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Sources pour l'histoire et la geographie du monde iranien (224-710).

Sources pour l'histoire et la geographie du monde iranien (224-710). Edited by RIKA GYSELEN. Res orientales, vol. 18. Bures-sur-Yvette: GROUPE POUR L'ERTUDE DE LA CIVILISATION DU MOYEN-ORIENT, 2009. Pp. 269. [euro] 70.

The purpose of this and other Res Orientates volumes, according to the editor's preface, is to emphasize the importance of primary sources for the writing of the history of the Sasanians as a counterweight to the use of such sources by some "historians" who interpret the primary sources Only to confirm their hypotheses (p. 7). The primary source studies presented in the contributions to this volume include "Palais B at Bishapur and Its Sasanian Reliefs" by Lionel Bier (pp. 11-40); a preliminary study of the significance of the letters <'pd> on coins of Khusraw (Husr[]y) II by Maryse Blet-Marquand (pp. 41-58); Sasanian "places of recollection" in the second ris[]la of Ab[] Dulaf Mis'ar, who traveled through Iran in the tenth century C.E., by Jean-Charles Ducene (pp. 59-89); "Armenian Sources on Sasanian Administration" by Nina Garsoian (pp. 90-114); documents from the archives of Friyag among the Pahlavi documents in the Berkeley collection by Philippe Gignoux (pp. 115-42); two groups of post-Sasanian coins by Rika Gyselen (pp. 43-72); the Syriac Book of Chastity by Christelle Jullien (pp. 173-83); certain coins of Khusraw II by Karin Mosig-Walburg (pp. 185-208); and the formula k[] cihr az yazd[]n and related issues by Antonio Panaino (pp. 209-56).

Three indexes conclude the volume: place names, personal names, and administrative functions and titles.

Lionel Bier examines equestrian reliefs featuring galloping, horses at rest, and standing figures in jousting scenes and, perhaps, royal investitures (compared with Sasanian investiture scenes elsewhere in Iran). Unfortunately, the preserved fragments do not permit a precise dating.

Blet-Marquand approaches the problem of determining the function of the letters traditionally read as abd and thought to mean 'good, excellent', with reference to D. N. MacKenzie, A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1971; this dictionary does not provide contexts). The article contains the results of Fast Neutron Activation Analysis (FNAA) performed specifically on parallel issues, some with, others without <'pd> [??]. It has been known for a while that the coins with <'pd> contain more silver than those without, but with the new analysis it turns out that those with <'pd> contained more or less pure silver--the early ones with less than 1% or even less than .5% copper, the later ones with more. Those without <'pd> are made of silver "debased" with copper, 2-6% (pp.48-49). Similar results were obtained for the parallel issues, except that the quality of the <'pd> issues declines considerably over the years. The results, however. give us a clue to the true interpretation of the three letters. Firstly, Pahlavi abd does not usually denote the good quality of objects, but commonly characterizes natural and man-made "wonders," things that makes one wonder at them. The definition of the coins with <'pd> as being "of pure silver," i.e., "without copper," permits us to read the letters as ab[] 'without'. This word, which is an adjectival prefix in Pahlavi, is spelled variously, but the oldest manuscripts have [??] and similar, which points to an older spelling <'pydy>. The final <-ydy> is found in the 2nd singular in the Pahlavi Psalter, where it spells -[], and in the inscriptions in the imperfect passive of 'to do', where it probably spellsiy. Final <-dy>, moreover, is abbreviated as <-d> in the 3rd plural ending: Psalter <-yndy>, but arameogram <-d>. The spelling <'pd> can therefore easily be interpreted as an abbreviated version of <'pydy> ab[] 'without'; in fact, the final [??] here may be the forerunner of the Pahlavi graph [??].

Ducene translates the notes on Iranian sites in Ab[] Dulaf Mis'ar's travel report contained in a manuscript discovered in Mashad in 1922 by Zeki Validi Togan and edited several times before a facsimile of the manuscript was published by F. Sezgin in 1987. The translations are accompanied by notes on the contents, including comparisons with the reports of other geographers.

Garsoian discusses "administrative institutions" under the Sasanians based on information drawn from various Armenian historical works, mainly from the fifth century onward (pp. 9193). After providing source material for the vassal status of Armenia, including taxation and a central financial office (pp. 96-97), and the Armenian cavalry (pp. 97-99), she gives the sources for various Sasanian titles, most of them well known, among them, in particular, the office of mar pan (MPers. marzb[]n; pp. 105-12).

Gignoux presents twelve documents written by various people to a certain Friyag. residing in Namtar, mostly regarding various commodities. One mentions a series of animal skins (lion, hear. panther, pp. 124-25), another the guardianship of children and a doctor (p. 126).

Gyselen's contribution is an extremely interesting examination of two series of eastern Iranian coins, those of the K[]buls[]h, a dynasty founded in Central Afghanistan by a Turkish general around 685 C.E., after he had pushed the Arab conquerors back to Sakest[]n, and those of Spur. a rutbil of z[]vulest[]n. As for this name, spelled <spwl>--since there is no particular reason to think it is Iranian--Gyselen's comment (p. 152a) about "Pangul and Spur" raises the possibility that it might be *Sabul or similar. In the second part of the article, Gyselen discusses a word on the Arab-Sasanian coinage that can apparently be read as either []z[]d or []b[]d. Without inspecting the coins themselves, it is impossible to determine whether the sequences <'p-> and <'c> are distinguished in these ductuses, e.g., by leaving the <-c-> as an open circle and <-p-> as a closed circle. The drawings in the article seem to indicate that in <'pzwt> we have both. which means that the actual shapes of the letters are not conclusive. Gyselen further discusses the iconography and the chronology of the coins (to be dated around 720?) and further legends, Persian and Arabic.

Jullien, having already examined the Syriac acts of Christian martyrs for information about Sasanian geography and administration, here presents data from the Syriac Book of Chastity. edited by Jean-Baptiste Chabot in 1896. (In n. 2 this is referred to as "Chabot, Chast.," in the text of the article as "CHAB, Chast.," and in the bibliography as "Chab, Chast." Similarly. "HOFF" appears in the text. but "Hoff" in the bibliography for Hoffmann's edition of parts of the acts of martyrs. These are strange abbreviations in this age of computers.) According to the English abstract, the book was known [where, when?] by its Latin title as Liber Castitatis; its Syriac title is not given. In the present article. the first of two, Jullien examines place names from the "north northeast" (of Mesopotamia) and a few from Khorasan (resume). Most of the names are provided with etymologies. mostly Syriac, but some Iranian (Middle Persian). For example, s.v. B[]th-Raman, the alternate name qrdylbd is tentatively interpreted as containing gerd 'circular' and []b[]d 'prosperous'. that is. 'domains prospere', where the-yl-is left unexplained. (*Kard[]l-[]b[]d comes to mind. Kard[]l is the Coptic form of the name of the third-century high priest known as Kartir. Kerdir, etc.; see "Kartir" in Encyclopcedia Ircanica vol. 15, fase. 6 (2011), 607-28 (also online at

For Hordepnah, spelled lywrdpn', rather than a Syriac etymology proposed earlier, the author suggests Middle Persian hordad-pan[]h 'refuge (provided by) Hordad' (pan[]h is usually 'refuge'. rather than 'protecteur'; although MacKenzie has both meanings. I doubt the validity of 'protector'), which does not quite agree with the spelling; she points out that if that is so, then we would be dealing with a Mazdean village. She does not mention any other instance of Hordad in place or personal names. The reader is sometimes left a bit puzzled, as on p. 174, where the author gives a list of terms for which she simply refers to "the remarks that had been made regarding most of these terms."

Mosig-Walburg examines the historical significance of a special coinage issued by Khusraw II, concluding that they were intended to justify his expansionist policy toward the west and pacify criticisms of his war against the Byzantine empire expressed by the nobility and military leaders (p. 185, abstract). This she supports by a detailed analysis of the history of the period indicated by the years the coins were minted. The coins are characterized by the depiction on the obverse of a frontal beardless bust whose head is surrounded by a nimbus of flames. The legends are, on the obverse: xwarrah-abz[]d. husr[]y s[]h[]n s[]h; on the reverse: the year number (spelled out) and []r[]n-abz[]d followed by what is read as hujadag or hud[]nag with variants. I have doubts about the second reading. however. While hujadag 'of good omen' is well attested. hud[]nag (rendered as 'der der guten Religion anhort') is not: we would expect hud[]n[]g. If the coin published on p. 190 is typical, then the word in these legends should also be read as hujadag; the <-t-> in <hwytky> is in fact identical with that in <'pzwt> (except squeezed a bit at the top) and characterized by the same shape of the down-stroke.

Panaino takes up once again the question of the meaning of hay in the formula mazd[]sn bay and cihr in k[] cihr az yazd[]n, prompted by my discussion of the same (M. Alram, M. Blet-Lemarquand, and P. 0. Skjarv[empty set], "Shapur, King of Kings of Iranians and Non-Iranians," in Des Indo-Grecs aux Sassanides: Donnees pour l'histoire et la gdographie historique, pp. 33-37. Res Orientales, vol. 17. Bures-sur-Yvette: Groupe pour l'etude de la civilisation du Moyen-Orient [2007]). I am glad I gave him the impetus to revisit this problem and to present in one place his various arguments that had earlier been published separately, adding new ones.

Panaino begins by stressing that the Greek version of the formula, in which [theta][epsilon]o[zeta] renders both hay and yazd[]n, does not provide a reliable guide to the meaning of the Persian. He then outlines the use of [theta][epsilon]o[zeta]; in the royal ideology of the Roman and Hellenistic Orient and, against this background, tries to determine the values of bay and cihr in the Sasanian royal titulary. He assumes, reasonably, that the choice of Greek equivalents was determined in close consultation with the Persian officials in charge and that the king was most probably at least informed of the process (pp. 217-18). In the next section he then addresses "the royal bay," pointing out that, in the Pahlavi texts, bay and bay[]n are glossed as 'distributors', a meaning found also in Avestan and going back to Indo-Iranian times and that there is little evidence that the king was actually considered divine (pp. 218-24).

In addition to the texts quoted by Panaino, note also the expression m[]h baxt[]r in the Xorde Avesta ([]fr[]nag[]n [] Zardust 6 and Wistasp yagt 4), corresponding to the common epithet baya of the Moon, and that (as Panaino knows well, but apparently does not mention), when what is distributed by the gods is specified, it is the xwarrah, the divine "Fortune" (e.g., Yagt 6.1 and Bundahisn 26.21: m[]h xwarrah-baxt[]r[]h "the moon's being called distributor of xwarrah"). I also take the opportunity to point out that, although I have translated bay and bay[]n as 'Majesty' (cited p. 219 n. 52), I do not believe this is one of the intrinsic meanings of the word, only that the Persian and English formulas are used in the same way.

After stressing the eschatological role of the Sasanian king (pp. 224-25) and the fact that the king was regarded as a man and not a god (yazd) (pp. 225-27), Panaino turns to cihr, reviewing various sources that might indicate that the word referred to the kings' form, which was thought to be derived from those of the gods, and concludes (sometimes tentatively), inter alia, that "[i]n principle, the thesis that the king as bay was promoted on a higher dimension, which made of him a living image of the gods, is in line with the Achaemenian background and fits well into the Sasanian Zoroastrian framework ..." (p. 234) and that "the cihr was strictly related to the crown and the enthronization of a S[]h[]n s[]h ... a privilege historically acquired ... a divinization of his whole lineage, as a mark of racial purity ... a distinguishing feature divinely attributed (only) to the King of kings" (p. 235).

Panaino's arguments are very detailed and subtle and the above quotations can of course not give a full picture. Most important, I think, is his remark that the semantic ambiguity of the two terms "offered a tremendous number of symbolic speculative games, where the two dimensions, the royal and the divine one, were mirroring each other but without a definitive identification" and that, by being a scion of the gods, rather than becoming one of them, he still remained their "property" (p. 236). Panaino then goes on to discuss the meaning of cihr as 'appearance', etc., in Zoroastrian and Manichean Pahlavi, rather than 'nature' (pp. 236-37), before reviewing the various meanings assumed for Avestan ci[theta]ra and sensibly suggests that "contemporary speakers might recognize a mixed reference to the royal visible image but also his tremendous superiority ..." He then comments on Yasna 32.3, which is often assumed to provide evidence for the meaning 'seed' or similar but which Panaino doubts (p. 242).

I must confess here that my dismissal of this meaning in Pahlavi was too rash. Having now also (belatedly) read the entire D[]nkard, especially book III, it is clear that the word, after all, also does have that kind of meaning. Although it is not yet clear to me exactly what it is, it does denote something one is born with, as opposed to what one acquires through free will; e.g., in Dk.3.73.2 Ohrmazd organizes and governs the creatures by two powers: []k pad a-wiz[]n cihr ud []k (pad?) pad-wiz[]n k[]m "one by cihr, which makes no choices, and one by will, which does make choices"; Dk.3.119.6 concerns animals acting by cihr, men by k[]m; in Dk.3.48 it is explained that the adversaries who invade the person do so by the m[]n[]y, the cihr, and the body: etc. See J. de Menasce, Le troisieme livre du D[]nkart (Paris: Klincksieck. 1973). 438-39, and compare Ph. Gignoux, Man and Cosmos in Ancient Iran (Rome: Istituto italiano per ['Africa e I'Oriente, 2001), 20-21,24,28.

In fact. although the phrase at y[]s da[]uu[] v[]sp[][eta]h[]--ak[]t mana[eta]h[] st[] ci[eta]r[delta]m certainly looks like it means "but you, da[]uuas, are all ci[theta]ra from an evil thought." the use of ci[theta]ra in the Old Avesta is not always clear. In one particular case, it is evidently used in a parenthetical clause: Yasna 45.1 n[] []m v[]sp[] ci[theta]r[delta] z[] mazda[eta]h[].d[]m "pay now attention to it. all (of you). for it is ci[theta]ra." where the gapped masculine noun may be s[delta]ngha- 'announcement' and ci[theta]ra may be 'perfectly clear, brilliant'. Similarly, Yasuo 32.3 can be interpreted as "but you, da[]uuas, are all from an evil thought--that is perfectly clear" (Kellens and Pirart already suggested ci[theta]r[delta]m could he an adverb 'patently, remarkably'). Thus. the phrase cihr az cannot he safely pursued back to the Old Avesta, although it came to be interpreted this way. as shown by the Pahlavi version: []d[]n asm[]h harwisp k[] d[]w h[]d []-t[]n az Ak[]man ast t[]hmag k[]-t[]n t[]hmag az []n[]h k[] Ak[]man-iz "thus, you all, who are d[]w, your t[]hmag 'family' is from Ak[]man, i.e., your t[]hmag is from there where (that of?) Ak[]man is, too." The interpretation may go hack to the Young Avestan period: cf. H[]d[]xt nask 2.40: sp[delta]ntat haca numiiaot zara[theta]ustra a[]sam ci[theta]r[delta]m vahist[]at ca managhat "From the Life-giving Spirit. Zarathustra. is these (people)'s ci[theta]ra and from Best Thought." This is actually the answer to Zarathustra's question where the souls of the departed, the fravashis of the sustainers of Order, are, and logically ought to mean "(together) with the Life-giving Spirit." etc., where ci[theta]ra has no obvious function.

Panaino concludes this extremely detailed and indispensable discussion by stating that we will probably never he able to find a single adequate translation of the terms bay and cihr, but that we will also be unable to define their semantics in each context, because--as Panaino felicitously puts it--"the Sasanians played a (probably subtle and deliberate) game with these titles," but also because. if we carefully "consider the historical and religious background together with the current meaning involved by the same royal titles, we can deduce the presence of a more guarded ideological protocol. which, for instance, through some particular syntactic rules, distinguished the king from god" (p. 245; here he is referring to the position of the title hay before or after the noun it qualifies, discussed pp. 214-18). Panaino expresses the hope that the discussion may draw attention to "the political and religious explanations attributed to their actual usage and the ideological implications deriving from our modern perception of the whole subject" (p. 246).

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Author:Skjaervo, Prods Oktor
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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