Section 2 - When and Where Did Chess Start? Continued

The collection of stories, written in the old Pahlavi dialect and called Khoda'iana ('Book of Kings'), was revised during the course of the next forty years by Danishwer. According to other accounts, the collection was said to have been initiated by the last Sassanian Khagan, Yazdajird (d. 641), who gave a copy to the Caliph Omar I, the reputed destroyer of Ptolemy's Alexandrian library.

It was in this same period - possibly about 560 AD1 - that the traditional prose romance Karnamak-i-Artakshatr-i-Papakan was committed to writing, in Pahlavi or Old Persian, the spoken language of the Parthians. (Aramaic was the written language.) The inherent yearning of the Persians for their glorious Pahlavi roots is thus manifested. This work (of which the extant text is thought to be an abridgement of a longer one)2 contains the earliest undisputed reference to chess in any written source. The romance tells of the exploits of Ardshir or Ardashir (Artaxerxes), the son of Papak (Babakan). Ardshir was the founder of the Sassanian dynasty and ruled Persia from 226 to 241 AD - about the time of Mar Samuel as mentioned in the Talmud. In some accounts, he figures as the inventor of nard.3 Here is the passage in the Karnamak which concerns us:

When Ardawan saw Artakhshir, he rejoiced and esteemed him highly. He commanded him to accompany his sons and knights to the chase and to the games of ball. Artakhshir did this, and by God's help he became doughtier and more skilled then them all in ball-play, in horsemanship, in chess (chatrang), in hunting, and in other accomplishments.


Chess: Its Origins Volume II - Section 2 Continued...

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