HAŠTPĀY, name of a game from the Sasanian era which has not been precisely identified. The haštpāy [hštp’y] “eight feet” (more likely than aštapād) is mentioned together with other games in chapter 15 of the Xusraw ud Rēdag (ud pad čatrang ud nēw-ardaxšīr ud haštpāy kardan az hamahlānfrāztar hom “and in playing chess, backgammon and the haštpāy I am superior to my comrades” (Unvala, p. 16; Monchi-Zadeh, 1982, p. 65; Panaino, 1999, p. 51). Its name, as in the case of chess (Pahl. čatrang < Skt. caturaṅga-), is an Indian borrowing; it derives from Sanskrit aṣṭāpada- (cf. Pāli aṭṭhapada), originally referring to a game-board of 8 x 8 little squares. Such a board was used for various games (Murray, 1913, pp. 35-40; 1952, pp. 129-36), one of them played, according to the Bālabhārata (II, 5, pp. 10-13), with red and white pieces and a pair of dice. In many other sources the aṣṭāpada- was doubtless the chessboard and its name strictly associated with this game (MacDonell, p. 122; Jacobi, p. 228; Thomas, 1898, pp. 272; 1899, pp. 365; Thieme, 1984, p. 208). From the Xusraw ud Rēdag it is clear that the Sasanian haštpāy was distinguished from other popular games like chess and the variety of backgammon represented by nēw-ardaxšīr. The haštpāy could perhaps be associated, according to Semenov (pp. 16-20, 131; but see Panaino, 1999, pp. 153-56, 189), with a game-board (with three lines of eight squares) recently discovered in Paikend and with another one represented on a later Sasanian silver cup with a different but apparently comparable form.



H. Jacobi, “Über zwei ältere Erwähn-ungen des Schachspiels in der Sanskrit-Litteratur,” ZDMG 50, 1896, pp. 227-33.

D. Monchi-Zadeh, “Xus-rōv i Kavātān ut Rētak,” in Monumentum Georg Morgenstierne, vol. II. Acta Iranica 22, Leiden, 1982, pp. 47-91.

A. A. MacDonell, “The Origin and Early History of Chess,” JRAS, 1898, pp. 117-41.

H. J. R. Murray, A History of Chess, Oxford 1913.

Idem, A History of Board-Games other than Chess, Oxford 1952.

A. Panaino, La novella degli Scacchi e della Tavola Reale. Un’antica fonte orientale sui due gixochi da tavoliere più diffusi nel mondo euroasiatico tra Tardoantico e Medioevo e sulla loro simbologia militare e astrale. Testo pahlavi, traduzione e commento al Wiz-ārišn ī čatrang ud nihišn ī nēw-ardaxšīr “La spiegazione degli scacchi e la disposizione della tavola reale,” Milano, 1999.

G. L. Semenov, Studien zur sogdischen Kultur an der Seidenstrasse, Wiesbaden, 1996.

P. Thieme, “Chess and Backgammon (Tric-Trac) in Sanskrit Literature,” in E. Bender, Indological Studies in Honor of W. Norman Brown, New Haven, 1962, pp. 204-16, reprinted in Kleine Schriften, Wiesbaden, 1984, pp. 413-25.

F. W. Thomas, “The Indian Game of Chess,” ZDMG, 52, 1898, pp. 271-72; 53, 1899, pp. 364-65.

J. M. Unvala, The Pahlavi Text “King Husrav and his Boy,” published with its Transcription, translation and copious notes, Paris, n.d.

(Antonio Panaino)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 20, 2012

This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 1, p. 51