Firdausi’s Shahnama is a manual on kingship, wisdom, love, and magic

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I’ve reached the end of this great history
And all the land will talk of me
I shall not die, these seeds I’ve sown will save
My name and reputation from the grave,
And men of sense and wisdom will proclaim,
When I have gone, my praises and my fame.

Firdausi
Extracted from Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings, translated by Dick Davis
firdausis-shahnama

The Shahnama (The Book of King), composed by the Persian poet Firdausi (940-1020) around the year 1000, comprises more than 60,000 rhyming couplets, telling the story of Persia (modern-day Iran) from the time of creation to its conquest by Muslims in the seventh century. Partly legend, partly historic, it is also a manual on kingship, a collection of heroic tales, and a long essay on wisdom, love, warfare, and magic, structured around four successive dynasties, each representing the various phases of human history, seen from the Iranian…

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The Shahnameh as propaganda for World War II

The British Library’s newly opened exhibition Propaganda: Power and Persuasion includes a number of exhibits relating to Asian and African Studies, one of which is a series of postcards dating from World War II based on an episode from the famous Persian epic the Shahnameh, or ‘Book of Kings.’

The postcards on display in the current exhibition use the myth of the tyrant Zahhak in an attempt at rendering anti-German propaganda more relevant to Iranian cultural sensibilities. The Iranian scholar Mojtaba Minovi (1903 -1976) was working for the BBC Persian service during World War II, editing the pro-Allied newspaper Ruzgar-i Naw. When asked for advice on an effective propaganda campaign for Iran, he suggested using stories and imagery from the Shahnameh (see Wynn, p. 4) to appeal to the Iranian people. Minovi’s advice was taken and the images were created in 1942 by Kimon Evan Marengo (1904-1988), known by the sobriquet Kem, a prolific creator of propaganda cartoons for the British during the war.

 

See more at: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/asian-and-african/2013/05/the-shahnameh-as-propaganda-for-world-war-ii.html#sthash.WFwYcWGy.dpuf

 

Connections: Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies – Pembroke College (University of Cambridge), Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Sir Isaac Newton Trust, Iran Heritage Foundation, British Academy.

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Shahnama or The Book of Kings by Abu’l-Qasim Hasan Firdausi and its crucial role in the formation of the Iranian cultural identity throughout the ages to present day. The text of the Shahnama, based on the ancient Iranian mythology, was completed in 1010 and is the longest poem ever written by a single author in the whole history of humankind.

"The enthronement of Hurmuzd,” folio from an early 14th century “CAMA” Shahnama manuscript. On temporary loan to the Shahnama Centre from the collection of the late Dr. Mehdi Gharavi. Image courtesy Ameneh Gharavi and Dean Entekabi “The enthronement of Hurmuzd,” folio from an early 14th century “CAMA” Shahnama manuscript. On temporary loan to the Shahnama Centre from the collection of the late Dr. Mehdi Gharavi. Image courtesy Ameneh Gharavi and Dean Entekabi

Global philanthropist Bita Daryabari and speakers from around the globe gathered to celebrate the official opening of the Shahnama Centre for Persian Studies at Pembroke College in Cambridge, England. (Pembroke College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England.) The $2 million (US) endowment by Daryabari ensured the creation of the Centre…

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The Aga Khan Museum’s collection includes a folio from the epic Persian poem, Shahnama

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Folio from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp (ca. 1532).Image: Archnet Folio from the Shahnama of Shah Tahmasp (ca. 1532).
Image: Archnet

The Shahnama was composed by the Persian poet Firdausi (d. 1020) around the year 1000. It tells the story of ancient Iran (Persia) from the time of Creation to the conquest of Islam in the seventh century. The history of Iran is divided into three successive dynasties: the Pishdadiyan (the early legendary shahs, who established civilization and fought against the forces of evil),  the Kayanids, and the Sassanians (the last glorious dynasty to rule Iran before the advent of Islam).*

Partly legend, partly historic, it is also a manual on kingship, a collection of heroic tales, and a long essay on wisdom, love, warfare, and magic. The epic poem helped preserve Persian traditions, folklore, and oral literature — becoming the Persian literary standard — and it retains considerable influence in the storytelling tradition of Iran, even today.It was customary for every king…

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