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Mount Damāvand and Mount Olympus

February 22, 2009


 

Ferdowsi's Shahnameb: The Persian Book of Kings (c. 1000) Illustration Public domain. ?Miniature from the Berlin Manuscript of Firdausi's Shahnameh (1605)?

Ferdowsi

Imagine Goethe’s inner gaze marveling at majestic Mount Damāvand, the highest peak in the Middle East, immortalized in Persian literature through masterful works like Ferdowsi’s Shâhnameh. From its seemingly timeless lofty heights, Mount Damāvand, remains as unconstrained as the wind, in contrast with the social, political and historical changes unfolding all around it.

I was looking for the fertile, picturesque places with names like warm valley and seven creeks where the judge’s grandson grew up when I came across images of Mount Damāvand and learned of its history.

Illustrations inspired by Abolghassem Mansour-ibn-Hassan Firdausi Tousi (Ferdowsi)’s epic work entitled Shâhnâmeh (Book of Kings) (1010) were submitted by Iran for inclusion inclusion in the Memory of the World Register in 2007. They now host a gallery of illustrations.

“Abolghassem Mansour-ibn-Hassan Firdausi Tousi (Ferdowsi) was a prominent figure in Iranian poetry and the nationalist poet of the Persian Empire. He was born in the Iranian city of Tous in 941 and died in 1020, ten years after he finished his major epic work, the Shâhnâmeh (Book of Kings). This is one of the classics of the Persian-speaking world and is on a par with the ‘Iliad’ and the ‘Aeniad’ of the Greco-Romano cultural communities. An important feature of this work is that although during the period of its creation, Arabic was the main language of science and literature, Ferdowsi used only Persian and therefore helped to revive and maintain this important world language. Today Persian is spoken by over 65 million people in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan and diaspora communities. The Shâhnâmeh has also become an important text throughout Central Asia, India and the former Ottoman Empire. It has been copied countless times and three of these copies could be said to have universal value: the “Demotte Shâhnâmeh” made in the early 1300s for the Il-Khanid patron, Giyath al-Din ; the 16th Century “Houghton Shâhnâmeh” ; and the “Bayasanghori Shâhnâmeh”, which was made in 1430 for Prince Bayasanghor (1399-1433), the grandson of the legendary Central Asian leader Timur (1336-1405). Only the “Bayasanghori Shâhnâmeh” has survived and is kept under lock and key in the Imperial Library of the Golestan Palace in Tehran. The Shâhnâmeh represents the quintessence of aesthetic and literary values of the elite rulers of the Timurid Renaissance who dominated Central and Western Asia in the 15th Century.”

In the nineteenth century, Goethe considered Persian literature to be one of the four main bodies of world literature (Ferdowsi 2006) and his “Verstandnis des West-Ostlichen Divans” was inspired by Persian literature.

“When we turn our attention to a peaceful, civilized people, the Persians, we must — since it was actually their poetry that inspired this work — go back to the earliest period to be able to understand more recent times. It will always seem strange to the historians that no matter how many times a country has been conquered, subjugated and even destroyed by enemies, there is always a certain national core preserved in its character, and before you know it, there re-emerges a long-familiar native phenomenon. In this sense, it would be pleasant to learn about the most ancient Persians and quickly follow them up to the present day at an all the more free and steady pace (Goethe 1819 in Wiesehofer and Azodi 2001: Preface).”

For over 2600 years Persia has been at the geographic centre of trade and cultural exchange, friction If you draw lines from the Mediterranean to Beijing or Beijing to Cairo or Paris to Delhi, they all pass through Iran, which straddles a region where East meets West. Over 26 centuries, a blending of the hemispheres has been going on here—trade, cultural interchange, friction—with Iran smack in the middle.
 

“If we could realize that great works such as the Shahnameh [of Ferdowsi] exists in the world, we would not become so much proud of our own works in such a silly manner (Saint-Beuve cited in Wiesehofer 2001-08-18).”

Notes
1. This UNESCO site entitled Memory of the World hosts digital images like this 1430 illustration from the “Bayasanghori Shâhnâmeh” for Prince Bayasanghor (1399-1433). It illustrated one of the stories in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameb (1010) showing the tyrant Zahhak, nailed to the walls of a cave in Mount Damavand.

2. Some Poems in English

3. “FERDOWSĪ,ABU’L-QĀSEM (329-410 or 416/940-1019 or 1025), one of the greatest epic poets and author of the Šāh-nāma, the national epic of Persia. See also ŠĀH-NĀMA. […] The sum of such heartfelt, mature, and eloquently expressed views and ethical precepts regarding the world and mankind have led to his being referred to, from an early period, as ḥakīm (philosopher), dānā (sage), and farzāna (learned); that is, he was considered a philosopher, though he was not attached to any specific philosophical school nor possessed a complete knowledge of the various philosophical and scientific views of his time. [His sobriquet or pen name], Ferdowsī means “[man] from paradise” (Khaleghi, 1988, p. 92). From Encylopedia Iranica

4. The concepts of freedom and human rights allegedly originated in the first Persian Empire, as early as the c. 539 BC with the Achaemenid Persian Shāhanshāh Emperor Cyrus the Great (c. 600/576 BC – c. 530/29 BC). His successors including Darius ruled over a stable global superpower, the world’s first religiously and culturally tolerant empire administrated with the first human rights charter (Farrokh 2007:44, Robertson and Merrills 1996:7, Lauren 2003:11, Xenophon and Hedrick 2007:xiii) with a central government in Pasargadae for more than a thousand years. The borders of the Persian Empire ultimately extended from the Mediterranean to the Indus River, encompassing 23 different peoples and including nations and regions that by 2008 were called Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Jordan, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and the Caucasus region (Del Giudice 2008-08:5).” It was Emperor Cyrus the Great who freed the enslaved Jews of Babylon in 539 B. C. providing them with necessary funds to rebuild their in Jerusalem through the Edict of Restoration. (Del Giudice 2008-08:5)”

5. Cyrus the Great Cylinder, The First Charter of Rights of Nations: (Farrokh 2007:44, Robertson and Merrills 1996:7, Lauren 2003:11, Xenophon and Hedrick 2007:xiii)

“In short, the figure of Cyrus has survived throughout history as more than a great man who founded an empire. He became the epitome of the great qualities expected of a ruler in antiquity, and he assumed heroic features as a conqueror who was tolerant and magnanimous as well as brave and daring. His personality as seen by the Greeks influenced them and Alexander the Great, and, as the tradition was transmitted by the Romans, may be considered to influence our thinking even now (Frye 1963).”

6. Richard N. Frye (1920- ), now a professor emeritus at Harvard devoted more than sixty years to teaching, learning and research on Persian history. He founded the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard and is the Aga Khan Professior of Iranian history at Harvard University. Frye’s books entitled the Nation of Archers (1954) and The Heritage of Persia (1962) The Heritage of Persia (Bibliotheca Iranica, No 1). Islam and the West. Proceedings of the Harvard Summer School Conference on the …
His mentor and predecessor, Arthur Pope was director of the Asia Institute in Shiraz.

“Thus, to refer to the Sasanian period of Iran’s history, Vahram-i Varjavand, seems to me to be a greatly heroised example of the millenary tradition, for he is a truly messianic personality, even though probably a greatly heroised form of the historic Bahrám Chobin. As I have frequently stated, in the past of Iran, for the people, history was not what really happened, or even what they thought had happened, but what they thought should have happened. This is a fundamental characteristic of the view of the past among a people who have a strong epic tradition and a messianic tradition of time speculation (Frye, 1974:57-69 1964: 36-54 cited in Buck 1998).”

7. Some useful translations
Shâhnameh Shahnameh (Farsi) Emperor
Kūrošé Kabīr or Kūrošé Bozorg Kurose Kabir or Kurose Bozorg (Farsi) Emperor Cyrus the Great
Koresh (Hebrew in Bible) Emperor Cyrus the Great
Dhul-Qarnayn (Arabic in Qur’an) possibly referring to Emperor Cyrus the Great.
Damāvand – Damavand
West-Ostlichen (German) West-Eastern

Webliography and Bibliography

Buck, Christopher. 1998. “Bahá’u’lláh as Zoroastrian saviour.” Baha’i Studies Review. 8. London: Association for Baha’i Studies English-Speaking Europe. pp.14–33.

Farrokh, Kaveh. 2007. Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War. History.

Frye, Richard N. 1963. The Heritage of Persia: The pre-Islamic History of One of the World’s Great Civilizations. World Publishing Company: New York.

Ghasemi, Shapour. “The Cyrus the Great Cylinder.” History of Iran. Accessed February 24.

Knappert, Jan. Ed. 1999.Encyclopaedia of Middle Eastern mythology and religion. Longmead, UK.

Robertson, Arthur Henry; Merrills, J. G. 1996. Human Rights in the World: An Introduction to the Study of the International. Political Science.:7.

Lauren, Paul Gordon. 2003. The Evolution of International Human Rights: Visions Seen. Political Science. p.11.

Xenophon; Hedrick, Larry. 2007. “Xenophon’s Cyrus the Great: The Arts of Leadership and War. History. p.xiii.

Del Giudice, Marguerite. 2008-08. “Persia: Ancient Soul of Iran: A Glorious Past Inspired by a Conflicted Nation.” National Geographic. PP. 34-67.
Ferdowsi, Abolqasem. 2006. Translated by Davis, Dick. 2006. Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings. Viking.

Goethe. 1819. Noten and Abhandlungen zu besserem Verstandnis des West-Ostlichen Divans.

Levinson, Von David; Christensen, Karen. 2002. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. Charles Scribner’s Sons.

Wiesehofer, Josef; Azodi, Azizeh. 2001-08-18. Translated by Azodi, Azizeh. “Preface.” Ancient Persia: From 550 BC to 650 AD. I. B. Tauris. New Ed Edition.

Nurian, Mahdi. 1993. “Afarin Ferdowsi az Zaban Pishinian [The praises of Ferdowsi from the tongue of the ancients].” Hasti Magazine. 4. Tehran: Bahman Publishers.

Effendi, Shoghi. 1991. “Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster.” The Compilation of Compilations.Volume I. Baha’i Publications Australia.

Effendi, Shoghi. 1944. God Passes By. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust.

Frye, Richard N. (1992), “Zoroastrians in Central Asia in Ancient Times.” Journal of the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute. 58: 6–10.

Richard Frye, 1974. “Methodology in Iranian History,” in Neue Methodologie in der Iranistik. (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1974): 57-69 [66]. Cf. idem, “The Charisma of Kingship in Ancient Iran,” Iranica Antiqua 6 (1964): 36-54.

http://www.traveljournals.net/explore/iran/map/m5119241/garmabdar.html

http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/map-machine#s=h&c=35.6907639509368, 52.032623291015646&z=9

http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Damavand

2 Responses to “Mount Damāvand and Mount Olympus”


  1. Nice post, really done a great job by compiling in depth review of history.

  2. Olympus Says:

    Nice and informative article


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