Fezana Journal article on Kurdish ties to ancient Iranian Mythology & Zoroastrianism

The Fezana Journal has published an article by Kaveh Farrokh on the links between the Kurds and ancient Iranian mythology, notably Zoroastrianism:

Farrokh, K. (2016). Exploring Kurdish ties to ancient Iranian mythology and Zoroastrianism. Fezana Journal (Publication of the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America), Vol. 30, No.1, Fall/September, pp. 16-20.

One topic discussed in the article:

Neither Zoroastrianism nor Yaresanism believe in the “Tabula Rasa” (lit. blank slate) philosophy that humans are born with wholly “blank” minds, that subsequently acquire knowledge, wisdom and beliefs as a result of their material (or sensory) experiences with the outside world (i.e. John Locke’s 1689 “Essay concerning Human Understanding”). In Zoroastrianism in particular the notion of human choice (between evil and good) is bestowed upon the individual prior to their acquisition of physical life (Stausberg & Vevaina, 2015, p.222). Yaresanism shares the notion of divine manifestation of holy men born of virgin maidens with both Zoroastrianism and Mithraism; like the Saoshant who is to be born of a virgin (Bundahishn, 33.36-38) and Mithras born of virgin goddess Anahita, Sultan Sahak was born of the Kurdish virgin Dayerak Rezhbar (also known as Khatun-e Rezhbar).”


Kurdish man engaged in the worship of Mithras in a Pir’s (mystical leader/master) sanctuary that acts as an ancient Iranian (Zoroastrian or Mithraic?) temple (Source: Kasraian & Arshi, 1993, Plate 80). Note how he stands below an opening allowing for the “shining of the light”, almost exactly as seen with the statue of Mithras in Ostia, Italy. These particular Kurds are said to pay homage to Mithras three times a day. His costume can also found in certain rural areas of Mazandaran in northern Iran. For more on Mithraism, consult: Mithra-The “Pagan” Christ?

 The following observation is made in the article with respect to Kurdish Sufi sects:

“The notion of absolute egalitarianism persists among several Kurdish Sufi groups such as the Qaderi movement in Iranian Kurdistan whose followers follow the teachings of their founder Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gilani (1078- 1166). Though nominally Sunni, the Qaderi order’s mysticism sets them widely apart from Islamic theology and practices. Their spiritual leader or “Pir” often engages his followers in repetitive mystical chants known as “Zikr” rituals. The Pir can even (especially among the Qaderis of Baiveh), be regarded as their earthly intercessor with God, somewhat reminiscent of the role of Mithra.


Kurds in Istanbul, Turkey celebrate the coming Newroz (Nowruz) by jumping over fire much like the Chaharshanbeh Soori ceremonies in Iran (Source: Photo by Bertil Videt in 2006 for Public Domain).

The legacy of Iranian mythology among the Kurds is further discussed:

The Kurdish-speaking peoples maintain strong ties to ancient Iran’s pre-Islamic Zoroastrian culture. Too numerous to list here, one of these is the Nowruz (New Year; Newroz in Kurdish), which like all Iranian peoples is celebrated on March 21. Interestingly many Kurds of Iraq and Turkey regard the Nowruz/Newroz as “the day of Kawa Ahsengar (Persian: Kaveh Ahangar [the Ironsmith])

4-sedreh-pushi-IstanbulSedreh-Pushi ceremony of a group of Turkish Kurds and Iranians in Istanbul who are recent converts to Zoroastrianism (Source: Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies).

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.


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.


(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.

University of Chicago: Battle of Carrhae

The article below on the Battle of Carrhae was posted by the University of Chicago. Kindly note that none of the other pictures/illustrations posted below appear in the original University of Chicago posting. The article is of special interest as it provides citations by ancient classical authors such as Plutarch and Dio Cassius.


The Battle of Carrhae was fought in June 53 BC. Caught on the open plain, it was the last fatal blunder in a series that began when Marcus Licinius Crassus garrisoned the towns of western Mesopotamia with a fifth of his army but then, rather than advancing directly to Seleucia or the treasures of Ctesiphon, returned to winter quarters in Syria. Advised by his Armenian ally to invade from the mountains to the north, where the terrain would offer safety from the Parthian cavalry, Crassus insisted on crossing the Euphrates at Zeugma to join the Roman garrisons that had been established the previous season. Even then, his quaestor Gaius Cassius Longinus cautioned that he should advance along the river. Instead, Crassus was deceived and, in pursuit of the Parthian army, drawn into the desert, where the Roman army miserably perished at Carrhae. Cassius, himself, together with five hundred cavalry, managed to escape in the night and make his way to Syria. Crassus died as he retreated north toward the Armenian hills, the Romans and Parthians fighting over his body.

Map displaying the Romano-Parthian borders and the location of the Battle of Carrhae (54 BC) (Picture Source: CAIS website).

He had marched into Parthia with seven legions, says Plutarch, nearly four thousand horsemen and as many light-armed troops. Twenty thousand were said to have died and ten thousand taken prisoner. It was the worst Roman defeat since the disastrous loss to Hannibal at Cannae in 216 BC.

The poignancy of that slaughter can be read in Plutarch and Cassius Dio, who provide virtually all that is known of the battle. Against the Roman infantry were arrayed ten thousand Parthian cavalry, either cataphracts, who wore scaled or mail armor from head to thigh and were armed with a heavy lance, or mounted bowmen, trained to shoot even as they retreated (hence the expression “Parthian shot”).

Now as long as they had hopes that the enemy would exhaust their missiles and desist from battle or fight at close quarters, the Romans held out; but when they perceived that many camels laden with arrows were at hand, from which the Parthians who first encircled them took a fresh supply, then Crassus, seeing no end to this, began to lose heart….Then the Romans halted, supposing that the enemy would come to close quarters with them, since they were so few in number. But the Parthians stationed their mail-clad horsemen in front of the Romans, and then with the rest of their cavalry in loose array rode round them, tearing up the surface of the ground, and raising from the depths great heaps of sand which fell in limitless showers of dust, so that the Romans could neither see clearly nor speak plainly, but, being crowded into a narrow compass and feeling upon one another, were shot, and died no easy nor even speedy death. For, in the agonies of convulsive pain, and writing about the arrows, they would break them off in their wounds, and then in trying to pull out by force the barbed heads which had pierced their veins and sinews, they tore and disfigured themselves the more. Thus many died, and the survivors also were incapacitated for fighting. And when Publius urged them to charge the enemy’s mail-clad horsemen, they showed him that their hands were riveted to their shields and their feet nailed through and through to the ground, so that they were helpless either for flight or for self-defence” [Plutarch, Life of Crassus, XXV].

Horse Arhers at Carrhae[Click to Enlarge] Parthian Horse archers engage the Roman legions of Marcus Lucinius Crassus at Carrhae in 53 BCE. Unlike the Achaemenid-Greek wars where Achaemenid arrows were unable to penetrate Hellenic shields and armor, Parthian archery was now able to penetrate the armor and shields of their Roman opponents (Picture Source: Antony Karasulas & Angus McBride).

As noted by Dio Cassius:

For if they decided to lock shields for the purpose of avoiding the arrows by the closeness of their array, the pikemen were upon them with a rush, striking down some, and at least scattering the others; and if they extended their ranks to avoid this, they would be struck with the arrows. Hereupon many died from fright at the very charge of the pikemen, and many perished hemmed in by the horsemen. Others were knocked over by the pikes or were carried off transfixed. The missiles falling thick upon them from all sides at once struck down many by a mortal blow, rendered many useless for battle, and caused distress to all. They flew into their eyes and pierced their hands and all the other parts of their body and, penetrating their armour, deprived them of their protection and compelled them to expose themselves to each new missile. Thus, while a man was guarding against arrows or pulling out one that had stuck fast he received more wounds, one after another. Consequently it was impracticable for them to move, and impracticable to remain at rest. Neither course afforded them safety but each was fraught with destruction, the one because it was out of their power, and the other because they were then more easily wounded….Finally, as the enemy continually assaulted them from all sides at once, and they were compelled to protect their exposed parts by the shields of those who stood beside them, they were shut up in so narrow a place that they could no longer move. Indeed, they could not even get a sure footing by reason of the number of corpses, but kept falling over them. The heat and thirst (it was midsummer and this action took place at noon) and the dust, of which the barbarians raised as much as possible by all riding around them, told fearfully up the survivors, and many succumbed from these causes, even though unwounded” [Dio, Roman History (XL.22, 23)].

The legionary standards lost at Carrhae were not recovered until 20 BC, when Augustus negotiated their return from the Parthians, a diplomatic triumph celebrated the next year by the dedication of the Arch of Augustus.

Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous.” [Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (I.ii.193)]

The above line comes from Plutarch, where Caesar is quoted as saying:

I am not much in fear of these fat, long-haired fellows, but rather of those pale, thin ones” [Life, LXII.10].

Cassius survived the battle and stayed to defend Syria against Parthian raids. Eventually, he would lead the conspiracy against Caesar.


Dio Cassius: Roman History (1914) translated by Earnest Cary and Herbert B. Foster (Loeb Classical Library).

Plutarch: Parallel Lives (1916) translated by Bernadotte Perrin (Loeb Classical Library).

Palaces of the Achaemenid Empire found in Arran (modern Republic of Azerbaijan)

The article below on the palaces of the Achaemenid Empire discovered in Arran (modern Republic of Azerbaijan since 1918) was posted in the Awti website.


The discovery of the great palace of the Achaemenid Empire – the largest outside of Iran, was announced by the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan with reference to the Russian magazine “Science and Life.”

In the large hall, opposite the entrance to the palace, is the place throne – it was first discovered in 2006 by the rising in the central part of the building (the first Achaemenid throne was found in in Pasargadae in the 1960s, by the British team of archaeologists led by D. Stronach). From the main entrance to the palace in the village “Garadzhamerli”, porticoes and columns (propylene) were found extending to the north and south exterior wall. During the excavations of the palace ceramic vessels, glass bowls and some ceramic sink for water (drainage) were found with portions of pluming. Two inscriptions probably written in Aramaic one of the Empire’s languages for communication at the time were also found. Archaeologists are now waiting for the finds of written sources – the cuneiform inscriptions on the pillars. Perhaps the signs are in three languages: Old Persian, Akkadian, Elamite. It is also possible that there may be archives of clay tablets.

Achaemenid Palace at QarajamirliExcavation of the Achaemenid building at Qarajamirli. The researchers Babaev, Gagoshidze, Knauß and Florian in 2007 (An Achaemenid “Palace” at Qarajamirli (Azerbaijan) Preliminary Report on the Excavations in 2006. Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia, Volume 13, Numbers 1-2,, pp. 31-45(15)) discovered the remains of a monumental building as well as fragments of limestone column bases. This follows closely the plan of an Achaemenid palace featuring a symmetrical ground plan for the building as well as architectural sculpture. The pottery found on the floor closely follow Persian models from the Achaemenid era. Similar structures have been excavated from Sary Tepe (Republic of Azerbaijan) and Gumbati (Georgia). The Sary Tepe, Gumbati and Qarajamirli buildings can be interpreted as residences of Persian officials who left the region when Achaemenid Empire collapsed.

Based on archaeological findings, the palace lasted about 200 years, and then was abandoned and stood empty for a long time. All the valuables were collected and removed from the palace in advance (Power of the Achaemenid ceased to exist after the Battle of Gaugamela, which took place October 331 BC). After the departure of the Persians, some residents still resided in the halls of the palace, as evidenced by the findings of local production of table ware. Starting from the II century BC People broke away stones from the remains of the palace for the construction of their buildings.

ShamkhirAn Iranian legacy in the Caucasus. To the south of the Republic of Georgia is Shamkhir located in the Republic of Azerbaijan (ROA) (known as Arran until 1918). Shamkhir is located some 350 kilometers west of Baku near the Armenian border to its west. The CAIS website hosted by Shapur Suren-Pahlav reported on August 28, 2007 that Archaeologists from the ROA, Georgia and Germany unearthed ruins of a monument dated to the Achaemenid dynasty in the town of Shamkhir. The head of the archaeology team stated that: “During the excavation, we found traces of a 2500 year old historical structure…which has one 1000 square meter chamber surrounded by several smaller rooms…The ruins indicate that this area was once an important Achaemenid center in the northern provinces in the Caucasus” (Picture and caption from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and were also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006).

Today, archaeologists know about the 6 Achaemenid palaces in the South Caucasus:

  • Benjamin” is known for the palace in Armenia
  • Tsaritepe Garadzhamerli” in Azerbaijan
  • Another unnamed palace is located on the border of Azerbaijan and Georgia
  • The most northern point of this path of palaces in Georgia” a palace near the village of “Samadlo” and the other one in the village of “Humbatov

The distance between the palaces is about 30 km. After the discovery of half of these findings, the archaeologist Ideal Narimanov Azerbaijani suggested that the chain relates to the palaces of Derbent, perhaps these were palaces of Darius I (the great) built to establish bases close to the Scythians and confront possible threats from the north.