The Roman Cult of Mithras by Roger Pearse

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This site, part of Roger Pearse’s Tertullian.org, serves as both an introduction to the history and iconography of Mithraism suitable for undergraduate instruction and an extensive collection of primary sources useful for original research. In particular, all references to the cult in classical literature have been assembled, when possible in English translation. Even more impressively, the “Catalogue of Monuments and Images,” based on Maarten Vermaseran’s 2 volume work Corpus Inscriptionum et Monumentorum Religionis Mithraicae (The Hague, 1956), provides images when available of the diverse material sources for Mithraism, from paintings to architectural plans (some of the photographs are by Pearse). This is supplemented by a list of recent discoveries and sometimes their associated images, including the London Mithraeum uncovered in 2013. Although there is no search functionality, when one knows what to look for, or just feels like browsing, this is an exceptionally useful and convenient site. There is also a fascinating section on Mithras items (in some cases their identity is uncertain) for sale on eBay and elsewhere.

http://www.tertullian.org/rpearse/mithras/display.php?page=main

Online Resources for the Mandaeans

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The Mandaeans are a contemporary religion with communities in Iraq and Iran, as well as an expanding Diaspora in Europe, North America, and Australia; their heritage reaches back to Late-Antique Mesopotamia.  Most scholars of religion in Late Antiquity have ignored them, especially after earlier attempts to interpret key Gospel passages through Mandaean literature fell sharply, and deservedly, out of favor.  In more recent scholarship, their importance for understanding pre-Islamic religion in Sasanian Iran is slowly being recognized.  Yet major texts, such as the Mandaic Book of John, are not available in English translation. Professors Charles Häberl of Rutgers University and James McGrath of Butler University are producing a translation of this Book of John; their work-in-progress is helpfully posted on the project blog. Continue reading

Morton Feldman’s “Turfan Fragments”

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American avant-garde composer Morton Feldman’s “Turfan Fragments” (1980), a piece on the famous (East) Berlin collection now largely available online, can be listened to on YouTube, as performed by the Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble, with conductor Petr Kotik:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e49qbrz1sZU

As a connoisseur of fragmentary ancient texts, I found this agitated work unexpected and inspirational!

Elsewhere on YouTube, there is a documentary on Turfan (“A Heat Wave Called Turfan”), part of a 12-episode series on the Silk Road in English, with joint Japanese and Chinese production.

Manichaean Texts at the Digitales Turfan-Archiv and TITUS

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The Iranian texts discovered at the beginning of the 20th-century during the German excavations of the Turfan oasis constitute a major source for modern scholarship on Manichaeism; like the Nag Hammadi Library, they provide an important corrective to the exclusively polemical accounts that had survived the manuscript transmission.  The numerous textual fragments have been patiently published over the past century by a number of scholars, and this critical project is still ongoing.

The Turfanforschung group at the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften has published to the web the Digitales Turfan-Archiv, which includes a variety of literature from the Turfan oasis, including “Texte in Manichäischer Schrift,” in the Parthian and Middle Persian languages, as well as some in Old Turkic.  This section contains high-resolution images of basically the entire run of texts in Manichaean script, more than 9,200 fragments, catalogued according to the more recent “M” categorization cited in contemporary scholarship (from Mary Boyce’s A Catalogue of the Iranian Manuscripts in Manichaean Script in the German Turfan Collection [Berlin, Akademie Verlag, 1960]); the glass plates show the former “T” categorization:

http://www.bbaw.de/forschung/turfanforschung/dta/

The Middle Persian and Parthian eTexts for many of these documents is available from TITUS at the University of Frankfurt:

http://titus.uni-frankfurt.de/indexe.htm?/texte/texte2.htm

The Virtual Magic Bowl Archive (VMBA) and Prosopography

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The Virtual Magic Bowl Archive is a collaborative environment for the publication of magic bowls in the Moussaieff, Dehays, and Barakat collections.  It is housed at the University of Southampton, under the direction of Dr. Dan Levene, with a number of other prominent collaborators in Europe, Israel, and North America.  While the archive, which includes photographs and transcriptions, currently has restricted access, The VMBA site contains several useful resources and descriptions of ongoing projects.  These include the Aramaic Magical Texts from Late Antiquity (AMTLA), a BIRAX project conducted by Dr. Dan Levene and Prof. Gideon Bohak, part of which is the valuable prosopography of the Babylonian Magic Bowls, compiled by Dr. Ortal-Paz Saar of Tel Aviv University Continue reading

Ancient Iran: Courses and Grammars by Prods Oktor Skjærvø

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Prods Oktor Skjærvø, the Agha Khan Professor of Iranian Studies at Harvard University, has published online an impressive series of courses and grammars on ancient Iran (and Central Asia), from the Avestan period to the Middle Ages. Continue reading

TITUS/ARMAZI: Biblical, Apocryphal, and Patristic Texts in Old Georgian

The TITUS site, which is otherwise dedicated mostly to electronic Texts in Indo-European languages, also contains a very large group of texts in Old Georgian; most of these were entered in the framework of the Armazi project for the electronic documentation of Caucasian languages and cultures, an early internet endeavor conducted between 1999 and 2002.  Electronic texts include the complete Old and New Testaments, with entries for specific manuscripts and lectionaries; important apocryphal texts, such as the Story of Joseph of Arimathea on the first church in Lydda (for which see my article in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 50); Continue reading