GRUNDRISS DER IRANISCHEN PHILOLOGIE (Encyclopaedia of Iranian Philology; Strassburg, 1895-1904, reprinted Berlin and New York, 1974), the first attempt to summarize the knowledge of all subjects concerning Iran — the languages and literatures, history and culture of Iran and the Iranian peoples — that had been achieved by the end of the 19th century. By summing up clearly and carefully the results of previous research, and by presenting new findings in current research and outlining the tasks to be dealt with in the future, the Grundriss became the summa of 19th-century Iranian studies. It is one of the great basic encyclopaedias which the German publisher Karl I. Trübner (who rendered outstanding services to linguistic studies in general) had planned for the entire field of philology, so as to make it easier for the non-specialist to obtain information or, as in this case, to lay a firm foundation for study of the new discipline. Trübner (whose publishing house became part of Walter de Gruyter’s publishing company in 1919) succeeded in attracting two outstanding scholars to take on the responsibility of editing the work: Wilhelm Geiger (q.v.), a pupil of Friedrich Spiegel and his successor to the chair of comparative philology at the University of Erlangen from 1891 to 1920 (when he succeeded Ernst Kuhn in his professorship in Munich), and Ernst Kuhn, who from 1877 to 1919 held the chair of Aryan philology (as it was then called, that is, of Indo-Iranian studies) at the University of Munich. Whereas Geiger had distinguished himself as an exceptional Iranist through several important major publications, the Indologist Kuhn (for whom linguistics was primarily a tool for historical research) was known in the field of Iranian studies rather as an active and energetic organizer and bibliographer.
The consolidation of Iranian philology (as the title of the Grundriss has it) and the widening of its field of research into Iranian studies, which was taking place more and more quickly throughout the 19th century, had made it necessary to summarize all the discoveries made so far and the many and diverse scientific results achieved. With the benefit of hindsight, it may also be said that the moment for that summary was extremely well chosen. On the one hand (at least with respect to research on pre-Islamic Iran) an epoch had just come to an end with Karl F. Geldner’s (q.v.) new three-volume edition of the Avesta (1886-96) and Christian Bartholomae’s (q.v.) magnificent dictionary of the Old Iranian languages (Altiranisches Wörterbuch, 1904). On the other, this same year (1904) brought entirely new fields of research to the fore as a result of new discoveries both in Persia and in the oases of Chinese Turkestan, so that the subjects of Iranian studies were broadened considerably and knowledge of Iranian culture and history could be expanded in many directions. All in all, Iranian studies were placed on a new and much more extensive basis.
The Grundriss was published between 1895 and 1904 in two volumes (vol. I was bipartite and additionally contained a later-published appendix), more exactly: in thirteen separate installments (for details see Orientalische Bibliographie 9, 1896, p. 90 no. 1613; 10, 1897, p. 76 no. 1506; etc.): vol. I/1 (1895-1901), fasc. 1 (pp. 1-160), 1895; fasc. 2 (pp. 161-248), 1896; fasc. 3 (pp. 249-332 and prelims), 1901; vol. I/2 (1898-1901), fasc. 1 (pp. 1-160), 1898; fasc. 2 (pp. 161-320), 1898; fasc. 3 (pp. 321-424), 1899; fasc. 4 (pp. 425-535 and prelims) 1901; vol. I, appendix (pp. i-vi and 1-111), 1903; vol. II (1896-1904), fasc. 1 (pp. 1-160), 1896; fasc. 2 (pp. 161-320), 1896; fasc. 3 (pp. 321-480), 1897; fasc. 4 (pp. 481-640), 1900; fasc. 5 (pp. 641-791), 1904. Altogether the work is divided into nineteen chapters, written by thirteen different authors (see below), all of whom were without exception among the leading Iranists of their time. The great number of contributors involved in the Grundriss can be explained by the wide spectrum of topics covered (languages, literatures, history, geography, religion, etc.), as well as by the equally extensive and divergent contacts between Iran and neighboring cultural and linguistic areas. As is well known, this divergence, which was orientated in different directions at different periods, has led over the course of time to a relatively far-reaching alienation of studies on pre-Islamic Iran from those on Islamic Iran.
The individual chapters of the Grundriss are as follows: vol. I/1: (i) C. Bartholomae, “Vorgeschichte der iranischen Sprachen” (pp. 1-151); (ii) C. Bartholomae, “Awestasprache und Altpersisch” (pp. 152-246); (iii) Carl Salemann, “Mittelpersisch” (pp. 249-332); vol. I/2: (iv) Paul Horn, “Neupersische Schriftsprache” (pp. 1-200); (v) W. Geiger, “Die Sprache der Afghānen, das Pạṧtō” (pp. 201-30); (vi) W. Geiger, “Die Sprache der Balūtschen” (pp. 231-48); (vii) Albert Socin, “Die Sprache der Kurden” (pp. 249-86); (viii) W. Geiger, “Kleinere Dialekte und Dialektgruppen” (pp. 287-423); vol I, appendix: (ix) Wsewolod. Miller, “Die Sprache der Osseten” (pp. 1-111); vol. II, section on literature: (x) K. F. Geldner, “Awestalitteratur” (pp. 1-53); (xi) Franz Heinrich Weissbach, “Die altpersischen Inschriften” (pp. 54-74); (xii) Edward W. West, “Pahlavi Literature” (pp. 75-129; the only chapter written in English); (xiii) Theodor Nöldeke, “Das iranische Nationalepos” (pp. 130-211); (xiv) Hermann Ethé, “Neupersische Litteratur” (pp. 212-368); vol. II, section on history and culture: (xv) W. Geiger, “Geographie von Iran” (pp. 371-94); (xvi) Ferdinand Justi, “Geschichte Irans von den ältesten Zeiten bis zum Ausgang der Sāsāniden” (pp. 395-550); (xvii) P. Horn, “Geschichte Irans in islamitischer Zeit” (pp. 551-604); (xviii) F. Justi, “Nachweisung einer Auswahl von Karten für die geographischen und geschichtlichen Teile des Grundrisses” (pp. 605-11); (xix) A. V. Williams Jackson, “Die iranische Religion” (pp. 612-708). For both volumes (except for the appendix to vol. I) Geiger prepared extensive and detailed indexes of authors, names and subjects and, for the philological chapters, of words and forms (I/2, pp. 428-535; II, pp. 711-791). These indexes not only make working with the Grundriss easier, but are an indispensable tool for exploiting fully this gold-mine of information; only through them does the Grundriss become an invaluable work of reference.
Nevertheless, there are some serious gaps. Thus, for example, one looks in vain for chapters on the archaeology of Persia and on the history of Iranian art; the same is true for Iranian music. Fauna and fl;ora and similar topics are mentioned only casually. Furthermore, it must be said that in regard to its geographic aspects the Grundriss is much too Iran-centered. But not all the gaps for which one may criticize the Grundriss’s editors are due to their inadequate planning. The manner of publishing this work in separate fascicles allows us to realize that the staff of specialists collaborating on the Grundriss changed over the period of its publication: As one can see from the title as listed in the Orientalische Bibliographie, or from the review of the first fascicle by Meyer (1895, cols. 761-62), the very first title-page of the first installment published in 1895 (unlike that of the last-finished vol. II) numbers among the participants the names of Friedrich Carl Andreas (q.v.), Heinrich Hübsch-mann, J. Marquart, and Vladimir Zhukovskiĭ. In the place of those scholars, who were no longer participating in the project (for whatever reason), Miller and Weissbach joined the team.
Some new arrangements are mentioned in the editors’ preface to volume I/1 (June 1901): The chapter on Iranian ethnography, originally to have been written by Kuhn, was omitted in the end because of its (supposed) overlapping with the introductory parts of some linguistic articles dealing with the history of the languages of the Afghans, Baluch, Kurds, etc. As a result, we find only particular problems of that kind touched upon, and completely lack the comprehensive account of ethnographic conditions necessary as the general foundation of that topic. The chapters on numismatics, glyptic art, and seals, as well as on paleography, were left out after the person entrusted with those matters (Andreas) withdrew from his former commitment. The account of the historical development of Iranian philology, which according to the original plan Kuhn was also going to write, was in the end omitted as well, since the editors came to the conclusion that the time was not yet ripe for such an account; therefore we must content ourselves with the relevant reports on Avestan studies (Geldner, vol. II, pp. 40-53) and on the decipherment and interpretation of the Achaemenid inscriptions (Weissbach, vol. II, pp. 64-74). At the same time, however, the editors announced that a bibliographic outline by Kuhn would be published in place of such a historical account, as an appendix to the Grundriss. It is extremely regrettable that this, too, did not happen, since Kuhn would undoubtedly have been the right man for this task; for it was he who, at the time, had the best overview of the entire bibliography relating to Iran, Iranian studies, and related fields of research. Thus, in the end, Kuhn’s share in the Grundriss is virtually unrecognizable.
It may have been of advantage to the Grundriss, and to the cause itself, that Weissbach stepped in for Marquart to write the chapter on the Old Persian inscriptions, since at that time he had already proven to be the real author-ity on them. And the many embarrassing withdrawals in the linguistic part of the work (vol. I/2) could be compensated for only because Geiger himself took on this additional task. It was only at the last moment, when publication had already begun, that Salemann (from whom, according to the original plan, contributions were expected on the Pāmir languages and the Caspian dialects) and Zhukovskiĭ (the first volume of whose standard work, Materialy dlya izucheniya persidskikh narechiĭ [Materials for the Study of the Persian Dialects] had appeared in St. Petersburg in 1888, and who was to deal with these dialects in the Grundriss), left the editors in the lurch, as so often happens in such joint undertakings.
The separate chapters. Volume I (which, according to its subtitle, deals with the linguistic history of Iran) is bi-partite only for technical reasons (because Salemann’s article on Middle Persian was not submitted in good time). It opens with two momentous chapters by Bartholomae, which are consistent with each other and virtually form a well-rounded unity (as the continuous numbering of the sections makes clear). These two interconnected studies discuss in great detail and, in fact, explain the history and prehistory of the phonology and morphology of the two Old Iranian languages (Avestan and Old Persian) and their development from Proto-Indo-European via Proto-Indo-Iranian and Proto-Iranian to the individual languages attested in historical times. They have not yet been replaced, since in the meanwhile only once has an attempt been made to outline, even if in a much more succinct form, the situation and structure of the Indo-Iranian protolanguage (Adolf Erhart, Struktura indoíránských jazku [The Structure of the Indo-Iranian Languages], Brno, 1980). At present, a century after Bartholomae, it is, however, an urgent desideratum to replace the pre-historic chapter (which was perhaps the most original and innovative one of the whole Grundriss) with a modern description of Proto-Indo-Iranian, since time has not stood still, and research in comparative Indo-European and particularly in Indo-Iranian linguistics has made great progress.
Although his intention was to express things as briefl;y and succinctly as possible (even if sometimes in perhaps too condensed a form), in the first of the two studies Bartholomae actually presented a substantial and detailed comparative grammar of Indo-Iranian (or Proto-Aryan) based on his extensive knowledge of the ancient Indo-Iranian languages (as we also know from his dictionary), i.e., of both the complete documentary evidence and the entire relevant specialist literature. This succinct and concise essay is in fact a detailed and precise comparative grammar of Old Iranian, based on comparison with Old Indo-Aryan and aiming in the end at reconstructing the common Indo-Iranian basis of both Indo-Aryan and Iranian phonology and morphology. Bartholomae was prepared for this task as scarcely anyone else could have been because of his profound experience with Old Iranian and Indo-Iranian linguistics and his complete command of the Old and Middle Iranian linguistic material. Thus he could try to trace the changes of Proto-Indo-European word forms step by step down to Proto-Iranian, and thereby to relate the Proto-Iranian phonological and morphological state of things to its Proto-Indo-European sources. In this way, which took him through Proto-Aryan, he made an attempt (and realized it) to set forth the linguistic system of that Indo-Iranian proto-language and to explain by what changes it differed from Proto-Indo-European and what further changes later occurred up to the beginning of Iranian written records.
This carefully worked-out study contains many new combinations and novel explanations, thus creating a work that was truly pioneering in its field. The individual parts of this study deal on the one hand with the history of the various sounds, with sandhi and ablaut, and on the other with the history of words, i.e., with verbal and nominal stem-formation as well as conjugation and declension (although one finds only some short notes about compounds). Here the earlier criticism (Meillet, 1902) should be repeated: that the actual problems of the vocabulary in general, of isoglosses and the like, or of the striking dualistic structure of the Avestan vocabulary, have not been taken as a theme. Further, the philological aspects of the texts are not examined with due care, and the origin and transmission of the Avestan texts, their history and, in short, their value are simply taken for granted. In particular, for example, Bartholomae (like Geldner in his Avesta) does not take all the characters which in fact occur in the Avestan alphabet into account, and gives no serious thought at all as to how actual usage deteriorated in post-Sasanian times.
The chapter on the two Old Iranian languages (ii) is likewise characterized by Bartholomae’s extraordinary knowledge and his strict linguistic method. Like the other study (and like his Altiranisches Wörterbuch, 1904), it shows that Bartholomae had totally acquired that linguistic material and all its problems over the years, so that he was in full control of it, often astonishing even the specialist by the richness of detail. This outline of a comparative grammar of the two languages has the same structure as the preceding study, except for an introductory treatment of the Avestan and Old Persian scripts and, at the end, a few pages of specimen texts (in original script, transcription, translation, and with short annotations). Starting from Proto-Iranian, Bartholomae described the phonological and morphological developments of the two languages in parallel with each other, perhaps even more succinctly than before, since this study was based on (and simply continued from) the detailed account of their prehistory. This second study, too, despite its rich content and its many details, is a model of clear presentation, not least through its full use of typographical means.
Matters of syntax were almost completely neglected by Bartholomae in both these articles, and it was only his pupil Hans Reichelt who filled this gap in the grammatical description — at least for Avestan — with the relevant chapters of his Awestisches Elementarbuch (Hei-delberg, 1909). Such an anti-syntax attitude is, however, not typical of Bartholomae specifically, but is more or less characteristic of the linguistic manuals of the time, the heyday of the neogrammarians. So it is only natural that the other linguistic chapters of the Grundriss also do not deal with such questions as the use and function of grammatical forms, sentence structure, and similar topics.
For the field of Middle Iranian languages it is especially clear how much time has passed over the Grundriss; for whereas today we have sufficient knowledge of six such languages, at that time only Middle Persian was known, and that only to a certain degree. Carl Salemann’s study of this language (iii) was practically the first grammatical description of Middle Persian to pre-sent a full account of the linguistic facts and at the same time to go into detail. The state of research at that time had still caused Salemann to state, resignedly, that in view of the transmission and the writing system of the texts, circumstances would forever prevent the scholar from forming an absolutely certain opinion on the structure of this language, even though Middle Persian has the advantage of occupying a place between the attested Old Persian and the well-known New Persian languages (introduction, p. 249). Salemann’s detailed description of the language, which was intended to shed some light on that still quite shady subject (for which, at the time, the basic philological tools were lacking, and for which, today, we are still awaiting a complete dictionary), was directed at the so-called Book Pahlavi, but included the language of the inscriptions, coinage, etc. It may be mentioned in passing that Salemann clearly led the way in using the term Middle Persian as the name of the language of both the Sasanian inscriptions, etc., and the Zoroastrian writings (the existence of Manichaean Middle Persian not yet being suspected in 1900), and in rejecting the designation “Pahlavi.”
In his introduction, in considering the history of research on the Middle Persian language, Salemann was obliged to discuss forcefully and in detail the problem of the linguistic character of Middle Persian, i.e., the striking and at first misleading mixture of Semitic and Iranian elements which is so characteristic of written Middle Persian texts, even though at that time the Semitic forms had already been shown to be ideograms (better, heterograms, as they were later called) that are to be explained by the writing and scribal tradition going back ultimately to the Aramaeans and the Aramaic administrative language used in the Achaemenid Empire. An appendix (pp. 326-32) listed about 140 heterograms for illustration of the most important verbs, pronouns and particles. In addition, Salemann’s survey — quite excellent for its time — contains the usual sections about historical phonology, nominal and verbal stem-formation, the nominal and pronominal declension, and the formation of verbal tenses and moods. In the phonological part, however (which is preceded by a short description of the writing system), Salemann’s study is completely based on Hübschmann’s seminal Persische Studien (Strassburg, 1895). Oddly enough, and quite arbitrarily, Salemann used the square Hebrew script for transcribing the Pahlavi alphabet, though this procedure is no more accurate an interpretation of the original writing system than is the use of Latin or any other script. He was alone in this, and therefore often met with criticism for it.
The title of Horn’s study, “Neupersische Schriftsprache” (New Persian literary language; iv) — which was chosen only as the counterpart of the spoken dialects — may be somewhat misleading, since in fact it deals in greatest detail only with the historical grammar of the New Persian (literary) language, which has changed phonetically only slightly since the days of Ferdowsi. Thus, in a way, it is the grammatical (phonological and morphological) companion work to Horn’s etymological dictionary (Grundriss der neupersischen Etymologie, Strassburg, 1893). As in so many other cases, the writing of this chapter too was hampered by the fact that neither adequate philological tools such as dictionaries or grammars (and particularly historical grammars), nor usable critical text-editions existed in sufficient number at the time, and therefore preparatory studies in which the material already had been made available were lacking.
In the introduction (pp. 1-19), Horn deals first with Early New Persian borrowings from Arabic and several other languages, which are compiled with circumspection and care, even if nothing is said about the phonetic changes, adaptations and substitutions which took place in the course of the borrowing, and though one is surprised to read these lists in this place at all. Before turning to phonology more systematically, Horn first listed the essential phonological and morphological traits distinguishing New Persian from Middle Persian (and also the differences in writing), as well as the changes which took place only within the New Persian linguistic period and the dialectal peculiarities, which are too often ascribed to Median rather than Parthian influence, owing to the then state of the art. The thorough treatment of phonology (pp. 19-100) — which is, indeed, the first historical-comparative study of New Persian phonology as a whole — must still today be judged of fundamental value because of its many novel findings and its comprehensive and systematic accounts. It starts from the New Persian sounds and traces them back to the Old Iranian or Proto-Iranian stage without stopping at Middle Persian, because the decisive innovations, changes and transformations had already taken place at the transition from Old to Middle Persian. The morphological section (pp. 100-167) deals especially with the origin of the nominal stem-forms, the formation of the plural, the expression of the cases, numerals and pronouns, and the stem-classes and conjugation of the verb. The whole chapter concludes with a section on the formation of derivatives and compounds; once again, however, a treatment of syntax is looked for in vain.
Here, in fact, it would have been appropriate to give an account (at least in rough outline) of the historical development of the Iranian languages altogether in post-Old Iranian times. Even if the broad lines of this development can best be recognized for Persian — they were first outlined by James Darmesteter (q.v.; Études iraniennes, vol. I, Paris, 1883) and were later refined considerably by Horn’s Grundriss (1893) and Hübschmann’s Persische Studien (1895), which, respectively, compiled and discussed the etymological material and (taking account also of Armenian loans) worked out the details of the phonological history — an overall view of those developments, and thus the connecting link between the various details as well as the individual treatments of New Iranian languages, is unfortunately lacking. Nowhere in the Grundriss are the general lines of development, the foundations of, and the reasons for, that development from Old Iranian (with its complex nominal and verbal infl;ection and the preserved final syllables) through Middle Iranian (with eliminated endings, a widely lost declension and a simplified verbal system showing many auxiliaries and periphrastic constructions) to New Iranian (with many further innovations) discussed coherently. Therefore we have, for the whole of the New Iranian languages, only several more or less parallel accounts side by side, but in splendid isolation. Connecting them would have been extremely important, because in consequence of their independent linguistic development, which was not always infl;uenced by New Persian, all those modern idioms show peculiarities that were lost in Persian either quite early or in the course of time; one may easily lose sight of them in such a Persian-centered view. And the Grundriss did in fact attempt for the first time to include the entire spectrum of modern Iranian languages and dialects in such a summary, and to round off by this means the account of Iranian linguistic development from the beginnings to the present.
Several of those regional languages which were able to retain their individual character alongside New Persian (the common written language and, in general, the universal means of communication) are dealt with in the following chapters, some of which are the first comprehensive surveys of the relevant languages; for at that time Iranian philology was only gradually emerging, and the simplest of studies did not yet exist. Therefore the second part of volume I of the Grundriss belongs to its most original and most useful parts.
For both the chapters on Paṧtō (v) and on Baluchi (vi) Geiger was able to build on his own former studies, published chiefl;y in the proceedings of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The chapters are similarly structured and describe, first, the external history of these languages (their linguistic area, dialects, literary tradition, and foreign elements). In the case of Paṧtō, Geiger dealt in particular with the linguistic arguments proving the Iranian character of the language (p. 205), which problem had been settled definitively only in the 1870s by Hübschmann. Short grammatical sketches of phonology, word-formation and infl;ection are followed by two sample-texts serving to illustrate the languages: for Paṧtō we find a prose text and a piece of poetry, for Baluchi some passages from two different dialects, all in transcription with German translation and a short linguistic commentary. By the use of such specimens the relevant chapters of the Grundriss stand out against more recently published manuals like the Russian Osnovy (Moscow, 1979-97) or the Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (Rüdiger Schmitt, ed., Wiesbaden, 1989). For Kurdish (vii) — or, more precisely, for the numerous different and greatly varying dialects of this language — Socin likewise contributed an excellent outline of similar structure (pp. 249-86). He also dealt with the external history of the language, with its phonology (including the accent) and with the morphology of nouns and verbs.
The second half of volume I of the Grundriss ends with the chapter on the other, “minor” Iranian dialects and dialect groups spoken at that time in Persia and neighboring countries (viii), which Geiger only took on in place of other scholars after their refusal. Nonetheless, we owe to him an excellent summary of the then still rather incomplete knowledge of the subject, if one takes into account that this chapter of necessity suffers from the fact that the materials available for the various dialects were of varying quantity and quality and did not cover all regions of the Iranian linguistic area in an equal and sufficient manner. This is still true despite the happy chance that Geiger was able to refer in part to unpublished material collected and examined by Bernhard Dorn and Carl Salemann of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg. Like the other linguistic chapters of the Grundriss written by Geiger, this too is an unquestionably valuable pioneering work. Here Geiger attempted for the first time to put together a summary of the many dialects scattered all over Iran and to arrange them in a proper classification. Apart from Tājiki and Judaeo-Persian — which he treated briefl;y in an appendix (pp. 407-12), although these languages would have been discussed more appropriately together with New Persian — Geiger dealt with three major groups: the Pāmir languages (pp. 288-334), the Caspian dialects (pp. 344-80), and the Central Iranian dialects (pp. 381-406). An appendix to the first group is concerned with Yaghnōbi (pp. 334-44), for which a more independent position is however admitted. Most of the dialects are illustrated by short specimen texts (pp. 330-34, 342-44, 376-80, and 404-6).
Geiger described as Pāmir dialects not only Waḵi, Eškāšmi, Šuḡni, Sarikoli, and Sangliči (which are Pā-mir languages in the stricter sense), but also Yidḡā and Munji, based mainly on the studies by Wilhelm Tomaschek (Centralasiatische Studien II. Die Pamir-Dialekte, Vienna, 1880). The section on Caspian dialects contains outlines of Māzandarāni and Gilaki and, in addition, Tāleši, Tāti, and Semnāni (which, in today’s view, should not be linked so closely with the dialects proper). The dialects of central Iran treated here are those of the area surrounding Kāšān, of Nāʾin and Natanz, as well as of Sivandi and the formerly often so-called Gabri, the rather archaic dialect of the Zoroastrians in Yazd and Kermān. Other dialects, especially those of Fārs proper, were at that time still known rather unsatisfactorily or were not yet known at all. The treatment of the data is the same in all three subsections: it is comparative, and for each of the three groups begins with the best-attested or best-known dialects (Sarikoli/Šuḡni/Waḵi Māzandarāni/Gilaki Kāšāni/Gabri). After some introductory remarks about the classification of the dialects comes an outline of the phonology and of the infl;ection of nouns, pronouns and verbs, together with a more or less short account of word-formation.
Particularly informative is the last section (pp. 412-23), with an overall survey of the dialects and their grouping. Here Geiger has pointed out, first, the peculiarities of all the dialects in comparison with the New Persian literary language, and then the differences between these three groups and the classification of the (modern) Iranian languages in general. Where the relation between the Persian dialects and the literary language is discussed we find the principle clearly expressed, perhaps for the first time, that above all a distinction must be established between Persian and “non-Persian Iranian.” In his concluding sentence, Geiger announced explicitly (p. 423) that with this study (which was not finished before summer 1898, so that the conclusion drawn in the EIr article on Geiger is inexact) he would bid farewell to his much-loved Iranian studies (“mit der ich von den mir lieb gewordenen iranischen Studien Abschied nehme”).
The Ossetic section (ix), which had at first been set aside due to Hübschmann’s illness, was finally supplied by V. Miller, and was published as an appendix to vol. I in 1903. This study (which was later translated into Russian by Magomed I. Isaev: Jazyk osetin, Moscow and Leningrad, 1962) is in fact a completely altered revision of the grammatical part of volume II of the same author’s Osetinskie ètjudy (Ossetic Studies), vol. II (Moscow, 1882). It has been adapted to the model of the other chapters of the Grundriss, and thus deals with the same topics more or less in the same order: by way of introduction, with the dialects, the prehistory of the Ossetes and the foreign elements in Ossetic; then, in a comparative orientation, with the phonology and morphology (both infl;ection and word-formation). It is based on a substantial collection of material, refrains as far as possible from giving pure hypotheses, and gains in value not least by the added index of more than 2000 words, which actually takes the form of an Ossetic-German glossary.
The second volume of the Grundriss, which is directed at a broader readership than the specialist linguistic chapters of vol. I, is introduced by the section on literature, the authors of which, without exception, could be considered the leading experts in the relevant fields. K. F. Geldner was just the right man to introduce Avestan literature (x), for he had at that time just finished the new edition of the entire corpus of the Avesta. In an excellent, even though concise, survey he presented and discussed the material from all aspects: he analyzed the various parts of the Avesta, outlined the history of its written tradition and its manuscripts, set forth the relation between the preserved parts of the Avesta and its redaction in Sasanian times (as described in books VIII and IX of the Dēnkard [q.v.]), and characterized the individual Avestan books and, in greater detail, the Zoroastrian Gathas (q.v.). He then dealt with the history and the origins of the Avesta, i.e., he tried to reconstruct the prehistory of the Sasanian Avesta and to resolve the issues of the homeland of the Avesta and the Avestan language. The short outline of Avestan studies from Abraham H. Anquetil-Duperron (q.v.) up to his own time leads him to discuss the question of the method to be followed in Avestan studies. Here Geldner has favored a compromise between the two main schools of thought: the traditionalist school of Darmesteter and others, and the anti-traditionalist school, especially of Rudolf Roth and, in the main, the Indo-Iranian linguists, who doubted the reliability of the native tradition as mirrored in the “Pahlavi” translations. Thus, all in all Geldner did not produce a rendering of the customary narrative kind of literary history, though he described with due care the songs praising the gods, the relics of ancient Iranian epics, the liturgical texts, priestly laws and so on.
The only extant remains of ancient Persian literature are the Old Persian inscriptions that are treated in the Grundriss by F. H. Weissbach (xi). The concise listing of the royal Achaemenid inscriptions (the stock of which was only about half as large as today), the clear information on their content, and the outstandingly good, balanced judgment of the history of their decipherment and interpretation show the knowledge and experience — in short, the authority — of the writer, who, like Geldner, was at that time working on a new edition of the texts in question.
The “Pahlavi literature” is dealt with by E. W. West (xii), who had proven to be the best expert on that literature, not least through his five-volume translation of Pahlavi Texts (SBE 5, 18, 24, 37, 47; Oxford, 1880-97). Despite the title of this chapter, West treated all the written sources of so-called “Pahlavi” that is, he also included the coin legends and the Sasanian inscriptions, with their “two dialects of Pahlavi” (as was then the prevailing opinion), “usually called Chaldaeo-Pahlavi [correctly: Parthian] and Sasanian Pahlavi” (p. 76). His detailed survey of the Pahlavi literature is still of value nowadays, since a great deal of the data given can be found nowhere else in such fullness. This includes the Pahlavi translations of Avestan texts as well as other religious (e.g., Dēnkard, Bundahišn, etc.) or secular writings in Middle Persian. The fact that linguistic studies has made great progress since then detracts from it only outwardly (as, for example, with respect to the antiquated system of transcription used). A short appendix (pp. 122-29) is even devoted to the modern Persian Zoroastrian literature of the Parsis.
Theodor Nöldeke, who had already published seminal studies in his “Persische Studien. II” (Sb. der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 126, pt. 12, 1892), is the author of the chapter on the Iranian national epic (xiii also published separately in 1896; 2nd ed., Berlin and Leipzig, 1920). This extremely full treatise first discussed the traces of ancient epic stories recognizable in the Avesta and in Greek authors from Herodotus onwards (pp. 130-34), and the formation of the national epic tradition in Sasanian times (pp. 134-46), when minor works of that kind were created. Then Nöldeke turned to the Šāh-nāma itself (pp. 147-211), beginning with Daqiqi (q.v.) and his relation with Ferdowsi (q.v.). Nöldeke described in detail the life and character of Ferdowsi, and added a thorough study of the rather simple and not at all grandiloquent, even if often stereotyped, language of the Šāh-nāma. He paid special attention to the meter and its infl;uence on linguistic forms (pp. 187-93), and to the use and form of rhyme (pp. 193-95). An important aspect of Nöldeke’s chapter (going beyond Iranian studies and concerning epic literature in general) is that in the footnotes he often recorded parallels to the epic poems of other peoples. At the end he presented a survey of the history of the transmission of the Šāh-nāma (pp. 195-206), and of its numerous but (owing to omissions, interpolations, etc.) also rather varying manuscripts and the problems they caused in reconstituting the original text, which are apt to drive the textual critic to despair.
The final literary chapter, by Hermann Ethé (q.v.), deals with New Persian literature (xiv). Ethé was able to base his article, for the most part, on his astonishing knowledge of various aspects of classical Persian literature, which he had gained through his work of cataloguing the Persian manuscripts of the Bodleian and India Office libraries, on his own lifelong research on Persian poetry, and on his many German translations of relevant texts. Thus he presented an exhaustive and truly authoritative survey of this topic that abounds in factual information. The first part (pp. 212-316) treats poetry (epic, lyric, didactic, and mystical), and is introduced by a short summary of the source materials indispensable to any study of the subject (pp. 213-17). The most famous and important poets (among them Rudaki, Ferdowsi, Neẓāmi, Rumi, Saʿdi, Ḥāfeẓ, and many others) are presented to the reader on the basis of the many native biographical collections preserved in manuscript; the essential bibliography is given for each poet and for every work. The second part (pp. 317-68) deals in the same way with the prose authors, with stories, fictions, fairy-tales, fables, legends, comic tales, and so on, and demonstrates, even if only in a few pages, the nearly inexhaustible wealth of Persian literature. At the end, Ethé briefl;y mentioned Persian translations from Sanskrit (pp. 352-55), historiographical writings (pp. 355-63), and scholarly prose (pp. 363-68). All in all, the study of New Persian literature at the beginning of the 20th century could start from this solid foundation. But now, after innumerable texts have been edited and the study of Persian literature has greatly intensified, Ethé’s survey has only historical significance.
The same conclusion must be reached for the remaining chapters belonging to the third sub-section, on history and culture. Time has passed over them ruthlessly. The short survey on Iranian geography by Geiger (xv) drew a rather superficial picture of physical, political and economic geography and briefl;y included historical geography as well (pp. 387-94). But nowhere did Geiger really get into depth, so that one may be correct in understanding the running title, “Grundlagen” (foundations), which does not occur in either the title or the contents, as an indication that the editor(s) intended by this no more than to lay the foundations for the subsequent historical chapters. The short list of geographical and historical maps compiled by Justi (xviii) is also a helpful tool for this purpose; although it provided only bibliographical data, it was quite substantial and respectable for its time.
The outline of the history of ancient (i.e., pre-Islamic) Iran (xvi) was also written by Justi (1837-1907), who had already published such a work, though addressed to a broader public (Geschichte des alten Persiens, Berlin, 1879). In comparison with the book, this chapter of the Grundriss is much more specialized and more scientific, since it is provided with many references and the necessary notes. In such a succinct account, however, one may not expect more than a compilation of both old and new knowledge. The unfl;agging industry with which Justi collected and discussed all literary information on the earlier periods of Iranian history must at any rate be praised; he tried to utilize carefully all available sources, including the published cuneiform texts and the reports of European travelers. After a short apologetic introduction leading to the assessment that the Iranians do not deserve to be belittled, he briefl;y outlined the prehistory and the immigration of the Aryans into what was to be Iran and the Median and Lydian Empires (pp. 406-15). The main part of the chapter (pp. 415-77) is devoted to the Persian Empire of the Achaemenids, whereas the history of the Parthians (pp. 481-511) and of the Sasanians (pp. 512-49) come off less well. Contrary to the Sasanian section, which is based in the main on Nöldeke’s translation of Ṭabarī (Geschichte der Perser), the Parthian section included the discoveries of the then fl;ourishing and expanding discipline of numismatics in connection with the data found in classical authors. Justi’s rendering of the facts, which took the progress of research entirely into account, is quite objective and without polemics, even if the questions at issue are sometimes answered perhaps rashly and without detailed discussion (questions, for example, of the etymological interpretation of proper names). Though it became a standard work at the time of its publication, this chapter is now only of historical value, since new philological sources and, even more, new archaeological discoveries have led to a much more profound familiarity with ancient Iran in every respect. Both a merely narrative history of Iran and a complete account of the history of Iranian civilization in today’s view can and must present the reader with a much more detailed and colorful picture.
In his brief account of Iranian history in Islamic times (xvii) Paul Horn first explained the difficulties of writing such a history and of achieving some progress over the age-old work of Sir John Malcolm (The History of Persia, London, 1815), because the principal original sources had not yet been edited, translated, or examined in an adequate manner. In view of that incomplete preliminary work, Horn was able to publish no more than a rather subjective and superficial survey, starting with the general situation at the time of the Arab conquest and continuing over the various dynasties ruling in Iran (mainly the Saljuqs, Mongols, Timurids, and Safavids) up to the Qajars of his own time.
The last chapter is A. V. W. Jackson’s contribution titled “The Iranian Religion” (xix), the topic of which (as the singular formulation shows) is only the indigenous religion of ancient Iran founded by Zoroaster. Unlike West’s survey of Pahlavi literature, this article was for some inexplicable reason translated from English into German. Parts of it (and particularly the general outline of the introduction) are a shortened version of Jackson’s book Zoroaster, the Prophet of Ancient Iran (New York, 1899), so that for numerous details we find only references to that book, particularly in the section about the founder of this religion (pp. 620-25) concerning Zoroaster’s date (Jackson favoring the 7th-6th centuries B.C.E.) and his homeland. One may regret that the other religions which were of importance in Iran at some time or other were not dealt with by Jackson, especially since we have here an excellent and objective survey of Zoroastrianism. Following introductory and methodological remarks of a general nature, he treats, among other things, Zoroastrianism as a religion with dualistic traits and monotheistic tendencies, the heavenly hosts and their opponents in hell, Zoroastrian cosmology, ethics, eschatology, and rituals. The vexed question of the religion of the Achaemenids is also dealt with in a few pages (pp. 687-93), even if too briefl;y. A short excursus by Jackson’s pupil Louis H. Gray (pp. 675-78) even went into the problem of the old Iranian calendars.
Orientalische Bibliographie, 26 vols., Berlin, 1887-1926; repr. Nendeln, Lichtenstein, 1966.
Reviews of the entire Grundriss: Hermann Oldenberg, Deutsche Rundschau 123, 1905, pp. 155-58.
Johannes Kirste, Österreichisches Litteraturblatt 5, 1896, col. 11; 6, 1897, cols. 138f., 330f.; 7, 1898, cols. 685-87.
Idem, Allgemeines Litteraturblatt 8, 1899, cols. 333f.; 9, 1900, cols. 537f.; 11, 1902, cols. 333f.; 12, 1903, cols. 240f., 13; 1904, col. 464; 14, 1905, col. 174.
Review of vol. I: Meillet, Journal des Savants 1902, pp. 382-93. Review of the first fascicles published: G. M-r [Antonio Georg Meyer], Literarisches Centralblatt 1895, cols. 761f.; 1896, cols. 425f., 1573f.; 1897, cols. 26f.
Originally Published: December 15, 2002
Last Updated: February 23, 2012
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Vol. XI, Fasc. 4, pp. 370-377