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IRANIAN MYTHOLOGY

KING FERÊDÛN


 

By: Ahmad Tafazzoli

 

 

Ferydûn, Freydûn, Ferêdûn or Farîdûn New Persian from Afrîdûn; Pahl. and Man. Mid. Pers. Frêdôn; Av. θraêtaona, is one of the Iranian mythic hero. He is mentioned several times in the Avesta with the epithet ƒßiiâni "of the house of ƒßiia" (Air Wb., p. 323), said to have been his father (Y. 9.7). ƒßiia is to be compared with Vedic Âptya, both from Indo-Iranian *Atpas. Both the Indian hero Trita Âptya and the Avestan θraêtaona, son of ƒßiia, defeated dragons: Vis‚varûpa and Dahâka respectively. Furthermore, in the Iranian tradition both θraêtaona and θrita (cf. Trita) were physicians (Yt. 13.131; Vd. 20.2). It can therefore be suggested that in the remote past they were two brothers of the house of *Âtpas, one a warrior, the other a physician. θraêtaona alone became prominent in Iranian myth and was identified as both warrior and physician (Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, pp. 98-100). As both names were derived from θri- "three," θraêtaona may originally have been a patronym from θrita/Trita, meaning "son of θrita," and both θrita and θraêtaona can be understood as reflexes of an earlier *Trito (Lincoln, pp. 104-05).

 

θraêtaona's most brilliant feat in the Avesta is his victory over the three-headed, six-eyed dragon Dahâka (Yt. 5.33-35, 15.23-24; Y. 9.7-8; Vd. 1.18). Although there and in a tradition related by Tabarî (I, p. 208) θraêtaona seems to have killed Dahâka, in the Pahlavi literature (Dênkard, ed. Madan, pp. 548, 811) it is explicitly reported that, following Ohrmazd's command, he refrained from killing the dragon, lest various noxious creatures emerge from the corpse; rather, he fettered and imprisoned the beast on Mount Damâvand (q.v.). It will remain there in chains until the end of the world, when it will be slain by Garšâsb (q.v.; Pahlavi Rivayat, ed. Dhabhar, pp. 146-47). This version is also repeated in sources of the Islamic period (Tabarî, I, p. 208; Š, ed. Khaleghi, I, pp. 82-83). It seems to be a late Zoroastrian scholastic elaboration of the original Avestan myth (Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 283). It is obviously because of this victory that Ferêdûn is often given the epithets purr-pêrôzgar "very victorious" (Pahlavî Rivayat, ed. Dhabhar, p. 134), tagîg "valiant," and zôrîg "powerful" (Dênkard, ed. Madan, II, pp. 812, 814).

 

In the Š (ed. Khaleghi, I, pp. 61 ff.) Ferêdûn is identified as the son of Âbtîn (q.v.), a descendant of Jamšêd, and of Farânak (Mojmal, ed. Bahâr, p. 27: *Farîrang). According to the Avesta (Vd. 1.18), Ferêdûn was born in Varəna, identified in later sources with Var, a village in the area of Larîjân (Ebn Esfandîâr, p. 57; Mar´ašî, p. 11; cf. Tabarî, I, p. 205, who mentioned Damâvand as Ferêdûn's birthplace). Immediately after his father's murder by Z˜ahhâk (Dahâk) Farânak takes her son to a forest, where he is nourished by the cow Barmâya (q.v.; Š, ed. Khaleghi, I, v. 114; Tha´âlebî, Gh, p. 31: Barmâyûn). When Ferêdûn is three years old his mother flees with him to Mount Alborz (q.v.), fearing Zahhâk. Eventually Kâva (Tabarî, I, p. 207, and other Islamic sources: Kâbî) rebels against Z˜ahhâk and takes his army to the castle where Ferêdûn is hiding. With their assistance Ferêdûn, still only sixteen years old (Š, ed. Khaleghi, I, p 64 v. 153; Dênkard, ed. Madan, p. 596: nine years old), sets out to exact vengeance for his father's death. He crosses the river Arvand and goes to Jerusalem, where Z˜ahhâk has his palace. After a furious battle he defeats Z˜ahhâk and rescues two of Jamšêd's women, Arnavâz and Šahrnâz (Š, ed. Khaleghi I, p. 92 v. 49; Tabarî, I, p. 205: Arvnâz and Sanvâz; Av. Arənauuâchi and Saηhauuâchi), who had been abducted by Z˜ahhâk. They seem to have replaced "the cattle" freed from the dragon in the original Indo-Iranian myth (Lincoln, p. 109). On a Sasanian amulet in the British Museum, London, a hero with a bull-headed mace in his right hand is depicted subduing a demon; the image seems to represent the battle of Ferêdûn with Z˜ahhâk (Bivar, pp. 522-24).

 

Ferêdûn also does battle with the Mâzandars, semi-monstrous foreign people identified with the blacks (zangîg; Bundahišn, TD2, pp. 108-9; cf. Matînî). The event is briefly related in the Dênkard (ed. Madan, pp. 812-14, cf. pp. 596, 689; Mênôg î xrad, ed. Anklesaria, chap. 27.40; Tafazzoli, pp. 127-28). According to this legend, after Ferêdûn's victory over Z˜ahhâk the Mâzandars attack the region of Xwanêrah (Av. Xúaniraθa); the people there complain to Ferêdûn, who fights the aggressors in the plain of Pêšânseh, binds them to the hooves (lit., "feet") of the cow Barmâyûn, transforms some of them into stones, and finally expels them from the region.

 

According to the Avesta (Yt. 13.131) and the Pahlavi literature, Ferêdûn was also a physician. In one tradition (Dênkard, ed. Madan, p. 596) the agricultural aspect of Jam's (Yama's) glory (xwarrah), attached to the third Iranian social class, is said to have been transferred to Ferêdûn, though it would be expected that the warriors' portion would have devolved upon him. He was thus able to repel the plague and other diseases and bore the epithet purr-bêšaz, literally, "very healing" (Dâdistân î dênîg, pt. 1, p. 84, question 36.35; cf. p. 97 question 36.80). It may be suggested that in the original myth, or at least one version of it, the portion of the farmers had been allotted to θrita, mentioned in the Avesta as a physician (Vd. 20.2); later it must have become attached to Ferêdûn, along with θrita's identification as a physician. In the preserved fragment of one Avestan text, probably an incantation, θraêtaona is invoked against evil powers (Avesta, tr. Darmesteter, 3.2; Modi, 1900). On a Parthian gem in the Falkiner collection, London, probably an amulet made to serve a medical purpose, an Iranian hero is depicted subduing a demon; it may represent Ferêdûn fighting a demon of severe illness (Bivar, pp. 518-23). The popularity of Ferêdûn as a physician is also reflected in a Manichean Middle Persian incantation associated with other "names of power" (Henning, pp. 39-40). There are a number of amulets and charms inscribed in Pahlavi, Pazand, and Persian in which Ferêdûn is invoked to heal diseases; some of them are still used by the Zoroastrians of Persia and India (Modi, 1894; Kanga, pp. 141-45; Boyce, Stronghold, pp. 63 ff.). There is also an incantation against noxious creatures and other evil powers in Pahlavi and in Persian (Pahlavi Texts, ed. Jamasp-Asana, p. 84; cf. Modi, 1900, repr. pp. 125-26; Zand î Xûrdag Abestâg, pp. 121-22; Bîrûnî, Â, p. 229; Tohfat al-gharâ`eb, p. 217). In another Pahlavi incantation Ferêdûn's name is mentioned; its purpose was to make a dried-up spring flow again (Pahlavi Rivayat, ed. Dhabhar, pp. 201-2; ed. Williams, I, p. 229, II, p. 265). In sources of the Islamic period the invention of medicine and the introduction of antidotes are attributed to Ferêdûn, who was also regarded as the inventor of amulets (Hamza, 1961, p. 34; Tabarî, I, p. 226; Bal´amî, ed. Bahâr, p. 148; Ebn al-Balkhî, p. 36; Târîkh-e gozîda, ed. Navâ`î, p. 84).

 

Magical powers were attributed to Ferêdûn as early as in the Avesta (Yt. 5.61-65), where he is said to have kept the skilled steersman Paurva, who was wandering in search of his home, tossed in the air continuously for three days and nights until the goddess Ardvî Sûrâ Anâhîtâ rescued him. This report may be an allusion to a steersman whose boat is buffeted by winds. Ferêdûn used his magical powers in the battle with the Mâzandars. When he exhaled he projected hailstones from his right nostril and fiery stones, each as big as a room, from his left. He was also able to turn the enemy to stone (Dênkard, ed. Madan, p. 814). Once he assumed the guise of a furious dragon in order to test the bravery of his three sons (Š, ed. Khalegi, I, p. 103 vv. 221 ff.). This connection of Ferêdûn with magic may have given rise to the scholastic speculation that his capital was at Babylon (Hamza Esfahânî, p. 34; Mas´ûdî, Morûj, ed. Pellat, I, p. 265), considered the center for magicians in Pahlavi and Islamic sources.

 

Like other ancient mythological heroes and kings, Ferêdûn had attached to him in the Pahlavi and Islamic sources a number of deeds pertaining to early Iranian civilization, for example, the foundation of the city of Samlân/Samrân, of a marvelous town in Padêškhúârgar, and of fire temples in three different places. He was the first to tame the elephant and use it in battle and to cross horses and donkeys to produce mules, as well as many other marvelous deeds beneficial to the world. The duration of his reign was recorded as 500 years. He was also considered the inventor of astronomy and philosophy (Markwart, Provincial Capitals, pp. 20, 99-101; Bundahišn, TD2, 209.6, 127.8, 239; Dênkard, ed. Madan, 596.13; Gardîzî, ed. Habîbî, pp. 5-6; Bal´amî, ed. Bahâr, p. 148; Ebn al-Balkhî, p. 36; Hamza Esfahânî, p. 17; Mas´ûdî, Morûj, ed. Pellat, I, p. 265, II, p. 398; Tabarî I, pp. 229-30; Tha´âlebî, Gh, p. 65; Ya´qûbî, Ta`rîkh, p. 178; Târîkh-e gozîda, ed. Navâ`î, p. 84).

 

Ferêdûn's close connection with cattle is notewrothy. His totemic ancestors are mentioned with the suffix gâw "cow" (see ÂBTÎN). This connection may have influenced later reports, for example, his famous mace with a bull's head (gorz-e gâvsâr; e.g., Š, ed. Khaleghi, I, pp. 71 v. 257, 82, v. 444; Ebn al-Balkhî, pp. 12, 36; Tabarî, I, p. 228; Tha´âlebî, Gh, p. 34; Ebn Esfandîâr, p. 58), his nourishment by a cow named Barmâyûn, his being the first to ride a bull on the feast of dar-e mazînân (16 Day; Bîrûnî, Â, p. 226; Gardîzî, ed. Habîbî, p. 246), his riding a bull while hunting (Ebn Esfandîâr, p. 58), and his fastening the Mâzandars to the hooves of the ox Barmâyûn (Dênkard, ed. Madan, 814.11 ff.).

 

Ferêdûn is said to have had two elder brothers, who assisted him in his battle against Z˜ahhâk: Barmâyôn (Šâh-nâma, ed. Khalegi, I, pp. 58 vv. 44 ff., 70 vv. 253-54, 72 v. 272: Barmâya) and Katayôn (Bundahišn, TD2, 229.11; Dênkard, ed. Madan, 320; Š, loc. cit.). According to one story, these brothers attempted to kill Ferêdûn by rolling a boulder down on him while he was asleep, but he used his magic powers to order the boulder to stop (Gardîzî, ed. Habîbî, p. 4).

 

Ferêdûn is supposed to have divided his realm among his three sons, giving Rûm to Salm, Turkestan to Tôz (Šhah-nâma: Tûr), and Iran and India to Êriz (Š: Îraj). A dispute arose among the three and resulted in the assassination of the youngest, Êriz/Îraj, by the other two (Bundahišn, TD2, pp. 211, 229; Dênkard, ed. Madan, 596, 689; Ayâdgâr î Jâmaspîg, chap. 4.39; Mênôg î xrad, ed. Anklesaria, chap. 21.24; Š, ed. Khaleghi, I, pp. 106 ff.; Tabarî, I, p. 229; Tha´âlebî, Gh, p. 41; Mas´ûdî, MorûÎ, ed. Pellat, I, p. 265; Hamza, 1961, p. 34; Tafazzoli, pp. 114-15).

 

According to one tradition, Ferêdûn was at first immortal, but Ahriman (q.v.) changed him into a mortal (Mênôg î xrad, ed. Anklesaria, chap. 8.27), either because of his contempt for Ohrmazd (Pahlavi Rivayat, ed. Dhabhar, p. 139; ed. Williams, II, p. 78) or because he preferred Êriz/Îraj to the two older sons (Tha´âlebî, Gh, p. 42; Tafazzolî, p. 111).

 

Like other ancient Iranian heroes, Ferêdûn was identified in Islamic sources with such biblical and koranic figures as Noah (Bîrûnî, Â, p. 46), Abraham (Maqdesî, Bad`, III, pp. 142, 144), and Nimrod (Dînavarî, ed. Guirgass, p. 8). The introduction of Semitic elements into the legend of Ferêdûn also belongs to the Islamic period; for example, the story that he was twins in his mother's womb and of his miraculous birth (Maqdesî, Bad`, III, p. 142) is an adaptation of the story of Jacob and Esau.

 

 

 

 

Bibliography 

for cited works not given in detail see "Short References"): 

Ayâdgâr î jâmâspîg, ed. G. Messina as Libro apocalittico persiano: Ayâtkâr i ‘âmâspîk, Rome, 1939. 

Abû Rayhân Bîrûnî, Â, ed. J. W. Fück, Berlin, 1952. D. H. Bivar, "A Parthian Amulet," BSOAS 30, 1967, pp. 512-25. 

Abu'l-Hasan Hamza Esfahânî,, Ketâb ta`rîkh senî molûk al-arz wa'l-anbîâ`, Beirut, 1961. 

W. B. Henning, "Two Manichaean Magical Texts," BSOAS 12, 1947, pp. 39-66. 

K. E. Kanga, "King Farîdûn and a Few of His Amulets and Charms," in The K. R. Cama Memorial Volume, Bombay, 1900, pp. 141-45. 

B. Lincoln, Priests, Warriors and Cattle, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1981. 

Zahîr-al-Dîn Mar´ašî, Târîkh-e Tabarestân o Rûyân o Mâzandarân, ed. B. Dorn as Sehir-eddin's Geschichte von Tabaristan, Rujan und Masanderan, St. Petersburg, 1850. 

J. Matînî, "Mâzandarân," Iran-nâma 2, 1363 Š./1984, pp. 611-38. 

J. J. Modi, Charms or Amulets for Some Diseases of the Eye…, Bombay, 1894; repr. in Anthropological Papers I, Bombay, 1911, pp. 43-50. 

Idem, "Nirang-i Jashan-î Burzigarân …," Journal of the Anthropological Society of Bombay 5, 1900, pp. 398-405; repr. in Anthropological Papers I, Bombay, 1911, pp. 122-30. 

Idem "An Avesta Amulet for Contracting Friendship," in Anthropological Papers I, Bombay, 1911, pp. 131-39. 

The Pahlavi Rivâyat Accompanying the Dâdestân î Dênîg, ed. A. V. Williams, 2 vols., Copenhagen, 1990. 

A. Tafazzoli, tr., Mênû-ye kherad (Mênôg î xrad), Tehran, 1354 Š./1975; repr.Tehran, 1364 Š./1985. 

Tohfat al-gharâ`eb, ed. J. Matînî, Tehran, 1371 Š./1992. 

Zand î Xûrdag Abestâg (Zand-i Khûrtak Avistâk), ed. B. N. Dhabhar, Bombay, 1927.

 

 

 

 

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