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Ferdowsi’s Background

ferdowsi

Ferdowsi's literary masterpiece is in many ways a political, social reflection of his time period. Shahnameh marks a transitional period for the Persian culture, in a sense that in one hand it represents the summation of what has transpired before and the irretrievable Persian golden age, and on the other what is to come in way of adaptation of a new cultural identity and creation of a new "self-image." As such an accurate historical background is consequential to understanding the message and the importance of Shahnameh and indeed of Ferdowsi's ordeal.

Shahnameh and indeed Persian history is greatly affected by the Arab invasion of Persia at seventh century C.E. This plays a critical role, since at least from a western perspective, Persia's history is divided in half with thirteen hundred years before the event, with domination of the Achaemenid empire originating from Persis, later Parthians, and finally the Sassanids, and thirteen hundred years after the event with advents of multiple Persian empires. For Persians the Arab invasion must have come as a shock, for it seemed that at least for a while that the Persian identity would be indistinguishable from those of other lands subsumed in the Caliphate. Arabs generally took to causing civil disturbances, religious persecution of Persians, and burning of the Zoroastrian and Persian books. This made the worry of loss of a Persian identity that much more imminent for Ferdowsi.

The Umayyads also often treated Persians (even converts) as second-class citizens.The Abbasids who came after Umayyads were more receptive to Persian influences and saw a Persianization of their court if not of the Caliphate.

This eventually led to creation of multiple Persian power centers within the Caliphate: In Baghdad, the Buyids, claiming decent from the Sassanids, celebrating ancient Zoroastrian festivals, and having a Shi'a sympathy rose to power, while in the northeast the Samanids ruled through the tenth century claiming decent from Bahram Chubineh, a famous Sassanid general.

It was the Samanids who promoted Ferdowsi, allowing him to realize his dream of creation of a unique new Persian language and it was during this time that funded by the Samanid court, Ferdowsi began a painstaking task of creating a unique Persian cultural identity. Ferdowsi's work is also unique in this sense because it puts the Persian creation myths center stage, not focusing or attaching itself to Qur'anic chronology or cosmology. This distinguishes him from other writers of the time like Tabari and Mas'udi, and makes his work that much more relevant, to what some scholars consider to be a "Persian renaissance."

Source: wikipedia.org


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