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Weather and the Greek–Persian “Naval Battle of Salamis”

Zerefos, Christos, Stavros Solomos, Dimitris Melas, John Kapsomenakis and Christos Repapis. 2020. The Role of Weather during the Greek–Persian “Naval Battle of Salamis” in 480 B.C. Atmosphere 11, 838.

The Battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. is one of the most important naval battles of all times. This work examines in detail the climatically prevailing weather conditions during the Persian invasion in Greece. We perform a climatological analysis of the wind regime in the narrow straits of Salamis, where this historic battle took place, based on available station measurements, reanalysis and modeling simulations (ERA5, WRF) spanning through the period of 1960–2019. Our results are compared to ancient sources before and during the course of the conflict and can be summarized as follows: (i) Our climatological station measurements and model runs describing the prevailing winds in the area of interest are consistent with the eyewitness descriptions reported by ancient historians and (ii) The ancient Greeks and particularly Themistocles must have been aware of the local wind climatology since their strategic plan was carefully designed and implemented to take advantage of the diurnal wind variation. The combination of northwest wind during the night and early morning, converging with a south sea breeze after 10:00 A.M., formed a “pincer” that aided the Greeks at the beginning of the clash in the morning, while it brought turmoil to the Persian fleet and prevented them to escape to the open sea in the early afternoon hours. View Full-Text.

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Persia (552 BCE-758 CE). Primary Sources, Old and New

Gyselen, Rika (ed.). 2020. Persia (552 BCE-758 CE). Primary Sources, Old and New (Res Orientales 28). Bures-sur-Yvette: Groupe pour l’Étude de la Civilisation du Moyen-Orient (GECMO).

The articles in this volume present, comment on and interpret primary sources from different eras: Achaemenid, Sasanian and post-Sasanian. While most of these sources were discovered in the 21st century, a few were already known. Recent Iranian surveys and excavations have uncovered: (1) new Sasanian sites in the region of Sar Mashad in the Pars, (2) Sasanian administrative bullae on Tappe Barnakoon, west of Isfahan, (3) a clay sealing with the impression of a royal seal of Peroz in Taxt-e Soleiman. New data for Sasanian numismatics come from unpublished coins in the Johnson collection. Three documents from the “Tabarestan Archive”, published in recent years, have been re-read and interpreted in the context of Zoroastrian law. Also, sources known from much longer have been the subject of new “readings”. They highlight that the message these inscriptions and royal objects convey is strongly conditioned by the type of ‘public’ to which it is addressed.

Table of Contents

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Women and Monarchy in Ancient Iran

Carney, Elizabeth Donnelly & Sabine Müller (eds.). 2021. The Routledge Companion to Women and Monarchy in the Ancient Mediterranean World. London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Portrait of Shapur III’s Wife. ca. 383-388 C.E. Onyx. BnF – Bibliothèque nationale de France (20.A.1)

This volume offers the first comprehensive look at the role of women in the monarchies of the ancient Mediterranean. It consistently addresses certain issues across all dynasties: title; role in succession; the situation of mothers, wives, and daughters of kings; regnant and co-regnant women; role in cult and in dynastic image; and examines a sampling of the careers of individual women while placing them within broader contexts. Written by an international group of experts, this collection is based on the assumption that women played a fundamental role in ancient monarchy, that they were part of, not apart from it, and that it is necessary to understand their role to understand ancient monarchies. This is a crucial resource for anyone interested in the role of women in antiquity.

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The Bīsotūn Inscription – A Jeopardy of Achaemenid History

Ahmadi, Amir. 2020. The Bīsotūn Inscription – A Jeopardy of Achaemenid History. The Journal of Archaeology and Ancient History 27. 3–56.

Darius the Great (r. 522–486 BC)
Behistūn Relief

According to the currently favoured view among historians of the Persian Empire, the Bīsotūn Inscription is a deceitful piece of propaganda whose purpose was to resolve Darius’s legitimacy problem. To this effect, Darius cobbles a family relation with Cyrus and fabricates the story of a magus who impersonates Smerdis, son of Cyrus, and usurps the throne. This view, however, contradicts not only the Bīsotūn Inscription but also the ancient Greek testimonies. This article examines the arguments historians have given for their position. Since allviews of the two issues in question are necessarily interpretations of the relevant sources that rely on argumentation, reasons and inferences must stand up to critical scrutiny.

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The Art of Empire in Achaemenid Persia

Dusinberre Elspeth R.M., Mark B. Garrison & Wouter Henkelman (eds.). 2020. The Art of empire in Achaemenid Persia: Studies in honour of Margaret Cool Root (Achaemenid History 16). Leiden: Nederlands Instituut voor het Nabije Oosten & Leuven: Peeters.

This volume in honour of Margaret Cool Root gathers seventeen contributions on Achaemenid Persian art, ranging from the European re-discovery of Persepolis, via Achaemenid glyphic art, evidence of polychrome sculpture, and Achaemenid impact in the satrapies, to possible reflections of Persepolitan art in Classical Greece. The contributors are colleagues and, in a number of cases, former students of Margaret Root. As a whole, the volume reflects the wide range of Root’s interests and her impact on the field of Achaemenid studies.

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Alexander III, Darius I and the land acquired by spears

Degen, Julian. 2019. Alexander III, Darius I and the Spear-Derived Land (Diode 17, 17, 2). Journal of Ancient Near Eastern History 6(1): 53–95.

This article aims to shed new light on Diodorus’ episode about Alexander’s crossing of the Hellespont by bringing ancient Near Eastern evidence into discussion. I assume that Diodorus’ “report” is a nesting of three different narrative-elements woven to a composition which provides a purposeful view ex post facto on the event in 334 BCE. By showing that Alexander adapted Achaemenid strategies to legitimize his power over the new won empire as well his awareness of older Mesopotamian geographical ideas, this article argues that the Argead ruler exposed himself with predominant concepts of ancient Near Eastern kingship. The argumentation underlines for the most part that Diod. 17, 17, 2 is an intentional episode containing Greek-Macedonian propaganda and Persian elements. Especially the famous scene of Alexander hurling a spear in the coast of Asia Minor and the belief that the Persian empire is a gift of the gods root in Teispid and Achaemenid royal ideology. However, Diodorus’ portrayal of Alexander as the first of the Macedons who landed on the coast is an element of his propaganda used during the early phase of his conquest. Finally, this article aims to bring new insights into the discussion about Alexander being the “last Achaemenid”.

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Should we say goodbye to the Median kingdom?

Parker, Victor. 2019. Sollten wir das medische Reich aus der Geschichte verabschieden?. Klio 101 (1): 1-56.

In spite of some scholars’ recent arguments that the Median Kingdom, which according to Herodotus preceded the Persian Empire, never existed, the Medisms within Old Persian show that the Medes had developed both an imperial ideology and institutions for ruling. The Persians inherited both from the Medes. This suggests that a Median Kingdom did exist. Besides, Near Eastern sources, independently of Herodotus, attest to the existence of some sort of a powerful Median state, and Jer. 51,28 actually attributes imperial officials to this state. Close examination of Herodotus’ Median Logos further demonstrates that this passage contains so much Iranian material that one simply cannot dismiss it as Herodotus’ own invention. On the contrary we should acknowledge the existence of Iranian source material which on its own attests to the existence of a Median Kingdom.

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The Chronology of and Sources for Egypt’s Second Revolt (ca. 487-484 BC)

Wijnsma, Uzume. 2019. “And in the fourth year Egypt rebelled …” The Chronology of and Sources for Egypt’s Second Revolt (ca. 487-484 BC),” Journal of Ancient History 7 (1): 32-61.

Scholars continue to give different dates for Egypt’s second revolt against the Persians: Classicists generally date the revolt to 487-485 or 487/ 486-485/484 BC; Egyptologists and historians of the Achaemenid Empire generally date it to 486-485/484; while some scholars date it to 486/485-485/484. Such chronological differences may sound small, but they have important consequences for the way the rebellion is understood. The purpose of the present article is therefore twofold: first, it aims to clarify what we can and cannot know about the rebellion’s exact chronology. After a review of the relevant evidence, it will be argued that the best chronological framework for the rebellion remains the one provided by Herodotus’s Histories, which places the rebellion in ca. 487-484. Second , the article will show how this chronology influences our understanding of the geographical extent and social impact of the rebellion. The adoption of Herodotus’s chronological framework, for example, results in a larger number of Egyptian sources that can be connected to the period of revolt than was previously recognized. These sources, it will be argued, suggest that some people in the country remained loyal to the Persian regime while others were already fighting against it. Moreover, they indicate that the revolt reached Upper Egypt and that it may have affected the important city of Thebes.

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The Achaemenid Messenger System and the Ionian Revolt

Hyland, John. 2019. The Achaemenid Messenger System and the Ionian Revolt: New Evidence from the Persepolis Fortification Archive. Historia 68(2), 150-169.

The express messenger (pirradaziš) system attested in the Persepolis Fortification Archives played a crucial role in Achaemenid Persia’s control of a widespread provincial administrative system.  Its potential relevance for Persian military operations is illustrated by a series of tablets, some previously unpublished, recording multiple messengers’ journeys between the court of Darius I and his brother Artaphernes at Sardis in 495-494 BCE.  The timing and locations of their travel suggest a connection with the Persian offensive against Miletos and the suppression of the Ionian Revolt.

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Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore

Shayegan, Rahim M (ed.). 2019. Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore. Boston: Ilex Foundation.

The edited volume Cyrus the Great: Life and Lore re-contextualizes Cyrus’s foundational act and epoch in light of recent scholarship, while examining his later reception in antiquity and beyond. Among the many themes addressed in the volume are: the complex dossier of Elamo-Persian acculturation; the Mesopotamian antecedents of Cyrus’s edict and religious policy; Cyrus’s Baupolitik at Pasargadae, and the idiosyncratic genesis of Persian imperial art; the Babylonian exile, the Bible, and the First Return; Cyrus’s exalted but conflicted image in the later Greco-Roman world; his reception and programmatic function in genealogical constructs of the Hellenistic and Arsacid periods; and finally Cyrus’s conspicuous and enigmatic evanescence in the Sasanian and Muslim traditions.

The sum of these wide-ranging contributions assembled in one volume, as well as a new critical edition and English translation of the Cyrus Cylinder, allow for a more adequate evaluation of Cyrus’s impact on his own age, as well as his imprint on posterity.

Table of contents:

  • preface
  • M. Rahim Shayegan: Introduction
  • Matt Waters: Cyrus Rising: Reflections on Word Choice, Ancient and Modern
  • David Stronach: Cyrus, Anshan, and Assyria
  • Hanspeter Schaudig: The Magnanimous Heart of Cyrus: The Cyrus Cylinder and its Literary Models
  • Beate Pongratz-Leisten: “Ich bin ein Babylonier”: The Political-Relligious Message of the Cyrus Cylinder
  • William Schniedewind: Cyrus and Post-Collapse Yehud
  • Marvin A. Sweeney: Contrasting Portrayals of the Achaemenid Monarchy in Isaiah And Zecharia
  • Rémy Boucharlat: Cyrus and Pasargadae: Forging an Empire – Fashioning “Paradise”
  • Daniel Beckman: Cyrus the Great and Ancient Propaganda
  • Maria Brosius: Cyrus the Great: A Hero’s Tale
  • Jason M. Schlude: Cyrus the Great and Roman views of Ancient Iran
  • Marek Jan Olbrycht: The Shapinf od Political Memory: Cyrus and the Achaemenids in the Royal Ideologies of the Seleucid and Parthian Periods
  • Touraj Daryaee: On Forgetting Cyrus and Remembering the Achaemenids in Late Antique Iran
  • Olga M. Davidson: traces of the Poetic Traditions about Cyrus the Great and his Dynasty in the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi and the Cyrus Cylinder