Transformations in Ancient Iranian Religion: The Achaemenids as Agents of Long-Termc Change
Supervisors: prof. dr. Ab de Jong and Dr. Markus Davidsen
The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550-330 BCE) was the first world empire in the history of humankind. Stretching from Egypt to India, it included a huge variety of peoples and religions. One of those was the religion of the Persian kings themselves, but this religion has been the subject of fierce debate since the decipherment of Old Persian in the nineteenth century. All of this debate was governed by the assumption that the Achaemenids were passive recipients of a religion that was already there. Scholars were only divided on the question which religion this might have been. This project looks at the problem from the opposite perspective, by studying the Achaemenid kings not as followers, but as agents in the transformation of Persian religion. Rich materials to study the problem from this angle have now become available in full: thousands of administrative tablets from the early reign of Darius the Great, containing evidence on gods, rituals, and priests from early Achaemenid times. These will be analyzed with the aid of social network analysis (for which the tablets are eminently suited), and of recent theories from the cognitive science of religion and culture. By comparing early Achaemenid religion as it emerges from this archive with earlier and later forms of Iranian religion, patterns of change and the role that kings played in the transformation of ancient Iranian religion will be based on a much more secure footing, and an academic quarrel of a century and a half will be put to rest.
- Study of Religion : History of religions, Method and theory in the study of religion, Cognitive science of religion, Cognitive historiography of religion,
- Religious traditions : Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Ancient Near Eastern Religion
- Ancient History, Ancient Iranian Languages and Culture