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The chapter studies the destruction of Miletos by the Persians in 494 B.C. and its subsequent recovery by analyzing the literary and archaeological evidence, as well as by weighing the role of the countryside.
Although Egypt in the fifth century was highly integrated into the empire, it also began to develop new elements of distinctiveness. In part this trend resulted from divisions in theology and church politics that emerged around the Council of Chalcedon in 451, leading to deep splits in the church by the middle of the sixth century and the creation of competing church hierarchies. The native Egyptian language came to have its own literature and began to be used more widely in official contexts. At the same time, Alexandria remained a vibrant center of Greek culture, which permeated the rest of Egypt as well. The economic and social elite of the cities, increasingly closely tied to the imperial administration, concentrated wealth and power in their hands to a degree not seen earlier, even as most of the population continued to live in villages and work the land.
Chapter 3 treats Herodotus’ use of the catalogue and the general problem of quantifying goods on a large cultural scale, as well as the specific use of the list as a cipher for imparting value. In the Histories, I argue, the genre of historiography and the nascent administrative inventory tradition coalesce. We find multiple examples of lists used to prove points and express value, and the characters and audience of the Histories, deeply invested in quantifying and displaying their wealth and possessions, use the list format to enact and prove their own worth. Meanwhile, Herodotus’ use of the term apodeixis for his work — also the technical word for an inscribed inventory — reveals that he conceives of his project as a grand multimedia catalogue of everything of importance to the Greek world. He has transferred the discrete uses of lists available to him to his own new type of text, thus incorporating old forms while distinguishing the Histories from previous genealogical works.
Alexander the Great's victories over Darius III and his satraps between 334 and 323 BCE have been for very long interpreted as the reliable testimony of the intrinsic feebleness and internal fragility of the Achaemenid empire, which expanded from Central Asia to Aswan and from the Indus to the Mediterranean Sea, and lasted for more than two centuries (c.550–330). And yet, notwithstanding the exceptional cultural and political diversity of the countries and peoples under the empire’s rule, the central authorities exercised a permanent control upon lands and seas. The best way for understanding the originality of such an ancient empire is to rule out the usual tricky alternative centralization versus independence/autonomy. Cultural diversity and imperial power are not mutually exclusive. The main feebleness of such a political construction was that, in front of a powerful (Macedonian) invasion, the central power could not count on any imperial ideology which would be shared by all the cultural components of the empire.
This chapter explores the dynamics of ancient cross-cultural interactions via a case study from the Severan period. Aelian’s brief narrative of the Mesopotamian hero Gilgamos is a story that connects four cultural traditions: Chaldean, Persian, Greek, and Roman. Included in Book 12 of the De natura animalium, the story tells how the Babylonian king’s fear of being usurped led him to imprison his daughter, who secretly gave birth to a son, Gilgamos, by a man of no distinction. Palace guards threw the baby from the acropolis of Babylon, whereupon the infant Gilgamos was rescued by an eagle. Ostensibly the story celebrates the eagle’s capacity for philanthropia, or devotion to humans, but Aelian is up to much more, as the Gilgamos tale opens up questions of cultural legitimacy, the need for evidentiary proof of belonging, and even the role of writing in the complex processes of cultural transformation. Aelian ultimately rejects legitimacy conferred by nature and opts instead for the adoption even of what is illegitimate, untrue, or unverifiable if it represents a valuable medium of cultural interconnectivity.
In antiquity most of eastern Anatolia was contained within the kingdom of Armenia. As a consequence of the Armenian wars fought in the reign of the emperor Nero, a new dynasty was established on the Armenian throne, that of the Arsacids, a branch of the Parthian royal house. Religion plays a significant role in the struggle over Armenia. The indigenous polytheism had long been mixed with Iranian elements and pagan religion was essentially syncretic. On the eastern borders of Armenia lay the Median march, comprising lands in Atropatene and Adiabene that were wrested from the Persians in 298. To the south were the all-important Syrian and Arabian marches, themselves divided up into a number of autonomous principalities. The Syrian march, formerly the kingdom of Sophene, included the principalities of Ingilene, Anzitene, Lesser and Greater Sophene, each with its own local ruler.
The naturalism of the late Archaic period was distinctly untypical of the Greek artistic tradition as a whole. From the Geometric period onward every successive style of Greek art has regularly been disciplined by strict canons of formal order. The conflict with the Persians, as Herodotus and Aeschylus make clear, was as much a moral as a military one. The story of high classical Greek art is for the most part the story of Athenian art, and it is in the great monuments of the Periclean building programme that the emerging dual nature in the art of the time is most apparent. The clear, patterned forms of Archaic and the simple solidity of Early Classical drapery are replaced by irregular eddies, furrows and shadows. Capturing impressions seems to have become an end in itself in much of the art of the last three decades of the fifth century.
The campaigning season of 479 opened to a sense of uneasy calm for the Persians a continuing drain of resources or a secure frontier in the west. The first forces to move were the naval on either side. The Egyptian marines had been left with Mardonius and the land forces. A high proportion of Greek vessels and their crews have been drawn from Asiatic Greece. On Alexander's empty-handed return, Mardonius at once determined to march south, urged on by his Thessalian friends, especially the Aleuadae of Larissa whose regime depended on him. In Boeotia the Thebans urged him to make his base among them, and to try what bribery could do. For the Athenians, Xanthippus proposed to remain and liberate the Chersonese. In the end the force divided, the Peloponnesians sailing home as they desired, while Xanthippus crossed to the Chersonese and began the siege of Sestus.
The Median and Achaemenid periods define a critical disjunction in history. Iranians, more particularly the Medes and the Persians, first appear in history in the ninth-century BC cuneiform texts touching on the western half of the plateau. For some time thereafter the Medes and Persians are only two of several ethnic and political groups found in the Zagros mountains. Only late in the seventh century BC do the Medes apparently begin to become the dominant power even in Media. Cyrus is the son of Cambyses, grandson of Cyrus, and a descendant of Teispes. Cambyses succeeded to the throne in September 530 BC after Cyrus' death. Four years after ascending the throne Cambyses marched against Egypt. Amasis, the shrewd penultimate ruler of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, attempted to bolster his defences by securing the aid of the Cypriots and other islanders in order to cut off any possibility of a Persian invasion by sea.
Pasargadae, the capital of Cyrus the Great, is the earliest known significant settlement of the Persians, a people who rose from obscurity to far-flung dominion in the short span of two decades. Weathered and scarred by time, the tomb of Cyrus remains the focus of all else at Pasargadae. For the first time in Iran a reception hall acquired an open, four-sided appearance. The Pasargadae palaces represent bold, innovative structures that Cyrus used to signal both the new ideas and resources that had become available to him and the new sense of security that went with his unrivalled power and prestige. Gardens were essential to the character of Pasargadae. To the north of the Palace Area stands the isolated stone tower known locally as Zindan-i Sulaiman or "The Prison of Solomon". The extreme northern limit of Pasargadae is marked by two isolated stone plinths.
The rise of the Sasanian dynasty can be understood as the successful struggle of a minor ruler of Persis not only against his Parthian overlord, but also against a multitude of neighbouring rulers. The main adversary of the Persians was the Roman empire, and the ambitions of the first Sasanian ruler were soon countered by Rome. It was during the reign of Yazdgard that the Christians of the Sasanian empire held a council in the city of Seleucia in the year 410. Shortly after Bahrāam accession in 421 the persecution of Christians in the Sasanian empire was resumed, probably at the instigation of Zoroastrian priests. The Sasanians inherited from the Parthians a legacy of over two centuries of conflict with the western power. With a Sasanian belief in the destiny of Iran to rule over the territories once held by the Achaemenians, it was inevitable that wars between the two great powers would continue.
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