‘Shahnameh’ and Iran: Epic Tales for Epic Times

To be a hero and a leader of men was not a birthright, but rather a virtue proven not only by fortitude in battle, but by fortitude in character. This quality is expressed in the Shahnameh by the word farr, which Davis defines as “a God-given glory, and inviolability, bestowed on a king, and sometimes on a great hero,” and physically manifested as “a light that shone from the king’s or hero’s face.”

Simply put, a man was fit to lead by virtue of, well, his virtue. If he had farr, he was ethically sound, but if he lost his farr, so with it his very right to rule.

I considered Iran’s long history, pre and post Islam, before and after the Shahnameh. Many kings and rulers came and went. Dynasties risen from dust to dust returned. As I recalled Iranian monarchs and prime ministers, I tried to determine which were bestowed with farr and which lacked it altogether. Finally, my thoughts strayed to this very time last year, when green emerged as the color of hope…

It was the end of spring one year ago when Iranians in large numbers decided their present-day rulers had lost their farr.

The streets of Tehran were teeming with exuberant crowds, eagerly counting the days until the June 12th Presidential Election, when they would vote Mahmoud Ahmadinejad out of office and send a clear message to Iran’s regime.


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