Avestan dragon-slayer, son of Sāma, and eschatological hero. In the Pahlavi and Zoroastrian Persian traditions, several heroic feats are connected with him.


KARSĀSP, Av. Kərəsāspa, Pahlavi various forms (see below), Pers. Garšāsp (Garšāsb, Arabicized Karšāsf), Avestan dragon-slayer, son of Sāma, and eschatological hero. In the Pahlavi and Zoroastrian Persian traditions, several heroic feats are connected with him. In the Šāh-nāma and early historiography, he is a bleak figure, but then again becomes a hero, to whom Asadi Ṭusī devoted the Garšāsp-nāma, and founder of Sistān.

The most detailed modern description of the variants of the Karsāsp myth is Yarshater, 1983. Eduljee, 1983, is a comprehensive collection of texts in translation with analysis and copious references (more comprehensive than West, 1882). For other discussions, see, in particular, Spiegel, 1891, pp. 194-95; Darmesteter, 1877, pp. 213-18, 1892, II, pp. 626-28; Christensen, 1932, pp. 99-106; Boyce, 1975, pp. 100-104; and Williams, ed., 1990 (II, pp. 161-68), which also has the most up-to-date text edition and translation of the narrative in the Pahlavi Rivāyat, of which Nyberg, 1933, is an edition and translation with philological commentary. 

On parallels between the Ferēdūn and Karsāsp myths, see also Wikander, 1941, pp. 161-70. On this and on Wikander’s (1938) attempt to connect Kərəsāspa with the “Aryan band of young men,” see Boyce’s criticism (1975, p. 102, n. 110).

Garšāsp has today become a popular Internet figure among Iranians and has given his name to a game.

The name. Av. Kərəsāspa probably means “he with meager horses”; cf. Old Indic kṛśvāśva (Mayrhofer, 1977, p. I/60), similar to Djāmāspa, “he with scrawny horses” (cf. Old Indic kṣāma “emaciated”). Pahlavi kars is used in the Zand ī Wahman yasn (3.15, 4.68) together with nizār “weak” as the opposite of frabih “fat” (Tafazzoli, 1990, pp. 56-58).

In Pahlavi, the name is spelled variously as <klsʾsp>, <glsʾsp>, and <glyšʾsp>. The spelling <klyšsp>, which does not mark the long vowel, can be a misinterpretation of <klsʾsp'> = <klyyʾsp'> with <š> for <yʾ>, while the shorter form <klšsp> (apparently common in some mss. of the Pahlavi Rivāyat beside <klyšsp> and <glyšʾsp>), may be an error. 

On the forms of the name in the Šāh-nāma, see ed. Khaleghi, Notes I/1, p. 168. Khaleghi also points out that the Arabic spelling with k- (rather than j-) points to original k-

The change from Karsāsp to Garšāsp is problematic, but, conceivably, the name was influenced by Gar-šāh “king of the mountain(s),” epithet of Gayōmard (see GAYŌMART; later usually understood as Gil-šāh “king of the clay,” i.e., of the earth; see Yarshater, 1983, p. 420). Note the combination of the stories of Garšāsp and Gar-šāh, e.g., in ms. MU29 (ed. JamaspAsa and Navābi, 1976; ed. Mazdāpur, 1378 Š./1999).

In the Pahlavi and later literature, he is also called Sām (Sāhm) or Sāmān (Sāhmān) Karsāsp (see below).

Descriptions. Kərəsāspa/Karsāsp is described in the Avesta as the strongest of strong men other than Zarathustra (Yašt 19.38). This may be why Zādspram (35.6) measures him by Zarathustra’s size (compare Dârâb Pâhlan’s Ḵolāṣa-ye din, where God tells Zartošt that he weighed his soul [ruḥ] by placing it on one side of the scale and heaven and earth on the other, and it weighed more; text p. 50, paraphrase, pp. 68-69). In the Pahlavi texts, he is said to “have much strength” (was-ōz [which also characterizes Dahāg]) or “be full of strength” (purr-ōz). 

In Yasna 9.10, he is characterized by his hair as Av. gaēsu, Pahl. gēswar, the original meaning of which is uncertain. The Pahlavi commentator Māhwindād says it refers to his being Tāzīg (Arab), but Māhgušasp points out that the Turks also have gēs, perhaps “braids.” He also carries a club (Av. gadauuara < gada-bara, Pahl. gad-war, elsewhere also gad-dast), which is how he performed most of his deeds, as the redactor of the Pahlavi version points out. This club is also called “arm-smashing” (arm-zadār; Dēnkard 9.23.6), gāw-sār “ox-headed” (Dādestān ī dēnīg 36.84; cf. GORZ), and gad ī pērōzgar “the victorious club” (Zand ī Wahman yasn 9.22).

His standing Avestan epithet is naire.manah from *narya-manah “having a manly/heroic mind.” In the later traditions, Garšāsp, Sām, and Narīmān tend to split into two or three different characters, a development that had probably taken place by the third century, since, in the Manichean Book of Giants, the giant brothers Ohya and Ahya, sons of Šahmīzād, are called in Middle Persian Sām/Sāhm and Narīmān (in the Sogdian version, Sāhm and Pātsāhm; Henning, 1943, pp. 69-70; Skjærvø, 1995, pp. 198-203).

In the Avesta, Kərəsāspa had a brother named Uruuāxšaiia, about whom nothing much is said, other than that he was killed by Hitāspa but avenged by Kərəsāspa, who killed Hitāspa and dragged him after his chariot (Yasna 9.10, Yašts 15.28, 19.41). 

Karsāsp’s heroic deeds. Two main narratives are associated with Kərəsāspa in the Avesta: the slaying of the three-horned dragon (Yasna 9.11, Yašt 19, and elsewhere), on the back of which he cooked his noon meal (see Darmesteter, I, p. 89, for parallels), and various other monsters, and his slaying of Aži Dahāka (see below; see also AŽDAHĀ). A short list is found in the Mēnōy xrad (26.49-53) in the section on the “benefits” (sūd) from various mythological characters (ed. Anklesaria, p. 91). Lists of his deeds are also included in the narrative of his crime against the fire (see below), which was part of the Sūdgar nask. A resumé of it is in the Dēnkard (9.15, ed. Vevaina, pp. 274-75), and the full story in the Pahlavi Rivāyat (chap. 18f). Other versions are found in several Zoroastrian Persian texts, including the Ṣad dar Bondaheš, chap. 20 (ed. Dhabhar, pp. 86-92; tr. in The Persian Rivāyats, ed., Dhabhar, 1932, 516-20; text in the Paris ms. suppl. persan 46, see Blochet, pp. 93, no. LXV; Bartholomae, 1915, p. *40) and the Dinkard-nāma (pp. 204-11); a versified version in the Paris ms. suppl. persan 38 (Blochet, p. 77, no. LI; Bartholomae, 1915, p. *26; reproduced in Spiegel, 1860, pp. 336-48); and a pseudo-Pahlavi version, probably translated from Persian into Pahlavi, in ms. MU 29 in the Meherji Rana Library (ed. Mazdāpur, 1378/1999, pp. 122-51; on the ms. see pp. 11-12 and JamaspAsa and Nawabi, eds., introduction). The list of feats in these late texts only partly overlaps that in Yašt 19. 

According to Yašt 19, it was when the xvarənah had left Yima (see JAMŠID i. MYTH OF JAMŠID) for the third time that it came to Kərəsāspa, enabling him to perform his deeds (see, e.g., Hintze, ed., 1994, pp. 212-35; Humbach and Ichaporia, eds., 1998, pp. 115-25). Similarly, according to the Dēnkard (7.1.32; Molé, ed. and tr., 1967, pp. 8-11), Karsāsp’s superior strength came from the “word,” which came to him as his share of the second branch or function (pēšag) of the dēn (and its xwarrah), the warriors (artēštārīh), as part of Jam’s xwarrah (see ARTĒŠTĀR, CLASS SYSTEM). 

As the first and second of these deeds, he slew the giant man- and horse-gobbling horned dragon (Yasna 9.11, Yašt 19.40, Pahlavi Rivāyat 18f5-7) and the giant Gaṇdərəβa/Gandarw “with tawny heals” (gaṇdarβa zāiri-pāšna) who dwelt in the Vourukaṣ̌a Sea (Yašts 5.38, 15.28, 19.41; see GAṆDARƎBA-), who with wide-open jaws devastated the land and who, according to the Pahlavi Rivāyat, dragged Karsāsp into the ocean, where they fought until Karsāsp got hold of his skin below his feet and pulled it off and tied him up in it (Yašt 19.41, Pahlavi Rivāyat 18f.9-14); this episode contains the only reference to his friend and helper Āxrūrag (Pahlavi Rivāyat 18f.11), Av. Āxrūra, who is otherwise mentioned only in Yašt 13 (see below).

Yašt 19 then lists several evil-doers (Yašt 19.41-44), among them Hitāspa (see above) and Snāuuiδka, who planned, once adult, to make the sky his chariot and the earth its wheels and then have it pulled by Spəṇta Mainiiu and Aŋra Mainiiu (see AHRIMAN). Also in the Māh ī Frawardīn Rōz ī Hordad (31; Jamasp-Asana, ed., p. 106; repr., p. 324) it is mentioned that Sām ī Nairīmānān slew this dēw (spelled <snʾyck>). In the Mēnōy xrad, several other characters are listed, among them the bird Kamak, which, according to the Ṣad dar-e Bondaheš, with its giant wings prevented rain from falling onto the earth.

The Pahlavi Rivāyat and the Zoroastrian Persian texts then list his slaying of the (seven in the Ṣad dar) giant highwaymen (rāhdār; 18f.68), which is connected with Yašt 13.136, where Kərəsāspa’s fravashi is invoked for withstanding the enemy army and various kinds of robbers (gaδa) and the evil they cause; the passage is cited by Zādspram (32.4), where (as elsewhere) the gaδa, Pahlavi gayg, is associated with the rāhdār. Last comes his pacifying of the fleet wind, which had been deceived by the dēws to go after Karsāsp, which it did so violently that it threatened to destroy the earth, but Karsāspa persuaded it to do what it had been created to do: uphold heaven and earth (18f.20-23).  

Karsāsp’s sins. Kərəsāspa is mentioned in the Videvdad (1.9) as being followed by the witch Xnąθaitī, who was fashioned by the Evil Spirit as the adversary of the land Vaēkərəta. The Av. pairikąm yąm xnąθaiti is rendered in the Pahlavi version as “witch-desire” (parīg-kāmagīh), interpreted as “idol-worship” (uzdēs-paristagīh), and Karsāsp is said to be its first practitioner. This exegesis is cited in the Bundahišn (31.17-18), where the “witch-desire” is said to be the same as Sām’s worship of the dēws, although another authority says it referred to the sin of not tying the kusti (wišād-dwārišnīh).

The more popular narrative, however, is that of Karsāsp’s slaying of the Fire, son of Ohrmazd, and his punishment for that, recounted in the Pahlavi Rivāyat and the Zoroastrian Persian texts. At the beginning of the narrative in the Pahlavi Rivāyat, Ohrmazd asks Zarathustra whose soul (ruwān) seems best to him, and Zarathustra answers, “that of Karsāsp.” Ohrmazd summons Karsāsp’s soul from hell and shows it to Zarathustra, who is frightened by its ferocity. Because of all the evil he experienced in hell, Karsāsp tells Zarathustra he wishes he had been a hērbed with a wealthy (tuwān) patron, which appears to be a reference to his function as warrior that had been assigned to him and for which he now wishes he had been assigned the first, the priestly function. According to the Ṣad dar, Garšasp points out that, if he had been a priest, he would not have had time for all these killings (tr. Dhabhar, p. 516). [Note: West (1882, p. 173 n. 5) read Sām in Dādestān ī dēnīg 48.41 and assumed that his “warriordom” was here turned against husbandry (the third function); cf. Eduljee, 1983, pp. 57-58. Instead of Sām, however, we should read sahm “terror,” i.e., of war, which keeps the farmers from work.]

Ohrmazd expresses his displeasure with Karsāsp’s soul, blaming it for killing the fire, his son, and not caring for it, and Karsāsp’s soul begs him to take pity on him and grant him paradise for all the good things he had done in life that contributed to keeping evil out of Ohrmazd’s creation and preventing Ahrimen from becoming its ruler (the Mēnōy xrad 26.52-53, ed. Anklesaria, p. 91, adds that, if even one of the adversaries had remained, the resurrection and Final Body would not have been possible). Finally, Karsāsp argues that he is needed for his eschatological function, but Ohrmazd points out that, as long as people keep sinning, the end will not be coming, and they have to suffer in the meantime.

After listening to this, all the deities in the two worlds weep, as does Zarathustra, who points out that, if Karsāsp had not existed with body and soul (gyān!), then Ohrmazd’s creation would not have existed in this world (the gētīy). (This statement in 18f.29 contradicts the notion that Karsāsp had only body [see below], but the text is not well preserved; obviously, it was his bodily strength, not his gyān, that enabled him to dispose of all the enemies of Ohrmazd’s creation.) 

The Fire itself then accuses Karsāsp and refuses to give him access to paradise, but, then, Gōšurūn intercedes and refuses to let him return to hell because of the good things Karsāsp has done for it, presumably by keeping in check the forces of evil, which hurt it (as described in Yasna 29). 

Zarathustra then promises to care for the fire, and Ohrmazd explains to him that he is well aware of the necessity of Karsāsp’s deeds and, according to the Dēnkard (9.15.4), is finally persuaded to let Karsāsp go to the hamēstagān (mss. hamēst/hamēstīg axwān). 

In the Ṣad dar-e Bondaheš, Karsāsp’s sin is called a sin against Ardibehešt (see ARDWAHIŠT, the amahrspand protecting the fire) and is specified as the sin of extinguishing the fire (cf. Yasna 9.11; cf. Antia, 1908). Ardibehešt then recounts the episode of the pot and the fire in some detail. After Zarathustra promises to look after the fire, Ardibehešt finally pardons Karsāsp’s soul. 

In the Pahlavi Rivāyat, the story is included in a chapter on the value of fires and follows a section listing the various fires used for practical purposes. The direct “trigger” (Skjærvø, 2008, p. 538) for the story’s inclusion may have been the appearance in the list of the fire from pots (dēg), which probably evoked the dēg in which Karsāsp cooked his meal and then overturned (Pahlavi Yasna 9.11). Whether the later stories are part of the same original story complex as the Avestan story or the result of an exegesis on this story cannot be determined. See also Boyce, 1975, p. 103, n. 115, on this connection.

The exegesis in the Sūdgar nask preserved in the Dēnkard and the Pahlavi Rivāyat is loosely based on the Pahlavi version of Yasna 45. Though the fire is not mentioned, several of the other main features of the story have counterparts here. The main trigger may have been the mention in Pahlavi Yasna 45.7 of “deathlessness,” the “questioning of the soul,” and the Final Body. The Best Existence and the gift of Garōdmān (Dēnkard 9.15.2, Pahlavi Rivāyat 18f.5, etc.) are in Yasna 45.4 and 45.8; the mention of “protection of beasts and men” in Yasna 45.9 may have evoked the horned dragon, who devoured horses and men; and the “scorn” of dēws and men (dēwān ud mardōmān tar-menēd) is in Yasna 45.11. 

In a further elaboration on the story, Sāmān Karsāsp is included with Jam and Frēdōn among those to whom Ohrmazd offered the dēn but who did not accept it, because the Lie (druz) had made them not listen (a-niyōšīdārīh; cf. the story in the Bahman-nāma cited below); therefore, the dēn had to wait for Wištāsp, i.e., Srōš-ahlīy, to be accepted (Dēnkard 9.36; ms. DH fol. 293v; triggered by a-niyōšīdārīh and the equation of Srōš-ahlīy with Wištāsp in Pahlavi Yasna 43.12). Similarly, in the Bundahišn (29.8), Sām is said to have become unconscious because he scorned the Mazdayasnian dēn

This appears to be contrary to what is said in the Dēnkard (7.1.32) that, when the dēn came to Sāmān Karišāsp, he obtained warriordom (see above). Also in the Sūdgar nask (Dk. 9.23.6), in the exegesis of the Airiiaman išiia (see Vevaina, 2007), there is a reference to Karsāsp’s accepting the dēn. In the episode where Kay Husrōy changes Wāy into a camel and rides him, he passes by three of the Seven undead (one of them Tūs; see below) before he comes to Sōšāns, who praises him. Kay Husrōy then praises the Mazdayasnian dēn, whereupon Karsāsp arrives and is encouraged by Tūs (!) to praise the Gāθās and associate himself with them, whereupon Karsāsp praises Righteousness (ahlāyīh, i.e., aṣ̌a, q.v.), and throws away his “arm-smashing” club. 

On the similarities with the Old Indic Indra–Vṛtra myth, see Eduljee, 1983, pp. 62-63.

Karsāsp in the eschatological narrative. There are a few references to Kərəsāspa’s eschatological functions in the Avesta. In Yašt 13.61, his body (kərp) is said to be guarded by 99,999 fravashis of the “sustainers of (the cosmic) order” (aṣ̌auuan). Manuščihr cites this passage in the Dādestān ī dēnīg (16.5). 

The Pahlavi narratives vary a bit in their descriptions of Karsāsp’s long sleep and his final task (notably in the number of fravashis). According to the Bundahišn (29.8-9), when Frēdōn had captured Dahāg, he wanted to kill him, but was unable to do so and instead chained him to Mount Damāwand. When Dahāg escapes from his chains at the end of time, another dragon-slaying hero will therefore be needed, and Ohrmazd had destined Karsāsp (Sām) for this task. Until this time, he lies unconscious (a-hōš) or asleep in the plain of *Pēšyānsēy, guarded by 10,000 fravashis of the “sustainers of order.” It was a Turk named *Nōhīn who  shot him with an arrow while he was asleep, so that evil Būšāsp fell upon him (cf. Darmesteter, 1877, pp. 181-82). He lies in the middle of a wormwood bush <dlm(n)k> (Pers. dermana?), covered with snow and guarded by the fravashis, awaiting his awakening and final task. According to the Mēnōy xrad (61.20-21), Ohrmazd and the amahrspands appointed 99,999 fravashis to protect his body (tan) as it lies near Mount Damāwand in the plain of  *Pēšānsēy, where the only growing things are barley and other edible plants and, apparently, wormwood <dlymk>, but not trees (ed. Anklesaria, pp. 164-65). 

It may be the reference in Yašt 13.61 to his “body,” only, that caused the discussion about whether he also had a “soul” (gyān) seen in the Pahlavi Rivāyat (54.1), where the Seven unconscious (a-hōš) and deathless (a-marg) “makers of the Renovation” (fraškerd-kerdār) are listed, among them Tūs and Wēw (see GĒV), who still have souls, and Karsāsp, who has a body (tan), but no soul. Zādspram (35.6) may refer to the same detail, but the text is not clear: kē-š (tan?) a-hōš “whose (body?) is unconscious.” On the “undead,” see Christensen, 1932, pp. 153-56.

According to Zādspram (35.6), Tūs and Wēw also lie in the snow. The inclusion of Karsāsp among the unconscious ones lying in the snow is probably not original, since it is apparently connected with the story in the Šāh-nāma about the end of Kay Ḵosrow (also one of the Seven), who was lost in a snowstorm together with Ṭus, Giv, and others (ed. Mohl, IV, pp. 268-71; ed. Khaleghi, IV, pp. 367-69; tr., IV, pp. 307-8). 

The waking of Karsāsp is described variously. According to the Zand ī Wahman Yasn (9.16-22), when Dahāg/Aždahāg escapes from his chains and begins wreaking havoc, the fire, the water, and the plant complain to Ohrmazd and ask him to revive Frēdōn and send him against Ažidahāg, and Ohrmazd tells Srōš and Nēryōsang to go and shake Karsāsp’s body to wake him. They call him four times, and Karsāsp gets up and strikes Ažidahāg with his club and kills him. 

In the Pahlavi Rivāyat (48.32-36), Ohrmazd and the amahrspands go and wake up Frēdōn’s soul (ruwān) and tell him to slay Dahāg. When Frēdōn’s soul says it cannot do it, they go to Karsāsp’s soul, and Karsāsp gets up and slays Dahāg. 

Manuščihr, in the Dādestān ī dēnīg (36.84), is more concise: when Dahāg runs loose, a brave man called Sāmān Kersāsp is raised from the dead before his time and smashes Dahāg with his club. The Pahlavi Rivāyat (18f.33-34) and the Bundahišn (33.42) agree that he is the first among those of the world of the living to be raised from the dead. 

According to a note in the Māh ī Frawardīn Rōz ī Hordad (31), Sām ī Nairīmānān, having slain Dahāg, takes up the rule of the seven continents until Kay Husrōy (see KAYĀNIĀN) appears and Sām hands over the rule to him. 

The Persian versions are more detailed, but differ in their details. According to the Persian Bahman-nāma (The Persian Rivāyats, ed., Dhabhar, 1932, pp. 472-73), when Żoḥāk escapes, Ahrimen comes up from hell and rules for a day and a half, upon which Ohrmazd orders that Sām Narīmān be roused. Sōšāns [the text has Sāsān and Sāšān] invites Sām to accept the Mazdayasnian dēn, so that he may become deathless like the other fraškerd-makers, but he does not accept it. When Sōšāns becomes threatening, Sām accepts and goes to confront Żoḥāk/Dahāg, asking him too to accept the Mazdayasnian dēn and so become deathless. Dahāg tries to seduce Sām into helping him and do the will of Ahrimen and capture Garōdmān ([where this story is not mentioned]). Sām refuses, curses Ahrimen and his brood, and kills him. The Persian Jāmāsp-nāma (see AYĀDGĀR I JĀMĀSPIG) is similar, but, here, Żoḥāk accepts the dēn, and evil leaves this world (The Persian Rivāyats, ed., Dhabhar, 1932, p. 493).

The Jāmāsp-nāmag is brief: Ažidahāg offers Karsāsp friendship, and Karsāsp encourages him to accept the Mazdayasnian dēn so that they may rule together. Ažidahāg does not accept, and Karsāsp strikes him, whereupon Ažidahāg agrees to rule the world together with him, but now too late (tr. Modi, pp. 118-19; ed. Messina, 17.7, pp. 75-76, 119). 

Garšāsp in the Šāh-nāma. There are several references in the Šāh-nāma to the descent of Garšāsp from Jamšēd (see JAMŠID). When Ferēdun answers his sons, who are unhappy about his patronage of Manučehr, he does it in front of his great army commanders, including Sām son of Narimān and Garšāsp son of Jamšēd (ed. Mohl, I, pp. 174-75 l. 721; ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 132, l. 692; tr. Warner and Warner, I, p. 212). Another reference comes much later in the book in the description of Kay Ḵosrow walking in the garden with the pahlavāns, Gudarz, etc., and Barzin, (son) of Garšāsp, of the seed of Jam (ed. Mohl, III, pp. 272-73, ll. 20-21; ed. Khaleghi, III, p. 289, ll. 21-22, where “Barzin and Garšāsp”; tr. Warner and Warner, III, p. 273; see BARZĪN). Finally, in the episode where Esfandiār scorns Rostam’s father Zāl as being the brood of a dēv (see DIV), Rostam answers that Dastān (i.e., Zāl) is the son of Sām, son of Narimān, son of Karimān, son of Hōšang or Karšāsb, according to the manuscripts (ed. Mohl, IV, pp. 614-15, ll. 3037-39; ed. Khaleghi, V, p. 346, ll. 649-51 with n. 12; tr. Warner and Warner, V, p. 202), and his descent, Rostam adds, is from the loins of Sām and Jam (ed. Khaleghi, n. 14). Another, less explicit, reference to Karimān occurs after Rostam and Tahmina’s first amorous encounter, when Rostam prophesies that, if she has a boy, he will be as tall as Sām son of Narimān and as manly as Karimān (ed. Mohl, II, pp. 82-83, ll. 124-25; ed. Khaleghi, II, p. 124, ll. 87-88; tr. Warner and Warner, II, p. 125). Note also the episode in which Sām addresses the newly-crowned Manučehr, promising him his support, and cites his forebears “from Garšāšp to Narīmān” (ed. Mohl, I, pp. 214-15, ll. 39-40 [not in ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 164, where the two lines in Mohl are missing between ll. 38 and 39]; tr. Warner and Warner, I, p. 239). The story of Narimān is restricted to that of his death at Mount Sepand, told by Zāl to Rostam, before Rostam sets out to take it and thus appeases Narimān’s soul (ed. Mohl, I, pp. 364-67, ll. 1856-68; pp. 374-75, l. 1957; ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 277 in footnotes ll. 46-58, p. 280 in footnotes l. 147; tr. Warner and Warner, I, p. 329). 

Another couple of references to Garšāsp are found in descriptions of the great ones of the realm, the pahlavān, in various situations. Those gathered to witness Ferēdun giving the throne to Manučehr include Qāren, Garšāsp, and “the son of Narimān” (= Sām; ed. Mohl, I, pp. 168-69, ll. 638-40; ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 127, l. 610 [with two lines less than Mohl, including the one mentioning Garšāsp]; tr. Warner and Warner, I, p. 207). In the description of Manučehr’s army, Garšāsp is assigned the command of the left flank and Sām and Qobād the right flank (ed. Mohl, I, pp. 182-83, l. 821; ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 138, l. 792; tr. Warner and Warner, I, p. 217). 

More specific situations include Qāren’s seizure of the fortress of the Ālāns, where he goes along with Garšāsp, and Aḡriraṯ’s advice to his son Pašang after the death of Manučehr not to go for Nawḏar, but for Qāren and Garšāsp in order to please the souls of his ancestors (ed. Mohl, I, pp. 194-95, l. 951 and pp. 392-93, ll. 125-26; ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 146, l. 916 and p. 293, l. 109; tr. Warner and Warner, I, p. 345). In a description of Ferēdun’s court, with the king seated on his throne and Manučehr next to him, Garšāsp is mentioned among his ministers specifically as treasurer (ganjvar; ed. Mohl, I, pp. 178-79, l. 771; ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 135, l. 742; tr. Warner and Warner, I, p. 214), which recalls his position as vizier in the Muslim sources (see below).

In some manuscripts, a chapter is ostensibly devoted to the reign of Garšāsp, son and successor of Zav, but all that is said about Garšāsp is that he was born and, fifteen lines later, died (ed. Mohl, I, pp. 440-41, ll. 1-2, 15; ed. Khaleghi, I, pp. 329-30 in the footnotes after ll. 33 and 44; tr. Warner and Warner, I, pp. 374-75). The chapter is, in fact devoted to the rise of Rostam. It is fairly clear that the lines devoted to Garšāsp are secondary; note, in particular, that he, anacronistically, puts on the Kayanid crown (kayāni kolāh). As Ḵāleqi-Moṭlaq points out, the historians who relied on the Šāh-nāma also do not include Garšāsp’s reign (ed. Khaleghi, Notes, I/1, p. 366). 

Karsāsp in mythological history and later historiography. In the list of the first four haoma-pressers in Yasna 9, Kərəsāspa’s father Θrita of the Sāmas is listed after the fathers of Yima and Θraētaona (see JAMŠID, FERĒDUN), before Zarathustra’s father Pourušāspa. In Yašt 13 to the fravashis, Kərəsāspa’s fravashi is invoked after those of Manuš.ciθra and the kauuis (see FRAVAŠI, KAYĀNIĀN) and before that of Āxrūra (see above), son of Haosrauuah. In the Pahlavi texts, there is less consistency. In Dēnkard 7.1.31-33, he is placed between Mānuščihr and Kay Kawād, and, in Bundahišn 36.7, Sām is said to have ruled between (? andar) Manuščihr and Uzaw and Kawād, but, in Bundahišn 35.32-33, he is listed with his father after Kay Husrōy and before Luhrāsp (see KAYĀNIĀN).

According to the Bundahišn (35.42-43), Sām had six children, one of them Dastān, whom he treasured more than the others and whom he made king of Sistān and Nēmrōz, and who became Rōdstahm’s (Rostam) father. 

The early Muslim historians, approximately contemporary with the final redactions of the Pahlavi texts, also had difficulties fitting him into their chronologies. For instance, Ḥamza states briefly that Karšāsf reigned while Zav reigned (ed. Gottwaldt, p. 35; tr., p. 24), and Ḵᵛārazmi (pp. 99-100) says they shared the reign; Masʿudi (Moruj II, p. 117) says that Manučehr (spelled Manušehr) was succeeded by Sahm, his great-great-grandson, and alludes to Sahm’s “long wars and reign.” According to Ṭabarī (ed. De Goeje, pp. 532-33; tr., III, pp. 115-16), Karšāsb was Zav’s vizier and the son of Aṯreṭ son of Sahm son of Narimān and descended from Afrēdun (Ferēdun). Ṭabari gives another genealogy, as well, which has him descended from Manučehr. He also stresses that, contrary to what some thought, he did not rule. Balʿami has Dastān son of Sām son of Narimān son of Garšāsp son of Barbeṭ (for Aṯreṭ; ed. Gonābādi, p. 133 [not in tr. Zotenberg, p. 104]) and merely mentions that he was Zav’s vizier and a descendant of Afrēdun (ed., p. 523, tr. Zotenberg, p. 406). Similarly, the Mojmal (p. 25) has Rostam son of Zāl son of Sām son of Narimān (with the daughter of the king of Meṣr) son of Garšāsf/Garšāsp (with the daughter of the king of Rum) son of Aṯreṭ; see also ibid., pp. 41-44, on the exploits of Garšāsp and Sām Narimān under Ferēdun, Manučehr, and Nawḏar.

According to Ṯaʿālebi (ed. Zotenberg, pp. 68-69)—who does not mention Garšāsp—Sām, son of Narimān, and father of Dastān/Zāl, was Manučehr’s main support, generalissimo, and guardian of his provinces and was nicknamed yal “hero” and pahlavān-e jahān, which Ṯaʿālebi rendered as “support (ʿomda) of the world.” He was governor of Sistan, Zābolestān, and the Indian provinces. Mirḵᵛānd has Sām as Manučehr’s governor of Nēmrōz, Kabul, Zābolestān, and the Indian provinces (ed. Kayānfarr, II, pp. 634-35; tr. Shea, pp. 166-67) and Garšāsb as Zāb’s fraternal nephew, his mother being a daughter of Benjamin, son of Jacob (ed. Kayānfarr, II, p. 658; tr. Shea, p. 205; note that the reign of Manučehr was thought to be contemporaneous with Moses, e.g., Ţabari, ed. De Goeje, p. 434; tr., p. 23; Masʿudi, Moruj II, p. 117). He also points out that, “in most histories,” Garšāsp’s rule marks the end of the Pēšdādiān dynasty.

For further references, see Justi, pp. 161-62, and Eduljee. Genealogical tables are found in Justi, p. 391; Biruni, Āṯār, ed. Sachau, pp. 104-8, tr. Sachau, pp. 112-14; and in Eduljee, p. 78.

Garšāšp in the Tāriḵ-e Sistān. According to the indigenous tradition of Sistān, as reported in the introduction of this work (ed., Bahār, pp. 2-5), Garšāsb was descended from Jamšid and ultimately from Gayumarṯ, identified with Adam, and founded Sistān. He wanted—so he told the knowledgeable men he had assembled from the whole world—to found Sistan as a counterpart to the ruined world of Żoḥāk and asked them to investigate which would be a propitious time, which they did and concluded that this land would endure for 400 years until the appearance of the prophet (of Islam) and that they would be the first to comply with him. 

The author then goes on to tell about Garšāsb’s feats, including—at Żoḥāk’s command—the killing of an aždahā as large as several mountains when he was only fourteen, and going to India (cf. GARŠĀSP-NĀMA). When he came back, Afrēdun summoned him, and he went with Narimān, his grandson, son of Kurang and father of Sām (father of Dastān). Afrēdun set Garšāsp on the throne and Narimān on a golden chair (ed. Bahār, pp. 5-6). 

In the section on the manners of the Sistanians, Garsāsp and his offspring are credited with Muslim virtues, including some that went against points of the Zoroastrian faith such as xwēdōdah (p. 33; see MARRIAGE iii. NEXT-OF-KIN). There follows the story about the Karkuy fire, which was dedicated to Garšāsp (p. 36). 



Anklesaria, ed., 1913: see Mēnōy xrad

Anklesaria, ed., 1956: see Bundahišn

Edaljee Kersaspjee Antia (Edalji Kersâspji Antiâ), “The Legend of Keresaspa,” in Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, ed., Spiegel Memorial Volume. Papers on Iranian subjects written by various scholars in honour of the late Dr. Frederic Spiegel, Bombay, 1908, pp. 93-98. 

Abu ʿAli Moḥammad Amirak Balʿami, Tāriḵ-e Balʿami, ed. Moḥammad-Taqi Bahār, Tehran, 1962; rev. ed. Moḥammad Parvin Gonābādi, Tehran, 2000; tr. Hermann Zotenberg as Chronique de . . . Tabari traduite sur la version persane d’Abou-ʿAli Mohammad Balʿami, 4 vols., Paris, 1867-74. 

Christian Bartholomae, Die Zendhandschriften der K. Hof- und Staatsbibliothek in München, Catalogus codicum manu scriptorum Bibliothecae Regiae Monacensis I/7: Codices Zendicos Complectens, Munich, 1915. 

Abu Rayḥān Biruni, Ketāb al-āṯār al-bāqia ʿan al-qorun al-ḵālia, ed. Eduard Sachau as Chronologie orientalischer Völker von Albêrûnî, Leipzig, 1878; repr., Leipzig, 1923; ed. with commentary Parviz Aḏkāʾi, Tehran, 2001; tr. Eduard Sachau as The Chronology of the Ancient Nations, London, 1879; repr., Frankfurt, 1969. 

Edgar Blochet, Catalogue des manuscrits mazdéens (zends, pehlvis, parsis et persans) de la Bibliothèque nationale, Besançon, 1900.

Bundahišn, ed. and tr. Behramgore T. Anklesaria as Zand-ākāsīh: Iranian or Greater Bundahišn, Bombay, 1956; ed. Fazlollah Pakzad, Bundahišn. Zoroastrische Kosmogonie und Kosmologie, Tehran, 2005. 

Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism I. The Early Period, Leiden and Cologne, 1975. 

Cereti, ed., 1995: see Zand ī Wahman Yasn

Arthur Christensen, Les kayanides, Copenhagen, 1932.

Dādestān ī dēnīg:  see Manuščihr. 

James Darmesteter, Ohrmazd et Ahriman. Leurs origines et leur histoire, Paris, 1877.  

Idem, tr., Le Zend-Avesta. Traduction nouvelle avec commentaire historique et philologique, 3 vols., Paris, 1892-93. 

Dēnkard, book 7, ed. and tr. Marijan Molé in La légende de Zoroastre selon les textes pehlevis, Travaux de l’Institut d’études iraniennes de l’Université de Paris 3, Paris, 1967; book 9: see Vevaina, 2007. 

Dhabhar, ed., 1909: see Ṣad dar-e Bondaheš; The Persian Rivayats

Dinkard-nāma, ed. Bahrām b. Ardašir b. Mehrābān Behmard Goštāsp Bahrām Goštāsp Taftī and Goštāsp b. Ormazdyār b. Bondār Bahrām Esfandiār Mehrābān Kayḵosrow Tafti, Bombay, 1900 (copied from ms. dated 874 A.Y.). 

H. E. Eduljee, “The Legend of Keresaspa,” Journal of The K. R. Cama Oriental Institute 50, 1983, pp. 32-86. 

Abu’l-Qāsem Ferdowsī, Šāh-nāma, 8 vols., with Notes, 3 vols., ed. Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh, Bib. Pers., Persian Text Series, N.S. 1, New York, 1987-2009; ed. and tr. Jules Mohl as Le livre des rois, 7 vols., Paris, 1976; tr. Arthur George Warner and Edmond Warner  as The Sháhnáma of Firdausí done into English, London, 1905-25. 

Gignoux and Tafazzoli, eds., 1993: see Zādspram


Abu’l-Ḥasan Ḥamza Eṣfahāni, Ketāb taʾriḵ seni moluk al-arż wa’l-anbiāʾ, ed. and Latin tr. J. M. E. Gottwaldt, 2 vols., St. Petersburg and Leipzig, 1844-48. 

Walter Bruno Henning, “The Book of Giants,” BSOAS 11, 1943, pp. 52-74. 

John R. Hinnells, Persian Mythology, London and New York, 1975 (brief description of Kərəsāspa, p. 46). 

Almut Hintze, ed. and tr. Zamyād-Yašt: Edition, Übersetzung, Kommentar, Wiesbaden, 1994. 

Helmut Humbach and Pallan R. Ichaporia, ed., Zamyād Yasht. Yasht 19 of the Younger Avesta. Text, Translation, Commentary, Wiesbaden, 1998. 

Jaafari-Dehgani, ed.: 1998, see  Dādestān ī dēnīg.  

Jamasp-Asana, ed., 1897: see Pahlavi Texts Contained in the Codex MK

Jāmāsp-nāma, ed. and tr.  Jivanji Jamshedji Modi as Jâmâspi. Pahlavi, Pâzend and Persian texts, with Gujarâti transliteration of the Pahlavi Jâmâspi, English and Gujarâti translations with notes of the Pahlavi Jâmâspi, Gujarâti translation of the Persian Jâmâspi, and English translation of the Pâzend Jâmâspi, Bombay, 1903; ed. and tr. Giuseppe Messina as Libro apocalittico persiano. Ayatkar i Zāmāspik, Rome, 1939. 

Kaikhusroo M. JamaspAsa and Mahyar Nawabi, eds., MS. MU 29. Stories of Kersāsp, Tahmurasp & Jamshed, Gelshah & Other Texts, Shiraz, 1976. 

Abū ʿAbdallāh Ḵᵛārazmi, Mafātiḥ al-ʿolūm, ed. G. van Vloten as Liber Mafâtîh al-olûm, explicans vocabula technica scientiarum tam Arabum quam peregrinorum, Leiden, 1895; repr.,1968. 


Manuščihr, Dādestān ī dēnīg, pt. 1, ed. and tr. Mahmoud Jaafari-Dehgani as Dādestān ī dēnīg. Part I. Transcription, Translation and Commentary, Studia Iranica. Cahier 20, Paris, 1998. 

Abu’l-Ḥasan ʿAli Masʿudi, Moruj al-ḏahab wa maʿāden al-jawhar, ed. and tr. Barbier de Meynard and Pavet de Courteille as Les prairies d’or, vol. II, Paris, 1863. 

Manfred Mayrhofer, Iranisches Personennamenbuch I. Die altiranischen Namen, Vienna, 1977. 

Katāyun Mazdāpur, Dāstān-e Garšāsp, Tahmuras wa Jamšid, Gelšāh wa matnhā-ye digar. Āvānevisi wa tarjoma az matn-e pahlavī, Tehran, 1378/1999. 

Mēnōy xrad, ed. Tahmuras D. Anklesaria as Dânâk-u mainyô-i khard, Bombay, 1913. 

Moḥammad Mirḵᵛānd, Tāriḵ-e rawżat al-ṣafā, 11 vols., Tehran, 1959-72, I, pp. 516-28; ed. Jamšid Kayānfar as Tāriḵ-e rawżat al-ṣafā fi sirat al-anbiāʾ wa’l-moluk wa’l-ḵolafāʾ, 7 vols. in 11, Tehran, 2001. 

Modi, ed., 1903: see Jāmāspī

Mojmal al-tawāriḵ wa’l-qeṣaṣ, ed. Moḥammad-Taqi Malek-al-Šoʿarāʾ Bahār, Tehran, 1939. 

Molé, ed. and tr., 1967: see Dēnkard.


Henrik Samuel Nyberg, “La légende de Keresāspa,” in Jal Dastur Cursetji Pavry, ed., Oriental Studies in Honour of Cursetji Erachji Pavry, London, 1933, pp. 336-52 (repr. in Mounumentum H. S. Nyberg, Acta Iranica 7, Leiden, Tehran, and Liège, 1975, pp. [379-95]). 

Dârâb Pâhlan, Ḵolāṣa-ye dīn, in Jivanji Jamshedji Modi, Farziât-nâmeh and Kholâseh-i dîn, Bombay, 1924. 

Pahlavi Rivāyat, ed. and tr. Alan V. Williams as The Pahlavi Rivāyat Accompanying the Dādestān ī Dēnīg I-II, Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, hist.-fil. medd. 60, 1-2, Copenhagen, 1990. 

Pahlavi Texts Contained in the Codex MK copied in 1322 ..., vol. I, ed. Jamaspji Minochehrji Jamasp-Asana, Bombay, 1897; reprinted as Motūn-e Pahlavi: tarjoma, āvānevešt by Saʿid ʿOryān, Tehran, 1992. 

Pakzad, ed., 2005: see Bundahišn

The Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz, ed. Bamanji Nusserwanji Dhabhar, Bombay, 1932. 

Ṣad dar-e Bondaheš [Saddar Bundehesh] ed. Bamanji Nasarvanji Dhabhar in Ṣad dar-e naṯr wa ṣad dar-e Bondaheš [Saddar nasr and Saddar Bundehesh], [Bombay], 1909. 

Šāh-nāma: see Abu’l-Qāsem Ferdowsī. 

Prods Oktor Skjærvø, “Iranian Epic and the Manichean Book of Giants. Irano-Manichaica III,” in Eva Jeremias, ed., Zsigismond Telegdi Memorial Volume, AOASH 48/1-2, Budapest, 1995 [pub. 1997], pp. 187-223. 

Idem, “Eastern Iranian Epic Traditions II. Rostam and Bhīṣma,” AcOrHung 51, 1998, pp. 159-70. 

Idem, “The Story of Aži Dahāka in the 9th Book of the Dēnkard and Pahlavi āyēb ‘Blaze, Conflagration’,” in Brigitte Huber, Marianne Volkart, and Paul Widmer, eds., Chomolangma, Demawend und Kasbek, Festschrift für Roland Bielmeier zu seinem 65. Geburtstag, 2 vols., Beiträge zur Zentralasienforschung 12, 2008, pp. 533-49. 

Friedrich Spiegel, Einleitung in die traditionellen Schriften der Parsen, pt. 2: Die traditionelle Literatur, Vienna, 1860. 

Idem, “Awestâ und Shâhnâme,” ZDMG 45, 1891, pp. 187-203. 


Abu Manṣur ʿAbd-al-Malek Ṯaʿālebi, Ḡorar aḵbār moluk al-fors, ed. and tr. Hermann Zotenberg as Histoire des rois des Perses, Paris, 1900. 

Moḥammad b. Jarir Ṭabari, Taʾriḵ al-rosol wa’l-moluk, ed. Michaël Jan De Goeje, Leiden, 1964, I/1, pp. 179-83; tr. by various scholars as The History of al-Ṭabari, 40 vols., Albany, New York, 1985-2007. 

Tārīḵ-e Sīstān taʾlif dar ḥodūd-i 445-725, ed. Malek-al-šoʿarāʾ Bahār, Tehran, 1935. 

Ahmad Tafazzoli, “Pahlavica III,” AO 51, 1990, pp. 47-60. 

Yuhan S.-D. Vevaina, “Studies in Zoroastrian Exegesis and Hermeneutics with a Critical Edition of the Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9,” Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 2007. 

Idem, “‘The Ground Well Trodden But the Shah Not Found…’: Orality and Textuality in the ‘Book of Kings’ and the Zoroastrian Mythoepic Tradition,” in Julia Rubanovich and Shaul Shaked, eds., Orality and Textuality in the Iranian World, Leiden, forthcoming. 

Edward W. West, “Legends Relating to Keresâsp,” in Pahlavi Texts II. The Dādestān-ī dīnīk and the Epistles of Manūśkīhar, Sacred Books of the East 18, Oxford, 1882, pp. 369-82. 

Stig Wikander, Der arische Männerbund. Studien zur indo-iranischen Sprach- und Religionsgeschichte, Lund, 1938. 

Idem, Vayu. Texte und Untersuchungen zur indo-iranischen Religionsgeschichte, Uppsala, 1941. 

Williams, ed., 1990: see Pahlavi Rivāyat

Ehsan Yarshater, “Iranian National History,” in Cambridge History of Iran III(1), Cambridge, 1983, pp. 429-33 (section on Karshāsp). 

Zand ī Wahman Yasn, ed. Carlo G. Cereti as The Zand ī Wahman Yasn. A Zoroastrian Apocalypse, Rome, 1995.  

Zādspram, Wizīdagīhā ī Zādspram, ed. and tr. Philippe Gignoux and Ahmad Tafazzoli as Anthologie de Zādspram: Edition critique du texte pehlevi, Studia Iranica. Cahier 13, Paris, 1993.  

(Prods Oktor Skjærvø)

Originally Published: December 15, 2011

Last Updated: April 24, 2012

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