DEŽĪ NEBEŠT (Mid. Pers. diz ī nibišt “fortress of archives,” lit. “writing”), supposedly one of two repositories (the other being ganj ī šāhīgān, ms.: špykʾn “royal treasury”) in which copies of the Avesta and its exegesis (zand) were deposited for safekeeping. Five somewhat different versions of this legend are recounted in Pahlavi literature. In the Dēnkard (ed. Madan, I, p. 412; Nyberg, Manual I, p. 108) the vicissitudes of the Zoroastrian scriptures are reported this way: “Dārāy, son of Dārāy, commanded that two written copies of all the Avesta and Zand, even as Zoroaster had received them from Ohrmazd, be preserved, one in the royal treasury and one in the fortress of archives” (Zaehner, pp. 7-8; Shaki, 1981, p. 118; Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, p. 230). In another passage (ed. Madan, I, p. 405; Nyberg, Manual I, p. 111), however, it is the original Dēnkard, an exposition of the Mazdean religion written down by command of Kay Wištāsp, that was deposited in the royal treasury; suitable copies were made and distributed, and one of them was sent to be preserved in the fortress of archives. “During the ruin that was brought upon the country of Iran by the sinister Alexander (q.v.) that which was in the fortress of archives was burnt"(de Menasce, 1973, p. 379; West, pp. xxx-xxxi). In yet another passage of the Dēnkard (ed. Madan, I, p. 437; Nyberg, Manual I, p. 110) it is reported that “whatever Zoroaster taught and partly wrote together with the Avesta and Zand Jāmāsp wrote in gold on cowhides and kept in the royal treasury” (ms.: ganj ī xwadāyān). In the Šahrestānīhā ī Ērān (Markwart, Provincial Capitals, p. 9) another depository is mentioned in the east: After Zoroaster announced the religion, King Wištāsp ordered 1,200 chapters (fragard) engraved in scriptural (i.e., Avestan) characters (dēn dibīrīh) on gold tablets and deposited in the treasury of the Warahrān fire at Samarkand. On the destruction of the Zoroastrian scriptures it is reported in the Ardā Wīrāz-nāmag: “The accursed Alexander the Roman (i.e., Greek) . . . came to Iran with heavy tyranny . . . slew the sovereign of Iran and burnt . . . the whole of the Avesta and the Zand as written in liquid gold on prepared cowhides . . . and deposited in the KLYTʾ npst in Staxr Pābagān” (Gignoux, 1984, pp. 37, 145; Vahman, pp. 76, 191; Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems, p. 152; Henning, 1944, p. 136; Nyberg, Manual I, p. 107). Both the reading and the interpretation of KLYTʾ npst, the locality of the diz ī nibišt, have given rise to controversy. Contextual comparison reveals that KLYTʾ npst in the Ardā Wīrāz-nāmag (see ARDĀ WĪRĀZ) cannot be any place other than the diz ī nibišt of the parallel accounts; the heterogram KLYTʾ stands for diz and the slightly miswritten npst for npšt, nibišt. H. W. Bailey, having identified KLYTʾ with diz, nevertheless unconvincingly interpreted it as Aramaic QRYTʾ “village” (Zoroastrian Problems, p. 151). H. S. Nyberg correctly rejected the reading QRYTʾ and proposed qellaitā “cell,” a plausible reading for depository. Although he cited diz ī nibišt three times (Nyberg, Manual I, pp. 108, 111), he nevertheless construed npst, nipast as depository, taken it as a gloss for KLYTʾ (Nyberg, Manual II, p. 141). Walter Belardi (pp. 27-28), having accepted Nyberg’s reading, considered kellaitā a technical term in Middle Persian and nipast a verbal adjunct; he thus read pad kellaitā nipast nihāt estāt “had been placed in a depository.” The term diz ī nibišt is preserved in Ṭabarī (I, p. 676), where the manuscripts have the corrupt forms dr bšt, dr bbšt, and dr byšt.

Another area of disagreement has been the location of the diz ī nibišt. W. B. Henning, in the introduction to his edition of inscription KNRm, identified diz ī nibišt with the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt, which he believed was referred to as bwn BYTʾ (interpreted as bun-xānag, “foundation house”) in the same inscription (KNRm 7 = KKZ 3; Back, p. 391).In discussing the relevant passage of the inscription KKZ, the present author questioned this proposition, linking bwn BYTʾ instead to the ādurān and kardagān “fires and religious rites,” and interpreted the phrase as “principal property, capital” (Shaki, 1974, pp. 334-35). To demonstrate the significance of the phrase and assess the purpose of the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt, we will recall the relevant passage where Kirdīr declares: “... and all of these fires and rites (ādurān ud kardagān), which have been mentioned in this inscription, were in a most profitable manner (KN gwnktly, ōh gōnagtar, cf. Av. gaona—“profit,” AirWb., col. 412) entrusted to me as benefice (wāspuhragān “private property”) by Šāpūr the king of kings, ordering “Yours shall be these as principal property (resources; ʾYKt bwny BYTʾ ZHN ʾyw YḤWWN), “do as you deem it best for the gods and us,” (KKZ 2-3; Back, pp. 390-91). From the tenor of the sentence it is evident that the royal grant concerns the resources (BYTʾ) derived from the revenues of the fires and rites conferred on Kirdīr as a most profitable benefice for the administration of these religious foundations.

Architecturally the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt, like its prototype, the Zendān-e Solaymān, is a tower with a hardly accessible narrow chamber under the roof, situated in a funerary region beyond the compass of social and cultural life; it would thus be quite impractical as a depository, whether for regalia or for ritual objects, as suggested by R. N. Frye (p. 177 n. 14), or for documents, as proposed by Henning. There is therefore no point in looking for the diz ī nibišt in a tower like the Kaʿba, which was in all likelihood the mausoleum of Queen Atossa (Boyce, Zoroastrianism II, p. 117).

That repositories for documents did exist in Iran is attested in the Bible. In ancient Persia there were three houses of treasures (bēṯ ginzayyā) where books (sépˊar) and records (dukranayyā) were kept, analogous to the diz ī nibišt for royal archives: at Susa (Esther 6:1), at Babylon, and at Ecbatana (Ezra 5:17-6:2). From the Sasanian period only one such repository is known, the ganj ī šāhīgān “royal treasury.” It was not only a treasury but also a depository for documents, as is clear from the declaration by Bozorgmehr-e Boḵtagān, the grand vizier of Ḵosrow Anūšīravān (531-79), that he had deposited his Ayādgār (see AYĀDGAR Ī WUZURGMIHR) there for safekeeping (Pahlavi Texts, ed. Jamasp-Asana, p. 85).



M. Back, Die sassanidischen Staatsinschriften, Acta Iranica 18, Tehran and Liège, 1978; reviewed by D. N. MacKenzie in IF 87, 1982, pp. 281-97.

W. Belardi, The Pahlavi Book of the Righteous Viraz I, Rome, 1979.

M. Boyce, “A Tomb for Cassandane,” in Orientalia J. Duchesne-Guillemin Emerito Oblata, Acta Iranica 23, Tehran and Liège, 1984, p. 71 (on the purpose of the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt).

G. R. Driver, Aramaic Documents of the Fifth Century B.C., Oxford, 1957.

R. N. Frye, “Religion in Fars under the Achae-menids,” in Orientalia J. Duchesne-Guillemin Emerito Ooblata, Acta Iranica 23, Tehran and Liège, 1984 pp. 171-78.

P. Gignoux, Glossaire des inscriptions pehlevies et parthes, London, 1972a.

Idem, “L’inscription de Kirdīr à Naqš-i Rustam,” Stud. Ir. 1, 1972b, pp. 177-205.

Idem, Le livre d’Ardā Vīrāz, Paris, 1984.

W. B. Henning, “The Murder of the Magi,” JRAS, 1944, pp. 133-44.

Idem, The Inscription of Naqš-i Rustam, Corpus Inscr. Iran. 3/2/2, London, 1957.

W. Hinz, Zarathustra, Stuttgart, 1961.

H. Humbach, “Bun-xanag et Kaʿba-ye Zardušt,” in Acta Iranica 3, 1974. pp. 203-08.

D. N. MacKenzie, in Indo-germanische Forschungen 87, 1982.

Idem, “Kirdēr’s Inscription,” in The Sassanian Rock Reliefs at Naqsh-i Rustam, Iranische Denkmäler, Lieferung 13, ser. 2, Iranische Felsreliefs I, Berlin, 1989.

J. de Menasce, tr., Le troisième livre du Dēnkart, Paris, 1973.

M. Shaki, “Two Legal Terms for Private Property,” in P. Gignoux and A. Tafazzoli, eds., Mémorial J. de Menasce, Louvain, 1974, pp. 327-36.

Idem, “The Dēnkart Account of the History of the Zoroastrian Scriptures,” Archív Orientální 49, 1981, pp. 114-25.

F. Vahman, Ardā Wirāz Nāmag. The Iranian “Divina Commedia", London, 1986, esp. pp. 225-27.

E. W. West, tr., Contents of the Nasks, Pahlavi Texts 4, SBE 37, Oxford, 1892.

R. C. Zaehner, Zurvān. A Zoroastrian Dilemma, Oxford, 1955.

(Mansour Shaki)

Originally Published: December 15, 1995

Last Updated: November 22, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VII, Fasc. 4, pp. 348-350