Persian Collections: Center and Periphery at Achaemenid Imperial Capitals
The absence of a true Achaemenid Persian “historiography” necessitates that we look elsewhere to construct Persian ideological interactions with the periphery. Like many Mesopotamian kings before them, the Achaemenids became famous for their collecting practices, and sources often depict them looting and stealing artifacts—many of an antiquarian nature—from conquered peoples. Recently, scholars have argued that we should read this picture as a later Greco-Roman historiographical construct, meant to retroactively vilify the Persian kings for their involvement in Hellenic affairs. However, the archaeological record, read together with cuneiform sources, appears to corroborate these statements. The careful recontextualization in Persian capitals of important cultural heritage items, looted mainly from religious environments in rebellious areas, served not only to demonstrate the superiority and dominance of the Persian center over the periphery but also to situate the Persian kings in an historical continuum of Mesopotamian kingship. A reevaluation of Achaemenid collecting practices from the sixth to the fourth centuries BCE may allow for a more complete understanding of the discursive nature of Persian imperial display.
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