Artifact, Text, Context

Tang, Li & Dietmar W. Winkler (eds.). 2020. Artifact, text, context: Studies on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia (orientalia – patristica – oecumenica 17). LIT Verlag.

This volume is a collection of papers highlighting recent researches on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia. The topics range from artifacts to texts and their historical contexts, covering the period from the 7th to the 18th century. As the studies on Syriac Christianity in China and Central advance, focus has shifted from a general historical survey and textual translation to a more micro and meticulous study of specific concepts and terms and particular names of persons and places.

Achaemenid Anatolia

Dahlén, Ashk P. (ed). 2020. Achaemenid Anatolia: Persian presence and impact in the Western Satrapies 546-330 BC. Proceedings of an international symposium at the Swedish Research Institure in Istanbul, 7-8 September, 2017. Boreas: Uppsala Studies in Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Civilizations.

The mid-sixth century bc saw the formation of one of the ancient world’s largest and richest empires, the first Persian Empire under the Achaemenid dynasty. After the conquests of Cyrus the Great its vast realms stretched from the Aegean Sea in the west to the Jaxartes River in the east. The empire’s cosmopolitan policies, based on a shared economic relationship and a pluralistic administrative structure, heralded a period of astonishing cross-cultural fertilisation and innovation in different spheres of culture, trade and learning. These new developments were embraced and carried out in, among other regions, the highly multicultural setting of Achaemenid Anatolia.

Achaemenid Anatolia contains twelve articles from an international symposium (2017) on the relationships between the Iranian world and Anatolia in the Achaemenid period with an emphasis on Persian structures, presence and impacts on local populations and cultures. The contributions discuss a wide range of topics and address a variety of perspectives, from material culture, archaeology, architecture, and art history to philology, history, literature, numismatics, and religion.

Table of contents

  • P. Briant, On “Achaemenid impact” in Anatolia (reading notes)
  • E.R.M. Dusinberre, Impacts of empire in Achaemenid Anatolia
  • S. Berndt, The upright tiara of the Persian king
  • J. Blid, The andron of Maussollos at Labraunda and its architectural sculpture
  • A.P. Dahlén, Living the Iranian dolce vita: Herodotus on wine drinking and luxury among the Persians
  • C. Gates, Cilicia, 550–330 BC: Persians and locals
  • P. Hellström, A chariot at Labraunda
  • A. Hultgård, Invoking Anāhitā ‒ from Iran to Asia Minor
  • J. Köster, Failed ambitions: Herodotus’ account of the Ionian revolt and its motivation
  • L.G. Mitchell, “What age were you when the Mede came?” Cyrus the Great and Western Anatolia
  • M. Seyer, Pillar tombs and the Achaemenid rule in Lycia
  • R. Stoneman, Xanthus of Lydia, Aesop and Persian storytelling
  • E.R.M. Dusinberre, Concluding remarks

Short-term Empires in World History

Rollinger,Robert, Julian Degen & Michael Gehler (eds.). 2020. Short-term empires in world history. Wiesbaden: Springer.

The volume will focus on a comparative level on a specific group of states that are commonly labelled as “empires” and that we encounter through all historical periods. Although they are very successful at the very beginning, like most empires are, this success is very ephemeral and transient. The era of conquest is never followed by a period of consolidation. Collapse and/or reduction to much smaller dimension run as fast as the process of wide-ranging conquest and expansion. The volume singles out a series of such “short-term empires” and aims to provide a methodologically clearly structured as well as a uniform and consistent approach by developing a general set of questions that guarantee the possibility to compare and distinguish. This way it intends to examine not only already well established empires but also to illuminate forgotten ones.

Table of contents:

  • Robert Rollinger, Julian Degen, Michael Gehler: Approaching Short-Term Empires in World History, a First Attempt
  • Michael Gehler: The European Union: A Short-Term Empire?
  • Peter Heather: The Hunnic Empire of Attila
  • Beatrice F. Manz: The Timurid Empire
  • Ekaterini Mitsiou: The Latin Empire of Constantinople (1204–1261): Rise and Fall of a Short-Term State in the Romania
  • Sabine Müller: Mithradates VI and the Pontic Empire
  • Lucian Reinfandt: The Ghaznavids of Eastern Iran, a Postcolonial Muslim Empire
  • Seth Richardson: Because Empire Means Forever: Babylon and Imperial Disposition
  • Robert Rollinger: The Medes of the 7th and 6th c. BCE: A Short-Term Empire or Rather a Short-Term Confederacy?
  • Giorgio Rota: In a League of Its Own? Nāder Šāh and His Empire
  • Kai Ruffing: The Barcids and Hannibal
  • Christoph Schäfer: Theoderic and the Ostrogoths—a Short-Term Empire? Decapitated or Defective?
  • Arnold Suppan: The Rise of Hitler’s Empire and Its Apex (1933–1942)
  • Marc Van De Mieroop: From Warlord to Emperor: The Careers of Shamshi-Adad and Hammurabi
  • Josef Wiesehöfer, Robert Rollinger: The ‘Empire’ of the Hephthalites

Indian storytelling and the romance genre in Persian and Urdu

Khan, Pasha M. 2019. The broken spell: Indian storytelling and the romance genre in Persian and Urdu (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

The Broken Spell: Indian Storytelling and the Romance Genre in Persian and Urdu is a monograph on the rise and fall in popularity of “romances” (qissah)—tales of wonder and magic told by storytellers at princely courts and in public spaces in India from the sixteenth century to the twentieth. Using literary genre theory, author Pasha M. Khan points to the worldviews underlying the popularity of Urdu and Persian romances, before pre-existing Islamicate rationalist traditions gained traction and Western colonialism came to prominence in India.

In the introduction, Khan explains that it was around the end of the nineteenth century that these marvelous tales became devalued by Orientalists and intellectually colonized Indian elites, while at the same time a new genre, the novel, gained legitimacy. Khan goes on to narrate the life histories of professional storytellers, many of them émigrés from Iran to Mughal-ruled India, and considers how they raised their own worth and that of the romance in the face of changes in the economics, culture, and patronage of India. Khan shows the methods whereby such storytellers performed and how they promoted themselves and their art. The dividing line between marvelous tales and history is examined, showing how and why the boundary was porous. The study historicizes the Western understanding of the qissah as a local manifestation of a worldwide romance genre, showing that this genre equation had profound ideological effects. The book’s appendix contains a translation of an important text for understanding Iranian and Indian storytelling methods: the unpublished introductory portions to Fakhr al-Zamani’s manual for storytellers.

Iran and the Deccan

Keelan Overton (ed.). 2019. Iran and the Deccan: Persianate art, culture, and talent in circulation, 1400-1700. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Beginning in the early 1400s, large numbers of Iranian elites began migrating to the Deccan plateau of southern India. Lured to the region for many reasons, these poets, traders, statesmen, and artists of all kinds left an indelible mark on the Islamic sultanates that ruled the Deccan until the late seventeenth century. The result was the creation of a robust transregional Persianate network linking such distant cities as Bidar and Shiraz, Bijapur and Isfahan, and Golconda and Mashhad.
Iran and the Deccan explores the circulation of art, culture, and talent between Iran and the Deccan over a three hundred year period. Its interdisciplinary contributions consider the factors that prompted migration, the physical and intellectual poles of connectivity between the two regions, and processes of adaptation and response. Placing the Deccan at the center of Indo-Persian and early modern global history, Iran and the Deccan reveals how mobility, liminality, and cultural translation nuance the traditional methods and boundaries of the humanities.

Source: Iran and the Deccan

Keelan Overton is an independent scholar and historian of art specializing in the eastern Islamic world from Iran to South Asia. She is author of “Book Culture, Royal Libraries, and Persianate Painting in Bijapur, circa 1580-1630” in Muqarnas and “Filming, Photographing and Purveying in ‘the New Iran:’ The Legacy of Stephen H. Nyman, ca. 1937–42” in Arthur Upham Pope and A New Survey of Persian Art.

Persianate Art, Culture, and Talent in Circulation

Overton, Keelan (ed.). 2020. Iran and the Deccan: Persianate art, culture, and talent in circulation, 1400-1700. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

In the early 1400s, Iranian elites began migrating to the Deccan plateau of southern India. Lured to the region for many reasons, these poets, traders, statesmen, and artists of all kinds left an indelible mark on the Islamic sultanates that ruled the Deccan until the late seventeenth century. The result was the creation of a robust transregional Persianate network linking such distant cities as Bidar and Shiraz, Bijapur and Isfahan, and Golconda and Mashhad.

Iran and the Deccan explores the circulation of art, culture, and talent between Iran and the Deccan over a three-hundred-year period. Its interdisciplinary contributions consider the factors that prompted migration, the physical and intellectual poles of connectivity between the two regions, and processes of adaptation and response. Placing the Deccan at the center of Indo-Persian and early modern global history, Iran and the Deccan reveals how mobility, liminality, and cultural translation nuance the traditional methods and boundaries of the humanities.

Contents

Continue reading Persianate Art, Culture, and Talent in Circulation

Archaeology of Iran in the Historical Period

Niknami, Kamal-Aldin & Ali Hojabri (eds.). 2020. Archaeology of Iran in the historical period. Springer.

This collection of twenty-eight essays presents an up-to-date survey of pre-Islamic Iran, from the earliest dynasty of Elam to the end of Sasanian empire, encompassing a rich diversity of peoples and cultures. Historically, Iran served as a bridge between the earlier Near Eastern cultures and the later classical world of the Mediterranean, and had a profound influence on political, military, economic, and cultural aspects of the ancient world. Written by international scholars and drawing mainly on the field of practical archaeology, which traditionally has shared little in the way of theories and methods, the book provides crucial pieces to the puzzle of the national identity of Iranian cultures from a historical perspective.

Revealing the wealth and splendor of ancient Iranian society – its rich archaeological data and sophisticated artistic craftsmanship – most of which has never before been presented outside of Iran, this beautifully illustrated book presents a range of studies addressing specific aspects of Iranian archaeology to show why the artistic masterpieces of ancient Iranians rank among the finest ever produced. Together, the authors analyze how archaeology can inform us about our cultural past, and what remains to still be discovered in this important region.

Continue reading Archaeology of Iran in the Historical Period

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.

Contents:

  • 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

A predominantly bibliographic blog for Iranian Studies