KARSĪVAZ (Garsivaz), Av. Kərəsauuazdah; Pahl. Karsēwazd, in the old Iranian epic tradition the brother of Av. Fraŋrasiian, Pahl. Frāsiyāb (Frāsyāw, Afrāsiyāb). The Avestan name meant “having meager (kərəsa-) fattiness (vazdah-)” (cf. Kərəsāspa “having meager horses,” see KARSĀSP). This entry will be divided into the following sections:

i. In the Avesta and the Pahlavi books.

ii. In the Šāh-nāma.


i. In the Avesta and the Pahlavi Books

Kərəsauuazdah is mentioned once in the Avesta (Yašt 19.77, with acc. Kərəsauuazdəm instead of the expected *Kərəsauuazdaŋhəm) together with Fraŋrasiian in the context of Kauui Haosrauuah’s (Kay Husrōy). Although the text is not altogether clear, it appears that Kauui Haosrauuah, after overcoming Fraŋrasiian, binds Kərəsauuazdah as revenge for the treacherous slaying (zūrō.jata-) of Siiāuuaršan (Siyāwaš; cf. Hintze, 1994, pp. 329, 336; cf. Mayrhofer, I/69). In Yasna 11.7 and Yašt 9.18, however, it is Haoma who binds Fraŋrasiian and leads him to Kauui Haosrauuah, who slays him, but we are probably dealing with two variant expressions of the same epic narrative.

Karsivaz is listed in the Pahlavi Rivāyat (46.21, spelled Karsēwast), among other early epic characters (after Frāsiyāb) with the epithet purr- “full of,” as purr-guftār “full of talk” (ed. Williams, I, pp. 170-71, II, pp. 77, 220; cf. por-ferib “full of deceit” in the Šāh-nāma, see below). In the Dēnkard (7.1.39, spelled <kylyswzd> Kereswazd = <kylsywzd> Kersīwazd), it is told that, when Ohrmazd’s word came to Kay Husrōy, he used it to overcome several world-destroyers, among them Kersīwazd, Frangrasyā’s “sibling brat (ham-wišūdag)” (ed. Dresden, p. [475]; ed. Molé, pp. 10-11). In the Bundahišn (35.17, spelled variously Karsēwaz and <klswsc> for *klsywyc>?), he is said to be called Kēdān and is listed together with Agrērad as Frāsyāw’s brother (ed. Pākzād, p. 395). 

See also KAYANIAN.


Carlo G. Cereti, ed. and tr., The Zand ī Wahman Yasn. A Zoroastrian  Apocalypse, Rome, 1995.

Almut Hintze, ed. and tr., Zamyād-Yašt. Edition, Übersetzung, Kommentar, Wiesbaden, 1994.

Manfred Mayrhofer, Die altiranischen Namen, Iranisches Personennamenbuch I, Vienna, 1979.

Fazlollah Pakzad, ed., Bundahišn. Zoroastrische Kosmogonie und Kosmologie, Tehran, 2005.

Alan V. Williams, The Pahlavi Rivāyat Accompanying the Dādestān ī Dēnīg I-II, Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, hist.fil. medd. 60, 1-2, Copenhagen, 1990. 

(Prods Oktor Skjærvø)


ii. In The Šāh-nāma

In the Šāh-nāma, Karsivaz is the brother of the Turanian king, Afrāsiāb, and the man most responsible for the murder of the Iranian prince Siāvaš (q.v.).  The name is usually pronounced Garsivaz in New Persian, but the Avestan and Middle Persian forms of the name, as well as the fact that it is recorded in Arabic with initial kāf rather than jim (e.g., Ṯʿālebi, pp. 194, 207-11), indicate that its correct pronunciation must be Karsivaz (Nöldeke, tr., p. 17; cf. Justi, Namenbuch, p. 162).  At least two manuscripts (the Vatican and the 2nd Leningrad codices) of the Šāh-nāma consistently render the name as Karšivaz.  

Karsivaz is first mentioned in the Šāh-nāma in the story of Nōḏar, where he is listed with other Turanian warriors who are sent against Iran after the death of Manučehr (ed. Khaleghi, I, p. 290, l. 68).  In this story, as also in a later episode, he is given the epithet piltan “huge” (I, p. 298, l. 196; IV, p. 191, l. 329).  Although he was a great warrior who is described in the Šāh-nāma as warlike (jangjuy, jangsāz), swordsman (tiḡzan), vindictive (kinajuy, kinaḵvāh), revengeful (kinadār, kinasāz), glorious (nāmdār), lionheart (širmard), and ambitious (nāmjuy; ed. Khaleghi, II, pp. 245, 247, 270, 320, 323, 325, 326, 327, ll. 646, 686, 1028, 1749, 1788, 1816, 1835, 1839; III, p. 391, l. 1188; IV, p. 232, l. 966), most of his epithets in the poem have to do with his evil character and deceitfulness—for instance, distrustful (badgomān), wicked (badnehān, badnešān), evil-doer (badkoneš), desceitful (dāmsāz), and fraudulent (porferib, feribanda; ed. Khaleghi, II, pp. 332, 333, 341, 354, ll. 1921, 1934, 2072, 2248; IV, pp. 221,  285, 304, ll. 802, 1793, 2191).  The single instance of the use of the epithet badnežād “of lowly lineage” (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, II, p. 340, l. 2054) for him seems to be a textual corruption.  More likely and plausible is the reading of the second Cairo manuscript, badnehād (of evil character).  This reading also agrees with Karsivaz’s evil ways, which leads the wise Turanian warlord Pirān to accuse him of lack of wisdom (ed. Khaleghi, III, p. 213, l. 1775).  Being the brother and confidant of Afrāsiāb, Karsivaz is also described as prominent (arjomand), renowned (niknām), benevolent (nikḵvāh), leader (rahnomāy), and wise (pišbin; ed. Khaleghi, II, pp. 257, 259, 262, ll. 33, 867, 913; IV, pp. 283, 285, ll. 1751, 1792). 

Karsivaz was quite close to his royal brother.  The siblings’ intimacy is movingly described early in the story of Siāvaš, where he holds his brother Afrāsiāb, who has just woken up with a cry of terror, and asks him what is wrong.  Whimpering in his brother’s arms like a child, the king responds, “Don’t ask, nor speak to me now.  Just hold me tight for a while until I regain my wits” (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, II, pp. 248-49, ll. 701-10).  The brothers’ love for one another is depicted once again at the end of their lives, where Afrāsiāb, who is hiding from his enemies in a lake, comes out only after Karsivaz is tortured on the shore.  Having heard his brother’s cries of agony, Afrāsiāb cannot remain indifferent, even in order to save his own life, and comes out ready to face his death (IV, pp 319-20, ll. 2316-39).  

The Iranians consider Karsivaz the chief architect of Siāvaš’s murder.  However, this ghastly deed is attributed to Afrāsiāb’s other brother, who is called Brsḵān by Balʿami (ed. Rowšan, I, p. 435; cf. Ṭabari, I, p. 600; ed. Bahār, p. 598).  Be that as it may, like Afrāsiāb, whose daughter is married to Siāvaš, Karsivaz is also related to the prince.  According to the Šāh-nāma, Siāvaš’s mother was either Karsivaz’s granddaughter or closely related to him by blood (ed. Khaleghi, II, pp. 204-05, ll. 33-56).  Iranian folk tradition describes Siāvaš’s mother as Karsivaz’s own daughter, which would make him the slain prince’s grandfather (Enjavi, III, pp. 103, 116, 120).  The Šāh-nāma implies that Karsivaz disliked Siāvaš because the prince defeated him in the battle of Balḵ (ed. Khaleghi, II, pp. 244-45, ll. 634–50).  It is also possible that he grew angry with Siāvaš because the young hero overcame two of Karsivaz’s men in a friendly duel (II, pp. 325-26, ll. 1810-32).  Whatever the reason, Karsivaz spares no effort to turn Afrāsiāb against Siāvaš and to bring about the innocent prince’s eventual downfall.  Aside from causing Siāvaš’s death, Karsivaz is also responsible for the capture and imprisonment of Bižan, an Iranian hero (Šāh-nāma, ed. Khaleghi, III, pp. 321–24).



Mehrān Afšāri and Mahdi Madāyeni, eds., Haft laškar: Ṭumār-e jāmeʿ-e naqqālān az Kiumarṯ tā Bahman, Tehran, 1998. 

Abu ʿAli Moḥammad Balʿami, Tāriḵ-e Balʿami, ed. Moḥammad-Taqi Malek-al-Šoʿarāʾ Bahār, Tehran, 1962; ed. Moḥammad Rowšan as Tāriḵ-nāma-ye Ṭabari, 2 vols., Tehran, 1995; tr. Hermann Zotenberg as Chronique de ... Tabari ..., 4 vols., Paris, 1867-74. 

Abu’l-Qāsem Enjavi Širāzi, Ferdowsi-nāma, 3 vols, Tehran, 1984. 

Theodor Nöldeke, “Das iranische Nationalepos,” in Wilhelm Geiger and Ernst Kuhn, eds., Grundriss der iranischen Philologie, 2 vols.,  Strassburg, 1895-1904, II, pp. 130-211; tr. Leonid Th. Bogdanov as The Iranian National Epic or the Shahnamah, Philadelphia, 1979. 

Abu Manṣur ʿAbd-al-Malek Ṯaʿālebi, Ḡorar aḵbār moluk al-Fors, ed. and tr. Hemann Zotenberg as Histoire des Rois des Perses, Paris, 1900. 

Moḥammad b. Jarir Ṭabari, Taʾriḵ al-rosol wa’l-moluk, ed. M. J. de Goeje et al., 15 vols., Leiden, 1964.

(Prods Oktor Skjærvø, Mahmoud Omidsalar)

Originally Published: December 15, 2011

Last Updated: April 24, 2012

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