Persian mythology

Persian mythology are traditional tales and stories of ancient origin, all involving extraordinary or supernatural beings. Drawn from the legendary past of Iran, they reflect the attitudes of the society to which they first belonged - attitudes towards the confrontation of good and evil, the actions of the gods, yazats (lesser gods), and the exploits of heroes and fabulous creatures. Myths play a crucial part in Iranian culture and our understanding of them is increased when we consider them within the context of Iranian history.

For this purpose we must ignore modern political boundaries and look at historical developments in the Greater Iran, a vast area covering the Caucasus, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Central Asia, beyond the frontiers of present-day Iran. The geography of this region, with its high mountain ranges, plays a significant role in many of the mythological stories. The second millennium BC is usually regarded as the age of migration because of the emergence in western Iran of a new form of Iranian pottery, similar to earlier wares of north-eastern Iran, suggesting the arrival of the Ancient Iranian peoples. This pottery, light grey to black in colour, appeared around 1400 BC. It is called Early Grey Ware or Iron I, the latter name indicating the beginning of the Iron Age in this area.[1]

Key texts

The central collection of Persian mythology is the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, written over a thousand years ago. Ferdowsi's work draws heavily, with attribution, on the stories and characters of Mazdaism and Zoroastrianism, not only from the Avesta, but from later texts such as the Bundahishn and the Denkard as well as many others.

Religious background

Chogha Zanbil
The Chogha Zanbil ziggurat.

The characters of Persian mythology almost always fall into one of two camps. They are either good, or they are evil. The resultant discord mirrors the nationalistic ideals of the early Islamic era as well as the moral and ethical perceptions of the Zoroastrian period, in which the world was perceived to be locked in a battle between the destructive Ahriman and his hordes of demonic dews and their un-Iranian supporters, versus the Creator Ormuzd, who although not participating in the day-to-day affairs of mankind, was represented in the world by the izads and the righteous ahlav Iranians.

Good and Evil

Tus shahnameh
Relief in Tus depicting popular mythical stories of Iran.
Nadir Madrasah Phoenix
Simurgh (Phoenix) decoration outside of Nadir Divan-Beghi madrasah, Bukhara.

The most famous legendary character in the Persian epics and mythology is Rostam. On the other side of the fence is Zahhak, a symbol of despotism who was, finally, defeated by Kāve, who led a popular uprising against him. Zahhak (Avestan: Aži Dahāka) was guarded by two vipers which grew out from both of his shoulders. No matter how many times they were beheaded, new heads grew on them to guard him. The snake, like in many other mythologies, was a symbol of evil, but many other animals and birds appear in Iranian mythology, and, especially, the birds were signs of good omen. Most famous of these is the Simurgh, a large beautiful and powerful bird; and the Huma bird, a royal bird of victory whose plume adorned the crowns.

Peri (Avestan Pairika), considered a beautiful though evil woman in early mythology, gradually became less evil and more beautiful, until during the Islamic period she became a symbol of beauty similar to the houris of Paradise.

The conflict between good and evil is prevalent in Persian myth and Zoroastrianism.[2]


Pegasus iran

Parthian era Bronze plate with Pegasus depiction ("Pegaz" in Persian). Excavated in Masjed Soleiman


Persia, Rostam Riding Toward the History by Adel Adili

See also


  1. ^ Sarkhosh-Curtis, V., Persian Myths (1993) London, ISBN 0-7141-2082-0
  2. ^ "Persian Myth".
  • Iran almanac and book of facts 1964-1965. Fourth edition, new print. Published by Echo of Iran, Tehran 1965.

External links


Daeva (Avestan: 𐬛𐬀𐬉𐬎𐬎𐬀 daēuua) is an Avestan language term for a particular sort of supernatural entity with disagreeable characteristics. In the Gathas, the oldest texts of the Zoroastrian canon, the daevas are "gods that are (to be) rejected". This meaning is – subject to interpretation – perhaps also evident in the Old Persian "daiva inscription" of the 5th century BCE. In the Younger Avesta, the daevas are divinities that promote chaos and disorder. In later tradition and folklore, the dēws (Zoroastrian Middle Persian; New Persian divs) are personifications of every imaginable evil.

Daeva, the Iranian language term, should not be confused with the devas of Indian religions. While the word for the Vedic spirits and the word for the Zoroastrian entities are etymologically related, their function and thematic development is altogether different. The once-widespread notion that the radically different functions of Iranian daeva and Indic deva (and ahura versus asura) represented a prehistoric inversion of roles is no longer followed in 21st century academic discourse (see In comparison with Vedic usage for details).Equivalents for Avestan daeva in Iranian languages include Pashto, Balochi, Kurdish dêw, Persian dīv/deev, all of which apply to demons, monsters, and other villainous creatures. The Iranian word was borrowed into Old Armenian as dew, Georgian as devi, and Urdu as deo, with the same negative associations in those languages. In English, the word appears as daeva, div, deev, and in the 18th century fantasy novels of William Thomas Beckford as dive.

It has been speculated that the concept of the daevas as a malevolent force may have been inspired from the Scythian gods.


Faramarz was one of Iranian pahlavans in Shahnameh. He was son of Rostam and at last killed by Kay Bahman.

The book Faramarz Nama, written about a hundred years after Shahnameh, is about Faramarz and his wars. Also he is mentioned in other ancient books like Borzu Nama.


Fereydun (Persian: فریدون - Feraydūn or Farīdūn‎; Middle Persian: Frēdōn; Avestan: Θraētaona), also pronounced and spelled Freydun, Faridon and Afridun, is the name of an Iranian mythical king and hero from the kingdom of Varena. He is known as an emblem of victory, justice, and generosity in Persian literature.

House of Nowzar

House of Nowzar (Persian: خاندان نوذر‎) also known as Nowzarian (نوذریان) is an important Iranian clan in Shahnameh and Persian mythology. Nowzar ruled Iran for seven years. After his death, the grandees of Iran didn't recognize his sons Tous and Gostaham as the shahanshah of Iran and instead they gave the throne to Kayanian dynasty. The House of Nowzar and the House of Goudarz were in power struggle with each other. Before Kay Kavus, House of Goudarz had many power and influence. But at his time, House of Nowzar achieved more power. Before Kay Kavus, members of House of Goudarz were spahbeds of Iranian army and also, they were standard-bearer of Iran in wars, but after him, these responsibilities were passed to the House of Nowzar. At the time of Kay Khosrow, House of Goudarz regained their power. According to Toqyan-e Sakayi, Afghanestanian writer, Rostam and Siavash favored the House of Goudarz and Kay Kavus and Fariburz favored the House of Nowzar.

House of Viseh

House of Viseh (Persian: خاندان ویسه‎) is the most important Turanian clan in Shahnameh and Persian mythology. They are descendants of Tur. Tur is father of Zadashm (زادَشْم) and grandfather of Viseh (ویسه). Viseh is the leading member of this clan. He has 6 sons named Houman, Barman, Nastihan, Lahhak, Farshidvard and Piran. Piran is the king of Khotan and the vizier of Afrasiab, the king of Turan. Houman is the highest ranking commander of Turanian army.

All of the members of this clan were killed in the battle of Davazdah Rokh. This incident was the beginning of Turan's decline and fall.In Avesta, the House of Viseh was eliminated by House of Nowzar, but in Shahnameh, this is House of Goudarz that eliminate this clan.


Hushang or Hōshang (in Persian: هوشنگ‎), older Persian Hōšang, was the second Shāh to rule the world according to Ferdowsi's Shāhnāmeh. Hushang is based upon the legendary figure Haošyaŋha in the ancient Zoroastrian scripture of the Avesta.

Hushang is also called Pishdād (پیشداد), older Pēšdād, corresponding to Avestan Paraδāta.


Kashvād (Persian: کشواد) is an Iranian mythical hero. He is an emblem of victory, justice and loyalty in a story narrated in the poetic opus of Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran by the 10th-century poet Ferdowsi Tousi.

Magic carpet

A magic carpet, also called a flying carpet, is a legendary carpet, and common trope in fantasy fiction. They are typically used as a form of transportation, and can quickly or instantaneously carry users to their destination.

Mount Qaf

Mount Qaf, also known as Qaf-Kuh, Cafcuh, Kafkuh, Djebel Qaf, or Jabal Qaf (Persian: قاف‌کوه‎ Qâf-Kūh or کوهٔ قاف Kuh-e Qaaf; Arabic: جبل قاف‎ Jabal Qāf or Djebel Qaf) is a mountain in Middle Eastern mythology.


Nowzar (Persian: نُوذَر‎) is the ninth Shah of the Pishdadian dynasty of Persia according to Shahnameh. He is the son of Manuchehr and becomes the Shah of Iran after his father's death. His reign of seven years comes to an end when he is killed by Afrasiab during a battle.

He is also mentioned in Avesta as a great warrior and hero. Many future warriors traced back their origin to him and were labeled Nowzarian (نوذریان).


Peri (Persian: پری‎ pari, plural پريان pariān) are exquisite, winged spirits renowned for their beauty. Originally from Persian and Armenian mythologies, Peris were later adopted by other cultures. They are described as mischievous beings that have been denied entry to paradise until they have completed penance for atonement. Under Islamic influence, Peris became benevolent spirits, in contrast to the mischievous jinn.

Pishdadian dynasty

Pishdadian (Persian: پیشدادیان‎) is the first dynasty of Iranian people in the Shahnameh, Avesta and Iranian mythology.

The Pishdadian dynasty is said to have produced the first kings who ruled over the land of Persia. Some of the Pishdadian kings are said to have ruled for thousands of years.


Roham (Persian: رهام‎, also Romanized as "rohām" and "rohhām") is an Iranian hero, described in the Iranian epic poem Shahnameh. Roham is son of Goudarz, grandson of Keshvad and the father of Farhad. He fought in the Keykhosrow wars and in wars to avenge his father's defeat.


Rūdāba or Roodabeh (Persian: رودابه‎) is a Persian mythological female figure in Ferdowsi's epic Shahnameh. She is the princess of Kabul, daughter of Mehrab Kaboli and Sindukht, and later she becomes married to Zal, as they become lovers. They had two children, including Rostam, the main hero of the Shahnameh.


Scheherazade () is a major female character and the storyteller in the frame narrative of the Middle Eastern collection of tales known as the One Thousand and One Nights.

Shahrasb (Shahnameh)

Shahrasb (Persian: شهراسب‎), also known as Shahrasp, is one of the mythical characters in Shahnameh who was a pious and reliable advisor for Tahmuras.

According to Shahnameh, Shahrasp benevolently taught king Tahmuras the right (moral) way to handle the problems. As the king followed Shahrasb's guidance, became cleansed of any sin and found Khvarenah.


Sohrāb or Suhrāb (Persian: سُہراب‎) is a legendary warrior from the Shahnameh, or the Tales of Kings by Ferdowsi in the tragedy of Rostam and Sohrab. He was the son of Rostam, who was an Iranian warrior, and Tahmineh, the daughter of the king of Samangam, a neighboring country. He was slain at a young age by his father Rostam. Rostam only found out he was his son after fatally wounding him in a duel. Kaykavous, the king of Iran, delayed giving Rostam the healing potion (Noush Daru) to save Sohrab as he feared losing his power to the alliance of the father and the son.

Rostam gave Tahmineh a bracelet as a reminder and a sign to his son.

His name means literally Red from water in a sense of "beautiful and illustrious/shining face". The name Sohrab is associated with tremendous bravery and courage.


Zaav, Zav or Zou (Persian: زاو or زو‎) is the tenth Shah of the Pishdadian dynasty of Persia according to Shahnameh. He was a descendant of Nowzar and ruled over Iran about five years.


Zāl /zɒl/ (Persian: زال‎), alternate spelling Zaul, is a legendary Iranian king from Sistan, and is recognized as one of the greatest warriors of the Shahnameh epic. He is the father of the equally legendary Iranian hero, Rostam.

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