Recorded: May 19, 2022
Event: The World of Ancient Iran and the West
Citation: Allen, Lindsay. "The Boundaries of Kingship: Objects and Relationships at the Margins." Pourdavoud Center: The World of Ancient Iran and the West (May 19, 2022).
by Lindsay Allen (King’s College, London)
Lindsay Allen is Senior Lecturer in Greek and Near Eastern History at King’s College London. Interested primarily in the Achaemenid Persian empire and pre-Islamic Iran, her work explores the texts and material culture of Achaemenid kingship and the history of scholarship and reception, particularly in relation to Persian history, the ancient Near East, and Alexander of Macedon. Her most recent publication explores the reception of pre-Islamic culture, specifically Persepolitan reliefs, in seventeenth-century Iran. She is currently working on a catalogue of stone fragments from Persepolis that were removed from the site in the eighteenth century.
The Boundaries of Kingship: Objects and Relationships at the Margins
An exhibition uses a blend of objects and narrative to convey a sense of past eras and their inhabitants, in this case the empires of Iran and their western margins. Surviving fragments of a lost, lived experience become part of a patchworked album of the past. Most frequently pictured in the Achaemenid patchwork is the stereotyped figure of the king, carved or stamped into fine substances. The network of domination that the Achaemenid dynasty and their allies maintained used this royal icon as its hub. This paper explores how the shape, substance, and texture of Achaemenid kingship mutated according to its field of operation. This was arguably a necessary logistical innovation that responded to the unprecedented geographical scope of these operations. The king’s embedded presence in architecture, communications, and social stratification became a virtual touchstone for individual and community aspirations. The boundaries of kingship itself over long distance became permeable in its administrative and conceptual manifestations. The rich narrativization of the Achaemenid encounter with the Mediterranean world in the Greek language is partly a response to this stimulus. Our modern fascination with empire is another reframing of this multidimensional reception of Achaemenid kingship across continental distances.