In the second book of the Shahnameh, King Feridoun tests his three sons by appearing to them as a dragon. The eldest son runs away, the middle one takes up arms against the monster, and the youngest one seeks to cow it with words. Afterwards, Feridoun gives his son names according to this event:

"O my sons, listen unto the words that I shall speak. The raging dragon whose breath was danger was but your father, who sought to test your hearts, and having learned them gave way with joy. But now will I give to you names such as are fitting unto men. The first-born shall be called Silim (may thy desires be accomplished in the world!) for thou soughtest to save thyself from the clutches of the dragon, nor didst thou hesitate in the hour of flight. A man who fleeth neither before an elephant nor a lion, call him rather foolhardy than brave. And the second, who from the beginning showed his courage, which was ardent as a flame, I will call him Tur, the courageous, whom even a mad elephant cannot daunt. But the youngest is a man prudent and brave, who knoweth both how to haste and how to tarry; he chose the midway between the flame and the ground, as it beseemeth a man of counsel, and he hath proven himself brave, prudent, and bold. Irij shall he be called, that the gate of power may be his goal, for first did he show gentleness, but his bravery sprang forth at the hour of danger."

After this Feridoun divides his kingdom into three parts for his three sons:

When Feridoun had thus opened his lips he called for the book wherein are written the stars, and he searched for the planets of his sons. And he found that Jupiter reigned in the sign of the Archer in the house of Silim, and the sun in the Lion in that of Tur, but in the house of Irij there reigned the moon in the Scorpion. And when he saw this he was sorrowful, for he knew that for Irij were grief and bale held in store. Then having read the secrets of Fate, Feridoun parted the world and gave the three parts unto his sons in suzerainty. Roum and Khaver, which are the lands of the setting sun, did he give unto Silim. Turan and Turkestan did he give unto Tur, and made him master of the Turks and of China, but unto Irij he gave Iran, with the throne of might and the crown of supremacy.

What is the significance of the names Silim, Tur, and Irij?

  • Do they somehow denote the sons' behaviour when faced with the dragon - for example, in the Persian language, does "Silim" suggest cowardice, "Tur" bellicosity, and "Irij" wisdom?
  • Furthermore, do these names relate to the lands given to each son? I noticed that "Tur" forms part of the words Turan and Turkestan (these being originally Persian words), while "Irij" is similar to Iran, but the word "Silim" bears no relation to Roum or to "Khaver" (where is that?)

1 Answer 1


The Encyclopedia Iranica page on "Iraj" contains another retelling of this story, with slightly different versions of the brothers' names (emphasis mine):

Reappearing in person, Ferēdun welcomed them to his palace and, “seating them upon the thrones of majesty,” revealed the truth; he added: “I have chosen fit [throne] names for you” (ibid., p. 105). The eldest, who wisely sought “safety” (salāmat), he called Salm (here wrongly interpreted as derived from Arabic slm); the second, who showed unrestrained daring, he named Tur (i.e., tur, “reckless, brave”); and to the youngest, who exhibited the right character of prudent bravery and was thus “alone worthy of praise,” he gave the name “Iraj” (i.e., from ēr “noble”). Then Ferēdun “divided the world” into three realms. He created one kingdom for Salm by joining Rum and the West (ḵāvar); China and Turān he assigned to Tur, who became known as Turānšāh; and on Iraj he bestowed Iran and Arabia as well as the golden throne, crown of chiefs, and the royal seal (ibid., p. 107).

  • Even in modern Farsi, according to Google Translate, the word "salamat" ("سلامت") can be translated as "health, safety, peace, security". That explains the name of the eldest son, who is not ruling over eponymous kingdoms.

  • The second son's name Tur comes from a word for "reckless, brave". His eponymity with his kingdom is no coincidence: the etymology of the name "Turan" for the region is from a Persian word meaning "the land of Tur".

  • The youngest son's name has been given as either Irij or Iraj, the latter being even closer to the name of his kingdom Iran. I haven't been able to find any confirmed etymological connection though: the prince's name comes from "ēr" meaning "noble", while the name of the country originally meant "the land of Aryans", deriving from a word with an etymology potentially stretching back to Proto-Indo-European. Maybe someone with a better knowledge of ancient Persian history and linguistics can do better, but it seems to me that the name "Iran" is older than the name "Iraj/Irij", so either the prince was named partly after the country as well as the word for "noble", or it was a linguistic coincidence, but not that the country was named after the prince.

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