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Études offertes à Pierre Briant

Agut-Labordère, Damien, Rémy Boucharlat, Francis Joannès, Amélie Kuhrt & Matthew W. Stolper (éds). 2021. Achemenet. Vingt ans après: Études offertes à Pierre Briant à l’occasion des vingt ans du Programme Achemenet (Persika 21). Leuven: Peeters.

En créant le programme international Achemenet en 2000, l’année où il inaugurait la chaire «Histoire et civilisation du monde achéménide et de l’empire d’Alexandre» au Collège de France, Pierre Briant avait pour objectif de rassembler les données primaires sur l’Empire perse achéménide à travers les territoires immenses qu’il a couverts en Orient. Vingt ans après, le site achemenet.com met à la disposition des spécialistes, des étudiants et du grand public une dizaine de milliers de textes, des données archéologiques et près de cent mille images d’objets conservés dans une vingtaine de musées du monde entier.

À ces vastes corpus documentaires sont venues s’ajouter la collection Persika, en 2001, dont ce volume porte le numéro 21, et une revue en ligne, ARTA (Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology), seul périodique consacré aux études achéménides.

Les auteurs de cet ouvrage célèbrent les vingt ans d’Achemenet et rendent, du même coup, hommage à son fondateur. Tous sont des spécialistes dans différents domaines des recherches achéménides et leurs contributions illustrent l’immensité géographique de cet empire-monde et la diversité des disciplines que requiert son étude.

For the table of contents, see here.

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The Gujarati ritual directions of the Paragnā, Yasna and Visperad

Redard, Céline and Kerman Dadi Daruwalla (eds.). 2021. The Gujarati ritual directions of the Paragnā, Yasna and Visperad ceremonies: Transcription, translation and glossary of Anklesaria 1888 (Corpus Avesticum 2). Leiden: Brill.

This edition gives a transcription of Anklesaria’s text, an English translation, a Gujarati-English glossary, an introduction to Gujarati-language works on ritual directions and a study on the relationship between Anklesaria’s text and the liturgical manuscripts in Yasna 3–8. Unlocking the meaning and performative aspects in this first-ever edition in any European language, of these core Zoroastrian rituals in India, Céline Redard and Kerman Dadi Daruwalla open up the Indian tradition for future research and highlight its importance.

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Ethnic Groups along the Silk Road

Reckel, Johannes & Merle Schatz (eds.). 2021. Ancient texts and languages of ethnic groups along the Silk Road. Göttingen: Universitätsverlag Göttingen.

Note: This volume is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and can be downloaded here.

Central Asia has been dominated by Mongolian and Turkic speaking nations for the past 1300 years. Uyghurs and Uzbeks were the most important traders on the Central Asian Silk Roads. Earlier Sogdians and Tokharians and other ethnic groups speaking Indo-Germanic (Indo-Iranian) languages were active on these ancient trade routes. In the 18th and 19th century a Tungus language, Manchu, became important for Sinkiang, Mongolia and the whole of China. Expansion policy of different realms, comprehensive commercial activities and the spread of religious ideas facilitated the exchange of (cultural) knowledge along the Silk Road. Texts and scripts tell us not only about the different groups that were in contact, but also reflect details of diplomatic, religious, and economic ambitions and the languages that were used for these different forms of communication. Several examples of contact induced language change or specific linguistic influence as a result of contacts along the Silk Road invite us to understand more about the frequency, intensity and intention of contacts that took place in very different regions connected by the Silk Road.

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Power and Politics in the Neo-Elamite Kingdom

Gorris, Elynn. 2020. Power and Politics in the Neo-Elamite Kingdom (Acta Iranica, 60). Leuven: Peeters.

Power and Politics in the Neo-Elamite Kingdom (c. 1100-520 BC) documents one of the most obscure episodes in the political history of ancient southwestern Iran. Elam’s strategic position between the Mesopotamian alluvial plain, the Persian Gulf and the Iranian highlands made it a target for territorial expansion of the Neo-Assyrian empire. However, the ability of the Neo-Elamite kings to engage in a political alliance with the Neo-Babylonian kingdom, the flexibility of the Neo-Elamite government system and the dynamics between the various ethnic and social groups living within the multiple valleys of Elam protected the Elamite heartland for centuries against the continuous military threat. Elam became an indisputable partner in an inter-regional network of Mesopotamian states until the emergence of the Persian empire reshaped the political landscape of the Ancient Near East.

By re-evaluating the dynastic lineage of Neo-Elamite kings, the geopolitical power of the Neo-Elamite kingdom and the (trans-)formation the Elamite government system in the 1st millennium BC through written and archaeological evidence, this book aims to improve our understanding of the last centuries of Elam.

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Safavid Persia in the Age of Empires

Melville, Charles (ed.). 2021. Safavid Persia in the Age of Empires (The Idea of Iran 10). Londn: I.B. Tauris.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the establishment of the new Safavid regime in Iran. Along with reuniting the Persian lands under one rule, the Safavids initiated the radical transformation of the religious landscape by introducing Imami Shi’ism as the official state faith and in this as in other ways, laying the foundations of Iran’s modern identity.

In this book, leading scholars of Iranian history, culture and politics examine the meaning of the idea of Iran in the Safavid period by examining contemporary experiences of both insiders and outsiders, asking how modern scholarship defines the distinctive features of the age.

While sometimes viewed as a period of decline from the high points of classical Persian literature and the visual arts of preceding centuries, the chapters of this book demonstrate that the Safavid era was nevertheless a period of great literary and artistic activity in the realms of both secular and theological endeavour.

With the establishment of comparable polities across western, southern and central Asia at broadly the same time, the book explores some of the literary and political interactions with Iran’s Ottoman, Mughal and Uzbek neighbours. As the volume and frequency of European merchants and diplomats visiting Safavid Persia increased, especially in the seventeenth century, and as more Iranians recorded their own travel experiences to surrounding Muslim lands, the Safavid period is the first in which we can document and explore the contours of Iran’s place in an expanding world, and gain insights into how Iranians saw themselves and others saw them.

Table of contents
  • Ali Anooshahr: “The body politic and the rise of the Safavids”
  • Gregory Aldous: “The Qazvin period and the idea of the Safavids”
  • Colin Mitchell: “Man of the Pen, Pillar of the State: Hatem Beg Ordubadi and the Safavid Empire”
  • Rudi Matthee: “The Idea of Iran in the Safavid period. Dynastic pre-eminence and urban pride”
  • Sussan Babaie: “Safavid town-planning in the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries: From Farahabad (Mazandaran) to Farahabad (Isfahan)”
  • Willem Floor: “Commercial relations between Safavid Persia and Western Europe”
  • Aurelie Salesse-Chabrier: “From absolute prince to despot: the political representations of Safavid Iran in seventeenth-century France”
  • Maryam Ala Amjad: “The world is an oyster and Iran, the pearl. Representing Iran in Safavid Persian travel literature”
  • Sunil Sharma: “Local and transregional places in the works of Safavid men of letters”
  • Roy S. Fischel: “Shi’i rulers, Safavid alliance and the religio-political landscape of the Deccan”
  • Florian Schwarz: “The Safavids and the Ozbeks”
  • George Sanikidze: “Particularities of the Safavid policy towards Eastern Georgia”
  • Benedek Péri: “O Mohebbi! You have lit your lamp with Khosrow’s burning passion. Persian poetry as perceived by sixteenth-century Ottoman authors”
  • Frenec Csirkés: “Popular religiosity and vernacular Turkic: A Qizilbash catechism from Safavid Iran”
  • Andrew J. Newman: “Safavids and Shi’ism in the age of Sectarianism”
  • Sajjad Rizvi: “Practicing philosophy: Imagining Iran in the Safavid period”
  • Daniel J. Sheffield: “Universal harmony (sulh-i kull) and political theology in Safavid Iran”
  • Sheila R Canby: “Flora in Safavid paintings from Shah Tahmasp’s Shahnama
  • Negar Habibi: “From Khazana to audience. On the making of new art in the House of Shah Soleyman”
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Parthian Coins and Culture

Curtis, Vesta Sarkhosh & Alexandra Magub. 2020. Rivalling Rome: Parthian coins and culture. London: Spink Books.

One hundred years after the conquest of the Persian Empire by Alexander of Macedon a new Iranian dynasty emerged that by 140 BC had extended its rule to Western Iran and Mesopotamia. The Arsacid Parthians, famous for their riding and archery skills, became Rome’s most dangerous enemies east of the River Euphrates. Encounters between Rome and Parthia are vividly described in classical accounts, but these are biased in their nature and, unfortunately, no equivalent sources are available from the Parthian side. Here, the most important primary source is the coinage of the period c. 248 BC – AD 224. 
These coins reveal important information about the development and expansion of the Parthian state, as well as the all-important role of the king, with the ancient Persian title King of Kings adopted under Mithradates II. Rome’s involvement in the region began during this reign and culminated in the devastating defeat of the Roman army under the general Crassus at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BC. Over the next 300 years these superpowers fought for territorial control in the region, particularly over Mesopotamia and Armenia.

Spink Books website
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Persian Prose

Utas, Bo (ed.). 2021. Persian prose (A history of Persian literature V). London: I.B. Tauris.

Volume V of A History of Persian Literature presents a broad survey of Persian prose: from biographical, historiographical, and didactic prose, to scientific manuals and works of popular prose fiction. It analyzes the rhetorical devices employed by writers in different periods in their philosophical and political discourse; or when their aim is primarily to entertain rather than to instruct , the chapters describe different techniques used to transform old stories and familiar tales into novel versions to entice their audience.

Many of the texts in prose cited in the volume share a wealth of common lore and literary allusions with Persian poetry. Prose and poetry frequently appear on the same page in tandem. In different ways, therefore, this creative interplay demonstrates the perennial significance of intertextuality, from the earliest times to the present; and help us in the process to further our understanding and enhance our enjoyment of Persian literature in its different manifestations throughout history.

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Persia (552 BCE-758 CE). Primary Sources, Old and New

Gyselen, Rika (ed.). 2020. Persia (552 BCE-758 CE). Primary Sources, Old and New (Res Orientales 28). Bures-sur-Yvette: Groupe pour l’Étude de la Civilisation du Moyen-Orient (GECMO).

The articles in this volume present, comment on and interpret primary sources from different eras: Achaemenid, Sasanian and post-Sasanian. While most of these sources were discovered in the 21st century, a few were already known. Recent Iranian surveys and excavations have uncovered: (1) new Sasanian sites in the region of Sar Mashad in the Pars, (2) Sasanian administrative bullae on Tappe Barnakoon, west of Isfahan, (3) a clay sealing with the impression of a royal seal of Peroz in Taxt-e Soleiman. New data for Sasanian numismatics come from unpublished coins in the Johnson collection. Three documents from the “Tabarestan Archive”, published in recent years, have been re-read and interpreted in the context of Zoroastrian law. Also, sources known from much longer have been the subject of new “readings”. They highlight that the message these inscriptions and royal objects convey is strongly conditioned by the type of ‘public’ to which it is addressed.

Table of Contents

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The Church of the East

Lieu, Samuel & Glen Thompson (eds.). 2020. The Church of the East in Central Asia and China (China and the Mediterranean World 1). Turnhout: Brepols.

Note by BiblioIranica: This is the first volume in the new series China and the Mediterranean World with S. N.C. Lieu and G. Mikkelsen as the general editors.

A collection of papers on the history of Christianity along the Silk Road and in pre-modern China, pushing back the frontier of knowledge in a fast developing new area of research.
The diffusion of Christianity along the Silk Road from Iraq and Iran to China in the premodern era has attracted scholarly attention in the West since the discovery of the famous Xian (Nestorian) Monument c. 1623. This initial discovery was dismissed as a Jesuit forgery by Voltaire, Edward Gibbon and many other scholars of the Enlightenment. However, its authenticity has been more than vindicated by the discovery of genuine (Nestorian / Jingjiao) Christian texts in Chinese from Dunhuang and in Syriac, Sogdian and Old Turkish from Turfan (Bulayq) at the beginning of the last century. Besides confirming the existence of a Tang era Chinese Christian church (Jingjiao), additional archaeological and literary evidence has accumulated of a Christian presence in China during the later Song and Yuan periods (Yelikewenjiao). These churches were the subject of a conference of international specialists in Hong Kong in 2015. The current volume of eleven articles has grown out of the papers presented there.

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Materials for a History of the Persian Narrative Tradition

Orsatti, Paola. 2019. Materials for a History of the Persian Narrative Tradition. Two Characters: Farhād and Turandot. Venezia: Ca’ Foscari.

This book gathers together two essays. The first deals with the origins of the character of Farhād, the unlucky lover of Shīrīn, who – in the Persian narrative tradition – digs a route through Mount Bīsutūn and accomplishes other admirable works. The essay suggests that Farhād, as we know him from long narrative poems, historical chronicles, and reports by geographers and travelers, is the issue of a conflation between the legendary character of the Master of Mount Bīsutūn and a historical personage, Farrahān, the general-in-chief of the Sasanid king Khusraw II Parvīz’s army (r. 590-628 EC), as this figure was re-elaborated in a number of later legends. 

The second essay identifies a character named ‘Būrān-dukht’ as the prototype from which Turandot, the heroine of the tale well-known in Europe from Puccini’s opera (1926), springs. Two historical personages, both called Būrān or Būrān-dukht, are relevant in this line of development: the first is the daughter of the Sasanid king Khusraw II Parvīz (r. 580-628 CE), who was queen of Persia for a short period (630-631 CE); the other is the daughter of Ḥasan b. Sahl, wife of Caliph al-Maʾmūn (813-833 CE).