A. D. H. Bivar, The Role of Allegory in the Persian Epic

The divergences on the history of ancient Iran presented by the results of western research, based on Greek and Latin texts, inscriptions and cuneiform tablets, numismatics, and other sources, and the traditional Persian narratives contained in epics, especially the Shahnama, and in Zoroastrian texts, have long been a puzzle for scholarship. The theme of the present paper is that these largely derive from the fact that this traditional history was compiled in late antiquity from minstrel sagas in which the more or less transparent concealment of personal names by the use of allegory was as much a literary convention as a political necessity. This characteristic was stressed previously by Mary Boyce.  Historical names were altered, but the episodes in which they took part are still often recognizable.  Amongst epic personalities who can be identified in this way, there is discussion of Afrasiab, Kay Khosrow, Azidahaka, Faridun, Godarz, and Rustam. All these, it argued, reflect the roles of personages known also to the Classical tradition, and the identity, or at least similarity of names, can often be demonstrated.




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