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Bactrian Documents from Northern Afghanistan, I: Legal and Economic Documents.

Bactrian Documents from Northern Afghanistan, I: Legal and Economic Documents. By NICHOLAS SIMS-WILLIAMS. Studies in the Khalili Collection, vol. 3. Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum, part II, vol. VI. Oxford: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2000. Pp. 255.

It is a great pleasure to acknowledge the much-anticipated and speedy publication of the Bactrian documents from Afghanistan. The scholarly community has good reason to be grateful to the owners of the documents, especially Dr. Nasser David Khalili, to whom the majority of the documents belong, for permitting N. Sims-Williams to work on them and for agreeing to their publication. Most of all, the reviewer is impressed with the care, insight, and learning with which Sims-Williams has been able to produce what is probably going to be a standard edition for many years to come.

In 1989 there appeared what was assumed to remain an up-to-date survey of the Iranian languages: the Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum, ed. Rudiger Schmitt (Wiesbaden). Here, Sims-Williams's description of the Bactrian language covers no more than six pages, the sources being limited to a few stone inscriptions, some graffiti, eight leaves of a text in Greek cursive, and one leaf of a text in Manichean script. Ten years later, all this was changed. Not only had a long inscription been added to the corpus (the Rabatak inscription discovered in 1993: Nicholas Sims-Williams and Joe Cribb, "A New Bactrian Inscription of Kanishka the Great," Silk Road Art and Archaeology 4 [1995-96], 75-142), but a substantial number of documents written in Greek cursive and in Bactrian language, most of them on leather, a few on cloth and wood, many with their seals intact, had been surfacing on the antiquities market and begun coming to the attention of Iranists. Sims-Williams first reported at length on the new documents in his inaugural lecture (1 February 1996): New Lights on Ancient Afghanistan: The Decipherment of Bactrian (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, Univ. of London, 1977), and he also told the story of these discoveries in a presentation at the Ancient Orient Museum in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, 23 September 1998, on the occasion of being presented, jointly with Joe Cribb, with the Hirayama prize. (1) It was in 1991 that he first saw "photographs of a newly discovered Bactrian document on leather. The document was inscribed on both sides with twenty-eight lines in cursive Bactrian script, making it by far the most substantial example of cursive Bactrian so far known.... One such document was a revelation in itself. But it was as nothing compared to what was to come. Within five years the corpus of Bactrian documents had grown to a hundred, most of which are now in London, in the collection of Dr David Khalili." Sims-Williams published the first such document (here doc. F) in "A Bactrian Deed of Manumission," Silk Road Art and Archaeology 5 (1997/8 [pub. 1999]). A Bactrian marriage contract was the subject of several presentations from 1998 on; a discussion especially of the dating of the documents appeared as "From the Kushan-Shahs to the Arabs: New Bactrian Documents Dated in the Era of the Tochi Inscriptions," in Coins, Art, and Chronology: Essays on the Pre-Islamic History of the Indo-Iranian Borderlands, ed. Michael Alram and Deborah E. Klimburg-Salter (Vienna: Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999), and "Four Bactrian Economic Documents" was published in Bulletin of the Asia Institute 11 (1997 [pub. 2000]). An extensive survey of the language, contents, and socio-historical setting of the documents were the topic of his Ehsan Yarshater Distinguished Lectures on Iranian Studies at Harvard University in 2000. Unfortunately, these lectures remain unpublished, though mainly because of the large quantity of new material that has surfaced since then.

The present volume contains forty mostly complete documents reproduced in Greek script with translations. (Since the documents themselves are in Greek cursive, I do not quite see the advantage of using Greek standard print type, rather than roman transliteration, which would have rendered the original just as faithfully.) A second text volume and an accompanying plate volume are forthcoming. The volume also contains a list of the documents with descriptions, including date, document type, material description, and current location.

The collection contains all kinds of contracts and deeds, as well as receipts for goods received or delivered. Among them are legal documents regarding a variety of issues, such as marriage, slave purchase, manumission, purchase or lease of land (including vineyards), loans and repayment of loans, guarantees, gifts, and what the editor calls "undertaking to keep the peace," which are agreements between two parties that one will not litigate against the other. The marriage contract (doc. A) is the earliest of the dated documents and involves a woman engaged to marry two brothers. One particular interest of this contract is the similarity in terminology with known marriage contracts in Middle Persian and, especially, in Sogdian.

The documents are dated between 110 and 549, that is, assuming that the Bactrian era began in 233 C.E., between 342 and 781. In the present volume, the documents are conveniently arranged by date.

The geographic horizon of the documents is described by Sims-Williams (1998) as follows: "Several documents state that they were written in Samingan, Rob (modern Ruy), Malr or Madr, or Kah (modern Kah-mard). All four places are apparently within the jurisdiction of a ruler who is referred to in many documents as 'the khar of Rob'. On the other hand, Tarmid (or Termez), to the north of the Oxus, and Bamiyan, which is separated from Kah and Madr by a considerable ridge of mountains, may well have been outside his kingdom. The khar of Rob is no doubt to be identified with the Ru'b-khan, the ruler of Ru'b and Siminjan, who helped Qutayba b. Muslim to defeat the Hephthalite rebel Nezak Tarkhan in the year 91 of the Hijra (710 A.D.), as mentioned by the historian Tabari."

Most of the documents are in two copies, the reason for which is explained by Sims-Williams (1998) in his description of "a contract for the sale of land dated in the year 295, which I interpret as 527 A.D., during the period of Hephthalite domination. This agrees well with the statement of the text that the 'Hephthalite tax' due on the property has been paid. The format of the document is typical, though this example is exceptionally well preserved. There are two complete copies of the text. One copy is left open to be read. The other is tightly rolled, tied with string, and sealed with five bullae. The first two bear impressions of the fingernails of the vendors; the others are impressed with the seals of three witnesses. Presumably it was intended that the sealed copy should be opened in the presence of a judge in case of a dispute. On the reverse of the document, the names of the vendors and witnesses are written beside the holes for the seal-strings."

The present volume contains a brief survey of orthography and grammar. Among the more noteworthy grammatical features of Bactrian the following may be mentioned: 3rd singular enclitic pronoun -eio (plural -(i)eno) from Old Iranian *-hai like Choresmian -hi and Khotanese (ya, -i), rather than *-sai as in Middle Persian, Parthian, and Sogdian. Among verbal endings note the 3rd plural subjunctive -indado from -indo + 3rd singular -ado; the optative 1st plural -ameio, 3rd plural -indeio from -amo and -indo + 3rd singular -eio; note also the replacement of the 1st plural -ameio with the 3rd plural -indeio, which recalls the replacement in Parthian of the 3rd singular *-e(?) with the 3rd plural -ende. The past tenses are construed according to the common Middle Iranian split-ergative system. The negated past tense is formed with the negated copula preceding the past stem, e.g., nisto paralado "has not been sold" (Khotanese would have parata nasta). There are two infinitives, from the present and past stems, as in Sogdian and Khotanese. Other features include (Sims-Williams 1998) "the tendency to fuse sequences of conjunctions, adverbs, prepositions, and pronouns into complex words such as o-ta-kald-men 'and then when to us'."

As for the phonology, note "[t]he fact that many texts are dated makes it possible to trace historical developments in the language. For instance, in texts of the 7th century and later, where an 'I' and an 'r' come into direct contact, the 'l' changes to 'd', as in ... lruh-min 'enemy', later druh-min" (Sims-Williams 1998). Another example is provided by the term azadoborgo 'freeman' < *azata-pu[theta]ra-ka-, literally, 'son (born) free' or 'son of a free(man)', which later shows up as azaborgo and zaborgo. In this case, azadoborgo and zaborgo are found in two copies of the same deed (C), which indicates that the former is an archaizing form.

Grammar and vocabulary reflect very well the position of Bactrian between Parthian to the west and Choresmian and Sogdian to the north.

Various issues not discussed in the grammatical sketch will be found in the glossary, for instance, derivational suffixes, e.g., [.sup.2.-ano], -gano, -kano; -baro, -bargo; -iggo (< -ainaka-); -igo (< -iyaka-); etc., as well as syntactic features such as repetition of words with distributive function, as in drumino drumino eskaramo "may we chase off all enemies," that is, every time (doc. N, line 30).

The very complete glossary includes etymological notes and references. It is followed by a reverse index and an index of words cited in the grammatical section and the etymological notes.

The editor has endeavored to provide etymologies for most words, well realizing, no doubt, that many of them are necessarily tentative (proper names have not been etymologized). Following are remarks on various entries intended not only to show what kind of problems are involved, but also to draw attention to the interesting vocabulary of Bactrian.

abzii- 'continue' (+ infinitive: 'to do') at first sight appears to have little in common with Old Persian abi-javaya- 'add (to)'; however, all the forms are found in one and the same formula where the verb governs two infinitives: xoando odo oisardo abzii-. Since the past infinitives can functionally be nouns, as shown by the fact that they can be governed by the preposition abo 'to', the expression may literally mean "increase the claiming and the arguing," that is, "continue to claim or argue" (this may, of course, be the editor's reasoning as well).

aggargo 'property': If this is connected with Khotanese hamgargga- 'congregation', then it may refer to an agglomeration of individual fields, which is the normal form of farm lands.

azazaddiio 'extremely noble, aristocrat' in doc. Y, the latest of all the documents published here (549): The existence of an Avestan "intensive prefix" us- cannot be safely assumed on the basis of the hapax usaya-, which Bartholomae interpreted as 'very evil', attested in usayanam in Yast 13.105; the word may better be emended to *usaynam 'of those who smash the wells'; cf. asauuaynamca in Yasna 61.4, where some of the oldest manuscripts have [.sup.o.y]anamca, and *maynam 'naked' in Nirangestan 77 (Darmesteter 95) for mayanam in both manuscripts. (I have not been able to verify whether this emendation has already been proposed.) Since azazaddiio is preceded by azado mardo 'freeman' and sariio 'townsman', (2) we may expect a rank intermediate between these two, rather than the higher 'aristocrat'. Could it refer to someone belonging to a group of people born from 'free men' (aza-zadd-) but no longer in the same group themselves?

azbar- 'to bring forth, produce', azgamo 'produce': The direct objects of the verb azbar- are always kinds of documents, not, for instance, produce in the agricultural sense, and 'he who produces the document' is obviously he who has it in his possession and 'produces' it out of his pocket or his desk. The noun azgamo is found in lists of articles, including agricultural produce, and so could be 'produce' in this sense. In view of Parthian izgam 'departure' and Choresmian uzyam 'end' cited in this entry, it could also be simply 'outgoing (stuff), delivery'. It recalls the expression 'wzbry in the documents from Parthian Nisa. (3)

alo 'or': The derivation of Khotanese o, au from *ada-wa is problematic, since the intervocalic d should not have disappeared without a trace; *a-wa would just as easily give au.

(1) andaro 'other': I do not understand the implication of the statement that andaro is the comparative of *aniio 'other' in anigo 'other' and aniabano 'Second Aban' (month name). If the meaning is that andaro is (formally) the comparative of *aniio, then surely it should be etymologized as *anya-tara-? If the meaning is that Indo-Iranian *antara- is the comparative of *anya-, then we are dealing with an issue of historical Indo-European grammar that is not directly relevant to the Bactrian form.

andoronigo + roso 'day to come' < *antara- 'other' + rauna- 'direction': I find it hard to believe that a day 'going in the other direction' is a 'future day' (and would *ron < *rauna- have its long o shortened?). I wonder if this might be from *antara + anika- 'another (day) in front'; cf. the forms cited by Ilya Gershevitch in "Iranian Chronological Adverbs," in Indo-Iranica. Melanges presentes a Georg Morgenstierne a l'occasion de son soixante-dixieme anniversaire (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. 1964), 85-86 nn. 25, 29.

baslado 'illegal (act)': Avestan apasa is very weakly attested and is probably to be read as apasi (as in Yast 10.20). In Yast 14.46 the manuscripts have apasa (F1, Jm4) and apas (Pt1, J10); and the passage in Yast 1.29 is hopelessly corrupt and may or may not contain this word.

gob-: Note the legal use of this verb with lado 'invoke the law'.

daldo 'then': This entry exemplifies a slight problem. The word is attested once in the present corpus and only superscript and poorly legible: p. 149 n. 134 odo daldo, where the dotted letters mark uncertain readings. The etymological connection with Avestan aeta[delta]a suggests 'at this time' rather than 'at that time, then'. What I do not know is whether the existence of the word is guaranteed by other documents. It would have been useful to have a reference in that case. (Such references are in fact given in other entries, see, e.g., nabis- and nagato.)

droumino, older lroumino 'enemy': The meaning given for Avestan duraosa-, the epithet of the haoma, as 'difficult to destroy' merits an asterisk or a question mark. In fact, nobody knows what the word means, and it does not attest to a prevocalic Avestan dur- beside the regular duz-. (4)

drogomigo 'false': I find it hard to believe that this word does not contain drogo 'falsehood' (s.v. ddrogo), which is derived from *drauga-. It seems to me preferable not to force a connection with Sogdian zayma (fem.). The Bactrian word, as well as Parthian drwgmyg, can easily be from *drauga-maiga- 'containing admixture of falsehood' (cf. Parthian ameg/y. Middle Persian gumeg 'mixture'), especially in view of the importance of the 'mixture' of good and evil in Old Iranian religion.

ez- 'to amount to'(?): I suppose the editor has considered and rejected the possibility of connection with words for 'worth, worthy' (Sogdian ezan, etc.)?

zaoo 'force', zaoo lado 'give help', pido ... zaoo 'for the sake of': The semantic variation proposed for this word suggests it may have a more specific meaning. The meaning 'force' is assigned on the basis of the proposed etymology = Avestan zauuar[partial derivative], whereas the others are from the contexts. The main problem with this etymology is of course, as the editor saw, the lack of the final -r in the Bactrian form. In doc. T, we find it twice in the expression pido banoziniiaggo zaoo 'for the zaoo of the royal infant' and once in zaoo lado '(who saved the royal infant and) gave it zaoo'. In doc. N we have the phrase pido zaoo, which the editor renders as 'by force', but pido zaoo nagambamo could also mean '(for all future time) we shall not do harm to a zaoo'. The text goes on: "neither by killing nor by ..." It would therefore seem that a meaning such as 'life, living thing', would suit all the contexts. Although no exactly similar form is known to me, zaoo could probably go back to *jyawa-, which looks like a compromise between forms such as Old Iranian *jiwa- and Avestan jiiati/u-. Further afield, Greek zoos, etc., might represent a similar formation. Note also in doc. T zonddiio odo ddrogo kirdo "made him alive and healthy." Alternately, Old Avestan zauuah- (a hapax), which the editor considers less likely, might be a good candidate (if we only knew what it meant). In Yasna 33.12, the Lord is encouraged to take/receive for himself t[partial derivative]uuisi-, zauuah-, hazah-, and fs[partial derivative]ratu-, which are various kinds of strength that also seem to be constituents of a living person.

zorigo 'time': A small point: both the Bactrian form and Sogdian zwrn'k can be from *zurnaka- < *zrunaka-. (5) The metasthesized form is therefore likely to be from a common preform or an areal phenomenon, rather than from *zrunaka- individually in the two languages.

iaooardoi 'grain': Note this additional instance of the old religious phrase *yawa- (a)rtawa 'orderly barley' (i.e., as a significant part of the cosmic order) seen elsewhere in Parthian yawardaw and Pahlavi jorda.

ieiro: Avestan ira- seems to me to mean some kind of fortified area, a stockade or a palisade, rather than 'attack'.

lasnopalasnobostigo 'contract for the exchange of gifts': Note the terms lasno and palasno (< *pati- 'in return') 'gift and counter-gift'. Middle Persian dasn and padasn are usually interpreted as 'gift' and 'reward'. The Bactrian forms show that the 'reward' is originally the 'counter-gift'.

migdo 'to exchange': This is found only in the expression alo andaro zamigo migdo 'with another piece of ground', which makes me wonder whether this is really 'to exchange for' or 'blend/combine with', with the common *mixsa- mixta-. Perhaps the Bactrian forms could also be for *amigdo (Parthian amixt) in this late text?

miuro-asano 'east', mihro-nafrano 'west': note these interesting equivalents of Middle Persian xwar-asan and Parthian xwar-nifran, with miuro < mi[theta]ra- corresponding to Middle Persian xwar 'sun'.

nobandano 'established custom'(?): On Inscriptional Parthian nybndn or nybndy as '(bound) victim > offering', see also my review of Proceedings of the First European Conference of Iranian Studies held in Turin, September 7th-11th, 1987 by the Societas Iranologica Europaea, vols. I-II, ed. Gherardo Gnoli and Antonio Panaino (Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1990), in Bulletin of the Asia Institute 8 (1994 [publ. 1996]): 320; and of Medioiranica: Proceedings of the International Colloquium Organized by the Katholeike Universiteit Leuven from the 21st to the 23rd of May 1990, ed. Wojciech Skalmowski and Alois van Tongerloo (Leuven: Peeters, 1993), in Kratylos 41 (1996 [publ. 1997]): 111.

noio 'channel': Old Persian naviya- is usually interpreted as 'fordable by boat', or, as here, 'passable (only) by boat'. The interesting thing about the text passage in which it occurs, however, is that, after describing the Tigris as naviya-, the one thing Darius does not use to cross it is boats, but rather inflated skins (maska-), horses, and camels. The Babylonian version has 'was full', which seems to point to 'in spate'. Similarly, in the Avesta, we find the expressions 'the power of ten nauuiia- rivers' (Yast 8.24), and in Yast 10.14 "broad nauuiia- rivers rush tumultously." That these are rivers that were crossed on boats sounds extremely unlikely to me.

oezo '(act of) power': Old Indic vaj- 'strong', etc., is likely to be connected with Avestan vaz-, which does not change the possible etymological connection of the Bactrian word. (6) The semantics are more problematic, since the word refers to miracles in doc. T, but to valid contracts in V, W, and X.

padouamondo 'boundary': Old Iranian *pati-ham-ant- and *vi-ham-anta- (origin of Middle Persian wimand acc. to the editor) (7) are hardly possible, as one would expect *pati/vi-sam-. The same goes for *pati-ham-karaya- in the entry pidagger-, for which the easiest alternative might be *pati-anu-karaya-(this might also be a possibility for the Choresmian verb 'nk'ry-). If these words in fact contain compounds with ham-, then the forms with initial pad-/pid- must be secondary formations, which is in principle possible; cf. the Middle Persian and Parthian compounds with pad- meaning 'with ...'. In that case padouamondo (pad-hamand) ought to mean 'with border = bordering (upon: abo)'; the extended form padouamondigo appears to refer to the various geographical features that form the boundaries; cf. the following passages, which may also give an impression of the Bactrian languages:

C7-8/C8-9 (similarly in J11-13) koado abo izamigo eimo padouamondigindo aso miroasano odo aso nemoroso tasaro iabo ouamondo, S.-W.: "in respect of which land these are the boundaries: to the east and to the south the water of the stream (is) the boundary"; perhaps rather: "to which land the following are the (geographical features) forming the boundary: to the east and to the south the water of the stream is the boundary";

J13 tadomo oso paralado ... i masko nabixtigo aggargo sagondo pido padouamonddigano nabixtigindo, S.-W.: "Thus the property described herein [literally: 'the above written'] has been sold by me ... just as has been stated with reference to the boundaries"; perhaps rather: "Thus now the property ... just as (its parts?) have been described by (listing) the (geographical features) forming (their) boundaries."

U11-12 odo asto padouamondo abo emo rozgo kido oadamostano namo aso miroasano rozgo kido okosako namo. S.-W.: "And the boundary to this vineyard whose name (is) Wadam-stan is (as follows): to the east a vineyard named Ukusak ..."; perhaps rather: "And the following (vineyards) border upon this vineyard whose name (is) Wadam-stan: to the east a vineyard named Ukusak ..."

V12-13 oso abo masko nabixtigo aggarago asido zerdo namo ieio padouamonddigindo aso miro-sano kino odo parokino aggarago, S.-W.: "Now these are the boundaries of the property described herein, whose name (is) Zerd: to the east (is) a ditch, and on the farther side of the ditch the property of the leaders"; perhaps rather: "Now these are the (geographical features) forming the boundaries of the above-described property, whose name (is) Zerd ..." (or: "... the (geographical features) bordering on the above-described property"?).

pordago 'owing': Cf. Middle Persian purdag, on which see Colditz, Zur Sozialterminologie, 98-99, 359.

tago 'river-valley': See also Skjaervo on Khotanese ttana 'rivers' in Ronald E. Emmerick and Prods Oktor Skjaervo, Studies in the Vocabulary of Khotanese I (Vienna: Osterreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1980), 49. It is not clear to me why the editor thinks it is necessary to render this hapax in garo odo tago 'mountain and tago' as 'river-valley' rather than as 'river'. River/water-rights are as important as mountain (-pasture?) rights for irrigation and fishing.

Most of the time the editor's analyses and explanations are of course perfectly credible. They are often imaginative, sometimes ingenious, always interesting.

We are very grateful to the editor for placing this splendid volume at the disposal of other Iranists and historians so quickly. It is to be hoped that it will inspire further work on the texts and the language, as expressed by Sims-Williams (1998): "The complete elucidation of the Bactrian documents and inscriptions will require many kinds of expertise: in palaeography and epigraphy, in history, historical geography, history of religions, numismatics, sphragistics, Arabic, Turkish, Chinese.... Since no one individual could possibly be competent in so many fields, such a task demands collaboration between scholars in several disciplines."

Looking back at the book, I cannot help being amazed at how skillfully Sims-Williams has single-handedly deciphered these documents, though it is not altogether surprising from the hand of the foremost expert on the Central Asian group of Middle Iranian languages today. Future installments are eagerly awaited.



1. See the text of the lecture at Japanese version in [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]/ Ex Oriente Lux 16 (Dec. 1997): 3-17.

2. For a discussion of the terms azad and azad mard in Middle Persian, etc., see also Iris Colditz, Zur Sozial-terminologie der iranischen Manichaer: Eine semantische Analyse im Vergleich zu den nichtmanichaischen iranischen Quellen (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2000), 53-107. The term sariio 'townsman' recalls the use of Khotanese auya- 'villager' in the eighth-century legal documents; see, for instance, Skjaervo, "Legal Documents Concerning Ownership and Sale from Eighth-Century Khotan," in From Nisa to Niya: New Discoveries and Studies in Central and Inner Asian Art and Archaeology (London, forthcoming).

3. See Igor M. Diakonoff and Vladimir A. Levshits, Parthian Economic Documents from Nisa: Texts, ed. David N. MacKenzie, Andreas N. Bader. and Nicholas Sims-Williams. Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum, pt. 2, vol. 2 (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 2001), 187.

4. See Manfred Mayrhofer, Etymologisches Worterbuch des Altindoarischen, 3 vols. (Heidelberg: Carl Winter, 1986-2001), I: 733. I take this opportunity to point out that the translation 'death-averting' that I have used in my "Introduction[s] to Avestan," which have circulated in various versions in the Iranist community over the last years does not represent what I think is the "real" meaning. It is a stop-gap translation, but also represents the understanding of the Zoroastrian tradition as reflected in the Pahlavi translations: os az ruwan i mardoman dur dared "he keeps death away from the souls of men." My rendering was recently cited as my "opinion" in spite of the request not to cite anything in these introductions without my consent (Ph. Gignoux, "Religions de l'Iran ancien," Annuaire EPHE, Section des sciences religieuses 107 [1998-99], 181-82).

5. Why *zrunaka-? Avestan zrun- has Avestan lengthening of u > u.

6. See Mayrhofer, Etymologisches Worterbuch des Altindoarischen II, 540-41.

7. I currently believe that in some cases Avestan intervocalic -[delta]-, instead of developing to -y- in Middle Persian, was sometimes strengthened with prenasalization to be preserved. I would explain in this way wimand for Av. vimai[delta]iia- 'border(?)', winnar- for Av. vi[delta]araiia-, and, of course, winde(w)dad (Vendidad) for *vi[delta]
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Author:Skjaervo, Prods Oktor
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Date:Apr 1, 2005
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