All posts by Yazdan Safaee

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.

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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.

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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.

Violence and the Mutilated Body in Achaemenid Iran

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2020. Violence and the Mutilated Body in Achaemenid Iran. In Garrett G. Fagan, Linda Fibiger, Mark Hudson, and Matthew Trundle (eds.), The Cambridge World History of Violence. Volume 1: The Prehistoric and Ancient Worlds. Cambridge.

Little thought per se has been given to women as agents of violence in antiquity, let alone to the role of the royal harem as the site of revenge-fuelled violence and murder. This chapter addresses this gap by exploring how royal women in the Persian Empire could be instruments of violence. While acknowledging the Greek obsession with this topos, it goes beyond the Western preoccupation with the harem as a site of Oriental decadence and attempts to put stories of women’s violence against women into its ancient Near Eastern context. It explores the mutilation of the body and is particularly focused on the Herodotean tale (which has genuine Persian roots) of the revenge mutilations of Amestris, wife of Xerxes I.

Journal of Near Eastern Studies

The first issue of volume 79 of Journal of Near Eastern Studies (JNES) is out. Several papers of this issue are related to Iran:

Orientalism and the Reception of Powerful Women

Carlà-Uhink, Filippo & Anja Wieber (eds.). 2020. Orientalism and the reception of powerful women from the ancient world. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

This volume investigates how ancient women, and particularly powerful women, such as queens and empresses, have been re-imagined in Western (and not only Western) arts; highlights how this re-imagination and re-visualization is, more often than not, the product of Orientalist stereotypes – even when dealing with women who had nothing to do with Eastern regions; and compares these images with examples of Eastern gaze on the same women. Through the chapters in this volume, readers will discover the similarities and differences in the ways in which women in power were and still are described and decried by their opponents.

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Ancient West & East

The latest volume of Ancient West & East, dedicated to Professor Amélie Kuhrt to celebrate her 75th birthday, contains several interesting papers. Table of contents of vol. 18 (2019) of the journal comes in the following:

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Studies in Ancient Persia and the Achaemenid Period

Curtis, John (ed.). 2020. Studies in Ancient Persia and the Achaemenid Period. A collection of essays in memory of the curator and scholar Terence Mitchell, exploring the history and archaeology of Ancient Persia. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co. Ltd.

An important collection of eight essays on Ancient Persia (Iran) in the periods of the Achaemenid Empire (539–330 BC), when the Persians established control over the whole of the Ancient Near East, and later the Sasanian Empire. It will be of interest to historians, archaeologists and biblical scholars. Paul Collins writes about stone relief carvings from Persepolis; John Curtis and Christopher Walker illuminate the Achaemenid period in Babylon; Terence Mitchell, Alan Millard and Shahrokh Razmjou draw attention to neglected aspects of biblical archaeology and the books of Daniel and Isaiah; and Mahnaz Moazami and Prudence Harper explore the Sasanian period in Iran (AD 250–650) when Zoroastrianism became the state religion.

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From Sardis to Marathon

Stronk, Jan P. 2019. From Sardis to Marathon. Greco-Persian Relations 499-490 BC: A Review. Part two: the Battle of Marathon and its Implications. Talanta 51, 77-226.

The Battle of Marathon in 490 bc, according to Plutarch fought on 6 Boedromiôn (in that year to be equated with September 12 in our calendar and at present still celebrated on that day at Athens), may be regarded as one of the defining moments in the history of the ancient polis of Athens. The battle was the culmination point of developments that started about the middle of the sixth century bc, but really took shape shortly after 500 bc. In this paper, of which the first part was published in Talanta 48-49 (= Stronk 2016-17), we follow(ed) various circumstances and actions involving the Achaemenid Empire (briefly described as Persia) and Greek poleis which ultimately led to the Battle of Marathon. As Persian sources remain largely silent on these occurrences, we shall scrutinise other sources available in order to try and draw a more comprehensive picture of the occurrences surrounding the Battle of Marathon than can be obtained from Herodotus’ account alone, which remains to this day the main literary source for most people. Simultaneously, we will have to look into the matter of how reliable Herodotus’ account really is. In this second part, we shall discuss the occurrences following the fall of Eretria, notably focusing on the Battle of Marathon and its implications.