Re: etymology of Persian

From: Francesco Brighenti
Message: 50348
Date: 2007-10-18

--- In, "Joao S. Lopes" <josimo70@...>

> Link to Perseus ?

According to Herodotus (Histories 7.61) the Persian kings were said
to have descended from Perses (Gk. 'Persian, inhabitant of
Persis'), a son Perseus had begot from Andromeda, the daughter of
the king of 'Aethiopia' Cepheus. Perses was, therefore, regarded by
the Greeks as the eponymous founder of the Persians. According to
Pausanias of Damascus, he taught the Persians to worship fire and
founded the Magian priesthood. Therefore, this mythical account of
the origin of the Persians rested in the first place on Herodotus'
belief in a connection, based on folk etymology, between Persian and

Apparently, always according the Herodotus (Histories 7.150), the
Persians themselves knew the story, as the Achaemenid emperor Xerxes
tried to use it to suborn the inhabitants of Argos during his
invasion of Greece with presenting them the Persians as a people
coming from Hellenic stock and lineage. On the basis of this story,
the claim that Perseus was the distant ancestor of Persians through
his son Perses, found in Herodotus, has been suspected to be a
Persian rather than Greek instance of politically expedient

A possible connection between Herodotus' folk etymology for the
ethnonym Persai (pl. of Perses) and what I have expounded in my
message reproduced below w.r.t. the R.gvedic Pars'u is hypothesized
by Eric Pirart in the paper I have cited (see my message). Pirart
maintains that Herodotus was practically right in inferring that the
Persians' self-given ethnonym marked their descent from a mythic
eponymous character; the fact is, says Pirart, that the mythic
personage in question would have been a woman named (in Indo-
Iranian) something like **Parc'u ('Rib', the R.gvedic Pars'u,
daughter of Manu, who miraculously gave birth to her twenty sons
through her ribs), *not* a man named Perses, son of Perseus and of
an 'Aethiopian' princess...

Hope this helps,

> ----- Mensagem original ----
> De: Francesco Brighenti <frabrig@...>
> Para:
> Enviadas: Quinta-feira, 18 de Outubro de 2007 10:00:10
> Assunto: [tied] Re: etymology of Persian

> --- In cybalist@..., Piotr Gasiorowski <gpiotr@>
> wrote:
> > The meaning of OPer. pa:rsa- is just 'Persia(n)'; <parþava-
> > 'Parthia(n)' is probably related (as are Pahlavi and Pashto).
> > There are early references in foreign sources to the
> > Parsuwas (according to Assyrian texts, in the area of Lake Van)
> > and RV Pars'u-. The Ir. prototype would be something like
> > *parc'u-/*pa: rc'wa-, matching the Indo-Iranian word for 'rib,
> > side' so well (cf. Skt. párs'u-, Av. p&r&su- 'rib', Skt.
> > 'side, flank', Oss. fars 'side') that the etymology 'border
> > people' makes good sense.
> According to M. Witzel, Old Persian pa:rsa- 'Persian' < Iranian
> *pa:rsva- < Indo-Iranian *pa:rc'ua-. In the reconstructed Indo-
> Iranian proto-form *pa:rc'ua-, /*c'/ denotes a a voiceless
> unaspirated primary palatal stop, and /*u/ denotes a glide [*w].
> can transcribe it as *pa:rc'wa- if you deem it necessary. It seems
> very likely that /*u/ was still a glide in Proto-Indo-Iranian.
> The still controversial identification of the R.gvedic term pars'u-
> (see RV 8.6.46, 10.86.23 for the two only occurrences of this term
> as an uncompounded proper name in Old Indo-Aryan) with Old Persian
> pa:rsa- was first proposed by A. Ludwig about 150 years ago. É.
> Pirart ("Les noms des Perses", _Journal Asiatique_ 283 [1995],
> pp. 57-68, abstract at <http://tinyurl. com/2jobpr>) argues that
> R.gvedic proper name probably refers to the mother of the
> of the twenty original Persian tribes by alluding to the
> way they were born: as Indra and the Buddha did, through the ribs
> (Old Indo-Aryan pars'u- 'rib', pa:rs'va- 'the region of the
> ribs, side, flank').
> Cf. RV 10.86.23:
> http://www.sacred- hin/rigveda/ rv10086.htm
> "Daughter of Manu, Pars'u bare a score of children at a birth.
> Her portion verily was bliss although her burthen caused her
> In sum, the composers of the above indicated R.gvedic hymns would
> have changed an eastern Iranian ethnonym they were aware of,
> possibly (Proto-Iranian? ) *Pa:rsva 'Persian', into a mythological
> name coinciding with the Old Indo-Aryan term for 'rib(s), pars'u-
> /pa:rs'va-. If proved true, this interpretation could attest for
> existence of an Iranian ethnonym *Pa:rsva (later > Old Persian
> Pa:rsa) in the late second millennium BCE.
> Best,
> Francesco
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