75955 - Religious History of Iran

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Docente: Andrea Piras
  • Credits: 12
  • SSD: L-OR/14
  • Language: Italian
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Ravenna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Cultural Heritage (cod. 9076)

Learning outcomes

Cultural history of ancient and late antique Iran (philology, linguistic, literature, history, religion, institutions) chiefly before the rise of Islam, whether the early Islamic period is taken into account as well. Presentations of texts and commentaries (Iranian texts and inscriptions, Classical sources, Islamic sources). The course shows a survey of Iranian and Central Asian cultural history by the means of their literary heritage. The final outcome is a better understanding of a geo-political and cultural zone, in its past and present, giving to student a knowledge of its cultural processes and developments, and providing a dialogue between East and West to avoid the risk of prejudices.

Course contents

Rituals, Miracles and Wonders: Religious Experiences, Healing Values and the Pursuit for Salvation in Ancient and Late Antique Iran

The course of 60 hours is divided in two parts, dedicated to problems of cultural and religious history of antique and late-antique Iran, and early Islamic Iran. The basic bibliography and the documents of teaching (uploaded) will be examined during the lessons. The topic of the course will be dealing with the mythical and religious concerns in pre-Islamic Iran, regarding the bodily life and healings; and how they gave importance to the salvation of the soul in funerary practices and Afterlife conceptions.

The two parts of the course are composed as follows:

Part A) Approaches to the history of Zoroastrianism: texts, mythologies and rituals. Time and homeland of Zarathustra's predication. Aspects of Mazdeism in the Achaemenid, Seleucid and Parthian periods. Self-awareness in history and conceptions of kingship.

Part B) The Sasanian Zoroastrianism, the kingship and the confessional pluralism in Late Antiquity: Mani and Mazdak. Cohabitations, competitions and dissents between nationalistic and universalistic trends. Struggles and riots of socio-economic and religious origin within the VIth century. Anti-arab rebellions and political messianism of the khurramiya movements in Islamic period.


First part, basic bibliography (to complete with the pdf marked with "I")

J. Wiesehoefer, La Persia antica, Il Mulino, Bologna 2000.

G. Gnoli, "Le religioni dell'Iran antico e Zoroastro"; "La religione zoroastriana", in G. Filoramo (a cura di), Storia delle religioni, vol. I, Laterza, Roma-Bari 1994 [downloading from the teaching web-site].

Didactic tools. Further readings concerning specific topic, examined during the lessons, can be downloaded fro the site (teaching materials).

The students unable to attend the course have to read the basic bibliography and further readings to be arranged with the teacher.

Further bibliography (WITHOUT OBLIGATION in the case of any sostitution the student wishes to do)

First Part

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

P.O. Skjaervo, "Avestan Quotations in Old Persian? Literary Sources of the Old Persian Inscriptions", in S. Shaked-A. Netzer (eds.), Irano-Judaica IV, Jerusalem 1999, pp. 1-64.

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 (Silk Road Art and Studies IV) 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.

W. Will, Le guerre persiane, Bologna 2012.

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. Panaino, Zoroastrismo. Storia, temi, attualità, Brescia 2016.

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.

N. Sins-Williams, "Le lingue iraniche", in A.Giacalone Ramat e P.Ramat (a cura di), Le lingue indoeuropee, Il Mulino, Bologna 1993.

R. Cantarella, "La Persia nella letteratura greca"; e E. Paratore, "La Persia nella letteratura latina" in La Persia e il mondo-greco-romano, Atti dei convegni della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Roma 1966.

Further bibliography (WITHOUT OBLIGATIONS, only in the case the student wishes to change any title).

Second Part

P. Crone, The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran. Rural Revolt and Local Zoroastrianism, Cambridge 2014.

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.

W.B. Henning, Il medioiranico, a cura di E. Filippone, Istituto Universitario Orientale, Napoli 1996.

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.

G. Pugliese Carratelli, "La Persia dei Sasanidi nella storiografia romana da Ammiano a Procopio"; A. Pertusi, "La Persia nelle fonti bizantine del secolo VII", in La Persia nel Medioevo, Atti dei convegni, Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Roma 1971.

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 Manicheismovol. 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

frontal lessons, presentation and discussion of the bibliography and of the didactic materials, also including power-points and projections of images

Assessment methods

The exam consists in an oral interview. During the interview the methodological and critical skills acquired by the student will be evaluated and the student will be invited to discuss the texts covered during the course and to move within the sources and bibliographical material in order to be able to identify in them the useful information that will enable to illustrate the cultural aspects of the discipline. The achievement of an organic vision of the issues addressed during the classes and their critical use, which demonstrate ownership of a mastery of expression and specific language, will be assessed with marks of excellence. Mechanical and/or mnemonical knowledge of matter, synthesis and analysis of non-articulating and/or correct language but not always appropriate will lead to discrete assessments. Training gaps and/or inappropriate language - although in a context of minimal knowledge of the material - will lead to votes that will not exceed the sufficiency. Training gaps, inappropriate language, lack of guidance within the reference materials offered during the course wil lead to failed assessments.

Teaching tools

Bibliography and teaching documents to be downloaded from the teaching site (every student must download and carefully reading the pdf GUIDA)

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Andrea Piras


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