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Denise Aigle


Shiraz is distinguished from other cities due to its reputation as the city of saints and poets, as previously emphasised in the title of Arberry’s book of 1960: “Shiraz, Persian City of Saints and Poets”. In textual sources, the city is the “Fortress of saints” (burj al-awliyā’). Shiraz owes its sanctity to the many mausoleums dedicated to the descendants of ‘Alī b. Abī Ṭālib (and Šāh-i Čirāġ), as well as famous mystics such as Šayḫ Kabīr (d. 371/982) and Rūzbihān Baqlī (d. 606/1209). The poets Sa‘dī (d. 691/1292) and Ḥāfiẓ (d. 792/1390) celebrated Shiraz as the city of roses and nightingales. Their sanctuaries, which still the object of pious visits, accentuate the “capital” of city’s sacrality.

After reconstructing the urban space in which the sacred buildings are located, the purpose of this paper is to show how the specific sanctity of the city emerged from the textual sources. Two major texts addressing the sanctity of Shiraz date from the eighth/fourteenth century. In the Šīrāz-nāma (completed in 744/1343), Ibn Zarkūb unfolds the history of the city and speaks of its merits. In Šadd al-īzār (ca. 791/1389), a guide for pilgrimage to Shiraz’s seven cemeteries, Junayd Šīrāzī describes the ritual geography of the city. He notes the places where the Shirazis are buried, thus establishing the symbolic presence of the deceased among the living. Alid shrines in particular thus contributed to the “capitalisation of the sacred” in Shiraz.

Jürgen Paul


The current article deals with the forms of local rule at Balkh in the Seljuq and post-Seljuq period up to the Mongol invasion. At all times we observe relatively high degrees of regional autonomy, in which local rulers were far more than “governors”. Balkh was a regional state, or “minimal beylik”, at times included within larger imperial structures and at others continuing more on its own. Military manpower was frequently provided by Turkish nomads (Ghuzz), who are seen throughout the period as a powerful regional force. Urban notables (aʿyān) played a decisive role in local rule, in particular the qadis, who judged according to sharia rules, and the raʾīs, in charge of fiscal and administrative affairs. Besides these office holders the sayyids must also have been important, alongside other Muslim scholars, mostly Hanafi. Balkh therefore is another example for the amīr-aʿyān system, as has been described in detail for other Iranian cities of the Seljuq period. In the post-Seljuq era the situation continues but becomes more unstable. Hereditary lines of emirs emerge again and again, but the sources do not offer a clear picture of the chronological and prosopographic details.

The paper draws on general historiography, the extant city history and other narrative and non-narrative sources, as well as numismatic evidence.

Ali Shojaee Esfahani


This article presents an exposition of the fortifications around Isfahan based on fieldwork and a thorough analysis of written sources and the available satellite images, processed with new GIS technologies. The fortress of Šāhdiz, of Ismaili fame, is well known and documented in the written sources, however the major conclusion of the current research is that in fact a network of fortifications was developed, strategically located to afford observation and communication. The heights surrounding Isfahan were exploited to full potential, gaining security over roads and settlement processes, which in turn contributed to urban growth. The evolution of this network conformed with the trends of urbanisation: as long as the main towns remained Qih and Jayy, it was the mountains in the east of the rustāq of Isfahan that played the decisive role. But from the fourth/tenth century onward, with the growth of Yahūdiyya and the integration of the southern province of Fars and Khuzistan in the Buyid and Saljuq polities, it was the fortified of sites in the mountainous areas south of Zāyanda-rūd that were key to securing the access roads.

Donald Whitcomb


The title is taken from an article published in 2006 by Hugh Kennedy that is an examination of the Sasanian city. This subject is re-examined with a presentation of archaeological information on Sasanian cities in Fars province and the city of Jundi Shapur in Khuzistan. The urban form and key institutions are presented with consideration of changes introduced with the Islamic period. In contrast to the Classical polis, the problem is limited information on urban element in Sasanian cities and some of these elements are described.

Sarah Bowen Savant and Majid Montazer Mahdi


What can the history of books tell us about Iranian cities and their histories? This article introduces the manuscript of a multi-text compilation (majmūʿa) for the purpose of illustrating its potential usefulness as a source for studying the social and cultural history of Shiraz in the turbulent period that followed the collapse of Mongol rule in the area. We specifically seek to show that Köprülü 01589, now housed in Istanbul, helps us to see how books were produced and consumed, and provides insight into the operations of a busy workshop for copying texts. Despite the rarity and historical significance of several of the pieces that it contains, the availability of images of the manuscript for some time in Istanbul and Iran, and attention to it in catalogues, it has not received scholarly attention as a whole.1 Although this article is only a preliminary study of a single manuscript, we believe it is important for the current volume in showing what manuscripts can reveal of the social world that produced them, the networks of people and ideas that animated city life, and the cultural resources of specific times and places. Furthermore, our approach to Köprülü 01589 can be expanded and applied to other manuscripts originating in Shiraz and other cities.

Etienne de la Vaissière


This article presents recent archaeological discoveries on the Buddhist monasteries, the irrigation system and defence systems of the oasis of Balkh, intending to explore the depth of the gap between these central features of the oasis landscape and the transmitted early Islamic texts describing the site. The Fażāʾil-i Balḫ and the Ḥudūd al-ʿĀlam do provide us with some data but the archaeology allows a detailed demonstration of how many parts of the pre-Islamic past were quickly forgotten or reinterpreted in the following centuries.

Rocco Rante


This article attempts a long-term perspective on cities and water from Late Antiquity to the early Islamic centuries (until ca. 1000 CE). It focuses on the question of how cities and their agricultural hinterland were supplied with water. The topography of the site, its geomorphological features, are shown to influence both the setup and subsequent history of the cities. The article uses two sets of examples, one chosen from the Iranian plateau where qanāt irrigation predominates, and the other one from Persianate Central Asia (Transoxiana), where water is derived from larger and medium-sized rivers. The type of irrigation influences the ways in which the city grows, and more generally, the layout of the city is also determined by the water supply. Cities tend to grow towards the source of water, and it can also be observed that in many cases, the political and administrative centre is located where the best water is available. One of the major questions is whether imperial will was behind the construction of irrigation systems or whether local players such as landlords were the decisive factor.

The article combines archaeological research and the study of textual sources but is mostly based on recent archaeological fieldwork.

David Durand-Guédy


This article deals with the history of Isfahan during the five centuries between the arrival of the Turks and the beginning of the Safavid period. It attempts to identify the continuities and ruptures from three different perspectives: To what extent can we speak of an urban decline? What was the relationship of the Isfahanis with the imperial rulers? How did the general context impact the makeup and the organisation of the society? It appears that Isfahan demonstrated remarkable resilience over the period, and that it is only beginning with the Timurid period that we can speak of a decline. Likewise, there is remarkable continuity in the ways in which the local elites collaborated with or resisted the imperial players. The role of the Ṣāʿid family, which held the cadial function over four centuries, is emblematic in this respect. Conversely, under special circumstances, the imperial players were able to exert great substantial influence on the local communities, and it is this political backing which explains the strengthening of the Hanafis in the sixth/twelfth century, and that of the Shiis in the following. One of the main accomplishments of this synthesis view of Isfahan history is that it assesses the effects of the Mongol domination relative to that of other periods.