Chapters 11–12 of the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār

Sahner, Christian C. 2023. The definitive Zoroastrian critique of Islam. Chapters 11–12 of the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār by Mardānfarrox son of Ohrmazddād (Translated Texts for Historians). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Zoroastrianism was the religion of the ancient Persian kings and following the Arab conquest, it remained the religion of a significant portion of the population in Iran and parts of Central Asia. This book investigates the most important polemical treatise in the Zoroastrian tradition, the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār (“The Doubt-Dispelling Disquisition”), which was written by the theologian and philosopher Mardānfarrox son of Ohrmazddād. The text was composed in the ninth or tenth centuries in a language known as Middle Persian.

A sophisticated work of rationalist theology, the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār systematically critiques several rival religions of the late antique and early medieval Middle East, including Islam. The critique of Islam found in chapters 11 and 12 is the only sustained, systematic polemic against Islam in premodern Zoroastrian literature, one that attacks monotheism by focusing on the problem of evil. The text is of fundamental importance for understanding Iran’s transformation from a predominantly Zoroastrian society to a predominantly Muslim one during the Early Middle Ages.

This is the first book devoted to the Islamic sections of the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār. It provides a new translation and commentary of these important sections along with introductory chapters that explore Zoroastrians’ relationship with other religions in Late Antiquity and the early Islamic period; Mardānfarrox’s intellectual milieu (especially the influence of Islamic theology and interreligious debates); and the history of Zoroastrian polemics against Islam.

About this book

Reflections of Sasanian and post-Sasanian eras

Gyselen R. (ed.). 2023. Reflets d’époques sassanide et post-sassanide (224-760 A.D.) (Res Orientales, 30). Bures-sur-Yvette: Groupe pour l’Étude de la Civilisation du Moyen-Orient.

This volume brings together articles that present, comment on and interpret primary sources from the Sasanian and post-Sasanian periods. Few of the objects come from official excavations, unlike the clay sealings unearthed at Takt-e Solayman or Arabo-Sasanian copper coins from excavations at Susa, Qasr-i Abu Nasr, Naqs-i Rustam and Istakhr. Rare are the objects discovered accidentally, such as the Middle Persian document believed to have been found at Tang-e Boraq. The other objects came to us through the antiquities market: silver dishes, Arabo-Sasanian copper coins, seals and documents in Middle Persian. This volume completes the publication of the documents and bullae of the Tabarestan Archive.


Persian Computational Linguistics and NLP

Marszałek-Kowalewska, Katarzyna (ed.). 2023. Persian Computational Linguistics and NLP. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter.

This companion provides an overview of current work in the areas of Persian Computational Linguistics (CL) and Natural Language Processing (NLP). It covers a great number of topics and describes most innovative works of distinct academics researching the Persian language. The target group are researchers from computer science, linguistics, translation, psychology, philosophy, and mathematics who are interested in this topic.


The Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East

Rollinger, Robert, Irene Madreiter, Martin Lang & Cinzia Pappi (eds.). 2023. The Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East: Proceedings held at the 64th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale and the 12th Melammu Symposium, University of Innsbruck, July 16‒20, 2018 (Melammu Symposia 12). Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences.

The proceedings of the 12th Melammu Symposium is out. Among other interesting subjects, several papers contribute to aspects of ancient Iranian history and culture:

  • Josef Wiesehöfer: Ancient History and the Ancient Near East: Comments of an Ancient Historian
  • Daniel Beckman: On a Possible Assyrian Source of the Achaemenid Demand for “Earth and Water”
  • Eckart Otto: The Intellectual Heritage from the Neo-Assyrian Empire to the Achaemenids in the Western Reception History of the Book of Deuteronomy in the 16th and 17th Century
  • Rolf Strootman: Memories of Persian Kingship in the Hellenistic World
  • Tonia M. Sharlach: Over the Mountains: The Movement of Goods and People between Mesopotamia and Elam in the 21st Century BCE

Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2023. Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther: Achaemenid Court Culture in the Hebrew Bible. London: Bloomsbury.

Esther is the most visual book of the Hebrew Bible and largely crafted in the Fourth Century BCE by an author who was clearly au fait with the rarefied world of the Achaemenid court. It therefore provides an unusual melange of information which can enlighten scholars of Ancient Iranian Studies whilst offering Biblical scholars access into the Persian world from which the text emerged.

In this book, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones unlocks the text of Esther by reading it against the rich iconographic world of ancient Persia and of the Near East. Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther is a cultural and iconographic exploration of an important, but often undervalued, biblical book, and Llewellyn-Jones presents the book of Esther as a rich source for the study of life and thought in the Persian Empire. The author reveals answers to important questions, such as the role of the King’s courtiers in influencing policy, the way concubines at court were recruited, the structure of the harem in shifting the power of royal women, the function of feasting and drinking in the articulation of courtly power, and the meaning of gift-giving and patronage at the Achaemenid court.

Table of Contents
Why Iconography?
The Book of Esther: A New English Translation
i: The Persian Empire
ii: Jews in a Persian world
iii: The Book of Records: Persian perceptions of their past
iv: Persian Kingship
v: Susa and the palaces of Persia
vi: Laws and Governance; tax and tribute
vii: Banquets: drinking and feasting
viii: Gardens – Paradeisoi
ix: Couches and cups ; thrones and sceptres
x: Courtiers
xi: Vashti and her women
xii: Elite women at the Persian court
xiii: Royal concubinage
xiv: Beauty and sexuality
xv: Eunuchs
xvi: The royal gate
xvii: Royal protocol: audiences and formality
xviii: The royal robe and gift-giving
xix: Persian horses
xx: Signet rings and seals
xxi: Communications
xxii: Peace and rebellion
xxiii: Punishments and execution
Epilogue: Visualising Esther in the post-Persian world (5,000 words)


Xerxes: The Great King in Greece

Klinkott, Hilmar. 2023. Xerxes: Der Großkönig in Griechenland. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer.

Der Griechenland-Feldzug des persischen Großkönigs Xerxes I. ist bislang nicht aus einer konsequent östlichen Perspektive untersucht worden. Die Inschrift des Xerxes aus Persepolis XPl bietet methodisch dafür eine Grundlage als Leitfaden einer achaimenidischen Programmatik. Die Neubewertung des Griechenlandfeldzuges anhand dieser Inschrift ist weder ein Korrektiv der bestehenden Forschung noch ein Versuch, den Feldzug ereignis- oder militärgeschichtlich umfänglich zu rekonstruieren. Vielmehr nutzt Hilmar Klinkott sie als Schlüssel für das Verständnis ganz anderer, großköniglicher Akzente, Zielsetzungen und Bewertungen, die damit auch das Gesamtbild des Feldzuges prägen. Denn anders als aus griechischer Sicht war das Unternehmen für Xerxes unter gewissen Aspekten durchaus ein Erfolg.


From Samarqand to Toledo

Kaplony, Andreas & Matt Malczycki (eds.). 2022. From Samarqand to Toledo: Greek, Sogdian and Arabic documents and manuscripts from the Islamicate world and beyond (Islamic History and Civilization 201). Leiden: Brill.

Documents open up another an approach complementary to the overwhelming richness of literary tradition as preserved in manuscripts. This volume combines studies on Greek, Sogdian and Arabic documents (letters, legal agreements, and amulets) with studies on Arabic and Judeo-Arabic manuscripts (poetry, science and divination).

From the website

Following article in the volume is of particular interest to scholars of Sogdian:

Huseini, Said Reza. 2022. Thinking in Arabic, writing in Sogdian: Arabic-Sogdian diplomatic relations in the early eighth century. In Andreas Kaplony & Matt Malczycki (eds.), From Samarqand to Toledo: Greek, Sogdian and Arabic documents and manuscripts from the Islamicate world and beyond (Islamic History and Civilization 201), 67–87. Leiden: Brill.


Iranian and Minority Languages

Sedighi, Anousha (ed.). 2023. Iranian and minority languages at home and in diaspora. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

While the typology, syntax, and morphology of Iranian languages have been widely explored, the sociolinguistic aspects remain largely understudied. The present companion addresses this essential yet overlooked area of research in two ways: (i) The book explores multilingualism within Iran and its neighbouring countries. (ii) It also investigates Iranian heritage languages within the diasporic context of the West.

The scope of languages covered is vast: In addition to discussing Iranian minority languages such as Tati and Balochi, the book explores non-Iranian minority languages such as Azeri, Tukmen, Armenian and Mandaic. Furthermore, the companion investigates Iranian heritage languages such as Wakhi, Pashto, and Persian within their diasporic and global contexts.

From the website

The Babylonian Talmud

Amsler, Monika. 2023. The Babylonian Talmud and late antique book culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.

In this book, Monika Amsler explores the historical contexts in which the Babylonian Talmud was formed in an effort to determine whether it was the result of oral transmission. Scholars have posited that the rulings and stories we find in the Talmud were passed on from one generation to the next, each generation adding their opinions and interpretations of a given subject. Yet such an oral formation process is unheard of in late antiquity. Moreover, the model exoticizes the Talmud and disregards the intellectual world of Sassanid Persia. Rather than taking the Talmud’s discursive structure as a sign for orality, Amsler interrogates the intellectual and material prerequisites of composers of such complex works, and their education and methods of large-scale data management. She also traces and highlights the marks that their working methods inevitably left in the text. Detailing how intellectual innovation was generated, Amsler’s book also sheds new light on the content of the Talmud.

From Cambridge Core

Studi Iranici Ravennati

Panaino, Antonio, Andrea Piras and Paolo Ognibene (eds). 2023. Studi iranici ravennati IV (Indo-iranica et orientalia, Lazur 25). Milan: Mimesis.

This volume collects a number of scientific articles dealing with history, linguistics, philology, archaeology, ethnology and anthropology of the ancient and modern Iranian peoples.

From the website