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On the Etymology of pourušaspa-

Volume 28, Issue 1, of Iran and the Caucasus has been published. We would like to point out Mehrbod Khanizadeh’s contribution in the issue:

Khanizadeh, Mehrbod. 2024. On the etymology of the Avestan personal name pourušaspa-. Iran and the Caucasus 28(1). 72–86.

This article discusses the formation and meaning of the Avestan personal name of Zarathuštra’s father, pourušaspa-. Taking side with the current scholarly view on the etymology and meaning of the word, i.e., *pourušāspa– → pourušaspa– ‘one who has grey horses’, it is argued here that the shortening of the vowel can be explained by an analogical model in Wištāsp Yašt 1.2, where pourušaspa– m. is described as pouru.aspa– ‘having many horses’. The article also challenges the view that Wištāsp Yašt 1.2 is a recent text.

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Articles

The Xorde Avesta and the structuring of time

König, G. 2024. The Xorde Avesta and the structuring of time. Berkeley Working Papers in Middle Iranian Philology 2(4). 1–21.

The Xorde Avesta is considered a collection of shorter Zoroastrian liturgies. Until recently, neither the architecture of the manuscripts in which the Xorde Avesta was handed down was analyzed in detail, nor was the relationship between manuscript and practice adequately described. This article develops the thesis that the representation of the Xorde Avesta in manuscripts and liturgical practice can be understood from the point of a ritual structuring of circular units of time.

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Beyond the theosophical paradigm

Errichiello, Mariano. 2024. Beyond the theosophical paradigm: Ilme kṣnum and the entangled history of modern Parsis. Journal of Persianate Studies. Brill 1–25.

In the early twentieth century, an esoteric interpretation of Zoroastrianism known as Ilme kṣnum became popular among the Parsis of India. Although research on the subject is scant, most scholars suggest that Ilme kṣnum draws largely upon the ideas promoted by the Theosophical Society in India. By examining primary sources in Gujarati, the present article illustrates the interpretation of the Zoroastrian cosmology proposed by Ilme kṣnum. Through a comparative analysis of its main concepts and terms, Ilme kṣnum is historicized in the context of the relations of the Parsi community with the Persianate and Western worlds. By framing Ilme kṣnum as a reconciliation between Persianate and Western forms of knowledge, the present article looks at historical entanglements as resources for the Parsi quest for religious authenticity, placing Zoroastrianism in global religious history.

The Abstract

This is an open access publication ahead of the print.

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Books

Zoroastrian Hermeneutics in Late Antiquity

Vevaina, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw. 2024. Zoroastrian Hermeneutics in Late Antiquity. Commentary on the Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9 (Iranica 32). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9 is one of the most enigmatic and yet fundamental texts of Zoroastrianism. It is a commentary on the ‘Old Avesta’ of the 2nd millennium BCE produced in Pahlavi (Zoroastrian Middle Persian) in the Sasanian (224–651 CE) and early Islamic centuries. This commentary purportedly based on earlier Pahlavi translations and commentaries of lost Young Avestan tractates commenting in turn on the ‘Old Avesta’ is a value-laden, ideologically motivated discourse that displays a rich panoply of tradition-constituted forms of allegoresis. This terse yet highly allusive text mobilizes complex forms of citation, allusion, and intertextuality from the inherited Avestan world of myth and ritual in order to engage with and react to the profound changes occurring in the relationships between theology, religious praxis, national identity, and imperial politics in Iranian society. Despite its value and importance for developing our nascent understanding of Zoroastrian hermeneutics and the self-conception of the Zoroastrian priesthood in Late Antiquity, this primary source has attracted scant scholarly attention due to the extreme difficulty of its subject matter and the lack of a reliable translation. Volume 32 serves as an intertextual commentary on this often-bewildering text. It contextualizes and historicizes the traditional intersignifications of the Sūdgar Nask which evince indigenous hermeneutical interventions that violate the ‘plain sense’ of meaning, thus challenging our philological approaches to understanding the archaic corpus of the ‘Old Avesta.’ Reading the Sūdgar Nask is a hermeneutic process of traversing texts, genres, and rituals in both the Avestan and Pahlavi corpora, thus activating nodes in a web or network of textual and meta-textual relations that establish new forms of allegoreses or meaning making. It is argued that this entire hermeneutical complex of weaving a ‘new’ text composed of implicit proof text and explicit commentary renews, extends, and, ultimately, makes tradition.

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Byzantine ideas of Persia

Shukurov, Rustam. 2024. Byzantine ideas of Persia, 650–1461 (Global Histories before Globalisation). London: Routledge.

This book offers a comprehensive study into the perceptions of ancient and medieval Iran in the Byzantine empire, exploring the effects of Persian culture upon Byzantine intellectualism, society and culture.

Byzantine Ideas of Persia, 650-1461 focusses on the enduring position of ancient Persia in Byzantine cultural memory, encompassing both in the ‘religious’ and the ‘secular’ significance. By analysing a wide range of historical sources – from church literature to belles-lettres – this book examines the intricate relationship between ancient Persia and Byzantine cultural memory, as well as the integration and function of Persian motifs in the Byzantine mentality. Additionally, the author uses these sources to analyse thoroughly the knowledge Byzantines had about contemporary Iranian culture, the presence of ethnic Iranians, and the circulation and usage of the Persian language in Byzantium. Finally, this book concludes with an insightful exploration of the importance and influence of Iranian science on Byzantine scholars.

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Articles

Avestan ī̆šti-

Musavi, Fatemeh. 2024. The Avestan ī̆šti- in Middle Persian texts. BSOAS FirstView.

Middle Persian translations and interpretations of Avestan texts employ the word īšt in the translation of the Avestan ī̆šti- “capability, capacity, competence”. The word became a vocabulary item in the Middle Persian corpus. It seems to be a calque of its Avestan counterpart. The Avestan ī̆šti- has presented challenges in the Avesta scholarship and is translated with words from different semantic domains. This article discusses the definition of Avestan ī̆šti- and how it is reinterpreted and understood in the Middle Persian translations. It is argued here that Av. ī̆šti- refers to “capability, capacity, and competence”. However, it is understood and interpreted in the MP texts as “wealth, property”, “remuneration”, or “reward”. It is sometimes translated to a verb form from xwāstan “desire, want”.

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The “Sūdgar Nask” of “Dēnkard” Book 9

Vevaina, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw. 2023. The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9. Text, Translation and Critical Apparatus (Iranica 31). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9 is one of the most enigmatic and yet fundamental texts of Zoroastrianism. It is a commentary on the ‘Old Avesta’ of the 2nd millennium BCE produced in Pahlavi (Zoroastrian Middle Persian) in the Sasanian (224–651 CE) and early Islamic centuries. This commentary purportedly based on earlier Pahlavi translations and commentaries of lost Young Avestan tractates commenting in turn on the ‘Old Avesta’ is a value-laden, ideologically motivated discourse that displays a rich panoply of tradition-constituted forms of allegoresis. This terse yet highly allusive text mobilizes complex forms of citation, allusion, and intertextuality from the inherited Avestan world of myth and ritual in order to engage with and react to the profound changes occurring in the relationships between theology, religious praxis, national identity, and imperial politics in Iranian society. Despite its value and importance for developing our nascent understanding of Zoroastrian hermeneutics and the self-conception of the Zoroastrian priesthood in Late Antiquity, this primary source has attracted scant scholarly attention due to the extreme difficulty of its subject matter and the lack of a reliable translation. This volume represents the first critical edition and translation of this formidable text which will contribute to the philological, theological, and historiographical study of Zoroastrianism in a pivotal moment in its rich and illustrious history.

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Books

Navigating Language in the Early Islamic World

Borrut, Antoine, Manuela Ceballos and Alison Vacca (eds.). 2024. Navigating language in the early Islamic world: Multilingualism and language change in the first centuries of Islam (Interdisciplinary Studies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance 2). Turnhout: Brepols.

Traditional accounts of Arabicization have often favoured linear narratives of language change instead of delving into the diversity of peoples, processes, and languages that informed the fate of Arabic in the early Islamic world. Using a wide range of case studies from the caliphal centres at Damascus and Baghdad to the provinces of Arabia, Egypt, Armenia, and Central Asia, Navigating Language reconsiders these prevailing narratives by analysing language change in different regions of the early Islamic world through the lens of multilingualism and language change. This volume complicates the story of Arabic by building on the work of scholars in Late Antiquity who have abundantly demonstrated the benefits of embracing multilingualism as a heuristic framework. The three main themes include imperial strategies of language use, the participation of local elites in the process of language change, and the encounters between languages on the page, in the markets, and at work. This volume brings together historians and art historians working on the interplay of Arabic and other languages during the early Islamic period to provide a critical resource and reference tool for students and scholars of the cultural and social history of language in the Near East and beyond.

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Books

The Religion of the Rigveda

Oberlies, Thomas. 2024. The religion of the Rigveda. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This comprehensive new presentation of the religion of the Rigveda is the result of a thorough-going endeavour to extrapolate historical circumstances from that literary text and present them chiefly from the perspective of the adherents to this religion. For them society, social life, and religion were inextricably bound. This helps to explain the meanings of rights and rituals. Which rituals are to be performed at what times is influenced by the way of life of these Vedic tribes which alternates between peaceful settling and predatory raids. The ‘priests’ who carry out the rituals embody the gods of the Rigvedic pantheon.

In telling the story of these rituals, Thomas Oberlies highlights particular connections — such as the association of the war god Indra with the priest who recites the hymns which invite the gods — that help us solve many of the riddles which the text of the Rigveda still poses to this day. The Religion of the Rigveda includes a wealth of quotations from primary sources which form the basis of this approach to a religion that would later become Hinduism. A comprehensive index of subjects makes the book eminently accessible for use in further studies.

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Articles

Lād: A Bactrian loanword

Halfmann, Jakob. 2023. Lād “law”: A Bactrian loanword in the Nuristani languages. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 86(3). 505–510.

This article proposes a new etymology for the Nuristani word family of Katë lod ~ lot, Nuristani Kalasha lād, etc. It is argued that these are best understood as early borrowings from Bactrian λαδο “law”.