DĀDWAR, DĀDWARĪH (respectively judge, administrator of justice, lawgiver, lit., “bearer of law”; Man. Mid. Pers. dʾywr, Man. Parth. dʾdbʾr, Inscr. Mid. Pers. dʾtwbl, dʾtwbry, Inscr. Parth. dʾtbr, dtbr, OIr. dāta-bara-, Arm. lw. datavor, Aram. lw. dtbr, Talmu­dic dwʾr, dwwr; and legal decision, judgment, e.g., pad dādwarīh andar ēstādan “to sit in judgment”).

Judges were supposed to be well versed not only in the secular civil code (dād āgāh) but in the ecclesias­tical laws as well and to judge every case in accordance either with the norms of the civil code, that is, the teachings of prominent legal authorities (pad hamdādestānīh ī wēhān) or with the precepts of the Avesta and Zand (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, II, p. 712). There were two categories of judges in ordinary Sasanian courts of law, senior and junior (dādwar ī meh and dādwar ī keh), with different executive au­thority (Mādayān, pt. 2, p. 12; Dēnkard, ed. Madan, II, p. 713). The Sakātum Nask in the Pahlavi epitome of the Dēnkard (ed. Madan, II, p. 773) includes assess­ment of the judge’s proficiency in the law (dād āgāhīh) according to the length of his judicial service (from ten to fifteen years) and his mastery of appropriate deci­sions and administration of justice (abārīg sāmān ī dād āgāhīh abar wizīr ud dādwarīh).

According to the Mādayān (pt. 1, p. 93), judges were first granted seals of office, which carried executive power (muhr ī pad kār-framān) by order of Ḵosrow I (531-79; muhr ī pad kār-framān dāštan ān ī . . . dādwarān fradom pad framān ī Husraw ī Kawādān). From epigraphic evidence it seems that there were in every district or city judges on whom was bestowed, in addition to their judicial function, the charitable office of “advocacy of the worthy poor”; accordingly, they received official seals carrying their combined titles driyōšān jādaggōw ud dādwar “attorney and judge of the worthy poor.” Many such seals containing indica­tions of provenience have been published by Philippe Gignoux (1978, bullae 1.2 [Abaršahr], 3.30 [Hamadān], 5.1 [Gīlān], 8.1 [Māsabadān], 10.1 [Ray]) and by Richard Frye (seals D199 [Ardašīr-Ḵorra], D194 [Bīšāpūr]). These two diverse and apparently incom­patible functions have led Frye (p. 52) to propose the possibility that dādwar signified “legal expert” in this context; he has overlooked, however, the fact that such a judicial functionary could have acted in either capac­ity at different times. According to the Mādayān (pt. 1, p. 93), the title jādaggōw ī driyōšān was first conferred on the mowbeds of Pārs, not dādwars, by the order of Kavād (488-96, 498-531), son of Pērōz, a statement that has not been confirmed by any other source. Indications in the Mādayān (pt. 1, p. 100) that the official seals of the judges symbolized executive authority over a city or a district (tasūg) are, however, borne out by the testimony of the bullae (cf. dādwar ī Gōr/Gawra).

When a judge or mowbed was replaced by another functionary (az kār guharīg kard) he was entitled not to hand over the seal of office until he received the document demanding its return (muhrdād; Mādayān, pt. 2, p. 13; for an example of a rad, see Hoffmann, 1880, p. 65, apud Frye, p. 50).

Some legal cases (dādīg) were judged by two judges acting together and those with special significance by an assembly of judges (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, II, pp. 723-24). The Armenian sources suggest that some social estates or organizations had their own judges; for example, the military jurisdiction was adminis­tered by a special “military judge” (spāh dādwar; Hübschmann, Armenische Grammatik, pt. 1, p. 136; Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 295).

In the 3rd century the head of the state judiciary was the hāmšahr dādwar “judge of the whole empire,” who ranked among the highest ecclesiastical dignitaries of the realm. According to the Middle Persian inscrip­tions of Kartīr/Kerdīr at the Kaʿba-ye Zardušt (KKZ), Sar Mašhad (KSM), and Naqš-e Rostam (KNRm), the chief priest Kartīr who bore the title hērbed under Šāpūr I (240-70; KKZ 3, Back, p. 393) and Ohrmazd mowbed (KKZ 5, Back, p. 399) under Hormizd I (270-71), was finally promoted to the highest ecclesiastical rank, hāmšahr mowbed ud dādwar “priest and judge of the whole empire” (KKZ 8, Back, p. 410) by Bahrām II (274-93). The inscriptions reveal that in the 3rd century the judges occupied the third rank in the religious hierarchy after the hērbeds and mowbeds, a position that they retained throughout the Sasanian period. In subsequent periods the title appeared in modified forms. In the Syriac text The Life of the Patriarch Mār Abā (540-52) there is reference to a Mār Qardag (Mid. Pers. krdg, kardag) who held the titles ʾynbd and šahr dādwar “judge of the empire” (Bedjan, p. 228; Gignoux, 1982, pp. 259, 261; idem, 1983, pp. 255, 257; idem, 1986, p. 101). This Syriac evidence suggests that šahr dādwarān dādwar, designated in the Mādayān (pt. 1, p. 110) as a combination of two parallel titles šahr dādwar and dādwarān dādwar “judge of judges,” was, like mowbedān mowbed “high priest of high priests,” probably an innovation under Yazdegerd II (439-57; Boyce, p. 122). In the Sūr saxwan (or Sūr āfrīn) the guest, after glorifying god (afrīn yazdān) and rendering thanks to the host (spāsdārīh ī myzadbān) for the banquet (sūr), offers full libation to the supreme judges of the realm (hamāg zōhr šahr [ī] dādwarān; Pahlavi Texts, ed. Jamas­-Asana, p. 157; misread by Tavadia, pp. 44-45, 65-66; Christensen, Iran Sass., p. 524). It is noteworthy that in the Sūr saxwan the supreme judge is ranked with the highest dignitaries and state officials, after the crown prince (pus ī wāspuhr), the prime minister (wuzurg framādār), and the four commanders-in-chief (spāhbedān) and before the counselor of the magi (mowān handarzbed).

The executive powers and duties of the judges in Sasanian law courts are set forth in great detail in the “chapter on legal competence of officials” (dar ī ēwarīh ī kārdārān; Mādayān, pt. 2, pp. 25-26). The following is a full translation of this interesting but cramped and involved text: “The judge is competent (ēwar) to entertain the nature (čē “quality”), extent (čand “quan­tity”), and character (čeyōnīh “circumstances”) of the case and specification of the property [involved] (čē ēwēnag xwēšīh); [he has legal authority] to accept the witnesses (gugāy padīrift), prosecute [the offender] (hamēmālīh kard), fix the date [of trial] (zamān kard), summon (āwurd), detain (dāšt), keep or not keep watch [on the accused] (pād ud nē pād), [to decide whether] to try a case or not (kār rāyēnīdan ud kār nē rāyēnīdan) and [to decide] whether justice is being obstructed (azišmānd), and, accordingly, to attend to procedural documents (čak padisāy dādistān ōdāyīd); [he is also competent to examine] concealed evidence, false information [message?], distorted [facts] (nihān būd ud mih-paygām ud waštagīh), and other offenses pertinent to the process. [He has the right to take cognizance of] darkness or whiteness [of the hair or complexion?], manhood or womanhood; to ascertain the identities of the parties (hamtanīh) and the authenticity of names (hamnāmīh) and seals (hammuhrīh), to record confessions (xwastūgīh), to hold a person under arrest or in solitary confinement (dārišn ī pad widāšt) and to put him to the torture (ms.: Parth. ʾbgʾm, for Mid. Pers. ʾwdʾm), to hear the decla­rations and defense (saxwan ud passox, lit., “speech and answer”), to attend to complaints (garzīdan ī must, lit., “complaining of a grievance”), to accept or appeal the court’s ruling (hunsandīh ud ahunsandīh ī pad wizīr), to hand over to the court’s archivist (dīwānbān) the minutes of the trial (nāmag) and decisions (wizīr) and to the jailer (zēndānbān) the accused person (tan), as well as other issues that do not come within the jurisdiction of the judge (dāwar padiš nē ēwar); [he is authorized] to postpone the hearing in accordance with the traditional law (kardag), to investigate the kind and quantity (čē ud čand) of clothing and other things stolen with the guard [on duty] and the patrol going his rounds (az pās ud rawišn ī gizīrān). [The judge has the power] to break seals (muhr škastan) and to put a mark (seal?) on things (nišān kardan) where it is essential to do so. It has also been maintained that the judge has legal power to keep a person under surveillance (widāšt ī nē pad dārišn). The followers of the jurist Pēšagsīr (reading uncertain) maintain that the judge is entitled to retain an unclaimed property (dādwar pad dārišn ī uzīdag ēwar).”

If a litigant appealed against the verdict of a junior judge, the case would be removed to a higher court at which a senior judge presided (Mādayān, pt. 1, p. 3). Judges were punished for miscarriage of justice and partiality, as well as for pronouncing doubtful cases (dādistān ī warōmand) to have been verified (ēwar) and verified cases to be doubtful (Dēnkard, ed. Madan, II, p. 723). The Ardā Wīrāz nāmag (Gignoux, 1984, pp. 130, 210; Vahman, pp. 174, 216; see ardā wīrāz), in a description of the severe punishment inflicted upon unjust judges in the nether world for mammon­ism and greed, reveals by implication their right to a fair compensation, on which they lived.



M. Back, Die sassanidischen Staatsinschriften, Acta Iranica 18, Tehran and Liège, 1978.

P. Bedjan, Histoire de Mar-Jabalaha, de trois autres patriarches, d’un prêtre et de deux laïques nestoriens, Paris, 1895.

M. Boyce, Zoroastrians. Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, London, 1979.

R. N. Frye, ed., Sasanian Remains from Qasr-i Abu Nasr, Cambridge, Mass., 1973.

P. Gignoux, Catalogue des sceaux, camées et bulles sasanides de la Bibliothèque Nationale et du Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1978.

Idem, “Éléments de prosopographie de quelques mōbads Sasanides,” JA 270/3-4, 1982, pp. 257-69.

Idem, “Die religiöse Administration in sasanidischer Zeit. Ein Überblick,” in H. Koch and D. N. MacKenzie, Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte der Achämenidenzeit und ihr Fortleben, Berlin, 1983, pp. 253-66.

Idem, Le livre d’Ardā Vīrāz, Paris, 1984.

Idem, “Pour une esquisse des fonctions religieuses sous les Sasanides,” Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 7, 1986, pp. 93-108.

G. Hoffmann, Auszüge aus syrischen Akten persischer Märtyrer, Leipzig, 1880.

A. G. Perikhanian, Sasanidskiĭ Sudebnik, Mātakdān i Hazār Dātastān (The Sasanian code of law, Mādayān ī hazār dādestān), Yerevan, 1973.

J. C. Tavadia, “Sûr Saxvan, or, a Dinner Speech in Middle Persian,” Journal of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute 29, 1935, pp. 1-99.

F. Vahman, Ardā Wirāz Nāmag, The Iranian “Divina Commedia,” Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies, Monograph Series, 53, London, 1986.

(Mansour Shaki)

Originally Published: December 15, 1993

Last Updated: November 10, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 5, pp. 557-559