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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.

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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.

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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.

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On the Ionian League in the Fourth Century BC

Kholod, Maxim. 2020. On the Ionian League in the Fourth Century BC. Studia Antiqua et Archaeologica 26 (2), 201-214.

The author argues that the revival of the Ionian League, most likely dissolved by the Persians right after 494, happened ca. 373 BC. The League seems to have been refounded then as a purely religious association. Its life was very long this time: the League most probably did not cease to exist not only during the rest of the 4th century BC but it was the same one which functioned almost interruptedly throughout further several centuries and disappeared only at a moment after the mid-3rd century AD.

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YHW the God of Heaven

Granerød, Gard. 2021. YHW the God of Heaven: An interpretatio persica et aegyptiaca of YHW in Elephantine. Journal for the Study of Judaism 52 (1): 1-26.

The statue of Darius I from Susa

The article discusses the background and implications of the title “the God of Heaven” used as an epithet for YHW in Elephantine. It argues that one should look for the background in the winged symbol used in both Achaemenid and Egyptian iconography. In the Achaemenid–Egyptian context, the title “the God of Heaven” worked as a transmedial, textual reference to the winged symbol that was common to both Achaemenid and Egyptian iconography. In Egypt during the Achaemenid period, the reference of the winged symbol and the title “the God of Heaven” was ultimately the Achaemenid dynasty god Ahura Mazda and perhaps the Egyptian king-protector Horus-Behdety. In the identification of YHW with “the God of Heaven,” we witness an interpretatio persica et aegyptiaca of YHW into the supreme gods of the Achaemenids and the Egyptians.

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From the Mediterranean to the Indus Valley

Briant, Pierre. 2021. From the Mediterranean to the Indus Valley: Modalities and imitations of the Achaemenid imperial space. In: Yuri Pines, Michal Biran & Jörg Rüpke (eds.), The limits of universal rule. Eurasian empires compared, 49–78. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great (550–530 BCE), expanded by his successors, Cambyses (530–522) and most importantly Darius the Great (522–486), was conquered by Alexander the Great between 334 and 323. After the wars between the successors of the Macedonian conqueror, also known as the Diadochi, the empire imploded into several competing kingdoms (the Hellenistic kingdoms). From a geopolitical global perspective, the establishment of the empire of the Great Kings put an end to a very long period of territorial divisions among several kingdoms and empires, such as those existing around 550 (Pharaonic Egypt, the Lydian Kingdom in Asia Minor, the neo-Babylonian kingdom in Mesopotamia and in the Fertile Crescent, the Median kingdom in the surroundings of Hamadan/Ecbatana, etc.). The Achaemenid historical phase represents thus a singular moment in the longue durée: it is the first and last time in history that these peoples and countries were united within a unitary state structure for more than two centuries. This would later be called the Persian-Achaemenid Empire, in line with the name of the reigning dynasty.

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Iranian Studies (vol. 53, issue 5–6)

Vol. 53 (2020), issues 5–6, of Iranian Studies has now been published, containing a number of articles and reviews related to the pre-Islamic era.

2020 is the fifty-third year anniversary of Iranian Studies. With its broad international reception it currently stands as the leading scholarly periodical in the field of Iranian studies. This achievement is due to an outstanding pool of scholars worldwide whose contributions have expanded the field of Iranian studies in depth and breadth, and also to the journal’s successive editorial teams for their commitment and dedicated hard work. As the journal editor I have been particularly privileged to work with an exemplary team of both current and former core editorial colleagues whose command of their respective fields of specialization combined with erudition, professionalism, and collegiality has been instrumental in making a highly demanding and complex operation into a pleasant and rewarding experience. I would like to take this opportunity to record my deep gratitude to my colleagues in the editorial office, individually and collectively.

From the “Editorial Note
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Slings and slingers in ancient Iran

Potts, Daniel. 2020. Slings and slingers in ancient Iran. In Stephan Blum, Turan Efe, Tobias Kienlin & Ernst Pernicka (eds.), From past to present. Studies in memory of Manfred O. Korfmann (Studia Troica Monographien 11). Bonn: Verlag Dr. Rudolf Habelt GMBH.

In 1973 Manfred Korfmann wrote, ›it is clear that archaeological work in the future must pay more attention to the sling as a prehistoric weapon of major significance, not only in the Near East but also elsewhere in the world. Even with our present limited knowledge it is clear that the slinger and the archer were equals for thousands of years‹ (Korfmann 1973, 42). Although slings and slingers in ancient Mesopotamia have been studied (e.g. Eichler 1983; Schrakamp 2010, 19), no study specifically dedicated to the use of the sling in ancient Iran has, to my knowledge, ever been published and it is my hope that this modest effort would have pleased Manfred Korfmann, whose attention to the topic (Korfmann 1972; 1973) was the inspiration for my own foray into this fascinating field.

Introduction
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Being Mithraist

Mazhjoo, Nina. 2020. Being Mithraist: Embracing ‘other’ in the Roman cultural milieu. In Aaron W. Irvin (ed.), Community and identity at the edges of the classical world, 139-153. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

The Mithraic bull-slaying scene

This chapter suggests a new approach to the study of Mithraic visual language and the cultic iconography of the god in particular. It argues that the Roman Mithraists were enthusiastic for stressing the Persian provenance of their god via cultic iconography and visual language. The chapter takes a closer look at the Mithraic tauroctony and the Roman representation of the god. It examines the cultic imagery of Mithras to explore how the Roman Mithraists incorporated the Greek imagery of “handsome Oriental”. The chapter demonstrates that the Roman imagery of Mithras was a conscious choice that the Roman Mithraists made to historicize their novel cult. It proposes that the Roman imagery of the god Mithras should be deciphered as a deliberate cultural borrowing in relation to the cultural strategy and socio‐political context of the Roman Empire. The Roman mystery cult of Mithras strongly relied on Roman attitudes and romantic visions of Persia and the Parthians.

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The Conceptual Image of the Planets in Ancient Iran and the Process of Their Demonization

Panaino, Antonio. 2020. The conceptual image of the planets in ancient Iran and the process of their demonization: Visual materials and models of inclusion and exclusion in Iranian history of knowledge. Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin 28. 359–389.

The Moon God (Klimova plate, Perm region, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg S-43)

The present contribution offers an overview of the main problems concerning the representation of the planets in the pre-Islamic Iranian world, the origin of their denominations, their astral roles and the reasons behind their demonization in the Zoroastrian and Manichaean frameworks. This is a preliminary attempt to resume the planetary iconography and iconology in western and eastern Iranian sources, involving also external visual data, such as those coming from Dunhuang and the Chinese world. The article offers an intellectual journey into a net of mutual cultural and spiritual relations, focusing on the image of the heaven (and of its celestial beings), thereby proposing a new synthesis and highlighting a number of intercultural contaminations.