THE SASANIANS: KERDIR

Not a king, but a priest whose power grew through several reigns.

Kerdir (Kartir) the Mowbed

Kerdir (Kartir) the Mobed, High Priest of Mazdaism

Zoroastrian/Mazdaean doctrine

A predecessor of Kerdir called Tosar had begun collecting and organising the hymns that were eventually written dlown to become the Avesta. What we known of the religion at this time: Kerdir was organising the priesthood and its training; he was establishing a body of law, whose judges were now to be priests. He was standardising religious practices: Ahura Mazda (Ohrmazd) was the chief god, but Anahita and Mithra were also honored. Sacrifices of meat, bread and wine were made to the souls of the dead. Separate major fire-temples were established for the three classes - priests, warriors and 'the rest'. A hierarchy of priests was set up - from the Mowbed (chief magus) down to Herbed (teacher-priest), who looked after the small fire-temples in the countryside.

At Naqsh-e Rajab, alongside the rock reliefs celebrating Shapur I's victories over the three Roman emperors, is a non-royal face, next to a long inscription celebrating his achievements. It belongs to Kerdir -" priest of priests", just as Shapur was king of kings. Some extracts:

His successful career - promoting Mazdaism and persecuting its rivals.

And he made me MoWbed and Judge of the whole empire. And he made me director and
authority over the fire of Anahid-ardashir and Anahid the Lady (in) Istakhr. And he named me
'Kerdir, soul-saver of Bahram, Mowbed of Ohrmazd [Ahura Mazda].'

And from province to province, place to place, throughout the empire the rites of OhrmAzd and the gods became more important and the Mazdaean religion and magians were greatly honoured in the empire and great satisfaction befell the gods and water and fire and beneficent creatures, and great blows and torment befell Ahriman and the demons, and the heresy of Ahriman and the demons departed and was routed from the empire.

And Jews and Buddhists and Hindus and Nazarenes and Christians and Baptists and Manichaeans were smitten in the empire, and idols were destroyed and the abodes of the demons disrupted and made into thrones and seats of the gods.

Ahura Mazda

Ahura Mazda at Bishapur

His personal beliefs:

But whosoever may see this memorial and read it out, let him be more liberal and true to
the gods and the lords and his own soul and let him also be more confident in this worship and
the rites and the Mazdaean religion, which are now performed among the living, and henceforth let him not be at all disobedient. And they should know for certain that there is a heaven and there is a hell, and he who is virtuous goes to heaven and he who is sinful is cast into hell, and whosoever may be virtuous and behave well with regard to good deeds, renown and prosperity will fall to this his material body and blessedness accrue to his durable soul, as it fell to me Kerdir.

When Kerdir was Mowbed, religious leadership, which had been in the hands of the king since Achaemenid times, began to pass to the Magi, who, with their training colleges, became self-perpetuating. This was a very significant transfer of power, which was to have important consequences. Religious authority became separate from political authority, which it soon felt strong enough to challenge. He also continued the process of collecting religious texts and standardising them - so there could be no argument. Eventually these texts became the Avesta, the sacred book of Zoroastrianism. Was Iran acquiring a national church?

Magus

A Magus carring a bunch of twigs (for the sacred fire)

NEXT: WEAK KINGS: WILL THE EMPIRE OF ARDASHIR I AND SHAPUR I SURVIVE?