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Firdawsī, Abū l-Qāsim, and the Shāhnāma

(11,550 words)

Author(s): Feuillebois, Ève
Abū l-Qāsim Firdawsī (329–411/940–1020) was a Persian poet, one of the greatest writers of epic and author of the Shāhnāma (“Book of kings”). 1. Firdawsī and the composition of the Shāhnāma Our sources about Firdawsī and his work are late, uncritical, and contradictory. The best authority is the Shāhnāma itself, which contains many allusions to Firdawsī’s thoughts or moods at various times of writing and to his material and family situation, age, and benefactors. Barely a century after his death, Firdawsī had become a legendary figure, and hi…
Date: 2020-09-16

Backgammon

(983 words)

Author(s): van Gelder, Geert Jan
Backgammon, or trictrac, a board game for two persons, played with dice, of the race-game type, was known in the central Islamic lands as nard, a Persian word of uncertain origin, said to be a shortening of nardashīr, in turn derived from Ardashīr (Artaxerxes, r. 224–41 C.E.), founder of the Sāsānian dynasty (224–651 C.E.), who in some legends is said to have invented the game (in the version of the poet Firdawsī (d. 411/1020), Shāhnāma, trans. Davis, 701–4, the game called nard is not a race game but a battle game, not unlike the Roman latrunculi) [Illustration 1]. In these stories nard is ver…
Date: 2020-09-16

Humā

(1,126 words)

Author(s): Saccone, Carlo
The Humā (Persian, from Avestan homāio) is a mythological bird in ancient Iranian sources and later widely used in the Persian courtly and popular literary traditions and in cultures deeply influenced by the Iranian world, such as those of Ottoman Turkey and Mughal India. The Humā is often confused, in both literary works and fairy tales, with similar mythological birds, such as the phoenix (ʿanqā) and the Sīmurgh, which have traits in common with the Humā but have a completely different origin and development. Amongst the traits found in all the sources, learned and popular, o…
Date: 2020-09-16

Epics, Persian

(4,099 words)

Author(s): Krasnowolska, Anna
Persian epics are the product of a long-lasting oral and then written transmission of myths, stories, and beliefs. Its pre-eminent literary product is the Shāh-nāma (“Book of kings”), a long epic poem written down by Abū l-Qāsim Firdawsī (d. c.410/1020) of Ṭūs. 1. Indo-Iranian roots Iranian peoples maintained an unbroken transmission of their heroic epics, reaching back to a common Indo-Iranian and even a more distant Indo-European past (Skjærvø, Importance; Watkins, 14–6, 57–8; Dumézil, 1:9–27, 2:137–45). The themes of epic narratives roo…
Date: 2020-09-16

Ḥāfiẓ

(3,923 words)

Author(s): de Fouchécour, Charles-Henri
Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfiẓ was a Persian lyric poet who lived in Shiraz from about 715/1315 to 792/1390. He is widely known for his Dīvān, a collection of five hundred poems. His work crowns four centuries of Persian poetry. Lyric poetry, far removed from any sort of literality, allowed him to convey his exceptional experience of love: “It was love that taught me to speak” ( Dīvān, 53, 4; all references in this article are to vol. 1 of the 1983 Khānlarī edition; the ghazal number is followed by the couplet number). This resulted from his seduction by a beloved one who “pillage…
Date: 2020-09-16