Friday, 23 March 2018

"The Silk Road of the Middle East" , lecture 21 February 2018 by Peter Frankopan

Masterclass Middle East
Geopolitics in Europe's Neighbourhood THE SILK ROAD OF THE MIDDLE EAST By Professor Peter Frankopan (Oxford University) Introduction by Professor Caroline Pauwels, Rector VUB Residence Palace - International Press Centre | 21. february 2018

Alexander the Great in the Persian Tradition by Haila Manteghi

Hardcover – 30 Jan 2018

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Uzbekistan Uncovered: Life Along the Ancient Silk Road

Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and the Soviet Union all, at various points in history, claimed dominion over Uzbekistan, and traces of their influence can still be seen today. This is a land of tiled cities, empty stretches of desert, and bazaars full of textiles and ceramics. Take a tour of daily life in this culturally rich land, and see for yourself why you want to uncover Uzbekistan.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Empires of Ancient Eurasia: The First Silk Roads Era, 100 BCE – 250 CE by Craig Benjamin


(New Approaches to Asian History) Hardcover – 30 Apr 2018

Monday, 19 March 2018

The vital role by Buddhist pilgrim-monks in conveying Buddhist kingship via artistic communication

Buddhist Pilgrim-Monks as Agents of Cultural and Artistic Transmission

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: NUS Press (30 May 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9814722596

In the mid-seventh century, a class of Buddhist pilgrim-monks disseminated an art style in China, Japan, and Korea that was uniform in both iconography and formal properties. Traveling between the courts and religious centers of the region, these pilgrim-monks played a powerful role in this proto-cosmopolitanism, promulgating what came to be known as the International Buddhist Art Style. 
In Buddhist Pilgrim-Monks as Agents of Cultural and Artistic Transmission, Dorothy C. Wong argues that the visual expression found in this robust new art style arose alongside the ascendant theory of the Buddhist state, and directly influenced it. Aided by lavish illustrations, Wong's book shows that the visual language transmitted and circulated by these pilgrim-monks served as a key agent in shaping the cultural landscape of Northeast Asia. 
This is the first major study of the vital role played by Buddhist pilgrim-monks in conveying the notions of Buddhist kingship via artistic communication. Wong's interdisciplinary analysis will attract scholars in Asian art history and religious studies.

Archaeology in Eurasia - First International Meeting of Young Researchers- Bonn, March 22-24, 2018

March 2018, Bonn University, Senate Hall

In Germany, as in many western countries, there are no professor positions at universities devoted specifically to Archaeology of Central and Inner Asia (this includes Russia mainly Siberia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Dzungaria, Xingjian, Tibet, Manchuria). Moreover, the current number of scholars focusing on these regions is not large, and they are spread all over Europe and beyond often without the chance to discuss questions with other scholars who work in the same regions. The purpose of this gathering is to help young researchers tap into these existing, though thin, networks and to build new networks of their own with others who work in regions of Eurasia east of the Ural Mountains. 

Organized by: 
Prehistorical and Early Historical Archaeology at Bonn University, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Jan Bemmann 
Eurasia Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI), Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Svend Hansen

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

The Universal History of Step'anos Tarōnec'i

Introduction, Translation, and Commentary

Tim Greenwood

  • Hardcover: 376 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (15 Jun. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198792514

Oxford Studies in Byzantium

  • Presents the first ever English translation of this work, correlated with both the 1885 and 2012 Armenian critical editions for ease of reference
  • Contains extensive and detailed annotation, discussing key aspects of the text and guiding readers to up-to-date scholarship as well as incorporating previously untranslated epigraphic evidence
  • Offers new insights into Step'anos' historical and intellectual contexts as well as a study of the transmission and reception of the text in a substantial introduction

The Universal History (Patmut),iwn tiezerakan) of Step),anos Tarōnec),i is a history of the world in three books, composed by the Armenian scholar at the end of the tenth century and extending from the era of Abraham to the turn of the first millennium. It was completed in 1004/5 CE, at a time when the Byzantine Empire was expanding eastwards across the districts of historic Armenia and challenging key aspects of Armenian identity. Step),anos responded to these changing circumstances by looking to the past and fusing Armenian tradition with Persian, Roman, and Islamic history, thereby asserting that Armenia had a prominent and independent place in world history. The Universal History was intended to affirm and reinforce Armenian cultural memory. As well as assembling and revising extracts from existing Armenian texts, Step),anos also visited monastic communities where he learned about prominent Armenian scholars and ascetics who feature in his construction of the Armenian past. During his travels he gathered stories about local Armenian, Georgian, Persian, and Kurdish lords, which were then repeated in his composition. The Universal Historytherefore preserves a valuable narrative of events in Byzantium, Armenia, and the wider Middle East in the second half of the tenth century. 

An Armenian-Kurdish battle from the 10th century

Medieval historians will be interested in a newly translated primary source: The Universal History of Step'anos Tarōnec'i. Edited and translated by Tim Greenwood, it is a history of the world from ancient times to about the year 1005. Step'anos Tarōnec'i was an Armenia Medieval historians will be interested in a newly translated primary source: The Universal History of Step'anos Tarōnec'i. Edited and translated by Tim Greenwood, it is a history of the world from ancient times to about the year 1005. Step'anos Tarōnec'i was an Armenian scholar interested in examining the role of his own country in the wider world. The Byzantines, Arabs and Persians all had interests in the Caucasus region, and Step'anos’ chronicle offers a lot of material relating to these medieval peoples as well as his own.
15th century map of Armenia and the Caucasus region
One of the final sections of this chronicle details the Battle of Aphahunk, which took place in the year 998. During the 990s David III Kuropalates, the Armenian ruler of a principality known as Tao, had been expanding his power, and this would lead to a confrontation with a Kurdish dynasty known as the Rawadids.
According to Step'anos, the Rawadid ruler Mamlan I decided to launch a raid into David’s lands in retaliation for the destruction of a mosque in the city of Manzakert. From his capital city of Tabriz, the Rawadids gathered “a massive army" of Persians and descended on the district of Aphahunk, now part of eastern Turkey. In response, David recruited his kinsmen and allies - the Kings of Armenia and Iberia (present-day Georgia) to send him 6000 troops each. The ruler of Tao then gave command of this joint army to one of his underlings because, according to Step'anos, “he was an old man and advanced in years.”
The chronicler then explains that when the Armenian-Iberian army reached Aphahunk they established a camp on a “rocky outcrop” suitable for a defensie stand. There they remained for many days, while the Rawadids were nearby. Step'anos writes:
When the forces of the Persians realized that they did not want voluntarily to come down to them [to do] battle, and especially when they realized their lack of numbers in comparison to their own multitude, on the first day of of the month of are, a Monday [18 October 998], towards dawn, they rose and set out a formation in a complicated disposition; they fashioned a battle-line across the face of the broad plain employing a Dalmastanean shield-wall. They went and drew near to the hill of the camp of the Armenians and Iberians. The sight of them was reckoned terrible in terms of its multitude by the onlookers; their number was reckoned to be 100,000 Persian infantry and cavalry. They gave a shout to prepare for battle and advance to the arena and to the place of encounter. The forces of Armenians and Iberians were afraid and sent [to them], ‘Let us do battle not today, but on another day.’ Then the Persians boasted arrogantly and sent messengers to them, ‘Willingly or unwillingly, let us engage today.’
Despite the challenge, only a few soldiers from the Armenian-Iberian side came down to engage in single combat, with five Iberians being killed. However, it seems that discipline within the Rawadid forces broke down, as they started to abandon their battle-line to attack the enemy camp. “Each one galloped and charged in order to plunder booty and pillage, as if ransacking corpses or refugees,” writes Step'anos.
In the next section, the chronicler describes how the Armenians and Iberians defended themselves, although the account seems to pivot to a more literary retelling:
They were organized not according to the formation of a line of battle, but everyone charged by family and seniority of contingents, roaring like lions, towards the forested multitude of the army of the Persians. They veered in attack against the right side; the Armenian force charged against the great crowd of people inflicting numerous wounds and striking deadly and deep sword-blows, they turned the savage barbarians with cruel thrusts. The Kamrakelk, the celebrated Mesxuni brothers, of the Iberian army struck with powerful strength, destroying either the cavalryman or the horse cut in two. Out of fear of them, they [the Persians] became scattered and they happened to encounter the whole force of Tayk’ stretched out; they scattered their corpses dead underneath their feet, the horses following this same example; like a fire kindled in forests or like eagles swiftly pouncing on startled flocks of birds. Here one could see streams of blood that became channels, and rivers were flowing, the corpses stretched out and the half-dead fallen among the dead.
At this point Mamlan retreated with his remaining forces, while the Armenians and Iberians pursued the fleeing troops until sunset. The Rawadid camp was also thoroughly plundered, and Step'anos concludes his account of the battle by noting:
The joy was even greater because, apart from the first five men who had died from the force of Iberia in single combat, no one else had been struck with a sword and no one was found dead out of all the multitude of Armenians and Iberians.
The Universal History of Step'anos Tarōnec'i, translated by Tim Greenwood is published by Oxford University Press. This is the first ever English translation of this work Click here to visit the publisher’s website to learn more about the book.
Want to learn more about warfare at the end of 10th century? Check out Georgios Theotokis' article 'Byzantines and Fatimids at war: The battles of the Orontes and Apamea' in Medieval Warfare VII:2.

Lecture by Valerie Hansen: "The World in the Year 1000: The View from Dunhuang"

The World in the Year 1000: The View from Dunhuang
July 24, 2016

In the year 1000, dramatic cultural and political changes were underway in major regions of the world, including East and Central Asia. At Dunhuang, this was when the Library Cave (Cave 17) was sealed. Using the cave's contents as clues—some 40,000 objects, including manuscripts on spiritual, medical, philosophical and mundane matters, as well as paintings and textiles—Valerie Hansen, professor of history at Yale University, reconstructed the larger historical context of the Library Cave, the Thousand Buddha caves at Mogao, and city of Dunhuang, and the surrounding region.
About the Presenter
Valerie Hansen is professor of history at Yale, where she teaches Chinese and world history. Her current research examines the interconnected world of the year 1000, exploring the goods, people, and ideas that traveled from one region to another in a time with no mechanized transport. Her most recent publication is The Silk Road: A New History—for which she received the 2013 International Convention of Asia Scholars Book Prize Reading Committee Accolade for the best teaching tool in the Humanities. Her other publications include, The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600Negotiating Daily Life in Traditional ChinaChanging Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1279; and Voyages in World History (co-authored with Kenneth R. Curtis).
This lecture series was made possible by the generous support of Mr. Andrew Cherng and Dr. Peggy Cherng, the Panda Restaurant Group, Inc.
Related lectures:
This lecture complemented the exhibition, Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China's Silk Road.