Tag Archives: Ancient History

The Captive Emperor: Valerian, Persia and the Defeat of Edessa

Coloru, Omar. 2017. L’imperatore prigioniero. Valeriano, la Persia e la disfatta di Edessa. Editori Laterza.

In 260 AD, the emperor Valerian is made prisoner by the “King of kings” Shapur I: he will end his days in Persia as a prisoner of war. For the Romans, this is an unprecedented military catastrophe, even more terrible than the defeat of Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BC. Rome is going to face the worst phase of the crisis affecting the Roman empire in the 3rd century AD: the Sasanians are making incursions in Anatolia and Syria, the Renan and Danubian borders are under the pressure of the barbarians, while the Christians are persecuted all over the empire because the emperor sees in this religion a political and ideological threat for the Roman state and its traditions. What is more, the capture of Valerian generates separatist movements which allow the usurper Postumus to create the Gallic Empire. The book aims to present a biography of Valerian to a general audience but it also tries to investigate some controversial events of his reign.

via Omar Coloru.

With Alexander in India and Central Asia

Antonetti, Claudia, & Paolo Biagi (ed.). 2017. With Alexander in India and Central Asia: Moving east and back to west. Oxbow Books.

Alexander conquered most parts of the Western World, but there is a great deal of controversy over his invasion of India, the least known of his campaigns. In BC 327 Alexander came to India, and tried to cross the Jhelum river for the invasion, but was then confronted by King Porus who ruled an area in what is now the Punjab. According to Indian history he was stopped by Porus at his entry into the country, but most of the world still believes that Alexander won the battle. Fearing the prospect of facing other large armies and exhausted by years of campaigning, Alexander’s army mutinied at the Hyphasis River, refusing to march farther east. This river thus marks the easternmost extent of Alexander’s conquests.
Twelve papers in this volume examine aspects of Alexander’s Indian campaign, the relationship between him and his generals, the potential to use Indian sources, and evidence for the influence of policies of Alexander in neighbouring areas such as Iran and Russia.

 

Greek and Roman Authors’ Views of the Arsacid Empire

Wiesehöfer, Josef & Sabine Müller (eds.). 2017. Parthika. Greek and Roman authors’ views of the Arsacid Empire (Classica et Orientalia 15). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Established in the third century BC, the multi-cultural and multi-lingual Arsacid Empire became Rome’s major opponent in the East from the first century BC to its end in the third century AD. According to a Roman idea, the orbis was evenly divided between the Parthians and the Romans. However, in the Arsacid Empire oral tradition prevailed and, for a long time, there was no Arsacid historiography concerning perception, reception and interpretation. Therefore, Greco-Roman views and images of the Parthians, Arsacids and their Empire predominated.
Focusing on literary depictions in ancient Greek and Roman literature and examining stereotypes, this volume brings together twelve papers on Greco-Roman perceptions and images of the Arsacid Empire. Part I consists of eight papers primarily concerned with re-assessments of Apollodorus of Artemita and Isidorus of Charax regarding their value as source of information on the Arsacid Empire. Part II contains four papers dealing with the images of the Arsacid Empire in the works of Josephus, Trogus-Justin, Tacitus and Arrian, viewed against their respective socio-political and cultural background.

Issue seven of Anabasis

Issue seven of “Anabasis“, edited by Marek Jan Olbrycht is out now. Several papers and reviews of this issue are related to ancient Iran:

  •  Marek Jan Olbrycht: The Sacral Kingship of the Early Arsacids I. Fire Cult and Kingly Glory
  • Nikolaus L. Overtoom: The Rivalry of Rome and Parthia in the Sources from the Augustan Age to Late Antiquity
  • Martin Schottky: Vorarbeiten zu einer Königsliste Kaukasisch-Iberiens. 5. Im Schatten Schapurs II
  • Xiaoyan Qi: Elspeth R. M. Dusinberre, Empire, Authority, and Autonomy in Achaemenid Anatolia, Cam-bridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013
  • Jeffrey D. Lerner: Robert Rollinger, Alexander und die großen Ströme. Die Flussüberquerungen im Lichte altorientalischer Pioniertechniken (Schwimmschläuche, Keleks und Pontonbrücken), Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz Verlag, 2013
  • Erich Kettenhofen: Rabbo l‘olmyn «Maître pour l‘Éternité». Florilège offert à Philippe Gignoux pour son 80e anniversaire. Textes réunis par Rika Gyselen et Christelle Jullien, Paris: Association pour l’avancement des Études Iraniennes, 2011

Ctesias’ Persica and its Near Eastern Context

Waters, Matt. 2017. Ctesias’ Persica and its Near Eastern context (Wisconsin Studies in Classics). University of Wisconsin Press.

The Persica is an extensive history of Assyria and Persia written by the Greek historian Ctesias, who served as a doctor to the Persian king Artaxerxes II around 400 BCE. Written for a Greek readership, the Persica influenced the development of both historiographic and literary traditions in Greece. It also, contends Matt Waters, is an essential but often misunderstood source for the history of the Achaemenid Persian Empire.

Matt Waters is a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. He is the author of Ancient Persia: A Concise History of the Achaemenid Empire, 550–330 BCE and A Survey of Neo-Elamite History.

Source: UW Press: Ctesias’ Persica and Its Near Eastern Context

Persianism in Antiquity

Strootman, Rolf & Miguel John Versluys (eds.). 2017. Persianism in antiquity (Oriens et Occidens 25). Franz Steiner Verlag.

The socio-political and cultural memory of the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire played a very important role in Antiquity and later ages. This book is the first to systematically chart these multiform ideas and associations over time and to define them in relation to one another, as Persianism. Hellenistic kings, Parthian monarchs, Romans and Sasanians: they all made a lot of meaning through the evolving concept of “Persia”, as the twenty-one papers in this rich volume illustrate at length.
Persianism underlies the notion of an East-West dichotomy that still pervades modern political rhetoric. In Antiquity and beyond, however, it also functioned in rather different ways, sometimes even as an alternative to Hellenism.

For the contributions, see the Table of Contents. The introductory essay to Persianism in Antiquity, entitled From culture to concept: The reception and appropriation of Persia in antiquity, is available through Rolf Strootman’s Academia page.

Source: Persianism in antiquity | Franz Steiner Verlag

The history of the Parthians in the Geography of Strabo

Dabrowa, Edward . 2015. “L’ histoire des Parthes dans la Geographie de Strabon“, Studi Ellenistici 29, 285-303.

The Hellenistic Worlds

Michel Balard, Philippe Clancier, Omar Coloru & Gilles Gorre. 2017. Les mondes hellénistiques. Du Nil à l’Indus, Paris: Hachette.

 

The Hellenistic Worlds (323-31 BC) stretch from Anatolia to Indus and from Armenia to Egypt. These territories share the common feature of not belonging to the Greek cultural area and of hosting populations of different origins and cultures. The study of the societies pre-existing the Macedonian conquest provide an important element for the comprehension of the functioning of the new powers, of their structure and administration, and the creation of cultural transfers between communities. The sources corresponding to the area of expertise of each author, and the historiographical debate they engender are at the heart of this manual. After a chronological table, the chapters address issues concerning the administration of these territories, their economy, the role played by local shrines, and cultural aspects.

To see table of contents click here.

Germanicus, Artabanos II of Parthia, and Zeno Artaxias in Armenia

Olbrycht, Marek J. 2016. Germanicus, Artabanos II of Parthia, and Zeno Artaxias in Armenia. klio 98(2). 605–633.

The aim of this study is to analyse the Roman-Parthian relations under Artabanos II and Tiberius, and the political role played by Armenia, focusing on the agreement between the Roman prince Germanicus and Artabanos II. A scrutiny
of military and diplomatic measures taken by Rome, Parthia, and minor kings of Kappadokia, Pontos and Armenia suggests a new perspective of the Roman and Parthian policies towards Armenia under Tiberius and Artabanos II. Artabanos IIʼs
triumph over Vonones compelled Rome to revise her policy toward Parthia. Artabanos agreed on a compromise with the ruler of Kappadokia Archelaos, a Roman client king, that involved installing Archelaosʼ stepson, Zeno, on the throne of
Armenia. Germanicusʼ intervention in Armenia in A.D. 18 led to the conclusion of a compromise settlement between Rome and the Parthians, securing over a decade of peace between the two powers. Zeno Artaxiasʼ coronation at the hands of Germanicus
was commemorated by the issue of a set of meaningful silver coins.

Manpower Resources and Army Organisation in the Arsakid Empire

Stucco relief of an infantry soldier, from the Iranian Parthian Dynasty (247 BC - 224 AD), Zahhak castle, Haštrūd, Eastern Āzarbāiğān, Iran. Āzarbāiğān Museum, Tabriz (Iran)
Stucco relief of an infantry soldier, from the Iranian Parthian Dynasty (247 BC – 224 AD), Zahhak castle, Haštrūd, Eastern Āzarbāiğān, Iran. Āzarbāiğān Museum, Tabriz (Iran)

Olbrycht, Marek J. 2016. “Manpower Resources and Army Organisation in the Arsakid Empire“. Ancient Society 46, 291-338.

As the territory of the Arsakid state (248 BC – AD 226) increased in size, the Parthians were able to expand their demographic and economic base. This led to an increase in the size and military might of the armed forces. The military strength and effectiveness of the army were key factors in determining the Parthians’ political relations with their neighbours, especially the Seleukid empire, Rome, the Caucasus lands, the nomadic peoples of the Caspian – North Caucasus region, and the peoples of Central Asia. From the 1st century bc onward the Arsakids had a military potential of almost 300,000 soldiers. This mobilisation strength mirrors the size of the Arsakid armed forces in a defensive stance, including the royal forces, Parthian national army, garrisons, and mercenaries. As a number of units were not suitable for offensive operations, one may assume that the power of an offensive army might not have exceeded half of the total figure, i.e. about 140,000-150,000. This is slightly more than the figure of 120,000 soldiers which appears as the total for the largest of Arsakid armies.