Ferdowsī, also spelled Firdawsī, Firdusi, or Firdousi, pseudonym of Abū al-Qasem Manṣūr, (born c. 935, near Ṭūs, Iran—died c. 1020–26, Ṭūs), Persian poet, author of the Shāh-nāmeh (“Book of Kings”), the Persian national epic, to which he gave a final and enduring form, although he based his poem mainly on an earlier prose version.
Ferdowsi’s Day. May 15 is considered a significant cultural event for Iranians to commemorate Ferdowsi and celebrate Persian Language Day as well.
As a boy Ferdowsi loved to play beside the river. But the bridge was always being washed away by floods. No one could build a bridge strong enough to withstand the floods. Ferdowsi dreamt that one day he might earn enough money to build a bridge that would stand up to the floods.
Ferdowsi became a renowned poet and was given the job by the King to write down the history of Persia. The King put Ferdowsi in a special room in his palace, which had paintings covering the walls, to inspire Ferdowsi’s poetry. The King told Ferdowsi that he would pay him 1000 gold pieces for each 1000 couplets that he managed to write.
Ferdowsi started his work on the epic of Shahnameh during the Samanid dynasty and was supported by the royal family. After the invasion of Persia and overthrowing of the Samanids by the Turkic Ghaznavids, Ferdowsi continued his work on the book. After more than thirty long years, as Ferdowsi claims himself in his masterpiece, Shahnameh, as the world’s longest epic poetry created by a single poet, was finished.
The book, as the national epic of the Persian speaking world, is a literary masterpiece which tells the mythical partially historical past of the Persian Empire, beginning from the creation of the world up until the Islamic invasion of Persia in 651. Today, this masterpiece is celebrated in several countries, namely Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia, and Turkey. Shahnameh consists of three parts: The Mythical Age, the Heroic Age and the Historical Age. Throughout the book, Ferdowsi does not adhere strictly to a chronological pattern but a general movement through time can be seen. Various characters galore and numerous tales are told. It is indisputable that the existence of many cultural and social aspects and characteristics of the Persian speaking world, as well the Persian language and identity, can be attributed to this great tale of kings and queens, heroes and villains, royalty and slaves, and farmers and warriors.
Among the many miniatures paintings of the Shahname you will find many pictures of Ferdowsi himself, writing, showing his poems to the King and competing with other poets to prove that he really is the best poet of all.
At the end of Shahnameh, Ferdowsi gives his personal insight toward his masterpiece and its legacy in a few words. Translated by Reza Jamshidi Safa, this is what Ferdowsi believes about his work and his life purpose:
Much I have suffered in these thirty years,
I have revived the Ajam1 with my verse.
I will not die then alive in the world,
For I have spread the seed of the word.
Whoever has sense, path and faith,
After my death will send me praise.
Many institutions and foundations have been established in Iran and the world in Ferdowsi’s name, and so far several ceremonies have been held to commemorate him, including the Ferdowsi Millennium Festival or the Ferdowsi Millennia Celebration. The millennium of the end of Shahnameh was inscribed in the list of scientific, cultural, and artistic personalities and events of UNESCO in the year 2010-2011.
The Tomb of Ferdowsi 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.