Section I, ch. IV.
Account of the kings, nobles, doctors, saintly
and famous men, scribes, physicians, phi-
losophers and poets of Ṭabaristán.

1. Mázyár. — He was one of the most capable princes who ever reigned. One day his trainer (<Arabic>) was riding one of his favourite horses. “Do you detect any fault in this horse?” enquired Mázyár. “It is one of the finest to be found in all the world,” answered the trainer; “what is wrong with it?” “There is no marrow in its shoulder-blades;” answered Mázyár. He then ordered the horse to be killed, and they found it was even as he had said.

On another occasion he was informed that a certain horse-breader in Tukháristán had in his stud a horse valued at 100,000 dirhams. He at once despatched several experts in horseflesh to buy it for him. When they reached their destination, the owner would only allow them to look at the horse and not to ride it. It appeared to be a beautiful animal, well-proportioned, graceful and strong. They wrote to Mázyár for instructions. He replied (f. 43a): “Assuredly the owner would not impose such a condition unless he was aware of some blemish in the animal. Before buying it, you must make it a condition that you shall be allowed to lassoo it. If, when the lassoo falls round its neck, it pricks up its ears, looks sharply down between its fore-feet, and draws its tail inwards, then buy it; but if it strains its neck against the noose, throws out its sides, and lays back its ears, then refuse to buy it.” When they tried the experiment, it happened even as he had said, and they rejected it accordingly.

After his death the Caliph put 'Alí b. Zayn in his place in the Foreign Office (<Arabic>), but the despatches written by him were less rich in meaning than those penned by Mázyár. They asked him why this was so. He replied: “He wrote in his own language; I translate into Arabic.” Mázyár’s cunning and generosity, as well as his capture and execution at Surra-man-ra`a, will be mentioned in their proper place.

2. Alandáy* the son of Sukhrá, King of Ṭabaristán. In strength and courage he was reckoned the equal of Rustam. One night he rode forty parasangs after a stag, and at the end swam a river in flood, and slew the quarry.

<Arabic>* <Arabic>

3. Wandád Hurmuzd the son of Alandáy, also celebrated for his courage. His doughty deeds, and how he slew Farásha and “the Devil of Far'án” (Sálim of Far'án or Far­ghán)*, will be told in its proper place. When Hárúnu`r-Rashíd reached Ray, he sent [his son] al-Ma`mún to be laid in his lap, and he bestowed on al-Ma`mún villages whereof the revenues amounted to 1,600,000 dirhams. When he slew Farásha, he gave to the Ispahbad Sharwín, “King of the Mountains”*, who came to help him, one third (<Arabic>) of the spoils; and when, after the death of Farásha, Hárúnu`r-Rashíd came to Ray, Wandád Hurmuzd went out to meet him (f. 43b). When the Caliph’s eyes lighted upon him, he began to upbraid, reproach and fiercely threaten him, whereupon Wandád said, “I do not understand Arabic, but I perceive that the Commander of the Faithful is incensed against me, and is upbraiding me in unkind words. Why did he not speak thus when I was in my own highlands? Now that, unconstrained and of my own free will, I come before him loyally and obediently, it ill befits his greatness to address in such terms his guest and his faithful servant.” Hárún, when this was interpreted to him, admitted that he was in the right, increased his rank, and ordered a cushion to be brought that he might be seated. When the cushion was brought, Wandád, instead of sitting down on it, placed it on his head, saying, “A cushion from the Commander of the Faithful is an honour; it is better placed on the head.” When he rose up to depart, Hárún ordered the cushion to be sent with him.

Another day, while he was sitting with Hárún, the uncle of the latter entered the room. All those present rose up, except Wandád. This displeased the Caliph and those with him. Immediately afterwards Yazíd b. Murthad arrived and did obeisance. Wandád immediately rose up and paid homage to him. Everyone smiled, and Hárún said, “My uncle is my own flesh and blood, while this man is the least of my servants. Whence that uncalled for rudeness, and this unnecessary politeness?” Wandád Hurmuzd answered, “I did not recognize your uncle, and why should I rise up for one whom I do not know? But this is a brave and capable man, therefore I paid him a tribute of respect. When thou didst send him to my kingdom, he was encamped against me for a whole year, and every morning he set his army in battle-array in a different fashion. And I had there (f. 44a) a knight who was his equal in courage and valour, whom I sent out against him on the day of battle; but in less time than it takes one to draw a sword from its scab­bard, I saw my champion’s head fall before him. Next day I myself went out to meet him. He struck me such a blow with his sword as I had never before experienced. Before such a man, though he be my enemy, I willingly rise up.” The Caliph was pleased at his speech, and thereafter pro­moted Yázíd b. Murthad to high rank.

In the palace of Hárúnu`r-Rashíd, in the house of Umm Ja'far, there was a tame monkey, which was treated with the utmost respect. It used to be girt with a sword and girdle, and had assigned to its service thirty men, who rode with it when it went forth. Everyone who came to pay his respect at the court was required to kiss its hand and pay hommage to it; and it was of such evil nature that, in the words of the author:


One day Yazíd b. Murthad went, after taking leave of the Caliph, to the house of Umm Ja'far to bid farewell to her. They brought the ape before him and bade him kiss its hand. He drew his sword and cut it in two, and turned back in anger. Hárúnu`r-Rashíd, being informed, summoned him and asked him what had impelled him to this action. He replied, “O Commander of the Faithful! Shall I serve apes after having served Caliphs? No, by God, never!” So the Caliph forgave him. Muslim b. al-Walíd says in a threnody which he composed on him:


4. Khurshíd the son of Dázamihr*. A prince of Khurásán once came to pay his respects to him with many gifts and offerings, and a lodging was assigned to him near the Ispahbad. He asked for dishes and trays whereon to arrange the presents (f. 44b). They brought from the Ispahbad’s plate-room five hundred silver trays. The Khurásání demanded more. They sent to Farrukhán’s daughter, the chief wife of the Ispahbad, and obtained from her five hundred more. The Ispahbad then received the presents from Khurásán on these thousand trays, and in return sent to the prince two thousand trays filled with presents of the pro­duce of Ṭabaristán, together with 100,000 dirhams.

On another occasion a man brought to him as a present a cup set with jewels and shaped like a cock, the two eyes of which were formed by two large red rubies of great value. The Ispahbad accepted it, and rewarded the donor. Some time afterwards it was reported to him that the donor was boasting that he had rendered to the Ispahbad an unparalleled service. Thereupon the latter invited five hundred guests, including the donor of the cup, to a wine-party, and before each of them was set a cup shaped like it, but far better. The donor of the original cup apprehended the rebuke, apologized, and received back his gift together with twice its value in money.

5. The Ispahbad Pádhúsbán*. He used daily to feed six hundred man in three detachments, 200 in the morning, 200 at noon, and 200 at evening. 'Abdu`lláh Faḍlawayh as-Sarwí had fled from Muḥammed Yazíd and sought refuge with him. He made him an allowance of 200,000 dirhams for “bread-money”, and continued it to his sons after he died.