Iranian Art

Blair, Sheila, Jonathan M. Bloom & Sandra Williams (eds.). 2024. Iranian art from the Sasanians to the Islamic Republic. Essays in honour of Linda Komaroff (Edinburgh Studies in Islamic Art). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Introduces Iranian art from classical to contemporary media, showing how art can be a source for history and politics

  • Takes a broad view of the Persianate world
  • Opens a traditional field in new directions
  • Presents a combination of senior scholars and younger voices, and includes perspectives from Asia, Europe and the USA
  • Combines views from the academy, the museum and the laboratory, ranging from the practical to the theoretical

Sasanian Administrations and Officials

Gyselen, Rika (ed.). 2024. Administrations et préposés d’époque sassanide. Nouvelles données à la mémoire de Philippe Gignoux (Cahiers de Studica Iranica 66). Paris: Association pour l’Avancement des études iraniennes.

This volume brings together studies based on primary sources, often unpublished, which highlight important aspects of the administration of the Sasanian Empire. Some complete our knowledge on the territorial establishment of the various administrations and of the mints, others deal with the actors of these institutions such as the magi and the scribes. The sources used are mainly seals and seal impressions on clay bullae.


Stereotypes and Identity Creation in the Ancient World

Forsén, Björn & Antti Lampinen (eds.). 2024. Oriental Mirages: Stereotypes and Identity Creation in the Ancient World (Oriens et Occidens 42). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag.

Edward Said, in his seminal book Orientalism, perceived clear links between the ancient Greek and Roman stereotypes of the East and the prejudiced European nineteenth-century picture of the Muslim world, which was considered exotic, backward, uncivilised, degenerate, and dangerous, in contrast with the Western societies that were seen as developed, rational, flexible, and, above all, superior. However, the reality is much more complex – shaped by both the imperialist perceptions of defeated enemies embraced by all Middle Eastern empires going back at least to the Assyrians, and the intermixed admiration and jealousy of the old ‘Eastern’ traditions of learning. Part of the Greek and Roman stereotypes of the East are rooted in the interaction with eastern imperial ideals, being taken over and further developed to strengthen common Hellenic and Roman identities. Due to the subsequent free borrowing of these stereotypes and their application to different societies, the Orient has always been a moving ‘(n)everwhere’ with each culture constructing their own Oriental mirages.


Another bulla of Weh-Šāpur

Miri, Negin & Cyrus Nasrollahzadeh. 2023. Another bulla of Weh-Šāpur, Ērān- Spāhbed of Kust-i-Nēmrōz from the Treasury of Mostazafan Foundation’s Cultural Institution of Museums in Tehran. ISIMU 26: 145-155.

This paper introduces a newly-found Sasanian bulla that has two seal impressions, the major of which belongs to Wēh-šāpur, military chief or Ērān-spāhbed of kust-ī-nēmrōz or the south-southeast side of the Sasanian Empire during the reign of Ḵosrow I (539-579 AD). Since 2001 a number of spāhbed bullae have been identified and published. These significant objects confirmed the validity of historical narrations regarding quadripartition of military organization of the Sasanian Empire recorded in late and post-Sasanian literary sources. This sealing is part of a bullae collection kept in the treasury of Mostazafan Foundation’s Cultural Institution of Museums in Tehran and offers the fifth example of spāhbed Wēh-šābuhr seal impression so far known and published.


Studies in Silk Road Archaeology

Xia, Nai. 2024. Studies in Silk Road Archaeology. Wiesbaden: Springer.

This book is a collection of Nai Xia’s quintessential works on Silk Road studies. A key resource in the field of Silk Road Archaeology, it features in-depth content, a broad range of material, careful textual research, and meticulous analysis. With thorough investigations of foreign coinage, silk textiles, and artifacts with foreign styles excavated in different parts of China, it explores the exchange between ancient China and Central Asia, Western Asia, and Europe. In particular, this book provides detailed descriptions of the economic and cultural ties between ancient China, Pre-Islamic Arabia, the Sasanian Empire, and the Byzantine Empire. The research propounds innovative theories on the history and evolution of East-West transportation routes, i.e., the overland Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road. Based on the study of ancient relics and excavated artifacts, it points out that cultural exchange along the Silk Road was never unilateral, but instead, mutual influence and cooperation were obvious. Since ancient times, countries along the Silk Road have had a tradition of amicable foreign relations and the promotion of common interests. The book is intended for academics, scholars and researchers.


‘Emārat-e Kosrow on the High Road

Moradi, Yousef. 2023. ‘Emārat-e Kosrow on the High Road: Recent Archaeological Excavations. Ancient Near Eastern Studies 60: 93-147.

The question of how Perso-Sasanian traditions of palatial architecture developed over time, and to what degree these ideas and traditions influenced the Islamic conceptualisation of a royal space, remains a hotly contested topic. Part of the problem in answering these questions lies with the fragmented and often erroneous corpus of available data. European scholarship going back to the Victorian era has been laced with orientalist assumptions and strained reconstructions, and this bias has been allowed to continue to inform analyses up until this day. Another great problem has been the dissemination of results from archaeological work conducted by Iranian scholars, which has not attained the platform necessary to be widely read and used (perhaps, in part, due to language). This article endeavours to begin remedying these long-standing problems by providing the most comprehensive reassessment to date of the monumental late Sasanian complex known as the ‘Emārat-e Kosrow. The article challenges the established tropes by juxtaposing the extant scholarship with the comprehensive dataset produced by completely new archaeological investigations at the site. It is the author’s aim that the data provided by these excavations and the analysis of their results presented here will allow us to reconceptualise not only how this iconic Sasanian palace was actually constructed, but also to use this reconceptualisation as an empirical basis for rethinking the influence of Sasanian kingship theatres of power on those of the leadership of the early umma, and on the protocol carried out in them.


Transversal Studies on the Reigns of Yazdgird I and Wahrām V

Jullien, Christelle (ed.). 2023. Discourse, power issues, and images. Transversal studies on the reigns of Yazdgird I and Wahrām V (Late Antique History and Religion). Leuven: Peeters.

What images of Yazdgird I (399-420) and Wahrām V (420-438) have been transmitted in the sources from and outside the Persian empire? Those nearly forty years saw a rich and complex relationship develop between Persia and its neighbours, paving the way for the Sasanians to extend their influence beyond the borders. At the beginning of the fifth century, while exchanges and relations of subordination were being reconfigured in the Middle East, the religious communities of the Sasanian empire (Babylonian Jewry, diverse Christian communities, Manichaeans, etc.) created the conditions for a new relationship with power. These two great sovereigns were emblematic and inspired contrasting portrayals – either controversial or idealised – that integrate narrative models sometimes borrowed from other cultures. A major aim of this book is to bring together the up-to-date knowledge about this topic through a comprehensive enquiry and comparison of contemporaneous and later materials.

Table of Contents

  • Geoffrey Greatrex and George Amanatidis-Saadé: “Les relations romano-perses sous Yazdgird Ier et Wahrām V”
  • Giusto Traina: “Yazdgird I, Wahrām V, and the End of Greater Armenia: A Note on the Armenian Sources”
  • Rika Gyselen: “Entre tradition et innovation : temoignages materiels de l’epoque de Yazdgird Ier et de Wahrām V”
  • Touraj Daryaee: “The Two Kings of Erānsahr: Yazdgird I ‘The Sinner’ and Wahrām V ‘The Onager’ in the Xwadāy-nāmag Tradition”
  • Geoffrey Herman: “Tue Jews of Babylonia during the Reigns of Kings Yazdgird I and Wahrām V”
  • Scott McDonough: “A Tale of Two Isaacs: Christians and the Crown in Fifth Century Erānsahr”
  • Christelle Jullien: “Les affaires de pyrees sous Yazdgird I. Motif hagiographique et modèles littéraires”
  • Marie-Joseph Pierre and Chiemi Nakano: “Le synode de 410, avant et apres”
  • Philip Wood: “Rewriting History: Yazdgird I, Wahrām V and the Chronicle of Seert

Apocalyptic Eschatology and Empire in Sasanian Iran

Canepa, Matthew P. 2024. Envisioning dualism and emplacing the Eschaton: Apocalyptic eschatology and empire in Sasanian Iran. In Jörg Rüpke, Michal Biran & Yuri Pines (eds.), Empires and Gods: The Role of Religions in Imperial History (Imperial Histories: Eurasian Empires Compared), vol. 1, 135–174. Berlin: De Gruyter.

The Sasanian Empire (224–642 CE) was the last great Iranian empire to rule overWestern Asia before the coming of Islam. The empire was founded when Ardaxšīr I (r. 224 – ca. 242), a local ruler of Pārs and vassal to the Parthian king of kings, revolted from his overlord, Ardawān IV, defeating and killing him in the Battleof Hormozgān. Ending five centuries of Arsacid rule, Ardaxšīr I quickly took control of the Iranian plateau and Mesopotamia, expanding the empire and soon bringing him into conflict with the Romans. His son and successor Šābuhr I (r. 242–272) expanded the empire eastward into Northern India at the expense of the Kushan Empire and westward into Roman territory, raiding several importantRoman cities and deporting their inhabitants, including those of Antioch. By the late-sixth century CE the Sasanians had forged a centralized empire from theParthian Empire’s heterogenous network of crown lands, client kingdoms, semi-autonomous city-states, and aristocratic estates. Despite setbacks, the new powerful empire succeeded in contending with and often defeating the economic and military might of the Roman Empire, while resisting the military pressures of the steppe, and harnessing the economic forces of Eurasian trade. With mercantile networks that extended from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea, the Empire of the Iranians exercised power over Mesopotamia, Iran, portions of the Caucasus,South and Central Asia, and briefly Egypt, Anatolia and even to the walls of Constantinople during the empire’s final apogee under Husraw II (r. 590–628). Over the course of late antiquity, Sasanian art, architecture, and court culture created a new dominant global aristocratic common culture in western Eurasia, beguiling theirRoman, South Asian, and Chinese contemporaries, and deeply imprinted the later Islamic world.

This chapter is available as an open access publication.

Sasanian Studies 2

Farridnejad, Shervin & Touraj Daryaee (eds.). 2023. Sasanian studies: Late antique Iranian world | Sasanidische Studien: Spätantike iranische Welt. Vol. 2. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Sasanian Studies: Late Antique Iranian World 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 focuse 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. The journal will publish papers mainly in English, but also in German, French, Italian and may also consider Persian and Arabic.

From the contents:
  • Nima Asefi, Āzādmard in the Pahlavi Archive of Hastijan
  • Iris Colditz, Landesrecht vs. lokales Recht? Fragen an das sasanidische Rechtsbuch Hazār dādestān
  • Götz König, Zur Bedeutung der Sternenlehre in den Rezensionen des Bundahišn und für deren historische Beurteilung
  • Katarzyna Maksymiuk, The Titles of the (h)argbed, the artēštārān sālār and the spāhbed in the Iranian and Non-Iranian Sources
  • Daniel T. Potts, A Contribution to the Location of the Late Antique Settlements Known as Rēw-Ardašīr or Rēšahr
  • Robert Rollinger & Josef Wiesehöfer, Emperor Valerian and Ilu-bi’dī of Hamath. Persian Cruelty, and the Persistence of Ancient Near Eastern Traditions
  • Dieter Weber, Cooking in 7th Century Iran

The full table of contents is available from the website.


Studia Iranica 51

Volume 51 of Studia Iranica, dated 2022, is now available with two issues.

Of particular interest to this blog is Olivia Ramble’s article on Kerdīr’s bun-xānag and Funding Foundations in Sasanian Iran.

Issue 1

  • The Caspian Language of Tonekābon; BORJIAN, Habib
  • Pashto Preverbs, I: Indo-Iranian *ā; DE CHIARA, Matteo
  • About ‘Paper’ in Russian, Pahl. pambag, Rus. bumaga; OGNIBENE, Paolo
  • Plague in Sistan, 1905-1906; FLOOR, Willem

Issue 2

  • Kerdīr’s bun-xānag and Funding Foundations in Sasanian Iran; RAMBLE, Olivia
  • Les mots français dans le premier Safarnāme de Nāṣer ad-din Shāh (1873); LENEPVEU-HOTZ, Agnès
  • Pashto Preverbs, II: Indo-Iranian Heritage; DE CHIARA, Matteo
  • From Hurmuz to Aleppo: Observations on the Journey of Alessandro Piccolomini, 1586; TRENTACOSTE, Davide
In memoriam
  • Christophe Balaÿ (1949-2022); HOURCADE, Bernard
  • Bert G. Fragner (1941-2021); SCHWARZ, Florian
  • Florence Hellot-Bellier (1943-2021); HOURCADE, Bernard