Articles Online resources

Orodes II

Olbrycht, Marek. 2021. Orodes II. In Encyclopædia Iranica Online, edited by Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York.

ORODES II (r. 58/57-37 BCE), king of Parthia, son of Phraates III (r. 70-57 BCE), and father of Phraates IV (q.v.). During his reign, the empire of the Arsacids (q.v.) reached the zenith of its power and scored significant victories against Rome.

From the entry

Medes in the desert

Potts, Daniel. 2021. Medes in the desert: Thoughts on the mounted archer near Taymā’. In: Claudia Bührig et al. (eds.), Klänge der Archäologie: Festschrift für Ricardo Eichmann, 335-342. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Detail of petroglyph of equestrian figure near Tayma’

The equestrian figure engraved on a rock outcrop near Taymā’ is analyzed. Details of the horse and rider are discussed which support the identification of the horse as an Assyrianizing image, and the rider as a Mede. The significance of the image is treated in light of the tradition of rapid overland communication in the Achaemenid empire.


The Greeks and Persia

Stronk, Jan P. 2020. The Greeks and Persia. Talanta 52, 71-87.

Plain of Marathon, with some key features (source: Google Earth).

Lack of data has always been one of the main issues in studying antiquity, a theme that on the one hand distinguishes students of antiquity from other scholars, but on the other hand, ideally, should ensure a bond between ‘Altertumswissenschaftler’ all over the world. Nevertheless, there have risen several divisions in this field of scholarship, especially influenced by nineteenth-century authors. Apart from that, there is at present a shocking gap between scholarship and the greater public (and, consequently, public awareness of the relevance of scholarly activities). At present, new roads have been opened in the past twenty to thirty years that may enable us to find new possibilities for research, and might help us to bridge existing differences. The title of my paper is based upon that of the book by A.R.Burn (1962). Like he did, I shall try to make clear what connects – in my case – ancient Greek authors and Persian history.

From the abstract

Achaemenid Royal Road in Anatolia

Sadeghipour, Mahnaz & and Farshid Iravani Ghadimi. 2020. An Archaeological Approach to Delineate the Course of the Achaemenid Royal Road in Anatolia. Anatolica 46, 67-101.

The Achaemenid Royal Road was one of the crucial aspects of the Achaemenid imperial governance through which the affairs of this great empire were carried out. This major thoroughfare which on account of Herodotus’ reference extended from Sardis to Susa, was only one component of a more extended route network and allowed the Achaemenids to access and control conquered cities. Anatolia by the greatest number of the satrapies has played an important role in the center of this dominion. So far, determination of the actual course of the ‘Royal Road’ has been subject to much discussion due to ambiguities and discrepancies of historical explanations. Moreover, there has been little focus for archaeological research about the course of the ‘Royal Road’ in Anatolia. The purpose of this article is to reappraise and delineate the course of the ‘Royal Road’ in Anatolia during 550-330 BC concentrating mainly on the archaeological sites. To introduce a model for designating this road, the approach assumes that successive Achaemenid settlements are associated with this road. Therefore, the itinerary is retraced by recording the Achaemenid settlements based on the gamut of archaeological evidence, geographical features, diverse precursors to the ‘Royal Road’, and historical records where available. A new prospect is proposed, according to which the Achaemenid Royal Road extends more westward than what has been assumed before. An appreciation of this trunk line presents not only an invaluable opportunity to identify Achaemenid political and administrative might but also a proper understanding of the Achaemenid settlements in Anatolia.

Articles Journal

The Roar of Silence

Benkato, Adam & Arash Zeini (eds.). 2021. The roar of silence: Festschrift for François de Blois. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 31(3).

The breadth and variety of François de Blois’s erudition is such that only a long and detailed introduction could possibly do justice to his scholarly career. Anyone who knows François, the “quiet man” of Iranian studies, also knows his penchant for concision. We have therefore decided to limit our remarks here to about the length of his legendary handout of Middle Persian grammar—two pages.

From the Introduction
Table of Contents

On Emamzadeh Yahya at Varamin

Overton, Keelan & Kimia Maleki. 2020. The Emamzadeh Yahya at Varamin: A present history of a living shrine, 2018-20. Journal of Material Cultures in the Muslim World 1(1–2). 120–149.

The Emamzadeh Yahya at Varamin, a tomb-shrine located south of Tehran, is well known for supplying global museums with iconic examples of Ilkhanid-period luster tilework. After providing a historiography of the site, including its plunder in the late nineteenth century, we explore its current (2018–20) “life” in order to illuminate the many ways that it can be accessed, used, perceived, and packaged by a wide range of local, national, and global stakeholders. Merging past and present history, art history and amateur anthropology, and the academic, personal, and popular voice, this article explores the Emamzadeh Yahya’s delicate and active existence between historical monument, museum object, sacred space, and cultural heritage.

From the article’s abstract

Editors’ note: this article’s topic is slightly outside of our usual focus. However, we wish to give it a higher visibility as it highlights important issues, such as plunder and theft of sacred sites while exploring the shrine’s history ‘between historical monument, museum object, sacred space, and cultural heritage’. The article is open access. ~AZ


Quatrefoils of Early China and Their Achaemenid Parallels

Kim, Minku. 2021. The Pinnacle Ornament of Flowers: Quatrefoils of Early China and Their Achaemenid Parallels. In Guolong Lai (ed.), Occult Arts, Art History, and Cultural Exchange in Early China: A Festschrift in Honor of Professor Li Ling on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday. Hangzhou: Zhejiang University Press.

Roof tile-ends (wadang) with double quatrefoils. From the site of Shuzhuanglou 梳粧樓, Warring- States Zhao 趙 city of Dabeicheng 大北城, Handan 邯鄲 (Hebei). Fourth to third century BCE.

The quatrefoil is an ornamental design formed by a cruciferous arrangement of four leafor petal-like projections radiating from a mutual hub. The form was widely circulated across the ancient Western world, most distinctively in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Iranian plateau, with a variety of related schemes, including the dual quatrefoil (also known as the petal-and-calyx alternation), as well as those more commonly called the rosettes or lotus flowers. In China, quatrefoils began to be regularly seen during the late Springs and Autumns period, most notably on the assemblage of Jin bronzes. The usage of quatrefoils gradually intensified in the following periods, reaching an apogee during the Han empire, with a range of variants applied to numerous articles of material culture. With the quatrefoils being a design largely unknown prior to the mid-Eastern Zhou period, this essay argues that a foreign stimulus, most notably from the then emerging Achaemenid empire, provided a primary catalyst for the subsequent adaptations of this type of ornament in China.


The Notion of Harem and its Irrelevance to Women of the Persian Court

Lenfant, Dominique. 2020. The Notion of Harem and its Irrelevance to Women of the Persian Court. Ancient Society 50, 13-27.

It has become controversial to use the word ‘harem’ to designate the wives and concubines of the Great King of the Persian Empire, but differing attitudes may be observed among scholars, from rejecting this term to claiming it for use, most often without a detailed justification. Although it seems at first sight to be helpful, the present paper argues against using the word ‘harem’ by highlighting its major interpretative drawbacks: (1) its definition is unstable and unclear; (2) it creates confusion between the different categories of women who are distinguished in our evidence; (3) it is misleading, since it imposes on antiquity western representations mainly linked with Ottoman sultans; (4) it has strong modern connotations, and implies value judgments which are not suitable for a sound historical analysis; (5) it feeds a form of orientalism, since it fosters the idea that the Orient does exist, that it is the opposite of the Occident of the western speaker, and that it has not changed for more than two thousand years. It is lastly argued that this notion of a Persian ‘harem’ does not date back to the Greeks, who had neither a similar word nor similar representations and value judgments, nor the same feeling of otherness in respect to the Persians.


Achaemenid Echoes in the Wall Paintings of Akchakhan-Kala

Minardi, Michele. 2020. Achaemenid Echoes in the Wall Paintings of Akchakhan-Kala, Chorasmia, and their Broader Significance for Central Asia. Journal of Asian Civilizations 43(2).

(from Minardi 2020, fig. 5.)

In recent years the Karakalpak-Australian Expedition (KAE) carried out archaeological fieldwork at the royal Chorasmian seat of Akchakhan-kala unearthing a large corpus of wall paintings. This imagery was made during Stage 3 of the life of the site’s main complex, beginning between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD and ending in the early 2nd century AD. Among the formal elements employed in this imagery, an unanticipated use of Achaemenid iconographic models is apparent. Most of these archetypes have already been introduced in recently published articles. However, the question regarding their source and ways of transmission was left open to further inquiry. This paper aims to refine the argument and to give way to further analysis and discussion in attempting a clarification of what has already been sustained. Eastern Iranian Chorasmia once was under the Achaemenid sway, and its very foundation as a polity was quite probably due to an intervention of the Persians. But the Akchakhan-kala’s paintings were produced much later than the time of the Achaemenid Empire’s demise. What we may therefore be witnessing is the persistence of Achaemenid iconography as an artistic legacy, the origins of which would be reasonable to track in a centre of the “Upper Satrapies”. Despite the scarcity of available evidence on the very existence of an Achaemenid aulic art and heritage in the East, it is here argued that it might be possible to consider the new Chorasmian evidence as its “echo”, although the chronology of the original transmission into the polity of such a legacy is still elusive. This paper will also introduce a further, and previously neglected, element issuing from the Akchakhan-kala’s mural art and belonging to the set of Achaemenid visual “echoes”: the motif of the stylized lion’s heads with curled mane. Of clear Achaemenid ascendency, this motif decorates the shoulder area of the kandys worn by one of the colossal Avestan deities from the site’s columned throne hall. This painted fabric decoration confirms the substantiality of the basic interpretation of the “Achaemenid echoes” coming from Chorasmia, allowing at the same time to development of some further assumptions.


Weather and the Greek–Persian “Naval Battle of Salamis”

Zerefos, Christos, Stavros Solomos, Dimitris Melas, John Kapsomenakis and Christos Repapis. 2020. The Role of Weather during the Greek–Persian “Naval Battle of Salamis” in 480 B.C. Atmosphere 11, 838.

The Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. is one of the most important naval battles of all times. This work examines in detail the climatically prevailing weather conditions during the Persian invasion in Greece. We perform a climatological analysis of the wind regime in the narrow straits of Salamis, where this historic battle took place, based on available station measurements, reanalysis and modeling simulations (ERA5, WRF) spanning through the period of 1960–2019. Our results are compared to ancient sources before and during the course of the conflict and can be summarized as follows: (i) Our climatological station measurements and model runs describing the prevailing winds in the area of interest are consistent with the eyewitness descriptions reported by ancient historians and (ii) The ancient Greeks and particularly Themistocles must have been aware of the local wind climatology since their strategic plan was carefully designed and implemented to take advantage of the diurnal wind variation. The combination of northwest wind during the night and early morning, converging with a south sea breeze after 10:00 A.M., formed a “pincer” that aided the Greeks at the beginning of the clash in the morning, while it brought turmoil to the Persian fleet and prevented them to escape to the open sea in the early afternoon hours. View Full-Text.