Modern politics are nurtured worldwide by interpretations of myths surrounding ancient and legendary kings. In modern Iran, the legacy of the Achaemenid Empire and its founder Cyrus the Great has endured across centuries, exerting a profound cultural and political influence that holds strong to this day. Although the more recent revival of this king’s memory is a contemporary phenomenon bound up in questions of post-revolutionary national identity, other kings have been invoked similarly at other times. The Sasanians, for instance, defined their own royal lineage by identifying Ardashir, the founder of the Sasanian dynasty, as a descendant of Dārā son of Dārā. As large, multinational dominions, stretching from the Indus Valley to the Eastern borders of Greece at their greatest extent, these Persian empires were intimately linked to various forms of Zoroastrianism. These lectures will discuss and re-examine intersections between religious ideology and sovereignty in ancient Iran.
Speaker: Arash Zeini, Research Fellow, School of History (Iranian Studies)
Dates: 30th April, 7th May and 14th May at 17:30
Location: Room S11, Swallowgate, School of Classics
Organised jointly by the School of Classics, School of History and Institute of Iranian Studies
1. Mythical kings, empire and multiculturalism: The case of the Achaemenids
The Achaemenids (550–330 BCE) ruled over a vast and multicultural empire, encompassing numerous indigenous and conquered traditions. How did these various groups co-exist in the administration of the empire and influence Achaemenid ideals of kingship? This lecture will explore relevant Zoroastrian topoi and examine their afterlife in the Achaemenid era.
2. The Sasanian Empire and religious authority: The case of Zoroastrianism
As one of the major political and economic powers in the region, the Sasanian Empire (224–651 CE) elevated Zoroastrianism to the dominant religious and cultural force within its polity, bringing to the foreground the question of the interaction between religion and sovereignty in the Sasanian era. By providing an historical overview this lecture highlights the dynamics between political and religious authority during the Sasanian era.
3. The return of the Avesta
It has been argued that the adoption of the Zoroastrian religious world view by the Sasanians was instrumental in maintaining the nobility’s loyalty to the goals of the empire. Most arguments in favour of this view, however, derive from examinations of source material dating from the early Islamic era. This lecture will revisit the pertinent arguments and further discuss previously unexplored textual material.
The lectures were kindly hosted at the School of Classics and announced here.