroastrians could share. At the same time, the catholicos-patriarch Mar Aba attacked Christians for adopting Zoroastrian practices necessary for the political participation of would-be aristocrats and, in so doing, distinguished ascetic ecclesiastical leaders from secular elites through their wholesale rejection of the Good Religion. Polemics emerge from this paper as instruments for the creation of the boundaries required for workable cooperation between Christians and Zoroastrians, and their development provides an index of Christian assimilation and acculturation from the fourth through early seventh centuries.
About the Editor:
Flavia Ruani (PhD) is a a scholar of Syriac Christianity and the hagiography of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. She is curently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Department of Literary Studies at the University of Geneva.

Persian Martyr Acts under King Yazdgird I

herman-2016Herman, Geoffrey (ed.). 2016. Persian Martyr Acts under King Yazdgird I. (Persian martyr acts in Syriac: text and translation 5). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.

This volume presents five vivid tales of Persian Christian martyrs from the fifth century. They provide important historical information on Christian society at this time, revealing its geographical and social divisions. Narseh is an itinerant monk from Bēth Raziqāyē who damages a fire temple that had formerly been a church. Tātāq is a high ranking courtier from Bēth Ḥadyab who abandons his position to become an ascetic. Mār ‘Abdā is a compliant bishop from Ḥuzestān drawn into conflict with the king by his confrontational and defiant priest, Hasho. Set in the Sasanian Empire in the reign of Yazdgird I (399-420 CE), these texts thematize the struggle between the martyrs’ identity as Persian subjects loyal to the king, often in the face of hostility by the Zoroastrian priesthood, and their devotion to their Christian faith.

About the Author:

Geoffrey Herman is a researcher at the Mandel Scholion Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Humanities and Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has published extensively on the history of religious life in the Sasanian era.