07497 - Iranian Epigraphy

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Good health and well-being Quality education Affordable and clean energy Peace, justice and strong institutions

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The teaching aims at explaining the relationships between the inscriptions and the materials used to written down it (rocks, metals, clay), located in archaelogical sites of Pre-Islamic Iran. The cultural heritage of the archaeological and artistic goods will be envisaged in accordance with geography and landscapes wherein human artifacts were built. The student learns the specific link of the epigraphy with its support and the communication values (poltical, ideological, religious) of the Achaemenid civilizations and its legagy in Hellenistic Iran, and its relations with India, Central Asia, Mesopotamia and Hellenic world; the student also achieves a competence in the evaluation of the cultural good (inscriptions and monuments).

Course contents

The Building Site of the Epigraphy: from Rock Inscription on Display to parchment.

 The teaching points to show the connections between architecture, iconography, geography and epigraphy, taking into account the monumental Inscriptions of Pre-Islamic Iran as a whole (Achaemenid, Parthians, Sassanids), in comparison with Hellenistic and Kushan epigraphies. The following ethnolinguistic and sociolinguistic topics will be examined: the ideological message of propaganda, the royal legitimation and political communication addressed to the subjects, by means of epistolography and heralds. A special analysis of the semiological intentions (to mark an object with the writing: plates, stelae, seals, furnitures) will be particularly envisaged, and also the symbolical and anthropological uses of the writings.



G.P. Basello, "Guida epigrafica dell'Iran antico" (www.elamit.net/iran2004/persepolis_inscriptions.htm )

H. Humbach, "Epigraphy 1. Old Persian and Middle Iranian Epigraphy" in Encyclopaedia Iranica(http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/epigraphy-i )

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

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

The students unable to attend the course have to read the before quoted article of H. Humbach (downloading from the link), plus the following readings:

G. R. Cardona, Storia universale della scrittura, Mondadori, Milano 1986 (pp. 117-126; 161-170).

G. R. Cardona, Etnografia della comunicazione e documenti antichi: il caso dell'antico-persiano. Vicino Oriente 3, 1980, pp. 277-286.

A.V. Rossi, Competenze multiple nei testi arcaici: le iscrizioni di Bisotun. Annali Istit.Univ.Orient. di Napoli -sez. linguistica, 7, 1987, pp. 191-210.

A. Piras, Del buon uso delle lettere. Note sull'epistolografia nei documenti iranici. Litterae Caelestes 3, 2008-2009, pp. 49-70.

Teaching methods

Lessons and discussion of the didactical materials and bibliography. Given the linguistic aspect of the teaching, the participation to the course is highly recommended

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. The reading, translation and understanding of the inscription is the basic outcome. Then, to move within the sources and bibliographical material in order to be able to identify in them the useful informations 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

Discussion of the didactical tools and materials; display of images and power-points, reading and explications of the Old Persian Achaemenid inscriptions (in translitteration), by using the manual of P.O.Skjaervo, Old Persian Primer (https://www.fas.harvard.edu/ [https://www.fas.harvard.edu/~iranian/OldPersian].

Uploading of didactic tools on the web-page of the teaching.

LABORATORY. The "Laboratory for Ethnohistory of the Iranian and Caucasian Area" displays specific approaches of deepening and seminaries, aiming at developing the student's skills of research and interactions.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Andrea Piras