Non-Iranian historical lands in Pahlavi literature

Domenico Agostini*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although Zoroastrian Pahlavi literature preserves few geographical and ethnographic descriptions of non-Iranian historical regions, the popular book Ayādgār ī Jāmāspīg devotes several chapters to an extensive account of the landscape, social customs and religious practices of India, China, Arabia, Barbary, Ceylon (or the region of Slavs), Mazandarān and Turkestan. These descriptions share many similarities with the accounts of Muslim geographers between the ninth and twelfth centuries ce, though they also contain many Late Sasanian elements. In providing an English translation of these passages, this article aims to identify the inhabitants of these regions as well as to provide a more precise chronology of the chapters. It argues that Zoroastrian authors in the first centuries of the Islamic era, taking as a model the new Islamic science of geography, wrote or reworked these chapters with the intention of redefining and mapping the new world around them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-472
Number of pages20
JournalBulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2019


  • Early Islam
  • Ethnography
  • Geography
  • Pahlavi literature
  • Sasanian Iran
  • Zoroastrianism


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