HŌŠANG (Av. Haošyaŋha, Ar. Ušanj/Ušhanj), called Pēšdād (< Av. Paraδāta), an early hero-king, father of the Iranians and founder of the Pēšdādian dynasty in the Iranian traditional history. Information about him come from Avestan, Middle Persian, and Sasanian-based Arabo-Persian sources (Christensen, 1917, pp. 133-64 and passim; 1932, pp. 17, 42-43, 81; Yarshater, 1983, pp. 371, 413-15, 420-22). Previously the second part of Hōšang's name was taken as -šyaŋh, i.e., ši- “dwelling” and -aŋh “giving rise to,” and the whole interpreted as “he who produces good dwellings” in the sense of “promoter of culture and settledness” (Justi, Namenbuch, p. 126; cf. Christensen, 1917, p. 140). Mayrhofer sees in -šiiah- a variant of čiia- “selecting, deciding” and suggests “good (religious) choice” for *hu-šiiah- (Iran. Personennamenbuch I/1, p. 50). Hōšang’s surname Paraδāta (> Pēš-dād) was understood by the Sasanian scholars as “he who first set the law of sovereignty” (Pahlavi Vendidād, ed. Anklesaria, 20.1; tr., p. 391; similarly Ṭabari, I, pp. 154, 171; Ḥamza Eṣfahāni, pp. 3, 24; Ṯaʿālebi, Ḡorar,p. 5; Ḵvārazmi, Mafātiḥ al-ʿolum, ed. G. van Vloten, Leiden, 1895, p. 98; Biruni, Āṯār, pp. 220-21; Maqdisi, III, p. 139); and some still follow this interpretation. Others take it as “set at the beginning” and hence “first created/ first man” (Christensen, 1917, p. 136; Yarshater, 1983, p. 420; Mayrhofer, op. cit., p. 67). The name Paraδāta has been compared with Paralatos, father of the Paralatae or the “Royal Scythians,” who was a grandson of Targitaus, the First Man in the ancient Scythian tradition (Herodotus, 4.5-7; see IRAJ). Hōšang “does not have a counterpart in Indian mythology and therefore must be regarded as an Iranian figure” (Yarshater, 1983, p. 420).
There seem to have been various Iranian traditions, each revolving around a first-man/king (Yima/Jamšēd, Gayōmard, Tahmoraṯ), among them a widely accepted one which considered Hōšang the first king. Certainly, the lists in the older Yašts of the heroes/kings who sacrificed to the deities in order to receive divine support in conquering their enemies and achieving great deeds always start with Hōšang (Ābān: Yt. 5.21-33; Goš: Yt. 9.3-5; Rām: Yt. 15.7-9; Ard: Yt. 17.24-26; Zamyād: Yt. 19.24-25); and a number of later sources specify that he was the founder of Iranian sovereignty (e.g., Čehrdādnask apud Dēnkard 5.4.2; 7.1.9-18; 8.13.5-6; Ṭabari, I, p. 154; Biruni, pp. 103, 220-21). A variant, and probably older, tradition is found in the Frawardin Yašt (Yt. 13.130-32), where the list begins with Yima and ends with Kavi Hausrava (Kay Ḵosrow); then it mentions (13.137) Hōšang the valiant (taxma-) amongst a number of revered heroes. Here again he is remembered as victorious over demons and their followers, so there can be no doubt that he is the same as Hōšang the Pēšdād (Avesta, tr. Darmesteter, II, p. 551, n. 292; Mayrhofer, Iran. Personennamenbuch I/1, p. 50; contra Bartholomae, AirWb., cols. 1738-39). The position of Hōšang as the first king is attested in some sources (Ṭabari, I, p. 154) and is implied by several indications. Firstly, although in a more widely current tradition he is the successor of Gayōmard, most authorities specify that it was Hōšang who established the institution of sovereignty (see above). In fact the surname Paraδāta (> Pēšdād), which the Avesta restricts to Hōšang, is subsequently applied to the first dynasty in the Iranian traditional history, namely the Pēšdādian, which comprises not only Hōšang’s successors who were regarded as his descendants, but also his predecessor, Gayōmard. Secondly, the Bundahišn ([TD2], 14.36; tr. Anklesaria, p. 135), calls Hōšang the father of the Iranian race and the first to rule over the Seven Climes (haft kešvar, q.v.). Thirdly, the Šāh-nāma, in contradiction to its own chronology (see below) renders the idea of “from the first king” by the phrase “down from the time of Hōšang” (ed. Moscow, VI, p. 232, v. 243; VII, p. 338, v. 575; IX, p. 290, v. 571) and has Ḵosrow Parvēz call the Iranian national religion “the Creed of Hōšang” (ibid., IX, p. 207, v. 3323; similarly, Ṯaʿālebi (Ḡorar, p. 7) reports that Ḵosrow I referred to Hōšang as “our first ancestor.”
The old Yašts represent Haošyaŋha paraδāta as a powerful and benevolent king. He sacrificed to the deities and with their help and by attaining farnah “the God-given royal fortune” (Yt. 19.26; see FARR[AH]) he combated the daēvas, false gods, of Mazana (much later identified with Māzandarān) and defeated their worshippers, as well as the Lie-followers and daēva-worshippers of Varəna (the Bunar region in northern Pakistan; Henning, 1947, pp. 52-53). These people lived on the western and eastern borders respectively of the Aryan homeland and included large population elements of Proto-Indo-Aryan origin (Burrow, 1973, pp. 134 ff.). He also successfully fought against the kavis (princes and chiefs; ibid., p. 132) and karapans (ritual priests), who contested his rule. The locus classicus of such sources is Ābān Yašt (Yt. 5.21-23, based on Lommel, 1927, p. 34): “To [Arədvī Surā Anāhita] brought offerings Haošyaŋa Paraδāta at the foot of the peak of Harā [mountain], one hundred stallions, one thousand cattle, and ten thousand sheep. Then he prayed to her for this favor: ‘Upon me bestow this boon, O mightiest good (and) supreme Arədvī Surā Anāhita, that that I become the highest power over all lands, over demons and men, over the she-devils (pairi-kās) and the sorcerers, over the princes and priests; that I may be able to destroy two-thirds of the Mazana demons and of the Lie-followers of Varəna’. Arədvī Surā granted him the boon.”
The Yašts provide no genealogical details about Hōšang, and later sources are hopelessly confused on this point, considering him a brother or son of Gayōmard (Masʿudi, Moruj II, p. 111) a son of Mašya and grandson of Gayō-mard (Čehrdādnask apud Dēnkard 8.13.2-8) or son of Siāmak and grandson of Gayōmard (Mas’udi, loc. cit.; Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, I, pp. 23-25; Ṯaʿālebi, Ḡorar, p. 5), a son of Fravāk son of Siāmak son of Mašya son of Gayōmard (Bundahišn [TD2], 35.1; tr. Ankesaria, p. 293; Ḥamza Eṣfahāni, pp. 24, 29; Biruni, Āṯār, p. 103; Masʿudi, Moruj II, p. 178; Ṭabari, I, p. 154), or even a remoter descendant of Gayōmard (for details see Christensen, 1917, pp. 143-55). Most sources give him a reign of forty years; but it is interesting to note that, with the introduction of the millenary system into the Iranian traditional history (see HISTORIOGRAPHY i.), the first five millennia were named after the legendary kings Gayō-mard, Hōšang, Jam, Bēvarasp (= Dahāg), and Frēdun, and the sixth millennium was called that of Zoroaster (Biruni, Qānun Masʿudi, cited by Taqizādeh, 1937, p. 79, n. 159).
The traditional history as developed in the late Sasanian period rationalizes the story of Hōšang as follows (see Šāh-nāma, ed. Khalegi, I, pp. 29-31; Ṯaʿālebi, Ḡorar, pp. 5-7; cf. Ṭabari, I, pp. 171-72): Siāmak, son of Gayōmard, was slain by demons, but his son Hōšang attained the God-given royal fortune, avenged the murder, subjugated Ahriman, and reigned for forty years. He introduced metallurgy and architecture, domesticated animals, dug canals for irrigation, and promoted cultivation. Some attributed the founding of Susa and Babylon to him (Ṭabari, I, p. 170) and credited him with establishing the festivals of Tirgān and Ḵorram-ruz (Biruni, Āṯār, pp. 220-21). A tradition which attributes to him the founding of the Sade festival in commemoration of his accidental discovery of fire is “obviously a rather late and popular account” (Yarshater, 1983, p. 421) and occurs only in the Šāh-nāma in a passage that Khaleghi (2001, I, pp. 38-40) has shown to be an interpolation. Hešām Kalbi identified Hōšang as a descendant of Sām son of Noah (Ṭabari, I, pp. 154-55).
B. T. Anklesaria, ed. and tr., Pahlavi Vendidād,Bombay, 1949.
Arthur E. Christensen, Les types du premier homme et du premier roi dans l’histoire légendaire des Iraniens I, Stockholm, 1917.
Idem, Les Kayanides, Copenhagen, 1932.
T. Burrow, “The Proto-Indoaryans,” JRAS, 1973, pp. 122-40.
W. B. Hen-ning, “Two Manichaean magical texts, with an excursus on the Parthian ending -ēndēh,” BSOAS 12, 1947, pp. 39-66.
Djalal Khaleghi-Motlagh, Notes on the Shah-nameh I, in 2 pts., Winona Lake, Indiana, 2001.
H. Lommel, Die Yast’s des Avesta, Gottingen, 1927.
S. Ḥ. Taqizādeh, Gāhšomāri dar Irān-e qadim, Tehran, 1937.
Ehsan Yarshater, “Iranian National History,” in Camb. Hist.Iran III, 1983, pp. 359-477.
(A. Shapur Shahbazi)
Originally Published: December 15, 2004
Last Updated: March 23, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. XII, Fasc. 5, pp. 491-492
A. Shapur Shahbazi, “HŌŠANG,” Encyclopædia Iranica, XII/5, pp. 491-492, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/hosang (accessed on 30 December 2012).