Christian and Zoroastrian Doctrine of Apokatastasis

Panaino, Antonio. 2021. The “River of Fire” and the “River of Molten Metal”. A historico-theological rafting through the rapids of the Christian and Mazdean apokatastatic falls. Vol. 86. Wien: Verlag der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

This book is dedicated to the Mazdean theological representation of the end of historical time. While the subject is usually treated in the framework of the category of apocalypticism, scholarly debate has rarely dealt with the more appropriate theme of the apokatastasis (the complete regeneration of the world with the annihilation of Hell and the salvation of the whole humanity). The doctrine of Ohrmazd’s universal mercy was an innovation in the religious scenario of ancient Iran, but its connections with some Christian theologies of Late Antiquity still need to be investigated within a comparative analysis of the Iranian motif of the “river of molten metal”, which will purify the wicked ones and destroy Hell.


Constructions of Gender

Towers, Susanna. 2019. Constructions of gender in late antique Manichaean cosmological narrative (Studia Traditionis Theologiae 34).

Manichaeism emerged from Sasanian Persia in the third century CE and flourished in Persia, the Roman Empire, Central Asia and beyond until succumbing to persecution from rival faiths in the eighth to ninth century. Its founder, Mani, claimed to be the final embodiment of a series of prophets sent over time to expound divine wisdom.
This monograph explores the constructions of gender embedded in Mani’s colourful dualist cosmological narrative, in which a series of gendered divinities are in conflict with the demonic beings of the Kingdom of Darkness. The Jewish and Gnostic roots of Mani’s literary constructions of gender are examined in parallel with Sasanian societal expectations. Reconstructions of gender in subsequent Manichaean literature reflect the changing circumstances of the Manichaean community.
As the first major study of gender in Manichaean literature, this monograph draws upon established approaches to the study of gender in late antique religious literature, to present a portrait of a historically maligned and persecuted religious community.

Table of Contents


Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History (vol. 8)

Volume 8 of Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History (2021) is just published. This is a special issue entitled “Scholars, Priests, and Temples: Babylonian and Egyptian Science in Context.” It consists a handful of papers falling in the scope of ancient Iran.

These papers are:

  • Philippe Clancier, Damien Agut: Charming Snakes (and Kings), from Egypt to Persia
  • Johannes Hackl, Joachim Oelsner: The Descendants of the Sîn-lēqi-unnīnī during the Late Achaemenid and Early Hellenistic Periods – A Family of Priests, Scribes and Scholars and Their Archival and Learned Texts
  • Caroline Waerzeggers: Writing History Under Empire: The Babylonian Chronicle Reconsidered

The last paper is open access.


The City of Babylon

Dalley, Stephanie. 2021. The City of Babylon: A History, c. 2000 BC – AD 116. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The 2000-year story of Babylon sees it moving from a city-state to the centre of a great empire of the ancient world. It remained a centre of kingship under the empires of Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids and the Parthians. Its city walls were declared to be a Wonder of the World while its ziggurat won fame as the Tower of Babel. Visitors to Berlin can admire its Ishtar Gate, and the supposed location of its elusive Hanging Garden is explained. Worship of its patron god Marduk spread widely while its well-trained scholars communicated legal, administrative and literary works throughout the ancient world, some of which provide a backdrop to Old Testament and Hittite texts. Its science also laid the foundations for Greek and Arab astronomy through a millennium of continuous astronomical observations. This accessible and up-to-date account is by one of the world’s leading authorities.

Table of Contents:

1 – Land and Peoples
2 – Discoveries and Excavations pp
3 – First Kings to the End of the Great Rebellion, c. 1894–c. 1732
4 – Law, Education, Literature, and the Path to Supremacy
5 – From the Great Rebellion to the End of the First Dynasty, c. 1732–1592
6 – The Next Six Centuries: Kassite Sealand Isin And Elamite Kings C 1592- 979
7 – In the Shadow of Assyria, 978–625
8 – Empire: Nabopolassar And Nebuchadnezzar II 625 5621
9 – From the Death of Nebuchadnezzar II to the Death of Cambyses, 561–522
10 – Darius I to Alexander, and Seleucid to Parthian Rule
11 – First Parthian Conquest, 141 BC, to the Visit of Trajan in AD 116
Appendix: Genesis 14:1–16 and Possible Links with Foreign Rulers Early in the Reign of Hammurabi


Achaemenid Royal Road in Anatolia

Sadeghipour, Mahnaz & and Farshid Iravani Ghadimi. 2020. An Archaeological Approach to Delineate the Course of the Achaemenid Royal Road in Anatolia. Anatolica 46, 67-101.

The Achaemenid Royal Road was one of the crucial aspects of the Achaemenid imperial governance through which the affairs of this great empire were carried out. This major thoroughfare which on account of Herodotus’ reference extended from Sardis to Susa, was only one component of a more extended route network and allowed the Achaemenids to access and control conquered cities. Anatolia by the greatest number of the satrapies has played an important role in the center of this dominion. So far, determination of the actual course of the ‘Royal Road’ has been subject to much discussion due to ambiguities and discrepancies of historical explanations. Moreover, there has been little focus for archaeological research about the course of the ‘Royal Road’ in Anatolia. The purpose of this article is to reappraise and delineate the course of the ‘Royal Road’ in Anatolia during 550-330 BC concentrating mainly on the archaeological sites. To introduce a model for designating this road, the approach assumes that successive Achaemenid settlements are associated with this road. Therefore, the itinerary is retraced by recording the Achaemenid settlements based on the gamut of archaeological evidence, geographical features, diverse precursors to the ‘Royal Road’, and historical records where available. A new prospect is proposed, according to which the Achaemenid Royal Road extends more westward than what has been assumed before. An appreciation of this trunk line presents not only an invaluable opportunity to identify Achaemenid political and administrative might but also a proper understanding of the Achaemenid settlements in Anatolia.

Articles Journal

The Roar of Silence

Benkato, Adam & Arash Zeini (eds.). 2021. The roar of silence: Festschrift for François de Blois. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 31(3).

The breadth and variety of François de Blois’s erudition is such that only a long and detailed introduction could possibly do justice to his scholarly career. Anyone who knows François, the “quiet man” of Iranian studies, also knows his penchant for concision. We have therefore decided to limit our remarks here to about the length of his legendary handout of Middle Persian grammar—two pages.

From the Introduction
Table of Contents

On Emamzadeh Yahya at Varamin

Overton, Keelan & Kimia Maleki. 2020. The Emamzadeh Yahya at Varamin: A present history of a living shrine, 2018-20. Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World 1(1–2). 120–149.

The Emamzadeh Yahya at Varamin, a tomb-shrine located south of Tehran, is well known for supplying global museums with iconic examples of Ilkhanid-period luster tilework. After providing a historiography of the site, including its plunder in the late nineteenth century, we explore its current (2018–20) “life” in order to illuminate the many ways that it can be accessed, used, perceived, and packaged by a wide range of local, national, and global stakeholders. Merging past and present history, art history and amateur anthropology, and the academic, personal, and popular voice, this article explores the Emamzadeh Yahya’s delicate and active existence between historical monument, museum object, sacred space, and cultural heritage.

From the article’s abstract

Editors’ note: this article’s topic is slightly outside of our usual focus. However, we wish to give it a higher visibility as it highlights important issues, such as plunder and theft of sacred sites while exploring the shrine’s history ‘between historical monument, museum object, sacred space, and cultural heritage’. The article is open access. ~AZ


Zoroastrian High Rituals with Persian Instructions

Dastūr Nāmdār & Dastūr Rostam. Yasna, Visperad, Yašt-e Rapitvan bā ādāb-e dīnī [Yasna, Visperad and Yašt ī Rapiθwin together with Ritual Instructions]. Edited by Kūroš Bolandī. Tehran: Fravahar, 1400 š [2021].

This volume is an edition of the Persian manual for the performance of the Yasna, Visperad, Yašt ī Rapiθwin and some other rituals, written and compiled by Dastūr Nāmdār and Dastūr Rostam, which was published in 1262 AY. The present edition gives the Persian text together with some explanations and a glossary. The importance of this priestly manual lies in the fact that it presents the last stage of the performance of the Zoroastrian high rituals by Iranian priests, before their performance were abandoned, and thus an essential source for the study of the Zoroastrian rituals in Iran.


Festschrift for Rüdiger Schmitt

Luther, Andreas, Hilmar Klinkott & Josef Wiesehöfer (eds.). 2021. Beiträge zur Geschichte und Kultur des alten Iran und benachbarter Gebiete Festschrift für Rüdiger Schmitt (Oriens et Occidens, 36). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Die wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten des Indogermanisten und Iranisten Rüdiger Schmitt sind nicht allein für die Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft wegweisend, sondern auch für die historische und orientalistische Forschung. Seine Veröffentlichungen bezeugen eindrucksvoll die große Breite seiner Interessen, aber auch sein Anliegen, Forschungsfelder neu zu erschließen.

Die Autorinnen und Autoren ehren Schmitt in dieser Festschrift mit Beiträgen zur Geschichte und der Kultur des iranischen Raumes und angrenzender Gebiete: der chronologische Rahmen spannt einen Bogen von der altorientalischen Zeit bis ins frühe Mittelalter. Ein inhaltlicher Schwerpunkt liegt auf der Geschichte des Achaimenidenreiches (550–330 v. Chr.), den Herrscher- und Herrschaftsvorstellungen der Perserkönige, der iranischen Religionsgeschichte und den politischen und kulturellen Kontakten zwischen den Iranern und ihren Nachbarn, vornehmlich den Griechen und Römern.


Quatrefoils of Early China and Their Achaemenid Parallels

Kim, Minku. 2021. The Pinnacle Ornament of Flowers: Quatrefoils of Early China and Their Achaemenid Parallels. In Guolong Lai (ed.), Occult Arts, Art History, and Cultural Exchange in Early China: A Festschrift in Honor of Professor Li Ling on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday. Hangzhou: Zhejiang University Press.

Roof tile-ends (wadang) with double quatrefoils. From the site of Shuzhuanglou 梳粧樓, Warring- States Zhao 趙 city of Dabeicheng 大北城, Handan 邯鄲 (Hebei). Fourth to third century BCE.

The quatrefoil is an ornamental design formed by a cruciferous arrangement of four leafor petal-like projections radiating from a mutual hub. The form was widely circulated across the ancient Western world, most distinctively in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Iranian plateau, with a variety of related schemes, including the dual quatrefoil (also known as the petal-and-calyx alternation), as well as those more commonly called the rosettes or lotus flowers. In China, quatrefoils began to be regularly seen during the late Springs and Autumns period, most notably on the assemblage of Jin bronzes. The usage of quatrefoils gradually intensified in the following periods, reaching an apogee during the Han empire, with a range of variants applied to numerous articles of material culture. With the quatrefoils being a design largely unknown prior to the mid-Eastern Zhou period, this essay argues that a foreign stimulus, most notably from the then emerging Achaemenid empire, provided a primary catalyst for the subsequent adaptations of this type of ornament in China.