Shahnameh of Ferdowsi

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the epic poem the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the 'Book of Kings', which has been at the heart of Persian culture for the past thousand years. The poem recounts a legendary history of Iran from the dawn of time to the fall of the Persian Empire in the 7th century and serves, in a sense, as a creation myth for the Persian nation.

The Shahnameh took Ferdowsi thirty years to write and, consisting of over 50,000 verses, is said to be the longest poem ever written by a single author. Laced with tragedy, Ferdowsi's epic chronicles battles, romances, family rifts and Man's interior struggle with himself. Although the stories may not always be true they have a profound resonance with Iranians even today, and the poem has been referred to as both the 'encyclopaedia of Iranian culture' and the identity card of the Persian people.


Narguess Farzad
Senior Fellow in Persian at SOAS, University of London

Charles Melville
Professor of Persian History at Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge

Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis
Curator of Middle Eastern Coins at the British Museum

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Release date:

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 13 Dec 2012 21:30

Related topics


Firuza Abdullaeva and Charles Melville, ‘The Persian Book of Kings: Ibrahim Sultan’s Shahnama’ (Bodleian Library, 2008)


Barbara Brend and Charles Melville (eds.), ‘Epic of the Persian Kings: The Art of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh’ (I.B.Tauris, 2010)


Barbara Brend, ‘Muhammad Juki’s Shahnamah of Firdausi’ (Philip Wilson, 2010)


Dick Davis, ‘Epic and Sedition: The Case of Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh’ (University of Arkansas Press, 1992)


Ferdowsi (author), Dick Davis (trans.), ‘Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings’ (Penguin Classics, 2007)


Ferdowsi (author), Reuben Levy (trans.), ‘The Epic of the Kings’ (London, 1967 and reprints)


Elizabeth Laird, ‘Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings (Frances Lincoln, 2012)


B. W. Robinson, ‘The Persian Book of Kings: An Epitome of the Shahnama of Firdawsi’ (Routledge, 2002)


Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, ‘Persian Myths’ (British Museum Press, 1993)


Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis and Sarah Stewart (eds), ‘The Idea of Iran’ (I.B.Tauris, four volumes published between 2005-2009)


A. Shapur Shahbazi, ‘Ferdowsi: A Critical Biography’ (Harvard University Press, 1991)


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