All posts by Yazdan Safaee

The Limits of Empire in Ancient Afghanistan

Payne, Richard E. & Rhyne King (eds.). 2020. The Limits of Empire in Ancient Afghanistan: Rule and Resistance in the Hindu Kush, circa 600 BCE–600 CE (Classica et Orientalia 24). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

The territory of modern Afghanistan provided a center – and sometimes the center – for a succession of empires, from the Achaemenid Persians in the 6th century BCE until the Sasanian Iranians in the 7th century CE. And yet these regions most frequently appear as comprising a “crossroads” in accounts of their premodern history.

This volume explores how successive imperial regimes established enduring forms of domination spanning the highlands of the Hindu Kush, essentially ungovernable territories in the absence of the technologies of the modern state. The modern term “Afghanistan” likely has its origins in an ancient word for highland regions and peoples resistant to outside rule. The volume’s contributors approach the challenge of explaining the success of imperial projects within a highland political ecology from a variety of disciplinary perspectives with their respective evidentiary corpora, notably history, anthropology, archaeology, numismatics, and philology. The Limits of Empire models the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration necessary to produce persuasive accounts of an ancient Afghanistan whose surviving material and literary evidence remains comparatively limited. It shows how Afghan-centered imperial projects co-opted local elites, communicated in the idioms of local cultures, and created administrative archipelagoes rather than continuous territories. Above all, the volume makes plain the interest and utility in placing Afghanistan at the center, rather than the periphery, of the history of ancient empires in West Asia.

Table of contents:

  • Richard E. Payne and Rhyne King: The Limits of Empire in Ancient Afghanistan: An Introduction
  • Thomas Barfield: Afghan Political Ecologies: Templates Past and Present from the Eastern Iranian World
  • Pierre Briant: Bactria in the Achaemenid Empire: The Achaemenid Central State in Bactria (again)
  • Matthew P. Canepa: ‘Afghanistan’ as a Cradle and Pivot of Empires: Reshaping Eastern Iran’s Topography of Power under the Achaemenids, Seleucids, Greco-Bactrians and Kushans
  • Laurianne Martinez-Sève: Greek Power in Hellenistic Bactria: Control and Resistance
  • Robert Bracey: The Limits of Kushan Power and the Limits of Evidence
  • Christopher I. Beckwith: Vihāras in the Kushan Empire:
  • Tasha Vorderstrasse: The Limits of the Kushan Empire in the Tarim Basin
  • Nikolaus Schindel: When Did the Kushano-Sasanian Coinage Commence?
  • Nicholas Sims-Williams: The Bactrian Documents as a Historical Source
  • Rhyne King: Local Powerbrokers in Iranian and Post-Iranian Bactria (ca. 300–800 CE): Aristocrats, Dependents, and Imperial Regimes

The Borazjan Monuments

Zehbari, Zohreh. 2020. The Borazjan monuments: A synthesis of past and recent works. Arta 2020.002.

Since the 1970s, three Achaemenid monuments have been excavated at the sites of Charkhab, Bardak-e Siah and Sang-e Siah in the area of Borazjan, the capital city of Dashtestan, the largest county of Bushehr province in southern Iran. In this paper, the architecture of these monumental structures and other finds at the three sites are examined, with particular attention to chronology

The Art of Empire in Achaemenid Persia

Dusinberre Elspeth R.M., Mark B. Garrison & Wouter Henkelman (eds.). 2020. The Art of empire in Achaemenid Persia: Studies in honour of Margaret Cool Root (Achaemenid History 16). Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten & Leuven: Peeters.

This volume in honour of Margaret Cool Root gathers seventeen contributions on Achaemenid Persian art, ranging from the European re-discovery of Persepolis, via Achaemenid glyphic art, evidence of polychrome sculpture, and Achaemenid impact in the satrapies, to possible reflections of Persepolitan art in Classical Greece. The contributors are colleagues and, in a number of cases, former students of Margaret Root. As a whole, the volume reflects the wide range of Root’s interests and her impact on the field of Achaemenid studies.

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The Neo-Aramaic Verbal Root GŠQ ‘to Look’ and its Middle Iranian Origin

Mutzafi, Hezy. 2020. The Neo-Aramaic verbal root GŠQ ‘to Look’ and its Middle Iranian origin. Le Muséon 133 (1-2), 1-12.

The Neo-Aramaic verbal root gšq ‘to look’, known since the 19th century to occur in the Christian NENA (North-Eastern Neo-Aramaic) dialects of Urmi and Salmas in Iranian Azerbaijan, has thus far remained without an established, or at least plausible, etymology. The etymology proposed in this paper considers gšq to be inherited from an earlier NENA layer, in which it was a denominative derivative of a noun akin to Mandaic gušqa ‘spy’, a Middle Iranian loanword. This etymology is buttressed by parallel cases in Neo-Aramaic and other languages of the world as regards semantic changes and affinities between the meanings ‘to spy’ and ‘to look’, as well as similar processes of word-formation in NENA, namely denominative verbs derived from borrowed nouns and inflected in the neo-pa”el verbal pattern.

Achaemenid Anatolia

Dahlén, Ashk P. (ed). 2020. Achaemenid Anatolia: Persian presence and impact in the Western Satrapies 546-330 BC. Proceedings of an international symposium at the Swedish Research Institure in Istanbul, 7-8 September, 2017. Boreas: Uppsala Studies in Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Civilizations.

The mid-sixth century bc saw the formation of one of the ancient world’s largest and richest empires, the first Persian Empire under the Achaemenid dynasty. After the conquests of Cyrus the Great its vast realms stretched from the Aegean Sea in the west to the Jaxartes River in the east. The empire’s cosmopolitan policies, based on a shared economic relationship and a pluralistic administrative structure, heralded a period of astonishing cross-cultural fertilisation and innovation in different spheres of culture, trade and learning. These new developments were embraced and carried out in, among other regions, the highly multicultural setting of Achaemenid Anatolia.

Achaemenid Anatolia contains twelve articles from an international symposium (2017) on the relationships between the Iranian world and Anatolia in the Achaemenid period with an emphasis on Persian structures, presence and impacts on local populations and cultures. The contributions discuss a wide range of topics and address a variety of perspectives, from material culture, archaeology, architecture, and art history to philology, history, literature, numismatics, and religion.

Table of contents

  • P. Briant, On “Achaemenid impact” in Anatolia (reading notes)
  • E.R.M. Dusinberre, Impacts of empire in Achaemenid Anatolia
  • S. Berndt, The upright tiara of the Persian king
  • J. Blid, The andron of Maussollos at Labraunda and its architectural sculpture
  • A.P. Dahlén, Living the Iranian dolce vita: Herodotus on wine drinking and luxury among the Persians
  • C. Gates, Cilicia, 550–330 BC: Persians and locals
  • P. Hellström, A chariot at Labraunda
  • A. Hultgård, Invoking Anāhitā ‒ from Iran to Asia Minor
  • J. Köster, Failed ambitions: Herodotus’ account of the Ionian revolt and its motivation
  • L.G. Mitchell, “What age were you when the Mede came?” Cyrus the Great and Western Anatolia
  • M. Seyer, Pillar tombs and the Achaemenid rule in Lycia
  • R. Stoneman, Xanthus of Lydia, Aesop and Persian storytelling
  • E.R.M. Dusinberre, Concluding remarks

Short-term Empires in World History

Rollinger,Robert, Julian Degen & Michael Gehler (eds.). 2020. Short-term empires in world history. Wiesbaden: Springer.

The volume will focus on a comparative level on a specific group of states that are commonly labelled as “empires” and that we encounter through all historical periods. Although they are very successful at the very beginning, like most empires are, this success is very ephemeral and transient. The era of conquest is never followed by a period of consolidation. Collapse and/or reduction to much smaller dimension run as fast as the process of wide-ranging conquest and expansion. The volume singles out a series of such “short-term empires” and aims to provide a methodologically clearly structured as well as a uniform and consistent approach by developing a general set of questions that guarantee the possibility to compare and distinguish. This way it intends to examine not only already well established empires but also to illuminate forgotten ones.

Table of contents:

  • Robert Rollinger, Julian Degen, Michael Gehler: Approaching Short-Term Empires in World History, a First Attempt
  • Michael Gehler: The European Union: A Short-Term Empire?
  • Peter Heather: The Hunnic Empire of Attila
  • Beatrice F. Manz: The Timurid Empire
  • Ekaterini Mitsiou: The Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204–1261): Rise and Fall of a Short-Term State in the Romania
  • Sabine Müller: Mithradates VI and the Pontic Empire
  • Lucian Reinfandt: The Ghaznavids of Eastern Iran, a Postcolonial Muslim Empire
  • Seth Richardson: Because Empire Means Forever: Babylon and Imperial Disposition
  • Robert Rollinger: The Medes of the 7th and 6th c. BCE: A Short-Term Empire or Rather a Short-Term Confederacy?
  • Giorgio Rota: In a League of Its Own? Nāder Šāh and His Empire
  • Kai Ruffing: The Barcids and Hannibal
  • Christoph Schäfer: Theoderic and the Ostrogoths—a Short-Term Empire? Decapitated or Defective?
  • Arnold Suppan: The Rise of Hitler’s Empire and Its Apex (1933–1942)
  • Marc Van De Mieroop: From Warlord to Emperor: The Careers of Shamshi-Adad and Hammurabi
  • Josef Wiesehöfer, Robert Rollinger: The ‘Empire’ of the Hephthalites

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