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1001 Shahnameh
Added on 06th October 2020

Author Abu Al-Qasim Ferdowsi

Historical Myths and legends

An epic poem known as The Persian Book of Kings.


A thousand years old and written between 977 and 1010 CE, the Shahnameh (The Book of Kings) tells of the mythical and historical past of Iran from the creation of the world, through the legendary Persian kings and heroes to the Islamic conquest of Iran in the 7th Century. It contains the stories of Zal, (exposed on a mountain), Rostam, (7-heroic feats) and, Sohrab (son of Rostam).

Why we chose it

Written in early Modern Persian, it is a national epic of Persian culture. Told in 50,000 couplets it is the world’s longest poem and considered a literary masterpiece. It is one of the main pillars of the Persian language.

Where it came from

Illustrated texts of Ferdowsi’s work survive from across the centuries. The two most famous include one from the 1330s (Demotte Shahnameh) and one from 1568 (gifted to Ottoman Sultan Selim II). A 2017 translation, (adapted by Professor Ahmed Sadri) was inspired by Hamid Rahmanian, documentary filmmaker and artist and his wife, Melissa Hibbard. They wanted to popularise and infuse the imagination of the English-speaking world with the legends of Shahnameh, its epic battles, sweeping love stories and tragedies.

Where it went next

Since 1010CE, the Shahnameh has influenced Persian culture, language and historiography. It has impacted on many other cultures (Turkic peoples of central Asia; Ottoman Empire; Kurdish and Mughal Indian peoples) as well as European writers (e.g., Goethe).

Associated stories

Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh draws from an earlier prose translation by Daqiqi (942-980) of Pahlavi’s Book of Kings text (Xvataynamak). Ferdowsi included many of Daqiqi’s couplets into his version.

The Shahnameh has been adapted into film and animated versions. The first film was produced in 1934 (dir. Abdolhossein Speanta). In 1993, Bangladesh produced a blockbuster film (Shourab Rustom) and, in 2017 it was adapted as an animated movie (The Last Fiction). In 2017, The British Museum commissioned a performance storytelling of this epic poem.


There have been a number of English translations including in 1925 (Arthur and Edmond Warner) published in 9 volumes. It is 7 times longer than Homer’s Iliad.

Added on 06th October 2020

Author Abu Al-Qasim Ferdowsi

Historical Myths and legends