“Mopetan Mopet” or “Mobedan Mobed” or “Moabedan Mobed”?

In the Life of Mar Aba, the German translation refers to the high priest as the “Mopetan Mopet”.  But when I search the web, I find almost nothing.

Now a google search reveals almost nothing under that spelling.  I know that a “Mopet” is usually given as “Mobed”, meaning “priest”, in our literature.  So I quickly find references to “Mobedan Mobed” and “Moabedan Mobed”, and even “Mobedan-e-Mobed”.  In fact the latter seems contemporary; a certain Rostam Dinyar Shahzadi held the title as recently as 2000.

There is no purpose in using an unusual transcription; it will merely cause interested persons to miss the material.  So I think we had better use “Mobedan Mobed”.

Likewise how should we render “rad”, clearly a title?  And … what is a “rad”?

In the Encyclopedia Iranica online on Syriac writings in pre-islamic Iran[1], there is some very useful information on titles as they appear in Syriac acts, including the Life of Mar Aba:

Modern translators and commentators have not always been able to recognize the titles of civil or religious officials under the disguise of Syriac writing, or have supplied fanciful transcriptions far removed from the authentic form of Middle Persian.

Among civil functions, we must mention the āmārgar (Syr. hmrgrd) “accountant” or, better, “treasurer” of the different administrative divisions of the empire, as we learn from the administrative seals. In the history of the patriarch Mār Abā, this treasurer is in touch with a harzbed < OIr. *harcī-pati- (Syr. ʾrzbd), which has been considered as a corruption of the term argbed “chief tax collector or taxation manager” (EIr. II/4, 1986, p. 400), an important function belonging to the royal family which is attested in the Paikuli inscription (Humbach and Skjaervo, 3.2, pp. 39-44). But Tafazzoli (1990) has shown that the Syriac word, spelled in the same way, is attested in the martyrdom of Guhišt-āzād, where this man is described as “chief of the royal eunuchs and fosterer of the king” (Šāpūr II). Hence this title of “chief of the eunuchs” can no longer be confused with the argbed “tax-collector.” …

The title of ēwēnbed (EIr. IX/1, 1998, pp. 87-88) “master of manners” is puzzling, for it looks like an administrative function, that of an archivist, or perhaps a financial role. But the Syriac sources indicate a religious function: in the history of Mār Pethion, the ainbed (Syr. ʿynbd/ʾynwd) is surrounded with a guard of horsemen, but in the martyrdom of Mār Abā, an ēwēnbed called Kardag is also a magus and judge of the empire (šahr dādwar), as was the great magus Kerdir in the 3rd century.

The Syriac sources also inform us of religious titles: the mowbeds (Syr. mwhpṭʾ), of whom there are three categories (Gignoux, 1984, pp. 197-98). At the highest level stood the Mobedān mobed (Syr. mwbdnmwb(y)d), who is also called in Syriac ršʾ d-mgwšʾ “chief of the magi”; the Great Mobed (Syr. mwhpṭʾ ḥd rbʾ); and the provincial Mobeds, who are in charge of specific regions. According to the situation, the Grand Mobed had to stay at court, but could also travel to the provinces, no doubt as representative of the Mobadān Mobad. The latter title seems to have appeared from the 6th century on.

The different categories of judges are well documented: the rads and the dādvars, as well as the dastvars. The Rad is apparently the highest of religious judges and may, at the same time, be the Mobed (Gignoux, 1984, p. 201). The legal treatise Mādayān ī hazār dādestān indicates that, in the procedure of the ordeal, judgment cannot be pronounced in the absence of the rad. He is attached to a province, and he is distinct from the ēwēnbed. …

The article continues with a vivid description of the distinctly oriental processes of examination and justice, well worth reading, and then a bibliography.

  1. [1]Philippe Gignoux, “Syriac Language ii. Syriac writings on pre-islamic Iran,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, Online Edition, 20 July 2009, available at www.iranicaonline.org/articles/syriac-language-ii-syriac-writings-on-pre-islamic-iran.

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