Department of History


1043 Heller Hall
Telephone: 624-3314
Office hours: M 11:15-12:00; F 1:15-2:00

or by appointment





Ancient Iran

HIST 3503, RELS 3709

Fall 2013


Conceptual Frame:


Ancient Persia played a vital role in the development of the cultures of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. In the north, while fighting the Greeks, Persia contributed to the rise of a number of intellectuals in the region of present-day southwestern Turkey. In the south, for two hundred and ten years, Persia expanded Egyptian trade as far as India. In the center, Persia empowered the Phoenicians to control the Mediterranean Sea routes all the way to Gibraltar. The course studies these developments in the context of the growth of the empires of the Achaemenians and the Sassanians.




  • Acquaint students with the culture of ancient Iran, especially the relation of that culture to other major ancient cultures
  • Equip students with the means for a better understanding and interpretation of the dynamics of ancient events
  • Teach students to distinguish different trends and accept them for what they are
  • Discuss the roots of ancient conflicts and show that, like people, cultures keep events in memory and act upon them
  • Examine aspects of ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Iranian cultures and their contributions to the formation of an ancient world civilization.


Class Sessions:



4.   Introduction to the course, course content, materials to be covered, office hours, tests, reports, paper, grades, attendance sheet, etc. Part of the session will be used for introductions. The students will fill out a questionnaire indicating their areas of interest.

Assignment:  Clayton: The Pyramid Builders, Djoser, pp. 31-37; Snefru, pp. 42-45; Khufu (Cheops), pp. 45-49

E-reserve link:


6.  Formation of Egyptian civilization concentrating on pharaohs Djoser, Snefru, and Khufu;

Assignment:  Clayton: Rulers of an Empire: Tuthmosis II, pp. 102-103; Queen Hatshepsut, pp. 104-107; Tuthmosis III, pp. 108-111; *Herodotus, Persian Wars (bk II: sections 1-100), pp. 116-162

*(Note: because Herodotus, Persian Wars is published in many editions, I have given page numbers for the edition listed below. The book is divided into books (i.e., bk I, bk II, etc.). For those who have a different edition of Persian Wars, I have also given the book number and the sections within the book.)


9.  "Crocodiles and Kings" (41 mins)

Oral Reports assigned

Assignment: Same


11.  Discussion of the lives of Tuthmosis II, Queen Hatshepsut, and Tuthmosis III

Assignment: Clayton: Akhenaten, pp. 120-131; Ramesses II, pp, 146-155; Herodotus, Persian Wars (bk II: 100-180), pp. 162-209.


13.  Discussion of the lives of Akhenaten and Ramesses II; Egypt's Great Pharaohs

Assignment: Morenz, Egyptian Religion, pp. 159-182; pp. 232-257; van de Walle, pp. 25-53 (optional)


16.  Discussion of Egyptian cosmology and religion; monotheism

Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 3-13; Mazdian Cosmology; de Menasce, "Persia:

Cosmic Dualism," pp. 189-205 (optional)


18.  Discussion of Iranian Cosmology

Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 13-30; Fillipani-Ronconi, pp. 51-83 (optional)


20.  Discussion of the life of Prince Siyavosh

Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 30-54.


23. Discussion of the unification of Iran and Turan


25. Oral Reports I


27. Oral Reports I

Assignment:  Bashiri, pp. 55-69; Olmstead, pp. 34.93.

Study Guide I posted


30. The Indo-European background of the Iranians

Assignment: Frye, pp. 37-78; Olmstead, pp. 107-150.



2.  "The Voice of Zarathustra"

Assignment: Boyce, pp. 48-77


4.  Test One

Covers ancient Egyptian civilization, Egyptian religion and mythology, as well as the Indo-European background of the Iranians peoples

Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 69-72; Frye, pp. 79-119.

7.  Discussion of the life of Cyrus the Great

Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 72-76; Herodotus's Persian Wars (bk II: 61-98), pp. 241-260; Olmstead, pp. 396-416 (optional)


9.  Discussion of the life of Cambyses II, the Conqueror of Egypt

Assignment:  Bashiri, pp. 76-87; Bresciani, pp. 502-528.


11.  Discussion of the life of Darius I the Great

Assignment:  same


14.  Discussion of the administratin of Darius I

Assignment:  Bashiri, pp. 87-00; 103-107; Olmstead, pp. 289-301.


16. The end of the Achaemenid dynasty

Assignment: Herodotus's Persian Wars(bk VIII: 1-144), pp. 595-656.


18.  "Marathon to Salamis" (30 mins)


21.  "Persepolis Reconstructed"


23. Oral Reports II


25. Oral Reports II


24. Achaemenian tombs

Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 108-118; Olmstead, pp. 94-118.


30.  The Gods of Ancient Iran

Assignment: Engels, pp. 26-53.




1.  Alexander III the Great, Part I

.  Alexander III the Great, Part II

Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 119-122; Ghirshman, pp. 243-349;  Ahuric Order and the Platonic Form

Study Guide II posted


6.   The Seleucids and the Parthians

Assignment:  none


8.  Open


11. Test Two

Covers Iranian history from Cyrus the Great to the end of the Parthians

      Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 123-130.


13. The rise of Ardashir I

      Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 131-137.


15.  Conquests of Shapur I

Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 137-148.


18.  Shapur I and Mani

Assignment:  Bashiri, pp. 148-153.


20.  "Guardians of the Sacred Flame"


22. Oral Reports III


25. Oral Reports III


27. The conquests of Khosrau II

Assignment: none


28-29         Thanksgiving holiday




2.  The religions of the Sassanids

      Assignment: Bashiri, pp. 154-159.

 Book Report is due


4.  The end of the Empire

      Assignment: Frye, pp. 263-285.


6.  The Rise of Islam

 Study Guide III posted


9.  " In the Footsteps of Our Forefathers"


  1. Last day of classes

      Final Paper is due


The final test for this class is on Thursday, December 19, 2013, 1:30-3:30 pm.


The test covers, the Seleucid, Parthian, and Sassanian eras, as well as the post-Sassanian developments, especially in relation to Zoroastrianism




There will be 1 book report, 3 tests, 1 oral report, and 1 final paper. Attendance and active participation in classroom discussions also carry points.


Book Report

Any book on ancient Iran or about the interactions among Egypt, Iran, and Greece in ancient times is acceptable. The book for the book report must have the instructor's approval. The book report should be at least 2 but not more than 3 double-spaced pages. The book report is due on December 2, 2013. It carries 10 points. Here are some Guidelines for Writing Book Reports .



There will be three tests. The actual dates for the tests are geared to the completion of the sections of the course devoted to the main topics in that part of the course. The exams will cover classroom discussions, reading assignments, and oral report. There will be no make-up tests. Exceptions will be made for hardship cases on an individual basis. The instructor should be informed in advance of the reason for not taking the test. Each test carries 12 points. The tests altogether are worth 36 points.


The final test (test 3) is on Thursday, December 19, 2013, 1:30-3:30 pm.


Oral Reports

Each student participates in the gathering and delivering of information for 1 oral report.  After topics are assigned, each student gives a presentation to the class. After the presentations, the reports (comprehensive PowerPoint presentation or full text) are graded, corrected or adjusted as necessary and sent to all the students. Students are responsible for knowing the content of all the reports they receive for tests. Look at Guidelines for Oral Reports for information on writing the oral report.

The oral report is graded for the quality of its overall contribution to the class. Failure to participate at the time assigned results in the loss of 3 points. Failure to provide the class with a copy of the report results in the loss of the rest of the points. Each oral report carries 15 points for that round. The report should not take more than 15 minutes.



The paper should be 10 pages double-spaced, typed, and presentable. It should deal with aspects of Iran in the context of the ancient world. The paper should include an introduction, a reasonable development of the topic proposed, and a clear indication of diligent research. The bibliography is NOT included in the 10 pages for the paper. Look at Guidelines for Writing Papers  for information on writing the paper. The Paper is due on the last day of classes, December 11, 2013. The paper carries 30 points as follows:


Aspects of paper

# of points



relevance and originality










footnotes & bibliography







Attendance is taken by passing a roster to be legibly signed. Each absence is worth half a point. Attendance carries 3 points.


Active Participation

Active participation in class discussions carries 6 points.


Grading Scale


4.0 scale


































Selected Bibliography


Required Books:

To be ordered online:

Bashiri, Ancient Iran: Cosmology, Mythology, History, Cognella. Order at (available at bookstore only for students who have scholarship/grant money for books)


Available at the bookstore:

Clayton, Chronicle of the Pharaohs

Frye, Heritage of Persia

Herodotus, The Persian Wars

Olmstead, History of the Persian Empire


Books on E-reserve:

Case, Paul Edward. "I Become a Bakhtiari," National Geographic Magazine, 1946/47, pp. 325-358

Cameron, George, Darius Carved History on Ageless Rock, National Geography Magazine, pp. 827-844.

Knobloch, Edgar. Beyond the Oxus: Archaeology, Art and Architecture of Central Asia, London, 1972


The following books and articles are available either at the Reserve Room (marked with *), or from the general collection at Wilson Library.


Alverson, Stewart. "Zoroaster," Great Lives From History, (Frank N. Magill. ed.), vol. 5, New Jersey, 1988, pp. 2411-2415.

*Bashiri, Iraj. Ancient Iran: Cosmology, Mythology, History, Cognella Publishers, 2012. 

_____. "Darius the Great," Great Lives From History (Frank N. Magill. ed.), vol. 2, New Jersey, 1988, pp. 598-604.

_____. "Xerxes I," in Great Lives From History (Frank N. Magill. ed.), vol. V, New Jersey, 1988, pp. 2364-2369.

 _____. Firdowsi's Shahname: 1000 Years After, Dushanbe, 1994.

_____. "Zoroaster and His Religion," Avesta in the History and Culture of Central Asia, Dushanbe, 2001, pp. 525-537.

_____. "The Role of Farr in Firdowsi's Shahname," Firdowsi's Shahname: 1000 Years After, Dushanbe, 1994, pp. 178-188.

_____. From the Hymns of Zarathustra to the Songs of Borbad, Dushanbe, 2003.

_____. "Alexander III the Great," From the Hymns of Zarathustra to the Songs of Borbad, Dushanbe, 2003, pp. 39-53.

_____. "Mazdian Cosmology," Zoroastrianism and its Value in the Development of Civilization of Near and Middle East People, Dushanbe, 2003.

_____. The Impact of Egypt on Ancient Iran, Rudaki Institute of Language and Literature, Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, 2007.

*Boyce, Mary. A History of Zoroastrianism, vol. 1. Hague: E. J. Brille, 1975.

_____. Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Routledge & Kagan Paul, 1979.

*Bresciani, E. "The Persian Occupation of Egypt," The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 2. Cambridge University Press, 1985, pp. 502-528.

*Case, Paul Edward. "I Become a Bakhtiari," National Geographic Magazine, 1946/47, pp. 325-358

*Clayton, Peter A. Chronicle of the Pharaohs, Thames and Hudson, Ltd., 1994.

Cohen, S., et al. Readings in Ancient Greek Philosophy, Indianapolis, Hackett, 2000.

*de Menasce, J. "Cosmic Dualism". Larousse World Mythology, 1965, pp. 189-206.

Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques, The Hymns of Zarathustra, Beacon Press, 1963.

*Engels, Donald W. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, University of California Press, 1978.

*Filippani-Ronconi, Pio. "The Tradition of Sacred Kingship in Iran," Iran Under the Pahlavis, Lenczowski, George (ed.).  Stanford, CA: Stanford University: Hoover Institution Press, 1978.

Firdowsi, Hakim Abu al-Qasim, Hakim Abul-Qasim.Shahname Vols. 1-9, Dushanbe, 1964.

_____. The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi: Matn-i intiqadi, vols. 1-9, Eastern Literatures Publication Institute, Moscow, 1960-71.

*Frye, Richard N., The Heritage of Persia, The New American Library, 1966.

*Ghirshman, Roman. Iran, Penguin Books, 1954.

_____. Persian Art: the Parthian and Sassanian Dynasties, Golden Press, 1962.

_____. The Art of Ancient Iran: From Its Origins to the Time of Alexander the Great, Golden Press, 1964.

Green, Peter. Xerxes at Salamis, New York, Washington: Praeger Publishers, 1970.

*Grimal, Pierre. "Greece: Myth and Logic" Larousse World Mythology, Hamlyn, 1973, pp. 97-176.

Guthrie, W. The Sophists, Cambridge University Press, 1971.

*Herodotus. The Persian Wars, Introduction by Francis R. B. Godolphin, Modern Library College Edition. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 1 edition (September 1, 1964)

Hesiod, Theogony, Works and Days, Shield (trans. Apostolos N. Athanassakis), Johns Hopkins, 1983.

Hicks, Jim, et. al. The Persians, Time-Life Books ,1979.

Hinnells, John R. Persian Mythology, the Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, 1975.

_____. Mithraic Studies, vols. 1-2, Manchester University Press, 1975.

Hornung, Erik, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many, tr. by John Baines, Cornell Paperbacks, 1996.

Karaka, Dosabhai Framji, History of the Parsis, vols. 1-2, Macmillan and Co, 1884.

Kent, Roland G. Old Persian: Grammar, Texts, Lexicon, American Oriental Society, 1953.

Kirk, G. S, et al., The Presocratic Philosophers, Cambridge University Press, 1983.

Macaluso, Peter F. "Cleistenes of Athens," Great Lives From History (Frank N. Magill. ed.), vol. 2, New Jersey, 1988, pp. 545-548.

*Morenz, Siegfried, Egyptian Religion, tr. by Ann E. Keep, Cornell Univ. Press, 1996.

Muler, F. Max (editor), E. W. West (tr.). The Secret Books of the East, parts I-V, Delhi, Varanasi, Patna: Motilal Banarsidass, 1880, 1965, 1970.

Muler, F. Max (editor), James Darmesteter (tr.). The Secret Books of the East, parts I-III, Greenwood Press, 1972.

*Olmstead, A. T. History of the Persian Empire, Chicago, 1948.

Plato. The Republic of Plato (trans. Francis M. Conford), Oxford University Press, 1964.

*van de Walle. Egypt: Syncretism and State Religion, Larousse World Mythology, Hamlyn, 1973, pp. 25-54.

Viscusi, Peter L. "Pericles," Great Lives From History (Frank N. Magill. ed.), vol. 2, New Jersey, 1988, pp. 1569-1574.

Wilber, Donald N. Persepolis: The Archaeology of Parsa, Seat of the Persian Kings, Darwin Press, Inc., 1989.

Zaehner, R. C. The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1961.