The study of the Sasanian Empire has had a nebulous history. From the late nineteenth century the study of this empire gained grounds, but the last great work was written in 1944 by Arthur Christensen. While there has been great leaps in the understanding of the Zoroastrian religion of the period, archaeological excavations in Iran and the neighboring countries, the study of historical sources and the material culture, still no synthesis exist. Furthermore, the variety of approaches from different disciplines has fragmented the idea of a field of "Sasanian Studies." Those working on the Sasanian Empire in light of Late Antique Studies, Iranian Studies and Religious Studies have all taken a different perspective and approach. This panel discusses the state of the study of the Sasanian Empire in the past century and the issues and problems that it faces today. These papers deal with the Sasanian Empire in terms of archeological, religious and historical approaches and methodology.
The Sasanian Empire and its history has been slow in becoming a field of study. George Rawlinson's The Seventh Great Oriental Monarchy in 1875 was the first book dedicated to the study of Sasanian history. This was followed by Arthur Christensen's L'Iran sous les Sassanides in 1944. Since then much work has been done to understand the history of this great empire, but its reception has been slow in the field of late ancient / late antique studies. This paper examines all the major works and their approaches to the study of Sasanian history and suggests how the inclusion of this dynasty into the field of late ancient studies has caused it to flourish outside of the narrow field of ancient Iranian history. This inclusion, however, has caused the fragmentation in approaches and methods in the study of the Sasanians. The consequence of this development will also be elucidated for the study of ancient Iranian history as a unit and its relation to the late ancient world history.