Published: Feb. 20, 2019

Three scholars will give fresh perspectives on ancient Persia in a symposium next month at the University of Colorado Boulder.

“King and Kingship in Ancient Persia” is the theme of the Seventh Annual Celia M. Fountain Symposium on Saturday, March 2, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Center for British & Irish Studies, on the fifth floor of Norlin Library at CU Boulder.

The event is free and open to the public. 

group photo

Wouter F.M. Henkelman, Margaret Cool Root and Mark Griffith

At 11 a.m. Wouter F.M. Henkelman, associate professor at École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, will deliver a lecture titled, "The Centrality of the King: The Fortification Archive and the Royal Household."

Henkelman explains that with the edition of ever more Elamite cuneiform texts in the Persepolis Fortification Archive, the centrality of the king and the royal household are becoming even more conspicuous than previously. 

“Thousands of texts relate to the royal table, to royal travel authorizations, to the royal domain, to royal messengers, and to the king himself,” Henkelman states, adding that the presentation will be an attempt to “draw all of these aspects together in a description of the institutional Persepolis economy as a local yet at the same time imperial phenomenon.”

At 1:30 p.m., Margaret Cool Root—professor and curator emerita at the Department of the History of Art, the Interdepartmental Program in Classical Art & Archaeology, and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Getty Villa Research Scholar 2019 at the Getty Research Institute—will deliver a presentation titled, "Performative Arts of Persian Kingship: The Imperial Covenant in Metaphorical Landscapes and Social Spaces."

Root says she will offer “fresh perspectives on the nature of Achaemenid kingship” gleaned over the last four decades. 

“I focus on the metaphorically laced iconographical program and performative social space of monumental sculpture in Persepolis, the famed heartland capital of the Achaemenid empire. Into this highly charged built landscape, I interweave the visual evidence of seals used to ratify administrative documents from the site (the Persepolis Fortification tablets),” she states, adding: 

“In many ways—both anticipated and totally unanticipated—these seals (and the social data embedded in their associated texts) challenge old orthodoxies about the nature of Persepolis itself and the humans who populated and passed through it.” 

And at 3:15 p.m., Mark Griffith, the Klio distinguished professor of classical languages and literature and professor of theater, dance and performance studies at the University of California at Berkeley, will give a presentation titled, "Imagining the King: Greek Notions and Theatrical Constructions of the Persian Royal Family."

With a focus primarily on Aeschylus' Persians, but consideration also of other Athenian dramas, Herodotus' History, and painted representations of theatrical and other scenes set in "Asian" locations, this lecture will explore some of the ways in which Greek creative artists of the 5th century BCE deployed their “often sketchy and fantastical ideas about the great king, his household and his symbols of power, as a way of exploring the heights and depths of human behavior,” Griffith states.

“Power and servitude, devotion and betrayal, ambition and disappointment, luxury and abjection—everything is magnified and deliciously exaggerated when those royal and exotic figures come to be presented to a Greek audience: so different, so strange and yet so familiar and engaging.”

Celia M. Fountain established the symposium in 2012 with a planned gift to endow a series of lectures and symposia to enrich the intellectual life of the Department of Classics and of the Boulder community.

For more information about the event, contact Professor Elspeth Dusinberre by email or by phone at 303-492-6257.