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Old Iranian Online

Lesson 3: Old Avestan

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

A stark contrast between good and evil forms the backbone of Zarathustra's teaching, permeating every aspect of existence, both human and divine. The continuous war between Ahuras and Daevas parallels the continuous war between the old religion and the new, the struggle between the followers of the Truth and the followers of the Lie, and every individual's personal dilemma in choosing 'good thoughts, words, and deeds' over bad. Victory turns most poignantly on the last: every right choice on the part of a single individual increases the quantity, strength, and power of good in the entire world; every wrong choice, the magnitude of bad.

Reading and Textual Analysis

Yasna 53, the 'Wedding Hymn', is relatively short but densely packed. It continues the thematic link already seen in Yasna 29 between fertility and prosperity on the one hand, and morality and faith on the other, by likening both the social and physical union of the earthly bride and groom to the 'mythic' union of Wisdom and Truth, an event that lays 'the firm foundation of Good Mind'.

Zarathustra opens the hymn by announcing the conditions that would prove it is his sacrificial practice -- and by extension his doctrine -- that should be taken as the model for all others. Perhaps, too, he is even subtly invoking Ahura Mazda to create these very conditions in exchange for the people's support: "If you make a good existence for me, your sacrificer and voice among men," Zarathustra seems to say, "and for those who follow me as well, many more will adopt the practice you have laid out for humankind." In verse two, the audience is formally introduced to the fathers of the bride and groom, Kavi Vishtaspa and Frahaostra, respectively. In verses three and four, Zarathustra then turns to the matter at hand -- the marriage of Vishtaspa's daughter to Frahaostra's son -- and enunciates the merits thus brought to the community.

Verse five seems to be more generally directed, addressing everyone who is married or soon to be married, or perhaps others who are getting married alongside Spitami and Frahaostra's son. In verse six, Zarathustra waxes didactic, explaining how marriage remains 'the firm foundation of Good Mind' only insomuch as the spousal pair remain faithful to each other and not give in to the superficial pleasures that immoral actions may bring. Prosperity that comes by means of Deceit, by means of the Lie, will ultimately, Zarathustra insists, bring only weakness and death, while in verse seven he promises that fidelity, moral purity, and quite persistent 'exertion' will bear fruit. He clearly puts the brunt of the ethical burden, however, on the wife, for it is only she, he says, whose sexual purity will keep 'the spirit of the Possessor of the Lie' at bay. If all these conditions are maintained, Zarathustra promises in verse eight, the wealth and vitality of the unfaithful will be redirected to Ahura Mazda's flock. The poet closes the hymn with further encouragement to choose right over deceit and a last invocation to Ahura Mazda.

1 - vahištā īštiš srāvī       Zaraθuštrahē

  • vahištā -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <vohu-> 'good' + superlative suffix; <-ista-> indicates superlative -- best
  • īštiš -- noun; nominative singular feminine <īšti-> 'sacrifice' -- sacrifice
  • srāvī -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist indicative passive <sru> 'give' -- is feted
  • Zaraθuštrahē -- proper name; genitive singular masculine <Zaraθuštra-> 'Zarathustra' -- Zarathustra

Spitāmahyā yezī hōi       dāṯ āyaptā

  • Spitāmahyā -- proper name; genitive singular masculine <Spitāma-> 'Spitama' (clan name of Zarathustra) -- Spitama
  • yezī -- conjunction; <yezī> 'as, because, when' -- when
  • hōi -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- for him
  • dāṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist subjunctive active <dā-> 'give, put' -- would give
  • āyaptā -- noun; accusative plural neuter <āyapta-> 'riches, bounty, boon, spoils' -- rewards

ašāṯ hacā ahurō       mazdå yavōi vīspāi-ā       hvaŋhəvīm

  • ašāṯ -- noun; ablative singular neuter <aša-> 'truth' -- truth
  • hacā -- adposition; <hacā> 'from, out of' -- in accordance with
  • ahurō -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- Lord
  • mazdå -- noun; nominative singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' -- Wise One
  • yavōi -- noun; dative singular neuter <yav-> 'duration, period, time of life' -- lifetime
  • vīspāi-ā -- adjective; dative singular neuter <vīspa-> 'all, every' + postposition; <ā> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- thoughout
  • hvaŋhəvīm -- noun; accusative singular neuter <hvaŋhaoya-> 'good existence' -- good existence

yaē-cā hōi dabən saškən-cā       daēnayå vaŋhuyå       uxδā šyaoθanā-cā

  • yaē-cā -- relative pronoun; dative plural masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and so
  • hōi -- personal pronoun; dative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- to him
  • dabən -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist indicative active <dab> 'fit together' (?) -- determine
  • saškən-cā -- verb; 3rd person plural aorist indicative active <sac> 'learn, understand' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and understand
  • daēnayå -- noun; genitive singular feminine <daēnā-> 'attitude, intention, insight' -- of vision
  • vaŋhuyå -- adjective; genitive singular feminine <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • uxδā -- noun; accusative plural neuter <uxδa-> 'word, saying' -- words
  • šyaoθanā-cā -- noun; accusative plural neuter <šyaoθana-> 'act, deed' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and deeds

2 - aṯ-cā hōi scantū manaŋhā       uxδāiš šyaoθanāiš-cā

  • aṯ-cā -- particle; <aṯ> 'then, but, and, so, thus' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and so
  • hōi -- personal pronoun; dative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- his
  • scantū -- verb; 3rd person plural present imperative active <haca-> 'follow, accompany' (?) -- let them pursue
  • manaŋhā -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- with (good) mind
  • uxδāiš -- noun; instrumental plural neuter <uxδa-> 'word, saying' -- with words
  • šyaoθanāiš-cā -- noun; instrumental plural neuter <šyaoθana-> 'act, deed' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and (with) deeds

xšnə̄m mazdå vahmāi-ā       fraorəṯ yasnąs-cā

  • xšnə̄m -- noun; accusative singular feminine <xšnā-> 'recognition' (?) -- succor
  • mazdå -- noun; genitive singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' -- of the Wise One
  • vahmāi-ā -- noun; dative singular masculine <vahma-> 'glorification, praise' + adverbial postposition; <ā> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- adulation
  • fraorəṯ -- adverb; <fraorəṯ> 'readily' -- readily
  • yasnąs-cā -- noun; accusative plural masculine <yasna-> 'sacrifice, offering, hymn' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and paeans

kava-cā Vīštāspō       zaraθuštriš Spitāmō       Fərašaoštras-cā

  • kava-cā -- noun; nominative singular masculine <kəvi-> 'title: adherent to the daevic religion' (?) + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- Kavi
  • Vīštāspō -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Vīštāspa-> 'Vishtaspa' -- Vishtaspa
  • zaraθuštriš -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <zaraθuštri-> 'descendent of Zarathustra' (?) -- son of Zarathustra
  • Spitāmō -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Spitāma-> 'Spitama' (clan name of Zarathustra) -- Spitama
  • Fərašaoštras-cā -- proper name; nominative singular masculine <Ferašaoštra-> 'Frashaostra' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and Frashaostra

dåŋhō ərəzūš paθō       yąm daēnąm ahurō       saošyantō dadāṯ

  • dåŋhō -- noun; genitive singular neuter <dah-> 'gift' -- of the gift
  • ərəzūš -- adjective; accusative plural masculine <erezu-> 'straight, just' -- straight
  • paθō -- noun; accusative plural masculine <paθ-> 'path, road' -- paths
  • yąm -- relative pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- whose
  • daēnąm -- noun; accusative singular feminine <daēnā-> 'attitude, intention, insight' -- inspiration
  • ahurō -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- Lord
  • saošyantō -- noun; ablative singular masculine <saošyant-> 'giving power; savior (?)' -- out of (his) power to give
  • dadāṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active <dā-> 'give, put' -- gives

3 - tə̄m-cā tū Pourucistā       Haēcaṯ-aspānā

  • tə̄m-cā -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and now
  • -- emphatic particle; <> '...' -- ...
  • Pourucistā -- proper name; vocative singular feminine <Pourucistā-> 'Pouruchista' (?) -- Pouruchista
  • Haēcaṯ-aspānā -- compound proper name; vocative singular feminine <haēcaṯ-> '...' + <aspāna-> patronymic form of aspa- 'horse' -- descendent of Haecataspa

Spitāmī yezivī dugədrąm       Zaraθuštrahē

  • Spitāmī -- proper name; vocative singular feminine <Spitāma-> 'Spitama' (clan name of Zarathustra) -- Spitama
  • yezivī -- adjective; vocative singular feminine <yazu-> 'youngest' -- youngest
  • dugədrąm -- noun; genitive plural feminine <dugədar-> 'daughter' -- of the daughters
  • Zaraθuštrahē -- proper name; genitive singular masculine <Zaraθuštra-> 'Zarathustra' -- of Zarathustra

vaŋhə̄uš paityāstīm manaŋhō       ašahyā mazdås-cā       taibyō dāṯ sarəm

  • vaŋhə̄uš -- adjective; genitive singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • paityāstīm -- noun; accusative singular feminine <paityāstī-> 'firm foundation' -- firm foundation
  • manaŋhō -- noun; genitive singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- of mind
  • ašahyā -- noun; genitive singular neuter <aša-> 'truth' -- of Truth
  • mazdås-cā -- noun; genitive singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and (of) Wisdom
  • taibyō -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural masculine <tvə̄m-> 'you' -- to you
  • dāṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist indicative active <dā-> 'give, put' -- gives
  • sarəm -- noun; accusative singular feminine <sar-> 'protection, alliance' -- alliance

aθā hə̄m ferašvā θwā xraθwā       spə̄ništā Ārmatōiš       hudānvarəšvā

  • aθā -- adverb; <aθā> 'so, thus, likewise' -- therefore
  • hə̄m -- preposition; <hə̄m> 'together, with' -- with
  • ferašvā -- verb; 2nd person singular s-aorist imperative middle <fras> 'inquire, discuss' -- consult
  • θwā -- possessive pronoun; instrumental singular masculine <θwa> 'you' -- your
  • xraθwā -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <xraθwa-> 'power, will, insight' -- inner strength
  • spə̄ništā -- adjective; instrumental singular neuter <spənta-> 'beneficent, holy, sacred' + superlative suffix; <-ista-> indicates superlative -- with the most sacred (deeds)
  • Ārmatōiš -- proper name; genitive singular feminine <Armaiti-> name of a goddess = 'righteousness, devotion, piety' -- of Armaiti
  • hudānvarəšvā -- adverb (?); adjective stem <hudānu-> 'blessed' + verb; 2nd person singular aorist imperative middle <varəz-> 'work, perform' -- blessedly engage

4 - tə̄m zī və̄ spərədā nivarānī       yā feδrōi vīdāṯ

  • tə̄m -- personal pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- him
  • -- emphatic particle; <zi> 'for, indeed' -- indeed
  • və̄ -- enclitic personal pronoun; dative plural <yūžəm-> 'you' -- on behalf of (all of) you
  • spərədā -- noun; instrumental singular feminine <spərəd-> 'zeal' -- with zeal
  • nivarānī -- preposition; <> '...' + verb; 1st person singular present subjunctive active <var> 'choose' -- wed
  • -- relative pronoun; nominative singular feminine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- who
  • feδrōi -- noun; dative singular masculine <pitar-> 'father' -- for (her) father
  • vīdāṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist subjunctive active <vid> 'see, know, obtain' -- tends to

paiθyaē-cā vāstryaēibyō       aṯ-cā xvaētaovē

  • paiθyaē-cā -- noun; dative singular masculine <paiti-> 'husband, master' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and to (her) husband
  • vāstryaēibyō -- noun; dative plural masculine <vāstrya-> 'herdsman; pasture' -- to the herdsman
  • aṯ-cā -- particle; <aṯ> 'then, but, and, so, thus' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and also
  • xvaētaovē -- adjective; dative singular masculine <xvaētu-> 'belonging to the family' -- family possessions

ašāunī ašavabyō       manaŋhō vaŋhə̄uš xvə̄nvaṯ haŋhuš       mə̄m-bə̄əduš

  • ašāunī -- adjective; nominative singular feminine <ašavan-> '(in accordance with) Truth' -- truthful
  • ašavabyō -- noun; dative singular masculine <ašavan-> '(in accordance with) Truth' -- to the truthful one
  • manaŋhō -- noun; genitive singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- of mind
  • vaŋhə̄uš -- adjective; genitive singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • xvə̄nvaṯ -- noun; stem <hvar-> 'sun' + possessive suffix <-vat-> '...' -- like the sun
  • haŋhuš -- noun; accusative singular neuter <haŋhuš-> 'profit, harvest' -- fruition
  • mə̄m-bə̄əduš -- compound stem (?); accusative singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' + perfect participle; accusative singular neuter <band-> 'shine' (?) -- illuminating thought

mazdå dadāṯ ahurō       daēnayāi vaŋhuyāi       yavōi vīspāi-ā

  • mazdå -- noun; nominative singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' -- the Wise One
  • dadāṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular imperfect indicative active <dā-> 'give, put' -- gives
  • ahurō -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- Lord
  • daēnayāi -- noun; dative singular feminine <daēnā-> 'attitude, intention, insight' -- for (the sake of) vision
  • vaŋhuyāi -- adjective; dative singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • yavōi -- noun; dative singular neuter <yav-> 'duration, period, time of life' -- (her) lifetime
  • vīspāi-ā -- adjective; dative singular neuter <vīspa-> 'all, every' + postposition; <ā> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- throughout

5 - sāxvə̄nī vazyamnābyō       kainibyō mraomī

  • sāxvə̄nī -- noun; accusative plural neuter <sāxvan-> 'doctrine, teaching, instruction' -- commandments
  • vazyamnābyō -- present participle middle; dative plural feminine <vaz> 'marry' -- being married
  • kainibyō -- noun; dative plural feminine <kainya-> 'maiden, girl' -- to (you) young women
  • mraomī -- verb; 1st person singular present indicative active <mrū> 'speak, say' -- I pronounce

xšmaibyā-cā vadəmnō       mə̄n-cā ī mąz dazdūm

  • xšmaibyā-cā -- personal pronoun; dative plural <yūžəm-> 'you' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and to you (men)
  • vadəmnō -- noun; genitive singular masculine <vadman-> (?) 'possessed of speech' -- of one possessed of (good) speech
  • mə̄n-cā -- abbreviated noun (?); accusative singular masculine <manah-> 'mind' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- in mind
  • ī -- enclitic demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural neuter <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- them
  • mąz -- abbreviated noun (?); accusative singular masculine (?) <manah-> 'mind' -- ...
  • dazdūm -- verb; 2nd person plural present imperative middle <dā-> 'give, put' -- bear

vaēdōdūm daēnābīš       abyas-cā ahūm       yə̄ vaŋhə̄uš manaŋhō

  • vaēdōdūm -- verb; 2nd person plural present imperative middle <vid> 'see, know, obtain' -- find for yourselves
  • daēnābīš -- noun; instrumental plural feminine <daēnā-> 'attitude, intention, insight' -- by means of good vision
  • abyas-cā -- demonstrative pronoun; dative plural feminine <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and for them
  • ahūm -- noun; accusative singular masculine <aŋhu-> 'existence, life' -- a life
  • yə̄ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- which
  • vaŋhə̄uš -- adjective; genitive singular neuter <vohu-> 'good' -- good
  • manaŋhō -- noun; genitive singular neuter <manah-> 'mind' -- of mind

ašā və̄ anyō ainīm       vīvə̄nghatū taṯ zī hōi       hušə̄nem aŋhaṯ

  • ašā -- noun; instrumental singular neuter <aša-> 'truth' -- by means of Truth
  • və̄ -- enclitic personal pronoun; genitive masculine <yūžəm-> 'you' -- of you
  • anyō -- noun; nominative singular masculine <anya-> 'other' -- each
  • ainīm -- noun; accusative singular masculine <anya-> 'other' -- the other
  • vīvə̄nghatū -- verb; 2nd person singular present imperative active desiderative <van> 'surpass, overcome' -- win over
  • taṯ -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular neuter <ta-> 'he, that, this' -- that
  • -- emphatic particle; <zi> 'for, indeed' -- for
  • hōi -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular masculine / feminine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- each one
  • hušə̄nem -- adjective; accusative singular neuter <hušə̄na-> 'profitable' -- fruitful
  • aŋhaṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active <ah-> 'be, become' -- would be

6 - iθā ī haiθyā narō       aθā jə̄nayō

  • iθā -- adverb; <iθā> 'thus' -- in this way
  • ī -- enclitic demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural neuter <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- these
  • haiθyā -- noun; nominative plural masculine <haiθya-> 'true, real' -- true
  • narō -- noun; vocative plural masculine <nar-> 'man' -- o men
  • aθā -- adverb; <aθā> 'so, thus, likewise' -- in that way
  • jə̄nayō -- noun; vocative plural feminine <jə̄naya-> 'woman' -- o wives

drūjō hacā rāthəmō yə̄mə       spašuθā frāidīm

  • drūjō -- noun; ablative singular feminine <druj-> 'deceit' -- deceit
  • hacā -- adposition; <hacā> 'from, out of' -- out of
  • rāthəmō -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <rāthəma-> 'adhering to' -- adherent
  • yə̄mə -- relative pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- whom
  • spašuθā -- verb; 2nd person plural present indicative active <spas-̨ spašu-> (?) 'perceive' -- all of you see
  • frāidīm -- noun; accusative singular masculine <frāidi-> 'growth, prosperity' -- prosperity

drūjō āyesē hōiš piθā tanvō parā       vayū-bərədubyō duš-xvarəthə̄m       nąsaṯ xvāθrəm

  • drūjō -- noun; ablative singular feminine <druj-> 'deceit' -- of deceit
  • āyesē -- verbal prefix; <ā> (conveys sense of reversal with verbs of motion) + verb; 1st person singular present indicative middle <yam> 'offer' -- I take away
  • hōiš -- contracted form (?); demonstrative pronoun; dative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' + demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural neuter (?) <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- his + these
  • piθā -- noun; accusative plural neuter <piθa-> 'defense' -- defenses
  • tanvō -- noun; genitive singular feminine <tanu-> 'body' -- of (his) person
  • parā -- adverb; <parā> 'before, beyond, away' -- away
  • vayū-bərədubyō -- compound noun; dative plural masculine <vayu-> 'air, wind' (?) + verb; <bərət> 'cry' (?) -- (for them,) sighing
  • duš-xvarəthə̄m -- compound noun; accusative singular neuter <duš-> 'bad, evil' + <xvarətha-> 'food' -- poor nourishment
  • nąsaṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular aorist indicative active <ans> 'attain' + 3rd person singular aorist indicative active <nas> 'be lost, disappear' -- results
  • xvāθrəm -- noun; accusative singular neuter <xvathra-> 'good breathing, ease, comfort' -- breathing easy

drəgvōdəbyō də̄jīṯ-arətaēibyō       anāiš ā manahīm       ahūm mərəngəduyē

  • drəgvōdəbyō -- noun; dative plural masculine <drəgvant-> 'possessor of the Lie' -- for Advocates of the Lie
  • də̄jīṯ-arətaēibyō -- compound noun; dative plural masculine <dəjit-> 'violation' (?) + noun; <aša-> 'truth' -- for Violators of the Truth
  • anāiš -- demonstrative pronoun; instrumental singular masculine <ana-> 'him' -- them
  • ā -- postposition; <ā> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- with
  • manahīm -- adjective; accusative singular neuter <manahya-> 'spiritual' -- spiritual
  • ahūm -- noun; accusative singular neuter <ahu-> 'existence, life, breath' -- life
  • mərəngəduyē -- verb; 2nd person plural present subjunctive middle <mrc> 'destroy' -- you will destroy

7 - aṯ-cā və̄ mīždəm aŋhaṯ       ahyā magahyā

  • aṯ-cā -- particle; <aṯ> 'then, but, and, so, thus' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and so
  • və̄ -- enclitic personal pronoun; dative plural masculine <yūžəm-> 'you' -- for all of you
  • mīždəm -- noun; accusative singular neuter <mīzda-> 'wages, prize' -- fruit
  • aŋhaṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active <ah-> 'be, become' -- will arise
  • ahyā -- demonstrative pronoun; genitive singular masculine <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- from this
  • magahyā -- noun; genitive singular masculine <maga-> 'gift' -- ritual exchange

yavaṯ āžuš zrazdištō      būnōi haxtayå

  • yavaṯ -- adverb; <yavaṯ> 'how long, as long as' -- as long as
  • āžuš -- noun; accusative singular neuter <āzhuš-> 'propulsion implement' -- impeller
  • zrazdištō -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <zrazdišta-> 'most believing' -- full of zeal
  • būnōi -- noun; locative singular masculine <būna-> 'ground, base' -- at the base
  • haxtayå -- noun; genitive dual neuter <haxti-> 'thigh' -- of (her) thighs

para-cā mraocąs aorā-cā       yaθrā mainyuš drəgvatō       anąsaṯ parā

  • para-cā -- adverbial prefix; <parā> 'before, beyond, away' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and deep
  • mraocąs -- present participle active; nominative singular masculine <mru> 'drive, plunge, beat' -- driving
  • aorā-cā -- adverbial prefix; <aorā> 'down' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and down
  • yaθrā -- adverb; <yaθra> 'where, in order to' -- from whence
  • mainyuš -- noun; nominative singular masculine <mainyu-> 'spirit' -- spirit
  • drəgvatō -- present participle active; genitive singular masculine <drəgvant-> 'possessor of the Lie' -- of the Possessors of the Lie
  • anąsaṯ -- verb; 3rd person singular augmented aorist indicative active <nas> 'be lost, disappear' -- has disappeared
  • parā -- adverb; <parā> 'before, beyond, away' -- already

ivīzayathā magə̄m tə̄m       aṯ və̄ vayōi aŋhaitī       apə̄mem vacō

  • ivīzayathā -- verbal prefix; <vi> 'wide, apart' + verb; 2nd person plural present indicative active <> 'abandon, relinquish' -- abandon
  • magə̄m -- noun; accusative singular masculine <maga-> 'gift' -- ritual exchange
  • tə̄m -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular masculine <ta-> 'he, that, this' -- this
  • aṯ -- particle; <aṯ> 'then, but, and, so, thus' -- and
  • və̄ -- enclitic personal pronoun; dative plural masculine <yūžəm-> 'you' -- your
  • vayōi -- interjection; <vayoi> 'woe' -- woe
  • aŋhaitī -- verb; 3rd person singular present subjunctive active <ah-> 'be, become' -- will be
  • apə̄mem -- adjective; accusative singular neuter <apə̄məm> 'last' -- last
  • vacō -- noun; accusative singular neuter <vacah-> 'speech, word' -- word

8 - anāiš ā dužvarəšnaŋhō       dafšnyā hə̄ntū

  • anāiš -- demonstrative pronoun; instrumental singular masculine <ana-> 'him' -- by them
  • ā -- preposition; <ā> '(up) to, toward, etc.' -- ...
  • dužvarəšnaŋhō -- noun; nominative plural masculine <dužvarešnah-> 'wrong-doers' -- wrong-doers
  • dafšnyā -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <dafšnya-> 'powerless' -- impotent
  • hə̄ntū -- verb; 3rd person plural present imperative active <ah-> 'be, become' -- let become

zah́yā-cā vīspåŋhō       xraosəntąm upā

  • zah́yā-cā -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <zahya-> 'weakened' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and weakened
  • vīspåŋhō -- nominative plural masculine <vispa-> 'everyone/thing, all' -- all
  • xraosəntąm -- verb; 3rd person plural present imperative middle <xruš> 'scream, howl' -- let them cry
  • upā -- adverbial postposition; <upa> 'near, up on/to, etc.' -- out

huxšaθrāiš jə̄nerąm xrūnerąm-cā       rāmąm-cā āiš dadātū       šyeitibyō vīžibyō

  • huxšaθrāiš -- noun; instrumental singular masculine <huxšaθra-> 'good rule' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and by means of a good rule
  • jə̄nerąm -- adjective; genitive plural masculine <jə̄nar-> 'man-killing' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- over the man-killing
  • xrūnerąm-cā -- adjective; genitive plural masculine <xrūnar-> 'man-defiling' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and over the man-defiling
  • rāmąm-cā -- noun; accusative plural masculine <rāman-> 'peace, tranquility' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- peace
  • āiš -- demonstrative pronoun; instrumental singular masculine <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- with them
  • dadātū -- verb; 3rd person singular present imperative active <dā-> 'give, put' -- let him grant
  • šyeitibyō -- present participle active; dative plural feminine <ši> 'dwell' -- settled
  • vīžibyō -- noun; dative plural feminine <viž-> 'clan' -- to the clans

īratū īš dvafšō hvō       dərəzā mərəiθyaoš mazištō       mošu-cā astū

  • īratū -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active <ar> 'rise' -- let arise
  • īš -- enclitic demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural masculine <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- on them
  • dvafšō -- noun; nominative singular masculine <dvafša-> 'distress, ruin, pain, anguish' -- pain
  • hvō -- demonstrative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ha-> '(s)he, this' -- that
  • dərəzā -- noun; instrumental singular feminine <dərəz-> 'shackle' -- shackle
  • mərəiθyaoš -- noun; genitive singular masculine <mərəthyu-> 'death' -- of death
  • mazištō -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <maz-> 'large, great' + superlative suffix; <-ista-> indicates superlative -- greatest
  • mošu-cā -- adverb; <mošu> 'soon' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- soon
  • astū -- verb; 3rd person singular present imperative active <ah-> 'be, become' -- and let it be

9 - dužvarənāiš vaēšō rāstī       tōi narəpīš rajīš

  • dužvarənāiš -- noun; instrumental plural masculine <dužvarena-> 'choosing badly' -- on account of those making bad choices
  • vaēšō -- noun; nominative singular neuter <vaēšah-> 'poison' -- poison
  • rāstī -- verb; 3rd person singular present indicative active <rāθ> 'adhere' -- adheres
  • tōi -- demonstrative pronoun; dative singular <ta-> 'he, that, this' -- to him
  • narəpīš -- noun; nominative singular neuter <narəpi-> 'reduction, absence' -- lack
  • rajīš -- noun; nominative singular neuter <rajī-> 'darkness' -- darkness

aēšasā də̄jīṯ-arətā       pəšō-tanvō

  • aēšasā -- adjective; nominative plural masculine <aēšasa-> 'wild' -- wild
  • də̄jīṯ-arətā -- compound noun; nominative plural masculine <dəjit-> 'violation' (?) + noun; <aša-> 'truth' -- violators of Truth
  • pəšō-tanvō -- compound noun; nominative plural masculine <peša-> 'brought to an end' + <tanu-> 'body' -- whose bodies are to be brought to an end

kū ašavā ahurō       yə̄ īš jyātə̄uš hə̄miθyāṯ       vasə̄-itōiš-cā

  • -- adverb; <ku> 'where' -- where
  • ašavā -- adjective; nominative singular masculine <ašavan-> '(in accordance with) Truth' -- truthful
  • ahurō -- noun; nominative singular masculine <ahura-> 'lord' -- Lord
  • yə̄ -- relative pronoun; nominative singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- who
  • īš -- enclitic demonstrative pronoun; accusative plural masculine <ayə̄m-> 'this, that' -- them
  • jyātə̄uš -- noun; genitive singular masculine <jyātu-> 'life' -- of life
  • hə̄miθyāṯ -- compound verb; 3rd person singular aorist optative active <həm> '...' + <miθ> 'rob of' -- would rob
  • vasə̄-itōiš-cā -- noun; genitive singular feminine <vasəiti-> 'liberty, prosperity' + conjunction; <ca> 'and' -- and of liberty

taṯ mazdā tavā xšaθrəm       yā ərəžəjyōi dāhī       drəgaovē vahyō

  • taṯ -- demonstrative pronoun; accusative singular neuter <ta-> 'he, that, this' -- the
  • mazdā -- noun; vocative singular masculine <mazda-> 'wise one' -- O wise one
  • tavā -- personal pronoun; genitive singular <yūžəm-> 'you' -- yours
  • xšaθrəm -- noun; accusative singular neuter <xšaθra-> 'power' -- power
  • -- relative pronoun; instrumental singular masculine <ya-> 'who, what, which' -- by which
  • ərəžəjyōi -- adjective; dative singular masculine <ərəžəji-> 'living justly' -- living rightly
  • dāhī -- verb; 2nd person singular aorist subjunctive active <dā-> 'give, put' -- you would grant
  • drəgaovē -- noun; dative singular masculine <drigu-> 'needy, poor' -- (to the) poor (man)
  • vahyō -- adjective; accusative singular neuter <vahya-> 'better' -- better

Lesson Text

1 vahištā īštiš srāvī       Zaraθuštrahē
Spitāmahyā yezī hōi       dāṯ āyaptā
ašāṯ hacā ahurō       mazdå yavōi vīspāi-ā       hvaŋhəvīm
yaē-cā hōi dabən saškən-cā       daēnayå vaŋhuyå       uxδā šyaoθanā-cā
2 aṯ-cā hōi scantū manaŋhā       uxδāiš šyaoθanāiš-cā
xšnə̄m mazdå vahmāi-ā       fraorəṯ yasnąs-cā
kava-cā Vīštāspō       zaraθuštriš Spitāmō       Fərašaoštras-cā
dåŋhō ərəzūš paθō       yąm daēnąm ahurō       saošyantō dadāṯ

3 tə̄m-cā tū Pourucistā       Haēcaṯ-aspānā
Spitāmī yezivī dugədrąm       Zaraθuštrahē
vaŋhə̄uš paityāstīm manaŋhō       ašahyā mazdås-cā       taibyō dāṯ sarəm
aθā hə̄m ferašvā θwā xraθwā       spə̄ništā Ārmatōiš       hudānvarəšvā

4 tə̄m zī və̄ spərədā nivarānī       yā feδrōi vīdāṯ
paiθyaē-cā vāstryaēibyō       aṯ-cā xvaētaovē
ašāunī ašavabyō       manaŋhō vaŋhə̄uš xvə̄nvaṯ haŋhuš       mə̄m-bə̄əduš
mazdå dadāṯ ahurō       daēnayāi vaŋhuyāi       yavōi vīspāi-ā

5 sāxvə̄nī vazyamnābyō       kainibyō mraomī
xšmaibyā-cā vadəmnō       mə̄n-cā ī mąz dazdūm
vaēdōdūm daēnābīš       abyas-cā ahūm       yə̄ vaŋhə̄uš manaŋhō
ašā və̄ anyō ainīm       vīvə̄nghatū taṯ zī hōi       hušə̄nem aŋhaṯ

6 iθā ī haiθyā narō       aθā jə̄nayō
drūjō hacā rāthəmō yə̄mə       spašuθā frāidīm
drūjō āyesē hōiš piθā tanvō parā       vayū-bərədubyō duš-xvarəthə̄m       nąsaṯ xvāθrəm
drəgvōdəbyō də̄jīṯ-arətaēibyō       anāiš ā manahīm       ahūm mərəngəduyē

7 aṯ-cā və̄ mīždəm aŋhaṯ       ahyā magahyā
yavaṯ āžuš zrazdištō      būnōi haxtayå
para-cā mraocąs aorā-cā       yaθrā mainyuš drəgvatō       anąsaṯ parā
ivīzayathā magə̄m tə̄m       aṯ və̄ vayōi aŋhaitī       apə̄mem vacō

8 anāiš ā dužvarəšnaŋhō       dafšnyā hə̄ntū
zah́yā-cā vīspåŋhō       xraosəntąm upā
huxšaθrāiš jə̄nerąm xrūnerąm-cā       rāmąm-cā āiš dadātū       šyeitibyō vīžibyō
īratū īš dvafšō hvō       dərəzā mərəiθyaoš mazištō       mošu-cā astū

9 dužvarənāiš vaēšō rāstī       tōi narəpīš rajīš
aēšasā də̄jīṯ-arətā       pəšō-tanvō
kū ašavā ahurō       yə̄ īš jyātə̄uš hə̄miθyāṯ       vasə̄-itōiš-cā
taṯ mazdā tavā xšaθrəm       yā ərəžəjyōi dāhī       drəgaovē vahyō

Translation

1   The sacrifice of Zarathustra Spitama is feted as the best
    If the Wise Lord would, in accordance with Truth,
          give [these] rewards to him throughout all [his] life:
    A good existence for him and for those who determine and understand
    The words and deeds of [his] good vision.
     
2   And so let Kavi Vishtaspa -- a Spitama, a son of Zarathustra
          -- and Frahaostra readily pursue,
    With good thought, with words and deeds,
    The succor of the Wise One, and paeans for His adulation,
    And [also] the straight path of the gift whose inspiration
          the Lord gives out of [his] power to give.
     
3   And now, Pouruchista Spitami, descendent of Haecataspa,
    Youngest of the daughters of Zarathustra,
    Gives to all of you the alliance of Truth and Wisdom,
          the firm foundation of Good Mind.
    Therefore, consult your inner strength and blessedly engage yourself
          with the most sacred [deeds] of Armaiti.
     
4   For on behalf of all of you, I shall eagerly wed to him [the woman]
          who tends to [her] father
    [Her] husband, the herdsman [of his clan], and [his] family possessions.
    Truthful to the truthful ones, Ahura Mazda gives [to her] the sun-like
          fruition of Good Mind, illuminating [her] thought
    For the sake of good vision, throughout [her] entire life.
     
5   I pronounce to [you] young women being married,
          and [likewise] to you [men],
    The commandments of one possessed of [good?] speech:
          Bear them in mind.
    Through good vision, find for yourselves -- and for them, [your wives] --
          a life which [is] of Good Mind.
    [And] through Truth, let each of you desire to win the other over.
    For that would be fruitful for each one.
     
6   In this way these [things are] true, O men; in that way [they are true], O wives.
    [There is an] adherent of deceit whom all of you see
         [clinging] to the prosperity [arising] out of deceit:
    [But] I take away these defenses of [his] person. For Advocates of the Lie,
          sighing, poor nourishment results,
          [and a life of] 'easy breathing' is lost1
    For Violators of Truth. [Allied] with them, you will destroy for yourselves
          the spiritual life.
     
7   And so, for all of you, [good] fruit will come from this ritual exchange
    As long as the 'impeller,' full of zeal, [keeps] driving, down and deep,
    At the base of [her] two thighs, from whence the spirit
          of the Possessor of the Lie has already disappeared.
    Abandon this ritual exchange and your last word is 'woe'!
     
8   Let the wrong-doers be [made] impotent by these [things],
    And, weakened, let them all cry out.
    And by means of good rule among man-killing and
          man-defiling [Possessors of the Lie?]
    Let one grant peace with them to the settled clans.
    Let that greatest pain arise upon them, [that which comes]
          through the shackle of death. And let it be soon!
     
9   On account of those who choose badly,
          poison adheres to him, [the righteous man],
    [As do] darkness and lack, those violators of Truth
          whose bodies are to be brought to an end.
    Where is the truthful Lord who would rob them of life and liberty?
    The power is yours, O Wise One, by which you would grant a better (life)
          to the poor man living rightly.

Grammar

11. an̨t-, man̨t-, and van̨t-stem Nouns

Nominal stems in an̨t form a simple adjective and the present participle active; man̨t and van̨t mark the possessive adjective. The inflections for the simple and possessive masculine adjectives are nearly the same, taking the weakened stem at in the oblique cases. Participles built on thematic verbal stems maintain the full nominal stem in most instances. Those built on athematic stems decline like other adjectives. Masculine and neuter oblique cases are identical. The feminine shows the same ablaut pattern, but adds ī to complete the stem and thus declines like long ī-stem nouns (cf. Section 6.2).

11.1. nt-Stem Nouns, Masculine
Singular:   Participle fšuyan̨t- 'raising cattle'   Adjective bərəzant- 'great'
Nom.   fšuyąs   bərəzō
Acc.   *fšuyan̨təm   bərəzan̨təm
Instr.   *fšuyatā   bərəzatā
Dat.   fšuyan̨te   bərəzaite
Abl.   fšuyan̨taṯ   bərəzataṯ
Gen.   fšuyan̨tō   bərəzatō
Loc.   *fšuyain̨ti, fšuyaiti   *bərəzaiti
Voc.   *fšuyā   bərəzā
Dual:        
Nom/Acc/Voc.   fšuyan̨tā   bərəan̨tā
Instr/Dat/Abl.   fšuyan̨bya   bərəzan̨bya
Plural:        
Nom/Voc.   *fšuyan̨tō   bərəzan̨tō
Acc.   fšuyan̨tō   bərəzatō
Instr.   *fšuyadbīš   bərərzadbīš
Dat/Abl.   fšuyan̨byō   bərəzadbyō
Gen.   *fšuyan̨tąm   bərəzatąm
Loc.   fšuyašu   *bərəzašu
11.2. nt-Stem Nouns, Neuter
    Participle fšuyan̨t- 'raising cattle'   Adjective bərəzant- 'great'
Nom/Acc/Voc. sg.   *fšuyaṯ   *bərəzaṯ
         
Nom/Acc/Voc. sg.   *fšuyąn   *bərəząn
12. Demonstrative Pronouns

In Section 7, the demonstrative pronoun ha- 'this', suppletive ta-, was given. Two other demonstrative pronouns, hvo- 'this' and a- 'that', appear frequently in masculine, feminine, and neuter declensions.

hvō-declension   Masculine   Neuter   Feminine
Nom. sg.   hvō   unattested   unattested
Acc. sg.   unattested   avat   avām
Instr. sg.   avā   unattested   unattested
             
Acc. pl   unattested   unattested   avāh
Instr. pl.   avāiš   unattested   unattested
Gen. pl.   avaisām   unattested   unattested
             
             
a-declension            
Nom. sg.   ayam   unattested   unattested
Acc. sg.   im, īm   it   imām1
Instr. sg.   anā   unattested   ayā (?)
Dat. sg.   ahmāi   unattested   ahyāi
Abl. sg.   ahmāt   unattested   unattested
Gen. sg.   ahya   unattested   unattested
Loc. sg.   ahmi   unattested   unattested
             
Dat. du   unattested   unattested   ābyā (?)
Gen. du.   ayāh, ās   unattested   unattested
             
Acc. pl.   īš   ī, imā1   unattested
Instr. pl.   āiš, anāiš   unattested   abiš1
Dat. pl.   aibya   unattested   ābyas
Gen. pl.   aišām   unattested   unattested
Loc. pl.   unattested   unattested   āhu
13. The Aorist Tense

As already noted in Section 4, a verb's tense is indicated by the formation of its stem. In addition to the present stems encountered there, Avestan also includes a category of aorist stems that, like those of the present system, are constructed in various ways. Seven forms of the aorist stem occur: root, reduplicated, thematic, and four forms of sigmatic. The root aorist adds its termination directly to the root. The reduplicated aorist adds the first vowel of its root, and any consonant immediately preceding that vowel, in front of the zero-grade of that root. E.g., vaoc- < vac, showing the reduplicated syllable va before the zero-grade uc-. Thematic aorists, like thematic presents, add the theme-vowel -a- to the root, which is usually in middle grade. Sigmatic aorists add -h/š-, -ha/sa-, -ih/-, or -hih/šiš-, with aspirate and sibilant variation according to environment.

The basic structure of an aorist verb is: augment + stem + termination, with the short vowel a- filling the space of the augment. In practice, however, the augment is rare, and is seen only in the indicative mood. This has led to a further distinction between the aorist 'injunctive', which exhibits no augment, and the aorist 'indicative', which has the full formation. Both have indicative sense, but there is a distinction between them. The aorist indicative denotes a definitely past sense, as in the form anąsaṯ in verse 7 of the passage above:

    ... yaθrā mainyuš drəgvatō anąsaṯ parā
    ... [the place] where the spirit of the Deceitful One disappeared.

Here, the Deceitful One's disappearing has transpired: the action is fully past. The injunctive, by contrast, more often denotes a more general sense with respect to time -- i.e., something that is just always generally so, as in verse 6:

    ... nąsaṯ xvathrə̄m / drəgvōdebyō
    ... [a life of] 'easy breathing' is lost / For Violators of Truth.

Here, given the previously established conditions, the loss of 'easy breathing' necessarily results and therefore the injunctive form is used. It is important to note, however, that though this distinction always holds for the aorist indicative, which only gives a fully past sense, Zarathustra used the injunctive in both ways. For this reason, the distinction has been analyzed in these lessons as one between the 'aorist indicative' and the 'augmented aorist indicative'. Accordingly, the 'aorist indicative' has been translated to convey either a general or a past tense, according to context, while the 'augmented aorist indicative' always indicates only past tense.

Root Aorist Paradigm: 'give'

Since all aorist forms are similar, only the root aorist paradigm will be presented here.

Injunctive-Indicative   Active   Middle
2 sg.   dāh   dāha
3 sg.   dāṯ   dāta
         
1 du.   unattested   dvadi
         
1 pl.   dāmā   *dāi
2 pl.   dātā   *dāša
3 pl.   dān   data
         
Imperative        
2 sg.   dādi, dāidi   dāhva
3 sg.   dātu   dātąm
         
2 pl.   dāta   *dadūm
         
Subjunctive        
1 sg.   *, *dāni   *danāi
2 sg.   dāhi   dāhai
3 sg.   dāṯ, dāti   *dātai
         
1 pl.   dāma   unattested
2 pl.   unattested   dādvai
3 pl.   dān   dāntai
         
Optative        
1 sg.   dyām   dya
2 sg.   unattested   dīša
3 sg.   dyāṯ, dayāṯ   *dāta
         
1 pl.   zāima (YA)   *dāmaide
3 pl.   unattested   *dāyur
14. The Present Participle

A participle is a verbal noun, a verb stem that takes a nominal ending. It functions syntactically as either an adjective to modify a noun, or as a substantive to replace it. Like verbs, participles display an active, middle, or passive voice and a past, present, or future tense.

An example of the present participle in English can be illustrated by the word 'running'. In each of the sentences, "The water is running" and "The running water is cold," the verb 'run' is an adjective describing 'water'. In Avestan, the word may also be used as the subject of the sentence to describe someone or something that is running, as in "The running (one) is passing by," but this is unusual in English. Keeping in mind that a participle is adjectival, however, the common slang "The big, the bad, and the ugly..." may illustrate the same principle. Though 'big', 'bad', and 'ugly' are not participles, they are adjectives standing in for the nouns they modify (e.g., 'The big men', 'the bad men', etc.), a usage that participles commonly have in Avestan.

The present active participle is formed by adding the ending -ant to a present verbal stem; the paradigm is given above in Section 12. As noted there, those constructed on thematic verbal stems have less ablaut in declension. The middle participle adds the ending -amna to the thematic stem, or -āna to the athematic. Both decline as short-a nouns in the masculine or neuter, and long-ā nouns in the feminine.

15. Conjunctions, Clitics, and a Note on Puns
15.1. Conjunctions, Particles, Interjections, and Clitics

Avestan uses many conjunctions and particles, and occassionally employs interjections. The most common conjunctions are ca 'and', uta 'and', ca ... ca 'both ... and', 'or', and tu 'but' (sometimes with emphatic sense). Like their Sanskrit conterparts, they are enclitic. Of the three, ca is the most variable in meaning: it can sometimes be translated as 'or', as 'but', or even as an emphatic particle.

Three types of particles -- negative, emphatic, and indefinite -- predominate. The negative particles are three: nōiṯ 'no, not', naēdā 'and not', and , a prohibitive particle employed with a verb in the imperative mood. The emphatic particles include , usually left untranslated, vai 'verily, indeed', and zi 'for, indeed'. The particles cit and cana added to an interrogative pronoun, and ciθit added to a preposition, produce an indefinite sense; e.g., kah 'who, what' beside kas-cit 'someone, any one' or pairī 'around, toward, away from' next to pairī-ciθit 'sometime/place before.'

Two interjections occur: avai and vayai. Their translations vary, depending on context.

15.2. Puns

The passage selected for this lesson includes an unusual syntactic construction. In verse 6, line 3, Zarathustra employs the verb nasaṯ as two words conveyed by one. The third person singular reduplicated aorist of ans and the third person singular root aorist of nas, both active, are both intended. The objects of the respective verbs flank their 'collapsed' appearance, dušxvarəθəm 'spoiled food' to be taken with ans 'result', and xva̱θrəm 'easy breathing' with nas 'be lost'.

    drūjō āyəsə̄ hōiš piθā tanvō parā
    vayū-beredubyō duš-xvarəthə̄m       nąsaṯ xvathrə̄m
    For Advocates of the Lie, sighing, poor nourishment attains,
    [and an existence of] 'breathing easy' is lost.

With the further alliteration and phonetic play between xvarəθəm and xva̱θrəm, the phrase is a prime illustration of Zarathustra's remarkable poetic skill and innovation.

Footnote

1   The play on the two verbs sharing one aoristic form našaṯ 'attain' and 'is lost' is unfortunately itself lost in its English rendition, but the reader should try to imagine the poetic elegance of the phrase.