Original Articles

Spāhbed Bullae: The Barakat Collection

This article brings to light some ten Spāhbed bullae which are housed at the Barakat Gallery in London. Their provenance is unknown, but they are dominantly (seven) from the kust ī nēmrōz “Southeastern Quarter” of the Sasanian Empire. There is also a bulla from kust ī xwarōfrān “Southwestern Quarter,” another from the kust ī xwarāsān “Northeastern Quarter,” and a unique, mostly illegible and unpublished bulla among the collection as well. Before dealing with the Barakat collection it is important to provide a historiography of the study of the Spāhbed bullae and its significance for Sasanian history and civilization.

The State of Research on Sasanian Painting

Author:
Matteo Compareti, Venice, Italy

Despite very recent discoveries – which are, however mainly fortuitous ones – the archaeology of pre-Islamic Iran is still badly known. This is particularly true for the Sasanian period (224-651), a kind of “golden age” for Persian art and culture that is remembered in later Islamic sources as the apogee of the Persian Empire. It is a well-known fact that written sources are practically absent in pre-Islamic Iran if one excludes official inscriptions in Pahlavi on rock reliefs and the coinage. For this reason, the archaeological investigation should have an important role in the reconstruction of the Sasanian past.

Sasanian Law

Author:
Jany Janos, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Budapest, Hungary
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The proper term for law is the Middle Persian dād although the meaning of dād is more complex than the Western concept of law. In fact, several texts attest to the dual meaning of dād as both law and religion, sometimes understood as a religious law, sometimes as a synonym of religion, sometimes as a secular law or the king’s command. It is only the context of the text which is helpful to decide which meaning was referred to.

In the Pahlawi Riwāyat Accompanying the Dādestān ī Dēnīg dād has the dual meaning of religion and law: ’when someone goes over from the (religious) law to which he belongs to another law he is margarzān, because he is deserting the Good Religion, and he is taking up this bad law’.

The Coins of 3rd Century Sasanian Iran and the Formation of Historical Criteria

Author:
Rika Gyselen, C.N.R.S. France

This paper aims to show how a numismatist can isolate a coin type that provides evidence about a particular political situation, whose real nature has to be discovered by the historian.

We show first how, from a corpus of more or less representative coinage (A), the numismatic scholar can identify a series of coinage (B). If the scholar believes that the series has a sufficient number of typological and stylistic characteristics that distinguish it from general coinage production, he/she will attribute it to a specific source, that is, to a specific mint (C1).

A Strange Date on Sasanian Drachms of Kavad I

Author:
François Gurnet

The reign of Kavad the first is probably the most interesting in Sasanian history. The chaos caused by Mazdakism during his reign lead to a restored, strong, monarchy under his son and successor. Kavad I had two reigns, 488 to 496 and 499 to 531 AD. He succeeded Valkash (484-488) but was soon deposed by his brother Zamasp (496-499). Three years in exile Kavad recovered his throne and was eventually succeeded by his son, one of the most remarkable Sasanian kings, Khusro I (531-579). Kavad had numerous coin types. The one that interests us here is his first type. It was used during his first reign, showing no date, and was then used during the first two years of his second reign, being known for years 11 and 12. A new type was introduced in year 13.

Inscribed Sasanian Bullae at the National Museum of Iran

Author:
Daryoush Akbarzadeh, National Museum of Iran; Touraj Daryaee, University of California, Irvine

Sasanian bullae are important objects in understanding the economic and administrative history Ērānšahr. The bulla which is a seal impression onto clay was used as a signatory device for commodities and letters. Until now a large number of collections from both museums and private collectors have been published, and with each publication our knowledge of economic, social and administrative history of Ērānšahr deepens. The collection under study here provide further evidence to different localities, some known and others of unknown provenance. However, these collections provide a microcosm of economic history of several provinces of the Iranian Plateau. By studying these collections one is able to gather detailed information on the administrative function of the specific Zoroastrian priests, religious endowments, accountants and other personalities who were traders and businessmen.

New Perspectives on “The Land of Heroes and Giants”: The Georgian Sources for Sasanian History

Author:
Stephen Rapp, Sam Houston State University

At the twilight of his illustrious reign, Vaxtang Gorgasali (r. 447-522) led his troops into battle one last time. His K‛art‛velians of eastern Georgia triumphed against the formidable Sasanian adversary, but in the course of fighting the aging hero-king was mortally wounded. With Roman and Sasanian soldiers locked in brutal combat on the edge of his realm, the injured Vaxtang sought refuge within the Ujarma fortress, a favorite stronghold of the royal family. With time running out, the king convened the notables of eastern Georgia and directed: “You, inhabitants of K‛art‛li, remember my good deeds because from my house you received eternal light, and I honored you, my kin, with temporal glory. Do not despise our house, nor abandon the friendship of the Greeks.”

The Cultural Impact of Sasanian Persia along the Silk Road – Aspects of Continuity

Author:
Michael Alram, Austrian Academy of Sciences - Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna

The paper focuses on the Sasanian Empire’s impact on its surrounding world and explores the question of why its cultural achievements had such a long-lasting influence far beyond the borders of the Iranian lands, even after the decline of the dynasty. This relates to the role of the Sasanians in international trade and their political aim of controlling the land and maritime trade networks that connected Iran with the Mediterranean world, Central Asia, China, India, and the Arabian Peninsula.

Trade and Exchange: The Sasanian World to Islam

Author:
Michael G. Morony, University of California, Los Angeles
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Commercial history needs to be seen both in terms of dynamic changes and the place of commerce in the economy. The latter is also related to whether the economy is expanding, contracting or stable. In the case of   Western Asia, there is a common perception that the Late Antique economy was stable or retracting and that the economy in the early Islamic period was expanding. The change is seen to be from a mainly agrarian, self-sufficient economy with some local trade and long-distance commerce in luxuries subject to government control or regulation during Late Antiquity, to a more urban, commercial and unregulated economy supported by commercialized production in the Islamic period.