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.Hâjiâbâd Inscription of Shapur I

By: Philippe Gignoux

The Hajiabad Inscriptions were discovered by Robert Ker Porter at Hâjiâbâd in 1818 in a grotto a few kilometers north of Persepolis, at a place called Šaykh ´Ali or Tang-e Šâh Sarvân, opposite the village of Hâjiâbâd that gave these texts their name. 

Following several attempts at deciphering them, it was not until a century later that Ernst Herzfeld (1924) provided a transcription of them in his edition of the Paikuli inscription, and not until 1945 that Henrik Samuel Nyberg for the first time provided a complete edition of both the Parthian and Middle Persian versions. These appeared in the Festschrift for Arthur Christensen, but were written in Swedish and hence not widely accessible. The author, however, provided a facsimile text in his Manual of Pahlavi (1964), and Walter Bruno Henning added some minor corrections to the Parthian version, which he called the "fons et origo Parthian studies." And finally, David N. MacKenzie published (1978), together with a silver plate reproducing part of the Hâjiâbâd inscriptions, a transliteration, transcription, and translation of the two versions, which, together with Nyberg's study, made up the editio princeps of the text.

This text describes a feat of archery by King of Kings Šâpûr I, mentioning his full titles to start with. In the presence of kings and princes, of the grandees and the nobles, the king of kings had shot an arrow beyond a cairn which was not visible and yet constituted the target, which he reached nevertheless. The king thereupon ordered a second cairn to be set up in a certain direction, and challenged anyone strong enough to shoot an arrow to reach that cairn. This exploit, which appeared difficult to understand properly from a short text of only fourteen lines in Parthian and fifteen in Middle Persian, must have made a powerful impression on the court and beyond it; for the king had both versions of the inscription engraved at another site about a hundred km northwest of the first, at Tang-e Borâq in an identical archeological context, on the rock of a grotto. Discovered in 1956, this inscription was first mentioned by ´Ali Sâmi (1957 and 1963), then published by Gerd Gropp in 1969, in a volume in which Walter Hinz also presented various discoveries. Although badly deteriorated in its Middle Persian version, the inscription was well understood after Gropp by MacKenzie, who showed that the Parthian version differed very little from the original. At Tang-e Borâq shooting conditions were better, for the king could position himself to face both cairns, which explains why it was necessary to move the target at Hâjiâbâd to make it visible.

The British Museum silver plate no. 136772, which supposedly comes from Persia and contains the complete Parthian and about half of the Middle Persian version, has been published by MacKenzie, who found two important mistakes in the Parthian version: BR' instead of byš, and ' instead of 'NW; but he did not consider that these mistakes might indicate the work of a forger. He nevertheless mentioned that Richard Frye (1977) had identified a very similar plate, which he considered to be a fake. MacKenzie believes that it may have been a model (draft) which was to serve as a prototype for the engraver, but the use of silver obviously argues against this. He adds that the attempt was so bad that they had to resort to another scribe. A process of this kind need not be imagined, for Shaul Shaked has confirmed Frye's viewpoint by showing that the two dubious words can indeed be found in Herzfeld's edition, which was used by the forger, while the Nyberg edition in Swedish could not have been accessible to him. Besides, Shaked has found other copies of the Hâjiâbâd inscription, pointing out that the fake is obvious because these can only make sense in situ. Among these fakes Shaked mentions a stone slab at the California Museum of Ancient Art, which manifestly stems from Herzfeld; a similar one seen in 1988 in a London gallery; a bronze plate from a private European collection, which is a very meticulous copy of Herzfeld's edition; a bronze bowl which supposedly comes from the Deccan, with an inscription on the outer border probably derived from the Parthian version; and an earthenware bowl which is similar to the magic bowls of the Babylonian collection of Yale. This bowl was studied by Prods Oktor Skjaervø, who, having compared all the reproductions, concluded that the Yale inscription could not have been copied from any of them, but must have been an ancient copy, perhaps from the 4th-5th century. On comparing this inscription with the California Museum slab, however, he conceded that it was a modern copy. Thus the Hâjiâbâd inscriptions, which were forgotten for centuries, have served to enrich forgers in this modern age and to teach scholars to recognize the great numbers of fakes, of which they are not always aware.



*(Parthian-Pahlavi variants in square brackets)

"This (is) the bowshot of me, the Mazda-worshipping god Shapur, king of kings of Êran and Non-Êran, whose descent (is) from the gods, son of the Mazda-worshipping god Ardashir, king of kings of Êran, whose descent (is) from the gods, grandson of the god Pâpak, king. And when we shot this arrow, then we shot it before the kings and princes and magnates and nobles. And we put (our) foot in this cleft [on this rock] and we cast the arrow beyond that cairn. But that place [there] where the arrow was cast [fell], there the place was not such [was not that kind of place] that, if a cairn had been erected, it would have been visible outside. Then we commanded that the cairn be erected more in this direction. [Now] whoever may be strong of arm, let them put (their) foot in this cleft [on this rock] and let them shoot an arrow to(wards) that cairn. Then whoever casts [sends] an arrow (as far as) to that cairn, they are [indeed] strong of arm."

ii. Tang-e Borâq. This version differs from that of Hâjiâbâd only at the end, ll. 13-15:

"(And we) cast the arrow from this cairn [stone] to that cairn. [Now] whoever may be strong of arm, let them shoot an arrow from this cairn [stone]. Then whoever casts [sends] an arrow to that cairn, they are [indeed] strong of arm." Tr. by D. N. Mackenzie, "Shapur's Shooting," BSO(A)S 41/3, 1978, 499-507.




Eugeàne Flandin and Pascal Coste, Voyage en Perse pendant les anne‚es 1840-1841, Paris, 1851, IV, pl. 193 bis. 

Richard Nelson Frye, "Pahlavi Forgeries," Bulletin of the Asia Institute 1, 1977, pp. 1-6. 

Philippe Gignoux, Glossaire des inscriptions pehlevies et parthes, London, 1972. 

Gerd Gropp, "Einige neuentdeckte Inschriften aus sasanidischer Zeit," in Walter Hinz, ed., Altiranische Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969, pp. 229-37. 

Martin Haug, Essays on the Sacred Language, Writings and Religion of the Parsees, Bombay, 1862, pp. 44-45. 

Walter Bruno Henning, "Mitteliranisch," Handbuch der Orientalistik, Iranistik, 1958, p. 43 n. 2. 

Ernst Herzfeld, Paikuli, 2 vols., Berlin, 1924, I, pp. 87-98, II, p. 209. 

Inscriptio Hâgîâbâdensis, Typographia Imp. Ac. Sci. Petrop., 1895. 

Robert Ker Porter, Travels in Georgia, Persia, Armenia, Ancient Babylonia, etc. during the Years 1817-1820, London, 1821-22, I, p. 513, pl. 15. 

Otakar Klima, "Etliche Bemerkungen zur Interpretation der Inschriften von Hajjiabad," Archiv Orienta‚lní 36, 1968, pp. 19-23. 

David N. MacKenzie, "Shapur's Shooting," BSO(A)S 41/3, 1978, p. 499-511, pl. I. 

Friedrich Max Müller, "Die Pahlawi-Inschriften von Hâd‘iâbâd," Vienna Oriental Journal 6, 1892, pp. 71-75. 

´Ali Sâmi, "Kašf-e chand katiba-ye Pahlavi," Gozârešhâ-ye bâstân-šenâsi IV, Tehran, 1336 Š./1957, pp. 173-79. 

Idem, Tamaddon-e Sâsâni, 2 vols., Shiraz, 1342-44 Š./1963-65, I, p. 70. 

Henrik Samuel Nyberg, "Hâjjiâbâd-Inskriften," in Kaj Barr and 

H. Eliekinde, eds., Øst og Vest: Afhandligner tilegnede Prof. A. Christensen, Copenhagen, 1945, pp. 62-74. 

Idem, A Manual of Pahlavi, I, Wiesbaden, 1964, pp. 122-23. Shaul Shaked, "Spurious Epigraphy," Bulletin of the Asia Institute, N.S. 4, 1990, pp. 267-75, 5 fig. 

Prods Oktor Skjaervø, "A Copy of the Hajiabad Inscription in the Babylonian Collection, Yale," Bulletin of the Asia Institute, N.S. 4, 1990, pp. 289-93. 

Edward Thomas, "Sasanian Inscriptions," JRAS, N.S. 3, 1868, pp. 310-39. 

Idem, Early Sassanian Inscriptions, Seals and Coins, London 1868, pp. 70-101. Jamshedji Maneckji Unvala, The Ancient Persian Inscriptions of Darius I and Other Achaemenian Sovereigns Found at Susa and the Sassanian Pahlavi (Pârsik) Inscriptions of Šâpûr I from Bišâpûr and Hâjiâbâd in Fârs (with transcription and translation), Bombay, 1952, pp. 26-28. 

Edward W. West, "Sassanian Inscriptions Explained by the Pahlavi of the Pârsis," JRAS, N.S. 4, 1870, pp. 369-78. 

Niels Ludwig Westergaard, Inscriptiones duœ Regis Saporis primi, prope a vico Hâjiâbâd incisœ, Copenhagen, 1851, pp. 83-84.




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Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica


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