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Faculty Fellow

Richard Payne

Associate professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations University of Chicago


Richard Payne is a historian of the Iranian world in late antiquity, ca. 200–800 CE. His research focuses primarily on the dynamics of Iranian imperialism, specifically how the Iranian (or Sasanian) Empire successfully integrated socially, culturally, and geographically disparate populations from Arabia to Afghanistan into enduring political networks and institutions. His recent book, A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity, explores the problem of religious diversity within the empire, showing how Syriac-writing Christians could create a place for themselves in a political culture not of their own making.

He is currently at work on the role of the Zoroastrian religion and the idea of an Iranian ethnicity in the making of an empire. He also maintains interests in the social history of Christian and Zoroastrian communities in the early Islamic world, the interaction of the Middle East with Central and Inner Asia, and the comparative study of ancient empires in the Middle East and the Mediterranean from the Akkadians to the Romans.

He heads the Chicago Initiative for Global Late Antiquity, whose aim is to advance trans-regional, trans-cultural approaches to the study of the first millennium CE.

For more on his research and publications, please visit his profile page.


Imperial Interstices: Agents of Eurasian Interaction in Late Antiquity

Project Team:

2016 – 2017