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Persia & Rome: A Tale of Two Empires, exhibition launch Thu 9th May 2019, Birmingham University
The Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts and the Trustees of the Henry Barber Trust cordially invite you to the exhibition launch of
A Tale of Two Empires: Rome and Persia
University of Birmingham
Thursday 9th May 2019 – 6pm
Exhibition duration – 10th May 2019 till 15th March 2020
Welcome by ZTFE Patron Lord Bilimoria CBE DL, Chancellor and Professor Michael Whitby, Pro Vice Chancellor & Head of the College of Arts and Law.
RSVP, by Monday 6th May to Alice Bewbow by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0121 414 6993.
About the exhibition:
The history of the Sasanian Empire is as integral to the history of people of Iranian, Parsi, Caucasian, and western central Asian backgrounds as the history of the Roman Empire is to the history of people of European, North African and Levantine backgrounds. As such, it is important that they are not allowed to fade from memory.
The Sasanian dynasty put the Zoroastrian faith and Middle Persian language at the centre of their Empire's identity, and this is reflected in their coinage, of which almost every single type bears the image of the sacred fire, tended by two watchful guardians, sometimes including the Shahanshah (king of kings) himself. This can make Sasanian coins a challenge to display, as they are very uniform, but no less interesting for that - it demonstrated the centrality of the faith to the identity of their polity. They also broke from the Parthian past by using the Pahlavi script to write a Persian language on their coins, rock reliefs, stamp seals and other artefacts, rather than the Greek language and script preferred by the Hellenistic Parthians.
Though the Sasanian dynasty was swept away in the seventh century by the young Caliphate, the administrative structures and cultural patterns they left behind would come to infuse the early Caliphate, and thereby a large part of the world. Persian became a language of poetry, oratory and high culture, while descendants of the Sasanians, the Parsis, who fled Iran for India would keep that pillar of Sasanian identity, Zoroastrianism, dear to them.
A Tale of Two Empires is told through the Barber’s extensive Late Roman coin collection and its historically important Sasanian Persian cache, the exhibition explores how the ancient superpowers of Rome and Persia spun humiliating defeats and promoted their bloody victories on the small pieces of art circulating in the pockets of the masses. With the aid of seals – on loan from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge – it will also discuss the artistic themes and devices these two civilizations had in common.
The Barber has the second largest collection of Sasanian coins in the UK, but the collection has never played more than a very minor role in the coin gallery exhibitions. Now fully catalogued on Mimsy, the exhibition will put a spotlight on this important collection.
Malcolm M Deboo