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Books

Paleopersepolis

Balatti, Silvia, Hilmar Klinkott, Josef Wiesehöfer (eds.). 2021. Paleopersepolis: Environment, Landscape and Society in Ancient Fars (Oriens et Occidens, 33). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Pārsa, approximately corresponding to the modern-day Iranian province of Fars, can reasonably be considered to occupy a prominent place in the history of Ancient Iran. Indeed, it was the heartland of the Persian empires of the Teispids, Achaemenids and Sasanians. The spectacular archaeological remains of Fars are well known – we need only think, for example, of the monumental remains of Persepolis. Much less is known about life outside of the royal palaces and about human-environment interactions in this region. In recent decades, a new interest in socio-environmental issues in the humanities, the use of innovative scientific methods in archaeology, and the rapid expansion of the field of paleoenvironmental studies have vastly increased the potential for investigating this topic from an interdisciplinary perspective. The contributions to this volume are the result of a scholarly effort to investigate the landscape and society of ancient Fars using an integrative approach, which benefits from the contributions from the humanities and the natural and technological sciences.

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Books

Études offertes à Pierre Briant

Agut-Labordère, Damien, Rémy Boucharlat, Francis Joannès, Amélie Kuhrt & Matthew W. Stolper (éds). 2021. Achemenet. Vingt ans après: Études offertes à Pierre Briant à l’occasion des vingt ans du Programme Achemenet (Persika 21). Leuven: Peeters.

En créant le programme international Achemenet en 2000, l’année où il inaugurait la chaire «Histoire et civilisation du monde achéménide et de l’empire d’Alexandre» au Collège de France, Pierre Briant avait pour objectif de rassembler les données primaires sur l’Empire perse achéménide à travers les territoires immenses qu’il a couverts en Orient. Vingt ans après, le site achemenet.com met à la disposition des spécialistes, des étudiants et du grand public une dizaine de milliers de textes, des données archéologiques et près de cent mille images d’objets conservés dans une vingtaine de musées du monde entier.

À ces vastes corpus documentaires sont venues s’ajouter la collection Persika, en 2001, dont ce volume porte le numéro 21, et une revue en ligne, ARTA (Achaemenid Research on Texts and Archaeology), seul périodique consacré aux études achéménides.

Les auteurs de cet ouvrage célèbrent les vingt ans d’Achemenet et rendent, du même coup, hommage à son fondateur. Tous sont des spécialistes dans différents domaines des recherches achéménides et leurs contributions illustrent l’immensité géographique de cet empire-monde et la diversité des disciplines que requiert son étude.

For the table of contents, see here.

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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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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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Articles

From the Mediterranean to the Indus Valley

Briant, Pierre. 2021. From the Mediterranean to the Indus Valley: Modalities and imitations of the Achaemenid imperial space. In: Yuri Pines, Michal Biran & Jörg Rüpke (eds.), The limits of universal rule. Eurasian empires compared, 49–78. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Achaemenid Empire founded by Cyrus the Great (550–530 BCE), expanded by his successors, Cambyses (530–522) and most importantly Darius the Great (522–486), was conquered by Alexander the Great between 334 and 323. After the wars between the successors of the Macedonian conqueror, also known as the Diadochi, the empire imploded into several competing kingdoms (the Hellenistic kingdoms). From a geopolitical global perspective, the establishment of the empire of the Great Kings put an end to a very long period of territorial divisions among several kingdoms and empires, such as those existing around 550 (Pharaonic Egypt, the Lydian Kingdom in Asia Minor, the neo-Babylonian kingdom in Mesopotamia and in the Fertile Crescent, the Median kingdom in the surroundings of Hamadan/Ecbatana, etc.). The Achaemenid historical phase represents thus a singular moment in the longue durée: it is the first and last time in history that these peoples and countries were united within a unitary state structure for more than two centuries. This would later be called the Persian-Achaemenid Empire, in line with the name of the reigning dynasty.

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Books

Aršāma and his World

Tuplin, Christopher J. & John Ma (eds.). 2020. Aršāma and his world: The Bodleian letters in context: Volume I: The Bodleian letters. -Volume II: Bullae and seals. -Volume III: Aršāma’s world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

During the Second World War the Bodleian Library in Oxford acquired a set of Aramaic letters, eight sealings, and the two leather bags in which the sealed letters were once stored. The letters concern the affairs of Aršāma, satrap of Egypt in the later fifth century. Taken with other material associated with him (mostly in Aramaic, Demotic Egyptian, and Akkadian), they illuminate the Achaemenid world of which Aršāama was a privileged member and evoke a wide range of social, economic, cultural, organizational, and political perspectives, from multi-lingual communication, storage and disbursement of resources, and satrapal remuneration, to cross-regional ethnic movement, long-distance travel, religious practice, and iconographic projection of ideological messages.

Particular highlights include a travel authorization (the only example of something implicit in numerous Persepolis documents), texts about the religious life of the Judaean garrison at Elephantine, Aršāma’s magnificent seal (a masterpiece of Achaemenid glyptic, inherited from a son of Darius I), and echoes of temporary disturbances to Persian management of Egypt. But what is also impressive is the underlying sense of systematic coherence founded on and expressed in the use of formal, even formalized, written communication as a means of control. The Aršāma dossier is not alone in evoking that sense, but its size, variety, and focus upon a single individual give it a unique quality.

Though this material has not been hidden from view, it has been insufficiently explored: it is the purpose of the three volumes of Aršāma and his World: The Bodleian Letters in Context to provide the fullest presentation and historical contextualization of this extraordinary cache yet attempted. Volume I presents and translates the letters alongside a detailed line-by-line commentary, while Volume II reconstructs the two seals that made the clay bullae that sealed the letters, with special attention to Aršāma’s magnificent heirloom seal. Volume III comprises a series of thematic essays which further explore the administrative, economic, military, ideological, religious, and artistic environment to which Aršāma and the letters belonged.

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Journal

NABU 2020-4

The latest issue of NABU (Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires), 2020-4 (notes 100-134), is out. Among other interesting notes, three fall in the scope of the Iranian Studies discipline.

129) Ran ZADOK: Four Loanwords in Neo-/Late-Babylonian

130) Gérard GERTOUX: Intercalations during the co-regency of Xerxes with Darius I

131) J. Nicholas REID: A Multi-year Audit Belonging to the Late Achaemenid and Early Hellenistic Esangila Archive: A New Text

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Books

Armed force in the Teispid-Achaemenid Empire

Manning, Sean. 2021. Armed Force in the Teispid-Achaemenid Empire: Past Approaches, Future Prospects (Oriens et Occidens, 32). Stuttgart: Fanz Steiner Verlag.

The armies of Cyrus, Xerxes and Darius III are usually understood through the lens of classical literature and stereotypes about the orient. Sean Manning proposes a new understanding based on all kinds of evidence and the study of the ancient Near East. He examines the last century and a half of research in its historical and ideological context. Three core chapters treat Akkadian tablets, Aramaic documents, royal inscriptions, and artifacts as sources in their own right, not compliments to Herodotus. The different perspectives of Iranian philologists, Mesopotamian archaeologists and historians of ancient Greece are considered and addressed. A series of case studies show that the Greek and Latin texts can be read in unfamiliar ways which can survive stronger criticism than traditional interpretations. The king’s troops were not literary foils to show the virtues of Greek hoplites or Scythian horsemen, they were agents of an early world empire which drew on long traditions and the latest innovations to gather money, soldiers, and workers and deploy them at the will of the king.

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Books

Identity in Persian Egypt

Becking, Bob. 2020. Identity in Persian Egypt: The Fate of the Yehudite Community of Elephantine. Pennsylvania: Eisenbrauns.

In this book, Bob Becking provides a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the origins, lives, and eventual fate of the Yehudites, or Judeans, at Elephantine, framed within the greater history of the rise and fall of the Persian Empire.

The Yehudites were among those mercenaries recruited by the Persians to defend the southwestern border of the empire in the fifth century BCE. Becking argues that this group, whom some label as the first “Jews,” lived on the island of Elephantine in relative peace with other ethnic groups under the aegis of the pax persica. Drawing on Aramaic and Demotic texts discovered during excavations on the island and at Syene on the adjacent shore of the Nile, Becking finds evidence of intermarriage, trade cooperation, and even a limited acceptance of one another’s gods between the various ethnic groups at Elephantine. His analysis of the Elephantine Yehudites’ unorthodox form of Yahwism provides valuable insight into the group’s religious beliefs and practices.

An important contribution to the study of Yehudite life in the diaspora, this accessibly written and sweeping history enhances our understanding of the varieties of early Jewish life and how these contributed to the construction of Judaism.