Kayanian king of Iranian traditional history and patron of Zoroaster.


GOŠTĀSP, Kayanian king of Iranian traditional history and patron of Zoroaster.

The name and problems of identification. The name is attested in the following forms: Av. Vištāspa (AirWb, col. 1474); Old Persian Vištāspa, whence Gk. Hystāspēs, El. Mi-is-da-áš-ba and Akkadian Uš-ta-as-pa (Kent, Old Persian, p. 209; note that Ku-uš-ta-aš-pi, mentioned in an inscription of Tiglath-pileser III as a king of Kummuḵ [later Commagene, q.v.] in 740 B.C.E. does not represent Goštāsp as formerly believed, see Mayrhofer, 1977); Man. Parth. Wištāsp (Henning, 1943, p. 73); Arm. Vštasp (Hübschmann, Armenische Grammatik, pp. 85-86); Mid. Pers. Wištāsp, whence N. Pers. Veštāsp (Ebn al-Balḵi, pp. 15, 48, 52), Arabicized Beštāsf (Qomi, pp. 74,77, 78, 85, 88); Syriac Baštasp (Zaehner, p. 439); Ar. Bištāsb (Ebn Moqaffaʿ cited in Nehāyat al-irab, p. 82; Ṭabari I, pp. 645, 813; Ḥamza Eṣfahāni, p. 25), Bistāsb (Codex Sprenger 30, pp. 97 ff. = Rothstein, p. 20) and Bistasf (Masʿudi, Moruj I, pp. 118, 121; Biruni, Āṯār, p. 105; Taʿālabi, Ğorar, pp. 255 ff.). With the normal development of Mid. Pers. wi- into gu- (Hübschmann, Persische Studien, pp. 154-56), the name in New Persian became Goštāsp (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, V, pp. 6 ff.; ʿOnṣor-al-Maʿāli, p. 135; Nāma-ye Tansar, ed., Minovi, p. 40; Gardizi, pp. 40, 50-54), Goštāsb (Šahmardān Abi’l-Ḵayr, pp. 312, 343; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, pp. 50, 91, 92; Tāriḵ-e Sistān, p. 34), and even Goštāsf (Mojmal, ed. Bahār, pp. 30, 51, 52, 54, 101). In other languages, the oldest attestation with g- is Gušṭāsp in Mandaean (Ginzā list of Persian kings [early 8th century], Ochser, p. 751.6; cf. Gray, p. 282, no. 12) and then the usual Kuštāsb or Kuštāsf in Arabic. The most probable explanation of the name is “whose horses are let loose (for the race)” (Mayrhofer, Iranisches Personennamenbuch, I, p. 97 no. 379).

The history of Goštāsp involves some tenacious problems, notably the date and homeland of Zoroaster, Kayanian connections with the Achaemenids, the legend of Zariadres/Zarēr, and the role of Vištāspa/Hystaspes in the formation of Iranian and Pseudo-Zoroastrian apocalyptic literature. This is partly due to the nature and diversity of the sources. The oldest are allusions in the Gāthās (Insler) and some of the Yašts (Lommel, 1928), which present a historical figure. Then there are others in Greco-Roman works (collected and studied by Joseph Bidez and Franz Cumont) to Hystaspes, presented as a very ancient king of Media and seer of apocalyptic prophecies. Thirdly, there are references, some detailed and vivid, to Kay Wištāsp in Middle Persian works (and their Arabic-Persian derivations), which elaborate the Avestan evidence by incorporating various oral traditions. Finally, there is the tradition developed in Sistān and immortalized by Ferdowsi, which portrays Kay Goštāsp as a reprehensible ruler.

Kavi Vištāspa in the Avesta. The Gāthās celebrate Kavi Vištāspa as the prince patron of Zoroaster and the establisher of the first Zoroastrian community. Opposed by Kavis and Kar[a]pans (Y. 28.11), and hampered by insufficient means (cattle and men [Y. 2]), Zoroaster was rejected by his own community (Y. 1) and fled to a new land, to Kavi Vištāspa, the “truthful person,” who became his “ally” and “committed friend for the great task” of spreading the Good Religion (Y. 14). Now, among the “Avestan people” (q.v.) the term karapan denoted, it seems, a working priest of the pre-Zoroastrian religion, whom Zoroaster evidently despised, perhaps as dogmatic “mumblers” (Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 12; idem, 1992, p. 15). The term kavi had at least two connotations: 1) a “wise man,” a seer, a mantic poet; and 2) a ruler endowed with the gift of prophecy (Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, pp. 11-12). These rulers were presumably the chiefs of various Iranian tribes, the extent of whose territories is quite unknown. Vištāspa was among the second group, and “(following) along the paths of good thinking,” (Y. 51.16) he accepted Zoroaster’s message and became its champion (ibid.; cf. Y. 46.14; 53.2). Since his forerunners and kinsmen had also borne (according to the Yašts) the same title, his line came to constitute the Kavi dynasty, the Kayān of the traditional history (on whom see Christensen, 1928, pp. 27-35; 1931, pp. 6 ff. and passim; Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, pp. 11, 67, 105-7; Yarshater, Camb. Hist. Iran III, pp. 374-77, 436-40, 444-73). At Kavi Vištāspa’s court, Frašaoštra and his brother Jā-māspa, of the Hvōgva family, also accepted Zoroaster’s message and earned his praises (Y. 28.8; 46.16-17; 53.3-4). In Y. 28.1-5 Zoroaster, “with hands outstretched in reverence,” entreats the Wise Lord (Mazdā Ahura) for several boons, including “power to Vištāspa and to me,” a prayer that implied the facing of some trouble.

These Gathic allusions are supplemented by passages in the Yašts, in which Zoroaster himself, and others of the early community, are represented as asking boons from various Yazatas, all of which are granted. Among the supplicants are the Haugvan (Gathic Hvōgva) and Naotara families (Yt. 5.98); and there it is said that Vištāspa was a Naotara (on which see Avesta, tr. Darmesteter, II, p. 390 nn. 129-30). This seems to contradict Yt. 15.95-96, where Hutaosa (known from this and other passages to be Vištāspa’s wife) is identified as being “in the house of the Naotaras . . . , with many brothers” and is said to have prayed that she might be “dear and loved and well-received in the house of Kavi Vištāspa.” Zoroaster himself is represented as praying that he might bring “the strong, princely [kavyan-] Vištāspa, son of Aurvaṯ.aspa, to think according to the Religion, to speak according to the Religion, to act according to the Religion” (Yt. 5.104-5), and in another passage he seeks the same boon with regard to “the good and noble Hutaosa,” adding “so that she might spread and preach my Religion and make well known my observances” (Yt. 9.25-26).

In other passages Vištāspa is represented as praying for victory over a number of named warriors (Yt. 5.108-9, Yt. 9.129-31) of whom two or three are characterized as being of bad religion, or daēva-worshipping. Among them is Arəjaṯ.aspa (see ARJĀSP), who is identified as a Hyaona, and “follower of the Drug” (drəgvant-)”; and Vištāspa prays that he may drive off his attacks and slaughter many of the Hyaonas (Yt. 9.130). Similar prayers are attributed to Zairivairi (Yt. 5.112-13), whose close association in this way with Vištāspa supports the tradition that he was the Kavi’s younger brother. The epithets given to Vištāspa’s foes indicate that the battles alluded to were fought in defense of the new religion; and in the Frawardin Yašt [q.v.], where the fravaši [q.v.] of Vištāspa is revered after that of Zoroaster, he is celebrated as the victorious fighter for the truth, who rescued the Religion and made it strong and prosperous (Yt. 13.99-100). The same verses occur in Yt. 19.84-87, where, again following Zoroaster, he is further celebrated as possessing, like the Prophet himself, and the earlier Kavis, the divine glory, khvarənah (see FARR[AH]).

This is all that can be gleaned from the main Avestan texts. Two late Yašts (23, “the Āfrin i Zardušt,” and 24, “Vištāsp Yašt”), which contain Zoroaster’s blessing on and advice to the king, add nothing new. The Sasanian Avesta included a whole nask (10) devoted to instructions given to Vištaspa (Dēnkard, tr. West,8.11), but of this we have a mere summary (see below). This, too, was probably derivative. The Frawardin Yašt refers to the fravašis (q.v.) of a large number of righteous individuals in such a way that members of various families, including those of Zoroaster and Kavi Vištāspa, can be recognized as grouped together (Christensen, 1928, pp. 17-20; idem, 1931, pp. 23 ff., 31-32). The list has allowed commentators to recognize “Sp[ə]ntōδāta the valiant and just” (Yt. 13. 103; see ESFANDĪĀR), Pišiyaoθana (ibid.), and more than a dozen others as sons of Kavi Vištāspa, and Bastavairi (>Bastur) of Yt. 13.103 as a son of Zairivairi (Jackson, pp. 70-72). In sum, as Christensen pointed out (1931, p. 26), “Kavi Vištāspa, whose history is linked with that of Zoroaster, and who is a most important personality in the Gāthās, must be considered as a wholly historical figure.”

This conclusion raises the questions of his home and date. Ammianus Marcellinus (23.6.32), is the earliest authority for the theory that Kavi Vištāspa was the Achaemenid Hystaspes, father of Darius the Great. This, and the belief that the dating of Zoroaster to the sixth century B.C.E. was based on a genuine Iranian “tradition,” has led many scholars to make Zoroaster a contemporary of an Achaemenid Vištāspa who allegedly ruled as a Kavi in Greater Parthia, i.e., eastern Iran (for contra arguments, see Shahbazi, 1977; Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, pp. 3-4, 181-91; idem, 1992, pp. 1-2, 27-39, 44-45; see also ACHAEMENID RELIGION). It is generally agreed that Zoroaster and his associates belonged among the eastern Iranians, but attempts at finding their precise location have proved inconclusive. This is partly because of the paucity of geographical names in the Avesta and “partly because of a natural tendency of the Iranians, like any other migrant people, to carry familiar names along with them and give them to new mountains and rivers, lakes and valleys where they were settled” (Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 189). Furthermore, many Iranian groups later tried to gain prestige for their homelands by identifying places in Zoroaster’s “history with ones in their own familiar countryside” (ibid.; see also below).

The date of Zoroaster and consequently that of Viš-tāspa has been the subject of heated debate among Iranists, some favoring a date around 1000 B.C.E, others arguing for what they consider to be a genuine Iranian dating in about 600 B.C.E. The “traditional date” is based on the king-lists in the Bundahišn and Arab-Persian texts and is given in two versions: one places Zoroaster’s call (at age 30) 258 years before “Alexander”; the other counts 300 years from the coming of the religion to “Alexander.” By “Alexander” eastern chronologists usually meant the Seleucid Era (312/11 B.C.E.) The exact meaning of these dates has been hotly debated. Ernst Herzfeld followed Ammianus’ view and explained the “traditional date” as recording 258 years from Zoroaster’s birth to the Seleucid Era, and he thus made the prophet a contemporary and active member of the imperial court of Astyages, Cyrus the Great, and Darius I. Henrik S. Nyberg, on the other hand, depicted Zoroaster as a shamanistic priest of considerable antiquity. Walter B. Henning criticized both these views and, following Sayyed Ḥasan Taqizāda, combined the two “traditional dates,” interpreted the expression “till Alexander” as “till Alexander’s conquest of Persia in 330 B.C.E.,” and insisted that Iranians had preserved a genuine “tradition” which dated Zoroaster between 630-553 or 628-541 B.C.E. (Henning, 1951, pp. 35-41). Henning’s view prevailed for several decades, but gradually a number of scholars (including Gherardo Gnoli, Jean Kellens, Thomas Burrow, and A. Shapur Shahbazi) reasoned for dating Zoroaster a few centuries earlier, around the turn of the first millennium, with Mary Boyce advocating a still earlier date, namely ca. 1200 B.C.E or even earlier. In 1995, however, Ilya Gershevitch again argued vigorously in a trenchant article that the date of Zoroaster as determined by Henning should be affirmed. Gnoli, in a series of lectures delivered at the University of California at Los Angeles and subsequently published by Bibliotheca Persica (Gnoli, 2000) has revived the debate with fresh vigor and, radically revising his earlier stand, has supported the view that the traditional date of Zoroaster places him and his royal protector Vištāspa in the 7th-6th century B.C.E. as one of the “three possible dates” proposed earlier by Henning (p. 41) had it. The controversy is far from settled.

Elaboration of Vištāspa’s history in western Iran. The Avestan account of the early days of Zoroastrianism knows of four or five generations of believers (Burrow, p. 138; Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 273) but all indications suggest that the line of the Kavis ended with Kavi Vištāspa (Christensen, 1931, pp. 18, 31, 34; Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 249), “not a word being said of any succeeding monarch” in the Bundahišn ( chap. 31) and Dēnkard (tr. West 8.13 and p. 29 n. 4). When later Zoroastrian scholar-priests developed (under the influence of Babylonian historiography) a coherent history of the faith, they used the Avestan references as a core, added what they could find in orally transmitted accounts, and filled in the gaps by drawing on episodes and personalities associated with the Achaemenid and Hellenistic-Parthian periods which they learned from Babylonians. As many east Iranians moved west and settled in Media and Persis, they took with them Avestan names and legends (Christensen, 1926, pp. 91-92 [who, however, later abandoned this logical view]; cf. Harmatta, pp. 7-8). Thus, as Philip Keiper showed long ago (pp. 221-29), the names Hystaspes (borne by the father as well as some descendants of Darius the Great), Atossa (= Hutaosā, borne by the eldest daughter of Cyrus the Great and several Persian princesses), Pissauthnes (= Pišišyaoθana; borne by a Persian prince, son of a Hystaspes), Damaspia (Old Persian fem. form of Jāmāspa; borne by an Achaemenid queen), and Sphendadates (= Spəntōδāta; the name alleged by Ctesias, q.v., for Pseudo-Bardiya) prove that the Achaemenids knew of and respected Avestan traditions (see also Lommel, p. 16; ACHAEMENID RELIGION). The discovery in Persepolis Elamite tablets of several “Avestan” names (Yarshater, 1983, p. 388) now substantiates Keiper’s view.

The double nature of the term kavi as “prince” and “seer,” and the fact that Zoroastrian tradition credits Kavi Vištāspa with mantic activity (Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism, p. 378) gave rise in western Iran to a Hystaspes with double functions. He was represented as the “overlord of Media [here meaning “the land of the Aryans,” since the Medes were “formerly called Arioi by everyone”: Herodotus, 6.62] and the territory below it” (Chares of Mytilene, q.v., apud Athenaeus [q.v.], Deipnosphistae 13.575b) and remembered as “a peaceful ruler” (rāmgar šahrdār) in Ērānvēj by Mani (Boyce, 1992, p. 4). Linked to this King Vištāspa/Hystaspes was the romantic story of “his younger brother Zariadres” who “ruled over the region above the Caspian Gates, as far as Tanais River,” and who through a dream fell in love with Odates, daughter of the king of the Marathi, went to her place, and carried her off to his own home (Chares in Athenaeus, 13.575 b-e; see further Markwart, pp. 126-31; Boyce, 1955; ESFANDĪĀR). The name Zariadres is well attested in Armenia, where by Sasanian times it had developed into Zareh; and it thus fell together, in Armenian, with Av. Zairivairi > Zarēr > Zareh; and there appears accordingly to have been a late contamination of Kayanian tradition with the Median romance, with the hero’s part in the latter being transformed from “Zareh” to his better known brother Goštāsp (see below).

Since the Avesta knew no successor for Kavi Vištāspa, later scholar-priests, it seems, wishing to provide a continuous history of Zoroastrian kings and desirous of placing Zoroaster in a fixed historical context, identified Kavi Vištāspa, the royal founder of the Zoroastrian community, with the founder of the Persian empire, Cyrus the Great (see Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 68-69; ACHAEMENID RELIGION), and following Babylonian chroniclers, it has been suggested, re-interpreted Cyrus’ official coronation in Babylon in 539 B.C.E. as “the coming of the religion,” and the establishment of the Seleucid Era in 311 B.C.E. as the “coming of Alexander” (Shahbazi, 1977, pp. 30 ff.). Hence the so-called “traditional date” of Zoroaster was fabricated, according to which Zoroaster (at age 30) received his call 258 years before Alexander (539 + 30 – 311 = 258; see Shahbazi, 1977, pp. 30 ff.) This provided a historical niche for Kavi Vištāspa, and he was made the grandfather and predecessor of Artaxerxes I (so rightly Spiegel, I, p. 720; Jackson, 1899, pp. 158-60; the usual identification with Artaxerxes II being unwarranted). Another explanation for the origin of the actual “traditional date” of Zoroaster has been suggested by Peter Kingsley on the assumption that this was calculated in Hellenistic times on the basis of the legend which developed then that the Prophet had been tutor to Pythagoras (but see Gershevitch, pp. 14-15).

The excellent reputation of Artaxerxes as a well-intentioned ruler (Plutarch, Artoxares 1) was marked by his being called “Artaxerxes of the good thought” or Vohuman-Ardašir, later Bahman (Shahbazi, 1977, pp. 33-34). The putative identification with Cyrus the Great further allowed the scholar-priests to attribute to Kavi Vištāspa the well-known act of Cyrus—the return of Jewish exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ṭabari, I, p. 647). The establishment of the seven great families of Iran was also attributed to Kavi Vištāspa (Ṭabari, I, p. 683; Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 437), as was the creation of imperial institutions (Ebn al-Balḵi, pp. 48-9; cf. Biruni, Āṯār, p. 221; ʿOnṣor-al-Maʿāli, p. 135). Kavi Vištāspa was also represented as a royal seer (Bidez and Cumont, I, pp. 215-23, II, pp. 359-77). With reference to Plato, who had said that magic in the form of holy rites is “the purest worship of gods,” Ammianus Marcellinus reports (13.6.32): “To this science, derived from the sacred lore of the Chaldaeans, in ages long past the Bactrian Zoroaster made many contributions, and after him the wise king Hystaspes” (“the father of Darius” is Ammianus’ own addition: Spiegel, I, p. 678; Bidez and Cumont, II, p. 359 n. 2). Similarly, Lactantius (ca. 250 C.E.) refers to and explicitly cites Hystaspes, a very ancient king of Media, as the author of an apocalyptic dream which foretold the ultimate extinction of sinners and the end of the world through fires (Bidez and Cumont, II, pp. 1, 366-76; Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism, pp. 377-82). Even in the tenth century, Balʿami (Tāriḵ, p. 669) remarked that Goštāsp “left many books of wisdom (ko-tob-e ḥekmat besyār mānd).” The apocalyptic literature thus created (under the influence of Babylonian prophetic texts) and attributed to Hystaspes was in turn used in later Zoroastrian traditions to develop the prophecies attributed to Jāmāsp “in response to questions put to him by Vištāspa” (Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism, p. 383; AYĀDGĀR Ī JĀMĀSPĪG). Other versions appeared in the form of a vision dreamed by Zoroaster and explained to him by Ahuramazdā (in the Zand i Vahman Yašt) and in the prophecies of the Sasanian general Rostam, son of Farroḵ-Hormozd (Šāh-nāma [Moscow], IX, pp. 313-21) “who knew the science of astrology” (Šāh-nāma [Moscow], IX, p. 313, v. 30).

Kay Wištāsp in Sasanian traditions. In the later Sasanian period Kay Wištāsp was claimed as ancestor for the Sasanian royal family (Ṭabari, I, p. 813) and the other six great houses of the realm (ibid., p. 683) and as the establisher of the Iranian imperial institutions (Ebn al-Balḵi, pp. 48-49; cf. Biruni, Āṯār, p. 221). Now, all Achaemenid kings who followed Xerxes bore the throne name either of Artaxerxes/Ardašir or Darius/Dārā. The “history” which was now evolved accordingly made Kavi Vištāspa the predecessor of a single Ardašir (Vahman) and two Dariuses, and then linked these by a forged genealogy to Ardašir, founder of the Sasanian empire, whose throne name, *Dārā-Ardašir (attested in the Cologne Mani Codex [q.v.] in the form of Dariardaxar; Sundermann, pp. 293, 297) clearly support this fictive claim. Kay Wištāspa thus came to be closely associated with Sasanian kingship, and was given a place in the “oath of office” which a Sasanian King had to take (Nāma-ye Tansar, ed. Minovi, p. 40; tr. Boyce, p. 62). Five Iranian provinces were by then competing in representing Kay Wištāsp as their own. The evidence for a Sistāni claim (examined by Markwart, pp. 158-59) includes: the localization of the Avestan Frazdānu (Fraz-dān), by which Vištāspa is said to have prayed (Yt. 5.108), in the Gowd-e Zerah of Sistān (first proposed by Jackson, 1928, p. 283 with n. 7); the identification of the Lake Kąsaoya [Kayānsih] (where the seed of the Prophet is preserved [Yt. 19.92; Vd. 19.5] to give birth one day to the Zoroastrian future Savior) with the Hāmun Lake; the statement in Šahristānhā i Ērānšahr (36) that Bost was founded by Bastwar son of Zarēr, and the reference of Theodor bar Ḵonāy to Zoroaster “the Samarian Jew” who “fled” to Sagistān to Khudōs [Hutōs], wife of King Baštasf [Wištāsp]” (on this testimony see also Yohannan, pp. 239-40). But none of these traditions is original (Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 274, 293; idem, 1992, pp. 4-5, 16-17; for contra, AVESTAN GEOGRAPHY). Indeed, it was in Sistān, alone of all Iranian lands, where Vištāspa’s memory came to be maligned (see below). The Parthians claimed that Wištāsp had planted the Cypress of Kešmar in honor of their sacred fire, Ādur Burzēn-Mihr (q.v.), which he had installed on Mt. Rēvand on a ridge called Pušt i Wištāspān (on this see Markwart, pp. 128-29), and that he had defeated Arjāsp in Kōmiš in Parthia (Pahlav). The Bactrians maintained that, like other Kayān kings, Kay Wištāsp had his capital at Balḵ, and that the main scenes of his activity were in Bactria (Jackson, 1899, p. 60). The best documented of all are the claims of Media Atropatene (Azarbaijan) to have been the scene of Zoroaster’s ministry (Jackson, 1899, pp. 189-201), with Kayanian legends being associated with the Median sacred fire, Ādur Gušhasp (q.v.). These claims, it has been argued (Boyce, 1992, pp. 8-9), were developed in early Seleucid times, when Atropatene was the only part of Iran under Zoroastrian rule. Finally, the people of Pārs alleged that Kay Wištāsp had transferred Ādur Farnbāg from Ḵwārazm to Pārs and established it in Kārnikān > Kāriān (see ĀDUR FARNBĀG), that he had built a city there called *Rām i Wištāspān (attested in Ḥamza, p. 27 as Rām-i Vištāsqān), later known as Fasā, and that he housed the text of the Avesta (written in gold ink on 12,000 ox hides) “in his own treasure house” in a “stone building” in a place in Iṣṭaḵr called Diž-i nibišt “Fortress of archives” (Ṭabari, I, p. 676; Balʿami, ed. Bahār, p. 657; Ebn al-Balḵi, p. 49).

A detailed history of Kay Wištāsp was contained in lost parts of the Sasanian Avesta, particularly in Wištāsp-sāst-nask, Spand-nask, Čihrdād-nask, and Varštmānsar-nask (summarized in Dēnkard, tr. West, 8.11, 13, and 14, and 9.33.5 respectively. See also Dēnkard, ed. Sanjana, 5.3.1, 6; 6.21; tr. West, 7.1, 4, 47, 76-90; 8.13, 15; 9.6.2-14, 33.5, 39.22, 42.17; Bundahišn, tr. Anklesaria, pp. 79, 80, 125, 232; Zand i Vahman Yašt 2.58, 60). In Sasanian-based king lists, Kay Wištāsp’s father, Lohrāsp (< Av. Aurvat.aspa), was represented as a direct successor of Kay Ḵosrow and the family name Nowδ’ari (of Viætā-spa's designation in Yt. 5.98 as a Naotairya) was explained by asserting that Lohrāsp was a descendant of Nawδar, an offspring of Manōčihr, the successor of Frēdōn (Bundahišn 25.26, tr. Anklesaria, p. 297). Furthermore, a large number of the names mentioned in Yašt 13.99-103 close to Zairivairi or Kavi Vištāspa were taken to represent Kay Wištāsp’s nephews and sons (Christensen, 1931, pp. 24-25), and this allowed the placing of them in a coherent narrative of Kayanian history. These religious texts and other Sasanian sources gave a fairly full account of Kay Wištāsp, detailing his accession; his receiving the Good Religion from Zoroaster; his family and courtiers, his wars with Arjāsp, king of the Hyōns (who by then had come to be identified with the Chionites, q.v., of the classical texts); the heroic achievements of his son Spəntōδāta (Av.)/Spandyā (Gk.); as well as the bravery of his brother Zarēr and the latter’s son, Bastavar (Bastur); the capture of Wištāsp’s daughters by Arjāsp and their rescue by Spandyāt (on all of which see ESFANDĪĀR). Kay Wištāsp’s rewards for his pious works were also described, notably a long, prosperous reign and the begetting of a son, Pešotan (cf. Pišiyaoθana of Yt. 13. 103), the immortal prince who will restore the Good Religion in the time of the future Savior (Dēnkard, tr. West, 7.4.81; ed. Sanjana, 5.12; Bundahišn 29.5; Zand i Vahman Yašt 25-32, 36-42, 51, 52). In the chronological scheme (modeled on the Babylonian World Year) developed in the Achaemenid period by Zoroastrian scholars (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, pp. 235-36, 242-43), the history of the world was divided into 12,000 years with each millennium being named after an outstanding figure, mythical, legendary or historical, such as Gayōmard, Jamšēd, and Zoroaster (Biruni, Qānun al-Masʿudi apud Taqizādeh, p. 79 n. 159). In this scheme, Kay Wištāsp’s accession was in the Age of Silver (Dēnkard, tr. West, 9.8.2-3, citing Av. Suδgar-nask) and his reign in that of gold (Zand-i Vahman Yašt 2.16). The only surviving Middle Persian epic fragment, the Ayādgār i Zarērān (q.v.; most recently ed. and tr. by Bijan Gheiby), by origin a Parthian text, detailed a great battle of Kay Wištāsp with Arjāsp in defense of the Good Religion.

Kay Goštāsp in the heroic cycle of Sistān. One of the oddest discrepancies in Iranian traditional history is the representation of Kay Goštāsp, “the Constantine of Zoroastrianism and defender of the Faith” (Jackson, 1899, p. 69) as a reprehensible ruler in legends associated with the House of Rostam (see details in ESFANDĪĀR). This is immortalized in the Šāh-nāma but is also found, slightly less unfavorably, in Ṯaʿālebi’s Ğorar. As an over-ambitious (sar por az bād: Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, V, p. 6 v. 39) prince, Goštāsp demands the throne from his father, and when this is refused, he leaves “full of rage and anger” for India, but is brought back by Zarēr, only to flee soon after to Rum, where he lives incognito but eventually marries the daughter of the Caesar (it is here that contamination is seen with the story of Zariadres; see above). He wins military victories for the Caesar, thereby emboldening him to demand tribute from Iran. Again Zarēr goes to Goštāsp, “who acts as if he did not remember Iran” (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, V, p. 62 v. 829), and persuades him to return and receive the throne. Later, jealous and suspicious of his own valiant son, Esfandiār, he publicly humiliates, chains, and imprisons him, only to beg his help upon suffering crushing defeats by Arjāsp. He promises to give Esfandiār the throne if the latter restores the situation. When this is achieved, he breaks his promise and sends his son to certain death against Rostam. He is cursed by his son as an ungrateful man possessed of a “ dark soul” (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, V, p. 421, v. 1483; p. 423 v. 1501: jān-e tāriḵ), by his daughters as the perpetrator of an unprecedented crime (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, V, pp. 429-30), by his nobles as a disgrace to the royal throne (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, V, p. 427 v. 1543: sar-at rāze-tāj-e Kayān šarm bād) and by his younger son as a murderous rebel who has destroyed Ērānšahr (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, V, p. 429 v. 1564: dam az šahr-e Irān bar āvarda-i) and earned condemnation in this world and God’s retribution in the next (ibid., v. 1569). The development of this tradition resulted in “the unusual revilement of one of the most important personalities of the religious tradition” (Christensen, p. 1931, p. 124). The origins of this hostility to Kay Goštāsp have never been explained. Perhaps the forcible annexation of Sistan by Ardašir (q.v.) and the crushing of the Sistāni revolt by Bahrām II (q.v.) occasioned the transfer of local ill feelings towards the early Sasanians to their alleged “founder” and “ancestor” Kay Goštāsp (Shahbazi, 1990, p. 218).

Post-Sasanian sources covered the history of Goštāsp in great detail (Ṭabari, I, pp. 647-49, 675-83; Codex Sprenger 30, pp. 97-102 [= Rothstein, pp. 20-21]; Balʿami, ed. Bahār, pp. 648-70; Masʿudi, Moruj II, pp. 123 ff.; Nehāyat al-arab, pp. 82-85; Ḥamza Eṣfahāni, pp. 36-37; Šāh-nāma [Moscow] VI, pp. 10-320; Ṯaʿālebi, Ğorar, pp. 255-377; Dinavari, ed. Guirgass, pp. 26-28; Ebn al-Balki, pp. 48-52). They incorporated various legends without clear distinction of sources. Ṭabari’s account is typical and, as Ehsan Yarshater has explained (EIr VIII, p. 585), “is a confused mixture of biblical, Babylonian, and Persian traditions, presumably concocted by the early translators of Xwadāy-nāmags into Arabic (or to some extent by Judeo-Christian sources in pre-Islamic times) to harmonize Iranian and Semitic strands.” Not unexpectedly, the Zoroastrian-based accounts (e.g., by Daqiqi) and the wholly Zoroastrian Zaratošt-nāma represent Kay Goštāsp as a venerable champion of the faith, but sources affected by the Sistāni tradition are somewhat hostile to him (e.g. Tāriḵ-e Sistān, p. 34; Mojmal, ed. Bahār, p. 52). The founding of several fire temples in Fārs and Eṣfahan is attributed to Kay Goštāsp (Ḥamza Eṣfahāni, p. 37; Masʿudi, Moruj II, p. 260; Qomi, pp. 74-90). No new data are furnished by later Islamic authorities such as Moskōya (Meskawayh), Ebn al-Aṯir and Gardizi. The statement that Goštāsp was entombed in Balḵ is found in ʿAbd-Allāh Balki’s local history (p. 17).



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(A. Shapur Shabazi)

Originally Published: December 15, 2002

Last Updated: February 17, 2012

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