BIDAXŠ, title of Iranian origin found in various languages from the first to the eighth century.

Forms. From Georgia the following forms are attested: 1. pyṭḥš in an inscription on a tombstone from Armazi, first century (see Apakidze et al., pl. 61, pp. 72-­73; Altheim and Stiehl, 1961, pp. 173-75); 2. bṭḥš, pitiáxou (Greek script, genitive form), in a bilingual inscription on a tombstone from Armazi, 2nd century (see Apakidze et al., 1958, pl. 60, pp. 69-72; Lang, in EI2, p. 417 with references; Altheim et al., 1949, pp. 1-5); 3. pitiáxē (Greek script, dative form) inscription on a seal (see Apakidze et al., 1958, pl. 45.1, p. 128) and on a silver bowl from Armazi (ibid., pl. 55.1, pp. 60-63); 4. btḥšy (Mid. Pers. script), on a silver bowl from Armazi, probably 3rd century, (ibid., pl. 49.1-4, pp. 552-53; Henning, p. 354); byṭyʾḥš (Aramaic script); silver bowl from Bori (Tsereteli, pp. 53f.; Altheim et al., 1949, pp. 9-14).

Inscriptions in Aramaic script from Hatra from the 1st-3rd century: bṭḥšʾ, on a statue (Safar, p. 42 no. 143; Caquot, p. 259); pdḥšʾ, on a memorial inscription (Safar, p. 37 no. 127; Caquot, p. 256).

From Iran: 1. Mid. Pers. btḥšy, Parth. bytḥš, Gk. bídix, pituaxou (genitive), adjective btḥškn, Parth. bytḥškn, Gk, pitiksigan, 1. in the inscription of Šāpūr I on the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt, written in 262 (Back, 1978, p. 152; Gignoux, Glossaire, pp. 20, 50; Maricq, pp. 64-73); 2. Mid. Pers. btḥšy, Parth. bytḥš, in the inscription of Narseh I at Paikuli, written between 293 and 296 (Humbach and Skjærvø, p. 90); 3. Gk. pituaxēs in Procopius, Bellum persicum 1.13.16, 14.32, 38, wrongly understood as proper name, early 6th century (Justi, Namenbuch, p. 254).

From Armenia: 1. bdeašx, commonly used by the historians Agathangelos, Faustus, etc. (Hübschmann, Armenische Grammatik, pp. 119f.); 2. Gk. pitiáxēs, seal inscription (Markwart, Ērānšahr, p. 169).

Furthermore the title is attested in Latin of the 4th century as vitaxa (Ammianus Marcellinus, 23.6.14); in Greek in the 5th/6th centuries as bístax for *bítax (Hesych, ed. K. Latte, I, Copenhagen, 1953, p. 328.32); as an Alan title itáxēs (Gk. script), a.d. 716 (Mark­wart, p. 178); in Georgian as pitiaxši/patiašxi (Hübschmann, p. 120); in Syriac as pṭḥšʾ, pṭkšʾ (Brockelmann, p. 564) and ʾpṭkšʾ (Hoffmann, p. 34 nn. 274f.); and in Pahlavi as bythš (Bailey, pp. 55, 64, Nyberg, Manual II, pp. 47f.),

Etymology: It is commonly assumed that the word is of Iranian origin, but the etymology is controversial. The solution of the problem hinges on the question of whether p- or b- is the original initial. If p- is originally a derivation from a compound containing OIran. pati- is likely. Etymologies built on this assumption include the following: Markwart at first connected bidaxš with the Old Persian name Patixéithēs (Greek) but later decided against this connection (Ērānšahr, p. 178). Altheim (1949, p. 5 and passim) suggested a derivation from *patixšāyaθiya, in which he was followed by Harnack; however, the expected Middle Persian and Parthian form would be *pā/ădi(x)šāh. Derivation from *pati- ­+ *āxš- “to supervise” (cf. Av. aibi-āxš-) or *axš- “eye” (Av. - “eye,” daevic) was proposed by F. C. Andreas (< *pati-āxš-tar “superviser,” apud Christensen, p. 11 n. 3, 113), Pagliaro (< *pati- “lord” and *axš “eye,” i.e., “the eye of the king,” corresponding to the title recorded in Greek: ʾophthalmòs toû basiléōs; 1929, p. 165, 1954, p. 145), Bailey (< *pati-ā/ăxša; p. 64), Eilers (< *pati-axš-, 1962, pp. 209-11 and cf. 1940, pp. 26 n. 1, 120). However, none of these proposals explains why the initial p- has not survived in the Iranian forms.

A second series of etymologies assumes that the initial b- is original and are therefore more likely to be correct: Nyberg derived the word from *bitiyaxša (< *bitīya, “second,” cf. Parth. bidīg; 1946, p. 237 n. 2) followed by Henning (Mitteliranisch, p. 62 n. 2). However, Nyberg’s later explanation of the entire compound as “the second eye” (of the king) is not convincing (Manual II, p. 48). Frye proposed *bitīya-xšāyaθiya, without, however, explaining the extreme reduction of the last part of the word (1962, p. 354). A decided improvement was Hinz’s etymology (OPers.) *dvi­tiyaxšaya “second ruler,” i.e., “vice king” (pp. 149-53 with linguistic remarks by W. P. Schmid p. 153 n. 22), accepted by Szemerényi (pp. 361-66). On the basis of these suggestions the following development can be proposed: *bitīyaxš > bidyaxš (Arm. bdeašx) > bidixš (Gk. bídix)> bidaxš (Pahl. bythš). The forms with initial p- can be explained as analogical formations with words in *pā/ăti- (e.g., pādixšāy “ruler, authoritative”). If Hinz’s theory is correct in all points then what was originally an Old Persian title was adapted to the Parthian sound system and preserved in the titulature of the Arsacid administration. This hypothesis would agree with the fact that the title is mainly attested in documents from this period. However, the postulated Old Persian form must not be taken to prove the existence of a corre­sponding title and position in the Achaemenid empire.

Function. The inscriptions from Armazi in Georgia are from a cemetery for bidaxšes and their relatives. In the bilingual text (no. 2) the title is rendered by Aramaic rb trbṣmajor domus” and Greek epítropos, a title at that time corresponding to that of a Roman provincial governor. The bowl inscription (no. 4) lists a dynasty of three bidaxšes, whom Henning (pp. 354-55) identified with the bidaxšes of the early Sasanians discussed below, which would imply that the bidaxšes were Georgian majores domus and Sasanian epítropoi. How­ever, first, Henning’s reading of the inscription is controversial (rejected by Chaumont, pp. 105-08; doubted by Skjærvø in Humbach and Skjærvø, p. 159 with reference to oral communication from Ph. Gignoux; accepted by Harmatta, pp. 252-56). Second, there are problems of chronology, as the series of Sasanian bidaxšes goes back to Ardašēr I, who did not rule Georgia. This weakens Henning’s hypothesis that in the third century bidaxš ordinarily meant bidaxš of Georgia. What remains clear is that in the second century the bidaxšes functioned as a kind of major domus at the Georgian court and that there could be several bidaxšes at the same time, e.g., a “small bidaxš.”

The Armenian historians describe the bidaxšes (bdeaxškʿ) as lords of the marshes (sahmanakał), and the “great bidaxš” as a high position at the court, hereditary in the family of the rulers of Arzanene (Chaumont, in EIr. II/4, p. 437). Sources mention the existence about a.d. 300 of “four” bidaxšes or sahmanakałs and the positions of the “great” and the “other” bidaxšes, but they are unclear about the relationship between these titles (see Markwart, Ērānšahr, pp. 165-79 and, differ­ently, Pagliaro, 1954, pp. 143-44).

In the Sasanian inscriptions, the lists of dignitaries under Ardašēr I and Šāpūr I in the inscription on the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt (ŠKZ) mention as the highest dignitary after the members of the royal house (before the representatives of other noble families) under Ardašēr I: a certain Ardašēr, the bidaxš (Mid. Pers. l. 29, Parth. l. 23, Gk. l. 56) and, under Šāpūr I: Šāpūr, the bidaxš (Mid. Pers. l. 31, Parth. l. 25, Gk. l. 61), as well as two dignitaries in less prominent position: Kardsraw, the bidaxš (Mid. Pers. l. 33, Parth. l. 27, Gk. l. 64), Ardašēr, the son of the bidaxš (Mid. Pers. l. 34, Parth. l. 28, Gk. l. 66). Among the dignitaries who acclaimed Narseh listed in the inscription of Paikuli we find a Pābag, the bidaxš, in a similar position (text pars. 16, 32). This bidaxš is preceded by a hargbed, which led Szemerényi (1975, pp. 362-63) to conclude that the bidaxš had been degraded during the 3rd century; however, this conclu­sion fails to take the low position of the bidaxš Kardsraw in ŠKZ (see above) into account. The fact that the title could he given to a person of foremost rank indicates that the bearer of the title, perhaps a member of the royal house, functioned as a kind of vice-king or grand vizier of the realm. This early Sasanian and perhaps Arsacid sense of the title may have been preserved by Hesych (5th/6th cent.), who defines bístax as the Persian word for “the second (after) the king,” and in some Pahlavi texts where the title is attested: In the Ayādgār ī Zarērān, which reflects a Parthian tra­dition, and in the Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg, Jāmāsp, the wise counselor of King Wištāsp, is called bidaxš (Nyberg, Manual II, p. 27; Bailey, 1930, p. 55 par. 2).

In the 4th century the title could also designate the military governor of a province according to Ammianus Marcellinus (23.6.14), who equates uitaxae with magistri equitum “masters of the cavalry.”

The word may survive in some geographical names such as Badaḵšān (Eilers, 1962, p. 210) and in Arabic fattāš, taftīš (ibid.).



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F. Altheim and R. Stiehl, Supplementum Aramaicum. Aramäisches aus Iran, Baden-Baden, 1957, pp. 74-79, 88.

Idem, “Die zweite (aramäische) Inschrift von Mcḫeṭʿa,” Forschungen und Fortschritte 35, 1961, pp, 172-78.

Idem, Die aramäische Sprache unter den Achaemeniden, Frankfurt am Main, 1963, pp. 83-85, 248-50.

A. M. Apa­kidze et al., Mtskheta. Itogi arkheologicheskikh issledovaniĭ . . .,Tiflis, 1958.

M. Back, Die sassanidischen Staatsinschriften, Acta Iranica 18, Tehran and Liège, 1978.

H. W. Bailey, “To the Zamasp-Namak I” BSO(A)S 6, 1930, pp. 55-85.

C. Brockelmann, Lexicon Syriacum, Halle, 1928.

A. Caquot, “Nouvel­les inscriptions araméennes de Hatra VI” Syria 41, 1964, pp. 251-72.

M. L. Chaumont, “États vassaux dans l’empire des premiers Sassanides,” in Monumentum H. S. Nyberg I, Acta Iranica 4, Tehran and Liège, 1975, pp. 89-156.

A. Christensen, L’empire des Sasa­nides, Copenhagen, 1907.

W. Eilers, Iranische Beam­tennamen in der keilschriftlichen Überlieferung I, Leipzig, 1940.

Idem, “Iranisches Lehngut im arabi­schen Lexikon. Über einige Berufsnamen und Titel,” IIJ 5, 1962, pp. 203-32.

R. N. Frye, “Some Early Iranian Titles,” Oriens 15, 1962, pp. 352-59.

Idem, The History of Ancient Iran, Munich, 1984, pp. 107, 218, 225, 295, 299, 306.

J. Harmatta, “Inscriptions de vaiselle de l’époque sassanide et post-sassanide,” AAASH 21/1-4, 1973, pp. 245-66.

D. Harnack, in F. Altheim, and R. Stiehl, eds., Geschichte Asiens im Altertum, Berlin, 1970, pp. 528-37.

W. B. Henning, “A Sassanian Silver Bowl from Georgia,” BSOAS 12, 1961, pp. 353-56.

W. Hinz, Altiranische Funde und Forschungen, Berlin, 1969.

G. Hoffmann, Auszüge aus syrischen Akten persischer Märtyrer, AKM 7.3, Leipzig, 1880.

H. Humbach and P. O. Skjærvø, The Sasanian Inscription of Paikuli III/1: Text and Translation, III/2: Commentary, Wiesbaden, 1983.

V. G. Lukonin in Camb. Hist. Iran III/2, 1983, pp. 736-37.

A. Maricq, “Res Gestae Divi Saporis,” Syria 35, 1958, pp. 295-360, repr. in Classica et Orientalia, Paris, 1965, pp. 37-101.

H. S. Nyberg, “Quelques inscriptions antiques découvertes récemment en Géorgie,” Eranos 54, 1946, pp. 228-43.

A. Pagliaro, “Mediopersiano bitaxš, armeno bdeašx: [ho ophthalmòs toû basiléōs],” RSO 12, 1929, pp. 160-68.

Idem, “Riflessi di etimologie iraniche nella tradizione storiografica greca,” Rendiconti della Reale Academia dei Lincei, classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologi­che, ser. 8, 9, 1954, pp. 133-53.

F. Safar, “Ketābāt al-­Ḥażr,” Sumer 18, 1962, pp. 21-64.

O. Szemerényi, “Iranica V,” in Monumentum H. S. Nyberg II, Acta Iranica 5, Tehran and Liège, 1975, pp. 313-94.

G. V. Tsereteli, “Èpigraficheskie nakhodki v Mtskheta—­drevneĭ stolitse Gruzii,” in Vestnik drevneĭ istorii 2 (24), 1948, pp. 49-57.

(Werner Sundermann)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: December 15, 1989

This article is available in print.
Vol. IV, Fasc. 3, pp. 242-244