The Karnamak-e Ardeshir-e Papakan
By: Charles F. Horne
The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York, 1917)
In the records of Ardashir, Founder of the Sassanian Kingdom, son of Papak, it is written as follows: That after the death of Alexander [the Great], inhabitant of Arum, there were in the territory of Iran two hundred and forty princes. Spahan, Pars, and the borderlands that were nearest to them, were in the hands of Artabanus [Last of the Parthian kings], the chief king. Papak was the frontier governor of Pars, and was one of the commissioners appointed by Artabanus. The seat of Artabanus was in Stakhra. And Papak had no son to preserve his name. And Sasan was a shepherd employed by Papak, who always remained with the horses and cattle belonging to the latter, and he was descended from the line of King Darab [Darayavaush or Darius III], son of Darae.
During the evil reign of Alexander, the descendants of Darab privately lived in distant lands, wandering with Kurdish shepherds. Papak did not know that Sasan was descended from the family of Darab, son of Darae. One night Papak saw in a dream as though the sun was shining from the head of Sasan and giving light to the whole world. Another night he dreamt that Sasan was seated on a richly adorned white elephant, and that all those that stood around him in the kingdom made obeisance to him, praised, and blessed him. The next third night he, accordingly, saw as if the sacred fires Frobag, Gushasp, and Burzin-Mitro were burning in the house of Sasan and giving light to the whole world. He wondered at it, and directly invited to his presence the sages and interpreters of dreams, and narrated to them the visions he had seen in his dreams during those three nights.
The interpreters of dreams spoke thus: "The person that was seen in that dream, he or somebody from among the sons of that man will succeed to the sovereignty of this world, because the sun and the richly adorned white elephant that you observed represented vigor and the triumph of opulence; the sacred fire of Frobag, the religious intelligence of the great men among the Mobads; and the sacred fire Gushasp, warriors and military chieftains; and the sacred fire Burzin-Mitro, the farmers and agriculturists of the world: and thus this sovereignty will fall to that man or the descendants of that man."
On hearing these words, Papak dispatched somebody to call Sasan to his presence, and questioned him as follows: "From what race and family art thou? Out of thy fore-fathers and ancestors was there anybody who had exercised sovereignty or chieftainship before?" Sasan solicited from Papak his support and protection in these words: "Do me no hurt or harm." Papak accepted the request, and Sasan declared before Papak his own secret as it stood. On hearing his reply Papak was delighted, and so he ordered Sasan thus: "Elevate thy body by taking a bath."
Meanwhile Papak directed his servants that a suit of clothes fit to be worn by a king should be brought and given to Sasan, and Sasan wore the royal garments accordingly. Papak further directed in the case of Sasan that he should be nourished with invigorating, fresh and proper food for several days. Later on he gave him his daughter in marriage, and according to the law of nature she, in a short time, was pregnant by Sasan, and from her Ardashir was born. When Papak observed the youthful body and cleverness of Ardashir, he interpreted it thus: "The dream which I beheld was true." He regarded Ardashir as his own son, and brought him up as a dear child.
When Ardashir reached the age which was the time for higher instruction he became so proficient in literary knowledge, riding, and other arts that he was renowned throughout Pars. When Ardashir attained the age of fifteen years information reached Artabanus that Papak had a son proficient and accomplished in learning and riding. He wrote a letter to Papak to this effect: "We have heard that you have a son, who is accomplished and very proficient in learning and riding; our desire has been that you should send him to our court, and he shall be near us, so that he will associate with our sons and princes, and we might order for him position and reward according to the learning which he possesses."
As Artabanus was powerful and very absolute, it was improper on the part of Papak to do anything contrary to or to evade his command. Immediately therefore he sent Ardashir well-equipped with ten servants and a superb present of many marvelous, magnificent, and suitable things for the acceptance of Artabanus. When Artabanus saw Ardashir he was glad, expressed to him his affectionate regard, and ordered that he should every day accompany his sons and princes to the chase and the polo-ground.
Ardashir acted accordingly.
By the help of Providence he became more victorious and warlike than all, on the polo and the riding-ground, at Chatrang and Vine-Artakhshir, and in several other arts. One day Artabanus went a-hunting with his chevaliers and Ardashir. An elk which happened to be running in the desert was then pursued by Ardashir and the eldest son of Artabanus. And Ardashir, on reaching close to the elk, struck him with an arrow in such a manner that the arrow pierced through the belly as far as its feathers, passed through the other side, and the animal died instantly. When Artabanus and the chevaliers approached them, they expressed wonder at such a dart and asked: "Who struck that arrow?" Ardashir replied: "I did it." The son of Artabanus said: "No, because I did it."
Ardashir became angry and spoke thus to the son of Artabanus: "It is not possible to appropriate the art and heroism of another through tyranny, unpleasantness, falsehood, and injustice. This is an excellent forest, and the wild asses here are many. Let us try here a second time, and bring into display our goodness or evil nature and dexterity." Artabanus thereby felt offended and thereafter did not allow Ardashir to ride on horseback.
He sent the latter to his stables of horses and cattle, and ordered him as follows: "Take care of those animals so that you do not go in the day or night from before those horses and cattle a-hunting, to the playground or the college of learning." Ardashir understood that Artabanus spoke in this manner from envy and grudge, and directly wrote a letter to Papak, stating the facts as they stood. When Papak saw the letter he became melancholy. He wrote in reply to Ardashir as follows: "You did not act wisely in disputing with great men on a matter from which no harm could have reached you, and in addressing them with rough words in public. Now speak out excuses for thy relief and feel humble repentance, for the sages have said: 'It is not possible for an enemy to do that for an enemy, which is brought on himself by an ignorant man from his own actions.' This, too, is said: 'Do not be grieved narrow-mindedly from a person at the time when you can not pass your life happily without him.' And you yourself know that Artabanus is a king more powerful than I, thou, or many people in this world, with reference to our bodies, lives, riches, and estates. And now, too, such is my strictest advice unto thee that thou shouldst act in unison with and obediently toward them, and not deliver up thy own glory to annihilation."
Artabanus had in his service an accomplished maiden, whom he regarded with greater respect and affection than the other maidens under him; and this maiden took part in every service that was meant to do honor to Artabanus. One day, while Ardashir was seated by the horse-stalls, playing a tune on a drum, singing, and making other kinds of merriment, she beheld Ardashir, became enamored of him, and afterward frequently visited him, and formed friendship and love. Always regularly at every night, when the unfortunate Artabanus went to sleep, the maiden would clandestinely approach Ardashir, stay with him till the dawn, and then return to Artabanus.
One day Artabanus invited to his presence the sages and astrologers, who belonged to his court, and put them the following question: "What do you observe regarding the seven planets and the twelve signs of the zodiac, the position and the motion of the stars, the condition of the contemporary sovereigns of different kingdoms, the condition of the peoples of the world, and regarding myself, children, and our family?"
The chief of the astrologers said in reply as follows: "The Nahazig [Capricorn] is sunk below; the star Jupiter has returned to its culminating point and stands away from Mars and Venus, while Haptoirang [Ursa Major]and the constellation of Leo descend to the verge and give help to Jupiter; whereupon it seems clear that a new lord or king will appear, who will kill many potentates, and bring the world again under the sway of one sovereign." A second leader of the astrologers, too, came in the presence of the King and spoke to the following effect: "It is so manifest that any one of the male servants who flies away from his king within three days from to-day, will attain to greatness and kingship, obtain his wish, and be victorious, over his king."
The maiden, when she returned to Ardashir at night, recounted to Ardashir the words as they were told by the astrologers to Artabanus. Ardashir, when he heard these words, resolved upon departing from that place. He spoke to the maiden thus: "First of all, if thou art sincere and unanimous with me, and, secondly, if any one who runs away from his king within the three fixed days which the sages and astrologers have spoken of, attains to greatness and kingship, we should run away from here as far as this world goes, and escape. If by the grace of God, the glory of the kingdom of Iran falls to our help, and we be delivered and both attain to virtue and goodness, I shall treat thee so that no one in the world will be regarded as more fortunate than thee." The maiden consented and said: "I regard you as a nobleman, and shall obey you in every matter."
As it was nearly dawn, the maiden returned to her own room near Artabanus's chamber. At night, when Artabanus was asleep, she took from the treasury of Artabanus an Indian sword, golden saddles, belts of fine leather, golden crowns, golden goblets full of jewels, dirhems and dinars, coats-of-mail, highly engraved weapons of war, and many other precious things, and she brought them to Ardashir.
Meanwhile Ardashir saddled two of Artabanus's horses that ran seventy frasangs a day. He seated himself on one and the maiden on the other, took the road leading to Pars, and rode on with speed.
Thus they narrate that, at night, when they approached to a country, Ardashir feared lest the countrymen might behold, recognize, and capture them; so he did not enter the country, but passed by one of its precincts.
His approach was seen by two women seated together, who on seeing them exclaimed: "Do not fear, Ardashir the Kai, son of Papak, thou art of the blood of Sasan, and who hast risen from King Darab; it is not possible for any evil person to take possession of thee, as thou art destined to rule over the kingdom of Iran for many years. Make haste until you reach the sea; and when you see the ocean before your eyes, do not guard yourself, because when your eyes fall on the ocean, then you will be quite free from the fear of your enemies." Ardashir became glad on hearing these words, and rode onward with speed from that place.
When the day commenced Artabanus called for the maiden, but she was not to be found. The horse-keeper came and spoke to Artabanus as follows: "Ardashir and two of your steeds are not to be found in their places." Artabanus thereby became aware that one of his maidens, too, had run away and gone with Ardashir. And when he heard the information regarding his treasures his heart burst with grief. He invited the chief of the astrologers, and said: "Make the best of your time, and observe carefully as to the place where that offender [Ardashir] has gone with that dissolute harlot, and as to the time when we shall be able to get hold of them."
The chief of the astrologers observed the position of the planets, and replied to Artabanus as follows: "As the Aris is dismissed by Saturn and Mars, and approached by Jupiter and Mercury, and as the lord of the center of the sky [the Pole Star] stands far below the brightest place of the Sun, it is clear that Ardashir has fled away and gone, and is now on the road toward the frontiers of Pars; and if he is not overtaken within three days, it will not be possible to capture him thereafter."
Immediately Artabanus prepared an army of 4,000 men, and took the road leading to Pars in pursuit of Ardashir. At midday he reached the spot where the direct road crossed to Pars. And he inquired of the inhabitants thus: "At what time did those two riders who came toward this side depart?" The people said: "At the dawn of day, when the sun brought on its sharp rays, they passed like a violent wind, and a very powerful eagle was running after them than which no more handsome eagle could be found; and we believe that by this time they must have gone to a distance of many frasangs, and you will not, therefore, be able to overtake them." Accordingly Artabanus did not hesitate, but hastened onward.
When he reached another place, he asked the inhabitants: "At what time did those two riders pass this place?" They replied: "At midday they rode on from here as swiftly as a violent wind, and an eagle followed them as their companion." Artabanus seemed astonished at this, and said: "Consider that we know the pair of riders, but what is the propriety of the eagle following them?"
So he questioned the high-priest his minister, and the latter answered as follows: "It is the majesty of the Kayanian sovereignty, which has not reached him up to now, so it is necessary that we should ride on quickly that we might catch him before that glory is attained by him." Artabanus impetuously hastened onward with his cavalcade, and the next day they passed over seventy frasangs.
On the road he met a body of people belonging to a caravan, of whom Artabanus inquired: "At what place have those two riders met you?" They said: "Between you and them there is still a distance of twenty frasangs; and we have noticed an eagle that was very large and swift, and seated on the horse with one of the riders."
Artabanus asked the high-priest: "What does that eagle which accompanied them on the horse indicate?" The high-priest replied as follows: "May you be immortal! It is the Majesty of the Kayanians which reaches Ardashir; it is not possible to get hold of him by any such means, so thereafter you and your horsemen should not take any more pains, nor fatigue the horses any further and kill them; but you should seek means of a different kind against Ardashir."
When Artabanus heard such advice, he turned back and came to his capital. Afterward he got his forces and heroes equipped, and dispatched them with one of his sons to Pars, in order to catch Ardashir.