Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
Territory of the Aryans
David Neil McKenzie
ĒRĀN-WĒZ, the Middle Persian designation of the territory of the Aryans. It is the development of an OIr. *aryânâm waijah (cf. the similar Man. Sogd. and probably
Parth. 'ry'nwyjn, i.e., Aryânwê‘an; Henning, pp. 55, 73). Differing only in the use of the genitive plural 'of the Aryans' for the adjective 'Aryan,' it corresponds to the Avestan airyanәm
vaêjô. This is first used in the Yašts to name the place where Zaraθuštra, 'famed therein' (Y. 9.14), sacrificed to Arәdvî
Sûrâ and other divinities (Yt. 5.104; 9.25; 17.45). It is described more fully in the first chapters of the Vendidad. Ahura
Mazdâ (q.v.) tells Zaraθuštra that he created it "the first and best of places and habitations" but that Aηra Mainyu had made as its bane 'the red snake and the demon-created winter' (Vd. 1.2). If Ahura
Mazdâ had not made less pleasing places satisfying to their inhabitants "all material creation would have come to airyanәm
vaêjô" (Vd. 1.1). In view of this desirability of the country, the statement in Vendidad (1, 3) that "There are ten months of winter there and two of summer and (even) those are (too) cold for water, for earth, for plants. It is the middle and the heart of winter, and (when) the winter ends there are many floods," seems clearly to be a late and inappropriate interpolation. It was there too that Ahura
Mazdâ summoned Yima (both also said to be "famed therein") to a meeting to instruct him to build a shelter in which to protect good men, animals, and plants from the winter (Vd. 2.20 ff.).
In the Pahlavi books the legend is elaborated. In Ērân-wêz the first cattle were created (Great Bundahišn, 13.4;
Zâdspram, 3.50). Through it run the rivers Dâitî (Av. Dâityâ, q.v.), which contains more noxious creatures (xrafstars) than any river—a statement probably based on the mistranslation of
raoδita "red (snake)" as rôdîg "riverine" in the Pahlavi version of Vendidad 1.2—and
Dâraèa (Av. Drәjâ), on whose banks was the house of Pourušaspa, father of Zaraθuštra (Great Bundahišn 11 A. 7.29). There Zaraθuštra first revealed the Good Religion (Great Bundahišn 35. 54).
By late Sasanian times Ērân-wêz was taken to be in Western Iran: according to Great Bundahišn (29.12) it was "in the district (kustag) of
Ādarbâygân." But from Vendidad 1 it is clear that it has to be sought originally in eastern Iran, near the provinces of Sogdiana, Margiana, Bactria, etc., listed immediately after it. "The conviction that the country of the speakers of the Avestan language was Chorasmia (q.v.) has been steadily growing since 1901, when Marquart first voiced it. It rests on the two highly probable assumptions that when Avestan writers mention the country Aryana
Vaêjah they mean their country, and that Aryana Vaêjah is at least partly identical with . . . Chorasmia . . . [then including] the provinces of Marv and Herat" (Gershevitch, p. 10).
The meaning of vaêjah is uncertain, but Benveniste (pp. 265 ff.) convincingly derives it from the root vaig "move rapidly, spread" and gives it the meaning "stretch." Its full sense is then to be gained from its constant collocation with the words vaηhuyå
dâityayå, i.e., "the Aryan stretch of the good Dâityâ," the river Oxus. If this is correct, the term must have been coined expressly to denote the land occupied by the Iranians which borders the great river; i.e., it was not originally a movable term for all Iranian-held territory, like
airyô.šayana (Yt. 10.13), but a description of a particular geographic area occupied by the Mazdayasnians (Zoroastrians) of the Younger Avestan period.
Benveniste, "L'Érân-vê‘ et l' origine le‚gendaire des Iraniens," BSO(A)S 7, pp. 265-74.
I. Gershevitch, "Old Iranian Literature," in HO I, IV, 2, 1, pp. 1-30.
G. Gnoli, The Idea of Iran, Rome, 1989.
W. B. Henning, "The Book of the Giants," BSO(A)S 11, pp. 52-74.
From: Encyclopaedia Iranica
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