Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2023. Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther: Achaemenid Court Culture in the Hebrew Bible. London: Bloomsbury.

Esther is the most visual book of the Hebrew Bible and largely crafted in the Fourth Century BCE by an author who was clearly au fait with the rarefied world of the Achaemenid court. It therefore provides an unusual melange of information which can enlighten scholars of Ancient Iranian Studies whilst offering Biblical scholars access into the Persian world from which the text emerged.

In this book, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones unlocks the text of Esther by reading it against the rich iconographic world of ancient Persia and of the Near East. Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther is a cultural and iconographic exploration of an important, but often undervalued, biblical book, and Llewellyn-Jones presents the book of Esther as a rich source for the study of life and thought in the Persian Empire. The author reveals answers to important questions, such as the role of the King’s courtiers in influencing policy, the way concubines at court were recruited, the structure of the harem in shifting the power of royal women, the function of feasting and drinking in the articulation of courtly power, and the meaning of gift-giving and patronage at the Achaemenid court.

Table of Contents
Why Iconography?
The Book of Esther: A New English Translation
i: The Persian Empire
ii: Jews in a Persian world
iii: The Book of Records: Persian perceptions of their past
iv: Persian Kingship
v: Susa and the palaces of Persia
vi: Laws and Governance; tax and tribute
vii: Banquets: drinking and feasting
viii: Gardens – Paradeisoi
ix: Couches and cups ; thrones and sceptres
x: Courtiers
xi: Vashti and her women
xii: Elite women at the Persian court
xiii: Royal concubinage
xiv: Beauty and sexuality
xv: Eunuchs
xvi: The royal gate
xvii: Royal protocol: audiences and formality
xviii: The royal robe and gift-giving
xix: Persian horses
xx: Signet rings and seals
xxi: Communications
xxii: Peace and rebellion
xxiii: Punishments and execution
Epilogue: Visualising Esther in the post-Persian world (5,000 words)


Xerxes: The Great King in Greece

Klinkott, Hilmar. 2023. Xerxes: Der Großkönig in Griechenland. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer.

Der Griechenland-Feldzug des persischen Großkönigs Xerxes I. ist bislang nicht aus einer konsequent östlichen Perspektive untersucht worden. Die Inschrift des Xerxes aus Persepolis XPl bietet methodisch dafür eine Grundlage als Leitfaden einer achaimenidischen Programmatik. Die Neubewertung des Griechenlandfeldzuges anhand dieser Inschrift ist weder ein Korrektiv der bestehenden Forschung noch ein Versuch, den Feldzug ereignis- oder militärgeschichtlich umfänglich zu rekonstruieren. Vielmehr nutzt Hilmar Klinkott sie als Schlüssel für das Verständnis ganz anderer, großköniglicher Akzente, Zielsetzungen und Bewertungen, die damit auch das Gesamtbild des Feldzuges prägen. Denn anders als aus griechischer Sicht war das Unternehmen für Xerxes unter gewissen Aspekten durchaus ein Erfolg.


Journal of Iran National Museum (2.2)

The second issue of vol. 2 (2021) of Journal of Iran National Museum is published. It contains 14 papers, exploring aspects of Iranian archaeology.

Table of contents:

  • Sirvan Mohammadi Ghasrian; Iraj Beheshti; Omoalbanin Ghafoori: The Petrographic Analysis of Early Chalcolithic Period J Ware of Mahidasht Stored at National Museum of Iran
  • Sepideh Maziar; Marjan Mashkour; Laura Manca; Homa Fathi; Jebrael Nokandeh; Roya Khazaeli: Study of Yanik Tepe’s Bone Object in the National Museum of Iran
  • Amir Saed Mucheshi; Ali Vahdati: The Bronze Stamp Seals of Marlik in the National Museum of Iran: Evidence of a Connection with the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex in the Bronze Age
  • Marya Tabrizpour; Mohammad Taghi Atayi: Plants of Qasrdasht: Evaluation of Charcoal Samples
  • Pegah Goodarzi; Arkadiusz Sołtysiak; Mostafa Dehpahlavan: Bioarchaeological Studies and Strontium Isotopes Analysis on Human Remains from Historical Period from the Site of Shahr-i Qumis, Semnan Province
  • Farhad Solat; Philip Forsythe; Afshang Parhizi Rad: Notes about a Greek Inscription on a Parthian Period Male Statue in the National Museum of Iran
  • Parsa Hossein Sabri; Gholamreza Avani: Iranian Tradition During 8th AD Century, Through the Dirham Coinage of Abbasid Caliphate: Study a collection of Sasanian clay bullae in the National Museum of Iran, returned from the United States of America
  • Afshin Khosrowsani: The Cultural Landscape of the North of Behbahan (Tashan) from the Sasanian Era to the Present
  • Hossein Sabri; Gholamreza Avani: Iranian Tradition During 8th AD Century, Through the Dirham Coinage of Abbasid Caliphate
  • Fereshteh Zokaei: Egyptian Mamluk Dinar Coins in the National Museum of Iran
  • Hassan Ali Borhani Rarani; Elaheh Noorian: The Influence of the Water Resources Management on Changing the Administrative Geography of Khorasgan of Isfahan from Safavid Epoch to the Present Time: Reconsideration of Tablets Texts‘s Sarcophagus of Shah Isma‘il I in Ardabil and Iran National and The Walters Art Museum
  • Ali Borhani Rarani; Elaheh Noorian: The Influence of the Water Resources Management on Changing the Administrative Geography of Khorasgan of Isfahan from Safavid Epoch to the Present Time
  • Homayoun Khosheghbal: Williamson Surveys in Southern Iran and his Collection
  • Liliy Niakan; Parvaneh Soltani: The National Museum of Iran’s Department of Conservation: The Pioneering Steps

The Age of Persia

Radner, Karen, Nadine Moeller & D. T. Potts (eds.). 2023. The Oxford History of the Ancient Near East Volume V: The Age of Persia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The fifth and final volume of the Oxford History of the Ancient Near East covers the period from the second half of the 7th century BC until the campaigns of Alexander III of Macedon (336-323 BC) brought an end to the Achaemenid Dynasty and the Persian Empire. Tying together areas and political developments covered by previous volumes in the series, this title covers also the Persian Empire’s immediate predecessor states: Saite Egypt, the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and Lydia, among other kingdoms and tribal alliances. The chapters in this volume feature a wide range of archaeological and textual sources, with contributors displaying a masterful treatment of the challenges and advantages of the available materials. Two chapters focus on areas that have not enjoyed prominence in any of the previous volumes of this series: eastern Iran and Central Asia. This volume is the necessary and complementary final component of this comprehensive series.


The Sasanians in conflict

The latest issue of Antiquité Tardive (30/2022) is out, which is a special issue dedicated to Sasanian history: “Les Sassanides en conflit: géopolitique de l’empire perse tardo-antique.”


Les Sassanides en conflit : géopolitique de l’empire perse tardo-antique

Philip Huyze, Introduction générale : l’empire sassanide dans le monde interconnecté de l’Antiquité tardive/ General introduction: the Sasanian empire in the interconnected world of Late Antiquity

Samra Azarnouche, Présentation du dossier Les Sassanides en conflit : géopolitique de l’empire perse tardo-antique

Hervé Inglebert, La place de l’empire sassanide dans les débats sur l’Antiquité tardive/ What place for the Sasanian Empire in the debates about Late Antiquity?


“Daiva Inscription” of Xerxes

Yakubovich, Ilya S. 2023. “Daiva Inscription” of Xerxes: Historical account, ideological statement, or propaganda. Journal of Ancient History 83(1). 5–26.

The so-called “Daiva inscription” of Xerxes found at Persepolis addresses the activity of this Achaemenid Persian king in two lands, one of which is said to have been in commotion, while the other is alleged to have been characterized by unacceptable religious practices. Xerxes stresses his involvement in the restoration of order in both countries but does not mention their names. Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Bactria were all adduced as candidates by twentieth century scholars, while the recent mainstream of scholarship tends to interpret the same accounts as abstract ideological statements without an anchor in time or space. The new approach advocated in this paper assumes that Xerxes resorted to historical narratives only in order to provide his own apologetic version of embarrassing events. In particular, his self-professed involvement in the destruction of the cults of evil gods is to be interpreted as a twisted account of the destruction of the Acropolis of Athens by the Persian army in 480 BC. In the wake of the disastrous war against the Greeks, Xerxes strove to present it as a successful special operation against the Greek deities.


Concepts of Resilience for the Study of Early Iranian Societies

Bernbeck, Reinhard, Gisela Eberhardt & Susan Pollock (eds.). 2023. Coming to terms with the future: Concepts of resilience for the study of early Iranian societies. Leiden: Sidestone Press.

The collection of essays in this book focuses on the highlands of Iran in pre-modern times, reaching from the Paleolithic to the medieval period. What holds the diverse contributions together is an issue that is closely related to debates in our own times: crises and how societies in the past dealt with them. We start from the premise that general circumstances in the fractured topographic structure of the Iranian highlands led to unique relations between ecological, social, economic and political conditions.

In three sections entitled “Climate and palaeoenvironment”, “Settlement, subsistence and mobility” und “Political and economic institutions”, the authors ask what sorts of crises afflicted past societies in the Iranian highlands, to what extent they proved resilient, and especially what strategies they developed for enhancing the resilience of their ways of life. Looking for answers in paleoenvironmental proxy data, archaeological findings and written sources, the authors examine subsistence economies, political institutions, religious beliefs, everyday routines and economic specialization in different temporal, spatial and organizational scales.

This book is the first volume of a series published by the German-Iranian research cooperation “The Iranian Highlands: Resiliences and Integration in Premodern Societies”. The goal of the research project is to shine a new light on communities and societies that populated the Iranian highlands and their more or less successful strategies to cope with the many vagaries, the constant changes and risks of their natural and humanly shaped environments.


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’.