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Artaxerxes, Ardar, and Bahman Author(s): Sad Amir Arjomand Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol.

118, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1998), pp. 245248 Published by: American Oriental Society Stable URL: Accessed: 11/11/2009 05:08
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BRIEF COMMUNICATIONS Artaxerxes, Ardasir, and Bahman

Islamic sources and "ninth-century"Pahlavi books firmly link Ardasir, the founder of the Sasanian empire, to the legendary late Kayanid king, Bahman. This connection was a central element in the Sasanian revolutionary ideology that included the revival of Zoroastrianism. I propose that Artaxerxes II, to demonstrate his dedication to Zoroastrianism and to Vohu Manah, assumed the epithet Vahuman(Greek Mv!llov). Six centuries later, championing Zoroastrianism,Ardasir harked back to the memory of Artaxerxes under that theophoric epithet.

Artaxerxes (ApTaPMprlq) is the Greek renderingof the throne name of three Achaemenid monarchs, Artaxsaqa, corresponding to the Old Iranian *Rtaxsa0ra("he who reigns through Truth/Right Order"). It became a personal name in Parthiantimes and took the Middle Persian form of Ardasir.1 Of the three Achaemenids, Artaxerxes II (404-358 B.C.E.)ruled the longest. Mary Boyce (1982: 209-63) has stressed the importance of his long reign for the development of Iranianreligion. Inasmuch as her insistence on the Zoroastrianismof the Achaemenids is not universally accepted, the religious policy of Artaxerxes II becomes crucial to her interpretation of the history of Zoroastrianism.Although her argument is inevitably highly inferential, we should accept her conclusion that the cumulative force of our scattered evidence on the religious significance of Artaxerxes II's reign "makes it probable that the later 'Ardasirs'of the Zoroastrian community were named in pious remembrance, following tradition, of this Achaemenian monarch, one of the most effective royal patrons . .. whom the faith has known" (Boyce 1982: 263). I believe there is an important additional piece of evidence for the religious importance of Artaxerxes II and for his adherence to Zoroastrianismthat has been overlooked by Boyce and other scholars. As far as I know, no scholar has attached any significance to Artaxerxes II's Greek epithet, Mnemon. Plutarch begins his life of Artaxerxes (Artaxerxes, 1) by saying that he was surnamed"the Mindful"(Mvripov). This epithet has never been satisfactorily explained. Dandamaev (1989:

1 The

of Ardasir ('rthstlin the Middle linguisticderivation

Persian inscriptions and 'rtsyl only in the Pahlavi books) from the Old Iranian *Rtaxsira, a two-stem hypocoristic name to the full name, *Rtaxsa0ra,is demonstratedin Schmitt 1979.

274) suggests that "because of his exceptional memory, the Greeks called him Mnemon, 'the mindful one'." I shall argue that there is a better alternative.Mnemon can and should be taken as a Greek translation of the theophoric name, Vahuman (New Persian Bahman), which he assumed as a sign of his devotion to Vohu Manah ("Good Thought"), the second of the ZoroastrianAmesha Spentas ("Holy Immortals"). "Bahman" appears in the epic tradition as the personal name of one of the later Kayanids, the son of Isfandiyar and the grandson of Zoroaster's patron-king, Vistasp. According to one version of the Zoroastrian theory of the ages of the world, the sovereign of the Silver Age was "Ardasir the Kay who will be called Vahman i Spandyadan [= Bahman son of Isfandiyar]" (Zand-i Wahman Yasn, 3.24 [p. 152]). Bahman, whom Gardizi (p. 54) calls "the best of Persian kings," is considered the posthumous father (throughhis daughter/ queen Homay) of Dara (echo of Darius I) and the grandfather of Dara, son of Dara (Darius III), the last Kayanid monarch. Both in the epic tradition and in the "ninthcentury"Zoroastrianbooks, the king in question is called Ardasir-Bahmanand Kay Ardasir. I believe the hitherto unexplained epithet Mnemon enables us to establish the basic identification of Ardasir-Bahmanwith Artaxerxes II. The mythical Bahman and the historical Artaxerxes II were fused into a single prototype in an imaginative reconstructionof history by Ardasir, the founder of the Sasanian empire. Few would dispute the significance of the rise of the Sasanian empire under Ardasir. I have characterized it (forthcoming, ch. 6) as a revolution that unified, through a long and violent process and on the basis of an integrative ideology, the petty feudal kingdoms of Parthia into the empire of Iran (Eransahr). Central to the ideology of the Sasanian revolution was the invention, on Ardasir's behest, of a grandiose tradition that absorbed



Journal of the American Oriental Society 118.2 (1998) desn]."3According to the second tradition, Bahman was "the most distinguished and successful Persian king; his epistles and covenants excelled those of [the Sasanian] Ardasir" (al-Tabari, Ta'rikh, 1: 687; English tr., 4: 82, in the ninth century,and folmodified). Ibn Khurdadhbih (ed. Zotenberg [1900: 378, 485]) lowing him al-ThaCalibi in the tenth, attributesto the mythical Kayanid the Sasanian empire-builder'szeal for the Zoroastrianreligion as well as the use of the title Kay Ardasirin official correcredited with the spondence. Both figuresare furthermore founding of the city of Bahman-Ardasir.4 Vohu Manah is the most important of the Amesha Spentas, ranking only after Ahura Mazda himself in the Zoroastrian divine heptad. As the [spirit of] Good Thought, he is the hypostasis of Ahura Mazda, and Zoroasterdeclares him AhuraMazda'sson (Yasna45.4). He is named immediately after AhuraMazda in the calendar, the second day of the month being devoted to him. There are traces from Hellenistic times that he was also worshipped in popular religion. We find evidence for the attachmentof the eclectic Artaxerxes II to Vohu Manah in the spread of the worship of Omanus/Vohu Manah in CappadociaandPontuswhere, threecenturieslater,Strabo still saw wooden statuesof Omanus('Ou[tdvoq) being carried in processions (Boyce and Grenet 1991: 270). As Grenet points out (1983: 376), the epigraphic evidence from late fourth-century B.C.E. Ai Khanoum is important as the first unequivocal instance of a theophoric Zoroastrianpersonal name in Bactria. It is, however, possible that Artaxerxes II assumed the theophoric epithet Vahumansome half a century earlier.The epithet "Vahuman" as a theophoric shortenedname, in its Greek form 'OuLtdvog (or 'Ouladvrq),is attested in the Ai Khanoum inscriptions from the end of the fourth century B.C.E. (Grenet 1983: 375-76), and thenceforth in other regions (Boyce and Grenet 1991: 181; 249; 264). As a shortenedtheophoric name, it could mean "createdby or faithful to Vohu Manah,"as suggested by Grenet (1983: 376). It is true that the later Bactrian instances are recorded onomatopoetically in the Greek form of Omanus. But this does not preclude an earlier rational translation of the epithet Vahuman ("of Good Thought") as Mnemon ("mindful one"). This term later appears in Arabic as dhu'l-tadbir and mudabbir in Birtni and Bar Hebraeus, respectively (Yarshater1976: 62). If my argu-

lingering memories of importantAchaemenid kings into the Zoroastrian-Kayanidsacred history. The Sasanian Ardasir, posing as the restorer of the Zoroastrian religion, sought to identify with the Ardasir-Bahmanof its sacred history, from whom he claimed descent as heir to the Kayanids, avenger and the reviver of their glory. The Bundahisn traces Ardasir's genealogy as follows: "Artaxsahr[MSS'rt'ystl, `rthstl ] son of Papak, whose mother (was) the daughterof Sasan son of Vehafrit(son of) Zarir son of Sasan son of *Artaxsahr [MSS'rt"l = 'rtystl for 'rthstl?], who is called Vahuman,son of Spenddat" (cf. Ankelsaria 1956: 297-98).2 My hypothesis is that the "*Artaxsahr who is called Vahuman,"and the spelling of whose name is curiously archaized,is the Artaxerxes II surnamedMnemon (Vahuman).Through the mythical Bahman, Ardasirthus connected with the other historic patron-kingof Zoroastrianism,his Achaemenid namesake, Artaxerxes II. The Islamic sources leave little room for doubt that the identification of Ardagir with Bahman was a core element of the Sasanian integrative ideology. One of Ardasir'sdecrees, transcribedby al-MasCudi(Muruj, 1: 289) begins with the phrase, "From Ardasir-Bahman, King of Kings." The identification of the two figures is attested in the Letter of Tansar,Ardasir'schief ideologue and advisor on religious policy, to Gusnasp, the king of Tabaristan and one of the last of the petty kings to submit to Ardasir. Gusnasp had sought to impress the Zoroastrian herbad with the dignity of his royal rank by claiming descent from Bahman: "I havekinshipandblood-tieswith Thenyou declared: the King of Kings throughArdasirson of Isfandiyar to you is thatforme whois calledBahman." My answer is of far greater this latterArdasir[i.e., the Sasanian] of old. (IbnIsfandiyar, Tarikh, dignitythanthe Ardasir 38; tr.Boyce 1968:66, slightlymodified). As the identification of Ardasir and Bahman plays no part in later Sasanianpolitics that could possibly account for a later fabricationor alteration,we must accept these incidental attestations by MasCtdi and Ibn Isfandiyar as an authentic tradition. So successful was this identification in the Sasanian propagandathat the two figures of Ardasir and Bahman are fused in the historiographyof the Islamic era. Al-Tabarireportstwo differenttraditions in which this fusion is evident. The first states that the epistles of Ardasir-Bahmanb. Isfandiyar "were issued 'From Ardagir, worshipper of God' [presumably, maz2 I owe this emendation of Ankelsaria's publishedtext to from whose commentsthis article has P. Oktor Skjaerv0, benefited considerably.

3 "Mazda-worshipping," the epithetwhich appearsfor the I afterhis coronafirsttime in historyon the coins of Ardasir tion (Gobl 1971:tableXV). 4 Theuse of thisnameis attested in 544 C.E.Bahman-Ardasir was also calledFurat Maysan, especiallyin the Islamicperiod (Morony1989).

ARJOMAND: Artaxerxes, Ardasir, and Bahman ment is correct, the assumption of the epithet "Vahuman" by Artaxerxes II adds considerably to the weight of evidence for his devotion to Zoroastrianism.5 The same theophoric epithet, Vahuman, became the New Persian Bahman, the epithet of the fictitious late Kayanid Ardasir-Bahman,who was made the archetype of Ardasir son of Papak in Sasanian ideology. Ardasir was not entirely original in claiming descent from Artaxerxes II in mythical disguise. The Arsacids, too, had done so before him, but without the mediation of the mythical Bahman. The astounding loss, by the third century C.E., of the historical memory of the Achaemenids is well known and much discussed. Its best explanation is that the Sasanians based their historiographyentirely on the Zoroastrian sacred history that had developed in northeastern Iran and for that reason incorporated only faint and confused echoes of the western Iranian tradition that contained the heritage of the Achaemenids. As Yarshater points out (1971: 518; 1976: 59), the memories of Cyrus and Artaxerxes I Longimanus are attached to the figure of the late Kayanid Bahman. I think this confusion was caused by the fact that Artaxerxes (Artaxsa;a) was the throne name and Cyrus the original, personal name of Artaxerxes I (Schmitt 1982: 92). If my hypothesis is accepted, furtherconfusion of Artaxerxes I (and through him of Cyrus the Great) with Artaxerxes II would not be difficult to explain. Esther, variously given as the mother both of Cyrus and Bahman (al-Tabari, Ta'rikh, 1: 653, 688), is also considered Artaxerxes'Jewish wife in some sources (Yarshater1976: 62). Furthermore, most sources put heavy emphasis on the Jewish exploits of Cyrus, who is confused with Bahman. Artaxerxes II, the historical figure metamorphosed into Bahman by the Zoroastrian tradition, had already been chosen by the Parthiansas the Achaemenid ancestor of the Arsacids some two centuries before the rise of Ardasir, presumably in their hostility toward Hellenistic culturaldomination (Wolski 1974: 171-75). The genealogy of the Arsacids transmittedby the Muslim sources typically traces it back to Darius as the last of the
5 To these formal considerations, one can add that, substan-


as a personal namemakessensein view tivelytoo, "Vahuman" of the Gathicidea that each individual has a shareof Vohu whichunderlies the defilement andcleansingof Vohu Manah, Manah in the ritual(Videvdat texts 19.20-23). In Manichaean 1945: 13), too, we find the termin the (cited in Widengren
plural, as in the "vahmans of light" (vahmanan rosnan). For

Kayanids.6A traditiontransmittedby the Greek sources, however, traces this alleged Kayanid descent further back, making Arsak and Tiridates, the two brotherswho founded the dynasty, descendants of the Persian King Artaxerxes (see Wolski 1974: 171-72 for the parallel texts of the variants by Arrian and Syncellus). This tradition is corroboratedin the Nisa documents, which mention a vineyard (artaxsahrakan),which, according to Diakonoff and Livshits (1960: 20), "was probablynamed in honor of the legendary ancestor of the Arsacids, Artaxerxes II."What is even more intriguingis the claim by the great king Antiochus I of Commagene (69-31 B.C.E.) to descend from ArtaxerexesII throughhis daughter(see Boyce 1990: 24). This evidence is remarkablefor establishing Artaxerxes II, who incidentally had one hundred and fifty sons and three hundredand sixty-six wives and concubines (Dandamaev 1989: 306-7), as the chosen ancestor of royal claimants to Achaemenid descent by the first century B.C.E.It is also intriguing for tracing royal descent through the daughter of Artaxerxes II, whom the Zoroastriantraditionin due course turnedinto the one and only legendary female Kayanid monarch, Homay. Note that the thirteenth-centuryepic, Darabnamah, refers to Bahman interchangeably as Ardasir,7 especially when narratingan episode of dragon-slaying,8 and identifies the legendary Homay as "Homay daughter of Ardasir"(Tartisi, Darabnamah 1: 8-10). There is one last and deep-seated rationale behind the selection of ArtaxerxesII, alias Bahman, in Ardasir'sgenealogical enterprise. The connection between the two across six centuries through a theophoric epithet is reinforced by another affinity: devotion to the cult of Anahita. Plutarch (Artaxerxes, 3) tells us that the reign of Artaxerxes II was inaugurated with a ceremony at "a sanctuary of a warlike goddess whom one might conjectureto be Athene."Boyce (1982: 201-3) identifies this warlike goddess, "the Persian Diana,"as the western Iraniangoddess Anahiti/Ishtarwho, according to Boyce, was assimilated to the Avestan yazata *Harahvaiti, known by her cult-epithets,Aredvi SuraAnahita ("moist, mighty, pure"), as the goddess of the waters. Having been inauguratedin her temple, Artaxerxes II promoted the cult of Anahita. Royal inscriptions prove the investiture of Artaxerxes II by Anahita, alongside Ahura 6 Forotherlinesof see Yarshater 1971:523 descent, Kayanid n. 41.
7 At least one manuscriptexplicitly gives Ardasir as the title

theManichaeans, themicrocosmic theindividual mind/ vahman, andattains salvation spirit(nous),battlessin anddefilement by fromthe GreatVahman receivinggnosisor revelation (macrocosmic nous).

of Bahman son of Isfandiyar: "ShahBahman who was called Ardasir" Darabnamah 1: 6). (Tartusi, 8 The slayingof the dragon king, Kirm,occupiesa conspicuous place in the legendof the Sasanian Ardasir (Karnamak, chs. 10-13).


Journal of the American Oriental Society 118.2 (1998)

Mazda and Mithra. Furthermore, the wide spread of the cult of Anahita and adoption into it of her statues and effigies date from his reign (Boyce 1982: 217, citing the third-century B.C.E. Berossos). It is reasonable to assume that the martial features of Anahita (Ishtar) assured her popularity in the subsequent centuries among the warrior classes of Parthian feudalism. Ardasir and his father, Papak, were the lords and priests of the fire temple of Anahita at Staxr. By this time (the beginning of the third century), Anahita's headgear (kolah) was worn as a mark of nobility (MosigWalburg 1982: 31-37). This suggests that she was the goddess of the feudal warrior estate; and Ardasir would send the heads of the petty kings he defeated for display at her temple (al-Tabari, Ta'rikh, 1: 819).

Like his namesake, Ardasir was invested by Anahita, and celebrated his investiture by her as the King of Kings on his coins (Gobl 1971: 42 and table Ia; MosigWalburg 1982: 31). The divine patronage of Anahita, the goddess of the feudal estate, was essential to Ardagir's project of unification of Iran and to his (and his son's) imperial expansion beyond Iran. That he should have harked back to the Achaemenid Artaxerxes II, the namesake who had promoted Anahita and spread her cult, makes sense; but more so once we dispel enough of the haze surrounding the mythic figure of Ardasir Bahman to discern the pentimento of Artaxerxes Mnemon. SAfD AMIR ARJOMAND STATEUNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK AT STONY BROOK

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