GRĪW, a Middle Iranian word (in Manichean Mid. Pers. script gryw, rarely gryyw; in Sogd. script kryw; in Pahl. script rendered by the ideogram, q.v., CWLE) meaning “neck, throat” and “self, soul.” David Neil MacKenzie also mentions a homonym grīw, defined as “a grain measure, modius, peck” (MacKenzie, 1971, p. 37; Boyce, 1977, p. 42).

In other Middle Iranian languages the word is attested as: Sogd. γrīw (in Manichean and Nestorian script γryw, in Soghdian script γryw(h), γrʾyw(h) “self, body, soul” (Gharib, p. 170, fem. as the Av. word), Chor. γrīw (γryw) “soul, body, self” (Benzing, p. 293).

Grīwin Old Iranian languages. Grīw goes back to the Old Iranian grīuuā-, which is attested once in Avesta (Vd. 3.7) as the name of a mountain ridge. The name is derived from a postulated basic meaning “throat, neck,” which Christian Bartholomae translated as neck etc. of daevic beings (see DĒW), and mentioned manaoθrī- as the corresponding ahuric word (AirWb., cols. 530, 1126; cf. Old Ind. grīva- “neck,” grīvā- “the back part of the neck, nape, neck,” see Monier-Williams, p. 374; on this subject and on the etymology of further related Indo-European references which, among other things, mean “mane, mountain ridge,” see Szemerényi, pp. 517-19; Mayrhofer, p. 509). “Nape” is in any case the original meaning of the word, from which all the others have been derived. This was already considered by Paul Tedesco (p. 136) and recognized by Hans Reichelt (pp. 240-41).

Grīw in Middle Iranian languages. The fact that the basic meaning “nape” has been preserved in Middle Persian is evidenced by its heterographic rendering of Aram. ṣawwəreh “his neck” in Pahl. CWLH (Nyberg, p. 77). In the Manichean-Sogdian “Book of the Head and Book of the Limbs” (Ch/So 16201 = T III T) (C)[WRH] “neck” in line 46 can safely be supplemented (after ʾ(šδ)[ʾkw] “neck” and before (β)[ykʾ] “shoulder.” Some instances: Mid. Pers. band ēw ō grīw kunēd “he puts a noose around his neck” (Dādistān ī dēnīg I, pp. 80-81), Ohrmazd puts his arm around the neck of Spandarmad, who is his daughter and his wife; uš dast pad grīw āwurd estād (Williams, ed. and tr., Pahlavi Rivāyat, secs. 8a.2-4). From the Parth.-Man. literature: hw phrgbʾn ky ʾd hw bstg bwṯ zyncyhr ʾc qyrbkr gryw byh ʿstd “The guardian who was fettered with him [i.e., Mani] took the chain off the benefactor’s neck” (Sundermann, 1981, p. 75, M 4573/V/ii/13-15/).

That “nape” can be used as an image for a mountain ridge, and thus the use of its derivative Mid. Pers. grīwag “hill, ridge” (New Pers. gariva) in the sense of “hill, ridge” is a natural development. As Arezur grīwag it designates the ridge of the mythical mountain (Vd. 3.7) on which the demons assemble (e.g., Bundahišn 9.10, ed. and tr. Anklesaria, pp. 94-95; Williams, ed. and tr., Dād-estān ī dēnīg I, pp. 104-5; Williams, ed. and tr., Pahlavi Rivāyat, sec. 50.1; in vol. 2, p. 241, grīwag is assumed to be the “crater of a volcano,” which hardly corresponds with “nape,” the basic meaning of the word.

In the Middle-Iranian period, grīw assumed the meaning “self,” “person,” “body,” and “soul.” The meaning “self” is already attested for the Sogdian language through Ancient Letters (q.v.; after 311 C.E.; letter 3, ll. 3-4, see Sims-Williams, 1990, p. 54). The question as to how the meanings “self,” “person,” “body” and “soul” could have developed from “nape, neck” has been much discussed.

An interesting, though not exactly corresponding, parallel is the area of meaning from Hebrew nefeš, which not only implies “breath” and “soul,” but also “throat” and “gullet” (see Imschoot), but this precisely is not grīw.

Émile Benveniste’s explanation, which is similar to that of Hans Reichelt (pp. 240-41), was that: “The nape is known as a vital center, the juncture between the head and the body, the top of the dorsal spine, the center of the spinal chord; executioners and sacrificers kill their victim with a violent blow on the neck. Hence this representation of the “neck,” grīvā-, as the seat of the principle of life, and therefore as the symbol of the corporal body and of the person” (Benveniste, p. 63). There is no doubt about the correct explanation of this development as an inner-Iranian linguistic phenomenon. Problematic, however, is the concept that this evolution should have led by way of the concept “life” to “self.” In view of the further dissemination of grīw “self” in many Middle Iranian languages and religions, this is improbable, the more so because “life” does not belong to the characteristic meanings of grīw.

An alternative possibility consists of starting out with phrases such as Mid. Pers. pad grīw padīrēd, or else ul ō grīw padīrēd “he takes upon his neck,” that is “upon himself” (Dēnkard VI, tr. Shaked, secs. 80-81, 305), just as ō grīw padīrēd, ōgrīw ī xwēš padīrift ēstēd (Dādistān ī dēnīg I, pp. 52-53, pp. 64-65) and deriving from them a semantic shift from “nape” to “self.”

The development from “neck” to “self,” etc. was contested by Wojciech Skalmowski (pp. 329-31), who traced back “self, soul” by way of a postulated meaning “form” (in the sense of “a shell for formation”) to Old Iranian grab- “to seize” and connected the latter with the homonym grīw “a measure.” One, however, would wish for an attestation of the meaning “form.” The quoted Parthian text M 4578 contains “form” in the sense of “outline, appearance, face, person” (see below).

Examples for grīw “self” are found in all the texts mentioned here. In Middle Persian and Parthian, xwēš/xwēbaš grīw, xwēbē(h)grīw, or grīw aloneis used for “self” and is almost synonymous with the Mid. Pers. xwēš tan (lit. “oneself,” cf. New Pers. xvištan); cf. Man.-Mid. Persian ʾnʾy tw xwyš gryw dʾn “thou, however, know thyself” (Andreas and Henning, p. 312, ll. 6-7, similarly Sundermann, 1973, p. 27, ll. 351-52, the latter certainly going back to Gk. gnothi seauton). Of the contact of manual workers with fire, Man.-Parth. M 4577/R/ii/11-12/ says: gryw ʾc hw pʾyd “he is on his guard” (Sundermann, 1981, p. 61). Sogd. xēpaθ γrīw “self” is used in Christian, Manichean, and Buddhist texts and γryw in Sogdian and Choresmian, but it is very rare in Zoroastrian texts (cf. Dēnkard, in Zaehner, pp. 371-72, esp. last line on p. 371, where ġētīg grīw “the self of the material world” is from Dēnkard III). It is remarkable that Middle Persian (xwēš) grīw “self"occurs more frequently alone in the Wizīdagīhā ī Zādsparam, whose author may also have been open to Manichaean ideas (Zādspram, 3.24, 30.20, 40; Sundermann, 1991, pp. 19-20).

The meaning “self” could lead to developments in various directions towards “body,” “person,” and “soul”; this is a semantic connection which has also been observed in the developments of other words (Av. tanū-, Mid. Pers. gyān, cf. Gershevitch, 1962, pp. 82-83).

Grīw “body” is reliably attested as γrīw in Buddhist-Sogdian (cf. the examples in Benveniste, pp. 60-61, 63). where it is used as a Buddhist term for Skt. kāya- and Chin. shen “body, self” (MacKenzie, 1976, pt. 2, p. 182, no. 74.2), and thus also in the translation of many compunds of this word, e.g.: Skt. buddhakāya, Chin. fo shen ([triple] Buddha body = Sogd. pwty γrʾyw (MacKenzie, 1976, pt. 2, notes etc., pp. 164-65, no. 9.5), Skt. dharmakāya, Chin. fa shen “immaterial, spiritual, immortal body” = Sogd. δrymk CWRH (MacKenzie, 1976, pt. 2, p. 185, no. 85.5), Skt. rūpakāya-, Chin. se shen “material body” = Sogd. γwnc CWRH/γrʾyw, literally “colored body” (MacKenzie, 1976, pt. 2, p. 194, no. 139.0). We have also reliable examples from Christian-Sogdian texts: zbʾq xcy pr ʾncmny γrywy srw “He is the tongue in the head of the Church’s body” (Sims-Williams, 1985, p. 114, fol. 54/R/24/); rʾzy ʾsʾmnty mšyḥʾ γrywy pcγʾz-ʾmnty xcy “the taking of the Mystery [i.e., the Euchar-ist] is the receiving of Christ’s body” (Sims-Williams, 1985, p. 114, fol. 57 /V/6-7/). Ilya Gershevitch’s assumption, to which I also adhered, of a transitional term “upper body” situated between the “neck” and “body” that was inferred from a passage of the Manichean-Sogdian book of parables (Sundermann, 1985, p. 45) no longer appears to me as conclusive, but compare New Pers. gerībān, which translates Arab. jayb “chest” in the Qorʾān-e qods (sura 24.31 and 27.12; reference provided by Ela Filippone).

We may assume that γrīw “body” became γrīw “person” in the same way as OPers. tanū- and Middle and New Persian tan came to signify “body” and “person.” Again there are reliable examples from Sogdian. Chr.-Sogd. xw xrypθ γrywy prw zʾyt “He shall speak in his own person” (gospel of John 9, 21 in Sundermann, 1975, p. 66), translating Syr. hw ḥlp npšyh nmll “He shall speak for himself.” These include the titles of the representative (of the king, in Manichean terms of the Paraclete, cf. Sundermann, 1988) Mid. Persian pasāgrīw (Man. psʾgryw) and Sogd. pašāγrīw (pšʾγryw) and *pačā-γrīw (Syr. pṣgrybʾ) “the person after (the king)” (cf. Gershevitch, 1954, pp. 124-26; Benveniste, pp. 58-65, referring to OPers. pasā tanūm). Man.-Parth. M 4578/1.S./ii/ (Sundermann, 1981, pp. 64-65) describes the nature of the five worlds of darkness. Here gryw is placed next to the “body” (ṯnbʾr) and the “soul” (gyān) of the worlds. The parallel Coptic version has a corresponding ho “face.” If it translated Syrian appē “face,” Parthians could have understood this as “person” (Costaz, p. 17).

The obvious development from “self” to “soul” is abundantly attested in the Manichaean texts, where grīw/γrīv assumes great importance as a concept of religious terminology.

The semantic parallel of Syr. nafšā and Mid. Pers./Parth. grīw “self” and “soul” was already noticed at an early stage (Schaeder, in Reitzenstein and Schaeder, p. 249; Polotsky in Schmidt and Polotsky, p. 71), but an explanation of the Iranian meanings from the Aramaic/Syrian pattern, as contemplated by Hans Heinrich Schaeder, has rightly been abandoned. It might merely be considered that the particularly important part played by grīw etc. in the Manichean texts was stimulated through the linguistic usage of the Syrian texts, which constituted their pattern and often their source.

Grīw designates the individual soul of men and, distinguished by honoring attributes, the universal soul. Some examples for “individual soul”: Parth. ky ʾnʾsʾg gryw bwyjʾd ʾc wdng “who delivered innumerable souls from distress” (M 6/97-100/, in Andreas and Henning, 1934, p. 867); Parth. ʾrdʾw zrhwšt kdyš wyʾwrd ʾd gryw wxybyy “the just Zarathustra, when he spoke to his soul” (M 7/86-89/, in Andreas and Henning, 1934, p. 872); Parth. gryw ʾwd tnbʾr cy pydr rwšn “soul and body of the father of light” (M 6650/V/18-19/, in Waldschmidt and Lentz, p. 116); Mid. Pers. [byc] gryw ny hwnywš “[but] the soul is not well-informed” (M 382, in Sundermann, 1973, p. 91, ll. 1771-72); Mid. Pers. kw grywʾn pdyš pʾcyhʾnd “that the souls may be purified by it” (M 1/201-3/, in Müller, p. 17).

"Universal soul”: The “universal soul” is usually rendered as Mid. Pers. grīw zīndag, Parth. grīw žīwandag, Sogd. žwande γrīw (Sundermann, 1979, p. 99; idem, 2001, p. 125, no. 2/4.1.2.), which goes back by way of Syr. npšʾ ḥytʾ to the Gk. psykhēn zōsan of 1 Cor.15, 45 (Polotsky, 1935, col. 251). The fact that Mani here rendered psykhē by a Syriac word which implied both “soul” and “self” is explained by Hans Jakob Polotsky from the following communication by Theodor bar Konai: The divine emanation which was sacrificed to the powers of darkness and which constitutes the “soul” as against the material nature of the demonic, is at the same time a part of God’s own “self” (Polotsky, 1935, col. 251). The Iranian renderings ideally reflect this Syriac double concept. They are marked terms, therefore, not to be replaced by grīw ī zīndag, giyān žīwandag, etc. “Living,” however, can be replaced by other epithets such as āfrīdag “praised” (Mid. Pers.), arγāw “noble"(Parth.), burzist “most highly” (Mid. Pers.), došist “most beloved” (Mid. Pers.), hasēnag “primordial” (Parth.), kalān “great” or “pure” (Parth.), rošn “light” (very frequent, almost only Parth.), wuzurg “great” (Parth.), and without an adjective giyān can also mean the universal soul, as in the title and text of Giyān wifrās, the “sermon of the soul.” The universal soul is the subject of a great many hymns (see Boyce, 1960, p. 149), and there is also the Middle Persian and Sogdian cycle of hymns Gōwišn ī grīw zīndag "The speech of the living soul” (Boyce, 1960, p. 149; Sundermann, 1985b, II, pp. 629-50). Both groups of texts are still largely unpublished.

Some examples: Parth. gryw jywndg ky hrw ʾgwc dʾrwbdg ʾwd ʾmyxtg “The living soul, which is everywhere crucified and mixed-in” (M 5530/V/4-5/, in Waldschmidt and Lentz, p. 74); ʿymyc gryw jywndg ky pd pyd ʾwṯ dʾlwg “Even this living soul, which (is) in flesh and wood” (M 42 /89-90/, in Andreas and Henning, 1934, p. 881); ʾrwʾn rwšnʾ klʾn grywʾ rwšnʾ “Oh soul of light, *great soul of light” (Henning, 1937, p. 47, text d /14/); Mid. Pers. chʾrdh xyym ʿy grywzyndq “The fourteen wounds of the living soul” (M 12 /headline/, in Sundermann, 1985c, p. 291; idem, 2001, p. 636).

The fact that γrīw in the sense of “soul” is foreign to the Sogdian-Buddhist texts is not surprising. It is due to the absence of the concept of soul in Buddhist doctrine. In Christian-Sogdian texts, on the other hand, γrīw “soul” sometimes occurs: ms frmʾn ptγwšc nʾ wnʾt mwrty nʾqty twʾ γrywy ʾztwny “Nor let inanimate silver enslave your soul’s freedom” (Sims-Williams, 1985, p. 90, fol. 51 /R/18-19/); wšwqy γryw “the soul of the hungry (man)” (Sims-Williams, 1985, p. 17, fol. 102 /V/27/, Syr. corresponds with nafšā). Nor is the concept “soul” foreign to the Middle Persian (Christian) psalter translation (Ps. 130 [or 131], 2, in Andreas and Kaj Barr, pp. 109-10).

It is remarkable that grīw “soul,” if at all attested in the Middle Persian language of the Zoroastrians, appears very rarely. A few relevant translations may be understood quite differently; for instance, in Dēnkard (V, secs. 23, 29), where ud čim pad tan ud grīw brāh . . . (ī) yazad-paristagān frāyīh nē paydāgtar kū pad dēw yazagān, which is translated by Jāleh Amouzegar and Ahmad Tafazzoli (pp. 76-77) as follows: “Pourquoi, dans le corps et dans l’âme des adorateurs de dieu, l’abondance de brillance . . . ne sont-ils pas plus manifestes que chez les adorateurs des démons?” But the translation “body and outward appearance” would also make sense here, especially since the soul is not visible.

It follows that the word grīw in its meanings “self” and “soul” (?) is most rarely used in the Middle Persian texts of the Zoroastrians. The reason for it can only be that the Zoroastrian texts shut themselves off from a linguistic evolution that is richly attested in the Iranian literatures of the Manichaeans, Christians, and Buddhists. If the New Persian and other New Iranian languages are not familiar with the meanings of these words, it is perhaps because they remain in the tradition of the Middle Iranian literary language marked by Zoroastrianism.

Middle Iranian derivations of grīw. Parth. grīwēn “spiritual” (M 5858/V/2/ gyʾnyn ʾwd grywyn); Mid. Pers. grīwag “hill, ridge” (New Pers. geriva) and grīwbān “neck-guard, gorget” (MacKenzie, 1971, p. 37; for grīw-bān cf. Rundgren, p. 49, who points out that the Lat. clibanarius “armored knight” goes back to this word); Parth. grīw-hangīft “arrogance,” lit. “self-stretching” (Sundermann, 1992, sec. 30 with n. 6, pp. 66-67, 99); Mid. Pers. pasāgrīw, Sogd. pašāγrīw (see above).

Grīw in New Iranian languages. The New Persian development of the word, garī, is only mentioned in dictionaries (Dehḵodā, Loghat-nāma, s.v., quoting Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, see ibid, ed. Moʿin, pp. 1804-05), but derivations have been preserved such as New Pers. geriva “hill, incline” as well as “mountain pass,” from Mid. Pers. grīvag (Eilers, pp. 12-14 and passim), New Pers. garībān “collar, tunic,” and (unverified) New Pers. garīgāh (the place in the pilau pot where the neck of the lamb lies, see Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, ed. Moʿin, p. 1807). In Eastern Iranian languages, the word is still used: Pashtu grēwa, grawa “collar bone, collar” (Morgenstierne, 1927, p. 24), Wanetsi gərwī “collar,” Wakhi γarāγ “collar,” Ormuri gru-wiē (Morgenstierne, 1938, p. 14*). I am grateful to Ela Philippone for the following references proving that this word survives in other New Iranian languages and dialects, albeit often in the semantic combination with “neck,” “nape” on the one hand and “throat,” as well as organs in the neck and pharynx area on the other. Thus it is sometimes difficult to decide whether these words are descendants of the word grīw or relatives of New Pers. galu, Av. garō “throat, neck.” Philippone mentions words that probably belong to grīw: Yidgha γurvo “gullet,” Monji γərwa “gullet,” and in western Iranian languages Tati geri, Harzani giri, Sangesari gœri, Semnāni gerya, all of them meaning “throat.” Baluchi grī(h) is “throat” and “collarbone.” Further forms such as Kor-mānji Kurdish gewrī, Sōrāni Kurdish geru “throat” with the variant gelu, and in the Fārs dialect of Gāvkošaki gori certainly belong to New Pers. galu “throat.”

Grīwas a grain measure. Mid. Pers. and Parth. grīw certainly does not belong to this word (Phl. glyw ˈ, Parth. on the inscriptions and Man. texts gryw) with the definition of a grain measure. It is attested in Mid. Pers. Ayādgār ī žāmāspīg (see Bailey, p. 589), in the Parthian version of the inscription of Šāpur I at the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt (Gignoux, p. 51, corresponds with Gr. hēmisys) and in Man.-Parth. M 6040 /V/9, 13/ (Sundermann, 1981, pp. 87-88). Heinrich Hübschmann has pointed to Armenian griv, New Pers. garī(b), Syr. grybʾ and Arab. jarīb (ArmenischeGrammatik I, p. 131)and derived the word from a postulatedOPers. *grība- (Persische Studien, p. 181, sec. 75a). In my opinion, Carl Brockelmann’s assertion that the word is based on Akkadian kirūbu (Brockelmann, p. 130, s.v. grybʾ) is questionable. Wojciech Skalmowski (1991, pp. 320-21) suggested a derivation from OIr. grab- “to seize,” which may be supported on the basis of OInd. gráha- “a cup-full” and grābha- “what can be seized,” from grabh- (cf. Mayrhofer, pp. 505-7; cf. also Old Ind. gṛbhi- “hold-ing, containing” in Harmatta, p. 345). As Nicholas Sims-Williams has recognized (pointed out to me by Adriano Rossi), the Bactrian term for “a measure of grain” (agrēoi) is connected with this word (Sims-Williams, 1997, p. 12; idem, 2000, p. 177). Sims-Williams considers it possible that the term for the grain measure is also derived from Av. grīuuā- for “neck.” On the other hand, Dan Shapira derives the Mid. Pers. grīw from a word that means “vessel, container, measure,” proceeding from an untenable presupposition that the meaning “self, soul” represents the result of a development that was brought about through Manichean tradition (see Shapira, esp. pp. 134-35).



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I am grateful to Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst for putting at my disposal the index he made of the Middle-Persian and Parthian words of the Turfan texts. I also wish to thank him, as well as Ela Filippone, Adriano Rossi, and Nicholas Sims-Williams for numerous valuable references.

(Werner Sundermann)

Originally Published: December 15, 2002

Last Updated: February 23, 2012

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Vol. XI, Fasc. 4, pp. 364-368