Questions for Professor Foltz

I live blogged yesterday’s lecture and the speaker, Professor Foltz, has very kindly agreed to a written question and answer session. I’ll collate 10-15 questions.

His speciality is in Iranic studies though ironically his talk happened in the “Indian Room” at the Ancient India & Iran Trust.

Please post your questions in the comments below- it would be worth beforehand scouring his impressive profile. I imagine we can focus more on the early Aryans as that would be more interesting to this blog.

I’m hoping to attend another very interesting lecture on Wednesday-

I’ll be sure to live blog this one. Incidentally it will conflict with another lecture I had been looking forward to.

However I have a distinct feeling that living blogging a Cambridge lecture on Brahmins will be orders of magnitude of more interest to our readers than Portraiture in Safavid Iran!



17 thoughts on “Questions for Professor Foltz”

  1. ” Evidence of some exchange between Uralics and proto Indo-Iranians. ”

    Question for Prof Foltz:

    Why are all the loans one way INTO Uralic and nothing from Uralic into Indic or Iranian languages?

    1. Usually this happens when one group is dominant over the other. Think of all the French loans into English during the Middle Ages, compared to the English loans into French.

  2. Question for Prof Foltz:

    Why doesn’t’ the whole aryan debate animate the Iranian society, as it does in India ? Is it because just like Pakistan , once you go muslim , it doesn’t really matter.

    1. (Haha am being so hyper; I should try and calm myself down.)
      Lol Saurav, are you sure you haven’t thought that the reason Iran does not have the Aryan-related debates is because of the absence of Dravidians there? (Because you generally come across as quite critical of both the relevant strand of the Dravidianist Dravidian-victimhood side (that laments Indo-Aryans destroyed everything after they captured the previously utopic casteless India from them) and the hyper-Hindutva side (which is super-uncomfortable with the self-perceivedly implied analogy of Aryan migrations with Muslim invasions if one accepts the Aryan migration theory); I am extraordinarily sorry if I have misrepresented you above though.)

      1. You are right , the Dravidian thing did accentuate the whole Aryan thing to another level, but i think it would still be a debate in India, because of partition and Indian Muslims.

        The whole insider outsider thing(age old debate) would still have raged on with the Muslims, once partition happened, there is and always was a subterranean feeling even among the most secular of Hindus, that they do not have “equal” stake in India ,considering they took their stake and made another country. Today what you see in India is the coming of full circle of that discourse.

        That’s the reason why the supreme court in India (perhaps the most secular institution ) when it striked down triple talaq gave the example of Pakistan (saying even Pakistan doesnt have it) confirming that Pakistan is the more “legitimate” Muslim voice when it comes to subcontinental muslim issues.

        1. Wow the Supreme Court cited Pakistan as the major example it based its decision on or just mentioned it along with (a few other) bases from other sources – like say, general modern practices in constitutional democracies, etc.?

    2. \once you go muslim , it doesn’t really matter.\

      I think there is some validity to the point. In Pakistan or Iran, Islam is the last word, or even the first word. Others identities like language or ethnicity is severely discouraged by the rulers.

      In India , there is a civilizational and cultural continuity with hindu/brahminical/arya civ. At the same time modernist forces also severely question it. hence the turmoil. India has one foot in the past – distant past – one foot in the future …… . that is the reason for claims and counter claims about the past

    3. Well, I let my Hindu-bigot-like side show there in calling the Aryan migrations/invasions as Aryan migrations and Islamic migrations/invasions as Islamic invasions but my actual thoughts on the matter are at least a bit more nuanced/appropriately cognitively dissonant than that lol. I tend to lazily borrow and apply the rationalist framework of some Abrahamic philosophies (which starts with first principles like existence of God (One, Triune, etc. etc.), etc. and then later on looks almost identical to science) for this question (and it is with regard to the legitimacy of usage of this kind of thinking that Hindu scholars can very reasonably attack me I guess because Hindu thinking frameworks are typically so different from Abrahamic ones when one goes deeper than the surface) and assert that even if the Indo-Aryan guys simply wreaked havoc on India when they came, it simply is irrelevant to Hindus because all the Hinduism derives from them. And there is no Hinduism without them. So Aryan migrations/invasions are qualitatively different from the later-day Islamic invasions/migrations as far as Hindus are concerned because today Hindus exist and not pre-Indo-Aryan Indus-religion practitioners. Muslims may feel the same about Islamic invasions. This means that these kinds of debates are not resolvable. One can only talk from the subjective perspective of a Hindu/Muslim, etc. individually and not objectively if one is either Hindu/Muslim, etc.

      But that said, there may be some types of objective differences too – for example, there is the very real possibility that the pre-Indo-Aryan Indus (and other regional) religion influenced Hinduism to a significant extent and Low Hinduism probably still has many elements from the Pre-Indo-Aryan/non-Indo-Aryan past. In this respect, Hinduism may at least be slightly more different than the Abrahamic religions because Abrahamic religions have that revolutionary element fundamental to them in which all the past before the conversion event is actively encouraged to be forgotten and rejected. But this is a theoretical feature and I don’t know to what extent this percolates into the practice of people practising Abrahamic religions but it seems quite a fair amount does. But I don’t know about this any further. The clash of all these religions – Hinduism and Abrahamic with modern humanistic ethics is another different subject altogether too.

  3. Question 1 to Prof.Foltz:

    What was the religious and ethnic demographic composition of the late Sassanid Empire [before the eve of the Arab invasion and conquest]?
    a) In the overall Empire
    b) In the proper Persian provinces

    Also, what role did this play in the coherence and effectiveness of the Sassanid/Persian defence [one often hears something to the tune of proper Zoroastrianism merely being a large minority religion rather than being a proper national faith like Shintoism.. to what extent is this true?]

    Question 2 to Prof. Foltz:
    How did the [dualistic?] Zoroastrianism subsume or take over or absorb [not sure what’s the right term to use] the more polytheistic style Iranic religions [such as the worship of Anahita] ? What made the former successful , and when and how did this process take place? Are there any pointers to read up on this?

  4. Did the Medes, Achaemenids, and Parthians have a sense of “Iran” in a similar sense to the Sassanids or later people in the same area? I know the term pops up in the Avesta, but as far as I’m aware it was absent in a secular political or cultural context before the Sassanids, and I wonder if the people on the Iranian plateau would have had any name for the whole region.

    1. Fraxinicus, is there a concept of “secular” in anything other than an Abrahamic context?

      For example how does secular fit in with Dharma, Chaarta, Kama and Moksha?

      Chaarta as I understand it is not “secular” but wealth measured in terms of technology, economics, mental health (Chitta Shuddhi), intelligence (Buddhi or Siddhi), physical health (Bahu Ballam).

      Would the ancient peoples of Iran, Turin, Xinjian, Tibet, SAARC and south east asia have identified themselves as “noble” or “Arya”? Say from 4000 BC to 600 AD?

  5. Hi Xerxie The Magian!

    I already put my questions directly in ‘From Sintashta to Samarkand’ but if you are limited with time for interview I will summarize into one only world history domino effect changing question. I would be disappointed if you do not ask him and if he does not (try to) genuinely answer:

    Which language was spoken in (southern) Europe in 2000 BC? Txs.

  6. AIT is just a construct of colonialism.

    Some of the statements by this Scholar make little sense and are highly dubious.

    You need to be careful not to promote The White Man’s degenerate perspective on Indo Aryan history.

    Indo Aryan is a serious thing, and white people should not be allowed to talk about it unless their views line up with IA history. Xerxes is a traitor to South Asia by putting this blashpemy on the internet. You have been warned.

    Xerxes is a Persian, he is not Indo Aryan, And modern Persians are far from the original Iranian ‘Aryans’ of the BMAC or Pashtun lands.

    People need to show a bit more respect to Indo Aryans and Eastern Iranians as they bear the most conservative, rich, and authentic Indo-European and Indo-Iranian Culture.

    Xerxes is just another Westernised Persian hating on his background, trying to be white. Real Indo-Iranians on the other hand know when to put a white man in his place.

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