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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 researching the role of the Zoroastrian religion and the idea of an Iranian ethnicity in the making of an empire. Payne 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 Richard Payne's research and publications, please visit his profile page.

Featured Project

A camel on the ancient Silk Road, April 1999. Photo by Jeanne Menjoulet via Flickr.

Silk Road Imaginaries

Project Team:

2023 – 2024


Imperial Interstices: Agents of Eurasian Interaction in Late Antiquity

Imperial Interstices: Agents of Eurasian Interaction in Late Antiquity

By investigating premodern interstitial regions of the Eurasian landmass as major centers of production, consumption, and influence, this project laid the groundwork for an integrated history of Eurasian late antiquity.

When we look at maps of the premodern world we see centralized empires divided by bold lines. In fact, we are learning that the boundaries between empires were more often vibrant and fluid zones for intense production and exchange. This is particularly so for the less studied areas of contact...

Project Team: