Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.12.14


Christopher Tuplin, Achaemenid Studies. Historia Einzelschriften 99. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1996. Pp. 226. DM 78. ISBN 3-515-06901-1


Reviewed by Jon L. Berquist, Academic Editor, Chalice Press, St. Louis MO, JBerquist@aol.com.

Word Count: 586.

This volume collects three previously unpublished essays (plus an appendix) dealing with separate topics in the history of the Persian Empire under the reign of the Achaemenid dynasty (538-333 B.C.). Each of the studies is highly detailed and a strong contribution to the understanding of this period.

The first essay, "Cyprus before and under the Achaemenids: Problems in Chronology, Strategy, Assimilation and Ethnicity," begins by surveying the primary data for constructing a chronology of Cyprus from 389 to 380 (Diodorus, Isocrates, and Theopompus) in order to analyze G.S. Shrimpton's chronology, which places Artaxerxes II's battle of Citium in 386 instead of the more traditional date of 384/3. Tuplin examines how such dating affects views of Achaemenid military strategy and political intent. This discussion proceeds with detailed reference to earlier examples of military strategies regarding Cyprus, especially the Neo-Assyrians in the seventh century and Cambyses's invasion c. 525 B.C. Tuplin recognizes that Cyprus maintained a strategic position in between Persia, Greece, and Egypt, but he concludes that Cypriot revolts against Persia did not result in overly violent reactions by the imperial overlords (p. 47). Cyprus had a long tradition of using its own royal style and culture; this may have allowed Cyprus to vary its mode of expressing its allegiance as well as its patterns of internal organization over time without deleterious Persian intervention. But at the same time, there was a gradual cultural shift to mirror Persian styles of material culture (p. 65), raising questions about the degree of ethnic separation between Cyprus, Persia, and Greece in this period.

The second essay discusses "The Parks and Gardens of the Achaemenid Empire." These gardens are known in Greek as paradeisoi. Tuplin gives a brief overview of pre-Achaemenid Iranian gardens and then provides a thorough survey of archaeological and literary (Greek, Persian, and Semitic) evidence for Achaemenid gardens. He provides useful distinctions between Persian paradeisoi and Greek gardens, as well as differentiating between vegetable gardens, flower gardens, and parks for hunting. He concludes that the paradeisoi were not that odd an experience for the Greek writers and argues that the literature concentrates most on rare and atypical gardens of great size. Tuplin's sources show that the Persian gardens were described with an ideology of wealth and prestige, whereas the Greek (vegetable) gardens were associated ideologically with both sex and education, connections not made with Persian paradeisoi.

"The Place of Persia in Athenian Literature" forms the third essay. Tuplin begins with a notice of Athenian relationship to both Sparta and Persia as the two "others" whose opposition formed much of Athenian history and character. But almost none of the Greeks who wrote about Persia were Athenian. Tuplin surveys the evidence from Athenian tragedy, comedy, orators, and philosophers. Tuplin concludes that Athens experienced alienation from Persia, but that this alienation was changing and ambiguous. As time passed, Athenians increasingly saw Persia not as the sole great power, but as simply one other player in the world of politics. The chief use of Persia in Athenian rhetoric, therefore, was a mostly uninformed and uncritical use of ethnic stereotypes.

The book concludes with an appendix, a bibliography, and indexes. The appendix deals with geographic names in the Persepolis Fortification Tablets, demonstrating that the places tend to be close to Persepolis itself. The eighteen pages of bibliography will prove very helpful to any researcher with interests in the Achaemenid period. Likewise, the twenty-six pages of indexes add greatly to the usefulness of this volume.