Arsāma and His World: The Bodleian Letters in Context: Volume I: The Bodleian Letters (Oxford Studies in Ancient Documents) (Hardcover)
During the Second World War the Bodleian Library in Oxford acquired a set of Aramaic letters, eight sealings, and the two leather bags in which the sealed letters were once stored. The letters concern the affairs of Arsāma, satrap of Egypt in the later fifth century. Taken with other material associated with him (mostly in Aramaic, Demotic Egyptian, and Akkadian), they illuminate the Achaemenid world of which Arsāma was a privileged member and evoke a wide range of social, economic, cultural, organizational, and political perspectives, from multi-lingual communication, storage and disbursement of resources, and satrapal remuneration, to cross-regional ethnic movement, long-distance travel, religious practice, and iconographic projection of ideological messages. Particular highlights include a travel authorization (the only example of something implicit in numerous Persepolis documents), texts about the religious life of the Judaean garrison at Elephantine, Arsāma's magnificent seal (a masterpiece of Achaemenid glyptic, inherited from a son of Darius I), and echoes of temporary disturbances to Persian management of Egypt. But what is also impressive is the underlying sense of systematic coherence founded on and expressed in the use of formal, even formalized, written communication as a means of control. The Arsāma dossier is not alone in evoking that sense, but its size, variety, and focus upon a single individual give it a unique quality. Though this material has not been hidden from view, it has been insufficiently explored: it is the purpose of the three volumes of Arsāma and his World: The Bodleian Letters in Context to provide the fullest presentation and historical contextualization of this extraordinary cache yet attempted. Volume I presents and translates the letters alongside a detailed line-by-line commentary, while Volume II reconstructs the two seals that made the clay bullae that sealed the letters, with special attention to Arsāma's magnificent heirloom seal. Volume III comprises a series of thematic essays which further explore the administrative, economic, military, ideological, religious, and artistic environment to which Arsāma and the letters belonged.
Christopher J. Tuplin, University of Liverpool, John Ma, Columbia University Christopher J. Tuplin is Gladstone Professor of Greek at the University of Liverpool. John Ma is Professor of Classics at Columbia University.