The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
Early Persians’ Interest in History
By: Professor A. Shapur Shahbazi
Richard N. Frye's well-known interest in Iranian history affords this Persian an
occasion to contribute, as a token of admiration, a portion of his A History
of Iranian Historiography* to the eminent scholar's Festschrift. The article
deals with the Achaemenid Persians' methods of preserving the memory of their
forefathers, which assumed three forms: oral tradition, saga illustrations, and
written records. Only the first two categories are discussed here.
opens his great work on the Greco-Persian war by recording the traditions which
sought to explain its causes.
"The Persians best informed in history
claim," he relates, that the Phoenicians began the quarrel by abducting lo,
the daughter of Inachus, king of Argos, to Egypt, in retaliation for which
certain Greeks carried away Europa, a Phoenician princess. Afterwards the Greeks
committed a second violence when they sailed to a Colchis city and bore off its
princess, Medea, and refused to repair this outrage; but, when avenging this,
Alexander, a son of Priam, seduced Helen of Sparta, the Greeks reacted foolishly
and invaded Asia with a vast armada and destroyed the kingdom of Priam. Since
the Persians regarded Asia with all its various inhabitants as their own,
they argued that by so doing the Greeks had in truth harmed Persia
and initiated hostilities.
testimony reveals the interest with which the Persians treated ancient events
and their zeal for peering into the past through sagas and traditions. They
carefully preserved the memory of their forebears, at least from the time of
Achaemenes, whom they regarded as the founder of their kingdom.
Thus, Darius the Great proudly proclaimed:
We are called Achaemenids. From long ago we have been noble. From long ago our family has been royal … VIII [members] of our family have been kings; I am the ninth; nine kings in two lines.
also hints at his long historical heritage: having given an account of nineteen
battles that he had won and nine kings that he had smitten, Darius remarks that
former kings did not achieve in their lifetimes what he had accomplished within
The Achaemenid Persians had diverse sources from which to derive information regarding the historical background of their various subjects. That some versions of certain eastern Iranian sagas were known to them, probably through their priests and court minstrels is shown by their adoption of such "Avestan" names as Vištāspa, Hutaosā (Atossa), (Damaspia, fem. form of Zāmāspa) Spənto.dāta (Spendadates), Pišyōθna (Pissuthnes), and Yima Xšaēta. It is also certain that the ruling class of Persians were not wholly ignorant of the history of Babylonia, Egypt, and the Eastern Greeks, and used their knowledge politically when the need arose. Indeed, their desire to know renowned foreign men and lands is well attested. Understandably, the Persians were mainly interested in preserving the memory of their own achievements, especially in recounting or recording the exploits of their kings and heroes. In this the Persians were prone to exaggerate calamities, magnify worthy deeds, and romanticize tales, and these tendencies, which varied in degree, frequently resulted in the creation of several versions of a single tradition. Thus Herodotus was obliged to explain:
shall follow those Persian authorities whose object it appears to be not to
magnify the exploits of Cyrus, but to relate the simple truth. I know besides
three ways in which the story of Cyrus is told, all differing from my own
Of the many different accounts which are given on the death of Cyrus, this which I followed appears to me the most worthy of credit.
existence in Achaemenid Persia of diverse versions of historical traditions
evidently encouraged Ctesias to gratify his desire to contradict Herodotus by
writing a remarkably inaccurate History of Persia (Persica, now
preserved only in fragments) and insisting upon having drawn upon Persian
sources. His Persica was in twenty-three books, the first six on Assyrian
and pre-Persian history, the rest about Persian affairs.
Photius, who used the Persica extensively, says:
nearly all points he [i.e., Ctesias] gives an account opposed to that of
Herodotus, whom he even accuses of having been a liar in many particulars and
whom he calls a deviser of fables. Not only is Ctesias later than Herodotus, but
he declares that he was either an eyewitness of most of the events that he
relates, or else had heard directly from the Persians themselves in cases where
personal observation was impossible and that these were the sources from which
he composed his history. He not only contradicts Herodotus but also differs with
Xenophon in some points.
sources of these "Persian authorities" can be examined under the
headings of oral traditions, official records, and illustrations of sagas.
old custom of preserving the memories of renowned men and nations and
embellishing them with fabulous and often dramatized tales was kept up by the
Achaemenid Iranians, especially by the Persians. As in the old days, the
backbone of oral traditions was poetry, wherein the exploits of ancestors were
told to encourage similar deeds among the contemporaries. G. Rawlinson's study
of Herodotus led him to infer:
. . . that the Persian authors to whom he [Herodotus] refers in several places as authorities on the subject of their early national history were poets, the composers of those national songs of which Xenophon, Strabo and other writers speak, wherein were celebrated the deeds of the ancient kings and heroes, and particularly those of the hero-founder of the Empire, Cyrus.
inferences that some of the Herodotan tales on Persian subjects were ultimately
based on poetic songs is defensible. After remarking that the ancient Greeks had
been music lovers and that their poets had put to song-music the praise of the
gods, Athenaeus adds,
"This custom was kept up also among the barbarians, as Dinon declares in
his Persian History."
He then quotes from Dinon an episode wherein court minstrels (on whom see below)
praised the courage of Cyrus and foresaw his wars with his overlord Astyages.
Similarly, Xenophon testifies that in his own time:
And even to this day the barbarians tell in story and in song that Cyrus was most handsome in person, most generous of heart, most devoted to learning, and most ambitious, so that he endured all sorts of labour and faced all sorts of danger for the sake of praise.
oral traditions recounting major episodes of the past and contemporary history
constituted the means of instruction to Persian children:
Persians from five years of age to twenty-four are trained to use the bow, to
throw the javelin, to ride horseback and to speak the truth; and they use as
teachers of science their wisest men who also interweave their teachings with
the mythical elements, thus reducing that element to a useful purpose, and
rehearse both with song and without song the deeds both of the gods and of the
judge from the testimonies of Dinon, Strabo, and Xenophon, and drawing upon
later traditions, we can safely infer that the transferers and propagators of
such materials were singers and musicians, i.e., the court minstrels. In a
Manichaean Parthian document of the fourth to fifth centuries CE, as well as in
later Iranian literature, such minstrels are called gōsān. In that Parthian source
the term is defined as he "who proclaims the worthiness of kings and heroes
of old," which is similar to what Strabo says about the royal tutors of the
Persians who "rehearsed both with songs and without songs the deeds both of
the gods and of the noblest men." Again, among the arts that royal
concubines were often required to master were singing and the playing of musical
while the king dined, they sang or played the lyre, one solo and the other in
Ctesias testifies that this was not restricted to the royal court. Whenever
Amarus, satrap of Babylonia, sat at dinner, he tells us, "a hundred and
fifty women played on harps and sang for him" (Frag. 52). Such songs, it
may be confidently conjectured, included historic tales told in ballads or
epical versions Personal valor and noble
exploits were highly praised, as were heroic devotion to king and country. Not
only were the notable deeds of Iranians celebrated, but the achievement of
foreigner were likewise admired. Remarkable muscular strength and physical
perfection were much appreciated,
and some form of hero-worship developed
By the end of the Achaemenid period a rich oral literature had been created
which embraced a good deal of historical tales woven around Iranians and their
neighbors. In the accumulation of this heritage not only Iranian materials, but
also alien sources were utilized.
Use was made of supernatural elements in Iranian folklore and these were often
blended with non-Iranian substances.
The composers of historical fables were not much concerned with geographical and
historical accuracy, and the custom of reattributing an old story to a new hero
was frequently followed.
none of the sagas of the Achaemenid Iranians has directly come down to us; those
that have survived have been profoundly colored by later adaptors and final
reductions. Still, an examination of our sources readily shows the richness of
Iranian oral traditions that one can trace in written sources. Some of these
traditions were so significant that they persisted even after the fall of the
Achaemenids, having been merely transferred to their illustrious inheritors. As
we will meet them again and again in the course of Persian history, it would be
useful to refer to them at this juncture.
heroized figure was Achaemenes, the eponymous founder of the Persian royal
Well aware of their racial affinities with the Hellenes,
the Persians claimed that Achaemenes was descended from Perses, a child of
Perseus, whom the Dorian Greeks regarded as their first sovereign.
It was also asserted that Achaemenes was nursed by an eagle,
the bird that symbolized the might of the Persian Empire.
Medes had their own hero-founder. In the old days, when they lived in scattered
villages, Deioces, a noble Mede who was endowed with much wisdom, started as an
honest and upright judge, gained the confidence and devotion of his fellow
citizens, and became a ruler in his region. Convinced that "justice and
injustice are engaged in perpetual war with each other," he administered
his followers' affairs with fairness and understanding and brought about a
period of peace and prosperity. Then he withdrew from public affairs, and
lawlessness broke out anew. To prevent complete anarchy a Median assembly
proffered the sovereignty over Media to Deioces. He accepted, set up a court,
and built "a strong and large palace" and the city of Agbatana (Ecbātānā).
This latter was erected on a gentle hill, with seven strong walls each of which
out-topped the one beyond it by its battlements. The outer wall's battlements
were white, those of the second black, the third scarlet, the fourth blue, the
fifth orange, the sixth coated with silver, and those of the seventh coated with
gold. His palace and treasury were within the last wall. He created institutions
for administering the affairs of his realm and established the law that forbade
the king to be seen or contacted directly by his subjects. Thus he gathered the
Medes into a nation and ruled over them alone.
elaborate chain of tales surrounded the figure of Cyrus the Great, the most
revered of all Persian kings. Of these a few need special investigation. He was
the son of Cambyses, king of Persis, and Mandana, daughter of Astyages, the last
Median king. Forewarned by a dream that his grandchild would replace him,
Astyages ordered a noble kinsman, Harpagus, to destroy the child of Mandana.
Harpagus gave the infant to a shepherd with orders to expose him on a mountain,
and the shepherd did so. But the child was miraculously saved by a bitch (Spaka;
a later version makes this word the name of the shepherd's wife). The child grew
up to be a brave and handsome man, who wrested the kingship from Astyages and
united the Medes and Persians into one world-empire. In this story the miracle
was the work of the god Miθra, but a rationalized version made two changes: the
bitch was replaced by a woman whose name happened to be a word (Spaka) meaning
"bitch"; and the shepherd was given a name, Mithradates, which
happened to signify "created by Miθra.
favorite tale relates how, as the child of a poor layman, Cyrus played that he
was a king. The boys of his own age chose him to be their king; Cyrus
“proceeded to order them about some he set to build him houses, others he made
his guards, one of them was to be the King's eye, another the King's
messenger”; all attended to him except the son of a noble Mede, who refused to
carry out an order and was severely punished. The boy's father complained to
Astyages, the cruel king of Media, who, after recognizing Cyrus' royal descent,
sent him away to Persis. Cyrus revolted soon afterwards and with the help of
Astyages' wise chief minister, Harpagus, gained the throne and did away with
This story was told to Herodotus, probably by the descendants of Harpagus,
but was kept alive in Pars where we encounter it again in the ninth century CE,
then told of the boy named ‘Azod [al-Dawlah].
another much admired tale told how Cyrus lived in Media as a youth, how he
entered the service of King Astyages, and how he fled to Persia and rose against
his overlord. This Cyrus had previously been chief of the royal rod-bearers and
later commander of the guard; because of his able and ambitious character he
aroused fear and suspicion in Astyages who therefore readily gave him permission
to go to Persis and visit his parents:
Dinon says: then Cyrus departed; Astyages thereupon celebrated a feast in company with his friends, and on that occasion a man named Angares, who was the most distinguished singer, was invited. He not only began to sing other customary songs but also, at the last, he told how a mighty beast had been let loose in the swamp, bolder than a wild boar; which beast if it got the mastery of the region round it, would soon contend against a multitude without difficulty. And when Astyages asked, "What beast?” Angares replied, "Cyrus, the Persian." Believing therefore that his suspicion about him had been correct, he kept summoning him to return . . . but it did no good.
story told about Cyrus was that of his capture of Sardis with the help of Nanis,
the daughter of Croesus:
For when Cyrus was besieging Sardis, all his effort towards taking the city were fruitless, he was much afraid that Croesus might muster his allies again and disperse his army. Then, they said, this girl made an agreement with Cyrus to betray Sardis on condition that he take her as his wife in the Persian manner. At the very top of the citadel where no one was guarding the place because of its strength, she admitted the enemy with the help of accomplices. But Cyrus did not make good his promise.
was, according to one story, the rightful king of Egypt.
Amasis, an Egyptian general, had rebelled against his overlord Arties, killed
him and enslaved his household. Long afterwards, the king of Persia (one version
had Cyrus; a Persianized version substituted Cambyses) asked the hand of Amasis'
daughter. Wishing neither to give his daughter as a concubine nor to anger the
Persian king, Amasis sent him Nitatis, daughter of the overthrown Apries. The
issue of this union became the sovereign of Persia, and, claiming the kingship
of Egypt as his right through his mother's line, he conquered that country.
the whole, one sees that the Persian history before Darius is shrouded in
various legends, whereas after the reestablishment of order by him, stories
decrease both in number and in fabulous character. This difference reflects the
effect of written records, which systematically increased in volume and subject
after the invention of the Old Persian cuneiform script under Darius and the
further development and enrichment of archives. Still, the reign of
Darius is also veiled in some traditions, of which two may be examined here, one
concerning his accession and the other his campaign against the Sakas of Central
to Herodotus, Darius
with six Persians of the noblest families assassinated the false Smerdis in a
"citadel," and he then persuaded his helpers of the advantages of the
Persian system over the Hellenic type of "democracy." The seven
decided to ride out together the next morning into a field, and "he whose
steed first neighed after the sun was up should have the kingdom." At
night, Darius' groom Obares let his horse come together with a mare at the
appointed spot. At dawn on the following morning the seven rode thither and
Darius' charger recognized the place and neighed. "Just at the same time,
despite the clear and bright sky, there came a flash of lightening, followed by
a thunderclap. It was as if the heavens conspired with Darius, and hereby
inaugurated him king." Thus Darius ascended the throne and henceforth the
day of the assassination of the false Smerdis was celebrated as the greatest
Such festivals do not disappear even when their causes are forgotten. It was
assimilated into and has continued under the name of Miθrakāna/Mihrgān,
which, according to the later Persians, was the day when the young Iranian
Prince Frēdūn finally vanquished the usurper Aždahāg in a
"citadel" and rescued the two princesses whom Aždahāg had married.
He founded a great festival and was crowned king of Iran. The story of the
horse's neighing seems to be a distorted version of a tradition according to
which Ādur Gušnasp approved the choice of a virtuous Iranian prince against
his rival kinsmen.
second tradition about Darius is known from a later account, given by Polyaenus.
Darius waged a campaign against the Eastern Sakas. Their kings retired to
prepare a plan of defense.
Then a certain stable-keeper, Siraces by name, was introduced to them. He proposed himself to destroy the Persian force, if they would pledge themselves to him by oath to give to his children and family all the horses and treasures that from the destruction of the enemy should fall into their hands. They agreed. He therefore withdrew his knife, cut off his nose and ears, maiming himself also in other parts of the body; and thus disfigured, deserted to Darius who gave credit to the complaints of the cruel treatments which he said he had received from the Saka kings. Siraces further said, "By the eternal fire and the sacred water, I swear I will exact my revenge." Then addressing Darius, he added, "And it is in your power, by the means I will explain, to give the glorious revenge I ask. Tomorrow night the Sakas mean to shift their camps; I know the spot where they intend to position themselves and can conduct you to it by a nearer way than they will take; there you can encircle them completely. I am a horse-keeper and know every step of the country for many miles around. But it will be necessary to take with us water and provision for seven days. For this purpose order preparations to be made without any delay." Thereupon he conducted the Persian army in a march of seven days into the most barren and sandy part of the land. When both their water and provisions began to run short, Rhanosbates, the hazārapatiš, suspected the treachery of their guide. . . , and put him to death. Then Darius fixed his sceptre in the ground, tying round it his tiara and the royal diadem, and climbing a hill, implored MiOra [Polyaenus has Apollo] in this moment of distress to preserve his army and give them water. The god heard his prayers, and a plentiful shower ensued, which they received in hides and vases, and subsisted on it, till they reached the Bactros.
is romanticied version of the expedition of Darius the Great against the Eastern
Sakas in 520/519 BCE, which is told in the Behistun postxcripts, and ir presents the
original Persian story of the self-mutilation trick (it recurs in CE 484 in
Central Asia, and incolved the falling of the Sasanian Pērōz into the trap of
does not name any of his "Persian authorities," but he was, as G.
Rawlinson said, "born and bred a Persian subject"
and had opportunities to draw on Persian materials transmitted by soldiers and
officials whom he met at Sardis and other Iranian-dominated cities of Asia
Minor. Cyrus' history from his birth to his conquest of Asia Minor, as well as
the portion dealing with the Median history, reveals strong pro-Harpagus
tendencies, and since we know that Harpagus founded an Irano-Lycian dynasty that
ruled the Xanthos region until at least 380 BCE, we may assume that members of
this house were the indirect source of Herodotus on those topics.
A good deal of Persian materials-both oral and documentary-relating to the
accession of Darius, his recapture of Babylonia, and his expeditions, seems to
have been transmitted to the Greeks by Zopyrus the Younger, whom Herodotus may
have met in Athens when Zopyrus stayed there
Another likely source, particularly concerning the internal affairs of the
Achaemenid family, is the eunuch of Prince Sataspes, a nephew of Darius the
Great. After the failure of the prince to carry out the project of
circumnavigation, he "ran away with a great portion of his wealth and
reached Samos, where a certain Samian seized the whole. I know the man's name,
but I shall willingly forget it here."
Official Records and Saga Illustrations
had the Iranians not possessed a tradition of representing the deeds of heroes
and gods on flat or carved objects, they would have had ample opportunity to
learn from their Elamite, Mesopotamian, and Egyptian subjects who had been
masters of saga illustration for over two millennia. By Achaemenid times this
had become a conventional means of conveying historical or religious messages to
the people, nearly all of whom were illiterate. The idea is well reflected in
the record-relief ornamenting the facade of the tomb of Darius the Great in
Naqsh-a Rostam. The representation shows Darius standing in adoration before his
royal fire while above both hovers the winged-king symbolizing his royal
God-given fortune (Xvarənah/Farnah); Darius and his royal
fire stand on pedestals which rest on a "monumental throne" (gāθūm)
carried on the raised hands of thirty male figures typifying various subject
nations; flanking the throne are the "six helpers" of Darius.
The scene is meant to symbolize the Achaemenid Empire. Its extent and
centralized but fair organization are manifest in the throne bearers, all
depicted as units of a whole, and the mutual trust which existed between the
Great King and his subjects is well borne out by the act of support given to the
throne on which the unguarded king stands. The whole empire is the creation of
the vigilant, righteous, brave, and nationalistic Iranians led by a Persian
spearman, Darius himself.
Saith Darius the King: Ahuramazda, when he saw this earth in commotion, thereafter bestowed it upon me, made me king; I am king. By the will of Ahuramazda I put it on its foundation; what I said to them, that they did, as was my desire. If now thou shalt think: "How many are the countries which King Darius held?" look at the sculptures of those who bear the throne. Then shalt thou know; then shall it become known to thee: the spear of a Persian man has gone forth far; then shall it become known to thee: a Persian man [ = Darius] has delivered battle far indeed from Persia.
we remember that the sculptured scene shone with brilliant colors,
we can imagine the effect it had upon the beholder.
same historical message was conveyed by the Behistun relief and the Persepolitan
friezes. One notes that in these representations historical accuracy is impaired
by the inability to show in a single scene various phases of an event or
incidents forming a chain of events. Thus, the nine "kings" whom
Darius vanquished at different times and in different places are all depicted
bound together as a row of prisoners awaiting justice in front of Darius. The
illustrations were, then, symbolic in nature, but their messages were clear to
the conquest of Asia Minor the Persians subjugated the Ionians whose artists had
a distinct tendency towards history and whose painters had celebrated historical
battles in their works, such as the Lydian victory over the Magnesians by
This school flourished later under the Athenians, but it also served the Persian
Empire. When Darius intended to cross into Europe and campaign against the
European Scythians c. 513 BCE, Mandrocles, his Samian engineer, built him a
bridge across the Bosphorus.
Darius was so pleased with the bridge thrown across the strait by the Samian Mandrocles, that he not only bestowed upon him the customary presents but gave him ten of every kind. Mandrocles, by offering first fruits from these presents, caused a picture to be painted which showed the whole of the bridge, with King Darius sitting in a seat of honour, and his army engaging the passage. This painting he dedicated in the temple of Hera at Samos, attaching to it the following inscription:
fish-fraught Bosphorus bridged, to Hera's fane
Mandrocles this proud memorial bring;
for himself a crown he'd skill to gain,
Samos praise, contending the Great King."
doubt a copy of such a memorial would have been presented to Darius himself.
Indeed, there is ground for believing that favorable phases of the great
Greco-Persian War were represented in several paintings and ornamented some
parts of the Babylonian palaces of the Achaemenid kings.
It is likewise certain that in satrapies such as Babylonia and Egypt the
Iranians had more occasion and facilities to have events of their history,
sagas, or even daily life commemorated in paintings and carved representations.
To this category belong the beautiful little sculpture depicting the funeral of
an Iranian nobleman from Memphis,
and the interesting royal audience scenes painted on the inner side of the
shields of Iranian generals who fought Alexander in the sculptured
representation on the "Alexander Sarcophagus" from Sidon.
Imitating the Persepolitan examples, the painted scenes represent the very late
Achaemenid models of a royal tradition-the king receiving his closest senior
officials in a public audience. As in the case of oral traditions, so in
illustrated subjects the sagas played a major role. This is clear not only from
later histories of Iran but also from the story of Zariadres and Odates as
related by Alexander's chamberlain, Chares of Mytilene as follows:
Anciently, there lived two brothers, Hystaspes and Zariadres by name; the former
ruled Media and the lands below it, the latter the regions above the Caspian
Gates up to the river Tanais. Their subjects stated that the two had been born
of the love of Aphrodite and Adonis. Above the Tanais lived the Maratians, whose
king, Humartes, had a remarkably beautiful daughter named Odates. "Of her
it is recorded in the histories that she saw Zariadres in a dream and fell in
love with him, while the same passion for her attacked him in the same
way." Zariadres went after Odates and asked for her hand, but Humartes
refused, not wishing to marry her to a foreigner. Instead, shortly afterwards he
held a marriage feast and invited his own relatives and noblemen in the hope
that one of them would be chosen by Odates, who, it was arranged, would indicate
her choice by offering him a cup of wine filled by herself. Upon discovering her
father's intention, Odates sent word to Zariadres, and he, together with a
charioteer, set out with the utmost haste, gallantly forded the Tanais, and
arrived in a Scythian's costume in the feast hall just as Odates had run out of
time and, weeping, was filling the cup. Then she discovered Zariadres and
happily gave him her cup, and their marriage followed. Afterwards they went to
Zariadres' land. Chares then comments,
Now this love affair is held in remembrance among the barbarians who live in Asia [i.e., the Persians, see n. 3] and it is exceedingly popular; in fact they picture this story in their temples and palaces and even in private dwellings; and most princes bestow the name Odates on their own daughters.
Hystaspes, Odates /Atossa), and Humartes are good Achaemenid names, it seems
unjustified to connect the story at this stage with Kavi Vištāspa and his
brother Zairi.vairi (as a later tradition did); still much later, a recension of
the story connected it with King Pērōz.
Germany/ and supervised by W Hinz (Gottingen). I extend my heartfelt gratitude
to the authorities of the Foundation and my unequaled German mentor.
Herodotus, I, lff.
Hesychius: lógios, ho tê historías émpeiros, "lógios: one
who is versed in history."
For "Asia" designating the Persian empire see further Herodotus,
I, 130; VII, 11; IX, 116, 122; Q. Curtius, III, 3: 3-4 etc. The claim was
already Median: Herodotus, I, 108.
For the same reason Xerxes and his priests offered sacrifices to the heroes
slain at Troy when in 480 BCE the Persians passed by the site of the ancient
city: Herodotus, VII, 43.
Since they had entered the scene some seven centuries after the fall of
Troy, the Persians were availing themselves of an arbitrary pretext to
explain their enmity towards the Greeks, but Herodotus insists that they did
advance such reasoning (I, 1-5), and there is no need to suppose (e.g., W W
How and J. Wells, A Commentary on Herodotus, vol. 1, p. 53 [Oxford,
many eds.]) that he is reporting a Greek tale with no native Iranian
foundation. Similarly, Darius the Great used the Scythian invasion of Media,
which had taken place a century before his accession, to justify his
campaign against the European Scythians: Herodotus, V, 1 with I,
118-19. Even more to the point, in CE 230, Ardagir waged war against the
Roman Alexander Severus pretending that he was avenging the death of Darius
III whom the earlier Macedonian Alexander had vanquished: Herodian,
VI, 2: 2; Dio Cassius, LXXX, 4: 1 with The Letter of Tansar, trans.
M. Boyce (Rome, 1966), 65.
See especially Herodotus, III, 75; VII, 11.
Behistun, I, 8-11 (R. G. Kent, Old Persian [New Haven, 19531, 117).
Behistun, IV, 50-2 (ibid., 129).
Herodotus, I, 132, states that when administrating sacrifices for
Persians, the Magi chants a hymn, which they say recounts the origin of
gods. It has long been recognized that these theogoníaí must have
been similar to the Avestan Yašts, which are hymns to ancient gods: E.
Benveniste, The Persian religion (Paris, 1929), 31; A. Christensen, Die
Iranier (Munich, 1933), p. 287, n. 6.
On the Median court poets (ōidoí) who drew their subject-matter from a
traditional repertoire (eithisména), see below.
A pioneer work on the Perso-Avestan names was Ph. Keiper's "Len nomes
propres perso-avestiques," Muséon 4 (1884-1885), 221-29,
Hutaosā/Atossa, daughter of Cyrus the Great and Hutaosa, the Queen of Kavi
Damaspia, the Queen of Artaxerxes I.
Jāmāspa, the minister of Kavi Vištāspa, and the Persepolis Elamite
tablets' Zamašba and Tammašba, see R. Hallock, Persepolis Fortification
Tablets (Chicago, 1969), 772.
Spəntō.dāta, son of Kavi Vištāspa, and Sphendadatēs of Ctesias. His
statement that this was the name of the Magus usurper whom Darius destroyed
is disproved by the Behistun inscription, which names the Magus as Gaumāta;
however, that the name Spəntō.dāta had become known in West Iran in
historic times is thereby established, see W B. Henning apud M.
Boyce, JRAS (1957), p. 12, n. 2.
The Avestan Pišyaoθna, son of Kavi Vištāspa, and the Achaemenid
Pissuthnes, son of Hystaspes (Thucydides, I, 115; III, 31), with J.
Darmesteter, Le Zend Avesta (Paris, 1892-1893; repr. 1960), vol. 2,
p. 534, n. 196; and E. Benveniste, Titres
et noms propres en iranien ancien
(Paris, 1966), pp. 123ff.
The Avestan Yima Xšaeta and the Elamite tablets' Yamakšedda (Hallock,
Persepolis, 771-72, with variants); Benveniste, Titres, 96.
See J. Harmatta, "The Literary Patterns of the Babylonian Edict of
Cyrus." AAnASH 19 (1971), 217-31.
This is implied by the inscription of Udjahorresne, the Egyptian admiral of
Cambyses and Darius, from Darius' letter to his satrap ordering him to
gather wise men to codify old Egyptian laws /see below, and from other data
not relevant here.
Cf. Darius' letter to Gadates with reference to his predecessors' policy
toward Apollo; the Persians'siding with the Trojan cause (Herodotus, I, Iff.;
VII, 43~; the mythical ancestorship of the Medes from Medea (Herodotus, VII,
641 and of the Persians from Perseus (VII, 61j. See also below, n. 43.
Cf. Herodotus, III, 137, where Darius is said to have heard of and admired
the mighty deeds of Milo, the wrestler.
Note Cyrus' enquiry concerning the Lacedaemonians (Herodotus, I, 153);
Cambyses' regarding the Nubians (III, 17j; Darius'on the Athenians (V, 105,
106), and on the men of Paeononia (V, 13j; and Artaphernes' about the
Athenians (V, 73).
Herodotus, I, 95.
For a full treatment of the Cyrus sagas see A. Bauer, Die Kyrus-Saga and
Verwandtes (Vienna, 18881, and Shahbazi, Cyrus the Great (Shiraz, 19701.
Herodotus, I, 214.
See J. Marquart, "Die Assyrika des Ktesias," Philologus, suppl.
vol. 6 / 1895), 503-658; The Fragments o f Persika of Ktesias, ed. J.
Gilmore (London, 18881, and Ctesias' La Perse, 1'Inde-Les sommaires de
Photius, trans. R. Henry (Brussels, 1947).
Photius, epit. I (Gilmore, 1221).
Tr. of Herodotus, vol. 1, p. 49.
Diepnosophistae XIV, 633bff.
Muller (ed.j, FHG, vol. 2, 90).
Cyropaedia, I, 2: 1.
Strabo, Geography XV, 3: 18.
See Boyce, "The Parthian gōsān and Iranian minstrel
tradition," JRAS (19571, 10-47; add to her references on the gōsān
the testimony of Hamzah, Tāīx sennī mulūk al-arz waÉll-anbiyāÉ
(Berlin, 1922), 38.
Boyce, "The Parthian gōsān," 11.
Xenophon, Cyropaedia IV, 6: 11.
Parnades apud Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae XVIII, 608a; cf. XII,
514b; Suidas, s.v. Mousourgoi.
To the point that Greek athletes were invited to the Persian court as
honored guests, see J. Hofstetter, Die Griechen in Persien (Berlin,
19781, nos. 57 and 269; cf. above, n. 21.
Cyrus: Arrian, Anabasis VII, 29: 4; Achaemenes (see below; Artachaees,
Herodotus, VII, 21, 117; Masistius, ibid., IX, 24.
Cf. Christensen, Die Iranier, 297.
A good case is the story of Darius and his horse, on which see C. F.
Lehmann-Haupt, Klio 28 (1923), 59-64.
See G. Rawlinson, trans. of Herodotus, vol. 4, p. 252, with all
Beautifully attested in Aeschylus' Persae, 11. 180-90.
Herodotus, VII, 150: prior to his expedition against Greece, Xerxes sent an
envoy to the Argives to deliver the following message: "Men of Argos,
King Xerxes speaks thus to you: 'We Persians deem that Perse from whom we
descend was the child of Perseus, the son of Danae, and of Andromeda, the
daughter of Cepheus. Hereby it would seem that we came of your stock and
lineage; nor can it be right for you to fight, on behalf of others, against
Aelian, On the nature of animals XII, 21.
See Xenophon, Cyropaedia VIII, 1: 4; Anabasis I, 10: 12; Q.
Curtius, III, 3: 16; see further Shahbazi, "An Achaemenid symbol
II," AMI, NF. 13 (19801, 137-39.
Herodotus, I, 96ff.
Herotodus, I, 107ff., with Shahbazi, Cyrus the Great, chap. III.
Herodotus, I, 114.
Shahbazi, The Irano-Lycian Monuments (Tehran, 19751, 69-70.
Muhammad b. Mahmud b. Ahmad-i Tūsī, ÌAjāÉib
al-maxlūqāt wa qarāÉib
ed. M. Situdeh (Tehran, 19651, 470-71; see also Barthold, ZDMG 98
(1944/, 157, for another reference.
Dinon, FHG, vol. 2, 90 = Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae XIV,
Parthenius / 1st century BCE1, Love Stories 22, in J. Grifiths Podlev,
Ancient Literary Sources on Sardis (Cambridge, Mass., 19721, no. 118.
Cf. K. M. Atkinson, "The Legitimacy of Cambyses and Darius as Kings of
Egypt," JAOS 76 (1956), 167.
Herodotus, III, Iff.
For the creation of the Old Persian cuneiform script under Darius the Great
see pt. III of my Historiography.
Herodotus, III, 80-88.
Herodotus, III, 79, substantiated, for once, by Ctesias, Persica i5
(=46 in Gilmore, 149).
As Marquart saw: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte von Eran, fasc. 2
(Leipzig, 1905), 234ff. Against the objections of L. Gray (in Hasting's ERE,
vol. 5, 875al and then of Henning (JRAS , 134ff.j; see J.
Duchesne Guillemin, BSOAS 13 (1950), p. 638, n. 2; W Eilers, Der
alte Name des persischen Neujahrfestes (Wiesbaden, 19531; G. Widengren, Die
Religionen Irans (Stuttgart, 1965), 119, 139; and more recently, A.
Dietz, "Baga and Miθra in Sogdiana." In Acta Iranica 17
(Tehran, 1978), 111-14.
Bīrūnī, The Chronology of Ancient Nations, trans. E. Sachau
(London), 18791, 207ff.; Firdausi, Shāhnāmeh, Moscow ed., vol. 1,
This story will be dealt with in detail in another article.
Strateg. VII, 11: 8.
Behistun, V, 20ff.
Th. Nödeke, Das iranische Nationalepos, 2nd ed. (1920),
p. 3, no. 10 with reference.
Trans. of Herodotus, vol. 1, p. 62f.
Shahbazi, Irano-Lycian Monuments, 69-70.
J. Wells, "The Persian Friends of Herodotus," JHS 27
Herodotus, IV, 43.
For the interpretation of the scene see Shahbazi, "Achaemenid Symbol,"
Kent, Old Persian, 138.
Cf. E. F. Schmidt, Persepolis, vol. 3 (Chicago), 1970, p. 85.
P. Calmeyer, Iran 18 / 1980, 56.
See Pliny, Natural History VII, 126; XXXV, 55, with E. B. Harrison,
"The Composition of the Amazonomachy on the Shield of Athena Parthenos,"
Hesperia 35 (1966/, 106-35, esp. 126.
Herodotus, IV, 88.
Shahbazi, Irano-Lycian Monuments, 90-91.
F. W von Bissing, "Totenstele eines persischen Grossen aus
Memphis," ZDMG 84 (1930), 226-38.
Volkmar von Graev, Der Alexandersarkophag and seine Werkstatt
(Berlin, 1970), 102ff.
Apud Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae XIII, 575a-d, with Boyce, BSOAS
17 (1955), 471ff.
For details see Ibn Isfandyār, Tārīx-i Tabaristān, ed. `A. Iqbal
(Tehran, 1320/1941, 62-72.
Copyright © 1998-2015 The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies (CAIS)