The Greek Tablet of the Persepolis Fortification Archive

Aperghis, Gerasimos George & Antigoni Zournatzi. 2023. The Greek Tablet (Fort. 1771) of the Persepolis Fortification Archive. Arta 2023. 001.

This paper reflects on the circumstances that could be held to account for the singleton tablet in Greek, Fort. 1771, of the Persepolis Fortification archive. It proposes that this tablet possibly records a wine ration for a functionary of the Persepolis administrative system, which could have been drafted by this functionary himself. The use of Greek would imply that he was a native Greek speaker.


Feeding and Labeling Inequality at Persepolis

King, Rhyne. 2023. La desigualdad en la alimentacion y la clasificacion de personas en Persepolis. In: Marcelo Campagno et al. (eds.), Desigualdades antiguas: Economía, cultura y sociedad en el Oriente Medio y el Mediterráneo, 341-358. Barcelona: Miño y Dávila.

This paper deals with questions regarding the nutritional rations paid to individuals as reflected by the Persepolis Fortification Archive focusing on the inequality and its meanings in terms of labels of social status. The author has examined these unequal rations distributed among travelers and various workers and subordinates of different status (puhu, Kurtaš and libap).


Persepolis: Stairways as Dialogic Spheres of Spiritual Social Community in Empire

Root, M. Cool. 2022. Persepolis: Stairways as Dialogic Spheres of Spiritual Social Community in Empire. In: Alexa Rickert & Sophie Schlosser (eds.), Gestaltung, Funktion und Bedeutung antiker Treppenanlagen (Kasion 11), 135-158. Münster: Zaphon.

The external stairways serving several ceremonial structures of Persepolis are often-illustrated hallmarks of this heartland capital of the Achaemenid Persian Empire (fig. 1). Yet their forms, kinetic dynamics, and experiential agencies receive very little commentary within any history of architecture, whether it be narrow or global. Within discrete discussions of the site itself, their nature as stairs typically defers to their pictorial aspect as sculptural surfaces. The reasons for this paradox are diverse and interesting. My modest aim here is to open fresh dialogue on the stairways and to suggest some prospects for further work.


Women Involved in Daily Management in Achaemenid Babylonia

Watai, Yoko. 2023. Women Involved in Daily Management in Achaemenid Babylonia: The Cases of Rē’indu and Andiya. In: icole Maria Brisch and Fumi Karahashi (eds.), Women and Religion in the Ancient Near East and Asia, 63-79. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter.

Babylonia from the seventh to the fourth century BCE, in the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods, has provided us with an abundance of cuneiform tablets: according to the estimate of M. Jursa (2005: 1 and 2010: 6), more than 16,000 legal or administrative documents have been published, with tens of thousands of unpublished texts housed in museum collections around the world. Most of these documents deal with everyday practical matters, and can be classified as economic texts, familial documents (marriage contracts, documents of division of succession and of transfer of properties, testaments, etc.), administrative records, and letters, mostly drafted in the “long sixth century” (Jursa 2010: 4–5) that lasted about 140 years between the fall of the NeoAssyrian Empire (620 BCE) and the “end of archives” in the second year of Xerxes (484 BCE). Although far fewer women appear in these texts than men, we estimate that at least several thousand women are mentioned. Most of them were inhabitants of Babylonian cities like Babylon, Borsippa, Uruk, and Sippar, and they represent various social strata: women of free status from urban families, slaves, and oblates at temples. The corpus constitutes, therefore, a good basis for discussing the role, status, situation, and activities of women in the social, economic, and familial frameworks.


A Portuguese edition of the Behistun Inscription (Old Persian text)

Treuk Medeiros de Araujo, Matheus. 2023. A inscrição de Behistun (c. 520 a.C.): tradução do texto Persa Antigo para o Português, introdução crítica e comentários. Revista de História 182, 1-35.

The monumental Achaemenid inscription at mount Behistun (Bisitun), in the Iranian province of Kermanshah (western Iran), reports the official version of Darius’ accession to power in Ancient Persia. Written in three languages and scripts (Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian), this invaluable historical document was vital to the decipherment of the cuneiform script in the 19th century. It also enabled the reconstruction of the Achaemenid Empire’s history, previously known to us mainly through the accounts of Greek and biblical sources. Due to the importance and uniqueness of the Behistun Inscription, we propose the translation of the Old Persian text directly to the Portuguese language, providing wider access to the document for specialized and non-specialized audiences. Historical commentaries approaching the most important debates associated with the inscription also follow the text.


The Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East

Rollinger, Robert, Irene Madreiter, Martin Lang & Cinzia Pappi (eds.). 2023. The Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East: Proceedings held at the 64th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale and the 12th Melammu Symposium, University of Innsbruck, July 16‒20, 2018 (Melammu Symposia 12). Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences.

The proceedings of the 12th Melammu Symposium is out. Among other interesting subjects, several papers contribute to aspects of ancient Iranian history and culture:

  • Josef Wiesehöfer: Ancient History and the Ancient Near East: Comments of an Ancient Historian
  • Daniel Beckman: On a Possible Assyrian Source of the Achaemenid Demand for “Earth and Water”
  • Eckart Otto: The Intellectual Heritage from the Neo-Assyrian Empire to the Achaemenids in the Western Reception History of the Book of Deuteronomy in the 16th and 17th Century
  • Rolf Strootman: Memories of Persian Kingship in the Hellenistic World
  • Tonia M. Sharlach: Over the Mountains: The Movement of Goods and People between Mesopotamia and Elam in the 21st Century BCE

Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2023. Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther: Achaemenid Court Culture in the Hebrew Bible. London: Bloomsbury.

Esther is the most visual book of the Hebrew Bible and largely crafted in the Fourth Century BCE by an author who was clearly au fait with the rarefied world of the Achaemenid court. It therefore provides an unusual melange of information which can enlighten scholars of Ancient Iranian Studies whilst offering Biblical scholars access into the Persian world from which the text emerged.

In this book, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones unlocks the text of Esther by reading it against the rich iconographic world of ancient Persia and of the Near East. Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther is a cultural and iconographic exploration of an important, but often undervalued, biblical book, and Llewellyn-Jones presents the book of Esther as a rich source for the study of life and thought in the Persian Empire. The author reveals answers to important questions, such as the role of the King’s courtiers in influencing policy, the way concubines at court were recruited, the structure of the harem in shifting the power of royal women, the function of feasting and drinking in the articulation of courtly power, and the meaning of gift-giving and patronage at the Achaemenid court.

Table of Contents
Why Iconography?
The Book of Esther: A New English Translation
i: The Persian Empire
ii: Jews in a Persian world
iii: The Book of Records: Persian perceptions of their past
iv: Persian Kingship
v: Susa and the palaces of Persia
vi: Laws and Governance; tax and tribute
vii: Banquets: drinking and feasting
viii: Gardens – Paradeisoi
ix: Couches and cups ; thrones and sceptres
x: Courtiers
xi: Vashti and her women
xii: Elite women at the Persian court
xiii: Royal concubinage
xiv: Beauty and sexuality
xv: Eunuchs
xvi: The royal gate
xvii: Royal protocol: audiences and formality
xviii: The royal robe and gift-giving
xix: Persian horses
xx: Signet rings and seals
xxi: Communications
xxii: Peace and rebellion
xxiii: Punishments and execution
Epilogue: Visualising Esther in the post-Persian world (5,000 words)


Xerxes: The Great King in Greece

Klinkott, Hilmar. 2023. Xerxes: Der Großkönig in Griechenland. Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer.

Der Griechenland-Feldzug des persischen Großkönigs Xerxes I. ist bislang nicht aus einer konsequent östlichen Perspektive untersucht worden. Die Inschrift des Xerxes aus Persepolis XPl bietet methodisch dafür eine Grundlage als Leitfaden einer achaimenidischen Programmatik. Die Neubewertung des Griechenlandfeldzuges anhand dieser Inschrift ist weder ein Korrektiv der bestehenden Forschung noch ein Versuch, den Feldzug ereignis- oder militärgeschichtlich umfänglich zu rekonstruieren. Vielmehr nutzt Hilmar Klinkott sie als Schlüssel für das Verständnis ganz anderer, großköniglicher Akzente, Zielsetzungen und Bewertungen, die damit auch das Gesamtbild des Feldzuges prägen. Denn anders als aus griechischer Sicht war das Unternehmen für Xerxes unter gewissen Aspekten durchaus ein Erfolg.


The Age of Persia

Radner, Karen, Nadine Moeller & D. T. Potts (eds.). 2023. The Oxford History of the Ancient Near East Volume V: The Age of Persia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The fifth and final volume of the Oxford History of the Ancient Near East covers the period from the second half of the 7th century BC until the campaigns of Alexander III of Macedon (336-323 BC) brought an end to the Achaemenid Dynasty and the Persian Empire. Tying together areas and political developments covered by previous volumes in the series, this title covers also the Persian Empire’s immediate predecessor states: Saite Egypt, the Neo-Babylonian Empire, and Lydia, among other kingdoms and tribal alliances. The chapters in this volume feature a wide range of archaeological and textual sources, with contributors displaying a masterful treatment of the challenges and advantages of the available materials. Two chapters focus on areas that have not enjoyed prominence in any of the previous volumes of this series: eastern Iran and Central Asia. This volume is the necessary and complementary final component of this comprehensive series.


“Daiva Inscription” of Xerxes

Yakubovich, Ilya S. 2023. “Daiva Inscription” of Xerxes: Historical account, ideological statement, or propaganda. Journal of Ancient History 83(1). 5–26.

The so-called “Daiva inscription” of Xerxes found at Persepolis addresses the activity of this Achaemenid Persian king in two lands, one of which is said to have been in commotion, while the other is alleged to have been characterized by unacceptable religious practices. Xerxes stresses his involvement in the restoration of order in both countries but does not mention their names. Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Bactria were all adduced as candidates by twentieth century scholars, while the recent mainstream of scholarship tends to interpret the same accounts as abstract ideological statements without an anchor in time or space. The new approach advocated in this paper assumes that Xerxes resorted to historical narratives only in order to provide his own apologetic version of embarrassing events. In particular, his self-professed involvement in the destruction of the cults of evil gods is to be interpreted as a twisted account of the destruction of the Acropolis of Athens by the Persian army in 480 BC. In the wake of the disastrous war against the Greeks, Xerxes strove to present it as a successful special operation against the Greek deities.