Communication, Language and Power in the Achaemenid Empire: The correspondence of the satrap Arshama

The essential aim of this project (which is funded by the AHRC Research Networking scheme) is to provide the opportunity for detailed, hands-on involvement with one of the most exciting fields in ancient history, Achaemenid Studies. The method adopted will be to push on multiple fronts: the teaching of basic language skills, the exploration of how to look at Achaemenid art, the presentation and discussion of regions or particular bodies of material— with the goal of fostering conversations between archaeologists and philologists, Classicists and Orientalists, graduates and established Achaemenid specialists.

In pursuit of this aim, we propose an interdisciplinary programme of research-centred events, around the corpus of contemporary documents, textual and visual, associated with Arshama, satrap in Egypt in the later years of the fifth century BC. These fascinating documents offer a vivid snapshot of linguistic, social, economic, cultural, organisational and political aspects of the Achaemenid empire as lived by a member of the elite and his entourage. These include land-holding, the extraction and storage of resources, corvée labour, cross-regional ethnic movement, ideologically-driven iconography, religious language and belief, accountancy-culture, long-distance travel, and military systems. The challenge is to examine such topics in detail, but also in the light of the recent advances in the field of Achaemenid studies.


The programme comprises three categories of activities, which are open to all upon registration by e-mail with the organizers.

Weekly Language Training and Reading of Texts

Classes in Achaemenid Aramaic will be held in Oxford during Michaelmas Term 2010, followed by reading classes on documents during Hilary and Trinity Terms 2011. These will take place on Thursdays at 1pm, in the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, Oxford.


  1. Introducing the world of Arshama Saturday 20 November 2010
  2. Achaemenid Art, Text and Images Saturday 29 January 2011
  3. Achaemenid Egypt Saturday 5 March 2011
  4. Travel and Empire Saturday 14 May 2011
  5. The Languages of Empire Monday 4 July 2011

Final conference

The Arshama Archive: Conclusions and Prospects Tuesday – Thursday 5-7 July 2011

Exhibition and Public Lecture

Bodleian Library, 28 June - 23 July 2011, and a public lecture on 4 July 2011.

Other observations

An element of the network budget is set aside to provide bursaries to assist postgraduate students based elsewhere in the UK to attend events in Oxford. It is an important aspect of the project’s aims that it should offer postgraduate students (both those on taught MA courses and those already engaged on doctoral work in allied fields) the opportunity to engage with study of the Achaemenid empire in a focused research setting. It may also prove possible to set aside some time in the final conference for presentations by such students.

What are we trying to do with this project?
Download details about the Arshama Research Network, its rationale and aims (pdf).

Spread the word !
Flyer for the Arshama Research Network . (.pdf, 156KB)
Poster for the Arshama Research Network (.pdf, large file, 19.2MB).

Project Supporters

The Arshama Research Network is supported by the AHRC, the Faculty of Classics at Oxford University, the Bodleian Library, Corpus Christi College (Oxford), the Beazley Archive, the Lewis Fund, the Craven Committee, the John Fell Fund, and the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents.


27.4.2011 Programme of workshop 4 updated. Paper by C. J. Tuplin on "Administration in the Bodleian Arshama Letters uploaded.

29.3.11.Date of public lecture changed to 4 July !

25.2.11. Much updated on language page; new document (A.4.7) transcribed in Imp. Aramaic script ! Workshop 3 programme established; handout included (with all Arshama or Arshama-related texts in Aramaic).

3.2.11. Language page updated: strong verb by numbers. Texts tidied up and completed.

15.1.11. After a hiatus due to server problems, several updates have taken place (programme of workshop 2; C. J. Tuplin's introductory essay on Arshama now posted; new material for language).

15.12.2010. New document posted by D. Kaptan on "Seals from Achaemenid-period Anatolia", available on page relative to workshop 2 (Achaemenid art) as well as under General Materials

8.12.2010. New material under Aramaic language, General Materials, and Workshop 1