Account of the deaths of Sharwín and Wandád
Hurmuzd, and the reigns of their sons
Shahriyár and Qárin.

Sharwín left two sons, of whom Shahriyár, the ancestor of the Báwand princes, succeeded him, while Wandád Hurmuzd was succeeded by his son Qárin. When news of this reached al-Ma`mún, he sent to them (f. 99a) an ambassador with robes of honour, and wrote to inform them that he contemplated a campaign against the Byzantines, and needed the help of them and their captains. On one pretext and another they detained the ambassador for many days, until the Caliph had started on his campaign, when they dismissed him with many presents, saying, “The Ispahbad Shahriyár can in no wise come, but Qárin will follow you immediately.” So Qárin made preparations for the expedition, aided therein by Shahriyár, and on reaching Byzantine territory pitched his camp beside that of the Caliph. It happened that on that very day there had been a battle, wherein the champions of either side had contended with one another on the field. Qárin at once caused his horse’s armour to be put on, armed himself wíth a Gílání shield inlaid with gold, and with his followers attacked the Byzantine army, and utterly routed them. Al-Ma`mún was watching them, and kept enquiring of those who stood round who these valiant warriors might be, and who was their leader with the golden shield. None could tell him, but they continued to send re-inforcements to their strange allies, until Qárin ordered a general attack on the centre of the Byzantine army, broke down their standard with his mace, and entirely routed the foe. Summoned before the Caliph, he advanced clad in his breastplate and quilted armour (qazz-ágand), alighted from his horse, and kissed the Caliph’s stirrup. Then the Caliph recognized him, and bestowed on him a horse, and praised him greatly, conferring on him robes of honour and other tokens of his esteem. He kept him for some while in his service, and repeatedly urged him to embrace Islám so that they might confer on him the title of Mawlá Amíri`l-Múminín (“Client of the Prince of Believers”) and make him governor of Ṭabaristán, but he refused, and was at length suffered to return to his country. But the Ispahbad Shahriyár was jealous of him and hated him, and, being the stronger, annexed many of his lands, to which acts of aggression he submitted. One night he dreamed that he made water on the summit of a lofty mountain, and from this water a fire came forth, and spread itself in every direction, and burned up the high­lands, until it reached the plain, burning every tree on which it alighted. When he awoke, he summoned those skilled in the interpretation of dreams, and asked them its meaning. They answered, “From thy loins a son shall arise who will be king over both the mountains and the plains of Ṭabaristán, and who will be cruel and fierce and reckless.” This dream and its interpretation became known through Ṭabaristán, and that very year was born his son Mázyár, and when he reached maturity his father Qárin died.

Then the Ispahbad Shahriyár b. Sharwín coveted Mázyár’s territory, and seized every occasion to vex and harrass him, until at length a battle was fought between them, Mázyár was defeated, and Shahriyár annexed his territories. Mázyár sought refuge with Wandá-ummíd the son of Wandásafán, but Shahriyár demanded his surrender, and Wandá-ummíd, not daring to resist his command, put Mázyár in chains, and sent a message to Shahriyár, bidding him send his men to take him into custody, since he feared that his own people might set him free. Meanwhile Mázyár succeeded in ingra­tiating himself with the wives of his gaolers, and by their means obtained his freedom, and fled to the forests, where he lay in hiding until he was able to go to 'Iráq (f. 100a). There he fell in with 'Abdu`lláh b. Sa'íd al-Jurayshí, one of the Caliph’s Amírs, who received him with kindness, and brought him with him to Baghdad. Now al-Ma`mún had an astrologer named Bizíst the son of Fírúzán, whose name the Caliph had arabicized into Yaḥyá b. [Abí] Manṣúr, and who has been already mentioned in the Preface of this book. One day Mázyár, carrying the table of his nativity in his sleeve, came to this astrologer, who at first paid no heed to him, until he heard him addressed as Prince of Ṭabaristán, Máz­yár son of Qárin son of Wandád-Hurmuzd. When the astrologer heard this, he arose and offered his apologies for his neglect, and took the table of his nativity from him, and kissed it, and then began to examine it attentively. Then he turned all save Mázyár out of the room and said to Mázyár, “If I instruct thee, wilt thou shew thy gratitude for my help?” So Mázyár promised, confirming his promise with oaths. After some time the astrologer made known what he had discovered from the horoscope to al-Ma`mún, who summoned him into his presence and said: “The signal services rendered to me in the war with the Byzantines by thy father Qárin impel me to befriend thee, but this must depend on thine acceptance of Islám and utterance of the Muḥammadan profession of faith.” So Mázyár accepted Islám, and al-Ma`mún gave him the title of Mawlá Amíri`l-Múminín and the kunya of Abu`l-Ḥasan.

Some months after this the Ispahbad Shahriyár died in Ṭabaristán, leaving many sons, amongst whom were Qárin b. Shahriyár b. Sharwín, called Abu`l-Mulúk (“the Father of kings”), and his elder brother Shápúr, who succeeded to the throne. But his vehemence and tyranny (f. 100b) disgusted his subjects, so that they deserted him, and complained of him to al-Ma`mún, who ordered Muḥammad b. Khálid to deprive him of his highland possessions. But this Muḥam­mad b. Khálid was not strong enough to do, and al-Ma`mún sought for some one else who would be able to crush Shápúr. The astrologer Bizíst happened to be present, and suggested Mázyár, remarking that his horoscope indicated him as likely to be successful in this enterprise. So al-Ma`mún sent him to subdue the highlands, and Músá b. Ḥafṣ to over-run the plains. The latter had been disgraced and dismissed by al-Ma`mún, but, by promising his support and co-operation to Mázyár, he induced him to ask the Caliph to make this appointment.

As soon as Mázyár reached Ṭabaristán, many of the people rallied to his standard, so that he soon found him­self at the head of a large army, and marched on Farím to seek out Shápúr, whom he utterly routed, took captive, and put in chains, and then sent word to Músá announcing his victory. Now Shápúr, knowing that Mázyar intended to kill him, sent a secret message to Músá, offering him 100,000 dirhams if he would claim him as his own captive. Músá replied that he could best save himself by declaring himself a Muslim, and the client of the Caliph. But, being afraid lest Mázyár should discover his relations with Shápúr, he asked him what he would do if Shápúr should embrace Islám and offer for the Caliph’s acceptance a sum of 100,000 dirhams. To this question Mázyár vouch­safed no answer, but that night he caused Shápúr to be beheaded, and next morning sent his head to Músá, who (f. 101a) was greatly enraged against him. So Mázyár, fearing lest the Caliph might send someone else instead of Músá to fight against him and subdue him, apologized for his con­duct; and matters continued as they were in Ṭabaristán, until, at the end of four years, Músá died, and was suc­ceeded by his son Muḥammad, to whom Mázyár paid no heed whatever, ruling undisturbed over highlands and plains alike. Shápúr’s brother Qárin the son of Shahriyár, with all the House of Báwand and the Marzubáns and Farshwád the Marzubán of Tammísha, were filled with anger against him and complained of him to al-Ma`mún, who sent a sum­mons to Mázyár to appear before him. He replied that he was engaged in a religious war against the Daylamites, and thereupon marched at the head of his army to Jálús and took hostages from the nobles of that country, so that they were compelled to submit to him. Al-Ma`mún then endeavoured to persuade him to come to Baghdad, and sent the astrologer Bizíst to him to bring him thither. Mázyár, being informed of this, collected all the armed men he could find round him, and sent Yaḥyá b. Rúzbihán and Ibráhím b. Abla to Ray to meet him, bidding them bring him before him by way of Sawát-kúh, Kálbadraja and Kandí-áb, along roads so bad that it was impossible to ride. So when at length, after several days’ hard travelling over the worst of roads, they came to where Mázyár was awaiting them at Hurmuzd-ábád, and saw him surrounded by a host of armed men of all conditions, they were filled with astonishment at his power and at the inaccessible character of his kingdom. So he entertained them royally for some time, but persisted in his refusal to accompany them to Baghdad, alleging that he was busy in fighting the Daylamites, but would follow them presently before the Caliph. So he sent then back, accom­panied by the Qáḍís of ´Amul and Rúyán, and when they reached Baghdad, and were questioned by the Caliph con­cerning the loyalty (f. 101b) and intentions of Mázyár, they answered contrary to the truth. But when they came out from the audience, and the Qáḍí of Ruyán had gone to his lodging, the Qáḍí of ´Amul lingered outside the audience-hall till he could get speech with Yaḥyá b. Aktham, to whom he said, “The Prince of Believers enquired concerning Mázyár publicly, and inasmuch as most of his courtiers and attendants are friends of Mázyár, and are in communication with him, we were unable to declare the truth. Yet did I not deem it right to depart from the court without making known to the Caliph the true state of the case, which is that Mázyár has cast off his allegiance, put on once more the Zoroastrian girdle, treats the Muslims with cruelty and contempt, and will never again of his own free will come to Baghdad.” Yaḥyá b. Aktham replied, “How long wilt thou, who art the administrator of the Holy Law and the Judge of a province, tell lies to the Prince of Believers? When he knows that thou hast lied to him, will he not needs dismiss thee from thy post?” Then he turned back and told the whole matter to al-Ma`mún, and came out again, and brought the Qáḍí of ´Amul secretly before the Caliph that he might tell his story. Al-Ma`mún was just preparing to start on a journey, and he said to the Qáḍí of ´Amul, “You must put up with it till I return, for this matter is the more urgent.” “If we can thwart him,” replied the Judge, “have we permission to do so?” “You may do so,” answered the Caliph.

So the Qáḍí returned to ´Amul, and Mázyár, hearing that the Caliph had marched against the Byzantines, began to devour ´Amul and Sárí like a ravenous wolf, and to drive the people of Rúyán to desperation, so that they conspired together to kill all his representatives. At Safúḥ near ´Amul they persuaded one Khalíl b. Wandásafán to help them. This news (f. 102a) was brought to Mázyár at Sárí, and he at once collected his troops and laid siege to ´Amul, the inhabitants of which closed the gates, gathered in the country-folk from the surrounding district, and went before Muḥammad b. Músá and informed him that the Qáḍí of ´Amul had returned from Baghdad asserting that Mázyár had cast off his allegiance to the Caliph, and that he had received permission to kill him. Then Muḥammad b. Músá summoned the Qáḍí, and, learning that the statement made to him by the people was true, joined himself to them.

Meanwhile Mázyár sent off a courier to the Caliph, announcing that the people of Rúyán and the passes of Jálús had cast of their allegiance to him and had won over Muḥammad b. Músá to their side, and set up an 'Alid claimant as anti-caliph, adopting white garments as their distinctive mark. “But I,” concluded Mázyár, “have sent an army to subdue them, and, please God, the news of my victory will shortly follow this.” At this time the city of ´Amul was guarded by a double moat and double fortifi­cations, and it held out for eight months against Mázyár, though all the surrounding country was laid waste, and devastated by slaughter and pillage, by Mázyár’s brother Qúhyár the son of Qárin; while Mázyár sent constant despatches to the Caliph concerning the progress of the war, till at length the Caliph began to think that Mázyár was after all loyal and true. For Muḥammed b. Músá used to send all his despatches to an old servant of his father’s who lived at Ray, and who was supposed to forward them; but he had been tampered with by one of Mázyár’s acute agents, to whom he gave them instead, so that they never reached their destination, but were all read by Mázyár.

After an eight month’s siege, ´Amul capitulated, and Khalíl b. Wandásafán and Abú Aḥmad the Qáḍí were put to death by Mázyár, who wrote a despatch announcing his victory to the Caliph. Al-Ma`mún thereupon despatched Muḥammad b. Sa'íd (f. 102b) to Ṭabaristán to investigate the true state of the case, and to find out who this 'Alid claimant might be. This man reported that there was no 'Alid claimant, and that the whole story was a lie invented by Mázyár. The Caliph, however, when he had read this report, was filled with anger against Muḥammad b. Músá, and handed over both the highlands and plains of Ṭabaristán to Mázyár. When Mázyár was informed of this, he made a proclamation in ´Amul, collected all the chiefs, nobles and men of mark, including Muḥammad b. Músá, drove them before him to Rúd-bast, and placed each in his own house under the custody of guards.

In this same year tidings came to Ṭabaristán that al-Ma`mún had died on his campaign against the Byzantines at Qaydúm*. Thereupon Mázyár sent his Magian followers to bring the prisoners from Rúd-bast to Hurmuzd-ábád, where he put them into fetters and reduced their allowance of food, depriving them altogether of salt, and not permitting them to go to the bath. Most of them died of pri­vation, and Muḥammad b. Músá and his brother had nothing in their cells but a piece of matting each, and bricks for their pillows. Then Mázyár repaired the fortifications of ´Amul and Sárí, constructed castles in the mountains, and compelled all the peasantry to work for him (f. 103a) in constructing fortresses and digging moats. He also established barriers and guard-houses on all the roads to prevent any­one bearing tidings of his doings to the outside world, and he hanged all who attempted to pass out of the country without his permission. In short his tyranny reached a pitch never equalled before or since his time.

Al-Ma`mún was succeeded by his brother Ibráhím al-Mu'taṣim, to whom '´Abdu`lláh b. Ṭáhir, governor of Khurásán, communicated something of Mázyár’s misdeeds, tyranny, and apostacy. The new Caliph sent an ambassador to Mázyár to intercede for Muḥammad b. Músá and his brother; but Mázyár would not listen to the representation of this ambassador, Muḥammad b. 'Abdu`lláh, but answered him harshly that he would exact from them two years’ revenues before he let them go. So Muḥammad b. 'Abdu`lláh the ambassador returned in despair, and wrote an account of his mission to Yaḥyá b. Ibráhím b. Muṣ'ab, who was at the Court of the Caliph, and who submitted it to al-Mu'taṣim. Mázyár meanwhile conferred various offices and distinctions on Bábak, Mazdak and other Magians, who ordered the Muḥammadan mosques to be destroyed and all traces of Islám to be removed. The people of ´Amul per­suaded Abu`l-Qásim Hárún b. Muḥammad to write a state­ment of their grievances to al-Mu'taṣim, and hence this qaṣída was composed:

<Arabic> (f. 103b) <Arabic>

In reply to this poem, an answer, also in verse, was sent from Baghdad, from which the following verses are taken:


When al-Mu'taṣim was informed of Mázyár’s doings, he ordered 'Abdu`lláh [b. Ṭáhir] to proceed to Ṭabaristán and take him captive. 'Abdu`lláh b. Ṭáhir sent his paternal uncle Ḥasan b. Ḥusayn to the Caliph begging him to send Muḥammad b. Ibráhím with an army from 'Iráq to help him. When the army of Khurásán reached Tammísha (f. 104a), the army of 'Iráq had already occupied all the high­lands, and the people of Ṭabaristán left Mázyár and joined 'Abdu`lláh b. Ṭáhir and his uncle. These pursued Mázyár without rest or pause, till at length he was taken captive. 'Abdu`lláh b. Ṭáhir confined him in a box entirely closed save for two eye-holes through which he could look upon the outer world, and carried him thus confined on a mule to 'Iráq.

One day on the journey Mázyár said to the muleteer, “My heart craves for a melon. Can you get me one?” His guards reported this request to 'Abdu`lláh, who took pity upon him and said, “He is a king and a king’s son.” Then he ordered him to be released from the chest and brought before him, and placed loads of melons before him, and cut them up and gave them to him with his own hands, saying, “Grieve not, for the Commander of the Faithful is a merci­ful prince, and I wil intercede for thee, that he may over­look thy fault, and restore thee to thy country.” Mázyár replied, “Please God, thy excuses will be accepted.” 'Abdu`lláh was astonished, saying to himself, “The Caliph will not be content with anything short of his death: how then can he ask for my intercession?” Then 'Abdu`lláh ordered a table to be spread, and gave him bread and wine, and caused the minstrels to make melody, and entertained him sumptuously, and greatly encouraged him to hope, plying him with strong wines until he was overcome with drink, but himself passing the wine-cup. Then, when Mázyár was overcome with wine, 'Abdu`llah asked him the meaning of what he had said. Mázyár replied, “In a few more days you will know.” 'Abdu`lláh pressed him, with threats and promises, to speak, and at length Mázyár agreed to do so if he would bind himself by an oath [not to betray him]. On receiving this pledge, Mázyár said (f. 104b), “Know that I, and Afshín, and Ḥaydar b. Ká`ús and Bábak, all four of us, have for a long while covenanted and agreed to take the empire from the Arabs and restore it to the Kis­rás of Persia. Yesterday, at such-and-such a place, Afshín’s messenger came to me and whispered something in my ear which filled me with joy.” “What was that?” enquired 'Abdu`lláh. Mázyár at first refused to speak, but finally, induced by promises and flattery, he continued: “He brought me a message from Afshín to the effect that on a certain day, at a certain hour, he would destroy al-Mu'taṣim, and his sons Hárún al-Wáthiq and Ja'far al-Mutawakkil.” Then 'Abdu`lláh gave him more wine, till he was entirely over­come with it, and then caused him to be taken back to his place of confinement; and at once wrote to the Caliph what he had heard, and despatched the letter by carrier-pigeon. When the Caliph received the letter it was the very day on which Afshín had invited him and his sons Hárún and Ja'far to a great entertainment. So al-Mu'taṣim sent word saying, “They are ill, but I will come,” and forthwith proceeded thither with fifty horsemen. Afshín had decked his house with bejewelled brocades, and had drawn up a hundred negroes, who, when the Caliph had sat down, were to rush upon him from all sides and slay him with their swords. When al-Mu'taṣim reached the entrance, Afshín said, “Enter, o my lord!” but he paused and said, “Where are so-and-so and so-and-so?” Then he called his trusty retainers and bade them enter, while he stood out­side. Then one of the Indians sneezed, and the Caliph rushed in, seized Afshín by the beard, and cried, “Plunder, plunder!” (<Arabic>). When the Indians heard this, they were filled with consternation, and took to flight; and al-Mu'taṣim summoned his kinsmen and retainers, and bade them set fire to Afshín’s palace. Then his servants took Afshín’s beard from the Caliph’s hand, and bound him with chains and fetters, and brought him to the Caliph’s Palace, where they detained him till Mázyár’s arrival. And they questioned him (f. 105a), saying, “Why didst thou see fit to cast off thine allegiance?” Mázyár replied, “You gave me the government of Ṭabaristán. The people rebelled against me. I reported this to the Court, and received orders to fight them.” “Who wrote this answer to you?” enquired the Caliph. “Afshín,” replied Mázyár. Then the Caliph summoned the lawyers and judges of Baghdad, and by their sentence Mázyár was first scourged to death, and then his body was crucified at the Khaṭíra of Bábil, opposite Náṭis the Byzantine, the lord of 'Amúriya. And Afshín was burned alive. And Mázyár had ruled over Ṭabaristán for seven years, and at his death the highlands passed into the control of Bundár the son of Múní.