An Investigation into the Pantheon in Bactrian Economic Documents

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Assistant Professor, University of Religions and Denominations

2 Independent Scholar (PhD in Ancient Cultures and Languages, University of Tehran)


In the 90s, a remarkable number of manuscripts were found in Northern Afghanistan, including economic documents, legal documents, and letters, which have become an important resource for academic studies. This paper aims to investigate the Bactrian pantheon as reflected in the economic documents of this collection. At first, these economic documents and the pantheon mentioned in them are introduced. After that, the names of the gods that were commonly used in people’s names are studied, and finally the gods of the Bactrian pantheon are discussed in detail. The conclusion is that the names of the gods in the Bactrian pantheon are not Indian but Iranian, and also the gods themselves are rather pre-Zoroastrian than originally Zoroastrian.


Azarpay, G. 1976. “Nana, the Sumero-Akkadian Goddess of Transoxiana.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 96:536-42.
Baghdadi, Abu Mansur. 1408 AH. Al-Farq bayn al-firaq. Beirut: Dar al-Jil.
Gershevitch, I. 1954. Avestan Hymn to Mithra. London.
Grenet, F. 1984. “Notes sur le Panthéon Iranien des Kouchans.” Studia Iranica 13:253-61.
———. 2006. “Iranian Gods in Hindu Garb: the Zoroastrian Pantheon of the Bactrians and Sogdians.” Bulletin of the Asia Institute 20:87-99.
Grenet, G., and B. Marshak. 2001. “Une Nouvelle Peinture Murale Sogdienne dans le Temple de Džartepa II.” Studia Iranica 30:45-66.
Lifshits, V. 1962. Yuridiceskie Dokumenty i Pisma (Sogdiiskie Dokumenty c Gory Mug 2). Moscow.
Markwart, J. 1938. Wehrot und Arang. Leiden.
Panaino, A. 1995. Tištrya II: the Iranian Myth of the Star Sirius. Rome.
Sims-Williams, N. 1998. “Furthur Notes on the Bactrian Inscription of Rabatak.” In Proceedings of the Third Iranian European Conference of Iranian Studies, Part1: Old and Middle Iranian Studies, 79-92.
———. 2000. Bactrian Documents from Northern Afghanistan I: Legal and Economic Documents. Oxford (=BD1).
———. 2001. “Bactrian Legal Documents from 7th-8th Century Guzgan.” Bulletin of the Asia Institute 15:9-29.
———. 2007. Bactrian Documents from Northern Afghanistan II: Letters and Buddhist Texts. London (=BD2).
———. 2010. Bactrian Personal Names (Iranisches Personennamenbuch Band II Faszikel 7). Vienna.
Sims-Williams, N., and Joe Cribb. 1996. “A New Bactrian Inscription of Kanishka the Great.” Silk Road Art and Archeology 4:75-142.
Sims-Williams, N., and F. de Blois. 2005. “The Bactrian Calendar: New Material and New Suggestions.” In Languages of Iran: Past and Present, edited by D. Weber, 185-96. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Staviskij, B. J. 1986. La Bactriane sous les Kushans. Translated by P. Bernard, M. Budra, F. Grenet, and P. Leriche. Paris.