All posts by Arash Zeini

The end of Middle East history

Bulliet, Richard. 2020. The end of Middle East history and other conjectures (Mizan Series 3). Harvard University Press.

The End of Middle East History and Other Conjectures is an unapologetic collection of imaginative essays from thought-provoking Middle East scholar Richard W. Bulliet. Not your ordinary think pieces, this volume collects for the first time Bulliet’s Big Bang–Big Crunch theory of Islamic history and his illuminating conception of the “Muslim South.” Speculations range from future political events to counterfactual histories of how reversal of the outcome of a 1529 battle might have profoundly altered history. After fifty years of posing and answering daring historical questions, Bulliet happily tackles an array of conjectures on subjects as diverse as the origin of civilization, the end of Middle East history, and future interpretations of the twentieth century.

Source: The End of Middle East History and Other Conjectures — Richard W. Bulliet | Harvard University Press

Half-human and Monstrous Races in Zoroastrian Tradition

Agostini, Domenico. 2019. Half-human and monstrous races in Zoroastrian tradition. Journal of the American Oriental Society 139(4). 805–818.

Legends and stories about fabulous races that dwelt in India or in Africa circulated in Iran probably since the Achaemenid times. Unfortunately, scholarship on this topic has neglected some late Iranian and, especially, Zoroastrian sources, such as Draxt ī āsūrīg (The Assyrian tree), the Bundahišn (Primal Creation), the Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg (The memorial of Jāmāsp), and the New Persian epic Šāhnāme. This article examines the aforementioned sources and discusses their accounts of five fabulous races from an Iranian, and especially Zoroastrian, perspective and through a comparative approach to some similar neighboring traditions.

This article is also available from the author’s academia page.

Music of a Thousand Years

Lucas, Ann. 2019. Music of a thousand years: A new history of Persian musical traditions. Oakland: University of California Press.

Iran’s particular system of traditional Persian art music has been long treated as the product of an ever-evolving, ancient Persian culture. In Music of a Thousand Years, Ann E. Lucas argues that this music is a modern phenomenon indelibly tied to changing notions of Iran’s national history. Rather than considering a single Persian music history, Lucas demonstrates cultural dissimilarity and discontinuity over time, bringing to light two different notions of music-making in relation to premodern and modern musical norms. An important corrective to the history of Persian music, Music of a Thousand Years is the first work to align understandings of Middle Eastern music history with current understandings of the region’s political history.

Source: Music of a Thousand Years by Ann E. Lucas | University of California Press

Ann E. Lucas is Assistant Professor of ethnomusicology in the Department of Music at Boston College, where she also teaches in the Islamic Civilizations and Societies Program. She is recognized for her work on music historiography of the Middle East.

A free open access ebook will be available upon publication of the book. Visit this link to find out more: www.luminosoa.org.

Gewaltsamer Herrschaftsübergang

Börm, Henning. 2019. Fragwürdige Ansprüche: Gewaltsamer Herrschaftsübergang im spätantiken Iran am Beispiel von Narseh und Bahrām Čōbīn. In Tilmann Trausch (ed.), Norm, Normabweichung und Praxis des Herrschaftsübergangs in transkultureller Perspektive (Macht Und Herrschaft 3), 187–224. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

[…] This chapter focuses on two cases in which men violently seized power during civil wars, examining which strategies were used to justify the breach of peace. The first case comes from 293 CE, when the Sasanian prince Narseh rebelled against his great-nephew Bahrām III; after his victory, he erected a monument in Pāikūlı̄ with an inscription in which he presented himself as a champion of the aristocracy who had led the resistance against an unlawful king. Only after the defeat of his opponents did Narseh raise his own claim to the throne. The second example analyzed in this chapter is the case of Bahrām Čōbı̄n, who did not belong to the royal family
and rebelled in 589 CE against King Hormizd IV. […]

The publisher offers a Table of Contents.

Ancient Knowledge Networks

Robson, Eleanor. 2019. Ancient knowledge networks: A social geography of cuneiform scholarship in first-millennium Assyria and Babylonia. London: UCL Press.

This book is currently available as open access from the publisher's website.

Ancient Knowledge Networks is a book about how knowledge travels, in minds and bodies as well as in writings. It explores the forms knowledge takes and the meanings it accrues, and how these meanings are shaped by the peoples who use it.

Addressing the relationships between political power, family ties, religious commitments and literate scholarship in the ancient Middle East of the first millennium BC, Eleanor Robson focuses on two regions where cuneiform script was the predominant writing medium: Assyria in the north of modern-day Syria and Iraq, and Babylonia to the south of modern-day Baghdad. She investigates how networks of knowledge enabled cuneiform intellectual culture to endure and adapt over the course of five world empires until its eventual demise in the mid-first century BC. In doing so, she also studies Assyriological and historical method, both now and over the past two centuries, asking how the field has shaped and been shaped by the academic concerns and fashions of the day. Above all, Ancient Knowledge Networks is an experiment in writing about ‘Mesopotamian science’, as it has often been known, using geographical and social approaches to bring new insights into the intellectual history of the world’s first empires.

Eleanor Robson is Professor of Ancient Middle Eastern History at UCL.

Among Digitized Manuscripts

Lit, L. W. Cornelius van. 2019. Among digitized manuscripts. Philology, codicology, paleography in a digital world (Handbuch Der Orientalistik 137). Leiden: Brill.

Working with manuscripts has become a digital affair. But, are there downsides to digital photos? And how can you take advantage of the incredible computing power you have literally at your fingertips? Cornelis van Lit explains in detail what happens when manuscript studies meets digital humanities. In Among Digitized Manuscripts you will learn why it is important to include a note on the photo quality in your codicological description, how to draw, collect, and publish glyphs of paleographic interest, what standards (such as TEI and IIIF) to abide by when transcribing a text, how to write custom software for image recognition, and much more. The leading principle is that learning a little about computers will already be of great benefit.

Brill | Among Digitized Manuscripts

This book is open access, and you can download it from https://t.co/sOq9jDCkiW?amp=1. Some more information is available from the author’s website. The author has also tweeted about this book, which I unrolled here.

Volume in Honour of Professor Anna Krasnowolska

Volume 14 of Studia Litteraria Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis, an special issue in Honour of Professor Anna Krasnowolska, has been published, and the articles seem to be freely available at the above link. The issue contains a number of relevant and interesting articles among which one relates to Zoroastrianism:

Daryaee, Touraj. 2019. Honey: A Demonic Food in Zoroastrian Iran? Studia Litteraria Universitatis Iagellonicae Cracoviensis 14. 53–57.

Lucan’s Parthians in Nero’s Rome

Nabel, Jake. 2019. Lucan’s Parthians in Nero’s Rome. Classical Philology 114(4). 604–625.

For an epic that recounts the horrors of civil war, Lucan’s poem refers with surprising frequency to an enemy far removed from the realm of Roman power: the eastern kingdom of the Parthians, a vast empire beyond the Euphrates ruled by the Arsacid royal family. No other foreign polity figures so prominently. The Parthians are said to have unleashed the strife between Caesar and Pompey by killing Crassus, the only man capable of suppressing the rivalry between the two commanders (1.98–108). They escape vengeance …

Empires of the sea

Wijk, Roy van. 2019. Contested hegemonies: Thebes, Athens and Persia in the Aegean of the 360s. In Rolf Strootman, Floris van den Eijnde & Roy van Wijk (eds.), Empires of the sea: Maritime power networks in world history (Cultural Interactions in the Mediterranean 4), 81–112. Leiden: Brill.

Empires of the Sea brings together studies of maritime empires from the Bronze Age to the Eighteenth Century. The volume aims to establish maritime empires as a category for the (comparative) study of premodern empires, and from a partly ‘non-western’ perspective. The book includes contributions on Mycenaean sea power, Classical Athens, the ancient Thebans, Ptolemaic Egypt, The Genoese Empire, power networks of the Vikings, the medieval Danish Empire, the Baltic empire of Ancien Régime Sweden, the early modern Indian Ocean, the Melaka Empire, the (non-European aspects of the) Portuguese Empire and Dutch East India Company, and the Pirates of Caribbean.

Source: Empires of the sea | Brill

Silk Roads

Whitfield, Susan (ed.). 2019. Silk roads: Peoples, cultures, landscapes. California: University of California Press.

The Silk Roads continue to capture the imagination of the public, and, in 2014, a section of the land routes was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Yet there was no single “Silk Road.” Instead, a complex network of trade routes spanned Afro-Eurasia’s mountains, plains, deserts, and seas. From silk to spices, religion to dance, traffic in goods and ideas was crucial to the development of civilizations through rich cultural interactions and economic activity.
Centered around the dramatic landscapes of the Silk Roads, this beautiful volume honors the great diversity of medieval Afro-Eurasian cultures. Each section—from steppe to desert to ocean—includes maps, a historical and archaeological overview and thematic essays by leading historians worldwide, as well as sidebars showcasing objects that exemplify the art, archaeology and architecture of the Silk Roads.


Source: Silk Roads by Susan Whitfield – Hardcover – University of California Press

The author of numerous books and articles on the Silk Roads and China, including Life Along the Silk Road and Silk, Slaves, and Stupas, Susan Whitfield is a scholar, curator, writer, lecturer, and traveler of the Silk Roads.