Khodadad Rezakhani (Leiden Institute for Area Studies, Leiden University)
Persis, the southern kingdom of Iran during the Seleucid and Arsacid periods, is often considered part of the Hellenistic world, mainly due to their synchrony with other Hellenistic kingdoms. However, very few signs of what is considered “Hellenism’ actually appear in Persis. Neither the Greek script nor Greek royal titles show up on Persis coinage or royal representations. The kingdom’s administration appears to have been a continuation of the existing Achaemenid institutions and was formed away from Hellenistic markers such as autonomous poleis. The contemporary representations of Persis in art are a direct continuation of Achaemenid forms and bear little influence from Hellenistic art. In fact, the first appearance of Greek in Persis takes place after the fall of the Arsacids under the rule of the Sasanians, who are often understood as restorers of an ‘Iranian Identity,’ itself understood as standing in opposition to the Hellenistic one. This paper, by considering this phenomenon from a historical viewpoint, explores the ideas of Hellenism, Iranianism, and other arbitrary socio-cultural markers as used by modern historians. It further examines the nature of the Persis Kingdom and its existence in its contemporary Hellenistic world, and in relationship with the other polities in its vicinity. In particular, the eastward relationship with the Indo-Parthian Kingdom is brought in focus in the context of the rise of the house of Sasan. By studying the coinage of both kingdoms, a suggestion will be furthered about the possible eastern origins of the House of Sasan and its foundation of the Sasanian Empire in the early third century CE.