The House of David

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

James Howard-Johnston on the Khoday Nameh

Now that we have Michael RJ Bonner's study on Dinawari and Philip Wood's "The Christian Reception of the Xwaday-Namag", we can revisit James Howard-Johnston's Witnesses to a World Crisis. The book's Khoday Nameh section (he spells it Khwadaynamag) is pp. 341f. (I owe no thanks to the book's index here; I had to flip to the table of contents.)

Immediately I see that Howard-Johnston assumes a single text called "Khwadaynamag". This despite that he must report that the Arabs knew many texts of the name. There's also at least one blunder, in that Ibn Qutayba - for one - didn't actually credit the Khoday Nameh for his take on Irani history. Bonner tells us that Ibn Qutayba instead used the "books of the Iranians' biographies".

Howard-Johnston, writing about the seventh century, doesn't linger on the early Khoday Nameh tradition. Mazdaq is mentioned only as a source of turmoil - which won't offend Bonner. Howard-Johnston really starts with Hormizd IV (579-90). On this shah, Howard-Johnston and Bonner agree on the Khoday Nameh tradition's outline: the Sasanian court had little to say about him, except that he was a reformer, who didn't succeed. The modern scholars also seem to agree that the Sasanian tradition didn't touch Bahram Chobin, leaving his rebellion to other Persian books.

On Khusro II, Howard-Johnston naturally has more to say. Howard-Johnston looks into Pseudo-Sebeos's history of his reign, and attributes the Khwadaynamag as its main source. Bonner mainly agrees. Bonner, though, sees in the Armenian quotes from the Persian archives a more-or-less sober account of Khusro's reign, (mostly) without the egregious propaganda he has had to debunk elsewhere. (Even where Pseudo-Sebeos does preserve propaganda, it's often east-Christian - like this shah's conversion to Christianity - and not Sasanian.) So Bonner sees a distinction in the latest Persian material between "official" history, from the "bureaucracy"; and "propaganda", from the court.

Bonner takes the revolt of Bistam as a case-study. Here he finds that Pseudo-Sebeos mainly agrees with Dinawari, and concludes that this came from a Sasanian source. The only aspect of the event Bonner finds unlikely so (Sasanian) propaganda is that it took ten years of Khusro's reign (Howard-Johnson says eight).

Inasmuch as Howard-Johnson starts from 579 AD, his assumption of a single Khoday Nameh is wrong (again - cf., my review) but, I admit, innocuous. His trust in its take on events isn't a problem either. Perhaps Khusro II was so late in the game that the Sasanian propagandists never had much opportunity to lie about him. At any rate we should be reading the Sasanian tradition alongside Wood's critique of same.

UPDATE 3/4/2017: I'd forgot I had Wood's article here, since 14 November last year. That was a busy week for me.


posted by Zimri on 13:25 | link | 0 comments

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