GŌBADŠĀH, the name of a mythical ruler first appearing in medieval Zoroastrianism. In Pahlavi his name is variously spelled gwpt-, gwkpt-, gwpyt- + -šh, -MLKA. According to the Bundahišn (29.5 ff.), “the son of Agrērah [Av. aγraēraθa] i Pašangān, whom they call Gōbadšāh,” is the spiritual master (rad) of a land, evidently neighboring Ērān-wēz (q.v.), the name of which is badly corrupted in all manuscripts. It is later (Bundahišn 29.13) said to be “on the road from Turkestan to Činestān.” The most likely reconstruction of the original name seems to be *Suγdestān, but bewildered copyists may have changed this to approximate to a spelling *Gōbadestān. The river Dāitī, “full of noxious creatures [xrafstar],” is said (Bundahišn 11A.7) to flow from Ērān-wēz into a *Ḡodestān or *Gōbestān. In the Dādestān ī dēnīg (89.18) it is called Gōbad bum “land of Gōbad.” In the Mēnōg ī xrad (44.35) Gōbadšāh is called rad of the people of Ērān-wēz itself. There too (62.31 ff.) he is described as “ox from foot to waist and man from the waist up.” He sits constantly on the shore of a lake, worshipping the gods and pouring libations (zōhr) into the lake, so killing innumerable xrafstars. He is one of the seven immortal rulers who will bring about the Restoration (frašagird; Zātspram 35.4; Pahlavi Rivayat Dādestān ī dēnīg 54). To this end he also keeps the ox Hadayānš, whose tallow is needed for the final yasna-ceremony and the elixir of immortality, in a fortress of metal (Zātspram 35.15).
The name has been explained as deriving from an Iranian *gau-pati-, reflecting Sanskrit gópati “lord of cattle,” or from *gawa-pati- “lord of Gawa.” A land of Gawa is known from the Avesta as suγδō.šayana- “home of Sogdians” and, failing any marked connection between Gōdbadšāh and cattle in general, and given the apparent traditional placing of his home, the latter explanation seems likelier. The representation of him as half ox, possibly depicted (though never named) on several Sasanian seals, could then have arisen through popular etymology.
Harold W. Bailey, “Iranian Studies,” BSO(A)S 6, 1930-32, pp. 945-53.
Idem, “Iranian Studies IV,” BSO(A)S 7, 1933-35, pp. 764-68.
Helmut Humbach, “About Gōpatšāh, His Country, and the Khwārezmian Hypothesis,” Papers in Honour of Professor Mary Boyce, Acta Iranica10, Leiden, 1985, pp. 327-34.
Seals: A. D. H. Bivar, Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum, Stamp seals, II. The Sassanian Dynasty, London, 1969, pp. 27, 82, pl. 14.
Andrei Iakovlevich Borisov and Vladimir Grigorevich Lukonin, Sasanidskie gemmy, Leningrad, 1963, nos. 260-73.
Kamilla Vasilevna Trever, “Gopatshakh—pastukh-tsar,” Trudy otdela vostoka gos. Ermitazha II, 1940, pp. 71-85.
(D. N. Mackenzie)
Originally Published: December 15, 2001
Last Updated: February 9, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, p. 18