ASPBED (older asppat from OIr. *aspa-pati-), “master of horses, chief of cavalry,” Parthian title attested in the Nisa documents and the inscription of Šāpūr I on the Kaʿba-ye Zardošt (ŠKZ).
A similar Old Persian title is attested in an Elamite document from years 20 of the reign of Darius I in the form aššabattiš, for Old Pers. *asa-patiš (R. T. Hallock, Persepolis Fortification Tablets, Chicago, 1969, pp. 582 no. 1978 1. 15, 670), where it probably designates a subordinate official in charge of providing for the horses.
Parthian ostraca from Nisa, dated 87 and 76 B.C., mention a Tyrydt mazan asppat “Tīrdāt, great asppat, chief commander of the cavalry” (I. M. D’yakonov [Diakonoff] and V. A. Livshits, Dokumenty iz Nisy, Moscow, 1960, nos. 525, 672, 675, 916). This rank must have been one of the highest in the Parthian army, which drew its main strength from the cavalry. Cf. the Armenian office of aspet, which was closely associated with that of “coronator” and was hereditary within a great feudal family. Assuming that the Parthian institutions served as a model for those of the Arsacids of Armenia, one may infer that, with its hereditary privilege of crowning kings, the Parthian family of Sūrēn also enjoyed the position of supreme commander of the cavalry (see M. L. Chaumont, JA, 1961, pp. 302ff.).
In the Sasanian period the title is attested in the inscription of Šāpūr I (ŠKZ Mid. Pers. 1. 31 ʾsppt, Parth. 1. 25 ʾsppty, Greek 1. 61 aspabidou, gen. of *aspabides), where the title is held by Pērōz and occupies the third rank among the great dignitaries of the royal entourage (A. Maricq, Syria 35, 1958, pp. 326-27 = Classica et Orientalia, Paris, 1965, pp. 68-69). Other attestations in this period are doubtful. It may be that the title was later confused with Mid. Pers. spāhbed, Parth. (a)spā’bed (older spād-pat) “commander of the army” (found in the inscriptions of Šāpūr I and Narseh at Paikuli), cf. Chaumont, op. cit., pp. 313ff. and Muséon, 1968, p. 1288. In any case, the aspbed’s function seems not to have retained the importance that it had under the Parthians. On the other hand it may be that this was the office later held by the aswārān sālār (sardār) “chief of the cavalry” (cf. Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 338).
M. L. Chaumont, “Recherches sur les institutions de l’Iran ancien et de l’Arménie I,” JA, 1961, pp. 297ff.
Hübschmann, Armen. Etymologie, p. 108.
(M. L. Chaumont)
Originally Published: December 15, 1987
Last Updated: August 17, 2011
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Vol. II, Fasc. 8, pp. 791-792