‘Shahnama’: The Making of the Medieval Persian Book of Kings

Exploring its use (and misuse) over the centuries as political propaganda, loot, and even fodder in the international art market. Introduction Illustrated manuscripts are one of the glories of Persian art, especially those made during the heyday of production from the fourteenth century to the sixteenth century. The most popular text was the Shahnama, or[…]

An Introduction to Medieval Safavid Art and Architecture

Safavid art and architecture reflected the adoption of a Shi’a identity. Introduction to the Safavid Dynasty: Rise and Empire Brilliantly painted manuscripts. Exquisitely detailed miniatures. Fine silks. Complex, ornate palaces. The art of the Safavids is simply magnificent. The Safavids were a dynastic family that ruled over modern-day Iran. They sustained one of the longest[…]

An Introduction to Ancient Sasanian Art and Architecture

Briefly introducing the Sasanian Empire through a handful of key monuments. The Royal Hunter A rider pulls back the taut string of a bow with his right hand and aims an arrow towards two fleeing mountain rams with his left (image above). The chase is fast; the rams sprint forward with the rider’s horse galloping[…]

Ancient Persia from the Achaemenids to the Sassanians

From their earliest days of the Achaemenid Empire, the Persians introduced a number of novel concepts in innovations and inventions. Introduction Ancient Persian culture exerted a powerful influence throughout the Near East, and beyond, for over a thousand years between c. 550 BCE – 651 CE and many aspects of their culture continued to influence[…]

The Persian Wars and the Maritime Supremacy of Ancient Athens

Figure 1: Greek Colonization of western Asia Minor / Image by Alexikoua, Wikimedia Commons The development of naval supremacy and of democracy became interdependent. In the period of about 600–480 BCE, Ionian colonists emigrated from Attica to the Aegean coast of Asia Minor, which is modern Turkey [1]. There they inhabited a narrow coastal strip from[…]

The Audience Hall of Darius and Xerxes in Persepolis

Growth of the Achaemenid Empire under different kings / Wikimedia Commons The great audience hall of the Persian kings Darius and Xerxes presents a visual microcosm of the Achaemenid empire. By Dr. Jeffrey A. Becker / 01.24.2016 Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Studies Binghamton University Introduction Kylix depicting a Greek hoplite slaying a Persian inside, by[…]

Cyrus the Great: A New Kind of Ancient Ruler

Wikimedia Commons Through his Cyropaedia, Cyrus’s notions of human rights influenced the U.S. Constitution—Thomas Jefferson owned two copies of this text. Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh / 08.27.2018 Introduction Cyrus (Old Persian Kourosh or Khorvash, modern Persian: کوروش, Kourosh) (ca. 576 – July 529 B.C.E.), also known as Cyrus the Great and Cyrus II of[…]

Picking Sides, or Not, with Alcibiades

Drunken Alcibiades interrupting the Symposium, by Pietra Testa, 1648 / Wikimedia Commons By Mark Cartwright / 02.08.2013 Alcibiades (or Alkibiades) was a gifted and flamboyant Athenian statesman and general whose shifting of sides during the Peloponnesian War in the 5th century BCE earned him a reputation for cunning and treachery. Good looking and rich, he was also notorious for his extravagant lifestyle[…]

An Overview and History of Zoroastrianism, One of the World’s Oldest Religions

Plaque with a Priest from the Oxus Treasure, 500–330 B.C., Achaemenid. Gold, 5 7/8 x 2 15/16 in. The British Museum. Image courtesy of and © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved Looking closely at the objects displayed with the Cyrus Cylinder to find symbols of the ancient religion of Persia—Zoroastrianism.[…]

Military Campaigns of Xerxes the Great

A relief with a representation of Persian King Xerxes I. 5th century BCE, Persepolis. By Dr. Joshua J. Mark / 03.14.2018 Professor of Philosophy Marist College Introduction Xerxes I (ruled 486-465 BCE), also known as Xerxes the Great, was the king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. His official title was Shahanshah which, though usually translated as `emperor’, actually means `king of kings’.[…]

Thinking Iranian, Rethinking Greek

“Wanderer above the sea of fog” (ca. 1818), Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840). Image via Wikimedia Commons. By Dr. Gregory Nagy / 03.13.2015 Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature Professor of Comparative Literature Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies Harvard University Introduction What do you first think of when we hear the words Iranian[…]

Satraps of Ancient Persia

Syrians bearing tribute to Darius the Great of Persia / Wikimedia Commons By Dr. Lori Khatchadourian Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies Cornell University Introduction Hushang ascended the throne after his grandfather and declared himself the king of the seven realms. During the forty years of his reign, Hushang spread justice and enriched the world[…]