Spring 2017 SEMINARS - May 3 2017

Seminar on Iranian Studies

The eighth meeting of the 29th consecutive year of Columbia University Seminar on
Iranian Studies for the academic year 2016-2017 will take place on:

Wednesday, May 3, 2017
at 5:30 pm in the
Faculty House of Columbia University

Our speaker will be
Dr. Khodadad Rezakhani of Princeton University
Who will lead the discussion on:

We will gather in the lounge of Faculty House from 5:00-5:30 pm. Seminar will start at 5:30.

Please notify our Rapporteur Anna Rahel Eva Fischer at arf2147@columbia.edu if you will attend the lecture. Please also specify if you will stay for dinner, which costs $30 per person, payable by check made out to "Columbia University."

We are looking forward to the pleasure of seeing you at the seminar.

Vahid Nowshirvani & Ahmad Ashraf, co-chairs

To reach the Faculty House:
Enter the Wien Hall Gate on 116 th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive. Walk past Wien Hall, then turn right to the Faculty House.


The fall of the Sasanian Empire, between 636-651 CE, stands as one of the most important events in the history of Iran. Interpretations of this differ in range from those sympathizing with the Islamic cause to that of nationalist historiography which suffers from anti-Arab and anti-Islamic biases. Both camps, relying on a standard set of textual sources, interpret the fall of the Sasanian monarchy as a direct result of a perceived period of decline. Additionally, neither one doubts that the conquests, as depicted in the said sources, was in fact the effective end to whatever one could call Sasanian: from politics and society to culture and art. On the other hand, considering numismatics, art history, archaeology, and other material and cultural historical sources, one is faced with the problem that in fact, there is no clear difference between the terminal Sasanian and early Islamic periods, the cultural products of both periods being completely indistinguishable. Furthermore, the closer one looks at the narrative of a decline leading to an inevitable fall, the less support one can find for such assumption. The present talk, following on newer methodologies inspired by Global History and relying on a varied field of sources, will try to present an alternative view of the end of the Sasanian rule. It will argue that many elements of the Sasanian society, including a large part of its ruling class and the land-owning elite, in fact continued unchanged into the early Islamic period. These also undertook economic activities that resulted in the destabilization of the Sasanian system and anticipated the nascent Islamic one. This will then present a picture that contradicts the usual models of decline posited for the terminal Sasanian period.


Dr. Khodadad Rezakhani earned an MSc in Global History from the London School of Economics (2002) and a Ph.D. in Near Eastern/Late Antique History from UCLA (2010). He has been a research officer and lecturer at LSE and SOAS, as well as a Humboldt Fellow and lecturer at the Free University of Berlin. He currently is the Associate Research Scholar at Sharmin and Bijan Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at Princeton University. His recent books, a Persian translation and commentary (with Sajjad Amiri) of the Syriac Chronicle of Khuzistan (Hekmat/Sina, 1395/2016) and ReOrienting the Sasanians: East Iran in Late Antiquity (Edinburgh UP 2017) address his main research interests in late antique and early Islamic history of Central and West Asia.