Zariadres and Odatis

by Aly Mazahéri

Published from: Aly Mazahéri, Zarathoustra, cet inconnu, with English translation of Zariadres and Odatis. Test édité par l'A.D.A.M. (Association des disciples d'Aly Mazahéri). Chartres (France), cahier no 3, 1992, pp. 48-59.

[The following article by Aly Mazaheri, written at the end of the 1970s, has not previously been published (the French original has been just published in our last summer issue of 1992 devoted to the “Role of the Woman in traditional Iran”). With extraordinary scholarship, the author explains the ancient origins of a Greek and Persian love story, referred to in his article “Woman and Love in Traduional Iran”. We learn here that the theme of this novel inspired for example Tchaikovsky in his "Swan Lake"; the white swans are the Persians and the black swans the Greeks, with the name of Odette none other than the ancient Iranian name of Vohudâthi. The legend can also be found in the “Shâh-nâmeh”].

[48] The “romance of Zariadres and Odatis” can he considered as the most ancient love story composed by the Iranians. The text, in verse was already widely spread in the time of the Achemenids; its main scenes or miniatures were painted in frescoes in the palaces and in the temples, - Old Persian ayâdâna = ayad dân, from ayad/yad, "hand" (in ayâdgâr) and dân, "room" - which would prove that this romance was of “national” interest (testimony of Chares of Mytilene, secretary of Alexander the Great). Josef Markwart has translated these lines of the lovers’ adventure from

[49] Greek to German (1), but occupied as he was in explaining the novel in his own way, he forgot to __________________________________________________

(1) Chares of Mytilene, fragment 17 of Athenaeus, XIII 36, p. 575 (German edition), quoted by Joseph Markwart, Wehrot und Arang, Leiden, Brill, 1938, p. 126, § 94: “Brother of Hystaspes who reigned over Media and the lands on this side, Zariadres ruled over the lands between the “Caspian Gates” [darband - gardane-ye khvâr] and Tanais-Iaxartes, [?]. But Omartes (Vohumardhya), king of the Marathoi, of beyond the Tanais, had a daughter, Odatis (Vohudâthî), the most beautiful in Asia: the annals say that Odatis saw Zariadres in a dream and fell in love with him. He too saw her in a dream and fell in love with her. Odatis’ father, lacking a male heir, wanted to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to one of his relations. He invited all his princely relatives, from whom he wanted to choose a son-in-law. The one who received a golden cup of wine from Odatis’ hands would be the choisen one; she had secretely invited Zariadres. He came to Tanais, accompanied only by his coachman. He had travelled nightly 800 stadiums. At the gates of the camp, he posted the coachman and the chariot, and put on Scythian garments. He came into the assembly, introduced himself to the weeping Odatis who has holding the cup full of wine; he stole Odatis and fled to his chariot. The Persians paint this epic in their temples, palaces and houses; they name their daughters Odatis [Vohudâthî]”.

[Conmientary by A. Mazaheri on the quotation of J. Markwart]: For J. Markwart, Zariadres = Adonis = Apâm Napât! Odatis = Aphrodite = Anahita/Anâhîd! It is a novel in the style of Jamshid and Khorshid by Salmân Sâvaji, but there, on the (see the end of the note 1 in the following p.).

[50] (end of note 1, commentary by A. Mazaheri on J. Markwart): contrary, Jamshid is the King of Persia and Khorshid the daughter of the emperor of China. Markwart insists on Tanais, although the frontier is the “Caspian Gates” (Pylae Caspiae) and the East is Khorasan/Parthyene (by Baghdad and Balkh is meant East and West). Odette lets herself be kidnapped by Zariadres like Helen by Paris of Troy: the “Sea” is in the middle, the limit of the two kingdoms. Is this not the story of the Sun (feminine element in Iran) and the Moon (masculine element) ? (in Iranian Media = Mâdh = Mâh i.e. Zariadres). Does the cup of gold symbolize Venus? Odatis = Anâhîd, daughter of the Sun - khűrshîd-e khâvar (this recalls too the story of Nasouh - Nasűh). Odatis = *xvadâthî, “princess”, goddess (baghî). Zariadres is known from the Avesta: he was a hero of the Yâdigâr-i Zaręrân a Pahlavi poem in verses (transl. by E. Benvéniste). The cup of gold is comparable to the golden apple that Katayon, the daughter of the Byzantine emperor, threw to the Sasanian king Shâpur (Hyataspes mistaken for Zariadres, also goes to Rome/Byzantium). Here Katayon = Odatis, Hystaspes = Zariadres, the Byzantine emperor = Omartes, king of the Scythians beyond Tanais. In the "Book of the Kings of the Persians" by Tha’alibi (transl. Zotenberg, p. 112 ss.), Katayon (=Kat-bânu) sees a very hadsome knight in a dream, exactly the story told by Chares of Mytilene. Here too Zaręr and Goshtâsp are both sons of Lohrâsp (=SPALIRISO from a coin of Kanishka, cf. S.A. Stein, Zoroastrian deities on Indo-scythian Coins, p.8) and a king of Seistan, Spalirises/*Spa-Laora). Lohrâsp, son of Kay-Khosro, became a Buddhist priest. The Byzantine emperor = a Scythian king: he is a cousin of the kings of Iran through Phrętôn/Afrędôn (Goshtasp is identical to Zaręr and has the role of the latter).

[51] supply the original version, transmitted to us by the "Book of Kings" (Khvadây-nâmak), a version that can be found both in Tha’alibi (“Book of the Kings of the Persians”, translated by Zotenberg) and in the "Book of Kings" (or Shâh-nâmeh, transl. Jules Mohl).

In the three tales, the basic story is fundamentally the same: on one side there are two princes, Hystaspes and Zariadres, both sons of the king of the Medes; according to Chares of Mytilene, the latter is the lover, while according to the “Book of the Kings”, it is the former, and Zariadres simply helped him. Like in the famous love story Jamshid and Khorshid, written in 1362 A.D. by Salmân Sâvaji (“Persian Texts”, 39, ed. Fer. Vohuman, Teheran, 1969), a survival of the same legend, the two lovers are a prince of the East (“China”) and a princess of the West (“Greece”). According to Chares of Mytilene, the lover, Zariadres, is a prince of the Medes, and the beloved woman, Odatis, a princess of the “Scythes beyond the Tanais”. This is what led J. Markwart to speculate on the exact position of the Tanais “River”, which he identified as Syr-Daria (!), while reducing the two lovers to “Water spirits” ! Indeed, according to him, Zariadres is Apâm-napât and Odatis is Anaitis, the “Persian Venus”! In fact, the theme is more complex. “Tanais” has the wide meaning of “sea” separating the “East” (Asia) from the “West” (Europe): that means that the two lovers were separated by a gulf, impossible to cross not only because of the water, but also because of political, religious and social prejudices. We are looking here at a love story with “Aryan” origins, the kidnapping of Helen by Paris, prince of “Troy”. The theme is found not only in Greek literature, where it forms the thread of the Iliad, but also of the Râmâyana of India, under the form of the loves of Râma and Sîtâ.

[52] Notwithstanding the “Indo-European” character of the theme, each of the three branches of the “Aryan” peoples intepreted it in their own way. I will not discuss the adventures of Helen and Paris, sufficiently well known thanks to the Iliad, but I will, like Herodotus who made of it the origin and cause of the Median wars (Herodotus, I, 1-5), draw attention to the fact that here, like in Iran, it is the story of a princess from the West being beguiled by a prince from the East. Need I stress that “Helen” means “the Greek” and “Pâris”, the “Persian”? This would make “Homer’s” epic a few centuries younger, and would lead one to think that the famous “Trojan war” was only a poetic invention from the time of Darius the Great, propaganda in verse form aimed at showing that the “Persians” had kidnapped “Greece”, but that soon the Greeks, united under King Leonidas of Sparta, would go and capture the country of Pâris.

The Râmâyana, in the version of Vâlmiki, reflects an Iranian view, for there is an Iranian argument (cf. Herodotus, ibid.) which is transmitted to the Indians. It is known, indeed, that in the armies of Darius and Xerxes (Herodotus), there were regiments made up of Indians. Therefore, according to the Râmâyana, it was the islanders, “Monkeys” and “Bears” - in other words the “barbarians” from across the sea - who kidnapped the beautiful Sîtâ, and it was the handsome Râma (“Xerxes”) who, crossing the sea on the bridge of boats built by the “Monkeys” and “Bears” taken into his service, went to conquer the famous Island (here, the Peloponnese is glossed as Sri Lanka, the island of Ceylon) and set fire to the capital of the “Demons” and to their “temple”. In his famous writing tablet against the “Demons” - daeva -, a text of which more than one copy has been found, Xerxes said that he laid an

[53] expedition over the seas to punish the enemies of Ahura-Mazda, the giaurs (2) who sacrificed to the expedition over the seas to punish the enemies of “demons”. He said that he destroyed the temple of the “demons”, daevadâna, and forced the demon-worshippers to worship Ahura-Mazda (Xph, Xerxes Persepolis, H 28-41), Darius (Behistun, col. V, lines 20-36) gave the same reason for his expedition against the “Scythians with the pointed helmets from the other side of the sea”, pagan peoples who worshipped demons and who refused to pay hommage due to Ahura-Mazda.

Explaining “inter-cultural” wars by the kidnappings of princesses - this was a romantic motivation which seems to have pleased the public in the middle of the 5th century B.C. On this, re-read the first few pages of Herodotus (in book I). In regard to this, the Greek public blamed the Median wars on the Persians, as Pâris had kidnapped Helen! The “Medes” retorted by accusing the Greeks, who long ago had kidnapped Medea (the “Mede” !) The Greeks responded by accusing the Iranians of having kidnapped Iô (the “Ionian”), etc. The conciliation party, for there was always one, put the blame on Cananeans (or Phoenicians), unscrupulous traffickers, who constantly stole the daughters of one group to sell them to another. Here, however, the issue is love and not trafficking. Helen loves Pâris, and allows herself be charmed with pleasure. Sîtâ loved Râma and followed


(2) Being a ghiaur (anarika) is a reason also invoked concerning certain Elamites, who did not worship Ahura-Mazda either (Behistim, col. V, lines l4-l7). Indeed, the expeditions of Darius and Xerxes against certain peoples and tribes have a resesnblance to a holy war, like the Koranic jihâd.

[54] him willingly. In the same fashion, in the Iranian tale reported by Chares of Mytilene, Odatis, princess of the “Scythians from beyond the seas” - just like the princess “Khorshid from Greece” - saw in a dream the lover who would come from the kingdom on the other side to kidnap her. In the case of the beautiful Khorshid, she was to be kidnapped by Prince Jamshid of China (Salmân Sâvaji, 14th century, and Jâma-ul-hikâyat, 16th century, Mashad, MS. 191, hikâyat 28 and 34).

J. Markwart misinterprets the narrative of Chares of Mytilene in situating the “Kingdom of the Scythians on the other side of the Tanais”, to the East or the North-East of Syr-Daria! While according to Herodotus and the most ancient geographers, Tanais was the Danube; his narative on the expedition of Darius against the “Scythians from beyond the seas” is not very satisfactory: the Danube is confused with the Don. Didn't the Greek confused the Amu-Darya and the Don? Even in the 10th century, AI-Mas’udi had trouble persuading his readers that for our Black Sea the Scythians said *Vohu-khsin or “White” Sea, a word that the Greeks distorted into Euxinos; for the rest Pontos, “lake”, is also the Iranian Bon or Bont, “Lake”; in Latin it is Fons, from which the word fontain and baptismal font.

In short, Odatis is a European princess. If proof were necessary, here it is: in the “Book of Kings”, where the role of Zariadres (Zaręr) is held by his brother Hystaspes (Goshtasp), princess Odatis is called Katayon (distorsion of Katharina, Catherine, that the Georgians, following the Armenians, pronounce Katavan); there was, for example, a Georgian princess of this name who married the Shah of Persia Abbas I, after he had been refused the hand of poor Henrietta, sister of Louis XIII,

[55] who for political reasons had to marry the unhappy Charles I of Scotland and England. Indeed, this Katayon, says the “Book of Kings”, is the daughter of the king of Byzantium (Hroma)!

The kings of Persia were allies of Alania and Sarmatia, not only since the Mithridates, but perhaps even from before, since the expedition of Darius, a king who seemed to have married a princess of the “Scythians with the pointed helmets” to his son Xerxes. We know from his own inscription that Xerxes had several brothers: we do not know their names. As his grandfather was called Hystaspes, and was a “satrap” of Parthyene (Khorasan) on behalf of Cyrus the Great (550-530 B.C.), and the tradition was to give grand-children the name of their grandfather, there is a good chance that one of Xerxes’ brothers was called Hystaspes II and one, Zariadres. Let us not forget that the Achaemenids were also kings of Macedonia. Alexander the Great and his generals - Macedonian nobles - continued an ancient tradition in marrying princesses and noble Persian women. In the eyes of Iranians, Hroma (Rome) and Sarmistâna (Sarmatia) constituted the same kingdom, a kingdom whose kings descended from Sarm, the son of Thraedona (Afrędôn/Phrętôn/Frędôn), and who in consequence, where “cousins” to the kings of the Persians.

The Greek-republican theses spread in France in the last two centuries, according to which Alexander had been Greek, would have made the Persians smile: in their eyes, no only were Alexander and the Macedonians not Greek at all - we know that at Skudra, people were more Albanian than Greek, and Albanian is in any case closer to Iranian than to Greek - but Constantine and his descendents too were more

[56] Sarmatian and Alan than real “Romans”. Not only because of their idioms which were close to Iranian, but also because of their Persian dress (“Sarmatian robe”), worn by all the Aryan “barbarians”, Macedonians and Sarmatians passed for Iranians. Their subjects, the Hrômik (our Greek-Romans), themselves dressed as Phoenico-Egyptians, with a peplum and a toga (tâk / tâqa) and going bare-headed, sometimes bare-foot, and always without under-pants or trousers, were considered by the Iranians as kinds of “bears” or “monkeys”: and it was of them that the Iranians used the scornful nickname of anarika (inscription of Darius) or anęrik (“ghiaur”) under the Arsacids and the Sasanians (in the last centuries they say nâ mard or nâ mardom as opposed to mard and mardom, from where mardomî, mardî, mardânegî, and nâ mardî or nâ mardomî). Arya originally meant “cultivator” and “cultivated” man, and its opposite an-arya, literally “un-cultivated”, brute, nomad (on a camel) or nomad (on a boat), meant the demon-worshippers (daeva-yasna) who failed to recognize the Great God Ahura-Mazda. The Persians would have explained to us that the “Aryas”, originally a people of cultivators, were corrupted by their contact with “Phoenician” traffickers and slave-traders. Herodotus says that the Persians, simple and virtuous people at the outset, were corrupted by their contact with foreigners, notably the Greeks!

* * *

[57] It is curious to find the essence of the Persian romance of Zariadres and Odatis in the work of Tchaikovsky (1840-93) in the forme of a musical ballet, “Swan Lake” (1877) that everyone knows: in it, Odatis has the Europeanized name of Odette, and Zariadres is Siegfried (Sigurd in the Viking’s mythology). Just as in the Persian tale, first of all, the two lovers are separated from each other by elementary water. Odatis in “Swan Lake” is a pretty girl who has been changed into a white swan by a Magician. She and her ladies in waiting are beautiful girls at night, but at dawn once again become palmipeds, to the great despair of the Russian Zariadres. The ending is the same in the two maritime versions (Scandinavian-Varangian) and continental (Persian): Odatis - read as “Odette” in the Viking countries - and “Helen” in the country of Homer - is in love with the Persian hero (Pâris = Perseus) and finally follows him, after having put him to the test.

In “Swan Lake”, the test consists of Siegfried (Sigurd) avoiding the nets of the black swan, the daughter of the Magician who turned Odette into a white swan. And in fact, Siegfried has the tact to avoid Odille - the black swan. The Magician sets off a storm up above, which our hero escapes from, accompanied by Odette, freed from her condition as a palmiped.

One could say: here is a beautiful legend with a common Indo-European origin! In my eyes, it is simply the adventure of King Xerxes and his relationship with the beautiful Queen of Halicarnassus, Artemisia I, who, at the head of the Persian fleet, helped Xerxes to defeat the Greeks at Salamis (480 B.C.). Thinking at first that the beautiful Queen of Caria was on their side, the Greeks of lonia were cruelly disappointed when they saw her won to the Persian

[58] cause. Pâris had just kidnapped Helen, according to the interpretation of the Iliad! In fact, the historical Helen (our Artemisia, Queen of Caria), had gone over to the camp of Ahura-Mazda: it was a “white swan”, an islander, a “sea-wolf”, attracted by the Persians.

The Magician in “Swan Lake”, who wanted to have Siegfried (Sigurd) marry her daughter Odille, a black swan, is in fact Neptune - the particular god of the Greeks. He launched a storm against the fleet of Xerxes, while crossing the Bosporus. The King of Persia (Pâris) had him given the whip (Herodotus), and Neptune calmed down, and gave in to Ahura-Mazda. The Iliad is probably a patriotic falsification only created by the Ionians after the Median wars, or an older work, skillfully revived in the mid-5th century B.C., to give the Ionians a venerable example of the victory of the ancient Greeks over the ancient Persians (the people of Pâris). The subject of the Iliad is that of our Alfred de Musset against the Prussians: “Nous l’avons eu votre Rhin allemand... Oů le pčre a passé passera bien l’enfant” (“Whe have got your German Rhine... Where the father has gone, the child will go too”, ed.). It is quite likely that the epic romance of Zariadres and Odatis (Siegfried and Odette), in other words, the epic of Xerxes and Artemisia, that is also found in the “Book of Kings” (Shâh-nâmeh) was part of a *Perseid, of which the Iliad is just the Greek-Ionian version.

In short, the “swans” in Tchaikovsky's “Swan lake” designate the Ionians - a people of navigators - on nomads in boats. The white swans are the supporters of the Persians, the “Ionians wearing caps” - yavanân tâkavarân in Persian insrcription), and the black swans are the supporters of the Athenians (the “bare-headed Greeks” - yavanân tarâ darayâhia in the same

[59] inscriptions of Xerxes - that is the Greeks who - according to the tablet of Xerxes - rejected Ahura-Mazda and worshipped daeva, “idols”. Xerxes took credit for making destroy (by fire) the “temples of demons” (daeva-dâna).

That the Persian epic (the *Perseid) should have found its way to northern Europe (Scythia, Sarmatia, Germania, Scandinavia), thanks to the Gothalani (Alans and Goths), is quiet natural: the “barbarians are disciples of the Barbarians”; the Continentals follow the ancient traditions of the great Continent, just like our Franco-British quote the Athenians as their authority; but the Franks and the Saxons of the Middle-Ages followed Iranian traditions, notwithstanding the Ocean that they disdained. The Vikings themselves only took to the water and began to navigate very late, perhaps following the example of the “Barbaresques” with whoom they stayed friends.

Thus, the two lovers are separated by civilization: the element of Water. The lover is a Continental, a kind of ostrich, but the beloved is a swan and as she is in love with the ostrich, she rallied to the cause of the ostriches: now, precisely “l’amour est un enfant de Bohčme qui n’a jamais connu de loi!” (“love is a Bohemian child who has never known law!”, ed.). The real story which the legend was taken from, would easily show that Artemisia I no doubt had good economic reasons to put herself at the head of Xerxes’ fleet to fight her island rivals. It was for the same reason that Xerxes was sympathetic to the Tyrians and the... Carthaginians - the “white swans”, fearing the economic rivalry of the “black swans”. Just like Richard Wagner (l8I3-83) and without being aware of it, Tchaikovsky developed tales or romances which were taken to be Germanic or Nordic, but which were actually Iranian.