Wolfgang Felix: The Dailamites during the pre-Islamic Era

The article by Wolfgang Felix The Dailamites during the pre-Islamic Era” was originally posted in the Encyclopedia Iranica on December 15, 1995 and updated on November 22, 2011.

Kindly note that the pictures/illustrations inserted below do not appear in the original Encyclopedia Iranica article.

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In antiquity the Deylamites [or Dailamites] (Gk. Dolomîtai and variants) were mountain tribes, usually identified by 10th-century Arab geographers with the inhabitants of Deylam, the highlands of Gīlān. A considerably broader distribution extending as far as southern Armenia and the Caucasus can be deduced, however (Minorsky, p. 193).

Gilan Forests North IranA view of Gilan’s forests in northern Iran, home of the ancient Dailamites (Source: Public Domain).

The earliest mention of the Deylamites occurs in Polybius’ universal history, of the late 2nd century B.C.E. (5.44.9), in which, in the description of Media, Greek *Delymaîoi is to be read in place of geographically impossible Elymaîoi (i.e., Susiana), as the tribes named immediate after them (Anariákai, Kadoúsioi, Matíanoi) were all in the north. It is also possible that the “Elymaioi” mentioned by Plutarch (Pompey 36.2; 1st century B.C.E.) with the Medes were actually Deylamites. In the later 2nd century C.E. Ptolemy (6.2) listed *Delymaís as a place in northern Choromithrene, which was located southeast of Ray and west of the Tapuroi (i.e., Ṭabarestān). There, too, the toponym was corrupted to Elymaís (Markwart, Ērānšahr, p. 126 n. 1).

In the Pahlavi Kār-nāmag (tr., p. 47) it is recorded that in the final years of the crumbling Parthian empire Artabanus V (or IV) mobilized all the troops from Ray, Damāvand, Deylamān, and Patešḵᵛārgar, evidence that the region south of the Alborz was inhabited by Deylamites. More precisely in the Nāma-ye Tansar (tr., p. 30) it is stated that Deylamān, Gīlān, and Rūyān (later part of Ṭabarestān) all belonged to the kingdom of Gošnasp of Ṭabarestān and Parešvār, the latter apparently the Alborz region. Gošnasp made his submission to Ardašīr I (224-70) only after thorough consideration and kept his realm by the guarantee of Ardašīr himself. The dynasty was still ruling there in the time of Pērōz I (459-84; cf. Masʿūdī, Tanbīh, p. 99-100). Kavād I (488-531) appointed his eldest son, Qābūs (Kāōs), king of Ṭabarestān (Nāma-ye Tansar, tr., p. 70; Ebn Esfandīār, tr. Browne, pp. 92-94). Toward the end of his reign (while the Roman emperor Justin I [d. 527] was still alive), Kavād dispatched Būya (Gk. Bóēs), “bearing the title wahriz” (Gk. ouarízēs), against King Gurgēn of Iberia (Procopius, De Bello Persico 1.12.10). That Būya had come from Deylam can be deduced from a tradition according to which the wahriz (i.e., Ḵorrazāḏ b. Narsē b. Jāmāsp) who conquered Yemen during the reign of Ḵosrow I (531-79), in about 570, had formerly been governor of Deylam (Masʿūdī, Tanbīh, p. 260; Ḥamza, p. 138). The troops of the wahriz also included Deylamites (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 167).

Marlik_cup_iranGolden cup depicting winged beasts (winged bulls at bottom and winged griffins at top) dated to the 1st half of the 1st millennium BCE (Source: Public Domain). This was discovered at Marlik, Gilan province, northern Iran.

Procopius (De Bello Gothico 4.14.5-7, 4.14.9) reported, from a western point of view, on the Dolomîtai at the siege of Archeopolis in the disputed territory of Lazica during the reign of Ḵosrow I (about 552): They were independent allies of the Persians, living in inaccessible mountains in the heart of Persia (i.e., Media) and fighting as infantrymen, each armed with sword, shield, and three javelins and accustomed to warfare on mountainous terrain. Some time later, according to Agathias (3.17.6-9, 3.17.18-22), the Dilimnîtai, “the largest tribe of those dwelling on this side of the river Tigris in the region of Persis” (i.e., in central Persia, or Media), undertook a fruitless attack against the Hunnic Sabirs, who were in the service of the Romans, and vainly charged the fortress of Phasis in Colchis.

Sass-Infantry-Dailamites-2500yr-2Recreation of Sassanian infantry units during the 2,500 year celebrations of 1971- note the Drafsh Kaviani displayed at the front. Roman descriptions of Sassanian infantry were negative at first, but this changed with the arrival of Dailamite infantry from northern Iran. Picture source: Kaveh Farrokh, p.230, سایه‌های صحرا-Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей,2007.

Agathias characterized the Deylamites  as very warlike and independent allies of the Persians, skillful warriors in close combat or at a distance, using sword, pike, and sling. In a fragment from Theophanes (preserved in Photius, Bibliotheca 64) it is related that in the battles between Persians and Romans during the reign of Justin II (565-78), which broke out in 572, the Deylamites (Gk. tò Dilmainòn éthnos) joined forces with the Persians and the Sabirs. When power passed from Ohrmazd IV (579-90), to whom the Deylamites had submitted, to Ḵosrow II in 590 a certain Zoarab, leader of the Deylamites, rose up against the latter and joined the party of Bahrām VI Čōbīn (590-91; Theophylact Simocatta, 4.4.17, 4.3.1). When Bahrām Čōbīn’s rising failed the Deylamites joined the rebellion of Besṭām (see BESṬAMÚ O BENDOY), a maternal uncle of Ḵosrow II (probably 592-95; cf. Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, p. 486). After the fall of Besṭām the šahr-wahriz (i.e., governor of Deylam) fought against the remnants of his army, consisting of Deylamites and Armenians, in alliance with Smbat Bagratuni, marzbān (margrave) of Gorgān (Sebeos, tr., pp. 43-46). Incidentally it was reported (Balāḏorī, Fotūhá, p. 282) that Ḵosrow II had a personal guard of 4,000 Deylamites. When the Arabs conquered Persia the Deylamites remained virtually unsubdued, ruled by their own dynasty until the 9th century (cf. Minorsky, p. 190; Markwart, Ērānšahr, p. 127; see ii, below).

3c-Roodkhan castle-CNNThe Rodkhan Castle in Gilan (Source: CNN). The construction of this castle is generally attributed to the 11-12th centuries by the followers of  the Ismaili sect, however the origins of this structure may be traced back to the pre-Islamic era.

Christianity entered Deylam fairly early; in 554 there was a diocese of Āmol and Gīlān (Chabot, pp. 109, 366). The religion obviously survived for a long time in these inaccessible regions: The Nestorian patriarch Timothy I (780-823) elevated both Gīlān and Deylam to the status of metropolis (Thomas of Marga, I, pp. 252-53; II, pp. 467-68), though evidence from a letter of the patriarch suggests this separate status was limited to the years 795-98 (cf. Braun). These arrangements were, in fact, not stable; in about 893 Elias, metropolitan of Damascus, mentioned only Media (=Ray) as a metropolis, and the lists compiled by Ebn aḷ-Ṭayyeb (d. 1043) and ʿAbdīšōʿ, metropolitan of Nisibis (d. 1318), are silent about them (Sachau, pp. 21 ff.). The metropolis of Deylam does, however, reappear in the lists given by the early 14th-century historians of the Nestorian patriarchs, ʿAmr b. Maṭṭā and slightly earlier Salibhā b. Yūḥannā (Maris Amri et Slibae, pp. 126, 132). It seems that remnants of Christianity must have survived up to that time.

Bibliography

(For cited works not found in this bibliography and abbreviations found here, see “Short References.”) O. Braun, “Ein Brief des Katholikos Timotheos I über biblische Studien des 9. Jahrhunderts,” Oriens Christianus 1, 1901, p. 299-313.

J.-B. Chabot, Synodicon Orientale ou Recueil de synodes nestoriens . . ., Paris, 1902.

Kār-nāmag ī Ardašīr, tr. T. Nöldeke as “Geschichte des Artachšīr i Pāpakān,” Bezzenbergers Beiträge 4, 1878, pp. 22-***.

Maris Amri et Slibae De Patriarchis Nestorianorum Commentaria, ed. E. Gismondi, Rome, 1896.

V. Minorsky, “Daylam,” in EI2 II, pp. 189-94.

Nāma-ye Tansar, tr. M. Boyce as The Letter of Tansar, Rome, 1968.

E. Sachau, “Zur Ausbreitung des Christentums in Asien,” APAW, Phil.-hist. Kl. 1, 1919, pp. 1-80.

Sebêos, Patmutʿiwn i Herakln, tr. F. Macler as Histoire d’Héraclius par l’évêque Sebèos, Paris, 1904.

Thomas of Marga, Historia Monastica, ed. and tr. E. H. W. Budge as The Book of Governors, 2 vols., London, 1893.

Photos of Old Zanjan

The photos graphs below provide rare glimpses into the city of Zanjan, which is the provincial capital of Zanjan province in northwest Iran. Exact dating of these photos however is challenging as the sources accessed provide no specific dates.

5-Zanjan-Mayor

The first official major of Zanjan, Haj Ali Akbar Tofighi (1872-1945) (Source: Public Domain).

Zanjan-1A rare photo of the square at Zanjan during the late Qajar era taken by the Italian photographers Louis Montalbone (1827-1877) and Luigi Pesce (1827-1864) (Source: www.vintage.es).

Zanjan-2-mirbahaaldinAn old (undated) photo of the bridge of Mir-baheddin built during the Qajar era (Source: hamshahrionline.ir).

3-Zanjan-bankThe Zanjan branch of the Iran National Bank, possibly early 1940s (Source: ostandari-zn.ir).

4-Zanjan-Sabzeh MeydanSabzeh Maydan square of Zanjan (Source: ostandari-zn.ir).

6-Zanjan-Mosque in old BazaarThe mosque in the old Bazaar of Zanjan, possibly 1930s or 1940s (Source: ostandari-zn.ir & iichs.org).

Iranian Tribal Women in Shooting and Horseback Riding Competitions

The photographs below are from a national Olympiad in Iran between different tribal elements with respect to horseback riding, sharpshooting, and other various athletic skills. Most of these can be found here:

(۱۳۹۳/۱/۲۳) دومین المپیاد فرهنگی ورزشی ملی عشایر ایران به میزبانی شهرستان فریدونشهر اصفهان برگزار شد [The Second Cultural National Nomads/Tribes Sports Olympiad hosted by the Fereydanshahr county of Isfahan was Held (April 12, 2014)]

These types of activities have been in Iran since ancient times, with Classical authors and later European travellers reporting on exercises in riding, firing arrows from horseback, etc. What is of interest in the photos below are Iran’s tribal women partaking in shooting and horseback riding competitions. Western media and news outlets have avoided mentioning such events. The reasons for this are open to speculation.

1-ContestantsRepresentatives of a number of Iranian tribes holding signs designating their respective regions – from left to right: first sign-Northern Khorasan, second sign unintelligible, third sign-Kurdistan, fourth sign-Kahkiloye & Boyerahmad, fifth sign-Golestan(?), sixth sign-Luristan, seventh sign-Sistan and Baluchistan; remaining signs unintelligible. Note that the photo is partial, in that it does not show all of the tribes participating in the event (Source: Akairan.com).

What is certain is that given the heavy impact of media (news, etc.), TV and movie industries, the overwhelming majority of Western and international audiences have never seen the below images of Iranian tribal women.

2-Lur girl on horsebackLur girl swings round to her side to fire at target (Source: Akairan.com). 

It is a fact that one of the domains that have received the least amount of attention by Western scholarship is the role women warriors of ancient Persia.

Women for example were seen in positions of military leadership in the armies of the Achaemenids (550-330 BCE). A prime example of this is Artemesia of Halicarnassius (now in modern western Turkey) one of Xerxes’ most capable admirals during the failed invasions of Greece in 480 BCE. The daring naval exploits of Artemesia reputedly led Xerxes to state that:

“…my men have become women and my women have become men”.

Artemesia was also one of Xerxes’ chief military advisors.

3-Kurdish-checking gun barrelKurdish girl checks her rifle barrel before engaging in sharpshooting competitions (Source: Akairan.com). 

The role of ancient Iranian female warriors continued after Alexander’s conquests and the overthrow of his Seleucid successors in Iran by the Parthians (250 BC – 224 CE).

A Reuters newscast from Tehran in December 4, 2004 reported on the findings of an archaeologist who had been engaged in excavations near Tabriz, in Iran’s northwest province of Azarbaijan. A series of DNA tests revealed that the 2,000 year old bones of an entombed warrior and accompanying sword belonged to a woman.  As noted by Alireza Hojabri-Nobari to the Iran-based Hambastegi Newspaper:

Despite earlier comments that the warrior was a man because of the metal sword, DNA tests showed the skeleton inside the tomb belonged to a female warrior…

According to Nobari, there were 109 such warrior tombs, and plans were in place to conduct DNA tests on the skeletons of the other ancient warriors of those sites as well.

4-Lur girl takes aimYoung Lur girl takes aim with her rifle (Source: Akairan.com). 

Roman historical sources have reported on the exploits of the women warriors of the Sassanian Empire (224-651 CE). Zonaras (XII, 23, 595, 7-596, 9) states in reference to the forces of Shapur I that:

“…in the Persian army…there are said to have been found women also, dressed and armed like men…”

5-Turkmen girlsTurkmen girls in their traditional attire at the Fereydanshahr competition (Source: Akairan.com). 

The exploits of Persia’s female warriors are recalled in the post-Islamic Shahnama epic of Ferdowsi. One sample quote states of the female warrior Gordafarid that:

“…as she was turning in her saddle, drew a sharp blade from her waist, struck at his lance, and parted it in two.”

6-Lur female sharpshooter-ویسگونLur woman in a local competition in Luristan province in Western Iran, partaking in a shooting contest on horseback (Source: Wisgoon.com).

There are reports that the wife of Karim Khan Zand of Luristan and the wives of his Lur troops often fought beside them in battle against the Afghans in Nader Shah’s time. The Afghans made a point of heaping scorn upon the Zand units who defeated them by characterizing their men as:

“…hiding behind their women’s skirts

7-Kurdish lady on horsebackKurdish lady partaking in a riding competition in Iran’s Kurdish regions (Marivan or Kermanshah?) (Source: Kurdane.com).

While Western media, entertainment (especially Hollywood and the entertainment industry) continue to block and ignore such images and information, the legacy of ancient Iran’s warrior women continue to endure.

Gun-totting-Iranian-women-Malayer

Lur women from Malayer (near Hamedan in the northwest) engaged in target practice in the Eznab area of Malayer city limits in the late 1950s.  The association between weapons and women is nothing new in Iran; Roman references for example note of Iranian women armed as regular troops in the armies of the Sassanians (224-651 CE).

Evangelos Venetis: Greeks in Modern Iran

Dr. Evangelos Venetis is the author of a seminal book entitled “Greeks in Modern Iran: Discovering the Past of a Prosperous Community (1837-2010)” in published in Athens, Greece in 2014 (this project was also supported by the collaboration of Elli Antoniades; publication supported by the Kefalidis family):

Venetis-Greeks in Iran

Greeks in Modern Iran: Discovering the Past of a Prosperous Community (1837-2010) (translated from Greek to English by Michael Mericas [(Νικόλαος Μερίκας)]), Athens, Greece: Poreia, 2014, ISBN:978-960-7043-89-4. To order this text, contact Dr. Evangelos directly: 28, Petropoulaki st., 10445, Athens, Greece, Email: e.venetis@yahoo.com.

The above text was first published in Greek in 2011:

Evangelos Venetis, Greeks in Modern Iran (Athens: Poreia Publications, 2011), Graeco- Iranica Series 1, 290 pp. 2 maps, 57 illustrations, index, ISBN: 978-960-7498-85- 1

The book is an historical monograph in the field of modern Greek-Iranian studies published by the Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies (SHIS) in the Graeco-Iranica Monograph Series. It aims at informing the scientific and wide readership about the past, present and future of the Greek Diaspora in Iran in the last two centuries.

Greco-Iranians-Kermanshah

The Moschalis family in Kermanshah, 1910 (Source: Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

The first part of the book narrates the history of the Greeks who entered Qajar Iran in the early 19th century and established their community in northern Iran.

3-Greco-Iranians-Rasht

The Misailidis family in Rasht (Northern Iran, 1913-1915) (Source: Misailidis family collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

Long-Time-Between-Drinks

On a humorous note: A long time between drinks! A 1902 cartoon entitled “491 BC-1902 CE” in Puck magazine (v. 52, no. 1348, 1902, December 31) depicting “Persia” (at left) toasting “Greece” (at right) from a punch bowl labeled “Renewal of Diplomatic Relations” (Source: US Library of Congress). Contrary to Eurocentric or Nordicist popular narratives in news media, entertainment and scholarship, the relationship between the Greco-Roman and Iranian realms has been multifaceted and constructive since ancient times. The two civilizations have often engaged in strong exchanges in the arts, learning, architecture, theology, culture and commerce for millennia.

4-Greco-Iranians-Rezaieh

Photo taken in 1935 of the Papadopoulos and Paraskevopoulos families in Rezaieh in northwest Iran’s West Azarbaijan province (Source: Elli Antoniades; published by Evangelos Venetis). Note that these Iranian-Greeks have adopted the favorite Iranian Samovar pastime of drinking tea (tea kettle atop metallic vase with tap for pouring hot water) along with the small glass teacups and accompanying saucers. The Samovar (Russian: self-boiler) is also highly popular in the Caucasus, Turkey, Ukraine and of course Russia (where the “Samovar” originates).

In the second part, the analysis focuses on the history of the Greek community of Tehran in the Pahlavi era and the period of the Islamic Republic, highlighting also the interaction between Greeks from all over the world and Iranians inside Iran in various fields such as economy, politics and culture.

5-Greco-Iranians-1943

The campaign regiment of Iranian-Greeks prior to their departure to Egypt, 1943 (Source: Greek Community of Tehran collection; published by Evangelos Venetis). Like much of Europe, Greece had fallen to brutal Nazi occupation in 1941 during the Second World War. These Iranian-Greeks were joining British and allied forces in North Africa to fight the Nazis. 

5a-Greco-Iranians-Vasilios Antoniades

Vasilios Antoniades (1910-1943) who was the only casualty of the Iranian-Greek regiment from Iran in Egypt (Source: Greek Community of Tehran collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

Given that the contemporary research and study of Hellenic-Iranian studies worldwide stop in the seventh century AD., contemporary Hellenic-Iranian relations remain a terra incognita.

6-Greco-Iranians-Greek School on Tehran

The first official Greek school in Tehran in 1945 (Source: Greek Community of Tehran collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

7-Greco-Iranians-Greek women tailor shop in saadi st Tehran

The first Greek women’s taylor shop in Tehran’s Saadi street. This was established by Eleni Salonikidis (Source: Violetta Grammatikopoulos collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

As a result Dr. Venetis’ monograph is a general introduction to a long period, covering a wide range of topics and aiming to act as the framework for the development of the study and research of contemporary Hellenic-Iranian studies worldwide.

Fereydoun Farrokh and Greek Foregin Minsiter in Athens 1962

Fereydoun Farrokh (at left), the Iranian chargé d’affaires in Greece meeting with Evangelos Averoff (at right) the Greek Foreign Minister) in 1962 (Source: Archives of Kavehfarrokh.com; published by Evangelos Venetis). The Minister is entrusting a cheque on behalf of the Greek government to Farrokh to send to Iran to provide financial assistance for Iranian earthquake victims at the time.

9-Greco-Iranians-Embassy 1976 Tehran

The Greek Foreign Minster Demetrios Bitsios (sitting second from left) in the Greek community of Tehran with the president of the community Elli Antoniades, the Greek Ambassador Panayotis Economou (third from the left) and members of the diplomatic retinue of the Minster, 1976 (Source: Elli Antoniades; published by Evangelos Venetis).

Dr. Evangelos Venetis studied history at the University of Ioannina, where he received also his master’s degree in medieval history entitled: The Zoroastrian priesthood and their influence in diplomatic relations Byzantium and Persia. (Second International Award of Iranology, Tehran, 12.16.2002).

10-Greco-Iranians-Tehran 1999

Konstantinos Stefanopoulos (at left), the president of the Hellenic Republic being received by Ionnis Grammatikopoulos (at right), president of the Greek-Iranian community in Tehran in 1999 (Source: Ionnis Grammatikopoulos collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

In 2006 Dr. Evangelos Venetis successfully completed his doctoral dissertation in the field of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Edinburgh. During the period 2006-2010 he was a Senior Research Associate at the Department of Arabic, Persian and Turkish, in the School of Middle Eastern Studies, the University of Leiden, the Netherlands.

11-Greco-Iranians-Bishop in Tehran 2001

His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos officiating in the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation in Tehran in 2001 (Source: Ionnis Grammatikopoulos collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

In addition to his “Greeks in Modern Iran” Dr. Evangelos Venetis has also authored five other academic books thus far:

  • The Iskandarnama (Book of Alexander): An analysis of an anonymous Persian prose romance (Saarbrücken, 2013)
  • The Shahnama Tradition, Storytelling in Contemporary Iran (Saarbrücken, 2012)
  • The Persian Book of Kings. Storytelling in Modern Iran (Lambert Publications, Saarbrügen, 2011);
  • Grammar of modern Persian for Greek Speakers (Tehran, 2007)
  • Bibliographica Sasanica (Costa Mesa, California, 2009)

12-Greco-Iranians-Greek Church in Tehran 2009

The Greek Church of Annunciation of Tehran in 2001 (Source: The Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies collection; published by Evangelos Venetis).

An accomplished world-class academic, Dr. Evangelos Venetis has also authored a large number of articles on medieval and modern Islamic world in Greek and international journals. He is the founder and director of the Society for Hellenic-Iranian Studies.

Parthian site in Andika, Khuzestan discovered by Karamian Archaeological Team

Kavehfarrokh.com was informed on Friday November 27, 2015 of the discovery of a new Parthian site in Khuzestan in 2013 by the archaeological expedition of Dr. Gholamreza Karamian (Azad University, Tehran, Iran – Central Branch; University of Warsaw, Poland) and his graduate student Farzad Astaraki. Note that Dr. Karamian had also uncovered the Sassanian site of Ramavand in 2013.

The Parthian relief was discovered in the western part of Andika located in the northern section of Masjid Suleyman, Khuzestan Province in Iran. The Andika relief shows a Parthian man (most likely a warrior and/or Azat nobleman) leaning on his left hand and holding a branch of plan (see below).

1-Andika-Karamian and AstarakiThe Parthian relief at Andika discovered by Dr. Gholamreza Karamian and Farzad Astaraki. The specific location of this relief is in the northern village of Darvish Ahmad that is 50 kilometers from western Andika in Khuzestan Province. The GPS position of the site is: N 32 23 32/3 and E 49 30 21/5. The dimensions of the Andika relief are 2 meters (length) by 1.20 meters (width) (Courtesy of Dr. Gholamreza Karamian and Farzad Astaraki). 

As noted by Dr. Karamian to Kavehfarrokh.com on November 27, 2015:

There are other Parthian sites in Khuzestan that are similar to the one we uncovered in Andika. The most similar motif is Block II in Tang e Sarvak, an archaeological site in eastern Khuzestan province,  located in the mountainous area, approximately 50 km north of Behbahan. The other Parthian site is located near Masjid Suleiman and was discovered by the Vanden Berghe team in 1965.”

2-Andika-Sketch-KaramianSketch by Dr. Gholareza Karamian of the Parthian relief at Andika (Courtesy of Dr. Gholamreza Karamian).

The full report for these findings will be published in academic journal format for publication in 2016.