The Transmission of the Avesta

Cantera, Alberto (ed.). 2012. The Transmission of the Avesta. (Iranica 20). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
The Avesta is a collection of liturgical texts considered as their sacred book by the Zoroastrian community. It contains the recitatives of the Zoroastrian liturgies still celebrated in the 17th century, some of them even celebrated until today. The texts integrated in these ceremonies were composed in different places and at different times, and transmitted orally for centuries. The exact date of the fixation of the ceremonies in the shape in which they are presented in the manuscripts and the creation of the different manuscripts is unknown. But today it is proven that even after the creation of the first manuscripts, the transmission of these liturgical texts was the result of a complicated process in which not only the process of copying manuscripts but also the ritual practice and the ritual teaching were involved. The only deep analysis of the written transmission of the Avesta was made by K. F. Geldner as Prolegomena to his edition of the Avesta. Since then, many new manuscripts have appeared. In The Transmission of the Avesta contributions by the main experts in this field are gathered: the oral transmission, the fixation of the different collections, the first writing down, and the manuscripts. Special interest is devoted to the manuscripts. Some contributions of the volume were presented at the correspondent colloquium held in Salamanca, September 2009; others were added in order to make of the volume a comprehensive work on the different aspects of the Avestan transmission.

Changes in Late Antique Legal Systems

Kaiser Justinian. Mosaiken in Ravenna, St. Vitalis (Ausschnitt). Image Credit: The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202 lizensiert unter the GNU Free Documentation License:

Changes in Late Antique Legal Systems: Reception, Transformation and Recontextualization of Legal Terms

International workshop organized by project C03 “Interaction and Change in Oriental Legal Systems. The Transfer of Normative Knowledge as Exemplified by Zoroastrian and Islamic Law (Seventh to Eleventh Centuries)” (Head: M. Macuch)

May 22, 2015, 09:00 AM c.t. – 06:30 PM

SFB-Villa, Sitzungsraum, Schwendenerstraße 8, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem

Legal systems are characterized by sophisticated technical languages that make use of a multitude of juridical terms to describe mostly complex circumstances. Whereas legal terms on the one hand have a stabilizing function and serve the jurists for the categorization and evaluation of cases – what is especially true for the tradition-oriented systems of the Late Antiquity like the Roman-Byzantine, Zoroastrian, Islamic, Jewish or Christian canonical laws – they show on the other hand constant changes in their historical development with regard to content and meaning. Besides such endogenous factors in the change of meaning, also exogenous sources as the adoption of a term from an alien law system and its recontextualization are conceivable. In both cases it results in intended or unintended shifts of meaning that may have an impact on other terms or elements of the system, depending on the relevance of the term. It is in particular this modification of Late Antique legal systems caused by changes of legal terms that is subject of the workshop. It targets on an exemplary more detailed description and analysis of the further development of particular legal terms within the systems as well as in their interrelation.

To register, please contact Dr. Iris Colditz: icolditz[at]


9:15–9:30 a.m Maria Macuch (Berlin):
Welcome and Introduction

Panel 1: Rechtsbegriffe und -institutionen in transkulturellem Kontext
9:30–10:15 a.m Johannes Pahlitzsch (Mainz):
„Die Entstehung des christlichen waqf
10:15–11:00 a.m Richard Payne (Chicago):
„Christianizing Stūrīh: Law, Reproduction, and Elite Formation in the Iranian Empire“
11:00–11:30 a.m coffee break
11:30 a.m. –12:15 p.m. János Jany (Budapest):
„Transmitters of Legal Knowledge: Dadestan, Fatwa, Responsum
12:15–1:45 p.m. lunch break

Panel 2: Wandel von Rechtsbegriffen und Argumentationsformen im jüdischen und römischen Recht
1:45–2:30 p.m. Ronen Reichman (Heidelberg):
„‚Was die Schrift lehrt, geht aber doch aus einem Vernunftsargument hervor!‘: Über die Entwicklung eines (rechtspositivistischen [?]) Argumentationsmusters in der rabbinischen Literatur“
2:30–3:15 p.m. Anna Seelentag (Frankfurt/M.):
Tutela und cura – Zur Annäherung zweier Rechtsbegriffe im römischen Recht“
3:15–3:45 p.m. coffee break
3:45–4:30 p.m. Johannes Platschek (München):
Arra in römischen Rechtstexten“
4:30–5:15 p.m. Thomas Rüfner (Trier):
Ius, iudex, iurisdictio: Die Terminologie des römischen Prozessrechts in der Spätantike“
5:15–5:30 p.m. coffee break
5:30–6:30 p.m. Final Discussion



Ohrmazd’s better judgement

Agostini, Domenico, Eva Kiesele & Shai Secunda. 2014. Ohrmazd’s better judgement (meh-dādestānīh). A Middle Persian legal and theological discourse. Studia Iranica 43(2). 177–202.

This article presents a transcription, translation, commentary, and discussion of a ritual and theological passage taken from the long-neglected Middle Persian work, the Zand ī fragard ī Jud-dēw-dād. The selection is notable for the way it mixes theological and ritual forms of discourse while considering situations in which impure or Evil things, like corpses, wolves, and sins, naturally come into contact with pure and Good elements, like water, fire, and good deeds. Along with explaining this rich text and its various textual parallels, the article considers the potential research value of the Zand ī fragard ī Jud-dēw-dād for Iranists and scholars of late antique religious literature.


Sasanian elites and kinship ties

I found Prof. Macuch’s lecture at the FAMES, entitled Kinship Ties and Fictive Alliances in Sasanian Law, very engaging. The lecture was in two parts. First, she gave an overview of the  Sasanian interpretation of kinship and discussed wealth, property management and inheritance. In the clearly structured introduction she defined the various models of matrimony such as fully qualified marriage, proxy, temporary and fictive marriages and their purposes. In the shorter second part she interpreted the social purpose of these legal institutions. She argued that the complex Sasanian legal system was carried by the Zoroastrian clergy and served to protect the elites’ wealth, preventing it from passing to commoners. In her view, the protection of wealth in this manner resulted in a two class society with a severe imbalance of wealth. She closed her lecture with the suggestion that this imbalance of wealth may have contributed to the collapse of the Sasanian Empire in the wake of the Islamic conquests.


Kinship ties and Sasanian law

Professor Maria Macuch to speak on Kinship Ties and Fictive Alliances in Sasanian Law at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA on Friday 13 December at 5.30pm.