Ferdowsi: A Critical Biography

Second printing, 2012

Availability: In stock
Published: 2010
Page #: xiv + 149
Size: 6 x 9
ISBN: ISBN 13: 978-1568592794
bibliography, index


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Quick Overview

NOTE: This book was first published in 1991 by Mazda Publishers in hardcover edition. **** The present study offers the first critical biography of Ferdowsi who, ten centuries ago, gathered historical traditions of various Iranians and recast them in epic poetry into a coherent "National History" which the great Orientalist, Theodor Noldeke, described as a monument "unrivaled among other nations." Chapter One evaluates the sources, and reveals the inadequacies of studies since 1800, thereby demonstrating the need for a balanced biography of Ferdowsi primarily based on his own testimonies scattered throughout The Shah-Nama. In Chapter Two, various dates adduced from Ferdowsi's history are examined and the exact date of his birth is discovered. Also, his family background and the effort of his precursors in preserving Iranian traditions are elucidated. Chapter Three draws on The Shahnama references to show that Ferdowsi lived in Tos the life of a country squire (dehqan), received a sound literary education without the need to learn Pahlavi or Arabic, and spent much time riding, feasting and studying. While he admired ancient Iranians and their ideologies, he adhered to Shi`ism and advocated reason and tolerance. Chapter Four sheds light on Ferdowsi's early compositions, his search for written sources on which to base an epic history of Iran, and shows that the first version of The Shah-Nama, composed long before Soltan Mahmud's accession, was a concise work which omitted the Sasanian history and several epical episodes, such as the story of Siavush. Chapter Five examines the problematic relationship of Ferdowsi and Soltan Mahmud of Ghazna. Posing as a defender of Iran and resurrector of her ancient glory, Mahmud was hailed by Ferdowsi as a "New Fredon" worthy of receiving a memorial such as The Shah-Nama. Later, the Soltan's pro-Abbasid policy, his wars against Shi`ite princes (the Buyids) and his Indian holy wars gave him the stature of an "Islamic hero king," interested in propagating the "True Faith." It becomes clear that Ferdowsi never met Mahmud, did not satirize him, and as he continued completing or revising The Shah-Nama, he remained a faithful subject of the king. Ferdowsi's last days and the history of his burial place are also described in this chapter. Chapter Six explains the contents of The Shah-Nama, and argues that through it Ferdowsi intended to preserve ancient Iranian history in flowing epic form, to vindicate Iranians of old and their ideologies, to build an undying memorial to himself, to revitalize Iranian national feelings, to gain personal glory and to illustrate lessons of history. The Shah-Nama is thus characterized as the history of the Iranian nation, based on written sources and faithful to them without advocating their religious tendencies, and as a work of enormous poetic embellishment.


A. Shapur Shahbazi (1942-2006)

The late professor, Ali Reza Shapur Shahbazi was born in Shiraz, Iran. In 1960, as Iran’s highest-ranking geography student, he was awarded an academic scholarship at the University of London, where he earned a Master’s degree and doctorate in archeology. He later completed his post-doctorate in Iranian historiography from Georg August University in Goettingen, Germany. Dr. Shahbazi founded the Institute of Achemenid Research at Persepolis, Persia’s ancient ceremonial capital, and served as its director from 1973 until the Islamic Revolution of 1979. As one of Iran’s most prominent intellectuals, he lived in exile in Germany and the United States after the upheaval of the revolution. It brought him great pride and joy to eventually reopen the Institute and resume his scholarly and professional career in Iran, in which he remained very active until his death. Dr. Shahbazi taught at the universities of Shiraz, Tehran, Goettingen, Harvard, Columbia and Eastern Oregon, and was one of the world’s foremost authorities in several areas of pre-Islamic Iranian history, language and culture. He is the author of 16 books and 180 articles and publications, and received numerous international honors for his scholarly contributions. He won the national Book of the Year Award for his first major work, a biography of Cyrus the Great, when he was still in his 20’s. Most recently, he was the first recipient of the North American Middle East Studies Association Houshang Pourshariati Award in Iranian Studies, “for his role as one of the few Iranians who have single-handedly rewritten Iranian history.” He was admired and loved by his students, and he received EOU’s Distinguished Teaching Faculty Award in 2005. He shed light on many complex historical questions, including the dates of Persia’s epic poet Ferdowsi, and of Zoroaster, the founder of the world’s first monotheistic religion. He was cherished by the Zoroastrian community throughout the world for his contributions and dedication to the study of their religion. He was also an esteemed writer and editor for Encyclopedia Iranica for three decades. His historical studies and discoveries ranged from the fourth century BC to the 10th century CE. However, his knowledge was not limited to Iran and the Middle East. He was an expert in history, archeology, geography, religion, art, politics and literature. Dr. Shahbazi was tireless in sharing his knowledge and helping the world understand different angles and perspectives of history, culture and current events. He was highly respected by the international community in numerous fields, and was sought out and consulted regularly by scholars, as well as such organizations as the United Nations, UNESCO, National Geographic, BBC and the Discovery Channel. He gave selflessly and devoted all his energies to the three greatest loves of his life—his family, his country and his scholarly work.


CHAPTER I. Survey of Literature

CHAPTER II. Background and Precursors

CHAPTER III. Formative Period

CHAPTER IV. The Historian and Ancient Iran

CHAPTER V. The Flowering Period

CAPTER VI. The Undying Memorial


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