ABZŌN, Middle Persian term meaning “prosperity, increase” in Zoroastrianism. The Avestan word spənta (usually translated as “holy” or “bountiful”) implies increase and abundance. It is generally translated into Pahlavi by aβzōnīk, “increasing, prosperous.” The rendering of spənta by aβzōnīk looks to the result of the activity of the being who is spənta, i.e., possesses the supernatural power (nērang) needed to promote the wellbeing of the world, which is the aβzūt of living creatures. It is evident that one who is aβzōnīk is he whose activity results in aβzūt, the sūt ut frahaxtišn ī gēhān, i.e., the wellbeing and prosperity of the world. Zoroastrianism is a religion of growth, increase, fulfillment and prosperity. The growth in virtue of the individual is seen as part of the growth of the whole community. The consummation of all things is increase—from one thing, many things (Dēnkard, p. 148.16-l7). “Increase and multiply” is the basic Zoroastrian message, not only by propagating the human race, but also by developing to the utmost both individual talent and all spiritual good (R. C. Zaehner, Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, London, 1961, p. 268).
Pahlavi aβzūtan means “to increase, to augment.” Various forms aβzūi, aβzū, aβzūn, and aβzūtānēt are noticed on the obverse of the coins of the last Sasanian kings and on a great number of seals. It is a common form of blessing. J. Olshausen (Die Pehlevi-Legenden auf den Münzen der letzten Sasaniden, Copenhagen, 1843, p. 25) was the first to decipher the term aβzūt “crescat!”
The word aβzū is found on the obverse of the coins of Kavād I, Ḵosrow I, Hormazd IV, and Bahrām VI. There also appeared a monogram, which replaced this word on the coins of Hormazd IV in the sixth year of his reign. On the coins of Ḵosrow II the word aβzūn or aβzūt is accompanied by a monogram similar to that on the coins of Hormazd IV. Mordtmann read the complete phrase as zamān aβzūt “tempus augeatus;” Stickel as sim “argentum auctum;” B. Dorn as gadman; and E. Drouin as gadah “majesty,” translating this monogram with aβzūn by “Long live His Majesty.” The modern reading is xwarrah aβzūt, “whose Fortune is augmented” (see Farr). Aβzūn appears on the obverse, with the name of the king, from the 16th regnal year of Kavād I. It is also seen on the coins of Ḵosrow I, behind the head of the king. Drouin (Les Legends des monnaies Sassanides, Paris, 1898, p. 39) traces the term to aβzōnīk.
Aβzūtānēt appears to be an irregular causative of aβzūtan “to increase, to prosper.” Professor H. Nutzel of the Berlin Museum deciphered the inscription on the obverse of the gold coin of Ḵosrow II as aīrān afzūtānētī “may he cause Ērān to prosper.”
R. Göbl, Sasanidische Numismatik, Braunschweig, 1968, Tabelle XV.
A. D. H. Bivar, Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in the British Museum. Stamp Seals II: The Sasanian Dynasty, London, 1969, p. 124 (index).
H. S. Nyberg, A Manual of Pahlavi II, Glossary, Wiesbaden, 1974, p. 26.
On xwarrah: H. W. Baileyδ Zoroastrian Problems in the Ninth Century Books, repr. Oxford, 1971, pp. 1-77.
Idem, “Iranian Studies III,” BSOS 7, 1934, pp. 292-94.
(M. F. Kanga)
Originally Published: December 15, 1983
Last Updated: July 21, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 4, p. 412
M. F. Kanga, “Abzon,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/4, p. 412; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abzon-middle-persian-tsrm-meaniag-prosperity-increase-in-zoroastrianism (accessed on 2 February 2014).