A Middle Persian Text on Banqueting

A Pahlavi Text on Banqueting*

The text examined here, Sūr ī Saxwan, is a banquet speech which I thought may be of interest. The text is a blessing of a banquet, and of the hosts and guests, by a eulogist. It should be noticed, however, that there is a religious / sacrificial aspect to the speech. The text is also of interest for it provides information on Sasanian court culture, including administrative structure and courtier hierarchy. One can imagine a banquet at the court at the time of Xusrō I or Xusrō II, where the ranking of guests is apparent and their functions are emphasized. Eulogists were taught how to go about blessing the deities, the king and the courtiers. The order of dignitaries mentioned is also interesting in that it may provide a glimpse into the now lost Sasanian Gāh-nāmag (Notitia Dignitatum), similar to the extant Armenian text (Gāhnāmak) regarding the Naxarars and the Armenian court. This list may also be compared with the Notitia Dignitatum of the Roman world, albeit a much shorter version.[1]

But the Sūr ī Saxwan is more similar in content to another text which is found in Late Antiquity in the Mediterranean world. This is the κλητορολόγιον of Philotheos, completed in 899 CE.[2] The word κλητορολόγιον is very much linked with κλεσισ “invitation” and κλητοριον “banquet,” which is very much matched with our text, usually known as a dinner speech. The second chapter of the κλητορολόγιον is important in that it lists the highest dignitaries who join the emperor’s table: the Patriarch of Constantinople, Caesar, and other dignitaries. One sees a similar list in the Sur ī Saxwan, but the progression of the list of deities, heavens and offices mentioned is Zoroastrian in nature. The text begins with an order that is both spiritual and corporeal. First, Ohrmazd is mentioned, followed by the Amaharspandān (Holy Immortals) who are said to be in paradise, then Ohrmazd’s name is repeated. Following this, the seven heavens are mentioned, from the lowest station to the highest where Ohrmazd resides. This is followed by a list of the seven Kišwars (climes or continents), finishing with the central clime of Xwanirah. Then, the three sacred fires are praised, followed by Mihr, Srōš, Rašn, Wahrām, Wāy, Aštād and Frawahr.

After the mention of the deities, the corporeal order of things begins. Naturally, the Šāhān Šāh (King of Kings) is mentioned first. Then are listed princes of the blood, the Grand Minister, the Generals of the four quarters of the empire, Judge of the Empire, the Chief Councilor of the Mages, and the performer of the Drōn ceremony. One may be able to make several connections between the spiritual and corporeal worlds represented, since the realm of Ohrmazd and his cohorts is mirrored by the Šāhān Šāh and his court. Enumerating the order of the courtiers also gives us a general view of the gāh or place of particular dignitaries relative to the King of Kings. The text itself may be divided into two sections: The first part (passages 1-17) which is the before-banquet speech, and the second part (passages 18-22) which is the after-banquet speech, where the eulogist is full of food and wine, and gives thanks to the deities and the host.

The list and order of rank and offices for the Sūr ī Saxwan is as follows:[3]

šāhān šāh King of Kings

pūs ī wāspuhr ī šāhān Princes of the Blood / Sons of the King

wuzurg framādār[4] Grand Minister

xwarāsān, xwarwarān, nēmrōz spāhbed[5] Generals of northeast, southwest, southeast

šahr dādwarān[6] Judge of the Empire

mowān handarzbed[7] Chief Councilor Mow

hazārbed[8] Chiliarch

drōn-yaz[9] Performer of the Drōn Ceremony

Transcription

pad nām ī yazdān

1) āzādīh[10] ī az yazdān ud wehān andar har gāh (ud) zamān guftan ud hangārdan sazāgwār pad nāmčišt andar rōzgār-ē pad ēn ēwēnag

2) gōš andar darēd ašmā wehān ēdar mad estēd tā abar stāyēnīdārīh ī ēn sūr āfrīn az yazdān ud spāsdārīh ī ēn mēzdbān rāy saxwan gōwēm

3) hamāg zōhr bawēd hamāg zōhr ohrmazd ī xwadāy kē pad mēnōgān ud gētīgān mahist kē hamāg ēn dām ud dahišn dād pad-iš pānag dāštār būd ēstēd

4) hamāg zōhr ēn 7 amaharspand ī pad garōdamān hēnd ohrmazd wahman ud ardwahišt ud šahrewar ud spandarmad ud hordād ud amurdād

5) hamāg zōhr ēn 7 wahišt kē pad *wīrāy[11] bālāy ēk pad mihrag-pāyag dō pad star-pāyag sē pad māh-pāyag čahār pad xwaršēd-pāyag panj pad harburz-pāyag šaš (pad asar-rōšnīh)[12] haftom pad rōšn garōdmān ī was rōšnīh ī hu-čihr brāzagtom ī purr-huīh[13] ī purr-nēkīh kē pēš-gāh ī ohrmazd ī xwadāy xwad pad mēnōgān xwadāyīh kē ēn *15[14] (ud) haft [kišwar][15] <amahrspand>[16] arzah (ud) sawah ud fradadafš ud wīdadfš (ud) wōrūbarišt (ud) wōrūjarišt kē pad mayān xwanīrah ī bāmīg was hambār ī purr-mardōm ī purr-nēkīh

6) hamāg zōhr ādur-farrōbāy ud ādur-gušnasp ud ādur-burzēnmihr ud abārīg ādurān ātaxšān ī pad dād-gāh nišāst ēstēnd čand ahy-tar hamēšag-sōz ī hamēšag-yazišn ud hamēšag-zōhr bawēnd

7) hamāg zōhr mihr ī frāx-gōyōd ud srōš ī tagīg ud rašn ī rāstag[17] (ud) wahrām ī amāwand ud wāy ī weh ud wēh-dēn ī māzdēsnān ud aštād ī freh[18]-dādār gēhān ud frawahr ī ahlawān

8) hamāg zōhr hamāg mēnōg ī meh ud weh kē pad sīh rōzag gāh paydāgēnīd ēstēd

9) hamāg zōhr šāhān šāh ī mardān pahlom

10) hamāg zōhr pus ī wāspuhr ī šāhān farroxtom ī dāmān pahlomtom andar gēhān abāyišnīgtom

11) hamāg zōhr wuzurg framādār kē pad wuzurgīh wuzurg ud pad pādixšāyīh pādixšāyīhā ud pad-iz dahišnān meh ud weh

12) hamāg zōhr xwarāsān spāhbed hamāg zōhr xwarwarān spāhbed hamāg zōhr nēmrōz spāhbed

13) hamāg zōhr šahr[19] <ī> dādwarān

14) hamāg zōhr mowān handarzbed ud hamāg zōhr hazārbed hamāg zōhr drōn-yaz[20]

15) hamāg zōhr meh ud weh kē yazdān pad ēn mēzd arzānīg kard dahād zūd pad xwadāyīh ērān-šahr ud abrang pad mayān bawād čiyōn pad xwadāyīh ī jam ī šēd ī hu-ramag rōzgār farrox wehān xwašīhā rāyēnēd yazdān ēk hazār padīrād ud āfrīn pad ham mērag ī mēzdbān kunad

16) pad nāmčištīg āfrīn ēn kunād kū abāg mardōmān ī xwad tan-drust ud dīr-zīwišn ud xwāstag pad abzōn ēdōn bawād čiyōn az abestāg paydāg

17) ka-mān nēk stāyēnd hāmōyēn gētīg xwaštar ud hamwār āfrīn pad ēn mān kunād kū was bawād pad ēn mān was asp ī raγ ud xwarrah mard ī gušn šāyendīg ī hanjamanīg guftār abāg wihān ayād was zarr abāg asēm was jaw abāg gandum was hambār purr-nēkīh ud huram ud huniyāg bawēd nēk zamān ud nēk sāl ud nēk māh ud nēk rōz ud nēkīh az ēn mēzdbān rāy was nēktar

18) spās ī ohrmazd spās ī amahrspandān ud spās āsrōnān ud spās artēštārān ud spās wāstaryōšān ud spās hutūxšān ud spās ātaxšān ī pad gēhān spās xwangarān ud spās huniyāgarān ud spās darbānān ī pad dar spās ēn mēzbān kē ēn rōzgār handāxt ud sāxt kard ud rāyēnīd nēk-mān pihān ud stabr-mān[21] sūr <ī> (ud) pahlom-mān ham-rasišnīh ud stāyīšnīg ud menišnīg gōwišnīg ud kunišnīg spāsdār ī azabar spāsdārīh any čiš nēst

19) bē man saxwan wēš abāyēd guftan pēš ī ašmā wehān kū sagr hēm az xwarišn ud purr hēm az may ud huram hēm az rāmišn bē ašmā wehān stāyišn ī yazdān ud āfrīn ī wehān bowandag guftan nē šāyēd āšmā wehān ēdar mad ēstēd har čē wehtar dānēd guft gōwēd

20) čē man har čē farroxīhātar čē man *harzag[22] *wasānd[23] may azabar xward ēstēd xwaš xufsēd ud yazdān pad xwamn wēnēd ud drust āxēzēd ud pad kār ud kirbag kardan tuxšāg bawēd čē az bundahišn tā frazām kārīh ōy farroxīhtar kē yazdān ōy pad frārōnīh tuxšagīh arzānīg dārēd

21) āfrīn čiyōnom guft bē rasād zamīg pahnāy ud rōd drahnāy ud xwaršēd bālāy bē rasād ēdōn bawād ēdōntar bawād

22) frazaft pad drōd šādīh ud rāmišn har wehān frārōn kunišnān

Translation

In the name of the Gods

1) It is befitting to say and consider gratitude for the Gods and the Good Ones at every moment and time, especially at such a day in such a manner.

2) Listen you good ones who have here so that I speak to praise this banquet, of the Gods and gratitude towards this host.

3) May it be worthy of all offerings: Worthy of all the offering (is) the Lord Ohrmazd, who among the spiritual and material world is the greatest, who created all of the creatures and creations, (and) it is its guardian and preserver.

4) Worthy of all the offerings (are) these seven Holy Immortals who are in Paradise, Ohrmazd, Wahman, and Ardwahišt and Šahrewar and Spandarmad and Hordād and Amurdād.

5) Worthy of all the offerings (are) these seven heavens which through arrangement are above (one another): one at cloud-station, two at star-station, three at moon-station, four at sun-station, five at Harborz-station, six at [Endless Light], seven at Rōšn Garōdmān, full of light, beautiful radiance, full of goodness, full of beneficence, which is before the Lord Ohrmazd himself, ruling over the spiritual realm which are these fifteen (and) the seven (climes) which are these seven: Arzah and Sawah and Fradadafš and Wīdadfš and Wōrūbarist and Wōrūjariš, which in the middle is the glorious Xwanīrah, is the store of many people (who are) full of goodness.

6) Worthy of all the offerings (are) Ādur-farrōybāy and Ādur-Gušnasp and Ādur-Burzēnmihr and other sacred fires and fires seated at their place of creation (i.e., designated place), may they always be burning, always worshipped, and always (receiving) offerings first.

7) Worthy of all the offerings (is) Mihr, possessor of the wide pastures, and Srōš the strong, and Rašn the truthful, and Wahrām the powerful, and Wāy the good and the Good Religion of the Mazda-worshipping religion, and Aštād the prominent creator of the corporeal world, and Frawahr of the righteous ones.

8) Worthy of all offerings (are) the great and good spirits who at the time of Sīh Rōzag (each of their names) are revealed.

9) Worthy of all offerings (is) the King of Kings, foremost of men.

10) Worthy of all offerings (are) the principal sons of the king, most fortunate of the foremost creatures, most necessary in the corporeal world.

11) Worthy of all offerings (is) the Wuzurg Framādār, who in greatness is great and in sovereignty is the sovereign and among the created (i.e., men) is greater and better.

12) Worthy of all offerings (is) the Spāhbed of Xwarāsān, worthy of all offerings (is) the Spāhbed of Xwarwarān, worthy of all offerings (is) the Spāhbed of Nēmrōz.

13) Worthy of all offerings (is) the Chief Judge of the Empire (Šahr Dādwarān).

14) Worthy of all offerings (is) the Chief Councilor of the Mages (Mowān Handarzbed) and worthy of all offerings (is) the Leader of a Thousand (Hazārbed), worthy of all offerings (is) the performer of the Drōn ceremony.

15) Worthy of all offerings is the great and good (things) which the Gods have provided in this meal, may he quickly give sovereignty to Ērānšahr, and splendor amidst it, as it was during the sovereignty of Jamšēd of good herds, (may) the day of blessed good ones continue with pleasure, (may) the Gods accept it a thousand times, and also bless the man who is the host.

16) Especially may he bless this that for his own people, (provide) health, long life and increase in wealth, may it be in this way as is it manifest from the Avesta.

17) When they praise us, it is as if all of the material world will become more pleasant and continuously bless this house that it increase, in this house many swift horse and glory, manly man, able in a gathering to speak with reason (and) memory, and have much gold with silver, much barley with wheat, much storage of goodness and blissful and delightful, good time and good year and good month and good day and goodness for this host (and) for being better.

18) Thanks to Ohrmazd, thanks to Holly Immortals, and thanks priests (asrōnān) and thanks warriors (artēšdārān) and thanks husbandmen (wāstaryōšān) and thanks artisans (hutūxšān) and thanks the fires of the material world, thanks cooks and thanks entertainers and thanks the guardians of the palace, thanks this host who planned and prepared and arranged this day, good is our food and grand is our banquet, and excellent is our gathering and praiseworthy, and there is no other thing greater than thoughtful speech and action.

19) But I must say more before you good ones, that I am satiated from food and full of wine and blissful from pleasure; but  it is not possible to praise the Gods and bless the good ones completely, you good ones who have come here, whoever knows to say it better say it.

20) Because I am evermore joyous, because I (am) buzzed on the account of much wine I have drank, (I) will sleep pleasantly and I will dream of the Gods and will rise well and will be diligent in doing work and in deed, because from the beginning of creation to the end, his work is evermore joyous, whom the Gods value his diligence through righteousness. May it be so, it will be so.

21) May there come blessing in the manner that I have said, the width of earth and the length of river and the height of sun.

22) Finished with salutations, happiness and pleasure unto every righteous doer.


* The complete version of this article can be found in T. Daryaee, “The Middle Persian Text Sur i Saxwan and the Late Sasanian Court,” Des Indo-Grecs aux Sassanides: Donnees pour l’historie et la geographie historique , Res Orientales XVII, 2007, pp. 65-72.

[1] Notitia dignitatum omnium tam civilium quam militarium in partibus Occidentis (Latin version), for the East.

[2] “Philotheos, Kletorologion of,” Dictionary of Byzantium, vol. 3, p. 1662.

[3] For a discussion of the titles which appear here see R. Gyselen, La Géographie administrative de l’empire Sassanide, Les témoignages sigillographiques, Peeters, Leuven, 1989.

[4] The wuzurg framādār was certainly the most important personage in the court after the King of Kings and the princes from the fourth century CE onwards. The holders of this title include Xusrō Yazdgerd (from the Syriac sources as harmadārā rabbā, see J.B. Chabot, Synodicon Orientale ou Recueil de synods nestoriens, Paris, 1902, p. 260; Mihr-Narseh in the fifth century CE, see W.B. Henning, “The Inscription of Firuzabad,” Asia Major, vol. 4, 1954, pp. 99-100. For other figures who may have been a wuzurg framādār see M.L. Chaumont, “Framadār,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, ed. E. Yarshater, Bibliotehca Persica Press, 2001, pp. 125-126. While wuzurg framadār appears in the early Sasanian inscription, wuzurg framādār (with the long ā) is matched by the orthography of the seals from sixth and seventh centuries CE which also appears in the text under study (I would like to thank R. Gyselen for bringing this fact to my attention).

[5] The omission of the spāhbed of Abāxtar / Ādurbādagān in this text certainly suggests the religious / ritualistic nature of the text where hamāg zōhr can not be directed towards it. For example in the Bundahišn (XIV.27-28) because Mašānē poured milk as libation towards the north / abāxtar, the demons became stronger, see F. Pakzad, Bundahišn: Zoroastrische Kosmogonie und Kosmologie, Kritische Edition, Ancient Iranian Studies Series, Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia, Tehran, 2005, pp. 187-188. I would suggest that is the reason for the omission of this spāhbed in this text as compared with others, see T. Daryaee, Šahrestānīhā ī Ērānšahr, A Middle Persian Text on Late Antique Geography, Epic, and History, Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, 2002, pp. 7-11. For some other suggestions see Gnoli, op. cit., p. 269. For the latest and comprehensive evidence for the spāhbeds see R. Gyselen, The Four Generals of the Sasanian Empire: Some Sigillographic Evidence, Roma, 2001.

[6] This title echoes the early hāmšahr dādwar “Judge of the whole empire,” in the third century CE which was held first by Kerdīr. We come across the title again for Mār Qardag who held the title of šahr dādwar, P. Bedjan, Histoire de Mar-Jabalaha, de trios autres patriarches, d’un prêtre et de deux laïques nestoriens, Paris, 1895, p. 228. On Mār Qardag see now J. Walker, The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq, California University Press, 2006. In the Mādīyān ī Hazār Dādestān we have the title of šahr dādwarān dādwar, which according to M. Shaki was introduced during the reign of Yazdgerd II (439-457 CE), “Dādwar, Dādwarīh,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, ed. E. Yarshater, Mazda Publishers, 1993, p. 558.

[7] It appears that the holder of the office had both administrative, but more importantly legal skills. We also come across this title in the Armenian sources as mogac‘ anderjapet and movan anderjapet (Ełīšē, 8, p. 315; Łazar P‘arpec‘i, 2.55, 57, p. 326, 345, 349; and P‘awstos Buzand, 4.47, all quoted by M.L. Chaumont, “Andarzbed,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, ed. E. Yarshater, Routledge & Kegan Paul, p. 23.

[8] It appears that the office of hazārbed came into being in the Sasanian period and that in the late third, early fourth centuries CE at the court of king of kings, Narseh a Affarban held this title and was one of the two officers (along with the hargbed) that remained with him when the Roman representatives came to the court, see R.M. Shayegan, “Hazārbed,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, ed. E. Yarshater, vol. XII, 2005, p. 94.

[9] As any important dinner a drōn-yaz, someone who is in charge of making ritual offering of a portion of the food to the deities must have been present at the court. The office is rarely mentioned and so the Sūr ī Saxwan is important for this title. For the Drōn ceremony see J.K. Choksy, “Drōn,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, ed. E. Yarshater, vol. VII, Mazda Publishers, 1996, pp. 554-555.

[10] Tavadia ’p’tyh

[11] Tavadia wylwk “man” and has added the number 1000 after it; Mazdapour has nylng “spell.” Orian follows Tavadia and inserts the 1000 as well. I would suggest wyl’d “arrange, prepare,” in the sense of arranging the heavens.

[12] There is a lacuna here, but from Zoroastrian cosmology it is certain that we should have ’sl-lwšnyh. See A. Panaino, “Uranographia Iranica I: The Three Heavens in the Zoroastrian Tradition and the Mesopotamian Background,” Au Carrefour des religions, mélanges offert à Philippe Gignoux, Res Orientales, vol. VII, Paris, 1995, pp. 205-221. Orian has left the lacuna.

[13] Tavadia emends to pwl-GDE and Orian has accepted his reading. The manuscript, however, clearly shows pwl-hwyh which Mazdapour suggests as well.

[14] DP provides the numeral 15 which makes sense here as Ohrmazd along with the Amaharspandān and the seven Wahišts would come to fifteen (Ohrmazd counted twice).

[15] Tavadia has also inserted kyšwr correctly as the list of the climes follows it. Mazdapour does not insert the word, nor does Orian.

[16] Mazdāpour and Orian do not omit.

[17] Mazdāpour l’cystk.

[18] Orian pr’c.

[19] Tavadia inserts d’tbl after štrٰٰ which is not necessary; Mazdapour emends the word to d’t and Orian reads it as d’tbl. The MK manuscript which is now in the process of being published clearly shows that the word is štr. I would like to thank Professor A. Hintze who will publish the manuscript for providing me with the pages of MK containing this text.

[20] Mazdapour makes the suggestion to read dlwnٰ as “bow.”

[21] Tavadia makes the only logical suggestion as the text has pšnwst  plm’nٰ to read as pyh’n and connect the last three letters with the next word as W stpl. This is followed by Mazdapour and Orian who read the first word as pyh.

[22] Tavadia makes the suggestion to read the word as ’lt W cywk for “flour and consecrated milk,” and is accepted by Mazdapour and Orian. Tavadia himself was skeptical of the reading and indeed it does not make very much sense. Again thanks to A. Hintze I was able to read the word as hlckٰٰ in the sense of “loose” or in this context “drunk,” more appropriate as in American colloquial “buzzed.”

[23] If the preceding reading is accepted the next word can be emended as wsn’d.