What is the role of the material world in shaping the tensions and paradoxes of imperial sovereignty? Scholars have long shed light on the complex processes of conquest, extraction, and colonialism under imperial rule. But imperialism has usually been cast as an exclusively human drama, one in which the world of matter does not play an active role. Lori Khatchadourian argues instead that things—from everyday objects to monumental buildings—profoundly shape social and political life under empire. Out of the archaeology of ancient Persia and the South Caucasus, Imperial Matter advances powerful new analytical approaches to the study of imperialism writ large and should be read by scholars working on empire across the humanities and social sciences.
A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos.
About the Autor LORI KHATCHADOURIAN is Assistant Professor of Archaeology in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University.
This is an Online First Article and has not been assigned to an issue of the journal.
Ancient Persia witnessed one of its most prosperous cultural and socio-economic periods between 550 bc and ad 651, with the successive domination of the Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian and Sassanian Empires. During this period agricultural activities increased on the Iranian plateau, as demonstrated by a remarkable arboricultural expansion. However, available data are not very informative about the spatial organization of agricultural practices. The possible links between climate conditions and agricultural activities during this millennium of continuous imperial domination are also unclear, due to the lack of parallel human-independent palaeoclimatic proxies. This study presents a new late Holocene pollen-based vegetation record from Lake Parishan, SW Iran. This record provides invaluable information regarding anthropogenic activities before, during and after the empires and sheds light on (i) spatial patterning in agricultural activities and (ii) possible climate impacts on agro-sylvo-pastoral practices during this period. Results of this study indicate that arboriculture was the most prominent form of agricultural activity in SW Iran especially during the Achaemenid, Seleucid and Parthian periods. Contrary to the information provided by some Greco-Roman written sources, the record from Lake Parishan shows that olive cultivation was practiced during Achaemenid and Seleucid times, when olive cultivation was significant, at least in this basin located close to the capital area of the Achaemenid Empire. In addition, pollen from aquatic vegetation suggests that the period of the latter centuries of the first millennium bc was characterized by a higher lake level, which might have favoured cultural and socio-economic prosperity.
Various disciplines that deal with Achaemenid rule offer starkly different assessments of Persian kingship. While Assyriologists treat Cyrus’s heirs as legitimate successors of the Babylonian kings, biblical scholars often speak of a kingless era; in which the priesthood took over the function of the Davidic monarch. Egyptologists see their land as uniquely independently minded despite conquests, while Hellenistic scholarship tends to evaluate the interface between Hellenism and native traditions without reference to the previous two centuries of Persian rule. This volume brings together in dialogue a broad array of scholars with the goal of seeking a broader context for assessing Persian kingship through the anthropological concept of political memory.
Jason M. Silverman is a Post-doctoral Researcher at the University of Helsinki. He is the editor of Opening Heaven’s Floodgates: The Genesis Flood Narrative, Its Contexts and Reception (Gorgias Press) and the author of Persepolis and Jerusalem: Iranian Influence on the Apocalyptic Hermeneutic (T&T Clark).
Caroline Waerzeggers is Associate Professor at Leiden University. She is the author of Marduk-remanni: Local Networks and Imperial Politics in Achaemenid Babylonia (Peeters) and The Ezida Temple of Borsippa: Priesthood, Cult, Archives (Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten).
Aliyari Babolghani, Salman. 2015. TheElamite Version of Darius the Great’s Inscription at Bisotun. Introduction, Grammar of Achaemenid Elamite, Transliteration, Persian Translation, Comparison with other Versions, Notes and Index. Tehran: Nashr-e Markaz.
The monumental inscription of Behistun “‘place where the gods dwell”, engraved on a cliff about 100 meters off the ground, is located along the road that connected the capitals of Babylonia and Media, Babylon and Ecbatana (modern Hamadan). The relief represent the victory of Darius I. the Great, King of Persia over the usurper Gaumāta and the nine rebels. The scene is surrounded by a great trilingual inscription in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian.
This Behistun inscription is the most important document of the entire ancient Near East and a major key to understanding its languages. It alone made it possible to decipher cuneiform writing and thus to open the door to previously totally unknown ancient civilizations.
The inscription was first studied in 1835-37, 1844, and 1847 by Henry C. Rawlinson was the first scholar who studied the inscription in 1835-37, 1844, and 1847; he edited the Old Persian and Babylonian versions of the text himself, while the Elamite version to Edwin Norris (Norris, Edwin. 1855. Memoir on the scythic version of the Behistun inscription. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 15. 1–213). Up to now, for the Elamite text one still has to rely on Weissbach’s edition and translation of 1911 (Weissbach, Franz Heinrich. 1911. Die Keilinschriften der Achämeniden. Leipzig: J.C. Hinriches’sche Buchhandlung), or the German translation of the original Elamite text (Hinz, Walther. 1974. Die Behistan-Inschrift des Darius in ihrer ursprünglichen Fassung. Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Iran NS. 7. 121–34.), while consulting more recent Elamite studies, mostly scattered around in journals. The last edition of the inscription was done by Grillot-Susini/Herrenschmidt/Malbran-Labat (Grillot-Susini, F., C. Herrenschmidt, & F. Malbran-Labat. 1993. “La version élamite de la trilingue de Behistun: une nouvelle lecture.” Journal Asiatique 281:19-59).
The current book in 268 pages, consists of a transcription of the Elamite version of the inscription together with its Persian translation. It is followed by a chapter on the comparison of the Elamite version with Old Persian, Babylonian and Aramaic versions of the inscription. A comprehensive chapter on Elamite grammar (Writing System, Phonology, Morphology and Syntax) as well as a Glossary and additional notes and index complete the volume.
About the Author:
Salman Aliyari (PhD) is a Tehran based scholar of Ancient Iranian culture and languages, with special focus on Achaemenid Elamite language.
علییاری بابلقانی، سلمان. ۱۳۹۴. تحریر ایلامی کتیبهی داریوش بزرگ در بیستون. پیشگفتار، دستور ایلامی هخامنشی، حرفنویسی، ترجمه، مقابله با تحریرهای دیگر، یاداشت و واژهنامه. تهران. نشر مرکز.
Professor Amélie Kuhrt, FBA – The King Speaks: The Persians and their Empire
The Achaemenid empire was created in the space of less than thirty years and dominated, with considerable success, a region stretching from Central Asia to the Aegean for around 200 years. How did the Persian kings and ruling elite visualise their immense power? How was that vision expressed? In this talk, Amélie Kuhrt, Professor Emeritus at University College London, aims to present an outline of the Persian image of their domain, concentrating on monuments and inscriptions from the royal centres and leaving aside the stories of outsiders, such as Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Jews.
The lecture will begin promptly at 5.30pm, followed by a reception.
Admission free. Booking not required.
Venue: Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Study of empires and imperial power within the context of world history is a relatively recent subject within a field which itself is quite young. With the ever present discussions on the issue of globalization and increased contact among modern nation-states, a need to understand the long term trends in human and material interaction, and the means of controlling them, is increasingly felt in academia. Empires, as large units of administration which are often posited to have had an abusive relationship with their peripheries, are deemed viable subjects of study and inquiry in the pre-modern, pre-globalized world. On the other hand, the imposed frame work of modern nation-states on historiography, and the long trend in national, and often nationalistic historiography, similarly has encouraged a study of the empires which are thought to be ancestors of modern nations, from Italy and Rome to China and the Qing Empire. Among these, the Achaemenid Empire which ruled the Near East, and occasionally parts of North Africa, for about two centuries (late sixth to late fourth century BCE) is a curious and commonly neglected case. Often fitted within the national historiography of Iran, it is nonetheless acknowledged to have had a wider impact on the region beyond the borders of the modern nation-state.
This work by Roberto Dan, in which he provides a systematic and in depth analysis of the complex question of the possible connections that may have existed between Urartian culture and that of the Achaemenids, is an important achievement in this area of research. The book is divided into two parts, one of which is historical in approach and provides the necessary background to set the scene for the manner and timing of the interactions between these two protagonists (outlining a situation which has diverse implications), and one that is archaeological, which constitutes the real core
of the work.
This chapter introduces two major aspects of the study of Achaemenid Persian art, namely its definition, and the analysis of quotations of other artistic traditions. Achaemenid art is best defined as consisting of two categories of material. One is the art of the empire, that is, art produced in furtherance of imperial goals. The other category consists of art in the empire, or the artistic production of regions subject to Achaemenid rule. Though this art often took an outward form typical of its local context it was always produced in dialogue with the art of the empire. In both of these categories visual quotations of other, often earlier, artistic traditions figured prominently. These quotations were utilized by individuals as a means of constructing and negotiating visually their positions in the social order of the empire, and by parsing these quotations it becomes possible to reconstruct some of the social conditions in which they were selected. This concept is illustrated in three case studies that demonstrate the breadth of Achaemenid art and its value as a historical source for the study of the empire.