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Articles

Avestan ī̆šti-

Musavi, Fatemeh. 2024. The Avestan ī̆šti- in Middle Persian texts. BSOAS FirstView.

Middle Persian translations and interpretations of Avestan texts employ the word īšt in the translation of the Avestan ī̆šti- “capability, capacity, competence”. The word became a vocabulary item in the Middle Persian corpus. It seems to be a calque of its Avestan counterpart. The Avestan ī̆šti- has presented challenges in the Avesta scholarship and is translated with words from different semantic domains. This article discusses the definition of Avestan ī̆šti- and how it is reinterpreted and understood in the Middle Persian translations. It is argued here that Av. ī̆šti- refers to “capability, capacity, and competence”. However, it is understood and interpreted in the MP texts as “wealth, property”, “remuneration”, or “reward”. It is sometimes translated to a verb form from xwāstan “desire, want”.

Abstract
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Books

The “Sūdgar Nask” of “Dēnkard” Book 9

Vevaina, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw. 2023. The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9. Text, Translation and Critical Apparatus (Iranica 31). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9 is one of the most enigmatic and yet fundamental texts of Zoroastrianism. It is a commentary on the ‘Old Avesta’ of the 2nd millennium BCE produced in Pahlavi (Zoroastrian Middle Persian) in the Sasanian (224–651 CE) and early Islamic centuries. This commentary purportedly based on earlier Pahlavi translations and commentaries of lost Young Avestan tractates commenting in turn on the ‘Old Avesta’ is a value-laden, ideologically motivated discourse that displays a rich panoply of tradition-constituted forms of allegoresis. This terse yet highly allusive text mobilizes complex forms of citation, allusion, and intertextuality from the inherited Avestan world of myth and ritual in order to engage with and react to the profound changes occurring in the relationships between theology, religious praxis, national identity, and imperial politics in Iranian society. Despite its value and importance for developing our nascent understanding of Zoroastrian hermeneutics and the self-conception of the Zoroastrian priesthood in Late Antiquity, this primary source has attracted scant scholarly attention due to the extreme difficulty of its subject matter and the lack of a reliable translation. This volume represents the first critical edition and translation of this formidable text which will contribute to the philological, theological, and historiographical study of Zoroastrianism in a pivotal moment in its rich and illustrious history.

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Journal

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.

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Journal

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
Categories
Books

Trust Matters

Vevaina, Leilah. 2023. Trust matters: Parsi endowments in Mumbai and the horoscope of a city. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Although numbering fewer than 60,000 in a city of more than 12 million people, Mumbai’s Parsi community is one of the largest private landowners in the city due to its network of public charitable trusts. In Trust Matters Leilah Vevaina explores the dynamics and consequences of this conjunction of religion and capital as well as the activities of giving, disputing, living, and dying it enables. As she shows, communal trusts are the legal infrastructure behind formal religious giving and ritual in urban India that influence communal life. Vevaina proposes the trusts as a horoscope of the city—a constellation of housing, temples, and other spaces providing possible futures. She explores the charitable trust as a technology of time, originating in the nineteenth century, one that structures intergenerational obligations for Mumbai’s Parsis, connecting past and present, the worldly and the sacred. By approaching Mumbai through the legal mechanism of the trust and the people who live within its bounds as well as those who challenge or support it, Vevaina offers a new pathway into exploring property, religion, and kinship in the urban global South.

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Articles

A Portrait of Slaves and Slaveholders of Fire Foundations in Sasanian Iran

Tamari, Nazanin. 2023. Zoroastrian Fire Foundations: A Portrait of Slaves and Slaveholders. Slavery & Abolition 44(4). 697–719.

Throughout the Sasanian era (224-650/1 CE), Zoroastrian Fire Foundations were some of the most significant landowners in Iran. The sources represented in this study reveal that Fire Foundations were among the most prominent organizations in late antique Iran, actively utilizing slaves and their labour in various social, economic and religious contexts. This article studies the religious, social, legal, and economic aspects of slaves in general, and slaves of Fire Foundations in particular throughout the Sasanian period. Drawing on Middle Persian legal and religious texts, the article examines three interrelated themes: the Fire Foundations characterized as slavers, and the function of priests in mobilizing their immense landed estates, income, and the utilization of slave labour; the relationship between free persons and slaves; and the link between the Fire Foundations and slaves. Analyzing these key questions and the considerable involvement of clerics in all these aspects enables us to discern the structural role of priests in Fire Foundations’ use of slavery and within the broader framework of the Sasanian economy. Through this analysis, the article highlights the close administrative and financial ties binding the priesthood and the monarchy during Sasanian Iran.

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Books

Early Zoroastrianism and Orality

Kreyenbroek, Philip G. 2023. Early Zoroastrianism and orality (Iranica, GOF III/NF 20). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Early Zoroastrianism was transmitted orally, as is now generally accepted by scholars. There is no consensus, however, regarding the implications of that insight. The few scholars who have referred to the question so far generally based their approach on the assumption that academic theories on orality are valid for all forms of oral transmission, which is demonstrably untrue. Moreover, whilst progress has been made on individual aspects of Avestan texts, the early history of Zoroastrianism as such has received scant attention in recent decades.
Philip G. Kreyenbroek has combined an almost life-long study of Zoroastrianism with empirical research on the oral traditions of two modern Iranian religious groups. In this book he applies his first-hand knowledge of the workings of oral transmission and his familiarity with early Zoroastrian priestly practices to extant Avestan texts in order to uncover their history in the light of their earlier oral transmission. Taking into account a number of recent discoveries by other scholars, the work arrives at new conclusions about the genesis and early development of the Zoroastrian tradition.

See the table of content here.

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Articles Journal

Slavery & Abolition

Volume 44, issue 4 (2023), of the journal Slavery & Abolition has just been published. This special issue, entitled Slavery in Byzantium and the Medieval Islamicate World: Texts and Contexts, is edited by Jelle Bruning and Said Reza Huseini. It features two articles of particular interest to Iranian Studies. One by Said Reza Huseini on Slavery Represented in Bactrian Documents, and one by Nazanin Tamari on Zoroastrian Fire Foundations: A Portrait of Slaves and Slaveholders.

This special issue of Slavery & Abolition presents six studies on the history of slavery in the greater Mediterranean basin, the Near East and the Iranian world during the second half of the first millennium CE. The articles cover a large area that stretches from the Iberian Peninsula in the west to Bactria in the east, an area that was at that time largely controlled by East and West Roman emperors, Sasanian shahs and, later, Muslim caliphs. Despite the widely varying nature of the various historical environments brought together in this special issue, they combine to tell a common story.

From the editors’ introduction
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Articles

‘The Coals Which Were His Guardians…’:

Vevaina, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw. 2022. ‘The coals which were his guardians…’: The hermeneutics of Heraclius’ Persian campaign and a faint trace of the ‘Last Great War’ in Zoroastrian literature. In Phil Booth & Mary Whitby (eds.), Mélanges: James Howard-Johnston (Travaux et mémoires 26), 467–490. Paris: Association des Amis du centre d’histoire et civilisation de Byzance.

We had previously announced the volume. This article is now available from the author’s academia page.

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Events Online resources

The 9th Ratanbai Katrak Lectures

Prof. Dr. Alberto Cantera (Freie Universität Berlin) will deliver the final three Ratanbai Katrak Lectures this autumn in Oxford.

These lectures are convened by Prof. Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina for the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

The talks will also be on Zoom.