Unceasing Embassies

Matthew P. Canepa

in The Two Eyes of the Earth

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780520257276
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944572 | DOI:
Unceasing Embassies

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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As early as the last quarter of the third century, the courts of Rome and Sasanian Iran began to fashion a shared visual, ritual, and discursive language of legitimacy to conceptualize their coexistence. The kings deployed this new, developing language of cooperation and accommodation alongside the old expressions of dominance, either selectively to internal audiences or, finding themselves in a situation of strength, as a tool to intimidate their rival and garner prestige on a global level. Whereas in previous decades, negotiations took place on the battlefield in an ad hoc manner, Roman and Sasanian relations stabilized in the late third century, at which time the courts began to send and receive regular embassies. In contrast to modern diplomacy, the Sasanian and Romans courts did not maintain a permanent representative at their counterpart's court. Beyond the practical functions of negotiation, conflict resolution, and intelligence gathering, the art and ritual of diplomatic exchange presented a vast range of situations and activities that served as crucial sites of debate between the two realms.

Keywords: Rome; Sasanian Iran; kings; cooperation; negotiations; embassies; diplomacy; conflict resolution; art; ritual

Chapter.  13156 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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