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Books

Baghdād

Scheiner, Jens & Isabel Toral (eds.). 2022. Baghdād: From its beginnings to the 14th century (Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1 The Near and Middle East 166). Leiden: Brill.

Baghdād: From its Beginnings to the 14th Century offers an exhaustive handbook that covers all possible themes connected to the history of this urban complex in Iraq, from its origins rooted in late antique Mesopotamia up to the aftermath of the Mongol invasion in 1258.
Against the common perception of a city founded 762 in a vacuum, which, after experiencing a heyday in a mythical “golden age” under the early ʿAbbāsids, entered since 900 a long period of decline that ended with a complete collapse by savage people from the East in 1258, the volume emphasizes the continuity of Baghdād’s urban life, and shows how it was marked by its destiny as caliphal seat and cultural hub.

From the publisher’s website
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Books

A Universal History from the Late Sasanian Empire

Häberl, Charles G. 2022. The book of kings and the explanations of this world. A universal history from the late Sasanian Empire. Liverpool University Press.

The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran are adherents of the last surviving Gnostic tradition from the period of Late Antiquity, and the Book of Kings is the capstone to one of their most sacred scriptures. A universal history in four parts, it concisely outlines the entire 480,000 year span of the material world, from its creation to its destruction in the maw of the great Leviathan, with details including a succession of antediluvian cataclysms that have previously wiped out all human life, the reigns of the kings who have reigned over humanity and are still yet to reign, a lament on the end of pagan antiquity under the reign of the Arabs, and the apocalyptic drama attending those who have the misfortune to live at the end of the world era. For the first time ever, this work appears in English in its entirety, complete and unabridged, and directly translated from original Mandaic manuscripts, with the events mentioned within it coordinated with our calendar. It also includes an extensive commentary illustrating its relationship to contemporary historical writing and with the sacred literature of Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other neighbouring religious communities living under Sasanian rule.

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Books

Narrating power and authority in late antique and medieval hagiography

Dabiri, Ghazzal (ed.). 2021. Narrating power and authority in late antique and medieval hagiography across East and West. Turnhout: Brepols.

This collection of essays explores the multifaceted representation of power and authority in a variety of late antique and medieval hagiographical narratives (Lives, Martyr Acts, oneiric and miraculous accounts). The narratives under analysis, written in some of the major languages of the Islamicate world and the Christian East and Christian West — Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Greek, Latin, Middle Persian, Ottoman Turkish, and Persian — prominently feature a diverse range of historical and fictional figures from a wide cross-section of society — from female lay saints in Italy and Zoroastrians in Sasanian and Islamic Iran to apostles and bishops and emperors and caliphs. Each chapter investigates how power and authority were narrated from above (courts/saints) and below (saints/laity) and, by extension, navigated in various communities. As each chapter delves into the specific literary and social scene of a particular time, place, or hagiographer, the volume as a whole offers a broad view; it brings to the fore important shared literary and social historical aspects such as the possible itineraries of popular narratives and motifs across Eurasia and commonly held notions in the religio-political thought worlds of hagiographers and their communities. Through close readings and varied analyses, this collection contributes to the burgeoning interest in reading hagiography as literature while it offers new perspectives on the social and religious history of late antique and medieval communities.

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Books

Constructions of Gender

Towers, Susanna. 2019. Constructions of gender in late antique Manichaean cosmological narrative (Studia Traditionis Theologiae 34).

Manichaeism emerged from Sasanian Persia in the third century CE and flourished in Persia, the Roman Empire, Central Asia and beyond until succumbing to persecution from rival faiths in the eighth to ninth century. Its founder, Mani, claimed to be the final embodiment of a series of prophets sent over time to expound divine wisdom.
This monograph explores the constructions of gender embedded in Mani’s colourful dualist cosmological narrative, in which a series of gendered divinities are in conflict with the demonic beings of the Kingdom of Darkness. The Jewish and Gnostic roots of Mani’s literary constructions of gender are examined in parallel with Sasanian societal expectations. Reconstructions of gender in subsequent Manichaean literature reflect the changing circumstances of the Manichaean community.
As the first major study of gender in Manichaean literature, this monograph draws upon established approaches to the study of gender in late antique religious literature, to present a portrait of a historically maligned and persecuted religious community.

Table of Contents

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Books

Memory and Identity in the Syriac Cave of Treasures: Rewriting the Bible in Sasanian Iran

Minov, Sergey. 2021. Memory and Identity in the Syriac Cave of Treasures: Rewriting the Bible in Sasanian Iran (Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture, 26). Leiden: Brill.

In Memory and Identity in the Syriac Cave of Treasures: Rewriting the Bible in Sasanian Iran Sergey Minov examines literary and socio-cultural aspects of the Syriac pseudepigraphic composition known as the Cave of Treasures, which offers a peculiar version of the Christian history of salvation. The book fills a lacuna in the history of Syriac Christian literary creativity by contextualising this unique work within the cultural and religious situation of Sasanian Mesopotamia towards the end of Late Antiquity. The author analyses the Cave’s content and message from the perspective of identity theory and memory studies, while discussing its author’s emphatically polemical stand vis-à-vis Judaism, the ambivalent way in which he deals with Iranian culture, and the promotion in this work of a distinctively Syriac-oriented vision of the biblical past.
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Books

Human History, Its Aims and Its End, according to the Zoroastrian Doctrine of Late Antiquity

Panaino, Antonio. 2020. Human History, Its Aims and Its End, according to the Zoroastrian Doctrine of Late Antiquity. In Tilo Schabert & John von Heyking (eds.), Wherefrom Does History Emerge?, 97–122. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Zoroastrianism offers a remarkable presentation of the origin of humankind, its present condition, and its final destiny. Human history is considered to be the result of a cosmological strategy enacted by god himself, Ohrmazd, in order to compel his direct and primordial antagonist, the evil Ahreman, to engage battle in our world. Eventually, the forces of darkness will be completely destroyed at the conclusion of a chiliadic temporal cycle. The most important battle in order to defeat Ahreman is fought by humankind. The importance of history in this teleology accounts for the emphasis put by it on the political dimension. We evoke the Sasanian period, in which the Persian kings assumed the status of a kosmokrátor, i.e. of a universal king, charged with achieving victory over evil. We offer in this article an overview of the intellectual contribution of the Pre-Islamic Iranian world to the idea of history.

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Books

From Albania to Arrān

Hoyland, Robert (ed.). 2020. From Albania to Arrān: The East Caucasus between the ancient and Islamic worlds (ca. 330 BCE–1000 CE) (Gorgias Studies in Classical and Late Antiquity 25). Georgia Press.

This volume is the first publication in English to discuss the nature and identity of the polity in the East Caucasus referred to by modern scholars as (Caucasian) Albania. The sporadic and fragmentary character of our sources for this polity means that it is difficult to construct a continuous narrative of its history, and so we offer here studies by leading specialists on particular aspects of it: geographical extent, religious and political machinations, material culture, interactions with neighboring states and key historical developments.

A number of contributions in this volume relate to Iran, which is why we announce the book rather than single articles.
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Books

The Eastern Frontier

Haug, Robert. 2019. The eastern frontier: Limits of empire in late antique and early medieval Central Asia (Early and Medieval Islamic World). London: I.B. Tauris.

Transoxania, Khurasan, and ?ukharistan – which comprise large parts of today’s Central Asia – have long been an important frontier zone. In the late antique and early medieval periods, the region was both an eastern political boundary for Persian and Islamic empires and a cultural borderseparating communities of sedentary farmers from pastoral-nomads.

Given its peripheral location, the history of the ‘eastern frontier’ in this period has often been shown through the lens of expanding empires. However, in this book, Robert Haug argues for a pre-modern Central Asia with a discrete identity, a region that is not just a transitory space or the far-flung corner of empires, but its own historical entity. From this locally specific perspective, the book takes the reader on a 900-year tour of the area, from Sasanian control, through the Umayyads and Abbasids, to the quasi-independent dynasties of the Tahirids and the Samanids. Drawing on an impressive array of literary, numismatic and archaeological sources, Haug reveals the unique and varied challenges the eastern frontier presented to imperial powers that strove to integrate the area into their greater systems. This is essential reading for all scholars working on early Islamic, Iranian and Central Asian history, as well as those with an interest in the dynamics of frontier regions.

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Journal

New Perspectives on Late Antique Iran and Iraq

Pregill, Michael (ed.). 2018. New perspectives on late antique Iran and Iraq. Mizan. Journal for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations 3(1).

Aramaic incantation bowl from Sasanian Babylonia, 4th-7th c., currently held in the collection of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (B2945; courtesy Penn Museum Blog)

This volume of the peer-reviewed, open access Mizan: Journal for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations presents several articles (and a provocative postscript) centering on the theme of “New Perspectives on Late Antique Iran and Iraq.” The articles featured here originated with a pair of conference panels convened in 2016. The first was held during the summer of 2016 at the Eleventh Biennial Iranian Studies Conference at the University of Vienna, August 2–5, 2016; the second followed in the fall of that year, convened during the 50th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association held in Boston, November 17–20, 2016.

ToC
– Touraj Daryaee: “How the Sasanians Saw the Late Antique World: A Persianate View of the Interconnectedness of Eurasia”
– Isabel Toral-Niehoff: “Al-Ḥīra: An Arab Late Antique Metropolis in Sasanian Iraq”
– Shai Secunda: “East LA: Margin and Center in Late Antiquity Studies and the New Irano-Talmudica”
– Teresa Bernheimer: “The Revolt of Qaṭarī b. al-Fujāʿa (d. 79/698) and the Kharijite Revolts of Early Islamic Iran: Social Change between Late Antiquity and Early Islam”
– Rahim Shayegan: “On Diachrony in Sasanian Studies”
– Jason Mokhtarian: “Religious Polemics in Sasanian Writings”
– Thomas Carlson: “The Long Shadow of Sasanian Christianity: The Limits of Iraqi Islamization to 950”
– Mimi Hanaoka: “Authority and Identity in Early Medieval Persianate Islamic Historiography: Methologies for Reading Hybrid Identities and Imagined Histories”

Categories
Articles

Iran, the Silk Road and Political Economy in Late Antiquity

Payne, Richard. 2018. The Silk Road and the Iranian political economy in late antiquity: Iran, the Silk Road, and the problem of aristocratic empire. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 81(2). 227–250.

The Iranian Empire emerged in the third century in the interstices of the Silk Road that increasingly linked the markets of the Mediterranean and the Near East with South, Central, and East Asia. The ensuing four centuries of Iranian rule corresponded with the heyday of trans-Eurasian trade, as the demand of moneyed imperial elites across the continent for one another’s high-value commodities stimulated the development of long-distance networks. Despite its position at the nexus of trans-continental and trans-oceanic commerce, accounts of Iran in late antiquity relegate trade to a marginal role in its political economy. The present article seeks to foreground the contribution of trans-continental mercantile networks to the formation of Iran and to argue that its development depended as much on the political economies of its western and eastern neighbours as on internal Near Eastern factors.

Also available from the author’s Academia page.