Medieval Iranshahr (600-1250 CE) – History 131C

J.P. Berkey, The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800, Cambridge, 2003.

R.W. Bulliet, Cotton, Climate, and Camels in Early Islamic Iran, Columbia, 2009.

F. Gorgani, Vis and Ramin, translated by D. Davis, Penguin Classics, 2009.


E. Yarshater, “The Persian presence in the Islamic World” The Persian presence in the Islamic world, eds. R. Hovannisian & G. Sabagh, Cambridge, pp. 4-125.

Primary Source Readings (will be given in class): I) Histories: Tabari, Tārīkh-e Sīstān; II) Andarz Literature: Qabusāmeh, Siyāsatnāmeh; III) Zoroastrian Texts: Bundahishn; IV) Epic: Shāhnāmeh; V) Biographies: Chāhār-maghāleh; VI) Poetry: Rudaki, Khayyām, Hafez, Sa‘dī

Week 1: Sasanian Iran & the Idea of Iranshahr (500-650CE) APRIL 1, 3

READINGS: Berkey Part I

Lecture and Reading Topics: Khusro I and reforms in the Sasanian empire; Kings and queens; administration and economy of the empire; society; Communal religions: Jews, Christians, Manichaeans and Zoroastrians; The idea of Iran and Iranshahr.

Week 2: The Arab Muslim Conquest Iran & Armenia (600-700CE) APRIL 8, 10

READINGS: Berkey Part II / Bulliet Chapter 1

Lecture and Reading Topics: Internal divisions and dynastic wars; Yazdgerd III: the last Sasanian king; Arab Muslim Conquest; amsar and camps: Kufa and Basra

Week 3: The Rashidun Caliphs, Ummayads and the Iranian Plateau (632-750CE) 15, 17

READINGS: Berkey Part II

Ruling over Iran from Damascus; Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians under Muslim Rule; Shi’ism and Sunni Islam; Jizya and poll-tax; To be or not to be a Muslim.

Week 4: The Abbasid Revolution and the Caliphate at Baghdad (750-800CE) 22, 24

READINGS: Berkey Part III / Bulliet Chapter 2

Abu Muslim and the Iranian Revolutionaries; The world of Baghdad; Persian and Arab worlds together; The revival of Sasanians in Islamic garb.

Week 5: The Caliphate and Religious Movements (800-900CE) APRIL 29, MAY 1


Religious movement of Behafarid, Moghana’ and Babak Khorramdin; sects and heresies; Ma’mun and his rise to power; the Shi’a on the Iranian Plateau; From Apocalypse to History: Middle Persian texts

Midterm (MAY 6)

Week 6: Independent Dynasties on the Iranian Plateau (800-999CE) MAY 8, 13


Saffarids; Samanids; Buyids and Ghaznavids

Week 7: Rise of the Persian Language and Literature      MAY 15, 20

READINGS: Primary Sources

Middle Persian, Persian, Sogdian and Arabic; The rise of Persian languages; Persian literature and poetry; the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi (Book of Kings).

Week 8: Turkish migration and Local Dynasties (1000-1200CE) MAY 22, 27

READINGS: Berkey Part IV / Bulliet Chapter 3 & 4

Central Asia in Late Antiquity and the Medieval period; The Turkish Patronage of Persian Literature; The Ghaznavids and the Seljuks

Week 9: Medieval Persian art, Science and Culture          MAY 29, JUNE 3

READINGS: Berkey Part IV / Yarshater

Persian paintings and art; Khawrizmi; Razi; Biruni; Ibn Sina; Persian food; Games: Polo, Chess, Backgammon and jousting; poetry and music.

Week 10: The Mongol Invasion (1200s) JUNE 5, 10

READINGS: Berkey Part IV / Bulliet Chapter 5

Kharazmshahs and the Mongols; the Mongol invasion and its aftermath.

Final EXAM II: Thu, Jun 12, 1:30-3:30pm
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