When he was asked why the vast majority of Egyptians, the heirs to a great pre-Islamic civilization, speak Arabic rather than Coptic, a leading Egyptian historian replied: “Because we had no Ferdowsi.” That would be the tenth-century Persian poet and the author of the Shahnameh (Book of Kings) who revived not only the Persian language, but also Persian identity.
Ferdowsi is known for his efforts to save the Persian language, and the history, from oblivion. It has been suggested that Ferdowsi is Iran’s Homer:
Twice as long as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey taken together, the Shahnameh blends Iran’s ancient myths and legends with accounts of major events in its past. Its 55,000 rhyming couplets chart the history of the Iranian world from its creation to the fall of the Persian Empire in the seventh century.
The cruel, successful subjugation of the Persian people by the Arab invaders whetted the latter’s appetite for further conquests. They ventured elsewhere into the civilized world — to Egypt, Syria, the Levant, Spain, and eventually to the gates of Vienna. Cruelty and terror were their instruments of policy.
Out of all the peoples conquered by the Arab invasion in the seventh century, the Persians are the only one who can boast of a major body of literature in the indigenous language that they were using before the conquest. The Persian language, culture, and traditions have been Iranians’ shields against the Muslim hordes and their... >>>
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