How did ancient Iranian religion represent the wolf? Between the mythological data, the realities of the agro-pastoral world, and the symbolism of exegetical tradition, Late Antique Zoroastrianism considered the wolf as primarily a species to kill. In reality, much more than the Canis lupus hides behind the word ‘wolf ’ (Middle Persian gurg), including most nocturnal predators but also devastating illnesses, a monster whom the Savior will destroy at the end of time, and finally heretics who renounce or deform the Good Religion. However, this negative image is nuanced by the recognition of the strong ties between the she-wolf and wolf cubs, both in texts where the protective qualities of this large predator are evoked, and in iconography, namely magic seals, where one finds the image of the nourishing she-wolf, perhaps connected to perinatal magic.
This article is a preprint and has not been peer-reviewed.
Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest extant religions in the world, originating in Persia (present-day Iran) during the second millennium BCE. Historical records indicate that migrants from Persia brought Zoroastrianism to India, but there is debate over the timing of these migrations. Here we present novel genome-wide autosomal, Y-chromosome and mitochondrial data from Iranian and Indian Zoroastrians and neighbouring modern-day Indian and Iranian populations to conduct the first genome-wide genetic analysis in these groups. Using powerful haplotype-based techniques, we show that Zoroastrians in Iran and India show increased genetic homogeneity relative to other sampled groups in their respective countries, consistent with their current practices of endogamy. Despite this, we show that Indian Zoroastrians (Parsis) intermixed with local groups sometime after their arrival in India, dating this mixture to 690-1390 CE and providing strong evidence that the migrating group was largely comprised of Zoroastrian males. By exploiting the rich information in DNA from ancient human remains, we also highlight admixture in the ancestors of Iranian Zoroastrians dated to 570 BCE-746 CE, older than admixture seen in any other sampled Iranian group, consistent with a long-standing isolation of Zoroastrians from outside groups. Finally, we report genomic regions showing signatures of positive selection in present-day Zoroastrians that might correlate to the prevalence of particular diseases amongst these communities.
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?
Many tribes lived in southwestern Persia during the Achaemenid period. The region was crucial for the Persian empire in that almost all roads connecting the two capitals of Persepolis and Susa run through it. The policy adopted by the Achaemenids for controlling this tribal region was to establish tribal confederations headed by men loyal to the king such as Madates and Gobryas. The Achaemenid king reinforced these tribal confederations by political marriages. Sisygambis, the mother of Darius III, was presumably an Uxian. This is why she was an ideal person to negotiate with Alexander of Macedon to free the Uxians headed by Madates, also probably an Uxian. Gobryas, the head of the Patischorian tribe, was one of the seven who rebelled against Bardiya/Gaumāta according to the Bisotun inscription and Herodotus. The Persepolis Fortification texts appear to show that the region between modern Bāsht and Ardakān called the Fahliyān region or Shulestān was the territory of this tribe. Irdabama, presumably the daughter of Gobryas born from his marriage with daughter of a local dynast, was married by Darius I in order to maintain Achaemenid control over this tribal region.
In the last few decades ritual interpretation of the Gāthās has replaced the biblical one as the dominant paradigm. The emphasis on the central role of ritual in the Avesta is well justified. This realization has given rise to the question of the role and meaning of ritual in the Gāthās. Marijan Molé had tried to argue that the Gāthās in fact describe and accompany a rite whose purpose was the preservation/renovation of the cosmic order. Students of the Gāthās working within the new paradigm have taken up Molé’s general frame. They have tried to show that the Gāthās, collectively or individually, is the text of a particular rite that served, among others, to preserve the cosmic order, especially the daily rise of the sun. The article questions the validity of this thesis. Its focus is on the version of the thesis we find in a number of recent publications by Jean Kellens. He tries to show that the first Gāthā (Ahunauuaitī) describes a unitary pre-dawn ritual that comprised a haoma rite and an animal sacrifice, and had cosmological and eschatological pretensions. His textual analyses and arguments are examined in some detail. The article concludes that Kellens’s attempt must be deemed unsuccessful.
The death of the Persian dynast Rostam b. Farrokh-Hormozd at the Battle of al-Qādisiyyah during the Arab-Islamic conquest of Iran received much attention in both the Islamic conquest literature and the Persian epic tradition canonized in the Shāh-nāmeh. A careful examination of the narratives of early Islamic history teaches us much about the mindset of those living in the first centuries following the momentous events of the seventh century. By removing the layers of literary embellishment and moralistic exegesis, we can understand better the impact of the death of this Sāsānian dynast. In addition, by comparing the narrative traditions, we can uncover valuable testimony regarding the early development of what might later be described as an Islamic Iranian identity.
Mazdaism (the religion of Ahura Mazda) or Zoroastrianism (the religion of Zoroaster) is one of the most ancient beliefs in the East. It was professed among the ancient Iranians and is known to us from the books of the Avesta and the later Middle Persian texts. The religion had considerable influence on Greek philosophers and on the neighbouring religious systems. However, the vicissitudes of history have gradually led these excellent texts to oblivion. From this magnificent past, remain only the modest Zoroastrian communities of Iran and the Parsis of India. However, it is indispensable to maintain this theological system from oblivion. Beyond the monotheism of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, beyond the polytheism of the Greeks, Romans and Hindus, Mazdaism offers an original treatment to the problem of good and evil. Dualism tries to resolve this common problem among theologians and philosophers in an original way. The present translation is preceded by an introduction to Mazdaism. The translation is accompanied by explanatory notes and a detailed index. We hope this book will stimulate historical studies of religion, shedding the light on the most brilliant contribution from Iranians to universal civilization.
Abstract by Yazdan Safaee, based on the French original.
Myths on the Origin of Language or on the Plurality of Languages
08.02-09.02.2017, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin
Session 1: The Tower of Babel
Hindy Najman: “The origin of language and the Tower of Babel”
Florentina Geller: “The Tower of Babel from parabiblical sources”
Session 2: Ancient Greece and Rome
Filippomaria Pontani: “Greek and Roman materials”
Comments by Glenn Most.
Session 3: Iran and India
Shervin Farridnejad: “The Language of the Gods: Some Reflections on the Origin of the Language in Zoroastrianism”
Roy Tzohar: “Language originated in dreams: Why Indian Buddhists do not have (almost) any myths about the creation of Languages”
Comments by Sonja Brentjes
Session 4: China and Inner Asia
Wolfgang Behr: “Some Ideas on the Origin of Language in Late Imperial China,” with a few words on early China”
Mårten Söderblom Saarela: “Accounts of the invention of scripts in Inner Asia”
Comments by Dagmar Schäfer
About the working group:
This working group brings together around a dozen historians and philologists with diverse kinds of linguistic expertise to discuss the relation between plurilingualism and the creation and reception of monolingual and plurilingual texts in various Eurasian societies. Through joint readings and translation the group explores how the text is affected by its origin in a plurilingual society and, conversely, the effect plurilingualism has on reading practices and on a “polyglot’s” understanding of the text (its concepts and ideals). In the past – as much as in the present – the majority of people in the world, and most probably most elite communities, were enmeshed in plurilingual practices. Elites from India to the Central Asia plains, Bengali Zamindars, Parsi businessmen, and scholarly travellers and the politically privileged inhabitants around the Mediterranean or the East Asian seas used two or more languages on a daily basis. Plurilingualism was widespread and a common response to the phenomenon of great linguistic diversity, not necessarily in the sense of language mastery, but rather in the form of effective negotiation of the immediate exigencies of communication. Seeking to better understand this dynamic, the seminar investigates topics such as the impact of filtering information through varied languages; the interplay between declarative and procedural knowledge; methods and means of classification; covert translations and covert multilingualism in monolingual texts; and scholarly ideals regarding reading, writing, and linguistic media, be they purportedly perfect or original languages or newly minted would-be rational or universal languages.
Participants: M. A. Andrés-Toledo, T. F. Aufderheide, A. Cantera, S. Farridnejad, J. Ferrer, L. Goldman, A. Hintze, J. Kellens, G. König, J. Martínez-Porro, A. Panaino, B. Peschl, É. Pirart, P. Widmer and A. Zeini
J. Kellens: “Exégèse et grammaire: le destin de l’Ahuna Vairiia”
A. Panaino: “Y. 71-72 and the end of the Ritual”
É. Pirart : “Pour de nouveaux fragments avestiques”
G. König: “Xorde Avesta as an editorial concept? Some considerations.”
A. Cantera: “Yašt ī keh /yašt ī meh: Sasanian taxonomies of the rituals in Avestan language”
K. Rezania: “When the text and diagram do not accord. On the textual and diagrammatic representations of the ritual surface of Barǝšnum in Avestan manuscripts”
B. Peschl: “Simple thematic presents with root vowel ā in Avestan: Textual corruption, genuine Avestan innovation or PIE archaism?”
J. Martínez-Porro & A. Cantera: “huuarə.xšaētəm. …. raēm and the aporias of the archetype”
J. Ferrer: “Paleographie et édition”
T. F. Aufderheide: “Avestisch <ṇ>: Über den Einfluss der einheimischen Sprachwissenschaft des Alten Indiens zur Verschriftlichung des Avesta”
F. Dragoni: “The Pāzand of M51”
P. Widmer: “Editing the Atharvaveda in the 21st century: The Zurich Paippalada project”
A. Hintze/L. Goldman: “Transcribing Avestan manuscripts”
M. A. Andrés-Toledo: “Editing the Pahlavi Widewdad”
A. Zeini: “Editing the Pahlavi Yasna”
S. Gholami: “Editing the colophons of Avestan manuscripts”
Round Table: “Editing Avestan texts in the 21th century: Problems and perspectives”
Time & Place: 23.03.2017 – 24.03.2017, Institute of Iranian Studies, Freie Universität Berlin