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Regional History and the Coin Finds from Assur: From the Achaemenids to the Nineteenth Century

Butcher, Kevin & Heidemann, Stefan. 2017. Regional History and the Coin Finds from Assur: From the Achaemenids to the Nineteenth Century. (Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 148). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

In July 1914, the excavation of one of the most significant capitals in human history, Assur, ended successfully. After a division of finds, the objects were dispatched to Berlin on the eve of the First World War. Assur is currently the most important reference site for coin finds in northern Iraq. They constitute an independent source for the history of the settlement, the Tigris region, and for coin circulation after the fall of the Assyrian empire in 614 BC, from the Achaemenid to the late Ottoman empire. These coin finds fill an important gap in the history of Assur, whose name in the post-Assyrian period is hardly attested to. For the Arsacid period, the coin finds highlight the surprising permeability of the border from the Roman provinces to Arsacid north-eastern Mesopotamia.

With the Sasanian conquest in about 240/1, life in Assur apparently stopped. For the following 1,600 years we can distinguish at least three separate settlement phases, and almost each phase corresponds to changing names for the city. While we do not know what the settlement between the 7th and 8th century was called, in the 12th and 14th centuries it was referred to as al-‘Aqr. For this period, we have more literary references to its history, at least compared with the preceding 1,800 years. The coin finds, together with the textual references, allow for an insight into the political and economic development of “a large village”. For the 17th and 18th centuries, the coins point to a revived settlement, now under the name of Qal’at Shirqat.

 

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Mountain Peoples in the Ancient Near East

Balatti, Silvia. 2017. Mountain Peoples in the Ancient Near East The Case of the Zagros in the First Millennium BC (Classica et Orientalia 18), Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.

Since Prehistory, communities principally engaged in herding activities have occupied the intermontane valleys and plains of the Zagros (Western Iran). Relations, tensions and cultural exchange between the inhabitants of the mountains and the Mesopotamian plains already occurred during the Bronze Age. These contacts increased in the course of the 1st millennium BCE, as is suggested by Near Eastern and subsequently by Greek and Latin sources which provide us with numerous new names of peoples living in the Zagros. The present volume investigates the social organisation and life style of the peoples of the Zagros Mountains in the 1st millennium BCE and deals with their relationships with the surrounding environment and with the political authorities on the plains.

Among these peoples, for example, were the ‘fierce’ Medes, breeders and purveyors of fine horses, the Manneans, who inhabited a large territory enclosed between the two contending powers of Assyria and Urartu, and the ‘warlike’ Cosseans, who bravely attempted to resist the attack of Alexander the Great’s army. The Southern Zagros Mountains, inhabited by mixed groups of Elamite and Iranian farmers and pastoralists, were also of key importance as the home of the Persians and the core area of their empire. Starting from Fārs, the Persians were able to build up the largest empire in the history of the ancient Near East before Alexander.

The interdisciplinary approach adopted in this study, which juxtaposes historical records with archaeological, zooarchaeological, palaeobotanical and ethnographic data, provides a new, holistic and multifaceted view on an otherwise little-known topic in ancient history.

 

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Sexuality in the Babylonian Talmud: Christian and Sasanian Contexts in Late Antiquity

Kiel, Yshai. 2016.  Sexuality in the Babylonian Talmud: Christian and Sasanian Contexts in Late Antiquity. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Within this close textual analysis of the Babylonian Talmud, Yishai Kiel explores rabbinic discussions of sex in light of cultural assumptions and dispositions that pervaded the cultures of late antiquity and particularly the Iranian world. By negotiating the Iranian context of the rabbinic discussion alongside the Christian backdrop, this groundbreaking volume presents a balanced and nuanced portrayal of the rabbinic discourse on sexuality and situates rabbinic discussions of sex more broadly at the crossroads of late antique cultures. The study is divided into two thematic sections: the first centers on the broader aspects of rabbinic discourse on sexuality while the second hones in on rabbinic discussions of sexual prohibitions and the classification of permissible and prohibited partnerships, with particular attention to rabbinic discussions of incest. Essential reading for scholars and graduate students of Judaic studies, early Christianity, and Iranian studies, as well as those interested in religious studies and comparative religion.

 

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“Five Courses” on Yašts of the Avesta

Kellens, Jean. 2016. Cinq Cours Sur les Yašts de l’Avesta. (Cahiers de Studia Iranica, 59). Paris: Peeters.

This volume includes “five courses” devoted to the Yasts, that Jean Kellens held at the College de France. They are divided into two series, each corresponding to a special period. The first three took place between 1997 and 2000: De la naissance des montagnes a la fin du temps: le Yast 19 and the two Promenade dans les Yasts a la lumiere de travaux recents, which appear here under the new titles La maintenance du monde and Le catalogue des sacrifiants. The last two titles, La notion d’ame preexistante and Le pantheon mazdeen, written in the years 2008-2011, represent a more recent reflection. Three other contributions have been added, which complete or explain more in details some reflections of the “five courses”: Caracteres differentiels du Mihr Yast, Les saisons des rivieres and Les Fravasi.

 

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Religion in the Achaemenid Persian Empire

Edelman, Diana, Anne Fitzpatrick-McKinley &  Philippe Guillaume (eds.). 2016. Religion in the Achaemenid Persian Empire (Orientalische Religionen in der Antike 17). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

The Achaemenid Persian imperial rulers have long been held to have exercised a policy of religious tolerance within their widespread provinces and among their dependencies. The fourteen articles in this volume explore aspects of the dynamic interaction between the imperial and the local levels that impacted primarily on local religious practices. Some of the articles deal with emerging forms of Judaism under Achaemenid hegemony, others with Achaemenid religion, royal ideology, and political policy toward religion. Others discuss aspects of Phoenician religion and changes to Egyptian religious practice while another addresses the presence of mixed religious practices in Phrygia, as indicated by seal imagery. Together, they indicate that tolerance was part of political expediency rather than a universal policy derived from religious conviction.

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Priscian: Answers to King Khosroes of Persia

Huby, Pamela, Sten Ebbesen, David Langslow, Donald Russell, Carlos Steel & Malcolm Wilson (eds.). 2016. Priscian: Answers to King Khosroes of Persia (Ancient Commentators on Aristotle 1). London. Bloomsbury Academic.

Priscian of Lydia was one of the Athenian philosophers who took refuge in 531 AD with King Khosroes I of Persia, after the Christian Emperor Justinian stopped the teaching of the pagan Neoplatonist school in Athens. This was one of the earliest examples of the sixth-century diffusion of the philosophy of the commentators to other cultures.

Tantalisingly, Priscian fully recorded in Greek the answers provided by the Athenian philosophers to the king’s questions on philosophy and science. But these answers survive only in a later Latin translation which understood both the Greek and the subject matter very poorly. Our translators have often had to reconstruct from the Latin what the Greek would have been, in order to recover the original sense.

The answers start with subjects close to the Athenians’ hearts: the human soul, on which Priscian was an expert, and sleep and visions. But their interest may have diminished when the king sought their expertise on matters of physical science: the seasons, celestial zones, medical effects of heat and cold, the tides, displacement of the four elements, the effect of regions on living things, why only reptiles are poisonous, and winds. At any rate, in 532 AD, they moved on from the palace, but still under Khosroes’ protection. This is the first translation of the record they left into English or any modern language.

This English translation is accompanied by an introduction and comprehensive commentary notes, which clarify and discuss the meaning and implications of the original philosophy. Part of the Ancient Commentators on Aristotle series, the edition makes this philosophical work accessible to a modern readership and includes additional scholarly apparatus such as a bibliography, glossary of translated terms and a subject index.

 

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Defining All-Israel in Chronicles : Multi-Levelled Identity Negotiation in Late Persian-Period Yehud

Jonker, Louis. C. 2016. Defining All-Israel in Chronicles : Multi-Levelled Identity Negotiation in Late Persian-Period Yehud. Forschungen zum Alten Testament 106. Tübingen. Mohr Siebeck.

 

In this book, Louis C. Jonker considers more sophisticated and nuanced models for applying the heuristic lens of “identity” in the interpretation of the Hebrew Bible book of Chronicles. Not only does he investigate the potential and limitations of different sociological models for this purpose, but the author also provides a more nuanced analysis of the socio-historical context of origin of late Persian-period biblical literature by distinguishing between four levels of socio-historic existence in this period. It is shown that varying power relations were in operation on these different levels which contributed to a multi-levelled process of identity negotiation. Louis C. Jonker shows the value of the chosen methodological approach in his analysis of Chronicles, but also suggests that it holds potential for the investigation of other Hebrew Bible corpora.

Louis C. Jonker Born 1962; BA, HonsBA, MA, BTh, LicTheol and DTh from University of Stellenbosch; since 2010 Professor in Old Testament at the University of Stellenbosch; Congress Secretary of the 2016 meeting of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament (IOSOT).

 

Table of Contents.

 

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Jerusalem in the Achaemenid Period

Kim, Jieun. 2016. Jerusalem in the Achaemenid period. Peter Lang AG, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften.

This is the first book to explore the importance of agriculture in relation to the restoration of the Jerusalem temple in the Book of Haggai during the Achaemenid period. Scholars discussing the rebuilding of the temple have mainly focused on the political and social context. Additionally,the missions of Ezra and Nehemiah have been used as a basis for analysing the economy of postexilic Judah. This has, however, understated the wider socio-economic significance of the temple by disregarding the agricultural capacity of Judah.
The Book of Haggai is primarily concerned with agriculture and the temple. This analysis of Haggai includes an examination of the temple’s reconstruction from a historical and economic point of view, with agriculture playing a central role. Archaeological records are examined and show that prized commodities such as olives and grapes were produced in and around Jerusalem in large quantities and exported all over theancient Near East.
This book is intended to shed new light on the value of agriculture for the people of Judah and the whole imperial economy. It also presents a new interpretation of the Book of Haggai and a new perspective on the temple economy in Jerusalem.
Jieun Kim finished her second PhD at the School of Divinity,  University of Edinburgh in November 2013. After receiving her first  PhD from Yonsei University, she taught for several years in Seoul as a lecturer and an assistant professor. She is currently an independent scholar and her next research project will focus on land ownership in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
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Central Asia and Iran: Greeks, Parthians, Kushans and Sasanians

Dabrowa, Edward (ed.). 2016. Central Asia and Iran: Greeks, Parthians, Kushans and Sasanians (Electrum 22). Krakow: Jagiellonian University Press.

This volume contains 12 studies on political, social, economic, and religious aspects of the history of Central Asia and Iran in the period from the fourth century B.C.E. to the fifth century C.E. by leading specialists in the field. They interpret and reconstructing the region’s past based on various kinds of evidence, including literary, archaeological, linguistic, and numismatic. Some papers present the findings of recent archaeological excavations in Old Nisa and Uzbekistan for the first time.

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On the Explanation of Chess and Backgammon

Touraj, Daryaee. 2016. On the explanation of chess and backgammon: A Middle Persian text (Ancient Iran Series 2).  UCI Jordan Center for Persian Studies. H&S Media.

The book is an edition of the earliest text in Middle Persian on the rules and views of the games of chess and backgammon, reported to be from the time of Khusro Anushirvan in the 6th CE.

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