IN TH E P UBLI C DOMAIN : A P E R S I A N S H A H N A M A F O L I O F R O M T H E N G V – TAASA Review September 2010
Susan Scollay T his year marks the 1000th anniversary of the completion of the great Persian epic, the Shahnama, or Book of Kings.
Written by the poet, Abu’l-Qasim Firdausi of Tus, in northeast Iran, the work’s 50,000 couplets had a significant impact on the culture and identity of the Persianate world from the time of its writing right up to the present day. Originally presented to the great Central Asian Turkic leader, Mahmud of Ghazna, who was aggressively expanding his rule into eastern Persian territory, the Shahnama recounts the history of the ancient kings of Iran.
Rousing verses extol their heroic deeds and romances, glorify their ethical behaviour and praise their exemplary leadership from the beginning of human history right up to the destruction of the Persian Empire by invading Muslim Arab armies in the early 7th century CE. Over time the book was seen as a guide to royal image and decorum, numerous copies being made for distribution among the courts of the various non-Persian dynasties that subsequently ruled Iran and its neighbouring empires...