Late Antique Frontiers of Iran, the Caucasus, Anatolia and Iraq

In contrast to the much-discussed eastern Roman frontiers, the Late Antique frontiers of the Sasanian Empire, are relatively little known. However, in recent years a number of projects in Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, as well as other parts of the Near East have started to define, analyze and contextualize the frontiers of the Sasanians, as well as their neighbouring adversaries, primarily the Byzantine or eastern Roman empires. Rather than focus on a single country the proposed colloquium intends to bring together historians, archaeologists, landscape specialists and others to demonstrate how frontier zones have their own specific characteristics and features that make them distinctive from the core zones of their empires. Whereas in some cases, the Sasanian frontier features robust defensive emplacements, ranging from the c. 200km long Gorgan Wall in NE Iran to barriers blocking the narrow Dariali Gorge in Georgia, elsewhere the boundary is much more subtle and even ill-defined. The session will explore how such different approaches to border control were determined by the presence and shape of natural barriers and settlement density on both sides. Moreover, because frontiers create temporary barriers between regions, the role of route networks and their associated features such as forts, route systems and trading stations become especially significant. Routes can become either focussed or diverted or must take into account long-term patterns of movement exemplified by mobile pastoralists (which often constitute a threat to the imperial domain).

In addition to a number of invited speakers (suggested speakers are listed below), the session will be open to a limited number of other papers.

Suggested Presenters:

TJ Wilkinson and Jaafar Jotheri (Durham):

Eberhard Sauer (Edinburgh), Konstantin Pitskhelauri (Tbilisi), Jebrael Nokandeh and Hamid Omrani (Gorgan: ICHHTO):

Kristen Hopper (Durham):

St John Simpson (BM):

Lisa Snape-Kennedy and Ian Bailiff (Durham):

Seth Priestman (Edinburgh and BM):

Anthony Comfort (Exeter): (to be confirmed)

Robert Hoyland (NYU: ISAW): (to be confirmed)

Dan Lawrence (Durham):