Avestan Xᵛarənah, lit. “glory,” according to the most likely etymology and the semantic function reconstructed from its occurrence in various contexts and phases of the Iranian languages.


FARR(AH), XᵛARƎNAH, literally, “glory,” according to the most likely etymology and the semantic function reconstructed from its occurrence in various contexts and phases of the Iranian languages. In all Iranian dialects the form had initial f-, except Avestan and Pahlavi, in which we find initial xᵛ- (hṷ-): xᵛarənah- and xwarrah (cf. NPers. ḵorra, below). Despite Philippe Gignoux’s doubts (1986, pp. 9-10; cf. Gnoli 1989a, pp. 152-53), the latter was probably also the Middle Persian form in Sasanian inscriptions, where, as in Pahlavi, it was written with the Aramaic ideogram GDE (see below).

Attestations in Iranian languages. The word is attested as farnah- in Median proper names from the 9th century B.C.E. and in such Old Persian names as Vindafarnah- “he who finds the farnah-” (Mayrhofer, 1979, no. 57) analogous to Avestan Viδaṱ.xᵛarənah- (Mayrhofer, 1977, no. 365), as well as in parallel Akkadian, Elamite, and Greek traditions (Hinz, 1975, pp. 94-95; cf. p. 297 for composite names with farnah- as the second element).

Among Middle Iranian languages it is attested in Sogdian farn, Bactrian far(r)o, and Khotanese phārra and then in the Digoron and Iron dialects of Ossetic respectively as farnä and farn “peace, happiness, abundance, fortune,” reflecting a Scytho-Sarmatian and Alan cultural background (Miller, p. 248; Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. xxii, 63; Abaev, 1949, p. 71; idem, 1958, pp. 421-22; idem, 1960, pp. 16-17; Benveniste, 1959, p. 127; cf. Litvinskij). In New Iranian languages other than Persian it may be present in Pashto nwar “sun” (nmar, lmar with dissimilation n-m > l-m, perhaps explainable by metathesis, nasalization, or both: *farnah > n°far(n);Skjærvø 1989a, pp. 403, 405, 407; cf. Morgenstierne, p. 54).

In Buddhist Sogdian and Khotanese the word signified the “position of a Buddha” (Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. 56-57; idem, Dictionary, p. 261; idem, 1982, p. 51), and it passed into Tokharian with this meaning, derived from the original sense of “dignity” or “high position” (Agnean parn, as in puttiśparn, Kuchean perne; Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. 57, 227; for Khot. phārra, see Emmerick, p. 213; cf. Skt. lakṣana and Chinese xiàng; for BSogd. prn, attested with the meaning “fortune, majesty,” see MacKenzie, 1976, part II, p. 122). In Manichean Sogdian frn “luck” designated the first of the five luminaries, corresponding to Syriac haunā, Parthian bʾm, Turkish qut, and Chinese xiàng (Gershevitch 1961, par. 224; cf. Asmussen, p. 163; Bryder, p. 129; Schmidt-Glintzer, pp. 128, 144, s.vv. hsiang, miao-hsiang), and appeared in the name δynyfrn (cf. Man. Mid. Parth. δyn frh, Man. Mid. Pers. frh ʿy dyn; Sundermann, 1979, p. 102; for Turk. nom qutï “glory of the religion,” see Klimkeit, pp. 234 ff.; Schaeder, 1933, p. 357; Henning, 1942, p. 240; Bryder, p. 116).

The word also passed into Armenian, in which pʿaṙkʿ has meanings ranging from “glory, honor, celebrity” and possibly “fortune” (Hübschmann, Armenische Grammatik, p. 254; Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. 38-39; Ajello) to “opinion” (derived from the customary translation of Greek doxa with pʿaṙkʿ; Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, p. 62).

The meaning “(good) fortune,” certainly a secondary etymological development, is well documented in various translations of the term in non-Iranian languages, even though they carry a vast range of nuances and specific meanings: Aramaic gd; Greek tychē; Sanskrit lakṣmī, śrī (Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. xviii, 22, 39-40); and Turkish qut (Hansen, p. 15; Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. 54-55; cf. Bombaci).

Forms with both initial f and initial hṷ (ḵorra) recur in New Persian. The former are more frequent in literary texts(Dehḵodā, pp. 499, 883-84). Farr was a royal and divine attribute, glossed as kayānī, kayī, šāhī, šāhanšāhī, īzadī (Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. xxii, 62), and occurs in phrases like farr o awrang, probably derived from an ancient *farnah utā abifarnangam (Gershevitch, 1985, p. 194: *abifarnanga- “endowed with majesty”).

Beside the noun there are attestations of an adjectival form traceable to Proto-Iranian *hṷarnahṷant- “glorious, resplendent,” attested in Avestan as xᵛarənaŋᵛhaṇt-. With the exception of Pahlavi xwarrahōmand (GDEʾwmnd), all the forms in the Iranian languages were derived from *farnahṷant- or *farnaxwant-, for example, Middle Persian farrox “fortunate, blessed, happy” (Mid. Pers. epigraphic plḥw, Parth. prnḥw), also written phonetically in the Pahlavi of the Zoroastrian books (plhw). Farrox recurred in Manichean texts as frwx, prwx (frh, prh “glory,” all forms common in Man. Mid. Parth. as well; Boyce, 1977, pp. 39-40) and survives in Persian with the same meanings. There are also attestations in Middle Persian of the derivatives farroxīh and, more rarely, xwarrahīh (in a calque of Av. pouru.xᵛarənah-; AirWb., col. 903; Nyberg, Manual II, pp. 162, 221) and xwarrahōmandīh. The initial hṷ- is also found in some Armenian proper names with xoṙoh, xoṙox (Hübschmann, Armenische Grammatik, p. 43; Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. xxi, 2), as well as in some Sasanian personal and place names (Gignoux, 1986, pp. 187-88; cf. Henning, “Mitteliranisch,” p. 45 n. 1); in place names Middle Persian xwarrah is often rendered in Arabic as ḵorra (Gnoli, 1989a, pp. 153-54).

Controversy over meanings. In traditional interpretations “glory,” “splendor,” “luminosity” and “shine,” connected with sun and fire, were considered the primary meanings of the term farr(ah), xᵛarənah. Semantic developments and etymologically secondary meanings related to prosperity, (good) fortune, and (kingly) majesty were also recognized (for a summary of early interpretations, see Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. 75-77). The sense “high position,” particularly noteworthy in Sogdian and Khotanese, lies behind the recent interpretation of the term as “dignity” (Gershevitch, 1992, p. 168 n. 7). H. W. Bailey reversed the traditional interpretation (Zoroastrian Problems, pp. xxiii-xxiv, 1-77; cf. idem, 1956; idem, 1959, pp. 79-81; cf. Lentz, 1962; Gropp, pp. 34-35), suggesting, that “fortune” in the sense of “good things, prosperity” was the primary meaning. Jacques Duchesne-Guillemin (1963; 1983) and the present author (Gnoli, 1962; idem, 1963; idem, 1984) have argued for a return to the earlier interpretation, which has achieved a new consensus (see, e.g., Malandra, 1972, pp. 315-16; Itō; Gignoux, 1976-77, pp. 220-21; Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, p. 17 n. 23; Jacobs, 1987, p. 243; Skjærvø, 1989b, pp. 127-28). In fact, the most appropriate translation of the word appears to be “glory,” in the sense illustrated by P. O. Skjærvø (1989b, p. 128, in response to Gignoux, 1986, p. 9).

Etymology. Farr(ah)/xᵛarənah- is probably related etymologically to the Iranian word xṷar/n “sun,” with neuter nominal suffix -nah- (Duchesne-Guillemin, 1963; idem, 1992, pp. 135-36). The theory of laryngeals in Gathic Avestan has led some scholars to reject this etymology because xᵛarənah- is bisyllabic in its single occurrence in the Gathas (Y. 51.18; see Pirart, 1986; Kellens and Pirart, I, pp. 70-75; cf. Monna, p. 89); if the suffix had been added to /huʾar/ (gen. sing. /huʾanh/ < *suH-r, *suH- en-s; Beekes, 1988, pp. 15, 89, 123; idem, 1984, p. 7), the word would be trisyllabic (Kellens and Pirart, II, p. 236; III, p. 262). This reasoning does not take into account, however, either the fact that in Yasna 50.10 huuarə̄ is monosyllabic (cf. Monna, pp. 83-84 and n. 3; Kellens and Pirart, II, p. 235) or the varied Avestan and non-Avestan contexts in which the term occurs. For the same reason these scholars reject other theoretically possible etymologies (e.g., xᵛarənah- = hu+; cf. Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. xxiii-xiv; Imoto, p. 73, arguing for derivation of the Gathic hapax xᵛarənå < *hu-arnāh, considered a homonym of xᵛarənah-, “a magical power one obtains after eating the sacramental food, the corn spirit, the first fruits”; cf. Av. xᵛar “to eat”). As a consequence they prefer not to translate the word (Kellens and Pirart, I, p. 184; Pirart, 1992, pp. 5-6 and passim). This exaggerated position is based entirely on a slight and questionable argument from the Gathic Avestan hapax and the metrical reconstruction of the first line of Yasna 51.18 (cf. Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, p. xxiv; for translations of bisyllabic xᵛarənah- as “distinguished power; glorious, majestic,” see Monna, p. 194; AirWb., col. 1873; cf. Reichelt, p. 204; Insler, p. 107; as “imperial splendor” or “glory,” see Humbach, 1959, I, p. 155, II, p. 92; idem, 1991, I, p. 190, II, p. 233; and as more questionable “shining fortune,” see Lommel, 1971, p. 175). W. W. Malandra, although he points out certain morphological problems in linking Avestan xᵛarənah- with the name of the sun (1983, p. 89), does not exclude translation as “glory” and reconstruction of an Iranian verb hvar “to shine,” corresponding to “the poorly attested” Old Indic svar, which has the same meaning (cf. Itō). Khot. hvar “to glow,” postulated by Duchesne-Guillemin (1980, p. 60 n. 7) and Boyce (Zoroastrianism II, p. 17 n. 23) and theoretically corresponding to Pahl. xwarg [hwlg] “embers” (MacKenzie, 1971, p. 95; Nyberg, Manual, p. 220) has been shown to be non-existent because based on a “ghostword” *hvaraka (Emmerick and Skjærvø, pp. 178-79). Khot. for “live coals” is skara-, corresponding to Skt. aṅgāra; Henning, 1943-46, p. 728: tr. of Pazand xurg, JPers. xwwrg, vernacular NPers. xulg, xarg, Sogd. γrwy “embers,” with metathesis of -w-; cf. Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, p. xxvi, for Kurdish xōlī “ashes”). Pahlavi xwarg has sometimes been written with the ideogram GDE because of confusion with xwarrah, for example, in a passage of the Bundahišn (p. 124 l. 10; cf. Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, p. 45; but also Henning, 1943-46, p. 729 n. 1). For the etymology, in a discussion on the recent thesis by Almut Hintze (1994, pp. 28-33), the present author proposes a verbal root *hṷar “smoulder, burn” (Gnoli, 1996).

The occurrence of both initial xᵛ- and initial f- can be explained through phonetic dissimilation (farnah, farnahṷant < *hṷarnah, *hṷarnahṷant owing to dissimilation hṷ-h(ṷ) > f-h(ṷ), as proposed by Skjærvø, 1983a). This development cannot be verified in Avestan because there initial hṷ- was soon differentiated from final h and intervocalic h and hṷ, as in the forms xᵛarənō, xᵛarənaŋh-, and xᵛarənaŋᵛhaṇt- (Skjærvø, 1983a, p. 256). The explanation of Old Persian farnah- as a loanword from Median (based on the commonly accepted change Med. *f < OIr. */hv/; Lentz, 1926, p. 288; Schaeder, 1930, p. 270; Meillet and Benveniste, pp. 9-10 par. 11, 63 par. 104; Kent, Old Persian, p. 9; Hoffmann, p. 4; Gershevitch, 1964, p. 28; Brandenstein and Mayrhofer, pp. 43, 118; Mayrhofer, 1968, p. 5; Windfuhr, p. 458; cf. Rossi, pp. 174-75; Schmitt, 1984, pp. 195-96; idem, 1989, p. 89) or Scythian (Lecoq, 1987; cf. idem, 1974, p. 57; idem, 1983) should be reconsidered: The Old Iranian form probably had initial hṷ-, which was preserved in Avestan (Gnoli, 1990). As for Middle Persian xwarrah (<*xwarnah), it was probably derived from the Avestan form a learned word appropriate to a venerable priestly tradition; that is, it was not darī but pārsī, according to testimony of Ebn al-Moqaffaʿ about the historical languages of Iran (cf. Lazard). The Old Persian word farnah- was continued in Middle Persian farr/farrah, also attested in Manichean Middle Persian (also from darī; Henning, “Mitteliranisch,” p. 97) and New Persian farr/farra (Gnoli, 1989a).

Definitions. It is clear from a number of passages in the Avesta that farr(ah)/xᵛarənah- was a magic force or power of luminous and fiery nature (see, in particular, Duchesne-Guillemin, 1963; Gnoli, 1984). In Yašt 10.127 the “strong” (uγra-) xᵛarənah- of the kauui- is identified with a “blazing fire” (ātarš yōupa.suxtō) that precedes Mithra in his chariot (Duchesne-Guillemin, 1963, p. 228 n. 1; cf. Gershevitch, 1959, pp. 136-37). In Gignoux’s interpretation of Ardā Wīrāz Nāmag (14.16) the xwarrah “burns without interruption” (hamē waxšīd; Gignoux, 1984, pp. 65, 167 and n. 2; cf. Vahman, p. 199). The gloss for bāmīg “brilliant, glorious” in the Pahlavi Widēwdād (1.21) is xwarrahōmand (Gignoux 1976-77, p. 221), which agrees with the attested equivalence of Manichean Middle Parthian bʾm and Manichean Sogdian frn (see above). In Zādspram (3.82; cf. Gignoux and Tafazzoli, pp. 54-55) the heavenly fire is identified as the xwarrah that “resides in the Wahrām fire, as a householder (reigns) over his house” (mehmānīh andar Wahrām ātaxš čiyōn kadag-xwadāy abar xānag; Duchesne-Guillemin, 1963, pp. 26, 30) and Zoroaster’s xwarrah is said to have descended from heaven and become manifest “in the form of fire” (pad ātaxš ēwēnag) at the moment of his birth (5.1, 8.8). From many other passages in different contexts a close interconnection among xwarrah, fire, and light can be inferred (Gnoli, 1962; idem, 1967; idem, 1984) without implying a simple equivalence. In fact, actually translating xwarrah as “light” (Gignoux, 1986, p. 9; idem and Tafazzoli, p. 438) can be misleading because xwarrah and rošnīh “light” are not interchangeable.

Scholars who accepted H. W. Bailey’s proposed etymology of xᵛarənah- have also agreed that the word referred to a magical power (e.g., Lentz, 1961; idem, 1962; idem, 1964; Gropp, pp. 34-35: “elemental force”), arguing a semantic development from “good things of life” to “prosperity,” to “fortune,” to the personification of the last as a luminous yazata, and finally to the meanings of Greek doxa “glory” and Arabic nūr “light.” This argument is not entirely convincing (see Benveniste, 1942-45, p. 71; Barr; Widengren, 1955, pp. 80-81 n. 56). In fact, the tendency to identify xᵛarənah- with a concrete referent, an abstraction (“good things of life”), or a substance (axᵛarəta- xᵛarənah- “naphtha,” Herzfeld, 1938, pp. 80-89; idem, 1947, I, pp. 176-77, or “amber,” Nagel apud Jacobs, 1987, pp. 228-29, 242) inevitably leads scholars to ignore or underestimate the “(magic or spiritual) force” that was undoubtedly present in the ancient Iranian conception. A mystical reinterpretation of this conception can be found in the philosophical and religious thought of Islamic Persia (Corbin, 1946; Corbin, 1960).

Xᵛarənah- was associated with the stars and the great luminaries (Dādistān ī dēnīg, pt. 1, 25, 35-36); Ahura Mazdā (Yt. 19.10); the aməṧa spəṇtas (Yt. 19.15); and the yazatas (Yt. 19.22), including Mithra (xᵛarənaŋuhastəma- “the most endowed with glory”; Yt. 19.35; Vd. 19.15). As a vital creative force it was also associated with the waters of the sea Vouru.kaṧa (Yt. 19.51, 19.56-57) and the river Haētumant, the Helmand (Yt. 19.66 ff.; aβždāta- “situated in the water,” Duchesne-Guillemin, 1963, pp. 229-30, or “placed in the rains,” Panaino, p. 122), with the haoma (Dādistān ī dēnīg, pt. 1, 36, 86; cf. Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, p. 72; Gnoli, 1962, p. 102; idem, 1984, pp. 213-15), and with “material seed” (gētīgīg tōhmag; Dēnkard, p. 347 ll. 1-22; Zaehner, pp. 369-71; Menasce, p. 328; cf. Gnoli, 1962, p. 103; Duchesne-Guillemin, 1963, p. 30). It thus had both a germinal and a seminal sense, in which Duchesne-Guillemin recognized (1963, p. 25) fiery fluid and living seed (cf. Gnoli, 1962; Eliade), elements of a primitive physiology also current in Greece, Rome, and India. Xᵛarənah- was therefore also a constituent of divine and human nature (Barr; Duchesne-Guillemin, 1955, p. 96), which conferred upon man his “proper function” (xwēškārīh; e.g., MacKenzie, 1971, p. 96), his “own work” (Dēnkard, pp. 341, 343; Menasce, pp. 323, 325; Zādspram 3.75; Gignoux and Tafazzoli, pp. 52-53), a fundamental notion in Zoroastrian cosmology and ethics (cf. Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. xix, 35-36; Zaehner, pp. 173, 371; Molé pp. 434-35), interpreted by H. H. Schaeder as equivalent to Greek autopragía (Reitzenstein and Schaeder, p. 230 n. 2). It is precisely as a constituent of human and divine nature that the term xᵛarənah- passed into Manicheism, designating the first of the five luminaries.

Avestan xᵛarənah- or Pahlavi xwarrah was thus a spiritual force existing before creation of the “body” or the “person” (Pahl. tan; see Zādspram 3.75; Bundahišn, p. 101 ll. 7 ff.). It directed and motivated every being or category of beings toward fulfillment of its respective duties. There was a xwarrah of priests (āsrōnān), defined as agrīft or agrīftar “intangible, impalpable” (Av. āgərəpta-), which seems from the texts (Bundahišn, p. 162 ll. 9 ff.; Pahl. Y. 3.16) to have been purely spiritual, acquired through “knowledge” (dānāgīh) and “study” (frahang). It corresponded to xᵛarənah-, defined in the Avesta as axᵛarəta-, i.e., with an adjective of uncertain etymology (AirWb., col. 299), on which Bailey based his etymological reconstruction (Zoroastrian Problems, pp. xxvii, 26; cf. Lommel, 1923, pp. 225-33; Duchesne-Guillemin, 1963, pp. 27-8; Gnoli, 1963; Itō; cf. Pirart 1992, p. 6 n. 3). There was also a xwarrah of the Kayanians (Av. kauuaēm xᵛarənō), as of the Iranians (Av. airiianəm or airiianąm xᵛarənō; Gnoli, 1989b, pp. 148-49) and of religion: wuzurg xwarrah ī abēzag rāst dēn “the great xwarrah-bestowing force of the pure true religion” (Dādistān ī dēnīg, pt. 1, 36.73; cf. Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, p. 44).

As both a guarantee and a sign of success, xᵛarənah- quickly took on the meaning of “(good) fortune,” through which those who possessed it were able to fulfill their specific functions or missions. The hymn to xᵛarənah- (Yt. 19), personified as a yazata (Gray, pp. 120-23; Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, pp. 66-68), includes a long list of divine and human beings who perform their tasks thanks to the xᵛarənah- belonging to them (yaṱ asti + gen.) or accompanying them (yaṱ upaŋhacaṱ + acc.). This hymn, in which some scholars have seen traces of an Indo-European myth of fire concealed in water (Dumézil, pp. 21-89), thus provides a significant synthesis of sacred history, the principal subject of which is the xᵛarənah- of the Kayanian dynasty (for kauui- as the dynastic surname of a family whose home was in Sīstān, see Gershevitch, 1959, pp. 185-86).

The hymn unfolds as a panegyric to the xᵛarənah- of Ahura Mazdā (Yt. 19.9-13); the aməṧa spəṇtas (14-20); the yazatas (21-24); Haošiiaŋha (25-26); Taxma Urupi (27-29); Yima, who loses it three times, to Mithra, Thraētaona, and Kərəsāspa respectively (30-44); Apąm Napāt, who seizes it after it has been sought by Ātar and Aži Dahāka, respective emissaries of Spənta Mainyu and Aŋra Mainyu (45-52); the sea Vourukaṧa and the airyas, coveted by Fraŋrasyan (55-57); the Kayanians, who reigned “there where lake Kąsaoiia is formed by the river Helmand, there where the mountain Ušiδā is located” (yaθa zraiiō yaṱ kasaēm haētumatəm yaθa gairiš yō ušiδå (65-72); and in particular Haosrava (73-77), Zoroaster (78-82), Vīštāspa (83-87), and the victorious saošiiaṇt Astvaṱ.ərəta (88-96; for identification of vərəθrājan- “victorious” as a proper name, see Pirart, 1992, pp. 115-16; but cf. AirWb., col. 1421; Wolff, p. 296; Lommel, 1927, p. 185; Hertel, p. 57). Passages 53-54 of Yt. 19 are particularly important, for in them Ahura Mazdā informs Zoroaster that “every mortal” (kasciṱ maš´iiānąm) must seek xᵛarənah-, in order to obtain advantages and success (Gnoli, 1967, pp. 528-29). Verses 1-8, on the other hand, contain a list of mountains, which probably justifies the present title of the whole hymn, Zamyād Yašt “Hymn to the yazata of the earth.” It is not certain that they belonged to the original text (see, e.g., Lommel, 1927, p. 169; Hertel, pp. 1-2; Pirart, 1992, p. 5), but there are good reasons to believe that the connection between xᵛarənah- and mountains was not unimportant: In all mythologies mountains are the seat of supernatural inspiration (Darmesteter, II, p. 615), and the same link appears in the Uighur Turkish legend of “the mountain of fortune” (Qut-tagµ; Gnoli, 1982, pp. 260-61).

In the religious syncretism of the Hellenistic period the Kayanian idea of xᵛarənah- was soon mingled with that of royal fortune (Cumont, 1899, I, pp. 284-85). Although the former had been present in the Achaemenid concept of charismatic kingship, it had not been central; in fact, it is not mentioned in the Achaemenid inscriptions, of which the focal point is the divine investiture of the king “by the favor of Ahura Mazdā” (vašnā Auramazdāha), probably of Mesopotamian origin (Gnoli, 1974, pp. 72-75). There are, nevertheless, traces of the Iranian idea of xᵛarənah- even during the first Persian empire: from the fōs of Darius III (336-31 B.C.E.; Plutarch, Vita Alexandri 30), in all likelihood the monarch’s luminous charisma (cf. Cumont, 1899, I, p. 285; Widengren, 1959, p. 255; idem, 1968, pp. 76-77; Gnoli, 1974, p. 72 n. 303), to each individual sovereign’s “fire” (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 224-25) and probably to the golden eagle that, according to Curtius Rufus (3.3.16), accompanied both divine and royal chariots (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, p. 287). The solar aspects of ancient Persian kingship (cf. Nagel and Jacobs; Jacobs, 1991) can easily be connected with the concept of xᵛarənah- or farnah-, just as traces of this concept are apparent in the “legitimation” of the Achaemenid sovereigns (Ahn, pp. 199-10, 251-52). This fundamental motif of Iranian kingship, a hereditary dynastic charisma (Gnoli, 1974, p. 73), which, however, could be lost, was at the root of ideas that were widespread in the Hellenistic and Roman period, for example, tychē basileōs, fortuna regia; and probably the royal farrah in the tychē of the Seleucids, the dynasts of Cappadocia and the Pontus, Antiochus I of Commagene in the Nimrud Dağ inscription (Cumont, 1899, pp. 285-86; idem, 1910, col. 434; cf. Pagliaro; Waldmann, pp. 41, 44 n. 16, 122-24, 127); and kingship among the Kushans (Göbl, 1984, pp. 45-46; Gnoli, 1989c, p. 923). It was the traditional concept of royal farrah as understood by the Sasanians (Choksy) that survived in the culture and particularly the epics of Islamic Persia (e.g., the motif of farr-e elāhī or īzadī dispensed by God to the sovereign, Fouchécour, pp. 289-90, 397, 400, 405, and the idea of “the glory of Iran,” Frye, 1964, p. 54).

Farr(ah)/xᵛarənah- corresponded not only to the concept of royal fortune but also to that of “fortune” in a more general sense, as demonstrated, for example, by the Aramaic ideogram GDE, by which it was written in the Sasanian inscriptions and Pahlavi books (Gignoux, 1972, pp. 22, 51; Skjærvø, 1983b, p. 94; MacKenzie, 1971, p. 96; Nyberg, Manual, p. 221; Utas, pp. 1, 41, 61), following a custom probably introduced during the Achaemenid period (Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, pp. xvi, 39). In any event, both the inscription and the iconography of a small silver plaque in the Forūḡī collection, Tehran, datable to the mid-3rd century B.C.E., seem to document the interpretation of farr(ah)/xᵛarənah- as the Syrian notion of fortune gd (gdy; Dupont-Sommer; cf. Naveh; Teixidor, 1967; idem, 1973; Bogolyubov; Gnoli, 1995).

The correspondence with Aramaic gd and Greek tychē was an important phenomenon of the meeting of different cultures, based on both the Aramaic concept of fortune and the tradition of tutelary deities for tribe, family, village, spring, or city (see, e.g., Cumont, 1917, p. 265; Février, pp. 38-39; Rostovtzeff; Schlumberger, 1951, pp. 122-23, 135-36; Drijvers, pp. 13, 19; Teixidor, 1979, pp. 17, 25, 60, 88-100; Gawlikowski, 1990a, p. 2639; idem, 1990b, pp. 2668-69). The notion of gd spread mainly in Palmyra, Hatra (Milik, p. 402: gnd), among the Nabateans, as well as is present in the Babylonian Talmud, in Syriac texts (Jean and Hoftijzer, p. 47), and in the scanty documentation on pre-Islamic religion of central and northern Arabia (cf. Ar. jadd; Dussaud, pp. 110-11; Fahd, pp. 78-79).

Although the concept of xᵛarənah- or farnah- certainly circulated in the same area as the Aramaic gd, which may be very ancient (cf. Bottéro, p. 56), it is less certain that Mesopotamian concepts of divine splendor influenced it (see, e.g., Sumerian ME.LÁM, Akkadian melammu; Römer; cf. Cassin, pp. 79 n. 93, 81 n. 101, 133; Castellino, p. 263), even though the relation between light and the life force and between splendor and kingship that they attest has many traits in common with the Iranian concept. On the other hand, an ancient Indian parallel can be traced in the concept of tejas, the splendor and energy of light and fire in connection with kingship (Vogel; Gonda, 1952, pp. 57-67; idem, 1962, p. 44; idem, 1966, pp. 35-36; cf. Gnoli, 1962, pp. 95-96; idem, 1967, pp. 540-41; idem, 1974, pp. 74-75 n. 317).

Iconography. The iconography of farr(ah)/xᵛarənah- has been much debated (see, e.g., Erdmann; L’Orange, p. 47; Duchesne-Guillemin, 1961, p. 92; Göbl, 1962, p. 2; idem, 1971, pp. 10, 11, 49; Azarpay, pp. 112-13; Ghirshman, 1974; idem, 1975; Gall, 1974, pp. 159-60; Calmeyer, 1979; Tanabe, 1984; idem, 1988). Not all the theories that have been proposed are convincing, for example, association with the winged sun disk, which appears frequently in Achaemenid art (Shahbazi, 1977, p. 199-200; idem, 1980; cf. Calmeyer, 1981, p. 55 n. 1; Jamzadeh; Frye, 1984, p. 177; and see also Moorey, p. 146-48; Root, p. 169; Lecoq, 1984), or with the ring that is shown in investiture scenes (Duchesne-Guillemin, 1979; Vanden Berghe). Two motifs seem promising for the combination of textual and iconographic information: figural images connected with light and fire, for example, the human body with flames emanating from it or at least partially surrounding it (see, e.g., Gray, p. 123; Azarpay, p. 113; cf. Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 146; for the flaming shoulders of divine beings or kings on Kushan coins, see Rosenfield, pp. 17, 23-24, 29, 157, 197-201; Carter, 1986), and the bird of prey, whether eagle or falcon (Harmatta, 1979; idem, 1981, pp. 203-04; Shahbazi, 1984; Grenet). The first category reflects the luminous and fiery nature mentioned in texts since relatively ancient times (Yt. 10, 127). The second is exemplified by xᵛarənah-’s assuming the form of a bird when abandoning Yima (Yt. 19.35-36, 19.82), a metamorphosis similar to that of the yazata of victory, Vərəθraγna (Yt. 14.19; cf. Benveniste and Renou, p. 34; Stricker, pp. 318-19; Shahbazi, 1984; Pirart, 1992, p. 48; Carter, 1995, p. 135), an image also found on a Kushan coin, where the reference to the Avestan legend of Yima is very likely (Grenet; Gnoli, 1989c). In Kār-nāmag ī Ardaxšīr (4.11.16, 22-23) xwarrah is said to take the form of a ram, according to the reading of *warrag by Theodor Nöldeke and E. K. Antia and the comparison with the parallel passage in the Šāh-nāma, ed. Mohl, V, p. 288 (Bailey, 1959, pp. 79-80; Litvinskij, 1972, p. 271; Chunakova, pp. 45, 50, 91 n. 57; but cf. Nyberg, Manual II, pp. 175, 204).


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(Gherardo Gnoli)

Originally Published: December 15, 1999

Last Updated: December 15, 1999