ESFANDĪĀR, one of the seven great clans of Parthian and Sasanian times. Ṭabarī attributed the establishment of these clans to the Kayanian king Goštāsp (q.v.) and applied the epithet al-fahlavī (Parthian) to three of them: Kāren with its seat in Māh Nehāvand, Sūrēn in Seistan, and Esfandīār in Ray. The last traced its lineage to Esfandīār (q.v.) son of Goštāsp. Nöldeke suggested that, as Ṭabarī did not name Mehrān, one of the seven, with its seat in Ray, it could be identical with Esfandīār (pp. 139, 439 n. 3). Mehr-Narsē, the powerful grand vizier of Yazdegerd I, Bahrām V, and Yazdegerd II, well-known for having sponsored construction of a number of fire temples and palaces, belonged to the clan of Esfandīār. Among other outstanding members were Mehr-Narsē’s sons Zarvānd(ād), chief religious teacher (hērbadān hērbad) under Bahrām V; Māhgošnaš, in charge of finances (also a wāstaryōšān-sālār, heading the estate of the farmers and toilers) under Bahrām V; and Kārdār, military commander (arteštārān-sālār) under the same king Besṭām and Bendōy (q.v.), maternal uncles of Ḵosrow II Parvēz, who dethroned Hormazd IV and were in the end discarded by Ḵosrow II and Šāhīn, the super-satrap (pādōspān) of the western provinces and the general who conquered Egypt and Nubia and sent the keys of Alexandria to Ḵosrow II, belonged to this family. Some members of the clan, including Besṭām and Bendōy, were also said to belong to the family of Sepāhbad, another great house of the Sasanian period; the confusion may have been caused as a result of intermarriages.


Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):

Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 104 ff., 109, 276 ff., 444 ff.

Dīnavarī, ed. Guirgass, pp. 83, 87, 95, 102, 105.

M. Mehrābādī, Ḵānadānhā-ye ḥokūmatgar-e Īrān-e bāstān, Tehran, 1993, pp. 74, 163-81.

Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 109 ff, 137, 291 n. 2, 294, 437 ff., 478 ff.

F. Spiegel Erânische Altertumkunde, 3 vols., Leipzig, 1971-78, III, p. 504.

Ṭabarī, I, p. 683, 868-69, 1002-24. Theophylactus Simocatta, 4.3.5.

(Ehsan Yarshater)

Originally Published: December 15, 1998

Last Updated: January 19, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. VIII, Fasc. 6, pp. 592-593