Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
Sasanian Game- board of 'Hashtpay'
Name of a game from the Sasanian era which has not been precisely
identified. The haštpay [hštp'y] "eight feet" (more
likely than aštapad) is mentioned together with other games in
chapter 15 of the Xusraw ud Redag (ud pad Chatrang ud new-ardaxšî
r ud haštpay kardan az hamahlan fraztar hom "and in
playing chess, backgammon and the haštpay I am superior to my
comrades" (Unvala, p. 16; Monchi-Zadeh, 1982, p. 65; Panaino, 1999,
p. 51). Its name, as in the case of chess (Pahl. Ch
< Skt. caturanµga-), is an Indian borrowing; it derives from
Sanskrit astapada- (cf. pali atthapada), originally
referring to a game-board of 8 x 8 little squares. Such a board was used
for various games (Murray, 1913, pp. 35-40; 1952, pp. 129-36), one of them
played, according to the Balabharata (II, 5, pp. 10-13), with red
and white pieces and a pair of dice. In many other sources the astapada-
was doubtless the chessboard and its name strictly associated with this
game (MacDonell, p. 122; Jacobi, p. 228; Thomas, 1898, pp. 272; 1899, pp.
365; Thieme, 1984, p. 208). From the Xusraw ud Redag it is clear
that the Sasanian haštpay was distinguished from other popular
games like chess and the variety of backgammon represented by new-ardaxšî
r. The haštpay could perhaps be associated, according to
Semenov (pp. 16-20, 131; but see Panaino, 1999, pp. 153-56, 189), with a
game-board (with three lines of eight squares) recently discovered in
Paikend and with another one represented on a later Sasanian silver cup
with a different but apparently comparable form.
Jacobi, "Über zwei ältere Erwähn-ungen des Schachspiels
in der Sanskrit-Litteratur," ZDMG 50, 1896, pp.
D. Monchi-Zadeh, "Xus-rôv i Kavâtân ut Rêtak," in Monumentum
Georg Morgenstierne, vol. II. Acta Iranica 22, Leiden, 1982, pp.
A. A. MacDonell, "The Origin and Early History of Chess," JRAS,
1898, pp. 117-41.
H. J. R. Murray, A History of Chess, Oxford 1913. Idem, A
History of Board-Games other than Chess, Oxford 1952.
A. Panaino, La novella degli Scacchi e della Tavola Reale.
Un'antica fonte orientale sui due gixochi da tavoliere piuà diffusi
nel mondo euroasiatico tra Tardoantico e Medioevo e sulla loro
simbologia militare e astrale. Testo pahlavi, traduzione e commento al
Wiz-arišn î Chatrang ud nihišn î new-ardaxšî r
"La spiegazione degli scacchi e la disposizione della tavola
reale," Milano, 1999.
G. L. Semenov, Studien zur sogdischen Kultur an der Seidenstrasse,
P. Thieme, "Chess and Backgammon
(Tric-Trac) in Sanskrit
Literature," in E. Bender, Indological Studies in Honor of W.
Norman Brown, New Haven, 1962, pp. 204-16, reprinted in Kleine
Schriften, Wiesbaden, 1984, pp. 413-25.
F. W. Thomas, "The Indian Game of Chess," ZDMG, 52,
1898, pp. 271-72; 53, 1899, pp. 364-65.
J. M. Unvala, The Pahlavi Text "King Husrav and his
Boy," published with its Transcription, translation and
copious notes, Paris, n.d.
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