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BiblioIranica

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Books

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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Articles

Achaemenid Echoes in the Wall Paintings of Akchakhan-Kala

Minardi, Michele. 2020. Achaemenid Echoes in the Wall Paintings of Akchakhan-Kala, Chorasmia, and their Broader Significance for Central Asia. Journal of Asian Civilizations 43(2).

(from Minardi 2020, fig. 5.)

In recent years the Karakalpak-Australian Expedition (KAE) carried out archaeological fieldwork at the royal Chorasmian seat of Akchakhan-kala unearthing a large corpus of wall paintings. This imagery was made during Stage 3 of the life of the site’s main complex, beginning between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD and ending in the early 2nd century AD. Among the formal elements employed in this imagery, an unanticipated use of Achaemenid iconographic models is apparent. Most of these archetypes have already been introduced in recently published articles. However, the question regarding their source and ways of transmission was left open to further inquiry. This paper aims to refine the argument and to give way to further analysis and discussion in attempting a clarification of what has already been sustained. Eastern Iranian Chorasmia once was under the Achaemenid sway, and its very foundation as a polity was quite probably due to an intervention of the Persians. But the Akchakhan-kala’s paintings were produced much later than the time of the Achaemenid Empire’s demise. What we may therefore be witnessing is the persistence of Achaemenid iconography as an artistic legacy, the origins of which would be reasonable to track in a centre of the “Upper Satrapies”. Despite the scarcity of available evidence on the very existence of an Achaemenid aulic art and heritage in the East, it is here argued that it might be possible to consider the new Chorasmian evidence as its “echo”, although the chronology of the original transmission into the polity of such a legacy is still elusive. This paper will also introduce a further, and previously neglected, element issuing from the Akchakhan-kala’s mural art and belonging to the set of Achaemenid visual “echoes”: the motif of the stylized lion’s heads with curled mane. Of clear Achaemenid ascendency, this motif decorates the shoulder area of the kandys worn by one of the colossal Avestan deities from the site’s columned throne hall. This painted fabric decoration confirms the substantiality of the basic interpretation of the “Achaemenid echoes” coming from Chorasmia, allowing at the same time to development of some further assumptions.

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Books

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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Articles

Weather and the Greek–Persian “Naval Battle of Salamis”

Zerefos, Christos, Stavros Solomos, Dimitris Melas, John Kapsomenakis and Christos Repapis. 2020. The Role of Weather during the Greek–Persian “Naval Battle of Salamis” in 480 B.C. Atmosphere 11, 838.

The Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. is one of the most important naval battles of all times. This work examines in detail the climatically prevailing weather conditions during the Persian invasion in Greece. We perform a climatological analysis of the wind regime in the narrow straits of Salamis, where this historic battle took place, based on available station measurements, reanalysis and modeling simulations (ERA5, WRF) spanning through the period of 1960–2019. Our results are compared to ancient sources before and during the course of the conflict and can be summarized as follows: (i) Our climatological station measurements and model runs describing the prevailing winds in the area of interest are consistent with the eyewitness descriptions reported by ancient historians and (ii) The ancient Greeks and particularly Themistocles must have been aware of the local wind climatology since their strategic plan was carefully designed and implemented to take advantage of the diurnal wind variation. The combination of northwest wind during the night and early morning, converging with a south sea breeze after 10:00 A.M., formed a “pincer” that aided the Greeks at the beginning of the clash in the morning, while it brought turmoil to the Persian fleet and prevented them to escape to the open sea in the early afternoon hours. View Full-Text.

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Articles

On the Ionian League in the Fourth Century BC

Kholod, Maxim. 2020. On the Ionian League in the Fourth Century BC. Studia Antiqua et Archaeologica 26 (2), 201-214.

The author argues that the revival of the Ionian League, most likely dissolved by the Persians right after 494, happened ca. 373 BC. The League seems to have been refounded then as a purely religious association. Its life was very long this time: the League most probably did not cease to exist not only during the rest of the 4th century BC but it was the same one which functioned almost interruptedly throughout further several centuries and disappeared only at a moment after the mid-3rd century AD.

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Articles

YHW the God of Heaven

Granerød, Gard. 2021. YHW the God of Heaven: An interpretatio persica et aegyptiaca of YHW in Elephantine. Journal for the Study of Judaism 52 (1): 1-26.

The statue of Darius I from Susa

The article discusses the background and implications of the title “the God of Heaven” used as an epithet for YHW in Elephantine. It argues that one should look for the background in the winged symbol used in both Achaemenid and Egyptian iconography. In the Achaemenid–Egyptian context, the title “the God of Heaven” worked as a transmedial, textual reference to the winged symbol that was common to both Achaemenid and Egyptian iconography. In Egypt during the Achaemenid period, the reference of the winged symbol and the title “the God of Heaven” was ultimately the Achaemenid dynasty god Ahura Mazda and perhaps the Egyptian king-protector Horus-Behdety. In the identification of YHW with “the God of Heaven,” we witness an interpretatio persica et aegyptiaca of YHW into the supreme gods of the Achaemenids and the Egyptians.

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Books

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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Books

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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Books

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.