BOZORGĀN (MPers. wuzurg, oblique plur. wuzur­gān, usually written LBA/RBA, LBAn/RBAn), the third class-rank of the four or five divisions of the early Sasanian aristocracy, namely šahryār “landholders,” wispuhr “princes” or members of the royal house (Mid. Pers. usually written BLBYTA), wuzurg “grandees,” āzād “nobles” (lit. free men), and kadag-xwadāy “householders.” The first four groups occur in this order in the inscription of Šāpūr I (241-72 a.d.) at Ḥājīābād (ŠH, l. 6) and in the inscription of Narseh (293-302 a.d.) at Paikuli (NPi; Humbach and Skjærvø, pars. 74, 75, 78, 86), but the fifth one is attested only in some passages of NPi (pars. 16, 63, 83). The “grandees” are usually mentioned as the third order (ŠH; NPi, pars. 63, 74, 75, 78, 83, 86). Wuzurgān, preceded by spāh­bedān “generals” and followed by āzādagān “nobles” and wāspuhragān “special courtiers,” are mentioned as attendants of Ardašīr (Kār-nāmag, ed. Antia, p. 48 par. 8). They are also mentioned together with āzādān “nobles” in the same work (p. 59 par. 5). As indicated by the Paikuli inscription the high offices of the state were occupied by the members of these four or five groups. According to the Arabic and Persian sources, bozorgs (Ar. ʿoẓamāʾ), wispuhrs (Ar. ahl al-boyūtāt), and āzāds (Ar. aḥrār, banu’l-aḥrār) played an impor­tant part in the social and political organization of the Sasanians, although the special functions and activities of each individual group cannot be determined pre­cisely. High-standing members of the aristocracy used to be present at the coronation feast of a new king to hear his discourse and to congratulate him (Ṭabarī, I, pp. 834, 835, 846, 871, 896; Ṯaʿālebī, Ḡorar, pp. 532, 536). Whenever there was a disagreement or dispute about the succession of a certain king, a council of high members of these groups was summoned to settle the matter. It was in this way that Šāpūr II (309/10-379) was elected king after Hormozd II’s death in 309/10 (Dīnavarī, p. 49; Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 51, n. 3). A similar council chose Ardašīr II as king after the death of his father Šērōya (628; Ṭabarī, I, p. 1061). After Yazdegerd I’s death in 421 the grandees of Iran (probably Iranian nobility in general) first refused to favor any of his sons including Bahrām V and instead appointed a Sasanian prince named Ḵosrow as king (Ṭabarī, I, p. 858: nās men al-ʿoẓamāʾ wa ahl al-boyūtāt; Dīnavarī, p. 57: ʿoẓamaʾ al-Fārs; cf. Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 75: laškar o raʿīyat). According to Ṭabarī (I, p. 885), when Kawād (488-531) favored Mazdak, the grandees made common cause with the high priest (mowbaḏān mowbaḏ) and imprisoned him and appointed his brother Jāmāsp as king (cf. Ebn al-Balḵī, p. 85). The grandees (ʿoẓamāʾ al-Fors), dissatisfied with Ḵosrow II’s way of government, dethroned him and elected his son Šērōya as king (Yaʿqūbī, I, pp. 195-96). Another similar event was the dethronement of Hormozd IV (579-90) and the enthronement of his son Ḵosrow II (591-628; Ṭabarī, I, p. 995).

The term bozorgān/ʿoẓamāʾ (sometimes aʿyān, wojūh) in the Persian and Arabic sources concerning the history of Iran, and wuzurg(ān) in Pahlavi works (e.g., Draxt āsūrīg, pars. 40, 43, in Pahl. Texts, pp. 112, 165 par. 17) usually denotes the whole body of the nobles in contrast to ordinary people (Pahl. ram, Ar. ʿāmma).



Given in the text. See also A. Christensen, Iran Sass., pp. 110-11.

H. Humbach and P. O. Skjærvø, The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli III/2, Wiesbaden, 1983, pp. 38ff.

Idem, “Case in Inscriptional Middle Persian, Inscriptional Parthian and the Pahlavi Psalter,” St. Ir. 12/1, 1983, esp. pp. 60-61.

G. Widengren, Der Feudalismus im alten Iran, Cologne and Opladen, 1967, pp. 122, 126f.

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(Aḥmad Tafażżolī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1989

Last Updated: December 15, 1989

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Vol. IV, Fasc. 4, p. 427