The Alexander Romance in the Persian Tradition: Its Influence on Persian History, Epic and Storytelling
Manteghi Amin, Haila
Date: 25 January 2016
University of Exeter
PhD in Classics
This study aims to explore how the Alexander Romance entered the Persian literary tradition and to understand precisely its influence. The main question addressed is whether the Alexander Romance was part of the pre-Islamic Persian tradition and, if so, what its key characteristics were. Because of the dearth of pre-Islamic Persian ...
This study aims to explore how the Alexander Romance entered the Persian literary tradition and to understand precisely its influence. The main question addressed is whether the Alexander Romance was part of the pre-Islamic Persian tradition and, if so, what its key characteristics were. Because of the dearth of pre-Islamic Persian sources, this thesis is necessarily mostly based on early Arabic and Persian sources written in the early Islamic period, some of which were derived from pre-Islamic traditions. Aside from the Shāhnāma of Firdawsī, the Arabic histories (Ṭabarī, Dinawarī, the anonymous Nihāyat al-‘arab, the Ghurar al-Sayr of Thaʻālibī) included Alexander in their chapters on the Kayānid kings, presenting him as the half-brother of Dārā (Darius III). My examination of these histories largely focuses on their understanding of the Persian descent of Alexander, which is derived from the Sasanian Khudāynāmag. Most scholars have looked askance at the presence of a positive perspective on Alexander in the Persian world because the Zoroastrian tradition usually presented him as a cursed figure and one of Persia’s worst enemies. Perhaps one of the original contributions of this thesis will thus be its demonstration of the existence of a very positive view of Alexander in the classical Arabic and Persian sources that is not just the result of biases derived from the Islamic era, but which also reflects the viewpoint of numerous pre-Islamic Persian sources on Alexander. Current research in the field also focuses on the influence of the Alexander Romance on Persian epics, romances and storytelling. In this respect, I have focused mainly on the two key literary genres: the popular romances, mainly in prose, and the epics, mainly in verse. Of great interest to this study are the Dārābnāma of Ṭarsūsī (twelfth century), the epic of the Shāhnāma of Firdawsī (tenth–eleventh century), besides the Iskandarnāma of Niẓāmī (twelfth century). These works all preserve stories about Alexander the Great from the pre-Islamic Persian tradition.
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