Identity and Empire in the Ancient Near East

The latest issue of Studia Orientalia Electronica (Vol. 9 No. 2) is dedicated to the theme, “Identity and Empire in the Ancient Near East.” It conveys, inter alia, three articles that fall into the scope of ancient Iranian history and culture:

  • Silvia Balatti – Yau̯nā and Sakā: Identity Constructions at the Margins of the Achaemenid Empire
  • Jennifer Finn – Persian Collections: Center and Periphery at Achaemenid Imperial Capitals
  • Ehud Ben Zvi – The Art of Bracketing Empire Out and Creating Parallel Worlds: The Case of Late Persian Yehud

Handbook of Ancient Afro-Eurasian Economies

Reden, Sitta von (ed.). 2021. Handbook of ancient Afro-Eurasian economies. Volume 2: Local, Regional, and Imperial Economies. Berlin: De Gruyter.

The second volume of the Handbook describes different extractive economies in the world regions that have been outlined in the first volume. A wide range of economic actors – from kings and armies to cities and producers – are discussed within different imperial settings as well as the tools, which enabled and constrained economic outcomes. A central focus are nodes of consumption that are visible in the archaeological and textual records of royal capitals, cities, religious centers, and armies that were stationed, in some cases permanently, in imperial frontier zones. Complementary to the multipolar concentrations of consumption are the fiscal-tributary structures of the empires vis-à-vis other institutions that had the capacity to extract, mobilize, and concentrate resources and wealth. Larger volumes of state-issued coinage in various metals show the new role of coinage in taxation, local economic activities, and social practices, even where textual evidence is absent. Given the overwhelming importance of agriculture, the volume also analyses forms of agrarian development, especially around cities and in imperial frontier zones. Special consideration is given to road- and water-management systems for which there is now sufficient archaeological and documentary evidence to enable cross-disciplinary comparative research.

This is an open-access volume. For information on the first volume, see here.


Accounting for Fruit in the PFA

Stolper, Matthew W. 2021. From the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project 7: Accounting for fruit in the PFA. Arta 2021.001.

Abstract: Editions of Persepolis Fortification documents that compile multiple records of fruit, a category (provisionally labeled C1/W) postulated by Henkelman & Stolper Persika 21, p. 169ff.; editions of selected tabular accounts of fruit (Category W) cited in the same article; a hypothesis about connections among C1, C1/W, and W records of fruit in information processing at Persepolis; a hypothesis about underlying practices of fruit production on terms comparable to those of contemporary Babylonia; appendixes on some Elamite words connected with fruit orchards, fruit processing, and wine.


The Administration of Syria under Alexander the Great

Kholod, Maxim. 2021. The administration of Syria under Alexander the Great. Klio 103(2). 505–537.

The author is of the opinion that as a result of Alexander the Great’s conquest of Syria (late 333–332 BC), which had been a single administrative entity under the Achaemenids, it was divided into two satrapies – the northern and the southern one. He believes that Menon, son of Cerdimmas, was appointed as the first head of the northern satrapy (winter 333/332), to be replaced by Arimmas (early spring 331), who, in his turn, was succeeded by Asclepiodorus, son of Eunicus (late summer 331). Besides, it seems that Andromachus became the first head of the southern satrapy (shortly before winter 332/331), and after he was killed, Menon, transferred from the north to the south, took his place (early spring 331). Already in Alexander’s lifetime, probably in 329/328, Syria was once again merged into one satrapy. It is unclear who was installed as satrap of the unified region. At any rate, it could not have been Menes, son of Dionysius: the hypothesis that in winter 331/330 he was made satrap of the new province including Syria and Cilicia does not stand scrutiny. In the author’s view, the main task Alexander assigned to Menes was to take control and then to keep open and organized the sea communications with the coast of Syria, Phoenicia and Cilicia, and in the matters concerning these activities Menes was fully independent of the local satraps.


The Persian revival

Grigor, Talinn. 2021. The Persian revival: The imperialism of the copy in Iranian and Parsi architecture. University Park, PA : Penn State University Press.

One of the most heated scholarly controversies of the early twentieth century, the Orient-or-Rome debate turned on whether art historians should trace the origin of all Western—and especially Gothic—architecture to Roman ingenuity or to the Indo-Germanic Geist. Focusing on the discourses around this debate, Talinn Grigor considers the Persian Revival movement in light of imperial strategies of power and identity in British India and in Qajar-Pahlavi Iran.

The Persian Revival examines Europe’s discovery of ancient Iran, first in literature and then in art history. Tracing Western visual discourse about ancient Iran from 1699 on, Grigor parses the invention and use of a revivalist architectural style from the Afsharid and Zand successors to the Safavid throne and the rise of the Parsi industrialists as cosmopolitan subjects of British India. Drawing on a wide range of Persian revival narratives bound to architectural history, Grigor foregrounds the complexities and magnitude of artistic appropriations of Western art history in order to grapple with colonial ambivalence and imperial aspirations. She argues that while Western imperialism was instrumental in shaping high art as mercantile-bourgeois ethos, it was also a project that destabilized the hegemony of a Eurocentric historiography of taste.

An important reconsideration of the Persian Revival, this book will be of vital interest to art and architectural historians and intellectual historians, particularly those working in the areas of international modernism, Iranian studies, and historiography.


Eunuchs as guardians of women in Achaemenid Persia

Lenfant, Dominique. 2021. Eunuchs as guardians of women in Achaemenid Persia. Orientalism and occidentalism in modern scholarship. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 61(4), 456-474.

Ancient Greek authors did not see eunuchs in Persia as servants of the ‘harem’, an image projected onto the past under the influence of a modern Orientalist stereotype.


Iran and its Histories

Daryaee, Touraj & Robert Rollinger (eds.). 2021. Iran and its histories. From the beginnings through the Achaemenid Empire (Classica et Orientalia 29). Wiesbaden: Harrossowitz.

Dealing with the “history” of Iran is a challenge for many reasons. “Iran” is a term with different meanings through the ages. Today, it refers to the boundaries of modern Iran, but historically and culturally it covers a much larger territory. The western term “Persia” exemplifies these uncertainties for it is used colloquially as a synonym for “Iran,” but can also refer to the Achaemenid, Arsacid or Sasanian Empires and later empires on the Iranian Plateau. Besides these geographical ambiguities there is also the “ethnic” and linguistic dimension of the term “Iran”. Iranian languages are a major branch of the Indo-European language family and people using these languages have played a decisive role in the history of “Iran” since the first millennium BCE. How should we situate the ‘autochthonous՚ civilizations on the plateau, such as those at Konar Sandal (Jiroft), Sialk in Kashan, or for that matter the region of Elam with its longue durée history and influence? So what does it mean when we talk about “Persia” and “Iran” from a historical point of view?

This volume brings together the contributions of the first and second Payravi conferences on Ancient Iranian History, held at the University of California Irvine in 2018 and 2019. The 16 contributions united in this volume tackle various problems of early Iranian history in many ways. They cover a wide range of time, from the Paleolithic to the end of the Achaemenid empire and Alexander III (“the Great”) and give vibrant insights into the dynamic processes of the history of Iran within the framework of the most recent results of scholarly research.

Books Translation

شاه و نخبگان در شاهنشاهی هخامنشی

به کوشش ووتر ف. م. هنکلمن. ۱۴۰۰. شاه و نخبگان در شاهنشاهی هخامنشی: گزیده مقالاتی در باب بایگانی باروی هخامنشی . ترجمه از یزدان صفایی و حمیدرضا نیک‌روش. تهران: موزه ملی ایران.

Henkelman, W.F.M. (ed.). 2021. King and Elite in the Achaemenid Empire: Selected Studies based on the Persepolis Fortification Archive (Treasures of Ancient Iran 1). Translated by Yazdan Safaee & Hamidreza Nikravesh. Tehran: National Museum of Iran.

کتاب شاه و نخبگان در شاهنشاهی هخامنشی مقالاتی را شامل می‌شود که موضوع آنها بر شبکه روابط میان شاه و گروه نخبگان اطراف او تمرکز دارد. این مقالات عمدتاً ماحصل تحقیق بر روی متون بایگانی باروی تخت‌جمشید هستند، یعنی یکی از مهم‌ترین منابع برای شناخت تاریخ هخامنشیان. مقالات مذکور در اصل به انگلیسی منتشر شده بودند و ترجمه فارسی آنها در این کتاب با هدف انتشار بخشی از نتایج پروژه بایگانی باروی تخت‌جمشید در دسترس قرار گرفته است. از این روی کتاب فوق‌الذکر مجموعه‌ای از مقالات محققان پیشتازی است که در این پروژه مشغول به تحقیق هستند: آنالیزا آتزونی، مارک گریسون، ووتر هنکلمن و متیو استولپر.

کتاب حاضر مجلد نخست از مجموعه‌ای است به نام گنج‌آمار ایران باستان: منابع و مطالعات فرهنگ و تاریخ آغازین ایران که به همت موزه ملی ایران منتشر می‌شود که هدف آن انتشار ترجمه‌هایی فارسی از تحقیقات جدید در مورد ایران باستان است.


History of the Caucasus

Baumer, Christoph. 2021. History of the Caucasus, vol. 1: At the crossroads of empires. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.

A landscape of high mountains and narrow valleys stretching from the Black to the Caspian Seas, the Caucasus region has been home to human populations for nearly 2 million years. In this richly illustrated 2-volume series, historian and explorer Christoph Baumer tells the story of the region’s history through to the present day. It is a story of encounters between many different peoples, from Scythians, Turkic and Mongol peoples of the East to Greeks and Romans from the West, from Indo-European tribes from the West as well as the East, and to Arabs and Iranians from the South. It is a story of rival claims by Empires and nations and of how the region has become home to more than 50 languages that can be heard within its borders to this very day.

This first volume charts the period from the emergence of the earliest human populations in the region – the first known human populations outside Africa – to the Seljuk conquests of 1050CE. Along the way the book charts the development of Neolithic, Iron and Bronze Age cultures, the first recognizable Caucasian state and the arrival of a succession of the great transnational Empires, from the Greeks, the Romans and the Armenian to competing Christian and Muslim conquerors. The History of the Caucasus: Volume 1 also includes more than 200 full colour images and maps bringing the changing cultures of these lands vividly to life.

Table of Contents:


The Persians at the court of the great kings

Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe (ed.). 2021. Die Perser am Hof der Großkönige. Darmstadt: wbg Philipp von Zabern.

Was zählt, ist der Blickwinkel: wie die persischen Könige sich selbst sahen

Die antiken Griechen hatten auf Grund von Vormachtrivalität in der Ägäis keine positive Meinung von den persischen Großkönigen. Griechische Quellen berichten von Dekadenz und Despotie am achämenidischen Hof. Doch wie sahen sich die Herrscher des ersten Weltreichs der Antike selbst? Ab Herbst 2020 sollte eine Sonderausstellung des Badischen Landesmuseums die Geschichte und das Selbstbild der Könige von Kyros II. bis zu Dareios III. zeigen. Umständehalber wurde der Begleitband zur Ausstellung zu einem Sonderheft der ANTIKEN WELT umgestaltet. Ein Bildband, der Einblicke in das Leben bei Hof gewährt und persische Quellen für sich sprechen lässt.