Associate Professor of History, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Oriental Institute, and the College

Associated Faculty, Department of Classics
Director, Chicago Initiative for Global Late Antiquity
Faculty Member, Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies

PhD'09 Princeton University

Mailing Address

University of Chicago
Social Science Research Building, box 82
1126 E. 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637

William Rainey Harper Memorial Library, 
East Tower, room 481 – Office
(773) 834-9897 – Office telephone
(773) 702-7550 – Fax


Field Specialties

The Middle East in Late Antiquity; Premodern Global History; Comparative Empires


A historian of the Iranian world in late antiquity, ca. 200–800 CE, Payne's 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 Zoroastrian religious institutions and the intersection of ideological and material dimensions in Iranian history.

Recent Publications

co-editor, with Marcelo Campagno, Carlos García Mac Gaw, et al., Desigualdades Antiguas: Economía, Cultura y Sociedad en el Oriente Medio y el Mediterráneo (Buenos Aires, 2023).

Desigualdades-antiguas_1600[16] copy.jpg

Co-editor with Rhyne King, The Limits of Empire in Ancient Afghanistan. Rule and Resistance in the Hindu Kush, circa 600 BCE–600 CE (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2020). 


Editor, Visions of Community in the Post-Roman World: The West, Byzantium and the Islamic World, 300–1100 (Routledge, 2016).


Co-editor with Myles Lavan and John Weisweiler, Cosmopolitanism and Empire: Universal Rulers, Local Elites, and Cultural Integration in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean (OUP, 2016).


—Awards for A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian Political Culture in Late Antiquity (California, 2015):


—Named a Neubauer Family Assistant Professor in 2013.