Notice 29th September 2023

Notice 29th September 2023


Associazione Internazionale di Studi sul Mediterraneo e l’Oriente

Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 244, 00186 Roma



It is with deep grief that ISMEO announces the death of Professor Philippe Gignoux (1 March 1931 – 24 September 2023), one of the dominant figures of 20th century Iranian studies.

After secondary studies with the Dominicans of Oullins (Rhône), had the opportunity to spend several years in the Middle East, graduating on his return to France in Persian (1964) at the École nationale supérieure des langues vivantes (afterwards INALCO). At the Institut catholique, Paris, He studied Armenian and Syriac, specializing in religious studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études and the Collège de France, with scholars of the caliber of Jean de Menasce, Émile Benveniste, André Dupont-Sommer, Henri-Charles Puech. After initial research on Eastern Christianity as Chargé de recherche at CNRS, was appointed in 1970 Directeur d’études of the Religious Studies Section of the EPHE for the Religions of Ancient Iran, succeeding his direct teacher, Father de Menasce. He specialized from the beginning of his career on the Middle Persian and Middle Iranian sources and the religious history of Zoroastrianism during the Sasanian period and the first centuries after the Arab conquest (on these issues see a vast collection of his writings in the volume edited by Matteo De Chiara and Enrico G. Raffaelli with the title Mazdéens et chrétiens en terre d’Iran à l’époque sassanide, ISMEO, Roma 2014, pp. xi+681); however, his scientific contributions covered a wider area than religious studies, such as epigraphy, sigillography, prosopography, lexicography, areas all in which he contributed to the modernization of the approach to pre-Islamic Iranian studies.

Together with Gherardo Gnoli (of whom he has been a fraternal friend for almost half a century, see Gh. Gnoli, “Un demi siècle”, in Florilège offert à Philippe Gignoux pour son 80e anniversaire, Paris 2011, pp. 41-49) and Ilya Gershevitch, he was one of the leading personalities who led to the foundation (1983) of the Societas Iranologica Europaea, of which he was first Vice-President (1983-1987) and then, after Basil Gray’s initial mandate, the President (1987-1991) (see Ph. Gignoux, “Societas Iranologica Europaea: its Formation and Growth,” East and West 40 (1990), pp. 289-292).

Other manifestations of this same enthusiasm into the service of a collective (and particularly European) interest expressed itself in the responsibility he assumed to defend the cause of a French journal for Iranian studies (see Gilbert Lazard, in Florilège cit., pp. 35-36) and a European journal for Iranian studies (see Gherardo Gnoli, in Florilège cit., pp. 44-45). Among the numerous Initiatives he founded (or helped found) in France you must remember the journal Studia Iranica, the monograph series Cahiers des Studia Iranica, Res Orientales (with Rika Gyselen), the Association pour l’avancement des études iraniennes and many other.

ISMEO, where Prof. Gignoux had given numerous lectures, has published in its own series Les inscriptions de Kirdir et sa vision de l’au-delà (Conferenze, 2, Roma 1990) and Man and Cosmos in Ancient Iran (Serie Orientale Roma, xci, Roma 2001). Prof. Gignoux’ complete bibliography up to 2011 is printed in the mentioned Florilège at pp. 9-32.

Prof. Gignoux was a Honorary Member of ISMEO since 2013, few months after its refoundation in 2012.

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