WASHINGTON — The resounding first couplets invoke “the creator of wisdom and life.” And, indeed, it may have been divine inspiration that prompted the Persian poet Firdawsi in the 10th century to begin writing what would become “The Shahnameh” or “Book of Kings.”
A mixture of myth and history, the epic poem records the story of Persia from the beginning of time up until the 7th century Arab conquest in more than 100,000 rhymed lines. Later complemented with miniature paintings of sumptuous detail, it is regarded as among the greatest works of world literature and art.
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak, a top authority on “The Shahnameh” and the director of the University of Maryland’s Roshan Center for Persian Studies, says the work founded an epic tradition that spread from Iran to India, Central Asia, Anatolia, and the Caucasus.
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