Sasanika Varia

A Brief Note on Ardashir II

This is a guest entry from Sajad Amiri-Bavandpoor

According to the primary sources, Ardashir II, the Sasanian king of kings, son of Hormizd II and brother of Šabuhr II, reigned for 4 years from 379 to 383 A.D.1 Our textual and material sources related to his reign have been slim enough to prompt Richard N. Frye to label him an “enigmatic” king.2 For this reason, most of the scholars who wrote about him and his reign have only focused on his kinship  with Šabuhr II and the problem of his age while ascending the throne.3  In this brief note, I will discuss the position of Ardashir during the lifetime of Šabuhr II.

In 1879, Theodor Nöldeke cleverly supposed Ardashir II was the former king of Adiabene (Ḥaḏyab) mentioned in two Syriac hagiographical texts,4 whereas in fact, except the name of “Ardašir,” there is no evidence for such a connection to be made. According to the:

  • Martyrs of KARKA D-BETH SLOK (BHO 806)

ܝܘܚܢܢ ܐܦܣܩܘܦܐ ܕܟܪܟܐ ܒܝܬ ܣܠܘܟ ܐܬܩܛܠ ܒܚܨܝܢ ܩܪܝܬܐ ܒܦܘܩܕܢܐ ܕܐܪܕܫܝܪ ܡܠܟܐ ܕܚܕܝܒ.5

Yoḥanan, Bishop of Karka d-Beth Slok was killed by order of Ardašīr, King of Adiabene, in a village named Ḥașin.6

  • Acts of Forty Martyrs (BHO 5)

 ܡܠܟܐ ܕܝܢ … ܦܩܕ ܗܘܐ ܠܐܪܬܫܝܪ ܡܠܟܐ ܕܚܕܝܒ ܕܒܥܓܠ ܢܝܬܐ ܐܢܘܢ. 7

Then the king…. ordered to Ardašīr, King of Adiabene, bring them quickly.8

 Although Nöldeke’s opinion about Ardašhir was based on these two pieces of evidence, most of the later scholars introduced Ardashir as the king of Adiabene with a reference to Nöldeke.9 Vladimir Lukonin in 1969 rejected Nöldeke’s opinion and suggested that Ardashir was a brother of Šabuhr, king of the land of the Sakas, mentioned in an inscription at Persepolis.10 According to Lukonin, during the reign of Šabuhr II, this Ardashir was the king of  the Kušan domains and not that of Adiabene.

In confirming Nöldeke and rejection Lukonin’s suggestion, I intend to present a neglected source on the possible connection between Ardashir II and the kingship of Adiabene. This source is an anonymous Christian Arabic text, the so called Chronicle of Seert. This text is an ecclesiastical history written by an anonymous Nestorian writer, at an unknown date between the ninth and the eleventh century. The Chronicle of Seert was edited by Addai Scher, Chaldean archbishop of Seert, and published as several fascicles (Arabic text with French translation) in the series Patrologia Orientalis between 1910 and 1919. This means that the text was published after Nöldeke’s Geschichte der Perser and so he was not able to refer to it.

In first step, our chronicle, in the section relating to Ardashir, tells us that he was settled in Nineveh (an old city in Adiabene) during the reign of Šabuhr II and is briefly mentioned in relation to his actions regarding the local Christians:

  • Chronicle of Seert (PO V)

لمّا مات سابور فی سنة ستمائة وستة وثمنین للاسکندر. وکانت مدّة ملکه سبعین سنة وأحدعشر شهرا وایّاما ملک اخوه اردشیر کما جعل له العهد بعده. وهو الذی کان مقیماً بنینوی. فکرهه المجوس وشتموه فی وجهه. وسلک مسلک اخیه فی اذیة للنصاری و قتلهم.11

Then Šabuhr died in the year 686 of Alexandrian Era. He reigned seventy years and ten months and few days and his brother, Ardašīr, also made the covenant after him. He was settled in Nineveh. The Magians hated him and cursed him in the face. And he followed his brother’s way in persecution of Christians and killing them.12

But in an unexpected chapter and in Abraham of Nathpar’s acts in early 7th century, we find a more interesting statement about Ardashir II and Adiabene:

  • Chronicle of Seert (PO VII)

وهو من اهل حزة من قریة یقال بیت نتقرا من قرابات اللذین استشهدوا فی ایام سابور بارض حزة علی ید اردشیر اخیه …13

And he was from a village called Beth-Nathpar in Ḥaza and a relative of those martyrs who were killed in Ḥaza region during the time of Šabuhr by his brother, Ardašir.14

 this statement clearly shows the power of Ardashir in Adiabene and this is parallel to the two other evidence that tell us Ardashir was king of Adiabene during the reign of Šabuhr II.

 

Bibliography

AMS II                         Acta martyrum et sanctorum II, ed. Paul Bedjan, Paris: 1891.

Bosworth 1999              Bosworth, C. E. The History of al-abarī IV. The Sāsānids, the Byzantines, the Lakhmids and Yemen, Albany, New York: 1999.

Brooks 1899                  Brooks, E. W. “The Chronological Canon of James of Edessa.” Zeitschrift Der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 53 (1899): 261-327.

Frye 1983                      Frye, R. N. “The Political History of Iran under the Sasanians,” Camb. Hist. Iran III (1983): 116-80.

Frye 1984                      Frye, R. N. The History of Ancient Iran, Munich: 1984.

Lukonin 1969                Lukonin, V. G. Kul’tura sasanidskogo Irana, Moscow: 1969.

Marciak 2017        Marciak, M. Sophene, Gordyene, and Adiabene Three Regna Minora of Northern Mesopotamia Between East and West, Leiden: 2017.

Morony 1997                 Morony, M. “Sasanids,” in EI2 IX (1997): 70-83.

Mosig-Walburg 2010     Mosig-Walburg, K. “Königtum und Adel in der Regierungs Zeit Ardashirs II., Shapurs III., und WahramsIV.,” in Commutatio et contentio: Studies in the Late Roman, Sasanian, and Early Islamic Near East in Memory of Zeev Rubin, ed. Henning Börm and Josef Wiesehöfer, Düsseldorf (2010): 159–98.

Nöldeke 1879               Nöldeke, Th. Geschichte der Perser und Araber zur Zeit der Sasaniden,Leiden: 1879.

PO V                            Chronicle of Seert, ed. and trans. by Addaï Scher as Histoire nestorienne (Part I: 2), in Patrologia Orientalis V, Paris: 1910.

POV II                          Chronicle of Seert, ed. and trans. by Addaï Scher as Histoire nestorienne (Part II: 1), in Patrologia Orientalis VII, Paris: 1911.

Shahbazi 1987       Shahbazi, A. Sh. “ARDAŠĪR II” in Encyclopedia Iranica, Vol. II, Fasc. IV (1987): 380-381.

Shahbazi 2010               Shahbazi, A. Sh. Tārīkh-e Sāsānīān, Tehran: 2010.


NOTES

1 The Syriac Chronicle of Jacob of Edessa is the most accurate among these sources. According to Jacob, Ardašhir reigned 3 years and 8 months (Brooks 1899: 325).

2 Frye 1984: 316.

3 e.g. Morony 1997: 74, Shahbazi 2010: 410-11, Frye 1983: 140. Also see Mosig-Walburg 2010: 135-138.

4 Nöldeke 1879: 69.

5 AMS II: 286.

6 Trans. Amiri-Bavandpoor.

7 AMS II: 333.

8 Trans. Amiri-Bavandpoor.

9 e.g. Shahbazi 1987: 380, Bosworth 1999: 68. For more discussion for this see Marciak 2017: 412.

10 Lukonin 1969: 147-48.

11 PO V: 260.

12 Trans. Amiri-Bavandpoor.

13 PO VII: 172.

14 Trans. Amiri-Bavandpoor.

Some Inscribed Sasanian Seals and Bullae

 Kiarash Gholami 
University of Waterloo, Cananada

Introduction

As one of the most abundant primary sources, Sasanian seals play a critical role in shining light on the political and administrative history of the Sasanians. A considerable number of these artifacts were inscribed, and thus very informative. Such information might include the seal owner’s personal name, patronym, administrative title, religion, etc. Sasanian seals have distinguished and standard shape, engraving techniques, and iconographies. Majority of these artifacts were inscribed in inscriptional Pahlavi, whereas a small number have book Pahlavi, Parthian, or Maḏnḥāyā Syraic scripts on them, which is an indicative of usage of these seals by individuals all around the Sasanian realm.[1]

The review of epigraphic detail on these artifacts demonstrates that they have been vastly used by a broad social spectrum starting from the high-ranked royalty and aristocracy and ending with the low-ranked farmers and beggars during the Sasanian period (A.D. 224-651). While a small number of seals have survived from the two former groups, seals of low-ranked officials and ordinary people are much more common. This is most probably due to the limited high-ranked official positions as well as the destruction of these seals or erasure of the inscriptions on them after the death or resignation of their owners in order to make sure that they will not be used illegally. Therefore, the Sasanian bullae, which are the impressions of the seals on clay, play a more important role in studying and identification of Sasanian nobility in the absence of their original seals. Combining the information retrieved from these two groups of artifacts allows us to have a better view of the business relations and administrative history of the Sasanian Empire.

The following article provides the reading and translation of the Pahlavi texts on twenty five inscribed seals along with a bulla from the authors’ and some other private collections. This includes the seal/bulla of two high-ranked officials, three priest, a dabir, and some other ordinary people.

The Seals

1- Bearded male bust with curled hair, necklace and earrings of pearl, facing left.

Inscription: plh’t ZY b’cy BRH ’pst’n wl yzdty

Translation: Farhād, son of Bāz[2], Reliance on God

Dimensions: 21 * 29 mm

(Private Collection)

 

2- Beardless facing male bust with a hair made up in three rows of curls and a necklace of pearls. The clothing decorated with six crescents.

Inscription: mtr ’twr plnbg’

Translation: Mihr-Ādūr-Farnabag

Dimensions: 14 * 19 mm

(Collection of K. Soleimani)

 

3- Female bust facing right wearing necklace and pearl earrings.

Inscription: gwhlyky ZY lwcw(y)hy

Translation: Gōharīg, (daughter) of Rōzbih

Dimensions: 11 * 15 mm

(Private Collection)

 

4– Woman standing left, offering a flower.

Inscription: nyw’n dwhty

Translation: Nēwān-duxt

Dimensions: 10 * 32 mm

(Private Collection)

 

5– Flower above pair of wings.

Inscription:’twr gwšnspy mgw

Translation: Ādur-Gušnasp the mage

Dimensions: 19 * 25 mm

(Private Collection)

 

6– Lion’s head left with open jaws and protruding tongue.

Inscription: ’twr hwlšwd ZY ’št’t’n

Translation: Ādur-Xuaršēd, son of Aštād

Dimensions: 31 * 31 mm

(Author’s Collection)

 

7– Bearded male bust facing left wearing kolah with diadem ribbons and bordered with pearls. Hair arranged in three strands. Necklace and earrings with one large pearl. The clothing decorated with five florets.

Inscription: bwlcyn m’h

Translation: Burzēn-Māh

Dimensions: 25 * 25 mm

(Private colllection; previously in the author’s collection)

8- Bearded male bust facing left wearing kolah with diadem ribbons and bordered with pearls. Hair arranged in three strands. Necklace and earrings with one large pearl. The clothing decorated with three florets.

Inscription: (erased on purpose)

Dimensions: 19 * 19 mm

(Collection of K. Soleimani)

 

9– Winged horse walking left.

Inscription: ’twr ’p’n

Translation: Ādur-Ābān

Dimensions: 20 * 20 mm

(Private Collection)

 

10– Humped bull walking right. Crescent on top and star on bull’s hind.

Inscription: ’pst’n wl yzd’n ’twr wlhl’n

Translation: Reliance on the Gods. Ādur-Bahrām

Dimensions: 28 * 28 mm

(Author’s Collection)

 

11– Man standing left, offering a flower.

Inscription: mtr šhpwhry

Translation: Mihr-Šāpūr

Dimensions: 16 * 22 mm

(Private Collection)

 

12– Female bust facing right wearing necklace and pearl earrings.

Inscription: pylwc dwhty

Translation: Pērōz-duxt

Dimensions: 13 * 20 mm

(Private Collection)

 

13– Monogram above pair of wings.

Inscription: wlhl’n Y plnbg’n

Translation: Bahrām, son of Farnabag

Dimensions: 24 * 26 mm

(Private Collection)

 

14– Protome of winged horse to left.

Inscription: l’styh W plhwm

Translation: truth and excellence!

Dimensions: 11 * 15 mm

(Private Collection)

 

15– Female body? without head.

Inscription: mtlydy ZY YWM ŠPYL

Translation: Mihrī, fortune!

Dimensions: 16 * 20 mm

(Timeline Auctions, Feb. 21th 2018, Lot 0652)

 

16– Reversed male body (or monogram ?).

Inscription: grdmny YWM ŠPYL

Translation: Gardōmān, fortune!

Dimensions: 24 * 30 mm

(Author’s Collection)

 

17– Pahlavi monogram.

Inscription: d’t ’whrmzdy dpyr

Translation: Dād-Ahurmazd, the secretary

Dimensions: 19 * 26 mm

(Timeline Auctions, Sept. 3rd 2016, Lot 2025)

 

18-Monogram.

Inscription: swhl’by l’sty

Translation: Sohrāb, true!

Dimensions: 14 * 15 mm

(Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, No F1993.15.62)

 

19– Ram standing right with ribbon around neck and ring with two pearls on its chest.

Inscription: m’h ’twr d’l’y Y mgw Y mtrš’t’n

Translation: Māh-Āzar-Dārāy, magus, (son) of Mīhr-Šād

Dimensions: 26 * 26 mm

(Sigilla Collection of Sasanian Seals, Nr 1555)

 

20– Lion lying right with a star above.

Inscription: gwšnsp bht’ Y mtr’ gwšnsp’n

Translation: Gušnasp-Buxt, (son) of Mīhr-Gušnasp

Dimensions: 17 * 17 mm

(Sigilla Collection of Sasanian Seals, Nr 1292)

 

21– Camel Walking left.

Inscription: d’t gwšnsp’

Translation: Dād-Gušnasp

Dimensions: 19 * 19 mm

(Sigilla Collection of Sasanian Seals, Nr 1554)

 

22– Camel Walking left.

Inscription: d’t plwltyn

Translation: Dād-Fravardīn

Dimensions: 11 * 11 mm

(Sigilla Collection of Sasanian Seals, Nr 1339)

 

23.1– Bearded male bust right wearing kolah with diadem ties. Necklace and earrings with one large pearl. The clothing decorated with three stars.

Inscription: d’l’y’ plhw’ ZY mgw ZY sthl

Translation: Dārāy-Farrox, priest of Istaxr

Dimensions: 24 * 24 mm

23.2

Inscription: sthly, dlgws’n y’tkgwby W d’twbly[3]

Translation: Istaxr, Judge and protector of poor

Dimensions: 22 * 22 mm

(Collection of A. Feili)

 

24– Winged horse walking left.

Inscription: ’twr b’ty

Translation: Ādūr-Bād

Dimensions: 11 * 13 mm

(Author’s Collection)

 

25– Monogram.

Inscription: hwp’ d’t bwlc mtr’

Translation: Xūb, Dād-Burz-Mihr

Dimensions: 10 * 10 mm

(Author’s Collection)

 

Bibliography

Bivar, A.D.H. Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Stamp Seals in the British Museum. Stamp Seals II: The Sassanian Dynasty. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1969.

Brunner, C.J. Sasanian stamp seals in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978.

Frye, R.N. “Sassanian Clay Sealings in the Baghdad Museum.” Sumer, Vol. 26 (1970): 237-240.

Frye, R.N. Sasanian Remains from Qasr-i Abu Nasr. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973.

Göbl, R. Der Sasanidische Siegelkanon. Braunschweig: Klinkhardt und Biermann, 1973.

Göbl, R. Die Tonbullen vom Tacht-e Suleiman. Berlin: D. Reimer, 1976.

Gropp, G. “Some Sasanian Clay Bullae and Seal Stones.” The American Numismatic Society, Museum Notes 19 (1974): 119-144.

Gyselen, R. La géographie administrative de l’empire sassanide: les témoignages sigillographiques. Paris: Groupe pour l’étude de la civilisation du Moyen-Orient, 1989.

Gyselen, R. Sasanian Seal and Sealings in the Saeedi Collection. Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2007.

Henning, W. B. “Mitteliranisch.” Handbuch der Orientalistik, I-4-1 (1958): 20-130.

Lerner, J. Christian Seals of the Sasanian Period. Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut te Istanbul, 1977.

Notes

[1]

The inscription does not follow the usual name + BRH + patronymic formula.

[2]

So far, a large number of seal and sealing collections have been published. This includes, A.D.H. Bivar, Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Stamp Seals in the British Museum. Stamp Seals II: The Sassanian Dynasty (London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1969); C.J. Brunner, Sasanian stamp seals in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1978); R.N. Frye, “Sassanian Clay Sealings in the Baghdad Museum,” Sumer, Vol. 26 (1970): 237-240; R. Göbl, Der Sasanidische Siegelkanon (Braunschweig: Klinkhardt und Biermann, 1973); R.N. Frye, Sasanian Remains from Qasr-i Abu Nasr (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1973); G. Gropp, “Some Sasanian Clay Bullae and Seal Stones,” The American Numismatic Society, Museum Notes 19 (1974): 119-144; J. Lerner, Christian Seals of the Sasanian Period (Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut te Istanbul, 1977); R. Göbl, Die Tonbullen vom Tacht-e Suleiman (Berlin: D. Reimer, 1976); R. Gyselen, Sasanian Seal and Sealings in the Saeedi Collection (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2007), ix-xviii.

[3]

Henning has recorded the same impression on another Sasanian bulla (Henning, “Mitteliranisch,” 46., Gyselen, La géographie,” 113.).

Note on Administrative Bulla of the Caucasus

The bulla in question belongs to the accountant / tax collector (āmārgar) of the Caucasus. Rika Gyeslen (2007) has recently published eight of these bulla with this accountant with one or two other minor seal impression, giving the sense that perhaps the owners of the commodity in which the bulla was placed on were not so wealthy. However, there is one bulla which is with multiple seal impressions which suggest a much larger transaction having taken place (Gyselen 2007: 170).1 Our bulla in question is 1.5 x 1.5 in diameter, with one minor impression of a stag at 9 o’clock and with holes on the back which shows traces of strings having been gone through it.

The reading by Gyselen is almost complete, but there is one toponym that is left (Gyselen 2007: 168):

In the field:

  1. b’c’h’y
  2. W ’lmny
  3. ’m’lkl

On the margin the legend she reads: štly ZY mwd’n/myd’n W kwsty ZY ’twlp’tkn. Thus, her reading is as follows: Bāzāhā (?) ud Armin Šahr-ī-Mūgān ud Kust-ī-Ādurbādagān for the margin, and Bāzāhā (?) ud Armin āmārgar: “Āmārgar of Bāzāhā and Armin (and) Šahr ī Mugān and Kust-ī-Ādurbādagān,” with the center: “Āmārgar of Bāzāhā and Armin.”

We would like to offer the following suggestion for the first toponym in the center field (b’c’h’y / Bāzāhā). In order to do this it is important to look at the second (known) toponym, i.e., ’lmny / armin, “Armenia.” Armenia was an important province which was constantly being contested by the Armenians and the Sasanians. As to its importance, the trade route through the Caucasus, and the number of forces which could be mustered from Armenia, made the region important to the king of kings. Furthermore, the region appears to have had important natural resources, if we consider another recent bullae (Gyselen 2002: 79): ’lmny W ’ld’n W wlwc’n W syskn W mlcy ZY nyswny and at the center: ’lmny W ’ld’n W wlwc’n with the office of zarrbed, hence: “The Chief Gilder of Armenia, Ardān and Wirōžān and Sīsagān and the border of Nēsawān.” 2

While some of these toponyms are also unclear, what is clear is that they are all from the Caucasus region, extending from Georgia (Wirōžān) to the Caspian Sea region. In the list of these two bullae we thus have the following toponyms:

Bāzāhā; Armin; Šahr-ī-Mūgān; Ardān; Wirōžān; Sīsagān; Nēsawān

At first glance, most of the known centers in the Caucasus from the Sasanian period is mentioned. However, Bāzāhā, is not a known cite, nor mentioned in any primary sources.3

 

Bibliography
Gyselen, Saeedeeh Collection, Acta Iranica, E.J. Brill, 2008.

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