Ferdowsi – The Book of Kings

by Mikael

The Book of Kings, the Shahnameh, is an iconic epic of Persian culture, written by Ferdowsi (sometimes transcribed “Firdausi”) around the turn of the previous millennium (ca AD 977-1010). It purports to detail the lineage of Persian Kings all the way from the Mythological Age, through the Age of Heroes and into the Historical Age. It also brims with the usual stuff: Heroic deeds, battles, betrayals, evil nemeses, legendary duels, black magic etc. etc. The picture below is based on an AD1909 translation by James Atkinson Esquire (of the honourable East-India Company’s Bengal Medical Service) freely available at the Project Gutenberg, and thus the somewhat antiquated transcriptions of names from Farsi into English.

[Visualization as PDF]

A striking thing about the book is the detail of family relationships that is included, and the visualization is of the family tree type (a directed acyclic graph in math speak). Royal succession, which may skip a few generations or jump completely sideways on occasion, is highlighted in gold and annotated with the length of each reign as given by Firdausi. Westerners in particular will note that the last regent included is in fact Alexander “the Great” of Macedon, who we probably know well from history books and Greek culture. The Persian take on this character is somewhat different.

Enjoy an anecdote about Ferdowsi (and much more) over at Paul Sheridan’s: Anecdotes from Antiquity.


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