Religion, Empire and Torture: The Case of Achaemenian Persia

Religion, Empire and Torture: The Case of Achaemenian Persia


By (author) Bruce Lincoln

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  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Format: Hardback | 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 231mm x 356mm x 23mm | 386g
  • Publication date: 10 July 2007
  • Publication City/Country: Chicago, IL
  • ISBN 10: 0226481964
  • ISBN 13: 9780226481968
  • Illustrations note: 12 halftones, 11 line drawings, 13 tables
  • Sales rank: 1,560,069

Product description

How does religion stimulate and feed imperial ambitions and violence? Recently, this question has acquired new urgency, and in Religion, Empire, and Torture, Bruce Lincoln approaches the problem via a classic but little-studied case: Achaemenian Persia. Lincoln identifies three core components of an imperial theology that have transhistorical and contemporary relevance: dualistic ethics, a theory of divine election, and a sense of salvific mission. Beyond this, he asks, how did the Achaemenians understand their place in the cosmos and their moral status in relation to others? Why did they feel called to intervene in the struggle between good and evil? What was their sense of historic purpose, especially their desire to restore paradise lost? And how did this lead them to deal with enemies and critics as imperial power ran its course? Lincoln shows how these religious ideas shaped Achaemenian practice and brought the Persians unprecedented wealth, power, and territory, but also produced unmanageable contradictions, as in a gruesome case of torture discussed in the book's final chapter. Close study of that episode leads Lincoln back to the present with a postscript that provides a searing and utterly novel perspective on the photographs from Abu Ghraib.

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Author information

Bruce Lincoln is the Caroline E. Haskell Professor of Divinity at the University of Chicago, where he is an associate at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and sits on the Committees on the History of Culture and the Ancient Mediterranean World. He is the author of nine books, including Theorizing Myth: Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship and Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion after September 11, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

Review quote

"The most important book about religion and terror since Mark Juergensmeyer's Terror in the Mind of God.... Both people of faith and others urgently need to consider our global destination. Bruce Lincoln helps in that endeavor by throwing into sharp relief the core issues about the relation between religion, the Enlightenment, multiple modernities, and what comes next." - John R. Hall, Journal of Religion"