JĀMĀSPA (GAv. Də′ǰāmāspa; Elam. Zamašba, Za-mišba; Arm. Zmsp; Gk. Zamaspes; Akk. Za-ma-as-pa-a’), name of an official at the court of Vīštāspa and an early convert of Zarathushtra, who, in the tradition became widely known for his wisdom.

Etymology. There is no certain etymology of the name. It is a compound whose final member is aspa- “horse.” In metrical contexts (Y. 46.17; 51.18; Yt. 5.68), the name must be read as tetrasyllabic jāma-aspa- (cf. Ved. ṛjrá-aśva- proper noun; Mayrhofer, 1956, I, p. 121). A favored etymology of jāma- has been to compare it with OInd. kṣāmáh- “burnt, singed,” but Prakrit jhāma- points to IE *dhgwh-eH-, which one would expect to give Av. *γžā/žγā (Mayrhofer, 1979, p. 55; 1992, p. 430). Ilya Gershevitch (pp. 177 ff.) proposed “leading horses” to Parth. žām- “to lead,” while Martin Schwartz (1975, p. 10; idem, 1980, p. 203) seemed to favor “he who bridles horses,” in view of Arm. cim “bridle.”

In the Avesta. Jāmāspa is mentioned twice in the Gathas (q.v.) in close connection with his brother Frašaoštra and with Kavi Vīštāspa. There is no reason to doubt that the two brothers, belonging to the Hvō.gva (YAv. Hvōva) family, were officials at the court of Vīštāspa and were among Zarathustra’s early converts to whom he preached (Jackson, pp. 20-22, 76-77). Specifically, in Yasna 46.17 Zarathustra addresses Jāmāsp directly, commanding him “Go where I shall proclaim to you (pl.) praises in verse, not non-verse, O Jāmāspa the Hvōgvid!” (yaθrā wə̄ afšmānī sə̄nghānī nōiṱ anafšmąm də̄jāmāspā hwō.gwā … wahmə̄ng). The fame that Jāmāspa enjoys in the later tradition as the wise vizier of Goštāsp is, perhaps, foreshadowed in Yasna 51.18, where Zarathustra says of him: “He chooses through Aša, this insight (and) this power” (tąm cistīm … ašā wərəntē taṱ xšaθrəm). In Yašt 5.68, Jāmāspa is among the many hero supplicants of Arədvī Sūrā Anāhita (see ANĀHĪD), where “he sacrificed to her, as he perceived the army of dāeva-worshiping liars approaching from afar in battle array” (tąm yazata jāmāspō yaṱ spāδəm pairi.awāenaṱ dūrāṱ āyantəm rasmaoyō drwatąm dāewayasnanąm). It is puzzling why he is placed at this point in the Yašt, in that one might expect, on the basis of the later royal epic tradition, that he would have been placed in the Vīštāspa, Zairi.vairi, Arəjaṱ.aspa (in Mid. Pers. and the Šāh-nāma: Vīštāsp/Goštāsp, Zarēr, Arjāsp; qq.v.) sequence of Yašt 5.108-18. Jāmāsp appears in the longer frawarānā (confession) of Yasna 12.7 in a dvandva compound with his brother (frašaoštrā-jāmāspā) immediately after Vīštāspa; and the dual formation is repeated in the Vīštāsp Yašt 11 (frašaoštrāeibya jāmāspāeibya). In the fravaši (q.v.) lists of Yašt 13, Jāmāsp’s fravaši is worshiped immediately after Frašaoštra’s (103), but at some distance from those of Vīštāspa (99-100) and Zairi.vairi (101), for the reason that they belonged to different families. In the late text, Āfrīn ī Zardošt 2 his name appears in two benedictions given by Zarathustra to Vīštāspa: “May you be just like Jāmāspa … powerful like Jāmāspa (āevaθa bavēhi yaθa jāmāspō … amava yaθa jāmāspō); and in the closely related Vīštāsp Yašt 3 there is a benediction that Vīštāspa have ten sons: three priests, three warriors and three agriculturalists, plus “one son of yours (like) Jāmāspa” (zayånte tanukəhrpa dasa puθra θrāyō yaθa aθaurunō θrāyō yaθa raθāeštārahe θrāyō yaθa vāstryehe fšuyantō āeva te puθrō jāmāspō). In contrast to his association with royal power, Jāmāsp was also thought to have exercised a priestly function, as seen in the passage from the N. 89: “He who strews the barəsman according to these (rules) as righteous Jāmāspa used to strew (it), is a ratufriš” (yō anu āešąm barəsma frastarənte yaθa ašawa jāmāspō frastarənāeta ratufriš).

In Pahlavi literature. As an actor in the epic drama of the establishment of Zoroastrianism, Jāmāsp is remembered in Dēnkard (q.v.) together with Zarēr, Spandyād (Av. Spəntōδāta; Šāh-nāma Esfandiār, q.v.) and Frašōštar, as one of the first princes (wāspuhragān) to propagate the religion (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, p. 436.14-15) and as the one who received the teaching of Zarthustra (zarduxšt-āmōg; ibid, p. 437.14-20), which was written on ox-hides in Avestan and Zand, according to the familiar story (see Bailey, pp. 149 ff.). In the Ayādgār ī Zarērān (q.v.), he is featured prominently, as he is later in the Šāh-nāma, as the wise vizier (bidaxš, q.v.) of Kay Wištāsp, capable of foreseeing the outcome of the great battle with Arjāsp and ever ready to give counsel. His fame for wisdom lent his name to a late Pahlavi compendium of lore, the Ayādgār ī Zarērān. The name was known in antiquity, appearing already as Zamašba on Persepolis tablets (Hallock, p. 722), later in Sasanid royal nomenclature (though not at Paikuli), and has remained a common name among Zoroastrians.



Harold W. Bailey, Zoroastrian Problems in the Ninth Century Books, London, 1943, p. 149 ff.

Ervand Bahmanji N. Dhabhar, “Jamasp Bitaxsh or Jamasp Hakim,” in Poure Davoud Memorial Volume II: Papers on Zoroastrian and Iranian Subjects in Honour of Ebrahim Poure Davoud, Bombay, 1951, pp. 57-61.

Ilya Gershevitch, “Amber at Persepolis,” in Studia classica et orientalia Antonino Pagliaro Oblata, 3 vols., Roma, 1969, II, pp. 167-251.

Philippe Gignoux, Glossaire des Inscriptions Pehlevies et Parthes, Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum, London, 1972, pp. 38, 68.

Richard Hallock, Persepolis Fortification Tablets, Chicago, 1969.

Walther Hinz, Altiranisches Sprachgut der Nebenüberlieferungen, Wiesbaden, 1975, p. 143.

Helmut Humbach and Prods O. Skjærvø, The Sassanian Inscription of Paikuli, pt. 3.1, 2, Wiesbaden, 1983, p. 123.

A. V. Williams Jackson, Zoroaster: The Prophet of Ancient Iran, New York, 1965.

Ferdinand Justi, Iranisches Namenbuch, Marburg, 1895, p. 109; repr., Hildesheim, 1963 [esp. for references to Pers. and Ar. sources].

Manfred Mayrhofer, Kurzgefasstes etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindischen/A Concise Etymological Sanskrit Dictionary, 3 vols., Heidelberg, 1956.

Idem, Onomastica Persepolitana: Das altiranische Namengut der Persepolis-Täfelchen, Vienna, 1973, p. 253.

Idem, Iranisches Personennamenbuch I: Die altiranischen Namen, Vienna, 1979; rev. Martin Schwartz, in Orientalia 49, 1980, p. 125.

Idem, Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen I, Heidelberg, 1992.

Henrik Samuel Nyberg, Irans forntida religioner, tr. Hans Heinrich Schaeder as Die Religionen des Iran, Osnabrük, 1966, pp. 254-55, 296-97.

Ebrāhim Pur-e Dāwud, “Jāmāsb,” in idem, ed. and tr., Yašthā, 2 vols., Bombay, 1928, I, pp. 227-30.

Martin Schwartz “Proto-Indo-European √gīem-,” in Monumentum H. S. Nyberg, 4 vols., Acta Iranica 4-7, Tehran and Liège, 1975, II, pp. 195-207.

Fritz Wolff, Glossar zu Firdosis Schahname: Festgabe des deutschen Reiches zur Jahrtausendfeier für den persischen Dichterfürsten, Berlin, 1935; repr., Hildesheim, 1965, s.v. Jāmāsp.


(W. W. Malandra)

Originally Published: December 15, 2008

Last Updated: April 10, 2012

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