M. Rahim Shayegan, Aspects of History and Epic in Ancient Iran: From Gaumāta to Wahnām
1. The Sources
2. On the Historical Personae Bardiya and Gaumāta
3. The Concept and Reality of the Substitute Kingin Mesopotamia and Iran
4. The Evil Brothers in the Iranian Tradition
5. Oral-Formulaic Theory and Iranian Royal Inscriptions
6. Royal Usurpations in Iranian Literary Traditions I: The Inscription of Narseh at Paikuli
7. Royal Usurpations in Iranian Literary Traditions II: The Evidence of the Šāhnāme
8. Preliminary Conclusions
Appendix I. Formulaic Analysis of Kerdīr’s Inscriptions
Appendix II. Thematic Analysis of Kerdīr’s Inscriptions
Chapter 6. Royal Usurpations in Iranian Literary Traditions I: The Inscription of Narseh at Paikuli
The inscription of Narseh at Paikuli recounts the events that led to the accession of Narseh, the youngest son of Šābuhr I and king of Armenia  . According to NPi, following the death of the king of kings, Warahrān II  , son of Warahrān I  , a certain Wahnām, son of Tadrōs (Tatrus), bestowed the crown upon Warahrān, king of Sakas,  and son of the defunct king Warahrān II, without Narseh being informed of this accession.
ud Wahnām ī Tadrōsān [pad] xwēbeh drōžanīf (Pth.) ud [pušt] ī Ahreman ud dēwān [pad Sagān šāh sar] dēhēm bandēd ud pad ān xīr nē amā a[f]rāh kunēd.
And Wahnām, son of Tatrus, [through] his own falsehood and [with the help] of Ahreman and the devils, attached the Diadem [to the head of Warahrān, king of Sakas]. And he did not inform Us about that matter.
The seizure of power by Wahnām and Warahrān caused a group of high dignitaries to beseech Narseh to return from Armenia to Iran in order to assume rulership.
pas Šābuhr ī hargbed … ud abārīg wispuhr ud wuzurg [ud kadag-x]wadāy ud āzād (ud) Pārs ud Pahlaw kē-n xānag bandag mahist (ud p)[a]hlōm ud tōmīgdom *ā̆nānd pad niyābagīh [pand] ī yazdān ud amā grift ud frēstag [ō a]mā frēstēnd.
Thereafter, Šābuhr the Hargbed  … and the remaining princes and grandees (and householders) and nobles and Persians and Parthians, who were the greatest and the best and the noblest subjects in our household, as was fitting, took [the advice?] of the gods and Ourselves and sent messengers [to] Us.
NPi B11,01–B16,02These messengers, having been admitted by Narseh, reportedly stated:
ud kaδ amāh (Pth.) pad kerbagīh [ō handēmān hišt] ahēnd ēg az wispuhrān ud hargbed ud wuzurgān ud āzādān frēs[t]ag ō amā āmad kū šāhān šāh pad kerbagīh az Armin ōrōn ō Ērānšahr ēw wihēzēd ud xwarrah ud šahr ud xwēš gāh [ud] padixšar ī niyāgān az yazdān (padgrīft) [az] wad[gar ī yazdān ud] mardōm ēw [dārēd …]. Šahr tā *istom/*ustom […].
And when We had graciously [admitted?] them, then the messengers from the Princes and the Hargbed and the Grandees and the Nobles came to Us (saying) that: “May the king of kings graciously move from Armenia hither to Ērānšahr. And (as for) the glory and the realm and His Own throne [and] honour, which (His) ancestors received from the gods, may (He) [take them back from?] the (evildoers) [of/against] gods and men. [And may He keep? Ērān?] šahr safe(?) till the last.”
Following a meeting with his nobiliary solicitors at Paikuli, Narseh set out to Iran and gained the royal power. First, Warahrān, the king of Sakas, being deserted by his followers, surrendered upon the receipt of a letter by Narseh.
[ud Sagān šāh kū f]rawardag ī amā dīd ud wuzurg dēhēm […] az sar wišād ud az gāh ud [… pa]dixšar bē abganēd
[And when the king of Sakas?] saw our letter, then he detached the big […] Diadem from (his) head and threw (it?) away (?) from the throne and […] the honor.
Then, Wahnām was captured by Narseh’s general and brought to him bound on a maimed donkey.
ud Bay[šābuhr … Wah]nām bandēd ud u-š ba[st ab]ar xar ī rēšt frāz ō šahrestān [ī Warahrām-Šābuh]r ō dar [ī a]mā ānayēd
And Bayš[ābuhr …] bound Wahnām and brought him (bound on) a maimed donkey to the city of Warahrāmšābuhr (to) Our Court.
Death of the Lawful King
In NPi, the usurpation followed the death of the legitimate king Warahrān I.  In contrast, in DB and Herodotus’ accounts the usurper(s) seized the power while Cambyses was still alive, campaigning in Egypt:
(amā) Arminān (šāh) hēm ud Armin (pahrist) [hēm tā Warahrān šāhān šāh ī] (Warahrānagān) ōzad.
We are (king) of Armenia; and We (dwelt) in Armenia [until Warahrān, king of kings], (son of Warahrān) passed away.
yaθā Kambūjiya Mudrāyam ašiyava … pa[sāva] aiva martiya maguš āha Gaumāta nāma hauv udapatatā
When Cambyses went to Egypt … afterwards one (single) man, a magus by the name of Gaumāta, he rose up.
ὁ δὲ δὴ μάγος τελευτήσαντος Καμβύσεω ἀδεῶς ἐβασίλευσε ἐπιβατεύων τοῦ ὁμωνύμου Σμέρδιος τοῦ Κύρου μῆνας ἑπτὰ τοὺς ἐπιλοίπους Καμβύσῃ ἐς τὰ ὀκτὼ ἔτεα τῆς πληρώσιος.
Thus, after Cambyses died, the magus, who had usurped (the position) of the homonymous Smerdis, son of Cyrus, reigned fearlessly for the seven months lacking to Cambyses for the completion of eight years of (reign).
Since Cambyses died soon after the uprising of the usurper(s), the narratives of Narseh, on one side, and of Darius and Herodotus, on the other side, henceforth become analogous, as we are confronted in both cases with the death of the legitimate king, the usurpation of power by (an) illegitimate pretender(s), and the subsequent advent of a redresseur de torts. What, however, differentiates the three narratives is the number and the quality of the usurpers. In NPi, Wahnām, the crown-bestower (=kingmaker) of Warahrān, plays such a predominant role in the events pertinent to his puppet’s reign that we are faced in reality with two usurpers. In Darius’ account there is only one usurper, Gaumāta, who nevertheless possesses two identities, for he impersonates Cambyses’ brother Bardiya. Finally, in Herodotus’ account, which combines the two preceding paradigms, we not only have two usurpers, the crown-bestower Patizeithēs and the puppet-king Smerdis (as in NPi), but also two identities for the magus Smerdis, who impersonates Cambyses’ brother Smerdis (as in DB).
ud Wahnām ī Tadrōsān … [pad Sagān šāh sar] dēhēm bandēd …
And Wahnām, son of Tatrus … attached the Diadem [to the head of (Warahrān,) king of Sakas.
pa[sāva] aiva martiya maguš āha Gaumāta nāma hauv udapatatā … hauv kārahạyā avaθā [a]durujiya adam Bạrdiya ah miy haya Kurauš puça Kambūjiyahạyā br[ā]tā …
Thereafter, there was one man, a magus, Gaumāta by name, he rose up … he lied to the people thus: “I am Bardiya, son of Cyrus, brother of Cambyses.”
ἐπανιστέαται ἄνδρες μάγοι δύο ἀδελφεοί … ἦν οἱ ἀδελφεός τὸν εἶπά οἱ συνεπαναστῆναι οἰκὼς μάλιστα τὸ εἶδος Σμέρδι τῷ Κύρου τὸν ὁ Καμβύσης ἐόντα ἑωυτοῦ ἀδελφεὸν ἀπέκτεινε· ἦν τε δὴ ὅμοιος εἶδος τῷ Σμέρδι καὶ δὴ καὶ οὔνομα τὠυτὸ εἶχε Σμέρδιν. τοῦτον τὸν ἄνδρα ἀναγνώσας ὁ μάγος Πατιζείθης ὥς οἱ αὐτὸς πάντα διαπρήξει εἷσε ἄγων ἐς τὸν βασιλήιον θρόνον.
Two magi, who were brothers, rebelled against (Cambyses). … He [Pati-zeithēs] had a brother, his partner, as I said, in rebellion; this brother was very like in appearance to Cyrus’ son, Smerdis, brother of Cambyses and by him put to death; nor was he like him in appearance only, but he bore the same name also, Smerdis. Patizeithēs the magus convinced this man that he himself would take care of everything for him; he led (him) and placed him on the royal throne.
Lie and Falsehood
In Narseh’s testimony, Wahnām’s evil actions against the gods and the whole realm are attributed not only to the support of Ahreman and the devils ([pad pušt] ī Ahreman ud dēwān), but also to his own falsehood (drōzanīh/drōžanīf) and sorcery (ǰādūgīh), which rendered him a follower of Lie (drōzan/drōžan),  i.e., a usurper.
ud Wahnām ī Tadrōsān [pad] xwēbeh drōžanīf (Pth.) ud [pušt] ī Ahreman ud dēwān [pad Sagān šāh sar] dēhēm bandēd
And Wahnām, son of Tatrus, [through] his own falsehood and [with the help] of Ahreman and the devils, attached the Diadem [to the head of Warahrān, king of Sakas].
[… ān] ǰādūgīh  ī-m kerd (pas)-iz tar yazdān ud (šāhān) [šāh? u-m any?] bōxt nēst
For [that?] sorcery which I have performed there is (henceforth) no [other?] salvation [for me] than (?) by the gods and [the king] (of kings) (?).
ud amāh fram[āyām kū …] kē hō drōžan […] naxwišt pad yazadān ud amāh [ud] bid pad Aryānšahr ud hamag šahr *ahā[d u-š] pad sar […] pā[dif]rās karām.
And We commanded [that] “[…] who to that liar [who] was firstly against (?) the gods and Ourselves and secondly against (?) Ērānšahr and the whole realm, him first […] We shall punish.”
Indeed, no special distribution seems to govern the use of drōzanīh/drōžanīf “Lie” and ǰādūgīh “sorcery” in NPi, as a passage recounting the seduction of Ādurfarrōbay, the king of Mēšān, by Wahnām suggests. In return for Ādurfarrōbay’s support, Wahnām pledges to confer upon him a diadem (of rulership), an action that is associated with ǰādūgīh, whereas the same action on the occasion of the bestowal of the regal diadem upon Warahrān is described as drōzanīh:
Wahnām (pad xwēš) ǰādūgīh Ādurfarrōbay ī Mēšān šāh [… ō] frayād xwāhēd ud Mēšān šāh paygām [frēstēd kū Mēšān] (šāh) frāz ēw āyēd agar Sagān šāh rahīg ēg-iz Mēšān šāh ēd […] (dēhēm) Mēšān dahān.
Wahnām through his own sorcery […] Ādurfarrōbay, king of Mēšān, […] called [to] assistance, and [he sent?] a message to the king of Mēšān [(saying):] “May the (king) [of Mēšān] come forth. If another is the page (?) of the king of Sakas, then also the king of Mēšān […] this […] I shall give the king of Mēšān a Diadem (?).”
NPi D8, 01–D7,02
ud Ādurfar[nβaγ (če?) Mēšān] (šāh) čwaγōn drōžan wad dād ahāz  …
And Ādurfarrōbay, (king) [of Mēšān] as he was created an evil liar …
In contrast to Wahnām, the agent of Evil, who is supported by Ahreman and the devils, Narseh is assisted by the gods:
ud Wahnām kū wēnēd [kū pad pušt ī] (yazdān) xwarrah ud šahr-xwadāyīh ō amā dād ud dānēd kū …
and Wahnām when he saw [that with the help of?] gods, glory and rulership [had been given to Us, then he knew that …
[p]as amā pad puš[t] ud [n]ām ī yazdān ud xwēš [… pad gāh ī] pidar ud niyāgān ēstēm 
Then We with the support and in the name of the gods and our own […] ascended [the throne of?] (our) father and ancestors.
Whereas the distinctive vices of Wahnām are qualified as drōzanīh and ǰādūgīh, Narseh is praised for his farroxīh “fortuna” and frazānagīh “virtus; wisdom”:
anī- tān kēž hamγōnag nē būd [kē …] yazadān *pargasād  ahād [ud pad farr-]oxīh (MP) ud frazānagīf ud xwēbeh m[ardīf? čē Aryān]šahr istambag …
(Because ever since then) nobody else has been similar to You [whom …] the gods may have favored (?) [and (who) by Your?] fortune (?) and wisdom and Own [ courage (?) have kept?] oppression [away from Ērān-]šahr …
Whereas Wahnām is accused of being against the gods and the whole realm, Narseh is described as most officious in the service of gods and best suited to warrant the security of the realm. Following the defeat of Wahnām and Warahrān, in a letter addressed to the dignitaries of the realm, Narseh asks whether there might be someone within the realm more suited than him to ascend the throne; the suitability reposes, as we learn, aside from the aforesaid personal qualities of the prince, upon the candidate’s piety towards the gods, as well as his ability to safeguard Ērānšahr:
If the Landholders [know that (in Ērānšahr) there is someone who?] would be more righteous and better and more pious with respect to the gods, or [would be more able] than Ourselves [to keep] Ērānšahr in peace [and confident and to govern the Persian army/people …]
The dignitaries, as expected, respond positively to Narseh’s request by imploring him to ascend the throne, as he is the best-suited candidate.  In the same correspondence with the dignitaries, Narseh also reminds them of the procedure for determining the most suitable candidate for rulership since Ardašīr I. And to no one’s surprise, the requirements for electing Šābuhr as the most suited candidate were in effect the same as for Narseh, prerequisites that we encounter time and again in the main part of the NPi narrative, where the exchange of letters between Narseh and the dignitaries regarding the former’s qualifications for becoming king takes place:
bē kē (dānēd) kū [andar Ērānšahr] kas ast kē az Šābuhr šāh rāštistar (Pth.) ud pad yazdān kerdagārdar ayāb wehdar ud pas ēn Ērānšahr *pā[ddom ud drusttar?] ādūg dāštan ud (framādan) kū (Šābuhr šāh) ōy ēw gōwēd
But, whoever may know [that in Ērānšahr?] there is someone who may be more righteous than King Šābuhr and more officious in the service of the gods, or better, and (who) hereafter (may be) able to keep this Ērānšahr [better] (guarded) [and healthier ?] and to govern (it better) than King (?) Šābuhr, let him say (so)!
čē amā ōh kāmēd kū-n [ēn Ērānšahr ud hamag š]ahr xwadāy ān bawād kū yazdān nisaxt hād [ud] (kerdagān ī) yazdān [abardar] barād ud Ērānšahr [ādūg hād pad] rām ud wišidāxw (dāštan) ud framādan
Because We wish that he may be Lord of [this] our Ērānšahr and the [whole?] realm, whom the gods may have prepared, [and] (who) may carry (the service of) the gods [higher?] and [may be able] to keep Ērānšahr in peace and confident and to govern (it).
Thus, schematically we have on the one hand the drōzanīh/ǰādūgīh “deceit/sorcery,” which emanates from Ahreman and the devils and makes Wahnām act against the gods and the whole empire (Ērānšahr)—thereby rendering him a drōzan “liar.” On the other hand, we have the farroxīh “fortuna” and frazānagīh “wisdom,” deriving from the gods, which make Narseh more officious in the services of gods and the safeguard of the empire, hence, rendering him rāsttar “more righteous,” wēhdar “better,” and kerdagāndom “most pious.” An outline of these parallels is given in the following table.
|with the help / support of: gods||and through his own: “fortune” / “wisdom”||Narseh makes the services for gods higher, and the realm better guarded||Narseh becomes more righteous|
|yazd||farroxīh / frazānagīh||kerdagān ī yazdān abardar bar- / pad yazadān rāštistar ud abardar ud kerdagānistar ah-
Ērānšahr pad rām ud wišidāxw dār- /
Ērānšahr *pāddom ud drusttar dār-
|rāsttar, wēhdar, and kerdagāndom|
|with the help / support of: Ahreman and demons||and through his own: “deceit” / “sorcery”||Wahnām acts against the gods and the realm||Wahnām becomes a follower of Lie|
|Ahreman ud dēw||drōzanīh / ǰādūgīh||naxwišt pad yazdān ud amāh [ud] bid pad Aryānšahr ud hamag šahr *ahā[d]||drōžan|
One cannot avoid observing that the struggle for the throne is equated with the cosmic battle between two conflicting creations, two adverse principles, one of which governs the actions of Wahnām and the other those of Narseh.  Indeed, Narseh’s battle against the “usurpers” reflects “the constant battle between good and evil in the world, which is the hallmark of the Iranian ‘dualistic’ myth of creation.” 
Strikingly, although Warahrān’s right to succession is contested by Narseh:
[ōy gāh kē pidar ud] niyāgān kē tō abēniyābag [… niš]ast hē […]
[that throne of your father] and ancestors which you in unfitting manner have sat [upon …]
NPi 24d3,04–E18,01and in spite of the fact that Warahrān in two contexts (wherein Wahnām [and his partisans] are also mentioned) is either implicitly qualified as wadgar “evildoer” (against gods and men) or correlated with the “one(s) who is/are bad” (ōy kē wad)—
šāhān šāh pad kerbagīh az Armin ōrōn ō Ērānšahr ēw wihēzēd ud xwarrah ud šahr ud xwēš gā[h ud] padixšar ī niyāgān az yazdān padg[rīft az] wad[gar ī yazdān ud] mardōm ēw [dārēd]
May the king of kings graciously move from Armenia hither to Ērānšahr. And (as for) the glory and the realm and His Own throne and honour, which (His) ancestors received from the gods, may (He) [take them back from?] the evil[doers of/against] gods and men
ud Warahrān ī (Sagān) [Šāh] ud Wahnām ī Tadrōsān ōy kē wad ud ōy kē hamsaxwan hayyār hēnd …
And Warahrān, [king] of (Sakas), and Wahnām, son of Tatrus, and the bad ones and those who were Wahnām’s partisans and helpers …
NPi C11,06–c3,04—he is never directly accused of falsehood and treachery. Moreover, it appears that it is merely his association with the principal villain, the crown-bestower Wahnām, who used sorcery to put him on the throne, that delegitimizes his rule.
Indeed, Narseh’s tone towards Warahrān is remarkably conciliatory in the letter sent to the king of Sakas. Narseh’s moderate attitude vis-à-vis Warahrān may be observed in several newly reconstructed passages,  wherein he assuages Warahrān’s fears, if only the latter were willing to abdicate the throne and join Narseh’s camp in token of his allegiance:
ud amāh pad bandagīf (Pth.) [ud] amā pad wuzurg parmenag/framenag  ud šād-dil frāz ō Asōrestān ō Warahrām-Šābuhr [šahrestān ō amāh bar ās (Pth.)]
And [be in/come to] Our subjugation, [and] to Us, in great ‘*elation/anticipation and with a happy heart,’ [come] forth to Asūrestān to (the city of) Warahrām-šābuhr [to Our court?].
Upon reading Narseh’s letter, the king of Sakas reportedly detached the diadem of kingship from his head, and threw it away, thus symbolically shaking off the empire of evil (which Wahnām, son of Tadrōs, had cast on him by placing the same diadem on the head). In this light, Narseh’s entreaty that Warahrān join his camp lightheartedly (šād-dil), and the latter’s decision to withdraw from the conflict, may account for his being “better spirited?” (*wehmān), as recently suggested:
[… Sagān šāh] *uzīd ud *wehmān ō ēw ālag [mānēd?] 
[… the king of Sakas] came out [of his camp/tent?] and, in *better spirits, *remained at one side.
Let us return to the idea of falsehood that is explicitly expressed in the Bisotun inscription by the term drauga- “Lie,” which grew strong in the country after Gaumāta’s usurpation, and the verb durujiya- “lie,” which is used to qualify Gaumāta’s action vis-à-vis the kāra- “people”:
yaθā Kambūjiya Mudrāyam ašiyava pasāva kāra arīka abava [utā] drauga dahạyauvā vasiy abava utā Parsaiy utā Mādaiy u[tā a]niyāuvā dahạyušuvā … hauv kārahạyā avaθā [a]durujiya adam Bạrdiya ahmiy haya Kurauš puça Kambūjiyahạyā br[ā]tā
When Cambyses went to Egypt, then the people became disloyal and the Lie became great, in Persis, as well as Media and the other countries … he lied to the people thus: “I am Bardiya, son of Cyrus, brother of Cambyses.”
In another passage of DB, the Lie is made directly responsible for the numerous rebellions that erupted throughout the empire following Darius’ seizure of power (and the assassination of Gaumāta). Just as Gaumāta’s falsehood made the people (all over the empire) arīka- “disloyal(?)” and enabled the Lie to take possession of the whole empire, that of the usurper-kings—who claimed rulership over different provinces of the empire, such as Babylonia, Elam, Media, Sagartia, and Margiana—made those lands rebellious (hamiçiya-):
imaiy navā xšāyaθiyā tay[ai ada]m agạrbāyam antar imā hamaranā … dahạyāva imā tayā hamiçiyā abava draugadi[š hamiç]iyā akunauš taya imaiy kāram adurujiyaš pasāvadi[š] A[huramaz]dā manā dastayā akunauš
These are the nine kings whom I took captive within these battles … these lands that became rebellious, the Lie made them rebellious, for these (men) lied to the people. Then Ahuramazda delivered them into my hands.
Thus, because of the Lie (drauga-) and the falsehood of the followers of Lie (draujana-), such as Gaumāta and the “usurper-kings,” the people became arīka- “disloyal” and the lands rebellious (hamiçiya-):
tuvam kā xšāyaθiya haya aparam āhạy marti[ya] ha[ya] draujana ahatiy hayavā [zū]rah kara ahatiy avaiy mā dauštā [biy]ā hufraštādiš pạrsā
You who shall be king afterward, the man [who] shall be a follower of Lie, or who shall be a wrongdoer, to them you may not be a friend, punish them well.
mart[iya haya drau]jana ahatiy avam hufraštam pạrsā yadiy avaθā man[iy-]ā[hạy] dahạyāuš-maiy duruvā ahatiy
The man who is a follower of Lie, him punish well if you think thus: “May my country be healthy.”
The pattern that emerges from the above passages, which is based upon a comparable schematical model established by Skjærvø,  is shown in the following chart.
|Lie / because of Lie||and (through) the falsehood of the usurper-king(s)||made the lands rebellious / the people became disloyal|
drauga dahạyauvā vasiy abava
|taya imaiy kāram adurujiyaš
hauv kārahạyā avaθā adurujiya
|°diš (=dahạyāva) hamiçiyā akunauš
kāra arīka abava
In contrast to Gaumāta and the usurper-kings, who are the instruments of drauga-, Darius is supported by Ahuramazdā and the gods, and, whereas those are the followers of Lie (draujana-), he, Darius, is not a follower of Lie and conducts himself according to rectitude (upariy ạrštām upariyay-), and, finally, contrary to the usurpers whose falsehood made the people disloyal and the lands rebellious, Darius placed the people and the lands “on their proper place,” that is, making the country healthy: 
avah[ạy]arādīmaiy Ahuramazdā upastām abara utā aniyāha bagāha taya[iy hanti]y yaθā naiy arīka āham naiy draujana āham naiy zūrahkara āham naiy adam naimaiy taumā upariy ạrštām upariyā[y]am naiy škauθim naiy tunuvantam zūrah akunavam martiya haya hamataxšatā manā viθiyā avam hubạrtam a[b]aram haya viyanāθaya avam hufraštam apạrsam
For that reason Ahuramazda brought me support, as well as the other gods who (are), as I was not disloyal, I was not a liar, I was not a wrongdoer, neither I, nor any of my seed, I conducted myself according to rectitude, I did wrong neither to the weak, nor to the powerful, the man who strove for my house, him I kept in great honor, (the man) who did wrong, him I punished well.
adam kāram gāθavā avāstāyam Pārsamcā Mādam[c]ā utā aniyā dahạyāva
I placed the people on (their proper) place, as well as Persis, Media, and the other lands.
tuvam kā x[šāyaθiya ha]ya aparam āhạy hacā draugā dạršam patipayauvā mart[iya haya drau]jana ahatiy avam hufraštam pạrsā yadiy avaθā man[iy-]ā[hạy] dahạyāuš-maiy duruvā ahatiy
You who will be (king) in the future, guard strongly against the Lie. The man [who] is a (follower of Lie), him punish well if you think thus: “May my country be healthy.”
Thus, schematically we have:
|with the help of AM and other gods||and through my own rectitude
= not follower of Lie, evildoer/wrongdoer
|I re-established the people and the lands
= the country healed
|Ahuramazdā upastām abara utā aniyāha bagāha tayaiy hantiy||upariy ạrštām upariyāyam
naiy arīka āham
naiy draujana āham
naiy zūrahkara āham
|kāram gāθavā avāstāyam Pārsamcā Mādamcā utā aniyā dahyāva dahạyāuš-maiy duruvā ahatiy|
By combining our investigation into the structure of the argumentation in NPi and DB, we obtain the following table, which illustrates many parallels:
|NPi||with the help of gods||and through his own rectitude||he (Narseh) kept the realm better guarded / [he carried the services of gods higher]|
|DB||with the help of AM and other gods||and through my own rectitude||I (Darius) placed the lands on their place and the country became healthy / [I placed the people on their place]|
|NPi||with the help of Ahreman and the dēws||and through his own falsehood||he (Wahnām) acted against the realm [and the gods]|
|DB||Lie / because of Lie||and (through) the falsehood of the usurper-king(s)||made the lands rebellious / [the people became disloyal]|
The notion of falsehood is also implicitly present in Herodotus’ account, not only in the fact of the usurpation itself, but also in the very subterfuge, treachery, by which the magus Smerdis substituted himself for the defunct prince Smerdis/Bardiya. In one passage, in which Herodotus reports how Cambyses implored the dignitaries of the realm attending his deathbed to regain the Persian sovereignty, which had been taken away from them by Median magi by treachery or force, we have an explicit reference to falsehood and deceit:
καὶ δὴ ὑμῖν τάδε ἐπισκήπτω θεοὺς τοὺς βασιληίους ἐπικαλέων καὶ πᾶσι ὑμῖν καὶ μάλιστα Ἀχαιμενιδέων τοῖσι παρεοῦσι μὴ περιιδεῖν τὴν ἡγεμονίην αὖτις ἐς Μήδους περιελθοῦσαν ἀλλ᾿ εἴτε δόλῳ ἔχουσι αὐτὴν κτησάμενοι δόλῳ ἀπαιρεθῆναι ὑπὸ ὑμέων εἴτε καὶ σθένεΐ τεῳ κατεργασάμενοι σθένεϊ κατὰ τὸ καρτερὸν ἀνασώσασθαι.
I command all of you (in the name of) the gods of my royal house I have called (as witness), and mostly you the Achaemenids who are present, not to suffer the sovereignty to return again to the Medes; if they have acquired it by using treachery, it has to be taken way from them by treachery, or if they gained it by force, it has to be recovered by force and violence.
Incidentally, the notion of δόλος—used by Herodotus in describing the treachery of the magi, who have deprived the Achaemenids of the sovereign-ty—was also used almost a millennium later by Ammianus Marcellinus while reporting on the letter of Šābuhr II to Constantius, in which Šābuhr II accuses the Romans of having seized Armenia and Mesopotamia through deceit (fraus) from him: Armeniam recuperare cum Mesopotamia debeo avo meo composita fraude praereptam, “I am bound to recover Armenia and Mesopotamia, which through well-arranged deceit was wrested from my grandfather.” 
The accusation of deceit is followed by a fundamental distinction between the concept of good and evil among Romans and Persians. Šābuhr II seems to blame the Romans for not making a distinction—inherent in his own moral conceptions—between good, rendered by virtus, and evil, expressed by dolus (nullo discrimine virtutis ac doli), a deficiency that would never find acceptance among his Persians (illud apud nos numquam acceptum feretur). 
The Usurpation/Seizure of Power Remained Unknown
In Narseh’s account, neither he himself nor the other princes (wispuhr) were informed of Warahrān’s enthronement by Wahnām, which seems to constitute the core of Narseh’s misgiving about the legitimacy of Warahrān’s ascension. Similarly, in Darius’ report the death of Bardiya—hence, Gaumāta’s usurpation in the guise of Bardiya—remained unknown to the people (kāra-). Herodotus’ narrative also states that since the assassination of Cambyses’ brother Smerdis/Bardiya had been kept secret, the plot mounted by the magi to usurp the power went unnoticed:
pasāva Kamb[ūjiya] avam Bardiyam avāja yaθā Kambūjiya Bardiyam avāja kārahạy[ā naiy] azdā abava taya Bardiya avajatā
Afterwards Cambyses killed that Bardiya, when Cambyses killed Bar-diya, it did not become known to the people that Bardiya was killed.
οὗτος δὴ ὦν οἱ ἐπανέστη μαθών τε τὸν Σμέρδιος θάνατον ὡς κρύπτοιτο γενόμενος καὶ ὡς ὀλίγοι εἴησαν οἱ ἐπιστάμενοι αὐτὸν Περσέων οἱ δὲ πολλοὶ περιεόντα μιν εἰδείησαν.
This man now revolted from him, perceiving that the death of Smerdis was kept secret, and that among the Persians there were few who knew of it, most of them believing him to be still alive.
ud pad ān xīr nē amā (āfrāh) kunēd ud (nē) […] wispuhrān āfrāh [kunēd ud wispuhrān] ud wuzurgān ud āzādān ud Pārsān ud Pahlawān *ābursīd [hēnd kū an Wahnām ī Tadrōsān Warahrān] ī Sagān šāh dēhēm sar (bandēm) [u-m pad] *padixšar kāmist [abar] ēstādan 
And he did not (inform) Us about that matter, nor [did he] inform the Princes. [and later? the princes], grandees, nobles, and Persians and Parthians were informed [that: I, Wahnām, son of Tatrus have] attached the Diadem to the head of [Warahrān] king of Sakas; [and I] wish to establish [him/myself in] an exalted position].
Killing and Dispossession of the Nobility
In the narratives of NPi and DB, the seizure of power by the usurper(s) is followed by a time of oppression, which manifests itself in the killing of the nobility that had either actively opposed the usurpers (NPi: Sagān šāh [dušmenīn?] wany kunān), or had not contested the usurper’s power for fear of retaliation (kārašim hacā dạršam atạrsa). The decimation of the nobility is followed in the two accounts by the dispossession of its estates  :
naiy āha martiya naiy Pārsa naiy Māda naiy amāxam taumāyā kašciy haya avam Gaumātam tayam magum xšaçam dītam caxriyā kārašim hacā dạršam atạrsa kāram vasiy avājaniyā haya paranam Bạrdiyam adānā avahạyarādiy kāram avājaniyā mātayamām xšnāsātiy taya adam naiy Bạrdiya ahmiy haya Kurauš puça
There was not a (single) man, neither Persian, Mede, nor anybody of our family, who would have taken the power from that magus Gaumāta; the people were much afraid of him, (for) he killed many people, who previously had known Bardiya, for that reason he killed the people, so that “they may not recognize me, that I am not Bardiya, son of Cyrus.”
ud abar ēd (ādūg) [hēm kū wispuhrān] ud wuzurgān ud āzādān ōzanān u-šān xānag *Garamēgazān dahān ud az xwēš (tōm) ud *Garamagēzān […] dastkerd kunān. U-m ka xwēš dastkerd ōstīgān kerd hād (ēg Sagān) šāh [dušmenīn?] wany kunān
And of this [I am] capable, (namely) to kill [the princes], grandees, and nobles, and to give their possessions (/estates) to the Garamaeans (?). And from/of my own family (?) and the Garamaeans I shall make […my own?] property. And when I have firmly established it as my own property, then I shall destroy [the enemies of?] the king of Sakas.
xšaçam taya hača amāxam taumāyā parābạrtam āha ava adam patipadam akunavam adamšim gāθavā avāstāyam yaθā paruvamčiy avaθā adam akunavam āyadanā tayā Gaumāta haya maguš viyaka adam niyaçārayam kārahạyā ābičariš gaiθāmčā māniyamčā viθbiščā tayādiš Gaumāta ha[ya] maguš adinā adam kāram gāθavā avāstāyam Pārsamča Mādamča utā aniyā dahyāva
The royalty which was taken away from our family I put in (its) place, I established it in place; like before, thus I made the rites of worship/places of worship, which Gaumāta, the magus, had destroyed, I restored to the people the pastures, the herds, the households and the houses which Gaumāta, the magus, had taken away from them; I placed the people on (their) place, as well as Persis, Media, and the other lands.
The Two Councils
In NPi, the Persian and Parthian dignitaries on two occasions held a council to debate the subject of succession: once before approaching Narseh to offer him the crown and once after Narseh’s response to their invitation. In the first council, the Persian and Parthian nobility who were assembled in Asōrestān decided to support Narseh in assuming rulership.
ud Pārs ud (Pahlaw) [ud any kē?] Asōrestān pad pāhrag *ānānd ān hanzaman kūnēnd [ud] (gowēnd) [kū]: [..] Sagān šāh [… agar? ādūg] hād Pārsān kār framādan ud (šahr) [dāštan …]
And the Persians and Parthians [and others who] were at the border watch-post of Asōrestan, those made a council [and] said [that]: “[…] the king of Sakas [… if?] he be able to govern the affairs of the Persians (or: the Persian army/people) and [keep] the land […].”
NPi A12,04–A5–6,05This was because Narseh was deemed best fit to rule from among the descendants of Sasan, the eponymous founder:
ōy [andar tōm ī] Sāsān(agān?) ud hamāg šahr mardān ? (Arminān) šāh mahist ud pāhlom
And he [among the family] (of) Sāsān and the men (?) of the whole realm, the king of Armenia (?) is the greatest and best”
[…] hād ān (nūn) kunām kū ka [pad šahr-xwadāyīh] (ēstēd) ud Ērānšahr [drust ud *pād ēstēd/ pad rām ud wišīdāxw ēstēd]
[And that which?] may be [..], that we shall do now, so that when he assumes the rule [of the realm] (?), then Ērānšahr [will be well and protected / peaceful and confident]
The deliberations of the nobiliary council resulted in the dispatch of a letter addressed to Narseh by the foremost representatives of the high aristocracy—notably, the eight most distinguished dignitaries and princes of the realm—reviling the usurpers and inviting Narseh to come and accept the crown of his father (Šābuhr I) and grandfather (Ardašīr I):
pas Šābuhr ī hargbed ud Narseh ī wispuhr ī S[āsānagān ud Pāb]ag ī bidaxš ud Ardaxšahr ī (hazārbed) ud (Raxš) ī spāhbed ud Ardaxšahr ī Sūrēn ud (Ōhrmazd) Warāz ud Warahrān[dād ī Und]īgān xwadāy ud abārīg wispuhrān ud wuzurgān [ud kadag-]xwadāyān ud āzādān ud (Pārs) ud Pahlaw kē-n xānag bandag mahist ud pahlōm ud tōmīgdom *ānānd pad niyābagīh [pand] ī yazdān ud amā grift ud frēstag [ō] amā frēstēnd
Thereafter, Šābuhr the Hargbed, and Narseh the Prince, son of Sāsān, [and] Pābag the Bidaxš, and Ardaxšahr the Hazārbed, and Raxš the General, and Ardaxšahr [Sūrēn], and Ōhrmazd Warāz, (and) Warahrāndād (?) Lord of Undīgān, and the remaining princes and grandees [and] householders and nobles and Persians and Parthians who were the greatest and the best and the noblest subjects in Our possession(s), as was fitting, took [the advice?] of the gods and Ourselves and sent messengers [to] Us.
ud ka amā pad kerbagīh [ō handēmān hišt] hē(nd) ēg (a)z wispuhrān ud hargbed [ud wuzurg]ān [ud] āzādān frē[s]tag ō amā āmad kū šāhān šāh pad kerbagīh az Armin ōrōn ō Ērānšahr ēw wihēzēd ud xwarrah ud šahr ud xwēš gā[h ud] padixšar ī niyāgān az yazdān padg[rīft az] wad[gar ī yazdān ud] mardōm ēw [dārēd]
And when We graciously [admitted?] them, then the messengers from the princes and the Hargbed and the grandees and the nobles came to Us (saying): “May the king of kings graciously move from Armenia hither to Ērānšahr. And (as for) the glory and the realm and His Own throne and honour, which (His) ancestors received from the gods, may (He) [take them back from?] the evil[doers of/against] gods and men.”
The letter by the grandees prompted an answer by Narseh, in which, as revealed above, he not only reminded the dignitaries of the traditional procedure for electing the most suitable candidate for rulership, but also questioned his own suitability. The letter of Narseh to the dignitaries, therefore, has two aspects: (1) one is procedural, couched in legal and constitutional discourse representing Narseh’s own reflection on or interpretation of past proceedings and judgments in electing the best-suited candidate; and (2) the other involves the question of his own suitability, and is derived from his interpretation of past procedure(s), and aimed at (rhetorically?) determining whether he was the best-suited candidate. It seems that following the usurpation of Warahrān and Wahnām, Narseh was determined to confer the impression of legality on his own accession.
Towards that end—that is, in order to distance himself from the previous rule of Lie and deceit—he seems to be reviving the procedure of election/confirmation from the time of Ardašīr and Šābuhr I, thereby evoking the transmitted judgments/opinions (wižār/wižīr) of past dignitaries on the occasion of Šābuhr’s accession as a yardstick and model for his own confirmation procedure.  First, Narseh convokes a council—which presumably assisted him in the interpretation of the past procedure(s)—whereupon he informs the dignitaries, who appear to have already selected him as their sovereign, of the proper election/confirmation procedure:
[…] šahr hanzaman w[…] kunēm ud hargbed [ud šahryāran ud wispuhrān ud] wuzurgān ud kadag[-xwadāyān ud any] kē mahist ud abardar ud pahlōm hēnd paygām frēstēm kū: ēn [Ērānšahr pad pušt ī ?] yazdān (was) ranǰ [ud] (awām) [widard ? ud] amā kē ašmā ? [… pad] kirbagīh Ērānšahr ud [An-Ēr]ānšahr mahist xwadāy ud dahibed būd hēm
[and …] We assembled (?) a council [… from Ērān?]šahr, and We sent a message to the Hargbed [and the landholders and the princes and] the grandees and the nobles and the houselords [and the others ?] who were the greatest and the best (saying) that “this Ērānšahr with the help of ?] the gods [has endured?] much pain and trouble. [And] We (?) whom you (?) [… by your ?] grace have been made greatest lord and ruler of Ērānšahr and Non-Ērānšahr.”
By evoking the judgment of the past dignitaries (on the question of aptitude for rulership) who made Šābuhr the protector of the realm, Narseh conveys the prescribed procedure:
[…] čē Aryānšahr […] rāy (hamwašt) u-šān wižār/wižīr ēd-zanag kerd kū
[…] for the sake of the […] of Ērānšahr […] they gathered (?) and made the following exposition/judgment that …
bē kē (dānēd) kū [andar Ērānšahr] kas ast kē az Šābuhr šāh rāštistar (Pth.) ud pad yazdān kerdagārdar ayāb wehdar ud pas ēn Ērānšahr *pā[ddom ud drusttar?] ādūg dāštan ud (framādan) kū (Šābuhr šāh) ōy ēw gōwēd.
But, whoever may know [that in Ērānšahr?] there is someone who may be more righteous than King Šābuhr and more officious in the service of the gods, or better, and (who) hereafter (may be) able to keep this Ērānšahr [better] (guarded) [and healthier ?] and to govern (it better) than king (?) Šābuhr, let him say (so)!
It seems that the procedure required the king to be confirmed in his rule only after having been publicly (?) challenged by other possible contestant(s). Indeed, were the dignitaries to know of another/other candidate(s) who would be more virtuous, more pious towards the gods, or more able to safeguard Ērānšahr, then, the procedure seems to indicate, they might have contested the aptitude of the (selected?) king. Were the king to remain unchallenged, that is, deemed to be the most suited for the job, he would be confirmed in his rulership. 
Having thus set the framework for the election/confirmation procedure by dint of past judgments, Narseh proceeded to challenge the dignitaries to find a better candidate than him:
ag šahrδār [zānānd kū … kēž ast kē] až amāh pad yazadān rāštistar ud abardar ud kerdagānistar ahēndē *āgām Aryān-šahr až amāh *padrāmistar ud [wišidāxw ādūg ahēndē dirdan ud Pārsān kār framādan …] ud dušmenīn passox (dādan) hō awās hēb wāžēd kū šahr ud paδgōs [xwadāy hō bawād kē] (ādūg) hāδ šahr dirdan ud framādan
If the Landholders [know that (in Ērānšahr) there is someone who?] would be more righteous and better and more pious with respect to the gods, or [would be more able] than Ourselves [to keep] Ērānšahr in peace [and confident and to govern the affairs of the Persians (or: the Persian army/people) … and] to answer … enemies, let him say so now, so that [he may be lord of?] the realm and (its various) districts [who] is able to keep and govern the realm.
They, however, confirmed his suitability:
anī-tān kēž hamγōnag nē būd [kē …] yazadān *pargasād ahād [ud pad] farroxīh (MP) ud frazānagīf ud xwēbeh m[ardīf? čē Aryān]šahr istambag …
(Because ever since then) nobody else has been similar to You [whom …] the gods have favored (?) [and (who) by Your ?] fortune (?) and wisdom and Own [courage (?) have kept ?] oppression [away from Ērān-]šahr …
NPi f14,06 to g7–8,01
[ēg pad x]wēš gāh ud padix[šar ī] pidar ud [niyā]gān ēstēd kū [… Ērān]šahr tis gām rā[st …] (ud) askādar (Pth.) [hād]
[Therefore (do now)] ascend Your throne and (receive) the honour(s) [of] (your) father and ancestors, so that [henceforth … in Ērān?]šahr things … [will be more?] righteous(?) […] and higher.
NPi G6,06–G13,06Another round of exchange between Narseh and the dignitaries confirms the results of the first exchange: it is clear that Narseh is indeed the best-suited candidate.
No council is mentioned in Darius’ res gestae, but, although “fomenting a conspiracy against evildoers in a council” is not attested as a proper theme in DB, the fact that Darius mentions his fellow conspirators in the killing of the magi presupposes that such a “conspiratorial” council was summoned before they stormed the palace. Strikingly, Herodotus’ account is closer to the narrative of Narseh, as it twice mentions the constitution of a nobiliary council by seven noble Persians: the first time in order to contrive an intrigue against the magi, and, the second time, after the successful coup d’état, to debate the future form of government (hence the term “constitutional debate” in scholarship) the conspirators intended to embrace. As monarchy was chosen by the Seven, the council determined the modalities and procedure to select the future king from among the same accomplices.
In the following passages, the parallels between the three narratives are illustrated. First is the summoning of the first nobiliary council to act against the “usurpers”:
ud Pārs ud (Pahlaw) [ud any kē?] Asōrestān pad pāhrag *ānānd ān hanzaman kūnēnd [ud] …
And the Persians and Parthians [and others who] were at the border watch-post of Asōrestan, those made a council [and] …
Συνελθόντες δὲ οὗτοι ἐόντες ἑπτὰ ἐδίδοσαν σφίσι πίστις καὶ λόγους.
The Seven then assembled and gave each other pledges and spoke together.
νῦν ὦν τίθεμαι ψῆφον πείθεσθαι Δαρείῳ καὶ μὴ διαλύεσθαι ἐκ τοῦ συλλόγου τοῦδε ἄλλ᾿ ἢ ἐπὶ τὸν μάγον ἰθέως.
Now therefore I cast my vote for trusting in Darius, and not quit this council, unless (going) against the magus straight on.
Second, the list of the foremost dignitaries who were the accomplices of Narseh and Darius—eight in NPi and seven in DB and Herodotus’ account—is given:
pas Šābuhr ī hargbed ud Narseh ī wispuhr ī S[āsānagān ud Pāb]ag ī bidaxš ud Ardaxšahr ī (hazārbed) ud (Raxš) ī spāhbed ud Ardaxšahr ī Sūrēn ud (Ōhrmazd) Warāz ud Warahrān[dād ī Und]īgān xwadāy ud abārīg … frēstag [ō] amā frēstēnd
Thereafter, Šābuhr the Hargbed, and Narseh the Prince, son of Sāsān, [and] Pābag the Bidaxš, and Ardaxšahr the Hazārbed, and Raxš the General, and Ardaxšahr [Sūrēn], and Ōhrmazd Warāz, (and) Warahrāndād (?) Lord of Undīgān, and the remaining … sent messengers [to] Us.
imaiy martiyā tayaiy adakaiy avadā [ā]hantā yātā adam Gaumātam tayam magum avājanam haya Bạrdiya aga[u]batā adakaiy imaiy martiyā hamataxšantā anušiyā manā Vindafarnā nā[ma] Vahạyasparuvahạyā puça Pār[s]a Utāna nāma θuxrahạyā puça Pārsā Gaubaruva nāma Mạrduniyahạy[ā puça] Pārsa Vidạrna nāma Bagābignahạ[y]ā puça Pārsa Ba[gab]uxša nāma Dātavahạyahạyā puça Pārsa Ardumaniš nāma Vahukahạyā puça Pārsa
These are the men who at that time were there, while I killed Gaumāta the magus who called himself Bardiya. At that time these men strove as my followers: Vindafarnah by name, son of Vahyasparuva, a Persian, Utāna by name, son of θuxra, a Persian, Gaubaruva by name, son of Mạrduniya, a Persian, Vidarna by name, son of Bagābigna, a Persian, Bagabuxša by name, son of Dātavahya, a Persian, Ardumaniš by name, son of Vahuka, a Persian.
ὁ δὲ Ὀτάνης παραλαβὼν Ἀσπαθίνην καὶ Γωβρύην Περσέων τε πρώτους ἐόντας καὶ ἑωυτῷ ἐπιτηδεοτάτους ἐς πίστιν ἀπηγήσατο πᾶν τὸ πρῆγμα· … Ὀτάνης μὲν νῦν ἐσάγεται Ἰνταφρένεα Γωβρύης δὲ Μεγάβυζον Ἀσπαθίνης δὲ Ὑδάρνεα … ἐπεὶ ὦν οὗτος ἀπίκετο τοῖσι ἓξ τῶν Περσέων ἔδοξε καὶ Δαρεῖον προσεταιρίσασθαι.
Otanes then associated with himself Aspathines and Gobryas, foremost among the Persians, and to himself most worthy of trust, and told them the whole story … Otanes now introduced Intaphrenes, Gobryas Megabyzos, and Aspathines Hydranes … after he had arrived, the six Persians resolved to make Darius an accomplice too.
Herodotus 3.70Finally, the end of the usurpers is depicted:
… frestēm kū Wahnām  gīr ud ban[d] u-š abar xar ī rēšt nišān u-š bast ō amāh bar wāy (Pth.) ud Bay[šābuhr … Wah]nām bandēd ud u-š ba[st aba]r xar ī rēšt frāz ō šahrestān ī Warahrām-Šābuhr ō dar ī amā ānayēd
We sent [an order (saying)] that: “Seize and bind Wahnām! Put him on a maimed donkey, and lead him bound to Our Court.” And Bayšābuhr […] bound Wahnām and brought him (bound on) a maimed donkey to the city of Warahrāmšābuhr (to) Our Court.
ud pad […] xwēbēh […] naxwišt kušt [ud] kē rāδ ō amāh *axāšt  hō kušām
And by […] own … […] first killed (?), on account of whom (he ?) rose against Us (?), him we shall kill (?) […].
avaθā adam hadā kamnaibiš martiyaibiš avam Gaumātam tayam magum avājanam utā tayaišaiy fratamā martiyā anušiyā āhantā
Then I together with a few men killed that Gaumāta the magus and the men who were his foremost followers .
οἱ δὲ δὴ ἑπτὰ τῶν Περσέων ὡς ἐβουλεύσαντο αὐτίκα ἐπιχειρέειν τοῖσι μάγοισι καὶ μὴ ὑπερβάλλεσθαι
The Seven Persians wished to attack the magi at once and not to delay.
ἀποκτείναντες δὲ τοὺς μάγους καὶ ἀποταμόντες αὐτῶν τὰς κεφαλάς
Having killed the magi and cut off their heads …
The parallelism between the “constitutional council” after the coup d’état of the Seven in Herodotus’ account, and the council summoned by Narseh after the successful seizure of power in order to establish the correct course for the election/confirmation of the king—through the scrutiny of past opinions—is less obvious than the similarities between the first “conspiring” councils:
[…] šahr hanzaman w[…] kunēm ud hargbed [ud šahryāran ud wispuhrān ud] wuzurgān ud kadag-xwadāyān ud any kē mahist ud abardar ud pahlōm hēnd paygām frēstēm …
[and …] We assembled (?) a council [… from Ērān?]šahr, and We sent a message to the Hargbed [and the landholders and the princes and] the grandees and the nobles and the houselords [and the others?] who were the greatest and the best…”
Ἐπείτε δὲ κατέστη ὁ θόρυβος καὶ ἐκτὸς πέντε ἡμερέων ἐγένετο ἐβου-λεύοντο οἱ ἐπαναστάντες τοῖσι μάγοισι περὶ τῶν πάντων πρηγμάτων καὶ ἐλέχθησαν λόγοι ἄπιστοι μὲν ἐνίοισι Ἑλλήνων ἐλέχθησαν δ᾿ ὦν.
When the tumult was abated and five days had passed, the rebels against the magi held a council on the whole affairs (of government) and words were uttered that are not credible to some of the Greeks, but they were uttered.
There seem to be two serious differences between Herodotus’ account and the Paikuli inscription: (1) in Herodotus’ narrative, the seven rebels ostensibly deliberate about the choice of the best government (democracy, oligarchy, or monarchy), but in the Paikuli inscription the tenor of the epistolary exchanges between Narseh and the dignitaries pertains to the virtues of the candidate, as well as to the due process for establishing his suitability; (2) the “constitutional” council in Herodotus is called by the seven insurgents, and the debate on the state of the affairs occurs within the council, while the council in Narseh’s account is summoned by the king himself and the exchange (= debate?) takes place between him and the members of the first “conspiratorial” council. Closer scrutiny, however, reveals that these differences are less substantial than they appear at first glance. As far as Herodotus’ reported “constitutional debate” is concerned, it is sound to assume that the depicted ideological discussion about distinct conceptions of government among the Seven in reality represented the superimposition of Herodotus’ own ideas of statesmanship upon what we presume to have been the oral rendition of a theme affecting the virtues pertaining to rulership. Indeed, Darius’ plaidoyer for the monarchy commences with the virtues of the best man (suited for the job), virtues that are very reminiscent of Narseh’s description of the best candidate’s qualities:
anī-tān kēž hamγōnag nē būd [kē …] yazadān *pargasād ahād [ud pad] (farroxīf) ud frazānagīf ud xwēbeh m[ardīf? čē Aryān]šahr istambag …
(Because ever since then) nobody else has been similar to You [whom …] the gods have favored (?) [and (who) by Your ?] fortune (?) and wisdom and Own [courage (?) have kept ?] oppression [away from Ērān-]šahr …
ag šahrδār [zānānd kū … kēž ast kē] …. ādūg ahēndē … Pārsān kār framādan […] ud dušmenīn passox (dādan) hō awās hēb wāžēd kū šahr ud paδgōs [xwadāw hō bawād kē] (ādūg) hāδ šahr dirdan
If the Landholders [know that (in Ērānšahr) there is someone who?] … would be (more) able … to govern the Persian army/people …. and] to answer enemies, let him say so now, so that [he may be lord of?] the realm and (its various) districts [who] is able to keep and govern the realm.
NPi f4–5,03–G7–11,03Now compare Herodotus:
ἀνδρὸς γὰρ ἑνὸς τοῦ ἀρίστου οὐδὲν ἄμεινον ἂν φανείη· γνώμῃ γὰρ τοιαύτῃ χρεώμενος ἐπιτροπεύοι ἂν ἀμωμήτως τοῦ πλήθεος σιγῷτό τε ἂν βουλεύματα ἐπὶ δυσμενέας ἄνδρας οὕτω μάλιστα.
Then nothing better can be found than (the rule) of the one best man; using this (his) judgment, he would govern the multitude without blemish and best conceal the plans against the enemies.
The arguments of Darius in support of the monarchy are threefold: (1) to rely only upon his own good judgment (γνώμη); (2) to govern the people without blemish (ἐπιτροπεύειν ἀμωμήτως τοῦ πλήθεος), that is, in rectitude; and (3) to conceal his plans against the enemies (σιγάειν βουλεύματα ἐπὶ δυσμενέας ἄνδρας), which means to protect his realm against its foes. This sequence is strikingly paralleled by NPi, which ascribes the following attributes to Narseh (1) wisdom (frazānagīh), (2) to govern the Persian army/people (Pārsān kār framādan), and (3) to withstand the enemies (dušmenīn passox (dādan)), that is, to keep the realm free from oppression ([Aryān]šahr istambag), or as another passage of NPi illustrates “keep the realm of Iran  more protected  and healthier” (Ērānšahr pāddom ud drusttar dār-).
Another of Darius’ arguments (in favor of the monarchic principle), which has a close parallel in NPi, is his tacit reference to the role of Cyrus and the laws of the forefathers, which should not be repealed, an exhortation which Narseh echoes in addressing the dignitaries, when he alludes to his ancestors Ardašīr and Šābuhr I, whose election/confirmation procedures he seeks to reinvigorate; see the Herodotean passage:
ἔχω τοίνυν γνώμην ἡμέας ἐλευθερωθέντας διὰ ἕνα ἄνδρα τὸ τοιοῦτο περιστέλλειν χωρίς τε τούτου πατρίους νόμους μὴ λύειν ἔχοντας εὖ.
Therefore, I hold the opinion that, having been set free because of one man, this rule [monarchy] we maintain; besides, we do not reject the laws of (our) fathers that are holding on well.
Another point on the agenda of the councils was the election of the king. In the Paikuli inscription, it is a mere formality, a confirmation of Narseh expressed in the dignitaries’ answer to Narseh’s second letter. In Herodotus’ account the election is embedded in a competition—the one whose horse neighs before the others at sunrise becomes king—although it seems to be an epic adornment for the confirmation of an election that had already taken place in the “constitutional debate” when Darius’ position as a partisan of monarchy was chosen by the other conspirators.
[ back ] 1. On Narseh’s inscription and seizure of power, see most recently Weber and Wiesehöfer 2010:89–132, in particular 103–121. Text and translation of the inscription follow Humbach and Skærvø 1978-1983.
[ back ] 2. On Warahrān II, see Weber 2009:559–643.
[ back ] 3. On Warahrān I, see Weber 2006–2007 :171–221.
[ back ] 4. On Warahrān III, see Weber 2010:353–394. See also the recent study of Gyselen 2005 :29–36, on the iconographic representations of Sasanian crown princes in the third century CE, including Warahrān III.
[ back ] 5. On different interpretations of the function of the (h)argbed, either as a military officer—that is, a “fortress commander”—or a financial officer, see Shayegan 2003b:94. For a diverging view of the office of the (h)argbed as a financial officer, compare Gnoli 2007:95–113, esp. 111; compare also Schwartz 2003:26–27; and Schwartz 2004:143–45; most recently, in comparison with the long-neglected Rabbinic sources, see Herman 2010:64–75, who seems to favor a military function.
[ back ] 6. For a comparison of NPi’s story pattern with that of DB, see Mori 1995.
[ back ] 7. On the notion of Lie and deception in ancient Iran, see now Skjærvø 2003:383–434, in particular 416–423; also Shayegan 2011:35–36. For the use of the Lie motif in ancient Near Eastern writings, which may apply to Achaemenid and Sasanian conditions as well, see Pongratz-Leisten 2002:181–209, in particular 232–242, for a discussion of Achaemenid inscriptions; esp. 236–237: “In summarizing the evidence drawn from the Mesopotamian and Persian sources we can establish that throughout the millennia the motif of the lie represents a central rhetorical device within the context of the literary narrative of disloyalty and rebellion against an overlord, i.e., within the context of breaking a treaty in the ancient Near East. In the cases of Esarhaddon and Darius it is connected to the critical historical moment of the succession to the throne, that is the breaking of the loyalty oaths and the attempts to consolidate the position of a royal successor or a usurper.”
[ back ] 8. For the reading of ǰā d ū g ī h “sorcery,” see Humbach and Skjærvø 1983:III.2:85.
[ back ] 9. On the Parthian imperfect form ah ā z <*ahāδ (HWE/-) and its Middle Persian equivalent (HWYTN/-), see Skjærvø 1998b:166–173.
[ back ] 10. For the reconstruction of this passage, see Humbach and Skjærvø 1983:3:2, 119.
[ back ] 11. The transliterated form is prksywt; on the meaning of prks- “favor; take care of,” see Humbach and Skjærvø 1983:3:2, 115. On other examples of past participles in -ywt, such as * šā y ā d (ah ē nd ē) and *paywad ā d, see Humbach and Skjærvø 1983:3:2, 108; and Skjærvø 1989:336. On the origin of phonetically written forms in -yw-, see Skjærvø 1986:430–431. Compare also Durkin-Meisterernst 2000:77–81.
[ back ] 12. On the optative in relative clauses, see Skjærvø 1989:346.
[ back ] 13. On the meaning of * ā g ā m “or,” see Humbach and Skjærvø 1983:III.2:111.
[ back ] 14. Already in his edition of the Paikuli inscription, Skjærvø suggested that the phrase P ā rs ā n k ā r fram ā dan could either signify “to govern the Persian army/people” or “to govern the affairs of the Persians”; see Humbach and Skjærvø 1983:III.2:35. A Manichaean Parthian fragment (M4574 Ri 3–4), pointed out to me by Skjærvø some time ago, confirms his suggestion (meanwhile published in Skjærvø 2009c:280–282) that the expression P ā rs ā n k ā r stands for “the Persian army/people.” The pertinent passage of the Parthian text published by Sundermann (1981:80) reads as follows: čē was k ā r (n ē ) z ā n ē nd k ū … B ā t maran k ā m ā d “then many people did not know that he wished the death for Bāt …” In this passage k ā r is unequivocally used in the meaning of “people (in arms)” and the entire passage is very reminiscent of two passages of DB: ya θā Ka m b ū jiya Bạrdiyam av ā ja k ā rahạy ā naiy azd ā abava taya Bạrdiya avajat ā “when Cambyses killed Bardiya, it did not become known to the people that Bardiya was killed” (DB 1.31–32); and k ā ram vasiy av ā janiy ā haya paranam Bạrdiyam ad ā n ā “[the people were much afraid of him,] (for) he killed many people, who previously had known Bardiya” (DB 1.51). See also the Bactrian equivalents: οδαβο χανο οοχωþ κιρδαδο οδο καρο δογγο ζανινδο “(if) a quarrel should be caused in the house, and the people are cognizant thus, (then)”; see Sims-Williams 2000:I:X22; and U3.
[ back ] 15. On this theme, see Skjærvø 1998c:99–107.
[ back ] 16. See Weber and Wiesehöfer 2010:108.
[ back ] 17. Skjærvø 1999:51.
[ back ] 18. On the Middle Persian block E1 of the Paikuli inscription, which has recently surfaced on the art market, and has afforded new insights by filling in some of the hitherto persisting lacunae, see Skjærvø 2006:113–117, whose reading we have followed here.
[ back ] 19. On the reconstruction of E1,02: | [ud] amā pad wuzurg | parmenag/framenag, see Skjærvø 2006:114–115.
[ back ] 20. On the recontruction of E1,03 (and E2,03): | YNPKWN ud *wehm ā n | ō ēw ālag [mānēd?], see Skjærvø 2006:114–115; uzīdan “go, come out” is a possible reading for the Arameogram YNPKWN, as suggested by the Frahang ī Pahlawīg (see Utas 1988:95, xxi:9). Skjærvø (2006:116n13) rightly suggests that another Arameogram, that is, ODYTN, has the same meaning “go, come out,” which makes the attribution of uz ī dan to YNPKWN problematic: “The Frahang ī Pahlawīg gives uz ī dan ‘go/come out’ as the equivalent of YNPKWN, and MacKenzie accordingly transcribes it as uz ī d, but does not mention the Arameogram ODYTN, which also means ‘go/come out,’ but is not listed in the Frahang.” On the reading of <wydmʾn> as wehm ā n “of good/better spirits” rather than *w ī m ā n “dispirited,” or *widam ā n “heaving a sigh of relief,” see Skjærvø 2006:114.
[ back ] 21. Skjærvø 2006:114.
[ back ] 22. On this theme, see Skjærvø 1999.
[ back ] 23. See Shayegan 2011:35–38.
[ back ] 24. Shayegan 2011:35–38.
[ back ] 25. On the reconstruction of this passage, see Humbach and Skjærvø 1983:III.2:28–29.
[ back ] 26. For Narseh, see also Weber and Wiesehöfer 2010:104.
[ back ] 27. On the complicated issue of succession, and the procedures pertaining to it, in the Sasanian empire, see the more recent study of Huyse (2009:145–157); see also Börm 2007:111–119, and Börm 2008:431–435, for interesting pages dedicated to the topic, mostly through the prism of Procopius’ report (on Husraw I’s succession); and more recently Weber and Wiesehöfer 2010:104–105, with special bearing on Narseh’s case.
[ back ] 28. The suggestion of Huyse (2009:154–155)—“Insgesamt dürfte einiges dafür sprechen, daß die vom verstorbenen König getroffene Nachfolgeregelung erst durch die Krönungszeremonie vor den versammelten persischen Magnaten ihre Gültigkeit bekam, wobei diese durchaus die Möglichkeit hatten, Einspruch einzulegen, wie die Formulierung in der Pāikūli-Inschrift suggeriert”—whereby the designation of the royal successor had to be approved through acclamation by Persian grandees in order to be effective, seems to be just the case made by Narseh in his inscription at Paikuli; although it remains unclear whether this procedure (as a tool of disputation) was revived precisely because the accession of Warahrān III was contested or undesired, or because the latter’s rights to the throne were challenged because the correct procedure had not been observed. Weber and Wiesehöfer (2010:104) appear to favor the latter probability: “Diese Krönung soll ohne Wissen und Akklamation des Adels und der höchsten Würdenträger des Reiches (darunter des ‘Königs von Armenien,’ Narseh) erfolgt sein … Demnach hätte Wahnām Teile des Adels und die höchsten Würdenträger des Reiches vor vollendete Tatsachen gestellt.” We may agree with the careful wording of Börm (2008:433)—“In jedem Fall scheint die Annahme plausibel, daß Adel und Priesterschaft zumindest manchmal einigen Einfluß auf die Thronfolge hatten”—although the six modalities (three being necessary and three optional) deemed to be pertinent to the choice of the royal successor by the author (2008:435)—“Insgesamt lassen sich den Quellen sechs Faktoren entnehmen, die bei der Auswahl des neuen Großkönigs von Bedeutung waren und sich insofern in zwei Gruppen gliedern lassen, als die eine Hälfte (Zugehörigkeit zur Königsfamilie, körperliche Unversehrtheit und Wahl bzw. Bestätigung durch den Adel) prinzipiell unabdingbar zu sein schienen, während die übrigen drei (Primogenitur, Designation durch den Vorgänger und militärische Tüchtigkeit) zwar von Bedeutung waren, aber offenbar nicht notwendig beachtet werden mußten”—may not be substantiated in the case of Narseh. In the late third century and early fourth century, the factors that seem to matter are certainly Narseh’s belonging to the royal family (but so also did Warahrān III) and his being the choice of an important faction of the nobility (Warahrān III was also supported by mighty grandees); his physical wholeness remains unmentioned, but his (ethical and religious) rectitude is of consequence. Also of importance is his ability to protect Ērānšahr, which we may count as his “militärische Tüchtigkeit.” Thus, aside from the necessity of belonging to the royal house, other important criteria for the succession appear to have been variously weighted from case to case. See also Wiesehöfer 2010b:137.
[ back ] 29. For the restoration of 28E1,05: |frest ē m k ū Wah|n ā m, on the basis of the Middle Persian block E1 of the Paikuli inscription, see Skjærvø 2006:113–115.
[ back ] 30. On the possible meaning of the ideogram Pth. QYM- = Pth. ax ā z- “rise up” and QYM-t = axāšt, see Humbach and Skjærvø 1983:III.2:96–97.