Knowing more about Iran’s mythology and legendary stories – Part 2
Under Faridun, prosperity reigns once more over the World. Nearing the end of his life, Faridun divides his vast domain among his three son: the western lands pass to Salm, his eldest son; the northern and eastern lands are given Tur, his middle son; while the central region, which includes Iran, is bestowed on Iraj, the youngest and favorite son. This bequest rouses the jealousy and rancor of the elder brothers, who conspire to murder Iraj. The slaying of the noble Iraj at the hand of Tur sets off a bloody and protracted feud between the royal houses of Iran and Turan. With Faridun’s division of his kingdom, the era of world-kings comes to an end.
Manuchehr, a descendant of Iraj’s daughter, whom Faridun had reared, eventually ascends the throne. Helped by his general Karen, a son of Kaveh, Manuchehr tracks down and kills both Tur and Salm in battle. The war of Iran and Turan (over which Afrasiab holds away) goes on for many years with now one country, now the other, victorious. Under Manuchehr, the exploits of the heroic vassal kings of Sistan, led by Sam, who is followed by his son Zal and grandson Rostam, begin to unfold.
After years of trouble, Iranian fortunes revive under Kei-Qobad, who establishes a new dynasty called the Kianian. Whereas the Pisdadian kings are often mythical in nature, the Kianian kings form a coherent group which exhibits dynastic features. Therefore it appears that with the Kianians we pass from what is mostly mythology to legendary history.
Kei-Qobad’s two immediate successors, Kei-Kavus and Kei-Khosrow, are of particular renown. The reign of Kei-Kavus, an ambitious, petulant, unpredictable ruler, is marked by many wars and adventures. During his rule, a feud between Iran and Turan becomes even more vicious than before. One of the tragic events which occurs at this time is connected with Siavash, Kei-Kavus’s son, who is falsely accused by his father’s wife as having made amorous advances toward her. Siavash proves his innocence by passing unharmed through fire. However his father remains suspicious of him and the prince has to seek shelter at the Turanian court. There, having married with a Turanian princess, he is treated as befits royalty for some time, until his brothers-in-law envy his brilliance and plot against him. Eventually Afrasiab orders him slain. Judging from the scattered accounts that speak of Siavash, it appears that he must have been the focus of of a mourning cult which dated from pre-Zoroastrian times. Curiously, this cult provided the model for the development of the Shiite mourning rites in Iran. The passion of Siavash bears too close a resemblance to that of Imam Hossein in ritual, imagery and emotive underpinnings to be ignored in an explanation of the Islamic genre.
Shahnameh for New Generation: The Epic of the Persian Kings
Siavash’s son, Kei-Khosrow is born after his father’s death. The news of his birth revives hope for vengeance among the Iranians, and Kei-Kavus, in remorse, dispatches one of his outstanding generals to find the prince and bring him to Iran. After a hazardous journey, Kei-Khosrow is successfully conducted to the Iranian court. Helped by a host of distinguished warriors, he invades Turan and kills Afrasiab, thus closing a fateful chapter of Irano-Turanian Wars. After this, Kei-Khosrow turns away from the affairs of the world and designates Lohrasp, a distant relative as his successor. Lohrasp rules wisely until advanced in age, he retires from the throne, which he leaves to his ambitious son Goshtasp. It is during the reign of Goshtasp that Zoroaster proclaims his religion. Goshtasp embraces the new faith and joins the prophet in proselytizing. Outraged at what he considers a betrayal of the old faith, Arjasp, the new king of Turan invades Iran, but is defeated by Goshtasp able son Esfandiar. The ungrateful Goshtasp, however, alarmed at Esfandiar’s ambitions, sends him to Sistan with the order to bring Rostam, now ruler of that vassal kingdom, as a prisoner to the court. Goshtasp claimed that Rostam has failed to pay his respects to the crown for some time. Esfandiar has little linking for the command that pits him against the invincible warrior, but his pride persuades him to take up the challenge. There follows a single combat, in which Rostam succeeds in inflicting upon Esfandiar a mortal arrow-wound. Shortly afterward, Rostam himself is killed as a result of the stratagems of his envious brother. Rostam’s provinces fall prey to Bahman, the son of Esfandiar and successor to Goshtasp. Bahman is succeeded by his daughter and wife Homay; she bears him a son called Dara. Eventually Dara ascends the throne and is succeeded in turn by his son Dara the Younger, who is killed by Alexander the Great. Bahman’s other son Sasan allegedly becomes an ancestor of the Sasanid clan. The phase of the Kianian rule from Bahman to Dara is marked by new and distinctive features which set it apart from the earlier phases, and bring it into historical times.