– Sasanika Newsletter No. 8
In This Issue
|A Word from the Editor
Sasanika is dedicated to the promotion of research and study on the history of the Sasanian dynasty. It is the aim of Sasanika: Late Antique Near East Project to bring to light the importance of the Sasanian civilization in the context of late antique and world history. Although most of our team members volunteer their time to maintain the site, the production of high-quality articles and the support of research projects require funding. It is through the generosity of Sasanian enthusiasts and those interested in the history of pre-Islamic Iran that Sasanika thrives. Please consider joining us!
New Sasanika Team Members
Our new member is Shervin Farridnejad, a postdoc research fellow at the Department of Iranian Studies of University of Göttingen and lecturer of Zoroastrianism in the Institute of Religious Studies of the Freie Universität Berlin. He received his PhD in Ancient/Middle Iranian and Zoroastrian Studies in 2014.
|Sasanika upcoming projects
Sasanika is about to launch two new online projects, which are still in planning and preparation status. The first, titled “Corpus Inscriptionum et toreumatum Sasanidarum (CITS): Sasanika Late Antique Iran Inscriptions and Reliefs Databank” aims to establish a databank for the integration, ensuring public access and long-term availability of interdisciplinary data to Sasanian epigraphic and iconographic monuments.
|New Launched e-Journal on Iranian Studies
The Digital Archive of Brief notes & Iran Review (DABIR) is an open access, peer-reviewed online journal published by the Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture at the University of California, Irvine. DABIR aims to quickly and efficiently publish brief notes and reviews relating to the pre-modern world in contact with Iran and Persianate cultures.
|Lectures at the Jordan Center for Persian Studies
“From Behistun to Bamiyan: Meetings Between Ancient Empires” by Jenny Rose; “Memories of Decline: The Islamic Conquests of Sasanian Iran and Modern Historiography” by Khodadad Rezakhani; “The Creation and Destruction of the Iranian Past and the Topography of Power of the Sasanian Empire” by Matthew P. Canepa
Recent Books & Journals on the Sasanians & Related Topics
There are a number of recent publications, including Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac, the architectural and figurative culture of Sasanian Iran, the 22th volume of the series Res Orientales, a number of edited volumes and monographs in areas related to the study of the Sasanian period. This section provides a summary and publication details of these works.
|New Sasanika Team Members
Our new member is Shervin Farridnejad, a postdoc research fellow at the Department of Iranian Studies of University of Göttingen and lecturer of Zoroastrianism in the Institute of Religious Studies of the Freie Universität Berlin. He received his PhD in Ancient/Middle Iranian and Zoroastrian Studies in 2014. In his dissertation „The language of images: A study on iconographic exegesis of the anthropomorphic divine images in Zoroastrianism” (forthcoming in Iranica GOF), he investigates the perception, significance and representation of Zoroastrian anthropomorphic deities in ancient Iranian religious imagery in light of both material and written sources. He applies an interdisciplinary method, based on both image and text exegesis to (re)evaluate the ancient Iranian and Zoroastrian visual world. Shervin Farridnejad is mainly working on the pre-Islamic Iranian and Zoroastrian art, iconography and History as well as Zoroastrian rituals and ritual literature. He will also be in charge of two upcoming projects for Sasanika, namely the tabulāria sasanidarum: Sasanika Late Antique Iran Project’s Databank: A databank of scholarly projects related to Late Antique Iran and Corpus Inscriptionum et toreumatum Sasanidarum: Sasanika Late Antique Iran Inscriptions and Reliefs Databank (for more information see Sasanika upcoming projects in this Newsletter).
|Sasanika upcoming projects
Sasanika is about to launch two new online projects, which are still in planning and preparation status. The first, preliminary titled “Corpus Inscriptionum et toreumatum Sasanidarum (CITS): Sasanika Late Antique Iran Inscriptions and Reliefs Databank” aims to establish a databank for the integration, ensuring public access and long-term availability of interdisciplinary data to Sasanian epigraphic and iconographic monuments. A major part of the project is dedicated to build a database of Sasanian rock reliefs. In the first phase of this project, it will allocate all scholars and students with both high quality, free accessible images of all known Sasanian reliefs and inscriptions, as well as line drawings, basic information and a detailed “pre-iconographic description”. In the following phases, each entry will round out with extensive bibliographical references to scholarly works related to each relief. Where applicable, also will add other historical and iconographical information. A rich account of recently taken high-quality photos will show the current status of the reliefs and inscriptions and make it possible to have an exact look for further investigations. The databank provides also tools for thematic, geographical etc. searching in reliefs. The second project is preliminary titles “tabulāria sasanidarum: Sasanika Late Antique Iran Project’s Databank. A predominantly databank of scholarly projects related to Late Antique Iran”. This predominantly databank aims to list all those scholarly running projects related directly or indirectly to Late Antique Iran studies as well as Sasanian Era. It shall informs all scholars and students about current works in progress in all related fields of history, religious studies, philology, art history etc. This will help scholars and students to be aware of similar, related, connected or parallel research projects in order to accomplish a good network. The Sasanika team invites all scholars, researches, post-doctorates, PhD, graduate and undergraduate Students to send us a brief description of their running research projects, dissertations or MA thesis related to these topics.
|New Launched e-Journal on Iranian Studies
The Digital Archive of Brief notes & Iran Review (DABIR) is an open access, peer-reviewed online journal published by the Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture at the University of California, Irvine. DABIR aims to quickly and efficiently publish brief notes and reviews relating to the pre-modern world in contact with Iran and Persianate cultures. The journal accepts submissions on art history, archaeology, history, linguistics, literature, manuscript studies, numismatics, philology and religion, from Jaxartes to the Mediterranean and from the Sumerian period through to and including the Safavid era (3500 BCE-1500 CE). Work dealing with later periods can be considered on request. Above all DABIR aims to provide a venue for scholars to rapidly publish their shorter notes and observations, which are usually missed by other journals. The editorial members of DABIR are Parsa Daneshmand (Oxford University), Touraj Daryaee (UC Irvine), Arash Zeini (University of St Andrews) and Shervin Farridnejad (University of Berlin), as Book Review Editor. The advisory board of DABIR consists of 24 international scholars of different disciplines related to Iranian and Persianate studies, who will undertake the journal’s double-blind peer-review process. The inaugural issue is announced to be published in the spring of 2015.
|Lectures at the Jordan Center for Persian Studies
“From Behistun to Bamiyan: Meetings Between Ancient Empires by Jenny Rose. On Thursday, April 2, 2015, Dr. Jenny Rose (Claremont Graduate University) gave a talk titled “From Behistun to Bamiyan: Meetings Between Ancient Empires” in Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies at UC Irvine. In her illustrated presentation Rose has focused on the interaction between the three successive Iranian world empires and contemporary regimes in India. At Behistun in northwestern Iran, a remarkable rock-cut inscription proclaims that the Achaemenid king Darius I came to the throne ‘with the aid of Ahura Mazda.’ The same relief mentions three subject countries to the east of Iran, which later formed part of the Mauryan Empire. Beginning with depictions of various tribute-bearers from India at the Ancient Persian capital of Persepolis, Dr. Rose has traced the interplay of Iranian (‘Zoroastrian’) and Indian (‘Hindu’ and Buddhist) concepts and iconographies through Ashoka Maurya’s Arameo-Iranian edicts, the coinage of Indo-Parthian and Kushan rulers in Gandhara, to the Sasanian period, when Zoroastrian merchants from Iran established trading posts on the northwest coast of India, and those from Sogdiana inscribed graffiti alongside Indian Hindus and Buddhists on the Karakorum highway.
“Memories of Decline: The Islamic Conquests of Sasanian Iran and Modern Historiography” by Khodadad Rezakhani
On Nov. 20th, Dr. Khodadad Rezakhani (Freie Universität Berlin) gave a talk titled: “Memories of Decline: The Islamic Conquests of Sasanian Iran and Modern Historiography” in Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies at UC Irvine. He addressed in his lecture the questions of the reasons for the collapse of the Sasanian Empire as well as how have modern historians approached this topic in the twentieth century.“The Creation and Destruction of the Iranian Past and the Topography of Power of the Sasanian Empire” by Matthew P. Canepa
On April 25th gave Dr. Matthew P. Canepa (University of Minnesota) a lecture titled “The Creation and Destruction of the Iranian Past and the Topography of Power of the Sasanian Empire” in Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies at UC Irvine. Canepa has been recently named a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for 2015-16 in support of a multi-volume research project on the development of the visual cultures and spatial environments of power in Persia and the ancient Iranian world. The Guggenheim fellowship will allow him to finish his second book, entitled The Iranian Expanse, which explores the interrelation and transformation of ancient Iranian landscapes, architecture and identities. During the fellowship period he also plans to continue work on a long-term project, “Royal Glory, Divine Fortune,” which examines the contested image of Iranian sovereignty between Alexander and Islam.
|Recent Books & Journals on the Sasanians & Related Topics Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation
Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac is a series of Syriac martyrological texts composed from the fourth century into the Islamic period. They detail the martyrdom of a diversity of Christians at the hands of Sasanian kings, bureaucrats, and priests. These documents vary from purely mythological accounts to descriptions of actual events with a clear historical basis, however distorted by the hagiographer’s hand.Two new volumes are now released in this series:
Smith, Kyle. 2015. The Martyrdom and History of Blessed Simeon bar Sabba’e. (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 3). Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-4632-0245-3. 289 pp. $63.80.Around the year 339 CE, Simeon bar Sabbae (the bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon on the Tigris) was killed by the Persian king Shapur II. Simeon was arrested for refusing to collect taxes from his flock, and he was beheaded for disobeying the king’s order to worship the sun. The bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon was no minor figure. In fact, Simeon’s martyr acts proclaim that he was the leader of the Christians of Persia and the protomartyr of Shapur’s forty-year persecution. Curiously, however, two very different versions of Simeon’s death exist. Each is presented here with an accompanying translation and notes.The shorter and earlier version of Simeon’s death, the Martyrdom, compares the Christians of Persia to the Maccabees and equates Simeon with the great Jewish warrior Judah the Maccabee. The much longer and later version, the History, takes a different approach. Omitting all references to the Maccabees, the History compares the Christians of the East (Persia) to the persecuted Christians of the West (the Roman Empire) prior to Constantine.Simeon’s Martyrdom and History are fundamental sources for chronicling the history of Christianity in Sasanian Persia. Together, these texts testify to the centrality of martyrdom literature in late ancient Syriac Christianity, and they show how Persian Christians forged their own political and religious identities amidst the ongoing Christianization of the Roman Empire.
Brock, Sebastian. The Martyrs of Mount Ber’ain (Persian Martyr Acts in Syriac: Text and Translation 4). Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-4632-0421-1. $51.16.The Martyrs of Mount Ber’ain is the poignant tale of an Iranian nobleman’s three children, Adarparwa, Mihrnarse, and Mahdukht, who embrace Christianity after the youngest brother’s near-death vision of God. This decision estranges them from their disbelieving father and ultimately results in death at the hands of King Shapur II. Gabriel “the Cow,” abbot of the monastery of Beth ‘Abe, composed the account of these events in the middle of the seventh century.The Martyrs of Mount Ber’ain provides important evidence for enduring concerns of Christian self-definition in the framework of the Sasanian Empire, especially as represented by the Zoroastrian priesthood. The three children, Adarparwa, Mihrnarse, and Mahdukht, work to forget their education by the Magi, with whom they soon find themselves engaged in battle; and yet some key features of the narrative, especially Mihrnarse’s vision, reflect shared idioms between Christians and their Zoroastrian rivals. This rivalry was committed to writing and commemorated even after the Arab conquest, and one of these three sibling-martyrs, the sister Sultana Mahdukht, is still memorialized in both Iraq and the United States.
Callieri, Pierfrancesco. 2015. Cahiers de Studia Iranica, 50. Peeters Publishers. ISBN: 978-2-910640-36-1. 298 pp. €50,00. This volume contains the text of the five “Ehsan and Latifeh Yarshater Distinguished Lectures on Iranian Studies”, organized by the Unité Mixte de Recherche 7528 “Mondes iranien et indien”, and delivered in 2014 at the College de France in Paris. The aim of this book is to take stock of the architectural and figurative culture of Sasanian Iran on the basis of a new comprehensive evaluation of the varied range of architectural and artistic evidence known to us, and in the light of the recent discoveries published in Iran over the last few years. Without any pretence of being exhaustive, the idea is to bring more light to bear on the utilisation of built-up areas, forms of expression and visual communication, and the mechanisms involved in artisanal production. Two chapters are dedicated to the architecture, a field in which we are far from having arrived at a general consensus, while another chapter deals with a category of artistic production closely linked to the architecture, namely stucco work. The other two chapters look into the technical-stylistic aspects of types of production so far studied mainly from the iconographic point of view: the rock reliefs and the seals.
Gyselen, Rika (ed.) 2014. Documents, argenterie et monnaies de tradition Sassanide. Res Orientales, 22. ISBN 978-2-9521376-6-9. 189 pp. €70,00.
The 22th volume of the series Res Orientales consists of the following articles: Maryse Blet-Lemarquand & Rika Gyselen, «Sur la composition élémentaire de quelques monnaies de cuivre arabo-sassanides»; Philippe Gignoux, «Une archive post-sassanide du Tabaristan (II)»; Rika Gyselen, «Inscriptions en moyen-perse sur la vaisselle d’argent sassanide: quelques nouvelles données»; Dieter Weber, «Arabic Activities Reflected in the Documents of the “Pahlavi Archive” (Late 7th and Early 8th Centuries)».
Raffaelli, Enrico. 2014. The Sih-Rozag in Zoroastrianism: A textual and historico-religious analysis. Routledge. ISBN: 978-0-415-81232-0. 368 pp. $160.00.
Focusing on the Avestan and Pahlavi versions of the Sih-rozag, a text worshipping Zoroastrian divine entities, this book explores the spiritual principles and physical realities associated with them.
Introducing the book is an overview of the structural, linguistic and historico-religious elements of the Avestan Sih-rozag. This overview, as well as reconstructing its approximate chronology, helps in understanding the original ritual function of the text and its relationship to the other Avestan texts.The book then studies the translation of the text in the Middle Persian language, Pahlavi, which was produced several centuries after its initial composition, when Avestan was no longer understood by the majority of the Zoroastrian community.
Addressing the lacuna in literature examining an erstwhile neglected Zoroastrian text, The Sih-Rozag in Zoroastrianism includes a detailed commentary and an English translation of both the Avestan and Pahlavi version of the Sih-rozag and will be of interest to researchers and scholars of Iranian Studies, Religion, and History.
Moazami, Mahnaz. Wrestling with the Demons of the Pahlavi Widēwdād. 2014. Transcription, Translation, and Commentary. Iran Studies 9. Brill. ISBN: 9789004269217. 602 pp. €158,00.
The Pahlavi Widēwdād (Vidēvdād), The Law (Serving to Keep) Demons Away, a fifth-century Middle Persian commentary on the Avestan Widēvdād, describes rules and regulations that serve to prevent pollution caused by dead matter, menstrual discharges, and other agents. It recognizes the perpetual presence of the demons, the forces of the Evil Spirit –forces that should be fought through law-abiding conduct. In spite of its formidable textual problems, the commentary provides an invaluable quarry for the rules of the Zoroastrian community through its citation of regulations for the conduct of its members. Many topics are covered, from jurisprudence to penalties, procedures for dealing with pollution, purification, and arrangements for funerals. Viewed together, they provide the reader with an exquisite interlace of a community’s concerns.
Secunda, Shai. 2013. The Iranian Talmud: Reading the Bavli in Its Sasanian Context. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-4570-7. 272 pp. $55.00.
“Shai Secunda not only persuades his readers of the need for contextual study of the Bavli but also facilitates such study by educating them about the religious and ethnic communities of the Sasanian empire, the forms of literary and nonliterary evidence available, and appropriate methodological and theoretical approaches to the comparative study of Talmudic and Middle Persian literature. The Iranian Talmud will be the first sustained attempt both to demystify the project of Irano-Talmudic research and to provide a basic orientation to it.”—Christine Hayes, Yale University
Although the Babylonian Talmud, or Bavli, has been a text central and vital to the Jewish canon since the Middle Ages, the context in which it was produced has been poorly understood. Delving deep into Sasanian material culture and literary remains, Shai Secunda pieces together the dynamic world of late antique Iran, providing an unprecedented and accessible overview of the world that shaped the Bavli.
Secunda unites the fields of Talmudic scholarship with Old Iranian studies to enable a fresh look at the heterogeneous religious and ethnic communities of pre-Islamic Iran. He analyzes the intercultural dynamics between the Jews and their Persian Zoroastrian neighbors, exploring the complex processes and modes of discourse through which these groups came into contact and considering the ways in which rabbis and Zoroastrian priests perceived one another. Placing the Bavli and examples of Middle Persian literature side by side, the Zoroastrian traces in the former and the discursive and Talmudic qualities of the latter become evident. The Iranian Talmud introduces a substantial and essential shift in the field, setting the stage for further Irano-Talmudic research.
Shayegan, M. Rahim. 2012. Aspects of History and Epic in Ancient Iran: From Gaumāta to Wahnām. Hellenic Studies Series 52. Center for Hellenic Studies – Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674065888. 244 pp. $24.95.
Aspects of History and Epic in Ancient Iran focuses on the content of one of the most important inscriptions of the Ancient Near East: the Bisotun inscription of the Achaemenid king Darius I (6th century BCE), which in essence reports on a suspicious fratricide and subsequent coup d’état. Moreover, the study shows how the inscription’s narrative would decisively influence the Iranian epic, epigraphic, and historiographical traditions well into the Sasanian and early Islamic periods.
Intriguingly, our assessment of the impact of the Bisotun narrative on later literary traditions—in particular, the inscription of the Sasanian king Narseh at Paikuli (3rd–4th centuries CE)—necessarily relies on the reception of the oral rendition of the Bisotun story captured by Greek historians. As Rahim Shayegan argues, this oral tradition had an immeasurable impact upon the historiographical writings and epic compositions of later Iranian empires. It would have otherwise remained unknown to modern scholars, had it not been partially preserved and recorded by Hellanicus of Lesbos, Herodotus, Ctesias, and other Greek authors. The elucidation of Bisotun’s thematic composition therefore not only allows us to solve an ancient murder but also to reevaluate pre-Thucydidean Greek historiography as one of the most important repositories of Iranian epic themes.
The purpose of the study is twofold. In the first part, it examines the content of one the most important inscriptions of the Ancient Near East: the Bisotun inscription of the Achaemenid king Darius I (6th century BCE), which in essence reports on a suspicious fratricide and subsequent coup-d’état. The study shows how the inscription’s narrative would decisively influence the Iranian epic, epigraphic, and historiographical traditions well into the Sasanian and early Islamic periods.
In the second part of the study, Shayegan investigates how this originally oral narrative, preserved by Herodotus and other Greek and Latin authors, could impact the “historiographical” writings and epic compositions of later Iranian empires, such as the Sasanians, over nine centuries later. Not only do Sasanian inscriptions, especially the inscription of king Narseh at Paikuli, make use of the same story pattern that one encounters in the accounts of Greek and Latin authors describing Bardiya’s murder, especially with regard to the theme of two evil usurpers (called here Warahrān and Wahnām), but also the epic tradition, as reflected in the “Book of the Kings” (Šāhnāme), and the medieval romances called the “Book of Darius” (Dārābnāme), and “Samak, the ʿayyār” (Samak-e ʿAyyār) shows that the story of Bardiya’s murder had penetrated epic composition and had become part of the epic canon.
Finally, the study seeks to demonstrate that in Ancient, Late Antique, and Medieval Iran the interaction between epic and historiographical practices were varied and intricate. “Historical records” could be generated in conformity with the ideals of epic, or composed by being cast into the mold of the oral epic tradition, thereby losing their individual “historical” tenor to conform to the normative frame of the epic. An example in case is the (Indo)-Iranian epic theme of the Twins that decisively shaped the oral composition of the murder story of Bardiya and Gaumāta. However, the prestige of the oral rendition of the Bisotun must have been such that the theme of the two evil brothers was projected back (under new guise) into the oral epic tradition and replaced the older Iranian theme of the Twins, thus rejuvenating the thematic inventory of the epic tradition.
Geoffrey Herman (Ed.). 2014. Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians. Judaism in Context 17. Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-4632-0250-7. 325 pp. $95.00
The Sasanian Empire was home to many religious communities. It was also a place of meeting and transformation. It was where old religions met more recent arrivals, and where both new and old were transformed as a result of this contact. While some religious communities shared more than others, and this for historical or geographical reasons, some form of contact and exchange with Zoroastrianism, the religion of the ruling dynasty and of many of the inhabitants of the empire was undoubtedly the rule for all.
The studies in this volume explore the dynamics between these communities within the broad Sasanian religious and cultural context and encompass a diverse array of topics concerning, in particular, Jews, Christians, and Manichaeans. Some include the Roman East in their deliberations. Most, however, deal with the interaction of one or other Sasanian religious community with Zoroastrianism.
Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst. 2014. Grammatik des Westmitteliranischen (Parthisch und Mittelpersisch). Sitzungsberichte der phil.-hist. Klasse 850. Veröffentlichungen zur Iranistik 73. Grammatica Iranica, Band 1. Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. ISBN 978-3-7001-7556-8. 602 pp. € 98,00.
Following on a number of individual descriptions of the phonology and morphology of the languages Middle Persian and Parthian and an attempt to place aspects of the syntax of both languages side-by-side, the Grammatik des Westmitteliranischen (Parthisch und Mittelpersisch) [Grammar of Western Middle Iranian (Parthian and Middle Persian)] is the first attempt to describe all areas of the two languages Middle Persian and Parthian together in a meaningful and balanced way. After an overview of the extant material, the scripts used for these languages are described. Chapters on phonology, morphology and syntax follow. The common history of these neighbouring and closely related languages during about a thousand years means that it is very useful to deal with them together, because in the epigraphical testimonies of the 3rd century and in the Manichaean material from Turfan on the Silk Road (9th and 10th-century copies of originals from the 3rd up to the 7th century) these languages are attested together and with interaction. These source groups offer an excellent and very reliable basis for the description. Literary, mostly Zoroastrian, Middle Persian from the Sasanian Empire and era was also consulted; but not the “scholastic” Zoroastrian literature of the 9th century which follows its own rules. The depiction is well-organized, the quotations are clearly marked for language. In the extensive chapter on syntax the quotations are presented in a clear transcription; the originals (in transliteration) are given in a separate listing and are made accessible by an index. Scholars and students of Iranian linguistic, cultural and religious history, Manichaeologists, those interested in Central Asia and Indoeuropeanists will consult this book.
Sarah Bowen Savant. 2013. The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran. Tradition, Memory, and Conversion. Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization. Cambridge University Press. isbn: 9781107014084. 294 pp. $90.00.
How do converts to a religion come to feel an attachment to it? The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran answers this important question for Iran by focusing on the role of memory and its revision and erasure in the ninth to eleventh centuries. During this period, the descendants of the Persian imperial, religious, and historiographical traditions not only wrote themselves into starkly different early Arabic and Islamic accounts of the past but also systematically suppressed much knowledge about pre-Islamic history. The result was both a new “Persian” ethnic identity and the pairing of Islam with other loyalties and affiliations, including family, locale, and sect. This pioneering study examines revisions to memory in a wide range of cases, from Iran’s imperial and administrative heritage to the Prophet Muhammad’s stalwart Persian companion, Salman al-Farisi, and to memory of Iranian scholars, soldiers, and rulers in the mid-seventh century. Through these renegotiations, Iranians developed a sense of Islam as an authentically Iranian religion, as they simultaneously shaped the broader historiographic tradition in Arabic and Persian.
Domenico Agostini. 2013. Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg, un texte eschatologique zoroastrien. BIBLICAL – Biblica et orientalia. Gregorian & Biblical Press. ISBN 9788876533532. 542 pp. €60.00.
The Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg (“the memorial of Jamasp”) is one of the important Zoroastrian texts. Probably It was composed as a veritable encyclopedia for laymen. Various manuscript traditions of this text are available, namely Pahlavi, Pāzand and Parsi. Focusing on the Avestan and Pahlavi versions of the Sih-rozag, a text worshipping Zoroastrian divine entities, Agostini made a new and comprehensive philological edition of this work. His edition is enriched with a historical-religious commentary dealing with the most challenging and interesting topics form the narrative and explores the spiritual principles and physical realities associated with them.
Michiel de Vaan; Javier Martínez García. 2014. Introduction to Avestan. Brill Introductions to Indo-European Languages, Vol. 1. Brill. ISBN 9789004258099. 160 pp. €37,00.
This Introduction to Avestan provides a concise grammar of the Avestan language, the language of the followers of the Iranian prophet Zarathustra. The grammar focuses on spelling, phonology and morphology, but also includes a chapter on syntax. Abundant information on the historical development of the language is included, which renders the grammar very useful for students of Indo-Iranian and Indo-European. Also, a small number of selected Avestan texts is added, with a complete glossary, so that students can practise reading Avestan.
Robert G. Hoyland. 2015. In God’s Path. The Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-991636-8. 320 pp. £18.99.
In just over a hundred years—from the death of Muhammad in 632 to the beginning of the Abbasid Caliphate in 750—the followers of the Prophet swept across the whole of the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. Their armies threatened states as far afield as the Franks in Western Europe and the Tang Empire in China. The conquered territory was larger than the Roman Empire at its greatest expansion, and it was claimed for the Arabs in roughly half the time. How this collection of Arabian tribes was able to engulf so many empires, states, and armies in such a short period of time is a question that has perplexed historians for centuries. Most recent popular accounts have been based almost solely on the early Muslim sources, which were composed centuries later for the purpose of demonstrating that God had chosen the Arabs as his vehicle for spreading Islam throughout the world.
In this ground-breaking new history, distinguished Middle East expert Robert G. Hoyland assimilates not only the rich biographical and geographical information of the early Muslim sources but also the many non-Arabic sources, contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous with the conquests. The story of the conquests traditionally begins with the revelation of Islam to Muhammad. In God’s Path, however, begins with a broad picture of the Late Antique world prior to the Prophet’s arrival, a world dominated by the two superpowers of Byzantium and Sasanian Persia, “the two eyes of the world.” In between these empires, in western (Saudi) Arabia, emerged a distinct Arab identity, which helped weld its members into a formidable fighting force. The Arabs are the principal actors in this drama yet, as Hoyland shows, the peoples along the edges of Byzantium and Persia—the Khazars, Bulgars, Avars, and Turks—also played important roles in the remaking of the old world order. The new faith propagated by Muhammad and his successors made it possible for many of the conquered peoples to join the Arabs in creating the first Islamic Empire.
Ichaporia, Pallan; Malandra, William W. 2013. The Pahlavi Yasna of the Gathas and Yasna Haptanhaiti. Reichert Verlag. ISBN: 9783895009686. 264 pp. €78,00.
As the title suggests the book is a study of the Pahlavi Yasna, a Middle Persian (Pahlavi) gloss on the liturgical text, the Yasna. The study is restricted to the G?th?s or Hymns of Zarathustra (Zoroaster) and to the Yasna Hapta?h?iti, a prose text composed in the same dialect of Avestan. There are three main sections: Introduction, The Text, and Glossary. In addition there are two Appenices: I Parallel Text of the Avestan and Pahalvi Gloss; II The aš?m voh? and its Variants in the D?nkart. The Introduction is a text-critical study of the Pahlavi Yasna which addresses the main issues of the nature of the text, its authorship and dating, and its relationship to parallels in the D?nkard. In the presentation of the text, the position is taken that the fundamental text is a nearly word-by-word gloss on the original Avestan. That is, it is not a translation as we might understand the term. Interspersed in the gloss are miscellaneous comments inserted by later hands to illuminate certain words and passages. Appendix I is provided to portray how the glosses line up with the Avestan, ignoring the later comments. The text itself is based on the 1946 critical edition of B. N. Dhabhar given in the Pahlavi script and to which we have provided many improvements. In footnotes we have cited all the parallel passages from the D?nkard. These reveal that there were exegetical traditions other than the official Pahlavi Yasna. Although Dhabhar’s edition included a glossary, it is not up to the philological standards of current scholarship. There is deliberately no translation into English, as a running gloss of this sort does not lend itself to a coherent translation.
Utas, Bo. Editor: Jahani, Carina; Fallahzadeh, Mehrdad. 2013. From Old to New Persian. Collected Essays. Reichert Verlag. ISBN: 9783895009709. 304 pp. € 69,00.
In a long series of essays, written during almost half a century, Bo Utas analyses the development of West Iranian languages, particularly Old, Middle, and New Persian, from various perspectives. The focus is placed on the transition from Middle to New Persian and the final essays (hitherto partly unpublished) especially elucidate this process in the light of an interaction between oral and written language.
Stephen H. Rapp Jr. 2014. The Sasanian World through Georgian Eyes. Caucasia and the Iranian Commonwealth in Late Antique Georgian Literature. Ashgate. ISBN 9781472425522. 540 pp. £90.00.
Georgian literary sources for Late Antiquity are commonly held to be later productions devoid of historical value. As a result, scholarship outside the Republic of Georgia has privileged Graeco-Roman and even Armenian narratives. However, when investigated within the dual contexts of a regional literary canon and the active participation of Caucasia’s diverse peoples in the Iranian Commonwealth, early Georgian texts emerge as a rich repository of late antique attitudes and outlooks. Georgian hagiographical and historiographical compositions open a unique window onto a northern part of the Sasanian world that, while sharing striking affinities with the Iranian heartland, was home to vibrant, cosmopolitan cultures that developed along their own trajectories.
In these sources, precise and accurate information about the core of the Sasanian Empire-and before it, Parthia and Achaemenid Persia-is sparse; yet the thorough structuring of wider Caucasian society along Iranian and especially hybrid Iranic lines is altogether evident. Scrutiny of these texts reveals, inter alia, that the Old Georgian language is saturated with words drawn from Parthian and Middle Persian, a trait shared with Classical Armenian; that Caucasian society, like its Iranian counterpart, was dominated by powerful aristocratic houses, many of whose origins can be traced to Iran itself; and that the conception of kingship in the eastern Georgian realm of K’art’li (Iberia), even centuries after the royal family’s Christianisation in the 320s and 330s, was closely aligned with Arsacid and especially Sasanian models.
There is also a literary dimension to the Irano-Caucasian nexus, aspects of which this volume exposes for the first time. The oldest surviving specimens of Georgian historiography exhibit intriguing parallels to the lost Sasanian Xwadāy-nāmag, The Book of Kings, one of the precursors to Ferdowsī’s Shāhnāma. As tangible products of the dense cross-cultural web drawing the region together, early Georgian narratives sharpen our understanding of the diversity of the Iranian Commonwealth and demonstrate the persistence of Iranian and Iranic modes well into the medieval epoch.