My Review of Aršāma and His World

On the whole I prefer not to review books–ever. It is a great deal of work to do well, and there is always the risk of annoying someone by pointing out the shortcomings of their scholarship. If I am going to review anything, I prefer it to be manuscripts submitted to journals or publishers, where I can point out potential problems beforehand. But once in a while I must make an exception, and this was certainly the case for Aršāma and his World: The Bodleian Letters in Context, edited by Christopher Tuplin and John Ma and published by Oxford University Press in 2020. This is a long-anticipated three-volume work on the Aramaic correspondence of Arshama, the Achaemenid satrap of Egypt in the second half of the fifth century BCE. Despite being satrap, it seems that Arshama was usually somewhere else, and therefore had to manage his province by mail, of which this is a very small sample published in a very big way.

The first volume contains texts and translations of the letters, and a very extensive commentary. The second discusses the sealed bullae that were acquired with the letters, though it goes well beyond that. The third volume has essays contextualizing the letters. I provide further detail in my review, in Ancient West and East 22 (2023), 486-9. 2020 was definitely a banner year for the study of Achaemenid Egypt, thanks in large part to this book, which I recommend unreservedly to anyone interested in this period.