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.IRANIAN MEDICAL HISTORY

THE SASANIAN CHIEF PHYSICIAN 'DRUSTBED'


By: Dr Ahmad Tafazzoli

Drustbed (Pahl. drwdstpt; Syr. lw. drwstbyd; Margoliouth, p. 94; Ar. lw. drwst'bdh) "Chief physician" in the Sasanian period. As the title does not occur in the early Sasanian sources and those who are known to have held it were all recorded as having lived toward the end of this period, it seems reasonable to assume that it was a late innovation, on the model of such official titles as dibîrbed "chief secretary." Sometimes drustbed was used in the Pahlavi texts simply as a synonym for bizešk "doctor, physician" (e.g. Dênkard, ed. Madan, p. 14.19; tr., p. 37; Škand-gumanîg Wizâr, ch. 4.102, p. 58), though it seems to have referred to a higher rank and social status, as may be inferred from some passages in the Dênkard. For example, it is stated (ed. Madan, p. 159.1-2; tr., p. 159) that in the material world the function of medicine (gêtîg bizeškîh) is treating the bodies of individuals according to the teachings of the chief physicians (drustbedân *hammôg). Another distinction was made between the two terms: The drustbed was said to have the function of protecting (pâdâr) the souls of men against sin and their bodies against illness, whereas the latter was simply healing (bêšâzênîdârîh; Dênkard, pp. 159.19-160.5; tr., p. 160). This distinction seems to have been based on etymological suppositions, however (i.e., drustbed/pâdâr, bizešk/bêšâzênîdâr).

Non-Zoroastrians could be promoted to the rank of drustbed, for example, the Christian Gabriel of Šiggâr, the private physician of Khosrow II (591-628), who enjoyed the king's favor (Hoffmann, p. 66; Labourt, p. 219; Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 488; Ebn al-Qiftî, p. 133, where the title is recorded in Arabic as drwst`b`dh for drustabadh; see Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, p. 85 n. 3).

 

The chief drustbed was called êrân-drustbed "chief physician of Iran, archiater" and was probably nominated by the king himself. The selection and appointment of a chief physician and his appointment to the position of "the chief physician of Iran" (êrân-drustbedîh) depended on his perfection in treating people of high rank (Dênkard, p. 163.7-9; tr. pp. 162-63). The êrân-drustbed was expected to be "soul loving" (ruwân-dôst); "possessed of subtle insight" (bârîg-wênišn); "reading much" (was-xwânišn); "knowing books by heart" (warm-nibêg); "knowing about the power of the substance, transformations, and nature of the body" (nêrôg î gôhr, wihêrišn î Îadagân ud chihr î tanân âgâh); "knowing about changes" (wardišn-šnâs); "knowing about illnesses and their remedies" (wêmârîh ud darmân-šnâs); "free of envy" (nêst-arešk); "soft in speech" (charb-êwâz); "friendly to the ill" (*wêmârân dôst); "willing to give service" (paristîdâr); dextrous (sbuk-dast); and the like (Dênkard, p. 161.7-16; tr., p. 161). The examination, selection, and authorization of a physician to treat the body (tan bizešk) were the duty of the êrân-drustbed (Dênkard, p. 165.3, tr., p. 164).

 

 

 

Bibliography

(For cited works not found in this bibliography, see "Short References.")

Dênkard, tr. J. de Menasce as Le trosieàme livre du Dênkart, Paris, 1973. 

Ebn al-Qeftî, Ta'rîkh al-hokamâ`, ed. J. Lippert, Leipzig, 1903. 

J. Hampel, Medizin der Zoroastrier im vorislamischen Iran, Husum, Germany, 1982. 

G. Hoffmann, Auszüge syrischen Akten persischer Märtyrer, Leipzig, 1880. 

J. Labourt, Le christianisme dans l'empire perse, Paris, 1904. 

J. P. Margoliouth, Supplement to the Thesaurus Syriacus, Oxford, 1927. 

Škand-gumanîg Wizâr, ed. J. de Menasce, Fribourg, 1945.

 

 

 

 

 

Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica

 

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