Category Archives: Books

Die Entstehung des Münzporträts in der griechisch-persischen Tradition

Müseler, Wilhelm. 2020. Vom Symbol zum Ebenbild: Die Entstehung des Münzporträts in der griechisch-persischen Tradition. Gephyra 19, 69-99.

Die Darstellung von Menschen mit deutlich wiedererkennbaren individuellen Zügen auf Mün-zen entwickelte sich im Grenzbereich zwischen dem griechischen und dem persischen Kultur-raum als Folge von komplexer gewordenen politischen Machtstrukturen vor Ort. Wo zu-nächst das Symbol einer politischen Körperschaft oder die Abbildung einer lediglich mit den Attributen königlicher Herrschaft ausgestatteten Figur ohne irgendwelche weiteren persönli-chen Merkmale genügt hatte, um die Garantie für die Wertigkeit des Geldes durch eine über-geordnete Autorität zu unterstreichen, machte die zunehmende Produktion von Münzen durch Akteure auf untergeordneten hierarchischen Ebenen, welche als Vermittler, bisweilen aber auch als Konkurrenten einer gegebenen Herrschaftsstruktur auftreten konnten, eine im-mer differenziertere Kennzeichnung der Verantwortlichkeit für die Prägungen und des damit ausgedrückten Machtanspruches notwendig. Es ist kein Zufall, dass ausgerechnet Lykien mit seiner eher peripheren Lage und seiner Vielzahl an kleinen, von konkurrierenden dynastischen Clans kontrollierten Machtzentren auf engstem Raum, die ersten echten Ansätze zu einer indi-viduellen Gestaltung des Herrscherbildnisses auf Münzen hervorgebracht hat. Mit der Auflö-sung der überkommenen politischen Strukturen in Kleinasien und im ganzen Vorderen Orient in der Folge des Feldzuges Alexanders des Grossen kam es zu weiträumigen geopolitischen Veränderungen und einer erheblichen Zunahme von regionalen Machtblöcken, die alle über eine eigene Münzproduktion verfügten und die sich ihre Einflussbereiche gegenseitig streitig machten. Da es in der Folge vor allem darum ging, dass die verschiedenen Prägeherren mit ihrem Geld auch von schriftunkundigen Nutzern klar voneinander unterschieden werden konnten, führte dies, namentlich bei den ptolemaischen und den seleukidischen Geprägen, zu einer verstärkten Individualisierung der Herrscherbildnisse auf den Münzen. Nur in abgelege-nen Regionen wie der Persis, wo es so gut wie keinen stetigen Zustrom und Umlauf von kon-kurrierenden Währungen gab, erfüllten nur symbolische Porträts der Regenten noch eine Zeit lang ihren ursprünglichen Zweck.

Rome, Parthia, and the Politics of Peace

Schlude, Jason M. 2020. Rome, Parthia, and the politics of peace: The origins of war in the ancient Middle East. London: Routledge.

This volume offers an informed survey of the problematic relationship between the ancient empires of Rome and Parthia from c. 96/95 BCE to 224 CE. Schlude explores the rhythms of this relationship and invites its readers to reconsider the past and our relationship with it.

Some have looked to this confrontation to help explain the roots of the long-lived conflict between the West and the Middle East. It is a reading symptomatic of most scholarship on the subject, which emphasizes fundamental incompatibility and bellicosity in Roman–Parthian relations. Rather than focusing on the relationship as a series of conflicts, Rome, Parthia, and the Politics of Peace responds to this common misconception by highlighting instead the more cooperative elements in the relationship and shows how a reconciliation of these two perspectives is possible. There was, in fact, a cyclical pattern in the Roman–Parthian interaction, where a reality of peace and collaboration became overshadowed by images of aggressive posturing projected by powerful Roman statesmen and emperors for a domestic population conditioned to expect conflict. The result was the eventual realization of these images by later Roman opportunists who, unsatisfied with imagined war, sought active conflict with Parthia.

The Parsi community of India and the making of modern Iran

Marashi, Afshin. 2020. Exile and the nation: the Parsi community of India and the making of modern Iran. Austin: University of Texas Press.

In the aftermath of the seventh-century Islamic conquest of Iran, Zoroastrians departed for India. Known as the Parsis, they slowly lost contact with their ancestral land until the nineteenth century, when steam-powered sea travel, the increased circulation of Zoroastrian-themed books, and the philanthropic efforts of Parsi benefactors sparked a new era of interaction between the two groups.

Tracing the cultural and intellectual exchange between Iranian nationalists and the Parsi community during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Exile and the Nation shows how this interchange led to the collective reimagining of Parsi and Iranian national identity—and the influence of antiquity on modern Iranian nationalism, which previously rested solely on European forms of thought. Iranian nationalism, Afshin Marashi argues, was also the byproduct of the complex history resulting from the demise of the early modern Persianate cultural system, as well as one of the many cultural heterodoxies produced within the Indian Ocean world. Crossing the boundaries of numerous fields of study, this book reframes Iranian nationalism within the context of the connected, transnational, and global history of the modern era.


  • Note on Transliteration and Dates
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. To Bombay and Back: Arbab Kaykhosrow Shahrokh and the Reinvention of Iranian Zoroastrianism
  • Chapter 2. Patron and Patriot: Dinshah J. Irani, Parsi Philanthropy, and the Revival of Indo-Iranian Culture
  • Chapter 3. Imagining Hafez: Rabindranath Tagore in Iran, 1932
  • Chapter 4. Ebrahim Purdavud and His Interlocutors: Parsi Patronage and the Making of the Vernacular Avesta
  • Chapter 5. Sword of Freedom: Abdulrahman Saif Azad and Interwar Iranian Nationalism
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

From Albania to Arrān

Hoyland, Robert (ed.). 2020. From Albania to Arrān: The East Caucasus between the ancient and Islamic worlds (ca. 330 BCE–1000 CE) (Gorgias Studies in Classical and Late Antiquity 25). Georgia Press.

This volume is the first publication in English to discuss the nature and identity of the polity in the East Caucasus referred to by modern scholars as (Caucasian) Albania. The sporadic and fragmentary character of our sources for this polity means that it is difficult to construct a continuous narrative of its history, and so we offer here studies by leading specialists on particular aspects of it: geographical extent, religious and political machinations, material culture, interactions with neighboring states and key historical developments.

A number of contributions in this volume relate to Iran, which is why we announce the book rather than single articles.

Religious traditions of the Yaresan

Kreyenbroek, Philip G & Yiannis Kanakis. 2020. “God first and last”: Religious traditions and music of the Yaresan of Guran. Volume 1. Religious traditions (Iranica, GOF III/NF 18,1). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The Yaresan or Ahl-e Haqq are a relatively large minority group whose religion originates in the border regions between Iran and Iraq. As members of traditional Yaresan communities are becoming more visible in the West, both as diaspora groups and in academia, there is an increasing demand for reliable information about their background. Academic interest is also growing. Recent scholarly publications, however, tend to assume a fundamental knowledge of the Yaresan tradition, which is not easy to glean from existing sources. This is made more complicated by the very real differences between the European world view and that of traditional Yarsanism.
For that reason and because music plays an unusually prominent role in Yaresan observance, it was decided to combine the authors’ work on religious traditions and music respectively in two volumes. In doing so the religious realities of the traditional Yaresan of the Guran region is communicated by quoting extensively from interviews with community members. The first volume also offers a survey of other religious traditions that are thought to have been influential in shaping modern Yarsanism.

Studies on Sasanian Persia

Daryaee, Touraj & Matteo Compareti (eds.). 2019. Studi sulla Persia sasanide e suoi rapporti con le civiltà attigue (Studia Persica 1) [Studies on Sasanian Persia and its relations with neighboring civilizations]. Bologna: Paolo Emilio Persiani.

Studi sulla Persia sasanide – La dinastia dei Sasanidi (224-651 CE) rappresenta a detta di molti studiosi una sorta di “età dell’oro” dell’arte e della civiltà persiana. Nonostante un corposa mole di informazioni su questo popolo si sia conservata grazie all’opera di autori greci e latini a loro contemporanei – nonché successivamente da arabi e persiani – poco resta nelle fonti dirette, rappresentate principalmente da qualche iscrizione ufficiale fatta incidere su pietra dalla numismatica e dalla glittica. Questo volume, nato dagli interventi dei massimi studiosi e conoscitori dell’ambito, raccoglie dieci saggi tratti da due convegni svoltisi in Italia e negli Stati Uniti tra il 2010 e il 2017. In particolare, vengono qui discussi vari aspetti del piano politico, sociale e religioso dell’impero sasanide e delle civiltà ad esso attigue, con lo scopo di far rivivere un’epoca molto feconda per la cultura e l’arte persiana, attribuendo un particolare rilievo a quelle che sono le testimonianze conservate nei testi scritti e nelle opere d’arte figurativa.


Albino, Marcos. 2019. Mittelpersisch namāz ,Ehrerweisung‘. Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 73(1). 7–15.

The word namāz “reverence” is first attested in Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian (namāž). It is survived in New Persian namāz originally denotes a respectful adressing to a socially superior person or to God.

Erotic Persian

Sprachman, Paul. 2020. Erotic Persian (Bibliotheca Iranica: Literature Series 15). Costa Mesa: Mazda Publishers.

According to the content description (see below), this book contains a facsimile of "Alfiyeh va Shalfiyeh".

This book is a general survey of language and images that arouse sexual desire. The book begins by examining the works of the great Persian poets and prose authors who avoid direct mention of bodily functions and use imagery borrowed from nature and food when describing the charms of lovers and human sexual activity. The examination shows how erotic imagery, at one time innovative, hardened into clichés over centuries of repeated use. The book’s focus on the semantics of allusive Persian also leads to a general notion of what makes one poem or piece of prose sexually stimulating and another inspirational. Here “Erotic Persian” joins an ongoing controversy: namely, to what extent are some of the works of great Sufi authors like Rumi, Sa`di, Hafez, etc. erotic? Dealing with both the pleasures of the flesh and the spirit? The book asks: Can certain works be at once carnal and spiritual? The prevailing view frowns on such interpretations, insisting great authors never wrote solely to arouse readers’ desires. If erotic material found its way into the canon, many assert, it was there merely to divert the reader’s or listener’s attention away from the everyday and direct it toward spiritual truths.

Continue reading Erotic Persian

The Persian Martyr Acts

Amiri Bavandpour, Sajad. 2020. The Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac. Tehran: Abi Parsi.

As the first volume of a four-volume series, the present book consists of three main sections: an introduction to the Christian tradition of Hagiography, a general explanation of the Persian martyr acts (in Syriac, Greek, Armenian, Georgian, and Sogdian) in Sasanian Persia and finally the Syriac texts, their Persian translation, and commentaries on 17 acts from the reign of Shapur. These acts are as follows:

  • John of Arbela (BHO 500)
  • Abraham of Arbela (BHO 12)
  • Hananya (BHO 372)
  • Jacob and Mary (BHO 426)
  • Barhadbeshabba(BHO 138)
  • Aitallaha and dcn. Hophsai (BHO 29)
  • Thekla and companions (BHO 1157)
  • Jacob and Azad (BHO 423)
  • 11 Men and 9 Women (BHO 718)
  • Pr Shapur of Niqator and bp Isaac of karka (BHO 1042)
  • Narsai and Joseph (BHO 806)
  • Martyrs of Beth Slok (BHO 807)
  • Captives from Beth Zabdai (BHO 375)
  • Baday (BHO 130)
  • Barshebya (BHO 146)
  • Daniel and Warda (BHO 245)
  • `Aqebshma (BHO 22)

In original:

امیری باوندپور، سجاد. 1398. شهادت‌نامه‌های سُریانی مسیحیان ایران در عصر ساسانی. تهران: آبی پارسی

Persianate Selves: Memories of Place and Origin before Nationalism

Kia, Mana. Persianate Selves: Memories of Place and Origin before Nationalism. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2020.

For centuries, Persian was the language of power and learning across Central, South, and West Asia, and Persians received a particular basic education through which they understood and engaged with the world. Not everyone who lived in the land of Iran was Persian, and Persians lived in many other lands as well. Thus to be Persian was to be embedded in a set of connections with people we today consider members of different groups. Persianate selfhood encompassed a broader range of possibilities than contemporary nationalist claims to place and origin allow. We cannot grasp these older connections without historicizing our conceptions of difference and affiliation.

Mana Kia sketches the contours of a larger Persianate world, historicizing place, origin, and selfhood through its tradition of proper form: adab. In this shared culture, proximities and similarities constituted a logic that distinguished between people while simultaneously accommodating plurality. Adab was the basis of cohesion for self and community over the turbulent eighteenth century, as populations dispersed and centers of power shifted, disrupting the circulations that linked Persianate regions. Challenging the bases of protonationalist community, Persianate Selves seeks to make sense of an earlier transregional Persianate culture outside the anachronistic shadow of nationalisms.

About the author

Mana Kia is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University.