History and Epic at the Center for Hellenic Studies

Publications and Resources

New in the Hellenic Studies Series

Rahim coverM. Rahim Shayegan
Aspects of History and Epic in Ancient Iran: From Gaumāta to Wahnām (print via HUP)

Aspects of History and Epic in Ancient Iran focuses on the content of one of the most important inscriptions of the Ancient Near East: the Bisotun inscription of the Achaemenid king Darius I (6th century BCE), which in essence reports on a suspicious fratricide and subsequent coup d’état. Moreover, the study shows how the inscription’s narrative would decisively influence the Iranian epic, epigraphic, and historiographical traditions well into the Sasanian and early Islamic periods.
Intriguingly, our assessment of the impact of the Bisotun narrative on later literary traditions—in particular, the inscription of the Sasanian king Narseh at Paikuli (3rd–4th centuries CE)—necessarily relies on the reception of the oral rendition of the Bisotun story captured by Greek historians. As Rahim Shayegan argues, this oral tradition had an immeasurable impact upon the historiographical writings and epic compositions of later Iranian empires. It would have otherwise remained unknown to modern scholars, had it not been partially preserved and recorded by Hellanicus of Lesbos, Herodotus, Ctesias, and other Greek authors. The elucidation of Bisotun’s thematic composition therefore not only allows us to solve an ancient murder but also to reevaluate pre-Thucydidean Greek historiography as one of the most important repositories of Iranian epic themes.

Available in Online Publications

Collaborations: The Ilex Foundation

The Ilex Foundation is a non-governmental organization promoting the study of Mediterranean and near Eastern civilizations, and beyond. One of the Foundation’s main goals is to seek new directions in research and teaching through the application of information technology. The Ilex Foundation also collaborates with the CHS to publish, in print and soon also online, research and scholarship in the humanistic traditions of the Mediterranean and the Near East and shares such research with a wide audience. The Ilex Series, which is distributed by Harvard University Press, includes the following titles:

Homer Multitext Project

The Homer Multitext project, the first of its kind in Homeric studies, presents the textual transmission of the Iliad and Odyssey in a historical framework. It offers free access to a library of texts and images, a machine-interface to that library and its indices, and tools to allow readers to discover and engage with the Homeric tradition. To view the texts use the Manuscript Browser. (We suggest using Firefox or Safari, both freely available.)

Concepts of the Hero Course

As part of its educational mission, CHS offers free access to a distance learning course taught by Center Director Gregory Nagy. Concepts of the Hero in Greek Civilization provides an engaging introduction to the major themes of ancient Greek myth, cult, and poetics. All readings are in translation and include the epics of Homer, seven tragedies, two Platonic dialogues, and the dialogue On Heroes by Philostratus. We invite you to learn more about this course and our current theme by exploring the selected resources below. Then access all the content from 2010 via our recent blog post on kleos@CHS.
From Week Nine
Dialogue 13: Herodotus (High Res Video | Low Res Video)
Reading: Gregory Nagy, “The Epic Hero”
(Please note: High resolution video is better for downloading, lower resolution video is optimized for viewing in browser window.)

A Virtual Gift for Gregory Nagy

We are especially pleased to announce the publication of a festschrift presented to Center Director Gregory Nagy on the occasion of his 70th birthday. This gift includes over 80 new pieces–articles, videos, poems, and original works of art–from a diverse and intergenerational collection of colleagues, students, friends and family.