A Swedish translation of the Gathas

Dahlén, Ashk. 2023. Zarathustra. Sånger: Den äldsta iranska diktningen. Umeå: h:ström – Text & Kultur.

Zarathustra pursued a life as a poet, priest, and spiritual teacher in northeastern Iran about 3,500 years ago, several centuries before the Vedic poets and Homer. He is thus the earliest known writer in any Indo-European language. That his poems can be read in the condition in which they were sung and speak directly to us through the millennia must be considered a veritable miracle.

The Gathas is a hymn to timeless wisdom and with its aphoristic exposition the work resembles a didactic philosophical poem. Zarathustra wants to present a true picture of reality, of the imperishable archetypes of the world of thought as well as of the role of the individual in the material world. More than anything else, he urges us to value our free will, to listen to the voice of our conscience and contribute to the good renewal of the world.

In this translation, the Old Avestan literature is presented for the first time in Swedish in direct translation by Ashk Dahlén, docent of Iranian languages at Uppsala University, who also has provided the book with an introductory preface as well as comments, and a glossary.

Table of contents:

  • Förord
  • Upptakt
  • Fyra mantran
  • Sånger
  • Livets sång
  • Glädjens sång
  • Det livgivande medvetandets sång
  • Den goda kraftens sång
  • De mest älskandes sång
  • Hyllning i sju delar
  • Appendix
  • Kommentarer
  • Ordförklaringar
  • Stavning och uttal av avestiska ord
  • Avestiska beteckningar
  • Litteraturförteckning

Das frühe Sasanidenreich und Rom

Mosig-Walburg, Karin. 2023. Das frühe Sasanidenreich und Rom: Eine Forschungskritik. Gutenberg: COMPUTUS Druck Satz & Verlag.

Bis in die jüngste Zeit werden von der Forschung zahlreiche Fragen zu den Beziehungen zwischen dem frühen Sasanidenreich und seinem römischen Nachbarn kontrovers diskutiert. Auch zur innenpolitischen Entwicklung des Sasanidenreiches unter den Nachfolgern Šāpūrs I. bis in das frühe 4. Jahrhundert finden sich unterschiedliche Rekonstruktionen und Bewertungen. Im Rahmen der hier vorgelegten Untersuchungen wird das facettenreiche und teilweise aufgrund zahlreicher Divergenzen schillernde Bild der wechselseitigen Politik der beiden Großmächte und ihrer nicht-militärischen Interaktion (bis zum Jahr 363 n. Chr.), wie auch der innenpolitischen Entwicklung des Sasanidenreiches unter den Nachfolgern Šāpūrs I. vorgestellt und analysiert. Was präsentiert wird, ist im Wesentlichen Forschungs- und Quellenkritik. Anhand von Beispielen aus der Forschungsliteratur wird ausführlich dargelegt, in welcher Weise zugunsten einer These argumentiert wird und ob bzw. inwieweit die jeweiligen Vorstellungen auf verlässlicher Überlieferung beruhen.

From the publisher’s website

Chapters 11–12 of the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār

Sahner, Christian C. 2023. The definitive Zoroastrian critique of Islam. Chapters 11–12 of the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār by Mardānfarrox son of Ohrmazddād (Translated Texts for Historians). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Zoroastrianism was the religion of the ancient Persian kings and following the Arab conquest, it remained the religion of a significant portion of the population in Iran and parts of Central Asia. This book investigates the most important polemical treatise in the Zoroastrian tradition, the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār (“The Doubt-Dispelling Disquisition”), which was written by the theologian and philosopher Mardānfarrox son of Ohrmazddād. The text was composed in the ninth or tenth centuries in a language known as Middle Persian.

A sophisticated work of rationalist theology, the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār systematically critiques several rival religions of the late antique and early medieval Middle East, including Islam. The critique of Islam found in chapters 11 and 12 is the only sustained, systematic polemic against Islam in premodern Zoroastrian literature, one that attacks monotheism by focusing on the problem of evil. The text is of fundamental importance for understanding Iran’s transformation from a predominantly Zoroastrian society to a predominantly Muslim one during the Early Middle Ages.

This is the first book devoted to the Islamic sections of the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār. It provides a new translation and commentary of these important sections along with introductory chapters that explore Zoroastrians’ relationship with other religions in Late Antiquity and the early Islamic period; Mardānfarrox’s intellectual milieu (especially the influence of Islamic theology and interreligious debates); and the history of Zoroastrian polemics against Islam.

About this book

Reflections of Sasanian and post-Sasanian eras

Gyselen, Rika. (ed.). 2023. Reflets d’époques sassanide et post-sassanide (224-760 A.D.) (Res Orientales, 30). Bures-sur-Yvette: Groupe pour l’Étude de la Civilisation du Moyen-Orient.

This volume brings together articles that present, comment on and interpret primary sources from the Sasanian and post-Sasanian periods. Few of the objects come from official excavations, unlike the clay sealings unearthed at Takt-e Solayman or Arabo-Sasanian copper coins from excavations at Susa, Qasr-i Abu Nasr, Naqs-i Rustam and Istakhr. Rare are the objects discovered accidentally, such as the Middle Persian document believed to have been found at Tang-e Boraq. The other objects came to us through the antiquities market: silver dishes, Arabo-Sasanian copper coins, seals and documents in Middle Persian. This volume completes the publication of the documents and bullae of the Tabarestan Archive.


Revisiting the Eastern Contributions to Early Greek Philosophy

Lupascu, Constantin C. 2023. Barbarians No More. Revisiting the Eastern Contributions to Early Greek Philosophy. MEΘEXIS: Journal of Research in Values and Spirituality 3 (1), 99-137.

We often assume that our present world alone has experienced the phenomenon of globalization and that it is necessarily a feature of the modern age. And in this we like to imagine the world of the past as made up of homogeneous monolithic blocks with rigid and well-defined impenetrable boundaries. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ancient world enjoyed an interconnectedness as tight if not tighter than ours is today. Nowhere do we see this connection better than between the Greek and the Persian world. The conflict between the two serves as the starting point of the archetypal conflict between the Orient and the Occident. However, at the same time, Persian culture served as a foundation for Greek moral philosophy and by extension, had a major influence on later Jewish, Christian and Islamic philosophy. The transition from mythological to philosophical knowledge occurs in Greek thought when it encounters these Magi. In this regard, we shall see that Plato had a special relationship with the Magi, and the Magi in turn held Plato in high regard. However, Plato’s example is by no means an isolated case. We have other equally famous examples of Greek philosophers who we are told went to study in Persia before Plato, namely Pythagoras and Democritus.


The Greek Tablet of the Persepolis Fortification Archive

Aperghis, Gerasimos George & Antigoni Zournatzi. 2023. The Greek Tablet (Fort. 1771) of the Persepolis Fortification Archive. Arta 2023. 001.

This paper reflects on the circumstances that could be held to account for the singleton tablet in Greek, Fort. 1771, of the Persepolis Fortification archive. It proposes that this tablet possibly records a wine ration for a functionary of the Persepolis administrative system, which could have been drafted by this functionary himself. The use of Greek would imply that he was a native Greek speaker.


Persian Computational Linguistics and NLP

Marszałek-Kowalewska, Katarzyna (ed.). 2023. Persian Computational Linguistics and NLP. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter.

This companion provides an overview of current work in the areas of Persian Computational Linguistics (CL) and Natural Language Processing (NLP). It covers a great number of topics and describes most innovative works of distinct academics researching the Persian language. The target group are researchers from computer science, linguistics, translation, psychology, philosophy, and mathematics who are interested in this topic.


Feeding and Labeling Inequality at Persepolis

King, Rhyne. 2023. La desigualdad en la alimentacion y la clasificacion de personas en Persepolis. In: Marcelo Campagno et al. (eds.), Desigualdades antiguas: Economía, cultura y sociedad en el Oriente Medio y el Mediterráneo, 341-358. Barcelona: Miño y Dávila.

This paper deals with questions regarding the nutritional rations paid to individuals as reflected by the Persepolis Fortification Archive focusing on the inequality and its meanings in terms of labels of social status. The author has examined these unequal rations distributed among travelers and various workers and subordinates of different status (puhu, Kurtaš and libap).


Persepolis: Stairways as Dialogic Spheres of Spiritual Social Community in Empire

Root, M. Cool. 2022. Persepolis: Stairways as Dialogic Spheres of Spiritual Social Community in Empire. In: Alexa Rickert & Sophie Schlosser (eds.), Gestaltung, Funktion und Bedeutung antiker Treppenanlagen (Kasion 11), 135-158. Münster: Zaphon.

The external stairways serving several ceremonial structures of Persepolis are often-illustrated hallmarks of this heartland capital of the Achaemenid Persian Empire (fig. 1). Yet their forms, kinetic dynamics, and experiential agencies receive very little commentary within any history of architecture, whether it be narrow or global. Within discrete discussions of the site itself, their nature as stairs typically defers to their pictorial aspect as sculptural surfaces. The reasons for this paradox are diverse and interesting. My modest aim here is to open fresh dialogue on the stairways and to suggest some prospects for further work.


Women Involved in Daily Management in Achaemenid Babylonia

Watai, Yoko. 2023. Women Involved in Daily Management in Achaemenid Babylonia: The Cases of Rē’indu and Andiya. In: icole Maria Brisch and Fumi Karahashi (eds.), Women and Religion in the Ancient Near East and Asia, 63-79. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.

Babylonia from the seventh to the fourth century BCE, in the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods, has provided us with an abundance of cuneiform tablets: according to the estimate of M. Jursa (2005: 1 and 2010: 6), more than 16,000 legal or administrative documents have been published, with tens of thousands of unpublished texts housed in museum collections around the world. Most of these documents deal with everyday practical matters, and can be classified as economic texts, familial documents (marriage contracts, documents of division of succession and of transfer of properties, testaments, etc.), administrative records, and letters, mostly drafted in the “long sixth century” (Jursa 2010: 4–5) that lasted about 140 years between the fall of the NeoAssyrian Empire (620 BCE) and the “end of archives” in the second year of Xerxes (484 BCE). Although far fewer women appear in these texts than men, we estimate that at least several thousand women are mentioned. Most of them were inhabitants of Babylonian cities like Babylon, Borsippa, Uruk, and Sippar, and they represent various social strata: women of free status from urban families, slaves, and oblates at temples. The corpus constitutes, therefore, a good basis for discussing the role, status, situation, and activities of women in the social, economic, and familial frameworks.