Amélie Kuhrt to deliver the Harold Bailey Lecture 2015

Friday 11th December, 5.30pm at FAMES, Cambridge
Professor Amélie Kuhrt, FBA – The King Speaks: The Persians and their Empire
The Achaemenid empire was created in the space of less than thirty years and dominated, with considerable success, a region stretching from Central Asia to the Aegean for around 200 years. How did the Persian kings and ruling elite visualise their immense power? How was that vision expressed? In this talk, Amélie Kuhrt, Professor Emeritus at University College London, aims to present an outline of the Persian image of their domain, concentrating on monuments and inscriptions from the royal centres and leaving aside the stories of outsiders, such as Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and Jews.
The lecture will begin promptly at 5.30pm, followed by a reception.
Admission free. Booking not required.
Venue: Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA
Enquiries: info@indiran.org
Tel. 01223 356841

Persian kingship and architecture

I haven’t seen the ToC of this book, but know that Matthew Canepa has a chapter here, entitled Dynastic sanctuaries and the transformation of Iranian kingship between Alexander and Islam, focusing on the ‘Middle Iranian’ period. It is an excellent article and will hopefully be available soon.

Babaie, Sussan & Talinn Grigor (eds.). 2015. Persian kingship and architecture: Strategies of power in Iran from the Achaemenids to the Pahlavis. I.B.Tauris.

Since the Shah went into exile and the Islamic Republic was established in 1979 in the wake of the Iranian Revolution, the very idea of monarchy in Iran has been contentious. Yet, as Persian Kingship and Architecture argues, the institution of kingship has historically played a pivotal role in articulating the abstract notion of ‘Iran’ since antiquity. These ideas surrounding kingship and nation have, in turn, served as a unifying cultural force despite shifting political and religious allegiances. Through analyses of palaces, mausolea, art, architectural decoration and urban design the authors show how architecture was appropriated by different rulers as an integral part of their strategies of legitimising power. They refer to a variety of examples, from the monuments of Persepolis under the Achamenids, the Sassanian palaces at Kish, the Safavid public squares of Isfahan, the Qajar palaces at Shiraz and to the modernisation and urban agendas of the Pahlavis. Drawing on archaeology, ancient, medieval, early and modern architectural history, both Islamic and secular, this book is indispensable for all those interested in Iranian studies and visual culture.

Yarshater Lectures at SOAS

‘In the rays of light of imperial favour’: The visual arts of early fifteenth-century Timurid Herat.

Four lectures by Professor David J. Roxburgh of the Department of History of Art and Architecture and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Islamic Art History, Harvard University:

  • 15 January Timurid Herat: The City as a Setting for Art and Literature
  • 16 January The Timurid-Ming Embassy of 1419-22: Art after China
  • 19 January Modelling Artistic Process: The Kitābkhāna and ΄Arzadāsht
  • 20 January Baysunghur’s Books: Codifying Form and Aesthetic Value

For more information, see the series’ SOAS webpage or the poster.

Textiles and elite tastes

Canepa, Matthew. 2014. Textiles and elite tastes between the Mediterranean, Iran and Asia at the end of antiquity. In Marie-Louise Nosch, Zhao Feng & Lotika Varadarajan (eds.), Global textile encounters (Ancient Textiles Series 20), 1–14. Oxford and Havertown, PA: Oxbow Books.

Read the article here.

The big and beautiful women of Asia

A slightly older but important article by Llewellyn-Jones dealing with the imagery of Achaemenid period seals and gemstones:

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. 2010. The big and beautiful women of Asia: Ethnic conceptions of ideal beauty in Achaemenid period seals and gemstones. In Hales, Shelley & Tamar Hodos (eds.), Material culture and social identities in the ancient world. Cambridge: CUP.

Read the article here.

Rayy: Origins and the Mongol invasion

Rante, Rocco. 2014. Rayy: from its origins to the Mongol invasion. Leiden, Boston: Brill.

This book offers a new history of the ancient city of Rayy. Based on the results of the latest excavations on the Citadel and the Shahrestan (the political and administrative nucleus of the city in all periods), the study of historical and geographical texts and on surveys carried out between 2005 and 2007 by the author and the Iranian archaeologist, Ghadir Afround, the complete occupation sequence of the city, from its foundation in the Iron Age and the Parthian reconstructions (2nd to 1st centuries BC), up to the Mongol invasions and rapid depopulation in the 13th century CE, comes to light.

For more information, see here.

Review: The millennial sovereign

Truschke, Audrey. 2014. Review of Afzar Moin: The millennial sovereign: Sacred kingship and sainthood in Islam. New York: Columbia University Press. International Journal of Middle East Studies 46. 809–842.

The Millennial Sovereign recovers a shared world of sacred kingship that pervaded India, Iran, and Central Asia in early modernity. A. Azfar Moin argues that a Timurid-based social dispensation produced a particular type of sovereignty in which a ruler promoted his political claims largely through embodied spiritual practices.

Read the review here.

Cosmopolitanism in the Tang dynasty

Since most of this week’s posts relate to Eastern Iranian regions, I thought I would also post this announcement for a forthcoming publication by Valenstein, who has previously published Cultural Convergence in the Northern Qi Period: A flamboyant Chinese ceramic container. The forthcoming volume was already announced in 2012, but publication seems to now be imminent:

Valenstein, Suzanne. 2014. Cosmopolitanism in the Tang dynasty: A Chinese ceramic figure of a Sogdian wine-merchant. Los Angeles: Bridge21 Publications. Distributed by Transaction Publishers in Piscataway, NJ.

Intangible spirits and graven images

Congratulations to Michael Shenkar for publishing his book, which is already being endorsed by many scholars.

Shenkar, Michael. 2014. Intangible spirits and graven images: The iconography of deities in the pre-Islamic Iranian world. Leiden: Brill.

In Intangible Spirits and Graven Images, Michael Shenkar investigates the perception of ancient Iranian deities and their representation in the Iranian cults. This ground-breaking study traces the evolution of the images of these deities, analyses the origin of their iconography, and evaluates their significance. Shenkar also explores the perception of anthropomorphism and aniconism in ancient Iranian religious imagery, with reference to the material evidence and the written sources, and reassesses the value of the Avestan and Middle Persian texts that are traditionally employed to illuminate Iranian religious imagery. In doing so, this book provides important new insights into the religion and culture of ancient Iran prior to the Islamic conquest.

See here for more.