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Early Literature (part1)

rudakis satue

This article is divided into three parts. Giving a brief detail of Persian history:

1. The Persian Language

2. Early Literature

3. The Thirteenth Century as a New Chapter for Literature

 Though existing fragments of Persian verse are believed to date from as early as the eighth century CE, the history of Persian literature proper begins with the lesser dynasties of the ninth and tenth centuries that emerged with the decline of the Caliphate.

The most important of these were the Samanids, who established at Bokhara the first of many brilliant courts that were to patronize learning and letters.

 Here Abu Ali Sina, better known in the west as Avicenna, developed the medicine and philosophy of ancient Greece, and wrote numerous works that were to exercise considerable influence not only in the East but in Europe -where, translated into Latin, they were in use as late as the seventeenth century. Avicenna wrote mostly in Arabic, but composed an encyclopaedia -- the Danish Nameh-ye Ala"i - in Persian.

The most famous of the court poets were Rudaki and Daqiqi. Rudaki, generally regarded as the first of the great Persian poets, wrote a very large quantity of verse, of which but little has survived. His style direct, simple and unadorned - was to appear unpolished to some of the over-elaborate versifiers of later ages, but appeals more to modem tastes. Daqiqi, a composer of epics, was commissioned to write a work on the ancient kings of Persia, but only completed a thousand couplets before his death. Some of these were later incorporated in the celebrated Shahnameh.

The Ghaznavid and early Seljuq Periods

It is said that four hundred poets were attached to the court of Sultan Mahmoud; of these, the most notable were Unsuri, the greatest of Mahmoud"s panegyrists, followed by Farrukhi, Manouchehri and Asadi.

 Of the prose writers, the most celebrated was Biruni, author of the "Chronology of Ancient Nations", who wrote exclusively in Arabic.

The Seljuq era, regarded as the second classical period of Persian literature, is one rich both in prose and poetry. Famous prose works include Ghazali"s influential Revivification of the Religious Sciences in Arabic and its Persian summary entitled Kimiya-ye Sa"adat (The Alchemy of Happiness); Baihaqi"s History of the Ghaznavids: the Siasat Nameh, a treatise on the art of government by Nizam ul-Mulk, vizier to Alp Arslan and Malik Shah; the entertaining Qabus Nameh of Kai Kawous, translated by Professor Levy as "A Mirror for Princes"; the collection of animal fables of Indian origin entitled Kalila va Dimna by Nasr Ullah; the charming Chahar Maqala or Four Discourses of Nizami Aruzi; the Fars Nameh of Ibn al-Balkhi, and the noted treatise on poetics of Rashid-i Vatvat. Four of the above works - the Chahar Maqala, the History of Baihaqi, the Qabus Nameh and the Siasat Nameh - are considered by the poet Bahar as the four great masterpieces of early Persian prose.

A number of authors of this period wrote both prose and poetry.


One of the most brilliant of these was Nasir- al Khosrow, writer of some fifteen works in prose and 30,000 verses, of which less than half have survived. His best known prose work is the Safar Nameh, an account of his journey to Egypt.

 Most of Nasir-i Khosrow"s poems are lengthy odes, mainly on religious and ethical subjects; they are noted for their purity of language and dazzling technical skill. In the opinion of the scholar Mirza Mohammad Qazvini, the name of Naser Khosrow should be added to those of the six poets - Ferdowsi, Khayyam, Anvari, Rumi, Saadi, and Hafez - whom "practically all" agree to consider the six greatest Persian poets, each in his special field. Other famous poetry of the period includes the work of the mystics Ansari, Abu Sa"id and Baba Taher of Hamadan; the odes of Qatran; Gorgani"s romantic epic Vis o Ramin, and the Divans of the two Indian-born poets Masoud-e Saad-e Salman and Rumi.

Seven other poets of the period are of outstanding fame and brilliance; these are Khayyam, Sana"i, Moezzi, Anvari, Khaqani, Nizami and Attar.

Other links:

Brief History of Islamic Art

Islamic art and architecture

History of Persian Calligraphy



Iranian Miniature History


History of Comedy



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