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Firdausi and the poets of Ghazna

Firdausi and the poets of Ghazna

Leaf from a disbound manuscript of Firdausi, Shahnama (Book of kings), copied c 1430 for Ibrahim Sultan of Shiraz

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Ouseley Add 176, fol 15r

Firdausi here sits with a trio of famous poets associated with the court of Mahmud of Ghazna, the ruler to whom his Shahnama was presented on its completion. The poets are identified as ʿUnsuri, ʿAsjadi and Farrukhi.

A legendary story suggests that these poets once challenged Firdausi to complete a difficult quatrain in an impromptu test of his literary skill. When the unknown writer finished the lines with poetic flair and an appropriate rhyme, he was welcomed into their select group.

This scene was increasingly illustrated in copies of the Shahnama from the time of the Ibrahim Sultan manuscript.