Abu ʾl-Qasim Firdowsi Tusi (c. 940–1020), or Ferdowsi[1] (also transliterated as Firdawsi, Firdusi, Firdosi, Firdausi) was a Persian poet[2][3] and the author of Shahnameh ("Book of Kings"), which is the world's longest epic poem created by a single poet, and the national epic of Greater Iran. He was the court poet to Mahmud of Ghazni in Ghazni. Ferdowsi is celebrated as the most influential figure in Persian literature and one of the greatest in the history of literature.[4]

Statue of Ferdowsi in Tus
Statue of Ferdowsi in Tus
Native name
Bornc. 940
Tus, Samanid Empire
Died1020 (aged 79–80)
Tus, Ghaznavid Empire
LanguageEarly Modern Persian
PeriodSamanids and Ghaznavids
GenrePersian poetry, national epic


Except for his kunya (ابوالقاسمAbu'l-Qāsim) and his laqab (فِردَوسیFerdowsī, meaning 'paradisic'), nothing is known with any certainty about his full name. From an early period on, he has been referred to by different additional names and titles, the most common one being حکیم / Ḥakīm ("philosopher").[5] Based on this, his full name is given in Persian sources as حکیم ابوالقاسم فردوسی توسی / Ḥakīm Abu'l-Qāsim Firdowsī Țusī. Due to the non-standardized transliteration from Persian into English, different spellings of his name are used in English works, including Firdawsi, Firdusi, Firdosi, Firdausi, etc. The Encyclopaedia of Islam uses the spelling Firdawsī, based on the standardized transliteration method of the German Oriental Society.[1] The Encyclopædia Iranica, which uses a modified version of the same method (with a stronger emphasis on Persian intonations), gives the spelling Ferdowsī.[5] In both cases, the -ow and -aw are to be pronounced as a diphthong ([aʊ̯]), reflecting the original Arabic and the early New Persian pronunciation of the name. The modern Tajik transliteration of his name in Cyrillic script is Ҳаким Абулқосим Фирдавсӣ Тӯсӣ.



Ferdowsi was born into a family of Iranian landowners (dehqans) in 940 in the village of Paj, near the city of Tus, in the Khorasan region of the Samanid Empire, which is located in the present-day Razavi Khorasan Province of northeastern Iran.[6] Little is known about Ferdowsi's early life. The poet had a wife, who was probably literate and came from the same dehqan class. He had a son, who died at the age of 37, and was mourned by the poet in an elegy which he inserted into the Shahnameh.[5]


Ferdowsi belonged to the class of dehqans. These were landowning Iranian aristocrats who had flourished under the Sassanid dynasty (the last pre-Islamic dynasty to rule Iran) and whose power, though diminished, had survived into the Islamic era which followed the Islamic conquests of the 7th century. The dehqans were attached to the pre-Islamic literary heritage, as their status was associated with it (so much so that dehqan is sometimes used as a synonym for "Iranian" in the Shahnameh). Thus they saw it as their task to preserve the pre-Islamic cultural traditions, including tales of legendary kings.[5][6]

The Islamic conquests of the 7th century brought gradual linguistic and cultural changes to the Iranian Plateau. By the late 9th century, as the power of the caliphate had weakened, several local dynasties emerged in Greater Iran.[6] Ferdowsi grew up in Tus, a city under the control of one of these dynasties, the Samanids, who claimed descent from the Sassanid general Bahram Chobin (whose story Ferdowsi recounts in one of the later sections of the Shahnameh).[7] The Samanid bureaucracy used the New Persian language, which had been used to bring Islam to the Eastern regions of the Iranian world and supplanted local languages, and commissioned translations of Pahlavi (Middle Persian) texts into New Persian. Abu Mansur Muhammad, a dehqan and governor of Tus, had ordered his minister Abu Mansur Mamari to invite several local scholars to compile a prose Shahnameh ("Book of Kings"), which was completed in 1010.[8] Although it no longer survives, Ferdowsi used it as one of the sources of his epic. Samanid rulers were patrons of such important Persian poets as Rudaki and Daqiqi, and Ferdowsi followed in the footsteps of these writers.[9]

Details about Ferdowsi's education are lacking. Judging by the Shahnameh, there is no evidence he knew either Arabic or Pahlavi.[5]

Life as a poet

Ferdowsi and the three Ghaznavid court poets

It is possible that Ferdowsi wrote some early poems which have not survived. He began work on the Shahnameh around 977, intending it as a continuation of the work of his fellow poet Daqiqi, who had been assassinated by a slave. Like Daqiqi, Ferdowsi employed the prose Shahnameh of ʿAbd-al-Razzāq as a source. He received generous patronage from the Samanid prince Mansur and completed the first version of the Shahnameh in 994.[5] When the Turkic Ghaznavids overthrew the Samanids in the late 990s, Ferdowsi continued to work on the poem, rewriting sections to praise the Ghaznavid Sultan Mahmud. Mahmud's attitude to Ferdowsi and how well he rewarded the poet are matters which have long been subject to dispute and have formed the basis of legends about the poet and his patron (see below). The Turkic Mahmud may have been less interested in tales from Iranian history than the Samanids.[6] The later sections of the Shahnameh have passages which reveal Ferdowsi's fluctuating moods: in some he complains about old age, poverty, illness and the death of his son; in others, he appears happier. Ferdowsi finally completed his epic on 8 March 1010. Virtually nothing is known with any certainty about the last decade of his life.[5]


Ferdowsi tomb3
Ferdowsi tomb

Ferdowsi was buried in his own garden, burial in the cemetery of Tus having been forbidden by a local cleric. A Ghaznavid governor of Khorasan constructed a mausoleum over the grave and it became a revered site. The tomb, which had fallen into decay, was rebuilt between 1928 and 1934 by the Society for the National Heritage of Iran on the orders of Rezā Shāh, and has now become the equivalent of a national shrine.[10]


According to legend, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni offered Ferdowsi a gold piece for every couplet of the Shahnameh he wrote. The poet agreed to receive the money as a lump sum when he had completed the epic. He planned to use it to rebuild the dykes in his native Tus. After thirty years of work, Ferdowsi finished his masterpiece. The sultan prepared to give him 60,000 gold pieces, one for every couplet, as agreed. However, the courtier whom Mahmud had entrusted with the money despised Ferdowsi, regarding him as a heretic, and he replaced the gold coins with silver. Ferdowsi was in the bath house when he received the reward. Finding it was silver and not gold, he gave the money away to the bathkeeper, a refreshment seller, and the slave who had carried the coins. When the courtier told the sultan about Ferdowsi's behaviour, he was furious and threatened to execute him. Ferdowsi fled Khorasan, having first written a satire on Mahmud, and spent most of the remainder of his life in exile. Mahmud eventually learned the truth about the courtier's deception and had him either banished or executed. By this time, the aged Ferdowsi had returned to Tus. The sultan sent him a new gift of 60,000 gold pieces, but just as the caravan bearing the money entered the gates of Tus, a funeral procession exited the gates on the opposite side: the poet had died from a heart attack.[11]


Tus shahnameh
Scenes from the Shahnameh carved into reliefs at Ferdowsi's mausoleum in Tus, Iran

Ferdowsi's Shahnameh is the most popular and influential national epic in Iran and other Persian-speaking nations. The Shahnameh is the only surviving work by Ferdowsi regarded as indisputably genuine. He may have written poems earlier in his life but they no longer exist. A narrative poem, Yūsof o Zolaykā (Joseph and Zuleika), was once attributed to him, but scholarly consensus now rejects the idea it is his.[5] There has also been speculation about the satire Ferdowsi allegedly wrote about Mahmud of Ghazni after the sultan failed to reward him sufficiently. Nezami Aruzi, Ferdowsi's early biographer, claimed that all but six lines had been destroyed by a well-wisher who had paid Ferdowsi a thousand dirhams for the poem. Introductions to some manuscripts of the Shahnameh include verses purporting to be the satire. Some scholars have viewed them as fabricated; others are more inclined to believe in their authenticity.[12]


The Sasanian King Khusraw and Courtiers in a Garden, Page from a manuscript of the Shahnama (Book of Kings) of Firdawsi, late 15th-early 16th century

The Sasanian King Khusraw and Courtiers in a Garden, page from a manuscript of the Shahnameh (Book of Kings), late 15th–early 16th century, Brooklyn Museum

Shahnameh - The Div Akvan throws Rustam into the sea

Scene from the Shahnameh: the Akvan Div throws the sleeping Rostam into the sea


Bath scene

Ferdowsi phoenixferdowsi

The Simurgh, a mythical bird from the Shahnameh, relief from Ferdowsi's mausoleum

Artaban and Ardashir

A scene from the Shahnameh depicting the Parthian king Artaban facing the Sassanid king Ardashir I


Ferdowsi tomb4
Mausoleum of Ferdowsi in Tus, Iran
Ferdowsi's verse 1
One of Ferdowsi's poems: "Think for your lord's gratification – be intellectual and truthful", written on the wall of a school in Iran
Ferdowsi statue
Ferdowsi statue in Milad Tower, Tehran, Iran

Ferdowsi is one of the undisputed giants of Persian literature. After Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, a number of other works similar in nature surfaced over the centuries within the cultural sphere of the Persian language. Without exception, all such works were based in style and method on Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, but none of them could quite achieve the same degree of fame and popularity as Ferdowsi's masterpiece.

Ferdowsi has a unique place in Persian history because of the strides he made in reviving and regenerating the Persian language and cultural traditions. His works are cited as a crucial component in the persistence of the Persian language, as those works allowed much of the tongue to remain codified and intact. In this respect, Ferdowsi surpasses Nizami, Khayyám, Asadi Tusi and other seminal Persian literary figures in his impact on Persian culture and language. Many modern Iranians see him as the father of the modern Persian language.

Ferdowsi in fact was a motivation behind many future Persian figures. One such notable figure was Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, who established an Academy of Persian Language and Literature, in order to attempt to remove Arabic and French words from the Persian language, replacing them with suitable Persian alternatives. In 1934, Rezā Shāh set up a ceremony in Mashhad, Khorasan, celebrating a thousand years of Persian literature since the time of Ferdowsi, titled "Ferdowsi Millennial Celebration", inviting notable European as well as Iranian scholars.[13] Ferdowsi University of Mashhad is a university established in 1949 that also takes its name from Ferdowsi.

Ferdowsi's influence in the Persian culture is explained by the Encyclopædia Britannica:[14]

The Persians regard Ferdowsi as the greatest of their poets. For nearly a thousand years they have continued to read and to listen to recitations from his masterwork, the Shah-nameh, in which the Persian national epic found its final and enduring form. Though written about 1,000 years ago, this work is as intelligible to the average, modern Iranian as the King James Version of the Bible is to a modern English-speaker. The language, based as the poem is on a Dari original, is pure Persian with only the slightest admixture of Arabic.

See also


  1. ^ a b Huart/Massé/Ménage: Firdawsī. In: Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition. Brill, Leiden. CD-Version (2011)
  2. ^ "Search Results - Brill Reference". referenceworks.brillonline.com. Retrieved 2019-01-05. Abū l-Qāsim Firdawsī (329–411/940–1020) was a Persian poet, one of the greatest writers of epic and author of the Shāhnāma (“Book of kings”).
  3. ^ Kia, Mehrdad (2016-06-27). The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia [2 volumes]: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 160. ISBN 9781610693912.
  4. ^ Hamid Dabashi (2012). The World of Persian Literary Humanism. Harvard University Press.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Shahbazi, A. Shahpur (26 January 2012). "Ferdowsi". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d Davis 2006, p. xviii
  7. ^ Frye 1975, p. 200
  8. ^ "Abu Mansur". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  9. ^ Frye 1975, p. 202
  10. ^ Shahbazi, A. Shahpur (26 January 2012). "Mausoleum". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  11. ^ Donna Rosenberg (1997). Folklore, myths, and legends: a world perspective. McGraw-Hill Professional. pp. 99–101.
  12. ^ Shahbazi, A. Shahpur (26 January 2012). "Hajw-nāma". Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved 1 February 2016.
  13. ^ Cyrus Ghani, Sirus Ghani (2001). Iran and the rise of Reza Shah: from Qajar collapse to Pahlavi rule. I.B.Tauris. p. 400.
  14. ^ "Ferdowsi". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 4 June 2007.


  • Davis, Dick (2006). Introduction. Shahnameh: the Persian book of kings. By Ferdowsi, Abolqasem. Viking. ISBN 0-670-03485-1.
  • Frye, Richard N. (1975). The Golden Age of Persia. Weidenfeld.
  • Browne, E.G. (1998). Literary History of Persia. ISBN 0-7007-0406-X.
  • Rypka, Jan (1968). History of Iranian Literature. Reidel. ISBN 90-277-0143-1. OCLC 460598.
  • Aghaee, Shirzad (1997). Imazh-ha-ye mehr va mah dar Shahnameh-ye Ferdousi (Sun and Moon in the Shahnameh of Ferdousi. Spånga, Sweden. ISBN 91-630-5369-1.
  • Aghaee, Shirzad (1993). Nam-e kasan va ja'i-ha dar Shahnameh-ye Ferdousi (Personalities and Places in the Shahnameh of Ferdousi. Nyköping, Sweden. ISBN 91-630-1959-0.
  • Wiesehöfer, Josef. Ancient Persia. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 1-86064-675-1.
  • Shahbazi, A. Shapur (1991). Ferdowsi: a critical biography. Harvard University, Center for Middle Eastern Studies. ISBN 0-939214-83-0.
  • Mackey, Sandra; Harrop, W. Scott (2008). The Iranians: Persia, Islam and the soul of a nation. University of Michigan. ISBN 0-525-94005-7.
  • Chopra, R. M. (2014). Great Poets of Classical Persian. Kolkata: Sparrow. ISBN 978-81-89140-75-5.
  • Waghmar, Burzine and Sharma, Sunil (2016). Firdawsi: a Scholium. In Sunil Sharma and Burzine Waghmar, eds. Firdawsii Millennium Indicum: Proceedings of the Shahnama Millenary Seminar, K R Cama Oriental Institute, Mumbai, 8-9 January, 2011, pp 7–18. Mumbai: K. R. Cama Oriental Institute, ISBN 978-93-81324-10-3.

External links

Abu-Mansuri Shahnameh

Abu-Mansuri Shahnameh or The Shahnameh of Abu-Mansur (Persian: شاهنامهٔ ابومنصوری‎) was a prose epic and history of Persian Empire before Muslim conquests. It was the main source of Shahnameh of Ferdowsi. The Shahnameh of Abu-Mansur is now lost, but its preface which consists of 15 pages, has survived and is one of the oldest examples of Persian prose and is considered one of the most valuable heritages of Persian literature. The Shahnameh of Abu-Mansur was composed at the order of Abu Mansur Muhammad in 346 AH (April 957 AD). It was composed by four mowbeds: Old Mākh from Khorasan, Yazdāndād son of Shāpur from Sistan, Shāhooy-e Khorshid son of Bahrām from Nishapur, Shādān son of Barzin from Tus. Before Ferdowsi, Abu-Mansur Daqiqi tried to versify the Shahnameh of Abu-Mansur, but he died after writing almost 1000 verses. Ferdowsi has included these 1000 verses in his Shahnameh.


Afrasiab (Persian: افراسياب‬‎ afrāsiyāb; Avestan: Fraŋrasyan; Middle-Persian: Frāsiyāv, Frāsiyāk, and Freangrāsyāk) is the name of the mythical king and hero of Turan. He is the main antagonist of the Persian epic Shahnameh, written by Ferdowsi.


Abu Mansur Daqiqi (Persian: ابومصور داقیقی‎), better simply known as Daqiqi (دقیقی), was one of the most prominent Persian poets of the Samanid era. He was the first to undertake the creation of the national epic of Iran, the Shahnameh, but came to an abrupt end in 977 after only completing 1,000 verses. His work was continued by his contemporary Ferdowsi, who would later become celebrated as the most influential figure in Persian literature.

Ferdowsi, Kerman

Ferdowsi (Persian: فردوسي‎, also Romanized as Ferdowsī; also known as Tolombeh-ye Shahrīārī) is a village in Ekhtiarabad Rural District, in the Central District of Kerman County, Kerman Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its existence was noted, but its population was not reported.

Ferdowsi Metro Station

Ferdowsi Metro Station is a station in Tehran Metro Line 4. It is located in Ferdowsi Square the junction of Enghelab Street and Ferdowsi Street. It is between Darvaze Dolat Metro Station and Teatr-e Shahr Metro Station. It has connection to Tehran Bus BRT1.

Ferdowsi Street

Ferdowsi Street formerly Alaodowleh Street is a street located in Tehran. It is named after Ferdowsi and is the center of Tehran’s currency exchange trade.

Ferdowsi Street, Tabriz

Ferdowsi street is a street in downtown of Tabriz, Iran connecting Bazaar alley to Imam Ave in the vicinity of Arg. It is well known for its historical architecture, hostels and shops. It is located in the Bazaar suburb. The street is include numerous shops for industrial tools.

Ferdowsi University of Mashhad

Ferdowsi University of Mashhad (FUM) (Persian: دانشگاه فردوسی مشهد‎) is a university in Northeastern Iran named after the great epic poet Ferdowsi who is the author of Shahnameh. The FUM campus is in Mashhad, the capital city of the Razavi Khorasan province, which is most famous and revered for housing the tomb of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam. The university was established in 1949 with the title of Razavi University, making it the fourth oldest major university in Iran in the modern sense (there are however other academic colleges established before (e.g. West Minster Medical College before Urmia University). FUM offers 180 bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. programs to 26,000 international and local, male and female students studying under about 900 faculty members with the aid of 2,500 staff employees. Foreign students especially from Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq make the university a popular institution in attracting non-Iranian students so that the university could be ranked first in Iran amongst other universities in recruiting foreign students, after the efforts made during the presidency of Ahmadinejad who declared Mashhad as "Iran's spiritual capital".Georgetown University of Washington, D.C. (the oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution of higher education in the United States) helped Ferdowsi University of Mashhad toward its goal of becoming an upgraded university – the effort that was stopped over more than three decades after the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979. The university has been described as a good and big campus with weak connection to other institutions. and a world ranking of 1091 (in terms of academic performance).

Ferdowsi millennial celebration

The Ferdowsi millennial celebration (Persian: جشن هزاره فردوسی‎) was a series of celebrations and scholarly events in the year 1934 to commemorate the thousandth anniversary of Ferdowsi's birth. The Ferdowsi millennial was held at the initiative of Reza Shah Pahlavi and was announced at the beginning of the year by the government of Iran. The Millennial Congress convened for five days, from 2 to 6 October 1934, in Tehran, and more than eighty notable European and Iranian scholars attended the congress. The celebrations lasted for nearly a month.

Various official ceremonies were held simultaneously in a number of European countries including France, Britain, Germany, and the Soviet Union, in universities, clubs, and embassies. Also, a number of other countries, including the United States, Egypt and Iraq, held festivities.

Ferdowsi millennial celebration in Berlin

The thousand-year celebration of Ferdowsi's birthday was held in Berlin on 27 September 1934 under the administration of the German Ministry of Science, Education and Culture (Reichserziehungsministerium), on the occasion of millenary celebration of Ferdowsi, announced by the government of Iran at the beginning of that year. The Berlin ceremony was held in the German Archaeological Institute. The Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft published a report of these ceremonies in its 1934 edition.

Ferdowsiyeh, Narmashir

Ferdowsiyeh (Persian: فردوسيه‎, also Romanized as Ferdowsīyeh; also known as Ferdows, Ferdowsī, and Gorāzābād) is a village in Azizabad Rural District, in the Central District of Narmashir County, Kerman Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 787, in 170 families.

Firdousi (crater)

Firdousi is a crater on Mercury. It has a diameter of 98 kilometers. Its name was adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 2010. Firdousi is named for the Iranian poet Hakim Ferdowsi, who lived from 940 to 1020.


Garsivaz (also Garsiwaz, Gersiwaz or Karsivaz) (Persian: گَرسیوَز‎ [ɡæɾsiːvæz]) is a mythical Turanian character, referred to in Shahnameh ('Book of Kings') by the Persian epic-poet Ferdowsi. He is the brother of Afrasiab, king of Turan.

Hoseynabad, North Khorasan

Hoseynabad (Persian: حسين اباد‎, also Romanized as Ḩoseynābād; also known as Ferdowsī) is a village in Zavarom Rural District, in the Central District of Shirvan County, North Khorasan Province, Iran. As of the 2006 census, its population was 2,572, in 601 families.


Kashvād (Persian: کشواد) is an Iranian mythical hero. He is an emblem of victory, justice and loyalty in a story narrated in the poetic opus of Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran by the 10th-century poet Ferdowsi Tousi.

Mohammadabad-e Ferdowsi

Mohammadabad-e Ferdowsi (Persian: محمدابادفردوسي‎, also Romanized as Moḩammadābād-e Ferdowsī; also known as Moḩammadābād) is a village in Dashtab Rural District, in the Central District of Baft County, Kerman Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its existence was noted, but its population was not reported.


The Shahnameh (Persian: شاهنامه‎ Šāhnāmah pronounced [ʃɒːhnɒːˈme], "The Book of Kings", also transliterated Shahnama) is a long epic poem written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between c. 977 and 1010 CE and is the national epic of Greater Iran. Consisting of some 50,000 "distichs" or couplets (two-line verses), the Shahnameh is the world's longest epic poem written by a single poet. It tells mainly the mythical and to some extent the historical past of the Persian Empire from the creation of the world until the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century. Modern Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and the greater region influenced by Persian culture (such as Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and Dagestan) celebrate this national epic.

The work is of central importance in Persian culture and Persian language, regarded as a literary masterpiece, and definitive of the ethno-national cultural identity of Iran. It is also important to the contemporary adherents of Zoroastrianism, in that it traces the historical links between the beginnings of the religion and the death of the last Sassanid ruler of Persia during the Muslim conquest which brought an end to the Zoroastrian influence in Iran.

Tehran Metro Line 4

The line is 22 km (14 mi) with 19 main stations, two stations along a domestic airport-serving branch line and a terminal (depôt).

Its section 1, from Ferdowsi Square to Darvazeh Shemiran, opened in April 2008. Section 2 from Darvazeh shemiran to Shohada Square opened in February 2009. Three months later Section 3 from Ferdowsi Square to Engelab Square opened. On July 23, 2012 two more stations were inaugurated, connecting line 4 with line 5.Currently 19 stations serve Line 4's trunk line, plus two more on the branch line serving the country's most-used Domestic Airport, Mehrabad Airport.

Tomb of Ferdowsi

Tomb of Ferdowsi (Persian: آرامگاه فردوسی‎) is a tomb complex composed of a white marble base, and a decorative edifice erected in honor of the Persian poet Ferdowsi located in Tus, Iran, in Razavi Khorasan province. It was built in the early 1930s, under the Reza Shah, and uses mainly elements of Achaemenid architecture to demonstrate Iran's rich culture and history. The construction of the mausoleum as well as its aesthetic design is a reflection of the cultural, and geo-political status of Iran at the time.

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