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Studi Graeco-Parthica: Political and Cultural Relations between Greeks and Parthians.

Studi Graeco-Parthica: Political and Cultural Relations between Greeks and Parthians. By EDWARD DABROWA. Philippika, vol. 49. Wiesbaden: HARRASSOWITZ VERLAG, 2011. Pp. 196. [euro]48 (paper).

Professor Dr. Edward Dabrowa is a distinguished Polish ancient historian dealing with pre-Islamic Iranian history and its connections to the classical Mediterranean world at the Historical Institute of the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. He is himself a student of Professor Jozef Wladyslaw Wolski (1910-2008) and his school of ancient Iranian history.

In this collection of fifteen articles, previously published in academic journals, on the relations between Greeks and Parthians within the realm of the Parthian Empire, we have a rich selection of articles, which would otherwise remain scattered throughout a wide variety of journals. Special thanks are due Harrassowitz Verlag for publishing them in a single volume.

While it is pleasant to find Dabrowas articles in English, French, Italian, and German, one misses short abstracts in English for each essay, since not all international colleagues will be able to follow all these languages easily.

The variety of topics discussed by Dabrowa center on the difficulties and differences between the Parthians, originally of nomadic stock, and the Greeks who settled in the regions of the Parthian realm following the campaigns of Alexander the Great and even earlier. Of special interest is the article which deals with the connections of Parthians and Greeks in the Hellenized cities of the first century (pp. 27-37). This is an important problem, since it focuses on the cultural relations between an already settled Greek population and the ruling Parthian aristocracy. This aristocracy was of Iranian stock and stood by its nomadic roots until the end of its power, as has been demonstrated by Dabrowa's student Jan Marek Olbrycht of Krakow (Parthia et ulleriores gentes: Die polilischen Beziehungen zwischen dem arsakidischen Iran und den Nomaden der eurasischen Steppen. (3. Jh. v. Chr. bis 3. Jh. n. Chr) [Munich 1998]). Whenever the political situation in the Near East and especially in Syria and Iraq (Iran and Afghanistan could be added here) makes regular excavations possible once more, Dabrowa's deep look into these problems on the basis of the historical sources should be held in mind when analyzing their results.

That the connections between Parthians and Greeks weren't always peaceful once again becomes obvious when we read about the politics and wars in three articles (pp. 49-57, 59-73, 75-81).

A very prominent topic for Dabrowa is the old question of "Parthian Philhellenism," expressed mainly via their coins, which consistently follow Greek, i.e., Seleucid prototypes. The Parthian Empire was settled by many different ethnic groups and tribes who spoke many very different languages of most varied origin, although many of them will have been of Iranian stock. How far the Hellenization of the Orient had progressed in political affairs is astonishing, in that the Parthians focused very much on Greek traditions and tried to win the Greeks for their empire.

The multiethnicity of the Parthian realm had significant influence on religious affairs, and it is not surprizing that Dabrowa puts special emphasis on the question of the role that the ruler-cult played for the Parthians, with or without Greek (Seleucid) influence. Dabrowa's researches will be of greatest importance when the most recent Italo-Turkmenian excavations (2011 and 2012) at the Parthian capital Old Nisa in Turkmenistan are published and discussed. One of the main excavators of the Italian expedition to Old Nisa, Niccolo Manassero (Centre Scavi, Turin), has informed the reviewer of the recovery of several moulds for large-scale sculptures of humans and horses, which were perhaps used to decorate a hall for the ruler cult.

When we consider the article on "Greek: A Language of the Parthian Empire" (pp. 153-63), we are once more made aware that Greek was an important language of the Parthian Empire, alongside Iranian languages like Parthian. One must agree with Dabrowa that Greek remained an important--if not the most important--language within the Parthian Empire until the Sasanian dynasty took over power under Ardashir in 226 A.D. Even then, the importance of Greek did not totally die out, since there must have been Greek-speaking citizens also under Sa.sanian rule, not to mention the influence of Greek philosophy and philosophers on the later Sasanian dynasty.

The book is enriched by a fifteen-page bibliography (pp. 165-80), including many recent articles and books up until the publication year 2011. Indexes of proper names (pp. 181-83), of places (pp. 185-86), and of ancient sources (pp. 187-96) include not only the Classical authors and sources, but also the cuneiform sources, inscriptions, papyri, and the coins.

Dabrowa's book is not only a rich source for the specialist but also for the student, and one wishes wide distribution for the volume not only on the bookshelves of academic libraries, but also on those of students. As a very specialized collection of articles on Parthian-Greek interrelations, it should find its place directly between two other new books on the topic: The Age of the Parthians, ed. Vesta Sarkosh Curtis and Sarah Steward (New York and London: I. B. Tauris in association with The London Middle East Institute at SOAS and The British Museum, 2007), and Die Farther. Die vergessene Grossmacht, by Uwe Ellerbock and Sylvia Winkelmann (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 2013). This book is well worth its price.


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Author:Jager, Ulf
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2017
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