Aramaic Documents from Ancient Bactria (Fourth Century B.C.E.) from the Khalili Collections.

Author:Reymond, Eric D.
Position:Book review

Aramaic Documents from Ancient Bactria (Fourth Century B.C.E.) from the Khalili Collections. Edited by Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shared. London: The Khalili Family Trust, 2012. Pp. xxi + 294, illus.

Aramaic, as the language of official correspondence and administration in the Achaemenid empire, is best and most copiously attested in a series of letters, documents, and other writings recovered from Egypt, in the region that marked the western extreme of the empire. The eastern extreme of the empire has provided fewer texts. The present book partially helps to correct this imbalance by providing photographs, transliterations, and translations of letters, lists, and tallies from ancient Bactria, documents which date from the 350s-320s B.C.E. (i.e., from the end of the Achaemenid empire to the beginning of Alexander's reign). The language revealed through these documents seems to be a subdialect of Official Aramaic that differs in small ways from that used in more established regions, at the heart of the empire and in Egypt. In addition to the light they shed on linguistic matters, the documents are important in that they give us a view of the relatively mundane affairs in this region of the empire.

Purchased in London by Nasser Khalili, this collection of documents on leather and wood preserves letters, lists of supplies, and tallies. In total, there are forty-eight texts treated. Each presentation consists of large photographs of the text (usually the front and back of the leather or wood), each photograph stretching across two large glossy pages. There is a transcription into Aramaic block script, followed by a transcription into the Roman alphabet, a translation, and notes to the transcription/ translation. In addition, the book begins with an introduction that outlines the context of fourth-century Bactria, the major historical figures mentioned in the texts, as well as the parallels with the Arsham documents in Aramaic published by G. R. Driver in 1958. Large (again two-page) photographs of the Arsham documents are also provided as part of this introduction.

The longest and best-preserved letters are addressed to Bagavant (or Bagavanta, bgwnt), the governor of Khulmi (hlmy); six of these come from Akhvamazda ('hmzd), the satrap of Bactria. The letters date from the reign of Artaxerxes III (ca. 350 B.C.E.). Many of the letters concern Bagavant's apparent misbehavior and Akhvamazda's reprimands and instructions to him. Other letters derive...

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