The Administration of Syria under Alexander the Great

Kholod, Maxim. 2021. The administration of Syria under Alexander the Great. Klio 103(2). 505–537.

The author is of the opinion that as a result of Alexander the Great’s conquest of Syria (late 333–332 BC), which had been a single administrative entity under the Achaemenids, it was divided into two satrapies – the northern and the southern one. He believes that Menon, son of Cerdimmas, was appointed as the first head of the northern satrapy (winter 333/332), to be replaced by Arimmas (early spring 331), who, in his turn, was succeeded by Asclepiodorus, son of Eunicus (late summer 331). Besides, it seems that Andromachus became the first head of the southern satrapy (shortly before winter 332/331), and after he was killed, Menon, transferred from the north to the south, took his place (early spring 331). Already in Alexander’s lifetime, probably in 329/328, Syria was once again merged into one satrapy. It is unclear who was installed as satrap of the unified region. At any rate, it could not have been Menes, son of Dionysius: the hypothesis that in winter 331/330 he was made satrap of the new province including Syria and Cilicia does not stand scrutiny. In the author’s view, the main task Alexander assigned to Menes was to take control and then to keep open and organized the sea communications with the coast of Syria, Phoenicia and Cilicia, and in the matters concerning these activities Menes was fully independent of the local satraps.


The Persian revival

Grigor, Talinn. 2021. The Persian revival: The imperialism of the copy in Iranian and Parsi architecture. University Park, PA : Penn State University Press.

One of the most heated scholarly controversies of the early twentieth century, the Orient-or-Rome debate turned on whether art historians should trace the origin of all Western—and especially Gothic—architecture to Roman ingenuity or to the Indo-Germanic Geist. Focusing on the discourses around this debate, Talinn Grigor considers the Persian Revival movement in light of imperial strategies of power and identity in British India and in Qajar-Pahlavi Iran.

The Persian Revival examines Europe’s discovery of ancient Iran, first in literature and then in art history. Tracing Western visual discourse about ancient Iran from 1699 on, Grigor parses the invention and use of a revivalist architectural style from the Afsharid and Zand successors to the Safavid throne and the rise of the Parsi industrialists as cosmopolitan subjects of British India. Drawing on a wide range of Persian revival narratives bound to architectural history, Grigor foregrounds the complexities and magnitude of artistic appropriations of Western art history in order to grapple with colonial ambivalence and imperial aspirations. She argues that while Western imperialism was instrumental in shaping high art as mercantile-bourgeois ethos, it was also a project that destabilized the hegemony of a Eurocentric historiography of taste.

An important reconsideration of the Persian Revival, this book will be of vital interest to art and architectural historians and intellectual historians, particularly those working in the areas of international modernism, Iranian studies, and historiography.


The Persians at the court of the great kings

Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe (ed.). 2021. Die Perser am Hof der Großkönige. Darmstadt: wbg Philipp von Zabern.

Was zählt, ist der Blickwinkel: wie die persischen Könige sich selbst sahen

Die antiken Griechen hatten auf Grund von Vormachtrivalität in der Ägäis keine positive Meinung von den persischen Großkönigen. Griechische Quellen berichten von Dekadenz und Despotie am achämenidischen Hof. Doch wie sahen sich die Herrscher des ersten Weltreichs der Antike selbst? Ab Herbst 2020 sollte eine Sonderausstellung des Badischen Landesmuseums die Geschichte und das Selbstbild der Könige von Kyros II. bis zu Dareios III. zeigen. Umständehalber wurde der Begleitband zur Ausstellung zu einem Sonderheft der ANTIKEN WELT umgestaltet. Ein Bildband, der Einblicke in das Leben bei Hof gewährt und persische Quellen für sich sprechen lässt.


The canal of Darius in Egypt

Mahlich, Elena. 2020. Der Kanalbau unter Dareios I. Ein achämenidisches Bauprojekt in Ägypten (Bonner Ägyptologische Beiträge 11). Berlin: EB-Verlag Dr. Brandt.

Aus dem achämenidenzeitlichen Ägypten liegen trotz einer vergleichsweise langen Herrschaft der Perser während der 27. Dynastie, die von der Eroberung Ägyptens durch Kambyses II. bis zum Jahr 404 v. Chr. dauerte und somit mehr als ein Jahrhundert umfasst, nur wenige keilschriftliche Quellen vor. Zu den besonders bemerkenswerten Funden ist das Konvolut der Kanalstelen zu nennen, die Dareios I. zum Anlass der Einweihung eines Kanals aufstellen ließ. Die Stelen berichten über den Bau dieses Kanals, der den Pelusischen Nilarm mit dem Roten Meer verband. Der vollendete Kanal wies eine Länge von 200 Kilometern auf, womit seine Ausmaße mit dem des modernen Suezkanals vergleichbar sind.


Archiv für Orientforschung 54

The latest volume of Archiv für Orientforschung (2021) is out and contains several papers dealing with aspects of the history and culture of Babylonia in the Achaemenid times. The following selected list covers the ones that may interest scholars of the Achaemenid empire:

  • Johannes Hackl: The Artaxerxes Conundrum – Diplomatics and Its Contribution to Dating Late Achaemenid Legal Documents from Babylonia
  • Karlheinz Kessler: Zu den spätachämenidischen Urkunden in Uruk zwischen Xerxes und Alexander
  • Yuval Levavi and Martina Schmidl: Diplomatics of Neo-Babylonian and Early Achaemenid Letters
  • Louise Quillien: Diachronic Change of the Tablet Format, Layout and Contents in the Textile Dossier of the Ebabbar Temple of Sippar (End of the 7th to Beginning of the 5th Century BC)
  • [review of] Johannes Haubold, Giovanni B. Lanfranchi, Robert Rollinger and John M. Steele (eds.), The World of Berossos. Proceedings of the 4th International Colloquium on »The Ancient Near East between Classical and Ancient Oriental Traditions« (= Classica et Orientalia 5) (Reinhard Pirngruber)
  • [review of] Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, King and Court in Ancient Persia, 559 to 331 BCE (= Debates and Documents in Ancient History) (Reinhard Pirngruber)

The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East

Neumann, Kiersten & Allison Thomason (eds.). 2021. The Routledge Handbook of the Senses in the Ancient Near East. London: Routledge.

Among other interesting subjects offered in this volume, a number of contributions explicitly deal with the material from ancient Iran:

  • Kiersten Neumann: To touch upon – A tactile exploration of the Apadana reliefs at Persepolis
  • Megan Cifarelli: Dress, sensory assemblages, and identity in the early first millennium bce at Hasanlu, Iran
  • Neville McFerrin: A sense of scale – Proprioception, embodied subjectivities, and the space of kingship at Persepolis

Medes in the desert

Potts, Daniel. 2021. Medes in the desert: Thoughts on the mounted archer near Taymā’. In: Claudia Bührig et al. (eds.), Klänge der Archäologie: Festschrift für Ricardo Eichmann, 335-342. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Detail of petroglyph of equestrian figure near Tayma’

The equestrian figure engraved on a rock outcrop near Taymā’ is analyzed. Details of the horse and rider are discussed which support the identification of the horse as an Assyrianizing image, and the rider as a Mede. The significance of the image is treated in light of the tradition of rapid overland communication in the Achaemenid empire.


The Greeks and Persia

Stronk, Jan P. 2020. The Greeks and Persia. Talanta 52, 71-87.

Plain of Marathon, with some key features (source: Google Earth).

Lack of data has always been one of the main issues in studying antiquity, a theme that on the one hand distinguishes students of antiquity from other scholars, but on the other hand, ideally, should ensure a bond between ‘Altertumswissenschaftler’ all over the world. Nevertheless, there have risen several divisions in this field of scholarship, especially influenced by nineteenth-century authors. Apart from that, there is at present a shocking gap between scholarship and the greater public (and, consequently, public awareness of the relevance of scholarly activities). At present, new roads have been opened in the past twenty to thirty years that may enable us to find new possibilities for research, and might help us to bridge existing differences. The title of my paper is based upon that of the book by A.R.Burn (1962). Like he did, I shall try to make clear what connects – in my case – ancient Greek authors and Persian history.

From the abstract

Der ‚reiche Orient‘: Imagination und Faszination

Thomas, Louisa. 2021. Der ‚reiche Orient‘: Imagination und Faszination. Darstellungen des asiatischen Wohlstandes in griechischen Quellen des 5. und 4. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Classica et Orientalia, 2). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Noch heute dominiert in Europa ein sehr einseitiges und mit Klischees des ‚Andersseins‘ behaftetes Bild des Nahen Ostens. Besonders manifestiert sich dieses in Literatur, Kunst und Film, doch auch auf politischer und gesellschaftlicher Ebene ist es von festgefahrenen Erwartungen geprägt. Die Ursprünge dieser Erwartungen sind besonders in der griechischen Historiographie des 5. und 4. Jahrhunderts v.Chr. anzusiedeln, einer Zeit, die durch die sogenannten Perserkriege sowie den Asienfeldzug Alexanders III. von Makedonien (des Großen) in besonderem Maße von Auseinandersetzungen zwischen der griechischen Welt und dem persischen Großreich geprägt war.

Die Autorin widmet sich vor allem einer der zahllosen stereotypen Erwartungen an die Reiche des Alten Orients und deren Herrschern: der Vorstellung des Wohlstands und der Opulenz. In diesem Zusammenhang gilt ihr besonderes Augenmerk der mit verschiedenen Topoi versehenen Darstellung des ‚orientalischen Reichtums‘ in den Quellen. Dabei arbeitet sie heraus, inwiefern die griechische Historiographie sich den ‚Orient‘ im Zuge eines hellenischen bzw. athenischen Reichtums- und Luxusdiskurses zu Nutze machte, wie sie das Stereotyp des ‚orientalischen Wohlstandes‘ wirkmächtig propagierte und schließlich sogar als Aufforderung zum Beutekrieg nutzbar machte.

For the ToC, see here.


Taxation in the Achaemenid Empire

Kleber, Kristin (ed.). 20201. Taxation in the Achaemenid Empire (Classica et Orientalia, 26). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Achaemenid Studies fall between the academic divisions of Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Archeology, Ancient History, Classical Philology, Egyptology and Semitic Languages. No single scholar can cover the many cultures that were united under the umbrella of this huge empire alone and in-depth. Interdisciplinary approaches are a necessity in order to tackle the challenges that the diverse textual records in Akkadian, Demotic Egyptian, Elamite, Aramaic and Greek present us with.

This volume, the proceedings of a conference on taxation and fiscal administration in the Achaemenid Empire held in Amsterdam in 2018, contains contributions on Babylonia, Egypt, the Levant, Asia Minor and Arachosia, written by specialists in the respective languages and cultures. The question that lies at the basis of this volume is how the empire collected revenue from the satrapies, whether and how local institutions were harnessed to make imperial rule successful. The contributions investigate what kind of taxes were imposed in what area and how tax collection was organized and administered. Since we lack imperial state archives, local records are the more important, as they are our only reliable source that allows us to move beyond the famous but unverifiable statement on Achaemenid state finances in Herodotus, Histories 3, 89–97.

For table of contents, see here.