Let’s Abandon the Distortions of Achaemenid Studies

The Spiegel Controversy.


This letter is being submitted by Dr. David Tevzadze (University of Gori), Professor George Gulordava (Dadiani Museum Academy), Professor Tariel Jikia (Cheriomushki College, Russia), Dr. David Khoupenia (University of Zugdidi), Professor Niko Kachareva (Georgian State University), Dr. Imre Bartfai (University of Budapest, Hungary) who have worked alongside a collective of graduate students, researchers, scholars and writers of Iranica hailing from the University of British Columbia, University of Ottawa, Stanford University, Harvard University, and universities in Iran (not named by request); informal consultations were also made with museum directors as well as archaeologists, linguists and historians in Poland, Iran, and Georgia.

On July 15th 2008, Dr. Matthias Schulz wrote a selective and biased article against the historiography of Cyrus the Great in Spiegel Magazine:

Falling for Ancient Propaganda: UN Treasure Honors Persian Despot

http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/0,1518,564395,00.html (German)

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,566027,00.html (English)

This was responded to by Kaveh Farrokh:

Response to Spiegel Magazine’s Attack on the Legacy of Cyrus the Great


http://www.iranpressnews.com/source/043656.htm (Persian)

Despite his attack against Cyrus the Great in Spiegel Magazine, Schulz is not an authority in the field of Iranian Studies.


On July 16th (virtually simultaneously as the Spiegel article) Dr. Jona Lendering supported Schulz’s views as expressed in the Spiegel article. This was articulated within a larger series of distortions against the historiography of Iran in his book review against Kaveh Farrokh’s “Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War”: The same review also expresses errors with respect to the state of Iranian Studies at present.  



On July 21, 2008 (just 5-6 days after the postings by Spiegel and Lendering), the views of Schulz and Lendering were further promoted by reporter Harry de Quetteville of the UK’s Daily Telegraph:


Cyrus cylinder's ancient bill of rights 'is just propaganda': A 2500 year old Persian treasure dubbed the world's 'first bill of human rights' has been branded a piece of shameless 'propaganda' by German historians.


This was responded to by Kaveh Farrokh:

Retort to the Daily Telegraph’s article against Cyrus the Great


It is interesting that the timing of attacks against the historiography of Iran (esp. Cyrus the Great), the field of Iranian Studies and Farrokh were all launched in a 6 day period (July 15-21).

Farrokh was then interviewed live by on the Voice of America TV program as well as the BBC. These resulted in a sharp increase of Lendering’s postings against Farrokh; these were essentially the same as the July 16th versions (same time period as Spiegel’s article). Below is one of his postings on the University of Pennsylvania’s book review website:


The main objective of this letter is to demonstrate Jona Lendering’s shortcomings with respect to his information on ancient Iran as well as the field of Iranian Studies. This is a cause for great concern as his website Livius.org, has extensive links on ancient Iran:



Lendering’s distortions of Iranian history (and especially archaeology) render his “review” of Farrokh’s book unreliable. One example is his false claim that the “The relief of Gotarzes II at Behistun does not stand today”, when in fact it does (Item 1).

Lendering (like Matthias Schulz and journalist De Quetteville) couches his views in terms of an alleged knowledge of Iranian Studies, yet by doing so he has demonstrated the reverse. As Lendering often “updates” his websites with respect to wrong information, we have been obliged to keep records of Lendering’s original postings to ensure that his original review remains transparent.

Lendering’s deformations with respect to Iranica are so numerous that we have only been able to summarize just 19 of these in this posting (see items 1-19 below this paragraph).  In the case of Cyrus the Great his distortions are so extreme that these may be construed as a new form of anti-eastern prejudice. 

(1)The case of Gotarzes II

(2) Cyrus the Great

(3) Dangers to pre-Islamic sites in Iran today

(4) Ahuramazda

(5) Nomenclature: Confusing “errors” with linguistics

(6) Median Architecture

(7) Persepolis and the New Year Festival

(8) Achaemenid Archery

(9) The Achaemenid Navy

(10) “Digressions” or Consequences of military history?

(11) Chronology or Pettiness: The example of Croesus

(12) Mithraism

(13) Salamis

(14) Herodotus

(15) Falsifying the state of Iranian Studies

(16) Is Lendering an expert on ancient Iran?

(17) Alexander in Iran: A Brief Note.

(18) Trivializing Professor Richard Nelson Frye

(19) Do Academics of Iranica agree with Lendering?

A Final Note. The greatest irony of Lendering’s “review” is that by working so hard to raise questions against Farrokh, he has only succeeded in drawing the same questions towards his own alleged expertise on Iran. As noted by a Hungarian professor, “…the article [Lendering’s “review”] … seems to be a partisan action…the critic is worthless…only good for an internet site such as Livius.org…No proof, no real argument...This critic could never be published in scientific magazines. At least in Hungary”.


The “tone” of Lendering’s “review” raises the possibility of agitated psychological processes derived from a prejudice of some kind; processes which often compromise valid and balanced academic discourse. It would appear that Lendering is subsumed in the passionate attempts at revising the history of Iran as promoted by Schulz and Harry de Quetteville in what appears to be an orchestrated series of actions. In that endeavour, Kaveh Farrokh is simply “in the way” of these people and must be silenced.