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Read, Watch and Listen

Silver drachm of Hormizd II (303-309 AD).

This Sasanian king’s crown is adorned with a bird holding an incandescent pearl in its beak, echoing earlier images of the Veragna bird delivering the khvarnah. The coin’s reverse shows a central fire holder with the king emerging from the sacred flames. Fire was considered to be the son of Ahura Mazda and was a sacred symbol of the Zoroastrian religion. During the Parthian and Sasanian periods, a regnal fire was lit when a new king ascended the throne.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Marble statue of Mithras slaying the bull, found in Rome (2nd century AD)

In the 1st-4th centuries AD, the Mithraic Mysteries seeped into Roman culture from the East. This secretive religion was inspired by the Zoroastrian Mithra, divinity of Contract and Oath. This statue displays Roman Mithras in a Parthian-like costume powerfully pinning down a bull for ritual slaughter. It is thought that Mithras appealed to the martial identity of Roman soldiers serving in the East. A Zoroastrian hymn describes an armed Mithra victoriously smashing the skulls of the Daevas or evil spirits.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Painted manuscript showing the hero Rostam piercing an enemy, made in Shiraz in southern Iran (1435-1440 AD).

This illustration shows a scene from the Shahnameh, an epic work that recounts Iran’s historical and mythological past. Elements from Roman, Greek and Zoroastrian sources are echoed in the depicted central hero, Rostam. A feline skin covers Rostam’s helmet and jacket, mirroring the Greek hero Herakles’ famed lion pelt. As seen in Commagene, Herakles was associated with Verethragna, the Zoroastrian divinity of Victory who appeared as a gold-adorned horse and warrior. Golden details also decorate Rostam’s illustrated weapons and armour.

© Trustees of the British Museum

(c) Katarina Kelsey, no title, translation of Auriol's image, 18-25 March 2015:

“I was given some contextual background to Auriol’s translation of Sam’s piece that I initially thought I would base my translation on. However I felt unable to translate her narrative and realised I would only be interpreting it. Ultimately I turned to a material translation to translate some of the key themes of her work. Taking inspiration from translations such as Hölderlin's Antigone and Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, I hope my material translation can convey Auriol’s piece to you.” 
http://katarinakelseybookarts.tumblr.com/

(c) Matt Rowe, no title, translation of Briony's image, 6-13 May 2015:

“My translation into a three-dimensional ceramic object continues the core narrative of the resampling of the environment and the suggested ownership of a natural object. I constructed a chalice-like ceramic vessel and fired it using combustive fuel harvested from the seashore, which leaves a carbon imprint on the body of the ceramic. Within the temple-like structure of the kiln I attempted a reprocessing of materials abundant within the seascape of my hometown Folkestone.” http://mattroweportfolio.co.uk 

Drawing of Ardashir I's investiture relief at Naqsh-e Rostam in southern Iran (224-242 AD), from R. Ker Porter (1821) Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia... 1817-1820 vol. I, pl.23; Longman & Co., London

The rise of the Sasanians in southern Iran brought the Parthian Empire to an end in 224 AD. On this rock relief, the royal crown is passed from the supreme Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda (right) to the new king Ardashir I (left). While the God’s horse treads on Ahriman (the embodiment of Evil), Ardashir’s tramples his defeated Parthian opponent. The horses touch poignantly. The relief establishes which king has been granted the khvarnah and is favoured by the divine world.

Manual marking the UK launch of 'Conovid'

A reworked booklet, focusing on patient FAQs, was circulated in October 1961, anticipating the Family Planning Association’s provision of ‘Conovid’ at select branches, and limited availability (subject to a fee) through the National Health Service. January 1961. Drug Reference Manual No. 85. Searle / 'Conovid'. By kind permission of Pfizer. Courtesy of Julia Larden, and the Wellcome Library, London. Photography by J Borge 2014 CC BY 4.0

Superimposition of the newly emblematic round over a couple walking in the snow invokes the nascent role of pharmaceuticals as protectors of marital cooperation

Searle, facing imminent competition in the UK market, sought corporate synonymy with ‘the Pill’. “Conovid oral contraceptive. The responsible answer to a universal problem". Journal ad. [detail], Practitioner, January 1962. Searle / 'Conovid'. By kind permission of Pfizer. Courtesy of Julia Larden, and the Wellcome Library, London. Photography by J Borge 2014 CC BY 4.0

Available through select Family Planning Association clinics from summer 1962, 'Anovlar' was heralded as the latest 'no-baby pill' in the press

Company literature, however, proclaimed a pro-baby function, by presenting ‘Anovlar’ as calendrical management tool for precision reproductive forecasting. 1963. Patient’s FAQ booklet. Pharmethicals [Schering] / 'Anovlar'. By kind permission of the Schering Archives, Bayer AG. Courtesy of Julia Larden, and the Wellcome Library, London. Photography by J Borge 2014 CC BY 4.0

Metronomic and horological imagery was common in early Pill advertising

Here, a pendulum infers the rational march of Searle’s research, underpinning new ‘Ovulen’ as ‘the logical outcome of 11 years leadership in oral contraception’. However, mechanical analogies for contraceptive progress in what Marshall McLuhan called the ‘electric age’ were fast becoming outmoded. 1964. Physician's circular / Searle, 'Ovulen'. By kind permission of Pfizer. Courtesy of Julia Larden, and the Wellcome Library, London. Photography by J Borge 2014 CC BY 4.0