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For other uses, see Esfandiyār (disambiguation).
Statue of Esfandiyār in Ramsar, Iran.
Rostam and Esfandiyar

Sepandiār or Esfandiyār (Persian: سپنديار‎), also transliterated as Sepandiyar, Esfandyar, Isfandiar, Isfandiyar or Esfandiar, is a legendary Iranian hero who was also known as Belfian. He was the son and the crown prince of the Kayanian King Goshtasp (from Middle Persian Wishtasp from Avestan language Vishtaspa) and brother of the saintly Pashotan (Middle Persian Peshotan, Avestan Peshotanu).

The "Sepandiār" of legend is best known from the tragic story of a battle with Rostam, as described in Ferdowsi's epic Shahnameh (Book of Kings). It is one of the longest episodes in the epic, and one of its literary highlights.


The Perso word 'Sepandiār' derives from Middle Persian 'Spandadat' or 'Spandyat' (the variance is due to ambiguities inherent to Pahlavi script), which in turn derives from Avestan Spentodata "Given by/through bounty" or "Given by (the) holy" (see Amesha Spenta for other meanings of spenta-). The Median language *Spendata - as it is reconstructed - probably motivated a similar Old Persian form, which may be inferred from Greek Sphendadates, a 5th-century BCE political figure unrelated to the Esfandiar of legend. Equally unrelated is the Sassanid-era feudal house of Spandyat, that - like numerous other than feudal houses also - adopted a Kayanian name in order to legitimize and emphasize the antiquity of their genealogy.

In the Shahnameh[edit]

Esfandiyar fighting with wolves.

According to the epic poem the Shahnameh, Sepandiār (Esfandyar) as the Crown Prince of ancient Iran (or Persia) supported the prophet Zartosht (Zarathustra), enabling him to spread the religion of Zoroastrianism in the land. He also fought against many apostates and enemies of Zartosht to do so. In return, Zartosht gave Esfandiyar armor from heaven that made him invincible. Zartosht blessed the prince and declared that anyone who would spill the blood of Esfandyar would suffer a cursed life of bad omens until the day he died; and even after death would be condemned to hell.

That's why in the famous story of Rostam's fight against Esfandyar, a simorgh warned Rostam before helping him to defeat the Prince that prince Esfandyar was a blessed divine prince. He told Rostam that there would be no shame in surrendering to him.

'Sepandiār (Esfandiar)s father, Goshtasp, promises to give him the throne if he manages to repel an invasion in far-off provinces. Sepandiār is successful at this, but his father does not fulfill his promise, instead sending Esfandiar off on another mission to suppress a rebellion in Turan. Sepandiar is again successful, and upon his return Goshtasp hedges once again and - although he is aware of a prediction that foretells the death of Esfandyar at the hand of Rostam - compels the young hero to go and bring the aging Rostam in chains for his arrogance and disrespect toward the king. Although Esfandyar initially protests, reminding his father of Rostam's fame, great age and services to the dynasty, he eventually complies with his father's wishes and sets out towards Rostam.

Upon reaching the home of Rostam, Sepandiār delivers the message, but Rostam refuses to comply with being put in chains, accepting only to accompany the young prince to his father's. Esfandyar insists, but Rostam - although making numerous concessions - stands his ground, and the two eventually meet in single combat. In the subsequent battle, the invincible Esfandyar is unaffected by Rostam's blows while the champion is seriously wounded.

Pleading respite to dress his wounds, Rostam withdraws, where he learns from Simurgh of the only weapon that can affect Esfandyar: a shot to the eyes from a special double-headed arrow made from the wood of a special tamarisk tree shot. Simurgh warns Rostam about the fate that awaits the murderer of Esfandyar and asks Rostam to consider surrendering to the Prince. But Rostam refuses to accept the shame of surrendering to anyone and upon making this decision, Rostam fashions the double head arrow with a feather of Simurgh and a twig of a tamarisk tree, and when the battle resumes the next morning, Esfandyar is slain by a shot through the eyes.

In the end Sepandiār confesses that it was the false promise of his father Goshtasp who did not want to part with his throne, and the Arrow of Simurgh that killed him; and Rostam is not guilty in this, but his real murderer who should be cursed and blamed is Goshtasp.

See also[edit]