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Parthian and Sasanid Inscribed Vocabulary Collected in a Dictionary


30 May 2005



All the vocabulary of the Sasanid and Parthian Pahlavi inscriptions, seals, papyri, and pottery are collected and are to be published in a comprehensive dictionary by end of September.

The book is the most complete collection ever of the Pahlavi words found in rock inscriptions, seals, pottery writing, and papyri dating back to the Sasanid and Parthian era.

According to Darius Akbarzadeh, director of the Hall of Inscriptions of the Iranian National Museum which is in charge of the project, the book covers all the words inscribed at the two era, not only those of the large and famous inscriptions, and both those found on rocks and mountains and the movable ones.

“Each entry of the dictionary includes the original form of the word, its phonetics, its frequency of use, the address of the including inscription(s), and finally the Persian translation,” explains Akbarazadeh.

The dictionary is planned to come to the market by end of September 2005.

Previously, just a concise collection of Pahlavi words of unmovable inscriptions found on rocks and mountains were compiled by Sorbonne professor, director of the studies of ancient Iran religions, and president of the association for the development of Iranian studies, Philippe Gignoux.

Pahlavi was the formal language of the Parthian and Sasanid era.

The Parthian Empire was the dominating force on the Iranian plateau beginning in the late 3rd century BCE, and intermittently controlled Mesopotamia between ca 190 BCE and 224 CE. Iran's Parthian Dynasty was the arch-enemy of the Roman Empire in the East and it limited Rome's expansion beyond Cappadocia (central Anatolia). The end of the empire came in 224 CE.

Of the Parthian times, no literary inscription is left because Aramaic and Greek were the more popular languages of the time. Writings on clays and rocks are the only Pahlavi remnants of the era.

The Sasanid dynasty (also Sasanian) ruled Iran during the era of the second Persian Empire, from 224 until 651, when the last Sasanid King of Kings, Yazdegerd III, lost a 14-year struggle to Arab invaders, whom brutally massacred large number of Iranians and finally forced them to accept Islam.


The inscriptions of Ardeshir in Naghsh-e Rostam of Shiraz, Fars, those of Shapur, and the one related to Zoroaster in the Zoroastrian Kaaba are the most important ones remaining from the Sasanid era. Pahlavi words of the Sasanid era are also found on bowls, glasses, mirror frames, etc.



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