This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals.
Many of the characters in the Persian national epic, the Shāh-nāmeh (“Book of Kings”), of Ferdowsi, a tenth-century epic poem which celebrates the glories of Iran’s pre-Islamic past, are also found in the Avesta and in the Rig-Veda. This paper focuses on two female figures in the Shāh-nāmeh, Sūdābeh and Rūdābeh, whose names are both associated with water (and are perhaps even derived from each other), and therefore possibly constitute reflections of the ancient Indo-European water goddess who became Anahita.
In the Shāh-nāmeh version of the legend of Siyāvaš, Sūdābeh appears to be a stand-in for the Mesopotamian goddess Ištar, many of whose functions were taken over by Anahita by the Achaemenid period. Rūdābeh is also associated with water, as her name attests: “she of the river water.” In the Shāh-nāmeh Rūdābeh is the lover of Zāl and the mother of the hero Rostam. Rūdābeh is an archetypical positive role model for women, just as Sūdābeh is a negative one. The personalities of Sūdābeh and Rūdābeh with their similarities and differences can thus be considered as embodying opposing aspects of feminine power, like two sides of the same coin.