The Shahnameh or Shah-nama "The Book of Kings") is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 AD and is the national epic of the Iran (Persia) and the Persian speaking world. Consisting of some 50,000 verses, the Shahnameh tells mainly the mythical and to some extent the historical past of the Persian empire from the creation of the world until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century. Today Iran, Persian speakers of the neighboring nations such as Afghanistan and Tajikestan, and the greater region influenced by the Persian culture celebrate this national epic. The work is of central importance in Persian culture, regarded as a literary masterpiece, and definitive of ethno-national cultural identity of Iran. It is also important to the contemporary adherents of Zoroastrianism, in that it traces the historical links between the beginnings of the religion with the death of the last Sassanid ruler of Persia during the Muslim conquest and an end to the Zoroastrian influence in Iran. Ferdowsi started writing the Shahnameh in 977 A.D and completed it on 8 March 1010. The Shahnameh is a monument of poetry and historiography, being mainly the poetical recast of what Ferdowsi, his contemporaries, and his predecessors regarded as the account of Iran's ancient history. Many such accounts already existed in prose, an example being the Shahnameh of AbuMansur Daqiqi. A small portion of Ferdowsi's work, in passages scattered throughout the Shahnameh, is entirely of his own conception. 2|Page
The Shahnameh is an epic poem of over 50,000 couplets, written in early Modern Persian. It is based mainly on a prose work of the same name compiled in Ferdowsi's earlier life in his native Tus. This prose Shahnameh was in turn and for the most part the translation of a Pahlavi (Middle Persian) work, known as the Xvatāynamāk ("Book of Kings"), a late Sassanid compilation of the history of the kings and heroes of Persia from mythical times down to the reign of Khosrau II (590–628). The xvatāynamāk contained historical information on the later Sassanid period, but it does not appear to have drawn on any historical sources for the earlier Sassanid period (3rd to 4th centuries). Ferdowsi added material continuing the story to the overthrow of the Sassanids by the Arabs in the middle of the 7th century. It is only in the characterizations of the work's many figures, both male and female, that Zoroaster's original view of the human condition comes through. Zoroaster emphasized human free will. All of Ferdowsi's characters are complex; none is an archetype or a puppet. The best characters have flaws, and the worst have moments of humanity. Nationalist historiography in Iran has claimed that Ferdowsi was grieved by the fall of the Sassanid Empire and its subsequent rule by "Arabs" and "Turks". The Shahnameh, the argument goes, is largely his effort to preserve the memory of Persia's golden days and transmit it to a new generation so that they could learn and try to build a better world. However, the preservation of the pre-Islamic mythistorical legacy seems to be among Ferdowsi's main concerns, however a number of authors have formally challenged these views. The mythical age This portion of the Shahnameh is relatively short, amounting to some 2,100 verses or four percent of the entire book, and it narrates events with the simplicity, predictability, and swiftness of a historical work. The heroic age Almost two-thirds of the Shahnameh is devoted to the age of heroes, extending from Manuchehr's reign until the conquest of Alexander the Great (Eskandar). The main feature of this period is the major role played by the Saka or Sistānī heroes who appear as the backbone of the Persian Empire. Garshāsp is briefly mentioned with his son Narimān, whose own son Sām acted as the leading paladin of Manuchehr while reigning in Sistān in his own right. His successors were his son Zāl...
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