Category Archives: Books

Studies in Ancient Persia and the Achaemenid Period

Curtis, John (ed.). 2020. Studies in Ancient Persia and the Achaemenid Period. A collection of essays in memory of the curator and scholar Terence Mitchell, exploring the history and archaeology of Ancient Persia. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co. Ltd.

An important collection of eight essays on Ancient Persia (Iran) in the periods of the Achaemenid Empire (539–330 BC), when the Persians established control over the whole of the Ancient Near East, and later the Sasanian Empire. It will be of interest to historians, archaeologists and biblical scholars. Paul Collins writes about stone relief carvings from Persepolis; John Curtis and Christopher Walker illuminate the Achaemenid period in Babylon; Terence Mitchell, Alan Millard and Shahrokh Razmjou draw attention to neglected aspects of biblical archaeology and the books of Daniel and Isaiah; and Mahnaz Moazami and Prudence Harper explore the Sasanian period in Iran (AD 250–650) when Zoroastrianism became the state religion.

Contents
Editor’s Note
Introduction
John Curtis
Terence Mitchell’s Published Works

  1. Five Unpublished Persepolis Relief Fragments in the Ashmolean Museum
    Paul Collins, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
  2. Where Did the Persian Kings Live in Babylon?
    John Curtis, Curator Emeritus, British Museum; Director, Iran Heritage Foundation
  3. The Use of Seals in Babylonia under the Achaemenids
    Christopher Walker, Curator Emeritus, British Museum
  4. An Iranian in the Court of King Nebuchadnezzar
    Alan Millard, Professor Emeritus, University of Liverpool
  5. Biblical Archaeology in the Persian Period
    Terence Mitchell, lately Curator Emeritus, British Museum
  6. The Textual Connections between the Cyrus Cylinder and the Bible, with Particular Reference to Isaiah
    Shahrokh Razmjou, Department of Archaeology, University of Tehran
  7. Interpreting Sasanian Beards: Significant Images in an Interconnected World
    Prudence Harper, Curator Emerita, Metropolitan Museum of Art
  8. Sasanian-Zoroastrian Intellectual Life in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries AD
    Mahnaz Moazami, Associate Editor, Encyclopaedia Iranica, University of Columbia

Index of selected place-names and personal names

The Last Empire of Iran

Bonner, Michael Richard Jackson. 2020. The Last Empire of Iran (Gorgias Handbooks). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press LLC.

As part of the Gorgias Handbook Series, this book provides a political and military history of the Sasanian Empire in Late Antiquity (220s to 651 CE). The book takes the form of a narrative, which situates Sasanian Iran as a continental power between Rome and the world of the steppe nomad.

  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • I. Eurasia from the Conquests of Alexander to the Fall of Parthia
  • II. The Establishment of the House of Sasan
  • III. From Shapur I to Shapur II
  • IV. The World of the Nomad
  • V. Humiliation and Heresy
  • VI. The Iranian Recovery
  • VII. Triumph and Tribulation
  • VIII. The Last War of Antiquity
  • IX. The Collapse of the House of Sasan
  • X. Observations on the Fall of the Iranian Empire
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Xenophon’s Cyropaedia

Jacobs, Bruno & Robert Rollinger (eds.). 2019. Ancient Information on Persia Re-assessed: Xenophon’s Cyropaedia. Proceedings of a Conference Held at Marburg in Honour of Christopher Tuplin, December 1-2, 2017. (Classica et Orientalia 22). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

In the past Xenophon’s Cyropaedia has attracted the attention of scholars primarily for literary-historical reasons. It is one of the main tasks of the present publication to free discussion of the work from this relatively narrow disciplinary constraint.
As questions of genre cannot be ignored anyway, the volume opens with contributions that consider where Cyropaedia stands in relation to historiography, the novel and Socratic literature. The next group of studies deals with how Xenophon drew on material from other authors and from his own experience to develop a picture of the emergence of the Persian Empire and of the way in which power was exercised there. Investigations of this sort presuppose questions about the historië that underpins Cyropaedia, and that topic is the focus of two further contributions that deal specifically with the types of information that were available to Xenophon. A final group of contributions looks at the impact of the work in canonical and deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament, in the writings of the Alexander historians and in modern literature up to the 18th century.

Persian Lyric Poetry

Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). 2019. Persian lyric poetry in the classical era, 800-1500: Ghazals, panegyrics and quatrains (A History of Persian Literature 2). London: I.B. Tauris.

The second volume in this series presents the reader with an extensive study of some major genres of Persian poetry from the first centuries after the rise of Islam to the end of the Timurid era and the inauguration of Safavid rule in the beginning of the sixteenth century. The authors explore the development of poetic genres, from the panegyric (qaside), to short lyrical poems (ghazal), and the quatrains (roba’i), tracing the stylistic evolution of Persian poetry up to 1500 and examine the vital role of these poetic forms within the rich landscape of Persian literature.

A History of Persian Literature is a 20-volume authoritative survey reflects the stature and significance of Persian literature as the single most important accomplishment of the Iranian experience. It includes extensive, revealing examples with contributions by prominent scholars who bring a fresh critical approach to bear on this important topic.

The Iranian Plateau during the Bronze Age

Meyer, Jan-Waalke, Emmanuelle Vila, Marjan Mashkour, Michèle Casanova & Régis Vallet (eds.). The Iranian plateau during the bronze age: Development of urbanisation, production and trade. Lyon: MOM Éditions.

The book compiles a portion of the contributions presented during the symposium “Urbanisation, commerce, subsistence and production during the third millennium BC on the Iranian Plateau”, which took place at the Maison de l’Orient et de la Méditerranée in Lyon, the 29-30 of April, 2014. The twenty papers assembled provide an overview of the recent archaeological research on this region of the Middle East during the Bronze Age. The socio-economic transformation from rural villages to towns and nations has prompted many questions into this evolution of urbanisation. What was the impact of interactions between cultures in the Iranian Plateau and the surrounding regions (Mesopotamia, the South Caucasus, Central Asia, Indus Valley)? What was the overall context during the Bronze Age on the Iranian Plateau? What was the extent and means of the expansion of the Kuro-Araxe culture? How did the Elamite Kingdom become established? What new knowledge has been contributed by the recent excavations and studies undertaken in the east of Iran? What was the influence of the Indus Valley culture, known as an epicentre of urbanisation in South Asia? What are the unique characteristics of the ancient cultures in Iran?

While the urbanisation of early Mesopotamia has been the subject of much debate for several decades, this topic has only recently been raised in respect to the Iranian Plateau. This volume is the product of an international community from Iranian, European, and American institutions, consisting of recognised specialists in the archaeology of the Iranian Bronze Age. It provides an overview of the latest research, including abundant results from current on-going excavations. The current state of archaeological research in Iran, comprising many dynamic questions and perspectives, is presented here in the form of original contributions on the first emergence of towns in the Near and Middle East.

Dynasties of Persia and figurative art

Compareti, Matteo. 2019. Dinastie di Persia e arte figurativa. Bibliografia ragionata per/un millennio e mezzo di iconografie iraniche. Bologna: edito da Paolo Emilio Persiani.

Dinastie di Persia e arte figurativa – Scopo di quest’opera è quello di fornire una bibliografia quanto più aggiornata e circostanziata possibile sulla produzione artistica persiana dall’epoca antica fino all’arrivo dei turchi selgiuchidi. Il testo si presenta quindi come una rassegna relativa a un periodo di tempo molto lungo, dalla metà del I millennio a.C. circa alla fine del I millennio d.C. Il volume – probabilmente tra i lavori più esaustivi per ciò che riguarda lo studio della civiltà e dell’arte persiana – può essere collocato tra le pietre miliari del settore. Obiettivo principale è quello di agevolare un’indagine quanto più documentata possibile della fase tardo-antica dell’arte iranica, con particolare riguardo all’epoca sasanide, secondo alcuni una sorta di “età dell’oro” persiana.
L’iconografia occupa un ruolo privilegiato all’interno della rassegna in senso ampio e onnicomprensivo, senza però sottrarre importanza a quelli che sono gli elementi di fondo mesopotamici e – a partire da una certa epoca – ellenistici, determinanti per la formazione della cultura iranica antica.
Saggio di natura storico-artistica, il lavoro di Compareti è eclettico e minuzioso anche per quanto concerne l’utilizzo delle fonti scritte (mesopotamiche, classiche, medio-iraniche, siriache, cinesi, islamiche, ecc.) atte a proporre identificazioni e letture altrimenti estremamente ardue. Lo studio è preceduto da un’introduzione del noto iranista e islamista Gianroberto Scarcia, da sempre attento testimone di ogni aspetto culturale prodotto in terra d’Iran.

The end of Middle East history

Bulliet, Richard. 2020. The end of Middle East history and other conjectures (Mizan Series 3). Harvard University Press.

The End of Middle East History and Other Conjectures is an unapologetic collection of imaginative essays from thought-provoking Middle East scholar Richard W. Bulliet. Not your ordinary think pieces, this volume collects for the first time Bulliet’s Big Bang–Big Crunch theory of Islamic history and his illuminating conception of the “Muslim South.” Speculations range from future political events to counterfactual histories of how reversal of the outcome of a 1529 battle might have profoundly altered history. After fifty years of posing and answering daring historical questions, Bulliet happily tackles an array of conjectures on subjects as diverse as the origin of civilization, the end of Middle East history, and future interpretations of the twentieth century.

Source: The End of Middle East History and Other Conjectures — Richard W. Bulliet | Harvard University Press

Rome, Persia, and Arabia

Fisher, Greg. 2019. Rome, Persia, and Arabia: Shaping the Middle East from Pompey to Muhammad. London and New York: Routledge.

Rome, Persia, and Arabia traces the enormous impact that the Great Powers of antiquity exerted on Arabia and the Arabs, between the arrival of Roman forces in the Middle East in 63 BC and the death of the Prophet Muhammad in AD 632.

Richly illustrated and covering a vast area from the fertile lands of South Arabia to the bleak deserts of Iraq and Syria, this book provides a detailed and captivating narrative of the way that the empires of antiquity affected the politics, culture, and religion of the Arabs. It examines Rome’s first tentative contacts in the Syrian steppe and the controversial mission of Aelius Gallus to Yemen, and takes in the city states, kingdoms, and tribes caught up in the struggle for supremacy between Rome and Persia, including the city state of Hatra, one of the many archaeological sites in the Middle East that have suffered deliberate vandalism at the hands of the ‘Islamic State’. The development of an Arab Christianity spanning the Middle East, the emergence of Arab fiefdoms at the edges of imperial power, and the crucial appearance of strong Arab leadership in the century before Islam provide a clear picture of the importance of pre-Islamic Arabia and the Arabs to understanding world and regional history.

Rome, Persia, and Arabia includes discussions of heritage destruction in the Middle East, the emergence of Islam, and modern research into the anthropology of ancient tribal societies and their relationship with the states around them. This comprehensive and wide-ranging book delivers an authoritative chronicle of a crucial but little known era in world history, and is for any reader with an interest in the ancient Middle East, Arabia, and the Roman and Persian empires.

A New Approach to the uštauuaitī Gāϑā

Kellens, Jean. 2019. Lecture sceptique et aventureuse de la Gâthâ uštauuaitī (Études Avestiques et Mazdéennes 6). Paris: de Boccard.

On the subject of this booklet, I ended my contribution to the Wiley Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism, published in 2015, but written in 2011, by expressing my conviction that the time had come to imagine new methods of approaching the Gâthâs and I have indeed tried it in my 2011-2012 (Kellens 2013a) and 2012-2013 (Kellens 2014a) course on the Gâthâ ahunauuaitī. I am trying to continue the experience with uštauuaitī (Yasna 43-46).

Ceramics and the Archaeological Achaemenid Horizon

Genito, Bruno & Giulio Maresca (eds.). 2019. Ceramics and the Archaeological Achaemenid Horizon: Near East, Iran and Central Asia. Napoli: Unior Press.

The book collects the proceedings of a workshop entitled “The Achaemenid Horizon in the Light of Ceramic Data: Production-related Issues and Cultural Interactions from the Ancient Near East to Central Asia” held at the Dipartimento Asia, Africa e Mediterraneo of the Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale” on January, 25th 2016. The idea was to organise a scientific colloquium to deal with the issue of the cultural interactions within the broad geographic area subject to the political control of the Achaemenid dynasty in the light of recent researches on the ceramic evidence from archaeological contexts both in “central” and “peripheral” territories of the Empire. The Organisers felt this was a particularly important task, since pottery production in this vast area during the Achaemenid period has always been an issue only partially known and, however, never addressed in a comprehensive way. Several reasons can be taken into account to explain this point. First of all the circumstance that the complex dynamics leading to the formation and to the development of the Achaemenid political and administrative entity, although quite well documented from an historical point of view, are in some cases somewhat evanescent if one tries to evaluate their material consistency on the field. In addition, the possibility to relate specific traces of the material culture to a cultural horizon clearly recognizable as “Achaemenid” seems to be an even more difficult task.
The workshop was conceived as a one-day colloquium having also the aim to develop a network to confront experiences, to share information, to open new research scenarios and to foster scientific cooperation.

Table of contents:

  • BRUNO GENITO, Introductory Issues on Archaeological Achaemenid Horizon
  • ALESSANDRO POGGIO, A Multi-Horizon Perspective. Western Anatolian Material Evidence in the Persian Period
  • ROCCO PALERMO, After the Empire. Archaeology of the Achaemenid and Early Hellenistic Period in the Heartland of Assyria
  • ROBERTO DAN, PRISCILLA VITOLO, MANUEL CASTELLUCCIA, ROWENA GIURA, From Urartu to “Media”. A Reassessment of socalled “Post-Urartian” or “Median” Pottery: 1. Vases with two Horned Handles
  • MANUEL CASTELLUCCIA, Some Remarks on Achaemenid Era Pottery. Assemblages from Transcaucasia
  • JACOPO BRUNO, Between the Iranian Plateau and Central Asia: the Ceramic Complex of the Upper Atrek Valley during the Achaemenid Period
  • GIULIO MARESCA, The Achaemenid Ceramic Horizon as seen from Ancient Zranka: an Overview
  • FABIANA RAIANO, Searching an Achaemenid Horizon in Sogdiana according to the Archaeological Evidences from the South-western Area of Samarkand
  • GIAN LUCA BONORA, The Cultural Persian and Achaemenid Evidence in the Inner Syrdarya Delta
  • ELISA IORI, Mind the Gap. Local Persistence and Iranian Legacy in Gandhara: New Evidence from Swat
  • Rémy BOUCHARLAT, Concluding Remarks