The Armies of the Teispids and Achaemenids

Manning, Sean. 2022. The armies of the Teispids and Achaemenids: The armies of an ancient world empire. Journal of Ancient Civilizations 37(2). 147-192.

An Attic red-figure kylix with a battle of Greeks and barbarians, c. 490–480 BC (possibly the same as Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, number 1980.11.21)

Although ancient warfare and the Teispid-Achaemenid empire are common topics for research, no concise and up-to-date overview of Teispid and Achaemenid armies and warfare exists. The most recent syntheses were published in the period 1986–1992 when the current understanding of the empire was only beginning to form. This article combines indigenous and Greco-Roman texts, art, and artifacts to provide a short introduction to the armies and navies of the so-called Persian Empire. It focuses on the reigns of Darius I and Xerxes (522–465 BC) from which a variety of texts and artwork survive from Persis, Babylonia, and Greece. Ten main sections cover the history of research, the seemingly contradictory evidence for a uniform army and a patchwork army under Darius I and Xerxes, how the very rapid conquests of the Teispids lead to an army very different than the Roman or imperial British armies, recruitment, organization and equipment, combat mechanics, army organization, siege warfare, naval and riverine warfare, and numbers and effectiveness. Whereas the author’s recent monograph focused on methodological problems and the origin of different theories, this article offers usable answers to many difficult questions.


The birth of the abestāg

Lecture by Arash Zeini: The birth of the abestāg from the spirit of philology. Please register online for Zoom participation.

زایش «اَبِستاگ» از روح فقه اللغة. سخنران: آرش زینی. برای شرکت در زوم لطفا آنلاین ثبت نام کنید.

Date: 11 January 2023; Time: 11:00 am – 1:00 pm Pacific time.

تاریخ و زمان: ۱۱ ژانویه ۲۰۲۳، ساعت ۲۲:۳۰ به وقت ایران

Pourdavoud Center Lecture Series


Oedipus and Jocasta on a ‘Bactrian’ Silver Bowl

Dan, Anca & Frantz Grenet. 2022. Oedipus and Jocasta on a ‘Bactrian’ silver bowl in the Hermitage, c. 350-500. Journal Asiatique 330(1). 55-79.

Silver bowl from Kustanai, now in Hermitage S–62; 15.5 × 5.2 cm, 4th-5th c., with scenes from Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus. After Marshak 2000: no. 31, and Ivanov, Lukonin, and Smesova 1984, fig. 39. Photo courtesy State Hermitage Museum.

Elites of the Hunnish states, including Tokharistan (ancient Bactria) and Northwest India from the 4th century, not only appreciated Greco-Roman art, inherited or imported, but also had a good knowledge of the Hellenic mythological cycles. Among the small silver bowls called ‘Bactrian’, attributed by Boris Marshak to the period after the Sasanian withdrawal from Central Asia, the one discovered at Kustanai (Hermitage, S-62) is decorated with scenes inspired mainly by Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannus. While following the text sometimes literally (e.g. by portraying Oedipus as a child of Fortune), and using a Hellenistic iconographic repertoire which had become ‘Indianized’ during the Kushan period, the artist who executed the model transposed the Sophoclean plot in five scenes, adapting it to his customers’ interests: the son’s marriage to his mother, highlighted on this vase like nowhere else in ancient art, recommends the couple as a Zoroastrian ethical model. The tragic fault now lies with the servant, who did not expose the newborn Oedipus and did not tell the truth on the parricide: the confrontation between the lying servant and the sincere, generous Jocasta, gives the key to a cathartic reading of this vase.


Oral Narration in Iranian Cultures

Nourzaei, Maryam, Carina Jahani & Agnes Korn (eds.). 2022. Oral narration in Iranian cultures (Beiträge zur Iranistik, 48). Wiesbaden: Reichert.

This volume presents papers demonstrating the current state of research on oral traditions among different groups in the Iranian-speaking cultural sphere. The articles offer from a variety of perspectives, encouraging the exchange of ideas between different academic disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, linguistics, literature, religious studies and folklore studies concerning methods and models applied to studies of oral traditions in Iranian languages and cultures.

To see the ToC, click here.


The reign of the strongest

Coloru, Omar. 2022. Il regno del piú forte: La lunga contesa per l’Impero di Alessandro Magno (IV-III sec. A.C.). Roma: Salerno editrice.

Babilonia, giugno 323 a.C. La morte di Alessandro Magno getta lo scompiglio tra i Macedoni: chi dovrà succedere al trono di uno dei piú vasti imperi della storia se i due eredi legittimi sono un figlio che deve ancora nascere e un fratellastro affetto da un ritardo mentale? Si diffonde addirittura la voce che in punto di morte il sovrano abbia detto che lascerà il suo regno al migliore dei suoi generali. La competizione per l’eredità di Alessandro innesca una lotta di potere senza esclusione di colpi aprendo di fatto l’età dei Diadochi, i Successori di Alessandro che dopo decenni di conflitti daranno vita ai regni ellenistici. L’autore esplora le dinamiche in gioco in questo periodo mostrando come lo scenario geopolitico emerso dalle guerre sia stato plasmato dall’interazione dei fattori di forza e debolezza. Quello dei Diadochi è infatti un mondo precario in cui il potere va continuamente confermato, gli equilibri delle forze e i ruoli sociali si ribaltano in modo improvviso trasformando i forti in deboli e viceversa. Tra signori della guerra, avventurieri e regine combattive, l’età dei Diadochi cambierà per sempre il corso della storia nel Mediterraneo.

Table of contents:


I. Al migliore

1. Il migliore è il piú forte

2. La declinazione della forza

II. I deboli

1. Il problema della successione

2. Filippo Arrideo

3. Alessandro IV

4. Eracle

5. Le donne di Alessandro dopo Alessandro

5.1. Le principesse iraniche: Barsine, Parisatide, Rossane e Statira

5.2. Principesse e regine macedoni: Cinnane, Cleopatra, Euridice, Olimpiade e Tessalonice

6. Eumene di Cardia, un condottiero forte in una posizione debole

6.1. Da segretario a governatore

6.2. Il duello

6.3. Verso est

6.4. La fine

III. Violenza e terrore

1. Il potere della violenza

2. Crimini in famiglia

3. Crudeltà

4. Rex tremendae maiestatis






Indice dei nomi


Studies inspired by Agnes Korn

Suleymanov, Murad & Dorian Pastor (eds.). 2022. Tous les chemins menent a Paris: Studies inspired by Agnes Korn. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.

This volume is a collection of nine papers by various authors focussing on issues of etymology, historical language contact, morphology and syntax, typological modelling, and folk practices in the Caucasus–Iran–Central Asia area and its immediate vicinity. The volume is a humble token of appreciation offered by the authors to Dr Agnes Korn to honour her continuing support for young researchers during her time in Paris and to highlight her wide array of research interests.

For the table of contents, see here.


Ktèma n° 47/2022

The new volume of the journal Ktèma ,edited by Dominique Lenfant, contains several contributions to ancient Iranian history.

Ce volume propose des approches inédites, dues aux meilleurs spécialistes internationaux, sur les rapports entre le monde grec et « l’Orient » avant et après les conquêtes d’Alexandre. Sont d’abord privilégiées, sous l’empire perse, les relations intenses et complexes entre cultures comme entre personnes, dans le cadre diplomatique, économique ou artistique. La question de l’hellénisation est ensuite envisagée dans les cas richement documentés de la Carie et de Chypre. L’Égypte lagide est enfin le lieu d’échanges complexes entre Grecs et Égyptiens, que les papyrus permettent d’observer au plus près.

Table of contents

Grecs et non-Grecs de l’empire perse au monde hellénistique

Dominique Lenfant — Introduction

Dominique Lenfant — Les ambassades grecques à la cour du Grand Roi : des missions pas comme les autres ?

Margaret C. Miller — Playing with Persians in Athenian imagery of the Fourth Century BCE

Pierre-Olivier Hochard — Guerres, diplomatie et thésaurisation dans l’espace égéo-anatolien : une autre approche des relations gréco-perses au IVe siècle avant J.-C.

Eduard Rung — The Persian king as a peacemaker: The ideological background of the Common Peace Treaties in fourth century Greece

John O. Hyland — Artabazos and the Rhodians: marriage alliance and satrapal politics in the late Achaemenid Aegean

Thierry Petit — Isocrate, la théorie de la médiation et l’hellénisation de Chypre à l’époque des royaumes

Anna Cannavò — Kition de Chypre : du royaume phénicien à la cité hellénistique

Patrice Brun — L’hellénisation passe-t-elle par le nom ? L’exemple de la Carie aux IVe et IIIe siècles av. J.-C.

Michel Chauveau — Éviter la réquisition militaire ou une menace surnaturelle ? À propos d’un contrat démotique inédit entre un Égyptien et un Grec (P.Carlsberg 471, 251 av. J.-C.)

Pierre Schneider — Une épigramme pour célébrer l’expansion lagide en mer Érythrée ? À propos du papyrus d’El Hibeh (deuxième moitié du IIIe siècle av. J.-C.)

Yvona Trnka-Amrhein — The Alexandria Effect: City Foundation in Ptolemaic Culture and the Egyptian Histories of Manetho and Diodorus


François Lefèvre — Assemblées éphémères, assemblées spontanées, assemblées élargies : alternatives démocratiques en Grèce ancienne

Edith Foster — Devastation of Cultivated Land in Herodotus

Julien Fournier — Bases thasiennes pour des empereurs d’époque constantinienne. Les derniers feux d’une épigraphie civique


Studies of Bactrian Legal Documents

Sheikh, Hossein. 2023. Studies of Bactrian legal documents (Ancient Iran Series 15). Brill.

Studies of Bactrian Legal Documents deals with legal texts written in Bactrian, an eastern Middle Iranian language, between the 4th and 8th centuries CE. The work aims to give insight in the Bactrian legal formulary as well as its historical context. In order to achieve that, the author carefully examines the terms and phrases in the legal documents and clarifies their function. Then he explores the historical background of expressions and wordings. To this end, he uses documents from other regions of the Near East spanning from Egypt to Turkestan.

From the book’s website

Sasanian Archaeology

Simpson, St John. 2022. Sasanian archaeology: Settlements, environment and material culture. Oxford: Archaeopress.

The Sasanian empire was one of the great powers of Late Antiquity, and for four centuries ruled the vast region stretching from Syria and the Caucasus to Central Asia. Classical, Armenian, Jewish and Arab written sources throw light on its history, and studies of its rock reliefs, stuccoes, silver, silks, coins and glyptic have created a picture of a rich courtly culture with a strong Iranian character. However, the everyday material culture is much less understood, as is the economy which sustained and supported the Sasanian empire and underpinned its consistent military superiority over its western rivals. This collection of essays looks at these aspects and offers an approach based almost entirely on archaeological and scientific research, much presented here for the first time. This book is divided into three parts which in turn examine evidence for Sasanian sites, settlements and landscapes, their complex agricultural resources, and their crafts and industries. Each section is preceded by an essay setting out the wider research questions and current state of knowledge. The book begins and ends with a general introduction and conclusion setting out why this new approach is necessary, and how it helps change our perceptions of the complexity and power of the Sasanian empire.


Zoroastrians in Early Islamic History

Magnusson, Andrew D. 2023. Zoroastrians in early Islamic history: Accommodation and memory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Examines debates about the inclusion or exclusion of Zoroastrians in Islamic society circa 600-1000 C.E.

  • Makes a significant contribution to the literature on interfaith relations in Islamic history
  • Demonstrates the role of advocacy in shaping early Islamic policy
  • Argues against the assumption that Zoroastrians were People of the Book
  • Engages theories of accommodation and of memory, from North America, the Middle East and Europe
  • Utilises archival material from Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States

The second Muslim caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab, once reportedly exclaimed, ‘I do not know how to treat Zoroastrians!’ He and other Muslims encountered Zoroastrians during the conquest of Arabia but struggled to formulate a consistent policy toward the adherents of a religion that was neither biblical nor polytheistic. Some Muslims saw Zoroastrians as pagans and sought to limit interaction with them. Others found ways to incorporate them within the empire of Islamic law. Andrew D. Magnusson describes the struggle between advocates of inclusion and exclusion, the ultimate accommodation of Zoroastrians, and the reasons that Muslim historians have subsequently buried the memory of this relationship.