Category Archives: Books

Reign of Arrows

Overtoom, Nikolaus Leo. 2020. Reign of Arrows: The Rise of the Parthian Empire in the Hellenistic Middle East. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

From its origins as a minor nomadic tribe to its status as a major world empire, the rise of the Parthian state in the ancient world is nothing short of remarkable. In their early history, the Parthians benefitted from strong leadership, a flexible and accommodating cultural identity, and innovative military characteristics that allowed them to compete against and even overcome Greek, Persian, Central Asian, and eventually Roman rivals. Reign of Arrows provides the first comprehensive study, in almost a century, dedicated entirely to early Parthian history. Assimilating a wide array of especially recent scholarship across numerous fields of study, Nikolaus Overtoom presents the most cogent, well rounded, and up-to-date account of the Parthian empire in its wider context of Hellenistic history. It explains the political and military encounters that shaped the international environment of the Hellenistic Middle East from the middle third to the early first centuries BCE. This study combines traditional historical approaches, such as source criticism and the integration of material evidence, with the incorporation of modern international relations theory to better examine the emergence and expansion of Parthian power. Relevant to historians, classicists, political scientists, and general readers interested in the ancient world and military history, Reign of Arrows reimagines and reconstructs the rise of the Parthians within the hotly contested and dangerously competitive international environment of the Hellenistic world.

Lives of Sogdians in Medieval China

Huber, Moritz. 2020. Lives of Sogdians in medieval China (Asiatische Forschungen 160). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Sogdians, a group of Central Asians based between the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, played a significant historical role at the crossroads of the Silk Roads. Travelling the world as caravan leaders, organised in trading networks, they were found from Byzantium to the Chinese heartland. The Sogdian language was a candidate for the lingua franca of the Silk Roads for some hundred years and Sogdians acted as polyglot mediators at courts and prominent translators of Buddhist texts. In the Chinese capitals, fire temples were erected for their use and the exotic products they imported were cherished by the people and the court.
This socio-historical study by Moritz Huber provides a translation of the transmitted Chinese records on Sogdians in Sogdiana and China and combines them with archaeological evidence to present a differentiated picture of their presence in China from the 3rd to 10th century CE. Besides the transcription and translation of all epitaphs of Sogdians from an archaeological context, used to tell their interconnected biographies, as well as a detailed discussion of their political organisation in China under the sabao 薩保/薩寶, this publication further includes a case-study of the Shi 史 families in Guyuan 固原, Ningxia 寧夏 Province.

Zoroastrian Scholasticism in Late Antiquity

Zeini, Arash. 2020. Zoroastrian scholasticism in late antiquity. The Pahlavi version of the Yasna Haptaŋhāiti. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

In late antiquity, Zoroastrian exegetes set out to translate their ancient canonical texts into Middle Persian, the vernacular of their time. Although undated, these translations, commonly known as the Zand, are often associated with the Sasanian era (224–651 ce). Despite the many challenges the Zand offers to us today, it is indispensable for investigations of late antique exegesis of the Avesta, a collection of religious and ritual texts commonly regarded as the Zoroastrians’ scripture.

Arash Zeini also offers a fresh edition of the Middle Persian version of the Avestan Yasna Haptaŋhāiti, a ritual text composed in the Old Iranian language of Avestan, commonly dated to the middle of the second millennium bce. Zeini challenges the view that considers the Zand’s study an auxiliary science to Avestan studies, framing the text instead within the exegetical context from which it emerged.

Zaraθuštrōtǝma: Zoroastrian and Iranian Studies in Honour of Philip Kreyenbroek

Farridnejad, Shervin (ed.). 2020. Zaraθuštrōtǝma: Zoroastrian and Iranian studies in honour of Philip G. Kreyenbroek (Ancient Iran Series 10). Irvine: Jordan Center for Persian Studies.

This Festschrift is a collection of articles dedicated to one of the most distinguished scholars of Iranian Studies and a most prolific teacher of Zoroastrian and Kurdish literatures and religions, Philip G. Kreyenbroek. The volume consists of thirteen contributions, brings together some of the best-known experts in their fields to reflect the love and admiration of his students, colleagues and friends and are representative of some of his wide-ranging scholarly interests, including Zoroastrian literature and rituals as well as Iranian philology and mythology.

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Orientalism and the Reception of Powerful Women

Carlà-Uhink, Filippo & Anja Wieber (eds.). 2020. Orientalism and the reception of powerful women from the ancient world. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

This volume investigates how ancient women, and particularly powerful women, such as queens and empresses, have been re-imagined in Western (and not only Western) arts; highlights how this re-imagination and re-visualization is, more often than not, the product of Orientalist stereotypes – even when dealing with women who had nothing to do with Eastern regions; and compares these images with examples of Eastern gaze on the same women. Through the chapters in this volume, readers will discover the similarities and differences in the ways in which women in power were and still are described and decried by their opponents.

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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.

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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.

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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.