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August 5, 2004

* Iran in Shahnameh

Dear Mr. Kadivar, [Sekandar, Iran and Aryans]

Thank you for your message. To go through your questions one by one:

On balance I think Ferdowsi uses Sekandar (never Sikandar - i.e. there are no long vowels in the name), slightly more often than Eskandar, but he uses Eskandar quite often too. His choice of which form to use is according to the meter.

Freemasonry is an 18th century European invention, and is a product of Deism and the Enlightenment. Like virtually all "new" religions, it claims to be a return to a lost earlier "true" faith, but this has no basis in reality. Kipling's story is of course pure fantasy, and the film was even more of a fantasy, particularly in its use of Urdu and Islamic chants for a society supposedly untouched by Islam.

The word "Iran" comes literally thousands of times in the Shahnameh, and is the name used in the poem for the whole country we now call Iran / Persia. The word originally referred to the inhabitants of the country, rather than the country itself, and this is clear from the fact that the country is also sometimes called "Iran-zamin" , ie "the land of the Aryans". The word is of pre-Islamic origin, and derives from the same Indo-European root from which the English word "Aryan" derives.

Aryan more precisely refers to the speakers of a language rather than to the descendants of a common ancestor. Because this was an Indo-European language, Persian has many cognates in other Indo-European languages.

It's not true however to say that "koenig" and "king" derive from "kia", or that "daughter" and "tochter" derive from "dokhtar". Rather, "koenig", "king" and "kia" can be assumed to derive from a common Indo-European root, and "daughter", "tochter" and "dokhtar" can be assumed to derive from another Indo-European root. In each case the three words are equivalent branches of one stem, rather than one of them being the parent stem of the other two.

In each case the parent stem exists in no recorded language, though for many words linguistics specialists in Indo-European languages (of whom I'm not in any way one - my field of expertise, in so far as I have any,  is Medieval Persian poetry, not Indo-European linguistics) have reconstructed what they think such stems were.

Given our present discussion, it might be of interest that these cognates across the Indo-European languages, and therefore the probability of a common ancestor to these languages, were first noticed by William Jones (1746-1794), who wrote the first Persian grammar in a Western language, and who had a particular interest in the Shahnameh. Indeed, it was said to be whilst he was reading the Shahnameh that the first intuition of the existence of a family of Indo-European languages came to him.

Dumezil's tri-partite society, and his elaborations of this, are perhaps discernible in the Shahnameh, particularly in the very early stories, but the theory is so vague and adaptive to specific circumstances (that doesn't mean it's not a good description of what ancient Indo-European societies were like, I think it quite likely is one) that this doesn't perhaps mean very much.

The poem includes or refers to various kinds of political order. For example, a loose federation of chieftains in the legendary stories, as against a very centralized system with almost no independence for local lords under the Sasanians. Or, a system in which the king is chosen by his peers, despite claims of legitimate descent from a former king, as when Qobad is chosen over the apparently  "legitimate" heir Tus, as against a system in which primogeniture is the sole criterion for succession.

Or, the inclusion and acceptance of foreign, liminal and apparently disruptive elements into the society in the legendary stories, as against a deep suspicion of the foreign, liminal and disruptive in the Sasanian stories.

Because of this fluidity in the social structures represented in the poem, almost any structure can be found there if one looks hard enough, including Dumezil's.

As I said in my original answers to Jahanshah Javid [A huge conservation project], the poem's exploration of such themes is very complex, and not at all simplistic or reductive. Put beside the totality of Ferdowsi's exploration, Dumezil's scheme seems a bit reductive, and only applicable, if at all, to one part of the poem (the very early stories: say, up to the end of the story of Feraydun).

If you wanted to reproduce these or my previous remarks anywhere that is fine by me of course.

With all best wishes,

Dick Davis

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August 2004

August 5, 2004

* Sekandar, Iran and Aryans
* Iran in Shahnameh
Shirin Ebadi
* Poll: Has he got a clue?
* Praising Islam?
* Az maast k-e bar maast
* Change is slow
* Failing each other

* Difficulty in perfection
Zahra Kazemi
* Change is slow
Asian Cup
* Shame on Team Melli!
* I'm Croatian and proud
* Palestinians wiped out?
* I won't vote for Torkzadeh
* Deterioration overdue
* Bush is not as bad?
* US clean house in Iran
* Q is for Queer
* Intolerant intolerance
* Follows logic
* What many believe
* No military action

* Is this Islam?
Homosexual language
* Orgasm or perish
* Silent opening

* Hillarious
* Laughing in Istanbul
* Glad
* NO substance
* You liberals

Nojeh coup
* It all disolved
* Liberation from within
* Military intervention
* 'Liberate' Iran's billions

* Guatemala impressions
Sex trade
* Rajavi supporter or not
Radio Farda
* Give me the job!
Farah Pahlavi
* Horrible role model
* How dare you?
* Photocopygenic
Persian lesson
* Words we hear a lot
* Soopoor or "superintendent"

* Logical advice
Vultarity, Profanity
* Deserve worse, but
* Tone of langauage

* Ojoobeha
* Like Kurdistan's rivers
* Attacking our baby
* Freedom of choice

* Ojoobeha
* Plastic foreingers
* Iranian in Madrid?
* "REAL" Javid?

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