Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.10.40
Pierre Briant, Bulletin d'histoire achéménide II. Persika 1. Paris: Collège de France, Thotm éditions, 2001. Pp. 334, 30 figures. ISBN 2-914531-00-1. FF 280/Euro 42.70.
Reviewed by Matt Waters, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Word count: 494 words
This work (abbreviated BHAch II) is the second in a series of annotated bibliography and commentary compiled by Pierre Briant (hereafter, B) on recent research and publications on Achaemenid Persian History. The first Bulletin d'histoire achéménide (BHAch I) was published in Topoi, Supplement 1, 1997, pp. 5-127. BHAch II continues B's assessment of the state of the field and its scholarship. BHAch II is also the inaugural volume of a new series, Persika.1
Readers of my review of B's Histoire de l'Empire Perse: De Cyrus à Alexandre (Fayard, 1996), BMCR 98.9.10, will perhaps not be surprised to see another paean. In this case too it is warranted, as B continues his critical contributions to the study of Achaemenid history and civilization. BHAch II is divided into six parts: Part 1, Synthèses, instruments de travail, colloques, mélanges; Part 2, Nouveaux documents, rapports de fouilles et de prospections; Part 3 De Cyrus à Darius III: histoire politique de l'Empire et de la dynastie achéménides; Part 4 Au centre de l'Empire: lieux et enjeux du pouvoir; Part 5, Domination impériale et dynamiques régionales; and Part 6, Peuples, langues, cultes, et cultures: acculturations personnelles et politique impériale. Each of these parts is sub-divided into numerous smaller sections, arranged by theme, geographic region, or chronology as relevant. A short Introduction sets the stage, and a bibliography (70 pages, listing all works from 1997) and indices (56 pages) round out the work. The indices are particularly helpful, divided as they are into the following: index des noms propres, index thématique, index de auteurs, index des sources citées, and index des discussions. B's careful categorization allows the reader great ease in finding references and discussion on topics of interest.
This is much more than a simple bibliography. Both BHAch I and BHAch II are, essentially, B's offering of his expansive files to the scholarly community at large, along with his own commentary on selected aspects of recently-published work. This commentary, of course, may be judged differently by different audiences, but B's breadth and reach cover more than anyone else currently working in this broad field, and his commentary is not to be ignored. B has a knack, developed from his vast knowledge and grasp of such wide-ranging material, of determining the substance of a particular contribution.
B has himself noted that the purpose of this work is not to prepare tedious, bibliographic lists but, rather, to make a structured inventory in a way that presents new information and new results. The "new" in all this involves documents recently discovered and/or published, the testing of old hypotheses, and innovative lines of research. B's foremost concerns in both volumes are straightforward: What is really new in what is published recently? What indicates that this or that study marks progress in the order of knowledge?2 B successfully addresses these concerns, offering a great boon to specialist and non-specialist alike. If I may presume to speak for the wider scholarly community, we thank him for it.
1. BHAch I is available online via B's very useful achemenet.com site at http://www.achemenet.com/bibliographies/bhach1.htm. BHAch II may be ordered online at http://www.thotm-editions.com/editions/bachIIen.htm and will also be available via achemenet in the future.
2. See B's remarks, "New Trends in Achaemenid History," Noruz Lecture, Foundation for Iranian Studies, Washington, D.C., March 23, 2001. The text of this lecture is available at http://www.fis-iran.org/achemenid.htm.