In my mind, there is something inherently pleasing about a concordance. To those who know me, this is perhaps not a surprising revelation. After all, as a child I spent more time than most thumbing through dictionaries, reading entries at random. We also had a copy of Strong’s Concordance (i.e., The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible), which, while an admittedly overwhelming tome, nevertheless served as a point of continual attraction to me. I will readily admit to having a narrow scope of interests with respect to Strong’s, but the mere fact that an exhaustive index of words used in the King James Bible existed fascinated me, and I made frequent use of it.

As I have progressed (slowly, alas) with my reading of Shahnameh, it occurred to me that some elements occur with enough frequency that one might wish to examine them in a broad manner. The idea arose from a particularly evocative conception of vengeance (or revenge) that appears within a number of other phrasings. If we look at the Warner and Warner translation, Volume 1, Chapter 65, V.98 (simply abbreviated V.98 to use the W&W verse numbering convention) we come across lines like this:

thus our tears
May wash the tree that springeth of revenge

This imagery recurs, but not often. Still, it caught my attention, despite the numerous mentions of vengeance or revenge. At first, I was going to try to catalogue such peculiar turns of phrase that I encountered in my epic readings. (Another example from Homer is the description of the sea as “wine-dark”, which I find just as peculiar a description as the above treatment of vengeance.) But I quickly realized while searching through the Warner and Warner text of Shahnameh that the ancient Persians were a vengeful lot. Perhaps they are no more so than any other ancient or modern humans, and perhaps the number of instances of revenge have more to do with the multigenerational scope of Shahnameh. After all, the closest work of such scope I can think of is the Old Testament, specifically the books of Chronicles and Kings (Book of Kings is the literal translation of Shahnameh, for what it’s worth). Whatever the reason, vengeance is a recurring topic in Shahnameh, and while it probably doesn’t make the same frequency of appearances in other epics, I suspect it, like many other recurring themes of humanity, does show up.

And so, I have begun a concordance of epic themes. Whether I have the stamina to finish it is another thing entirely, but it is now in progress regardless. I have started this concordance with the term “vengeance”, and will round it out with “revenge” and “avenge” before training my sights on other topics. For now, it is limited to Shahnameh, but I hope to expand it.

Note on methodology: I am trying where possible to preserve entire independent clauses and sentences. The result is not always perfect, since there are some unresolved punctuation questions in my sources, and it occasionally creates longer entries than may be strictly warranted, but the effect is to present enough context to evaluate the usage.

Without further ado, here is a partial concordance of the word “vengeance” in Shahnameh.


See also: Revenge, Avenge

  • Shahnameh, V.16: When one year had passed thus the blest Surush / Was sent by God; he greeted Gaiumart / And said: “Lament no more, control thyself, / Do as I bid, collect thy troops and turn / Thy foemen into dust, relieve earth’s surface / Of that vile div and thine own heart of vengeance.”

  • Shahnameh, V.16: The famous Shah looked up and cursed his foes, / Then, calling by the highest of all names / Upon his God, he wiped his tears away / And prosecuted vengeance night and day.

  • Shahnameh, V.17: The days of Gaiumart had reached their close / When he achieved this vengeance on his foes;

  • Shahnameh, V.68: And if I shall refuse my heart will feel / His vengeance — not a matter for a jest / From one who is the monarch of the world;

  • Shahnameh, V.81: If then his worthless head shall be discrowned, / Earth rescued from his sway, and thou wilt give him / Some corner of the world where he may sit / Like us in anguish and oblivion — well / Else will we bring the Turkman cavaliers / And eager warriors of Rum and Chin — / An army of the wielders of the mace — / In vengeance on Iran and on Iraj.

  • Shahnameh, V.86: Live we in joy together and thus safe / From foes: I will convert their vengeful hearts: / What better vengeance can I take than that?

  • Shahnameh, V.87: Two hearts were full of vengeance, one was calm / Thus all three brothers sought their royal tents.

  • Shahnameh, V.94: The Shah rejoiced because she was with child, / Which gave him hope of vengeance for his son, / But when her time was come she bore a daughter, / And hope deferred hung heavy on the Shah.

  • Shahnameh, V.96: He summoned all his paladins and nobles, / Who came intent on vengeance for Iraj, / And offered homage, showering emeralds / Upon his crown.

  • Shahnameh, V.100: And we will drench with blood, both leaf and fruit, / The tree sprung out of vengeance for Iraj.

  • Shahnameh, V.100: Next for their pleading that ‘the Shah must wash / His heart from vengeance, and forgive our crime, / Because the sky so turned o’er us that wisdom / Was troubled, and affection’s seat obscured:’

  • Shahnameh, V.105: I will don a coat of Ruman mail / To leave no part exposed, and then in quest / Of vengeance on the battlefield will send / The dust of yon host sunward.

  • Shahnameh, V.106: The men of name marched mailed, with massive maces, / All bold as angry lions and all girded / For vengeance for Iraj;

  • Shahnameh, V.106: That pair of murderers with a huge array / Set forth intent on vengeance and drew up / Their host upon the plain:

  • Shahnameh, V.108: This will be Ahriman’s own fight, / A day of martial deeds and vengeance-seeking.

  • Shahnameh, V.120: These chiefs are elephants, / Both terrible, both girt, both bent on vengeance.

  • Shahnameh, V.121: The Iranian host, / Though clogged by killed and wounded on the plain, / Pursued apace, while Minuchihr, all wrath / And vengeance, cast his fleet white charger’s mail / And pressed on till within the foemen’s dust

  • Shahnameh, V.123: Seek brotherhood / And use it for a charm, put off from you / The implements of war, be wise and pure / In Faith, secure from ill, and banish vengeance.

  • Shahnameh, V.130: hereafter we / Will put our hand upon the scimitar, / And in our vengeance desolate their realm.

  • Shahnameh, V.166–167: I will seek God and pray Him, / With all the instancy of devotees, / To wash all opposition, wrath, and vengeance / From both their hearts, and if He hearkeneth / Thou shalt become my wife before the world.

  • Shahnameh, V.190: My conduct shall acquit the Shah of vengeance.

  • Shahnameh, V.233: Youth as thou art / Thou hast no peer in stature, Grace, and valour; / So ere thy spreading fame shall thwart thine action / Take vengeance for the blood of Nariman.

  • Shahnameh, V.234: None issued forth / And none went in, but though the gate was shut / So long the foe lacked not a stalk of hay, / And Sam forewent his vengeance in despair.

  • Shahnameh, V.238: Pack all the best, / Then fire the hold in vengeance.

  • Shahnameh, V.241: I took on Salm and on the brutal Tur / Due vengeance for my grandsire — great Iraj — / I cleansed the world of its iniquities / And built me many a city, many a fortress;

  • Shahnameh, V.249: With zeal, he bragged before his sire with loins / Girt up and vengeance in his heart:

  • Shahnameh, V.249: Now whatsoe’er my grandsire left undone / Of vengeance-seeking, fight, and stratagem, / Is left for my sharp sword to execute.

  • Shahnameh, V.249: Afrasiyab, high-wrought and full of vengeance, / Went forth and opening the treasury / Abundantly equipped his warriors;

  • Shahnameh, V.250: Thou know’st what Salm and valiant Tur endured / Through that old wolf and sworder Minúchihr, / And yet Zadsham, my grandsire and our king, / Whose helmet touched the circle of the moon, / Ne’er spake a word of such a war, or read / The book of vengeance in the time of peace.

  • Shahnameh, V.262: When Shah Naudar was well bemused he went / Behind his curtains, meditating vengeance, / And those brave chiefs — the Íránian cavaliers — / Departed in disorder from the court / To assemble at the quarters of Karan, / With eyes like winter-clouds;

  • Shahnameh, V.265: Go with a valiant host / Well furnished, and take vengeance for the lost.

  • Shahnameh, V.273: This done he marched from Dahistan to Rai, / Hid earth beneath his cavaliers and made / His chargers sweat, assumed the royal crown, / Bestowed a liberal largess of dinars, / And played as monarch of Iran his part / With thoughts of war and vengeance in his heart.

  • Shahnameh, V.274: The grasses on these fields and fells are hanging / Their heads in shame before the sun while we / Ask vengeance, mourning as it were a father, / In whom the stock of Faridun survived, / While earth was servant to his horse’s shoe.

  • Shahnameh, V.275: The The Iranians are upon the march for vengeance

  • Shahnameh, V.275: I will not take other order / So that my brother may not turn upon me / In vengeance.

  • Shahnameh, V.299: Now wheeling to the left, now to the right, / And seeking to wreak vengeance on all sides, / He made earth mountain-like with slain, astounding / The bravest Turkmans.

  • Shahnameh, V.306: he hath assumed the crown / And flung the gates of vengeance wide again.

  • Shahnameh, V.309: On this I say that feuds should not endure / For ever, and if vengeance for Iraj / Was owing it was wreaked by Minuchihr.

  • Shahnameh, V.327: They have burnt up our cities and inflamed / Our vengeance by the outrage.

  • Shahnameh, V.332: Thy part is now to saddle Rakhsh and seek / For vengeance with the world-allotting sword.

  • Shahnameh, V.366: Full of vengeance, / And in hot blood, he came before the Shah

  • Shahnameh, V.390: I and mine are girt for vengeance.

  • Shahnameh, V.405: He gave a paladin the letter sealed, / Who reached the monarch of Turan and Chin / In haste, first kissed the ground and did obeisance, / And after compliments gave him the letter / Which, when Afrasiyab had read it, filled / His head with vengeance and his heart with rage.

  • Shahnameh, V.467: Why waste thy heart / In vengeance?

  • Shahnameh, V.499–500: From sunrise till the shadows grew they strove / Until Suhrab, that maddened Elephant, / Reached out, up-leaping with a lion’s spring, / Caught Rustam’s girdle, tugged amain as though, / Thou wouldst have said, to rend the earth, and shouting / With rage and vengeance hurled him to the ground, / Raised him aloft and, having dashed him down, / Sat on his breast with visage, hand, and mouth / Besmirched with dust, as when a lion felleth / An onager, then drew a bright steel dagger / To cut off Rustam’s head

  • Shahnameh, V.554: If I perforce must lose it / In vengeance for the wrong which I have … suffered, / Command … I am resigned.

  • Shahnameh, V.567: None will seek vengeance if I fight him not

Note: This is part of a series of posts dealing with the reading of one sacred/epic work per month in 2017. See below for more information on what I’m doing and how to follow along. 2017 Sacer-Epic Reading Journey