SŪR SAXWAN (Banquet Speech), a Middle Persian text about a court banquet held in the Sasanian Empire (Cereti, p. 181; Macuch, 2009, p. 168). The mention of three generals (spāhbeds), the three quadrants introduced with the military reforms of King Kawād and his son Ḵosrow I, suggests that the text was written between the sixth and the seventh centuries CE (Tafażżoli, 1998, p. 293; Gyselen, 2001; Daryaee, 2007). Further evidence of its dating can be seen in the presence of an official in charge of the drōn ceremony, a moment of feasting in a Zoroastrian court. Sūr saxwan is a unique text in the Middle Persian corpus as it provides insights into the courtly manners adopted during a royal meal and the rituals and eulogies accompanying them. First, the eulogist provides blessings to the deities, the king, and the courtiers, who are named according to their rank and seating, perhaps in a fashion similar to the lost Sasanian Gāh-nāmag (Macuch, p. 183).

The text opens with blessings given to beings in both the spiritual and the corporeal world: Ohrmazd and the Holly Immortals (Amahrspandān). Then, the seven heavens are mentioned from the lowest station to the highest one, where Ohrmazd resides. This is followed by a list of the Seven Climes (kišwar), the praise of the three sacred fires (Ādur Farnbāg, Ādūr Gušnasp and Ādur Burzēn-mihr), and the praise of the yazatas (Mihr, Srōš, Rašn, Wahrām, Way, Aštād). The court is then introduced as follows: the king of kings (šāhān šāh), the princes of the blood (pūs ī wāspuhr ī šāhān), the grand minister (wuzurg framādār) and the generals of the quadrants (spāhbed xwarāsān, xwarwarān, nēmrōz) – except the general representing the north, a direction associated with the abode of Ahriman and the demons in Zoroastrianism (see BĀKTAR) – the judge of the empire (šahr dādwarān; see Dādwar, Dādwwarīh), chief councilor magi (mowān handarzbed), the chiliarch (hazārbed), and, finally, the performer of the drōn ceremony (drōn-yaz). The eulogist continues to give praises and blessings to all while mentioning the king to provide prosperity for the realm of the Iranians (see Ērānšahr), as it was done by Jamšid in the primordial times. The three classes of people (Artēštārān, Wāstaryōšān, and Hutuxšān; see CLASS SYSTEM iii.) is also mentioned.

Sūr saxwan was first translated into English by Jehangir C. Tavadia (1935), followed by Saʿid ʿOriān in Persian (1992) and Katāyun Mazdāpur (2004-5). The latest translation was done by Touraj Daryaee (2007). Sūr saxwan is based on the MK codex edited by J. M. Jamasp-Asana (1913). The MK codex containing 160 folios has two colophons, the first dated to 324 Yazdegerdi (956 CE), and the second one dated to 691 Yazdegerdi (1342 CE), by a Persian Zoroastrian priest named Mihrābān Kay-Ḵusrow, who had traveled from Iran to India to assist the Parsi priests in their religious traditions. In the codex, Sūr saxwan appears in fols. 152a, 1.8-fol. 154b, 1.15, while in the Jamasp-Asana edited manuscript it appears in fols. 155-59 (Tafażżoli, 1997, p. 328).


C. G. Cereti, La letteratura pahlavi: introduzione ai testi con riferimenti alla storia degli studi e alla tradizione manoscritta, Milan, 2001.

T. Daryaee, Šahrestānīhā ī Ērānšahr, A Middle Persian Text on Late Antique Geography, Epic, and History, Costa Mesa, Calif., 2002.

Idem, “The Middle Persian Text Sūr ī Saxwan and the Late Sasanian Court,” in R. Gyselen, ed., Des Indo-Grecs aux Sassanides: données pour l’historie et la géographie historique, Res Orientales 17, Bures-sur-Yvette, 2007, pp. 65-72.

R. Gyselen, The Four Generals of the Sasanian Empire: Some Sigillographic Evidence, Rome, 2001.

J. M. Jamasp-Asana, ed., The Pahlavi Texts Contained in the Codex MK copied in 1322 A.C. by the Scribe Mehr-Āwān Kaī-khōsrō, vol. II, Bombay, 1913.

M. Macuch, “Pahlavi Literature,” in R. E. Emmerick and M. Macuch, eds., The Literature of Pre-Islamic Iran: Companion Volume I to A History of Persian Literature, History of Persian Literature 17, London, 2009, pp. 116-96.

K. Mazdāpur, “Sūr-e Soḵan,” Farhang Quarterly Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies 17/51-52, 2004-5, pp. 103-130.

M. S. ʿOriān, Matnhā-ye Pahlavi, Tehran, 1992.

A. Tafażżoli, Tāriḵ-e adabiyāt-e Irān-e piš az Eslām, Tehran, 1997.

J. C. Tavadia, Sur Saxvan, or a Dinner Speech in Middle Persian,” Journal of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute 29, Bombay, 1935 (entire volume).

(Touraj Daryaee)

Originally Published: August 16, 2017

Last Updated: August 16, 2017

Cite this entry:

Touraj Daryaee, “SŪR SAXWAN,” Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, 2017, available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/sur-saxwan (accessed on 16 August 2017).