ĀDURBĀD Ī MAHRSPANDĀN (“Ādurbād, son of Mahrspand”), Zoroastrian mobad of mobads (mowbedān mowbed) or high priest in the reign of the Sasanian king Šāpūr II (A.D. 309-79). The Pahlavi Bundahišn (p. 237.2) traces Ādurbād’s lineage back to the legendary Dūrsarw, son of Manūčihr; similarly Bīrūnī’s al-Āṯār al-bāqīa mentions him as a descendant of Dwsr (ed. J. Fück, Documenta Islamica Inedita, Berlin, 1952, p. 76). He was a native of the “village Kurān” (kwlʾn MTʾ, Dēnkard, p. 219.11), unless this is a corruption of “a village of Mukrān,” southeast Iran (i.e., *mwklʾn MTʾ; see R. C. Zaehner, Zurvan, a Zoroastrian Dilemma, Oxford, 1955, p. 52, n. 1). A Korān in Fārs province is recorded by Yāqūt (IV, p. 247).

According to a tradition widely reported (see bibliog.), Ādurbād successfully underwent the ordeal (war) of molten bronze in order to prove the validity of his line of religious tradition. This means that the metal was poured onto his chest and he was seen to emerge unscathed. Ādurbād is mentioned in a description of the Avesta’s twenty-one nasks (Dēnkard, p. 679.20-21; cf. p. 413.4); and it may be that he played an important part in the definition of the Zoroastrian canon and that his ordeal related to matters of scriptural dispute. (The final version of the canon seems, however, to have been established during the reign of Ḵosrow I, A.D. 531-79; see Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, p. 173.) In keeping with his religious zeal, Ādurbād was a force in the enactment and implementing of decrees against non-Zoroastrians; the established church is described as having then fallen on evil days, plagued by doubt and infidelity. (On Šāpūr II’s persecutions, see: Acts of the Christian Martyrs; Christianity in Iran.)

Various andarz texts (collections of wise counsels) are attributed to Ādurbād. 1. Dēnkard 3.199 (p. 215.20ff.) ascribes ten precepts to him; it follows these with a set of evil counsels allegedly uttered by Mani (d. ca. A.D. 276) specifically to contradict the good sayings of Ādurbād (3.200; see tr. in J. de Menasce, Le troisième livre du Dēnkart, Paris, 1973, pp. 208-10). Possibly these texts reflect an actual involvement of the high priest in the persecution of Manicheans. 2. Dēnkard 6 (p. 568.3-12) ascribes some further admonitions to Ādurbād; an Arabic version of these appears in Ebn Meskawayh’s al-Ḥekmat al-ḵāleda (ed. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Badawī, Cairo, 1952, p. 67). Ḡazzālī also cites them, but without attribution to Ādurbād (Naṣīḥat al-molūk, ed. J. Homāʾī, Tehran, 1351 Š./1972, p. 224). 3. Two other groups of sayings occur in Pahlavi Texts (pp. 58, 144). The first, which the priest addresses to his son, is translated in part by Ebn Meskawayh (op. cit., pp. 26-28). The second comprises his supposed deathbed utterances. 4. A collection of questions addressed to him by a disciple and his replies is found in Pahl. Rivayat (pp. 193-200).


H. Jamaspji Asa, M. Haug, E. W. West, ed. and tr., The Book of Arda Viraf, Bombay and London, 1872, 1.16.

Dēnkard, pp. 413.4, 454.3, 644.19, 679.22.

Škand gumānīg wizār, ed. J. de Menasce, Fribourg en Suisse, 1945, 10.70.

Zand ī Wahman Yasn, ed. B. T. Anklesaria, Bombay, 1957, 2.18.

The Supplementary Texts to the Šāyest Ne-Šāyest, ed. F. M. P. Kotwal, Copenhagen, 1969, 15.16.

Ḥamza Eṣfahānī, Taʾrīḵ- senī molūk al-arż, Beirut, 1961, p. 48.

Moǰmal al-tawārīḵ wa’l-qeṣaṣ, ed. M. T. Bahār, Tehran, 1318 Š./1939, p. 67.

(A. Tafażżolī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1983

Last Updated: July 22, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 5, p. 477

Cite this entry:

A. Tafażżolī, “ĀDURBĀD Ī MAHRSPANDĀN,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/5, p. 477; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/adurbad-i-mahrspandan (accessed on 6 March 2014).