Category Archives: Books

The story of Mar Pinhas

McCollum, Adam Carter. 2013. The story of Mar Pinhas (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 2). Gorgias Press.

The Sasanian world through Georgian eyes

Rapp, Stephen. 2014. The Sasanian world through Georgian eyes. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate.

Georgian literary sources for Late Antiquity are commonly held to be later productions devoid of historical value. As a result, scholarship outside the Republic of Georgia has privileged Graeco-Roman and even Armenian narratives. However, when investigated within the dual contexts of a regional literary canon and the active participation of Caucasia’s diverse peoples in the Iranian Commonwealth, early Georgian texts emerge as a rich repository of late antique attitudes and outlooks. Georgian hagiographical and historiographical compositions open a unique window onto a northern part of the Sasanian world that, while sharing striking affinities with the Iranian heartland, was home to vibrant, cosmopolitan cultures that developed along their own trajectories.

The author’s website is here.

Darius in the shadow of Alexander

Jane Marie Todd’s translation of Briant’s 2003 Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre has just been published:

Briant, Pierre. 2015. Darius in the Shadow of Alexander. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

The last of Cyrus the Great’s dynastic inheritors and the legendary enemy of Alexander the Great, Darius III ruled over a Persian Empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Indus River. Yet, despite being the most powerful king of his time, Darius remains an obscure figure. […] While Darius seems doomed to be a footnote in the chronicle of Alexander’s conquests, in one respect it is Darius who has the last laugh. For after Darius’s defeat in 331 BCE, Alexander is described by historians as becoming ever more like his vanquished opponent: a Darius-like sybarite prone to unmanly excess.

Jan P. Stronk, University of Amsterdam, reviewed the original for the Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR). Other reviews include:

  • Brosius, M.2006. Review of Pierre Briant: Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre. Gnomon 78(5). 426–430.
  • Stoneman, R. 2006. Darius III and Alexander: Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre by P. Briant. The Classical Review 56(2). 415–417.
  • معماران کاشی، مهرداد. ۱۳۸۴. نقد و بررسی کتاب: داریوش در سایه اسکندر. بخارا ۴۶. ۳۵۸–۳۶۴.

Imagining Xerxes

Bridges, Emma. 2014. Imagining Xerxes: Ancient perspectives on a Persian king. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Imagining Xerxes is a transhistorical analysis that explores the richness and variety of Xerxes’ afterlives within the ancient literary tradition. It examines the earliest representations of the king, in Aeschylus’ tragic play Persians and Herodotus’ historiographical account of the Persian Wars, before tracing the ways in which the image of Xerxes was revisited and adapted in later Greek and Latin texts. The author also looks beyond the Hellenocentric viewpoint to consider the construction of Xerxes’ image in the Persian epigraphic record and the alternative perspectives on the king found in the Jewish written tradition.

Inside and out

Dijkstra, Jitse & Greg Fisher (eds.). 2014. Inside and Out: Interactions between Rome and the peoples on the Arabian and Egyptian frontiers in late antiquity (Late Antique History and Religion 8). Leuven: Peeters Publishers.
In recent years, exciting new discoveries of inscriptions and archaeological remains on the Arabian Peninsula have led to a re-evaluation of the peoples on the Arabian frontier, which through their extensive contacts with Rome and Persia are now seen as dynamic participants in the Late Antique world. The present volume contributes to this recent trend by focusing on the contrast between the ‘outside’ sources on the peoples of the frontier – the Roman view – and the ‘inside’ sources, that is, the precious material produced by the Arabs themselves, and by approaching these sources within an anthropological framework of how peripheral peoples face larger powers. For the first time, the situation on the Arabian frontier is also compared with that on the southern Egyptian frontier, where similar sources have been found of peoples such as the Blemmyes and Noubades. Thus, the volume offers a richly-documented examination of the frontier interactions in these two vibrant and critically-important areas of the Late Antique East.
 For more information, see the publisher’s website.

Mani at the court of the Persian kings

Gardner, Iain, Jason BeDuhn & Paul Dilley. 2014. Mani at the court of the Persian kings. Leiden: Brill.

For more information, see here.

Islamic cultures, Islamic contexts

Sadeghi, Behnam, Asad Ahmed, Adam Silverstein & Robert Hoyland (eds.) 2014. Islamic cultures, Islamic contexts: Essays in honor of Professor Patricia Crone. Leiden/Boston: Brill.

This volume brings together articles on various aspects of the intellectual and social histories of Islamicate societies and of the traditions and contexts that contributed to their formation and evolution. Written by leading scholars who span three generations and
who cover such diverse fields as Late Antique Studies, Islamic Studies, Classics, and Jewish Studies, the volume is a testament to the breadth and to the sustained, deep impact of the corpus of the honoree, Professor Patricia Crone.

For more information, see the publisher’s website.

Arabic documents from early Islamic Khurasan

Khan, Geoffrey. 2014. Arabic documents from early Islamic Khurasan (Einstein Lectures in Islamic Studies 3). Berlin.

Forgotten origins of modern humanities

From the book’s webpage: ‘The humanities today face a crisis of relevance, if not of meaning and purpose. Understanding their common origins—and what they still share—has never been more urgent’.

Turner, James. 2014. Philology: The forgotten origins of the modern humanities. Princeton University Press.

Many today do not recognize the word, but “philology” was for centuries nearly synonymous with humanistic intellectual life, encompassing not only the study of Greek and Roman literature and the Bible but also all other studies of language and literature, as well as religion, history, culture, art, archaeology, and more. In short, philology was the queen of the human sciences. How did it become little more than an archaic word? In Philology, the first history of Western humanistic learning as a connected whole ever published in English, James Turner tells the fascinating, forgotten story of how the study of languages and texts led to the modern humanities and the modern university.

For more information, see here.

The early Islamic world

This very interesting volume has an article by Jairus Banaji On the Identity of Shahrālānyōzān in the Greek and Middle Persian Papyri from Egypt:

Schubert, Alexander & Petra Sijpesteijn (eds.). 2014. Documents and the history of the early Islamic world. Leiden: Brill.

Historians have long lamented the lack of contemporary documentary sources for the Islamic middle ages and the inhibiting effect this has had on our understanding of this critically important period. Although the field is richly served by surviving evidence, much of it is hard to locate, difficult to access, and philologically intractable. Presenting a mixture of historical studies and new editions of Greek, Arabic and Coptic material from the seventh to the fifteenth century C.E. from Egypt and Palestine, Documents and the History of the Early Islamic World explores the untapped wealth of documentary sources available in collections around the world and shows how this exciting material can be used for historical analysis.

For more information, see here.