Category Archives: Books

History of Mar Abba and Mar Yazd-panah

Jullien, Florence. 2015. Histoire de Mar Abba, Catholicos de l’Orient. Martyres de Mar Grigor, Général en Chef du Roi Khusro Ier et de Mar Yazd-panah, Juge et Gouverneur (2Vols.), Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Scriptores Syri, 254 (Syriac Edition) & Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium, Scriptores Syri, 255 (French Translation). Peeters.

The reign of Khusro I (531-579) was a key-period for the history of the Sasanian Empire. Nevertheless, sporadic persecutions of Christians converted from Zoroastrianism are attested. Among these martyrs, there were famous people of civil society such as Grigor Piran-Gusnasp, general-in-chief of the king’s armies, Yazd-panah, a high dignitary and judge, and ‘Awira, a courtier. The most famous was the Catholicos Mar Abba (540-552), who reunified the Church of the East after nearly twenty-five years of schism; canonist and exegete, he also restored ecclesiastical discipline which had been significantly weakened since 484. He is known to have been involved in Mazdeo-Christian controversies and polemical debates with West-Syrian Christians. These narratives written by contemporaries to the events are the only East-Syrian hagiographies of that time in Syriac; they provide valuable informations regarding socio-religious and political situation of the sixth century Orient. A critical edition based on manuscripts from the London, Berlin and Vatican Libraries, including a translation in French with a commentary, is presented for the first time.

 

Space, territory, and ideology in the Seleucid Empire

Kosmin, Paul J. 2014. The land of the elephant Kings: Space, territory, and ideology in the Seleucid Empire. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

The Seleucid Empire (311–64 BCE) was unlike anything the ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds had seen. Stretching from present-day Bulgaria to Tajikistan—the bulk of Alexander the Great’s Asian conquests—the kingdom encompassed a territory of remarkable ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity; yet it did not include Macedonia, the ancestral homeland of the dynasty. The Land of the Elephant Kings investigates how the Seleucid kings, ruling over lands to which they had no historic claim, attempted to transform this territory into a coherent and meaningful space.

Based on recent archaeological evidence and ancient primary sources, Paul J. Kosmin’s multidisciplinary approach treats the Seleucid Empire not as a mosaic of regions but as a land unified in imperial ideology and articulated by spatial practices. Kosmin uncovers how Seleucid geographers and ethnographers worked to naturalize the kingdom’s borders with India and Central Asia in ways that shaped Roman and later medieval understandings of “the East.” In the West, Seleucid rulers turned their backs on Macedonia, shifting their sense of homeland to Syria. By mapping the Seleucid kings’ travels and studying the cities they founded—an ambitious colonial policy that has influenced the Near East to this day—Kosmin shows how the empire’s territorial identity was constructed on the ground. In the empire’s final century, with enemies pressing harder and central power disintegrating, we see that the very modes by which Seleucid territory had been formed determined the way in which it fell apart.

Continue reading Space, territory, and ideology in the Seleucid Empire

Sophist Kings : Persians as Other in Herodotus

Provencal, Vernon L. 2015. Sophist kings: Persians as other in Herodotus. Bloomsbury.

Sophist Kings: Persians as Other sets forth a reading of Herodotus’ Histories that highlights the consistency with which the Persians are depicted as sophists and Persian culture is infused with a sophistic ideology.
The Persians as the Greek ‘other’ have a crucial role throughout Herodotus’ Histories, but their characterisation is far divorced from historical reality. Instead, from their first appearance at the beginning of the Histories, Herodotus presents the Persians as adept in the argumentation of Greek sophists active in mid-5th century Athens. Moreover, Herodotus’ construct of the Sophist King, in whom political reason serves human ambition, is used to explain the Achaemenid model of kingship whose rule is grounded in a theological knowledge of cosmic order and of divine justice as the political good.
This original and in-depth study explores how the ideology which Herodotus ascribes to the Persians comes directly from fifth-century sophists whose arguments served to justify Athenian imperialism. The volume connects the ideological conflict between panhellenism and imperialism in Herodotus’ contemporary Greece to his representation of the past conflict between Greek freedom and Persian imperialism. Detecting a universal paradigm, Sophist Kings argues that Herodotus was suggesting the Athenians should regard their own empire as a betrayal of the common cause by which they led the Greeks to victory in the Persian wars.

About the author: Vernon L. Provencal is Professor of Classics at Acadia University, Canada.

Wine culture in Iran and neighbouring countries

Fragner, Bert G., Ralph Kauz & Florian Schwarz (eds.). 2014. Wine culture in Iran and beyond (Sitzungsberichte der phil.-hist. Klasse. Veröffentlichungen zur Iranistik 75). Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Starting from important new archaeological findings and insights that have led to a rethinking of the history of viticulture in Iran and its wider Asian context, this volume explores various aspects of the cultural, social and political significance of grape wine in the Iranian cultural sphere. It assembles specialized studies and interpretative essays ranging from the question of the origins of viticulture and winemaking and the trade of wine between the Iranian plateau and China to viticulture and wine consumption in 20th-century Kafiristan, from the place of intoxicating beverages in hadith to the nature and function of wine in classical Persian poetry and Iranian architecture, from the ambiguities of alcohol in pre-modern Persia to the challenges of modernity and colonial encounters.
Table of Contents (ToC):
Continue reading Wine culture in Iran and neighbouring countries

Dictionary of the Old Persian royal inscriptions

Schmitt, Rüdiger. 2014. Wörterbuch der Altpersischen Königsinschriften. Wiesbaden: Reichert.

The present volume is closing a gap of the specialist literature felt for some time, because the glossaries and dictionaries available cover the Old Persian vocabulary only in part and are defective in some respects. For preparing a new Old Persian dictionary the situation is quite favourable at present, since a complete edition of the royal inscriptions has been published in 2009 by the author in his book “Die altpersischen Inschriften der Achaimeniden” (Wiesbaden 2009), where only some texts of minor relevance, the inscriptions on vessels, seals (and sealings) and weights, had been ignored. A dictionary like the present comprehensive work probably never had been tackled before for a corpus language like Old Persian, for in order to cope the divergent needs of all sorts of users it contains six separate lists or indexes: lists of (1) the transliterated and (2) the transcriptional word-forms (this one giving a short grammatical definition and a list of all references), (3) the lexicon proper, arranged by word-stems, roots etc. and giving a translation as well as short information about the (syntactical, phraseological or other) use of the word and its etymology, and finally (4–5) reverse indexes of the first two lists and (6) of the dictionary itself (verbal roots, nominal and pronominal stems and indeclinable words being kept apart).

For more information see the ToC and read the Preface (in German) to this volume .

About the Author:

Rüdiger Schmitt, from 1979 to his retirement in 2004 Professor of Comparative Indo-European Philology and Indo-Iranian Studies at Saarland University in Saarbrücken; born in Würzburg on June 1, 1939; studies from 1958 to 1965 in Würzburg, Erlangen and Saarbrücken, particularly with Manfred Mayrhofer; after publications on Indo-European poetical language, on the Greek and Armenian languages specialized on the ancient Iranian languages, Old Persian epigraphy and, above all, Iranian personal names.

Life along the Silk Road

Silk RoadWhitfield, Susan. 2015. Life along the Silk Road. University of California Press.

In this long-awaited second edition, Susan Whitfield broadens her exploration of the Silk Road and expands her rich and varied portrait of life along the great pre-modern trade routes of Eurasia. This new edition is comprehensively updated to support further understanding of themes relevant to global and comparative history and remains the only history of the Silk Road to reconstruct the route through the personal experiences of travelers.

In the first 1,000 years after Christ, merchants, missionaries, monks, mendicants, and military men traveled the vast network of Central Asian tracks that became known as the Silk Road. Whitfield recounts the lives of twelve individuals who lived at different times during this period, including two characters new to this edition: an African shipmaster and a Persian traveler and writer during the Arab caliphate. With these additional tales, Whitfield extends both geographical and chronological scope, bringing into view the maritime links across the Indian Ocean and depicting the network of north-south routes from the Baltic to the Gulf.

Susan Whitfield runs the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library, which provides online access to hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, paintings, and archaeological artifacts from the eastern Silk Road. The author of numerous books and articles on the Silk Road and China, Whitfield travels widely in the region and curates relevant exhibitions. She lectures and teaches worldwide.

Grammar of Western Middle Iranian (Parthian and Middle Persian)

 Durkin-Meisterernst, Desmond. 2014. Grammatik des Westmitteliranischen: (Parthisch und Mittelpersisch)(Sitzungsberichte / Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-Historische Klasse 850. Grammatica Iranica, Band 1). Wien: Verlag der Österr. Akad. der Wissenschaften.
Following on a number of individual descriptions of the phonology and morphology of the languages Middle Persian and Parthian and an attempt to place aspects of the syntax of both languages side-by-side, the Grammatik des Westmitteliranischen (Parthisch und Mittelpersisch) [Grammar of Western Middle Iranian (Parthian and Middle Persian)] is the first attempt to describe all areas of the two languages Middle Persian and Parthian together in a meaningful and balanced way. After an overview of the extant material, the scripts used for these languages are described. Chapters on phonology, morphology and syntax follow. The common history of these neighbouring and closely related languages during about a thousand years means that it is very useful to deal with them together, because in the epigraphical testimonies of the 3rd century and in the Manichaean material from Turfan on the Silk Road (9th and 10th-century copies of originals from the 3rd up to the 7th century) these languages are attested together and with interaction. These source groups offer an excellent and very reliable basis for the description. Literary, mostly Zoroastrian, Middle Persian from the Sasanian Empire and era was also consulted; but not the “scholastic” Zoroastrian literature of the 9th century which follows its own rules. The depiction is well-organized, the quotations are clearly marked for language. In the extensive chapter on syntax the quotations are presented in a clear transcription; the originals (in transliteration) are given in a separate listing and are made accessible by an index. Scholars and students of Iranian linguistic, cultural and religious history, Manichaeologists, those interested in Central Asia and Indoeuropeanists will consult this book.
For more information see the Tables of Contents of  this book.
About the Author:
Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst  is the head of the long-term project “Turfanforschung” at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Professor of Iranian Studies at the Institute for Iranian Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin.

Encounters by the rivers of Babylon

Gabbay, Uri & Shai Secunda (eds.). 2015. Encounters by the rivers of Babylon: Scholarly conversations between Jews, Iranians and Babylonians in antiquity (Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 160). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

This volume presents a group of articles that deal with connections between ancient Babylonian, Iranian and Jewish communities in Mesopotamia under Neo-Babylonian, Achaemenid, and Sasanian rule. The studies, written by leading scholars in the fields of Assyriology, Iranian studies and Jewish studies, examine various modes of cultural connections between these societies, such as historical, social, legal, and exegetical intersections. The various Mesopotamian connections, often neglected in the study of ancient Judaism, are the focus of this truly interdisciplinary collection.

 

The Humorous in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish Narrative

Brookshaw, Dominic Parviz, ed. Ruse and Wit: The Humorous in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish Narrative. Ilex Foundation Series 8. Boston, Mass: Ilex Foundation ; Center for Hellenic Studies, 2012.
The essays in Ruse and Wit examine in detail a wide range of texts (from nonsensical prose, to ribald poetry, titillating anecdotes, edifying plays, and journalistic satire) that span the best part of a millennium of humorous and satirical writing in the Islamic world, from classical Arabic to medieval and modern Persian, and Ottoman Turkish (and by extension Modern Greek). While acknowledging significant elements of continuity in the humorous across distinct languages, divergent time periods, and disparate geographical regions, the authors have not shied away from the particular and the specific. When viewed collectively, the findings presented in the essays collected here underscore the belief that humor as evidenced in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish narrative is a culturally modulated phenomenon, one that demands to be examined with reference to its historical framework and one that, in turn, communicates as much about those who produced humor as it does about those who enjoyed it.
Table of Contents
– Introduction / Dominic Parviz Brookshaw
– Amphigory and other nonsense in classical Arabic literature / Geert Jan van Gelder
– Persian Humor in the International Context / Ulrich Marzolph
– Have you heard the one about the man from Qazvin? Regionalist humor in the works of Ubayd-i Zakani / Dominic Parviz Brookshaw
– Bawdy anecdotes in religious settings: examples from medieval Persian literature / Olga M. Davidson
– Playful figures of script in Persian and Chinese / Paul Sprachman
– Despots of the world unite! satire in the iranian constitutional press: the Majalla-yi istibdad, 1907-1908 / Ali Gheissari
– Humor for in-betweeners: Sadiq Hidayat’s myth of creation as a cross-cultural phenomenon / Marta Simidchieva
– Ottoman Karagöz and Greek shadow theater: communicational shifts and variants in a multi-ethnic and ethnic context / Anna Stavrakopoulou.

 

About the Editor:

Dominic Parviz Brookshaw is Associate Professor of Persian Literature and Senior Research Fellow in Persian at Wadham College. Among his recent publications see:

“Mytho-Political Remakings of Ferdowsi’s Jamshid in the Lyric Poetry of Injuid and Mozaffarid Shiraz,” Iranian Studies, 48:3 (2015), 463-487.

Architecture et représentations dans l’Iran sassanide

Callieri, Pierfrancesco. 2014. Architecture et représentations dans l’Iran sassanide (Cahiers de Studia Iranica 50). Peeters.

This volume contains the text of the five “Ehsan and Latifeh Yarshater Distinguished Lectures on Iranian Studies”, organized by the Unité Mixte de Recherche 7528 “Mondes iranien et indien”, and delivered in 2014 at the College de France in Paris. The aim of this book is to take stock of the architectural and figurative culture of Sasanian Iran on the basis of a new comprehensive evaluation of the varied range of architectural and artistic evidence known to us, and in the light of the recent discoveries published in Iran over the last few years. Without any pretence of being exhaustive, the idea is to bring more light to bear on the utilisation of built-up areas, forms of expression and visual communication, and the mechanisms involved in artisanal production. Two chapters are dedicated to the architecture, a field in which we are far from having arrived at a general consensus, while another chapter deals with a category of artistic production closely linked to the architecture, namely stucco work. The other two chapters look into the technical-stylistic aspects of types of production so far studied mainly from the iconographic point of view: the rock reliefs and the seals.