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HISTORIOGRAPHY OF IRAN


 

 

Abstract: This entry is concerned with the historiography of the Iranian and Persephone world from the pre-Islamic period, in Persian and other Iranian languages. Broadly speaking, this long time span can be divided into three major periods, each with its own particular range of explicit and implicit preoccupations. The pre-Islamic and the gradual construction of a grand or master narrative of Persian national history; the Perso-Islamic with its development of an array of annals, dynastic chronicles, and local histories and biographies; and the modern, when historical writing in Persian began to be influenced by various models of Western scholarly and academic historiography. The periods and their subdivisions of this historiography are covered in the following articles:

 

  1. Introduction

  2. Ancient Iran

  3. Post-Sasanid Iran

 

Bibliography

 

 


 

INTRODUCTION

By: Elton Daniel

 

 

Historiography, literally, is the study not of history but of the writing of history. In modern usage, this term covers a wide range of related but distinct areas of inquiry. From a pedagogical point of view, it refers to basic training in the "nuts and bolts" of how history is written (such as the techniques of locating and evaluating sources, providing documentation, preparing a manuscript, and so on). It commonly applies to studies of significant historians or their writings, i.e., the identification and interpretation of major historical texts, especially with an eye to the cultural forces and other factors which shape the assumptions and methods of such works and their authors. Beyond that, it encompasses analysis of the nature and purposes of historical literature and its literary techniques—as a form of entertainment, as a "science" or intellectual discipline, as a means of commemorating great deeds, as an instrument of moral instruction, as a form of political propaganda, as a tool for the construction of national consciousness, etc. At yet another level, it refers to the so-called "philosophy of history," i.e., theoretical and epistemological discussions of historical writing as an intellectual activity as well as grand schemes of the meaning of history as a universal process. In perhaps the most restrictive and technical sense, the concept of the historiography of a subject is also used to mean the classification of the modern academic literature on a particular topic, taking into account the relative importance of the works involved and the relationships among them in terms of the critical issues and debates they reflect, thereby suggesting lines of inquiry that might be followed in future studies.

All of these concepts of historiography could potentially and profitably be brought to bear on the case of historiography as it applies to the Iranian world and in the Persian language, but for the most part such historiographical study remains at a very rudimentary stage of development. Relatively little work has been done, for example, on how traditional Persian historians collected their material and assembled their narratives, the biases and preconceptions which may have affected them, or even how (or whether) they conceived of "history" as a field of study or literature distinct from others. Such early work as was done on these topics tended to be superficial and unsatisfactory in both methodology and conclusions (e.g., studies by Gibb, Spuler; see critique in Meisami, pp. 1-3). Nonetheless, some progress has been made in understanding the problematic nature of historical writing in pre-Islamic Persia (Dentan; Yarshater) and in the Islamic period (although this has tended to concentrate mainly on the classical Arabic tradition: Khalidi, Rosenthal, Robinson). The most extensive body of work to date on specifically Persian historiography has been in the way of studies of individual historians and works (e.g., Waldman), especially for the early Islamic period; the compilation of catalogues of historical texts (e.g., Storey, Storey-Bregel, Monzavi) and, finally, at least one broad survey of Persian historical writing in the early Islamic period (Meisami).

Modern academic historical literature on the Iranian world, while certainly substantial and growing in quantity, is still relatively small when compared to that on Europe or the United States, where an awareness of the plethora of interpretations, revisionisms, and counter-revisions in the vast amount of scholarly literature is essential to the study of various topics. In the case of Persia and the Iranian world, there are now useful bibliographical guides to the academic literature (Afšâr, Pearson) as well as some analytical surveys of general relevance (Elwell-Sutton, Humphreys, Sauvaget) and accounts of the historiography of particular events such as the Revolution of 1979-80 (Bâdâmchiân). For the most part, however, historiographical studies of this type are still best done in the context of treatments of the specific topics in Persian history where enough academic work has been done to generate clear-cut issues and debates among professional historians.

Bibliography

 

 


 

Ancient Iran

By Prof. A, Shapur Shahbazi

 

 

The idea of history as a science seeking the truth by investigating man's action in a dated past based on evidence was first conceived by Herodotus (q.v.) in the 5th century B.C.E. (Callingwood, pp. 17-30) and later developed by Western thinkers from Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) to Arnold Toynbee and others (Callingwood,pp. 63-71, 159-65). Iranian historiography remained unaffected by the Herodotean school (Klima, pp. 218-20) and developed from oral traditions and the Mesopotamian-style "quasi-history," which embellished historical narratives with theocentric conceptions, ideological preachings, and romantic lore (Klima, pp. 14-17). Hence, "applying the principles of Western historical criticism . . . will be of little help in achieving an appreciation of true purport of Iranian historiography" (Yarshater, p. 367). Western historiographical terminology can be adapted usefully only for defining the distinctive features of the Iranian idea of history.

 

Development

Ancient Iranians favored oral narration of history, which allowed successive transmitters to rework narratives of events and reattribute them to different heroes at different times (Boyce, 1954, 1955, 1957; Shahbazi, 1990). Their oldest historical traditions are the heroic material found in the Avestan Yašts (Christensen, 1917, 1928, 1931; Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, pp. 92-108; Yarshater, pp. 411-53), in which "historical facts and accurate genealogies" are interwoven with "poetic fiction and fable." In these traditions "are seemingly preserved both secular and priestly traditions, transmitted by minstrel poets as well as by religious schools; and there are elements also of popular superstition and dread, in the tales of demons and witches and fearsome beasts. These intermingle with the stories of valour which show also the power of the gods to grant to men's prayers and succor them in distress" (Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 108).

With the conquest of the ancient Near East, the Iranians became familiar with cultures that had long established traditions of written history (Klima, pp. 214-17; Grayson, 1975a, pp. 1-7; G. Cameron, pp. 79-81). This led to a number of developments. Firstly, the Iranians began keeping records of historical events, of which Cyrus's Chronicle from Babylonia (see CYRUS CYLINDER) and Darius's Bisotun inscriptions (q.v.) and their Aramaic versions, which were dispatched to the empire's provinces, are the best examples. They meant to convincethe reader that "Persians were divinely appointed saviors whose mission was to bring justice, order, and tranquillity to the people of the world" (G. Cameron, pp. 81-94, esp. p. 93). The Achaemenids also kept Babylonian-style "diaries" (on the genre see Grayson, 1975a, p. 1). Thus, during the battle of Salamis, Xerxes ordered a secretary to set down in writing the name of any captain who performed a worthy exploit "together with the names of his father and his city" (Herodotus, 8.90). When Prince Darius was charged with high treason against his father Artaxerxes II (q.v.) "the king ordered scribes to take down in writing the opinion of each judge" (Plutarch, Artoxerxes 29.4). Ctesias (q.v.) claimed that he used as the source of his Persika "the facts about each kings," which he found in the "royal records" (basilikôn diphtherôn) "in which the Persians in accordance with a certain law of theirs kept their ancient affairs" (Diodorus Siculus, 2.32). The claim was false, as Ctesias merely recorded gossip(Photius, Epit. 1, apud Gilmore, in Ctesias, p. 122), but a "Book of Chronicle," recording historical events and royal decrees, seems to have existed (Ezra 6.1-2; Esther 2.32.4: Sêfer dibrê hayyâm îm l™malkê Mâday û-Pâras; also 2.23 Sêfer dibrê hayyâm îm; cf. 6.1; Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 11.2). As Otakar Klima has pointed out (pp.214-17) the contents of such a book mainly dealt with the affairs of the court and bore little resemblance to a written history. Indeed, "history" remained "a royal art" to the early Islamic period (Klima, p. 220, citing Jâhez). All documents were dated, in the Babylonian scribal tradition, to the regnal years of the ruling monarch (cf. Parker and Dubberstein, pp. 14-19). In this way, Mesopotamian-style king lists and dynastic chronicles (Grayson, 1975a, pp. 8 ff., 193-95; idem, 1975b, pp. 9, 16-22) were developed. Since Babylonian scribes wrote in cuneiform well into the Seleucid and Parthian periods (Lewy, pp. 201-4; Parker and Dubberstein, pp. 20-24; Sacks and Wiseman; Debevoise, pp. xxxiv, 72, n. 7, 76, n. 22; Geller), their documents contained valuable data, which Berossus (q.v.) andother subsequent astronomers and chronographers used to arrange king lists and data charts. One such king listis provided by the Ptolemic Canon, which is "the general basis" for chronological calculations from the 7th century B.C.E. onwards (Prašek, p. 12; Parker and Dubberstein, p. 10; cf. Bickerman, p. 81). Exactly as Babylonian documents do, it counts Cyrus the Great's regnal years from his Babylonian accession (in 539 B.C.E.) and giveshim nine years of reign (for Babylonian evidence see Parker and Dubberstein, p. 14), whereas classical authors knew that Cyrus had reigned for thirty years (Dubberstein, 1938). The Canon's Persian king list (Bickerman, p. 108) then gives Cambyses seven years, Darius [I] thirty six years, Xerxes twenty-one years, Artaxerxes [I] forty-one years, Darius [II] nineteen years, Artaxerxes [II] forty-six years, Artaxerxes [III] twenty-one years, Arses two years, and Darius [III] four years; in all 206 years. From about 300 B.C.E., the Seleucid Era (counted in Babylon from spring 311 B.C.E.) was used as a fixed chronologicaldevice, which remained in use till recent times. Mâni callsit "the Era of Babylonian astronomers" (Biruni, Â, pp. 118, 208); others designated it as "the Era of the Greek dominion" or "the Era of Alexander" or referred to it simply as "from Alexander"; see Taqizadeh, 1939a, pp. 125 ff.; Shahbazi, 2002, pp. 31-33). The Parthians established their own dynastic era (counted from 247 B.C.E.) but continued to use the Seleucid Era under the title "the Former Reckoning" (see ARSACID ERA). When the Seleucids published a (false) claim that Seleucus's Iranian queen, Apama (q.v.), has been a child of Alexander by a daughter of Darius, the Seleucid Era came to be associa-ted with Alexander's accession (Shahbazi, 1977, p. 29). Hence the 228-year interval between the Babylonian accession of Cyrus (539) and the Seleucid Era (311) was reinterpreted as the duration of the Persian rule (Agathias, 2.25.7, probably based on Alexander Polyhistor; see Prašek, p. 12, n. 3; for more evidence, see Shahbazi, 2002, p. 33).

Despite written records, Iranian historiography really flourished only in oral form (Klima, p. 221). The Avestan history transmitted by the Yašts was known also among the Persians (Yarshater, p. 388). In addition, the Persians created a rich oral history of their own. Several times Herodotus refers to his "Persian informants" (Wells) and calls them logographoi "narrators of current events" (in contradistincion to historians, who "inquired"). They told him four different versions of the story of the rise of Cyrus, and he followed "those Persian authorities whose object it appeared to be not to magnify the exploit of Cyrus, but to relate the simple truth" (Herodotus, 1.95). On the death of Cyrus, too, he heard "many different accounts" and chose the one he deemed "most worthy of credit" (1.214). As classical authorities have emphasized, oral historiography was the domain of the Persian poet. Xenophon reports (Cyropaedia 1.2.1) that even in his day the Iranians "tell in story and song that Cyrus was most ambitious, so that he endured all sorts of labor and faced all sorts of danger for the sake of praise." According to Strabo (Geography 15.3.18), the Persian youths learned "with song and without song the deeds both of the gods and the noblest men." The escape of Cyrus from Astyages' court was narrated in allegorical songs by singer-musicians of the Median court (Dinon, apud Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 14.663b ff.), and the exploits of Zopyrus (one of the six helpers of Darius the Great) were woven into romantic stories (Herodotus, 3.152-60; Polyaenus, Strategica 7.12, apud Shahbazi, 1990, p. 261). It was due to the favoring of oral historiography that with the fall of the Achaemenid Empire its records perished or were neglected, while incidents related in oral traditions survived in reworked versions reattributed to later heroes or adapted for incorporation into Kayanid history (see below).

Contact with Babylonians left profound influences upon the Iranians' idea of history, however. Firstly, history came to be periodized through the concept "that three empires had previously divided human history between them, namely the Assyrian, Median, and Persian" (Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism, p. 374). When Alexander's conquest ruined the expectation "that the Persian empire would endure until the end of time" (Boyce, loc. cit.), the hope of resurrecting it was expressed into poetic literature of the "dynastic prophecy" type. This was an Akkadian genre consisting of predictions after the event, arranged according to reigns characterized as good or bad and often started with "a prince will arise" or the like (Grayson, 1975b, pp. 13 f.). In fact one such text describes in prophetic form the rise and fall of Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia and the rise of Macedonia (Grayson, 1975b, pp. 24-37). The section of Bahman Yaštconcerning Alexander must have been based on similar pseudo-prophecies (Eddy, pp. 18-23; Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism, pp. 382-85). Later Iranian examples (Jâmâsp-nâma, prophecies of Rostam son of Farrokhzâd Hormoz in the Š, etc., popularly known as Rostam Farrokhzâd) all derive from this Babylonian genre.

Secondly, since some Babylonian scribes dated Alexander's regnal years from his Macedonian accession in 336 B.C.E. (Parker and Dubberstein, p. 19, cf. p. 36), laterIranian authorities relying on this Babylonian practice gave the conqueror fourteen years of reign (336-322 B.C.E.), whereas he in fact ruled Iran no more than eight years.

Thirdly, Babylonian speculations on Time had created an idea of a "world age" with recurring great world-years of millennial duration. This led to the acceptance by the Iranians of the Zurvanite heresy with the consequence of belief, among other things, in a limited age of the world determined by the Time (Zurvân) and the movements of the planets, and divided, according to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, into twelve millenia or hazâras (Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, pp. 276, n. 107, 285-86, 291-92; II, pp. 32-33, 234-37, 240; III, p. 538). Applying this scheme to their own idea of history, the Iranians placed the creation of the world at the beginning of this 12,000 year period, and at the end of it the coming of the Savior who will restore the cosmic order. Of the 12 millennia, the first 3 were taken up by Ahura Mazdâ's acts of creation, and the rest by the conflict between Ahura Mazdâ, aided by man, and Ahriman and his emissaries (Yarshater, pp. 353 ff.). The Iranians assigned six of the hazâras to their "historical" figures: Gayômart, Hôšang, Jamšêd, Bêvarasp, and Frêdôn (Biruni, al-Qânun al-mas´udi, cited by Taqizadeh, 1937, p. 79, n. 159). It was in this way that "Zoroastrian apocalyptic was born in Babylonia in the early Hellenistic period" (Boyce and Grenet, Zoroastrianism, p. 386). A direct effect of this idea was the eventual domination of fatalism, as if the "stars" had preordained the course of history, the rise and fall of empires, and had destined great calamities for man prior to the advent of the Savior (Boyce, loc. cit.; for details, see Shahbazi, 2001, pp. 67 ff.).

Gradually, the memory of the Achaemenids became hazy, retained only in the oral historiography in the three main traditions: that the "Persian period" had lasted for 228 years (Agathias, 2.25.7), that the Persian kings (from Artaxerxes I) had assumed the throne name Artaxerxes (so Diodorus Siculus 4.93.1), and that Alexander had "killed" the last Persian king, a younger Darius (Dâra; Agathias 2.25.8; Ebn Ma´šar, cited by Taqizâda, 1937, p. 288, n. 419; Bundahišn 30.14, pp. 274-75; Š [Moscow], IX, p. 60, vv. 844-45). The memory of the Parthians did not fare better. They too favored oral historiography, which assured the corruption of their history once they had been vanquished. Minstrels (gôsâns) of Parthian magnates, flourished under the Sasanians, eventually transferred the Arsacid noble families and their achievements to the remoter antiquity, the Kayanid period (Boyce, 1954; idem, 1955, pp. 473-74; idem, 1957, pp. 17 ff.; Yarshater, pp. 457-61; Shahbazi, 1993, with reference to the earlier works of Markwart, Nöldeke, and others). Incidentally, the claim that the Arsacids kept a sort of national history which "contained the authentic account of the ancients and ancestors" and which had been translated from Chaldaen into Greek by the command of Alexander (Moses Khorenats´i, 1.9) is notsubstantiated (Moses Khorenats´i, Thomson's intro., pp. 82-84). Later, when the origins of the Seleucid Era was forgotten, the Sasanians reinterpreted this universally used"Former Reckoning" as the era used by former Iranians, the "Era of Zoroaster" (Lewy, pp. 213-14; Taqizada, 1947; Henning, 1951, pp. 37-39; cf. the Christians' reinterpretation of the "Birthday of the Unconquered Sun" on 25 December as Christmas). The 538-year interval between this era (311 B.C.E.) and the accession of Ardašir I(in Syriac reckoning) in 227 was apportioned as follows: (228 + 30) 258 years from the birth (30 years before the call) of Zoroaster to "Alexander," 14 years for Alexander, and the remaining (538 minus 258+14=) 266 years for the Parthians. This last figure was rounded up by Agathias to "nearly 270 years" (Shahbazi, 1977, p. 27; idem, 1990a, pp. 219-23). This was the origin of the "faulty Persian chronology" that Mas´udi (Tanbih, pp. 97-98) and Abu Rayhân Biruni (al-Qânun al-mas´udi, apud Taqizada, 1940, p. 128) tried to explain.

The Sasanians revived the Achaemenid practice of counting by regnal years or (since the accession to the throne was marked by the establishment of a royal fire) by "royal fire" (Henning, 1957, p. 117). They also revived the recording of royal achievements in multi-lingual inscriptions. Thus the trilingual inscription of Šâpur I (r. 239-70) on the walls of the Ka´ba-ye Zardošt near Persepolis bears strong stylistic and thematic resemblances to the Bisotun inscription of Darius I (Rostovzeff, p. 19; Sprengling, pp. 334, 335-36, 337, 338, 340; Skjœrvø; Huyse). The thematic similarity is more pronounced in Narsê's bilingual Paikuli inscription (Humbach and Skjœrvø), which chronicles the events leading to his accession. Furthermore, following Babylonian, Christian, and Buddhist traditions, Mâni and his disciples composed autobiographical and biographical literature, which came to form part of the Manicheans' religious history. Kirdêr, the Zoroastrian chief priest of the early Sasanian period and the erstwhile enemy of Mâni, countered by publishing his "autobiography" in rock-carved inscriptions in Middle Persian (Gignoux; MacKenzie).

These were isolated attempts at approaching written historiography, however. By the end of the 4th century, even the practice of carving rock reliefs and leaving short inscriptions was abandoned. Instead oral historiography flourished. Thus the Persian story of the rise of Cyrus that we know from Herodotus was adapted for Kay Khosrow, and the one narrated by Ctesias was transferred to Ardašir (Gutschmid, pp. 133 f.): The tale of the capture of Sardis by Cyrus through the betrayal of his enemy's daughter was reworked for Šâpur I or II (Shahbazi, 1990a, p. 260); the imprisonment and subsequent marriage of the daughters of Cyrus by the False Smerdis was attributed to Zµahhâk and the sisters of Jamšêd (Markwart, pp. 132, 135 f.); and the wonderful building of a town with seven walls of different colors by Deioces was retold for Kay Kâvus/Kâôs and his palaces on the Alburz mountain (Bundahišn 32.11). Reflecting the age of Khosrow I Anôširavân, The Letter of Tansar laments (Nâma-ye Tansar, pp. 11-12) this trend and reproaches people: "You have also lost the science of genealogies and histories and biographies and have erased from memory. Some you write in books and some on rocks and walls, and a point has been reached when you do not remember what happened in the days of your own fathers let alone knowing the affairs of the ordinary people and history of kings . . ."

Anôšîravân, who was interested in history (see his testimony, in Grignaschi, pp. 27-28), and who "studied the history of Ardašîr I" to learn statesmanship better (Tabari, I, p. 898; Tha´âlebi, Gh, p. 606), resolved to have the Iranian past recorded in a great national history. Scholars at his court compiled such a work and called it Xvadây-nâmag "Book of Lords/Kings" (Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. xiv-xviii; idem, 1920, pp. 13-15; Yarshater, pp. 359 ff.; Klima, p. 221; Shahbazi, 1990b, with further literature). True to the practice of oral historiography, however, the compilers neglected the use of documentary sources such as the Middle Persian inscriptions of Ardašîr I, Šâpur I, Šâpur II, and Narsê, and mingled the memory of recent history with remote past and hoary legends. They described the Iranian past, from the creation and the appearance of the first man, in four dynastic periods. The mythical figures of the Indo-Iranian antiquity were represented as "the first kings," the Pišdâds (first appointed [to rule]; Boyce, Zoroastrianism I, p. 104), and a coherent historical narrative (derived from various traditions and anachronistic historiography) was concocted for them. They were described as establishers of political institutions, promoters of urban and agricultural developments, inventors of skills and crafts, originators of laws and social classes, and defenders of Iranian people. They were followed by the Kayanid semi-legendary kings with a good deal of historical lore transferred to them from the Arsacid, even Sasanian, period. Zoroaster was placed in the middle of the Kayanid period, and his patron, Kay Vištâsp, was linked tothe Persian king by becoming the grandfather and predecessor of Artaxerexes (Bahman-Ardašîr). The rest of the Kayanid history was divided among a queen (Homây), Dârâ son of Bahman, and Dârâ son of Dârâ. The last was killed by Alexander, who destroyed the empire and harmed the religion. But after fourteen years of rule,the Arsacids, descendants of the Kayanids, restored the empire and ruled for 266 years. Their history was not remembered beyond a mere king list (Š VII,p. 116, v. 65,) but incidents from their periods were re-interpreted as events of the earlier times. Finally, Ardašîr son of Pâpak and a descendant of Bahman-Ardašîr, restored the Persian empire and the Religion of Zoroaster(Agathias, 26.2; Nâma-ye Tansar, pp. 11, 42) and established the fourth Iranian empire, the Sasanian.

The X is lost, but Arab-Persian works derived from it show that it was heavily influenced by oral historiography and mingled all sorts of traditions. Nothing of the inscriptions of Šâpur I on the walls of Ka´ba-ye Zardošt or of Narsê at Paikuli entered this so-called national history. Contrary to historical documents Ardašîr I was called a son of Sâsân; Šâpur I's wars with the Romans were either glossed over or reattributed to Šâpur II; Kirdêr was forgotten, and his place was given to the legendary Tansar; Narsê was represented as a son of Bahrâm (II or III). Conversely, the war of Khosrow Anôširavân with the Hephthalites was reinterpreted as the great war of Kay Khosrow with Afrâsiâb (q.v.), the Turanian (Shahbazi, 1990b, pp. 210-13); the vanquishing of the Parthian dynasty of Sakastân by Ardašir I was Bahman-Ardašir's destruction of the House of Rostam (Shahbazi, 1994); and the total defeat of Pêrôz by the Hephthalites was retold as the annihilation of the Pišdâdi king Nôdhar (Nöldeke, 1920, p. 3, n. 10).

In any event, by the end of the 6th century, a national history of Iran existed in the royal archive at Ctesiphon, from which Agathias indirectly derived his account of the Sasanian history (A. Cameron). Other historical works also came to be compiled. One was an autobiography of Khosrow Anôšîravân, of which excerpts are preserved in Moskuya's Tajâreb al-omam (Grignaschi, pp. 16-28). Another was a short autobiography that Borzuya prefaced to his Middle Persian rendition of the Kalila and Demna (Nöldeke, 1912; de Blois). A slightly later work is about the trial of Khosrow II Parvêz, which details the charges brought against him as well as his responses (Tabari, I, pp. 1050-58; Nöldeke, Geschichte der Perser, pp. 363-79; Bal´ami, ed. Bahâr, pp. 1160-81; cf. above, the case of the Achaemenid prince Darius, son of Artaxerxes II). Following his triumph, Khosrow Parvêz ordered the writing of an account of his wars with Bahrâm Ùôbin (q.v.; Bayhaqi, p. 481); and others wrote the history of the fall of the Sasanians and gathered heroic sagas, romantic tales, and didactic fables, all purporting to be historical works, but these (including the Kâr-nâmag î Ardašir, Rostam and Esfandiâr, Šarvin of Daštpay, Vis and Râmin) belong to the field of Pahlavi literature in general and beyond the scope of this paper.

 

Characteristics

As evolved in the "national history," Iranian historiography was moralistic, providential, apocalyptic, rather particularistic, and utilitarian (for these technical terms see Callingwood, pp. 14 ff. and passim). The concept of history was based on moral and intellectual foundations, which assigned man a significant place in the universe by making him a partner with the Creator Ahura Mazdâ (q.v.) in the cosmic fight against Ahriman and his emissaries. Man's actions were thus part of a cosmic plan, hence memorable. This memory was to serve future generations as a guide, a device for maintaining and promoting national and moral ideals of the state (Yarshater, p. 369). God had created man as His active partner for bringing about, within a limited time, the final annihilation of evil, when a Savior would restore the cosmic order on earth. The course of history exhibited a series of conflicts between the forces of good, usually Iranians, and the destructive powers, usually associated with non-Iranians. The particularism limited the scope of history: Iran was represented as the center of the world (see HAFT KEŠVAR), its people as the chosen ones possessed of a national glory (Airyanəm Xvarə> Aryân Xurrah> Farr-e Êrân[šahr]; see Bailey, p. 22), and its kings as guardians of culture and law and promoters of civilization, whose legitimacy was assured through royal descent and Royal Fortune (Kaviyanəm Xvarənô > Kayân Xurrah > Farr-e Kayân, see Bailey, pp. 22 f.). History was the narrative of events: "No distinction was made between the factual, the legendary, and the mythical. All three blended in a unified whole, presented as a continuous narrative" of a national history from the creation to the fall of the Sasanian Empire (Yarshater, p. 366). The utilitarian aspect of history saw in it "an educational instrument of social stability and cohesion," teaching virtues of loyalty, observance of law and order, natal love and patriotism by commemorating the exalted life of the Iranian heroes as paragons of success, by recalling the wisdom of sages, and by emphasizing the harm brought about by heretics and anarchists. "Thus the historiographer, far from being an impartial investigator of facts, was an upholder and promoter of the social, political, and moral values cherished by the Sasanian elite" (Yarshater, p. 366).

To make it readable and persuasive, rhetorical style and didactic form were blended with nationalistic spirit and vivid descriptions adorned with hyperbole and metaphor (Yarshater, pp. 393-401). The preface to the older Š (Qazvini; Minorsky) has preserved the subject matter, characteristics, and purport of the national history. A prose Š was compiled by the order of Abu Mansur, son of ´Abd al-Razzâq of Tus, "so that men of knowledge may look into it and find in it all about culture of kings, noblemen, and sages, the royal arrangements, their nature and behavior, good institutions, justice and judicial norms, decisions and administration, the military organization, the art of war, storming expeditions and punitive campaigns and taking the enemy by surprise as well as their match-making and ways of respecting honor" (Minorsky, p. 267). The aim of the work "is to offer utility to everyone." The readers learn from it the art of statecraft and "will be able to get on with anyone in administration," and they also get pleasure from its stories and matters "suitable to (their) strivings." In short, this book "is a recreation for the world, comfort to the afflicted, and medicine to the weary" (Minorsky, p. 268).

Bibliography

 


 

POST SASANID IRAN

By: Elton Daniel

 

 

 

Introduction

It might well be questioned whether there is, strictly speaking, any "historiography of Persia in the early Islamic period" at all, since it is by no means clear that there was an Islamic "Persia" prior to the rise of the Safavids. As lamented in the Middle Persian apocalyptic literature (which could be regarded as an esoteric form of historiography that projects past events into the future; on this aspect of Islamic historiography, see now D. Cook; M. Cook), Persian history had effectively ended when "the nation of Iran" had fallen to its Arab enemies and "Anêrân and Êrân will be [i.e., were] confounded so that the Iranian will not be distinguished from the foreigner" (Jâmâsp nâmag, 1.2-3; see Hoyland, pp. 321-30). Indeed, from the time of the Arab conquest of the Sasanian empire to that of the Mongol invasions, the geographical area usually implied by the term "Persia" or "Iran" (i.e., most of the territory once ruled by the Sasanians) had no distinct political existence: Either it was unified only as part of some larger entity, or it was fragmented into regional principalities, whose borders might well include areas not often regarded as part of Persia. Only sporadically, and even then only in a regional context, was any of this area under the rule of ethnically Persian dynasties, and the culture, like the demography, involved a mix of Arabic, Persian, and, later, Turkish elements. The tendency in both contemporary sources and modern histories is thus to treat the history of Persia during this period as part of some larger field (e.g., the history of the caliphate) or to focus on individual cities, regions, or dynasties. Texts important for the former purpose typically contain much material not relevant to Persia per se, while those dealing with the latter rarely relate provincial and regional material to the larger context of all Persia.

Ideally, a survey article would deal with both the historiography of a period and the historiography about a period, but that is not practical in this case. One would not only have to discuss virtually the entire vast corpus of medieval Islamic historical literature, but a wide range of non-Muslim sources and the growing body of modern historical studies on medieval Persian and Islamic history as well. Even dealing just with the historiography of the period is problematic, since, given the nature of the field as described above, there are no obvious political, geographical, or philological parameters which would serve to delimit the material to be studied, nor is it even all that clear what constitutes a work of "history" in this context. Information about the history of pre-Mongol Persia also turns up in many unexpected places that one would hardly classify as part of the "historiography of Persia" in any meaningful sense—e.g., a discussion of the caliph al-Mahdi's Khurasan policy in a literary compendium by an Andalusian author (Ebn ´Abd Rabbeh [d. 328/940], al-´Eqd al-farid, ed. Mohammad Sa´id ´Eryân, 8 vols, Cairo, 1953, I, pp. 191-212), a list of the qâzµis of Marv in the fragmentary history of the early Syrian author Abu Zor´a (d. 281/891; Ta`rikh, ed. Šokr-Allâh Qujâni, 2 vols, Damascus, 1980, I, pp. 206-7), or the text of Hârun al-Rašid's arrangements for the administration of the Persian provinces in the history of Mecca by Azraqi (d. 222/837; Ketâb akhbâr Makka, ed. Ferdinand Wüstenfeld as Die Chroniken der Stadt Mekka I, Leipzig, 1858, pp. 161-68). Moreover, many works essential to reconstructing the history of the period date from post-Mongol times; to give but one example of many, the chronicle of Ebn al-Athir (q.v.) is absolutely essential for the study of pre-Mongol Persia but was completed after 628/1231 and should be considered as part of the historiography of the Mongol period. Conversely, there are cases of works which were written during the pre-Mongol period and within the Persian world but which do not deal at all with Persia or with the period itself (e.g., the anonymous Qesas al-anbiâ` on the history of the prophets); although devoid of any significant value for the contemporary history of Persia, they were nonetheless technically part of its historiography. Finally, historical information, sometimes in very substantial and significant quantity, is preserved in a variety of works, ranging from poetry and literary anthologies to collections ofhistorical anecdotes and curious information to biographical dictionaries to geographies to hagiographies and heresiographies. For example, the famous biographical dictionary of the companions of the Prophet and their followers, the Ketâb al-tÂabaqât by Ebn Sa´d (d. 230/844), would seem to have little to do with either the genre of history or the history of Persia but is in fact rather important for both, since it preserves much incidental information about Arabs in the areas of Persia where they settled, especially Khorasan. Moreover, many modern scholars argue that there is little real distinction between history and literature during this (or any) period; thus one authority readily includes epic poetry (Ferdowsi's Š), didactical essays (Nezâm-al-Molk's Siâsat-nâma), and prosopography (Bayhaqi's Târikh-e Bayhaq) as part of "Persian historiography" (Meisami, 1999; cf. idem, 2000, p. 15; Malti-Douglas; El-Hibri, 1999a). How then does one go about even defining "historiography"?

There is no entirely satisfactory solution to these epistemological problems, and this article will simply confine itself arbitrarily to consideration of works which mostly fall within the boundaries of the traditional genres of ta`rikh and akhbâr (limited though this may be to conventional political and narrative history), were written in Arabic or Persian between 650 and 1220 C.E., and are either of importance in defining the nature of thehistoriography or have something significant to say about the history of the Persian-speaking lands during this chronological period. (For detailed descriptions of individual authors or works, readers should refer to the appropriate entry elsewhere in the EIr.)

 

THE FORMATIVE PERIOD

The historiography, like the history, of the first two centuries of the Islamic era is extremely difficult to assess because of both its obscurity and its contentiousness. Indeed, the first century A.H., despite the momentous events which occurred at that time, is virtually a historiographical void in terms of extant texts (except for some significant non-Muslim works; see Hoyland). When Islamic historical composition appeared, it was a mixed literary and oral historical tradition, and very little of it has survived except in the way of quotations or recensions by later authors that may or may not be all that faithful to the original sources. Beyond that, this historiography is rife with problems in terms of understanding its origins, methods of composition, motivations, purposes, credibility, interpretation, and usefulness. While recent decades have seen notable efforts by various scholars to come to grip with these problems, the results to date have been somewhat inconclusive and often contradictory (for general discussions of early Islamic historiography, see in particular Duri, 1983; Humphreys, 1991; Crone, 1980; Noth, 1994; Donner, 1998; Robinson, 2003).

From the lists of authors and titles preserved by contemporary bibliographers, notably Ebn al-Nadim (q.v.), it is at least possible to determine the identity and concerns of the most important figures among the earliest generation of Muslim historians (a list of authors and titles of works written prior to 200 A.H. has been compiled in Donner, 1998, pp. 299-306). These historians can mostly be described as Arabists interested in topics such as Arabian antiquities, comparative chronology, interpreting historical allusions in the Koran, the life of the Prophet Mohammad (sira) and his military excursions (maghâzi), and the genealogy of Arab tribes and stories of their heroic deeds—lines of investigation which reached their classical expression in the works of Mohammad Ebn Eshâq (d. 151/768) on the life of Mohammad; Hešâm b. Mohammad Ebn Kalbi (d. 204/819 or 206/821), Haytham b. ´Adi (d. 206/821?), and Abu ´Obayda Ma´mar b. Mothannâ (q.v.; d. 209/824) on ancient Arabia; and Mohammad b. ´Omar Wâqedi (d. 207/823) on the maghâzi. Although much of this lore became incorporated into the subsequent mainstream of Islamic historiography, it is obvious that it had little or nothing to do with Persia or Persian affairs except in tangential ways, such as when the history of pre-Islamic Arabia intersected with Persian history in the Yemen and at Hira or in accounts of the Arab conquests. Ebn Kalbi, for example, was primarily an expert on Arab genealogy and Arabian paganism, but he is frequently cited by later historians as an authority on Sasanian history (e.g., Tabari, I, pp. 814, 821, 834, 846-47, 853, 872, 888, 899, 950, 984, 988, 991, 1009,1016, 1038, 1041, 1044). Abu ´Obayda was likewise used as an authority on the Battle of Dhu Qâr (q.v.), the history of the Sasanians, and the Arab conquest of Persia (e.g., Khalifa b. KhayyâtÂ, pp. 50, 79, 93, 125, etc.). Some works were no doubt devoted specifically to the history of Khurasan and other parts of Persia, but these have either been lost or are of dubious authenticity (e.g., pseudo-Wâqedi, Ketâb fotuh al-eslâm fi belâd al-´ajam wa Khorâsân, ed. ´Aziz Afandi Zand, Cairo 1309/1891).

This early historiography also had something of a Persian dimension to it in that a number of the authors involved were of Persian ancestry or came from Arab families that had spent some time in Persia. For example, Hammâd Râwia (d. 156/772-73), a celebrated authority on Arabian antiquities, was the son of a Persian captive from Deylam, Abu Laylâ Sâbur; ´Awâna b. Hakam Kalbi (d. 147/764 or 153/770), a leading authority on the history of the early Omayyad caliphate, came from a military family which had served in Khurasan and Sind; and a certain Abu Mojâhed ´Ali b. Mojâhed b. Moslem Râzi b. Kâboli (d. 182/798), who was born in Rayy but worked in Baghdad, reportedly wrote on the maghâzi (Sezgin, GAS I, p. 312). Probably the most important writer in this regard was Wahb b. Monabbeh (d. 110/728 or 114/732), an expert on Yemenite and Arabian antiquities as well as the esrâ`iliât (Biblical lore) and qesas al-anbiâ` (stories of the prophets). His family was reportedly of Persian or Persian-Jewish origin and had probably settled in Yemen during the time it was under Persian domination (see ABNÂ`). Wahb's works, though now mostly lost (but see Khoury), were well known to later historians and regarded highly by many Persian writers.

The interest of early Muslim historians in Jewish and Arabian antiquities and comparative chronology, which is already quite apparent in material attributed to Wahb or Ebn Kalbi, inevitably led to more direct consideration of ancient Persian history, either to integrate it into the Islamic narrative or as the source of object lessons in statecraft. This tendency was present even early in the Omayyad period, as it is reported by Ebn al-Nadim (tr. Dodge, I, p. 194) that the caliph Mo´âwia consulted ´Obayd (or ´Abid) b. Šarya (d. before 86/705), who had written a book on "the kings and traditions of the peoples of the past," about the history of the pre-Islamic Arab and Persian kings. This interest accelerated following the ´Abbasid revolution and the consequent eastward shift in the politics and culture of the caliphate. The key figure in this regard was undoubtedly ´Abd-Allâh Rôzbeh Ebn al-Moqaffa´ (q.v.; d. 139/757), the ill-fated secretary of the caliph al-Mansur, who is credited with translating several Middle Persian "historical" works into Arabic, including the "book of kings" (Xwadây-nâmag/Khodây-nâma), a work on Mazdak, and a Ketâb al-tâj (about Anušervân). Although some of his essays have been preserved (and are important as historical sources), these works, unfortunately, have all been lost save for fragments cited by other authors (notably Ebn Qotayba, q.v.). Similarly, Abân Lâheqi (q.v.; fl. late 2nd/8th century), primarily another representative of Arabic belles lettres, supposedly wrote on Mazdak, Ardašir, and Anušervân. It should be noted, however, that the "historical" nature of these works, as well as the Persian prototypes on which they were based, is uncertain and cannot be determined in the absence of extant texts; they may have been only legendary epics and didactic literature (see Spuler, 1962).

During the early ´Abbasid period, Islamic historiography matured into a fully literary genre and took on its classical forms. Its interests also expanded from antiquarianism to the events and controversies which had shaped the Muslim polity: the wars of expansion, the settlement of Arab tribes in the conquered territories,and above all the civil wars and religio-political disputes over the caliphate. The first generation of these historians were essentially selective compilers of oral traditions, and most—such as Abu Mekhnaf (d. 157/774), Sayf b. ´Omar (d. after 170/786?), or Nasr b. Mozâhem (d. 212/827)—were and are suspected of having had highly tendentious and hidden political agendas in their work. Their works are now largely lost, but they provided the raw material for subsequent histories, where they are quoted extensively and from which it is possible to reconstruct and study, albeit rather inconclusively, their historiographical significance (see survey in Humphreys, 1991, pp. 69-103; Landau-Tasseron; Duri, 1983).

Persia, of course, figures heavily in all this historiography since so many of the key events took place in the former territories of the Sasanian Empire, which became moreover the main arena for the warring tribes and factions of the early Islamic era and the home of the revolution which brought the ´Abbasids to power, and Persians played a critical role in shaping ´Abbasid politics and culture. All the historians of this period are thus of some significance to the historiography of Persia, but the single most important was probably ´Ali b. Mohammad Madâ`eni (d. 228/843?). He was reputedly the author of more than two hundred books, only two of which have survived (apart from copious quotations and excerpts in other authors). They included histories of all the caliphs down to al-Mo´tasem; important political figures such as Moghira b. Šo´ba, Hajjâj b. Yusof, Ebn Hobayra, and ´Abd-al-Jabbâr Azdi; and the wars of expansion. In the judgment of Ahmad b. Hâreth Khazzâz (apud Ebn al-Nadim, tr. Dodge, p. 202), he excelled all his contemporaries in his knowledge of Persia and Khorasan, and the list of his monographs includes numerous works on the wars in Fârs, western Persia, Kordestân, Armenia, Rayy, Tabarestân, Kermân, Sistân, and Kâbol and Zabolestân; the invasion and conquest of Khorasan; and the careers of Qotayba b. Moslem, Asad b. ´Abd-Allâh, Nasr b. Sayyâr, and Râfe´ b. Layth (ibid., pp. 224-25). Madâ`eni was also notable for the method he brought to his historiography, which was much admired by many later Islamic historians: a straightforward account of events, without obvious bias, and going back to eyewitnesses as verified by a chain of transmitters (esnâd).

Other historians of this period who may have had some tenuous connection to Persia, but whose work is lost and about whom little is known, included Abu Yazid Wathima b. Musâ Fâresi Waššâ` (d. 237/851), who was born in Fasâ, traveled extensively, and wrote on the redda wars (Sezgin, GAS, I, pp. 315-16; cf. Brockelmann, GAL, SII, p. 217, which gives the name of his son); Mohammad b. Haytham Marwazi (d. 250/864), who wrote a Ketâb al-dawla and is cited by Mas´udi as a source (Sezgin, GAS, I, p. 316); ´Abbâd b. Ya´qub Bokhâri (d. 250/864), a Shi´ite author sometimes cited in the maqâtel literature (on the deaths of various ´Alids); Mohammad b. Sâleh b. Mehrân Ebn al-NatÂtÂâh (d. 252/866), who has been suggested as a possible author of the anonymous, but very important, text known as the Akhbâr al-´Abbâs, the most detailed account of the Abbasid revolution in Khorasan (see Duri, 1957; cf. Sharon, pp. xxxix-xli; Daniel, 1982, p. 423); and Ebrâhim b. Mohammad Thaqafi (d. 283/896 in Isfahan), another Shi´ite historian (Brockelmann, GAL, SI, p. 215)

 

THE HIGH CALIPHATE

Many examples of Islamic historiography written from the mid-3rd/late 9th century onwards have come down to us, so it is possible to get a much more reliable picture of its character and its relevance to Persia. For purposes of discussion, but at the risk of some over-simplification, this historiography can be divided into three basic sub-genres, each of which was written for fairly discrete audiences and tied to a rather characteristic worldview. One emphasized genealogy (nasab) or military exploits (fotuh) as its organizing principle; such works were reminiscent of the older tradition of Arabian antiquarianism and probably were intended to glorify various Arab leaders and tribes and, beyond that (presumably in response to the pro-Persian views of the Šo´ubis), the ideal of Arabism as the driving force in the golden age of pristine Islam. A second used strict chronology (ta`rikh proper) in the form of year by year annals and the esnâd methodology; such works were closely associated with the needs and interests of the Islamic religious establishment. A third relied on coherent narratives, usually arranged in accordance with a system of dynastic cycles, and tended to reflect the attitudes of the cosmopolitan, cultured bureaucracy of the Abbasid court. All of these works contain much information essential to the history of Islamic Persia, but it is the third variety which could probably be regarded as most essentially part of the "historiography of Persia" in its nature and outlook.

The greatest and most important of the fotuh historians was Ahmad b. Yahyâ Balâdhori (q.v.; d. 279/892), author of the voluminous Ansâb al-ašrâf and the Fotuh al-boldân. Not much is known about his life (summarized in Yâqut, Eršâd, II, pp. 127-32) other than that he lived in Baghdad, traveled in Syria and Egypt, and frequented the ´Abbasid court in the days of al-Motawwakel and al-Mosta´in; he is said to have studied with such illustrious historical scholars as Madâ`eni and Ebn Sa´d. According to Ebn al-Nadim (tr. Dodge, I, p. 248), Balâdhori participated in the project of translating Middle Persian literature and produced a versification of the ´. There is, however, little reason to believe that he was thus of Persian ancestry, and his works, despite the wealth of information about Islamic Persia that they contain, are not those of someone with Persianist sympathies: To the contrary, written at a time when the ´Abbasid caliphate was beginning its precipitous decline, they are redolent of nostalgia for the old days of Arab greatness and often exhibit a strong anti-Persian sentiment and resentment of the influence of non-Arabs in general. The Ansâb al-ašrâf, exactly as its title suggests, was an effort to delineate a purely Arab military and political aristocracy and to record the accomplishments of its great tribal lineages (a kind of secularized version of the aristocracy of piety immortalized in his teacher Ebn Sa´d's Tabaqât). The sharp divisions over the merits of ´Alids, Omayyads, and ´Abbasids that typify so much of the rest of early Islamic historiography (see, e.g., Petersen, 1964) virtually disappear in this framework; all the Qorayš are celebrated family by family, along with other tribes (Balâdhori apparently died before getting to the Rabi´a and Yaman, however). Insofar as Persia figures into this, it is simply as an arena for the display of Arab prowess. That is equally apparent in Balâdhori's Fotuh al-boldân, which records not only the triumph of Arab military power but the settlement of Arab population and the ascendancy of Arab culture in the conquered lands as well. Perhaps written with an eye on the practical and legal needs of the administrative class, it frequently discusses economic and social aspects of the early Islamic history of Persia not dealt with in other texts and is thus of great value to modern historians in that regard.

The other important work of this type, though much less appreciated than Balâdhori's, is the Ketâb al-fotuh of Ebn A´tham Kufi (d. 314/926). Long thought to have been lost, and published in its entirety relatively recently (Haydarabad, Deccan, 1968-75), this work has been neglected to a remarkable degree in modern scholarship (note the dismissive comments of Morony, p. 566; but cf. Togan, 1949; idem, 1970). This may be attributable partly to negative opinions of the text formed on the basis of the partial Persian translation made of it by one Mohammad Mostawfi Haravi in 596/1199 (litho. ed., Bombay, 1305/1887-88; new ed. by Gholâmrezµâ TabâtÂabâ`i Majd, Tehran, 1993) and partly because it presents a version of the conquests quite different from the now established mainstream tradition deduced from Balâdhori and other works. There is also a conspicuous Shi´ite tenor to both the Persian translation (which concludes with a chapter on š) and the Arabic original (see the comments of Crone, 1980, p. 107, n. 60). Nonetheless, the text is an extremely important source of information on events from the early conquests in Persia to the revolt of Bâbak. It is particularly knowledgeable about Khorasan and Transoxiana; in the view of one recent historian, "as regards the Persian provinces, Ibn A´tham can be regarded as superior to Tabari" (Hasan, p. 20).

The earliest known example of a Muslim annalistic chronicle which has survived more or less intact (albeit in a later râwia, or "transmission," which may well have been substantially abridged, considering the difference between the extant text and excerpts preserved in other works) is the Ta`rikh of Khalifa b. Khayyât ´Osfori (d. 240/854; ed. Akram D˜iâ` ´Omari, Baghdad, 1977). Khalifa had no interest in anything but Islamic history; his chronicle begins with the birth of Mohammad and goes down to 232/846-47. He even explicitly described ta`rik,h in its literal sense of records of lunations (the ahella of Koran 2.189), as simply a way of keeping track of the pilgrimage, the fast, and other religious obligations (Khalifa, p. 49). The entries in his chronicle typically describe each year's main events, appointments to office (including who led the h), and deaths of important personalities, mostly religious scholars. The entries for the Umayyad period are relatively detailed and naturally contain some information pertinent to the history of Persia during that time, but those for the Abbasid period are so terse as to be of little use. The main significance of this work is that it anticipates the style and method that would be followed by later annalists such as Tabari.

Another early and somewhat similar work is the Ketâb al-ma´refa wa'l-ta`rikh by Ya´qub b. Sofyân Fasawi (d. 277/890; ed. Akram Z˜iâ` ´Omari, 3 vols., Baghdad, n.d.), which has come down in the recension of Ebn Dorostawayh (q.v.; d. 346/957). Although Ya´qub b. Sofyân's nesba (Fasawi, not Nasawi as given by J.-C. Vadet in EI2 III, p. 758) indicates some connection with Fasâ in Fârs, he apparently spent most of his life in Syria and Egypt and died in Basra. His work begins with very brief summaries of events year by year from 135/752 (any earlier portion of the chronicle has been lost) to 241/855-56 (I, pp. 115-212, the terminus apparently being used because it marked the death of Ahmad b. Hanbal. This short chronographical section is of little significance for any topic, and virtually none at all for Persia. The real focus of the book is on obituary notices for mohaddethun, which are grouped together after the chronographical section, completely dwarfing it in size, rather than listing them under the year of death.

Some other examples of early Arabic ta`rikhs have recently come to light, but they are either so fragmentary or in such highly condensed recensions as to be of little use, especially for Persian history (e.g., the Ta`rikh of Hârun b. Hâtem [d. 249/863-64]; see Šehâbi). The Ta`rikh al-Kholafâ` of Mohammad b. Yazid Ebn Mâja Qazvini (d. 273/887) is of some interest because of the author's Persian background, but it, too, is little more than a list of caliphs and their dates (ed., Cairo, 2000).

The greatest of the annalists was unquestionably Abu Ja´far Mohammad b. Jarir Tabari (d. 310/923), author of the famous Ta`rikh al-rosol wa'l-moluk (on the author and his work, see the comprehensive study by Rosenthal, 1989; Kennedy, ed., forthcoming). Although Tabari came from a propertied family in Âmol, it is not certain whether he was of Persian ancestry or descended from Arab colonists there; he spent most of his life in Baghdad, with trips to study in other cities in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. His historical work, no less than his celebrated commentary on the Koran, was thoroughly religious in conception and method. It begins with the story of the creation of the world and the ancient prophets and kings. Beginning with the h, the arrangement of material switches to a strict year by year chronology (down to 302/915 in the edited version of the extant text); entries for a typical year include multiple accounts of important events, each buttressed by a list of the authorities who transmitted a particular version, lists of appointees to office, and obituary notices. The dramatic change in historiographical style from narrative to annal reinforces the notion (comparable to that in Christian historiography) of the linearity of history, centered on one unique and never to be repeated event, as it proceeds to its inevitable (and, it seems in Tabari's view, perhaps imminent) conclusion.

Owing to the wealth of information it contains, Tabari's chronicle is the single most important source for the first three centuries of Islamic history, certainly insofar as it involves Persia. Historiographically, however, it is disappointing in many respects. The manuscript tradition is quite weak (probably because of the difficulty and expense of making copies of such a voluminous work), and it is likely that the received text, pieced together from scattered manuscripts, is a rather imperfect copy of the original. Although many modern scholars regard Tabari's work as more "reliable" or "authoritative" than that of other historians because of his frequent citation of sources, it is an open question as to how accurately he has quoted those sources (see, e.g., Osman; Cameron) as well as what biases of his own shaped his narrative. His choice of sources is also at times highly questionable—he relies almost completely, for example, on the controversial Sayf b. ´Omar for his account of the conquest of Persia. Beyond that, the text is hardly the "universal" history it has sometimes been called; in reality, Tabari was quite parochial in his worldview, being interestedalmost exclusively in subjects necessary to understanding the background of Islam and the story of the Muslim community (he devotes, for example, only three pages [I, pp. 741-43] to the "kings of Rome" and that simply because they were rulers over Palestine and Jerusalem). There is also nothing particularly "Persian" about his chronicle: If he dealt at some length with pre-Islamic Persian history, it was because he saw it as pertinent to the Middle Eastern matrix of the Islamic tradition; if he also had much more interest in Iraq and Persia than in North Africa or Egypt or even Syria, it was because of the relatively greater importance of events that took place there. Ironically, the very qualities that make Tabari's history so important as a source of information—its precise chronology, explicit citation of multiple sources, and wealth of detail—undercut its appeal as historical literature. The annalistic arrangement fragments the accounts of many important events and leads to much repetition; the maze of conflicting accounts and detailed esnâds blurs whatever historical vision or interpretation the author may have had. Indeed, with its drastic variations in literary style (suggesting direct copying from various sources), Tabari's text gives the distinct impression of being simply the transcription of an undigested mass of notes that was never shaped into anything resembling a text with a coherent point of view (although some recent critics think the author's subtle perspective can be detected through the "studied ambiguity" of at least some episodes: Humphreys, 1989; idem, 1991; El-Hibri, 1999).

The path to a very different type of historical writing, and one with a stronger claim to being part of a "historiography of Persia" than any discussed thus far, was followed by the two Dinavaris, Ebn Qotayba (q.v.; d. 276/889) and Abu Hanifa (d. 281/894 or 290/903). Both were of Persian ancestry; neither was known primarily as a historian proper (Ebn Qotayba was a philologist and Abu Hanifa Dinavari a polymath with interests ranging from botany to mathematics), but their most important surviving works have a definite if unexpected historical dimension.

In the case of Ebn Qotayba, these include the ´ (ed. Ahmad Zaki ´Adawi, 4 vols., Cairo, 1925-30) and the Ketâb al-ma´âref (ed. Tharwat ´Okâša, Cairo, 1960). (Another interesting example of historiography, the Ketâb al-emâma wa'l-siâsa, is now thought to have been wrongly attributed to Ebn Qotayba; see Margoliouth, p. 120.) The ´ was a kind of literary anthology, but one which drew deeply on historical anecdotes to provide refined models of behavior (adab) "as a reminder to religious scholars, as a tutor to rulers and ruled, as a relaxation for kings" (see Khalidi, 1994, pp. 108-11). Somewhat surprisingly—considering that he was known as a staunch Hanbalite and anti-Šo´ubi thinker—Ebn Qotayba made extensive use for this purpose of the "books of the Persians," i.e., the Arabic translations of Middle Persian texts such as those made by Ebn al-Moqaffa´ (whom he frequently quotes and clearly admired). The Ma´âref is best described as a concise historical encyclopedia, arranged in loose topical and chronological fashion, of the basic historical information a well-educated member of the secretarial class (the kottâb) should be expected to know. Such manuals for instructing aspiring bureaucrats, or simply enlivening the conversation, would remain very popular in Persia and the Muslim world; later examples in Arabic include the LatÂâ`ef al-ma´âref of Abu Mansur Tha´âlebi (d. 429/1038) and in Persian the lengthy and unfortunately still largely unpublished, Jawâme´ al-hekâyat of Mohammad ´Awfi (d. 630/1232?). As with Ebn Qotayba's works, they are of considerable importance in that they preserve passages and information from many otherwise lost historical texts.

The only extant work by Abu Hanifa Dinavari is the Akhbâr al-tÂewâl, a general history beginning with Adam and ending with the death of al-Mo´tasem in 227/842. Throughout, it eschews the annalistic style and the esnâd method in favor of a structure that emphasizes fluency and readability, and it is more firmly in the genre ofconventional narrative history than the works of Ebn Qotayba. Some modern scholars regard the Akhbâr al-tÂewâl as a history "written from a Persian point of view" (e.g., Pellat, in EIr. VII, p. 417); its perspective is certainly an unusual one, and its treatment of history highly selective and far from critical. It might better be described as a book whose chief theme is the inter-connectedness of Arab and Persian history: In its pre-Islamic section, the author is particularly concerned with the ethnogenesis of these peoples and juxtaposes stories about their various kings and prophets along with accounts of their relations with each other. The life of Mohammad is barely mentioned, and controversial events such as the accession andmurder of ´Othmân are glossed over, but the conquest of Persia is discussed at length and in an almost celebratory manner (ed. ´Âmer and Šayyâl, pp. 113-40). The struggle of ´Ali and Mo´âwia is treated in epic fashion (ed. ´Âmer and Šayyâl, pp. 140-214), and the history of the Omayyad period, though given at length (pp. 202-369), concentrates on the story of ´Alid, Iraqi, and Persian opposition culminating in the ´Abbasid revolution. The history contains much original and interesting information, but it is hard to evaluate from where it was taken or how reliable it might be; Dinavari does, however, mention a number of his authorities, chiefly Haytham b. ´Adi but also Ebnal-Moqaffa´, Kalbi, and Ša´bi.

The Ta`rikh of Ahmad b. Abi Ya´qub Ya´qubi (d. 284/897) is of great interest for both the general development of early Islamic historiography and the contemporary history of Persia. Ya´qubi noted in his geographic work, the Ketâb al-boldân (p. 1), that he had traveled widely and had always been interested in collecting information about distant countries. Unlike the parochial works discussed so far, Ya´qubi's history showed a broad knowledge of not only non-Muslim cultures but the history of regions as distant as Byzantium, India, Tibet, and China; it has rightly been called "the earliest surviving world history in the Arabic historical tradition" (Khalidi, 1994, p. 113). Moreover, Ya´qubi had a well-developed critical spirit, dismissing in particular as historical material the Persian legends of things like a king "with snakes growing out of his shoulders and feeding on human brains" (Ta`rikh, ed. Beirut, I, p. 158): There was no truth to them, he says, and learned Persians, even the princes and dehqâns, found them ridiculous. It also appears that Ya´qubi spent some time in Armenia and in the employ of the Taherids in Khorasan, and his history is particularly rich in information about those areas.

 

THE ERA OF THE REGIONAL DYNASTIES

The occupation of Baghdad in 334/945 by the Buyid amir-al-omarâ` Mo´ezz-al-Dawla made all too apparent the eroded authority of the Abbasid caliphate, the supremacy of warlords over courtly bureaucrats, and the shifting of political, economic, and cultural life from the center to the periphery of the Islamic world. It should not be surprising that these changes would have important consequences for the writing of history; what is remarkable is the extent to which they actually expanded, enriched, and enlivened an increasingly sophisticated historiography. It is during this period that one can point more frequently to works which are genuine histories of at least part of Persia and, significantly, the beginning of a historiographical tradition in the Persian language.

Despite the collapse of caliphal power and the political fragmentation of the Muslim world, comprehensive, "universal" or general, histories and chronicles continued to be written, especially under Buyid patronage, but notso much in the Baghdad-centric and parochial-minded style of Tabari. Rather, the broader approach followed by Ya´qubi flourished and reached its culmination in the works of historians such as Abu'l-Hasan ´Ali b. Hosayn Mas´udi (d. 345/956), and Abu ´Ali Meskawayh (d. 421/1030?).

Mas´udi's much studied (see especially Shboul; Khalidi, 1975) and widely appreciated Moruj al-dhahab was virtually a historical encyclopedia, dealing with geography and culture as well as events, dynasties, and chronology. Its emphasis on the philosophical and ethical aspects of the study of history, coupled with concern for the literary quality of its presentation, anticipated trends that would be of increasing importance in the development of Islamic historiography. At the outset of his work, Mas´udi gave a detailed list of the historical works known to him, the bulk of which are no longer extant, singling out their good or bad qualities (I, pp. 10-24). For Persian history, he praised in particular the history of Ebn Khorradadhbeh and an Akhbâr al-fors wa ghayrehâ by Dâwud b. Jarrâh (uncle of the vizier ´Ali b. ´Isâ); presumably some of the material from these lost works has been preserved in Mas´udi's text. As for Persia itself, Mas´udi was one of the Muslim scholars who held that humanity was subdivided into major cultural groups on the basis of physical characteristics, laws, and languages, and each nation had its own special skill. The excellence of the Persians lay in statecraft, and therefore the study of their rulers, social structure, and administrative techniques was of particular importance (Khalidi, 1975, pp. 90-92).

 

 

The Buyid Period

At first glance, the chronicle of Abu ´Ali Ahmad b. Mohammad Meskawayh (d. 421/1030), a Persian and according to Yâqut (Eršâd, II, p. 89) a recent convert to Islam, appears to be an appropriation and continuation of Tabari's. It imitated Tabari in form, with year by year accounts of events down to 369/979-80, and relied heavily on it for material on the early Islamic period. For the original sections (covering in the edited text the years 295-369/907-80), however, it could not have been more different from Tabari's in both style and substance. First of all, Meskawayh's work is much more readable than Tabari's in terms of prose composition, but it is not yet subject to the notion than rhetorical skill is a greater asset for historical writing than clarity and accuracy. Religion virtually disappears from his work; he dismisses legends (asmâr wa khorâfât), the stories of the prophets, and accounts of events before the Flood as unfit for historical discourse. Instead, he emphasizes the importance of understanding the rise and fall of dynasties, methods of government, and the examples of earlier rulers for good or bad. Whereas Tabari was an independent scholar, Meskawayh was very much a man of the world, actively involved for most of his long life in the Buyid bureaucracy and personally acquainted with its administrative and intellectual elite. He was able to inform his work not only from experience (frequently referring to events he himself had witnessed) but by his access to the library of the famous vizier Ebn al-´Amid (q.v.). The title of his work, Ketâb tajâreb al-omam wa ta´âqeb al-hemam (Experiences of the nations and the outcomes of endeavors), was as aptly chosen as Tabari's own and made clear the author's very different view of Islamic history and indeed history in general—it was no longer the story of the prophets and kings of one community but the competing polities of a commonwealth of nations, and its grand theme was not the struggle for piety and religio-political legitimacy while waiting for the end of the world but that of philosophy teaching by example (to borrow Bolingbroke's famous phrase). Despite the annalistic form, it was not a linear history, but a cyclical one whose events, as Miskawayh explicitly noted, could be expected to recur, and thus one could profit from knowing which policies, stratagems, ruses, plots, and acts would yield a desired result—a surprisingly pragmatic, if not outright Machiavellian, attitude in a writer who was otherwise so interested in ethical philosophy. The history has been much admired by many modern scholars, who see it as an expression of the "humanism" of the "renaissance" that took place under Buyid auspices (Margoliouth, pp. 128-37; Rosenthal, 1968, pp. 141-42; Kraemer), but at least one (Khalidi, 1994, p. 176) has called it a "strange historical anthology" and pointed out the moral ambiguity of its approach.

Although Miskawayh's chronicle is the most interesting and important surviving example of Buyid historiography, it may well have been rivaled by the no longer extant works of writers like Thâbet b. Senân Sâbi (d. 365/976?), a Buyid court physician who also took on the task of writing a continuation to Tabari's chronicle, or the great vizier Sâheb b. ´Abbâd (d. 385/995), who wrote at least four historical works (see Pellat, pp. 104-5). We also hear of now lost works such as the Ketâb al-´abbâsi by Ahmad b. Esma´il b. Samaka, one of the teachers of Ebn al-´Amid, which was supposed to be a history of the caliphs in some ten thousand pages (Tusi, p. 55). The case of Thâbet's nephew, Abu Eshâq Ebrâhim b. Helâl Sâbi (d. 384/994), gives some idea of what might have been lost, as well as how seriously historical writing was taken in Buyid circles. Imprisoned after falling into disfavor with ´Azµod-al-Dawla, Abu Eshâq was compelled to write a history of the Buyids, the Ketâb al-tâji fi akhbâr al-dawla al-daylamiya, as a condition for his release. ´Azµod-al-Dawla is supposed to have checked and edited it section by section as it was composed, and then to have had the final text read out to him over the course of a week. Long thought to have been lost, a fragment of the manuscript was discovered in a library in Yemen and proved to contain a rich and interesting account of the country and people of Deylam, the activities of the ´Alids there, and the conversion of the area to Islam (ed. Mohammad Hosayn Zobaydi, Baghdad, 1977; ed. and tr. Muhammad Sabir Khan, Karachi, 1995; on the author and text, see Madelung, 1967). The Sâbi family, incidentally, continued to produce distinguished historians: Ebrâhim's grandson, Helâl b. Mohassen Sâbi (d. 448/1056), authored a continuation of Thâbet's work, of which a small fragment covering the years 389-93/998-1003 survives (ed. H. F. Amedroz in The Historical Remains of Hilâl al-Sâbi, Beirut and Leiden, 1904). Mohammad b. Helâl (d. 480/1088), known as Ghars al-Ne´ma, wrote a Dhayl carrying on the account to his own time; it has been lost but was used extensively by Sebt b. al-Jawzi (d. 654/1256) in his Mer`ât al-zamân.

It is debatable whether the works of Abu'l-Faraj Esfahâni (d. 356/969)—the Maqâtel al-Tâlebiyin, a martyrology of the ´Alids, and the Ketâb al-aghâni, an immense literary anthology and cultural history—should be included as historiography or not, but they are at least reflective of the historical tastes and interests of Buyid circles (on this work, see Günther). His contemporary, Hamza b. Hasan Esfahâni (d. 360/970), who had studied with Tabari and was undoubtedly a serious scholar, produced an unusual specimen of historiography known as the Tawârikh seni moluk al-arzµ wa'l-anbiâ`. It might best be described as a comparative calendrical history of various nations; it scarcely has a narrative, being mostly strung-together lists of rulers, dates, and odd events. However, the author's interest in Persian history and antiquities is abundantly clear: He professes to have read the Avesta, to have consulted eight books on the history of the Persian kings (which he lists, ed. Beirut, p. 14), and to have seen a book containing portraits of all the Sasanian rulers. He divides the sedentary (or civilized?) world (al-maskun men rob´ al-arzµ) into seven great nations—China, India, the Sudan, the Berbers, the "Romans," the Turks, and the Aryans, with the Aryans being the central nation (and the Arabs conspicuously missing)—and distinguishes between peoples with solar and those with lunar calendars. Although he lists rulers of the Persians, Romans, Greeks, Copts, Israelites, Lakhmids, Ghassanids, Himyarites, Kinda, and Qorayš, the "Arab kings of Islam," the Persian kings are given a disproportionate amount of space. In the Islamic section, too, much attention is devoted to topics of interest to Persia, such as a long list of the equivalent dates for Now Ruz in the Islamic lunar calendar and accounts of the governors of Khorasan and Tabarestân. This slant to his history probably explains the author's later reputation as a fiercely partisan supporter of Persian culture over that of the Arabs.

Hamza is also supposed to have written a history of the city of Isfahan, which is unfortunately now lost. It served as the model for the work of Hasan b. Mohammad Qomi (d. 406/1015), who also wanted to preserve the historical traditions of his home city, Qom, before they were lost. He was first encouraged in this endeavor by Ebn al-´Amid during his tenure as governor of Qom and then patronized by Sâheb b. ´Abbâd, to whom he dedicated his book (Lambton, 1948, p. 586; idem, 1990, p. 322). This Arabic Ta`rikh Qom is no longer known to exist, but it must have been available as late as the 9th/15th century, at which time a certain Hasan b. ´Ali Qomi made a Persian recension of it (Storey, II, pp. 348-49; ed. Jalâl-al-Din Tehrâni, 1313 Š/1935). Only five out of twenty chapters of the Persian Târikh-e Qom are extant, and it is impossible to judge how closely they have followed the Arabic original. Nonetheless, the text is full of interesting, highly original, and presumably authentic information about such matters as taxation, irrigation, and Arab colonization that are rarely mentioned in other historical sources of the period.

 

Samanid and Ghaznavid Period

Historiography was also a highly developed discipline in eastern Persia and Central Asia under the patronage of the Samanids, Ghaznavids, and other local dynasties. Some of this historical writing was in Arabic, with interests that closely paralleled those of the Buyid historians. This historiographical tradition was unique, however, in also sponsoring and developing the writing of history, as well as other types of scholarly prose, in the Persian language (something the Buyids, despite their Persianizing tendencies, never did). Moreover, a number of these works, in both Arabic and Persian, went well beyond the Buyid example in the breadth of their historical vision, taking an exceptional interest in the cultural, geographical, and material dimensions of history as well as affairs of non-Muslim peoples. This is doubtless due in part to the strategic location of the eastern dynasties at the hub of a regional network in contact with the Slavs, Turks, Indians, Tibetans, and Chinese as well as the Islamic lands. It is also tempting to see this trend as the result of the development of a true "school" of historiography, closely associated with the Samanid chancery and probably going back to the influence of the geographer-scholar Abu Zayd Balkhi (q.v.; d. 322/934). There was certainly systematic and philosophical thinking about the nature of history going on during this period; this attitude was evident in the place assigned to history in the Mafâtih al-´olum of Mohammad b. Ahmad Khóârazmi, a work dedicated to the Samanid vizier Abu'l-Hasan ´Otbi. It was even more fully expressed in the Jawâme´ al-´olum, written about the same time or a little earlier by Ebn Farighun for a Muhtajid amir (text in Rosenthal, 1968, pp. 539-40). Ebn Farighun, reportedly a student of Abu Zayd, emphasized that secretaries (kottâb) must be familiar with the chronologies of the "three nations" (Persians, Byzantines, and Muslims pace Rosenthal, 1968, p. 52), the books of the Persians on siar (biography) and âdâb (conduct) such as the ´Ahd Ardašir and Rasâ`el Anušervân, and the siar of the caliphs and the "kings" who followed them. He described history as a type of "wisdom" (h) derived from the study of famous and unusual events (including natural diasters such as earthquakes, floods, or plague), chronologies of dynasties of the various climes, cosmology and eschatology, certain aspects of the biography of Mohammad (his birth and matters related to politics and warfare), the history of the caliphs (their conquests, affairs, and rebellions against them), the pre-Islamic history of the Arabs and Persians, reports about famous rulers, and biographies of notable personalities (religious scholars, secretaries, poets, and other exemplary individuals).

Unfortunately, a good many of the histories known to have been written in Arabic in eastern Persia during this period are no longer extant. These included several urban and regional histories, of which the most important was the Ta`rikh Khorâsân or Ta`rikh wolât Khorâsân (it is not entirely clear whether these were separate works or alternative titles for the same work) by Abu ´Ali Hosayn Sallâmi (d. 350/961). Some vague impression of its character may be gleaned from its use by later historians, notably Gardizi and Ebn al-Athir (see Barthold, Turkestan, pp. 10-11). At roughly the same time Sallâmi was producing his history, Abu Bakr Mohammad b. Ja´far Naršakhi (d. 348/959) wrote a history of Bokhara in Arabic for the Samanid amir Nuh b. Nasr. Although the Arabic text has been lost, it was abridged and translated into Persian by Abu Nasr Ahmad Qobâwi in 522/1128, with some added material to extend the chronological coverage. The Persian text itself then went through at least two further redactions (see Frye, p. xii; Smirnova). If the received Persian text is any indication of the Arabic original, it was a remarkable work that preserved a wealth of fascinating information about the development of Bokhara from pre-Islamic to Samanid times.

Among the extant historical works in Arabic of this period, the Ketâb al-bad` wa'l-ta`rikh is a very unusual book, perhaps a manual for religious disputation, which represents a conscious effort to integrate history, philosophy, theology, cosmology, and eschatology. Clement Huart, the modern editor and translator of the text, at first attributed it to Abu Zayd Balkhi (the name given on the manuscript), but he later recognized it as the work of MotÂahhar b. Tâher Maqdesi (cited in Tha´âlebi, Ghorar, p. 501 as an authority on Manicheanism). Nothing is otherwise known about this author, although he apparently lived in Bôst and wrote the book in 355/966 (Sezgin, GAS, I, p. 337) for an unnamed Samanid official (which certainly fits with the pattern of texts being patronized by the Samanids during this period). It begins with an outline of its epistemology and then proceeds to describe arguments for the existence of God, His names and attributes, the necessity of prophecy, creation, natural phenomena from rainbows to earthquakes, portents which precede Judgment Day, stories of the prophets and the kings of Persia, the ideas of numerous non-Muslim religions (including those of China, the Turks, the Khorramiya, and others), and the climes of the world. The last volumes provide a more conventional historical narrative, with sections of the life of Mohammad and the history of the Rašidun, Omayyad, and ´Abbasid caliphs down to al-Moti´. The most striking feature of the text is its strong interest in what today would be called the comparative history of culture and religion, a characteristic it shares, along with its philosophical and scientific interests, with the slightly later and much better known works of Abu Rayhân Biruni (q.v.; d. after 442/1050), most notably the Âthâr al-bâqia ´an al-qorun al-khâlia and the Tahqiq mâ le'l-Hend.

The celebrated poet and philologist Abu Mansur ´Abd-al-Malek b. Mohammad Tha´âlebi (d. 429/1038) also authored some historical works during this period. Some of his works straddle the boundary between adab and history proper. His Yatimat al-dahr, like its Buyid counterpart the Aghâni, is strictly speaking an anthology of the Arabic poetry of its era (including examples from the poets of Syria, Iraq, and western Persia as well as the Samanid and Ghaznavid east), but one interspersed with a fair amount of significant historical information related to the production, court patronage, and explication of the poetry. The brief LatÂâ`ef al-ma´âref is a compilation of historical anecdotes and miscellaneous information ranging from a list of firsts to nicknames of notables, celebrated secretaries, characteristics and products of various lands, and unusual happenings. As noted earlier, works such as this were probably intended to serve as cribs for courtiers wishing to enliven their conversation. This same Tha´âlebi is now also understood to be the author of the important narrative history known as the Gh. Various manuscripts give the name of the author as Abu Mansur Hosayn b. Mohammad Marghani (the nesba has also been read as Mar´aši or Marâghi) Tha´âlebi, and Carl Brockelmann (GAL, SI, p. 581) considered him to be the actual author, even though Hermann Zotenberg, the modern editor and translator of the text, had rejected this attribution and argued it was also the work of ´Abd-al-Malek Tha´âlebi. Zotenberg's assessment was confirmed by Franz Rosenthal (1950), who noted the use of the same unusual Arabic phrases in the Gh and other works by ´Abd-al-Malek Tha´âlebi. Rosenthal's instinct was certainly correct, although he missed two equally compelling arguments in favor of this attribution contained in the Oxford manuscript of the Gh (noted by its recent editor, Sohayl Zakkâr, who was nonetheless oblivious to the debate over the authorship of this work and continued to attribute it to Hosayn Marghani): the author's unusual interest in ´Abd-al-Malek's home city, Nišâpur (e.g., preserving details about Abu Moslem's activities there; ed. Zakkâr, pp. 154-55), and his statement that he was planning to write a book on unusual honorific titles (alqâb) with the patronage of "the Sâheb" (ed. Zakkâr, pp. 54-55). The Latâ`ef is also dedicated to "the Sâheb Abu'l-Qâsem," i.e., Ahmad b. Hasan Maymandi, which makes it virtually certain that the same person was the author of all these works. The title and subject of this history have also been subject to some confusion. The published text, based on the manuscripts known to Zotenberg, dealt only with the history of pre-Islamic Persia from Kayumarth to the death of Yazdejerd in 31/651-52 and was often known under the title Gh. It closely follows the version of the Persian "national history" used by Tha´âlebi's contemporary Ferdowsi (Gh, pp. xviii-xix; Yarshater in Camb. Hist. Iran, p. 362), citing as a source a Š, probably one of the prose šs then extant. As an independent work, this would indeed be out of character with the other works written by the clearly Arabophile Tha´âlebi. The author's introduction, however, makes clear that it was (or was intended to be) part of a much larger work which dealt also with the pre-Islamic Near East, the kings of "Rome, India, the Turks, and China," and Islamic history down to the reign of Seboktekin. The Oxford manuscript entitled Gh, which was edited only recently and has been almost totally ignored by modern historians, deals with the history of the caliphs from ´Abd-al-Malek b. Marwân to al-Mansur (preserving much significant and original material about the Persian provinces) and must be regarded as another surviving fragment of this work.

Among the last of the major historical works to be written in Arabic during this period was the Ta`rikh al-yamini by Abu Nasr Mohammad b. ´Abd-al-Jabbâr ´Otbi (d. between 413/1022 and 431/1039-40). It is a source of fundamental importance not only for early Ghaznavid history, but for its information about the fall of the Samanids, the last Saffarids of Sistân, the early Ziyarids, the Kara-Khanids, the Simjurids, and other petty dynasts of the period. Unfortunately, it has never received a modern edition and must still be consulted in the version printed on the margins of a 19th-century commentary (Ahmad Manini, al-Fath al-wahbi, 2 vols., Cairo, 1869). As a specimen of historiography, it can be faulted in two respects. First, the author largely abandoned any pretense of objectivity and set out, inspired by the example of Sâbi's al-Tâji, to write a panegyric of the Ghaznavids in order to win the favor of Sultan Mahmud and to serve as pro-Ghaznavid propaganda in Iraq. In this regard, it is difficult to accept Barthold's view (Turkestan, p. 19) that ´Otbi "does not conceal the dark sides of this brilliant reign, and the misery of the people ruined by taxes which it was beyond their power to pay" (see the more realistic interpretation by Treadwell, pp. 10-12). To the extent that this is true, it is surely unintentional since ´Otbi does not bother to hide his disdain for the common people and goes out of his way to legitimize the usurpation of power by the Ghaznavids as well as their aggressive policies. He is equally suspect when it comes to the lavish praise he heaps on his own ancestors who served as government ministers. Second, ´Otbi subordinated historical substance to rhetorical style, sometimes writing in verse or rhymed prose and constantly making use of metaphor and hyperbole more appropriate to poetry than historical prose. Although often admired by Arab critics (e.g., Jorji Zaydân), the resulting text is not only excruciatingly difficult to read but short on historical detail and precision. It has, however, also been suggested by some readers, including the commentator Sheikh Ahmad Manini, that this excessive language, which certainly sounds ridiculous enough to modern ears, was sometimes used as a subtle ploy intended "to undermine what it appears to assert" (Meisami, 1999, p. 137 n. 9). A Persian translation of the Yamini was made by Abu'l-Šaraf Nâseh b. Zafar Jarbadhaqâni (ca. 602/1205-6). In general, it is more faithful to the Arabic original—even, unfortunately, in its fondness for literary extravagance—than is usually the case with such Arabic to Persian translations, but Jarbadhaqâni did make some emendations to the text (see Meisami, 1999, pp. 256-63).

The practice of writing history in the Persian language began, as far as we know, with the decision of the Samanid Amir Mansur b. Nuh in 352/963 to commission a translation by Abu ´Ali Bal´ami of Tabari's Ta`rikh. Bal´ami did not take this mandate literally and actually recast Tabari's history in a very different form, dropping the citation of esnâds and abandoning the annalistic arrangment in favor of a fluid narrative which freely abridged, added, rearranged, or corrected material. This Persian version of Tabari became extremely popular in the Persian-speaking world, as attested by its complicated manuscript tradition and the various recensions through which it passed (see Griaznevich and Boldyrev; Daniel, 1990). It also set the model which would be followed by many subsequent Persian translations of Arabic histories and for Persian historiographical style in general, at least until the emphasis on rhetorical embellishment began to replace the remarkably clear and simple use of language preferred by Bal´ami.

Despite the precedent set by Bal´ami, it was still almost a century before original and independent examples of historiography in Persian began to appear. The earliest of these that is now extant (or known of) is the Zayn al-akhbâr by ´Abd-al-Hayy Gardizi (q.v.). About all that can be said concerning the author and the background of his work is that the text bears a dedication to the ninth Ghaznavid sultan, ´Abd-al-Rašid b. Mahmud (q.v.; r. 440-43/1049-52?). It begins with a brief survey of the five "groups" (tÂabaqa) of pre-Islamic rulers of Persia; proceeds to three "chapters" (bâb) on Islamic rulers (a short account of Mohammad, the caliphs, and the "amirs" of Khorasan), accompanied by chronological tables; and concludes with a longish section of twelve chapters on the comparative chronologies, holidays, and cultures of numerous foreign and non-Muslim peoples (obviously based on the work of Biruni, one of Gardizi's contemporaries), with particularly significant accounts of Tibet, various Turkish tribes, the Slavs, etc. In terms of historical content, the most interesting section, undoubtedly drawing from the lost history by Sallâmi (see Barthold, Turkestan, p. 21), is that on the "amirs" of Khorasan, treating them as an unbroken line extending from the Arab conqueror ´Abd-Allâh b. ´Âmer to the Ghaznavid sultan Mawdud b. Mas´ud. Throughout the work, one finds subjects treated in ways that depart, sometimes dramatically, from the mainstream Islamic historical tradition—e.g., the emphasis on the destructive aspects of Alexander's conquest, the distinction drawn between the moluk-e Sâsâniân and the akâsera, or the particularly dramatic account of the murder of Abu Moslem, emphasizing the treacherous and repellant behavior of the caliph al-Mansur. The author also alludes to the age-old struggle of Èrân and Turân "that persists even today" (p. 11), in which context he seems to have been quite disturbed by the defeats inflicted on the Ghaznavids by the Saljuqs. As noted in a recent study by Julie Meisami, "several major concerns run through the work and link its otherwise often disjointed accounts" (1999, p. 69). Among other things, Gardizi makes the historical experience of what the author calls Irânšahr the center of his narrative, sees history as a cyclical process in which dynasties rise or decline according to the virtues or defects of individual rulers, and posits a view of the ideal ruler as one who is just, is valiant in warfare, rewards the loyalty of his retainers, defends religious orthodoxy, and encourages the acquisition of knowledge—all themes which resonate with those of what Ehsan Yarshater has called the "Iranian national history." This remarkable work is thus not only the first general history in the Persian language to stand on its own, without the pretense of being a "translation" of an Arabic text, it is also one of the best examples of a work that can be regarded as "Persian historiography" in the sense of history written from a thoroughly Persocentric (or at least east Persian) point of view.

Abu'l-Fazµl Mohammad b. Hosayn Bayhaqi (q.v.; d. 470/1077), a former head of the Ghaznavid secretariat, composed a monumental history in some thirty volumes on the reigns of the early Ghaznavid sultans (the original title is uncertain but was perhaps Târikh-e nâseri, Târikh-e âl-e Seboktakin, or Târikh-e âl-e Mahmud; it is now generally referred to as either Târikh-e Bayhaqi or Târikh-e mas´udi). Only one volume and some fragments, covering the years 421-32/1030-41, survive today. Even in this sadly truncated state, however, it is clear this work is one of the true masterpieces of the world's historical literature (for various appreciations of it, see in particular the essays in Matini, ed.). Bayhaqi set forth the philosophical principles underlying his work in a short "discourse" (khotÂba) on the purpose and methods of history. It is not found, as one might expect, in a prologue (dibâcha) to the book (which has unfortunately been lost) but rather near the beginning of volume ten (ed. Fayyâzµ, pp. 903-6), appropriately enough in a section dealing with the history of Khóârazm taken from the now lost work on that subject by Abu Rayhân Biruni, whose thought had obviously influenced Bayhaqi profoundly (as well as many of the other historians discussed here). In Bayhaqi's view, history is the means by which humans satisfy their natural curiosity about the past and, in the process, increase their intellectual capacity to distinguish truly between good and bad, joy and sorrow. Such knowledge is useful, but it cannot be regarded as predictive since the future is known only to God. It is also commemorative, in that it keeps alive the story of past notables and remembrance of the historian himself. Historical knowledge can be acquired only by rigorous effort through traveling and making inquiries (exactly the meaning of the Greek historía) in order to obtain either oral reports from trustworthy informants or to consult appropriate written sources; in all cases, the historian must insist on the rationality and credibility of what is reported and reject the fabulous and foolish. In his own case, Bayhaqi emphasizes that everything he reports is based on either his own eyewitness knowledge or material taken from sources of impeccable reliability. As a high-ranking member of the Ghaznavid bureaucracy, Bayhaqi was of course well placed to have access to such information, and this is one of the qualities that makes his work so important. He apparently kept a kind of diary or journal of his experiences as well as copies of archival material and later used these as the raw material for his history, shaped by the reflections and perspectives he could bring to them with the advantage of hindsight. For subjects beyond this, such as the historical anecdotes he often cites as contextual information or as parallels to events he is discussing, and also in the case of topics of which he has little direct knowledge, he turns to sources he considers the best and most authoritative (as with Biruni's history of Khóârazm); these sources are frequently named and their reliability assessed. It should also be noted that Bayhaqi constructed his prose with meticulous care and precision; he is remarkably effective at recreating the settings and sharply delineating the character of the personalities involved in the events he describes. His subtle and deceptively plain language suggests much more than it says explicitly, although the variety of interpretations given his accounts by modern scholars (cf. Luther, 1971; Poliakova; Waldman; Humphreys, 1991, pp. 141-45; Meisami, 1999, pp. 79-108) suggests that we are still far from knowing exactly how it should be read. In sum, the Târikh-e Bayhaqi, with its combination of authoritativeness, richness of detail, literary polish, and methodological sophistication, has no peer among the works discussed here and precious few in any other historiographical tradition.

 

The late Islamic period

The semblance of unity imposed on Persia by the Saljuq defeat of the Ghaznavids at Dandanqân in 1040 and their subsequent ouster of the Buyids from Baghdad in 1055 was illusory: The political structure of Persia in the late Islamic period was really that of "a loose confederation of semi-independent kingdoms over which the sultan exercised nominal authority" (Lambton, CHI V, p. 218), with numerous maleks, amirs, and atâbaks in control of various, mostly petty, territorial holdings. The awareness of the new Turkish warlords of their status in the eyes of the subject population as ethnic interlopers and political upstarts also accelerated the tendency to seek legitimacy by claiming to support šari´a-based government and by co-opting members of the local ´olemâ`. These trends are clearly reflected in the historiography of the period, which was often produced either to curry favor with the new warlords or in the hope of persuading them to govern well. If historical writing did not as a result decline in quantity from that of earlier periods (an impression which may result purely from the fact that a greater percentage of it has survived), it was more constricted in both scope and quality.

General histories certainly continued to be written, but they have either been lost (most regrettably the later sections of Helâl b. Sâbi's chronicle, the work of Mohammad b. ´Abd-al-Malek Hamadhâni, and the Mašâreb al-tajâreb of Zahir-al-Din Bayhaqi; see Cahen, pp. 60-66), or are of rather inferior quality, or are connected with the "historiography of Persia" of this period in only the most tangential ways if at all. For example, Zahir-al-Din Rudhravari (d. 488/1095), who came from a town in western Persia and served as a vizier to the Abbasid caliphs until forced from office by Malek-Šâh, wrote a continuation to Meskawayh's chronicle, but the extant portion covers only a small part of the Buyid period (368-89/979-999). The anonymous Ketâb al-´oyun wa'l-hadâ`eq fi akhbâr al-haqâ`eq also probably dates from this period; the surviving portion goes down to 350/961 (ed., Omar Saïdi, 2 vols, Damascus, 1972-73). While it is an impressive work in many ways, it is written from an Egyptian or North African perspective and is rarely interested in events east of Iraq. The celebrated Hanbali scholar Ebn al-Jawzi (d. 597/1200) wrote a chronicle, al-Montazam fi'l-ta`rikh, the published volumes of which cover the years 257-574/870-1179. His work imitated Tabari's in its annalistic form but rarely deals with events outside Baghdad and consists of little more than masses of yearly obituary notices for members of the ´. A concise history of the caliphs, al-Enbâ` fi ta`rikh al-kholafâ` was written ca. 560/1164-65 by Mohammad b. ´Ali ´Emrâni, who may have belonged to a family from Sarakhs or Khóârazm (ed. Qasim al-Samarrai, Leiden, 1973, p. 7). Perhaps the most interesting general history produced during this period, at least in terms of relevance for the history of Persia, was written (revealingly enough) in Egypt by an Egyptian author, Ebn Zâfer Azdi (d. 613/1216 or 623/1226). His Ketâb al-dowal al-monqatÂe´a was apparently intended to be, as its title suggests, a comprehensive history of the numerous dynasties which had sprung up around the Muslim world. As a result, it contains a good deal of unique information about Persia, from the Caucasian dynasties to the Samanids (Treadwell, 2000). Other meritorious works, such as the chronicles of Ebn al-Athir (q.v.; d. 630/1233) and Sebt b. al-Jawzi (d. 654/1256), fundamental to the study of the history of the period and drawing on now lost earlier works, straddle the late Islamic and Mongol periods and are outside the scope of this article.

One important general history was written in Persian during this period, the anonymous Mojmal al-tawârikh wa'l-qesas. Some information about the author can be deduced from internal evidence in the text, where it is indicated that he was a grandson of a certain Mohallab b. Mohammad b. Šâdi (on this family, see Meisami, 1999, p. 207) and that he spent some time in Asadâbâd, where he got the idea of writing such a history in Persian from a conversation at a drinking party with one of its grandees (mehtari az jomla-ye mašâhir va bozorgân, p. 8). The author also indicates that he began writing the book in 520/1126 and was a contemporary of Sanjar and Mahmud [b. Mohammad] b. Malek-Šâh; his rather obvious partiality towards the latter, as well as his special interest in Hamadân and Isfahan, suggests that he may have been attached to Mahmud's court in some way. The author drew on a broad range of Persian and Arabic sources, which he had apparently found in his grandfather's library (list in Bahâr, ed., pp. lt-hb and 2-3), and records much interesting information from them that would not otherwise be known. He also covers a surprising range of topics, from Graeco-Roman and Byzantine rulers to the titulature of various kings to architectural monuments. He was not, however, very discriminating in his historical method, and the reliability of much of what he says is open to question: he accepts many clearly fabulous stories and is often imprecise and inconsistent in calculating dates. Some of the more thoughtful sections of his text, such as his critique of Sasanian chronology and description of the portraits of Sasanian kings, have merely been lifted from earlier texts, notably Hamza Esfahâni. Where he might be expected to have made a significant original contribution, e.g., on the history of the Saljuqs, he actually has little to say. For the most part, the text is written in an informal and chatty style, with frequent digressions and personal observations about whatever strikes the author's fancy.

The dynastic histories of the Saljuqs present one problem after another in terms of authorship, textual transmission, reliability, and interpretation (the survey by Cahen in Lewis and Holt is still fundamental to the study of this historiography). Abu'l-´Alâ` b. Hawl, vizier of Toghrel Beg, is supposed to have written a Resâla fi tafzµil al-atrâk (GAL SI, p. 553), but it is lost and may or may not have been an attempt at producing a dynastic history of the Saljuqs. It is not until much later that such works definitely began to appear, with the first apparently being the Fotur zamân al-sodur wa zamân al-fotur, written in Persian by the vizier Anušervân b. Khâled Kâšâni (q.v.; d. 533/1138-39). This, too, is lost, but it was used by ´Emâd-al-Din Kâteb Esfahâni (q.v.; d. 597/1201), a secretary in the service of the Zangids and later the Ayyubids (well known for his history of Saladin), as the basis for his history of the Saljuqs, Nosrat al-fatra wa ´osrat al-fetra (still available only in a unique manuscript in the Bibliotheàque nationale, Paris). This Arabic version of the text is noted mostly for its florid style, which may exceed even that of ´Otbi in its nebulous pomposity and pedantry. ´Emâd-al-Din's work was in turn redacted by Fakhr-al-Din Fath b. ´Ali Bondâri Esfahâni (fl. 623/1226) in the Zobdat al-nosra, written for the Ayyubid prince al-Malek al-Mo´azzam ´Èsâ. Since Bondâri's work has been edited and published, it is the one most often cited in modern works. How much this third-hand history may resemble Anušervân's original work is debatable; in any case, it deals mostly with the Saljuqs of Iraq and is of peripheral importance for the historiography of Persia. A manuscript entitled Zobdat al-tawârikh akhbâr al-omarâ` wa'l-moluk al-saljuqiya [sic] bears an attribution to Sadr-al-Din Abu'l-Hasan b. ´Ali b. Nâser Hosayni and was edited by Mohammad Eqbâl as such (Akhbâr al-dawla al-saljuqiya, Lahore, 1933). Although this Hosayni may have assembled the basic text ca. 560/1164, the extant version is clearly a composite and redacted work which includes material from both earlier sources, such as a lost Malek-nâma, and later additions and emendations (see Cahen in Lewis and Holt, pp. 69-72). Apart from the lost history of Anušervân b. Khâled, all the histories of the Great Saljuqs written in Persian basically derive from a Saljuq-nâma by Zahir-al-Din Nišâpuri (d. 580/1184?), tutor of the sultans Mas´ud b. Mohammad and Arslan b. Toghrel. Esmâ´il Khan Afšâr published what he purported to be the text of this work (Tehran, 1332 Š./1953), but it was really just a reworking of the original by the Ilkhanid historian Abu'l-Qâsem Kâšâni (q.v.) that was incorporated into that author's Zobdat al-tavârikh. Allin Luther (2001, pp. 18-19), following Ahmed Atel, thought that another version, incorporated into Rašid-al-Din's Jâme´ al-tavârikh, was closer to the original and used it as the basis for his English translation. More recently, it has been suggested that neither of these represents Zahir-al-Din's original text, which may be preserved in a hitherto neglected manuscript (London, Royal Asiatic Society, MS Persian 22b; see Luther, tr., 2001, p. ix). In any event, this ur-text and the glowing, thoroughly uncritical, depiction it apparently gave of the virtues of Saljuq rule also formed the basis for the Râhat al-sodur wa âyat al-sorur by Mohammad b. ´Ali Ravandi. Ravandi began writing the Râhat al-sodur in 599/1202; faced with the collapse of the Persian Saljuqs and the rise of the Khwârazm-šâhs, he moved to Konya, revised his panegyrics in favor of the Rum Saljuqs, and dedicated the work to Sultan Kay-Khosrow b. Qelej-Arslân. Except for events relating to the last years of Saljuq rule in Persia, the historical value of Ravandi's work is very slight. The bulk of the text follows closely the version of Zahir-al-Din as found in the Ilkhanid historians, except for adding various rhetorical embellishments (they can hardly be called improvements), copious quotations of poetry, and a good deal of sermonizing.

A large number of works from this period fall into a category most often called "local history," i. e., books devoted to individual regions or cities (a special issue of Iranian Studies 33 [2000] has been devoted to this topic). As a descriptive term, however, this rubric is both inadequate and misleading: Such works may be "local" in subject but not necessarily in perspective. Moreover, "local history" is not a uniform genre, and it includes many titles which properly should not be regarded as history at all. It should also be emphasized that such works are not unique to either this period or to the historiography of Persia.

In the case of provincial history, this had previously been focused on important areas of the caliphate such as Khorasan. With the rise of the eastern dynasties, Khorasan had become in effect the arena of mainstream history; now, areas peripheral to it became the subject of provincial history. The earliest extant example is the anonymous Târikh-e Sistân, the main part of which was written ca. 448/1062 (with continuations down to 726/1326). It is unquestionably local in its point of view (the main author could almost be described as a Sistâni nationalist or patriot), but it is also quite interesting and far from unsophisticated as a specimen of historiography. The work begins with a foundation myth (crediting Garšâsp, q.v., with the founding of Sistân); describes the many "superiorities" (fazµâ`el) of Sistân as well as its boundaries, districts, and resources; and gives an account of the life of Mohammad which can definitely be described as unusual (apparently incorporating popular local legends). The bulk of the narrative is then given over to a history of Sistân after the Islamic conquest, notable for the attention it gives to the Kharijites in Sistân and its admiring treatment of the Saffarids as Sistâni heroes of epic proportions (this is the real centerpiece of the text). The coming of "the Turks," first the Ghaznavids and then Toghrel "the accursed" (mal´un), is seen as an unparalled calamity for Sistân.

The Fârs-nâma of Ebn al-Balkhi (q.v.; fl. ca. 510/1116) is equally affectionate in its regard for its province but far more accepting of Turkish rule there. This is probably due to the fact that its author (whose family was not native to Fârs) was an accountant in the administration of the Atabaks and wrote his book at the request of Sultan Mohammad b. Malek-Šâh, while the author of the Târikh-e Sistân was apparently writing for a popular audience. Over half of the Fârs-nâma is given over to a fairly conventional account of the pre-Islamic Persian kings, with a few unique details (especially in connection with the history of Mazdak). The rest of the book is a me‚lange of geographical, historical, and ethnographical information, which is most interesting for what it has to say about the qâzµis of Shiraz, the last phases of Buyid rule in Fârs, the advent of the Saljuqs, and the affairs of Amir Fazµluya and the Šabânkâra`i Kurds.

Afzµal-al-Din Kermâni (q.v.; fl. 584/1188) wrote two works on the Kermân branch of the Saljuqids: a general history, the Badâ`i al-azmân fi waqâ`i Kermân or Târikh-e Afzµal (now lost) and the ´, in part a history of the conquest of Kermân by the Ghozz chieftain Malek Dinâr in 581/1185 (ed. M. E. Bâstâni-Pârizi as Saljuqiân wa Ghozz dar Kermân, Tehran 1343 Š./1964). Like several other works of this period, the ´, written in what Julie Meisami (1999, p. 234) considers "an outstanding example of the ornate chancery style," was also intended to praise and win the favor of the ruler (in this case Malek Dinâr) and to give ethical instruction about how to govern; as such it is rather on the margins of what can be considered historiography per se.

Towards the very end of the period under consideration, around 606/1210, Bahâ`-al-Din Ebn Esfandiâr began working on a Târikh-e Tabarestân, for which he carried out research in the libraries of Baghdad and Khârazm. Rather like the author of the Mojmal al-tavârikh, he had been inspired to take on this task after being queried about the ancient history of Tabarestân by a Bavandid ruler. As Charles Melville has noted, his work is difficult to assess since it seems never to have been properly finished and has also probably been garbled in the complicated process of manuscript transmission (Melville, 2000b). The received text is certainly a composite one, with only sections one (ed. Eqbâl, I, pp. 1-302; on foundation myths, settlements and revenues, biographies of famous people of Tabarestân, and the history of the province down to the Buyid and Ziyarid period) and three (ed. Eqbâl, II, pp. 32-173; mostly on the Bavandids) attributable to Ebn Esfandiâr himself (Melville, 2000b, pp. 56-58). The author, a native of the province and a Shi´ite, was keenly aware of the special character of Tabarestân as an area with a strong and separate sense of identity, but he was neither as chauvinistic as the author of the Târikh-e Sistân nor as parochial as Ebn al-Balkhi or Afzµal-al-Din: He goes to great length to put the history of the province in the context of larger affairs, and he draws on a variety of non-local written sources and documents as well as local traditions. In some respects, the book could be read as a meditation on the nature of just rule, a theme set at the outset by its inclusion of a translation of the Tansar-nâma (the best known feature of the text).

Urban history can be regarded as one of the oldest genres of Islamic historiography, with extant examples going all the way back to Akhbâr Makka, the first redaction of which was made by Ahmad b. Mohammad Azraqi (d. 222/837). Histories of individual Persian cities were written at least as early as the mid-3rd/9th century as evidenced by the (now lost) Ta`rikh Marw of Ahmad b. Sayyar Marwazi (d. 268/881; Sezgin, GAS, I, p. 351). Works of this type proliferated in the late Islamic period; examples from Persian cities include books on Astarâbâdh, Samarqand, Nasaf, Bokhara, Nišâpur, Balkh, Jorjân, Esfahan, and Qazvin (see Paul, 2000a; idem, 2000b; lists in Brockelmann, GAL, SI, pp. 209-11, 571; Sezgin, GAS, I, pp. 351-54). They often have very complicated problems of textual transmission (see, e.g., Paul, 1993). Most also turn out to be not works of historiography at all, but primarily of prosopography, usually just of members of the ´ (for examples, the so-called Ta`rikh Samarqand of Abu Sa´d Edrisi [d. 405/1015]; the Ta`rikh Naysâbur of Abu ´Abd-Allâh b. al-Bayye´ [q.v.; d. 405/1015-16]; the Dhekr akhbâr Esfahân by Abu No´aym Esfahâni [q.v.; d. 430/1038]; or the Ta`rikh Jorjân by Abu'l-Qâsem Hamza b. Yusuf Sahmi Jorjâni [d. 427/1036]). Sahmi's Ta`rikh Jorjân is typical of the genre in form and in meagerness of historical information: It gives a short report on the Arab conquest of Jorjân (pp. 44-46); a list of the Companions of the Prophet and the tâbe´un who settled there (pp. 46-51); some comments on the Mohallabid family (pp. 51-54); the governors, the building of the congregational mosque, and famous visitors (pp. 54-57); and finally biographical notices for more than a thousand of the city's noted religious scholars (pp. 59-509). It thus does not provide anything like an extended narrative history of a city in the manner of Naršakhi's Ta`rikh Bokhârâ discussed above (although the original Arabic text of that work may also have had a large prosopographical section; see Smirnova). Even as prosopography, these city histories appear pathetically small in size or sadly limited in variety of contents when compared to the great biographical compendia of the metropolitan cities of the Arab lands such as Khatib Baghdâdi's Ta`rikh Baghdâd (in 14 vols., with biographies of almost eight thousand scholars and over a hundred pages just on the topography of the city) or Ebn ´Asâker's Ta`rikh Demašq (in 70 vols., with biographies of every notable known to have lived in or visited the city). That is not to say the Persian city "histories" are without historical value (they do contain varying amounts of incidental historical information) or that they cannot be put to use as sources for the history of the period (as has been demonstrated by Richard Bulliet); they are simply highly problematic as specimens of historical literature.

An exception to these comments might be made for the Mahâsen Esfahân by Mofazµzµal b. Sa´d Mâfarrukhi (fl. 465/1072; see Paul, 2000b), which does give a kind of historical portrait of the city, its people, and its culture, and particularly in the case of the Târikh-e Bayhaq by Zahir-al-Din Bayhaqi (q.v.), also known as Ebn Fondoq (d. 565/1169). Ebn Fondoq was a prolific author who was both a historian (author of a now lost continuation of ´Otbi, the Mašâreb al-tajâreb) and a biographer (who wrote the Ta`rikh hokamâ` al-eslâm); his Târikh-e Bayhaq combines both disciplines. It departs somewhat from the typical model of the city histories in several respects: It contains a longish discourse on the nature of history and the benefits of studying it (pp. 4-15); it describes in some detail the many sources on which the work was based (pp. 19-21); and it gives a fairly extensive survey of the history of the city and the dynasties which ruled there (pp. 25-73). The prosopographical section does not deal only with individuals, but also with the great families of the city (pp. 73-137); the number of individual biographies is relatively small as the author does not aim to be comprehensive but chooses his entries selectively. Moreover, the biographies deal with a broad spectrum of the social elite of Bayhaq, not just the ´olamâ`, and are often serve to provide information about events in the history of the city (see Pourshariati, pp. 156-64). On the other hand, the author is quite suspect as a critical historian; he makes much use of folklore and legend, boasts about his own abilities and virtues, and gives free reign to his prejudices (as in his contemptuous appraisal of the state of the sciences in his time and his frequent expressions of disdain for the "rabble" [gawgâ] of the city).

 

Conclusion

In many cultures around the world, the production of historical literature is often closely linked to the phenomenon of ethnogenesis or the formation of a sense of social solidarity. For Muslims, too, as Claude Cahen perceptively noted, historiography was "one of the principal forms by means of which not only small regional or confessional groups, but even the Community, itself, acquired consciousness of identity as a whole" (Cahen, 1990, p. 191). If there is a theme linking the historiography of Persia in the Islamic period, it is the story of the shifting and conflicting allegiances involved in this process: triumphalist expressions of a conquering elite, melancholy reflections on a shattered past, awareness of being part of a great imperial civilization, or feelings of membership in a commonwealth of regional states. In that sense, the most striking feature of the historiography of Persia during the late Islamic era is the extent to which it reveals the fragmented and shrinking political horizon as well as the deep social cleavages of the time. That, coupled with its generally mediocre quality, hardly prepares one for the impressive creative outburst of historical writing that was about to take place in Mongol Persia.

 

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

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Source/Extracted From: Encyclopaedia Iranica

 

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Page Keywords: Aryans, chaemenian, Achaemenids, Hakhamanesh, Hakhamaneshian, Parthians, Arsacids, Ashkanians, Ashakanids, Pahlavas, Parni, Sasanians, Sassanians, Sassanids, Sasanids, Persians

 

 

 

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