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Siyâvash (in Persian: سياوش) or Siavush, Siavukhsh, Siavash, or Seyavash is a major figure in Ferdowsi's epic, the Shahnameh. He was a legendary Persian prince from the earliest days of the Persian Empire. He was a son of Kay Kāvus, then Shah of Iran, and due to the treason of his stepmother, Sudabeh (with whom he refused to have sex and betray his father), self-exiled himself to Turan where he was killed innocently by order of The Turanian king Afrasiab. He was later avenged by his son Kai Khosrow. He is a symbol of innocence in Persian Literature. His name literally means "the one with the black horse". Ferdowsi in Shahnameh dubs his horse as Shabrang Behzād (Persian: شبرنگ بهزاد) literally meaning "night-colored purebred".

Early life

As soon as Siyâvash was born, Rostam took him to Zabul. When a lad of twelve, Rostam instructed him in riding, archery and the use of lasso. Other teachers taught him to hold his court, his feasts, and to rule the kingdom. When Siyâvash was young, he felt anxious to pay a visit to his father Kay Kāvus, and Rostam accompanied his pupil to the royal court.

Siyâvash had fulfilled Kay Kāvus expectations and was received warmly. In Kay Kāvus's house Siyâvash fared well, seeing that he prospered in all what he did, his father appointed him a ruler of Tisfun. But one of his father's wives, Sudabeh daughter of Hamavaranshah conceived a passion for him. Sudabeh went to the Shah and praising the character of his son, proposed that he should marry one of the damsels of royal linage under her care. She requested that Siavash might be sent to the harem, to see all the ladies and choose any of them as his lawful wife. The Shah approved of the proposal, and intimated it to Siyâvash, but Siyâvash being "modest and bashful" suspected in this overture some artifice of Sudabeh and hesitated. By the Shah's command, Siyâvash finally entered the harem. In his first visit, Siyâvash did not pay attention to Sudabeh and went straightly to other damsels, who placed him on a golden chair and talked to him for some time.

Kay Kāvus repeated to him his wish that he would at once choose a woman of the harem for his wife, but Siyâvash excused himself from going again to the harem. Sudabeh sent Hirbad to tell Siyâvash that she was even ready to kill her husband so that he might marry her lawfully, but Siyâvash denied his request. Her repeated advances being repulsed, she finally attempted compulsion; still failing, she brought a false accusation against him before her husband.

The Shah, on hearing that Siyâvash had preferred his wife, thought that death alone could expiate his crime. He first smelt the hands of Siyâvash, which had the scent of rose water ; and then he took the garments of Sudabeh, which, on the contrary, had a strong flavour of wine. Upon this discovery, the king resolved on the death of Sudabeh, being convinced of The falsehood of the accusation she had made against his son.

At length he resolved to ascertain the innocence of Siyâvash by the ordeal of fire; and Siyâvash prepared to undergo the terrible trial to which he was sentenced, telling his father to be under no alarm. A fire was lighted and Siyâvash, wearing a helmet and a white robe, rushed among the fire on Siah, his black horse. When Siyâvash returned safe from the ordeal, his innocence was proved. Kavus now determined to put Sudabeh to death, not only for her own guilt, but for exposing his son to such imminent danger. Siyâvash, however, interceded for her and Sudabeh was not executed.

Siyâvash and Afrasiab

Afrasiab threatened another invasion of Iran but was defeated. Suddenly intelligence was received that Afrasiab had assembled another army, for the purpose of making an irruption into Iran; and Kavus, seeing that it Tartar could neither be bound by promise nor oath, resolved that he would on this occasion take the field himself, penetrate as far as Balkh, and seizing the country, make an example of the inhabitants. But Siyâvash requested to be employed, adding that, with the advice of Rostam, he would successful. The Shah referred the matter to Rostam, who candidly declared that there was no necessity whatever for his majesty proceeding personally to the war; and upon this assurance he threw open his treasury, and supplied all the resources of the empire to equip the troops appointed to accompany them.

After one month the army marched towards Balkh, the point of attack.

On the other side Garsivaz, the ruler of Balghar, joined the Tartar legions at Balkh, commanded by Barman, who both sallied forth to oppose the Persian host, and after a conflict of three days were defeated, and obliged to abandon the fort. When the accounts of this calamity reached Afrasiab, he had previously dreamed of a forest abounding with serpents, and that the air was darkened by the appearance of countless eagles.He referred to his astrologers, but they hesitated, and were unwilling to afford an explanation of the vision. Finally, a sage named Saqim concluded from the dream that he will be defeated within three days. Afrasiab, therefore deputed Garsivaz to the head quarters of Siyâvash, with presents, consisting of horses, armour and swords and demanded peace.

In the meantime Siyâvash was anxious to pursue the enemy across the Jihun. When Garsivaz arrived on his embassy he was received with distinction, and the object of his mission being understood, a secret council was held upon what answer should be given. It was then deemed proper to demand: first, one hundred distinguished heroes as hostages; and secondly, the restoration of all the provinces which the Turanians had taken from Iran.

Garsivaz sent immediately to Afrasiab to inform him of the conditions required, and without the least delay they were approved. A hundred warriors were soon on their way; and Bokhara, and Samarkand, and Haj, and the Punjab, were faithfully delivered over to Siyâvash. Afrasiab himself retired towards Gungduz.

The negotiations being concluded, Siyâvash sent a letter to his father by the hands of Rostam. Kavus disapproved of the terms and supersedes his son, Siyâvash. On this account Kavus appointed Tus the leader of the Persian army, and commanded him to march against Afrasiab, ordering Siyâvash at the were time to return, and bring with him his hundred hostages, At this command Siyâvash was grievously offended, Siyâvash consulted Zanga og Shavaran and he advised him to write a letter to Kavus, expressing his readiness to renew the war and kill the hostages. But Siavash thought he should keep his promise and so he decided to abandon Iran and go to the country of Afrasiab, Turan.

Siyâvash in Turan

In Turan, Afrasiab received Siyâvash warmly. The old Turanian vizier, Piran Visah gave his daughter Jurairah to Siyâvash in marriage. Afterwards, Siyâvash married Farangis daughter of Afrasiab.The second marriage accordingly took place, and Afrasiyab was so pleased with the match that he bestowed on the bride and her husband the sovereignty of Khotan. In Khotan, Siavash built the city of Siavashgird and the Gang Castle. Both Piran Visah and Garsiwaz visited Siavash's city. Garsiwaz began to vilify before Afrasiab.

The news of Afrasiyab's warlike preparations satisfied the mind of Siyâvash that Garsivaz had given him good advice. Siyâvash and his followers, did not fight with the large army opposing them. All of Siyâvash's men were killed and beheaded. Women were taken as slave girls and prisoners to Kiman.

In the meantime Afrasiab came up, and surrounding him, wanted to shoot Siyâvash with an arrow, but he was restrained from the act. Siyâvash himself was beheaded. His death is commemorated by some Persians, especially in Shiraz, in the day called Siavashun.

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