First Iranian who restored the Most Revered Iranian Traditions

INTRODUCTION: In the history of Iran, the late 9th and early 10th centuries witnessed the emergence of more genuine dynasties to rule the country and to restore the Persian Culture and Traditions. Three Iranian dynasties were ruling over Iran simultaneously. They were the Saffarids (861-1003) in the southeast, the Samanids (875-999) in the northeast; and the Zeyarids (928-1043) in the north, west and central part of Iran. Those three dynasties paved the way for the establishment of a more powerful Iranian dynasty of Buyyids (in Persian: All-e-Buyyeh). The Buyyids shared with the Samanids the palm for having brought to fruition the Iranian renaissance. They achieved Iranian political ascendancy by doing what Yaghub-e-Layth Saffar (867-879), the founder of Saffarids, had failed to do and what the Samanids would probably have considered illegal to do; they captured Baghdad in 945 and made the Caliph their own puppet. About 14 years earlier, in 931, Mardaviz or MAZ (also spelled as Mardavij, Mardavige, and Mardavaz), the founder of Zeyarids, successfully expelled the Abbasid’s army firstly from Hamadan (in the mid west of Iran), and finally from Kashan and Isfahan (the central cities of the country). On 2 December 931, MAZ arrived in Isfahan, named himself as the Ruler (in Persian: Amir) of Iran and made Isfahan as the capital of the country. He also restored the most revered Iranian Traditions (Know Rooz or Nowruz, Mehregan, and Sadeh), which were neglected for a long time. In this article the life, the battles, the ruling agenda, and the end of MAZ as the first Iranian who restored the Most Revered Iranian Traditions will be studied and discussed.

HIS LIFE: Although the exact birth date of MAZ is unknown, it is speculated that he was born around 890 when Ammr-e-Layth Saffar (879-901) and Nasr Samani (864-892) ruled in Sistan and Khorassan respectively. Some reports reveal that his birthplace was in Daylam (in northwestern Iran) or somewhere in Gilan or Mazanderan (also known as Taberestan at the time). Daylam, Gilan and Mazanderan are the historic regions of northern Iran, and an early Iranian civilization flourished in the beginning of the first millennium BC in those regions.

Any research work on the early life of MAZ is a very complicated task and requires time and space. There are, however, some evidences indicating that the Zeyarids belonged to the Arghich Tribe resided originally in Gilan. (Arghich is a Persian term which means ivy, and Ivy League in American literature means a group of people with a good reputation). MAZ was the son of Zeyar, and the grandson of Vardanshah Gili, a chief of the Arghich Tribe. Members of that tribe were mostly known to be considered as warriors (in Persian: Dellavar) and the name of MAZ which means ‘A Man Who Fights Bravely’ should have been popular among the males of the tribe. The religion of Zeyar and his family is not exactly known. After the Arab conquest, it was not that all Iranians converted to Islam together, and for some hundred years followers of other religions (Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Jewish, Manichaeism, Mazdakism, etc.) were still more than Muslims. Some scholars indicate that MAZ adopted the Ismailite faith. (The Ismailite faith is a sect of the Shiate branch of Islam, and it came into existence after the death of the sixth imam, Jafar-e-Sadegh, in 765, and his son Ismail was accepted as successor only by a group of people, who became known as Ismailis). There are also some reports that MAZ did not have any religious training at all. Nevertheless, MAZ seemed to be pro-Zoroastrians and liked Iranians to return to their own roots (See the section of His Agenda, below).

HIS BATTLES: Around 930, MAZ joined the army of Asfar Shiruyeh (ASF). ASF, a native of Larijan, was known to be a descendant of Shiruyeh, a Sassanian general who was the king of Iran for a short time in 629 and was succeeded by Queen Regnant Pourandokht, the daughter of Khosrow Parviz (591-628). The name Asfar was possibly derived from the Persian term of Asb-bar, a horseman or a horse rider. ASF was a general in the organizations of Alavian family who ruled Tabarestan at the time. During the Abbasid Caliphate, Alavians lived in the mountainous areas of Daylam and tried to cut the hands of Arab Caliphs from Iran. Consequently, the unity of Daylamian and Alavian was founded. Later, ASF took advantage of a rebellion in the Samanid army and seized power in Gurgan or Gorgaan (presently called Gollestaan) in northern Iran. ASF also took Amol, Daylam, Ghazvin, Zanjan, and Ray and appointed MAZ as the governor of Zanjan. In 927, due to some radical behaviors by ASF a powerful opposition emerged against him. In 928, MAZ joined the opposition, defeated ASF, and took over all regions which were ruled by ASF. And that was the time when MAZ officially founded the Zeyarid dynasty. Shortly after, MAZ organized a huge army of Iranian patriots. Supported by that army, he could defeat the Arab soldiers of Abbasid Caliph firstly in Hamadan and Kashan, and finally in Isfahan.

HIS AGENDA: On December 2, 931, MAZ arrived in Isfahan, named himself as the Ruler (in Persian: Amir) of Iran and made Isfahan as the capital of the country. In fact, in 931 MAZ revived the historical heritage of Isfahan: Isfahan was the capital in the Parthian era (150 BC – 226 AD), and in the Sassanid period (226 – 650) came under the influence of the seven large influential families of Iran or the Spahbods. On the advent of Islam, till the early 10th century (or from 650 to 931), Isfahan was under the jurisdiction of the Arabs, and was favored by Mansur, one of the Abbassid Caliphs during his rule.

On his arrival in Isfahan, MAZ declared his ruling agenda and he asked Iranians to help him to revive the Persian Empire with all its traditions and culture, greatness, splendor, brightness and glories. There is no any valid document referring to his speech when he arrived in Isfahan. Many patriot Iranians however think if he had made any speech, a part of his speech would have been something like the following lines:

“I, Mardaviz-e-Zeyar, come from the land of unbeatable people. My companions and I took up swords and risked our lives because we love our Motherland, Iran. My final destination is to see a new Persian Empire where its people live with freedom, happiness and will speak Farsi again. I demand you all to stand up and salute to Aryo Barzan, the first Iranian Nation Hero, and to Rostam Farrokhzaad, the first Iranian Commander-in- Chief who bravely battled against the invaders of our beloved country. I defeated the caliphate army on the Azar-Ruz (9th day of 9th month of the Iranian Calendar, which coincides with November 29 or November 30), the birth of light and fire, a lucky day for all Iranians. None shall be summoned or punished for past deeds against our nation. Henceforth, however, the punishment for treason against Iran and cooperation with the enemies of Iran is death. Persian is our language. All the customs and festivals of the past, as they are our cultural heritage and passed on to us by our ancestors, shall be celebrated as before with even greater observance of authenticity. So long as we observe our national customs, festivities and ceremonies we shall remain Iranian. We will celebrate Know Rooz (aka Nowruz), Mehregan, and Jashn-e-Sadeh again. We will celebrate Sadeh in mid winter of this year with grandeur and magnificence as a mark of remembrance of good thoughts, good words and good deeds”.

And the reliable evidences indicate that in February 932, after about three centuries, MAZ and his court celebrated Sadeh in Isfahan and many Iranians observed Sadeh again.

HIS END: In 935, only four years after entering Isfahan, and shortly before Know Rooz festivities, MAZ was sadly killed by his Turkish servants, Tuzun and Bajkam who fled to Baghdad. After that savage murder, the Buyyids, the followers of MAZ completed his patriotic mission.

EPILOGUE: Today, MARDAVIZ is remembered by many Iranians as a great leader, a patriot, and an instrumental figure in freeing Iran from the invaders. MARDAVIZ DOME (in Persian: Gonbad-e-Mardaviz) is located in the north east of Amin Abbad Borough in Shahr-e-Ray, south of Tehran. MARDAVIZ AVENUE or MARDAVIZ DISTRICT (in Persian: Mahalleh-e-Mardaviz) can be also found in the south of Farabi Street in Isfahan.

Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD

Britannica Website (2010): Online Article on Mardaviz ebn Zeyar (Zeyarid ruler).
MacKenzie, D. N. (2005): A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary (in reference to Spahbods), ed., Routledge Curzon.
Saadat Noury, M. (2006): Online Article on First Iranian Queen Regnant.
Saadat Noury, M. (2006): Online Article on First Iranian who expelled Invaders from the Center of Iran.
Saadat Noury, M. (2010): Various Notes and Articles on First Iranians.
Safa, Z. (1976): The Warriors (Persian: Daliraan-e Jaanbaz), ed., Tehran, Iran.
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2010): Online Article on Mardavij.


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