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Old Iranian Online

Lesson 10: Old Persian

Scott L. Harvey, Winfred P. Lehmann, and Jonathan Slocum

Herodotus (7.1) relays a dispute between Darius' sons Artobazanes and Xerxes for succesion to their father's throne. Each made an appeal according to Persian tradition, which held that the eldest son would become the next king. As Darius' first son by his first wife, Artobazanes presented a straightforward case favoring himself, while Xerxes was forced, like a more 'modern' politician, to stretch the meaning of the term 'first-born'. As Darius' first son by Atossa, daughter of Cyrus the Great, whom Darius had married after becoming king, Xerxes claimed that it was he who was the true heir apparent since it was he who was the eldest son of Darius the King while his brother was merely the eldest son of Darius the man. According to Herodotus, Darius found the latter argument more compelling and appointed Xerxes his successor. By Xerxes' own accounts, however, it was Ahura Mazda's desire for Darius to make Xerxes the next king, since he was the greatest of all his sons. It is for this reason alone, Xerxes implies, that he ascended the throne upon his father's death (486 B.C.).

Reading and Textual Analysis

Xerxes' so-called "Daiva Inscription" is carved on four stone tablets that were found in a building located on the southeast corner of the Royal Complex at Persepolis, Darius' and Xerxes' capitol. Of the four, two are in Old Persian, a complete version of 60 lines and a copy stopping in the middle of line 51. Elamite and Akkadian translations of 50 lines each complete the set. The inscription's opening lines are nearly identical to lines 1-6 and 13-15 of Darius' proclamation at Naqs-i-rastam (cf. Lesson 9), but for the necessary changes of name. Lines 13 to 28 then list the countries over which Xerxes held sway "by the will of Ahura Mazda." The selection below begins in the middle of line 28, where Xerxes declares that one of the countries just named rose against him but was defeated when Ahura Mazda bore him aid in putting the rebellion down. In line 35, Xerxes goes on to describe another kind of revolt -- the worship of daivas, or the practice of the old religion overturned by Zarathustra -- that he also put down. The immediate juxtaposition of these two events serves to highlight the integral nature of religion, morality, and politics in the ideology of the time: Ahura Mazda made Xerxes king; therefore it is his responsibility to see that the god's will is done in his kingdom, that the Zoroastrian ritual is carried out and the Zoroastrian teachings are obeyed. The moral component is also reinforced in lines 41-46, where Xerxes declares his righting of other wrongs, again with Ahura Mazda's aid. The king then declares what brings happiness to the living and the dead, namely reverence of and obedience to Ahura Mazda. In closing, Xerxes again copies Darius exactly (cf. DNa 51-5, Lesson 9).

28 - ... θātiy Xšayāršā

  • θātiy -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active <θah> 'speak, say, declare' -- declares
  • Xšayāršā -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Xšayāršan-> 'Xerxes' -- Xerxes

29 - xšāyaθiya yaθā tya adam

  • xšāyaθiya -- noun; nominative singular masculine <xšāyaθiya-> 'royal, king' -- the King
  • yaθā -- adverbial conjunction; <yaθā> 'as, when, because' -- since
  • tya -- relative pronoun; <tya-> 'who, which; that' -- that
  • adam -- personal pronoun; nominative singular <adam> 'I' -- I

30 - xšāyaθiya abavam astiy atar aitā

  • xšāyaθiya -- noun; nominative singular masculine <xšāyaθiya-> 'royal, king' -- king
  • abavam -- verb; 1st person singular imperfect indicative active <bu> 'be, become' -- have become
  • astiy -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active <ah> 'be' -- there is
  • atar -- preposition; <atar> 'within, among' -- among
  • aitā -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural feminine <aita-> 'he, this' -- those

31 - dahyāva tyaiy upariy nipištā

  • dahyāva -- noun; accusative plural feminine <dahyu-> 'country, land, region' -- lands
  • tyaiy -- relative pronoun; accusative singular neuter <tya-> 'who, which; that' -- which
  • upariy -- adverb; <upariy> 'over, above, in accordance with' -- above
  • nipištā -- verbal prefix; <ni> 'down' + past participle passive; accusative plural feminine <paiθ> 'inscribe, engrave' -- are inscribed

32 - ayauda pasāvamaiy Auramazdā upastām

  • ayauda -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative middle <yaud> 'rise up, bubble over' -- was rising up
  • pasāvamaiy -- adverb; <pasāva> 'after(wards)' + personal pronoun; genitive singular <adam> 'I' -- and thereupon... me
  • Auramazdā -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Auramazdāh-> 'Ahura Mazda' -- Ahura Mazda
  • upastām -- noun; accusative singular feminine <upastā-> 'aid, support' -- aid

33 - abara vašnā Auramazdahā ava dahyāvam

  • abara -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative middle <bar> 'bear, carry' -- bore
  • vašnā -- noun; instrumental singular masculine <vašna-> 'will, favor' -- will
  • Auramazdahā -- proper name; genitive singular masculine <Auramazdāh-> 'Ahura Mazda' -- of Ahura Mazda
  • ava -- preposition; <ava> 'away, down' -- down
  • dahyāvam -- noun; accusative singular feminine <dahyu-> 'country, land, region' -- country

34 - adam ajanam utašim gāθavā nīšādayam

  • adam -- personal pronoun; nominative singular <adam> 'I' -- I
  • ajanam -- verb; 1st person singular imperfect indicative active <jan> 'smite, strike, slay' -- struck down
  • utašim -- conjunctive particle; <utā> 'and' + enclitic pronoun; accusative singular feminine <ši-> 'she, this' -- and... it
  • gāθavā -- noun; locative singular feminine <gāθu-> 'place, throne, battlefield' -- in place
  • nīšādayam -- verbal prefix; <ni> 'down' + verb; 1st person singular present indicative active causative <had> 'sit' -- put down

35 - utā atar aitā dahyāva āha yadātya

  • utā -- conjunction; <utā> 'and' -- and
  • atar -- preposition; <atar> 'within, among' -- within
  • aitā -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative plural feminine <aita-> 'he, this' -- these
  • dahyāva -- noun; accusative plural feminine <dahyu-> 'country, land, region' -- lands
  • āha -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active <ah> 'be' -- there was
  • yadātya -- adverb; <yadā> 'where' + demonstrative pronoun; <tya-> 'he, this, that' -- one where

36 - paruvam daivā ayadiya pasāva vašnā

  • paruvam -- adverb; <paruvam> 'previously, before' -- once
  • daivā -- noun; accusative plural masculine <daiva-> 'daiva' -- the daivas
  • ayadiya -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect indicative passive <yad> 'revere, worship' -- were worshipped
  • pasāva -- adverb; <pasāva> 'after(wards)' -- then
  • vašnā -- noun; instrumental singular masculine <vašna-> 'will, favor' -- will

37 - Auramazdahā adam avam daivadānam

  • Auramazdahā -- proper name; genitive singular masculine <Auramazdāh-> 'Ahura Mazda' -- of Ahura Mazda
  • adam -- personal pronoun; nominative singular <adam> 'I' -- I
  • avam -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter <ava-> 'this, that' -- that
  • daivadānam -- noun; <daiva-> 'daiva' + noun; accusative singular neuter <dāna-> 'offering' -- altar to the daivas

38 - viyakanam utā patiyazbayam daivā

  • viyakanam -- verbal prefix; <vi> 'wide, apart' + verb; 1st person singular imperfect indicative active <kan> 'dig' -- uprooted
  • utā -- conjunction; <utā> 'and' -- and
  • patiyazbayam -- verbal prefix; <patiy> 'against, during, with respect to' + verb; 1st person singular imperfect indicative active causative <zbā-> 'call' -- proclaimed
  • daivā -- noun; accusative plural masculine <daiva-> 'daiva' -- the daivas

39 - mā yadiyaiša yadāyā paruvam daivā

  • -- injunctive particle; <> (expresses prohibition) -- not
  • yadiyaiša -- verb; 3rd person plural present imperative passive <yad> 'revere, worship' -- shall be worshipped
  • yadāyā -- adverb; <yadā> 'where' + <tya-> (corrupt form) 'that' -- where
  • paruvam -- adverb; <paruvam> 'previously, before' -- once
  • daivā -- noun; accusative plural masculine <daiva-> 'daiva' -- the daivas

40 - ayadiya avadā adam Auramazdām ayadaiy

  • ayadiya -- verb; 3rd person plural imperfect indicative passive <yad> 'revere, worship' -- were worshipped
  • avadā -- adverb; <avadā> 'then, there' -- there
  • adam -- personal pronoun; nominative singular <adam> 'I' -- I
  • Auramazdām -- proper name; accusative singular masculine <Auramazdāh-> 'Ahura Mazda' -- Ahura Mazda
  • ayadaiy -- verb; 1st person singular imperfect indicative middle <yad> 'revere, worship' -- worshipped

41 - artācā brazmaniya utā aniyašca

  • artācā -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <arta-> 'Truth' + conjunction; <ca> 'and, but' -- and
  • brazmaniya -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <brazmaniya-> 'reverent' -- being reverent
  • utā -- conjunction; <utā> 'and' -- and
  • aniyašca -- adjective; nominative singular neuter <aniya-> 'other' + conjunction; <ca> 'and, but' -- yet another

42 - āha tya duškartam akariya ava adam

  • āha -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active <ah> 'be' -- was
  • tya -- relative pronoun; <tya-> 'who, which; that' -- that
  • duškartam -- adverb; <duš> 'difficult, bad, evil' + past participle passive; accusative singular masculine <kar> 'do, make' -- for ill
  • akariya -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative passive <kar> 'do, make' -- had been done
  • ava -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter <ava-> 'this, that' -- that
  • adam -- personal pronoun; nominative singular <adam> 'I' -- I

43 - naibam akunavam aita tya adam

  • naibam -- adjective; accusative singular neuter <naiba-> 'beautiful, pious' -- right
  • akunavam -- verb; 1st person singular imperfect indicative active <kar> 'do, make' -- I made
  • aita -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter <aita-> 'he, this' -- this
  • tya -- relative pronoun; accusative singular neuter <tya-> 'who, which; that' -- which
  • adam -- personal pronoun; nominative singular <adam> 'I' -- I

44 - akunavam visam vašnā Auramazdahā akunavam

  • akunavam -- verb; 1st person singular imperfect indicative active <kar> 'do, make' -- I did
  • visam -- adjective; accusative singular masculine <visa-> 'all, every' -- all
  • vašnā -- noun; instrumental singular masculine <vašna-> 'will, favor' -- will
  • Auramazdahā -- proper name; genitive singular masculine <Auramazdāh-> 'Ahura Mazda' -- of Ahura Mazda
  • akunavam -- verb; 1st person singular imperfect indicative active <kar> 'do, make' -- I did

45 - Auramazdāmaiy upastām abara

  • Auramazdāmaiy -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Auramazdāh-> 'Ahura Mazda' + personal pronoun; genitive singular <adam> 'I' -- Ahura Mazda... me
  • upastām -- noun; accusative singular feminine <upastā-> 'aid, support' -- aid
  • abara -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative middle <bar> 'bear, carry' -- bore

46 - yātā kartam akunavam tuva kā hya

  • yātā -- adverbial conjunction; <yātā> 'until, while, as long as' -- as long as
  • kartam -- past participle passive; accusative singular neuter <kar> 'do, make' -- deed
  • akunavam -- verb; 1st person singular imperfect indicative active <kar> 'do, make' -- I accomplished
  • tuva -- pronoun; nominative singular <tuvam-> 'you' -- you
  • -- particle; <> (denotes generalization) -- ...
  • hya -- relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <hya-> 'who, what, which' -- who

47 - apara yadimaniyāiy šiyāta ahaniy

  • apara -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <apara-> 'later, after' -- after
  • yadimaniyāiy -- relative adverb; <yadiy> 'if, when' + verb; 3rd person singular present indicative middle <man> 'think' -- if you think
  • šiyāta -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <šiyāta-> 'happy' -- happy
  • ahaniy -- verb; 1st person singular present subjunctive active <ah> 'be' -- may I be

48 - jīva utā marta artāvā ahaniy

  • jīva -- present active particle; nominative singular masculine <jiva-> 'living' -- living
  • utā -- conjunction; <utā> 'and' -- and
  • marta -- past participle passive; nominative singular masculine <mar> 'die' -- dead
  • artāvā -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <artāvan-> 'blessed, righteous' -- blessed
  • ahaniy -- verb; 1st person singular present subjunctive active <ah> 'be' -- may I be

49 - avanā dātā parīdiy tya Auramazdā

  • avanā -- demonstrative pronoun; instrumental singular neuter <ava-> 'this, that' -- on account of that
  • dātā -- noun; accusative plural neuter <dāta-> 'law' -- laws
  • parīdiy -- verbal prefix; <pariy> 'toward, with respect to' + verb; 3rd person singular present imperative middle <ay> 'go' -- honor
  • tya -- relative pronoun; accusative singular neuter <tya-> 'who, which; that' -- which
  • Auramazdā -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Auramazdāh-> 'Ahura Mazda' -- Ahura Mazda

50 - niyaštāya Auramazdām yadaišā

  • niyaštāya -- verbal prefix; <ni> 'down' + verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative middle <šta> 'sit, set, place' -- has set down
  • Auramazdām -- proper name; accusative singular masculine <Auramazdāh-> 'Ahura Mazda' -- Ahura Mazda
  • yadaišā -- verb; 2nd person singular present optative middle <yad> 'revere, worship' -- you should worship

51 - artācā brazmaniya martiya hya avanā

  • artācā -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <arta-> 'Truth' + conjunction; <ca> 'and, but' -- and Truth
  • brazmaniya -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <brazmaniya-> 'reverent' -- being reverent
  • martiya -- noun; nominative singular masculine <martiya-> 'mortal, man, human being' -- man
  • hya -- relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <hya-> 'who, what, which' -- who
  • avanā -- demonstrative pronoun; instrumental singular neuter <ava-> 'this, that' -- on account of that

52 - dātā pariyaita tya Auramazdā

  • dātā -- noun; accusative plural neuter <dāta-> 'law' -- laws
  • pariyaita -- verbal prefix; <pariy> 'toward, with respect to' + verb; 3rd person singular present indicative middle <ay> 'go' -- honors
  • tya -- relative pronoun; accusative singular neuter <tya-> 'who, which; that' -- which
  • Auramazdā -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Auramazdāh-> 'Ahura Mazda' -- Ahura Mazda

53 - nīštāya utā Auramazdām yadataiy

  • nīštāya -- verbal prefix; <ni> 'down' + verb; 3rd person singular present indicative middle <šta> 'sit, set, place' -- sets down
  • utā -- conjunction; <utā> 'and' -- and
  • Auramazdām -- proper name; accusative singular masculine <Auramazdāh-> 'Ahura Mazda' -- Ahura Mazda
  • yadataiy -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active <yad> 'revere, worship' -- worships

54 - artācā brazmaniya hauv utā jīva

  • artācā -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <arta-> 'Truth' + conjunction; <ca> 'and, but' -- and Truth
  • brazmaniya -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <brazmaniya-> 'reverent' -- being reverent
  • hauv -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <hauv-> 'he, this' -- ...
  • utā -- conjunction; <utā> 'and' -- and
  • jīva -- present active particle; nominative singular masculine <jiva-> 'living' -- living

55 - šiyāta bavatiy utā marta artāvā

  • šiyāta -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <šiyāta-> 'happy' -- happy
  • bavatiy -- verb; 1st person singular present indicative active <ah> 'be' -- becomes
  • utā -- conjunction; <utā> 'and' -- and
  • marta -- past participle passive; nominative singular masculine <mar> 'die' -- dead
  • artāvā -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <artāvan-> 'blessed, righteous' -- blessed

56 - bavatiy ...

  • bavatiy -- verb; 1st person singular present indicative active <ah> 'be' -- becomes

Lesson Text

28 ... θātiy Xšayāršā 29 xšāyaθiya yaθā tya adam 30 xšāyaθiya abavam astiy atar aitā 31 dahyāva tyaiy upariy nipištā 32 ayauda pasāvamaiy Auramazdā upastām 33 abara vašnā Auramazdahā ava dahyāvam 34 adam ajanam utašim gāθavā nīšādayam 35 utā atar aitā dahyāva āha yadātya 36 paruvam daivā ayadiya pasāva vašnā 37 Auramazdahā adam avam daivadānam 38 viyakanam utā patiyazbayam daivā 39 mā yadiyaiša yadāyā paruvam daivā 40 ayadiya avadā adam Auramazdām ayadaiy 41 artācā brazmaniya utā aniyašca 42 āha tya duškartam akariya ava adam 43 naibam akunavam aita tya adam 44 akunavam visam vašnā Auramazdahā akunavam 45 Auramazdāmaiy upastām abara 46 yātā kartam akunavam tuva kā hya 47 apara yadimaniyāiy šiyāta ahaniy 48 jīva utā marta artāvā ahaniy 49 avanā dātā parīdiy tya Auramazdā 50 niyaštāya Auramazdām yadaišā 51 artācā brazmaniya martiya hya avanā 52 dātā pariyaita tya Auramazdā 53 nīštāya utā Auramazdām yadataiy 54 artācā brazmaniya hauv utā jīva 55 šiyāta bavatiy utā marta artāvā 56 bavatiy ...

Translation

28 ... Xerxes the King 29 declares: Since [the time] that I 30 have become king, there is among those 31 lands inscribed above [one that] 32 was rising up. And thereupon, Ahura Mazda 33 bore me aid. By the will of Ahura Mazda I struck [that] country 34 down and I [now] put it down in [its] place. 35 And among these lands there was [also] one where 36 the daivas were once worshipped; [but] later, by the will 37 of Ahura Mazda, I uprooted that altar to the daivas, 38 and proclaimed: "The daivas 39 shall not be worshipped!" [Then,] 40 being reverent, I worshipped Ahura Mazda and Truth where the daivas were worshipped once before. 41 And there was yet another thing 42 that had been done for ill, [and] that I 43 made right, [too]. All this that I did, 44 I did by the will of Ahura Mazda. 45 Ahura Mazda bore me aid, 46 as long as I was doing the deed. [And] if you who [would come] 47 after [me] should think, "May I be happy 48 [as long as I am] living, may I be blessed [when I am] dead," 49 [then] on account of that, honor the laws which Ahura Mazda has 50 set down. You, being reverent, should worship Ahura Mazda 51 and Truth. The man who, on account of that, 52 honors the laws which Ahura Mazda sets 53 down, and [who], being reverent, worships Ahura Mazda 54 and Truth, both becomes happy [as long as he is] living 55 and becomes blessed 56 [when he is] dead ...

Grammar

16. Noun Stems in Sibilants and Stops
16.1. s-stem Nouns

Old Persian nouns in as are few in form and number, though these few are fairly common. The stem appears in both the masculine ās and the neuter as, but never in the feminine.

Singular:   Masculine auramazdāh- 'Wise Lord'   Neuter drayah- 'sea'
Nom.   auramazdā   *drahyah, *drahya
Acc.   auramazdām, *auramazdāham   *drahyah, *drahya
Instr.   unattested   *drahyahā
Gen.   auramazdāha   unattested
Loc.   unattested   drayahyā
Plural:        
Instr.   unattested   drayabiš

Neuter nouns in is are seen in nominative and accusative singular hadiš. Masculine proper names in is, e.g., haxāmaniš, are treated as masculine i-stems and decline accordingly.

16.2. Stems in Stops

There are Old Persian noun stems in t, d, p, and θ. The nominative form is found only in napāt 'grandson', preceded by long a: napā. Feminine accusative, instrumental, genitive, and locative forms of each decline similarly, as follows:

Singular:   θard- 'year'
Acc.   θardam, *auramazdāham
Instr.   *θardā
Gen.   θarda
Loc.   θardiy, *θardiyā
Plural:    
Instr.   *θardbiš
17. Compounds

Two types of nominal compound occur in Old Persian. Determinative compounds are made by joining two noun stems together such that the second determines the syntactic function of the first, which therefore remains undeclined. This case relation may be any one of the oblique cases (accusative through locative), e.g., hauma-varga- 'haoma-drinking' (accusative) or arda-stana- 'place of light' (genitive). The case ending on the second stem determines the relation of the whole unit to the other words of the sentence in which it appears.

Exocentric, or possessive-adjectival compounds, are made like determinative compounds but function as possessive adjectives modifying another noun which may or may not be explicity stated; e.g., hama-pitar- 'having the same father', 'they who have the same father', or aspa-cana- 'having a love for horses', 'he who loves horses'.

18. The Perfect Tense and the Passive Verb

Old Persian includes only one perfect form, caxriyā, the third person singular optative active of kar 'do, make'. The form shows reduplication as in the Avestan and Sanskrit, with the zero-grade root preceded by ca. The translation is 'he would have done'.

Passive stems appear in both the present and aorist systems with the suffix ya added to the stem in its normal grade. With two exceptions, an active ending is then added. E.g., abariya 'is born', 3rd person singular imperfect indicative.

19. The Passive and the Sequential Accusative
19.1. The Passive Construction

Sentences employing passive verbal forms, either finite or participial, require the logical subject to be placed in the instrumental case while the direct object becomes the grammatical subject of the verb, putting it in the nominative case, as in tya manā kartam 'what was done by me' beside tya adam akunavam 'what I did'.

19.2. The Sequential Accusative

The final member of any list containing two or more accusative objects has the instrumental case form; e.g., adam auramazdām ayadaiy / artācā... 'I worshipped Ahura Mazda and Truth...', where auramazdām is accusative and artā instrumental. The pattern is standard, though it most likely originated by conflating the instrumental's expression of accompaniment with the common sequence of accusatives: *auramazdām artā hadā 'Ahura Mazda along with Truth' > auramazdām artā ca 'Ahura Mazda and Truth'.

20. Old Persian Texts, Grammars, and Dictionaries

Roland G. Kent's Old Persian: Grammar, Texts, Lexicon (New Haven: American Oriental Society, 1953, 2nd ed.) is the standard work; as the title indicates, it includes the texts as well as the grammar and dictionary. Additional data are provided by Supplement zur Sammlung der altpersischen Inschriften, by Manfred Mayrhofer (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1978); the Academy has also published a large number of volumes on manifold topics. And Rüdiger Schmitt has provided a new edition of the most extensive text in The Bisitun Inscriptions of Darius the Great: Old Persian Text (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1991).