Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero

Texts and Traditions of the Farāmarznāme and the Persian Epic Cycle


In Farāmarz, the Sistāni Hero Marjolijn van Zutphen discusses the manuscripts, storylines and main themes of the shorter and the longer Farāmarznāme (c. 1100), in relation to Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāme and several other later maṡnawis about the warriors from Sistān (the Persian Epic Cycle). Farāmarz, a secondary figure of the Shāhnāme, gained importance in later epic traditions and as the invincible protagonist of both Farāmarznāmes reached a status that equalled, if not surpassed, that of his famous father Rostam.
Van Zutphen further shows how Farāmarz displays parallels to the fictional figures of Garshāsp (his ancestor) and Eskandar and argues that some story elements of Farāmarz’s Indian conquest may be rooted in historical events from both the Parthian and the Ghaznawid period.
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Biographical Note

Marjolijn van Zutphen earned her doctorate at Leiden University (December 2011). She is currently researching the Persian traditions surrounding Eskandar, within the project Beyond the European Myth. In Search of the Afro-Asiatic Alexander Cycle at the Amsterdam Free University (VU).

Table of contents


Notes on transcription, dates, quotations and bibliographical citations
Chronological table
Map of greater Iran and northern India
List of tables and figures



Chapter 1. The history of the kings, the Sistāni cycle and the manuscript tradition

1. Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāme, its origins and supposed sources
1.1 Pre-Islamic origins
1.2 Other versions of the ‘Book of Kings’ in the Islamic period
1.3 Possible sources of the legends of Sistān
1.3.1 The narrations of Āzādsarw
2. Parthian origins of the Sistāni cycle: tentative links to historical events
2.1 The geo-political entity of Sistān
2.2 The Sakas, the Suren and the Sistāni legends
2.2.1 Rostam and the hero of Carrhae
2.2.2 Farāmarz and the Indo-Parthian empire of Gondophares
3. Shāhnāme manuscripts and editions: reconstructions and reinterpretations
3.1 The culmination of a tradition of interpolating: London, British Library, MSS Or. 2926 and Or. 2976 (BL)
3.2 Editions of the Shāhnāme: establishing a codified text

Chapter 2. The Persian epic cycle

1. The later epics as a genre
1.1 Epic romances: a description
2. The poems making up the Persian epic cycle
2.1 A tentative classification
2.2 A descriptive overview
3. Origins and roles of the Sistāni warriors
3.1 Possible origins of the later epics
3.2 Roles of the Sistāni warriors in the Persian epic cycle


Chapter 3. The Sistāni dynasty in Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāme

1. The older generations, Rostam, Zāl, Zawāre and Sām
1.1 Roles in the Shāhnāme
1.2 Rulers of Sistān, Zābolestān and India
2. The confusing situation of Garshāsp
3. Bizhan, the son of Bānu Goshasp: the union of two noble houses
4. Farāmarz’s appearances in the Shāhnāme
4.1 The revenge of Siyāwakhsh: Farāmarz’s debut as a warrior in the Iranian army
4.2 Key Khosrow sends Farāmarz on campaign to India
4.3 The remainder of the reign of Key Khosrow: Farāmarz in the background
4.4 The story of Rostam and Esfandiyār: Farāmarz and Zawāre propel the action
4.5 Farāmarz avenges Rostam’s death
4.6 Farāmarz’s end
4.7 Conclusion

Chapter 4. Farāmarz’s role in six later epics

1. The Bānu Goshaspnāme: Farāmarz’s youth
2. The Shabrangnāme: Farāmarz’s first test of war
3. The Jahāngirnāme: Farāmarz saves Jahāngir’s life
4. The Borzunāme
4.1 The shorter Borzunāme: Farāmarz replaces his father
4.2 The longer Borzunāme: Farāmarz as a minor Sistāni warrior
5. The Shahriyārnāme: Farāmarz returns from India
6. The Bahmannāme
6.1 Part 1 of the Bahmannāme: Rostam’s role
6.2 Parts 2-4: the battles between Bahman and the Sistāni armies
7. Conclusion

Chapter 5. Farāmarz and the Sistāni dynasty in six histories and an encyclopaedia

1. Ṭabari’s universal history: Farāmarz added to the history of the kings
2. Balʿami: the Persian version of Ṭabari’s History
2.1 Additions to Balʿami’s original text about Garshāsp, Rostam and Farāmarz
3. Ṡaʿālebi’s Arabic history of the Persian kings
3.1 Ṡaʿālebi on the Sistāni rulership
3.2 Ṡaʿālebi on Farāmarz
3.3 Sources: Ṡaʿālebi versus Ferdowsi
4. The Mojmal al-tawārikh wa’l- qeṣaṣ: a source on Persian epic traditions
4.1 Focus on the Sistāni warriors: accounts from the Persian epic cycle
4.2 Farāmarz in the Mojmal al-tawārikh
5. Shahmardān b. Abi’l-Kheyr’s Nozhatnāme-ye ʿalā’i: Farāmarz’s Indian campaign
6. Malek Shāh Sistāni’s Eḥyā’ al-moluk and its example, the Tārikh-e Sistān
6.1 The anonymous Persian Tārikh-e Sistān: a source on the Sistāni dynasty
6.2 The Eḥyā’ al-moluk: stories from the Persian epic cycle
6.2.1 The older generations of Sistāni warriors: the Tārikh-e Sistān combined with the Shāhnāme and the Persian epic cycle
6.2.2 Farāmarz and the younger Sistāni generations: the Bahmannāme and beyond
7. Conclusion


Chapter 6. Texts of the Farāmarznāme

1. The shorter Farāmarznāme
1.1 The separate epic, placed in the context of Farāmarz’s family
1.1.1 Oxford (MS Pers. e. 13) and London (MS Or. 2946), two near-identical copies
1.1.2 Paris (MS Suppl. persan 498), from the collection of Anquetil Duperron
1.2 A sequel to the Shabrangnāme, in Leiden (MS Acad. 150), BL (MS Or. 2926), and IO (MS IO Islamic 3263)
1.2.1 The interpolated Shabrangnāme and shorter Farāmarznāme of Mashhad (MS 4248)
1.3 A prequel to the longer Farāmarznāme, in the lithographed book (L)
1.4 The seven versions compared
1.5 Sarmadi’s edition
2. The longer Farāmarznāme: the separate poem
2.1 RSPA (MS RSPA 176), the longer Farāmarznāme as a separate book
2.1.1 Comparison with the lay-out of the other two texts (IO and L)
2.2 IO (MS IO Islamic 3263), a mix of three stories dealing with Farāmarz
2.3 The lithographed Farāmarznāme (L), the story of Farāmarz’s life
2.3.1 Contents of the book
3. The interpolated longer Farāmarznāme in four Shāhnāme manuscripts
4. The Indian manuscripts: two shorter and four longer Farāmarznāmes
5. Conclusion

Chapter 7. The shorter Farāmarznāme

1. Previous research
1.1 The fame of Farāmarz
1.2 The poet, the period and possible origins
2. The story
2.1 The beginning; Nowshād asks for assistance against five foes (S, vss 1–189)
2.2 Farāmarz defeats Kannās Diw (S, vss 190–376)
2.3 Bizhan and Gorg-e guyā (S, vss 377–554)
2.4 Farāmarz deals with Mār-e jushā and with the rhinoceroses (S, vss 555–731)
2.5 The battle against Keyd (S, vss 732–1053)
2.6 Farāmarz journeys onwards in pursuit of Keyd: the lands of Niknur and Saranj (S, vss 1054–1246)
2.7 Farāmarz’s conversation with a Brahman (S, vss 1247–1348)
2.8 Farāmarz makes peace with Keyd and discusses with another Brahman (S, vss 1349–1595) 254
2.9 Variant readings: notable additions and omissions
2.9.1 The situation of Ṭahmur and Arwand Shah 2
2.9.2 Leiden’s missing conversations with the Brahmans
3. Analysis
3.1 In imitation of Ferdowsi – and of Asadi
3.1.1 The poem’s beginning and development
3.1.2 The fight against the dragon
3.1.3 A complaint of old age
3.2 Andarz: words of wisdom in an epic setting
3.2.1 Counsel in the form of a testament
3.2.2 Farāmarz and the Brahmans: counsel and riddles
3.2.3 The dual nature of the poem: fighting vs. reasoning
3.3 Exaggeration and heroics
3.3.1 Fighting fantastic creatures
3.3.2 Easily defeated enemies: the heroics of Farāmarz and Bizhan
3.4 Names and places: Farāmarz’s Indian conquest as an incentive for the Ghaznawids
3.4.1 Destination Delhi: geographical inconsistencies in the journey to Keyd’s country
3.4.2 Familiar names: Keyd and Cheypāl
3.5 An incomplete poem
4. Conclusion

Chapter 8. The longer Farāmarznāme

1. Speculations on the poem’s date and sources
2.1. The manuscript version of the introduction (RSPA and IO), a paraphrase of a Shāhnāme episode
2.1.1 A spurious introduction
2.1.2 Returning the focus to Farāmarz
2.2 The lithographed introduction (L)
3. The main story – part one: Farāmarz’s campaign on the Indian mainland
3.1 Farāmarz arrives in Khargāh and opposes Ṭoworg (RSPA, ff. 9v–27v)
3.2 Farāmarz and the Raja of India (RSPA, ff. 28r–59r)
3.2.1 Farāmarz and the Raja: comparison with the Nozhatnāme-ye ʿalā’i
3.3 The confrontation with Mahārak, governor of Kashmir (RSPA, ff. 59v–76r)
4. The interpolated longer Farāmarznāme: a retelling of the epic’s first part
4.1 Illustrations of the interpolated longer Farāmarznāme: Farāmarz in the limelight
5. The main story – part two: Farāmarz’s travels to the Indian islands
5.1 The islands of Farāsang and Kahilā: a battle and a brief romance (RSPA, ff. 77r–90v)
5.2 The islands of the Dawālpāyān, the Filgushān, and the Brahmans: pugnacious peoples and a wise conversation (RSPA, ff. 91r–104v)
5.3 Farāmarz goes up against a bird, a dragon, and the Zangiyān (RSPA, ff. 104v–111r)
5.4 In Qeyrawān: Garshāsp’s testament and the defeat of the dragon, the lions, and the rhinoceroses (RSPA, ff. 111v–129r)
5.5 Farāmarz receives help from the Simorgh and finds the tomb of king Hushang (RSPA, ff. 129v–138v)
5.6 King Farghān, Mount Qāf, and the demons of Kalānkuh (RSPA, ff. 138v–149v)
5.7 Farāmarz falls in love: his encounters with Siyah Diw and his letter to king Farṭurtush (RSPA, ff. 149v–168r)
5.8 Farāmarz’s haft khān (RSPA, ff. 168r–179v)
5.9 Farāmarz becomes Farṭurtush’s son-in-law, goes back to Iran, and thereafter returns to rule India (RSPA, ff. 179v–193v)
6. Analysis
6.1 Links to the Shāhnāme: further evidence of a former interpolation
6.2 Resemblances to certain Shāhnāme stories
6.2.1 Farāmarz’s nightly adventure with the princess: in imitation of Rostam
6.2.2 Similarities between Farāmarz and Zāl: Simorgh and the love story
6.2.3 Farāmarz’s haft khān, compared with Rostam’s and Esfandiyār’s
6.2.4 Andarz: Buzorjmehr’s words put in the Brahman’s mouth
6.3 Reminders of traditions about Eskandar
6.3.1 Acting as his own messenger
6.3.2 Peoples with strange features: the Dawālpāyān and the Filgushān
6.3.3 The land of the Zangiyān and the demons of Kalānkuh
6.4 Farāmarz in love with the fairy princess: a comparison with the Sāmnāme
6.5. Parallels to the Garshāspnāme
6.5.1 Dealings with rebellious Indian rulers: Mahārak and Bahu
6.5.2 Travels around the islands: marvels or just a set of adventures?
6.5.3 In the footsteps of the Sistāni ancestors
6.6 Inconsistencies within the rubrics and the storyline
6.7 Farāmarz as ruler of India
6.7.1 The two parts of the poem connected: the Sistāni rule of India
6.7.2 Farāmarz’s conquest and historical reality: a connection to the Ghaznawids
7. Conclusion

Conclusion. Farāmarz, the hero

1. Farāmarz, the historical conqueror
1.1 Farāmarz and the Indo-Parthians
1.2 Farāmarz and the Ghaznawids
1.3 Farāmarz, a historical hero?
2. Farāmarz, the epic warrior and the folktale hero
3. Farāmarz, hero of the later Shāhnāme manuscripts
Appendix 1. Manuscripts and lithographs of the Shāhnāme and the later epics
1. Manuscripts
2. Lithographed editions
Appendix 2. Rubrics of the shorter Farāmarznāme
1. The rubrics of London (and Oxford) and Paris compared
2. The rubrics of L, BL, IO and Leiden compared
Appendix 3. Comparison of the verses of the texts of the shorter Farāmarznāme
Appendix 4. Rubrics of the longer Farāmarznāme
Appendix 5. Comparison of the verses of the texts of the longer Farāmarznāme
Appendix 6. Rubrics of the interpolated longer Farāmarznāme


1. Primary sources

1.1 Manuscripts
1.2 Lithographed books
1.3 Printed editions
2. Secondary sources



All interested in the narrative and/or manuscript traditions surrounding Ferdowsi’s Shāhnāme and the later Persian epics. More generally, those concerned with literary traditions, patronage and history of 11-12th-century eastern Iran.