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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 Journal

Sometimes Sasanian, Always Ēr

Gyselen, Rika (ed.). 2022. Sometimes Sasanian, Always Ēr (Res Orientales 29). Bures-sur-Yvette: Groupe pour l’Étude de la Civilisation du Moyen-Orient.

Volume 29 of the Res Orientales, edited by Rika Gyselen is now published. The preface to this volume is available online here.

Table of Contents:

Rika Gyselen: “Un objet insolite avec une inscription moyen-perse”

Mateusz M. P. Klagisz: “Bābāye Dehqān in Central Asian ethnography , and the literary and iconographic motif of the ploughman with two oxen in Sasanian times”

Yousef Moradi an d Almut Hintze: “The main administrative seal of the sanctuary of A.dur Gusnasp and some other sealings from Takt-e Solayman”

L’archive du Tabarestan (VIII° siècle de notre ère)

Dieter Weber: “Pahlavi Legal Documents from Tabarestan: The Documents Tab.16, 19, 20, 22bis and 25: A Philological Approach”

Maria Macuch: “Pahlavi Legal Docun1ents from Tabarestan: The Juristic Context of Tab.16, 19, 20, 22bis and 25”

Maria Macuch: “Pahlavi Legal Documents from Tabarestan: The Juristic Context of Tab.12 and 26”

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Books Journal

Sasanian Studies: Late Antique Iranian World

Farridnejad, Shervin & Touraj Daryaee (eds.). 2022. Sasanian studies: Late antique Iranian world | Sasanidische Studien: Spätantike iranische Welt. Vol. 1. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The first issue of the Sasanian Studies: Late Antique Iranian World is now published. The Sasanian Studies is a refereed journal that publishes papers on any aspect of the Sasanian Empire and ist neighboring late antiquity civilizations. The journal welcomes essays on archaeology, art history, epigraphy, history, numismatics, religion and any other disciplines which focuses on the Sasanian world. This annual publication focuses especially on recent discoveries in the field, historiographical studies, as well as editions and translations of texts and inscriptions. We aim to facilitate dialogue and contact among scholars of Sasanian Studies around the world.

Table of Contents (PDF):

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Persia (552 BCE-758 CE). Primary Sources, Old and New

Gyselen, Rika (ed.). 2020. Persia (552 BCE-758 CE). Primary Sources, Old and New (Res Orientales 28). Bures-sur-Yvette: Groupe pour l’Étude de la Civilisation du Moyen-Orient (GECMO).

The articles in this volume present, comment on and interpret primary sources from different eras: Achaemenid, Sasanian and post-Sasanian. While most of these sources were discovered in the 21st century, a few were already known. Recent Iranian surveys and excavations have uncovered: (1) new Sasanian sites in the region of Sar Mashad in the Pars, (2) Sasanian administrative bullae on Tappe Barnakoon, west of Isfahan, (3) a clay sealing with the impression of a royal seal of Peroz in Taxt-e Soleiman. New data for Sasanian numismatics come from unpublished coins in the Johnson collection. Three documents from the “Tabarestan Archive”, published in recent years, have been re-read and interpreted in the context of Zoroastrian law. Also, sources known from much longer have been the subject of new “readings”. They highlight that the message these inscriptions and royal objects convey is strongly conditioned by the type of ‘public’ to which it is addressed.

Table of Contents

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Materials for a History of the Persian Narrative Tradition

Orsatti, Paola. 2019. Materials for a History of the Persian Narrative Tradition. Two Characters: Farhād and Turandot. Venezia: Ca’ Foscari.

This book gathers together two essays. The first deals with the origins of the character of Farhād, the unlucky lover of Shīrīn, who – in the Persian narrative tradition – digs a route through Mount Bīsutūn and accomplishes other admirable works. The essay suggests that Farhād, as we know him from long narrative poems, historical chronicles, and reports by geographers and travelers, is the issue of a conflation between the legendary character of the Master of Mount Bīsutūn and a historical personage, Farrahān, the general-in-chief of the Sasanid king Khusraw II Parvīz’s army (r. 590-628 EC), as this figure was re-elaborated in a number of later legends. 

The second essay identifies a character named ‘Būrān-dukht’ as the prototype from which Turandot, the heroine of the tale well-known in Europe from Puccini’s opera (1926), springs. Two historical personages, both called Būrān or Būrān-dukht, are relevant in this line of development: the first is the daughter of the Sasanid king Khusraw II Parvīz (r. 580-628 CE), who was queen of Persia for a short period (630-631 CE); the other is the daughter of Ḥasan b. Sahl, wife of Caliph al-Maʾmūn (813-833 CE).

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Women and Monarchy in Ancient Iran

Carney, Elizabeth Donnelly & Sabine Müller (eds.). 2021. The Routledge Companion to Women and Monarchy in the Ancient Mediterranean World. London: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Portrait of Shapur III’s Wife. ca. 383-388 C.E. Onyx. BnF – Bibliothèque nationale de France (20.A.1)

This volume offers the first comprehensive look at the role of women in the monarchies of the ancient Mediterranean. It consistently addresses certain issues across all dynasties: title; role in succession; the situation of mothers, wives, and daughters of kings; regnant and co-regnant women; role in cult and in dynastic image; and examines a sampling of the careers of individual women while placing them within broader contexts. Written by an international group of experts, this collection is based on the assumption that women played a fundamental role in ancient monarchy, that they were part of, not apart from it, and that it is necessary to understand their role to understand ancient monarchies. This is a crucial resource for anyone interested in the role of women in antiquity.

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Societies at War

Ruffing, Kai, Kerstin Dross-Krüpe, Sebastian Fink & Robert Rollinger (Eds.). 2020. Societies at war: Proceedings of the 10th symposium of the Melammu project held in Kassel September 26-28 2016 & Proceedings of the 8th symposium of the Melammu project held in Kiel November 11-15 2014 (MELAMMU, 10). Vienna: Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.

War and war-related issues have attracted an increasing attention within current historical and archaeological research, not least in response to recent global political events. Another reason for this growing interest is probably a general trend towards Modern Military History that has drawn academic attention to war-related issues through all cultures and epochs, going beyond Clausewitz’s argument of war as a continuation of politics by other means. The present vol-ume is committed to this broad approach by examining and comparing phenomena related to ancient warfare from the perspective of Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Classical Studies. Due to unforeseeable circumstances, which prevented the organizers from editing their own proceedings, some papers of the 8th Symposium of the Melammu Project, held at Kiel on the subject “Iranian Worlds”, have been added to this volume in their own section.

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Rome and Persia at War

Edwell, Peter. 2020. Rome and Persia at War: Imperial Competition and Contact, 193-363 CE. New York and London: Routledge.

This book focuses on conflict, diplomacy and religion as factors in the relationship between Rome and Sasanian Persia in the third and fourth centuries AD. During this period, military conflict between Rome and Sasanian Persia was at a level and depth not seen mostly during the Parthian period. At the same time, contact between the two empires increased markedly and contributed in part to an increased level of conflict. Edwell examines both war and peace – diplomacy, trade and religious contact – as the means through which these two powers competed, and by which they sought to gain, maintain and develop control of territories and peoples who were the source of dispute between the two empires. The volume also analyses internal factors in both empires that influenced conflict and competition between them, while the roles of regional powers such as the Armenians, Palmyrenes and Arabs in conflict and contact between the two “super powers” receive special attention. Using a broad array of sources, this book gives special attention to the numismatic evidence as it has tended to be overshadowed in modern studies by the literary and epigraphic sources.

This is the first monograph in English to undertake an in-depth and critical analysis of competition and contact between Rome and the early Sasanians in the Near East in the third and fourth centuries AD using literary, archaeological, numismatic and epigraphic evidence, and one which includes the complete range of mechanisms by which the two powers competed. It is an invaluable study for anyone working on Rome, Persia and the wider Near East in Late Antiquity.

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Zoroastrian Dualism in Jewish, Christian, and Manichaean Perspective

Volume 96, issue 2 (2020) of Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses is dedicated to the subject of Zoroastrian dualism in Jewish, Christian, and Manichaean perspectives.

Table of Contents

  • Jan Dochhorn: Zu den religionsgeschichtilichen Hintergründen der jüdischen und christlichen Satanologie. Eine Antwort auf John J. Collins, zugleich Sondierungen zum Verhältnis zwischen der Zwei-Geister-Lehre in 1 Q S III,13-IV,26 und dualistischen Konzepten iranischer Herkunft.
  • Benjamin Gleede: More Zoroastrian than Zoroaster? The Problem of Zoroastrian Influence on Manichaeism Illustrated by a Version of the Manichaean Myth Preserved in Severus of Antioch, Titus of Bostra and Theodoret of Cyrus.
  • Nestor Kavvadas: Sasanian Creed or Byzantine Projection? The Zurvanite Myth and Theodore of Mopsuestia’s Contra Magos.
  • Alexander M. Schilling: Ahreman in Armenien. Untersuchungen zu den christlich-orientalischen Zurwān-Texten.
  • Fazel Pakzad: Deus filius temporis? Divine Derivations and the Nature of Zoroastrian Dualism
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Pregnancy in Middle-Persian Zoroastrian Literature

Delaini, Paolo. 2019. Pregnancy in Middle-Persian Zoroastrian Literature: The Exchange of Knowledge between India, Iran, and Greece in Late Antiquity. In Costanza Gislon Dopfel, Alessandra Foscati & Charles Burnett (eds.), Pregnancy and Childbirth in the Premodern World, 29–51. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers.

In Late Antiquity Sasanian court patronage attracted philosophers, medical doctors, and teachers from the former Roman Empire. Contemporary observers noted that the court of the Sasanian King Xusraw I (AD 531–79) was a meeting place open to philosophical debates and to the diffusion of medical knowledge. According to tradition, King Xusraw welcomed the Greek philosopher Damascius and the ‘seven sages of Byzantium’ to his ancient capital of Ctesiphon at the time of their expulsion from Athens’s school of philosophy. It seems that this king was deeply interested in medicine; he invited and hosted numerous Byzantine doctors and financially supported Abraham of Beth Rabban, director of the influential Nisibis School, in his endeavour to build a hospital (xenodocheion).

Delaini offers in his article a cross-cultural analysis of pregnancy and childbirth traditions in Middle Persian Zoroastrian Literature.