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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.

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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
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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

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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.

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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.