The Correspondence of Assurbanipal, Part II

Frame, Grant & Simo Parpola. 2023. The Correspondence of Assurbanipal, Part II Letters from Southern Babylonia (State Archives of Assyria 22). Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project.

The present volume completes the critical edition of the political correspondence of Assurbanipal, the first part of which was published in SAA 21. The 163 letters edited here were sent from southern Mesopotamia and Elam, mostly by governors or other high-ranking local administrators and military commanders; almost all are addressed to the Assyrian king, although a few nonroyal letters are also included. As in SAA 21, the bulk of the correspondence dates from the civil war between Assurbanipal and Šamaš-šumu-ukin and provides dramatic eyewitness evidence of this turbulent time.


The Afterlife of Avestan Manuscripts

Gholami, Saloumeh. 2023. The afterlife of Avestan manuscripts: Colophons and marginal notes. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.

The book is also available as open access e-book.

This study investigates the role of paratext in Zoroastrian scribal tradition, with a focus on the Avesta manuscripts. It examines how paratexts, such as colophons and marginal notes, contribute to organizing and interpreting the content of these manuscripts. These elements not only structure the knowledge but also reflect the roles and activities of individuals involved in the manuscript’s lifecycle, from creation to reception. Additionally, the study explores how paratexts facilitate access to the main text, acting as a bridge that documents the history of each manuscript, its actors, and interaction with society. The analysis includes a diverse range of colophons and marginal notes, examining their structure, content, and relationship to their respective manuscripts.

Short summary

Iranian Syntax in Classical Armenian

Meyer, Robin. 2023. Iranian syntax in classical Armenian: The Armenian perfect and other cases of pattern replication (Oxford Studies in Diachronic and Historical Linguistics 53). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

A corollary of this linguistic analysis are new insights into the historical social dynamics between Armenian and Parthian speakers: the latter disappear from the region almost without any documentary trace after the fall of the Parthian Empire in 224 CE. This fact and a study of the historical data from surrounding cultures strongly suggest that the Parthians, who made up the ruling class in the Armenian Kingdom for almost four centuries, over the course of time identified with the Armenians and gave up their native tongue.


Studies in Silk Road Archaeology

Xia, Nai. 2024. Studies in Silk Road Archaeology. Wiesbaden: Springer.

This book is a collection of Nai Xia’s quintessential works on Silk Road studies. A key resource in the field of Silk Road Archaeology, it features in-depth content, a broad range of material, careful textual research, and meticulous analysis. With thorough investigations of foreign coinage, silk textiles, and artifacts with foreign styles excavated in different parts of China, it explores the exchange between ancient China and Central Asia, Western Asia, and Europe. In particular, this book provides detailed descriptions of the economic and cultural ties between ancient China, Pre-Islamic Arabia, the Sasanian Empire, and the Byzantine Empire. The research propounds innovative theories on the history and evolution of East-West transportation routes, i.e., the overland Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road. Based on the study of ancient relics and excavated artifacts, it points out that cultural exchange along the Silk Road was never unilateral, but instead, mutual influence and cooperation were obvious. Since ancient times, countries along the Silk Road have had a tradition of amicable foreign relations and the promotion of common interests. The book is intended for academics, scholars and researchers.


Legacy of the East and Legacy of Alexander

Nawotka, Krzysztof & Agnieszka Wojciechowska (eds.). 2023. Legacy of the east and legacy of Alexander. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

From the Hellenistic period until the Muslim Middles Ages, the words and deeds of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC) reverberated through the centuries. The tradition of his conquests and legends, which are best preserved in countless versions of the Alexander Romance, was a focal point of the conference in Wrocław 2019, the results of which are contained in this publication. The encounters between the European conquerors and the nations and cultures of the East, which are reflected in writings and works of art from East and West, enable us to gain a deep mutual understanding, even of the misunderstandings.

Contributions in this volume compare classical literary sources with non-European writings, epigraphic, archaeological and numismatic evidence. They explore the complexity of the classical source tradition in order to look beyond the boundaries of the time in which they were written down. By drawing on the methodology of the ‘literary turn’ in historiography, they draw our attention to ancient authors as conscious artists with their own agenda. An attempt is made to examine the Iranian background of Alexander’s politics and to verify modern hypotheses about his legacy in Iran and Central Asia. In Iran there was cultural continuity from the Achaemenid through the Hellenistic era, just as in Egypt, whose art absorbed non-native influences from the Saite period onwards. It is argued that the western influence or Hellenization that Alexander’s conquests brought to the heartland of the Persian Empire, its eastern part and Egypt, was limited. It shows that the last Persian king of Egypt, Darius III, and the first Macedonian pharaoh Alexander had more in common than is generally recognized. This book basically advocates the idea that a balance must be established between continuity and change, both in Egypt and in the East under Alexander and Hellenistic kings.

The table of contents is available from here.


Transversal Studies on the Reigns of Yazdgird I and Wahrām V

Jullien, Christelle (ed.). 2023. Discourse, power issues, and images. Transversal studies on the reigns of Yazdgird I and Wahrām V (Late Antique History and Religion). Leuven: Peeters.

What images of Yazdgird I (399-420) and Wahrām V (420-438) have been transmitted in the sources from and outside the Persian empire? Those nearly forty years saw a rich and complex relationship develop between Persia and its neighbours, paving the way for the Sasanians to extend their influence beyond the borders. At the beginning of the fifth century, while exchanges and relations of subordination were being reconfigured in the Middle East, the religious communities of the Sasanian empire (Babylonian Jewry, diverse Christian communities, Manichaeans, etc.) created the conditions for a new relationship with power. These two great sovereigns were emblematic and inspired contrasting portrayals – either controversial or idealised – that integrate narrative models sometimes borrowed from other cultures. A major aim of this book is to bring together the up-to-date knowledge about this topic through a comprehensive enquiry and comparison of contemporaneous and later materials.

Table of Contents

  • Geoffrey Greatrex and George Amanatidis-Saadé: “Les relations romano-perses sous Yazdgird Ier et Wahrām V”
  • Giusto Traina: “Yazdgird I, Wahrām V, and the End of Greater Armenia: A Note on the Armenian Sources”
  • Rika Gyselen: “Entre tradition et innovation : temoignages materiels de l’epoque de Yazdgird Ier et de Wahrām V”
  • Touraj Daryaee: “The Two Kings of Erānsahr: Yazdgird I ‘The Sinner’ and Wahrām V ‘The Onager’ in the Xwadāy-nāmag Tradition”
  • Geoffrey Herman: “Tue Jews of Babylonia during the Reigns of Kings Yazdgird I and Wahrām V”
  • Scott McDonough: “A Tale of Two Isaacs: Christians and the Crown in Fifth Century Erānsahr”
  • Christelle Jullien: “Les affaires de pyrees sous Yazdgird I. Motif hagiographique et modèles littéraires”
  • Marie-Joseph Pierre and Chiemi Nakano: “Le synode de 410, avant et apres”
  • Philip Wood: “Rewriting History: Yazdgird I, Wahrām V and the Chronicle of Seert

Architecture and Archaeology of the Achaemenid Empire

Dan, Roberto. 2023. Studies on the architecture and archaeology of the Achaemenid Empire. Dynamics of interaction and transmission between centre and periphery. Roma: ISMEO – The International Association for Mediterranean and Oriental Studies.

The relations between the centre and periphery of the Achaemenid Empire have been, for several years, the focus of numerous in-depth studies. The characteristics of this World Empire, which was a new phenomenon in the ancient Near East, have stimulated this scholarly research, based on written sources, as well as archaeological and cultural evidence. Quite often, the goal of these studies was to assess the impact of the empire’s core? A concept whose cultural outline warrants precise definition?within the regions under its control. For several decades, the basic question on the matter put forward by Roger Moorey (Cemeteries of the First Millennium B.C. at Deve Höyük, 1980: 128), who challenged the significance of the material traces of Persian domination (considered too flimsy), was echoed by many historians, who indeed have asked whether there “ever was a Persian empire.” That question was raised by Amélie Kuhrt and Heleen Sancisi-Weerdenburg in the introduction of a book whose title was, relevantly, Centre and Periphery (Achaemenid History, IV, 1990).


Alexander the Great in Syriac

Debié, Muriel. 2024. Alexandre le Grand en syriaque: Maître des lieux, des savoirs et des temps. Paris: Les belles lettres.

La figure historique d’Alexandre et les légendes qui lui sont attachées n’ont cessé de susciter fascination et admiration, bien au-delà des frontières de la Méditerranée et de l’Europe. Les récits sur Alexandre, historiques et légendaires, sont bien connus, mais quels échos ce personnage a-t-il trouvé dans les régions mêmes où il avait été actif (Proche et Moyen- Orient, Asie centrale et Inde) ? Pour le découvrir, cet ouvrage propose pour la première fois une plongée dans la littérature sur Alexandre rédigée en langue syriaque, qui a ensuite circulé en arabe et en persan et de là en malais, turc ou éthiopien.

Cette littérature compte à la fois des traductions de sources grecques (notamment du célèbre Roman d’Alexandre – avec plusieurs épisodes inconnus des versions occidentales – des sentences morales et philosophiques, des textes de numérologie et d’alchimie) et des textes originaux composés en syriaque dans l’Antiquité tardive, sous la forme d’apocalypses chrétiennes. Dans ces textes, dont certains ont un écho jusque jusque dans le Coran, la figure d’Alexandre est étonnamment mêlée à des éléments de cosmographie mésopotamienne antique et à des conceptions politico-religieuses des premiers siècles de la chrétienté.

L’ouvrage traduit ces textes, souvent hauts en couleurs, et les rend accessibles grâce à de brèves introductions. Dans chacune des trois parties, la traduction des textes syriaques est suivie d’un dossier complet, faisant état des recherches les plus récentes sur la datation, la circulation, les sources et l’interprétation de ces textes qui mettent en lumière l’importance d’Alexandre devenu, bien après sa mort, explorateur du monde et de ses mystères, protecteur des chrétiens syriaques contre les Perses sassanides et pivot du temps et de l’histoire.


The Old Persian Inscriptions

Schmitt, Rüdiger. 2023. Die altpersischen Inschriften der Achaimeniden: Editio minor mit deutscher Übersetzung. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.

In this book may be found a complete edition and German translation of the Old Persian texts of the mostly trilingual cuneiform inscriptions of the Persian kings from the Achaemenid dynasty. Only the minor corpora of vase inscriptions and those on seals and weights are passed over, because they are of only narrow historical meaning. The edition presents the transliterated and the transcribed texts in two columns next to each other and beneath them succinct annotations and the translation respectively, which tries to render the original wording as literally as possible. The book starts with a list of all the Achaemenid cuneiform inscriptions (also those written not in Old Persian script and language), that describes the texts in outline and includes the literature relevant for constituting and translating the texts in question.


Zoroastrian Hermeneutics in Late Antiquity

Vevaina, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw. 2024. Zoroastrian Hermeneutics in Late Antiquity. Commentary on the Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9 (Iranica 32). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9 is one of the most enigmatic and yet fundamental texts of Zoroastrianism. It is a commentary on the ‘Old Avesta’ of the 2nd millennium BCE produced in Pahlavi (Zoroastrian Middle Persian) in the Sasanian (224–651 CE) and early Islamic centuries. This commentary purportedly based on earlier Pahlavi translations and commentaries of lost Young Avestan tractates commenting in turn on the ‘Old Avesta’ is a value-laden, ideologically motivated discourse that displays a rich panoply of tradition-constituted forms of allegoresis. This terse yet highly allusive text mobilizes complex forms of citation, allusion, and intertextuality from the inherited Avestan world of myth and ritual in order to engage with and react to the profound changes occurring in the relationships between theology, religious praxis, national identity, and imperial politics in Iranian society. Despite its value and importance for developing our nascent understanding of Zoroastrian hermeneutics and the self-conception of the Zoroastrian priesthood in Late Antiquity, this primary source has attracted scant scholarly attention due to the extreme difficulty of its subject matter and the lack of a reliable translation. Volume 32 serves as an intertextual commentary on this often-bewildering text. It contextualizes and historicizes the traditional intersignifications of the Sūdgar Nask which evince indigenous hermeneutical interventions that violate the ‘plain sense’ of meaning, thus challenging our philological approaches to understanding the archaic corpus of the ‘Old Avesta.’ Reading the Sūdgar Nask is a hermeneutic process of traversing texts, genres, and rituals in both the Avestan and Pahlavi corpora, thus activating nodes in a web or network of textual and meta-textual relations that establish new forms of allegoreses or meaning making. It is argued that this entire hermeneutical complex of weaving a ‘new’ text composed of implicit proof text and explicit commentary renews, extends, and, ultimately, makes tradition.