Ancient Knowledge Networks is a book about how knowledge travels, in minds and bodies as well as in writings. It explores the forms knowledge takes and the meanings it accrues, and how these meanings are shaped by the peoples who use it.
Addressing the relationships between political power, family ties, religious commitments and literate scholarship in the ancient Middle East of the first millennium BC, Eleanor Robson focuses on two regions where cuneiform script was the predominant writing medium: Assyria in the north of modern-day Syria and Iraq, and Babylonia to the south of modern-day Baghdad. She investigates how networks of knowledge enabled cuneiform intellectual culture to endure and adapt over the course of five world empires until its eventual demise in the mid-first century BC. In doing so, she also studies Assyriological and historical method, both now and over the past two centuries, asking how the field has shaped and been shaped by the academic concerns and fashions of the day. Above all, Ancient Knowledge Networks is an experiment in writing about ‘Mesopotamian science’, as it has often been known, using geographical and social approaches to bring new insights into the intellectual history of the world’s first empires.
Eleanor Robson is Professor of Ancient Middle Eastern History at UCL.
The Silk Roads are the symbol of the interconnectedness of ancient Eurasian civilizations. Using challenging land and maritime routes, merchants and adventurers, diplomats and missionaries, sailors and soldiers, and camels, horses and ships, carried their commodities, ideas, languages and pathogens enormous distances across Eurasia. The result was an underlying unity that traveled the length of the routes, and which is preserved to this day, expressed in common technologies, artistic styles, cultures and religions, and even disease and immunity patterns. In words and images, Craig Benjamin explores the processes that allowed for the comingling of so many goods, ideas, and diseases around a geographical hub deep in central Eurasia. He argues that the first Silk Roads era was the catalyst for an extraordinary increase in the complexity of human relationships and collective learning, a complexity that helped drive our species inexorably along a path towards modernity.
About the author: Craig Benjamin is Professor of History at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He is the author of several books and numerous chapters and articles on ancient history, including Volume 4 of The Cambridge History of the World (Cambridge, 2015). Craig has filmed programs and courses for the History Channel and The Great Courses. He is a Past President of the World History Association and Vice President of the International Big History Association.
Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity offers an integrated picture of Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppes during a formative period of world history. In the half millennium between 250 and 750 CE, settled empires underwent deep structural changes, while various nomadic peoples of the steppes (Huns, Avars, Turks, and others) experienced significant interactions and movements that changed their societies, cultures, and economies. This was a transformational era, a time when Roman, Persian, and Chinese monarchs were mutually aware of court practices, and when Christians and Buddhists criss-crossed the Eurasian lands together with merchants and armies. It was a time of greater circulation of ideas as well as material goods. This volume provides a conceptual frame for locating these developments in the same space and time. Without arguing for uniformity, it illuminates the interconnections and networks that tied countless local cultural expressions to far-reaching inter-regional ones.
This article examines the relationships between rulers and imperial elites in late antique Sasanian Iran, focusing on the significance and implications of complex groups of followers. Not unlike their Parthian predecessors, the Sasanian kings of the pre-Islamic empire relied on a network of personal relationships with the imperial elite. The magnates (vuzurgān), in turn, had many followers (bandagān) of their own; they were, apparently, often rather independent when residing in their own lands. Still, this does not imply that the late antique Persian monarchy was weak, because the Sasanian kings managed to turn the court into a central location of aristocratic competition where the imperial elite struggled for offices, honors and influence. This allowed the monarch to play off rival individuals and groups against each other – one is tempted here to speak of a “Königsmechanismus” (Norbert Elias), even though the weaknesses of this model are certainly well known. In general, this strategy became problematic only if infighting escalated into civil war. However, the later Sasanians tried to curtail the influence of the vuzurgān by imposing a tax reform, establishing a standing royal army, and creating a new lower nobility (dehgānān) in order to strengthen the power of the central government. The paper demonstrates that, in spite of short-term success, these measures seem to have led to a long-term erosion of loyalty within the kingdom, thus contributing to the triumph of the Arab conquerors in the seventh century CE.
In this issue of L’Histoire, entitled Les mondes d’Alix and dedicated to the graphic novel series Les voyages d’Alix, specialists of antique history explore various aspects relating to the world and time of the novels. The historian Giusto Traina writes on the Parthians.
Issue 27 of the Bulletin of the Asia Institute will be published this December. The information on this issue is not yet available on the journal’s website, but the content has been circulated, which we are publishing here.
Bulletin of the Asia Institute 27
Frantz Grenet, “More Zoroastrian Scenes on the Wirkak (Shi Jun) Sarcophagus”
Yaakov Elman and Mahnaz Moazami, “PV 5.1–4 in the Context of Late Antique Intellectual History”
Harry Falk, “The Ashes of the Buddha”
Peter Skilling, “Śrāvakas, Buddhas, and the Buddha’s Father: Inscribed Artefacts in the U Thong National Museum”
V. H. Sonowane, “Rock Paintings Depicting Stupas in Gujarat, India”
Domenico Agostini and Shaul Shaked, “Sasanian Seals of Priests”
Nicholas Sims-Williams, “A Bactrian Document of the Fifth Century c.e.”
Salman Aliyari Babolghani, “Achaemenid Elamite dayāuš (~ Old Persian dahyāu̯-š)”
Dieter Weber, “Accountancy of a Zoroastrian Craftsman in Early Islamic Times (662–664 CE)”
Stefan Zimmer, “The Etymology of Avestan 2čiqra- ‘Descent, Progeny'”
Zhang Zhan, “Kings of Khotan During the Tang Dynasty”
Lieu and Mikkelsen, eds. Between Rome and China (Albert E. Dien)
Hansen. The Silk Road: A New History with Documents(Jenny Rose)
Mair and Hickman, eds. Reconfiguring the Silk Road:(Jenny Rose)
v + 170 pp.
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Bridging Times and Spaces is composed of papers written by colleagues of Professor Gregory E. Areshian on the occasion his 65th birthday reflecting the breadth and diversity of his scholarly contributions. The range of presented papers covers topics in Near Eastern, Mediterranean and Armenian archaeology, theory of interpretation in archaeology and art history, interdisciplinary history, historical linguistics, art history, and comparative mythology. The volume opens with an extensive interview given by Gregory Areshian, in which Gregory outlines the pathways of his academic career, archaeological discoveries, different intellectual quests, and the organic connections between research questions that he explored across different social sciences and the humanities, stressing the importance of periodizations in interdisciplinary history as well as his views on holism and interdisciplinary studies.
The table of contents is available here. Five papers relate directly to Iranian Studies:
After defeating the Medes and Lydern in the middle of the 6th century BC, Cyrus the Great, layed the foundations for the rise of the Achaemenids to the “world power”. His first large building and garden project is the Pasargadae residence – a world heritage site of the UNESCO. Against this background, the question arises not only about the underlying design, but also about a possible role model for later stablishements.
Helge Bert Grob, for the first time, subjected the available plans as well as travel and research reports to a systematic, critical evaluation of the Pasargadae residence and its garden. Basied on partially unpublished sources, together with the archaeological findings, topographical maps as well as aerial and satellite images, as the basis of this new study, the focus of this volume lies on the water structures – basins, canals and watercourses as well as on the analysis of the development of the garden design in Ancient Iran. By comparison with Susa, Persepolis, Babylon and other important sites, Pasargadae is placed and examined in its achaimenid context.
While ancient states are often characterized in terms of the powers that they claimed to possess, the contributors to this book argue that they were in fact fundamentally weak, both in the exercise of force outside of war and in the infrastructural and regulatory powers that such force would, in theory, defend. In Ancient States and Infrastructural Power a distinguished group of scholars examines the ways in which early states built their territorial, legal, and political powers before they had the capabilities to enforce them.
The volume brings Greek and Roman historians together with specialists on early Mesopotamia, late antique Persia, ancient China, Visigothic Iberia, and the Inca empire to compare various models of state power across regional and disciplinary divisions. How did the polis become the body that regulates property rights? Why did Chinese and Persian states maintain aristocracies that sometimes challenged their autocracies? How did Babylon and Rome promote the state as the custodian of moral goods? In worlds without clear borders, how did societies from Rome to Byzantium come to share legal and social identities rooted in concepts of territory? From the Inca empire to Visigothic Iberia, why did tributary practices reinforce territorial ideas about membership?
The Great Kings of Parthia, belonging to the Arsacid dynasty, ruled a large empire in south-western Asia, from India to the Euphrates, for more than three centuries (first century BC–third century AD). Within the large geographical area controlled by the Arsacids, next to the satrapies directly controlled by royal officers, a series of autonomous kingdoms existed, ruled by local dynasties, which in some cases existed before the coming of the Parthians, and whose authority over their territories was acknowledged by the Great King. Unlike the Roman ones, the Parthian vassal kingdoms never ceased to be one of the most important means the Great King had at his disposal to control key areas of his vast dominions. This paper investigates the different solutions the Arsacids conceived and put into action in order to keep control over those political subjects. The employment of three main forms of action: maintaining a local dynasty, temporary direct occupation and the creation of a client kingdom ruled by an Arsacid monarch, over the whole spectrum of client states will be the subject of the investigation.