Persian Language and Literature

yes thank you very much for coming out on this evening tonight we're doing Persian language and literature which is Persian history just keeps going back and back and back and back that never stopped it goes back it's Turtles all the way down the physics problem so I was trying to figure out where to start and I and I thought a great place to start with you with the New York Times in April of 2003 you may you may have remembered that we decided to invade Iraq and Afghanistan around that time and the announcement on that day in the paper was one remaining objective as cooked a town to the southeast of Baghdad and a former hotbed of resistance there have been reports in recent days that several hundred paramilitary troops were holed up in the town both but local leaders say that the paramilitary units are no longer in the city and they are willing to allow American marines into it American military officials are working to clarify the status of the city in any case it seems likely to be under American control soon that would mean virtually all of Iraqi cities would be out of control of mr. Hussein or as major subordinates with this announcement America became roughly the 1,000th country to invade what happened to us is exactly what has happened to every other outside force that has invaded this region since time literally in the morning it just goes on and on if listen to the commentators of the history of Persia the Middle East at the time of American war plans were being drawn up in our invasion ideas they they were more or less unanimous and saying well this was historically a very bad idea not necessarily the invasion which is fine many people have successfully invaded the region but the vagueness of our ideas of what was going to happen next Bohdan ill for our future in the region and of course events proved them to be correct so I want you to set your mind's way back in the distant past the blowing sands their middle east and a prophet comes from the desert and he has seen a vision he is a seen a vision of the one true God and the one true God has told them you must not sin must be righteous you must pray to God and ask for his guidance you must avoid the evil in the world and the doers of evil and the demons who prompt you to evil and you'll be received help from angels you will look forward to an afterlife where you'll be reunited with your God in faith and the voice of the Prophet is true and you must follow his writings of course we know the name of this Prophet Zarathustra these are the teachings of the Prophet Zarathustra who founded zero astron ISM sometime it is not clear it's very hard to get these exact dates but sometime around 1500 BC that is 1500 BC this goes way back this goes back almost to the origins of writing and this prophet rises up and says this polytheism all of these idols he worships are wrong they must be cast down you must follow the true God who Mazda who will show you the right way and you must avoid sin and the challenges of paramon losses the devil that tempts you to do evil and man is here on earth to choose between good and evil righteousness or wrong living with eternal salvation as a reward all of this was a revolution in religious thought prior to that time polytheism was the order of the day animism in fact to have such an abstract serve gone off in the distance was very rare if not unique at the time and it took a while to catch on but catch on it did and it spread its influence that you may recognize some of the forms of the influence up until obviously the present day so we can pick up Persian history in the birth of the Persian language a thousand years later by the way it's not for a thousand years later that we have good scriptural evidence of the first zero astron state religion which is in the Ackermann dynasties that will begin to discuss but even by the time we have good written evidence for it we have other evidence that demonstrates that Zarathustra if such a person did live and there's some reason to suspect that he did predated that a thousand years like I said this this history just keeps going back and back but we'll fast forward to the Acme nian dynasty this one you may know if you look at the timeline there because this is Cyrus the Great Darius and Xerxes by the way these are the only names you need to know because they just they said that was Cyrus and then Darius and then Dirk sees and artaxerxes and the Nardo Xerxes and artists Eric sees and Darius and then Darius and artaxerxes and Darius artaxerxes as in Darius and then finally when they got to Darius the third the Greeks came in and killed them so that's sort of put that into the two names that they allowed their rulers to have but there's a whole list of them there that's a few more than that I exaggerate but this is in the end so 5:59 to 3:30 BCE you got the a comedian dynasty vast huge dynasty largest dynasty in the ancient world with the potential exception of depending how you score China at the time but in any case really dig extravagantly wealthy and this is the Canadian form writing where we left off in the kanae form lecture was the appearance of old persian emkin a forum this is where we're picking up from today see during a Khomeini and dynasty that you get old persian which is a very direct close descendant of modern persian um him specifically the area that is today known as iran where they still speak Persian so this is a 2500 year run of speaking closely allied dialects of the same language only matched by China's the only other country in the world that has this clear contiguous grunt of linguistic sort of heritage another way to think about it is 2500 years ago imagined that the Native Americans were speaking some form of English well they weren't there was not even a form of English 2,500 years ago much left speaker's of it much less speakers of it here so when American made something like the Middle East Baghdad the area of the ancient Persian empires we're stepping not into a history that's a hundred and 200 or 500 years old we're stepping into a history that's been contiguous for several thousand years generally we ignore this generally that doesn't work out very well so this is when we begin to get the first inscriptions in stone and some kanae form tablets of old Persian it was either the most widely written or second most widely written language it's hard to judge at this distance but it was a common court language which continues to be until today influential throughout the region of what we've known today is Baghdad Iraq and Iran primarily and then anywhere that the administrators of the Accu minion dynasties went which was a lot of places you would find persian and envision important documents and then about 332 BC we'll about roughly exactly Alexander the great cross to Helens spot and begins the wars that destroy her conquer the Persian Empire of course I should mention by the way Cyrus Darius Xerxes these are the guys that we get from the Greek historians of course if you read the Persian historians to have a slightly different version of how this works out than the Greek historians do but the bad guys in Greek history of course are the Persians specifically Darius and Xerxes these are these are the bad guys who keep invading and they fight and they sacked Athens and these are the people they fought it Thermopylae again if you read the Persian history they had a slightly different view on it not surprising the person we call Alexander the Great yeah they don't think of him as being so great right Alexander the plunderer Alexander the guy who messed our country up and he crosses and he destroys the then capital a beautiful city you can still see the rooms amazing rooms what is this now going on 2,300 2,400 years later of Persepolis was called the city of a hundred towers and this may have not been an exaggeration if you look what's still standing today unfortunately Alexander burned the library of Persepolis and we have very few written documents from this period because the Persian ministers had transferred to using various kinds of fabrics and land leathers and other materials for keeping records rather than stone and connect form which is very heavy but also much more prone to disappearing in fires and so with the destruction of the library of Persepolis we lost much of the written material that we otherwise would have had from this period of Persian history again so when people talk about the you know horrible barbarians destroying the library of Alexander and much of our Greek culture well hahaha right whistle blow back for our people because you know Alexander's over here burning our library so there was a lot of library burning going on the ancient world and it certainly wasn't the province of any single group of people to do this so our Alexander crosses over and begins a pattern that we will see repeatedly he conquers Persia well what does it mean to conquer Persia well what his commanders noticed was that all of a sudden he started wearing Persian clothing and he started acquiring the manners of a Persian overlord and as he marched east he became more and more like a sort of Persian ruler a Shan Shan a great man of the Persian civilization he dropped his Greek weights became haughty he dressed again most notably the Persians were very big on clothing he dressed like a Persian and this upset has leave generals we have written documents on this time they've got real nervous are you that Alexander the leader of Greek civilization are you alexander the increasingly persian despot who's winning this battle right this is which way this go it's tricky to know but remember there were very few Greeks who invaded Persia and a lot of Persians so if you conquer Persepolis and burn it to the ground well that's nice maybe but there's still several hundred thousand Persians there and you might have ten or fifteen thousand Greeks and so you're going to need some help administering this huge country that you've conquered and that hope is going to be in the form of the Persian of the zere's and they're happy to help you out because what else do they have to do for a job but what language do they write they write Persian what kind of ideas that they have their Persian ideas and so before too long you get the Seleucid dynasty which is founded by one of Alexander's generals and really looks like a few Greek guys dressed up as Persians running a formal Persian Empire more or less indistinguishable from the way it would have been wrong but the Persians were still in charge this is the extraordinary turn of events happens very rapidly but it's perfectly understandable then you get this sort of by the way my original time outline that I wrote up turned out to be ten pages long so I think you know service so I'll have the lacunae oh I see well lots of things happen so you know there's all the Seleucid dynasty fighting it back and forth you get the rise of the Parthian dynasty some of whom spoke versions of not the Parthian x' or the pythons or the Pashtun x' on a very difficult group of people history suggests the Seleucids do not like them the Persians did not like them on again off again the Romans did not like them there no one's is like them we don't like them today and we're still fighting them which is of course exactly what history suggested would happen so the Parthian sort of organized himself and they rise up and with their help the sustaining and dynasty gets started which becomes the middle person now the sasanian dynasty becomes I think at that time the largest empire ever it is vast vast in the extent that it was able to recall current control and what I think historians wondered for a while was why was this and it turns out the reason they were able to do this so quickly and so efficiently is because much of the infrastructure that was there was still essentially a Persian bureaucracy many of them still spoke Persian or its allied language the forms were Persian even if there was a party in general or if there was a Greek general or some other despot and in control of the infrastructure the organization was still very much along the Persian lines that would be perfectly recommend recognizable to darius darius if he could have come forward 700 years of history would have looked around and said oh i know this works this is the way we ran it when i was here it says amazing continuity again because of the conflict besides stone engravings and in some tablets and a limited amount of writing we have a very limited material from this period of time which is the middle persian period but this goes on as you can see from roughly 200 to roughly seventh century so 637 so it's a good 400 year rob and so if you look you had about 200 250 years we Amenia dynasty which really continues to pretty significantly under the Seleucids a couple of periods of unrest and then you get another period of roughly four hundred years of continuous Persian rule so that's a thousand year run with some interregnum of civil war and strife and so this played very deep cultural foundations of Persian identity of the notion of geopolitical continuity of how your government should work how it should be wrong but the sustained Ian's also were strongly Zoroastrian in their outlook that became Zoroastrianism became the state religion as it'd been probably the straight religion under the akka minions the texts that we have are unclear about this it was at least a significant religion but probably a state religion under the a conveniens but in the sasanian it was absolutely a state religion this is this is what it meant to be a person at this time it meant to be Zoroastrian or you paid a tax if you wanted to be a Christian or a Jew that was fine ish but that you just had to pay for it we're gonna charge you a little extra on the side too if you're gonna practice your religion within our Zoroastrian confines and there are other ones myth rights and mazda i'ts and other forms of this so at this point that the sasanian dynasty looks virtually unstoppable it's one of these empires that said well you know we're at we've done we're finished you know no one is greater than us we've conquered all the world no one can test us we're the greatest people ever in history which history shows time and again as soon as you say that bad things happen to you never say that because then that things happened and of course they know the bad thing that's coming on the sasanian dynasty at this time is the Islamic conquest where the most remarkable events in the history of the world was the unbelievably rapid you think that the the that Muhammad is preaching in 620 and 630 and by 650 they've conquered pretty much all of what used to be the sasanian dynasty sasanian empire it would be something as if like I was trying to think of an equivalent it would be as if a priest of Bob Marley rose up in Jamaica today and in 30 years had conquered all of North America Central America most of South America and good chunks of Europe Jamaica was like there's no possible way this is impossible this could not happen this is inconceivable to us in the ancient world the Arabs in the Arabian Peninsula was viewed as sort of the furthest out back of the outback they didn't have writing that hold to the door just sort of these crazy people over there that no one really messed around with too much they were not big on the map and it also may flow in and they overflow and they conquer against the sasanian dynasty the largest dynasty in the world at that time or certainly in the region at that time very rapidly yes primarily good question primarily and this is important military this is why started with American baby again same pattern these are the Umayyads by the way lumia dynasty comes rolling in they take all the capital cities they killed many of the leading families they defeat the militaries in battle on the field and they set themselves up ha we now ruled the Persian Empire great good for you now what are you gonna do with it and it turns out much as like happening when the people conquered China they didn't know what to do with it they had no idea and so the first thing they needed to do is to consult some people who had run a huge vast empire before and you know who happened to be handy to hand a bunch of Persian béziers happened to be hand in hand well you know funny you should ask we have had some experience in running empires of this size I'm glad to help you out no problem we'll help you there and so when they when they roll in Islam new religion zoroastrianism has now been established in this area for you know a thousand years going on it's been around spin a state religion for several hundred so Islam didn't just walk in and say okay you're all converted his mom came in and said we are Islamic you are not we're the bad people it's all for us you can't have any more and so this led to deserve two things many of the leading people said well we want to convert to your religion so that we can be on the inside and there is very concrete flow no we don't want you to convert but we do want to convert we don't want to let you to convert because then you don't have to pay taxes and you'll get a share and saying what's going on but eventually they had to sort of give in because they needed these people to help them and so they said oh yes we have converted with converted to your religion wholesale so we're now going to suggest that you make a few changes to the way you do things have you ever considered praying five times a day as we do in Zoroastrianism and they said well killed and you guys rising up oh yes absolutely we would appreciate that very much we're happy to do that and and what if we prayed and we'll just put the fires out near fire temples and put up put up little things that say Mohammed is great on there all those does the one true God oh that's fine we're good with that okay great so we'll pray five times a day in your old temple with some new writing yep good everybody's converted isn't that great and so many of the things that we take for granted today that come to us from Islam and are seen as key features of Islam are in fact direct borrowings not sort of day but five times a day is zero after you the Quran tells you to pray three times a day out of the Avesta which is this holy book of Zoroastrianism says five times a day and it tells you to try it for slice of the times of day the Muslims pray today because figure out it from the Persian the zeroes you told them this would be a really good way to do things and this goes on and on so the aluminum's are based in Damascus for do geographical regions this is sort of the middle Near East this is where these things are going on and they're trying to run this vast empire with limited familiarity with this they're very smart they're very capable but this doesn't last too long and guess what happens next the Abbas's with helps from the Parthians rise up as usual and they conquer the Umayyad dynasty and they've been they systematically exterminate all of the family except for one who escapes to the spain um and they moved the capital from Damascus to the Tigris and Euphrates of course this is what you do and they built the new city Baghdad which means more or less a new city right next to what used to be Babylon and this was a way of saying we're moving back to where we've always been we're reestablishing ourselves in the homeland of our people homeland of our people for the last thousands of years at this point has been right here and so your Islamic conquest has turned out to look a whole lot like the reestablishment of the Persian Empire fascinatingly the Capitals moved back to where the Capitals have always been the forms of worship begin to look suspiciously like they always did before it's not that sir Astra doesn't lose a lot of its authority and a lot of the priests of the Zoroastrian tradition were very upset by this a lot of fighting it took took more than a couple centuries for this for Islam to really take hold but by the time it had really taken hold it had been magically transformed in many ways in to complete a program in Zoroastrianism that had been going on for a long time so just to put the exclamation point on this we reached a period of classical Persian literature now where we really have lots of great written texts many of which you will be familiar but but you have to put this again in context so now we're moving on towards the guys in the dynasty turkic-speaking the opposites don't fall they just sort of become easily federated and local caliphates and stuff rise up and are much more powerful and wealthy so it becomes less despotic and centralized control and more loosely Confederated and you get this amazing moment so at this point says we'll just go to Fordow sees right now this is about 934 935 the book of books comes out roughly 10:00 10:00 so that is nearly 400 years after Persia has been conquered by Islam ferdowsi brings out a book called the Shana ma is the single most important word in Persian by far is sort of a combination Shakespeare Bible Iliad and Odyssey all rolled into one he says at the end of the Shamanov shot a mosque is mentioned visit now I am done I have written the book that will make me immortal no one will forget it and no one will forget Persian this is what I has achieved and my greatness I have built a tower that will never be overtaken by flood and raining or lightning 1,000 years later he turns out to be absolutely correct but you have to put this in perspective for 400 years Persian had been theoretically under the thumb of Arabic Islam and then producing comes on and writes what is long it's longer than the Illin the odyssey put together i forget us its 80,000 couple of typing it's a lot of couplets it's an ode to the greatness of Persia it's a complete history of the world it begins with the first man it turns out to be from a Zoroastrian tradition and it goes all the way up until Persia is conquered by the Arabs and then stops the first series is sort of this mythical origins of the world the middle section is a sort of heroic age and it includes some references to actual historic people like Alexander appears in there but it's mostly sort of very much like velia in the Odyssey more like obviously a whole series of sequence of events the last third of it may be little more than the third is the actual rend of the kings of Persia of the sasanian dynasty more or less in correct order with lots of correct details so it is part history part fairytale but it's 100% a powerful reassertion of the centrality of persian as a language this is the languages as the great literary language how do you know I've just proved it of the extremely non-0 a streon foundations I mean non-islamic foundations a Zoroastrian foundations of that civilization you can read a long time in there before you read anything that seems to even remotely Islamic with it claim to the future this is not a book being written for now this is a book because Persia is back we're on the map we've never went away but you might have forgotten us but now we're back we're asserting our cultural identity this is an amazing feat of goodness as this is 400 years later again it would be as if in 200 years a member of the Navajo Nation wrote up rose and wrote a work that was so powerful and so great and the Navajo language that a thousand years after that everybody in America spoke Navajo from the outside you would look at this time in history and you would not think oh this is there's gonna be this huge uprising of Persian culture but it never went away you can conquer you can take the capitol city you can put a flag up you can put a new crown on the king you can change outward forms but underneath those cultural forms that again go back at least at this point 3,000 years they don't change that fast the structures just don't change and so this is then we get to this great period again you cannot any literate Iranian today can quote whole passages of the Shona ma it is what it means to be literate and Persian it's also important because it has no Arabic words almost no Arabic words modern Iranian has a lot of Arabic words maybe 30% Persian Parsi what that the Persians it's like Persian plus 30% Arab words but when people want pure Persian real perfect you go to this text because that is an encyclopedia of the Persian identity it's a it's the Persian word for everything that you might not have learned the Persian word for because of the Arabic loanwords how to keep flowing in it's an astonishing achievement but you also at the same time you get the rise and if you look on the back of all the poets that you may have made all these all of these people are coming out at this time Hakim Sinai so I thought we just read a few of these just to get a sense of things on the lower right hand corner there's a picture of that is actual Persian there just so you can see that and then the translation below from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam so one of the big tensions again as I mentioned and I'll keep mentioning is between the Persian traditions and this Islamic overlay oh I'll give you a further example this in a second so look at these Persian poets were often associated with Sufism which would become very important um so this is Hakim from from the walled garden of truth one of the great works and if my friend you asked me the way I'll tell you plainly it is this to turn your face towards the world of life and to turn your back on rank and reputation and spurning outward prosperity to bend your back double in his service and depart company with those who deal in words and take your place in the presence of the wordless the way is not far from you to a friend you yourself or that way so set out along it it's important to note here that the word for road path or way in Arabic is Sharia so when you hear Sharia law this is specifically the way the path the right way when someone says the right way is inside of you all the Sharia law is out there this is this is a this is not a mistake is not accidental you the notion of pathaway it was like a it's a direct refutation of that concept there is no path or way out there the path away is inside I reject your path the Sharia for my path and they use the exact same word this is a very powerful grab to get that word back that they feel have been taken from them Hafiz fees is great because he's just drunk it's sunrise wine boy pour my drink straight away for the turning of the sphere Brooks no delay here our fleeting world has wasted away completely get me completely wasted with the rose' from the east of the wine bowl Rose the wines red Sun wants pleasure tell sleep to get out of your face today don't sleep drink fill the chalice of my skull with a sweet ferment the day of firmaments wheel makes jugs of my clay I'm no man for su fest recant or hermetic babble if the wine is crystal clear that have your say Hafiz the worship of liquid spirits is proper get up then and vow to make it a proper day is specifically prohibited hey again right so you I mean it's just consistent throughout the poetry this this group thing Oh mark I am as the Rising Venus and move in the sky appears to the goodness of quality wine nothing comes near I'm amazed at the vendors of the liquid so dear where they'll buy a better thing is not clear why would you sell it what could you possibly do with the money that would be better than drinking the wine just don't this is he's like you know this is wine geez get a clue and then last when you're from Omar Khayyam and those who husband the golden grain those who flung it to winds like rain alike to know such are eight earth are turned as buried once men want dig up again yeah so this one by the way this is a Fitz joke translation I think Jack who's out here Jack O'Connor gave me a great book has had several translations and commentaries on it and a beautiful French version with all kinds of illustrations of these works wonderful what this means is as the Sun turns just the heavens wheel overhead we die and get turned into the earth and then we're dug up again grain is planted in us I have no idea what people grasp for property and those who husband did the golden grain why you die you get turned in the soil they find granting you and it grows up again what are you holding onto it for again this is this is a very it's not a terribly Islamic prints but let me put you that way finally another truly significant usually work is a part as the conference of the birds of parliament of the fowls you may have heard various versions in this just a passage which there's hundreds of them here but this is a passage from early on in the book and it says this is a Islamic he's a he's a mullah hugely respected he's been on the Hajj and he has a vision then he goes you know what I don't think I'm doing this right and finally he says they love without that savage agony which is reserved for vexed humanity Islam and blasphemy have been both past you got to get past as Islam thing and bison and get past both of them and in the story he goes on to get drunk lust after a Christian woman marry a Christian woman and become a swineherd Edwin his followers go to track him down and say what are you doing mola you've gone I mean you've done I mean every possible thing that you could you runs it's not a mistake right it's like an alphabetic list of terrible things you do and these sends them away and as they don't know their national errors they get a vision from God essentially who says what's wrong with you don't you see follow his example if you want to help him follow his example I don't like I guess we have to become swineherds your way the Sharia law the wave of the law the way of the rules is no way this is an absolute consistent powerful message that you get from sufi text after sufi text after Sufi text when you read the poems much of them are Sufi influence not all of them there's lots of beautiful love poetry by the way it is important to mention that much the love poetry was written to young boys the trade and young boys in this this area today is still very strong but at this time in particular we really fell in love with the with the young boy who was bringing you the wine much of it is also for a beautiful young women as well but a lot of it is directed to young men it is consistent throughout so when you talk about your lover and all this it's always good to check whom they're writing to but but this influence hugely public and so here you got this just rise of this incredibly beautiful ornate Persian cult and this coin has given us the translation movement this goes back to the original Abbasid dynasty scholars have always wondered about why why did all the sudden the Arabs who by the way were essentially no written language before they set out on this conquest in many important ways the Quran is the first book ever written in Arabic while a couple hundreds later are they spending huge sums millions of dollars translating all the Greek works into languages like Oh Persian and Arabic that makes no sense why is Avicenna also in this great air and floss a truly great Eric Schlosser rising up in this world out of seemingly nothing why is he right half business works in Persian these are given to us not they they're a gift from the Persian civilization they lavished huge sums translations literature art sculpture cities and again it reflowing the time of producer right here this is the age of classical Persian and then this is this is all going very well until Genghis Khan shows up this is as close as Persian civilizations ever come to to ceasing the invasion of the Mongols was totally different from any other of age in the ancient world to be seen and everybody the ancient world talked about this everybody else who invaded rolled into your city cut off a bunch of heads and maybe even burnt a few cities down but basically they wanted to take over what was there we're here to really your your Empire we're here to take slaves and take your crops take your gold and to set up business this is not what the Mongol horde was there for the Mongols were there to destroy everything and this is what they did they would take a city kill every single inhabitant burn it down and then most importantly destroy the aqueducts they would destroy the irrigation canal canals that had been dead built literally over the preceding three thousand years this did not make that hard to farm it didn't make it difficult for people to live that made it impossible this whole sections of our rent today that have never been read farmed agrarian life has never returned to them if you've seen pictures of the Iranian oasis towns right to see the big desert with the Oasis the deserts used to be fields for hundreds of miles that waste was built by Genghis Khan and Mongols because they weren't there to settle they were there to conquer and move on and that's what they did estimates very hard to get these things down at least half of the population was killed probably more like 75% so just a devastation completely unlike anything anybody was prepared for and so the Mongols just wrote across this area killing everybody and destroying everything and very nearly very nearly squeezing out into proving civilization but again miraculous everybody knows the Mongols reached all the way into India this is the Mughal Empire by the time they got there two rules whole sections of India they spoke Persian version thanks both versions unbelievably unbelievably they got even the Mongols that convinced to speak Persians by the time they got the Indian so you have this crazy regime in India the mohkumat crazy images historically ohad where the Mughals were Mongols who were Arabic that spoke Persian you're all right then so based on that that wasn't the Mughal Empire was and it was there until the British showed up right I mean the Mughals were there negotiating with the person on Arab Empire I mean up a Mongol Empire of Arabic religious Islamic religious peoples who were speaking Persian usually influenced by the Persian disease and slowly through the temperate period they're able to rise I mean slowly by the way again so slowly that still whole sections of Iran have never recovered from this they've never returned to agriculture because the the act the aqueducts and canals that were necessary to irrigate we're so labor-intensive and took so long to build that they've never been reconstructed it's that level of destruction but slowly under the temperate Empire and several other things will move roll through they're able to rebuild their culture they're able to convert the Mongol overlords as encouraged to to Persian the béziers move back in the originally Buddhist by the way Mongols I don't you to think of them as being Buddhist different kind of Buddhist you could say the Mongols roll in by the time they leave they are primarily converting to Islam again of this very curious flavor of Islam that tends to look a heck of a lot like Zoroastrianism in fact by the time the Mongols have sort of moved on the zero afternoon temps begin to reappear coincidentally timbered Empire sort of settles down puts some civilization back into it the Mongols defeat themselves by the way people we're gonna have the Mongols they defeated themselves the the Golden Horde said on the other main branch and the Islamic and the non-islamic Mongols fought it out in golden courts were eventually won but by that point of much of their power was destroyed we got sucked into China and then about 1500 again this huge break it's a three hundred year break another but but this one was really a break this wasn't a fake veneer of some ruler in there followed by you know slow a similarly assimilation this was vast destruction again who lost much of literature because here comes the Safavid dynasty hugely important this is the real vergence of modern Iran the boundaries of modern Iran were basically said by the abbasids and then the south of EDS locked it down but what is Iran today is basically what the Safavid dynasty was dealing with when they come to power in about 1500 on earth the great thing about this period is we have all kinds of knowledge of it because we have ambassadors there this is if you've heard the saying this fahan is half the world this is the view that the south of the dynasty sets itself up in Isfahan and builds what many still believe to be one of the most beautiful cities ever built miles of gardens interconnected with running streams water you can go online you look at even the remnants of what's left today are still a spectacularly beautiful importantly the sapiens were put in power by the Sufis this mile the first south of the ruler was in fact the head of a Sufi clan it was essentially a Sufi religious person so not surprising to the south of the dynasty sees this upwelling this influence of Sufism of the patronage of the Arts that had been traditional with Persia again for at this point 3000 years they built Persian Gardens beautiful spectacular Persian Gardens illustrated books all by this one I should mention in the Persian illustrated book history which is unbelievably beautiful on they actually showed Muhammad unveiled in many instances which is of course a direct violation but it was within keeping of the way that the plans their part and so many of these ancient books have this face of Mohammed scratched out sometimes they would just put a veil over his face in the the illustrations as anybody's read a mood to MOOCs book my name is red is when the Nobel Prize recently this tension is precisely what he's writing about can you illustrate things you're not supposed to but all we love it the Persian tradition says yes the Islamic tradition says no and people are being killed and there's all this tension about that again this continues to today so the Safavid dynasty rises back up persian becomes a dominant cultural language again if you look at the entire geographical area of the Middle East where as long spread under the Julius and the sassanids sustain ian's only one region has maintained their native language that's Iran people always if you watch our news listen to our political people read the newspaper which I never suggest they refer to Arab Islam and Muslim as if these are the same exact thing the Iranians are not Arab some of them are do not consider themselves there they consider themselves Persian because if you're Persian you have this history right where you are that goes back at this point you know three four or five thousand years and they believe in it and they believe in it because they have works like produces shana mock that demonstrate the greatness to have the ruins to have what they built today so this influence of persian history and persian tradition and most importantly the persian language is right up till today reestablish by the south of this now if you another way to think about this too is again the thousand years ago when producer is writing his shaman imam is roughly when Beowulf was written give or take few years if anybody's ever tried to read Beowulf do you realize how how far we have moved from that the Shahnameh is perfectly readable to any literate Persian today then Iranian Persian but probably any Iranian with most Persians it's not a problem easier than Shakespeare it's closer to modern Persian than it is than shakespeareans to modern English that is the standard of poetry it is how you want to write and you want to write poetry so this is not gone away this is not fade and in fact new Persian is not all that different from middle Persian this language it actually really runs back for about fifteen or sixteen hundred years the continuously unbroken River of influence so I strongly about how to bring this up to today and I thought two examples one of sources is our you know sort of a victorious exit from Iraq which turned out to be like the exit of just about everybody else from Iraq in this region which was we went we conquered things didn't go the way we had hoped and so we left having changed more or less not a lot you know this this is this is you know it's different but mmm not the way we had hoped because we found out that there's all these forces all these factions all these historical influences that we did not understand that work second one that occurred to me is is is our soon to be glorious exit from Afghanistan where similarly we've achieved probably less I don't know if we've changed anything really I mean it would be interesting to see if we have and it's gonna end up looking more or less like it did which is a bunch of warlords factions fighting it out amongst themselves primarily along tribal lines and those tribal lines with exactly the same tribal lines you can read about 2,000 years earlier Persian history they're not new problems these are the same people's in the same situations in the same communal idea it's working themselves out it's quite amazing and finally on a literary front I thought this was fascinating um I don't know if anybody knows who's Saeed hosting Nasser it is he's if you if you watch a lot of news programs in which I don't recommend he's often consulted as a sorting pair of a Persian Iranian expert he is a uranium University professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University prominent Islamic philosophers the author of many scholarly books and articles he's a Muslim Persian philosopher a renowned scholar of comparative religion Gifford lectures ray you know famous lecture series professor Nasser speaks and writes based on doctrines and viewpoints of the perennial philosophy on subjects and religion spirituality music etc and he has a book called the garden of truth is just out recently on Sufism um and in the garden of truth he says which of course the name is directly taken on the walled garden in truth which we read a selection from earlier quote the Quran a search majestically verily we from God to his own returning the one is of course Allah it is no accident that the the standard law of Islam is called Sharia the road this entire book written in English for english-speaking audience is designed to tell us that Sufism equals the Quran the path equals Sharia law this is what Sufism means even with the brief snippets I've given you you should see this is not true in any way shape or form but don't believe me please feel free to go read some Sufi works you'll realize very quickly this is is absolutely absurd but it raises the question of war life yes he was influenced by this so so why a thousand years later why today in the Islamic Republic of Iran but in fact in the United States and english-speaking Iranian professor writing for an English audience would want to tell us that Sufism equals Islam because the tension is still there persian does not equal Islam does not equal Arab does not equals our asterism all these tensions in Iran today and the Persian apart and it's the same tensions that have been going on and on for several thousand years and having been solved yet may know the big power struggles in Iran today is between the political leaders at Medina job supported by the military and the religious councils by the elected council of elders by the way this is a structure of religion and governance brought to you by zero Astron ISM um this is not originally on this Islamic idea who believed in the Caliphate which was a single ruler who embodied both political and religious authority that's a caliphate no no this this notion of having a Council of the wise who guide you but is separating from the the political power this comes to us from the zero astronauts the priests of the Zoroastrian movement worked on a long time to convince the of course ancient leaders of Persia that they should do this these tensions are still there they're still real there's still a huge problem they still Bajor there's no right there's almost no Zoroastrians left in Iran but they still bathroom they just burnt down one of these poets homeland I can't remember his name I forgot to look it up one of his shrines to where he is born because we decide Black's finger 600 years later he's a blasphemer we've gotta stomp that out it'd be interesting to see is where I want to finish up where this goes the evidence suggests that the attempt in Iran today to have this very theocratic heavy-handed restricted government that says you can't do these beautiful paintings you can't write this beautiful literature you can't display beautiful clothes by the way this is a huge imposition particularly Iranian women you can't dress beautifully you can't develop gems you have beautiful houses struggles everybody knows anything about what goes on in Iran that one of the things they come they don't like to let women out without being covered or not real full burkas although many women do that but they say if you want to see beautiful women go into her rhenium private homes and they're done and there's huge imports of review all the big brand fashions in Newry they're beautiful they're done because this is the tradition you dress well if people have seen pictures of aqua Dena Jon the president current president of Arana I always say he's the best-dressed a sort of nutjob dictator in the world I know there's some fine suits that guy wears I mean either beautiful notice this is the Persian tradition you show up turned out you show up looking good and notice this Commodus conflict is there and it's not going to be resolved today it's not going to be resolved tomorrow but it will be interesting to see how long the lid can be hold on when the Ayatollah Khomeini came in he was supported by the Zoroastrians he was supported by all kinds of the Sufis thought he was great because they weren't so hot on the Shah anymore for various reasons many of them quite good did it take him too long to realize oh maybe they had backed the wrong horse and his Khomeini got he looked a little more fundamentalist than they had hoped he would but this got that tension continues how far can they push the freedoms how far could they allow the native person culture to reassert itself this fahan is is perennial he sort of they begin to restore it and they say nonetheless tear it down they will restore this nothing will tear it down well just let that fall down and we'll ignore it they can't they get cut aside because in one hands it's beautiful unbelievable World Heritage Site on the other hand it's attractive and so today and the main person speaking areas of the world you have the tensions that were at work from three four thousand years ago you have a culture that beautifully articulated capable of incredible architecture but diverse voluble literate producers of one of the great literary corpuses the world has ever known that we know far too little of because we associated with these you know crazy guys out in the desert nothing could be more incorrect than that they were not in the desert more crazy well maybe they're crazy the things weren't so much in the dead filled with humor and love and beauty when Goethe read read these early translations there was about 79 when the journeys began translating a lot of the Persian literature and this is still a German project by the way for you to read German you have access to a lot more than I think any other non you know Persian language he said this is so beautiful I'm gonna learn Persian by 82d new Persian he was translating his own Persian works that that ladies and gentlemen is an incredibly powerful linguistic and cultural history and is I think person language and literature thank you very much

32 thoughts on “Persian Language and Literature

  1. The original idea of "khaleefah" was not a political office but the best interpreter of the Quran! What happened at "Saqeefah banu Saa' idah" was to usurp he office and turn it political – origins of Sunni Islam which formally had to wait till the middle/end of the 2nd century to appear as a viable idea in early Islamic society, heavily imbued with politics.

  2. Mughals were not ethnically Arab! Though nominally Muslim many / most were quite relaxed about religion and spoke Chagatai Turkic but used Persian as well, since Persian had become the lingua franca of the Eastern Islamic empire(s) and used for diplomacy. Also the Mongols were not Buddhists but followed a Shaministic creed.

  3. Branimir, Abu Bakr ibn Zakaryiah ar-Raazi was criticized by contemporary fellow-Persian philosophers for over reaching himself! His remark can be said to be true about other religions, including, Zoroastrianism. In the contemporary world, the atavistic Hindutva fundamentalists are even more intolerant, making them the best xenophobes, lacking any soundness of their religion!

  4. It should also be known that Mongols NEVER would've been able to take over had it not been for the Islamic rule of the area. The Muslim Caliph of the Khwarazm area refused to deal with the messenger of Genghiz calling him a "filthy infidel" and after shaving his mustache and beating him sent him back to Genghiz Khan setting off a chain reaction of events. Genghiz was getting ready to wage war in China before that idiot Islamic ruler set him off down the new path of insane destruction. Furthermore, the Sassanid imperial army would've quickly crushed the incoming Mongols as they did with countless other nomadic tribes of central asia who would attack the outskirts of the empire to pilfer. Look up the "Great wall of Persia".

  5. Avicenna along with all other "Muslim" scholars during the "Golden Age" of Islam such as Al-Khorazmi, Biruni, Raazi, Khayyam, and on and on… were all Persian!

  6. Perspolis or "Parseh" wasn't a military compound or base alsmot no armed solders were in the compound. In facts it used as a ceremonial place for the kings as well as people from all over the empire. What Alexandre did was truly labelled him as the fist hooligans in the ancient history, he very well knows that Parseh is the hart of the Persian Empire considering its cultural influences. by destroying Parseh he wanted to end to the Persian- Language, culture influence throughout the empire however, history shows that he failed to do so!

  7. That explains the concept of martyrdom to get 72 virgins (boys) . My guess. may be sand people evolve love sex -oral sex that is . But oral-sex with woman seldom showered may be not as good as with boys 🙂

    Eskimo people don't have history such love for boys. Think about it ..It too cold to enjoy such oral-sex so they evolve to have sex where their penis less exposure to the freezing temperatures.:)

  8. Indeed, Abu Ali ibn Sina known to the west as Avicenna, was a Persian Physician, born in Bukhara, then part of Persia, now in Uzbekistan. Merci.

  9. wow, some major factual issues i have there..first muslim prayed 5 times a day when the prophet was still alive and not cause of some zoroastrian so i would appreciate that you would focus on history and stop trying being funny while making some ditortion to islam.

  10. the mongols arrived to india much before the Mughals. The Mughals arrived to india via afghanistan and western iraq, around early 1500. Approx 200 years before the arrival of Mughals, Mongol invaders fought with the muslim slave dynasty and again with Lodi dynasty in north india many times. circa approx 1221 to 1327… the mongol empire hardly existed when the Mughals rose to power in the Indian subcontinent.

  11. Mongols did not defeat themselves, even after the death of the Great Khan. They became civilized and mixed with other people. They did not destroy like that, only punished those, who did not obey.

  12. Omar Khayyam was Muslim and so were many Sufis. The presenter in the video is reading Fritzgerald's translation which is a bad one. Not only did he take many liberties, parapharsing many quatrains but Fritzgerald himself called the translation a "transmogrification".

    This is what the translator said:
    " "My translation will interest you from its form, and also in many respects in its detail: very un-literal as it is. Many quatrains are mashed together: and something lost, I doubt, of Omar's simplicity, which is so much a virtue in him" (letter to E. B. Cowell, 9/3/58). And, "I suppose very few People have ever taken such Pains in Translation as I have: though certainly not to be literal. But at all Cost, a Thing must live: with a transfusion of one’s own worse Life if one can’t retain the Original’s better. Better a live Sparrow than a stuffed Eagle" (letter to E. B. Cowell, 4/27/59)."

    Omar Khayyam and Sufis in general were very much Muslim and Sufism is in fact Islamic. In fact, Islam itself is Sufism in nature. The mistake people do is take many of the symbols (like wine and women) literally and not figuratively.

  13. Tension And Urban Sustainability: Case Study – The Metropolis Of Mashhad, Iran


  15. It is so sad to hear that a college Professor teaches history sooooo wrong. Everything you say is wrong and people who are listing to you believe you. For people who has no knowledge about Central Asia and Persian language would believe every single word you say but not us. Elamite Language was the language used in todays Iran until Persian language was introduced to them by Aryans (Afghans, Tajiks, and Uzbeks and) Central Asia later name changed to Khorasan and I am not talking about the province Khorasan that was named after Iran got his name in 1935. This is just one of the examples of correcting your wrong knowledge. I will leave the rest for yourself to correct!  please watch this is you want to know more about Elamite Language

  16. what happens if we can prove to you that   Achaemenid Empire nvere  existed .what happens if we can prove to you that alexander the great never conquered persian.what happens if we can prove to you that you speak nonsense.what happens if we can prove to you that zoroaster religion nvere was a  religion. what happens if we can prove to you that the muslam nvere conguered iran,know  what happens if we can prove that you are stopped would you shut up

  17. This is not what Zorastrian texts and those who fled those Parts of India narrate.

  18. There was no Achemanina dynasty in India. He needs to go back for his PH.D.

  19. This is hyped BS. That there were idol worshipers is not mentioned in Avesta. Why do Europeans historians Concoct history as they go. Put all issue sin Christian images.

  20. So much ignorance and distorted truths in this lecture. Dont bother wasting your time, I would recommend highly his lectures on French and Chinese literature.

  21. He has almost every thing wrong in this lecture. I can not believe he has a PhD on the field. A lot of discrepancies when it comes to names, centers of powers, significance of places etc. In regards to the Sufi literature it seems he has no idea about the significance or the implied meanings of the terms such as wine, love/lover, to drink etc. His comments on the subject of lit are totally misleading and misguided. This lecture is a complete waste of time, a complete misinterpretation of the entire Civilization. 

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