Introduction to the Avesta

Kellens, Jean, and Céline Redard. 2021. Introduction à l’Avesta: Le récitatif liturgique sacré des zoroastriens. Les Belles Lettres.

Almost all religions of the contemporary world refer to a book that their followers consider sacred. The Avesta, the sacred book of the Zoroastrian communities of Iran, India and the diaspora is one of them, which bears witness to the origins of the pre-Islamic religion of the Iranian peoples.

Something, however, demands a closer look. Often approached as the theoretical expression of a religious doctrine or the mirror of a forgotten history and geography, the Avesta is also a literary engine whose mechanisms can be dismantled, that is, the precise analysis of the mode of transmission, the particularities of structure and the liturgical intentions presided over these textual assemblies.

Such is the ambition of this book, which traces the evolution of research from its origins to the advances of the 21st century, when our understanding of the Avesta was revolutionised.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapitre 1. Formation de la philologie avestique
  • Chapitre 2. La mise par écrit de l’Avesta
  • Chapitre 3. Le matériel manuscrit
  • Chapitre 4. Le texte transmis : l’Avesta
  • Chapitre 5. Analyse interne des textes constitutifs de l’Avesta
  • En guise de conclusion : un essai de chronologie

Iran’s Conversion to Islam

Pohl, Walter, and Daniel Mahoney, editors. Historiography and Identity IV: Writing History across Medieval Eurasia. Brepols, 2021.

Explores the social function of historical writing from across various world regions from Europe through the Islamic world to China, around the turn of the millennium, and how they construct and shape identities, as well as communicate ‘visions of community’ and legitimate political claims.

Historical writing has shaped identities in various ways and to different extents. This volume explores this multiplicity by looking at case studies from Europe, Byzantium, the Islamic World, and China around the turn of the first millennium. The chapters in this volume address official histories and polemical critique, traditional genres and experimental forms, ancient traditions and emerging territories, empires and barbarians. The authors do not take the identities highlighted in the texts for granted, but examine the complex strategies of identification that they employ. This volume thus explores how historiographical works in diverse contexts construct and shape identities, as well as legitimate political claims and communicate ‘visions of community’.

Two chapter of this volume are of special interests for Iranian studies:


The Srōš Drōn – Yasna 3 to 8

Redard, Céline. 2021. The Srōš Drōn – Yasna 3 to 8. A Critical Edition with Ritual Commentaries and Glossary (Corpus Avesticum 3). Leiden: Brill.

This book is a multi-faceted study of the Srōš Drōn, comprising chapters 3 to 8 of the Yasna ceremony, the core ritual of the Zoroastrian religion. It provides a critical edition produced with the electronic tools of the project The Multimedia Yasna, and a study of the performative aspects of the Srōš Drōn both through the lens of the ritual directions and in comparison with the Drōn Yašt ceremony.
By analysing the Srōš Drōn both as a text attested in manuscripts and as a ritual performance, Céline Redard applies a new approach to unlock the meaning of these chapters of the Yasna.


Commagene in its Local, Regional and Global Hellenistic Context

Blömer, Michael, Stefan Riedel, Miguel John Versluys & Engelbert Winter (eds.). 2021. Common Dwelling Place of all the Gods: Commagene in its Local, Regional and Global Hellenistic Conte (Oriens et Occidens Band 34). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

The history and archaeology of Hellenistic Commagene is a rich field of study, not in the least because of the remarkable monuments and inscriptions of king Antiochos I (c. 70–36 BC). Over the last decades important new work has been done on Commagene proper, providing novel interpretations of the epigraphical and historical record or the archaeological data and individual sites, like Nemrud Dağ, Samosata or Arsameia. Simultaneously scholars have tried to better understand Hellenistic Commagene by situating the region and its history in a wider Mediterranean and Near Eastern context. This long-awaited book provides a critical evaluation of all these new data and ideas on the basis of a theoretically embedded, state-of-the-art overview for the history and archaeology of Hellenistic Commagene. From this volume a new picture emerges in which Hellenistic Commagene is no longer understood as peripheral and out-of-the-ordinary, but as an important node in a global Hellenistic network, from Ai-Khanoum to Pompeii and from Alexandria to Armawir.

Table of Content

  • Rachel Mairs: ‘Ai Khanoum God with Feet of Marble’ . Reading Ai Khanoum through Commagene
    Stefan R. Hauser: ‘Hellenized Iranians?’ Antiochos I and the Power of Image
  • Matthew P. Canepa: Commagene Before and Beyond Antiochos I. Dynastic Identity, Topographies of Power and Persian Spectacular Religion 71
  • Helen Fragaki: Reversing Points of Reference. Commagene and the Anfushy Necropolis from Alexandria in Modern Scholarship
  • Margherita Facella: Sovereignty and Autonomy in the Hellenistic Coins of Commagene
  • Werner Oenbrink: The Late-Hellenistic Architecture of Commagene
    Lennart Kruijer & Stefan Riedel: Transforming Objectscapes in Samosata
    The Impact of the Palatial Complex
  • Bruno Jacobs: The Syncretistic Episode in Late-Hellenistic Commagene. The Greek-Persian Religious Concept of Antiochos I and the Ethnicity
    of the Local Population
  • Albert de Jong: Dynastic Zoroastrianism in Commagene: The Religion of King Antiochos
  • Rolf Strootman: Orontid Kingship in its Hellenistic Context. The Seleucid Connections of Antiochos I of Commagene
  • Anna Collar:  Time, Echoes and Experience. Perceiving the Landscape in Commagene
  • Giusto Traina: Armenia and the ‘Orontid Connection’. Some Remarks on Strabo, Geography 11,14,15
  • Lara Fabian: Beyond and Yet In-between. The Caucasus and the Hellenistic Oikoumene
  • Vito Messina: Beyond Greece and Babylonia. Global and Local at Seleucia on the Tigris
  • Orit Peleg-Barkat: Herodian Art and Architecture as Reflections of King Herod’s Many Faces
  • Stephan G. Schmid: Was There a Nabataean Identity – And If Yes, How Many?
  • Christoph Michels: ‘Achaemenid’ and ‘Hellenistic’ Strands of Representation in the Minor Kingdoms of Asia Minor
  • Monika Trümper: Delos Beyond East and West. Cultural Choices in Domestic Architecture
  • Annette Haug:  Decoscapes in Hellenistic Italy. Figurative Polychrome Mosaics between Local and Global
  • Achim Lichtenberger: Hellenistic Commagene in Context. Is ‘Global’ the Answer and Do We Have to Overcome Cultural ‘Containers’?

Iranian names in Nebenüberlieferungen of Indo-European languages

Martirosyan, Hrach. 2021. Iranische Namen in Nebenüberlieferungen Indogermanischer Sprachen (Iranisches Personennamenbuch, 5. 3). Wien: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

The Iranian element is the largest layer of the Armenian borrowed lexicon. It comprises a period of more than 2.500 years starting from pre-Achaemenid times up to the modern period. Also the number of Armenian personal names of Iranian origin is quite large, roughly estimated one quarter of all Armenian personal names. The Armenian evidence is of vital importance for completing the Iranian onomasticon. In many cases, Middle Persian and Parthian namesakes of Armenian personal names are not directly attested. Besides, Armenian helps to determine the exact shape of Iranian names. The present fascicle of the “Iranisches Personennamenbuch” aims to collect and etymologically interpret all the Iranian personal names, which are attested in Armenian texts up to 1300 CE. Occasionally, it also comprises names that are attested at a later stage but are likely to belong to earlier periods, as well as younger forms that are related with older names and are therefore relevant for the philological or etymological discussion of the latter. The volume comprises 872 entries and includes (1) names of Iranian people of various kinds (kings, queens, princes, generals, etc.) that occur in Armenian texts, and (2) names of Iranian origin that were/are borne by Armenian people. It includes a huge range of new etymologies or corrected versions of pre-existing etymologies, as well as new names and corrected forms of names discovered in critical texts and voluminous corpora of inscriptions and colophons of Armenian manuscripts that have not been available for earlier researchers of the Armenian onomastics.


William Barker, Xenophon’s ‘Cyropædia’

Grogan, Jane (ed.). 2020. William Barker, Xenophon’s ‘Cyropædia’ (Tudor and Stuart Translation 13). Cambridge: Modern Humanities Research Association.

William Barker’s translation of Xenophon’s Cyropaedia is the first substantial translation from Greek directly to English in Tudor England. It presents to its English readers an extraordinarily important text for humanists across Europe: a semi-fictional biography of the ancient Persian emperor, Cyrus the Great, so generically rich that it became (in England as well as Europe) a popular authority and model in the very different fields of educational, political and literary theory, as well as in literature by Sidney, Spenser and others.

This edition, for the first time, identifies its translator as a hitherto overlooked figure from the circle of Sir John Cheke at St John’s College, Cambridge, locus of an important and influential revival of Greek scholarship. A prolific translator from Greek and Italian, Barker was a Catholic, and spent most of his career working as secretary to Thomas Howard, fourth Duke of Norfolk. What little notoriety he eventually gained was as the ‘Italianified Englishman’ who told of Howard’s involvement in the Ridolfi plot. But even here, this edition shows, Barker’s intellectual patronage by Cheke and friends, and their enduring support of him, his translations and the Chekeian agenda, can be discerned.


Der ‚reiche Orient‘: Imagination und Faszination

Thomas, Louisa. 2021. Der ‚reiche Orient‘: Imagination und Faszination. Darstellungen des asiatischen Wohlstandes in griechischen Quellen des 5. und 4. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Classica et Orientalia, 2). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Noch heute dominiert in Europa ein sehr einseitiges und mit Klischees des ‚Andersseins‘ behaftetes Bild des Nahen Ostens. Besonders manifestiert sich dieses in Literatur, Kunst und Film, doch auch auf politischer und gesellschaftlicher Ebene ist es von festgefahrenen Erwartungen geprägt. Die Ursprünge dieser Erwartungen sind besonders in der griechischen Historiographie des 5. und 4. Jahrhunderts v.Chr. anzusiedeln, einer Zeit, die durch die sogenannten Perserkriege sowie den Asienfeldzug Alexanders III. von Makedonien (des Großen) in besonderem Maße von Auseinandersetzungen zwischen der griechischen Welt und dem persischen Großreich geprägt war.

Die Autorin widmet sich vor allem einer der zahllosen stereotypen Erwartungen an die Reiche des Alten Orients und deren Herrschern: der Vorstellung des Wohlstands und der Opulenz. In diesem Zusammenhang gilt ihr besonderes Augenmerk der mit verschiedenen Topoi versehenen Darstellung des ‚orientalischen Reichtums‘ in den Quellen. Dabei arbeitet sie heraus, inwiefern die griechische Historiographie sich den ‚Orient‘ im Zuge eines hellenischen bzw. athenischen Reichtums- und Luxusdiskurses zu Nutze machte, wie sie das Stereotyp des ‚orientalischen Wohlstandes‘ wirkmächtig propagierte und schließlich sogar als Aufforderung zum Beutekrieg nutzbar machte.

For the ToC, see here.


Taxation in the Achaemenid Empire

Kleber, Kristin (ed.). 20201. Taxation in the Achaemenid Empire (Classica et Orientalia, 26). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Achaemenid Studies fall between the academic divisions of Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Archeology, Ancient History, Classical Philology, Egyptology and Semitic Languages. No single scholar can cover the many cultures that were united under the umbrella of this huge empire alone and in-depth. Interdisciplinary approaches are a necessity in order to tackle the challenges that the diverse textual records in Akkadian, Demotic Egyptian, Elamite, Aramaic and Greek present us with.

This volume, the proceedings of a conference on taxation and fiscal administration in the Achaemenid Empire held in Amsterdam in 2018, contains contributions on Babylonia, Egypt, the Levant, Asia Minor and Arachosia, written by specialists in the respective languages and cultures. The question that lies at the basis of this volume is how the empire collected revenue from the satrapies, whether and how local institutions were harnessed to make imperial rule successful. The contributions investigate what kind of taxes were imposed in what area and how tax collection was organized and administered. Since we lack imperial state archives, local records are the more important, as they are our only reliable source that allows us to move beyond the famous but unverifiable statement on Achaemenid state finances in Herodotus, Histories 3, 89–97.

For table of contents, see here.


A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire

Jacobs, Bruno & Robert Rollinger (eds.). 2021. A companion to the Achaemenid Persian empire. 2 vols. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell.

The Achaemenid Empire is often addressed as the first World Empire. However, its roots are in Near Eastern traditions, some of which have been the subject of recent intensive reevaluation. This book takes a unique and innovative approach to the subject, considering those predecessors to whom the Achaemenid Empire was indebted for its structure, ideology, and self-expression, by examining both written and archaeological sources. It addresses the empire’s legacy, and its contemporary, later, and even modern reception.

A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire takes into account all relevant historical sources, including archaeological ones. It places particular emphasis on looking at the Achaemenid Empire from its different centers, paying just as much attention to the widely neglected eastern parts as to the commonly covered western parts of the empire. The book considers, not only its political history, but also its social, economic, and religious history, institutions, and art and science, in an effort to draw a complete picture of the empire and to foster an appreciation for its lasting reputation.


Christian and Zoroastrian Doctrine of Apokatastasis

Panaino, Antonio. 2021. The “River of Fire” and the “River of Molten Metal”. A historico-theological rafting through the rapids of the Christian and Mazdean apokatastatic falls. Vol. 86. Wien: Verlag der Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

This book is dedicated to the Mazdean theological representation of the end of historical time. While the subject is usually treated in the framework of the category of apocalypticism, scholarly debate has rarely dealt with the more appropriate theme of the apokatastasis (the complete regeneration of the world with the annihilation of Hell and the salvation of the whole humanity). The doctrine of Ohrmazd’s universal mercy was an innovation in the religious scenario of ancient Iran, but its connections with some Christian theologies of Late Antiquity still need to be investigated within a comparative analysis of the Iranian motif of the “river of molten metal”, which will purify the wicked ones and destroy Hell.