Ancient Iran in Muslim Eyes

The Fate of Persian History in the Islamic World

Robert Hoyland


Note: We are now fully booked for this event and are only accepting names for the wait-list.

Medieval Muslim historians wishing to write about ancient Iran drew on texts that were composed in the period 750–850 bearing the title "The History of the Kings of the Persians." These works served a growing audience of well­-to­do Muslim bureaucrats and scholars of Persian ancestry who were interested in their heritage and wished to make it part of the historical outlook of the new civilization that was emerging in the Middle East, namely Islamic civilization. This talk (and the book that it is based on) explores the question of how knowledge about ancient Iran was transmitted to Muslim historians, in what forms it circulated and how it was shaped and refashioned for the new Perso­-Muslim elite that served the early Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad, a city that was built only a short distance away from the old Persian and Hellenistic capital of Seleucia­-Ctesiphon.

Robert Hoyland is Professor of Late Antique and Early Islamic Middle Eastern History. He read Oriental Studies at Oxford University, where he subsequently wrote a doctoral thesis on non-Muslim accounts of the rise of Islam (Seeing Islam as Others saw it, 1997). The emergence of Islamic civilization has remained a key focus of his research and is the subject of his latest book (In God’s Path: the Arab Conquests and the Creation of an Islamic Empire, 2014). The desire to better understand this phenomenon has led him down many different avenues of study: pre-Islamic Arabia (Arabia and the Arabs, 2001), epigraphy (“The Content and Context of Early Arabic Inscriptions”, 1997), papyrology (“The earliest attestation of the Dhimma of God and His Messenger and the rediscovery of P. Nessana 77”, 2014) and the late antique Greco-Syriac world ([with Simon Swain et al.] Polemon’s Physiognomy, 2007, and Theophilus of Edessa’s Chronicle, 2011). One avenue, archaeology, has become a passion for him in its own right and he has been involved in excavations in Syria, Yemen, Israel/Palestine and Turkey/Kurdistan. He has now embarked upon the excavation of the city of Partavi/Barda‘a in modern Azerbaijan, which was the capital of the Christian kingdom of Caucasian Albania and the site of the first Muslim garrison in eastern Caucasus.

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Admission to lecture closes 10 minutes after scheduled start time.

The reception following this lecture will celebrate recent publications by ISAW community members, including The 'History of the Kings of the Persians' in Three Arabic Chronicles: The Transmission of the Iranian Past from Late Antiquity to Early Islamtranslated with introduction and notes by Robert G. Hoyland (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2018).

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