In doing so, it shall not only look at Sasanian and Roman relations, but also at Arsacid precedents, for possible stimuli in the formation of the Sasanian ideology. Already Roman historians of the third and fourth centuries CE perceived the imperialism of the Sasanians as infused with the desire to equal, even to surpass, the glory of the kings of old by recovering formerly Achaemenid territories-by then part of the Roman East. In contrast, contemporaneous Sasanian royal inscriptions, in particular the res gestae of Sabuhr the Great and the inscription of king Narseh at Paikuli, neither provide us with a rationale for the war of conquest waged against Rome, nor do they contain any explicit references to the historical predecessors of the Sasanians. This conflicting finding raises questions about historiographical practices in Sasanian Iran and Rome. Indeed, one wonders how Sasanians recorded their past, or the extent to which they were acquainted with it; equally important an inquiry is the nature of Roman knowledge of Sasanian history, as well as the sources whence it had been extracted.

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Marek Jan Olbrycht B. Rahim Shayegan: Arsacids and Sasanians. Cambridge: Cambridge UP XXIX, S. What is novel is his sustained application of arguments on political ideology based on a variety of sources. In the light of these remarks S. This hypothesis is reiterated throughout the book. Emphatically, S.

There was also a strong tradition of Aramaic writings which gave rise to the Parthian script known from the archive in Old Nisa. Another flourishing tradition was the Greek legacy; after all, some Parthian kings, including Orodes II or Vardanes, may have read Herodotus and similar works in the original. The main part of S. His account of this stretch of the history of Parthia is highly proficient and accurate, but it is immediately obvious that for some unknown reason he has omitted the period of the early M.

Olbrycht: Shayegan, Arsacids and Sasanians Arsacids, ca. Was what happened before irrelevant for Arsacid political ideology? Dzielska et al. Einzelschriften, Heft ] Stuttgart, , 33— Very insightful is the subchapter on Elymais and Characene p. Why should such a ground-breaking reform have been carried out by Babylonian scribes, and not the Arsacids themselves? There are no grounds for such a hypothesis.

Hence he suggests a Babylonian literary tradition, basing his argument on a not very lucid passage from Chronicle 8, which is a singular and controversial case p. Here in his main discussion S. He glosses over the appearance of this title on the coins p. XIII , but draws no conclusions from this fact. In Parthia, coinage was the official medium for the propagation of the royal ideology.

The tenuousness of this hypothesis, for which there are no grounds, rests in the fact that S. Characteristically, apart from Arsaces I, the title was used by a ruler of Persis.

By then it must have evolved to mean an independent ruler not subject to any superior authority. Arsaces was deliberately placing himself above the office of satrap. But at the same time he refrained from using a royal title on coinage, as this would have put him within the Seleucid tradition, which he firmly rejected in many aspects.

Neither does S. This is one of the most vulnerable points of S. Facts of paramount importance contradict such a hypothesis. But the title appears only sporadically for Eupator, as S. Significantly, the title does not occur on his coinage, although it was present on the coins of Mithradates II of Parthia long before 88 BC.

So who influenced whom? Finally S. In that year, a heroon dedicated to Mithradates Eupator was erected on Delos. SEG 36, , — S. The Delos inscription is a clear sign of the direction of ideological influence — from Parthian Iran to Pontos, and not vice versa. Hence S. He derives this binary reference from Pontic ideology attested to in Justin Remarkably, however, there is another point worth noting although it is rarely touched on in the research, that already Alexander the Great looked back to both the Achaemenid and Macedonian traditions after BC M.

Greek and Roman Historiography and Related Genres, ed. Most historians who discuss Tac. Olbrycht: Shayegan, Arsacids and Sasanians Achaemenid tradition, which the Parthians indeed used on many occasions. However, it should be observed that alongside the Persians Tacitus also enumerates Alexander and the Macedonians. Perhaps this double declaration may be attributed especially to the political tradition of Media Atropatene, which Artabanos II ca.

He was a relative, or at least a kinsman, of the Atropatids, the reigning dynasty in Atropatene for three centuries until the times of Phraates IV. Thus already Atropates, the founder of the dynasty, combined both the Iranian and Macedonian political and cultural traditions.

Here yet again the Iranians are presented as passive imitators of foreign ideas. At no point in their history did the early Sasanians try to capture and hold new territories west of the Euphrates, not even Syria, on a permanent basis. In this sense the objectives of the early Sasanians were the same as those of the late western Arsacids such as Artabanos IV. The volume is a stimulating read, but occasionally themes could be developed at more length.

Meissner et al. Schneider ed. The book under review is impeccably produced and comprehensively indexed. His fundamental hypotheses regarding the role of Babylonian scribes and Pontic ideology turn out to be insupportable in the light of the available sources.

His treatment of Iran as such a passive entity comes as a surprise — as if Iran could never have been the place of origin for new political impulses and programmes. It is here that one of the most serious weaknesses of the book lies. Some of S. By and large, M. Rahim Shayegan proved better as a master of the short study than of the comprehensive monograph. But I do not wish to end on a negative note.

This learned book marks a significant contribution to the study of ancient Iran offering a multitude of insights into source evidence and intercultural links in the history of Western Asia. It is a genuine hope that Shayegan will return to the problems treated in his book to be extended and refined.


Arsacids and Sasanians, by Rahim Shayegan

Marek Jan Olbrycht B. Rahim Shayegan: Arsacids and Sasanians. Cambridge: Cambridge UP XXIX, S. What is novel is his sustained application of arguments on political ideology based on a variety of sources.


Sasanian Empire

Conflicting accounts shroud the details of the fall of the Parthian Empire and subsequent rise of the Sassanian Empire in mystery. Obv: Bearded facing head, wearing diadem and Parthian-style tiara, legend "The divine Ardaxir, king" in Pahlavi. Rev: Bearded head of Papak , wearing diadem and Parthian-style tiara, legend "son of the divinity Papak, king" in Pahlavi. Taq Kasra is the most famous Persian monument from the Sasanian era. Papak was originally the ruler of a region called Khir. However, by the year he had managed to overthrow Gochihr and appoint himself the new ruler of the Bazrangids.





Arsacids and Sasanians: Political Ideology in Post-Hellenistic and Late Antique Persia


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