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Old November 17th, 2012, 07:44 AM   #1

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Books on pre-Islamic Persia


Lately why listening to the Yale's podcast about the Early Medieval period, the lecturer mentioned something that I quite agreed with and that is that in the majority of times in history works, Persia is always portrayed as an "outside" civilization who ever so often will invade/be invaded by the greeks/romans/etc... but that's it.
I can honestly say besides the wars and any information relevant to the said war, I rarely ever see people mentioning Persia, one would think they only existed to clash with the west.

So I would like to request good introductory books about the Parthian/Sassanid history? Preferably using native sources besides the usual negative Greek and Roman opinions.
Books covering the Achaemenid period too would be nice, though I am more familiar with their history and workings than the Parthians/Sassanids.

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Old November 17th, 2012, 09:25 AM   #2

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Originally Posted by Soulstrider View Post
Lately why listening to the Yale's podcast about the Early Medieval period, the lecturer mentioned something that I quite agreed with and that is that in the majority of times in history works, Persia is always portrayed as an "outside" civilization who ever so often will invade/be invaded by the greeks/romans/etc... but that's it.
I can honestly say besides the wars and any information relevant to the said war, I rarely ever see people mentioning Persia, one would think they only existed to clash with the west.
The opinion has actually swung around now to include Persia as an integral part of Mediterranean civilization. The problem is that this is an acknowledged fact amongst academics and very few people are going anything about it because it expands the scope dramatically and introduces an entire new range of problematic source material. Wickham lamented in Framing the Early Middle Ages that he couldn't include Persia for just those reasons. On the other hand, Fowden's Empire to Commonwealth puts Persia in a greater Mediterranean context, despite not actually giving it a lot of page space.


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So I would like to request good introductory books about the Parthian/Sassanid history? Preferably using native sources besides the usual negative Greek and Roman opinions.
Books covering the Achaemenid period too would be nice, though I am more familiar with their history and workings than the Parthians/Sassanids.
The native sources are extremely limited and many only date from the Islamic period. The two source books below contain a lot of what we know from the literary material. Canepa's book has some of the artistic stuff. I know you want to look at Persia separate from Rome, but that just isn't going to happen because so much of the literary material is in Latin or Greek. I am not qualified to recommend you anything on Achaemenid history, so you'll have to wait for someone else.

The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars Part II AD 363-630: Geoffrey Greatrex, Samuel N. C. Lieu: 9780415465304: Amazon.com: Books
The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars Part II AD 363-630: Geoffrey Greatrex, Samuel N. C. Lieu: 9780415465304: Amazon.com: Books


Amazon.com: The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars AD 226-363: A Documentary History (9780415103176): Michael H. Dodgeon, Samuel N. C. Lieu: Books
Amazon.com: The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars AD 226-363: A Documentary History (9780415103176): Michael H. Dodgeon, Samuel N. C. Lieu: Books


Amazon.com: The Two Eyes of the Earth: Art and Ritual of Kingship between Rome and Sasanian Iran (Transformation of the Classical Heritage) (9780520257276): Matthew P. Canepa: Books
Amazon.com: The Two Eyes of the Earth: Art and Ritual of Kingship between Rome and Sasanian Iran (Transformation of the Classical Heritage) (9780520257276): Matthew P. Canepa: Books

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Old November 21st, 2012, 06:26 PM   #3

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One of the venues you could pursue would be looking at scholarship concerning Zoroastrian tradition. There is a really well sourced and detailed book available by Gregor Ahn (Religiose Herrscherlegitimation im Achamenidischen Iran), but it’s in German and was not translated.

Then there is Ehsan Yarshater’s contribution to the field. Here is a link to his home page.
http://www.perlit.sailorsite.net/yarshater/ He certainly did not rely on the usual graeco-roman sources for his work.
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Old November 23rd, 2012, 05:56 AM   #4

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Thanks for you suggestions I'll certainly look at them. Indeed I was looking to look at Persia separate from the Roman Empire, I find hard to believe that such a important Empire as so many few scholarly works solely about it, I'll take note of your books .




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One of the venues you could pursue would be looking at scholarship concerning Zoroastrian tradition. There is a really well sourced and detailed book available by Gregor Ahn (Religiose Herrscherlegitimation im Achamenidischen Iran), but it’s in German and was not translated.

Then there is Ehsan Yarshater’s contribution to the field. Here is a link to his home page.
http://www.perlit.sailorsite.net/yarshater/ He certainly did not rely on the usual graeco-roman sources for his work.
Zoroastrianism is certainly one of the aspects I am interested in looking at, I am somewhat familiar with it's prime concepts and organization but I would like to know more

Last edited by Soulstrider; November 23rd, 2012 at 06:16 AM.
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Old November 23rd, 2012, 08:11 AM   #5

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Zoroastrianism is certainly one of the aspects I am interested in looking at, I am somewhat familiar with it's prime concepts and organization but I would like to know more
Start with Farhang Mehr, Shaul Shaked, Jamsheed Chosky, and Mary Boyce. Besides providing information about the religious tradition, they also provide background as to the social and cultural aspects Persian society. Moreover, their bibliographies are a gold mine of sources that might help you.
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Old November 23rd, 2012, 08:43 AM   #6

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Originally Posted by Soulstrider View Post
Thanks for you suggestions I'll certainly look at them. Indeed I was looking to look at Persia separate from the Roman Empire, I find hard to believe that such a important Empire as so many few scholarly works solely about it, I'll take note of your books .
It's certainly disappointing, but the nature of the sources mean that it's very hard to talk about Persia without looking at Graeco-Roman materials.
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