KAYĀNIĀN ii. The Kayanids as a Group



ii. The Kayanids as a Group

References to the kauuis in the Avesta are found in the yašts in the lists of heroes who sacrificed to various deities for certain rewards. The lists go from Haošiiaŋha, via Taxma Urupi (Tahmōraf), Yima, and Kərəsāspa, to Θraētaona, the later Pishdadids (see HŌŠANG, JAMŠID, KARSĀSP, FERĒDUN), before coming to the kauuis, beginning with Kauuāta and ending with Vištāspa. For translations see Malandra, 1983, and Skjærvø, 2011, as well as individual text editions cited below.

In the Pahlavi texts, Gayōmard and Siyāmak are appended at the beginning of the lists, and Ērij (see iraj), Manuščihr, and Uzaw/Zaw are inserted after Θraētaona before the Kays (cf. Yašt 13.131: Uzauua son of Tūmāspa, Manuš.ciθra son of *Airiiu), and the list of Kayanids is lengthened.

In the post-Avestan traditions, the kauuis/kays are portrayed in four stages: 1. seven kauuis/kays beginning with Kauuāta/Kawād and ending with Siiāuuaršan/Siāwa(x)š; 2. Haosrauuah/Husrōy (Husraw), son of Siiāuuaršan/Siyāwaxš; 3. Vištāspa/Wištāsp and his father Luhrāsp, descendant of Kay Pasīn; 4. the rulers after Wištāsp.

From the point of story line, the first two are stages in the wars against Fraŋrasiiān (Frāsiyā, Afrāsiāb, q.v.) and the Turanians (including, in the Persian epic, the activities of Rostam), while the third is centered around the arrival of Zarathustra and the war against the Xionians (x́iiaona/ xyōn). In the Pahlavi and later traditions, this third stage also provides the link with the Achaemenids. The characters of the third stage are the only ones mentioned in the Gāθās, and those of the fourth stage are the rulers linking the Kayanids with the Achaemenids and their successors. A similar framework is mentioned in Dēnkard (3.229; tr. de Menasce, p. 242), where good rule among the descendants of Jam was in three stages: 1. those after Frēdōn, Manuščihr, and his successors; 2. the Kayanids; and 3. the Huāfrīds or “Sasanian Kayanids, called Ōj” (see below, viii).

Mythological origins. The seven kauuis recall the Rigvedic saptá ṛ́ṣis “the seven wise poets (singers)” (Rigveda 4.42.8), “the seven singers (kāru)” (Rigveda 4.16.3), or “the seven wise men (vípra),” who found the path (pathiā) of Order” (Rigveda 3.31.5), and who are all involved in the regeneration of the new day and the orderly cosmos.

As in the case of the Rigvedic kavís, the lineages of the Iranian kauuis/kays are emphasized, as in chapter 25 of the Bundahišn: “the family (descendants) and lineage (tōhmag ud paywand) of the kays” (cf. Dēnkard 5.4.4-5); compare the similar note in the Rigveda (3.38.2): “So ask the . . . births/generations (jánimā) of poets. Holding (their) thought(s) (firmly), acting well, they have fashioned the sky,” where we see the kavís in their ritual-poetic-cosmogonic functions. The Gathic poet, whose function is also to help Ahura Mazdā regenerate the new day and the sunlit sky, apparently expresses his wish to be in the “good lineage” (haoząθβa) of “(one of?) good thought, that is, presumably, one of his successful predecessors, and so be entitled to a good reward for his ritual (Yasna 45.9).

Another reference to the cosmogonic function of the kays is found in Bundahišn 27.18-20 [27.19-21], where the kays and heroes (wīr), each in his own age, are said to smite six of the seven “powers” (zōr, or “deceptions” zūr) that Wrath produced to destroy the creatures, but also that they themselves, because of Wrath’s evildoing, were annihilated (wanī-būd hēnd) for the most part (abērtar); note a similar passage in Yašt 19.95, where Wrath is said to retreat before the companions of the Saošiiaṇt, among whom is Kay Husrōy according to the Pahlavi tradition (Dēnkard 3.343; tr. de Menasce, p. 317; on Wrath as the embodiment of the powers of darkness in the Gāθās, see Skjærvø, 2004, pp. 272-77; on the function of the Old Indic kaví, see Jamison, 2007, chap. 4, with comprehensive discussion of kaví/kauui and references; on the various topoi in the stories about the kays, see Krasnowolska).

In the Avesta. The Avestan references to the Kayanids as a group are scant, while there is more about a few individual kauuis. The standard list contains the seven kauuis preceding Haosrauuah, who is singled out from his predecessors. The main text is Yašt 19 to the earth (most recent editions: Hintze; Humbach and Ichaporia; Pirart), but the principal kauuis and references to their narratives are found in several other Yašts as well (Yašts 5, 15, 9, 13, 17; see also Kellens, 1997-98, pp. 750-52; idem, 1999-2000, pp. 744-51).

In Yašt 19.71-72 (Pahlavi translation in Dēnkard 7.1.35), the six names in the list are the direct object of “the Kavian xvarənah (see below), which followed . . . so that they all became . . .”; they are followed by a description of the qualities they obtained from this, and then Haosrauuah is listed, followed by a lengthy description. Unfortunately, the meanings of most of the terms are uncertain at best: auruua (stop-gap tr. “brave,” Dēnkard: arwand = Av. auuruuaṇt “speedy”), taxma “firm, steady” (like charioteers, archers, etc.; Dēnkard: tagīg, commonly rendered as “speedy,” but contexts point to “firm” or similar), possessing θamnah (meaning unknown; Dēnkard: pahrēzōmand “who exercises care”) and varəcah (commonly thought to mean “wondrous power,” common Pahlavi translation warzōmand; Old Indic várcas is something possessed and given by the fire and the sun; cf. Pahlavi warzāwand, frequent epithet of fires) and yaoxšti (thought to refer to skill; Pahlavi tr. forms of wizōh- “examine”: Yasna 9.8 [Aži Dahāka], Yašt 7.5 [the moon], kāmagōmand: Videvdad 19.30 [the daēnā], 20.1), darši-kariia “performing daring deeds (Dēnkard: škeft-kerdār), and of the lineage of kauuis (kauue < kā̌ uuiia?). Other entities possessing θamnah, varəcah, and yaoxšti are Tištriia (Yašt 8.49; see TIŠTRYA), some aspect of the mąθra spəṇta (Ahura Mazdā’s holy thought/word; Yašt 16.1-2), the xᵛarənah of the kauuis and the “unseizable(?)” (axᵛarəta) xᵛarənah (Yašt 19.9, 45, etc.), Θrita, the first healer (Videvdad 20.1-2, where pahrēzōmand is taken to refer to healing and warzōmand is said to be like Kāyus and kāmagōmand like Jamšēd). In Yašt 13.132, the description of the seven is missing, and Haosrauuah follows Siiāuuaršan directly (in Geldner’s edition, his description comes in str. 133, but this division is arbitrary).

The Avestan list does not, with one exception, suggest a specific relationship between the kauuis of the list, with the exception of the relationship between Siiāuuaršan and his son Haosrauuah, expressed in the term puθrō.kaēna “as filial revenge for.” The Pahlavi list, whose order differs slightly from the Avestan one, covers three generations, four of the kays being brothers. 

Of the two characters of the third stage, only Vištāspa is called kauui. His father is Auruuaṯ-aspa (Yašt 5.105, Pahlavi Luhrāsp), and his daughter (not explicitly) Humāiiā (later Humāy). In the Young Avesta, he is associated with the brothers Frašaoštra and Jāmāspa (Yasna 12.7).

The Avesta does not refer to kings per se as rulers over specific lands other than in the case of Yima, who became the first ruler in Airiiana Vaējah (see ĒRĀN -WĒ Z), the mythological homeland of the Airiias (on Vištāspa, see below). The Avestan daŋ́ hupaiti is usually the last in the list of heads of social units: nmanō-, vīs-, zaṇtu-, daŋ́ hupaiti, loosely: “master/lord of the house, town, tribe, land,” but contexts such as Yašt 10.8, where the daŋ́hupaitis fight enemy armies, suggest “rulers, kings.”

The kauuis are also not said to have “ruled” (xšaiia- “have command over”); this term is reserved for the Pishdadid “kings” Haošiiaŋha, Taxma Urupi, and Yima (Yašt 19.26-32; similarly in Yašt 5.22-26, with the expression upəməm xšaθrəm bauua- “wield the utmost power over”). The term is elsewhere applied to gods or to control over things (see Bartholomae, AirWb., cols. 551-53).

In the Pahlavi texts. According to the Bundahišn (26.101-2 [26.104-5]), the divine Nēryōsang (messenger of the gods) is especially connected with the kays and “heroes” (yal or *wīr) and increases their family (tōhmag) and assists them in furthering and organizing the world; he is also said to “call the family of the kays from the lineage of the gods (bayān).” In Dēnkard 5.4.5-6, the xwarrah of the current king is said to be the same as that of the kays, and Nēryōsang is said to have been “made manifest in order to keep their close family relationship (ham-nāf), lineage, and their intrinsic xwarrah intact (drust).” In Dēnkard 3.282, the seed (tōhmag) of Kay Kawād, made by Nēryōsang, is said to go back to that of Gayōmard. The Avesta may contain an echo of this myth in Sī-rōzag 1.9 (= 2.9 = Niyāyišn 5.5-6 to the Fire), where Kauui Haosrauuah, the Kavian xᵛarənah, and Nairiiō.saŋha are counted among those associated with it.

The ancestor (niyāg, Dēnkard 3.282, 7.1.33, 8.13.12; ed. Dresden, [MR76]) of the kays was Kay Kawād, and their “lineage and seed/family” came from him (paywand ud tōhmag, also in Mēnōy xrad 26.45). Kay Abīweh was his son, and the next four kays his grandsons.

In the Bundahišn, their lineage is said to come from the kayān xwarrah (Bundahišn 26.4), and their family, seed (tōhmag) is said (by popular etymology) to be from Lake Kayānsē (Av. Kąsaoiia; Bundahišn 11C.5 [11C.4]), where Zarathustra’s “seed,” gathered by Nēryōsang, was deposited by Anāhīd (Bundahišn 35.60 [35.61], cf. 33.38 [33.43], where it is Zarathustra’s xwarrah that is deposited by Anāhīd; see KAYĀNSĪH).

Their function as supporters of the dēn is mentioned in the Ayādgār ī Wuzurg-Mihr (Pahlavi Texts, p. 123 [229]), where “the kays and heroes (yal and wīr) who laid down their lives for the Mazdayasnian dēn (q.v.) are invoked, and also in the introduction to the Bundahišn (0.3: kayān dēn-burdārān).

The identification of the kays with rulers is explicit in Abdīh ud sahīgīh ī Sīstān 4 (Pahlavi Texts, p. 101 [320]), where the author points out that “the family and lineage of the ruling kays” (paywand ud tōhmag ī kayān dahībedān) were much harmed in Sīstān. In Dēnkard 5.4.4-5, the qualities of the present ruler are compared with those of the kays. The kays are not the only ones who became kings, however; their predecessors also did, and kingship is not limited to those bearing the title kay. In the still later Perso-Arabic tradition, even Gayōmard has become a king, the first king in history. There is thus no question of “secularization” restricted to the kays (cf. Dumézil, 1986, p. 176; Jamison, 2007, p. 127).

In Perso-Arabic tradition. Like the Pahlavi sources, the Perso-Arabic historians state that Kay-Qobād was the ancestor of the Kayanids (Ḥamza, p. 35, tr. p. 24: wāled “progenitor”; Ṭabari, I/2, p. 535; tr., III, p. 117: men naslehe; Balʿami, ed. Bahār, p. 524: hama farzandān-e Kay-Qobād budand). Ḵᵛārazmi says his laqab was alawwal “the first” (p. 100), and Mirḵᵛānd has awwali (see I, p. 664; tr., p. 216).

According to Ṭabari, the Pishdadids and Kayanids were rulers of Babylon (Bābel) and the east (Ṭabari, I/2, pp. 529-35; tr., III, pp. 112-18), while Balʿami (ed. Bahār, p. 519) has Manučehr already as king of ʿAjam in the land of Bābel (cf. Dinavari, ed. Guirgass, p. 12; ed. Ṭabbāʿ, pp. 15-16). Biruni says the Kayanids came from Balḵ but became the rulers of Babylonia, where they were called Chaldean after the former rulers (tr., p. 100; chronological tables on pp. 112-13, 17). This connection of the Iranian rulers with Babylon goes back at least to Dahāg, whose castle was in Bābel (Bundahišn 32.4; cf. Dēnkard 7.4.72). Biruni, who complains that the chronology of the Kayanids is “troubled and obscured,” only registers that Ḵosrow was the grandson of Qobāḏ and gives the father’s name as <kynyh> for <kyb(y)wh>. 



(Prods Oktor Skjærvø)

Originally Published: January 1, 2000

Last Updated: May 15, 2013