Video Library: Melammu Symposium Talks Available – Panel II, Part 1

Published: May 27, 2020
The availability of talks from the Fourteenth Melammu Symposium, “Contextualizing Iranian Religions in the Ancient World,” continues with the first two talks from the second panel, “Ancient Egypt and Persia.”  These videos include the presentations of Kathlyn Cooney (University of California, Los Angeles) and Damien Agut-Labordère (French National Center for Scientific Research).

The Invention of Monotheism in Ancient Egypt

Recorded: February 18, 2020
Event: Contextualizing Iranian Religions in the Ancient World
by Kathlyn Cooney (University of California, Los Angeles)

Akhenaten’s policy of religious reform has been described in such terms as radical and epiphanic conversion to monotheism, moderate and organic movement to a limitedly practiced henotheism, and even as a conceptual form of natural philosophy not focused on religion at all. While there is clear disagreement over the motivations for the shift to Atenism in Egypt, one thing is certain: The abrupt end to Akhenaten’s 17-year reign left the pogrom instituted by the king towards the pantheon of Egyptian deities unfinished, and thus the end-goal of Akhenaten’s campaign was never truly realized. Regardless of his intentions, Akhenaten fostered a nascent religious system in which one god was elevated above all others. He left behind a wealth of artistic, textual, and archaeological evidence that showcases the conceptual transition to the worship of one deity responsible for the creation and perpetuation of the universe. This talk aims to explore this surviving Amarna evidence to identify potential parallels and synergies with Mazdean traditions.

Religious Interactions Between Persians and Egyptians in Achaemenid Egypt

Recorded: February 18, 2020
Event: Contextualizing Iranian Religions in the Ancient World
by Damien Agut-Labordère (French National Center for Scientific Research)

In this presentation, I shall not focus on the relationship of the Persian crown and Egyptian temples, but rather address the question of religious interactions between Persians and Egyptians during the first Persian domination (526–400 BCE), and in the first half of the 4th century BCE. My approach will be resolutely micro-historical. I will begin by examining how some Persians serving the Great King in Egypt adopted all or part of the Egyptian funeral rites, for it is in this context that the phenomenon of acculturation of Iranians living in Egypt is most apparent. Subsequently, I shall examine how Egyptians may have integrated Persian elements into their religious practices and worshiped the Great King as a god. Finally, I seek to demonstrate that these phenomena of acculturation do not occur in all of Egypt, but are inscribed within a geography that corresponds unsurprisingly to the centers of Persian power in the Nile Valley.

About the Fourteenth Melammu Symposium
The Pourdavoud Center for the Study of the Iranian World convened the 14th Melammu Symposium, “Contextualizing Iranian Religions in the Ancient World,” at UCLA on February 18-20, 2020. The international three-day symposium held at Royce Hall explored Iranian religions in light of ancient Near Eastern traditions and precedents. It hosted scholars whose work pertains to the interchange of ideas and practices between the ancient Near East, Egypt, the Classical and Hellenistic worlds, and ancient Iran. The overarching themes of the symposium encompassed: Elam, the Ancient Near East, and Persia; Ancient Egypt and Persia; the Divine in Achaemenid Material Culture; (Post-)Achaemenid Religious Practices in Literary Traditions; Religions and Religious Policy in the Hellenistic and Arsacid Worlds; and the Religious Landscape of the Sasanian World.
About the Melammu Project and Symposia
The main aim of the Melammu Project is to investigate the continuity, transformation, and diffusion of Mesopotamian and ancient Near Eastern cultures from the third millennium BCE until the rise of Islam and beyond. The Melammu Symposia provide a forum, in which the cultural continuity and transformation in the ancient world may be assessed systematically in the longue durée. While the Melammu Symposia typically concentrate on discrete themes, their emphasis remains on cross-cultural perspectives and the continued interchange of ideas between specialists in different disciplines.