ḴUŠNAWĀR/ḴUŠNAWĀZ (MPers. Xašnawāz; Sogd. əxšōnδār), the Hephthalite king who defeated the Sasanian king Pērōz (r. 459-84 CE; see Fīrūz) in Bactria at the end of 483/484 (see Justi under “Axšunwār,” p. 13a).

In the Bundahišn, the Hephthalite king is called xašnawāz ī Hiftārān xwadāy (TD1. Fol. 91v; TD2. Fol. 109v, chap. 32.23), and Aḵšunwār in Ṭabari (I, p. 874, 19; tr. vol. V, p. 113), while Ferdowsi and other Persian sources used the form Ḵušnawāz, ‘the beautiful player, musician,’ (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, vol. 7, lines 58-59, p. 20).

Th. Nöldeke (tr. 123, n.4) connected the name Aḵšunwār with King Kunkhas (Koúγxas), ruler of the Kidarites in about 485 CE, mentioned by the Byzantine chronicler Priscus (see on this Greek rendering, Moravcsik, pp. 165-66), and this was adopted by R. Ghirshman, who mentioned a coin of Pērōz which bears the name of a ruler called Akūn in which he proposed to see king Kunkhas of Priscus (1948, pp. 87-88, Fig. 10 and Pl. II, 4). For W.B. Henning (p. 17, n.2), the name was a title which should be read ʾxšʾwndʾr (axšōndār), ‘king’, properly ‘ruler.’ G. Widengren, however, saw no need to amend the w of the ending of the name, and suggested that it represents Sogdian ʾxšʾwnwʾr, ‘power bearer’ (p. 75, n.1).


R. Ghirshman, Les Chionites-Hephtalites, Cairo, 1948.

W.B. Henning, “Neue Materialien zur Geschichte des Manichäismus,” ZDMG 90, 1936, pp. 1-18.

F. Justi, Iranisches Namenbuch, Marburg, 1895; repr., Hildesheim, 1963.

G. Moravcsik, Byzantinoturcica II: Sprachreste der Türkvölker in den byzantinischen Quellen, Berliner Byzantinistische Arbeiten 2, 2nd ed., Berlin, 1958.

Priscus in Müller, Fragmenta IV, frg. 33.4, 106; 37.4, 107 (also in Blockley).

Procopius, de bello Persico, 1.3.8 ff., 1.4.1 ff.

[Ṭabari, tr.] Moḥammad b. Jarir Ṭabari, The History of al-Ṭabari, gen. ed. Ehsan Yarshater, 40 vols., Albany, N.Y., 1985‑2007; translators vary.

[Ṭabari, tr. Nöldeke] Moḥammad b. Jarir Ṭabari, Geschichte der Perser und Araber zur Zeit der Sasaniden, tr. from the Arabic by Theodor Nöldeke, Leiden, 1879.

G. Widengren, “Xosrau Anōšurvān, les Hephtalites et les peuples turcs (Études préliminaire des sources),” Orientalia Suecana I, 1952, pp. 69-94.


Originally Published: April 16, 2018

Last Updated: April 16, 2018

Cite this entry:

EIr., “ḴUŠNAWĀR/ḴUŠNAWĀZ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2018, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/kusnawar (accessed on 16 April 2018).