DĀRĀ(B) (1)

or DĀRĀB, the name of two kings of the legendary Kayanid dynasty.


DĀRĀ(B) (< *Dārāw < Dāryāw < OPers. Dārayavau-; cf. Pahlavi Dāy), the name of two kings of the legendary Kayanid dynasty.

i. Dārā(b) I.

ii. Dārā(b) II.


i. DĀRĀ(B) I

Dārā(b) I was the son of the Kayanid Bahman Ardašīr. According to most of the sources, his mother was Homā Čehrāzād, who married her own father, Bahman (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VI, p. 352; Ṭabarī, I, p. 687; Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, p. 687; Masʿūdī, Morūj, ed. Pellat, I, p. 272; Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, p. 389; Meskawayh, p. 34; Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 15; Ṭarsūsī, pp. 10-11). In one tradition, however, this marriage was denied, and it was maintained that Homā died a virgin (Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 54). Nevertheless, the former version, which accords with the old Iranian tradition of next-of-kin marriage, is certainly authentic. According to this legend, Bahman died before Dārā was born and appointed Homā his regent. When Dārā was born she did not reveal the news of his birth but had him laid, together with precious jewels, in a casket and exposed on the river Euphrates (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VI, p. 356; Ṭarsūsī, p. 11), the Tigris (Maqdesī, Badʾ III, p. 150), the Kor river in Fārs (Ṭabarī, I, p. 689), the Eṣṭaḵr (i.e., Polvār) river in Fārs (Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, p. 392), or the Balḵ river (Ṭabarī, I, p. 690). The child was found by a fuller (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VI, p. 356; Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, p. 392; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 54; Maqdesī, Badʾ III, p. 150; Ṭarsūsī, where his name is given as Hormaz) or a miller (Ṭabarī, I, p. 690; Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, p. 690), who called him Dārāb, because he was found in the water (āb) among the trees (dār;itfoṮaʿālebī, Ḡorar, p. 394; Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VI, p. 358; Ṭarsūsī, pp. 13-14; Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, p. 690: dār “hold, take”).

This story seems to be based on popular etymology. A similar etiological legend is told about Kawād, the founder of the Kayanid dynasty (Bundahišn, TD2, p. 231; Christensen, 1931, pp. 70-71; idem, 1933-35; Bailey, pp. 69 ff.). It belongs to a type of legend “which is generally associated with the change of dynasties, the end of an era, or a major shift of power” (Yarshater, p. 522; cf. Christensen, 1933-35). In spite of the discontent of his foster-father, who wanted the boy to become a fuller, Dārā, eager to receive an aristocratic education, was first handed over to scholars, who taught him the Avesta and its commentary (Zand o Estā); then he was trained in archery, horsemanship, polo, and similar skills. Dārā, who doubted his relationship to the fuller and was curious to find out his true origin, compelled the fuller’s wife to reveal his descent. As he was ambitious to reach high positions, Dārā entered the service of Rašnavād, Homā’s commander-in-chief (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VI, pp. 358 ff.; Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, pp. 394 ff.; Maqdesī, Badʾ III, p. 150; Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, pp. 690-91; Ṭarsūsī, pp. 27 ff., with different details). Eventually Dārā was introduced to the queen, who after a reign of thirty years (thirty-two according to Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VI, p. 371 v. 312) abdicated in his favor.

Dārā reigned for twelve years (Bundahišn, TD2, p. 240; Ḥamza, p. 13; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 55; Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 55; Dīnavarī, ed. Guirgass, p. 31; Masʿūdī, Morūj, ed. Pellat, I, p. 272). During his reign he fought with Šoʿayb, the Arab commander from the Qotayb tribe (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VI, pp. 374-75; Ṭarsūsī, pp. 354-72). He also campaigned against Fīlfūs (Philip) of Rūm (i.e., Greece), who was defeated and compelled to pay tribute and agreed to marry his daughter Nāhīd (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VI, p. 377; Ṭarsūsī, p. 380) or Halāy (Ṭabarī, I, p. 697) to Dārā. Although pregnant, she was soon sent back home because of her foul breath. In Rūm she bore Eskandar (Alexander; Šāh-nāma, Moscow, pp. 375 ff.; Dīnavarī, pp. 31-32; Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, pp. 399 ff.; Ṭabarī, I, pp. 696-97; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 54; Ṭarsūsī, pp. 390 ff.). This last episode represents an obvious attempt to provide a link between Alexander the Great and the Persian royal house by making him a half-brother of Dārā II (Yarshater, pp. 522-23).

The introduction of the Persian postal system was attributed to Dārā I (Ṭabarī, I, p. 692; Ḥamza, p. 39; Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, p. 398; Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 16), apparently reflecting a historical fact: the introduction or reorganization of the postal system by Darius I the Great. The foundation of the city of Dārābgerd in Fārs was attributed to him in most of the sources (Ḥamza, p. 39; Ṭabarī, I, p. 692; Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, p. 692; Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 55; Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, p. 398; Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 16; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 55; Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 55; Ṭarsūsī, pp. 353, 452; see Dārāb ii), though in some others Dārā II was credited with its foundation (Pahlavi Texts, ed. Jamasp-Asana, p. 22; Tārīḵ-e gozīda, ed. Browne, p. 99). Babylon was mentioned as his residence (Ṭabarī, I, p. 692; Masʿūdī, Morūj, ed. Pellat, I, p. 272), which shows the general tendency in the tradition to link the exploits of the last Kayanid kings with western Iran.

Dārā was supposed, according to the late sources, to have had a son called Fīrūzšāh, whose exploits are related in the popular Persian romance Fīrūzšāh-nāma, published under the title Dārāb-nāma by Ḥājī Moḥammad Bīḡamī (ed. Ḏ. Ṣafā, Tehran, 1339-41 Š./1960-62).



H. W. Bailey, “Iranian Studies II,” BSOS 7, 1933-35, pp. 69-86.

A. Christensen, Les Kayanides, Copenhagen, 1931.

Idem, “Notes and Queries,” BSOS 7, 1933-35, pp. 483-85.

Meskawayh, Tajāreb al-omam, ed. A. Emāmī, I, Tehran 1366 Š./1987.

Abū Ṭāher Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ṭarsūsī, Dārāb-nāma, ed. Ḏ. Ṣafā, I, Tehran, 1344 Š./1365.

E. Yarshater, “Were the Sasanians Heirs to the Achaemenids?” in La Persia nel medioevo, Rome, 1971, pp. 517-30.



ii. DĀRĀ(B) II

Dārā II was the son of Dārā I (see i, above) and the last king of the legendary Kayanid dynasty, often identified in sources with Darius III Codomannus, the last Achaemenid king (336-31 B.C.E.). His name is recorded as Dārā in the Pahlavi literature and in the majority of the Islamic sources but as Dārāb in Abū Ṭāher Moḥammad Ṭarsūsī’s Dārāb-nāma and the Persian prose version of the Eskandar-nāma. His mother was Māhnāhīd, daughter of Hazārmard (Ṭabarī, I, p. 693); according to a later tradition, however, she was Ṭamrūsīa, daughter of Faṣṭabīqūn and former wife of the king of Oman (Ṭarsūsī, I, pp. 100 ff.). In the legend Dārā II was the half-brother of Alexander (Eskandar) the Great. When he came to power he demanded the customary tribute from Alexander, who refused to comply and instead led an army to Iraq on the Euphrates, where he encountered the forces of Dārā coming from Eṣṭaḵr. According to one tradition (Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 55; cf. Ṭabarī, I, pp. 692-30; Meskawayh, pp. 34-35), Dārā II’s vizier, whose brother had been killed by *Rašnīn, the vizier of Dārā I, instigated Alexander’s attack on Iran. In order to learn the potential of the Iranian army and to become privy to Dārā’s plans, Alexander presented himself as an envoy to Dārā II and witnessed the court ceremonial. He was recognized by some courtiers, but he managed to escape before he was arrested. War broke out, and Dārā fled to Kermān, where he asked the emperor of India, Porus (Fūr), to come to his aid but in vain. Dārā was killed by two men, called Māhyār and *Jānūšyār, who were his ministers (dastūr), guards, or amirs. Then they led Alexander to the dying king, who asked him to marry his daughter Rowšanak (Roxana), also called Būrān-doḵt, and to avenge his death (Šāh-nāma, Moscow, VI, pp. 398 ff.; Ṭabarī, I, pp. 696, 698; Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, p. 698; Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, p. 410; Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 56; Masʿūdī, Morūj, ed. Pellat, II, pp. 9, 12; Gardīzī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 16; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, pp. 55-56; Maqdesī, Badʾ III, p. 150; Meskawayh I, p. 35; Ṭarsūsī, I, pp. 461, 468, II, pp. 85 ff.). Dārā reigned for fourteen (Bundahišn, TD2, p. 240; Ṭabarī, I, p. 694; Ḥamza, p. 13; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 55), thirteen (Ayādgār 4.4, probably a clerical error), or sixteen years (Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 55). He was said to have had three sons: Ašk, supposedly the ancestor of the Arsacids, Ardašīr, and a third, whose name has been corrupted (Ṭabarī, I, p. 700; cf. Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, p. 698).

The foundation of the city of Dārā (Ṭabarī, I, p. 694), or Dāryā, above Nisibis (Ḥamza, p. 39; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 56) has been attributed to Dārā II. In some sources he is reported also to have built the city of Dārābgerd (see Dārāb ii). In addition, he is reported to have ordered two copies of the entire Avesta and Zand to be kept respectively in the royal treasury (ganj ī šāhīgān) and the fortress of the archives (diz ī nibišt; Dēnkard, ed. Madan, I, p. 412). The legend of Dārā and the golden idol, mentioned by Ebn al-Nadīm (ed. Tajaddod, p. 364) among Iranian stories translated into Arabic, may be about Dārā II. A lengthy part of Ṭarsūsī’s Dārāb-nāma is devoted to his exploits.



Ayādgār ī jāmāspīg, ed. G. Messina, Rome, 1939.

Eskandar-nāma, ed. Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964.

Meskawayh, Tajāreb al-omam, ed. A. Emāmī, I, Tehran 1366 Š./1987.

Abū Ṭāher Moḥammad b. Ḥasan Ṭarsūsī, Dārāb-nāma, 2 vols., ed. Ḏ. Ṣafā, Tehran, 1344-46 Š./1965-67.

(Aḥmad Tafażżolī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1994

Last Updated: November 15, 2011

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