Tag Archives: Achaemenid History

The Art of Empire in Achaemenid Persia

Dusinberre Elspeth R.M., Mark B. Garrison & Wouter F.M. 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.

Continue reading The Art of Empire in Achaemenid Persia

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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

Shaping the Geography of Empire

Clarke,  Katherine . 2018. Shaping the Geography of Empire: Man and Nature in Herodotus’ Histories. Oxford University Press.

This is a book about the multiple worlds that Herodotus creates in his narrative. The constructed landscape in Herodotus’ work incorporates his literary representation of the natural world from the broadest scope of continents right down to the location of specific episodes. His ‘charging’ of those settings through mythological associations and spatial parallels adds further depth and resonance. The physical world of the Histories is in turn altered by characters in the narrative whose interactions with the natural world form part of Herodotus’ inquiry, and add another dimension to the meaning given to space, combining notions of landscape as physical reality and as constructed reality. Geographical space is not a neutral backdrop, nor simply to be seen as Herodotus’ ‘creation’, but it is brought to life as a player in the narrative, the interaction with which reinforces the positive or negative characterizations of the protagonists. Analysis of focalization is embedded in this study of Herodotean geography in two ways—firstly, in the configurations of space contributed by different viewpoints on the world; and secondly, in the opinions about human interaction with geographical space which emerge from different narrative voices. The multivocal nature of the narrative complicates whether we can identify a single ‘Herodotean’ world, still less one containing consistent moral judgements. Furthermore, the mutability of fortune renders impossible a static Herodotean world, as successive imperial powers emerge. The exercise of political power, manifested metaphorically and literally through control over the natural world, generates a constantly evolving map of imperial geography.

Achaemenid Sources and the Problem of Genre

Silverman, Jason M. 2018. Achaemenid sources and the problem of genre. In Sebastian Fink & Robert Rollinger (eds.), Conceptualizing Past, Present, and Future. (Melammu Symposia 9), 261-278, Münster: Ugarit-Verlag.

The present paper discusses the import of genre decisions for the assessment of historical sources for the Achaemenid Empire. It argues the medium must be included within genre considerations, and that genre is more than a literary artifact, but carries important historical and sociological implications.

The Macedonian Expeditionary Corps in Asia Minor (336–335 BC)

Kholod, Maxim. 2018. The Macedonian Expeditionary Corps in Asia Minor (336–335 BC)Klio. Beiträge zur Alten Geschichte. 100 (2), 407-446.

The article deals with a complex of issues connected with the campaign waged by the Macedonian expeditionary corps in Asia Minor in 336–335 BC. The author clears up the aims set for the advance-guard, its command structure, strength and composition. He also describes the relevant military operations and reveals the reasons both for the Macedonians’ successes in 336 and their failures in 335. The idea is argued that despite the final failures, it is hardly possible to say that the campaign the expeditionary corps conducted ended in its total defeat. Besides, it is noted that those military operations had major significance for Alex-ander’s campaign in Asia Minor in 334, because a number of preconditions for its full success had been created right in their course.

Literacy and Orality in Achaemenid Iran

Kolb, Anne (ed.). 2018. Literacy in ancient everyday life. Berlin ; Boston: Walter de Gruyter.
The purpose of the conference proceedings is to investigate the importance of literacy in the daily lives of ancient people. In addition to the intended utilization of writing and written material, the circumstances of usage as well as various types of users are the focus of the analyzes. The concept of a diversified literacy of different levels of literacy, literacy and numeracy makes it possible to differentiate the usage of everyday writing according to types or categories of uses and to recognize different functions of literacy.
Two chapters from the first part are of special interests for Iranian and Achaemenian Studies:
The contribution aims at pointing out the impact of language(s) and writing system(s), not least of Elamite, Old Persian and Aramaic, in Teispid-Achaemenid Iran in the context of royal pronouncements and administration, and at putting them in relation to those of the neighbouring cultures. In this context, it is also trying to find out which forms of language acquisition and communication can be proven and whether there has been such a thing as a Persian language policy. On the other hand, the fact that Iran has seen decidingly oral cultures up to Late Antiquity and even beyond, apart from the official contexts, raises the question of the media of communication and the afterlife of Teispids and Achaemenids in Iran’s ‘historical’ traditions.
The article examines the place of female literacy within general everyday literacy in the Achaemenid period. Whereas the Achaemenid heartland lacks of sources written by women, we have abundant private correspondence from the other satrapies of the empire (Babylonia, Egypt, Bactria etc.). Therefore the lacuna from the Persis-region is not coincidental but resulting from the specific social structure of the empire with its dominant hegemonic manliness. This prevented a wider spread of literacy and the Achaemenid heartland remained an orally dominated culture with a functional literacy limited to the elite and higher levels of society.