An Afro Eurasian “Hyperpower” and Its Ancient Near Eastern Roots

Recorded: April 11, 2022
Event: The Biennial Ehsan Yarshater Lecture Series
Citation: Rollinger, Robert. "An Afro-Eurasian “Hyperpower” and Its Ancient Near Eastern Roots (First Millennium BCE)." Pourdavoud Center: The Biennial Ehsan Yarshater Lecture Series (April 11, 2022).

by Robert Rollinger (University of Innsbruck)

The series of lectures offers a novel and fresh perspective on one of the largest and most successful empires in world history, namely, the Achaemenid Persian World Empire (sixth to fourth century BCE), the central power of a (proto-)globalized world, and the driving force behind many cultural developments, whose manifold repercussions we may observe from Gibraltar to the Taklamakan Desert, from the Aegean and Scythian lands to the sub-Saharan worlds, and from the Bay of Bengal to eastern Africa. Our sources, both written and archaeological, are but a faint palimpsest bearing witness to the grandeur of the Achaemenid civilization, and its impress on the antique world. The present Yarshater Lectures are an attempt at deducing, from among the many ideological layers still cluttering our (narrative) sources, including the many biases, old and new, that still guide modern scholarship, the unique identity, sense of purpose, and political awareness that distinguished the Achaemenids, eventually enabling them to forge a capacious vision of the world. In these lectures, the Achaemenid Persian World Empire will be presented as a political formation that not only profoundly impacted its immediate and more distant surroundings, but also served as an imperial model that most lastingly transformed its posterity.

Lecture 1: An Afro-Eurasian “Hyperpower” and Its Ancient Near Eastern Roots (First Millennium BCE)

The lecture focuses on the structure, genesis, and historical setting of the Achaemenid Empire. It discusses major aspects of the royal ideology, the position of the Great King, and the Empire’s resilience in periods of crisis.


About the Speaker

Robert Rollinger is Professor of Ancient History and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, where he has held since 2005 the Chair for “Cultural Interactions between the ancient Near East and the Mediterranean” in the Department of Ancient History and Ancient Near Eastern Studies.

Dr. Rollinger’s scholarly interests are wide-ranging and encompass the cultural expanse between the Aegean world and the ancient Near East, with a special focus on ancient historiography, the comparative history of empires, and the Achaemenid Empire.

In addition to his tenure at the University of Innsbruck, he has held a number of prestigious chairs and fellowships worldwide: from 2010 to 2015, he was the Finland Distinguished Professor at the University of Helsinki in the Department of World Cultures, heading the research project “Intellectual Heritage of the Ancient Near East”; in 2020, he was a Getty Scholar at the Getty Villa; since 2020, he has been the NAWA Chair at the University of Wrocław, Poland, where he heads the international project “From the Achaemenid to the Roman Rule.”

Dr. Rollinger is also known for his numerous publications and important editorial work: he has been (co-)editing among others the prestigious series: Oriens et Occidens (Franz Steiner Verlag); Classica et Orientalia (Harrassowitz); Studies in Universal and Cultural History (Springer); Philippika (Harrassowitz); (The Proceedings of the) Melammu Symposia (Austrian Academy of Sciences); and Empires Through the Ages in Global Perspective (de Gruyter). More recently, he published together with Bruno Jacobs the Blackwell Companion to the Achaemenid Empire (Wiley-Blackwell, 2021), which shall serve as the new work of reference in the field.

His recent publications include: Imperien und Reiche in der Weltgeschichte: Epochenübergreifende und globalhistorische Vergleiche (coedited; Harrassowitz, 2014); Mesopotamia in the Ancient World: Impact, Continuities, Parallels (coedited; Ugarit-Verlag, 2015); Alexander und die großen Ströme: Die Flussüberquerungen im Lichte altorientalischer Pioniertechniken (Harrassowitz, 2013); Short-term Empires in World History (coedited; Springer, 2020); A Companion to the Achaemenid Persian Empire, 2 volumes (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World) (coedited; Wiley-Blackwell, 2021); Empires to be Remembered (Studies in Universal and Cultural History) (coedited; Springer, 2022); Decline, Erosion and Implosion of Empires (Studies in Universal and Cultural History) (coedited; Springer, forthcoming).

He is a member of numerous academic organizations and research groups, among them: the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW); the German Archaeological Institute (DAI); and the Academia Europaea.


Download the lecture series program here.