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Books

Ethnicity and Geography in the Eastern Mediterranean Area

Ponchia, Simonetta & Luisa Prandi (eds.). 2023. Shaping boundaries. Ethnicity and geography in the Eastern Mediterranean area (Melammu Workshops and Monographs 8). Münster: Zaphon.

This conference volume assembles 16 contributions to “Ethnicity and Geography in the Eastern Mediterranean Area (First Millennium BC). In combination with the corresponding “Shaping Boundary” project of the University of Verona it aims to analyse a crucial period: the formation of Greek identity, the first one documented in the West, at the time of the contacts with the Near East during the first millennium BC. More in detail, the authors examined the interactions between the Syro-Mesopotamian, Levantine and Aegean worlds that took place along the coastal region extending from Bosporus to Syria and Lebanon. Special attention was paid to methodological issues and diverse approaches in the investigation of boundaries and borderlands. These can be interpreted as different kinds of geo-political, or socio-cultural lines of separation, but should also be interpreted by taking into account their fundamental functions of communication spaces, where new, mixed, or hybrid identities took shape over time. – Among other, Giovanni B. Lanfranchi examines the borders between Assyria and Northwestern Iran as Polities of Unequal Power from the 9th to the 7th century BCE. – Raija Mattila discusses Neo-Assyrian letters reporting from the border areas on guarding and protecting the border, on building and maintenance of fortresses, and on the movements on the other side of the border. – The Northwest boundaries of Achaemenid expansion (Anatolia and the North Aegean) is taken into account by Sarah P. Morris. – Luisa Prandi questions the conception of the Cimmerian Bosporus as a Boundary between Europe and Asia according to Aeschylus. – Silvia Gabrieli reconstructs the foundation myth of Tarsus between Assyrian propaganda and Hellenistic fascination.

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Books

The Syriac Legend of Alexander’s Gate

Tesei, Tommaso. 2023. The Syriac legend of Alexander’s gate. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This book is the first monographic study entirely consecrated to the Syriac text entitled Neṣḥānā d-Aleksandrōs (also known as the Syriac Alexander Legend), a seminal text for later Christian and Muslim apocalyptic traditions. While the scholarly consensus commonly dates the Neṣḥānā to the time of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641 CE), this study demonstrates that an earlier version of the text was produced during the reign of Justinian I (r. 527–565). This new historical contextualization of the text enables one to better delineate the development of politicized forms of apocalypticism during Late Antiquity, a process in which the Neṣḥānā played a decisive role. By analyzing the contents and the ideology of the text, the book explores the origins and developments of important literary motifs of medieval literature worldwide, including the characterization of Alexander as a pious prophet-king (in both Christianity and Islam alike), and the story of the gate that he erects to confine the eschatological nations of Gog and Magog. Moreover, the book sheds light on lesser-known aspects of political debates in the sixth-century Near East and offers historians a valuable insight into important aspects of Justinian’s reign, as seen by an author who was not on the emperor’s payroll.

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Articles

The Steppe Frontiers of Pārsa

Ferrario, Marco. 2023. The steppe frontiers of Pārsa: Negotiating the Northeastern borderlands of the Teispid-Achaemenid Empire. Journal of Ancient Civilizations 38(2). 129-189.

The present paper seeks to offer a new interpretative scenario against the background of which to assess the dynamics underlying the interactions between the Achaemenid Empire (starting with Cyrus’ conquest of Central Asia) and the peoples of the steppes, which presided over the formation of what it is usually referred to as the frontier of the Empire itself in Baktria, Sogdiana, and Chorasmia.

To this end, a set of literary sources comes under critical scrutiny, beginning with Herodotus and Strabo. The reason for this is that, despite the increase of the available evidentiary record, their interpretation in strongly oppositional terms (steppes versus sown) of the above-sketched process has been, and continues to be, very influential. In a second step, archaeological data and comparative evidence of a historical-ethnographic nature will be added, with the overarching aim of framing the narrative of the classical sources into a broader and, as it shall be argued, more proper social, economic, and ecological context.

The outcome of such a study will hopefully be a more nuanced and complex picture of a crucial phase of Achaemenid history in Central Asia. In the light of the framework presented in the following pages, while on the one hand the driving force and organizational capacity of the newly formed Empire will emerge as decisive elements in the establishment of a new, distinctive, “imperial space” north of Bactr(i)a, on the other hand, the role of local communities in negotiating the modalities of their integration within the networks resulting from the birth and expansion of Achaemenid rule in the area will appear as having been of no less paramount importance.

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Journal

Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies

The latest issue (11/2-3) of Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies is devoted to Phoenician studies. Among other interesting contributions, a handful of papers interest scholars of Iranian history and culture.

  • Ann E. Killebrew: Phoenician Iron Smithing and Cult at Persian-Period Tel Akko
  • Ida Oggiano; Fabio Porzia: The Bearded Man and the Pregnant Woman Terracotta Figurines: A Case of Divine “Open Relationship” in Persian-Period Levant?
  • Meir Edrey: Achaemenid / Early Zoroastrian Influences on Phoenician Cultic Practices during the Persian Period
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Journal

Iran, Volume 61, Issue 2 (2023)

The table of contents of the latest issue (61/2) of the journal Iran:

  • Nasir Eskandari, François Desset, Mojgan Shafiee, Meysam Shahsavari, Salman Anjamrouz, Irene Caldana, Ali Daneshi, Ali Shahdadi & Massimo Vidale: Preliminary Report on the Survey of Hajjiabad-Varamin, a Site of the Konar Sandal Settlement Network (Jiroft, Kerman, Iran)
  • Salah Salimi, Mostafa Dehpahlavan & John MacGinnis: A Survey on Parthian Pithos Cemeteries on The Western Bank of The Little Zab River, Sardasht Region, Northwest Iran
  • Tobias Jones: The Objects of Loyalty in the Early Mongol Empire (Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries)
  • Sara Mirahmadi: Legitimising the Khan: Rashid al-Din’s Ideological Project from a Literary Aspect
  • Ana Marija Grbanovic: Lost and Found: The Ilkhanid Tiles of the Pir-i Bakran Mausoleum (Linjan, Isfahan)
  • Michael Hope: The Political Configuration of Late Ilkhanid Iran: A Case Study of the Chubanid Amirate (738–758/1337–1357)
  • Shafique N. Virani: An Old Man, a Garden, and an Assembly of Assassins: Legends and Realities of the Nizari Ismaili Muslims
  • Philip Henning Grobien: Modernity, Borders and Maps: Iran’s Ability to Advocate for its Borders During the Reign of Naser al-Din Shah
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Books

Images of power and identities of Christians under Khusro I

Jullien, Christelle. 2023. Les liens du sol: Images du pouvoir et identités des chrétiens sous Khusro Ier (Cahiers de Studia Iranica, 63). Leuven: Peeters.

The advent of Khusro I (531-579) heralded a brilliant period in the history of the Middle East, during which decisive directions were taken. Throughout his reign of almost fifty years, a period during which this king pursued an ambivalent religious policy, the different Christian communities of the Sasanian Empire developed between cultural conflicts and strategies. The study of this spatio-temporal microcosm reveals their dynamism and confirms their deep investment in Iranian society, that expressed an adaptation to administrative changes and external influences, but also, simultaneously, a capacity for internal reorganization and a powerful spiritual renewal. This development sometimes took place at the expense of identity. It was a half-century of Late Antiquity that decisively shaped the history of the mentalities of the Christian communities in Iranian territory.

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Books

Handbook of Ancient Afro-Eurasian Economies, vol. 3

Reden, Sitta von (ed.). 2023. Handbook of ancient Afro-Eurasian economies. Volume 3: Frontier-Zone Processes and Transimperial Exchange. Berlin: De Gruyter.

The Handbook of Ancient Afro-Eurasian Economies offers in three volumes the first comprehensive discussion of economic development in the empires of the Afro-Eurasian world region to elucidate the conditions under which large quantities of goods and people moved across continents and between empires. Volume 3: Frontier-Zone Processes and Transimperial Exchange analyzes frontier zones as particular landscapes of encounter, economic development, and transimperial network formation. The chapters offer problematizing approaches to frontier zone processes as part of and in between empires, with the goal of better understanding how and why goods and resources moved across the Afro-Eurasian region. Key frontiers in mountains and steppes, along coasts, rivers, and deserts are investigated in depth, demonstrating how local landscapes, politics, and pathways explain network practices and participation in long-distance trade. The chapters seek to retrieve local knowledge ignored in popular Silk Road models and to show the potential of frontier-zone research for understanding the Afro-Eurasian region as a connected space.

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Books

Excavations and researches at Shahr-i Sokhta 3

Ascalone, Enrico & Seyyed Mansur Seyyed Sajjadi (eds.). 2022. Excavations and researches at Shahr-i Sokhta 3. Tehran: Pishin Pazhuh.

The Iranian-Italian collaboration initiated with the 2016 agreement has, to date, allowed for a deeper understanding of the main historical dynamics of Shahr-i Sokhta, adding new knowledge to the extensive and fruitful excavation campaigns carried out by the Iranian mission between 1997 and 2015. The collaboration has resulted in the publication of three volumes in the series Excavations and Researches at Shahr-i Sokhta that are the fruit of the studies carried out to date.

This third volume presents the excavation and research activities carried out in Shahr-i Sokhta in 2018 and 2019, with contributions from researchers in the fields that make up the MAIPS core (archaeology, palaeoenvironmental studies, bioarchaeology and topography).

To see the table of contents, visit this page.

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Books

The Persian World and Beyond

Garrison, Mark B. & Wouter F.M. Henkelman (eds.). The Persian world and beyond. Achaemenid and Arsacid studies in honor of Bruno Jacobs (Melammu Workshops and Monographs 6). Münster: Zaphon.

The 17 essays gathered in this festschrift celebrate the scholarship of Bruno Jacobs. While the range of topics in these essays is extensive, most relate to the Achaemenid world. They represent the diversity of Achaemenid studies as a discipline that Bruno Jacobs enriched with his many contributions and sparkling ideas. Some papers move beyond the Achaemenid period, notably the contribution on Parthian and Elymaean countermarks (S.R. Hauser), and acknowledge the breadth of Bruno Jacob’s research interests, which extend from Greece to eastern Iran, span the Mediterranean Bronze Age to the Roman period, and concern the disciplines of history, archaeology, art history, religion, and Iranology. Among others, M.C. Root examines “Medes and Iranian identity in the Achaemenid social imaginary” as represented in the Persepolis Apadana, while J. Wiesehöfer focusses on “Greek exiles in the Achaemenid Empire” and Chr. J. Tuplin on “The place of Cyropaedia in Xenophon’s oeuvre”. The “winged symbol in Persepolitan glyptic” is debated by M.B. Garrison and the roles of gold and wine in Herodotus’ depiction of the Persians by R. Bichler and K. Ruffing.

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Books

Innovation in Persian Period Judah

Middlemas, Jill. 2023. Innovation in Persian Period Judah: Royal and Temple Ideology in Its Ancient Near East Setting. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

This volume provides an overview of the attitude towards the monarchy and the temple in Achaemenid Yehud in a comparative perspective. It provides a thorough overview of a series of discussions about the extent of Persian influence on the ideology of Second Temple Judaism by some of the leading experts in the field.