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Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond

Love and Devotion: From Persia and Beyond


Amongst English-language speakers the terms ‘Persia’ and ‘Iran’ are often used interchangeably. ‘Persia’ derives from the Greek word Persis, which once described the ancient territory of Fars in the modern day state of Iran. The terms ‘Persia’ or ‘Persian’ imply historical understanding that the land of Iran has served as a crossroads of commerce, religion and culture. Its pivotal position linking, developing and disseminating disparate cultures, stories and artistic forms is tacitly acknowledged when we use the words ‘Persia’ or ‘Persian.’ In recent years Western scholars have termed this broad understanding of cultural production ‘Persianate.’

The process began when powerful Turkic groups began encroaching on eastern Iranian territory bordering Central Asia. From the 11th century onwards one ruling dynasty of Persianised Turks after another controlled Iranian territory, almost continually until the fall of the Qajars in 1925. The advent of the so-called ‘gunpowder empires’ was the high point of this Turko-Persian tradition. The Ottoman Turks in Istanbul (1453–1923), the Mughals in the north of India (1526–1857) and the Safavids (1501–1736) in Tabriz and later, Isfahan, administered powerful empires through their superior weapons. Persianised Turks ruled all three empires from sophisticated palace settings where poets composed and recited their verse in Persian as well as local languages.

Under two Persian dynasties in particular – the Timurids (1370–1507) and the Safavids – royal patrons attracted poets and skilled practitioners of the book arts to cultural centres such as Herat, Samarqand, Shiraz and Isfahan. Poets and the work they produced were a prestigious component of the endless round of feasting, hunting and courtly entertainments, and even accompanied the shahs on their military campaigns.

Love & devotion in the UK

The Bodleian Libraries is showing its own presentation of the Love and devotion exhibition at the Exhibition Room, Bodleian Library, in Oxford, England, between 29 November 2012 and 28 April 2013.

Learn more about how you can visit this exhibition on the Bodleian Libraries website.


Love and devotion: Persian Cultural Crossroads

This two-day conference held in April 2012 featured distinguished international guests and Australian specialists exploring cultural convergences in literature, the arts and architecture, history and philosophy within Persia's cultural sphere and Europe, from the 11th century to the present day.

For information on keynote speakers & topics discussed, visit our conference page

Visit the exhibition

The Love and devotion exhibition took place from 9 March to 1 July 2012. In-depth information about the exhibits and themes can be found on this website.

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