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Routledge Handbook on the Sciences in Islamicate Societies

Brentjes, Sonja (ed.). 2023. Routledge handbook on the sciences in Islamicate societies: Practices from the 2nd/8th to the 13th/19th centuries. London: Routledge.

The Routledge Handbook on the Sciences in Islamicate Societies provides a comprehensive survey on science in the Islamic world from the 8th to the 19th century.

Across six sections, a group of subject experts discuss and analyze scientific practices across a wide range of Islamicate societies. The authors take into consideration several contexts in which science was practiced, ranging from intellectual traditions and persuasions to institutions, such as courts, schools, hospitals, and observatories, to the materiality of scientific practices, including the arts and craftsmanship. Chapters also devote attention to scientific practices of minority communities in Muslim majority societies, and Muslim minority groups in societies outside the Islamicate world, thereby allowing readers to better understand the opportunities and constraints of scientific practices under varying local conditions.

Through replacing Islam with Islamicate societies, the book opens up ways to explain similarities and differences between diverse societies ruled by Muslim dynasties. This handbook will be an invaluable resource for both established academics and students looking for an introduction to the field. It will appeal to those involved in the study of the history of science, the history of ideas, intellectual history, social or cultural history, Islamic studies, Middle East and African studies including history, and studies of Muslim communities in Europe and South and East Asia.

From the website
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Oedipus and Jocasta on a ‘Bactrian’ Silver Bowl

Dan, Anca & Frantz Grenet. 2022. Oedipus and Jocasta on a ‘Bactrian’ Silver Bowl in the Hermitage, c. 350-500. Journal Asiatique 330 (1), 55-79.

Silver bowl from Kustanai, now in Hermitage S–62; 15.5 × 5.2 cm, 4th-5th c., with scenes from Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus. After Marshak 2000: no. 31, and Ivanov, Lukonin, and Smesova 1984, fig. 39. Photo courtesy State Hermitage Museum.

Elites of the Hunnish states, including Tokharistan (ancient Bactria) and Northwest India from the 4th century, not only appreciated Greco-Roman art, inherited or imported, but also had a good knowledge of the Hellenic mythological cycles. Among the small silver bowls called ‘Bactrian’, attributed by Boris Marshak to the period after the Sasanian withdrawal from Central Asia, the one discovered at Kustanai (Hermitage, S-62) is decorated with scenes inspired mainly by Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus. While following the text sometimes literally (e.g. by portraying Oedipus as a child of Fortune), and using a Hellenistic iconographic repertoire which had become ‘Indianized’ during the Kushan period, the artist who executed the model transposed the Sophoclean plot in five scenes, adapting it to his customers’ interests: the son’s marriage to his mother, highlighted on this vase like nowhere else in ancient art, recommends the couple as a Zoroastrian ethical model. The tragic fault now lies with the servant, who did not expose the newborn Oedipus and did not tell the truth on the parricide: the confrontation between the lying servant and the sincere, generous Jocasta, gives the key to a cathartic reading of this vase.

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Oral Narration in Iranian Cultures

Nourzaei, Maryam, Carina Jahani & Agnes Korn (eds.). 2022. Oral Narration in Iranian Cultures (Beiträge zur Iranistik, 48). Wiesbaden: Reichert.

This volume presents papers demonstrating the current state of research on oral traditions among different groups in the Iranian-speaking cultural sphere. The articles offer from a variety of perspectives, encouraging the exchange of ideas between different academic disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, linguistics, literature, religious studies and folklore studies concerning methods and models applied to studies of oral traditions in Iranian languages and cultures.

To see the ToC, click here.

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The reign of the strongest

Coloru, Omar. 2022. Il regno del piú forte: La lunga contesa per l’Impero di Alessandro Magno (IV-III sec. A.C.). Roma: Salerno editrice.

Babilonia, giugno 323 a.C. La morte di Alessandro Magno getta lo scompiglio tra i Macedoni: chi dovrà succedere al trono di uno dei piú vasti imperi della storia se i due eredi legittimi sono un figlio che deve ancora nascere e un fratellastro affetto da un ritardo mentale? Si diffonde addirittura la voce che in punto di morte il sovrano abbia detto che lascerà il suo regno al migliore dei suoi generali. La competizione per l’eredità di Alessandro innesca una lotta di potere senza esclusione di colpi aprendo di fatto l’età dei Diadochi, i Successori di Alessandro che dopo decenni di conflitti daranno vita ai regni ellenistici. L’autore esplora le dinamiche in gioco in questo periodo mostrando come lo scenario geopolitico emerso dalle guerre sia stato plasmato dall’interazione dei fattori di forza e debolezza. Quello dei Diadochi è infatti un mondo precario in cui il potere va continuamente confermato, gli equilibri delle forze e i ruoli sociali si ribaltano in modo improvviso trasformando i forti in deboli e viceversa. Tra signori della guerra, avventurieri e regine combattive, l’età dei Diadochi cambierà per sempre il corso della storia nel Mediterraneo.

Table of contents:

Introduzione

I. Al migliore

1. Il migliore è il piú forte

2. La declinazione della forza

II. I deboli

1. Il problema della successione

2. Filippo Arrideo

3. Alessandro IV

4. Eracle

5. Le donne di Alessandro dopo Alessandro

5.1. Le principesse iraniche: Barsine, Parisatide, Rossane e Statira

5.2. Principesse e regine macedoni: Cinnane, Cleopatra, Euridice, Olimpiade e Tessalonice

6. Eumene di Cardia, un condottiero forte in una posizione debole

6.1. Da segretario a governatore

6.2. Il duello

6.3. Verso est

6.4. La fine

III. Violenza e terrore

1. Il potere della violenza

2. Crimini in famiglia

3. Crudeltà

4. Rex tremendae maiestatis

Conclusioni

Bibliografia

Cartine

Genealogie

Indici

Indice dei nomi

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Studies inspired by Agnes Korn

Suleymanov, Murad & Dorian Pastor (eds.). 2022. Tous les chemins menent a Paris: Studies inspired by Agnes Korn. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.

This volume is a collection of nine papers by various authors focussing on issues of etymology, historical language contact, morphology and syntax, typological modelling, and folk practices in the Caucasus–Iran–Central Asia area and its immediate vicinity. The volume is a humble token of appreciation offered by the authors to Dr Agnes Korn to honour her continuing support for young researchers during her time in Paris and to highlight her wide array of research interests.

For the table of contents, see here.

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Studies of Bactrian Legal Documents

Sheikh, Hossein. 2023. Studies of Bactrian legal documents (Ancient Iran Series 15). Brill.

Studies of Bactrian Legal Documents deals with legal texts written in Bactrian, an eastern Middle Iranian language, between the 4th and 8th centuries CE. The work aims to give insight in the Bactrian legal formulary as well as its historical context. In order to achieve that, the author carefully examines the terms and phrases in the legal documents and clarifies their function. Then he explores the historical background of expressions and wordings. To this end, he uses documents from other regions of the Near East spanning from Egypt to Turkestan.

From the book’s website
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Sasanian Archaeology

Simpson, St John. 2022. Sasanian Archaeology: Settlements, Environment and Material Culture. Oxford: Archaeopress.

The Sasanian empire was one of the great powers of Late Antiquity, and for four centuries ruled the vast region stretching from Syria and the Caucasus to Central Asia. Classical, Armenian, Jewish and Arab written sources throw light on its history, and studies of its rock reliefs, stuccoes, silver, silks, coins and glyptic have created a picture of a rich courtly culture with a strong Iranian character. However, the everyday material culture is much less understood, as is the economy which sustained and supported the Sasanian empire and underpinned its consistent military superiority over its western rivals. This collection of essays looks at these aspects and offers an approach based almost entirely on archaeological and scientific research, much presented here for the first time. This book is divided into three parts which in turn examine evidence for Sasanian sites, settlements and landscapes, their complex agricultural resources, and their crafts and industries. Each section is preceded by an essay setting out the wider research questions and current state of knowledge. The book begins and ends with a general introduction and conclusion setting out why this new approach is necessary, and how it helps change our perceptions of the complexity and power of the Sasanian empire.

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Zoroastrians in Early Islamic History

Magnusson, Andrew D. 2023. Zoroastrians in Early Islamic History: Accommodation and Memory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Examines debates about the inclusion or exclusion of Zoroastrians in Islamic society circa 600-1000 C.E.

  • Makes a significant contribution to the literature on interfaith relations in Islamic history
  • Demonstrates the role of advocacy in shaping early Islamic policy
  • Argues against the assumption that Zoroastrians were People of the Book
  • Engages theories of accommodation and of memory, from North America, the Middle East and Europe
  • Utilises archival material from Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States

The second Muslim caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab, once reportedly exclaimed, ‘I do not know how to treat Zoroastrians!’ He and other Muslims encountered Zoroastrians during the conquest of Arabia but struggled to formulate a consistent policy toward the adherents of a religion that was neither biblical nor polytheistic. Some Muslims saw Zoroastrians as pagans and sought to limit interaction with them. Others found ways to incorporate them within the empire of Islamic law. Andrew D. Magnusson describes the struggle between advocates of inclusion and exclusion, the ultimate accommodation of Zoroastrians, and the reasons that Muslim historians have subsequently buried the memory of this relationship.

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The World of Alexander in Perspective

Rollinger, Robert & Julian Degen (eds.). 2022. The World of Alexander in Perspective: Contextualizing Arrian (Classica et Orientalia 30). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

This volume is a collection of papers that have been given at an international conference in December 2019 in Bregenz, Austria. They focus on Arrian of Nicomedia’s Anabasis Alexandrou which is our main source for the life and reign of Alexander the Great. So far, scholarship has paid only little attention to the Anabasis as literary cosmos of its own right. The various contributions critically evaluate the still extant general opinion, that Arrian deserves a distinguished status as the main source on the Macedonian conqueror since he allegedly closely followed his sources. But the first accounts of the participants in Alexander’s famous expedition have only survived as fragments and thus their literary production is more or less shrouded in mystery. Hence, the tension between Arrian’s literary creativity, propinquity to his sources, his relationship to his role-model Xenophon merits serious examination when assessing the value of his work as a historical source.

The volume is the first attempt to contextualize the work of Arrian against various backdrops. This includes the reign of Alexander, the Classical and contemporary literary trends, the Second Sophistic as intellectual framework, the until yet neglected idea of “empire” as well as echoes and stimuli from the Achaemenid and Hellenistic period. The various contributions create a more complex image of Arrian as an author, his literary production and his idea of the Macedonian conqueror that helps us to gain a better understanding of this complex text and Alexander the Great as its protagonist.

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The End of Empires

Gehler, Michael, Robert Rollinger & Philipp Strobl (eds.). The End of Empires. Wiesbaden: Springer.

The articles of this comprehensive edited volume offer a multidisciplinary, global and comparative approach to the history of empires. They analyze their ends over a long spectrum of humankind’s history, ranging from Ancient History through Modern Times. As the main guiding question, every author of this volume scrutinizes the reasons for the decline, the erosion, and the implosion of individual empires.

All contributions locate and highlight different factors that triggered or at least supported the ending or the implosion of empires. This overall question makes all the contributions to this volume comparable and allows to detect similarities, differences as well as inconsistencies of historical processes.

Several contributions tackle with the problems of the end of ancient Iranian empires: