The Cyrus Cylinder, dated to 539 BC and written in Akkadian cuneiform script, now in the British Museum. This is considered to be the world’s first Human Rights document, as recognized by the United Nations. The Cyrus Cylinder was first discovered by Hormuz Rassam (Assyrian-British archaeologist) in the Esagila’s structures (Babylon’s primary temple) in 1879.
Cyrus the Great was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire and issued his proclamation in 539 BC, following his conquest of Babylon. The Cyrus Cylinder tabulated Cyrus the Great’s humanist policies:
(1) Cyrus’ role in improving the lives and welfare of Babylon’s citizens
(2) Repatriation of forcibly deported peoples to their original homelands
(3) Restoration of temples and places of worship
(4) Denouncement of the former ruler of Babylon, Nabonidus, as wicked, in contrast to Cyrus who is described as favoured by Marduk, the prime god of Babylon. Cyrus in fact, prostrated himself in front of Marduk when he peacefully entered Babylon city.
The Chinese bones were first believed to be fakes, as the probability of such finds showing up in China seemed…fantastic. This view has now been revised by Professor Irving Finkel of the British Museum (BM) who believes that these are indeed authentic.
In reality, knowledge of the Chinese bones is nothing new. The bones were originally presented by Xue Shenwei to Beijing’s Palace Museum (in the Forbidden City) as far back as 1983. The museum’s specialists told Xue that the script was indeed cuneiform and not ancient Chinese. Xue donated the bones to the Museum in 1985 and died the following year. Dr. Wu Yuhong of the museum discovered in 1987 that the cuneiform inscription of first bone was indeed from the Cyrus Cylinder – the script on the second one was not identified.
A view of the Palace Museum-Forbidden City, in Beijing. The bones with the Cyrus inscriptions were first presented by Xue Shenwei to the Palace Museum’s specialists in as 1983. It has taken decades for these discoveries to surface in mainstream Western and Iranian historiography.
The British Museum
It was in January 2010 when Professor Finkel examined the available photographs from the two Chinese bones, to check to see if these were authentic. Finkel concluded that these were indeed authentic and also discovered that the second bone had cuneiform inscriptions from the Cyrus cylinder. Recall that the Chinese Museum had not discovered this in 1987. Professor Finkel then contacted his Chinese counterparts for more information.
Professor Finkel of the British Museum supports the authenticity of the Chinese bones bearing cuneiform inscriptions that parallel the Cyrus Cylinder.
Dr. Yushu Gong, Chinese Assyriologist, closely examined the bones in the Museum. He carefully rubbed black wax on paper upon the inscription for recording purposes. This provides a clearer image of the script than that currently seen in available photographs. Dr. Yushu then bought these to the British Museum in London and provided a workshop on June 23-24, 2010. The findings were generally received positively but there was also lingering scepticism among some experts in the audience.
Professor Finkel, who finds the evidence “completely compelling” has discovered that:
(1) The texts have fewer than one in every 20 of the Cyrus text’s cuneiform signs transcribed, but they are in the correct order.
(2) The Chinese version of the cuneiform is linguistically correct but its “style” of writing is slightly different from the original cuneiform. Finkel has noted that the signs’ wedge-like strokes from the Babylonian version but are similar to the ones used by writers in ancient Iran.
Finkel also notes that:
“The text used by the copier on the bones was not the Cyrus Cylinder, but another version, probably originally written in Persia, rather than Babylon…”
Finkel further avers that the Persian version may have been:
(1) Written on leather with ink
(2) Inscribed on a tablet of clay
(3) Inscribed on stone
Iranian Archaeologists: Advising Caution and Further Study
Nevertheless, Dr. Kamyar Abdi, an Iranian archaeologist, has urged caution and more studies before arriving at any definitive conclusions. Dr. Abdi told the Persian service of CHN that:
“We should wait patiently for in-depth studies by experts on ancient languages and other laboratory research to confirm the genuineness of the objects…If the objects are proven authentic, the discovery will begin to transform our knowledge about relations between the Near East, especially the Achaemenid Dynastic Empire (550-330 BCE), and China during the first millennium, in particular during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 BC)…The Cyrus Cylinder had undoubtedly been important for the people living under the Achaemenid Empire, but, if the objects are proved authentic, the first question would be how the Cyrus the Great’ text had been transferred to China and why the text was important enough for the Chinese to copy it.”
Iranian archaeologist Dr. Kamyar Abdi at Fullerton in 2006. Dr. Abdi, editor of the Iranian journal of Archaeology and History, has also looked at the Chinese finds with interest but urges further study by a wider panel of experts. He has affirmed that, should the findings be proven unanimously authentic, then an entire chapter of history would need to be revisited.
First of all a charlatan would have to find fossilized horse bones, which has never before been used in fake artefacts.
Second, the aforementioned Xue Shenwei, who was a traditional Chinese doctor,mentioned that he had known of the bones as far back as 1928. He purchased the first bone in 1935 and the second one five years later in 1940. Xue, who knew the sellers, purchased the bones thinking that they were written in an unknown ancient script, presumably from China. It is very fortunate that Xue hid these from the authorities in 1966, during Mao-ist China’s “Cultural Revolution”. Chinese academics who have investigated the late Xue’s account have verified it as genuine.
Recall that Xue had acquired the bones in 1935 and 1940. How could a Chinese forger have known of the contents of the Cyrus Cylinder at that time? Knowledge of this artefact only became known from the early 1970s
The third problem is why would a Charlatan only carve one in twenty characters? This would identification of the supposed “forgery” even more difficult.
Fourth, what would be the purpose of the Charlatan selling the bones in China where no lucrative market for such items would have existed at the time?
Why are these findings so Significant?
This discovery is of profound significance. The common assumption by mainstream historiography has been that the Cyrus Cylinder was:
(1) A unique ceremonial object
(2) Not widely spread beyond Babylon where it was inscribed
But both of these assumptions are now challenged. In fact, these findings are strongly suggestive that the contents of the Cyrus Cylinder:
(1) Were not simply “ceremonial”
(2) Were widely disseminated and copied, far beyond the borders of the Achaemenid Empire. Most likely the Chinese bones were based on documents that arrived in China during or shortly after the reign of Cyrus the Great. Note that Professor Finkel supports the notion that the bones were copied from an original source from ancient Iran, but it remains unclear as to when the actual copying was done.
These findings certainly push back the known history of Sino-Persian relations to the Achaemenid era. This means that Chinese-Iranian relations go back much earlier than has been generally believed.
This will be held by the Cultural Institute of Bonyad in Tehran from February 16 to March 02, 2011.
Dr. Khorasani worked as a historical arms and armor consultant for this exhibition. He guided the museum in selecting and describing 65 exquisite pieces of Iranians arms and armor including bronze and iron weapons, edged weapons (swords, qame, qaddare, daggers, knives), armor (shields, armguards, helmets), firearms (muskets and pistols) and some bowls and paintings depicting fighting scenes.
Dr. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, the world’s leading expert on the history of Iranian and Oriental arms. armour and firearms.
Many of the items at the exhibition are decorated with beautiful gold-inlaid and gold-overlaid floral and vegetal designs. Additionally, many items have gilded inscriptions on them. To show the development of making the crucible steel, some selected bronze and iron weapons from Iran are also shown. The central topic of the exhibition is the crucible steel showing the intricate crucible steel patterns. The following items are presented in the exhibition:
Luristan (bronze and iron age): 1) a bronze macehead from Luristan, 2) a bronze macehead with sharp flanges from Luristan, 3) a bronze macehead from Luristan, 4) an iron mask sword from Luristan,
Hasanlu (bronze age): 5) a bronze macehead from Hasanlu,
Northern part of Iran (bronze and iron age): 6) a copper arrowhead, 7) an ear-pommeled bronze sword from northern part of Iran, another ear-pommeled bronze sword from northern part of Iran, 9) a bronze sword with a cotton-reel pommel from Dailaman, 10) a bi-metallic sword with a bronze cotton-reel pommel and an iron bade from Dailaman, 11) an iron sword with a cotton-reel pommel from Dailaman,
Sassanian period: 12) a magnificent Sassanian sword with silver handle and scabbard
Samanid period: 13) a Samanid bowl depicting a mounted warrior armed with a slightly curved sword, 14) a Samanid bowl depicting a mounted warrior armed with a slightly curved sword and a lance, 15) a Samanid bowl depicting a foot soldier equipped with a straight short swords and a shield,
Safavid period: 16) a gold-overlaid saddle axe from the Safavid period, 17) a six-flanged mace made of steel from the Safavid period, 18) a steel mace with a rounded head from the Safavid period, 19) a curved Persian shamshir from the Safavid period with a crucible steel blade (woodgrain pattern) and handle slabs made of stag horn; the gold-inlaid inscriptions read “Bande-ye shah velayat Abbas” and “The work of Kalbeali”, 20) a curved Persian shamshir from the Safavid period with a crucible steel blade (woodgrain pattern) and handle slabs made of stag horn; gold-inlaid inscriptions on the blade read, “Bande-ye Shah Velayat Safi” and “The work of Assadollah”, 21) a curved Persian shamshir from the Safavid period with a crucible steel blade (ladder of Mohammad pattern) and handle slabs made of stag horn, 22) a curved Persian shamshir from the Safavid period with a crucible steel blade (woodgrain pattern) and handle slabs made of stag horn, 23) a Safavid kard with a crucible steel blade and gold-overlaid inscriptions from the holy Qur’an with handle slabs made of walrus ivory, 24) a dated and chiseled Safavid axe head from Shah Soltan Hosseyn Safavid period, 25) a matchlock wall gun from the Safavid period,
Afsharid period: 26) a magnificent axehead made of crucible steel with gold-overlaid floral design from the Afsharid period
Zand period: 27) a Zand painting showing the battles of Karim Khan Zand, 28) a pishqabz from the Zand period with a silver scabbard, 29) a magnificent pishqabz with chiseled silver handle and scabbard fittings and a crucible steel blade with tears of the wounded balls,
Qajar period: 30) a Qajar painting depicting the battle of Shah Ismail I with the Ottomans, 31) a curved Persian shamshir from the Qajar period with a magnificent crucible steel blade (woodgrain pattern) and handle slabs made of elephant ivory, 32) a curved Persian shamshir from the Qajar period with a crucible steel blade (woodgrain pattern) and handle slabs made of walrus ivory, 33) a curved Persian shamshir from the Qajar period with a crucible steel blade (woodgrain pattern) with a central fuller and handle slabs made of walrus ivory; the blade is gold-inlaid inscription “The Father of Sword The Ruler Mohammad Shah Qajar 1264″, 34) a curved Persian shamshir from the Qajar period with a crucible steel blade (woodgrain pattern) and a handle made of crucible steel with a gold-inlaid inscription that reads: “The Work of Assadollah Isfahani”, 35) a curved Persian shamshir from the Qajar period with a crucible steel blade (woodgrain pattern) and handle slabs made of stag horn, 36) a curved Persian shamshir from the Qajar period with a crucible steel blade (woodgrain pattern) and handle slabs made of elephant ivory; the blade is inscribed with a gold-overlaid inscription “Shah Reza”, 37) a chiseled saddle axe from the Qajar period, 38) a three-pronged javelin from the Qajar period, 39) a two-pronged spearhead from the Qajar period, 40) a gold-overlaid tabarzin from the Qajar period, 41) a kard with a crucible steel blade and gold-overlaid inscriptions from the holy Qur’an with handle slabs made of walrus ivory, 42) a khanjar with a crucible steel blade and a carved handle made of walrus ivory from the Qajar period, 43) a khanjar with enameled handle and scabbard with Qajar portraits from the Qajar period and a crucible steel blade, 44) a qaddare from the Qajar period, 45) a qame from the Qajar period, 46) a kard with a crucible steel blade and handle slabs made of walrus ivory from the Qajar period, 47) a magnificent khanjar with chiseled and enameled silver handle and scabbard from the Qajar period, 48) a magnificent chiseled steel shield from the Qajar period, 49) a beautiful chiseled and gold-overlaid kolahkhud from the Qajar period, 50) another chiseled and gold-overlaid kolahkhud from the Qajar period, 51) riveted mail armor from early Qajar period, 52) percussion musket from the Qajar period, 53) a flintlock musket from the Qajar period, 54) a dated (1259 Hegira) percussion cap musket attributed to Mohammad Shah Qajar made by Mohammad Ja’far Afshar, 55) a double-barreled percussion cap pistol from the Qajar period, 56) a flint lock psitol from the Qajar period, 57) a percussion cap pistol from the Qajar period, 58) a steel shield with the central sun in the middle from the Qajar period, 59) a demon-headed helmet with gold-overlaid and chiselled surface, 60) a chiseled and gold-overlaid helmet from the Qajar period, 61) a magnificent lacquered steel shield from the Qajar period, 62) an armguard with chiseled and gold-overlaid decorations, 63) a fish-shaped priming flask made of crucible steel, 64) a priming flask made of crucible steel, 65) a brass black powder flask covered with fabric.
Dr. Khorasani has written the text for the exhibition catalogue which will be distributed as a high quality colored catalogue during the exhibition. Khorasani’s most recent works include Arms and Armor from Iran: The Bronze Age to the end of the Qajar Period and most recently the Lexicon of Arms and Armor from Iran. To rrder these books, please click on the Legat Publishers link or order directly from LEGAT Publishers: Alexander Frank ([email protected])Tel. +49 (0) 70 73 / 30 24 49; Mobile +49 (0)179 / 453 61 21
A team of many experts have been working for months to realize this professional exhibition in Iran among them many art professionals, exhibition designers and photographers. The pictures of the catalogue and its paper are of very high quality. The opening day include a number of speeches by Iranian Studies and arms and armor experts, among them a speech by Ostad Mohammad Reza Farajian, the son of the late Ostad Hosseyn Farajian the legendary Iranian smith. Mr. Farajian will talk about the life of his father and show some magnificent pieces made by him. Another speech will be held by Ostad Joneydi on the weapons mentioned in the Shahname. Dr. Khorasani will also give a presentation on Persian crucible steel and also expand on his future projects. The opening ceremony will be also accompanied by recitals from Ferdowsi’s Iranian-epic, the Shahname.
The letter below has been sent to Parviz Khoupai by the PAAIA. The letter pertains to Dr. John Hennessy, the President of Stanford University who is responding to the PAAIA regarding the overtly racist and anti-Iranian remarks of Jeffrey Ullman, a professor emeritus at Stanford University.
Dr. Jeffrey Ullman, a Computer Science specialist at Stanford University, has not only engaged in open discrimination against Iranian students, he has also gone so far as to post racist and politically motivated comments in his website. Stanford university president Dr. John Hennessy had assured that the university rejects Ullman’s controversial stance.
Before reading the response of Stanford University President Dr. John Hennessy, readers may want to also consult the following article by The Stanford Daily (Monday, January 10th, 2011):
From: PAAIA <[email protected]>
Subject: Stanford University President Responds Directly to PAAIA Over Retired Professor’s Anti-Iranian Remarks
To: “Parviz Koupai” <xxxx>
Date: Friday, January 14, 2011, 1:08 PM
January 14, 2011, Washington, D.C. – Stanford University’s president, Dr. John Hennessy, today assured PAAIA that controversial remarks made by a retired faculty member does not reflect the university’s views or admission policies.
In recent weeks, a number of Iranian American organizations and individuals have expressed concern over remarks made in an email sent by Jeffrey Ullman, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, in response to an inquiry made by an Iranian student about admission to the graduate computer science program. Ullman directed the student to a page on his university-hosted website, “Answers to All Questions Iranian.” Ullman went on to express in his email that even if he were in a position to assist Iranian students with admission to the program, he would not do so unless there is a change in Iran’s policy towards Israel.
PAAIA and all Iranian Americans hold dear the value of freedom of expression. Although Ullman is certainly entitled to his personal opinion, we believe holding Iranian students responsible for the actions of the Iranian government are not only fundamentally misguided but contrary to the interests of the United States.
More importantly, PAAIA wanted to understand and clarify Stanford University’s position on the matter, as the vocal posturing among some in our community has unfortunately blurred the distinction between an alumnus faculty member’s personal views and the university’s position. If anything, the historical evidence is to the contrary. Large numbers of Iranian and Iranian American students have attended Stanford and many have gone on to excel in various fields. In particular, Stanford has been a magnet for Iranian students in technical fields. Newsweek reported in its August 9, 2008 issue that Stanford has become a favorite destination of Sharif University graduates. Several of whom achieved recognition by attaining highest marks on the PhD entrance exam for the Electric Engineering department.
Dr. Hennessy, a big supporter of international students including those from Iran, has been quoted multiple times stating that great universities are made by attracting the best faculty and students from around the world. He has gone on to say that the economic vitality of the United States is enhanced by immigration policies which allow talented and educated immigrants to remain in the U.S.
To clarify the matter, PAAIA reached out to Mr. Hamid Moghadam, a Trustee of both PAAIA and Stanford University. Mr. Moghadam in turn reached out to President Hennessy who issued the following statement to PAAIA:
“Stanford University has heard the concerns raised by some members of the Iranian American community regarding the personal remarks of a retired faculty member. Dr. Ullman is an emeritus faculty member and no longer on active duty. His opinions do not reflect the opinions of the university, nor does he have any involvement in the admissions process or admissions policies.
Stanford does not discriminate in its admissions. The university seeks to admit the very best students from throughout the world into its programs, as long as they meet the visa requirements of this country. The university-at-large, as well as the Computer Science Department specifically, has enrolled many distinguished students from Iran. We also have a number of faculty members of Iranian descent, and are proud to say that an Iranian American presently serves on our Board of Trustees.
Stanford does not censor the views expressed by students or faculty on personal Web pages, whether or not they are accessed through a Stanford-based URL. Personal Web pages are not considered part of Stanford University’s institutional Web site. As with personal e-mail, they are not created by the university and their content has no official institutional endorsement.”
PAAIA would like to express its gratitude to Dr. Hennessy for clarifying Stanford University’s position on this matter.
The tribes of Georgia had a well-established and vast literary tradition and folklore long before the Christian era. None of the pre-Christian Georgian literary works have survived, however. Christianity became established in Georgia as an official religion at the beginning of the 4th century, and in the 5th century the first surviving literary work, Tsamebay tsmidisa Shushanikisi (The martyrdom of Shushanik) by Jacob Tsurtaveli (ed. M. Malazonia and I. Lolasvili, Tbilisi, 1986), which laid the foundation of Georgian clerical literature, was created. By that time some biblical texts, such as the Psalms and the New Testament, had been already translated. Hagiographic literature (e.g., martyrology and lives of the saints), although serving primarily the interests of the Church, contained elements of fiction and historiography. Georgian hagiographical works on the passions of St. Shushanik, St. Evstate Mtskheteli (6th cent.), and St. Abo Tbileli (8th cent.), as well as lives of St. Nino (9th cent.), and St. Grigol Khandzteli (10th cent.), testify to the development of literary style and to the high artistic level of Georgian hagiographers and hymnographers. These literary activities finally led to the appearance of Georgian secular literature in the 11th cent.
The familiarity of Georgian authors with the Persian classics also played a significant role in the development of Georgian literature. Such works as the epic romance Amirandarejaniani ascribed to Mose Khoneli (12th century; N. Marr, 1895), Tamariani by Grigol Chakhrukhadze (12th century), Abdulmesiani by Iovane Shavteli and, finally, the masterpiece of Georgian poetry Vepkhistqaosani (The man in the panther skin) by Shota Rustaveli, came into being due to this cultural synthesis (Allen, pp. 318-20).
The beginning of Georgian-Persian literary contacts is usually traced back to the 11th-12th centuries, when Georgian secular literature first developed and flourished. However, the roots of Georgian-Persian cultural, linguistic, and literary contacts run much deeper. Unfortunately, very little evidence is preserved from the earlier periods, so traces of these contacts must be sought in linguistic data, in artifacts, in chronicles, and in later literary works.
The 11th-century Georgian chronicle Kartlis tskhovreba (The annals of Georgia) mentions two persons: Parnavaz, the king of Georgia, and Artavaz (see ARTABAZUS, ARTAVASDES in Encyclopedia Iranica), the foster-brother of king Vakhtang Gorgaslan (Justi, Namenbuch, p. 92; Huyse, 23a). Not only is the Iranian origin of their names interesting, but also their connection with Iranian epic traditions. Parnavaz is associated with the creation of a Zoroastrian sanctuary at Armazi (q.v.), the ancient capital of Georgia near the present-day Mtskheta, where a bilingual inscription in Greek and Middle Iranian has been found (Metzger). Some scholars (e.g., Bailey, Dictionary, p. 40; Lang, 1966, pp. 88, 152-53; Andronikashvili) trace the term Armazi, which is also the name of a deity in the Georgian pantheon, to Ahura Mazdā (q.v.).
Stories about Artavasdes, Bēvrasp/Ažī Dahaka (Aždahāg), Ardašīr, Afrāsīāb (qq.v.), and other heroes of ancient Iranian legends were widespread in Georgia. The Kartlis tskhovreba contains a passage referring to a well-known episode in the Šāh-nāma that seems to indicate that the author was familiar with a Persian literary work similar to the Xwadāy-nāmag. The passage reads: “And then Iranians from the side of the sunrise, the kin of Nebrot, became strong. And there appeared among them one man, a hero named Afridon [Afrīdōn, see FERĒDŪN], who put Bevrasp, the master of snakes, in chains and tied him to a mountain inaccessible to human beings. All this is written in The History of the Persians.”
There are two noteworthy points in this short passage: “the side of the sunrise” is obviously a Georgian translation of Xᵛarāsān “the place whence the sun rises,” and “Bevrasp, the master of snakes” is no doubt Bēvarasp Aži Dahāka (for him in Iranian mythology see Christensen, pp. 20-24). The first part of Bēvarasp is left without translation (in Ancient Georgian bevri, as the Av. baēvar- and the Mid. Pers. bēwar, means “ten thousand,” in Modern Georgian it means “many”), while the phrase “the master of snakes” is a literal translation of Aždahāg (see AŽDAHĀ). The meaning of aži- “snake, dragon,” is well known, while different interpretations have been suggested for dahāg. According to the Georgian source it stands for “master, lord.”
The conversion of Georgians to Christianity in the 4th century, and then the conquest of Persia and parts of Georgia by the Arabs three centuries later, temporarily interrupted the cultural contacts between the two countries. At that time (7th-9th centuries) Georgian-Arab literary connections were developed, some works were translated from Arabic into Georgian, among them the world-famous novel of Buddhist origins about Barlaam and Joasaph (Pers. Belawhar o Būdāsaf, q.v.), known in Georgian as the Balavariani.
With the rise of the New Persian literature during the 9th-10th centuries, literary contacts between the two cultures resumed and even became much stronger than before. It appears that Georgians became familiar with Persian literary classics quite early. In the 9th-century work Moktsevai Kartlisai (The conversion of Georgia), a whole phrase in Persian, transcribed in Georgian letters, is put into the mouth of the Georgian king Mirian. This corrupted text (raĭtmeboĭ khodzhat stabanug rasul psarzad) was restored by Nikolaĭ Yakovlevich Marr (1897, p. 72) with the help of a Georgian translation given in a 10th-century manuscript: “rāst mīgūī ḵojasta bānū wa rasūl-e pesar-e īzad” (You are speaking the truth, blessed lady and the messenger of the Son of God). This passage is important for several reasons: the presence of the Arabic word rasūl shows that this Georgian literary work can be dated no earlier than the 7th century; its transliteration and translation are interesting from the point of view of historical linguistics; and finally, it suggests that Georgian contacts with Persia (and hence with New Persian literature) may have been established much earlier than suspected before.
The cultural and political renaissance of Georgia is connected with the name of King David II, surnamed Aghmashenebeli (the Builder; r. 1089-1125). A well-educated man, poet, and philosopher, he maintained relations both with the Christian world and with Islamic countries. During his reign, relations were especially close with the state of Šarvān, where a Persian school of poetry flourished, continuing the classical traditions of Rūdakī, Ferdowsī’s Šāh-nāma, the epic and lyrical heritage of ʿOnṣorī, Farroḵī Sīstānī, Manūčehrī, Faḵr-al-Dīn Gorgānī’s Vīs o Rāmīn, etc. The familiarity of Georgian society with the works of these classical masters and with the master poets of Šarvān, including Neẓāmī Ganjavī, Ḵāqānī Šarvānī, Falakī Šarvānī, etc., helped further literary contacts between Georgia and Persia.
The growth of cities set the necessary condition for the revival of cultural activities. Frequent receptions and feasts at the royal and feudal courts attracted panegyrists, story-tellers (qeṣṣaḵᵛān), and singers not only from all parts of Georgia but also from neighboring countries as well as from distant lands. Chakhrukhadze, the historian of Queen Tamar (r. 1184-1212), describes the arrival of the Šarvānšāh at the head of a large retinue, undoubtedly including poets, since Ḵāqānī Šarvānī alludes to such an occasion in the description of his journey to Tbilisi in his Maṯnawī. He mentions a number of Georgian place-names: Mukhrani, Nacharmagevi, the summer-palaces of the royal Bagrationi family (eg., Dīvān, pp. 25, 53, 438, 512, 742). He also indicates his knowledge of Georgian (gorjīgūy) and use a Georgian word (mui, “come”) in one of his rhymes (Y. Marr). The poet Falakī wrote an elegy (marṯīya) on the death of Dmitri I (r. 1125-1156), the king of Georgia. Neẓāmī Ganjavī often mentions and describes Georgia (Abḵaz, which then referred to all of Georgia) in his poems Ḵosrow o Šīrīn and Eskandar-nāma (Y. Marr).
Almost every page of Georgian literary works and chronicles (e.g., the verse collection Tamariani, the poem Abdulmesiani, Rustaveli’s Vepkhistqaosani, etc.) contains names of Iranian heroes borrowed from the Šāh-nāma (e.g., Rostam, Kai-Khosrow, Zāl, Tūr), from Yūsof o Zolayḵā (Ioseb [Yūsof], Zelikha/Bazika), from Vīs o Rāmīn (Vis, Ramin, Mobad), from Salāmān o Absāl (Salaman), from Neẓāmī’s Laylī o Majnūn (Leili, Kais, Majnun), and from ʿOnṣorī’s Vāmeq o ʿAḏrā (Vamek), Šādbahr, and ʿAyn-al-Ḥayāt (Shatbiar, Analat), etc. It seems that Georgian readers of the classical period either had Georgian versions of the poems by Ferdowsī, ʿOnṣorī, Gorgānī, Neẓāmī, and of works like the Kalīla wa Demna, Ḥātem Ṭayy, and the Qābūs-nāma, or were quite well acquainted with the original texts.
Of this long list, however, only one Georgian version of Visramiani has survived, a complete prose translation of the poem Vīs o Rāmīn by Faḵr-al-Dīn Gorgānī (Abuladze, 1935; Mamatsashvili, 1967; Kobidze, 1967; idem, 1969).
Traditionally this translation is ascribed to Sargis Tmogveli, a 12th-century statesman and writer. This Georgian version of the medieval Persian romance, which fully retained the spirit of the original, considerably influenced all further development of Georgian prose. Its proximity to the Persian original made it possible to use the Persian text when preparing the critical edition of Visramiani (eds. A. Gvakharia and M. Todua, Tbilisi, 1962). This Georgian translation, being the oldest known manuscript of the work and preserving a more complete version than the few known manuscripts of the Persian text, helps restore corrupted lines and determine the more reliable variants found in different Persian manuscripts that generally are of later origin (17th-18th cent.) and have many lacunae and corrupted parts. The Georgian Iranologists Magali Todua and Alexandre Gvakharia produced a critical edition of Vīs o Rāmīn (Tehran, 1970), which for the first time contains variants of the text found in different manuscripts. The edition was based on the Georgian translation of the poem, the surviving Persian manuscripts, and the three earlier editions (1864, 1935, and 1959).
The above video shows a version of the Ajameti Music and dance of Georgia. “Ajameti” in Georgian refers to Iran and Iranians. The Ajameti dance and music piece was popular in Iran up to the early twentieth century. Note the parallels of this music to the Rashti music of Gilan province in northern Iran.
Georgia entered a period of cultural decline in the 13th-15th centuries, during which it suffered devastating foreign invasions. The so-called renaissance of Georgian literature began only towards the end of the 15th century. At that time, as in the classical period, translations of Persian works, mainly Georgian versions of the Šāh-nāma, continued to play a prominent part in the revival of the national culture along with original Georgian literary works.
The Georgian versions of the Šāh-nāma comprise a large collection of renderings of various episodes in prose and verse, generally known as the Rostomiani (The legend of Rostam). It evolved in the course of three centuries (15th-17th cent.) and included the works of several authors (Salva Sabashvili, Khosro Turmanisdze, Baradzim Vachnadze, Parsadan Gorgijanidze) whose works ranged from exact translations to free renderings of different episodes, most of them by that time interpolated, since there already existed Georgian versions of Bahman-nāma (Baamiani, Utrutian-Saamiani), etc. The complete edition of the Georgian versions of the Šāh-nāma has been published in three volumes (I, ed. I. Abuladze, Tbilisi, 1916; II, ed. I. Abuladze et al., Tbilisi, 1934, on the occasion of the millenary celebration of Ferdowsī, q.v.; III, ed. D. I. Kobidze, Tbilisi, 1974).
During the 16th-18th centuries, close relations with the countries of the Middle East, especially with Persia, influenced considerably the way of life and the culture of some segments of Georgian society. In one of his letters to Rome, Padre Bernardi, a Catholic missionary from the 17th century, mentions with great regret that Georgian readers prefer such books as Bezhaniani, Rostomiani, and Baramguriani and pay less attention to religious works. The first two compositions belong to the Georgian Šāh-nāma cycle, the last one is a Georgian version of the legend of Bahrām Gōr (q.v.). The author of Baramguriani, Nodar Tsitsishvili (17th cent.), claimed that he was well-acquainted with the poems of Neẓāmī, Amīr Ḵosrow Dehlavī, ʿAlī-Šēr Navāʾī, and ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmī (even though the last poet is not known to have treated directly this particular subject), and used them as sources for his original Georgian version.
The genre of romance and adventure was as popular in Georgia as that of the heroic epic. The Georgian version Iosebzilikhaniani, which was based on earlier versions of Jāmī’s poem Yūsof o Zolayḵā, appeared as early as the 16th century (Gvakharia, 1958). It has survived in a single corrupted manuscript containing twelve very fine miniatures taken from an earlier manuscript. The text of this anonymous poem mentions a certain Zaal, who is probably the author of the Georgian version of this ancient story, which is found both in the Bible and in the Koran.
King Teimuraz/Ṭahmūraṯ I (r. 1603-63) deserves special notice here, because his life was closely connected with the history of political relations between Persia and Georgia. This poet-king was born in Persia, was proficiently fluent in Persian, and appreciated and highly valued Persian poetry. His mother, queen Ketevan, his sons, and finally Teimuraz himself all died in Persia. Commenting on his interest in the Persian language,he said: “The sweetness of Persian speech urged me to compose the music of verse.” Teimuraz wrote a collection of five poems (on the model of a ḵamsa) that included Iosebzilikhaniani (another version of Joseph’s story), Shamiparvaniani (The candle and the moth), Vardbulbuliani (The rose and the nightingale), Leilmajnuniani (a version of Laylī wa Majnūn; Mamatsashvili, 1967), and Ketevaniani, a historical poem on the martyrdom of his mother. He is also the author of several strife poems (monāẓara), including “A dispute between spring and autumn” and “A dispute between the wine and the lips.” His poetry is full of Persian imagery and allusions, loanwords, and phraseology (Jakobia; Mamatsashvili, 1967).
Didactic works, such as collections of parables and exhortations so well-represented in Persian literature, were also very popular among Georgian readers. In the 16th century an anonymous Georgian author translated from Persian a collection of exhortations (“On temperance,” “On justice,” “On generosity,” etc.), illustrated with parables and anecdotes, e.g., “Sultan Sanjar and the beggar”; “The king and the sepah-sālār, who was bitten by a scorpion”; “Memul/al-Maʾmūn, the caliph of Baghdad, and the bedouin Arab”; “King Bahrām Gōr, the gardener, and the pomegranate” (published in S. Qubaneishvili, Zveli k’art’uli literaturis krestomathia [Chrestomathy of Old Georgian literature] II, Tbilisi, 1949). The unique manuscript is defective, giving neither title nor information about the translator and the Persian source; it has tentatively been called “Treasury of the Kings,” a parallel to the title of Ḏaḵīrat al-molūk by Mīr Sayyed ʿAlī Hamadānī (d. 786/1384).
King Vakhtang VI (r. 1711-14, 1719-23) played a significant part in the further development of Georgian-Persian literary contacts. During his long stay in Persia, Vakhtang not only mastered the language but also gained an understanding of the literary styles and trends and selected certain works to be translated into Georgian. He composed both prose and verse translations of the 11th-century mirror for princes Qābūs-nāma, known also as Andarz-nāma (q.v.), by ʿOnṣor-al-Maʿālī Kaykāvūs b. Eskandar, which appeared under the title Amirnasariani (The story of Amirnasar [i.e., Kaykāvūs]). Of the forty-four chapters of the Persian original, Vakhtang selected only eleven, the ones that he thought would appeal most to Georgian readers. He also played an important part in the creation of three Georgian versions of Kalīla wa Demna (an anonymous translation completed on Vakhtang’s order; a word for word translation by Vakhtang himself during his stay in Persia; and a revision of Vakhtang’s literal translation by his tutor, the writer Sulkhan Saba Orbeliani), based on the 15th-century work Anwār-e sohaylī (q.v.) by Ḥosayn Wāʾeẓ Kāšefī (Baramidze, 1975; Todua, 1975). Apart from his personal contribution to Georgian literature, Vakhtang founded a whole school of translators from Persian into Georgian. As attested in the manuscripts, several folk dāstāns that were then very popular in Persia were translated into Georgian on his direct order. Among them were Baḵtīār-nāma (a Persian collection of novellas), Baramgulandamiani (from the Persian Bahrām o Gol-andām of Kātebī Nīšābūrī), and Khosrovshiriniani (a popularized version of Šīrīno Ḵosrow by Amīr Ḵosrow Dehlavī, q.v.).
During the 17th-18th centuries there appeared translations like Miriani (from the Persian Mehr o Māh), Chardarvishiani (after the famous book Qeṣṣa-ye čahār darvīš), Karamaniani (a huge collection of stories deriving from the Qahramān-e qātel and translated by David Orbeliani [1716-96]), and others. Some of these translations are anonymous. Most of them, even if they are given some local Georgian color, follow their Persian originals very closely.
The Georgian National Ballet Sukhishvili – note the parallels of the music with respect to traditional Iranian instruments and melodies – note especially the parallels with the music of Azarbaijan province in northwest Iran.
A number of other works in Georgian literature are undoubtedly of Persian origin, although their sources are either lost or not yet established. Among them are the novels Seilaniani, possibly a rendition of Sehelan-nāma (a Persian work mentioned in Barthélémy D’Hèrbelot’s Bibliothèque Orientale), Varshakiani, Sirinoziani, Pirmaliani, etc. The study of these literary works presents certain difficulties, mainly because the dāstān literature of Persia, from which they originate, has so far received little attention; many of these dāstāns have never been published, and are not even described in catalogues. The same can be said about the Georgian versions. Research in this field is only now beginning (e.g., Gvakharia, 1968). Recently, Georgian versions of Razmašāh, Sayf-al-Molūk, and Qeṣṣa-ye Ḥamza have been discovered, their sources traced, and critical editions undertaken (though not yet published; the manuscripts are in libraries in Tbilisi and St. Petersburg). Several other texts have already been published, among them Bakhtiarname, Khosrovshiriniani, Karamaniani, and Rusudaniani (i.e., “The story of Rusudan,” an original collection of freely rendered Persian and Georgian folk stories, an adaptation of the dāstān genre in Georgia). Since the beginning of the 19th century, Persian-Georgian literary and cultural contacts have noticeably decreased. In 1828, Aleksandre Sulkhanashvili produced a prose translation of the Baḵtīār-nāma by Panāhī, an obscure 15th century poet. With the annexation of Georgia by Russia, Eastern themes and subject-matter were gradually replaced by Russian and European ones. The establishment of Tbilisi State University in 1918, however, revived scholarly interest in Iranian studies by offering relevant courses and training scholars who continued the work and promoted the interest in other academic and educational institutions of Georgia. The area of special interest was Persian-Georgian linguistic and literary contacts from a historical as well as modern perspective. Publications on the subject include monographs on various literary works, essays on the history of Persian literature and on Persian-Georgian cultural relations, text editions, and textbooks. An important subject of study is the reflection of Georgian history and culture in Persian sources. The old tradition of translating Persian works into Georgian has been revived. The lyrics of Rūdakī, ʿOmar Ḵayyām, Rūmī, Ḥāfeẓ, Jāmī, can now be read in the language of Rustaveli. There are new translations of the poems by Neẓāmī and Saʿdī; a new Georgian translation of the Šāh-nāma is in progress. Samples of Persian folklore and Old Iranian and Middle-Persian literature like the Avesta, Kār-nāmag ī Ardašīr, Draxt ī āsūrīg (qq.v.) are now available to Georgian readers. Many works by modern Persian writers have been translated as well, among them Moḥammad-ʿAlī Jamālzāda, Ṣādeq Hedāyat, Ṣādeq Čūbak, Saʿīd Nafīsī, Ḵosrow Šāhānī, Jamāl Mīr-Ṣādeqī, Ḡolām-Ḥosyan Sāʿedī, etc.
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W. E. D. Allen, A History of the Georgian People, 2nd ed., New York, 1971.
M. Andronikashvili, Narkvevebi iranul-kartul enobrivi urtiertobidan (Essays on Iranian-Georgian linguistic contacts), Tbilisi, 1966.
A. G. Baramidze, Pirdousi da misi Šah-name: mokle istoriul-literaturuli mimokhilva (Ferdowsī and his Šāh-nāma), Tbilisi, 1934.
Idem, Issledovaniya iz istorii gruzinskoĭ literatury (Studies on the history of Georgian literature) I, Tbilisi, 1945 (in Georgian).
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A. Gvakharia, “Iosebzilikhanianis” kartuli versiebis sparsuli tsqaroebi (Persian sources of the Georgian versions of Yūsof o Zolayḵā),Tbilisi, 1958 (summary in Russian).
Idem, Znachenie gruzinskikh perevodov persidskikh pamyatnikov dlya osveshcheniya nekotorykh voprosov persidsko-tadzhikskoĭ literatury (The significance of Georgian translations of Persian literary monuments for understanding certain problems of the Persian-Tajik literature), Tbilisi, 1960.
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Idem, “Georgian-Persian Literary Contacts in the Twelfth Century,” in M. Galik, ed., Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on the Theoretical Problems of Asian and African Literatures, Bratislava, 1983, pp. 294-301.
Idem, “Zum Ursprung der georgisch-persischen Literaturbeziehungen,” Georgica 10, 1987, pp. 44-47. Ph. Huyse, Iranischen Personennamenbuch, ed. M. Mayerhofer and R. Schmitt, Vienna, 1990. G. Jakobia, “Teimuraz pirvelis targmanebi” (The translations of Teimuraz I), in A. Baramidze and G. Jakobia, Teimuraz I, Tbilisi, 1934.
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K. Kekelidze, Etiudebi zveli kartuli literaturis istoriidan (Studies on the history of Old Georgian literature) IV: Gruziya i Nizami (Georgia and Neẓāmī), Tbilisi, 1957, pp. 81-89.
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Mose Khoneli, Amiran darejaniani, ed. L. Atanelsvili, Tbilisi, 1967; Eng. tr. by R. H. Stevenson as Amiran-Darejaniani: A Cycle of Medieval Georgian Tales Traditionally Ascribed to Mose Khoneli, Oxford, 1958.
D. Kobidze, Šahnamas karthuli versiebis sparsuli tsqaroebi (Persian sources of the Georgian versions of the Šāh-nāma), Tbilisi, 1959.
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Idem, “Vozniknovenie i rastsvet drevnegruzinskoĭ svetskoĭ literatury” (Origins and heyday of Old Georgian secular literature), Zhurnal Ministerstva narodnogo prosveshcheniya (St. Petersburg), December 1899, pp. 223-52.
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D. Rayfield, The Literature of Georgia: A History, Oxford, 1994.
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M. Todua, Kartul-sparsuli etiudebi (Georgian-Persian studies), 3 vols., Tbilisi, 1971-79 (summary in Russian).
Idem, ed., Kalila i Dimna (Kilila da Damana): gruzinskiĭ tekst, issledovanie, slovar’ (Kalīla and Demna: Georgian text, comments, vocabulary), Tbilisi, 1975.
Idem, “Kilila da Damanas” sabaseuli versia (“Kalīla wa Demna,” the version of Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani), Tbilisi, 1967.
Nodar Tsitsishvili, Baramguriani, ed. K. Kekelidze as Shvidi mtiebi: Baram-guri (Seven beauties: Bahrām Gōr), Tbilisi, 1930.