02308 - History of Religion

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2009/2010

Learning outcomes

cultural history (philology, linguistic, literature, religion, socio-political aspects) of pre-islamic Iran; reading and commentary of texts, monuments and inscriptions dealing with relevant items and topics of the related geographical and cultural area. Studi of the Cultural Heritage and Goods of the Iran and connected areas (Central Asia). The final aim of the course is to provide a lot of competences to the students, in order  to know the history and the contemporary sceneries and to improve and increase further expertises (in the realm of intercultural dialogue, safety and protection of cultural heritage, cooperation, international relationships and diplomacy) and to promote the understanding and dialogue between different cultures, mentalities and habits

Course contents

"Zarathustra - Darius - Mani. Documents, texts, cultural history of pre-Islamic Iran: royal ideology and religions from Achaemenids to Sassanians"

The course will be focused about a survey and analysis of
documents, items and problems of the cultural history (religious,
political, institutional) of pre-islamic Iran for an amount of 60
hours and chronologically divided in two sections:

*the first 30 hours, dealing with the prophet Zarathustra, and
the beginnings of the Zoroastrian religion (innovations, Indo-Iranian heritage, Indoeuropaean aspects) and the holy book of the
Avesta; and then, the westwards migration of the Iranian
people, the birth of the Persian and Achaemenid empire and its
kings (Cyrus the Great, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes); the Achaemenian religious
ideology and the Achaemenid heritage among the
Seleucids and Ashoka's kingdom. Comparative readings of Iranian texts (Achaemenid inscriptions) and Greek texts (Herodot, Xenophon, inscriptions of Antiochus of Commagene, Ashoka's inscriptions)

*the second, of 30 hours, dedicated to the Parthians, the Kushans
and Sasanians; the rising and establishments of the
Zoroastrian religion as a "state church" of the Sassanian empire;
to the Sasanian royal ideology; to the conflicts between the
Zoroastrianism and other religions such as Manichaeism,
Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Mazdakism and the Islam. Special attention will be payed to the contrast between Zoroastrianism and Manicheism (comparative and contrastive readings of Zoroastrian Pahlavi texts and Manichaean texts). Seminar: the corrispondence and epistolography in practice, simbology and ideology: rhetoric and communications of king's words by means of letters.

Targets of the course: for the first part, to students involved in Near Eastern and Middle East studies (history, archaeology, art), as a completion of teaching in Archaeology and History of Art of Iran; to students of Greek history, Greek literature, Latin literature (images of the Persians in history, tragedy and comedy). For the second part: Oriental studies (Middle East, Central Asia) Hellenism, Roman studies, Late Antiquity, Byzantine studies, Christian studies and High Middle Ages (the heritage of dualism, the so called "neo-manicheism", history of heresis in the Middle Age, Balkans, Byzantine world)


Parte prima: bibliografia di base (a cui si aggiungano i materiali in dispensa)

J. Wiesehoefer, La Persia antica, Il Mulino, Bologna 2000, pp. 7-82.

A.Piras, "Medi e Persiani: dall'Iran al Mare Egeo", in M. Giangiulio (a cura di), Storia d'Europa e del Mediterraneo: il mondo antico II, vol. III, Salerno, Roma 2007, pp. 305-333.

G. Gnoli, "Le religioni dell'Iran antico e Zoroastro", in G. Filoramo (a cura di), Storia delle religioni, vol. I, Laterza, Bari 1999, pp. 455-498.

altre indicazioni bibliografiche (informative)

R.G. Kent, Old Persian. Grammar, Texts, Lexicon, New Haven 1953.

P. Lecoq, Les inscriptions de la Perse achéménide, Paris 1997.

G. Pugliese Carratelli, Gli editti di Ashoka, Milano 2003.

N. Sims-Williams e J. Cribb, A New Bactrian Inscription of Kanishka the Great, Kamakura 1995-1996.

R.N. Frye, The History of Ancient Iran, Muenchen 1984.

R.N. Frye, The Heritage of Persia, Costa Mesa California 1993.

P. Briant, Histoire de l'empire perse, Fayard 1998.

D. Asheri, Tra Ellenismo e Iranismo, Bologna 1983.

A. Panaino, "Greci e Iranici: confronto e conflitti, in S. Settis (a cura di), I Greci. Storia, cultura, arte, società, Torino 2001, pp. 79-136.

A. Piras, "I Magi persiani", in I Tre Saggi e la Stella. Mito e realtà dei Re Magi, Rimini 1999, pp. 7-30.

M. Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism II: under the Achaemenians, Leiden-Koeln 1982.

M. Boyce, F. Grenet, A History of Zoroastrianism III: under the Macedonian and Roman Rule, London-New York 1991.


Parte seconda: bibliografia di base (a cui si aggiungano i materiali in dispensa)

J. Wiesehoefer, La Persia antica, Il Mulino, Bologna 2022, pp. 83-121.

G. Gnoli, "La religione zoroastriana", in G. Filoramo (a cura di), Storia delle religioni vol. I, Laterza, Bari 1999, pp. 455-498.

G. Gnoli. "L'Iran tardoantico e la regalità sassanide", in Mediterraneo Antico I, 1, 1998, pp. 115-139.


altre indicazioni bibliografiche (informative)

R.C. Zaehner, Il libro del consiglio di Zarathustra e altri testi, Roma 1976.

A. Bausani, Persia religiosa: da Zaratustra a Baha'u'llah, Cosenza 1998.

A. Bausani, Testi religiosi zoroastriani, Milano 1957.

C.G. Cereti, La letteratura pahlavi, Milano 2001.

G. Gnoli, The Idea of Iran. En Essay on its Origin, Rome 1989.

A. Panaino, La Novella degli Scacchi e della Tavola Reale, Milano 1999.

P. Huyse, Die dreisprachige Inschrift Shabuhrs I. an der Ka'ba-i Zardusht (ShKZ), vol. I-II, London 1999.

H. Humbach-P. O. Skjaervo, The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli, vol. I-III, Wiesbaden 1978-1983.

P. Gignoux, Les quatre inscriptions du mage Kirdir, Paris 1991.

H.-J. Polotsky, Il Manicheismo. Gnosi di salvezza tra Egitto e Cina, Rimini 1996.

G.Gnoli, con l'assistenza di A. Piras, (a cura di), Il Manicheismo vol. I. Mani e il Manicheismo, Milano 2003; vol. II. Il mito e la dottrina: i testi manichei copti e la polemica antimanichea, Milano 2006; vol. III. Il mito e la dottrina: testi manichei dell'Asia Centrale e della Cina, Milano 2008.



Teaching methods

teaching lessons, reading, discussion and commentary of the examination bibliography and the data included in the files. Seminars, checking test and improvement stages of learning

Assessment methods

oral examination of the related bibliography and of the didactic materials included in the files

Teaching tools

bibliography and files of documents (inscriptions, texts, slides, articles) at disposition of the students among the Faculty library. Documents on web freely downloading (for the students only) and divided in Part One and Part Two.

Office hours

See the website of Piras Andrea