All posts by Yazdan Safaee

Archaeology of Iran in the Historical Period

Niknami, Kamal-Aldin & Ali Hojabri (eds.). 2020. Archaeology of Iran in the Historical Period. Springer.

This collection of twenty-eight essays presents an up-to-date survey of pre-Islamic Iran, from the earliest dynasty of Elam to the end of Sasanian empire, encompassing a rich diversity of peoples and cultures. Historically, Iran served as a bridge between the earlier Near Eastern cultures and the later classical world of the Mediterranean, and had a profound influence on political, military, economic, and cultural aspects of the ancient world. Written by international scholars and drawing mainly on the field of practical archaeology, which traditionally has shared little in the way of theories and methods, the book provides crucial pieces to the puzzle of the national identity of Iranian cultures from a historical perspective.

Revealing the wealth and splendor of ancient Iranian society – its rich archaeological data and sophisticated artistic craftsmanship – most of which has never before been presented outside of Iran, this beautifully illustrated book presents a range of studies addressing specific aspects of Iranian archaeology to show why the artistic masterpieces of ancient Iranians rank among the finest ever produced. Together, the authors analyze how archaeology can inform us about our cultural past, and what remains to still be discovered in this important region.

Continue reading Archaeology of Iran in the Historical Period

Die Entstehung des Münzporträts in der griechisch-persischen Tradition

Müseler, Wilhelm. 2020. Vom Symbol zum Ebenbild: Die Entstehung des Münzporträts in der griechisch-persischen Tradition. Gephyra 19, 69-99.

Die Darstellung von Menschen mit deutlich wiedererkennbaren individuellen Zügen auf Mün-zen entwickelte sich im Grenzbereich zwischen dem griechischen und dem persischen Kultur-raum als Folge von komplexer gewordenen politischen Machtstrukturen vor Ort. Wo zu-nächst das Symbol einer politischen Körperschaft oder die Abbildung einer lediglich mit den Attributen königlicher Herrschaft ausgestatteten Figur ohne irgendwelche weiteren persönli-chen Merkmale genügt hatte, um die Garantie für die Wertigkeit des Geldes durch eine über-geordnete Autorität zu unterstreichen, machte die zunehmende Produktion von Münzen durch Akteure auf untergeordneten hierarchischen Ebenen, welche als Vermittler, bisweilen aber auch als Konkurrenten einer gegebenen Herrschaftsstruktur auftreten konnten, eine im-mer differenziertere Kennzeichnung der Verantwortlichkeit für die Prägungen und des damit ausgedrückten Machtanspruches notwendig. Es ist kein Zufall, dass ausgerechnet Lykien mit seiner eher peripheren Lage und seiner Vielzahl an kleinen, von konkurrierenden dynastischen Clans kontrollierten Machtzentren auf engstem Raum, die ersten echten Ansätze zu einer indi-viduellen Gestaltung des Herrscherbildnisses auf Münzen hervorgebracht hat. Mit der Auflö-sung der überkommenen politischen Strukturen in Kleinasien und im ganzen Vorderen Orient in der Folge des Feldzuges Alexanders des Grossen kam es zu weiträumigen geopolitischen Veränderungen und einer erheblichen Zunahme von regionalen Machtblöcken, die alle über eine eigene Münzproduktion verfügten und die sich ihre Einflussbereiche gegenseitig streitig machten. Da es in der Folge vor allem darum ging, dass die verschiedenen Prägeherren mit ihrem Geld auch von schriftunkundigen Nutzern klar voneinander unterschieden werden konnten, führte dies, namentlich bei den ptolemaischen und den seleukidischen Geprägen, zu einer verstärkten Individualisierung der Herrscherbildnisse auf den Münzen. Nur in abgelege-nen Regionen wie der Persis, wo es so gut wie keinen stetigen Zustrom und Umlauf von kon-kurrierenden Währungen gab, erfüllten nur symbolische Porträts der Regenten noch eine Zeit lang ihren ursprünglichen Zweck.

Rome, Parthia, and the Politics of Peace

Schlude, Jason M. 2020. Rome, Parthia, and the Politics of Peace: The Origins of War in the Ancient Middle East. London: Routledge.

This volume offers an informed survey of the problematic relationship between the ancient empires of Rome and Parthia from c. 96/95 BCE to 224 CE. Schlude explores the rhythms of this relationship and invites its readers to reconsider the past and our relationship with it.

Some have looked to this confrontation to help explain the roots of the long-lived conflict between the West and the Middle East. It is a reading symptomatic of most scholarship on the subject, which emphasizes fundamental incompatibility and bellicosity in Roman–Parthian relations. Rather than focusing on the relationship as a series of conflicts, Rome, Parthia, and the Politics of Peace responds to this common misconception by highlighting instead the more cooperative elements in the relationship and shows how a reconciliation of these two perspectives is possible. There was, in fact, a cyclical pattern in the Roman–Parthian interaction, where a reality of peace and collaboration became overshadowed by images of aggressive posturing projected by powerful Roman statesmen and emperors for a domestic population conditioned to expect conflict. The result was the eventual realization of these images by later Roman opportunists who, unsatisfied with imagined war, sought active conflict with Parthia.

The Persian Martyr Acts

Amiri Bavandpour, Sajad. 2020. The Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac. Tehran: Abi Parsi.

As the first volume of a four-volume series, the present book consists of three main sections: an introduction to the Christian tradition of Hagiography, a general explanation of the Persian martyr acts (in Syriac, Greek, Armenian, Georgian, and Sogdian) in Sasanian Persia and finally the Syriac texts, their Persian translation, and commentaries on 17 acts from the reign of Shapur. These acts are as follows:

  • John of Arbela (BHO 500)
  • Abraham of Arbela (BHO 12)
  • Hananya (BHO 372)
  • Jacob and Mary (BHO 426)
  • Barhadbeshabba(BHO 138)
  • Aitallaha and dcn. Hophsai (BHO 29)
  • Thekla and companions (BHO 1157)
  • Jacob and Azad (BHO 423)
  • 11 Men and 9 Women (BHO 718)
  • Pr Shapur of Niqator and bp Isaac of karka (BHO 1042)
  • Narsai and Joseph (BHO 806)
  • Martyrs of Beth Slok (BHO 807)
  • Captives from Beth Zabdai (BHO 375)
  • Baday (BHO 130)
  • Barshebya (BHO 146)
  • Daniel and Warda (BHO 245)
  • `Aqebshma (BHO 22)

In original:

امیری باوندپور، سجاد. 1398. شهادت‌نامه‌های سُریانی مسیحیان ایران در عصر ساسانی. تهران: آبی پارسی

Iranica Antiqua, Volume 54

The table of contents of the latest issue (54) of the journal Iranica Antiqua:

In the Path of Conquest

Heckel, Waldemar. 2020. In the Path of Conquest: Resistance to Alexander the Great. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This book offers a fresh insight into the conquests of Alexander the Great by attempting to view the events of 336-323 BCE from the vantage point of the defeated. The extent and form of the resistance of the populations he confronted varied according to their previous relationships with either the Macedonian invaders or their own Achaemenid rulers. The internal political situations of many states–particularly the Greek cities of Asia Minor–were also a factor. In the vast Persian Empire that stretched from the Aegean to the Indus, some states surrendered voluntarily and others offered fierce resistance. Not all regions were subdued through military actions. Indeed, as the author argues, the excessive use of force on Alexander’s part was often ineffective and counterproductive.

In the Path of Conquest examines the reasons for these varied responses, giving more emphasis to the defeated and less to the conqueror and his Macedonian army. In the process, it debunks many long-held views concerning Alexander’s motives, including the idea that his aim was to march to the eastern limits of the world. It also provides a fresh reevaluation of Darius III’s successes and failures as a commander. Such a study involves rigorous analysis of the ancient sources, and their testimony is presented throughout the book in the form of newly translated passages. A unique portrait of a well-known age, In the Path of Conquest will significantly alter our understanding of Alexander’s career.

The Art of Elam

Álvarez-Mon, Javier. 2020. The Art of Elam CA. 4200–525 BC. London & New York: Routledge.

Not unlike a gallery of historical paintings, this comprehensive treatment of the rich heritage of ancient Iran showcases a visual trail of the evolution of human society, with all its leaps and turns, from its origins in the earliest villages of southwest Iran at around 4200 BC to the rise of the Achaemenid Persian empire in CA. 525 BC. Richly illustrated with 1,450 photographs, 190 line drawings, and digital reconstructions of hundreds of artefacts—some of which have never before been published—The Art of Elam goes beyond formal and thematic boundaries to emphasize the religious, political, and social contexts in which art was created and functioned. Such a magisterial study of Elamite art has never been written, making The Art of Elam CA. 4200-525 BC a ground-breaking publication essential to all students of ancient art and to our current understanding of the civilizations of the ancient Near East.

Continue reading The Art of Elam

Tappeh Sialk: The Glory of Ancient Kashan

Nokandeh, Jebrael, John Curtis & Marielle Pic (eds.). 2019. Tappeh Sialk: The Glory of Ancient Kashan. London: Iran Heritage Foundation.

Tappeh Sialk on the outskirts of modern Kashan is arguably the most important ancient site in Iran before the rise of the Persian Empire in 550 BCE. Excavations here in the 1930s by a French team and by Iranian teams from 2000 AD onwards have cast light on the history of Iran from 6000 BCE onwards, spanning the Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age periods. These results have been so significant that Tappeh Sialk has become a ‘type-site’ for Iranian archaeology and has provided a chronological framework against which other sites in Iran can be measured.

In addition, the spectacular finds from two cemeteries at Sialk now grace museums in Tehran and Paris as well as in other parts of the world. In view of the special importance of Tappeh Sialk, two international conferences were held at Asia House in London in 2017 and 2018 with the intention of reviewing what is known about the site and how it may best be protected and promoted in the future. A selection of papers delivered at the first two conferences is published in this volume. This is the first volume in a series of IHF special studies.

View contents page here.

Ancient Iranian Numismatics

Faghfoury, Mostafa (ed.). 2020. Ancient Iranian Numismatics: In Memory of David Sellwood. Irvine: Jordan Center for Persian Studies.

The present volume which includes some of the most recent studies on ancient Iranian numismatics has been dedicated to the memory of David Sellwood (1925-2012). Sellwood spent more than fifty years of his life studying and publishing about the history and coinage of Iran. His legacy is exhibited in this volume through the contributions of individuals from different backgrounds and countries who have participated to make this book possible. He would have been pleased to see that not only his old friends remember him, but also that some young scholars, who were not even born when the first edition of his Introduction to the Coinage of Parthia was published in 1971, are now working in the areas of his interests.

Continue reading Ancient Iranian Numismatics

Reign of Arrows

Overtoom, Nikolaus Leo. 2020. Reign of Arrows: The Rise of the Parthian Empire in the Hellenistic Middle East. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

From its origins as a minor nomadic tribe to its status as a major world empire, the rise of the Parthian state in the ancient world is nothing short of remarkable. In their early history, the Parthians benefitted from strong leadership, a flexible and accommodating cultural identity, and innovative military characteristics that allowed them to compete against and even overcome Greek, Persian, Central Asian, and eventually Roman rivals. Reign of Arrows provides the first comprehensive study, in almost a century, dedicated entirely to early Parthian history. Assimilating a wide array of especially recent scholarship across numerous fields of study, Nikolaus Overtoom presents the most cogent, well rounded, and up-to-date account of the Parthian empire in its wider context of Hellenistic history. It explains the political and military encounters that shaped the international environment of the Hellenistic Middle East from the middle third to the early first centuries BCE. This study combines traditional historical approaches, such as source criticism and the integration of material evidence, with the incorporation of modern international relations theory to better examine the emergence and expansion of Parthian power. Relevant to historians, classicists, political scientists, and general readers interested in the ancient world and military history, Reign of Arrows reimagines and reconstructs the rise of the Parthians within the hotly contested and dangerously competitive international environment of the Hellenistic world.