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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: Achaemenid Historiography: From Cyrus to Alexander (PGHC11359)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryIt is an acknowledged fact that the ancient Persians did not write narrative histories per se (although there is good evidence for a deep-set oral history tradition in pre-Islamic Iran). The basic fact that there are no narrative Persian histories has led some scholars to believe that the Persians had no sense of their past. This is not true. We need to consider the Persian texts in a different light and set them alongside 'history' traditions in the ancient Near East, as well as examine them alongside Classical historiographic sources.

This course examines the diverse historiographic sources available to students of Achaemenid Iran (559-323 BCE). It will focus on Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian royal inscriptions and royal documents from the heart of the Empire and will place them alongside Assyrian, Aramaic, Egyptian, Hebrew, and Greek sources. The student will gain a coherent picture of the true nature of Achaemenid historiography as well as the difficulties and frustrations inherent in utilizing these key texts. Particular attention will be paid to the Bisitun Inscription of Darius I (and the Greek 'version' in Herodotus Book 3), and to the tomb inscriptions of the king at Naqsh-i Rustam; focus will also be given to the building inscription of Darius I from Susa and Xerxes' Daiva Inscription. All texts are studied in English translation.
Course description This course will develop the students┐ analytical skills and their ability to read historical texts closely and meaningfully. The course also aims to bring students an awareness of how Achaemenid historiography must be approached from an inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural angle, since it was influenced by several literary genres developed in areas beyond Iran. The course emphasizes that what we might consider orthodox history writing was not necessarily the Greek model for narratives on the past. Students will engage with ideas of mythology and mythography, poetry and orality, and imperial ideology. Students will also investigate other forms of historical literary phenomena found in the ancient Near East which may have affected the composition of what we can term 'Achaemenid historiography'.
This course will study key moments in the development of the genre of Achaemenid historiography and offer the student close readings of important texts, attempting to understand both their context and content by placing them within the cultural and literary phenomena which characterise the historical development of the Persian Empire.

This course will study key aspects of the development of Achaemenid historiography (by analyzing important themes) and offer the student close readings of important texts, attempting to understand both their context and content by placing them within the cultural and literary phenomena of the Persian Empire.
Week 1: Diversity of historiographic traditions in the Persian Empire
Week 2: The Languages of the Persian Empire.
Week 3: Telling Tales - Oral History Traditions in Persia and the Near East from Gilgamesh to Cyrus.
Week 4: The Cyrus Cylinder: Context & Interpretation.
Week 5: The Bisitun Inscription of Darius the Great.
Week 6: Imperial Ideology and Religion in Achaemenid texts from Persepolis, Susa, Ecbatana, and Naqsh-i Rustam.
Week 7: Imperial Ideology and Religion in Achaemenid texts from the wider Empire: Egypt, Asia Minor and Bactria.
Week 8: Achaemenid Historiography through Greek Eyes: the Fif