Postgraduate Course: Achaemenid Historiography: From Cyrus to Alexander (PGHC11359)
|School||School of History, Classics and Archaeology
||College||College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||It 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.
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 Fifth Century BCE.
Week 9: Achaemenid Historiography through Greek Eyes: the Fourth Century BCE.
Week 10: Achaemenid Historiography through Hebrew Eyes.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
Course Delivery Information
|Not being delivered|
| By the end of the course students should be able, through written work and class participation, to:
- demonstrate an understanding of the characteristic aspects of Achaemenid historiography and place key texts in their cultural and historical contexts.
- demonstrate a clear knowledge of the construction of royal ideology and its relationship to historiography.
- demonstrate a clear awareness of the main historical and cultural phenomena the Persian Empire's interactions with other cultural and historiographical traditions.
- discuss allusions to literary and cultural predecessors and successors in the field of ancient historiography.
In addition they should be able to:
- develop skills in interpreting primary texts in translation.
- assess, analyse and criticise the various forms of ancient materials.
- compare and evaluate different approaches to and explanations of the ancient material in the secondary sources and make critical choices between them.
- express their ideas and arguments clearly (in both oral and written form).
- compare data from different sources and draw conclusions from them.
- enhance bibliographical research skills.
- organise their own learning, manage their workload and work to a timetable.
|Allen, L. (2005) The Persian Empire. London.|
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Berg, S.B. (1979) The Book of Esther. Missoula.
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Llewellyn-Jones, L. & Robson, J. (2010) Ctesias' 'History of Persia': Tales of the Orient. London.
Marincola, J. (1997) Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography. Cambridge.
Momigliano, A. (1975) Alien Wisdom: the Limits of Hellenization. Cambridge.
Murray, O. (2001) 'Herodotus and Oral History' in N. Luraghi, ed. The Historian¿s Craft in the Age of Herodotus. Oxford. 16-44.
Olmstead, A.T. (1948) History of the Persian Empire. Chicago.
Tuplin, C. J. (2007) 'Herodotus on Persia and the Persian Empire' in R.B. Strassler, ed. The Landmark Herodotus. New York. 792-97.
Wiesehöfer, J. (1996) Ancient Persia from 550 BC to 650 AD. London & New York.
Wiesehöfer, J., Lanfranchi, G., & Rollinger, R., eds. (2009) Die Welt des Ktesias von Knidos. Stuttgart.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
|Course organiser||Dr Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones
Tel: (0131 6)50 3585
|Course secretary||Mr Gordon Littlejohn
Tel: (0131 6)50 3782