Achaemenid Residences from Persepolis to Susa

Yaghmaee, Esmail & Samira Imeni. 2022. Achaemenid Residences from Persepolis to Susa [Manzelgāh-hāye Haḵāmanešī az Taḵt-I Ğamšīd tā Šūš]. Tehran: Karnamak (in Persian).

This book results from a series of archaeological surveys in south Iran, notably Fars province, which led to the recognition of structures remaining of palaces or pavilions. The authors discuss that these structures were residences of the king and members of the royal house who resided in these houses, which were surrounded by agricultural lands and plantations for royal hunts. Besides the hills and other archaeological finds, the column bases are considered an indicator of such residences. The residence in Dašt-i Gohar near Persepolis and the column base now kept in Rām Hormoz are considered, respectively, the first and last of these residences.


Iran and the Caucasus 26 (4)

The latest issue of Iran and the Caucasus (26.4) contains several interesting contributions.

Table of contents:

  • Li Sifei: Tubo-Sogdian Relations along the Silk Road: On an Enigmatic Gold Plaque from Dulan (Qinghai, China)
  • Sebastian Bitsch: Hell’s Kitchen: The Banquet in the Hereafter and the Reflexion of Zoroastrian Eschatological Motifs in the Qurʾān
  • Alex MacFarlane: The City of Brass and Alexander’s Narrow Grave: Translation and Commentary of Kafas added to Manuscript M7709 (Part 2)
  • Richard Foltz: The Survival of Ossetians in Turkey
  • Marco Fattori: The Elamite Version of A2Ha and the Verb vidiyā- in Old Persian
  • John D. Bengtson and Corinna Leschber: On Criticism of S. L. Nikolayev/S. A. Starostin, A North Caucasian Etymological Dictionary
  • Victoria Arakelova: The Talishis on Opposite Banks of the Araxes River: Identity Issues
  • Arsen K. Shahinyan: The Southern Boundaries of the Southern Caucasus
  • Adrian C. Pirtea: [Review of] Samuel N. C. Lieu, Glen L. Thompson (eds.), The Church of the East in Central Asia and China (China and the Mediterranean World, 1), Turnhout: “Brepols”, 2020.—xiii + 245 pp.

New Ancient Iranian Names from Early Phanagoria

Balakhvantsev, Archil S. & and Natalia V. Zavoykina. 2022. New Ancient Iranian Names from Early Phanagoria. Ancient West & East (21), 247-254.

Graffito of Aratris

This paper presents the publication of two new owners’ graffiti discovered in Phanagoria in 2015. The first one, Ἀράτριος ἡ κύλιξ (the kylix of Aratris), dates back to the end of the first quarter of the 5th century BC. The name Aratris demonstrates obvious parallels to the ethnic name Aratrii mentioned in The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (Peripl. M. Rubr.). The second graffito is Ἀρπάτρις (Arpatris). It dates back to the end of the 6th-first third of the 5th century BC. It is possible to suggest that it is a composite name of Scythian origin and it should be translated as ‘the Keeper of Fire’.


The Horse, the Ass, and the Mule

Poinsot, Delphine Margaux Spruyt (eds). 2022. Equidés, le cheval, l’âne et la mule dans les empire de l’Orient ancien. Paris: Routes de l’Orient Actes.

This is an open-access book. To download an original file (170 Mb), click here and for a compressed version here.

Several of the contributions interest scholars and students of Iranian studies:

  • Delphine Poinsot: Le cheval de la victoire: Postures équestres et royauté dans les reliefs de Šāpūr Ier
  • Hervé Monchot & Julio Bendezu-Sarmiento: Des ânes, du cuivre et des moines Une étude préliminairesur l’importance des équidés dans l’économie d’un complexeminier aux époques kouchanosassanide (Mes Aynak, Afghanistan)
  • Jérémy Clément: L’élevage des chevaux de guerre dans le royaume séleucide Héritages achéménides et innovations hellénistiques.
  • Thomas Salmon: Combattre à cheval pendant les guerres byzantino-perses Les évolutions des cavaleries byzantine et sassanide pendant les guerres des VIe et VIIe siècles
  • Marina Viallon: Un rare mors de cheval sassanide et son caveçon conservés au Metropolitan museum of Art, New York
  • Samra Azarnouche: Miracles, oracles et augures Essai sur la symbolique du cheval dans l’Iran ancien et médiéval

The Goddess on Lion at Hasanlu

Letteria Grazia Fassari & Raffaella Frascarelli. 2022. Embodying the Past: The Case of the Goddess on Lion at Hasanlu. In: Katrien de Graef et al. (eds.), The Mummy Under the Bed . Essays on Gender and Methodology in the Ancient Near East, 253-287. Münster: Zaphon.

Rooted within the Central Asian iconography of the sacred from the 3rd millennium BCE until the arrival of Islam, also related to the mixed pantheons that combine Central Asian, Iranian, Buddhist, Hindu and Chinese divinities, the image of the goddess riding a lion in the Hasanlu bowl offers the chance to investigate its origin. Posture, attire, lion, divine emblems mark her belonging to a cultural horizon that seems to allude to the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppe. The Iranian, Assyrian, Syro-Hurrite, Elamite, Hurro-Urartian, Transcaucasian influences make Hasanlu a privileged observatory to analyze the regulatory apparatus affecting gender hierarchies. Eluding the boundaries imposed by the binary vision, the nomadic lifestyle seems to free the body in favor of fluid strategies necessary to deal with harsh natural conditions. Indeed, some iconographic details of the Hasanlu bowl might reveal a social dimension related to an unconventional gender performativity caused by the mobilization of cultural resources that identified nomadism. Furthermore, the presence of the riding goddess at Hasanlu suggests scrutinizing the cyclical infiltration of nomadic cultures within Anatolia and Mesopotamia. Exploring gender, questioning its epistemic boundaries, enquiring how gender stereotypes have crystallized over time, this paper proposes an inception towards a different history whose traces may have been lost in the unwitting binarism of expertise.


The Sasanian Elephant Corps Revisited

Dmitriev, Vladimir. 2022. The Sasanian Elephant Corps Revisited: Ammianus Marcellinus on the Tactics of Persian Elephantry. Journal of Persianate Studies 15 (1), 1-13.

According to Ammianus Marcellinus, elephants substituted, to some extent, siege towers; he describes wooden towers on the backs of the animals, armed with Persian warriors who attacked the defenders of a fortress. Certainly, elephants may have served as an element of ancient psychological warfare. But, at the same time, it appears that the Sasanians employed elephants in their battle fighting, bearing warriors who attacked their enemies with various missiles. In open-field battles, elephants, as a rule, were introduced into the battle in an offensive situation. Ammianus Marcellinus does not offer any evidence as to elephants functioning as beasts of burden or draught animals; on the contrary, he always stresses the fact that they were military animals who posed a real danger to the Romans in battle.


The Roman-Parthian border area as a conflict and contact zone

Hartmann, Udo, Frank Schleicher & Timo Stickler (eds.), Imperia sine fine? Der römisch-parthische Grenzraum als Konflikt- und Kontaktzone vom späten 1. bis zum frühen 3. Jahrhundert n. Chr. Stuttgart: Verlag W. Kohlhammer.

Wenn Vergil Rom als ein “Reich ohne Grenzen” (Aen. 1, 279) bezeichnet, mag dies im übertragenen Sinn zutreffen, tatsächlich verfügte das Imperium jedoch über lange und tief gestaffelte Festlandgrenzen auf allen drei Kontinenten. Dabei kam der Orientgrenze besondere Bedeutung zu, da den Römern hier mit dem Reich der Parther eine ebenbürtige Gesellschaft entgegentrat. Allerdings stießen die beiden Großreiche nur selten unmittelbar aufeinander, da sich zwischen ihnen ein Saum von Kleinstaaten erstreckte. In diesem Grenzraum trafen nicht nur zwei große Reiche mit ihren jeweiligen Sprachen und Organisationsstrukturen, sondern auch Ackerbau und nomadische Weidewirtschaft, unterschiedliche religiöse Vorstellungen und verschiedene Rechtsauffassungen aufeinander.Der Band versammelt Beiträge der Jenaer Tagung “Imperia sine fine?”, die eine Vielzahl unterschiedlicher Aspekte des Grenzraums zwischen Rom und Parthien als Konflikt- und Kontaktzone vom 1. bis zum 3. Jh. n. Chr. darstellen.


Scribal Confusion in Aramaic Renderings of Iranian Anthroponyms

Tavernier, Jan & Annalisa Azzoni. 2023. Scribal confusion in Aramaic renderings of Iranian anthroponyms: A preliminary study. In: Yoram Cohen et al. (eds.), Telling of Olden Kings (The IOS Annual Volume 22), 52-66. Leiden: Brill.

The Persepolis textual material contains many Aramaic texts, the majority of which belong to the so-called Persepolis Fortification Archive (509 to 493 BCE), an administrative archive consisting of mostly Elamite texts. In this article, the authors examine some specific Aramaic spellings that occur in the Aramaic texts from Persepolis, sic: the Aramaic Persepolis Fortification texts (PFAT) and the Aramaic epigraphs accompanying the Elamite Fortification texts (PFAE). Our interest in these spellings is that they do not respect the phonology, morphology and lexicon of Aramaic. It is argued that these errors have been triggered by the Elamite phonology, morphological and lexical system and that they have been made by scribes whose mother tongue was not Aramaic, but Elamite or Old Iranian.


The Armies of the Teispids and Achaemenids

Manning, Sean. 2022. The armies of the Teispids and Achaemenids: The armies of an ancient world empire. Journal of Ancient Civilizations 37(2). 147-192.

An Attic red-figure kylix with a battle of Greeks and barbarians, c. 490–480 BC (possibly the same as Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, number 1980.11.21)

Although ancient warfare and the Teispid-Achaemenid empire are common topics for research, no concise and up-to-date overview of Teispid and Achaemenid armies and warfare exists. The most recent syntheses were published in the period 1986–1992 when the current understanding of the empire was only beginning to form. This article combines indigenous and Greco-Roman texts, art, and artifacts to provide a short introduction to the armies and navies of the so-called Persian Empire. It focuses on the reigns of Darius I and Xerxes (522–465 BC) from which a variety of texts and artwork survive from Persis, Babylonia, and Greece. Ten main sections cover the history of research, the seemingly contradictory evidence for a uniform army and a patchwork army under Darius I and Xerxes, how the very rapid conquests of the Teispids lead to an army very different than the Roman or imperial British armies, recruitment, organization and equipment, combat mechanics, army organization, siege warfare, naval and riverine warfare, and numbers and effectiveness. Whereas the author’s recent monograph focused on methodological problems and the origin of different theories, this article offers usable answers to many difficult questions.


Oedipus and Jocasta on a ‘Bactrian’ Silver Bowl

Dan, Anca & Frantz Grenet. 2022. Oedipus and Jocasta on a ‘Bactrian’ silver bowl in the Hermitage, c. 350-500. Journal Asiatique 330(1). 55-79.

Silver bowl from Kustanai, now in Hermitage S–62; 15.5 × 5.2 cm, 4th-5th c., with scenes from Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus. After Marshak 2000: no. 31, and Ivanov, Lukonin, and Smesova 1984, fig. 39. Photo courtesy State Hermitage Museum.

Elites of the Hunnish states, including Tokharistan (ancient Bactria) and Northwest India from the 4th century, not only appreciated Greco-Roman art, inherited or imported, but also had a good knowledge of the Hellenic mythological cycles. Among the small silver bowls called ‘Bactrian’, attributed by Boris Marshak to the period after the Sasanian withdrawal from Central Asia, the one discovered at Kustanai (Hermitage, S-62) is decorated with scenes inspired mainly by Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus. While following the text sometimes literally (e.g. by portraying Oedipus as a child of Fortune), and using a Hellenistic iconographic repertoire which had become ‘Indianized’ during the Kushan period, the artist who executed the model transposed the Sophoclean plot in five scenes, adapting it to his customers’ interests: the son’s marriage to his mother, highlighted on this vase like nowhere else in ancient art, recommends the couple as a Zoroastrian ethical model. The tragic fault now lies with the servant, who did not expose the newborn Oedipus and did not tell the truth on the parricide: the confrontation between the lying servant and the sincere, generous Jocasta, gives the key to a cathartic reading of this vase.