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


Greek Views of India and the Parthian Empire

207_111Wiesehöfer, Josef, Horst Brinkhaus & Reinhold Bichler. 2016. Megasthenes und seine Zeit. Akten der Internationalen Tagung „Megasthenes, Apollodoros and Isidoros. Greek Views of India and the Parthian Empire“. Kiel,27. –30.6. 2 012. . Vol. 1. (Classica et Orientalia 13). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.
The volume comprises a collection of the articles,  presented initially at the conference “Images of the Orient: Megasthenes, Apollodorus of Artemita and Isidore of Charax”, held from 27.06. until 30.06.2012 at the Institute for Classical Archaeology of the Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel (Germany). The contributions of this volume deal with Megasthenes, the Greek ethnographer and explorer in the Hellenistic period, as a central object of study. He became an ambassador of Seleucus I Nicator of the Seleucid dynasty possibly to Chandragupta Maurya in Pataliputra, India and played an important role on the transition of the Greek notions of India as semi-mythical Wonderland and the geographical remit of great gods and heroes (Semiramis, Hercules, Dionysus, etc.) towards a verifiable plave with native traditions; however without a complete relinquishing the old topical descriptive and explanatory patterns . Megasthenes reports, is among the earliest well-known Western accounts of India.
Table of Contents:
  • Josef Wiesehöfer; Horst Brinkhaus: “Megasthenes und Indien im Fokus althistorischer Forschung”
  • Reinhold Bichler: “Herrschaft und politische Organisation im älteren Indien-Bild der Griechen und in der klassischen Alexander-Historie”
  • Horst Brinkhaus: “Zum aktuellen Stand der Arthaśāstra
    -Forschung: Kann Kauṭilya noch als Kronzeuge für Megasthenes gelten?”
  • Veronica Bucciantini: “Megastene e la ‘Reiseliteratur’:
    resoconti di viaggio tra descrizione, memoria e rappresentazione”
  • Bruno Jacobs: “Megasthenes’ Beschreibung von Palibothra und
    die Anfänge der Steinarchitektur unter der Maurya-Dynastie”
  • Sushma Jansari; Richard Ricot“: Megasthenes and the  ‘Astomoi’:  a case study into ethnography and paradoxography”
  • Grant Parker: “Roman Megasthenes: towards a reception history”
  • Daniel T. Potts: “Cultural, economic and political relations between Mesopotamia,  the Gulf region and India before Alexander”
  • Duane W. Roller: “Megasthenes: His Life and Work”
  • Robert Rollinger: “Megasthenes, mental maps and Seleucid royal ideology: the western fringes of the world or how Ancient Near Eastern empires conceptualized world dominion”
  • Kai Ruffing: “Die Ausbildung des literarischen Indienbildes bis Megasthenes”
  • Oskar von Hinüber: “Aśoka und die Griechen”
  • Josef Wiesehöfer: “Seleucids and Mauryas”

Priscian: Answers to King Khosroes of Persia

Huby, Pamela, Sten Ebbesen, David Langslow, Donald Russell, Carlos Steel & Malcolm Wilson (eds.). 2016. Priscian: Answers to King Khosroes of Persia (Ancient Commentators on Aristotle 1). London. Bloomsbury Academic.

Priscian of Lydia was one of the Athenian philosophers who took refuge in 531 AD with King Khosroes I of Persia, after the Christian Emperor Justinian stopped the teaching of the pagan Neoplatonist school in Athens. This was one of the earliest examples of the sixth-century diffusion of the philosophy of the commentators to other cultures.

Tantalisingly, Priscian fully recorded in Greek the answers provided by the Athenian philosophers to the king’s questions on philosophy and science. But these answers survive only in a later Latin translation which understood both the Greek and the subject matter very poorly. Our translators have often had to reconstruct from the Latin what the Greek would have been, in order to recover the original sense.

The answers start with subjects close to the Athenians’ hearts: the human soul, on which Priscian was an expert, and sleep and visions. But their interest may have diminished when the king sought their expertise on matters of physical science: the seasons, celestial zones, medical effects of heat and cold, the tides, displacement of the four elements, the effect of regions on living things, why only reptiles are poisonous, and winds. At any rate, in 532 AD, they moved on from the palace, but still under Khosroes’ protection. This is the first translation of the record they left into English or any modern language.

This English translation is accompanied by an introduction and comprehensive commentary notes, which clarify and discuss the meaning and implications of the original philosophy. Part of the Ancient Commentators on Aristotle series, the edition makes this philosophical work accessible to a modern readership and includes additional scholarly apparatus such as a bibliography, glossary of translated terms and a subject index.



Xerxes: A Persian life

Stoneman, Richard. 2015. Xerxes: A Persian life. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Xerxes, Great King of the Persian Empire from 486–465 B.C., has gone down in history as an angry tyrant full of insane ambition. The stand of Leonidas and the 300 against his army at Thermopylae is a byword for courage, while the failure of Xerxes’ expedition has overshadowed all the other achievements of his twenty-two-year reign.In this lively and comprehensive new biography, Richard Stoneman shows how Xerxes, despite sympathetic treatment by the contemporary Greek writers Aeschylus and Herodotus, had his reputation destroyed by later Greek writers and by the propaganda of Alexander the Great. Stoneman draws on the latest research in Achaemenid studies and archaeology to present the ruler from the Persian perspective. This illuminating volume does not whitewash Xerxes’ failings but sets against them such triumphs as the architectural splendor of Persepolis and a consideration of Xerxes’ religious commitments. What emerges is a nuanced portrait of a man who ruled a vast and multicultural empire which the Greek communities of the West saw as the antithesis of their own values.

About the author:
Richard Stoneman is Honorary Visiting Professor, University of Exeter, and the author of numerous books. He lives in Devon, UK.


Sophist Kings : Persians as Other in Herodotus

Provencal, Vernon L. 2015. Sophist kings: Persians as other in Herodotus. Bloomsbury.

Sophist Kings: Persians as Other sets forth a reading of Herodotus’ Histories that highlights the consistency with which the Persians are depicted as sophists and Persian culture is infused with a sophistic ideology.
The Persians as the Greek ‘other’ have a crucial role throughout Herodotus’ Histories, but their characterisation is far divorced from historical reality. Instead, from their first appearance at the beginning of the Histories, Herodotus presents the Persians as adept in the argumentation of Greek sophists active in mid-5th century Athens. Moreover, Herodotus’ construct of the Sophist King, in whom political reason serves human ambition, is used to explain the Achaemenid model of kingship whose rule is grounded in a theological knowledge of cosmic order and of divine justice as the political good.
This original and in-depth study explores how the ideology which Herodotus ascribes to the Persians comes directly from fifth-century sophists whose arguments served to justify Athenian imperialism. The volume connects the ideological conflict between panhellenism and imperialism in Herodotus’ contemporary Greece to his representation of the past conflict between Greek freedom and Persian imperialism. Detecting a universal paradigm, Sophist Kings argues that Herodotus was suggesting the Athenians should regard their own empire as a betrayal of the common cause by which they led the Greeks to victory in the Persian wars.

About the author: Vernon L. Provencal is Professor of Classics at Acadia University, Canada.